posted on 16-Sep-2001 8:27:35 PM
Title: Legacy

Summary: Sequel to "Out of the Woods." I highly recommend reading it before trying this one. It is archived at the Fanfic.net. Basically, Max is gone, and the others have no idea whether they will ever see him again.

Category: Everyone but with a strong M/L slant.

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the story. The characters and concept belong to Jason Katims and Melinda Metz. Tarsus of Dernia and all Illyrian characters belong to me. Lyrics by Sarah McLachlan, Phil Collins, Amanda Marshall, Garth Brooks, Frozen Ghost.Thank you to Angel_Parker for the beautiful banner.

Legacy

I will remember you.
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by,
Weep not for the memory.

Remember the good times that we had,
Let them slip away from us when things got bad.
Clearly I first saw you, smiling in the sun,
Want to feel your warmth upon me
I wanna be the one.

I will remember you
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by,
Weep not for the memory.

I'm so tired, I can't sleep.
Standing on the edge of something much too deep.
It's funny how we feel so much
But cannot say the words
We are screaming inside but we can't be heard.

I will remember you.
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by,
Weep not for the memory.

So afraid to love you.
More afraid to lose.
Clinging to a past that doesn't let me choose.
Where once there was a darkness,
A deep and endless night,
You gave me everything you had,
Oh, you gave me life.

I will remember you.
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by,
Weep not for the memory.

Weep not for the memory.

Sarah McLachlan

Prologue - Dreams

* Max *

He remembered her only when he was asleep.

It was then that she haunted him.

Dark hair, dark eyes, a beautiful face with perfect features, gazing at him with love in every look.

And then her name would come to him like a gift.

Liz.

Visions of her were his only comfort in a world that had gone mad.

Flash*

Young Liz on the playground playing with Maria - the first time he had ever seen her.

Flash*

Liz bent over her biology book, her dark hair hiding her face, until she absent-mindedly tucked it behind her ear, revealing her profile in deep concentration.

Flash*

Liz in the Crashdown, laughing with Maria, her alien antenna head-band bouncing as they clung to each other giggling.

Flash*

Liz staring up at him in shock after he had saved her - the day that he had put his heart - in fact his entire existence - on the line to preserve a life more precious to him then his own.

Flash* Flash* Flash*

She was everywhere.

"I really don't think you should leave."

"I don't care."

"You were the one person I really wanted to talk to."

"Do you still think that's a good idea?"

"Max, I didn't come here for permission. I came for the pendant."

"I guess these are the things we do when we feel a certain way about someone."

"How is it that I can be the happiest I've ever been in my whole life and the saddest at the same time?"

"You made me a part of this Max."

"And what if I believe you tonight?"

"I know I'm supposed to be, but I guess I'll just have to put myself in your hands."

"I love you."

Liz.

"Jaxon! Wake up!"

Jaxon Falconer, King of Illyria, Blue Prince sat up blinking.

He shook his head, blinked at his second-in-command, Tarsus of Dernia.

"What's going on?" He asked groggily. His mind was searching frantically for something that had been there only moments before.

Not something - someone.

"Your parents.." Tarsus replied, his lips pressed together in annoyance. "They've attacked the Citadel."

Jaxon's mind snapped to full consciousness. "Get my sword."

She was gone.

Part 1

How can I just let you walk away from me
Just let you leave without a trace
When I stand here taking every breath
For you.
You're the only one, who really knew me at all.

How can you just walk away from me
When all I can do is watch you leave
Cause we shared the laughter and the pain
And even shed the tears,
You're the only one who really knew me at all.

So take a look at me now,
Well, there's just an empty space
And there's nothing here to remind me,
Just the memory of your face.
Well, take a look at me now
There's just an empty space
And you coming back to me is against the odds
And that's what I've got to face.

I wish I could make you turn around
Turn around and see me cry
There's so much I need to say to you
So many reasons why.
You're the only one who really knew me at all.

Now take a look at me now
Cause there's just an empty space,
But to wait for you is all I can do
And that's what I've got to face.

Take a good look at me now
Cause I'll still be standing here
And you coming back to me is against all odds
It's the chance I've got to take.

Phil Collins

September 5, 2001 - Roswell, New Mexico

Journal Entry 98

I'm Liz Parker and nine months ago I died.

Or at least that's what it feels like.

When you left Max - my life just ended.
Oh, I go through the motions. I have kept my promise to you. I am strong. I am a rock. I am everyone else's shoulder to cry on.

I refuse to cry.

Max! Where are you???

I am trying so hard to be strong but it just gets harder and harder every day.

I feel so alone. I miss you so much.

Everyone misses you. It's like we've all gone to sleep waiting for you to come back, even though Michael keeps telling Izzy that its not going to happen.

You'd think that he'd be the one who'd want you back the most, since its all his fault in the first place.

I know that the way I feel about Michael is completely irrational, but I can't help it. I try to hide my anger, but I think that Maria knows and I'm almost sure that Isabel is beginning to suspect too.



Liz Parker looked up abruptly from her journal when the telephone in her bedroom began to ring. She sighed, glanced down at the leather-bound book on her lap.

She knew that if she stopped writing now, she might not come back to it. It seemed impossible to believe but it was the first time she had picked up her journal since the week after Max Evans had disappeared.

After he had left, she had read if from cover to cover, reliving every wonderful, heartbreaking moment of their entire relationship. Then she had returned it to its hiding place behind the brick in her bedroom wall and had ignored it.

She had known that trying to write in it would have been too much. She was always at her most emotional and open with her journal. She had a promise to keep to Max - emotional meant weak.

Liz had finally given in today. She had needed something to turn to since her friends were off limits.

She couldn't turn to any of the others. If she had started with them, the floodgates would have opened and that would have been the end of her resolve.

She knew that they were all worried about her, wanted her to open up. But she had to be there for THEM.

She had promised.

After the third ring, Liz finally gave in. She laid aside her journal, climbed in through her bedroom window, picked up the phone.

"Hello?" She knew it had to be one of four people: Isabel, Alex, Tess or Kyle. No one else ever called her anymore. Everyone else at school thought she was weird.

Liz didn't mind. All of her friends were now considered weird too.

"Hi Liz." It was Isabel. Liz blinked. Her friend sounded uncharacteristically cheerful, totally unlike the morbid Isabel Evans who had haunted Roswell since Max had left. Liz had once heard Kyle's old football buddy Paulie mutter to someone as he had passed Liz and Isabel in the hallway, "Just looking at her makes me depressed."

There was no question that Isabel had taken her brother's "death" hard. For that was what everyone in Roswell thought had happened to Max Evans - that he had fallen into a freezing cold river on the Father's Camping trip the previous January and had drowned.

Although Max's body had never been found, no one had any reason to doubt it. Max's parents and Sheriff Valenti were the strongest supporters of the story. Only ten people knew the real reason that Max Evans had disappeared.

"What's going on Iz?" Liz demanded, her heart suddenly beating faster.

"Just get over here now." Isabel told her cryptically. "Something has happened. Don't worry! It's nothing bad."

Liz bit her lip, trying not to hope. Hope was a luxury they could not afford. "Is it about Max?" She finally managed to ask.

"It's complicated. Just hurry." Before Liz could ask another question, Isabel had slammed the phone down in her ear.

Liz stared at the receiver in her hand, shook her head in annoyance. She finally replaced it on the telephone and went to grab her car-keys off the bedside table.

She paused briefly, glanced lovingly at the picture of Max that sat beside her bed. It was the candid shot of him reading that Maria had snapped almost two years ago. She went through the ritual that had become her habit every time she left her bedroom. Liz brought her fingers to her lips, kissed them and touched Max's pensive face. "I love you Max - forever."

Part 2

Isabel Evans paced the length of her parent's living room, unable to sit still.

She couldn't believe that she had actually been able to get through the day. She had looked for Liz everywhere at school, but she had been nowhere to be found.

It had all started with the thing with Maria. Kyle had come to get her for that. He had come running into her fourth period English class, had ignored the teacher completely, had grabbed Isabel by the arm, barely giving her enough time to grab her book bag off the floor next to her desk. As they ran out of the room Isabel could her Mrs. Jenkins yelling after both of them: "Mr. Valenti! Miss Evans! You get back here right now!"

Needless to say, they had ignored her.

Isabel had been shocked to see Michael hovering near the entrance to the second-floor girl's washroom, a look of terror on his face. She had not seen Michael in close to three weeks. He and Maria had taken off on Michael's new motorcycle the night before school had started and they hadn't seen either of them since.

"What's going on?" She demanded.

"Iz, please." Michael just looked at her with pleading eyes. Isabel shot a questioning glance at Kyle. He shrugged.

"I found him like this. He asked me to get you."

Michael looked towards the girl's room door again. It was clear that he was too upset to talk. Isabel turned to Kyle again. "Go find Tess and Liz." She instructed him, realizing that someone needed to take control of the situation.

Isabel briefly placed a comforting hand on Michael's arm. "Is it Maria?" She asked.

Michael could only nod.

How upset her brother was only reinforced to Isabel how much Michael had come to depend on Maria over the last few months. Although neither of them could really remember anything of their stay on their home planet of Illyria, they were both still clearly dealing with some sort of trauma.

Isabel pushed open the girl's room door to a horrifying - but all too common - sight.

Maria Deluca was retching into one of the sinks. Isabel quickly hurried to her side, stroked her back comfortingly, pulling Maria's still long hair back from her face. She had not cut it since her return to Earth, although she had had to tell everyone it was extensions. "Are you okay Maria?" Isabel asked when Maria seemed to be breathing evenly again.

Her friend looked up, met Isabel's eyes in the mirror. "I've been better." She managed to say before she was bent over the sink again in agony.

This had happened so many times since Maria and Michael's return from Illyria, Isabel knew that they just had to wait it out.

Finally, Isabel was able to grab a paper towel, wet it and place it on Maria's forehead. She led the smaller girl to a couch set up in the lounge area of the girl's room, gently forced Maria down on it.

Maria leaned back against the wall, closed her eyes. "Just another bout of the friendly alien flu." She managed to joke weakly.

Isabel pressed her lips together. Maria was dealing with this far better then the rest of them.

But then, Maria had long ago accepted what the rest of them were still coming to terms with.

Maria was dying.

Now as Isabel waited for Liz, she reflected on what they had managed to find out since Maria and Michael had returned the previous winter.

The fevers had begun a couple of weeks after they had all returned to town from Frasier Woods. Maria had fainted at work in the Crashdown one day, frightening Michael and Liz half out their wits.

And then the throwing up had begun...and the pains in her chest and her stomach.

They had been unable to take Maria to a local doctor. They didn't want any of it to get out to the already too nosy residents of Roswell.

The Sheriff had arranged an appointment in Albuquerque.

There had been absolutely no medical reason for Maria's illness. And yet, it continued to get worse. Maria's mom was convinced that it was cancer, but visits to ten different doctors all over New Mexico had turned up nothing.

It was Alex who had finally guessed what was wrong. "I think that Maria's body is breaking down from the stress of the trip to and from Illyria." He told Isabel one night as they lay on their backs on the hood of the Jeep, both staring up at the millions of stars shining down. Their hands had been clasped between them. Alex stroked the back of her fingers gently as he spoke.

Isabel had been unable to take her eyes away from the "V" constellation that sheltered her world of origin - that sheltered her beloved brother. She had been thinking about Max when Alex's voice had broken into her thoughts - about how much they missed him, about whether he was still alive.

She turned her head, looked at her boyfriend. "What?"

"There's no other explanation." Alex replied, sitting up and staring down at her. "The stress was too much for her body to take."

Isabel frowned in thought. "But why is Michael okay?" She asked finally. "I mean, he was human when he came back."

"Yeah, but he was ALIEN when he went." Alex replied. "And Michael is physically strong - his human body can probably deal with the one trip it took through the portal. But Maria's not strong - and her body had two trips."

"Are you telling me that her body isn't going to recover?" Isabel demanded, feeling tears beginning to well in her eyes. If so, how were they going to tell Liz? Her friend would never survive the news.

No one was fooled by Liz's imitation of Michael's stone-wall. She was lost without Max. If she lost Maria too... It didn't even bear contemplation.

Not to mention, I love Maria. Isabel reflected. She's like the only bright ray of light left in our morbid group.

It was true. Maria was the glue that held them all together these days. Constantly cheerful, never complaining about her physical condition, always ready with a snappy comeback in true Deluca fashion.

Isabel knew that love of Maria was the only force that kept Liz from physically attacking Michael. Liz's anger at and blame of Michael for Max's disappearance grew deeper every day. It was on the verge of exploding.

And just as every day Liz's anger grew, Michael's guilt practically buried him.

But love of Maria kept them all bonded. Michael went on for her. Liz survived for her.

Tess had finally shown up in the girl's room just as the bell was about to ring for lunch. "What's going on?" She asked. Her face whitened when she saw Maria. "Oh no, not again."

"Listen Tess, we need to get her out of here." Isabel told her friend. "No one can see her like this."

Tess swallowed, nodded. She sat down on the couch, pulled one of Maria's arms over her shoulders. Isabel did the same on the other. The managed to carry her to the door, where Michael was waiting to take her in his arms. Kyle hurried down the hallway ahead of them all. He would be the hall monitor if anyone tried to interfere. Kyle was the only one left with any sort of influence on the other students, even though he hung out with a group that everyone else considered creepy. It was those perfect spiral passes of his that did it.

Five minutes later Michael had gently deposited Maria on the back-seat of the jeep, climbed in beside her, pulling her head down on his shoulder. She fell asleep almost immediately.

And it was then that Isabel had the flash.

She heard Alex yell her name as though from a great distance, "ISABEL!"

She felt herself fall into her boyfriend's arms.

It hurt like hell. It felt like a thousand hammers all slamming into her skull at the same time.

*FLASH

"Mirana! The time has come." She recognized the voice - but then she didn't.

*FLASH

"Go to where it all began."

*FLASH

"Your greatest wish will be fulfilled."

*FLASH

"Make the sacrifice and all will be well."

*FLASH

"Use your dreams."

And then a face appeared in her mind - a face so familiar and beloved that it brought tears to Isabel's eyes.

The vision ended as suddenly as it had appeared. Isabel blinked, opened her eyes. Alex was staring down at her in terror, his face as white as chalk. Tess and Kyle were hovering over her.

Michael was yelling from the jeep, "Is she all right?"

"I'm okay." She managed to croak, as Alex helped her to her feet.

And then a smile broke across her face. She couldn't help it.

"I saw him! I saw Max!"

They all stared at her.

They were all still staring at her now as she paced. She had refused to tell them anymore since her outburst, insisting that Liz had to be there.

Michael was seated on the couch, Maria curled up next to him. Her eyes were closed, but Isabel knew she was awake. The pasty colour of her skin was worrisome, but she seemed to be holding her own for the moment.

Kyle was leaning against the wall looking tired. He kept glancing at Tess, trying to pretend that he wasn't. By now they all knew that Kyle was in love with the pretty blonde - well, everyone except Tess. She treated him like a brother.

Alex was watching Isabel with concern. He had kept asking her if she was okay, until Isabel finally snapped at him. He wasn't hurt though. He knew she didn't really mean it. He just continued to watch her quietly, his silent support like a balm to Isabel's soul.

"She's here!" Tess told them, turning away from the window where she had been scanning the street for Liz's arrival.

"Finally!" Michael muttered. Isabel thought briefly that it was weird that Michael was actually eager to see Liz, what with all the glaring she treated him to. But Michael almost seemed to revel in it - it helped him to wallow in his own guilt.

The doorbell rang a moment later. Isabel practically sprinted to answer it, grabbed Liz by the arm and hauled her in to join the others.

Liz came to an abrupt stop in the doorway to the living room. She was staring at Michael and Maria. Isabel saw her friend's gaze darken. "You're back." Liz said tightly.

"Yup." Michael replied. Liz's back stiffened.

"Is Maria okay?" She asked evenly.

"Not so good." Michael replied in a monotone.

Maria opened her eyes, grinned weakly. "Um, I can still speak for myself you know. The alien cooties haven't stolen my ability to communicate."

Liz hesitated briefly, seemed to make an internal decision. She went to sit beside Maria on the couch.

Liz turned to Isabel. "So what's up Iz?" Isabel could see the glimmer of hope on Liz's face. She couldn't wait to see that hope increase.

"I had a flash." Isabel announced. "And I think that Max sent it to me."

Part 3

Liz felt her eyes widen. "What...what do you mean?" She managed to choke out, her heart in her throat.

"Just what I said. Today at school I had some sort of weird flash." Isabel replied. "And Max was in it."

"But how do you know that he sent it to you?" Liz asked, suppressing the hope that was building. Don't do this to yourself Liz, she ordered herself. Stay calm, rational. You know you're only going to be disappointed.

Isabel's brows drew together. "Well, I don't know for sure." She finally conceded. Liz could see that she was beginning to get upset. "I thought...I mean..."

Alex stood up quickly, went to place his hand on his girlfriend's shoulder comfortingly. "Why don't you just tell us what you saw?" He suggested, making the most commonsensical suggestion, as usual.

Liz eyed Michael out of the corner of her eye. She could see that he was leaning forward, listening to Isabel intently. His arm was around Maria's shoulder, supporting her. Liz could not bear to look at Maria. One look at her best friend when she had entered the Evans's living room had upset her enough to have the foundations of her stone wall shake.

Strong - she had to be strong.

"Well," Isabel searched her memory. "The voice was really familiar. I don't think it was Max's exactly, but I definitely knew it." Alex nodded encouragingly. "It called me "Mirana." I think that's my name on Illyria."

Maria's eyes suddenly snapped open. "Tristandor!"

"What?" Michael asked, perplexed. They were all staring at her in confusion.

"That's YOUR name Michael. It just like came to me." Maria's brow was furrowed. "I distinctly remember Max calling you that."

Michael and Maria had very few memories of their time on Illyria. They had all virtually disappeared after the first few days back on Earth. Liz knew that such a giant loss of memory was upsetting to Maria because, although it had only been about an hour on Earth, the time the two of them had spent on the other planet had been close to a year in Illyrian time.

To not have any recollection of that much of your life, especially such a significant part, must be terrifying.

"So you guys WERE with Max then?" Tess demanded. All the information they had managed to glean from Michael and Maria had been confusing to say the least. Michael knew that Max had given himself up to the rebels on his planet so that Michael could be returned to Earth in his advanced human form, but he had no actual recollection of Max on Illyria.

Maria was still frowning, clearly searching her memory. "Definitely."

Michael was beginning to nod. "Yeah. Jaxon."

Liz began to feel impatient. "Okay, so back to your flashes Izzy." She felt a pang of guilt when Maria shot her a hurt look. Sorry, she mouthed to her friend. Maria smiled understandingly, closed her eyes again and leaned back against Michael.

"Well the voice told me that I had to go back to where it all began, make the sacrifice and my greatest wish would be granted." Isabel finished. She shook her head ruefully. "I just realized that I have no idea what any of it means."

"Is that it?" Tess asked, clearly unimpressed.

Isabel scowled at her. "Yes, Tess, that's it." She smacked a hand to her forehead. "Oh wait! The voice also told me to use my dreams."

Dreams.

Liz certainly knew about dreams.

Max Evans had been haunting hers.

If she didn't know for certain that Max's powers did not include the capability to dreamwalk...Well, she had at one point thought that he might be trying to communicate with her that way.

But there had never been any new information in her dreams - just bittersweet memories of her time with Max.

The healing. The excitement and revelation of the advancement of their relationship. Their first kiss. Max taking a step back. The blind date fiasco. The crash/ flash incident that had resulted in the discovery of the first orb. The whole Tess/white room/destiny catastrophe. The nine months apart when she had run away to England and Max had shut all his friends out of his life on the evil shapeshifter Tarsus of Dernia's orders. Max telling her he loved her, to be strong, disappearing in a beam of light, never to be seen again...

She relived it all every night in her dreams.

"Liz, are you okay?" Isabel demanded suddenly.

Liz shook her head, refocused on her friends. "Uh, yeah, sorry. Just zoned out there for a minute." She saw Alex and Isabel exchange a concerned look. Great Liz! Just another indication to further their belief that you are about to lose it. "So, using your dreams. What do you think it means?" She asked quickly, hoping to deflect everyone's attention away from her mental state.

"Dreamwalking?" Kyle suggested from the corner, speaking up for the first time. Liz glanced at him. Her ex-boyfriend looked tired. She knew that he had been juggling football, school and worrying about Liz for a long time now, not to mention struggling to hide his feelings for Tess, who was totally oblivious. Kyle had been such a rock to all of them. He deserved a little happiness. Liz wondered if Tess was ever going to open her eyes.

Liz knew that Tess's lack of interest in Kyle had nothing to do with Max anymore. She had finally given up on that. She had sought out Liz a few weeks after Max's disappearance to tell her that she had come to a decision.

Liz had been surprised to see the curly-haired blonde enter the Crashdown alone one Saturday when Liz was closing up. While there was very little tension between them anymore, they never actually sought each other out. It was too weird.

"Hi Tess. Is something wrong?" Liz had asked immediately, sure that something disastrous must have happened for Tess to be there.

"Um, no." Tess looked mildly uncomfortable. She sauntered up to the counter, taking a seat. "I need to talk to you Liz."

"Okay." Liz had been perplexed, but interested.

"I just wanted to tell you that I'm going to do everything in my power to get Max back here." Tess told her abruptly. Her face was blank. Liz felt her stomach clench. Was Tess still going to try and get Max back for herself? She had thought that that was over.

"I've been doing a lot of thinking." She continued, beginning to fiddle with a straw. "I was really upset when I found out that Tarsus of Dernia told Max that I was insignificant on our planet." Despite herself, Liz felt her heart going out to her former nemesis. She knew how important Tess's "destiny" had been to her. It had been the defining principle of her existence. "But Kyle told me something last week that made a lot of sense. He said that maybe it wasn't a bad thing not to have my whole life mapped out in front of me."

Tess paused, was clearly waiting for Liz to say something. "Uh huh." Liz said dumbly, not at all sure where the other girl was headed with all this.

"Anyway, I realized he was right. I don't love Max. I never loved Max. I don't want to be with Max." She smiled shyly at Liz. "And now I don't have to be."

Liz blinked. "Okay?" She finally said, unable to quite believe what she was hearing.

"I do care about him though and I think that he belongs here. I think if this has shown me anything its that all four of us are insignificant on our home planet now. Max's life is here. He should be where he feels at home. And Liz, I know for a fact that the only place Max has ever felt truly at home was with you. You were the only one who was able to get through to him when he was acting like a jerk. You're everything to him."

Liz had felt tears welling up in her eyes. She had quickly blinked them away. She had held her resolve this long - no tears. "That's great. I mean, that's good. Thanks Tess."

Tess had smiled, hopped off the stool as though a thousand pound weight had been lifted off her shoulders. "Yeah, well, I know I told you once that I wished we could be friends. I know you probably didn't believe me, and I don't think I really meant it at the time," she added wryly, "But I do mean it this time."

Liz had just nodded. Tess had not said anything more. She had left, leaving a dumbfounded, but pleased, Liz behind.

As Liz glanced at Tess now, she hoped that the other girl would eventually find her own Max. If it wasn't going to be Kyle, then hopefully someone else would make her heart sing the way that Max did Liz's.

Liz tuned back into the conversation that was milling around her. "No, I don't think its dreamwalking." Isabel was saying. "Remember I tried to dreamwalk Max right after he left. All I got was a big blank space. I think the range is too far."

"Maybe someone is going to try and come dreamwalk you?" Tess supplied.

"Maybe..." Isabel trailed off. "It couldn't be Max, could it?" She suddenly looked at Alex and Liz. "Ohmigosh!"

"What?" Alex demanded. Liz was equally confused.

"I totally forgot! What an idiot I am!" Isabel continued to berate herself.

"Isabel, what?" Michael practically yelled from the couch.

Isabel continued to stare at Alex and Liz in turn. "Think you guys. Remember back, right before Max took off. He locked us up in the cave!"

Liz's eyes widened. She stared at Isabel, then turned to stare at Tess. "Max created an illusion! He made us see that wall there, when it wasn't. Tess! He had your power!"

"Okay, explanation please?" Kyle said sarcastically.

"Right before Max went and podded himself to save Michael, he locked me, Izzy and Liz up in a cave." Alex explained. Liz wondered why none of them had never gone over this before. "Anyway, he did it by creating an illusion of a wall that wasn't there. We could feel it and everything. Isabel managed to make it disappear, but it was definitely a Tess-power type thing."

"We figured that all of you have the capability to perform each other's powers if you really concentrate." Liz inserted. "It would make sense that as the leader Max would be the most powerful, and thus would be the one who found it the easiest to develop his latent abilities."

"So then him dreamwalking US is a distinct possibility!" Isabel finished.

"So Max is trying to communicate with us?" Liz could hear the note of hope that was developing in Michael's voice. Yeah, you had better hope he is! She thought bitterly, since its your fault to begin with. She pushed the reflection aside. The irrationality of her hatred for Michael - it frightened her sometimes.

"Okay, so basically we all keep our dreams available for a little visit from above." Alex instructed them. "He seems to be trying to make his way back to us. I think Izzy was right. It now seems likely that her flash was from Max."

"What about that part "return to where it all began and make the sacrifice?" Maria asked quietly from the couch. "What the heck does that mean?"

They all exchanged looks. "No clue." Alex finally replied.

"Me either." Said Kyle.

Isabel was frowning again. "I feel like I know..." She clenched her fists in frustration. "It's like the memory is right on the edge of my mind and I can't get at it." She glanced at Michael and Tess. "Do you guys know?"

Tess just shook her head, but Michael replied, "It sounds familiar to me too. I guess we'll just have to keep our minds open - maybe Maxwell can tell us if he can get into someone's dream."

God, I hope its mine, Liz thought to herself. What she wouldn't give to be able to talk to Max again, to feel his arms wrapped around her, to caress his lips with her own - even if it was just in a dream.

Alex suddenly stretched his arms above his head, faked a yawn. "I'm suddenly feeling an overwhelming urge to go take a nap." He joked. Isabel and Tess laughed. Kyle did too. Michael even snickered. They were clearly all getting a little giddy with the possibility that they didn't have to give up on Max yet.

Although Liz knew that none of them really ever would.

She glanced at her watch. It was only seven o'clock, she realized, disappointed. Hours before bed-time yet.

"Yeah, I could use a nap too." Maria put in. The others sobered immediately. They all knew that Maria was not joking. The fact that she mentioned it meant that she really needed one.

Suddenly the world didn't seem quite as rosy anymore.

Michael quietly stood up, pulled Maria into his arms.

"I CAN walk you big doofus." Maria told him, sounding slightly annoyed. "I'm not a complete invalid yet."

"Humour me." Michael replied, then proceeded to ignore her irritated muttering. "So, first one to hear from Max, call right away."

Isabel nodded in agreement. "Yeah, even if it's three in the morning."

"What if we don't hear from him?" Tess asked in a small voice.

"Then we try and figure out the message on our own." Alex decided. "Let's all meet for lunch tomorrow in any case. We'll probably all have some fresh ideas after a good night's sleep."

Michael quickly said his good-byes and carried a still protesting Maria out the door. "Liz, call me!" She managed to yell before the door slammed on them.

Kyle and Tess had clearly arrived together for they were the next to leave. Kyle came and put his arm around Liz and squeezed gently first. "Hang in there Parker." Tess smiled at her and followed him out of the room.

Alex settled back on the couch. He was clearly going to be hanging around with Isabel for a while.

Liz suddenly felt like a third wheel. Everyone was paired up. Even Kyle and Tess hung out with each other more then with anyone else, even if there was nothing going on.

It made Liz miss Max even more.

"Well, I'll talk to you tomorrow." She finally said, feeling awkward. Isabel was still looking at her with concern.

"Are you sure you're okay Liz?" She asked.

"Sure." Liz replied. She needed out of there now.

The stone wall was cracking.

"Bye guys!" Liz practically sprinted to the door. She didn't stop her crazy dash until she was seated in the front seat of her parent's car.

Liz clutched the steering wheel, stared straight ahead.

"Max. Please. Let it be me." She whispered aloud.






[ edited 2 time(s), last at 27-Aug-2002 10:48:39 PM ]
posted on 16-Sep-2001 8:29:51 PM
Part 4

Maria stared out the window of Isabel's jeep, which they had borrowed. Michael had left his motorcycle at school because Maria had been too weak to hold on. She watched the desert fly past as Michael sped towards the Reservation.

"Michael, slow down. Getting ourselves killed on the way there isn't going to help anything." She told him automatically for the tenth time. She knew he was worried and that he was freaking out internally about her little visit from the alien flu earlier in the day. It saddened her that he couldn't seem to get used to it.

She had.

"It's fine Maria." He snapped, but she could tell that he did let up on the gas.

"Are you okay?" Maria asked quietly, knowing that he was not. He had seemed to be briefly in a better mood after the summit with their friends about the possibility that Max was trying to contact them. He had sobered fairly quickly once they had been alone together though.

"Yup." Michael replied.

But she knew that he wasn't. She knew that he was torturing himself with guilt, with the fact that he considered himself to be responsible for the loss of Max, for Liz's frozen state and Isabel's grief. And for the biggest thing of all - the fact that she was dying.

No matter how hard she tried to convince him that while he had made a mistake, it had not been his fault. Tarsus of Dernia had played on Michael's greatest weakness, his desire for a family. He had known that Michael would leap before looking. There was no way that Michael could have known that it had all been an elaborate ruse to trap Max.

And yet he blamed himself.

It was the one down-side to the return of Michael's humanity, and consequentially his emotions, when they returned to Earth. Guilt was not the most fun emotion to have as a perpetual companion.

Yet the love that Michael showered on her now - she couldn't help but think that it had been all worth it.

Their joint trip to Michael's home world had bonded them. Although they recalled very little and could not figure out why not, they knew that something significant had occurred between them there.

Michael's stone wall did not exist anymore. He seemed to have turned over a new leaf in that department. Maria now knew how much he loved and depended on her, because even though he was still Michael and didn't say it aloud very often, he showed her in a thousand different ways.

The way he held her gently when they fell asleep together on the couch in his apartment because she was too weak to move.

The way he tried to get along with her mother. He had actually come to dinner with Amy last night and had actually held a conversation with Maria's mom. It had amazed and touched her. Michael had once told her that he "didn't do parents." Well, he did now - for her.

The way he spent hours upon hours practicing with his powers. He ignored his most powerful ability - the ability to kill with a sweep of his hand. Rather he concentrated on the tiny inherent ability he possessed to heal. While Max's gift had been natural, for Michael it was like cutting the lawn with scissors...but he kept at it - for her, to try and save her.

That's where they had gone on their recent road-trip. They had spent three weeks camping out under the stars in the desert, Michael laying his hands upon her again and again, exhausting himself to the point that she thought he might be killing himself.

Nothing had happened but she had known better then to try and stop him.

But Michael had only stopped when Maria had told him that she needed to check on Liz. It had been useless, but he had been willing to kill himself in an attempt to save her.

"Okay, spaceboy, where are we going?" Maria asked now. Although she trusted him implicitly, the fact that Michael was becoming more tense as they drove away from Roswell was beginning to worry her.

"To where it all began." Michael told her curtly.

Maria sighed. "And that would be?" She prompted, frustrated that even now getting information out of Michael was like extracting teeth. She smiled slightly to herself, remembered a conversation they had once had when Tess had first come to Roswell.

"What happened to partners? What happened to an even exchange of information?" Maria had asked.

"I lied." Michael had replied, clearly unimpressed.

But those days were long over. She just had to ask the right questions.

Michael never lied to her now.

"The crash site." He replied as though it was the most obvious answer in the world.


I'm standing on the edge of time,
Playing out a reckless pantomime,
And every day's another wrong to rectify.
I dream about a stranger's touch,
And voices in my head I cannot hush,
And every night's a hunger I can't satisfy...

It's the secret that I keep,
It's the ache that makes me weak,
And I know I'm in too deep,
I'm gonna drown.
It's the emptiness I fear,
Baby, please don't leave me here,
'Cause I'm lost inside a dream,
It's out of bounds.

I close my eyes and its so real,
All at once I know just what I feel,
And baby it's the kind of rush that terrifies.
I am weak, I am wrong,
Everyday I swear that I'll be strong,
There's a bond between us that I can't deny.

It's the secret that I keep,
It's the ache that makes me weak,
And I know I'm in too deep,
I'm gonna drown.
It's the emptiness I fear,
Baby, please don't leave me here,
'Cause I'm lost inside a dream,
It's out of bounds.

Amanda Marshall

Liz flopped down wearily on her bed, stared up at the ceiling. She had managed to make it past her parents without being treated to the third degree, but just barely.

Just like everyone else, they were sure that she was close to losing her mind.

No one believed that someone who never cried was just strong.

She was stone, she was ice. She would not cry.

Liz flicked on the radio, sighed, wished that she could fall asleep right then. She KNEW that Max was waiting for her.

Unfortunately, she wasn't at all sleepy.

Oh, she was tired - in the way that she always felt tired since Max had left, but she wasn't sleepy.

And being logical Liz, she also knew that the harder she tried to fall asleep, the more impossible it would become.

So she thought instead.

"Go to where it all began...your greatest wish will be fulfilled...make the sacrifice...What the heck are you trying to tell us Max?" Liz muttered to herself as she stared at the picture of him that sat on her bed-side table. "And why did you go to Isabel and not me?"

Logical Liz knew that if it was Max who was contacting them, Isabel was the most logical choice. She was his sister, bonded to him by alien blood. She had control over her own mind in ways that the rest of them could not even imagine - in ways that Isabel was still unaware of...her entire gift revolved around access in and out of minds.

But it still hurt.

"Okay, focus Liz." She ordered herself. "To where it all began...hmmmm..."

And then she knew.

She sat up on her bed like a bolt of lightening had gone through her. She jumped up, sprinted through her door, down the hallway and past her father who was coming out of his bedroom.

"Lizzie! What the heck..."

"Be back in a sec Dad!" She called over her shoulder. "I just forgot my bio book in the restaurant."

Liz was down the back stairs and through the break room in two minutes flat.

And then she stopped. She carefully pushed open the door into the dining room.

It was dark. Agnes had obviously finished cleaning up - or had ignored doing so altogether which was more likely - and the Crashdown was closed for the night.

Liz took a deep breath, pushed through the swinging door.

A thousand memories assailed her now that she had opened herself to them.

"Max Evans is staring at you again."

"I can't imagine what you must be thinking right now."

"Ummm...I'll have an alien blast."

"Well, how 'bout it Evans? Have you ever been in love?" "No."

"Now you sound like Isabel!"

"I look at you and I know you're the person I'm supposed to be with. I've always known it."

Liz held her breath, walked forward, stared down at the spot where it had all begun.

"You're okay now."

Liz could still feel Max's hands on her, could still see him staring down at her intently, intense concentration on his face.

Liz pressed her lips together. She closed her eyes, called out with her entire soul.

MAX! Where are you??

The Citadel, Illyria

Jaxon Falconer sat on the stone floor in the cell, his forehead resting on his knees, his arms wrapped around his legs in an attempt to stay warm. He wasn't asleep, but he was in that state that lies somewhere between slumber and awareness.

* MAX! Where are you? *

His head snapped up. Jaxon stared around the cell.

There was no one there.

"Liz?"

Now, where did that come from? He asked himself, annoyed.

Tarsus was right. He WAS going crazy.

Jaxon, lowered his head back to his knees.

It didn't matter anyway - insanity was unimportant.

It might even help.

No man needed a sound mind where he was headed.


"Liz?" It was no more than a whisper, but the voice was so familiar, to Liz it sounded like Max was standing right in front of her yelling in her face.

Her eyes snapped open.

She was alone.

"Max!"

There was no answer.

Part 5

Michael pulled the jeep to the side of the highway, switched off the ignition.

He glanced at Maria in the seat next to him. She had fallen asleep again...the circles under her eyes were enormous, emphasizing the delicacy of her bone structure. The gentle rise and fall of her chest assured him that she was still with him.

Michael didn't know how much longer that would be the case.

Which only made the necessity of bringing Maxwell back to them even more desperate.

The spearing guilt to which he was now so accustomed came like a welcome friend.

For while Michael Guerin now reveled in his humanity - recognized it for the gift it was - the best part was the determination that negative emotion provided...

He would not rest until his brother came home.

Michael regretted doing it, but he reached out and gently shook Maria awake. He watched her eyelashes flutter."Just five more minutes mom." She muttered.

"Wake up." Michael snapped, knowing that annoying Maria was the best way to give her a shot of adrenaline - and there was no question she needed it.

Her eyes snapped open. "Are we there?" She asked, frowning at him.

"Yup." Michael swung out of the jeep, hurried around to the passenger side and lifted her out.

Maria looked around warily. "It's really dark out there Michael. Are you sure this is what Isabel's vision meant?"

"What else could it have been?" Michael demanded.

"I just don't understand why you didn't mention this to the others before." Maria was looking at him with concern.

It humbled him. She was ALWAYS worried about him.

When he was the one responsible for the fact that she was dying.

"I just had a feeling." Michael replied shortly. He grabbed a flashlight out of the emergency compartment in the back of the car, then took Maria's hand. "C'mon."

"Did you have a feeling that I had to be with you?" Maria asked quietly as they picked their way over the rocky terrain of the former ranch.

Michael paused, pulled her into his arms. He felt her relax instantly. "I always want you with me." He told her truthfully.

Maria pulled back, grinned up at him. "Okay then bub. Let's get on with this. I need my beauty sleep. I didn't quite make it through the whole school day today. If I miss one more class, I can kiss graduation in May good-bye."

Michael swallowed. He suppressed the thought that if they didn't get Max back - the only one with any chance of healing Maria - it was unlikely that she would live until May.

They continued to walk in silence.

Maria was the one to stop them the next time. Michael looked back at her with concern. "Are you okay?"

She didn't reply. She had her head thrown back, her long strawberry blonde hair trailing down her back.

"Maria?" Michael snapped, worried, being more abrupt then he meant to be.

"Michael - can't you feel it?"

"Feel what?"

And then the vision was upon him. Michael stumbled into Maria, knocked her to the ground. The last thing he noticed was her wide-eyed gaze, still staring at the stars.

*Flash

Max was staring at him, his dark eyes unreadable. In his hands he held a red orb - the symbol was different to that on the blue orbs that had caused all the trouble in the first place though...Michael recognized it...but its meaning was just beyond his reach...

*Flash

Maria was across from him. She was wearing a long, white, flowing gown and her long hair was blowing out behind her. She was reaching out for something just beyond his field of vision.

*Flash

Michael could feel himself stepping forward. He looked up...above him towered immense, standing stones...they looked as solid as the day is long...and yet he knew that he was afraid...

*Flash

Young Michael, Max and Isabel joined hands...walked across the desert together...

"MICHAEL!"

Maria's voice finally shattered into his consciousness.

He shook his head, realized that he was still sprawled on top of her. He quickly rolled away. He was not surprised when she reached out and grabbed him.

Michael pulled her close to his side. They were both breathing heavily.

"Did you see that?" Maria finally whispered, after what seemed like eons.

"Yeah." Michael replied. He didn't know what else to say.

"What did it mean?" Maria asked, sounding peculiar. Michael turned his head, glanced at her. She was staring up at the stars again...her expression unreadable.

"I don't know."

Maria sat up, began to climb to her feet. Michael quickly jumped to his, helped her.
"I need to go home." She told him, still in that same quiet way - it was unnatural...and a little freaky.

"Okay." Michael told her.

They started back. When she stumbled, Michael ignored her protests, swung her up into his arms, held her high against his chest.

"Just shut up and rest."

She did.

And that's when Michael knew that the end was drawing near.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 8:31:31 PM
Part 6

Isabel sat curled up on the couch in the Evans' living room, her head on Alex's shoulder.
They were both pretending to watch the news, but she knew that Alex's thoughts were drifting along the same lines as hers.

What did my vision mean? Isabel asked herself, for what felt like the ten millionth time. Where did it all begin? What is the sacrifice?

She kept coming back to one idea...

For Isabel, life had begun the night that Diane and Phillip Evans had found she and Max on the side of the road...

Was that what Max meant? Was she supposed to go there?

She wouldn't mind. A visit to a place that symbolized a feeling of security to her would not be misplaced at this time. It would remind her of a time when Max and she were just free to be part of a family, completely unaware that their real parents had destined them for so much more. They had been free to let the Evans' love them. Sure they had had weird powers and had had to be careful that no one found out, but they had been just Max and Isabel Evans then.

But nothing would ever be that way again.

Isabel worried about her parents.

They had been nothing but supportive since Isabel had told them the truth of her and Max's origins. She was sure that they might have taken it harder if they hadn't been mourning her brother so intensely these past months...for longer than that in fact. The Max that had disappeared on the Father's Camping Trip had been THEIR Max, but they had not known that for themselves. To Isabel's mom and dad, Max had still been the anti-Max - the rebellious, disdainful teenage nightmare they had been forced to endure for several months...they had been victims of the act Max had been forced to perpetuate by Tarsus of Dernia.

Isabel knew that her mom was gradually beginning to recover. She and Izzy were closer then ever, now that there was no longer any secrets between them. While Diane would never completely get over losing her son, her connection to Isabel had always been stronger - mainly because Max had always kept himself slightly guarded around her.

But her dad - he had lost his beloved son, not once, but twice...first in spirit, and then in fact. Phillip Evans had become a shadow of his former self.

This fact was reinforced to Isabel when her parents poked their heads into the room a few minutes later. "Hey honey! Hi Alex."

"Hi Mom. Did you guys have a good time at the movies?" Isabel asked, frowning with concern at the strained expression on her father's face. He seemed sort of out of it, as usual.

Isabel felt Alex squeeze her hand. He knew how much she worried about both her parents and how they were handling Max's disappearance.

"It was fine." Diane replied, sounding tired. "We're heading up to bed now sweetie. Can I get you anything before I go?" Isabel's dad still had not said a word. He gradually began to make his way to the stairs, plodding as though he was exhausted.

"No, thanks Mom. I'll just see you in the morning."

"All right. Goodnight then. Don't stay too late Alex."

"I won't Mrs. Evans. Good night." Alex replied. Isabel could hear the concern in his voice.

When Isabel's mother was out of ear-shot, he turned to her. "Your dad is like still totally losing it huh?" Isabel just shook her head.

"I don't want to talk about it."

Alex sighed. "I think maybe you should Iz."

Isabel scowled at him. "I really don't want to fight with you about this Alex. We have other things to worry about right now."

Alex looked away, seemed a little frustrated. "Fine. Did you come up with anything?"

Isabel was relieved that he was letting her change the subject. If she dwelled on how much her parents missed Max...well, it would make her think about how much SHE missed him.

And then the hope that had been growing within her would flicker out...

She couldn't allow that. They didn't have time for that. Liz was gradually beginning to lose it, Maria was almost gone....and Michael - he was going to kill himself with guilt.

They needed Max.

"Not really." Isabel replied. "The only thing I came up with was the place where my mom and dad found us on the side of the road?"

Alex shook his head. "That just doesn't sound right, does it?" He looked down at the floor. "But wait...what about the pod chamber? I mean, that's where you were born right?"

Isabel's head snapped around to stare at him. "That's it!" Isabel threw herself at him, began raining delirious kisses all over his face. "You're a genius!"

Alex kissed her back. "Too bad I'm not a genius more often." He managed to reply. He was laughing.

Isabel jumped off the couch, pulled him up after her. "Let's go."

Alex followed, but asked, "Shouldn't we call the others?"

"I want to go by myself first - make sure we're right." Isabel replied. She stopped in the front hall, groaned when she noticed that her car keys were missing. "Darn! I forgot I lent the jeep to Michael." She grabbed his hand, pulled him back in the direction they had come from.

Isabel paused at the stairs, called up. "Mom! I'm taking your car to drive Alex home."

"Okay sweetie. Don't be long." Mrs. Evans' voice filtered back.

They were on the road five minutes later.


Liz was seated on the floor of the Crashdown, her back against the counter, staring at the spot where Max had healed her two years before.

She had been there for almost an hour, calling out to him with her mind...willing him to answer her again.

She had started to wonder if she was going crazy - it wouldn't surprise her at all.

Liz took a deep breath, closed her eyes and tried once more.

MAX! CAN YOU HEAR ME?

MAX! PLEASE!

Nothing. Only silence.

Liz was suddenly unbelievably weary.

Missing Max was so tiring...it was like an ache, one that became bigger and bigger every day. There was no relief either. It wouldn't go away - ever.

Or at least not until she was able to hold him in her arms.

She let herself curl up on the floor, in the exact spot she and Max had made their first connection. She realized that it was actually a bit morbid, but she didn't care. It made her feel close to him.

I really should call Isabel, Liz reflected to herself. I should tell her what I thought happened.

But Liz didn't really believe it anymore. It had all been a figment of her imagination.

Max was gone. He was never coming back. She was just going to have to begin to accept it. She knew that she could live a fairly productive life without him. There were other rewarding things in life besides love.

She could become the brilliant molecular biologist she had always wanted to be...

It didn't make her feel better. If anything, the emptiness in her soul grew bigger.

None of it would mean anything without Max.

Liz was shocked when a tear began a slow journey down her cheek.

NO! NO! NO!

STRONG! I HAVE TO BE STRONG! I PROMISED!

She squeezed her eyes shut, willed the tears to stop.

It was no use.

The release of that one tear was like opening the gates to a floodway. Within moments she was sobbing...

She wept for Isabel, who lived without the brother that she had loved more than her perfect life...Isabel Evans had only ever wanted to be normal, to be human - but she had been willing to give it up for Max, if he had wanted her too.

She wept for Maria - for her best friend, who was dying...if Max was there, he could heal her...Liz just somehow knew it.

She wept for Alex, Kyle, Tess...all of whom were nothing but loyal friends, all of whom didn't know what to do to help her or Isabel or Maria or Michael.

She wept for Mr.and Mrs. Evans, who were confused and distraught...and had lost a son without ever having a chance to really know him.

Yes, she even wept for Michael...although she was still furious with him, she knew deep down that his own guilt was probably even worse then her hatred.

And, lastly, Liz cried for herself...for the empty life that stretched out before her without her soulmate, her best friend, her other half...

She cried herself to sleep on the spot where Max Evans had saved her life - where her life had truly begun...

And that was when the dream came...


Liz blinked her eyes, sat up, stared around her in amazement.

She KNEW that she had fallen asleep on the floor of the Crashdown - but she certainly was not there now.

She was sitting in a field of yellow grass, her eyes just above the level of the tops, which were waving in the breeze...

Above her towered an immense stone. It threw a shadow across the entire area.

Liz slowly climbed to her feet, looked around, felt her heart beating a mile a minute. The standing stone was not alone. It was one of many that stood in the field of gold, surrounding her, dwarfing her.

It was a stone circle.

Liz did not have time to examine what this could mean. Out of the corner of her eye she caught a flash of movement...

She slowly turned her head.

It was then that she knew she was dreaming.

For standing not ten feet from her, under one of the gigantic, towering stones, his beloved eyes wide with shock, was Max Evans.

Liz stared back at him, could not seem to form a word.

She saw Max swallow, open his mouth to speak.

"It's you."

Part 7

Jaxon stared at the vision before him, unsure what to say.

She had haunted his dreams for so long...He even knew her name.

Liz.

A plain, sensible name - but somehow like music to his ears.

But this dream was different. In all the past dreams of her it had been as though he was observing the action, watching events that had been, that would be, that were...Events that had happened in another lifetime to someone that she called Max.

This time was different. She was there staring at him, her dark eyes wide with some unnamed emotion - clearly seeing him, just as he was seeing her. Her long dark hair was streaming behind her in the breeze, her delicate form dwarfed by one of the gate-markers.

Jaxon licked his lips, spoke. "It's you."

She blinked, frowned slightly. "Don't you know who I am?" She asked in a small voice.

He could tell that his next answer was very important - that one wrong word might shatter her - and for some reason that was the last thing under the Illyrian sky he wanted to do.

"You're Liz." He replied carefully. He was eyeing her with concern. She was slowly making her way towards him through the waving grass, her eyes not leaving his face. He saw her face light up with pleasure, but also with concern.

"I am." She stopped about an arm's-length away from him. He wondered why it felt inherently wrong that she should do so. "And who are you?" She asked quietly, clearly willing him to give her the answer he wanted.

At least he knew THIS answer. "I'm Jaxon Falconer, Blue Prince, High King of Illyria." He replied. He hoped it didn't sound too arrogant. Tarsus was always telling him to behave like the king he was, but it had always made him uncomfortable to push his status on others.

Jaxon was disappointed when her face darkened, her eyes suddenly filled with tears. "No, who are you really?" She asked almost desperately.

His eyes narrowed. He didn't understand what she wanted - but whatever it was, he wanted to give it to her. "Who do you think I am?" Jaxon asked cautiously, not wanting her to lose it. He was unused to dealing with emotion in beings. His people were not a demonstrative group. Emotion was considered weak. He had always thought so.

Yet for some reason it did not seem weak in her. It actually seemed to him that she was brave to reveal so much to him in just a look, a sentence.

It was clear that she trusted him.

Liz had tilted her head. She was staring at him, clearly trying to come to a decision. "You're Max Evans." She finally told him, biting her lip.

He didn't hear her right away. Jaxon was staring at that lip. At both of them actually. He was horrified when he realized that he wanted very much to kiss them. He shook his head. "I have heard that name before." He told her quickly, trying to suppress the image that suddenly appeared in his mind. It was like a flash of memory...but he knew that is was not HIS memory...

"I better go." It was as though he was saying it in the vision, but then again, it was not him.

"Why?" Liz asked, her eyes wide with questions.

"'Cause if I don't go right now, things are going to change."

"Change how?"

Jaxon shook his head again, stared at her. She was directly in front of him now. He could tell that she wanted to touch him. He was shocked to realize that he wanted her to as well.

"Are you okay?" She asked him instead, clutching her hands in front of her, as if trying to control them.

"Yes. Why are you here? Did my parents send you?"

She looked sad. "You really don't remember me do you?"

Jaxon decided to be honest with her. "I don't - I know that I have seen you before." He didn't tell her that it had been in his dreams. She would think he was crazy.

Of course, I AM having a conversation with her IN my dreams, so maybe I am insane, he reflected wryly.

"Do you remember anyone?" She asked, clearly trying to get past her disappointment. "What about Isabel, or Michael..." She took a deep breath. "Or Tess?" She asked in a small voice.

"No. I'm sorry."

Liz did not look sad anymore, but rather thoughtful, like she was trying to work out a puzzle. "Wait! What about Tristandor...or Mirana?" She asked suddenly.

Max scowled, suddenly annoyed. "My sister and her no-good husband. How do you know them? Did they send you here?"

She blinked at him, surprised at his tone, although she did not appear frightened. Had he used that voice on any of his people, they would have been out of his presence in a split second.

He forced himself to calm down. He didn't know why, but he knew that she was not there to betray him. Somehow he just knew. "How do you know them?" He asked again, in a more civil tone.

"Mirana - she is Isabel where I come from - is one of my best friends. And Michael, er Tristandor, is YOUR best friend and is my other best friend's boyfriend." Her eyes narrowed slightly, "Although little good he's ever done you." She muttered to herself.

"Tristandor is NO friend of mine." He told her firmly. "Why are you here? And what is a boyfriend?" Jaxon asked, images of his sister suddenly filtering through his mind. The only memories he had of her were bad ones. She was a tyrant and a shrill-voiced witch...one who had always been jealous of he and had conspired with her husband and his parents to try and steal his throne.

He refocused on her, saw that she was smiling sadly. "A boyfriend is like a partner, I guess....less then a husband, but more than a friend."

"Do you have a boyfriend?" He asked her, then clamped his lips shut. Now where did that come from?

"I do." She replied, still smiling, although she had tears in her eyes. "Max is my boyfriend."

He was not at all surprised to hear this. "But you said that I am Max."

"You are." She had unclenched her hands. One was reaching up. It touched his face lovingly. "You are mine."

"But I am not Max...I am Jaxon." He managed to croak. He almost gave into an irresistible urge to turn his head, to kiss her palm. But he was NOT who she thought he was...she had made a mistake. He could not take advantage of her like that.

"You are both Max AND Jaxon." She replied firmly. "They've suppressed the real you somehow, have made you forget -but I know who you are."

Jaxon stumbled backwards a step. He had to get away from her. He could not think clearly when she was so close to him. "Who are they?"

Her beautiful face clouded. "Tarsus of Dernia - and his leader, although we never did know who HE was." She told him.

Jaxon's felt his stomach clench. "I am his leader. Tarsus is my right hand. He is above reproach." He told her stiffly.

She just looked at him. He could tell that she thought that she was right, but she was not going to argue with him. "We better leave it alone." Liz finally said. "I don't know how long I can stay...there is so much to say Max! You have to help me figure out how to get you back."

"Back where?" He asked, letting her change the subject.

"Back home, where you belong. With Isabel, and your parents, and Michael....and me." She was looking around at the stone circle suddenly, her eyes wide with curiosity. "Where are we?"

"We are in the Waylandian Ring." Jaxon replied, suddenly realizing how peculiar it was. "I'm not sure why." He admitted sheepishly.

"But we're on Illyria?"

"Yes, of course, where else would we be?" Liz suddenly looked suspicious.

"How long have you lived on Illyria Max...er Jaxon?"

"My entire life of course."

Liz sighed, shook her head. "So they've not only made you forget, they've also planted false memories."

"What do you mean?"

"It's too complicated to go into now." Liz turned back to him, smiled lovingly. "I just want you to know that we are going to figure out a way to get you home."

"Why?" Jaxon was confused. He WAS home.

"Because I love you - we all do." Liz replied, touching his face again. His breath caught in his throat.

He was staring at her lips again. He had never kissed anyone before - but why did this all seem so familiar? He could feel his head beginning to lower. Liz's gaze was hypnotic...he seemed to have absolutely no control over his behavior.

All he knew is that his lips needed to be on hers...

"Max..."she sighed, their mouths only a breath away from each other.

And suddenly he felt like he had been kicked in the stomach...The last image he had of her was of her eyes widening in panic....she was reaching for him..."MAX!" She screamed.

She was gone...


Jaxon opened his eyes. He was not at all surprised to see that he actually WAS being kicked in the stomach...by one of his guards. He was lying sprawled on the hard stone floor of his cell.

"Get up you traitor! Your parents are ready to see you know..." The guard kicked him once more for good measure, then left him a moment's peace to get ready.

Jaxon sat up, scrubbed his hand across his eyes.

He remembered everything.

Who was she? Why had she been sent to tell him all these lies - to haunt him?

He climbed unsteadily to his feet, shook his head. His jaw set.

It was his parents - it had to be...they were trying to control him by using his dreams. He swiped a hand through his hair, straightened the tunic he had been wearing for the last week - ever since his parents had captured the Citadel...and him.

He would face them - and they would not know that they had FINALLY gotten to him. She meant nothing. It was all a ruse to wrench him from his true friends, back into their evil clutches.

While his mind was telling him all this, his heart was beating a mile a minute - as though HE was somehow wrong in all this. He pushed the feeling aside.

For this was the worse part of all...these dreams had reawakened something within him that he had thought he had long hidden, buried, done away with...

He was beginning to feel again.

Jaxon erased the admission from his mind. He straightened his spine, walked to the open door of the cell. He glared at the guards waiting for him. When he spoke, his tone was arrogant.

"Take me to my parents."




posted on 16-Sep-2001 8:32:56 PM
Part 8

"Lizzie. Wake up honey."

Liz slowly opened her eyes, stared up at her father in confusion. "Dad?" She sat up groggily. "What's going on?"

"You fell asleep on the floor sweetie." Liz could see the concern on her father's face. "You were gone so long I came to check on you."

Liz blinked, stared down at the floor. It had all been a dream...

But she also knew that it had been more than that...She had been with Max.

She had to get away from her father...had to call Isabel, had to try and understand what it had all meant.

"Oh, I guess I was tired." Liz replied lamely. There was really no logical explanation for why she would have fallen asleep on the floor of the restaurant, so she didn't even bother trying to make one up. "I guess I'd better head up to bed."

Mr. Parker was not going to let her off the hook so easily. "Liz, are you okay honey? I know that you're still having a hard time dealing with Max's death..." He trailed off, clearly hoping that she would open up to him.

Liz shut her eyes, took a deep breath. "I'm fine Dad, really. I'm just tired." She just could not get into this with her dad right now. She needed to go think about what had happened in her dream before she forgot any of it. "I'm just going to go to bed." She opened her eyes, tried not to look her father in the eyes.

She heard him sigh sadly. "Okay honey. Sweet dreams."

Liz could not resist. She gave Mr. Parker a quick hug. "I love you Dad."

"I love you too honey."

Liz sprinted up the stairs to her family's apartment and was in her room only a couple of minutes later. She grabbed the phone, misdialed Isabel's number twice before she finally managed to control her shaking hands enough to hit the right numbers.

The phone rang five times before Isabel's answering machine picked up.

"Izzy! Where are you?" Liz muttered to herself.

She tried Alex, Maria and even Michael. No answer at any of their homes. Liz could feel herself getting panicky...she had to tell someone!

Should she try Kyle or Tess? No, it was better to get it all down on paper before she forgot...

Liz leaped off the bed, hurried to her journal's hiding spot. Her heart stopped when she saw the brick sitting on her bureau...

She smacked her hand against her forehead. She had left it sitting on the chaise on her balcony - she had been writing in it when Isabel had called her earlier that day to tell her about her vision.

Liz hurried out her bedroom window, stopped abruptly. She stared at her favorite seat in horror.

Her journal was gone.


Isabel climbed the steep slope to the entrance to the pod chamber, her heart in her throat. Alex was slightly ahead of her, leading the way with a flashlight.

Isabel had not been back to her birthplace since the day she, Max, Michael and Tess had found out the truth about themselves by using the orbs, almost two years ago.

She hated it there.

Isabel had very few memories of the time between her emergence from her pod and being picked up by the side of the road by the Evans. When Max had first found the chamber, she had had a flash of her first moments of life - but since then, nothing more had returned. She knew that Michael and Max both remembered a lot more.

She suspected that it had something to do with the fact that they had both WANTED to remember, while that had been the last thing on Earth she had wanted to do. Isabel had been horrified when first faced with the absolute truth that she was not human...the pods had revolted her more than she expected and she had wanted nothing more than to get away from them. Max had had to chase her halfway back to the car before she would stop that day, Isabel recalled wryly, feeling a pang of affection for her brother, that for once was not mixed with sadness.

When they had returned to the chamber to heal Nasedo and to use the orbs, Isabel had managed to block out the disturbing sight of the pods. She had been eager to hear her mother, which had overshadowed her disgust.

The whole destiny fiasco, followed swiftly by Max and Michael's encounter with Tarsus and consequent jerky behavior had given Isabel excuse enough not to reflect on something that disturbed her.

But there was no avoiding it this time.

She was glad that Alex was with her. He was the only one who truly understood how hard her origins were for her to deal with...the idea that she had been engineered...she despised it. Max and Michael had been too wrapped up in their own issues surrounding their heritage - Max torn between his humanity and his otherness, Michael ready and eager to embrace his alien side - to help Isabel deal with her own.

So she had turned to Alex.

Which had made it doubly difficult when they had broken up last year during the anti-Max, spaced-out Michael era.

Isabel was breathing hard when she finally joined Alex on the ridge. "I really need to hit the gym more often." She joked to mask her nervousness.

Alex was not fooled though. He was staring at the wall, his expression grim. He turned to glance at her worriedly. "Are you sure you want to do this Iz?"

"I have to Alex." He set his jaw, moved aside so that she could activate the entrance.

Isabel waved her hand across the stone wall, watched the silver handprint emerge as if by magic. She placed her palm on the imprint, stepped back as the stone slid away.

Taking a deep breath, Isabel ducked under the overhang and entered the room in which she had been born.

Alex was right behind her. He shone the flashlight across the pods, an interested expression on his face. She remembered that this was the first time he had been there. "They look different from the one Tarsus had Max use to ready himself for the journey to Illyria." He commented.

Isabel nodded. "They served different purposes I guess. These ones were to transform us to humans. The other ones were to turn us back." She shuddered at the thought.

Alex came and put his arm around her. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, thanks. Listen Alex, being here reminded me of something I've been thinking about lately." Alex squeezed her, encouraging her to continue. "Don't you think it was weird that even after Max and Michael were transformed to return to Illyria, they looked like humans?" She turned to stare at the pods again. "Why?"

Alex shook his head. "I don't know Iz."

"Do you think that our people LOOK like humans?" Isabel asked him, voicing her own suspicions. "I mean, the fact that there is life on at least two planets in the universe, makes it likely that there is life on more...maybe we were sent to Earth for the reason that we looked like humans?"

Alex did not look convinced. "But Liz told me that when you and the others healed Nasedo, he shifted slightly into one of those typical alien forms...you know, the ones everyone sees in the UFO museum? With the big head and eyes..."

Isabel frowned. "Yeah...well, it was just a thought."

"So what are we looking for?" Alex asked, flashing his light across the pods and stone walls again.

Isabel shrugged, moved away from him as she examined the pods more closely. "I have no idea..."

And suddenly the vision was upon her...She threw her hands up to her head...It felt like someone had her head in a vise and was gradually tightening it...

*Flash

"Make the sacrifice."

*Flash

"Mirana - you are the key!"

*Flash

"Use the gate."

*Flash

A stone circle, Max's face, Michael's face, Tess' face, her own face....Liz's face, Alex's face, Maria's, Kyle's....they all whipped across her mind like a slide-show....the stone circle, Max's face, the stone circle, Max's face...

"Isabel! IZZY!"

Isabel blinked, stared at Alex. He was grasping her by the shoulders, staring at her in fright. "Izzy! What happened? Did you get another flash?"

Isabel nodded mechanically. She frowned slightly, shook her head to clear it.

"Are you okay?" Alex demanded. He sounded angry. He was clearly upset about the fact that these visions were not consequence free. Her head was still killing her.

"Yeah...Alex, please...I'm okay. It doesn't matter." Isabel tried to remember exactly what she had seen.

"The hell it doesn't!" Alex practically yelled. "What the hell is Max doing- using you as some sort of interstellar post-office? It's clearly hurting you. Why can't any of this ever just be normal?"

Isabel stared at him. "Alex! Calm down." She ran her hands up his arms comfortingly. "I'm fine." She paused. Alex was still muttering to himself. "Alex! I need you here...just stop it! I'm okay." She waited until his attention was completely focused on her again.

"Sorry." He finally said, still upset, but at least he was listening.

She smiled at him. "If I didn't know better, I'd say that you wanted me to stick around." She teased him, trying to cajole a smile out of him.

He was having none of it. "Don't even joke about that Isabel." Alex replied seriously, his eyes dark. He took a deep breath. "Fine. So what did you see?"

Isabel stared at him a moment longer, made sure that he had reemerged from his momentary flip-out. "It's not Max who's communicating with me." She eventually told him.

"What do you mean it's not Max?" Alex demanded. He sounded disappointed, but there was a weird edge to his voice as well.

"I mean, it's about Max - about how to get him back - but it's not him sending the messages..." Isabel explained.

Alex scowled. "Well, all I can say is, he's damn lucky it's not. When we got him back, I was planning on asking him how his trip was and then kicking his butt right back there for hurting you."

Isabel rolled her eyes. She wondered if Michael had been giving her boyfriend lessons in protective-guy obnoxiousness. "Alex, could you please stop being ridiculous? You know that Max would never intentionally hurt me - any of us. If last winter taught me anything, its that my brother was willing to do anything to protect us." Isabel felt a moment's sadness at the thought of the loneliness Max had had to endure during his bad-ass act, when he had had to alienate everyone he loved in the world in order to save them. "Anyway," She continued. "It wasn't Max."

"Well, then who was it?" Alex asked, sounding a bit embarrassed about his outburst.

Isabel sighed. "I don't know. I didn't really understand any of it. All I saw was everyone's faces mixed in with Max's...and a stone circle." She wrinkled her nose in thought. "And they told me to make the sacrifice again...whatever the heck that means."

"Maybe the others will have some ideas." Alex suggested.

Isabel glanced at her watch, saw that it was well past midnight. Although she had been the one who had insisted that everyone contact everyone else if something happened, she realized now that it was probably best to wait for morning. Liz and Maria were both exhausted and needed their sleep, and she just couldn't face Michael right then...his guilty face was seriously beginning to depress her, forgetting that before that day she had been the most somber of them all. "Maybe. I think you and I should go home to bed and think about it a bit first though. We can tell them tomorrow at school."

Alex understood her reasoning immediately. "Okay. I guess we better head home then." He took her hand, squeezed gently. "We're making progress here Iz. We are going to bring Max home."

Isabel smiled at him, felt tears of hope filling her eyes. She glanced at the pods again, wondered which one had been the progenitor of her wonderful, selfless, much missed brother.

They were going to find him and bring him home.

She swore it would be so - even if it was the last thing she ever did, Isabel would see her brother again.


Liz felt the tears on her cheeks when she awoke the next morning. Sunlight was streaming through her bedroom window. She sighed, curled up under her covers and thought.

She was ecstatically happy and unbearably sad at the same time. But most of all she was disappointed...she had not had another dreamy visit from her boyfriend - or his Illyrian double either.

Her happiness stemmed from the fact that she had found Max. She knew that he was alive and safe - and the sadness came from the fact that he did not remember who he was.

He did not remember her.

And now her journal had disappeared.

Liz had never managed to talk to anyone last night. She had fallen asleep with the phone on her lap after the tenth time she had called Isabel, only to get the machine.

It was annoying, but she would see them all at lunch. It had actually worked out for the best. She had a lot to do before she told them what she had learned.

Liz had already decided that she was skipping classes that morning. She had to go to the library. Something was nagging at the back of her mind about the dream she had had...

For some reason, she thought that she knew exactly where to look for the answer to all their questions.

Because now that she knew that Max was alive, Liz was going to bring him home.

Even if she died trying.

Part 9

Alex stared down at his lunch, an expression of distaste on his face. "They call this pizza? It looks like..." He paused. "Well, I don't know what, but definitely not something I want to be putting into my mouth."

Michael, who was seated beside him, grabbed the slice, pulled a bottle of Tabasco out of his pocket, and dumped the entire contents onto it. "There. Problem solved."

"Contrary to what you might think Michael, Tabasco is not the solution to every culinary disaster." Maria commented, her nose wrinkled in disgust.

Isabel couldn't help but giggle at the look on Alex's face. He was staring at the pizza that Michael had deposited back in front of him, horror apparent. "Um, you can keep it."

"Thanks." Michael made a big show of taking a bite. "Mmmmm....delicious."

Isabel and Maria exchanged looks, both laughed. Alex was scowling at them all.

For one precious moment, everything was normal. It hadn't been like this for so long - not since before Tess came into their lives, Isabel realized. She knew that Michael was actually putting on a bit of a show for Maria's benefit, but it was still nice.

It was too bad that Liz wasn't there yet...

Or Max.

She sobered instantly. "Where are the others?" She asked Maria abruptly.

Maria looked at her quickly. Isabel was pleased to note that her friend actually looked a bit better today. She had colour in her cheeks and the circles under her eyes were not quite as large. "Liz left me a message in the office saying she was going to be a bit late. I have no idea where Tess and Kyle are."

Isabel scanned the courtyard impatiently. She had thought about her latest vision all night and was no closer to deciphering it than she had been when she had dropped Alex off at home. She needed everyone else to start thinking about it too.

She groaned when she suddenly caught sight of possibly the most annoying person on campus headed in their direction.

"Don't look now, but the black widow is on her way over." Isabel muttered to the others.

Maria turned around, scowled. "What is that girl's problem?" She asked, her nose wrinkling again at the sight of Pam Troy, Max's erstwhile ex-girlfriend.

"I think the proper question would be, what ISN'T that girl's problem." Alex replied in a lecturing tone.

Pam was being followed by two or three of her minions. Isabel put on her best ice-queen expression. They had to get rid of them before Liz showed up. Her friend did not need to deal with her arch-enemy on top of everything else.

"Well, if it isn't four of the seven dweebs." Pam said in a tone dripping with venom as she finally came to a stop next to them. Her lackeys giggled. Isabel turned burning eyes on them. They immediately stopped laughing. One of them actually looked frightened.

Isabel was pleased.

"What do you want Troy?" Alex asked in a tone of long-suffering.

"I want to know where little Lizzie Parker is." Pam replied, sneering at him.

"Why?" Maria demanded, sounding suspicious - rightfully so in Isabel's point of view.

"Oh, you'll know soon enough." Pam replied in what she probably thought sounded like a mysterious tone, but rather it sounded like an irritating whine.

"Beat it Troy." Isabel's eyes shifted to Kyle, who had come up behind Pam. The expression on his face was annoyed, but Isabel could see real signs of fury underneath the surface.

Pam scowled at him but obeyed. She knew that of the whole group of Liz's friends, only Kyle was the one she had to be concerned with socially. At one time Isabel would have been able to ruin her socially too, but since Max's disappearance she had not bothered to continue the farce of popularity.

It hadn't seemed important anymore.

"Have any of you seen Liz?" Kyle asked when Pam was out of ear-shot. His tone was instantly panicked.

"She wasn't in school this morning." Maria replied. "Why? What's wrong?"

"Everything." Kyle replied, turning to scan the crowd of students for Liz.

Isabel caught sight of her friend before the rest of them did. Liz was hurrying in their direction, her head lowered, her long dark hair shielding her face. She had a large book in her arms.

It was then that Isabel began to hear the whispering. As the student body caught sight of Liz, they all began to turn and stare at her. Someone even pointed. "What the heck?" Isabel heard Alex mutter.

Isabel became even more concerned when two jocks suddenly stepped in front of Liz. "Hey Parker! Didn't know you had it in you." Isabel could hear one of them say.

Liz looked up, blinked at him. A slightly perplexed smile appeared on her pretty face. "What do you mean Tom?"

Kyle shook his head. "Damn!" He hurried in Liz's direction, grabbed her by the arm and escorted her to the table, shoving Tom and his crony as he passed them. "You're dead at practice today." He told them. Isabel knew that Kyle could make their lives hell. He was the captain of the team and he ran the football practices with the coach.

Liz came and sat beside Isabel, plunking her book on the table in front of her. Isabel could not see the title as it was upside down. "What's going on guys?'"

The rest of them all looked to Kyle for an explanation. He looked upset that he was obviously going to have to be the one to tell her.

"Ummmm..." To Isabel it appeared that Kyle was actually wringing his hands.

"Spill it Valenti!" This was from Michael, who looked like he was about to blow a gasket.

"Well, someone plastered posters all over school with a web-site address on them." Kyle began explaining slowly. "So I went to check it out."

"And?" Maria waved her hand in front of her encouraging Kyle to continue.

"Well, the site was about Max." Kyle swallowed. "It was basically full of a whole bunch of pictures of Max and Liz together...ummm...doing stuff."

Isabel felt her breath catch in her throat. "What kind of stuff?" She asked, although she already knew.

Kyle turned to stare at her. "I think you know Isabel."

Isabel turned to Liz. Her friend's face had gone white. Liz's hands were clutching the side of the table, the knuckles turning white as Isabel watched in fascination.

"And that's not all...Liz's journal is posted on the site." Kyle continued.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 8:34:03 PM
Part 10

Liz wondered if she was going to pass out.

She really, really felt like she was. All of her
friends looked horrified, but they had no idea how bad
this really was.

Only one other person at the table knew. Liz turned
to stare at Michael. His face was chalk white and he
looked like he wanted to throw up. He met her gaze,
his pupils dilated with a combination of horror and
terror.

Liz finally managed to open her mouth to speak. "Was
my whole journal on there Kyle?" She asked, having to
try twice before the words had any sort of coherence.

Kyle shrugged. "How should I know? It was just a whole
lot of stuff about Max." He looked embarrassed. "I
tried not to read too much of it Liz. I mean, its
private."

Liz stumbled to her feet. "Alex, we need to get this
off the web NOW...immediately, if not sooner."

"Liz, do you really think you should look at it?"
Maria asked with concern as Liz moved to drag Alex off
to the computer room. "Alex can do it himself."

Liz exchanged another look with Michael. While she
was majorly humiliated that there seemed to be nookie
pictures of she and Max on the site, that was not her
main concern. The potentially explosive secrets that
had been revealed....

And even if they hadn't...well, the person who had the
journal knew...and that was bad enough.


She couldn't decide whether to tell the others or not.
Tess and Izzy would seriously, and rightfully, freak
if they found out.

No, it was best to keep it between she and Michael
until they knew how bad it was.

"It's okay Maria. I need to see it." Liz replied.

Liz practically sprinted across the quad, Alex close
behind her. She ignored all the staring eyes, the
catcalls from a couple of asses on the football
team...

None of it mattered. Her friends' lives were
potentially in danger here.

Alex and Liz slammed into the computer room. A couple
of students already there snapped around to stare at
them. One snickered. Liz knew what site she must be
looking at.

It was only then that Liz realized that Michael had
accompanied them. He glared at the three sophomores
and two freshman. "Out." He commanded in his most
threatening tone. Liz was pleased that none even
commented. They all grabbed their stuff and made a
break for it. Michael's bad-ass reputation did come in
handy sometimes, Liz reflected wryly.

She slid into the seat in front of the console where
the giggler had been sitting.

Her heart stopped. She closed her eyes briefly, took
a deep breath.

Well, there was no denying that it was her. There she
was kissing Max passionately, an expression of bliss
on her face.

She even recognized where it was. It was the night
that they had been in Michael's apartment, their
impulse to be together almost completely out of
control. It was the same night they had discovered
the orb that had started the whole mess in the first
place.

Liz quickly used the mouse to click to the next
picture. It was even worse. Max had his shirt off
and she was running her hand down his chest. The
expression on his face...

She felt tears fill her eyes. She remembered exactly
what he had said to her...

"I can't do it to you." She had told him sadly.

"I'm glowing everywhere." He had replied. "My toes,
my heart. You can't see it because its on the
inside."

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph." Alex stuttered from behind
her. "I think I'm going blind."

Liz felt hysterical laughter about to erupt. "How? I
mean where on Earth did these pictures come from?" She
demanded.

"Liz, we can figure that out later. Get to the
journal." Michael commanded. Liz felt annoyed. How
dare he order her around when this was all his fault
in the first place?

But she knew that he was right. She quickly clicked
to the home page.

Giant letters screamed off the computer.

THE SECRET LIFE OF LIZ PARKER.

In smaller letters it continued.

Mild-mannered school girl by day, sizzling sex-pot by
night....
That's our Lady Liz.
Here it all is...in black and white...in her own
words.

Liz paused, glanced back at Michael. "Are you ready
for this?" She asked quietly.

He nodded, his jaw set. She clicked on the mouse.

The next screen came up.

Journal Entry 4

The tough thing about following your heart is what
people forget to mention, that sometimes your heart
takes you to places you shouldn't be....

Liz quickly scanned the rest of the entry. Nothing
incriminating there, although it was making her
stomach clench just seeing her private thoughts on
public display. It was making her feel ill to realize
that a large portion of the student body had been
privy to those thoughts.

Journal Entry 18

Have you ever had a moment when you're with the one
person in the world you want to be with? And the wind
is blowing through your hair and the song that just
describes your entire soul happens to come on and then
the person you happen to want to be with happens to
love the same song and suddenly you realize you’re
listening to it together.

Liz swallowed, didn't even give herself a chance to
remember that perfect moment. It would make her think
about how much she missed Max, about what she had
found out last night...now wasn't the time.

Click.

Journal Entry 34

Lately I've been having these feelings, like I'm
changing, inside, and part of me doesn't want to
change, part of me always wants to be my mom's little
girl, but the thing is these feelings are strong,
dangerous, undeniable...it's like I have no choice,
it's like chemical...

"What the heck is that supposed to mean?" Michael
demanded. He was reading over her shoulder.

"Er - never mind." Liz replied. She swiveled around,
sighed with relief. "None of it's what we thought."
She told him.

"What did you guys think was on here?" Alex asked
suspiciously. "I would have thought that what was
there was enough to make you crawl under your bed for
a year." He nudged Liz out of her chair, began to
type away, clearly trying to get rid of the site.

Liz and Michael exchanged another look. "Um...I used
my journal to talk about some Czech stuff." Liz
replied finally, realized that everyone had a right to
know now.

The fact that her journal was still out there
somewhere - in God knew who's hands...everyone NEEDED
to know.

Alex turned around. "What! Liz were you crazy? What
were you thinking?" She saw the look of terror that
crossed her best friend's face. She knew exactly what
was going through his mind....Isabel was now in great
danger.

"Can it Whitman." Michael inserted. "What's done is
done. Liz had a right to write whatever she wanted."

Liz pressed her lips together. She did not want
Michael standing up for her...she hated him...but she
couldn't help but feel a bit thankful.

She knew that it had been stupid...that she should
have burned the thing after Michael had stolen it the
first time...

She should have gotten rid of it when Max had
disappeared...but it had been her only reminder of
him, besides a few photographs. To burn it - it would
have been like erasing her entire relationship with
her soulmate.

"Can you get rid of it?" Liz asked Alex in a small
voice.

"Yeah, it's pretty amateur actually." Her friend
replied. "I just need to get into the
site-builder..."

"Don't you need a password?" Michael asked, looking
impressed as Alex’s hands flew across the keyboard.

"Nah, I can get around that." Alex replied. As Liz
watched tensely, the screen flashed several times -
and the journal entry in front of them disappeared.

"Please tell me its gone?" Isabel walked into the
computer room with Tess. Tess' face looked concerned.

"Are you okay?" She asked Liz. Liz reflected briefly
on how surreal it was that she and Tess were actually
friends.

"Yeah, thanks. Alex took care of it." Liz replied.

"Where's Maria?" Michael demanded, glancing behind the
two girls who had just entered.

Isabel's face, which had been showing her relief,
darkened. "Kyle took her home. She wasn't feeling
well." Liz saw Michael clench his fists at his side,
felt her own stomach drop.

"We need to figure out who was behind this." Alex
announced as he stood up. "We have to get that
journal back."

"Why?" Tess asked. "I mean, I heard some of the girls
talking in the hall. It sounds to me like the
pictures were sort of bad, but that the journal was
actually kind of romantic." She smiled at Liz sadly.
"You're like even more of a tragic heroine to them now
than you were before."

"I'm pleased to report that there were no sex
fantasies, if that's what you mean." Liz replied,
blushing slightly. She saw Isabel grimace.

"Please, I may be ill. This is my brother we're
talking about here."

Liz realized that they had to tell them. "My journal
wasn't just about my relationship with Max. It was
also about Max in general...I mean, what he was...IS!"
Liz quickly amended, upset that she had used the past
tense to refer to her boyfriend. "What he is..."

"His Czech status?" Isabel blanched. "Oh my God. And
us too?" She indicated Michael and Tess. Tess looked
like she couldn't speak.

Liz felt terrible. She nodded. "I am so sorry Isabel
- all of you."

Isabel sat on a chair quickly. She looked faint. "I
can't breathe."

Alex hurried to her side, began to stroke her back
comfortingly. "It's okay. We're going to get it back
Iz."

"I need to think about something else." Isabel
announced abruptly "I CANNOT think about this right
now." Alex exchanged a worried glance with Liz. She
shrugged.

Isabel was reaching into her book bag. She pulled out
the large book that Liz had been carrying when she had
come to lunch. Liz had not even remembered that she
had left it behind.

Izzy flipped it over so that the title was visible to
them all. It was entitled BRITISH HERITAGE SITES.

"What is this all about?" She looked at Alex
significantly. "It's what I saw in my vision Alex."

"What the hell?" Michael yelled. "That's what I saw
in MY vision!"

He was staring at the picture on the cover in shock.
It was of the most famous tourist sites in all of
Great Britain. It was Stonehenge.

"YOUR vision?" Alex demanded. "Were you planning on
telling us about that in this century, or the next?"

"I saw it too." Liz said quietly. "That's why I wasn't
in school this morning. I had to check up on
something. Max called it the Waylandian Ring."

"Ummm, and might I inquire when he called it that?"
Alex asked, shaking his head wearily. Liz understood
how he was feeling. They were not being very open
about what was going on with each of them.

"I never got a chance to tell you guys." Liz
continued. "I saw Max last night. In a dream."

"He dreamwalked you?" Isabel sounded ecstatic.

Liz shook her head. "No. I think he was just as
surprised to be there as I was." She shut her eyes
briefly, felt again the pain of the meeting - but also
the hope that had remained with her ever since. "He
doesn't remember who he is." She told them sadly.

"What do you mean?" Michael demanded.

"Just what I said...they've brainwashed him or
something. He doesn't remember anything about his
time on Earth. He really thinks that he's Jaxon
Falconer."

"He IS Jaxon Falconer." Michael replied. Liz narrowed
her eyes. Not in her book was Max EVER going to be
Jaxon Falconer.

He was Max. Her Max.

"You know what I mean." Liz told him, barely keeping
her irritation out of her voice. "Anyway, the point
is, we were in what he called the Waylandian Ring."

Isabel was shaking her head. "Who cares about that
right now? How did he look?"

"He looked fine. He looked exactly like he looked
when he left." Liz replied, a slight smile on her
face.

He had looked beautiful to her.

"I don't understand." Tess said. "We've figured out
already that time moves differently on Illyria. I
mean, Michael and Maria were only gone for an hour but
for them it was like they were gone for a year.
Shouldn't Max be like three hundred years old by now?"

Liz just shook her head. "I have no idea. He looked
exactly the same. Yeah, he looked older, but only
because he's almost a year older than the last time we
saw him."

Michael was scowling. "So what does Stonehenge have to
do with any of this?" He inquired testily, clearly
wanting to get back on track with the mystery at hand.

"I'll tell you." Liz replied, annoyed with him again.
Couldn't he just let them be happy for two minutes
that Max was healthy and alive? She took the book
away from Isabel, flipped through to the entry on the
famous ancient site. She began to read aloud.

"England's most famous stone circle is found several
miles from the city of Salisbury in Wiltshire. It is
now generally acknowledged that the famous stones were
carried to the site from Northern Wales by an ancient
people, although for what purpose is unclear.
Mysteries and legend surround the stone circle. It is
known that the circle was a holy site for the ancient
Druids, that it might have been an astronomical
observatory and that it is found at the intersection
of several lay-lines..."

"What's a lay-line?" Tess interrupted.

"It's like a line of energy that is supposed to cross
the island. There are supposed to be thousands of
them." Liz explained. "They're invisible but they are
said to have great power. Stone circles are generally
believed to be built on the spots where several cross
because the Druids and others used them to channel the
power from the lay-lines."

"Sounds like a bunch of hocus-pocus nonsense to me."
Michael grumbled.

"Yeah, and aliens among us sounded like a bunch of
hocus-pocus nonsense to me!" Alex replied
sarcastically.

Liz ignored them both, continued to read. "One of the
biggest mysteries surrounding the circle is how the
stones were transported from Wales to Wiltshire. The
people who lived at the time it was built did not have
the technology to do so, although some historians
argue that they might have moved them by water."

"So?" Michael asked, clearly getting impatient.

"Will you shush!" Liz snapped. Michael blinked at
her. She turned back to the others. "This is what's
important...get this..." she explained. "Some less
reputable sources argue that the only explanation lies
in the stars."

"What the heck is that supposed to mean?" Michael
demanded.

Liz rolled her eyes. She turned to Isabel hopefully.

Isabel's face was shining with excitement. She was
clutching Alex's hand tightly. She turned to Michael.
"Don't you get it? They think that it was built by
aliens! Oh my God! Liz! Do you realize what this
means?"

Liz smiled at her. "I do. It means that we know how
to bring Max home."

Part 11

The Citadel, Illyria

Jaxon stalked down the corridor to the throne room, his back straight, his expression blank. He was determined to show no fear.

He had not seen his parents in two years - not since the day they had sent assassins to murder him in his bed. He had barely escaped with his life. If it had not been for Tarsus...he would have surely perished.

Jaxon wondered if Mirana and Tristandor would be there as well. The thought of seeing them was disturbing. Once his closest companions, their betrayal had hurt even more than that of his parents.

He hoped that they were not there. He did not know if he would be able to keep his composure if he saw his twin sister. Mirana had been his confidante and strength while he had grown into his leadership role after their father's death. Their father had been gone only a few short months after their emergence from their pods. They had only ever had each other and their mother. While they had loved their stepfather Hamor when their mother had married him, he had still been an outsider, one who had taken their mother from their little circle. They had become even closer then.

It had been the marriage to Tristandor that had been the turning point in their relationship. Tristandor had come to the Citadel with professions of friendship and loyalty...but, in the end, he had convinced Jaxon's parents and sister to turn on him.

Liz had spoken of them. She had told him that Mirana, or Isabel as Liz called her, was Liz's best friend...that she was working to bring him "home." She had told him that Tristandor - Michael - was HIS best friend.

It was these lies that had convinced Jaxon that Liz was not who she claimed to be. She was working for his parents - there was no question.

He could not trust her. She was a figment of his imagination, or an illusion created to trick him.

Jaxon's thoughts were interrupted when one of his guards grabbed him roughly by the elbow, forcing him to stop walking.

"You will bow to the Queen Dowager when you enter." The guard instructed.

Jaxon narrowed his eyes at the guard. "I am her king." He replied evenly. "I bow to no one."

"You are a traitor." The guard replied, his fury evident in his eyes. "And you will bow - or I will make you sorry you did not."

Jaxon stared at him, refused to look away first. He knew that he was ragged and dirty, but he was still this man's king.

The other man's gaze faltered first. Jaxon saw him swallow convulsively. Jaxon wondered if he was frightened.

Fright was an unacceptable emotion on Illyria. The guard would do his best to hide it if he was afraid.

Jaxon knew that his parents' people had not yet undergone the cleansing. While they had accepted the danger of emotions to progress, they had not the courage to do away with them entirely.

Not like Tarsus and his followers - Jaxon's true subjects.

The guard was motioning to the page standing near the great doors. Jaxon could see that the page was gazing at him in awe. He scowled at him. The page quickly looked away, threw the doors wide.

Jaxon swallowed, shook the guard's hand off his arm. He strode forward, his head high.

The doors closed quietly behind him. Jaxon realized belatedly that his guard had not followed him.

The great room was empty save for the two figures at the far end who were staring at him wide-eyed.

"Jaxon." One of them spoke, moved forward.

He clenched his fists, set his jaw.

It was his mother.

Milena Falconer was as lovely as ever, her hair still golden blonde despite her advancing years, although Jaxon knew that she had been very young when she had borne he and Mirana. She was gazing at him with dark eyes that were the exact shade of his own, but her delicate features had been inherited by his sister.

Jaxon's father, or rather step-father, although he was the only father Jaxon had ever known, stayed where he was, watching his wife closely.

He was clearly as uncomfortable as Jaxon himself.

"Mother." Jaxon replied evenly. He saw her face light up. She had always been hopeless at controlling her emotions. She had also been against the cleansing of the people from the very beginning. Jaxon knew that it was unlikely that she would ever go through the process herself.

"My son." She was breathing deeply, was now standing directly in front of him. He met her gaze steadily. Her eyes shadowed slightly. "They have not treated you kindly." She commented quietly, taking in the bruises on his face. She looked angry for a moment. "But then they do not understand." Her eyes seemed to be devouring his face. It was making him supremely uncomfortable. She was acting as though she had not seen him in decades, not simply the year or so it had been. "It has been so long." She finally said, her voice shaking.

"Not long enough." He snapped back. Her face remained serene, but her eyes flashed with hurt. "Where are the other betrayers? Where are my sister and her cursed husband?"

His mother blinked at him. "Mirana and Tristandor have been gone for a long time my son."

"Dead?" He demanded. He knew that he should be pleased, but his heart pounded in dread instead, waiting for her reply.

"No." Milena replied. "They are alive, but they are not well. They miss you."

Jaxon pressed his lips together. "They betrayed me." Milena's eyes glistened. She blinked quickly. Any evidence that she had been on the verge of tears quickly disappeared.

"My son, you have been greatly deceived." She replied finally. "Your sister did not betray you. She is even now searching for you." She paused clearly weighing what to tell him. "We are going to help you return to her...to many who love you, to many whom you love. The fate of our people depends on it..."

"I love no one." He interrupted. "It is weak..." Jaxon was cut off when the doors behind him were thrown open. His mother's gaze snapped beyond him in annoyance.

"We are not to be disturbed." Her face settled into lines of affection at the sight that greeted her, however. "You should not be here Jennetta." Jaxon turned and watched as a small girl bounded into the room, her light brown hair bouncing across her shoulders.

She screeched to an abrupt halt at the sight of him. "Is it Jaxon? Has he come?" She asked excitedly. "I heard the servants talking Mama."

Jaxon turned back to his mother perplexed. "Who is this child?" He included his step-father in the question. Hamor had been quietly observing up until this point. Now he spoke.

"Your mother and I were blessed by the stars Jaxon. It has been almost two years since Jennetta was conceived. She emerged from her birthing pod nine months ago." He paused briefly, exchanged a loaded glance with Jaxon's mother. "She is your sister."

He did not know what to say. He wondered why he had not been informed. Tarsus' agents should have uncovered this information months ago. It was vital news.

There was another heir to the throne.

Jennetta was eyeing him, clearly unsure what was transpiring. "You do not know of me?" She finally asked, her childish voice sounding highly insulted.

Jaxon did not know what to say to her. He did not want to include an innocent child in the battle with his parents - but she was a threat to him. "I did not." He finally admitted. "But I am most pleased to learn of you now."

Jennetta's face lit up. "Now we must simply find Tristandor and Mirana and Sabrya and our family will be complete. Well, and of course Liz and Maria and..."

Liz. Jaxon felt his heart stop.

Milena had grabbed Jennetta, had placed a hand over her mouth. "That's quite enough my darling. Where did you pick up such nonsense?"

Jaxon could see Jennetta's eyes darkening as she prepared to try and escape his mother's grasp, but it was not really registering.

The name Liz kept repeating itself over and over in his mind.

"Who are these people...who is this Liz?" Jaxon finally managed to force the words out. He had not believed that it would turn out to be quite so easy to confront his mother about having sent Liz to torment him, but the opening was too convenient to ignore.

Right Jaxon, a small voice in the back of his mind said sarcastically. That's why you want to know about her.

He suppressed the voice.

"She's to be your wife." Jennetta had managed to wiggle out of Milena's grasp. She was across the room where her mother could not easily grab her.

Jaxon turned back to stare at his mother. Milena's eyes were closed in annoyance.

"Jennetta, who has been spreading such falsehoods?" Hamor demanded urgently.

"Lucianus told me." Jennetta replied, sticking her nose in the air. If Jaxon did not currently feel like he had just had the air kicked out of his lungs by her last announcement, he might have laughed at the expression of glee on her face. She was clearly thrilled that she had the knowledge that all the rest of them wanted.

She reminded him of someone actually...for a brief moment a mischievous glint in her eye brought to mind another face - one he could not place.

Hamor was shaking his head in irritation. "Lucianus is mad my darling. You know better than to listen to him."

Jennetta's face became mutinous. "Lucianus is not mad papa. He would never lie to me."

"Be that as it may, you know better than to comment on affairs you know nothing about. You may leave." Jaxon could see that Milena was upset.

Jennetta briefly looked as though she was going to argue, but one glance at the stern expression on Hamor's face seemed to change her mind.
"Goodbye Jaxon. I will see you again soon." She tossed her hair and flounced out of the room.

Jaxon watched her go. He had absolutely no idea what to say.

Liz was to be his wife. The idea was strangely appealing, although he KNEW that she worked for THEM.

"Jaxon?" Milena was gazing up at him in concern.

"Mother, please, I just need to know what is going on here." Jaxon felt like he was drowning - as though everything he knew to be true was suddenly in question. "I need to know everything." Milena glanced at Hamor again. His stepfather shrugged, nodded.

"We would like to help you Jaxon, but it is difficult to know where to start."

Jaxon knew that they were going to lie to him, but for some reason he wanted to hear the lies...to hear the story from them and not Tarsus. He needed to hear it so that he could make a final judgment on his own...

And he knew just where to start.

"Mother, this might seem like a strange question." Jaxon finally began. "But I need to hear the answer. How long has it been since we last saw each other?"

Milena bit her lip, glanced again at Hamor. "My darling, this might be difficult for you to understand - or accept..." Jaxon held his breath. Somehow he knew what was coming, but he needed to hear it.

"It has been a lifetime since I last laid eyes on you."




posted on 16-Sep-2001 8:37:18 PM
Part 12

"Okay, I am totally lost." Kyle told them as they filled him in on what was going on. "Why do I suddenly feel like I've entered some weird fantasy novel? The next thing you know, there are going to be unicorns trotting down the main drag of Roswell! Stonehenge? Are you guys totally bananas?"

It was late evening. The Crashdown was closed and they were all sprawled in booths and at the counter.

Only Maria was missing. Michael had gone to pick her up after school but she had been too tired to come. Amy Deluca had not even let him through the front door, although Maria had attempted to sneak out through the window. Michael had forced her back into bed when he had gotten one look at her though.

He had not spoken since arriving at the Crashdown. He was brooding at the counter, clearly listening to the conversation, but also too upset to participate. Liz actually felt her heart go out to him at one point. He looked so lost and alone...She quickly suppressed the feeling.

Maria's absence just emphasized how important it was to get Max back as soon as possible. Which was why Liz had come to a decision. Isabel had agreed with her. They were taking control of the situation and no one was going to stop them. Not even their parents.

"Could you for once be serious?" Tess asked Kyle now, sounding irritated. Liz knew that she was still stewing about the decision that Isabel and Liz had reached before Kyle had joined them.

"Do you really think you're going to get away with this?" Kyle asked, ignoring Tess, but sounding a little hurt. "Your parents are never going to let you go. I mean, its the middle of September. You are all going to flunk out."

It had been decided that Liz, Michael and Isabel were going to England to check out the Stonehenge angle. It was clear that it was important and they had been the three chosen to go not only because of their close relationships with Max, but also because they were the only three who had had direct visions or dreams about the stone circle.

Of course, Maria had shared Michael's vision, but she was just too weak to go. Michael had originally argued against leaving her behind, saying that if they did manage to get Max back, Maria should be close by so that he could heal her as quickly as possible, but he had said nothing about it since Maria had been unable to join them that night.

"We've thought of that, of course." Liz told Kyle. "Michael is eighteen and technically can do what he wants now."

"Not to mention, I'm already flunking." Michael spoke up for the first time, his voice a monotone. "Might as well really go down in a blaze of glory."

Liz saw Isabel shoot a concerned look towards her brother. "I'm going to be honest with my parents." Isabel continued. "They'll let me do it I'm sure, if they think that it might bring Max back."

"I just don't understand why I can't go." Tess said in a sulky voice.

"Because we need one Czech to stay behind for protection." Liz sighed. They had gone over this a million times already, but Tess was still very upset.

"I don't see how I'm going to protect anybody." Tess snapped back. "My power doesn't work that way...it's not defensive OR offensive. It's pretty damn useless as a matter of fact." She muttered, her lips pressing together in fury.

"You're not coming Tess. Deal with it." Isabel replied testily. "You and Alex and Kyle need to stick close to Maria. She cannot be left alone."

"I know that none of you want me around. That's the real reason. You've never wanted me around!" Tess' voice was nearing a shriek. Liz blinked. She watched Tess jump up off her stool and race out the doorway to the restaurant.

"Jeez!" Michael had his hands over his ears. "Is she going insane?"

"She's just stressed out." Kyle was scowling at them all. "She cares about Max just as much as the rest of you do. I still think you're all crazy by the way. There's no way that the Parkers are going to let Liz go anywhere." He stalked out of the Crashdown. Liz was sure that he would find Tess and try and calm her down.

Alex was sitting quietly in a booth, nursing an alien blast. He spoke up for the first time in a while. "Kyle's right Liz. Your parents are never going to agree to this. And I don't think your parents are going to just let the three of you head off the continent without a chaperone." He directed this last comment at Isabel.

"We're going to ask my dad to come with us." Isabel replied. "He has some holiday time coming up...and I think he needs to do something productive to snap him out of his funk." Isabel looked hopeful. "I'm sure he'll agree."

"And that's why I'm not telling my parents." Liz told him.

"WHAT?" Alex bellowed, jumping to his feet. "Might I inquire where I was for that part of the conversation?"

Liz and Isabel exchanged guilty looks. "Er...you were in the bathroom." Isabel finally said.

"This is lunacy! Iz, your dad will never agree to letting Liz come without permission. We don't even know if the stone circle means anything! Why would it make such a difference? I mean, Izzy brought Maria and Michael back without Stonehenge getting involved." Alex had flopped back in his seat, a pained expression on his face.

"I just know it's important." Liz told him firmly. "And that's where Tess comes in...she'll make Mr. Evans think that my parents are at the airport when we leave." She knew that she sounded more confident than she felt. She would not feel totally secure until they were seated on a plane across the Atlantic. She pushed that thought aside for the moment. "Now the only question is, where are we going to get the money? Alex, what did you find out on the 'net?"

Alex was still shaking his head. "We are all slowly but surely losing it..." Isabel sighed, went and ran her hand down his back.

"Please focus Alex."

"I managed to find a seat-sale...five hundred bucks a ticket from Miami." He told them in a subdued voice. "Leaving tomorrow afternoon."

Liz began calculating their finances mentally. "I have five thousand in my checking account..."

"What the hell? Did you rob a bank?" Alex eyed her with interest.

"Big tips." Liz wiggled her eyebrows at him. "My grandma took pictures at the crash site you know." Alex rolled his eyes.

"And I have 1500 dollars." Isabel added.

"We should be okay for a while then." Liz told them. "But England is really expensive and the exchange rate is terrible."

"So it's there and back as fast as possible." Michael spoke up again. "We can't leave Maria for long anyway."

They all exchanged loaded glances.

"We are going to get Max back." Isabel told Micheal reassuringly. "I promise."

Michael ran his hand through his spiky hair in frustration. "I hope so...Maria needs him..." Liz thought she heard him add in an undertone, "And so do I," but she might have been hearing things.

She was not going to start feeling sorry for Michael Guerin. She knew that he felt guilty, that Maria's illness was almost impossible for him to bear...but it was his fault in the first place.

He should be suffering.

A tiny voice in the back of her mind told her that she didn't really feel that way, but she pushed it away ruthlessly. She needed to stay mad at someone...

If she didn't, she might fall apart.

Liz knew that she was balanced precariously on the edge of despair. Everytime she let herself hope...

Seeing Max in her dream had been magical, but also devastating.

That he didn't recognize her...

If she let herself think about that, she might never get out of bed again.

Liz shook her head, forced herself to concentrate on the task at hand.
"Okay, we need to get those tickets. Alex, that's your job."

Alex nodded, headed through the door to the break room to use the restaurant's computer.

"I'm going to talk to my parents." Isabel informed them.

"And I'm going to Maria's." Michael stalked out of the restaurant.

Liz sat down on one of the stools at the counter, placed her head in her hands. She breathed deeply, trying to calm down.

If this worked, they could have Max back in less then a week. A day and a half to get to England, another day to figure out how to get into Stonehenge...and then they would activate the orbs.

But for the first time Liz allowed herself to reflect on the one thing that could go wrong...The one thing none of them had wanted to contemplate.

If Max didn't remember them...if he really thought that he was Jaxon Falconer and had always been Jaxon Falconer...

What if he didn't want to come back?

Part 13

Maria felt like her body was falling apart.

She had been annoyed when Michael had told her that she was not
coming to the Crashdown, but she could not deny that it had been a
relief to sink back onto her bed. Every single part of her hurt.
She had terrible cramps in her arms and legs, her head felt like it
was going to explode and she had gotten to the point where she was
pretty much throwing up every hour on the hour.

She knew she was dying, which was why she had wanted to go to the
meeting in the first place. She wanted to spend every moment
possible with her friends before the end. With Michael.

Now she lay on her bed, staring out the window, her gaze drifting to
the "V" shaped constellation that was shining down on her
from the star-pocked sky above. She remembered sleeping under those same stars, wrapped in Michael's arms, during the three weeks that he
had tried to heal her in the desert.

It had been the happiest and most peaceful time of her life.

Ironic really, how much the little things counted, when the little
things were not going to be yours for much longer.

Maria knew that Max was not going to return in time to heal her.
Even if they did, by some mega-miracle, manage to bring him back,
there were absolutely no guarantees that he was going to be able to
help her. He wasn't God after all.

She had made her peace with what was happening to her. What she had
not made her peace with was the idea of leaving Michael alone.

She really was not sure if he would be able to go on without her -
and it terrified her.

The bond that had formed between them....she knew that something of
great significance had taken place in their relationship during their
time together in Illyria. Michael had been so much more protective
of her in every sense since they had come back...and it WASN'T
just because she was sick.

Something had happened to make it so. She just wished that she could
remember. Sometimes it felt like the memories were just beyond her
reach, that the fingertips of her mind were brushing against the
truth but that there was no chance of grasping it. It was supremely
frustrating.

Maria was pulled from her reverie by a knock on her window. She
managed to sit up, smiled at the sight of Michael's face peering
in at her. "Come on in spaceboy."

Michael pushed the window up, climbed in quickly. He stood there for
a moment staring at her. It looked like he was trying to compose
himself. "How're you feeling?" He finally asked gruffly.

"Oh about the same." Maria replied, trying not to let her
physical pain reflect in her voice. He didn't need that on top of
everything else.

His guilt about Max, not to mention her, was already almost out of
control.

"I'd feel a lot better if you were over here instead of over
there." She continued, managing to quirk a grin at him.

He smiled back, took off his jacket and shoes, and gently climbed
into bed beside her. Michael pulled Maria into his embrace. She
rested her head against his chest and was not surprised when her pain
did ease a little.

The love she felt for him was like the best drug in the world.

She could feel him playing with a lock of her long hair. "So
what did you guys decide?" Maria finally asked when the comfortable
silence had stretched on long enough.

"Liz, Izzy and I are going to England." He told her abruptly. "They
really think that this Stonehenge thing is a sign or something." He
sighed.

"Don't you?" Maria asked quietly. She really hoped it was, that Max
was on his way home. She hoped it for Liz's sake. It would be
nice to know that her best friend in the world was with her soulmate. And she knew that Max would be the one most likely to be able to help
Michael through his grief when she was gone. Isabel would drive him
crazy with her worrying. Max would listen and give advice - advice
that would likely annoy Michael beyond belief.

But an annoyed and angry Michael was much better than a devastated
Michael.

"I don't know." Michael replied. "But we have to do
something. Everyone is going crazy, I swear. Tess totally flipped out
tonight."

Maria frowned to herself. "Why isn't she going with you?"

"Someone needs to stay and protect you." Michael told her sternly.

"TESS?" Maria's surprise gave her enough strength to be able to sit
up to stare down at him. "Don't you think that's a little weird
Michael?"

Michael turned his head, stared out the window. "That's what
she said." He didn't say anything for a long time. "I
don't want to go." He finally continued. "I want to stay here. I want to be the one who heals you. God, Maxwell, where are you?"

Maria had not seen Michael cry since the night that Hank had found
out about his Czech status, the night he had had the biggest fight of
his life with Isabel and Max, the night that Michael had felt the
most alone.

But she could hear tears in his voice now.

She lay back down on his chest, reached up to stroke his cheek.
"I know you want to do it Michael, but you can't protect me forever
and you're not Superman, even if you are an alien who crash-landed on
this planet...and maybe if you can get Max back, we can find out about
what happened to us when we were on your planet. I really want to
know Michael. I really NEED to know."

"Me too." He scrubbed his hand across his face. "God,
Maria! Why are you comforting me when I'm the one who did this to you.
I'm the one who should be sick, not you." His jaw was clenched in fury.
She continued to stroke his face, trying to ease the tight muscles.

"Don't you get that that would be like even worse in my
book?" She gently kissed him on the lips. "I love you. If it was you, I wouldn't be able to bear it."

Michael's eyes had been closed, but they opened now, stared up at
her. "Then you know how I feel." He told her hollowly.

"I love you Michael." Maria kissed him again. She buried her
face in his neck, breathed in the scent that was all him, only him.

"Ditto."

Maria fell asleep moments later, her last thought that dying would be
quite all right, as long as she could do it in Michael's arms.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 8:40:40 PM
Part 14

Miami Airport, Florida, September 25, 2001

Liz glanced at her watch impatiently, heaved a sigh of annoyance.

"Where the heck is he?" She asked Isabel. "The plane is
leaving in fifteen minutes." She blushed slightly when Mr. Evans gave her a surprised look. She realized that that had sounded nothing like her usual self. Spending so much time in close quarters with Michael
Guerin, the cause of all the grief of the last few months, was
driving her nearly insane.

Liz, Isabel and Isabel's dad were standing near the boarding
gate for their British Air flight to London. Michael had disappeared into the crowds of the Miami airport the moment they had gotten off their flight from Albuquerque.

That had been two hours ago. They had not seen him since.

"He went to call Maria." Isabel explained. "I ran into
him at McDonald's about half an hour ago. Don't worry! He'll be
here."

Liz shifted from one foot to another, tried to get herself to calm
down. She was never going to survive the seven hour flight to
England if she didn't cool it.

But she couldn't help it.

For some reason she felt like time was running out...and not just
because Maria was so sick.

She was getting the feeling that if they didn't get to Stonehenge
quickly they would lose the opportunity to bring Max home. And that
did not bear thinking about.

"Did you call your parents Liz?" Mr. Evans asked, clearly
trying to change the subject.

Liz and Isabel exchanged glances. "Ummm, yeah." Liz replied,
hating herself for having to lie to him. "They told me to call
again when we reach London. They worry about me being on
planes."

Although Tess had still been furious at them when they had seen her
that morning, she had done her part. She had created an illusion of
the Parkers at the Roswell airport saying good-bye to Liz. Mr. Evans
had not suspected a thing. He still had no idea what Tess' gift
was.

Mr. Evans nodded sadly. "A parent can never be too careful."
He said quietly.

Liz saw Isabel's eyes fill with tears. It was clear that Mr.
Evans was thinking about Max. It was equally clear that Mr. Evans felt
like he had failed his son somewhere - that if he had been a better
parent, none of this would have happened.

Of course, it couldn't be further from the truth. Max, Isabel
and Michael had never had any control over their lives. What on Earth
could the Evans possibly have done to make it any different? What
they had done had been wonderful enough.

Max Evans was the kind, loving person he was because of them. They
had given him the normal life he had always wanted.

But then all hell had broken loose.

If Liz had her way though, it was all going to change when Max came
back. He was going to be happy and normal if it killed her. Destiny
be damned.

Isabel was searching the crowd with concern. "Okay, he has been
gone for way to long." She finally admitted.

Just then Liz caught a glimpse of Michael's spiky head towering
over the people in the terminal. He was rushing towards them, a sucker
stuck in his mouth.

He looked completely unconcerned. Liz wanted to strangle him.

Michael stopped and stared at them all. They were all staring back
at him.

"Why aren't you on the plane?" He asked in typical Michael
fashion, as though they were the idiots and he was an innocent
bystander trying to stay clear of their polluting ways.

"We're waiting for you dimbulb!" Isabel replied, rolling
her eyes.

"Why?" Michael scowled at her. "I can board a plane by myself
you know."

Liz heaved a sigh. Michael glanced at her, quickly looked away, a
guilty expression on his face. Liz tried to suppress the pang of
guilt that suddenly hit HER. She was not going to feel bad for
Michael. He deserved to feel bad. They wouldn't even have to be
doing this if it wasn't for him.

"Let's just go kids." Mr. Evans suggested, trying to ease
the tension.

Liz followed him quietly. I just better not have to sit with him,
she thought to herself as she boarded the plane.

As she settled into her window seat next to Isabel, her thoughts
naturally returned to Max.

We’re coming Max! Just hold on a while longer. I will see you
again.
***********************************************************

It was late afternoon.

Kyle had gone to the airport to see Liz, Isabel and Michael off and
was headed over to Maria's to check on her. Michael had asked
him to and he had quickly agreed.

Not only was he worried about Maria for her own sake, he also knew
that Tess would be there. He was just as concerned about her.

Tess had showed up at the airport to do her, as Maria would say,
voodoo alien mind thingy on Mr. Evans. She had not spoken to anyone
but had stalked out, without even acknowledging Alex and Kyle's
presence, as soon as the trio traveling to England, as well as
Max's dad, had boarded the plane.

She was acting very strangely. Like she hated them all.

It was so sudden, Kyle didn't know what to think.

Tess had started to develop a bond with the group - one that had
become natural after she had given up on all that destiny crap. The
fact that they had all been mourning the loss of Max had made the
transition in their relationships even more logical.

Past mistakes and bitterness had seemed really petty after what had
happened to Max.

But, after her little freak-out in the Crashdown the previous
evening, Tess had been totally alienated from the rest of them, no
pun intended.

She was even ignoring Kyle. And it hurt.

Kyle knew that Tess did not feel the same way about him that he felt
about her. He LOVED her. She LIKED him and was totally oblivious to
how he really felt. It sucked, but he accepted it. At least he got
to spend time with her.

If he lost that, he didn't know what he would do.

He pulled his Mustang into the Deluca's driveway. He was not
surprised to see Alex's parents' car parked on the street out
front.

Kyle hurried to the front door, knocked. Maria's mother answered
a moment later.

Amy Deluca looked like she had been put through the wringer. She had
dark circles under her eyes and her brown hair was hanging limply, as
though she hadn't washed it in days.

If Kyle didn't know that Maria was suffering from some spacey
disease, he might wonder if what she had was catching. Her mom
looked like she was on death's doorstep too.

"Hi Kyle." Amy said quietly, her usual bubbly personality
muted under the heavy burden of her concern for her daughter.
"How's your dad?"

"He's okay." Kyle replied. Kyle had often wondered what
had gone down between his dad and Amy. He knew that they had gone on a couple of dates, and he knew that his dad had really liked her, but then
BOOM! Nothing. It was weird.

"Maria's in her room." Amy told him. "Alex and Tess are here too.
Do you want to stay for dinner?" Amy continued. "Maria asked
for pizza." She sounded really excited that Maria actually had an
appetite.

Kyle suspected that Maria was only pretending to be hungry in order
to ease her mother's mind somewhat.

"Sure, thanks." Kyle replied. He made his way down the
hallway to Maria"s bedroom, knocked softly.

"Come in." Maria's voice came through the door. Kyle entered to
the sight of Alex sprawled on Maria's bed beside her. Tess was
sitting at the vanity, gazing out the window, a far-off expression on
her pretty face.

"Hey guys! What's up?"

Maria was curled up on Alex's shoulder, her pillow on her lap.
She looked even worse than she had yesterday, if that was even possible.

"Michael just called." Maria replied, her breathing heavy.
Kyle saw Alex frown slightly. "They're in Miami about to board
the plane to London."

"Cool." Kyle said, sticking his hands in his pockets. He
suddenly realized that they were a strange group to be hanging out together. Liz and Max were the ones who had always bonded them. To have both of them gone...it just felt peculiar.

"So we're trying to come up with a movie for tonight." Alex piped
up. "The girls have already vetoed Scream 1, 2 or 3."

"Actually, we're vetoing any film that has a number after the
title." Maria put in. "Right Tess?"

Tess' head snapped around. "What?" She asked. She had clearly
not heard a word of their conversation. Alex and Kyle exchanged a
look.

"Tess, are you okay?" Kyle asked, going to put his hand on her
shoulder. She flinched away. He tried to ignore the pang of hurt
that clenched at his stomach.

"I'm fine," she snapped.

"You're not still mad that they left you behind?" Maria demanded,
sounding annoyed. "I mean, we all wanted to go Tess...it just
was not logistically possible."

Tess looked away again. "I know." She said. "I'm not mad anymore. I'm just tired." She finished lamely.

Kyle knew she was lying.

"Anyway," Alex attempted to change the subject. "Movies? Any
ideas Valenti?"

"Don't you think we should be looking into who has Liz's
journal?" Kyle asked, scowling slightly. "We still have no
idea and, from what I understand, there's some pretty explosive stuff
in there."

Maria struggled to sit up. "Kyle's right. We need to make up a list of suspects."

"Who are you?" Alex asked teasingly, "Sherlock Holmes?"

Maria grinned slightly. "Actually, I'm Watson. Michael's Holmes."

"Yeah, and a really effective one at that." Alex replied
sarcastically. "Has that guy EVER broken in somewhere without
almost getting caught or pulverized?"

Maria smacked him. "So, I vote for Pam Troy. That girl was just
WAY too excited about that web-site."

Kyle shook his head. "I don't know. She's pretty dumb. I don't
think she could set up a web-site."

"Not to mention, the person who did it clearly has an agenda.
There was a reason that the Czech parts of the journal were left out."
Alex continued. "Whoever did it wanted us to know that they had
it, wanted us to worry, but they didn't want to give up the goods -
yet anyway."

"Good point. So who the hell was it then?" Kyle sighed. "Jeez,
this is tough. I never realized how much Liz and Max were the brains
of this operation."

Alex scowled at him good-naturedly. "I resent that Valenti. I am
clearly the designated nerd around here..." He was cut off by
Tess,
who had suddenly jumped to her feet.

"Can we please just shut up about Max and Liz for once?" She
demanded. "That's all I ever hear about...how much LIZ misses Max,
how much SHE needs him. Every time you say their names its like
they're one word...LIZANDMAX, MAXANDLIZ..." She was practically
yelling now. "There are others of us who cared about him too you
know!"

Kyle moved to put his arm around her. "We know that Tess." She
whirled away from him.

"I'm leaving. I need some air. I'll be back in a while
to check on you." She told Maria. Maria was still staring at her with her mouth open. She snapped it shut abruptly.

"Okay."

"What got stuck in her craw?" Alex asked when the bedroom door had
slammed shut behind Tess.

"Shut up Whitman." Kyle snapped.

He was torn about whether to go after Tess or not. He decided to
give her a chance to cool off. Not to mention he needed to think.
He had thought that Tess had gotten over all this jealousy stuff,
that she had given up on her so-called destiny.

But the way she had just acted...it didn't seem that way at all.

Can things possibly get any worse? He wondered as he plunked himself
down on the vanity stool Tess had just vacated.

When Kyle looked back on the incident days later, he wished that he
had knocked on wood - because, surprise, surprise...it had turned out
that things COULD get worse....

Much worse.
************************************************************

Heathrow Airport, London, England

Isabel stumbled off the plane, rubbing her eyes. She had been
surprised that she had managed to sleep. She had been exhausted
though and had also been willing to do anything to escape the
tenseness between Liz and Michael.

She had been stuck sitting between them and it had been no picnic,
that was for sure.

Liz had snapped at every word that had come out of Michael's mouth,
until Michael had just stopped talking entirely. The whole thing was
even more disturbing because Michael never said anything to defend
himself. It was so unlike him to let someone treat him that way, it
was very worrisome to Isabel.

She could not be mad at Liz though. She knew that resenting Michael
was the only thing that was keeping Liz in one piece. If she really
started to think about the fact that Max might never come
back...Isabel just knew that Liz would lose it totally.

"Do we have to get our baggage before we go through customs?"
Mr. Evans was asking Liz as they followed behind Isabel.

"No." Liz replied. "We can pick them up on the other side." Liz
was the designated tour-guide being as she had spent a considerable
amount of time in London during the fall of their junior
year...during the time when she had been trying to give Max his
freedom to live out his so-called destiny with Tess.

"What time is it anyway?" Michael asked tiredly. He had just
joined them.

"It's a seven hour time difference." Liz replied. "I think its
about eight a.m. London time. I'm thinking that we should probably
go straight to my aunt's and try and get rid of this jet-lag. We
can get up later this afternoon and head for Victoria Station to get
bus tickets to Salisbury."

"I don't think I can sleep." Isabel told Liz as they slowly made
their way through the customs line. It looked like a whole slew of
747's had landed at the same time and that they had come from all
over the world. Isabel could not even identify half the languages
she was hearing.

Isabel felt a pang of excitement. London! How she wished she was
there under different circumstances. It was one of the most exciting
cities in the world, one she had always wanted to visit. She had
often dreamed of leaving boring little Roswell behind for the lights
of the big city...of course, the "big city" had usually meant New
York or Los Angeles...but London was right up there on the list.

"Yeah, I know what you mean." Liz replied. "But we need all our
strength Iz. We have no idea what's going to go down
tomorrow."

"God, I hope we DO know." Isabel sighed. "I hope we're right
Liz, that we're not on some wild goose chase here. What if
Stonehenge doesn't mean anything?"

"It has too." Liz told her firmly. "Why else would we ALL have
seen it?"

"I guess." Isabel did not have time to continue. She was
suddenly confronted by a very cranky looking customs officer.

"Country?"

"Ummm...the U.S." Isabel told her.

"Reason for your visit? Business or holiday?"

I wonder what she would say if I told her that we were here to bring
my brother back from another planet through an interstellar gateway
that we think is at Stonehenge? Isabel wondered briefly. "Holiday."
She bit out quickly, trying hard not to laugh.

The customs officer stared at her closely. Isabel scowled at her.
This woman is in for some VERY unpleasant dreams tonight, she thought
to herself.

"Enjoy your visit." The woman said abruptly, waving her
through.

"Don’t you worry. I will." Isabel muttered under her breath.

Liz was through a minute later. She had charmed the customs lady no
doubt. Isabel wondered why everyone loved Liz so much. All she had
to do was smile and people melted.

When Liz suddenly threw her arm around Isabel's shoulder, she
suddenly remembered. It was because of Liz's heart. Her friend's
goodness shone through, even to complete strangers.

It was no wonder that Max had loved her the moment he had laid eyes
on her so many years before.

She was Liz.

"Well, we're here. Only a day to go and we'll see him."

Isabel smiled at her friend.

When Liz said it....

She knew it was true.

Part 15

The Citadel, Illyria

Jennetta sat on the floor of the stone corridor, her back pressed against Jaxon's chamber door. Her eyes were closed as she concentrated on trying to access her older brother's mind.

Their mother had moved Jaxon out of the dungeon after their meeting and had given him free run of the fortress, but her brother was not allowed outside the Citadel's inner courtyard.

He seemed resigned to the fact and had chosen not to leave his chamber at all over the past two days. He refused to see anyone, although Jennetta had not let that stop HER. Although Jaxon had tried to get rid of her the first couple of times she had visited him, he had apparently finally given up and instead just listened to her chatter patiently, an expression of half-affection/half-annoyance on his face.

Her brother tried very hard to hide the fact that he had emotions - but he did not do a very good job of it. Jennetta knew exactly what was going through his mind and heart at any given moment.

Of course it helped that she had the gift of telepathy as well.

Now she was waiting for her brother to fall asleep, although she wanted to go in and talk to him. She loved to talk to him. He was the only one in the fortress who took her at all seriously, beside Lucianus of course. Jaxon seemed to hang onto every word she told him, storing it for later use.

Jennetta was happy to oblige him. She told him about Tristandor, whom she had never met, but who she just knew was the most wonderful brother- in-law in the world.

She told him about Mirana, whom she had met once in a dream.

She spoke of Sabrya, who she didn't really like, but knew that she was supposed to love, so she tried.

And she spoke of the humans that Lucianus had told her about - Liz and Maria and Alex and Kyle. The humans who were meant to save Jennetta's planet for her.

Jennetta's eyes snapped open a moment later. She leapt to her feet, raced down the corridor and took the winding staircase two at a time. If Mama saw her, she would be in trouble for being so unladylike, but Jennetta knew that her mother was currently in the transmission room attempting to make contact with Mirana.

Mother had been trying to connect with Mirana ever since Jennetta could remember. She didn't know if Mama had ever been successful, but she never stopped trying.

Slamming through the wooden door to Lucianus' study, Jennetta threw herself at the old man, who was leaning over an electronic tablet on his table, studying it carefully. Lucianus' head snapped up. He smiled at her tolerantly.

"He's asleep Lucianus! Finally! He had about five thousand thoughts whirling through his mind all evening, but he finally just gave up and went to sleep." She smiled at him conspiratorially. "Most of his thoughts were about Liz! Isn't that good news?"

"It is very good news indeed little one. Thank you for coming to tell me so quickly." Lucianus climbed to his feet, kicked his long robes out of his way and hurried across the room. The ease of his movements belied the whiteness of his hair.

Jennetta followed him closely, practically jumping up and down in her excitement. "Are you going to do another dream-meld with Liz?" She asked him breathlessly.

Lucianus paused, raised an eyebrow at her. "How did you know about that little one?"

Jennetta could feel herself blushing slightly. "Er - I might have taken a peek into Jaxon's mind when you did it last time."

Her mentor frowned at her. "You know better then that Jennetta. Jaxon's dreams are his own private domain."

She frowned back. "Well you manipulate his dreams all the time!" She told him indignantly. "I was just taking a look. I didn't DO anything."

Lucianus continued to stare at her, then was forced to laugh. "I suppose you are right little one. But I suggest that you let Jaxon and Liz be alone this time. This is the most important step in our quest to return our king to himself. Only Liz can do it, but it must be soon. He is going to try and escape tomorrow."

Jennetta's eyes widened. "He is? How do you know?"

"It's written in the stars." Lucianus told her in that mysterious way that always annoyed her.

Lucianus had stopped at the control panel on the far wall of his chamber. He began to fiddle with some keys, then turned and opened a nearby chest, pulling out two red orbs and placing them in their slots on the control station. Jennetta watched all this with interest. She always tried to remember exactly what Lucianus was doing whenever she watched him at work. One could never know how to do too much.

"There we are." He smacked a button soundly and sat back with satisfaction.

"Is it happening?" Jennetta looked at the control panel in confusion. It looked exactly the same to her.

"Oh yes." Lucianus smiled.

Greenwich, London, England

Liz stared up at the ceiling of the guest room in her aunt's apartment, sighed with annoyance. She had been trying to sleep all night, but her body clock was totally messed up due to jet-lag. Isabel had also been right not to take a nap that afternoon. Her friend was currently sound asleep in the twin bed beside Liz's, a slight frown on her face.

Finally giving up, Liz climbed out of bed and went to grab her England Guide Book out of her knapsack. She flipped to the entry on Stonehenge, reread the entry for what seemed like the thousandth time. A picture of the great stone circle accompanied the paragraph about how to get there and admission prices. Liz traced it with her fingers, wondered if it was really going to help them bring Max home.

She and Isabel had gone to Victoria Station earlier that day to book four seats on the National Express bus to Salisbury for the next morning. They had decided that they would pretend to be regular tourists and visit Stonehenge tomorrow afternoon in order to case it out. After that, she, Isabel and Michael would return later that evening with the orbs and try and open the gate to Illyria.

She only hoped Max was waiting for them on the other side.

Liz knew that it was not going to be easy to access the heritage site in the middle of the night. She was sure that such an important tourist attraction would have tons of security and she had no idea how long they were going to need in the circle to bring Max back. She also had no idea what they would do if they were caught.

For the first time she wished that Tess had accompanied them. Her gift of illusion would have come in very handy. But at least they had Isabel's dad. They might need a good lawyer if all did not go according to plan.

She tried to push her nervousness aside, tried to focus her attention on another problem that was rearing its head.

Liz wondered briefly what was up with Tess. She had talked to Maria earlier on the phone and her friend had told her that although the blonde-haired girl was taking her job of "protecting" Maria very seriously, she was basically ignoring Kyle and Alex and when she wasn't, she was snapping at all three of them.

Liz knew that this had to be about more than just being left behind by Michael and Isabel. She could tell by the tone of Maria's voice that her best friend was hiding something from her. Liz didn't push it though. Maria or Alex would tell her what was going on when it became truly necessary.

Maria had also told Liz that her parents still had no idea that she was gone. Tess had called them, imitating Mrs. Evans so perfectly, even Maria had been impressed. She had told them that the Evans were taking Liz on a week long tour of eastern colleges with Isabel, but that they had to leave immediately because Mr. Evans had managed to get discount airline tickets that expired after the weekend.

"That's brilliant Maria!" Liz exclaimed. "Now if only I can convince my aunt that she doesn't need to call them to tell them I arrived safely."

Maria had replied, "Can't help you there chica." She had paused for a moment. "How's Michael?" She had finally asked quietly.

Liz had felt herself scowling just at the mention of his name, although she tried to control herself. She knew that she was being totally ridiculous at this point, but she seemed to have no control over how she felt about Max's best-friend. She hated him more every day.

"He's okay." Liz had answered evenly.

Liz could hear Maria breathing on the other end of the line. "Liz, you've go to give him a break. He feels terrible about what happened."

"I know Maria." Liz did not want to upset her best friend. She had enough to deal with. "I'm trying." But are you? A little voice in the back of her mind asked her.

"Liz, you've got to promise me that you're going to look after him."

Liz had frowned at that. "Michael has made it pretty clear on this trip that he can look after himself Maria." Maria's silence was deafening.

"I wasn't talking about on the trip Liz." Liz pressed her lips together, could feel tears beginning to well up in her eyes.

"Stop talking like that Maria!"

Maria sighed. "You've got to accept what's happening sweetie. You're going to need to be strong - for me."

Liz felt herself beginning to panic. She could NOT promise to be strong again. She had already promised Max - she couldn't bear the weight of another promise of that magnitude. She was horrified when she heard the words coming out of her mouth. "I promise that I'll be there for you and him - Maria."

"I love you Liz."

"I love you too Maria. We'll be home soon, with Max, and everything's going to work out. You'll see."

"I hope so. Well, I better go. This call is probably costing my mom at least two inflatable alien dolls."

As Liz remembered the conversation, she could feel tears filling her eyes again. She thrust the guide-book in her hands aside and buried her face in her pillow. She didn't want to wake Isabel. Max's sister needed all her strength to open the portal tomorrow.

Liz was suddenly hit by an overwhelming wave of fatigue. She missed Max so much, was so worried about Maria, was so resentful of Michael...it was wearing her down, bit by bit. She could feel herself falling into the gratifying sanctuary of slumber, where she would not have to think any longer.

And moments later, she was with Max.

*Dreams * Max and Liz

He was scowling at her. "So they've sent you to do their dirty work again have they?"

Liz could feel herself blinking. It was taking her a moment to adjust to the fact that she was back in the Waylandian Ring and that Max was standing not two feet from her. She knew it was a dream, but it was so real, she could hear him breathing.

"I don't know what you're talking about." She told him quietly.

He was eyeing her, clearly trying to be angry with her, but his dark eyes were shining as they gazed at her. He was not as displeased to see her as he made out.

"Are you aware of the lies they've been telling me?" He asked abruptly, moving forward to help her to her feet. It was only then that she realized that she had been sitting on the ground, the tall yellow grass waving around her.

Liz just shook her head. "No Max, I have no idea."

"Jaxon." He snapped. "My name is Jaxon." Liz just stared at him. His mood was incredibly erratic. He actually looked like he wanted to throttle her and kiss her at the same time.

"Are you okay?" She moved forward, reached up to touch his face. She saw him lick his lips, press them together. His hand grabbed hers, pulled it down from his cheek. She was pleased to note that he kept her hand firmly in his though. He seemed unaware that he was doing it.

"No, I am not." He replied evenly. "My mother is trying to turn me against Tarsus. She is trying to tell me that Mirana and Tristandor did not betray me. She is trying to convince me that I have only been back on Illyria for several months, that all the memories I have of the life I lived here, the battles I have fought, are false! How by the stars could I be okay?"

Liz did not know what to say to him. "And you think that I am working for your mother?"

"Who else could you be? You told me the same things she did."

Liz could feel her heart going out to him. He looked so confused, so scared...like everything that he had known to be true was being taken away from him. He looked like a lost little boy.

Which in a way he was. He did not remember being Max Evans. He had lost himself. Liz could feel tears welling up in her eyes again.

Max seemed to calm down somewhat at the sight of it. He unconsciously brought his hand up to her face. "What is wrong my Liz?" He blinked, like he wasn't really sure where that had come from.

"I am just sad Ma...er Jaxon. I wish that you remembered me."

"I do remember you." Max replied, clearly trying to make her feel better. "I have told you as much."

"Then I don't understand why you insist on the fact that you are Jaxon! How can you be both my Max and Jaxon at the same time?" Max looked perplexed.

"I have no idea."

Liz shook her head. They had to stop wasting time. They were going in circles anyway. She did not know how long they were going to have together and she had many things to tell him.

"Max, we are coming for you." She told him, running her hands over his arms. He did not pull away from her.

"How?"

"Through the portal. I think that you have to be in the Waylandian Ring though. Can you do that?" Liz asked him hopefully. He was looking at her like she was crazy.

"I have no intention of leaving Illyria Liz. This is my home. It is MINE. I can not leave it for my mother to take over." His eyes shadowed slightly. "It is why they had Jennetta - another heir to the throne seriously compromises my position. I cannot leave."

Liz could see that he was torn about something. "Who is Jennetta?" She asked him, deciding to leave the subject of returning to Earth for the moment.

She could see his eyes light up despite himself. "She is my sister. While I know that my parents plan to use her as a pawn to unseat me from my throne..." He trailed off.

"You love her?" Liz asked. Max turned away from her.

"I do not know what love is." He replied gruffly. Liz smiled. Yeah, right.

"Don't you?" She asked him, trailing her hand across his back as she moved to walk around him so that they were facing each other again. "I think you do."

Liz saw him swallow. His eyes were burning into her soul. Oh yes, he knew. At least here he did.

Liz caressed his cheek again, danced her other hand up his arm. She could feel his muscles tensing under her touch. "You do know what love is - you are mine. You are MY Max. They might try and tell you differently, but you know. Don't you?"

"Liz..." He looked terrified, but strangely intrigued at the same time.

She reached up, ran her fingers through his dark hair. Liz's eyes did not leave his. She would lose him if she let him look away for even an instant. "Max..." His head was slowly coming down...Liz parted her lips. She could feel her heart beating a mile a minute. MAX!

"LIZ!" She saw Max look beyond her, a slight frown on his face. He had heard it too. Liz grabbed his chin, forced him to look back at her.

"LIZ!" It came again. Liz knew exactly who it was and she felt the rage fill her as Max's gaze drifted from her face again.

"Tristandor." He said, sounding betrayed. He looked at her, his eyes shining with hurt. Max wrenched himself away from.

"MAX! Don't leave me! Please!" Liz screamed after him, but he was walking away from her, had stepped out of the stone circle. "Max! Come back!"

"Liz! Wake up!" Isabel's voice had joined Michael's, calling at her to come back to them. She couldn't! She had to follow Max! She was losing him again!

"LIZ!"
Liz's eyes snapped open, her gaze instantly lighting on Isabel and Michael who were both leaning over her, matching expressions of concern on their faces.

She sat up, glared at them. "Why? Why did you wake me up? I almost had him!"

They exchanged looks. "Liz, you weren't breathing." Isabel finally told her quietly. Liz stared at her.

"What do you mean?"

"I woke up because you were tossing and turning on the bed. I thought you were having a nightmare." Isabel explained. "When I tried to wake you up, you stopped breathing. I went to get Michael to help me."

Liz closed her eyes, fell back against her pillow. "God, he is so messed up you guys."

"You saw him again?" Michael asked.

"Of course I saw him. He is totally torn in two. He doesn't know who to believe anymore." She jumped out of bed, glanced at the clock. It was six in the morning. Their bus to Salisbury was leaving in two hours.

She turned back to Isabel and Michael. "This has to work you guys. We need to bring him back soon or we're going to lose him....and this time not just physically."

Liz saw Isabel flinch, watched Michael put his arm around her to comfort her.

It had to work. They had to MAKE it work.

She would not lose Max.



posted on 16-Sep-2001 8:42:48 PM
Part 16

Roswell, New Mexico

Kyle glanced at the clock in his fourth period English class for the
fifth time in the past ten minutes. The minute hand seemed to be
moving backward. There was absolutely no other explanation for
why this class was taking so long to end.

He was the only one who had managed to make it to school. Tess
had been absent in the two classes he shared with her, Kyle
assumed Maria was too ill to come and Alex had gone AWOL as
well.

So much for acting like everything was normal.

He tapped his pencil against his desk impatiently, frowned slightly
when he noticed that Pam Troy was staring at him, a slight smirk on
her face. Kyle scowled at her. She quickly turned away and began
giggling with the girls sitting hear her. That girl needs to get a
life, Kyle reflected as the bell finally rang.

Kyle jumped out of his seat, pushed his way through the crowds of
students to the front door of the school. There was no point in
hanging around. His concentration was totally shot anyway and he
was going to explode if he had to sit through one more ridiculous
class, his next one being French.

Somehow the proper use of the subjunctive did not seem significant
when one of your friends was dying, while three more were off on a
covert mission to England to try and bring a fourth back from another
planet.

And then there was Tess: the girl he loved, who didn't know he was
alive and was suddenly acting like he had the Bubonic Plague.

It was time to get to the bottom of that little mystery.

Tess had returned to Maria's the previous evening in order to check
on her. She had barely even acknowledged Kyle or Alex's presence
but Tess had even offered to sleep on the Deluca's couch if Maria
wanted. Kyle had seen Alex and Maria exchange perplexed looks at
that. Tess was taking this "protecting Maria" stuff way seriously.

It was beyond weird. It wasn't like Maria was in any real danger that
Tess would be able to prevent. Her illness was slowly draining her,
but there was nothing Tess could do about it. What was she trying to
accomplish?

Kyle climbed into his Mustang, pulled out of the student parking lot
with a screech of tires. He saw two freshmen practically have to
jump out of his way, felt a little bad, but kept going.

He pulled up in front of the Harding's house several minutes later.
Tess had continued to live there after Nasedo had gone to work at
the Special Unit. Kyle's dad had taken care of the paper work and
had helped Tess to become legally emancipated like Michael.
Nasedo had left her with enough money to live quite well.

Of course, Kyle did not want to even think about where Nasedo might
have gotten the money. He would not have put it past the
shapeshifter to have murdered some billionaire in his sleep just to
keep his earthly finances solvent. While Kyle had never actually met
the guy - the stories that Maria, Liz and Alex had told him about
him...they made his toes curl.

And the man responsible for a murderous rampage across the
South-West was basically Tess' father - he had raised her at least.
Sure he had done most of it to protect Max, Isabel, Michael and
Tess, but he had still killed a lot of innocent people.

Max, Isabel and Michael had been raised as humans. Max and
Isabel had known loving parents and a pretty normal life. Yeah,
Michael had had to deal with some crap, but he had at least had Max
and Isabel.

Tess had only ever had a murderous, shape-shifting, emotionless
weirdo to depend on.

It was no wonder that she was kind of strange. The fact that she was
as normal as she was...it was one of the things Kyle admired about
her.

There was no answer when Kyle rang the doorbell. He peered in the
picture window in the front of the house but there was no sign of any
life within. He turned around, stood on the lawn for a moment with
his arms crossed, frowning.

Where the hell was she?

He knew she wasn't at Maria's. He had called there on the cell in his
car, just to check in. Amy Deluca said that Maria was sleeping and
that there had been no sign of Tess all day.

Kyle didn't really feel like driving the streets of Roswell in search
of her. He'd try the Crashdown and then come back here later if he had
no luck. He had climbed back into his car and had started down the
street when he saw his quarry walking down the sidewalk, her head
lowered, her curly blonde hair falling over her face. Tess appeared to
be deep in thought.

Just as he opened his window to hail her, another car, coming from
the opposite direction, pulled up next to her. Tess raised her head,
clearly not noticing Kyle at all, although he was only about ten feet
away from her. She quickly opened the passenger door and climbed
in.

"Tess!" Kyle called, trying to catch her before she took off with
whoever was in the car. He jumped out of the Mustang, ran down
the street after them, but they were gone. Belatedly he realized that
he should have stayed in his car and followed them.

Imbecile. Worrying about Tess was turning him into a moron.

He stopped, scowling. There was absolutely no one in Roswell that
Tess Harding should be getting into a car with, he reflected. Her only
friends were her fellow Czechs and he, Liz, Alex and Maria. He
wondered briefly if it was Nasedo, finally back.

Tess had contacted the shapeshifter at the FBI after Max's
disappearance. Nasedo had apparently been strangely uninterested
in the whole affair. "He had to go back sometime." The bastard had
told her.

They had largely been out of touch with him since. Once Max was
gone, he didn't seem to take his role as their "protector" quite as
seriously. No one quite knew what to make of that.

Kyle returned to his car, wondered if he should try and catch Tess
and her mysterious companion. He decided it would be pointless.
He might as well go grab some lunch at the Crashdown and try and
catch up with her later.

His plans changed a moment later when his cell rang. "What?" He
demanded as he switched it on. In his current mood there was no
time for social niceties.

It was Alex and he didn't seem to care, not even bothering with a
typical snappy comeback. "I don't have time to talk Kyle, but you
better come to the hospital right away."

Kyle's brow knit. "What's wrong?"

"It's Maria. Get here quick." The other boy hung up without saying
another word.

Kyle turned off his phone, stared out the windshield in front of him.

He knew exactly why Maria was in the hospital.

The end was near.
************************************************************
Tess waved her hand in front of the stone wall, watched with an
expressionless face as the silver handprint appeared. She glanced
at her companion, raised an eyebrow.

The girl stepped forward, placed her hand directly on the mark. Tess
closed her eyes as the wall slid away, leaving the entrance to the pod
chamber open.

So she had not lied. She was one of them.

And Tess Harding's entire world changed.

Part 17

Salisbury, England - the same day

"Isabel, those sunglasses look ridiculous." Michael snapped. "It's raining."

Isabel swung around to stare at him, lifting the glasses onto her head as she did so. "I was trying to be low-profile." She replied, sounding annoyed. "It's going to be a little hard to do that with you yelling all the time."

"Yeah and wearing sunglasses in the rain ISN'T going to draw attention to you." Michael snorted, turning away.

"Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning." Isabel said to Liz in an undertone.

The three of them, plus Mr. Evans, had arrived in Salisbury about a half an hour before. They had gone for a quick lunch at a nearby pub called the Turk's Head (Liz still wondered when a Turk had ever been anywhere near Salisbury) and were now standing outside the tourist office waiting for Isabel's dad to arrange spots for them on a sight-seeing tour out to Stonehenge. They were planning to check out the security features at the heritage site and basically get a lay of the land so that they could return later that night and try and open the portal to Illyria.

Liz was surprised by how cooperative Mr. Evans was being about everything. They hadn't had to lie to him once, which was like a new record for them. Even the illegal aspect of their operation did not seem to bother the straight-arrow a bit.

It seemed that Phillip Evans was willing to risk anything if it meant that his son might be brought home.

Liz heard Michael sigh. She knew that he had heard Izzy, but was choosing to ignore her now.

It was true that Michael was being much more belligerent than usual. Well, actually he was acting much more like the OLD Michael. The old Michael, the non-guilt-stricken Michael had been snarky about a lot of things.

Liz's eyes narrowed. Something had happened.

"Michael, what did Maria say on the phone this morning?" Liz demanded suddenly. She knew that Michael had called her best friend before they had left London. It had been around midnight Roswell time, but he had decided to do it anyway.

Michael turned back to face them, his expression shuttered. "She said everything was fine. Tess is still acting a little weird, but everything was basically okay." He said, sighing again. "I don't know...I just feel like something's wrong back there."

Liz frowned at him. Trust Michael to not be completely focused on the matter at hand. She was worried about Maria too - desperately worried - but they needed to concentrate on Max now. They could only help one friend at a time. And if they could bring Max back...

Maybe he could save Maria.

It seemed that Isabel could tell that Liz was gearing up to lay into Michael, because she smoothly interrupted. "Here comes my dad."

Sure enough, Mr. Evans was hurrying across the Salisbury High Street. Liz flinched when he barely avoided being hit by a car. In typical North American fashion he had forgotten to look in the opposite direction before stepping off the curb.

He looked flustered as he came to join them.

"Are you okay Dad?" Isabel asked worriedly.

"Yes, yes. Just forgot for a minute that everything's backwards over here." Mr. Evans replied in an irritated tone of voice.

"Not backwards." Liz told him jokingly. "Just different."

"Right. Anyway, our tour leaves in about ten minutes. We're to meet the van at the Cathedral." Mr. Evans seemed to calm down a bit when Isabel gently took him by the arm and began to lead him towards Salisbury Cathedral, whose spire towered over the town.

Liz trailed behind her three companions, enjoying the light rain that was misting against her face. This was one of the things she had missed most about England - the fact that one had to bring an umbrella everywhere because while it could be perfectly sunny when you set out in the morning, it would definitely rain at least once if you forgot one.

While Liz's previous trip to the United Kingdom had been under the shadow of grief surrounding her decision to leave Max the opportunity to pursue his destiny with Tess, she had grown to love the country and now considered it almost like a second home. She loved everything about
it - the unpredictable weather, the lack of central heating, the fact that there were only five television channels, the snails that one had to jump over on the sidewalk after it rained, the efficiency of the Royal Mail, the fact that soccer was called football...but mainly she loved the sense of history that permeated from very stone and tree and blade of grass.

In England you knew that important and world-changing events had taken place there. You just felt it with every fibre of your being.

Liz was hoping that one more world-changing event would take place there tonight.

Liz threw back her head, staring up at the cloudy sky. As she watched, the sun managed to penetrate through the grey mass, sending a beam down to warm Liz's face.

"You're coming home Max." Liz whispered. "Tonight."

************************************************************
"This is the heel stone. It is faced by five great trilithons which form a horse-shoe shape."

The tour-guide droned on. Although Isabel had considered him to be quite cute when she had first seen him, Thomas had soon proved a disappointment. It was clear that he was simply reciting facts that he had memorized, that he had no great interest in what he was telling them. She scowled, exchanging an annoyed look with Michael. He too looked bored by what he was being told. "Who cares if it's in a horseshoe shape? We can bloody well see that! What about the aliens?" He asked Isabel under his breath.

It astounded her that their guide was missing the power that Isabel could feel flowing through her as she gazed at the great stone circle of Stonehenge.

It was smaller than she had expected. The name Stonehenge was so attached to mysticism and legend - she didn't know what she had expected, but it had certainly been BIGGER in her imagination.

Of course it didn't help that she was completely surrounded by tourists, not only from her own small tour-group but from the at least fifty buses she had counted in the parking lot when they had arrived. Isabel again wondered why so many tourists decided it was a good idea to wear Bermuda shorts with knee socks and sandals. Somehow it was difficult to picture Druids going about their business in this place that was being photographed and stared at by silly people who were only there because their guide-books told them to go.

"I don't understand why we can't get closer to it." A middle-aged man near her was whining to his wife.

"Maybe because they know you'd knock it over." Isabel heard Michael mutter. She giggled.

It was true that the standing stones themselves were impossible to get close to, at least not with all the English Heritage employees hovering around. They would for sure catch you before you had any sort of chance to get close to the stones. Fortunately the low bars separating the tourist paths from the circle would not prove to be a problem later that night. They were clearly just a barrier to stop people from moving off the paths.

"Why was it built?" A member of Isabel's tour group asked Thomas.

Isabel could feel Michael perk up beside her. Liz, standing nearby, was ignoring Thomas completely though, gazing at the stones, her eyes shining.

Isabel bit her lip. She hoped her friend wasn't get her hopes up too high. While Isabel was positive that she would be able to open the gate, they had no way of knowing if Max would come through it.

They were going on faith here - a lot of it. Isabel was trying to prepare herself for disappointment, but she could see that Liz had no doubts.

She wished that she could feel the same.

The sandy-haired guide began a clearly rehearsed monologue about the origins of Stonehenge. "It is clear that the circle was built in three stages beginning between 2900 and 2500 B.C. by Neolithic peoples. The purpose of its construction is believed to have been a temple dedicated to the worship of the sun..."

Isabel frowned when she noticed Michael whispering something to a kid who looked to be about ten standing near him. The kid's eyes were widening with interest, and he suddenly blurted out in an Australian accent, "What about the aliens?"

Isabel rolled her eyes. Great Michael! Way to draw attention to yourself, she thought. Michael looked most pleased with himself. Isabel could see that her dad's face had whitened while Liz's attention had been drawn by the comment as well. She was glaring at Michael.

Thomas' eyes had snapped towards the boy, a sneer on his face. "Aliens? I think not." The little boy's face fell. Michael's expression of disappointment was almost identical.

A few minutes later Thomas told them that the bus would be heading back to Salisbury in half an hour. "Feel free to take as many photographs as you would like and be sure to visit the gift shop." Their tour-guide called over his shoulder as he ambled off to go flirt with one of the English Heritage people.

Isabel turned to Michael, shaking her head. "What? Did you think he was really going to say: well, yes young man - aliens DID build Stonehenge?"

Michael looked mildly embarrassed. "Well, it didn't hurt to try." He motioned towards Liz, who was standing about fifty feet away, staring at the stones intensely. "Is she all right?"

Isabel frowned slightly. "Why don't you ask her yourself?"

"Because I don't really feel like having my head bit off that's why." Michael replied, sounding sad.

"Is it finally getting to you?" Isabel asked, feeling a spark of hope. She hated the tension that existed between her brother and her best friend. It was draining trying to keep the peace...well, at least trying to keep Liz peaceful, while trying to shield Michael from the brunt of her anger. It didn't help that Michael seemed to enjoy it, having wrapped himself so completely in his guilt over Max's disappearance and Maria's illness.

Isabel knew that a reckoning was coming. And it had to be soon. Maria needed Michael and Liz at peace with each other and they certainly did not need Max to reappear into the middle of a civil war between his soulmate and his best friend.

There was no way that her brother was going to have to choose between the two of them. Isabel would not allow it. "You need to do something about this Michael. This thing between you and Liz...it's like poison or something. She's been able to handle herself around you up until now, but I see her losing it a little more every day. It can't go on."

"She needs to hate me." Michael told her firmly. "It's the only thing that's holding her together. And we both know I deserve it."

Isabel clenched her hands. "That's ridiculous! Michael, you know that Liz is not the kind of person meant to hate anyone. You encouraging her in this is only making it worse. It's destroying her. You guys need to talk about this."

"Leave it alone Isabel." Michael snapped, walking away from her. Isabel gritted her teeth. He was deliberately walking in the opposite direction from Liz.

Isabel rubbed her eyes tiredly. Now's not the time to think about this, she thought. She began walking the perimeter of the stone circle, eyeing the different security features of the site.

The whole complex, including the gift shop, the visitor's centre and the tunnel leading out to the circle itself was surrounded by chain-link fence, topped off by barbed wire. Isabel wondered briefly if it would be electrified at night. She and Michael should have no trouble getting through it, but it would be a heck of a lot easier if it was just wire.

They would have no way of knowing until that night whether security guards would be posted or not. It was more than likely that they would. They were going to have to find them all and disable them before they would be able to open the portal. Michael would be able to knock them unconscious with his blast - he had refined it enough for that. It wouldn't be pleasant, but desperate times called for desperate measures.

Isabel glanced at her watch. It was 3:00. She had checked the sign on the way in. The site closed at 6:00. That gave them just enough time to go back to Salisbury in the tour van, rent a car and by the time they drove out through the rolling hills to the stone circle it would be dark.

She felt her stomach clenching with nervousness and excitement. If only they knew that Max would be where they needed him...

She wished that there was someway to communicate with Max - to find out if he was going to be waiting for them...

Isabel paused, stared at the heel stone intently.

She could try.

She wandered to a secluded corner of the site. Isabel could hear the mutter from the tourists in the distance. She could see her father talking to Michael near the heel stone, pointing out something to her friend.

She sat down on the grass, which was still damp from the recent rainfall. Isabel saw Liz heading in her direction, saw her pause as she seemed to realize what Isabel was doing. Trust Liz - always so in tune with those around her...well, except for Michael of course.

Isabel closed her eyes, tried to concentrate on shutting out the noise from the hundreds of people milling nearby. She conjured an image of Max in her mind...called to him...

* MAX! LET ME IN! *

She could feel herself fading from the earthly plain, could feel energy running through her veins and into her mind...more power then she had ever felt before in all her thousands of dreamwalks...

She realized that it was the lay-lines...hundreds of them seemed to meet under the gigantic stone circle...and somehow, she, Isabel, was tapping into them.

And suddenly...the vision came...

But it was not really a vision, more like a connection...

Flash*

** Mirana! **

Flash*

** Can you hear me my child? **

Isabel could feel her heart speeding up. She recognized the voice...it was the same one from her earlier visions. But this time it seemed to be speaking directly TO her, instead of AT her.

* I can hear you! * She screamed back with her mind. She concentrated on pulling the energy from the laylines into her mind, focused on throwing that energy behind the words she was sending out. * Who are you? *

Flash*

** I am your mother! ** The voice replying sounded strange, like it was emotionally overwrought. ** I have connected with you at last! **

Isabel felt the connection slipping. * Mother! Stay with me! *

Flash*

** Mirana! I have much to tell you! **

* Max! Where is he? Please mother! *

Flash*

** Your brother is almost lost to you my daughter, almost lost to all of us.**

Isabel could feel her breath leaving her body. MAX! She forced herself to calm down.

* Is it too late mother? *

Flash*

** No my child, but you must open the gate tonight. He needs to return to Earth - to remember who he was...is...**

* But how can we be sure he will be there? *

There was a pause. Isabel frantically reached out with her mind. She wondered if she had lost the link to her mother.

* MOTHER!*

Flash*

** He will be there Mirana. I will make it so. **
The voice sounded more distant...Isabel could feel the connection ending...

* No! Mother! *

She was only met with silence.

Isabel finally opened her eyes. Liz was sitting nearby, watching her quietly, clearly there to make sure that no one disturbed her. Isabel could feel tears welling up in her eyes.

Liz crawled over to join her, put her arm comfortingly around her shoulders. "What did you see Izzy?"

"I didn't SEE anything..." Isabel whispered, choked up. "I SPOKE to my mother."

She watched Liz's eyes light up with joy. Her friend squeezed her again. "I'm so happy for you!"

Isabel smiled through her tears. "She's going to help us Liz." Liz looked at her questioningly. "She's going to help us get him home."

Liz's eyes filled with tears of happiness as well. The two girls hugged, bonded in their amazement and hope.

The moment was shattered as Michael's voiced penetrated the fog surrounding them. "What's going on?"

Isabel could feel Liz tense. Her friend's face froze. Isabel's spirits deflated a little.

"I just connected with my mother." Isabel told him, climbing to her feet. Michael looked impressed.

"What'd she say?" He demanded eagerly. Isabel watched sadly as Liz began to walk away from them. She turned back to Michael, saw him flinch slightly, but he quickly refocused on her.

As Isabel told him, she wound her arm through his, silently offering comfort.

It was time to do something about the state of affairs between Michael and Liz.

She knew now that Max WAS coming back - it was just a matter of all the pieces falling in to place. Nothing was going to spoil it. Liz and Michael were just going to have to get over themselves.

And she was going to make them.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 8:44:27 PM
Part 18

Roswell, New Mexico

Kyle paced the hospital waiting room, his hands clenched behind his back.

Where the hell was Tess?

He had left at least five messages on her answering machine and it had been at least three hours since he had seen her get into the strange car.

He was pissed. Not only did he have to worry about Maria, who was fighting for her life down the hall, but he had to worry about Tess, who seemed to be reverting to her old, selfish ways.

Kyle's pacing stopped abruptly when Alex entered the waiting room. Maria's best friend was rubbing his right temple like he had the world's worst head-ache in progress.

"How is she?" Kyle demanded.

Alex collapsed into an uncomfortable looking chair, which looked even more uncomfortable with Alex's lanky form spread across it. "She's in a coma." He replied, his voice cracking. "Mrs. Deluca just told me."

Kyle stared at him. "Jesus..." He swallowed. "How's Mrs. Deluca?"

"Not good." Alex replied. "I don't even know what to do for her...I can't call Liz's parents because they think Liz is HERE, and as far as I know they're her only friends."

Kyle grimaced. "I didn't even know they WERE friends?"

"Well, sort of..." Alex shrugged. "I don't really pay attention to my friends' parents' social life."

Kyle felt helpless. Maria was dying and the people who should have been with her - Michael and Liz - were on the other side of the world. He wondered if doing something for Maria's mom would make him feel any better. "Do you think seeing my dad might help her?" He asked Alex.

Alex's head snapped up. "Were they that close?" Alex asked curiously.

Kyle shrugged. "They seemed to be getting pretty close until all hell broke loose when Tess came to town. I mean, it was a long time ago, but I know that my dad really cared about her...he just sort of seemed to get distracted with all the Czech stuff."


"Don't we all." Alex muttered. "Well, I guess it couldn't hurt." He leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands. "I mean, things couldn't possibly get worse."

Kyle wished that Alex hadn't said that. The last time HE had thought that same thing, things HAD proceeded to show him how wrong he was by getting ten TIMES worse.

He hurried over to the pay-phone. Kyle paused as his hand raised to dial his dad's cell. He was not surprised when he dialed Tess' number instead. He'd call his dad in a second.

"Hi! You've reached the Harding residence. Neither Ed or Tess can come to the phone right now. Please leave a message at the beep."

Kyle sighed, hung up the received. Where the hell was she?

He quickly pulled out another quarter.

"Valenti." His dad answered the cell tersely, as was his way.

"Dad, its me."

"Kyle, I'm kinda busy right now." The Sheriff, as usual, had seemed to half tune-out when he realized it was his son on the phone. Bet he wouldn't have done that if it was Max Evans, Kyle briefly thought, forced himself to suppress his lingering bitterness.

He knew his dad loved him. That wasn't the problem. He just sometimes felt that his dad wasn't very INTERESTED in him.

"It's an emergency Dad." Kyle told his father. "Maria Deluca's in the hospital."

Kyle's dad paused on the other end. "It's bad huh?"

"I think this might be it Dad." The Sheriff was aware of the situation with Maria, had been since it had developed.

"Do you want me to come over there son?"

"Yeah, but not for me...I think Maria's mom might need someone."

His dad paused again. "I'm on my way. I just need to call Owen and tell him to mind the shop..."

"Okay, thanks Dad." Kyle hung up, he turned around, froze in his tracks.

Tess Harding was standing directly behind him. She had a stricken expression on her beautiful face. "Is it true Kyle? Is Maria dying?"

"It's true." He said quietly. Her face crumbled. Kyle was astonished when she threw her arms around him, apparently searching for comfort. He brought his arms up around her waist hesitantly, let one hand stroke her back.

He hadn't known that Tess cared about Maria this much. If it had been Michael or Isabel...he might have understood it...but this was weird.

"Everything's falling apart." He heard Tess murmur against his chest. Somehow, suddenly, he knew that this wasn't just about Maria.

"What's wrong Tess?" He asked into her hair, feeling his heart beginning to beat faster at the scent of her perfume.

He felt her tense, as though she had suddenly become aware of what she was doing. She pulled away from him, turned to stare at Alex, clearly trying to compose herself.

"It's nothing. Forget it. I'm going to go see if maybe I can do something for her." Tess hurried away, without showing him her face again.

Kyle watched her go, a perplexed expression on his face.

Tess was hiding something...there was no doubt about that.

Alex had climbed to his feet, had come to join Kyle.

"What was that all about?" He asked Kyle.

"I have no idea." Kyle replied.

But he was going to find out.

* Dreams * MARIA

She felt as if her body had been incinerated from the inside out.

Maria carefully opened her eyes, realized that she was lying flat on her back staring up at a peculiar yellowish sky. She reached up, massaged her temples, tried to sit up.

She froze when she toppled over backwards, landing on something soft.

Make that SOMEONE soft, she amended to herself.

He groaned.

Slowly turning her head, Maria stared down at Michael. He was sprawled on his stomach, one arm thrown wide, the other shielding his head.

Clutching her side when she moved, a sharp pain flashing through her entire abdomen, Maria managed to nudge him. He groaned again.

"Michael?" No answer. "MICHAEL!"

"What do you want?" She heard him mutter.

"I want you to get up and tell me where the heck we are, because I am on the verge of totally freaking out here."

Michael rolled onto his back, slowly opened his eyes. She wondered briefly if it was HER Michael, or if it was pod-person Michael. She assumed it was pod-person Michael since he was the last Michael she had seen.

She realized that she was confusing herself, decided to just wait and see.

Michael was climbing to his feet, looking around, his expression amazed.
"I'm home." He reached down and pulled her to her feet. "I'm home Maria."

Maria stared at him. He sounded like HER Michael. His voice contained inflection, emotion...it was not the flat monotone she had become used to over the past months.

She followed his gaze, took in the waving yellow grass that seemed to stretch on forever in all directions.

Michael suddenly looked at her perplexed. "Why are you here?" He demanded.

"I think because I fell into that light thingy." She replied, reaching up to rub her head again. It was still killing her. "You know - the one I pushed YOU into...sorry about that." She continued sheepishly.

Michael opened his mouth to reply when a noise to their left caused them to both freeze. He grabbed her, thrusting her behind him.

Another head popped up in the grass. It was River Dog...or Tarsus of Dernia as they had learned he truly was. The shapeshifter climbed unsteadily to his feet, seemed to become aware of their presence.

Tarsus' eyes narrowed when he caught sight of Maria peering over Michael's shoulder. "That one is more trouble then she is worth. She has ruined everything - we have returned without Jaxon. Kill her immediately Tristandor."

Maria could feel Michael's back tense under her hands, which were clutching his jacket. He didn't have time to reply though, because Tarsus had begun pacing.

"This is a disaster. My leader is going to be most put out. The only consolation is that Jaxon will no doubt follow you." He turned quickly to stare at them, did not seem at all upset that Michael had made no move to kill Maria. "I've changed my mind. Do not kill her. We will need her to bargain with when the King arrives."

Maria frowned in confusion. None of this was making any sense.

"Time to take my true form." Tarsus' face was implacable as always, but if Maria did not already know that the alien did not have any emotions, she would have thought that he sounded glad. She watched him raise his hand. It began to glow, causing a chain reaction in his entire body.

"Ohmigod! Michael! Is he going to turn into a little green man?" Maria demanded, feeling horror beginning to take ahold of her.

"Shhhh! Maria!" Michael sounded annoyed, and very Michael-like. It made her feel better. She wondered again why he suddenly seemed to be HER Michael again and not weird-emotionless-minion of Tarsus Michael.

But now was not the time. She wanted to close her eyes to hide from whatever Tarsus was turning himself into, but it was like a car accident. She couldn't look away.

The light finally dissipated and she gasped in astonishment.

Standing in front of her was a perfectly normal-looking man. He was young with dark hair and blue eyes. He was actually quite handsome. Maria blinked.

Tarsus was staring off across the plain. "Dernia is south of here. We will go there to rally the troops to bring them back here to capture Jaxon when he makes the journey."

"What if he's long gone by the time we get back? Shouldn't we wait for him?" Michael asked the question Maria had been thinking.

Tarsus frowned. "Don't ask questions about things you don't understand."

"Ummm...how are we ever supposed to learn if we don't ask questions about things we don't understand?" Maria asked. Was this guy really as imbecilic as he sounded? She wondered why they had all been so scared of him.

"Shut her up." Tarsus ordered. Michael squeezed Maria's hand warningly.

They exchanged glances, then followed Tarsus across the plain of yellow grass, heading south.

Part 19

Wiltshire, England

Liz sat in the front passenger seat of the rented Volvo, her face plastered to the window. As she watched the rolling English countryside fly past, she could feel her heart beginning to speed up with every mile that brought them closer to Stonehenge.

Only a couple of hours to go...only a couple of hours to go. It was like a chant, repeating itself in her mind as she tried to calm herself down.

Mr. Evans was driving. He had insisted on coming, although Isabel had tried to talk him out of it. "I need to be there in case something goes wrong." He had told her firmly. Really, Liz had expected nothing less. He had been very cooperative for a dad up until that point. They couldn't exactly expect him to sit back at the hotel twiddling his thumbs while they went off and broke into one of the most famous tourist sites in the world.

Liz turned around in her seat to glance at Isabel and Michael. Michael was staring out the window, his expression unreadable. He had been unnaturally quiet since they had tried to reach Maria an hour or so before. There had been no answer at the Deluca, Valenti or Harding residences. Even Alex's parents had had no idea where he was.

It was most disconcerting, but Liz forced her concern about their friends to the back of her mind. They needed to worry about Max now.

Everything would be better when Max came back.

Isabel presently had her eyes closed. She had a small backpack clutched in her hands. Liz knew that the bag contained the two blue orbs - the keys that opened the portal to Illyria. Isabel had opened the portal once before...she would do it again.

Not for the first time, Liz wondered why they had to be at Stonehenge to bring Max back. Michael and Maria had been returned at the Santa Anna Hot Springs back in Frasier Woods - the same place they had left from. It was all so confusing.

But then intergalactic travel was not exactly a known science, Liz reflected wryly to herself.

Liz swallowed when she felt the Volvo rolling to a halt. "I don't think I better get any closer." Mr. Evans told them, pulling the car off the motorway onto a slight shoulder.

Pulling her rain-jacket more tightly around her, Liz opened her door and climbed out. She took a deep breath, stared up at the for-once cloudless sky. The moon was almost full and shone down on them. Liz knew that it would only get brighter as the evening progressed.

It was reassuring.

Michael had told them earlier that he knew for a fact that there were three security guards posted on the grounds of the monument. When Isabel had asked him how he knew, he had grinned saucily. Liz had wanted to laugh despite herself.

"I have my ways Izzy."

Isabel had muttered under her breath to Liz. "I guess Thomas the tour-guide isn't the only one who can flirt with English Heritage employees."

"Please." Michael had rolled his eyes. "I am far above that. It was a gift shop employee."

Liz HAD laughed at that. It had felt wonderful. They had all been in great moods over dinner at the hotel, all clearly sure that it was now only a matter of time until they saw Max again. Isabel had practically been jumping up and down with excitement at the table. Liz had even managed to be civil to Michael...a fact of which she was very proud.

She knew that the rift between she and Michael was painful to Isabel. Liz was trying to control her feelings, and now that it looked like Max was on his way home...suddenly she wasn't quite as angry.

Or at least, she hadn't been until those disturbing phone calls to Roswell. At the thought of what might be happening to Maria back there the iron had re-entered her soul.

And thus, it was a somber group of four that gathered near the entrance to the heritage site.

"Okay, so Dad you're with me and Liz you're with Michael." Liz grimaced. She knew that she could manage to work with Michael now, but it was going to be as annoying as all get out. "We have to take out those guards."

Isabel had surprised them all earlier that evening when they had been refining the plan when she had told them that she would be able to take some of the guards out on her own. "How?" Michael had demanded, sounding suspicious.

"I've been working on a little something." She had smiled self-consciously. "Liz, do you mind if I use you as an example. I promise that you'll be fine."

Since Liz trusted Isabel implicitly, she had nodded.

The next thing she knew, she was being shaken awake by Michael. Liz had blinked, sat up confused. "What the heck?"

"I don't know how I do it..." Isabel had shrugged. "I just sort of tweaked your mind...it put you under almost immediately. I think its somehow connected to the dreamwalking, so I can get in when someone's awake...I don't know for sure."

"How did you discover this?" Michael had asked, clearly intrigued.

Isabel had blushed slightly. "Well, I tried visiting Alex in his dreams one night...but I couldn't get in. He was mad at me because I forgot to pick him up at school - it wasn't my fault there was a sale at the mall. Anyway, it was like he knew to block me or something. I got into Pierce that time, when he was awake, but he didn't know I could do it...and the time I got into Maria, she was waiting for me. Anyway...Alex wasn't asleep and he was consciously blocking me because he was mad, so I just sort of convinced him to go to sleep. I don't know how."

"Weird, but useful." Michael had judged. "So you'll take out two of the guards and I'll get the third." He had decided. "My guy's going to wake up with one hell of a headache, and its better if we can at least be nice to two of them." He had grimaced wryly.

Now, Liz pulled a flashlight out of her bag. The moon was not quite high enough in the sky to go by alone and Michael and Isabel still hadn't managed to perfect Max's little hand-light trick. She handed the first light to Isabel, pulled out another one for she and Michael.

"So, we'll meet at the heel stone in twenty minutes." Isabel whispered, sounding nervous. Liz could see that Mr. Evans' eyes were wide. She realized that this was probably the first time in his entire life he had ever done anything illegal.

Wish I could say the same, Liz reflected ironically, thinking back to the fact that not only had she been a party to numerous illegal break-ins during her association with the aliens, she had also been party to a murder - Pierce's - although it had been a perfectly deserved and, in Liz's opinion, justified one.

It had been done to save a life...many lives.

Taking a deep breath, Liz gave Isabel a quick hug. "Be careful." She ordered.

Isabel nodded. As Liz watched, she reached out her hand to the chain-link fence in front of them. They were about fifty feet from the main gate but had decided not to break-in that way...too obvious and there might be security cameras.

Liz saw Mr. Evans' eyes widening even more as Isabel's hand started to glow. The chains began to disintegrate under her palm, forming a large hole. Izzy stopped when it was big enough for them to squeeze through, one at a time.

Liz and Michael went first, Michael in the lead. They turned to the right and began to slink around the perimeter of the site. Liz turned once to watch Izzy and her father heading in the opposite direction.

"Where do you think they are?" Liz whispered ahead to Michael. He shrugged, stopped briefly, straightened to scan the entire site.

"They're probably closer to the actual stone circle." Michael finally replied. "Izzy's going to get the one that's probably near the visitor's centre."

The great stone circle was dead ahead, lit up by floodlights. It looked bigger than it had that afternoon, finally standing as it was meant to, solitary and commanding, it's great stones reaching towards the heavens.

"Michael!" Liz whispered urgently, having suddenly caught sight of movement to her left. A shadow seemed to cross one of the stones.

Michael turned to stare in the direction she was pointing. "Stay here!" He ordered, taking off across the open plain at a dead run. Liz clenched her hands in front of her, wanting to follow him.

Her heart stopped as she suddenly heard a strange voice yelling. "HEY! You're not supposed to be in...."

Michael had come screeching to a halt. Liz could see him clearly in the ever brightening light of the moon. His hand was up and Liz held her breath as it began to glow.

She closed her eyes as the blast went soaring across the plain and smashed into the guard who had been staring at Michael with terror written all over his face.

Liz managed to unfreeze. She went sprinting over to Michael, who was breathing hard. "Is he okay?" She demanded. Of all the powers that the Czechs possessed, Michael's was by far the most terrifying. He had managed to refine it to a certain degree, but Michael had never had much control to begin with.

There was always the slight chance that something could have gone wrong...that they had killed an innocent person.

And Michael knew it too. Liz could see that his face was white. "Can you...Liz..." He managed to choke out.

Liz bit her lip. No matter how mad she was at Michael, no one deserved to have the look on their face that he currently did. She hurried over to the guard, who had collapsed very close to one of the stones that lay on its side.

Kneeling beside him, Liz felt for a pulse. She heaved a sigh of relief when she found it quickly. It was steady and strong. "Good job!" She managed to stage-whisper to Michael. "He's okay!"

Liz could see Max's best friend heave a sigh of relief. He moved quickly to join her.

"Let's get him out of here." Michael said, grabbing the guard and throwing him over his shoulder. They had decided that they would tie the guards to the fence, planning to release them after Max was back.

They were back near the stones about ten minutes later, having secured the young guard to the fence with a piece of rope that Liz had pulled from her knap-sack. Michael was now pacing near the heel stone, clearly becoming more and more concerned the longer they had to wait for Isabel.

"I think I should go find her." He finally announced. Liz frowned, glanced at her watch.

"We said we'd give her twenty minutes Michael. You have to trust her."

"I'm going Liz." Liz stared at him. She watched him stalk off, exiting the circle and promptly tripping over the sprawled body of a guard just outside the stones.

"What the...?" Michael stumbled back to his feet, stared down at the uniformed guard at his feet.

Liz heard running feet nearby. Isabel suddenly appeared from the darkness. "I just got him!" She told them breathlessly. "I couldn't find him...but then I caught a glimpse of him sneaking up on you guys."

"Thanks. Where's your dad?" Liz asked with concern. Isabel grimaced.

"He tripped and sprained his ankle." Isabel shook her head. "He's getting himself back to the car."

"He agreed to that?" Liz was surprised. Isabel looked momentarily guilty.

"Well, I might have planted the idea...."

Liz sighed. "He's going to be mad Iz."

"I know. But I don't think he can be here Liz. He distracts me. I worry too much about what's he's thinking. He's so unused to seeing me use my powers. I mean, I know he accepts me, but its just weird...you know?"

Michael had returned from trussing up the other guard. Liz was glad that he had taken some initiative. "Let's get this show on the road." He told them as he re-entered the circle.

Liz suddenly felt her heart in her throat. Max! Only a few minutes and he would be back.

Isabel's eyes were wide as if she had suddenly realized the same thing. "What if this doesn't work?" She asked in a small voice.

"It WILL work." Liz replied confidently. "I just know it." She stepped forward, hugged her friend. "You can do it Izzy...I know you can."

Isabel was biting her lip. She hurriedly opened her knapsack, pulled out the orbs. Liz stared at them. She thought about the day she and Max had found the first one.

She remembered the way she had woken up in his arms the morning after they had found it, the orb sitting on the blanket next to them, the way he had looked at her had taken her breath away. It had been the first day that she had known that she was never going to love anyone else in the way she loved Max Evans...ever.

And he was coming back to her.

Liz watched Isabel stare down at the orbs. It looked almost like she was silently communicating with them. Michael was standing nearby, his gaze resting on the orbs, his eyes wide. Liz was not surprised when his eyes raised to lock on her own.

And suddenly, in that moment of complete hope that raced through her body at the thought that Max would soon be with them...

She let her hatred go.

She did if for one person alone - and it wasn't Michael.

She did it for Max. Max had risked his entire existence for Michael, had not even hesitated to go after him when he had disappeared.

Her hatred of Max's best friend was a dishonour to that sacrifice.

Michael had not asked Max to come after him...Liz still couldn't quite understand why Michael had let Max stay behind on Illyria, but she could get past that...and maybe Max would be able to tell them.

But she felt her heart open towards Michael in a way it had not in a long time. She could work on forgiving him.

She WOULD forgive him.

As Liz silently communicated this to Michael, his face remained shadowed. She might forgive him, but it seemed unlikely that he would ever forgive himself.

And suddenly Liz's gaze was torn away from Michael's, as the orbs in Isabel's hands began to take on their strange glow. As was the case the last time, one of the orbs brightened more quickly than the other, although the second orb rapidly caught up...

It was different this time though too...

As Liz watched in astonishment, the stone circle surrounding them seemed to be coming to life. The stones began to glow, drawing on the energy being released from the orbs.

When the orbs left Isabel's hands, the light coming from them was enough that Liz had to shield her eyes. She was sure that half the countryside must be illuminated by the strange red glow.

The energy in the stones was beginning to form a column near the centre of the circle. The orbs seemed to be on the verge of exploding...

Liz forced herself to stare at the column of light...frantically searching....

MAX! Where are you!

And then, just like the last time, Liz was knocked unconscious by the force of the explosion that rocked the area.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 8:45:53 PM
Part 20

Jaxon lay on his bed staring at the stone ceiling of his room in the Citadel. Although he was no longer technically a prisoner, he knew that any movement that he tried to make beyond the walls of the Citadel would result in a quick return to that status.


He knew that his mother wanted to trust him, but was still wary.

It had been several days since their original conversation when she had tried to convince him that Tarsus was the traitor, the betrayer...he had seen her a couple of times since, but largely he was left to his own devices.

He guessed that his mother was hoping that if he had time to think about it he would begin to believe.

It had also given her the opportunity to send Liz to him in another dream. He had barely managed the strength to turn away from her that last time...if Tristandor's voice had not intervened when it had - who knew what secrets he would have betrayed to his enemy.

It frightened Jaxon. Somehow he knew that this girl held enormous power over him...he didn't know if he would be able to resist her again. He hoped that his mother had given up on that particular torture.

Liz.

Just thinking about her made his heart beat faster. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever laid eyes on...and clearly the greatest weapon his mother had in her arsenal. He had to get away.

He was planning to make his escape that night. He had to get back to Tarsus and his REAL followers before his mother's arguments and entreaties started to affect him...before Liz made him turn...

Because he did not doubt that she could do it.

He had a feeling that he would be perfectly willing to give up his entire planet if he ever actually got the chance to feel her lips on his own...they had come so close twice. The third time was bound to be lucky.

Or disastrous depending on your point of view...

Jaxon's thoughts were interrupted abruptly by the door to his room slamming open. Jennetta bounced in, her light brown hair bound in two plaits that reached almost to her waist.

He smiled despite himself. Here was his mother's other greatest weapon, although he was not sure if Milena was aware of it.

It astounded him how quickly he had become attached to his younger half-sister. The fact that she had remained so innocent and good-natured in the face of the long-running conflict that divided his family, that she seemed to love HIM despite the fact that everyone dearest to her were his enemies...he could not help but love her.

And this, Jaxon realized, was his greatest flaw. For no matter that he had told Liz that he didn't know what love was, no matter how hard he tried to pretend that he did not feel emotion, he was weak.

He loved.

"Did you have your dinner?" Jennetta asked him sternly. "Letty tells me that you have not been eating."

"Who is the older sibling here?" Jaxon asked her, amused. "I will eat when I am hungry."

"You are impossible." Jennetta replied, climbing up on the bed beside him and dropping down on her stomach to stare at him, a frown on her small face. Again Jaxon was struck by how much she reminded him of someone. He thought it was Mirana...it had been so long since he had seen his twin, he could not be sure he was remembering her face correctly.

"I am impossible? You're the one who does not know how to knock sweeting." Jaxon replied, tugging on one of her braids affectionately.

"What is wrong with you Jax?" His sister was eyeing him directly, the intelligence of her expression belying the youth of her countenance. "You have been jumpy all day."

Max frowned at her, not really annoyed, but feeling the need to reprimand her slightly. Just because she had the ability to go wandering around in other people's minds did not mean that she did not have to learn that some thoughts were private. "I hope that you have not been intruding where you are unwanted sweeting."

Jennetta looked momentarily guilty, but she quickly tossed her head. "Someone has to take care of you since you refuse to look after yourself."

Someone to take care of him. It had been so long...He remembered when he had been close to his mother, his step-father...how much he had loved them.

He pushed the thought aside. It was what they wanted him to think about...it was how they were weakening him...

He had to fight it.

"Should you not be in be in bed Jennetta?" Jaxon asked her suddenly, trying to change the subject from HIM and what HE needed.

"Yes." She replied saucily. "So?"

Jaxon rolled his eyes, climbed off the bed hauling her with him. He threw her over his shoulder. "I will tuck you in, but you must promise me that you will go to sleep."

"I want a story." He could tell that she was pouting.

"Fine, one story." Jaxon agreed, not at all displeased. He enjoyed reading to Jennetta. It was one pleasure he allowed himself here. She listened so avidly, her eyes wide, clearly trying to take in as much information as she could. She was like a flower basking in the sun when she listened to him.

He would miss her when he was gone.

He was amazed at the ease with which he was able to slip out of the Citadel.

It was almost as if they WANTED him to go. It actually made him a little uncomfortable...like he was missing something.

He had had to knock out two guards, but that was it. He was on the road to Dernia before he knew it. It was TOO easy.

Jaxon had been unable to steal transportation, that area of the compound having been too heavily guarded, but he did not worry. It was only a couple of miles to the Dernian border...he would be there in no time. With his cloak wrapped around him and his hood up, he knew that he was unrecognizable. If he stayed in the shadows, it would only be a matter of minutes until he was safe within his own territory.

Jaxon glanced behind himself every few steps or so, sure that he was about to be ambushed at any moment.

The road wound through the Gilded Plain, which separated the two territories. Jaxon waded through the tall yellow grass on the side of the road, ready to hide himself within it at a moment's notice.

And yet nothing happened. He was within sight of the Waylandian Ring before he began to feel truly safe.

The Ring towered above the plain, its immense standing stones reaching towards the moon-dotted sky. Illyria had twelve moons, a couple of which were currently full, lighting up the Gilded Plain so that it shone like a room lit by a thousand lumoglobes.

Only a few more metres and he would be free...

He had to pass directly through the centre of the Ring. It was the only part of the border that was not secure, being the most sacred site on the planet for both the Illyrians and the Dernians. They did not dispute the land on which it sat, neither side yet having the nerve to claim it for their own.

The Ring was a place apart.

No one knew exactly what it had been built for, but both sides revered it. Even the Dernians, with their dedication to progress and emotional detachment, respected the power that seemed to flow within the Ring.

Jaxon was on the Illyrian edge, peering through to his own territory. The heel stone was directly behind him, wreathed in the shadows of the standing stones towering over it.

Sweeping his hood off so that his people would recognize him and would not blast him when he emerged on the far side, Jaxon sped up. He had crossed the centre of the Ring when he heard it.

"JAAAXON!" He refused to look back, to acknowledge the voice. He was almost there! He could almost feel his beloved land beneath his feet...

It came again. "JAAAXON!" He closed his eyes, kept going.

And suddenly behind him, the whole world seemed to explode.

Jaxon was thrown off his feet, landing flat on his stomach slightly beyond the Ring. He spat grass out of his mouth as he struggled to stand. He had become entangled in his cloak and when he had finally managed to tame it, he was surrounded by guards.

The minute his face was reflected by the moons, they all immediately fell to their knees. "Your highness!" One soldier exclaimed, his voice monotone.

Jaxon felt a shiver descend his spine. He was home...but then why did everything feel wrong?

He turned around slowly to stare back into the Ring, to catch a glimpse of what had thrown him off balance. The majority of the soldiers had stopped staring at him and were looking in the same direction as he.

It was as though the entire stone circle had come to life. A brilliant red column of light seemed to be drawing energy from each of the stones. It reached into the star-pocked sky, for what Jaxon could not say. He could not tear his eyes away from the terrifying beauty of it.

And then his world crashed to a halt. For through the beam of light he saw the one person who should not have been anywhere near it...the one person he had left safely tucked into her bed an hour before.

Jennetta.

As he watched aghast, she seemed to walk deliberately into the light, seemingly almost in a trance.

"Jennetta!" He yelled, trying to make her stop.

She paused briefly, stared directly at him, appeared to be waiting for something.

He had to go get her. There was no other choice. Jaxon stepped back into the circle, shook off his soldiers who tried to stop him.

"Go get Tarsus!" He heard one of them yell to another, but it was as if it was from a great distance.

"Jennetta. Come away from there sweeting." Jaxon spoke quietly, trying not to frighten her. Her eyes were still disturbingly wide.

He was only a few feet away from her when she did the unthinkable.

She stepped directly into the column of light.

"NOOOO!" Jaxon took a flying leap at her, landed hard on the ground, missing her by inches.

She was gone. She had disappeared completely.

Jaxon climbed to his feet, stared up the column desperately, tried to get a grip on what was happening here.

"Jaxon!" He whipped his head around, saw Tarsus walking towards him, a hand outstretched. "Get away from there my lord. It is most dangerous for you of all people."

Jaxon frowned at his second-in-command. Something in his tone of voice...Tarsus sounded terrified.

He was actually showing emotion.

And Jaxon knew exactly what he had to do. He could not let his small sister go through whatever she was going through by herself.

He had to follow. There was no choice.

He stepped into the light.

Part 21

Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England

The almost-full moon shone down on the Salisbury plain, brightening the ancient stone circle so that it's towering pillars seemed to be on fire.

All was quiet within the circle. The pillar of light that had been streaming towards the ebony sky was gone.

Yet the circle was alive.

A small girl climbed to her feet, stumbled slightly. Her long blue tunic did not seem out of place in this place, but anywhere else it would have been. Her light brown hair was coming loose from it's plaits, streaming down her back in disarray.

Jennetta blinked, shook her head to clear it.

And then she saw the bodies. They were everywhere she looked.

A tall girl, her long blonde hair covering her face, was lying flat on her back near a stone that lay on it's side. As Jennetta watched with concern, the girl began to moan.

The noise seemed to disturb the man with spiky hair on his stomach near her. His head rose slightly, then fell back to the ground with a thud.

Jennetta looked around the circle, beginning to panic. The Waylandian Ring seemed to have fallen apart. Several of it's sacred stones had fallen over, a few more seemed to have huge chunks of rock hewn from them. She reached out to touch one of the closer stones, felt her stomach clench. Jaxon is going to be furious! She thought to herself. Who would desecrate the Ring?

And then Jennetta saw him. Her brother was sprawled nearby, his arms covering his dark head, as though shielding himself. Nor was he alone.
A girl was unconscious beside him, her long dark hair entangled in one of Jaxon's hands. As Jennetta watched anxiously, Jaxon began to move, still not making a sound, but clearly waking up.

The dark-haired girl's eyes fluttered, as though sensing his movement. She rolled onto her stomach, lifted her head and stared down at Jaxon. Her eyes widened, filled with tears. "Max."

Suddenly Jennetta knew who this girl was - it was Liz Parker. Lucianus had told her all about Liz...and about the person her brother had been when he had been with her.

Max Evans.

Liz reached over, stroked her hand down Jaxon's face lovingly. "Max?"

Her brother sighed, shifted slightly but didn't open his eyes.

Jennetta looked over at the two other people still lying unconscious. If this was Liz, then the blonde must be Mirana...her sister. Beside her was her husband, Tristandor.

They looked different then Jennetta had imagined they would. Mirana was even more beautiful than she had expected. Where Jennetta looked nothing like their mother, her older sister was the image of Milena, her face almost identical.

Tristandor was handsome, although Jennetta had imagined him to look older than he did. His straight nose seemed slightly out of place on his face, as though he had not yet quite grown into it. His brown hair was almost the exact shade of Jennetta's own. She was not surprised. They WERE distant cousins.

Liz was still staring at Jaxon, seemingly enthralled at the sight of him. She had not yet noticed Jennetta standing near her. The little girl did not know what to do. Her brother did not seem to have any intention of moving anytime soon. She did not know how Mirana, Tristandor or Liz had ended up in the Waylandian Ring.

For this was where Jennetta assumed they still were. Her mother and father had not told her anything but that she was going to help them help her brother. They had come and taken her from her bed, had brought her to the Ring where the most beautiful light she had ever seen had seemed to be calling her name.

She had answered the call and now Liz, Tristandor and Mirana were there. She was going to have to remember to ask Lucianus to explain what had happened to her when she go home.

Until then though, she was not going to waste the opportunity to talk to her brother's future wife.

Taking a step forward, she tapped Liz on the shoulder.

Liz could not stop touching Max. He had not yet opened his eyes, but there was no question that he was there and he was breathing. His ludicrously long eyelashes had fluttered a few times, but he seemed in no rush to wake up. It was really quite irritating.

When Liz had returned to consciousness she had known instinctively that it had worked. She could feel Max's presence, KNEW that he was nearby. She had not expected him to be quite SO nearby however. Somehow her hair had become entangled in his fingers, anchoring her head against his neck.

She had taken the opportunity to lightly caress his face. He looked older, but not unnaturally so...it was clear that he was still nearly the same age he had been when he left, if a few months older. His dark hair was cropped short, but it still curled slightly at his forehead.

He smelled exactly the same. Like Max. It took all of her willpower not to throw herself on top of him, to not kiss him like there was no tomorrow.

And then she had felt the tap on her shoulder. Liz could see Isabel and Michael still unconscious, lying nearby. It was not them.

As far as Liz knew, Mr. Parker was still in the car. The three security guards were tied tightly to the fence.

Turning her head, Liz's eyes met those of a small girl, whose dark head was tilted slightly to the side.

"Hello." The child said, a slight smile on her face. She could not have been more than eight or nine years old, but her eyes were disturbingly mature in her small face.

Max shifted near Liz, groaned. Liz did not look back at him. She continued to stare at the girl, wondered why she looked so familiar...

"I'm Jennetta." The little girl continued. "You're Liz."

Liz blinked, sat up, gently pulled Max's head onto her lap. "Er, yes, I am Liz." Liz took in the girl's dress, realized that it was very similar in style to the one Maria had been wearing when she and Michael had returned from Illyria the winter before.

Jennetta was staring down at Max with concern. "Is he going to wake up soon?" She asked, her tone worried.

"I think so," Liz replied, unsure of what to do about the peculiar predicament in which she found herself. She had no idea who this girl was, but she was beginning to suspect that she wasn't from around here..."Isabel..." Liz said forcefully, willing her friend to wake up. "ISABEL!"

Isabel was moaning again. She seemed to come abruptly to herself, however, as though the lights had suddenly gone on. Max's sister sat up, looked around frantically. "Did it work?"

Liz felt her heart swell as she gazed down at Max's peaceful, beloved face, resting in her lap. "He's back! Isabel, Max is back."

"What do you mean he's BACK?" Jennetta asked Liz, a tremor in her voice. Liz looked at the little girl. Her face was white, as though she had come to some sudden realization.

Isabel had climbed to her feet, appeared torn between running to her brother and waking Michael up. She quickly hurried to her almost-brother's side, shook him.

"Michael! Get up! Max is back! It worked!" With that, Isabel rushed across the stone circle, threw herself down at Liz's side, stared down at Max, her face lit with joy. She frowned slightly when she saw that he was still out of it. "Why isn't he awake?"

Liz looked down at her boyfriend with concern. "Max...it's time to wake up. You're home." She lightly stroked his cheek. His eyes began to open.


"...it's time to wake up. You're home." Jaxon could feel the soft hand touching him, never wanted it to end. He knew it was Liz.

He knew that when he opened his eyes she would be smiling down at him, her eyes alight with love. He had had this dream before.

They had awoken in each other's arms, the early morning sun shining down on them, the chill of night in the desert just beginning to burn off. Her face had been luminous, her hair like a glowing halo around her face with the new sun shining off of it. He had never felt so complete, so much in love, as he had that morning...

It had been the best morning of his life. He had felt like he had finally come home - for his home was in Liz Parker's arms.

He remembered all this on that strange plain somewhere between waking and dreaming.

When he opened his eyes, it was gone.

Jaxon blinked, realized that his head was cradled in someone's lap. He could not quite make out the features of her face, as the full moon seemed to be shining directly behind her head.

"Are you okay Max?" Liz, her sweet voice exactly the same as it had been when he had spoken to her in his dreams, was running her fingers through his hair, clearly feeling for any injuries.

Her touch felt like magic. He could not think with her hands on him. He jerked away.

Liz fell backwards slightly, caught herself on her hands. Jaxon stared at her. "Max?" Her voice was trembling slightly.

This was no dream. Jaxon somehow KNEW that he was on the physical plane.

And then he remembered....

Jennetta.

He twisted his head around, saw his sister staring at him, her expression frightened, although she looked healthy enough. He heaved a sigh of relief. "Where are we Jax?"

"You're back on Earth." Jaxon knew that voice. He swallowed. His gaze swung past Liz, who was gazing at him, dawning understanding on her face. He met his other sister's dark eyes.

Mirana's face was lit with happiness, but her eyes were shining with unshed tears. Beside her, Tristandor had his arm around her. He was staring at Jaxon with an unreadable expression on his face.

For one heartfelt moment Jaxon wanted to smile at his twin - but then he remembered how she had betrayed him...how she had conspired to rob him of his throne, of his planet.

He hardened his heart against her. "Jennetta, come to me." Jaxon ordered curtly. Moments later he felt his little sister place her small hand in his. He turned to Liz. Before he had ripped his gaze from Mirana's, he saw his sister's face fall.

"How did this happen?" He demanded. "Why are we here?"

Liz did not speak for a moment, just looked at him, as though searching for something. Finally she said quietly, "You don't have your memory back, do you?"

"I know who I am." Jaxon told her firmly, although he felt a slight tremor of doubt when she continued to gaze at him steadily, as though she KNEW that he was mistaken about everything. "I am Jaxon Falconer, King of Illyria, and we," He indicated Jennetta, "Do not belong here. I do not know how you brought us here, but I want you to send us back. Immediately."

He saw Liz glance at Mirana. Mirana's expression was stricken. "Mirana, I do not know what foolishness you have dreamed up this time." He told his sister sharply, "But it will not work. You will send us back now."

"Don't talk to her like that!" Tristandor snapped, stepping forward slightly. "I don't know what they told you about us Maxwell, but you need to snap out of it. We're on YOUR side."

Jaxon had taken a quick step back at Tristandor's advance, pulling Jennetta with him. Of the three people there, there was no question that Jaxon's brother-in-law was the most dangerous. He flinched slightly when he remembered the thousands of men that Tristandor could kill with a flick of his wrist. "I have heard you say that before Tristandor. I believed you then, but I learned my lesson."

Jaxon saw Tristandor blink. "Call me Michael." He finally replied, as though he didn't know what else to say.

Liz had moved slightly closer to Jaxon and Jennetta. She was staring at the little girl, a questioning look on her face. "Is this your sister Max...er Jaxon?" She asked him. He saw Mirana's head snap up in astonishment, saw her stare at Jennetta in amazement.

Jaxon remembered that he had told Liz about Jennetta in their last dream conversation. It was the final proof he needed that those dreams had been REAL, that they had not been illusions.

It frightened him more than anything else had to this point. She had access to his private thoughts and dreams. He could not hide from her.

"Yes." He told her. "Why have you brought us here?" He asked her, sure that she would answer him. She had always tried to answer him in his dreams, although he knew that half of what she told him was lies.

"This is your home." Liz told him sadly. "I know you don't remember it...us..."She indicated Tristandor and Mirana. "But I swear that everything I have ever told you is true. You are Max Evans, and you are home."

"I want you to send us back." He told her mechanically, knowing that his words were hurting her, hurting all three of them. He wondered why he cared. They were his enemies.

"WE can't send you back." Liz told him quietly. She sounded like she was leaving something out in that statement, but he couldn't figure out what it was.

He looked around the stone circle, saw no escape for him or Jennetta. He was going to have to play along. "What happens now?" He asked Liz, trying to sound cooperative.

Liz and Mirana exchanged a look. Tristandor, who wanted to be called Michael, was staring at him, a slight frown on his face, as though he had swallowed something vile.

"We make you remember." Liz finally said simply.

Her certainty terrified him.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 8:47:40 PM
Part 22

Roswell, New Mexico

"Alex." Kyle spoke to his friend softly as he entered Maria's hospital room. Mrs. Deluca was asleep on the couch near the bed and he didn't want to wake her up. Alex's head had been lowered, his eyes closed, but it snapped up when Kyle said his name. "Is there any change?"

Alex shook his head sadly. "The doctors keep giving each other those looks...you know, those LOOKS?" When Kyle nodded, he continued, "They can't figure out what's wrong with her Kyle. I can tell they think the longer she's like this," Alex indicated Maria's still form, "The less hope there is."

"Well, don't give up hope buddy. I have some good news!" Alex frowned slightly, waited for Kyle to finish. "I just got off the phone with Liz. They have him Alex. Max is back."

Alex could not stop the grin from breaking across his face. "That's great!" He glanced down at Maria again, his smile fading. "I don't know if it's going to do any good at this point though." He stood up, leaned down to kiss Maria's forehead, brushing a lock of her strawberry-blonde hair away from her face. "Hang in there cutie." He whispered to her as he motioned for Kyle to follow him out into the hallway where they could talk more comfortably.

"So, what's the scoop?"

"Well, it's not all good." Kyle amended, as they walked toward the cafeteria to get some coffee. It was about nine in the morning. Kyle had gone home for a couple of hours of shut-eye and to wait for Liz's call. They had known that Liz, Isabel and Michael had been planning to open the portal to Illyria the night before...Liz had promised that she would call as soon as there was some news. "Max doesn't remember who he is. He really thinks that he's Jason, or Jaxon, or whatever the hell he calls himself there."

Alex sighed, grabbed a container of orange juice from the cooler near the cash register. "He IS Jaxon Falconer, unfortunately. So, then he's been brainwashed somehow. I hope this doesn't mean he won't want to try and heal Maria."

"Can you ever see Max Evans refusing to help someone, whether he remembers them or not?" Kyle asked wryly as he dumped half a container of sugar into his coffee. He saw Alex grimace, ignored him. Hanging out with Tess had convinced him of the inherent rightness of a goodly portion of sugar in most meals. "I mean, he healed ME for Christ's sake."

"I guess." Alex plunked his tray down on a Formica table, flopped into a chair. "How are Liz and Izzy taking it?"

"Well, Liz just sounded ecstatic. I've never heard her so happy...I didn't ask about Isabel. It was sort of a bad connection." He paused. "I didn't tell them about Maria, by the way."

Alex frowned. "Michael's going to be pissed."

"I know, but they have enough to deal with getting Mr. Memory-loss back to Roswell. It sounds like he's sort of being difficult. I heard a lot of screeching in the background."

"Oh great!" Alex smacked his hand against his forehead. "Don't tell me we're going to have to deal with the Illyrian version of the anti-Max. I don't think I'll survive another go-around on that roller-coaster of insanity."

Kyle sighed. "Who knows? Anyway, you haven't seen Tess have you? She isn't answering her phone again."

Alex took a bite of his omelette, scowled at it for a moment, then pushed it away. He eyed the bottle of Tabasco sitting on the table for a moment, casually picked it up and shook a couple of drops onto his eggs. His eyes nearly popped out of his head when he took a bite. "Michael..." Kyle heard him mutter under his breath. "I haven't seen Tess since early this morning." Alex told him finally, after having taken a large swig of water. "She slept on the other chair in Maria's room, but said she had to go see someone a couple of hours ago."

"I don't like the sound of that. I forgot to tell you that I saw Tess take off in a car with a stranger yesterday." Kyle rubbed his face wearily.

"Um, I hate to be the one to inform you of this Kyle, but Tess is allowed to have other friends." Alex looked sort of sympathetic. Kyle felt a flash of annoyance. It was embarrassing that everyone else seemed to know how he felt about Tess, that they all felt sorry for him that she didn't feel the same way.

"I know that. It's just that she was acting all weird...and then she started to bawl when she came in yesterday, going on about everything falling apart...I tell you, it wasn't right."

"Well, she's certainly been keeping up her part of the bargain where Maria is concerned." Alex commented, starting on his toast, seeming to have given up on his eggs entirely. "She isn't the most pleasant bodyguard around, but she has been guarding Maria's body."

"I still say something's up with her." Kyle muttered, pushing away from the table. "I'm going to find her." He paused before he left the cafeteria. "By the way, they're coming back later tonight. Liz called me from the airport."

"I don't get it." Alex looked up at him. "I thought they didn't know about Maria. What's the rush?"

"They think that getting Max into familiar surroundings might jar his memory or something like that...I don't know! I'm just passing on the info." Kyle felt his frustration mounting.

Everything was just so screwed up. They had all been holding out so much hope for Max's return. None of them had bargained on having to deal with someone who WASN'T Max...or who was Max in body, but not in spirit.

Kyle hoped that it didn't all end up being a big disappointment. He didn't think that any of them, but particularly Liz or Isabel, would be able to deal with it if the REAL Max never came back to them. Having him around, but not himself, might even make it worse. Alex was more than right. None of them wanted to deal with the anti-Max again.

Their bad-luck streak still seemed to be going strong. Weren't they ever going to catch a break?


* Dreams * Maria

She was huddled in the corner of the tent, her knees pulled up to her chest, shivering. One thing about this planet, it was never warm enough. In the approximately six months that she and Michael had been there she had gotten used to the twelve moons, the yellow sky, the serious lack of living conditions...but she would never get used to cold.

Illyria was a strange place, and not just in your typical different planet way. It was the fact that while the civilization here seemed light-years ahead of Earth in so many ways, in others they were hundreds of years behind. They had space-travel, portals from one planet to another, but they didn't even have toilets for God's sake!

Maria jumped off the cot, began to pace, kicking the skirt of her annoying gown out of the way.

Nothing was as they had expected. Not that they HAD expected to be stranded on a planet half-way across the universe, but really, she had not expected everything to be so similar - and yet different.

The Dernians LOOKED like humans. Tarsus had told her that it was a form they had taken to make Michael more comfortable during his first months on his home planet, but she didn't get THAT either. She had thought that it was Max they wanted, not Michael.

They hadn't learned much about what the Dernians wanted with them in general. No one wanted to talk to either of them. Michael was becoming seriously frustrated, barely able to sleep most nights. He spent his days wandering the camp, trying to pick up whatever information he could.

Everyone seemed to be waiting, waiting....for what exactly, neither Maria or Michael was sure.

They weren't totally clueless however. Maria had managed to get one of her guards to talk a little bit. She was a good wheedler - always had been.

The Dernians were a race of shapeshifters. They had been at war with the Illyrians for generations. It seemed that it was a war about progress versus the status quo. Her guard, Ren, had told her that the Illyrians, currently led by Queen Milena and her husband Hamor, were against the cleansing process that the Dernians had created. The cleansing was supposed to erase emotion, thus avoiding all the emotional entanglements that caused the people to not want to advance themselves to their full potential because they did not want to leave their loved ones - or their need for revenge against those they hated - behind.

Apparently the Illyrians were not shapeshifters, but were actually a race quite close to humanity. Maria had caught sight of one of them once. She had been a pretty girl before they had podded her for the cleansing. She had not survived it.

It seemed that some Illyrian physiology was too weak for the transformation, which was why they were against it. A small minority of Dernians were against it too - Nasedo was one of these.

Maria remembered when Max had been podded back on Earth. He had not seemed to undergo the same loss of emotion that Michael had. No one had understood it at the time, but Ren had explained that the process did not seem to have the same effect on all Illyrians. It either killed them or made them stronger, more in touch with their mental "gifts." No one knew why the process affected one Illyrian one way and a second another way.

Maria had come to some conclusions of her own, based on the little information she had been given.

By the monotone way he addressed her, Maria KNEW that Ren HAD undergone the cleansing. He was not unkind to her, but he certainly was not nice either. He was just weird - just like zombie-Michael had been weird.

Michael was a Dernian. There was no other explanation for the way he had been able to completely lose all emotion through the transformation he had undergone on Earth. Tarsus seemed annoyed that Michael's emotions seemed to have returned when they had made the journey through the portal. He guessed that something in there had messed with the cleansing, erasing it somehow.

Up until now Tarsus had not managed to convince Michael to be recleansed. Michael no longer seemed in any great rush to return to that state of stasis in which he had been trapped for months. He didn't talk much about it, but Maria guessed that he had missed his humanity more than he admitted. She remembered the couple of times back on Earth when a glimmer of the REAL Michael had seemed to be hovering just below the surface...he had not totally forgotten who he really was, and he didn't seem to want to again. Yet.

Max and Isabel were clearly Illyrian in their make-up. Max had undergone the transformation and had not been emotionally affected. Isabel was his sister, maybe even his twin if some of the rumours she heard were true. She had to be the same.

Maria didn't know about Tess. She hadn't heard much about the one they called Sabrya. The Dernians talked about Jaxon and Tristandor and Mirana all the time...but Sabrya was an enigma.

Maria gently pushed the flap leading outdoors aside, stared out at the camp scene in front of her.

She had not been outdoors in days. The Dernian hostility to her presence was becoming more and more pronounced daily and Michael was scared enough for her that he insisted she stay in their tent.

Ren told her it was her emotional humanity that made the others hate her. No one was allowed to stay in the camp without having undergone the cleansing. There was fear that if she was allowed to mingle with the Dernians, she might cause trouble. The Dernians could not afford dissension in their ranks. They were losing people every day as it was.

Maria was not really sure HOW they were losing people. If they were emotionless, why would they want to rebel? It was just another question to add to her long list. Not for the first time Maria wished that Liz was with her. Her friend's logical mind would come in handy right about now.

There was no explanation as to why it was okay that Michael still had his emotions. More confusion.

Maria suddenly stumbled backwards as Michael came barreling into the tent. He stared down at her as she fell to the floor. "Jeez Michael! Ever heard of making a dignified entrance?" She asked sarcastically as she climbed to her feet.

"Maria, there's no time. We need to get out of here!" Michael had begun to pack the meagre belongings they had managed to collect over the two months they had been there.

"What's wrong?" She demanded.

"They're coming to take you to be podded." He informed her, pushing her to start packing the food supplies they had in the corner of the tent. "Tarsus can't convince them to wait for Max any longer. They don't think he's coming."

Maria felt her heart stop. "I hope he's not. We don't need anymore of us stuck here."

Michael paused, glared at her. "Will you please get moving?"

Maria didn't budge. "I hate to inform you spaceboy, but we still have the little problem of the guards. Don't you think I would have been half-way to the Illyrian border by now if I thought we had any way of making it? Max and Isabel's family HAVE to be better than these freaks."

Michael frowned at her. "Just get packing. I'll deal with how we're going to get out of here."

Maria eyed him for a moment, realized that she could hear an increasing din erupting outside their tent. "I think we're too late." She whispered. Michael's eyes widened. She threw herself into his arms as the first Dernian came into their tent.

She breathed a little easier when she saw that it was Tarsus. He looked frazzled. He scowled when he noticed Michael standing there with a sack in the hand that wasn't holding Maria, clearly in the middle of packing. "Were you eavesdropping again Tristandor?"

"You're damn right I was!" Michael snapped back. "You never tell us anything. We're not just going to sit on our butts and wait for you guys to exterminate us."

Tarsus sighed. "I've told you a thousand times, no one is going to hurt you Tristandor."

"It's not ME I'm worried about." Michael replied. Maria could hear the tremor in his voice, felt him tighten his arms around her.

"It's HER fault we're in this mess!" Tarsus said in a monotone. "She's the one who forced us into the portal without Jaxon. If he was here, she would be perfectly safe."

Maria stepped away from Michael, stared at the shapeshifter. "Tarsus, you need to tell us what's going on. Why do they want Max so much? He's not even one of you."

"How did you know that?" Tarsus demanded, sounding annoyed.

"Duh!" Maria waved her hand in the air. "Eavesdropping! Which we wouldn't have to do if you told us anything, as Michael just told you." She constantly felt like she was talking in circles whenever she spoke with Tarsus. He really was the most frustrating alien - even worse than Michael.

Tarsus sighed, sank down on the cot. "There's only one possible solution to this." He informed them. "They want her podded immediately, but they are willing to let it go for a while if you do one thing."

"Well..." Maria urged him. He grimaced, as though what he was about to tell her was distasteful to him.

"It goes against every principle I believe in," He spat out, "But it has happened once before....when you married Mirana." He told Michael. Maria flinched at the thought of Michael and Isabel married. She would NEVER get used to that. "They want you to go into the Ring. If you come out alive, they will consider you bonded and then Maria will be safe for a while longer."

"Okay, sorry to keep saying this," Maria shook her head. "But I'm confused. Haven't we already been in the Ring?" She demanded. "We're alive! Hello?"

"That was different." Tarsus told her. "The Ring has many uses...it can be used to open or receive portals, but it can also stand in judgment."

"But we didn't do anything!" Maria screeched in frustration. "We didn't ASK to be brought here. Well, okay, maybe Michael did, but really, you tricked him! Why should WE be judged? In my opinion, you're the ones holding us here against our will...we'll just go."

"It's too late for that. There have been some rumours circulating throughout the camp." Tarsus shook his head. "It's an old legend really - about a chosen one. The annals tell of the birth of a child who is half Dernian and half Illyrian...that he will bind the people's together and end the strife."

"Which is why Michael married Isabel?" Maria asked. It was suddenly all becoming clear.

Tarsus looked like he didn't want to answer, but one look at Michael's face convinced him. Although Michael had not said a word since Maria had started demanding answers, he looked like he was on the verge of losing all self-control. Maria could see him fisting his hand as though he was doing his utmost not to lift it and unleash hell.

For some reason she had the feeling that if Michael lost it this time, he might bring all twelve of those moons down on their heads. He needed answers and she was going to get them for him.

"Tarsus, the time for wishy-washiness is over." Maria lectured the shape-shifter. He no longer scared her at all. She had come to recognize that he was really just a lackey. He was trying to hold the camp together for the mysterious leader he talked about who had yet to make an appearance. "Tell us what we need to know...and maybe we'll save your job for you."

Tarsus' head jerked up. "How did you know about that?" He demanded. Michael glanced at her, impressed.

"A good guess. You've been losing a little more control around here every day." Maria replied. "Ren told me that they were thinking of replacing you. So what's going on?" She paused. "We don't trust you, but you're the only one we know around here. Maybe we'll help you - but only if you help us first."

Michael still had not spoken. He was scowling slightly. Maria was sure he was irritated at her for taking control of the situation, but she KNEW him. He would never be able to control his temper for long enough to get the answers they needed.

Tarsus finally sighed. "Very well. No one knows if the legend is true, but none of my people want to take the chance. If you are transformed then you will be Dernian, thus no half-Dernian/half-Illyrian child. Or you will be dead, which will be just as satisfactory to them." He used his arm to motion around the tent. "I told you this living arrangement was going to cause trouble. Everyone believes that you two are living in here as husband and wife."

"Okay, stop, back that truck up buddy..." Maria ordered. "You've lost me again. I'm NOT Illyrian, I'm human...who cares if we're living in sin? Which we're not, might I add." Maria amended quickly. She could see that Michael wanted to smirk despite himself.

They were not sleeping together - yet. They had come darn close a couple of times though...the stress of their situation, the close quarters on which Michael had insisted for her safety, and the fact that the chemistry between them was still explosive...well, anyone could do the math on that equation.

"Your emotions make you close enough for most of my people." Tarsus told her.

"But what about Isabel?" Michael demanded. "Why would I have married her if a child between an Illyrian and a Dernian could cause so much trouble?"

"I will tell you the whole story." Tarsus sounded resigned. "Just stop interrupting."

Michael nodded, took a seat on a camp stool nearby. He pulled Maria down on his lap. She bit her lip at the noise that was still coming from outside. "Are they planning on coming in here anytime soon?" She asked nervously.

Tarsus shook his head. "They said they would give me all the time I needed. My last chance..." He added wryly.

"I assume you've guessed that Michael is an important Dernian?" Tarsus asked.

Maria nodded, but she could feel Michael tensing under her. "I thought you told Max that me, Isabel and Tess were insignificant." He demanded. Maria could hear a slight tremor in his voice. Even in his emotionless state at the time, that news had had an affect on Michael it seemed.

Tarsus rolled his eyes. "Well, you WERE insignificant to my plan." He told Michael. "I never said you were totally insignificant."

"Whatever." Michael sounded irritated.

"You are a member of the leading family in Dernia. If you haven't guessed, the Illyrians have always been in control of the planet. No one is really sure why, since we are more powerful..." That's right, puff yourself up a little more their alien-man, Maria thought to herself. "You have two sisters: Sabrya, or your Tess, and Danala."

"Danala? How does she fit into the four-square? Where is she?" Michael demanded.

"Stop interrupting!" Maria pinched his leg. He muttered ow, but shut up.

"Thank you. Danala is...er...well, she's not here at the moment." Tarsus hemmed and hawed a little bit, before continuing. "Anyway, in your past life, and apparently things haven't changed much Tristandor..." Tarsus scolded quickly, "You were a troublemaker. Our people have always undergone the cleansing on their sixteenth birthday...wait, I should amend that. It is really the second transformation. Babies are born, then podded for a few months until they mature to about the equivalent of seven years on your planet." He motioned at Maria.

"Why?" Maria wrinkled her nose. The whole podding process was gross to her. She still remembered seeing Max in that pod...it had not been pleasant.

"Babies are too easy to kill." Tarsus told her. "Older children can better protect themselves. Our people, both Illyrian AND Dernian, have always been podded. It just makes good sense."

"Okay." Maria was not convinced.

"At sixteen, Dernians undergo the cleansing. Or at least they're supposed to..." Tarsus frowned at Michael. "You chose not to." Maria felt an overwhelming sense of pride in her boyfriend. Always the rebel.

"You'd been reading a bunch of rot put out by the Illyrians, most of it written by their weak king, Jaxon Falconer. You were convinced that the transformation was wrong and when you happened to meet Mirana by accident one day, you told Danala that you would not do it."

"So Danala is my older sister?" Michael asked.

"Danala is your leader - and mine." Tarsus told him. Maria was still trying to get past the introduction of Mirana into this story.

"You're not saying that Tristandor..." She couldn't bring herself to say Michael..."Was in love with Mirana?"

Tarsus smirked at her. "Why yes, he was."

Maria felt Michael begin to stroke her hair reassuringly. "I'm not now." He whispered into her hair. "You know that." She felt minutely better.

Tarsus rolled his eyes again. "You ran away to Illyria. Jaxon Falconer welcomed you into his family with open arms. He thought that your marriage to his sister would result in the legendary child that was supposed to unite the two factions. But we managed to kill you before that happened." Maria felt her eyes widen. Tarsus spoke of murder so matter-of-factly. Everytime she began to forget that the shapeshifter was not like her, he said or did something to remind her of his emotionless state.

It was disturbing. She could understand why Michael had run away from these people.

"You had regretted leaving your younger sister Sabrya behind and tried to get her to come to join you. She was torn, but your secret letters about your life in Illyria convinced her to flee. She had developed an attachment to Jaxon through your letters about him as well and hoped that he would marry her to give the Illyrians an even greater chance of producing the chosen one."

"So Max married Tess?" Maria asked. Tarsus nodded.

"She was his bride, but never his wife." The shapeshifter amended. "We killed them both on their wedding night. No mating, no child. He didn't love her, by the way." Tarsus added. "It was a political marriage for Jaxon, not a love match like Tristandor and Mirana." Maria glared at him. She knew that he had said that just to annoy her.

She felt a momentary pang for Tess. She was not the girl's biggest fan, actually Maria quite despised her, but no one deserved to be a pawn in the great game of chosen ones. No wonder she was so desperate to have Max for herself.

It was ironic that Jaxon Falconer had had to journey half-way across the universe to find his real soulmate. Max would never love, and would never have loved, anyone the way he loved Liz.

"That was when Queen Milena had her wizard Lucianus clone you." Tarsus continued. "They sent you to Earth for protection while you were growing up. Illyria was placed under interdict by Lucianus, meaning that time basically stood still while you were gone. Time kept going in Dernia - which is why I am recounting this story from what I have heard, not from memory." Maria glanced back at Michael. He just shrugged, apparently as perplexed by that last statement as she was. "Nasedo, or Laren as he is known here - the traitor - accompanied you. There was also an Illyrian sent...I think her name was Salisa...it doesn't matter anyway since she died in that infernal crash...the one that made us all lose track of you."

"But Nasedo told us about ANOTHER alien who was captured by the Special Unit..." Michael said. "Who was that?"

"That was Salisa's husband, I think. He went but was not an official part of the mission, so I discount him." Tarsus waved his hand dismissively.

"Why can't I shapeshift?" Michael demanded suddenly. "If I'm Dernian, shouldn't I be able to shapeshift?"

"You're human you numbskull." Tarsus replied. "Your Dernian DNA was combined with that of the humans...you cannot shapeshift for that reason."

"But I was transformed for the journey through the portal." Michael sounded like he was trying to bring all the pieces together in his mind. Too much information at once, Maria figured. SHE had become lost about five revelations ago.

"I erased your emotions...all that hooey about changing your internal structure was just that...hooey. I had to make the stupid pod work. We brought them with us when we went to Earth in search of you all. They were damaged during the trip. You're still human." Tarsus frowned. "I still haven't figured out why your cleansing was deactivated with the trip through the portal...very odd."

"Maybe because it didn't really work on his human body?" Maria suggested.

"Perhaps."

"So, now why this judgment thing?" Maria continued, wanting to return to the matter at hand. "And why don't you want me to be killed anyway? You hate me."

"I don't hate you Maria. I don't hate anyone." Tarsus told her crisply. "You are a nuisance, but you are a card I want to have to play when Jaxon finally gets his irritating self through that portal. I have no idea what's taking him so long. He is so bloody noble, I expected him weeks ago."

"Well? The judgment?" Michael demanded.

"When you and Mirana were first married, Danala insisted that you be judged. You were, and you survived. She relented and let you stay in Illyria. It was only AFTER Sabrya ran away that she insisted on killing you all. She did not relish killing her siblings, but you had to be stopped."

"Who's doing the judging?" Maria asked, feeling her head whirling. It was going to take her several days to process all the information Tarsus was throwing at them.

"We have no idea." Tarsus replied. "But clearly a greater power. Many have been destroyed who have gone into the Ring for judgment... murderers, thieves...it is the only court on our planet and both factions subscribe to it."

Maria swallowed. The thought of potentially being destroyed did not appeal to her, but she realized that POTENTIAL destruction was preferable to CERTAIN destruction at the hands of the Dernian mob outside their tent.

She stood up, turned around to face Michael. "We have to do it Michael. We have no choice." He just stared at her sadly, finally nodded.

Tarsus looked relieved. "I will go tell them. Be ready in fifteen minutes."

They were the longest fifteen minutes of Maria's life.

She spent them lying on the cot, wrapped in Michael's arms, her face pressed against his neck. Neither of them spoke. It was only as Tarsus was pulling back the flap into the tent that Maria finally said what she had been willing herself to say the entire time.

"I love you Michael." He had stared down at her, his gaze unwavering.

"I love you too." It was not rushed like it had been the last time he had said it to her. That had been when he had pushed her away after he had killed Pierce, telling her that he loved her too much to risk having her around him.

Then it had seemed like a convenient excuse.

This time it sounded like he really meant it.

Michael took her hand in his, led her outside. A troop of guards was waiting for them. Maria kept her head down, refused to look at the faces of the assembled Dernians, all who hoped that she would be destroyed in the next few minutes...

She hated them.

The trip to the Ring was over too fast. Before she knew it, they were there, standing on the Illyrian/Dernian frontier.

Ren had told her once that the Ring was the only part of the border that was unfortified. Maria could see several Illyrians peering into the Ring from the other side, staring at them.

It amazed her that this one place should be so safe for both sides. As long as they were in the Ring, they were secure...

At least as long as they were not being judged, she amended in her mind, feeling herself beginning to panic.

She felt Michael squeeze her hand. "It'll be all right Maria. I promise."

Maria could see Tarsus standing nearby, a slight frown on his face. If Maria didn't know better, she would have said that he looked worried about them.

"Let's get this over with." Maria managed to choke out. A Dernian woman with fathomless black eyes came forward and handed Maria a green orb. She looked down at it, glanced back at the woman in confusion. Michael was given an identical orb.

Orbs! Maria hated orbs. They were what had started this whole extended mess in the first place. They should have all cursed the day that Max and Liz had found the first one in the desert. Or at least destroyed the damn thing when they had had the chance.

Maria exchanged one more glance with Michael. He took her hand again, pulled her into the circle.

She felt her heart stop as they advanced towards a stone lying in the centre of the circle. It looked like an altar. She didn't remember it having been there the last time she had been here.

"How long does this take?" Maria asked Michael after they had been standing near the altar-rock for what felt like forever. Nothing was happening.

Michael just shrugged, glanced down at his orb. "I guess we're okay...."

He was cut off by a burst of power so intense it knocked them both off their feet. Maria heard Michael yelling."WHAT THE...."

This was it. They had failed.

It took a moment for Maria to realize that she was still alive - that she had not been zapped into a million pieces.

Michael had somehow ended up on top of her, clearly trying to protect her, but she managed to shove his shoulder aside, creating a little space for herself to see.

The circle seemed to have come alive. Energy danced from standing stone to standing stone, culminating in a column of white light that reached towards the heavens.

It looked darn familiar to Maria.

It was a portal.

As quickly as it had materialized, the portal was gone.

And they were no longer alone.

Standing nearby, looking very young, very confused and very sad, was Max Evans.

His eyes found them a moment later.

He only said one word - or rather, a name. "Michael."

Part 23

Miami, Florida

Liz's eyes followed Max as he paced up and down the crowded area near the gate. He kept peering into the crowd, an angry expression on his face. She knew that it was just a mask to hide his true feelings.

Complete and utter terror.

He was most upset by the fact that Michael and Jennetta had ended up sitting together on the plane and had somehow bonded. Max had nearly had a conniption fit about that. Liz had finally managed to calm him down by forcing a pair of the airplane's ear-phones onto his head.

He had been so surprised by the music he had shut up abruptly, sitting back in his seat with a perplexed expression on his face.

"What is this?" He had finally asked, his tone interested.

"It's music." Liz had replied, not sure if they had it on Illyria. He had rolled is eyes.

"Well, I know that. I mean, who is singing it?"

Liz quickly plugged her own earphones in, turned the dial to the channel he was on.

You've got your ball,
You've got your chain,
Tied to me tight,
Tie me up again.
Who's got the claws in you my friend?
Into your heart, I'll beat again.
Sweet like candy to my soul,
Sweet you rock and sweet you roll.
Lost for you...I'm so lost for you...
And you come crash...into me...
And I come into...you...

She turned to stare at him. He was gazing at her, a strange expression on his face, like some memory was trying to break through.

Liz had swallowed. "It's Dave Matthews." She finally managed to tell him. "Do you recognize it?"

It was the song that had been playing at the Crash Festival the night she had thanked him for saving her life. It was one they both loved.

Max had closed his eyes briefly. When he opened them, he had turned away from her to stare out the window. "No."

Liz had felt her heart drop.

He had managed to stay calm for the rest of the trip, although he had sent Michael and Jennetta a few glares. Michael had been busy teaching Jennetta to play the video-game that was attached to the back of their seat. The little girl had been shrieking with delight. At one point they had both fallen asleep, Jennetta's head on Michael's arm. She had seen Max look at them, his lips compressed, but he had not said anything.

The minute the plane had landed Michael had picked Jennetta up, swinging her onto his back. "We're going to McDonald's." He informed them abruptly. "We'll meet you at the gate." Max had been so surprised he hadn't even tried to stop them.

"Trust Michael to leave us with all the luggage." Isabel had muttered. Max's sister had been a foul mood since she had woken up that morning, clearly upset and finding it hard to deal with memoryless Max.

Liz, on the other hand, didn't care it what form they had him. She was just glad that he was back. They would make his memory return. It was just a matter of time.

Mr. Evans had been more of the same frame of mind as Liz. His eyes had filled with tears when he had first seen Max and he had hugged him, although Max had held himself very stiffly, looking at Liz for clarification. "Welcome back son." Max had flinched at that.

"It's your father." She had mouthed to him. Max's eyes had widened, but he had brought his arms up to hug Mr. Evans back.

That one gesture, one of comfort for a man he didn't remember, had brought tears to Liz's eyes.

He might call himself Jaxon, but it was still THEIR Max behind those dark eyes. His compassion proved it.

Now he was slowly losing it again. Liz went over to join him. He had finally stopped pacing and was sitting stiffly in a chair, rubbing a hand across his face.

"How are you holding up?" Liz asked, unable to stop herself from touching his shoulder lovingly. She was pleased that he did not jerk away.

"Where are they?" He demanded. "How could I have been so stupid as to allow her to go off with him?" Max's eyes looked up at her in confusion.

"Because I think you know instinctively that you can trust him." Liz replied quietly. "Don't you?"

Max sighed. "I don't know. I don't know anything anymore. They both betrayed me Liz and I KNOW that you'll betray me too...you work for them."

Liz gently put her arm around his shoulders. "I don't work for anyone Max. I'm all yours - I always have been." He turned to stare at her, swallowed.

"Why do you have this power over me?" He asked her quietly. "It is like being in your presence soothes my soul. I don't understand it. Have you bewitched me through my dreams?"

Liz shook her head. "You love me." She replied. He didn't say anything, just continued to stare at her. His eyes lowered briefly to her lips. Liz held her breath.

"Jaxon! I brought you a Big Mac! These things are amazing! I have never been so full in my life!" Jennetta's voice broke the spell. Liz's head snapped around. She was unsurprised to see Isabel, Michael and Mr. Evans all watching them, hopeful expressions on their faces.

Liz felt the burden on her shoulders increase. She knew that they were all depending on HER to break through to Max. She wanted it to be her, but she didn't know if she was going to be able to do it on her own.

Max Evans had not just been about his love for her, Liz Parker. His entire existence had revolved around the love he had for every important person in his life. It had been that love that had gotten him into this predicament in the first place.

Liz turned to stare briefly at Michael. She had promised herself in the stone circle that she was going to forgive him...but seeing Max like this - so confused and torn...her animosity flickered briefly.

If Michael hadn't been so stupid as to let Tarsus of Dernia trick him...

She quickly forced the feeling aside. She didn't have time for that now.

Max was sitting stiffly again. "Is that right sweeting?" He moved away from Liz, went to pick up his small sister. Liz saw Isabel watching them, an expression of longing on her face.

Liz went to link arms with her friend. "It's okay Izzy. We'll have him back soon. Think about what we've accomplished already! He's here!"

Isabel smiled weakly. "I know." She said simply.

Michael came up to join them. He was watching Max and Jennetta, an unreadable expression on his face.

"You certainly seem to be getting along well with the little princess." Isabel snapped at him. Michael eyed her for a moment.

"She's your sister Isabel." He finally said in the most gentle tone than Liz had ever heard from him.

Isabel sighed. "I know. It's just hard to see him with her when he so clearly despises me." Tears filled her eyes. Liz and Michael exchanged glances.

"You have to be strong Iz. Max is going to feel bad enough as it is when he finally gets his memory back. They've brainwashed him somehow into believing that you and Michael betrayed him...but we'll get through to him. I promise." Liz smiled at her encouragingly.

"At least he seems to be getting along okay with our dad." Isabel replied finally, sounding pleased. They watched Max talking with Mr. Evans briefly, as Jennetta tugged on Max's arm, thrusting the hamburger up at him.

"He doesn't have an false bitterness towards him." Liz guessed. "He doesn't remember him at all. The problem with you is that he has fake memories."

Isabel sighed again. "I just hope getting back to Roswell makes him remember."

"Speaking of Roswell," Michael changed the subject. "We've been so busy getting Max back, we haven't even figured out how we're going to spring him back on the town. I mean, they think he's dead."

Liz frowned. "Well, I guess the amnesia will come in handy. We can just let it out that Max was swept away down the river, was found by someone, but couldn't remember who he was."

Michael grimaced. "This isn't All My Children Liz. Do you really think anyone's going to buy that?"

Liz shrugged. "I don't see what choice we have." She replied, feeling a little annoyed. Why was she the one who always had to come up with the solutions? "I mean, he's going to be there. They'll just have to accept it."

Michael scowled. "So much for not bringing attention to ourselves again. This is going to be the biggest news to hit that stupid town in a long time." He stalked away, clearly not at all happy.

"Why does he always have to be so difficult?" Liz demanded wearily, watching him go.

"He's Michael." Isabel replied simply. "That's explanation enough."

"But it's running a bit thin as an excuse." Liz muttered. Isabel eyed her for a moment, but let the comment go.

"Flight 285 to Roswell, New Mexico is boarding at Gate 3. Will the passengers needing assistance and boarding with small children please make their way to the gate now?" The announcement over the intercom snapped Liz out of her mild bitterness.

"Well, that's us. Only another couple of hours and we'll be home." Liz could tell from Isabel's expression that she was as scared as Liz was to find out what that was going to mean.

Roswell was home, but for Liz it would only be complete if Max came back to them entirely.

Because for her, Max Evans was her REAL home.

She followed Isabel onto the airplane.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 8:48:12 PM
Part 24

Roswell, New Mexico

Tess stared at Danala, seated across from her in a booth at Senor Chow's. "I can't do that!"

"You can and you will." Her sister replied, taking a casual sip of her Cherry Cola. "I told you that Liz Parker is all that is standing in the way of the salvation of our planet. It's up to you Sabrya. It's your job to see that your destiny as the mother of the chosen one proceeds uninterrupted."

Tess fell back against the booth. "But Liz is my friend." Tess whispered. "I don't love Max. Not to mention, he's not even here! How am I supposed to have a child with someone stuck on another planet?"

Danala shrugged, tossed her blonde head. "He'll be back. Sooner than we might expect." Danala scowled at her watch. "Dammit! I have to go. I have a date. Listen. I'll meet you at the pod chamber later tonight. Have a plan. I mean it Sabrya! You have to stop waffling about this. You've always known your destiny." Tess' sister stood up, came to stand beside her. Tess turned to look up at her sister, feeling sad and frustrated at the same time. Danala reached out a hand, brushed a curly strand of Tess' blonde hair off her forehead. Her voice became more gentle as she said, "You know you have to do this Tessie. For all of us. You have to help me save our people AND our brother. Isn't sacrificing one worthless little human worth that?"

Tess did not reply, just turned back to stare down at the burrito that was slowly getting cold in front of her. She felt Danala pause, but her sister left suddenly without saying another word.

She raised her head in time to watch Danala's form disappear through the front door of the restaurant.

Danala of Dernia. Her sister.

Tess had not believed it when the girl had shown up at her front door on the evening before Isabel, Liz and Michael had left for England. She had been in a bathrobe, having just taken a bath, trying to calm down her anger over being left behind.

It had been just one more bit of evidence that Isabel and Michael still did not truly want her around. It was always about Liz...Max and Liz...Liz and Max. Sure, Tess didn't want Max for herself any longer, but she DID want her place in the four-square. SHE was the one who should be going to help Isabel and Michael open the portal.

Tess had realized quite quickly upon leaving the Crashdown though that she wasn't really angry. She was just upset about life in general and was feeling lonely - not for the first time. Coming home to the empty Harding house was never easy.

She had even begun to convince herself that staying in Roswell would not be so bad. She was going to protect Maria for Michael...he HAD to trust her a little bit if he wanted her to do that. Didn't he?

And then fate had come knocking in the form of a sister she never knew she had.

Tess had opened the door, stared at the girl in astonishment. She knew her. Tess scowled. "What are you doing here?" She demanded in annoyance.

Danala had just stared at her steadily. "It's not what you think. Can I come in?"

Tess eyed her suspiciously. "We don't have anything to say to each other." Tess had replied snootily, but somehow she had known that she was going to let her in.

Against her will, Tess had followed the girl into her living room. She had been gazing around the room, an interested expression on her face. "Nice digs. I always knew Laren had good taste. He designed my throne room before he turned traitor." Tess had stared at her back.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Tess demanded. "Who's Laren?"

The girl turned, smirked. "Oh sorry. You know him as Nasedo, or dear old dad Ed? All these names - my other name is Danala by the way." Tess blinked at her.

"How do you know about Nasedo?" She whispered, feeling horror building up in her stomach.

The girl had sighed, rolled her eyes. "Because I'm one of you dummy."

"What?" Tess had forced herself to calm down. "I don't know what you're talking about...you're not one of us. We all hate you."

The other girl had continued to eye Tess, looking amused. "You really got screwed out of all your memories, didn't you? I'm your sister Sabrya. You do know that's YOUR name don't you?"

And suddenly it all became crystal clear to Tess. She had the journal. "It was you. You took it. Liz's journal." Tess hurried forward, grabbed the girl by the arm. "Where is it?"

The girl shook her off, scowled. "Of course I have it. But that doesn't mean anything. Who cares?"

Tess wondered suddenly if she should call Isabel or Michael. They had to deal with this immediately. The witch had already posted part of the journal...who knew how long it would be before she posted something truly incriminating. She realized that the other girl was still staring at her. She finally shook her head.

"You really don't believe me do you?" Tess' eyes narrowed. "Fine. I'll show you." Tess swallowed as Danala raised her hand. It began to glow and as Tess watched, the girl claiming to be her sister shape-shifted into a perfect replica of Liz Parker.

After that, Tess had listened.

Danala had told her the whole story... that Michael was her brother...that she and Michael had betrayed Danala and their whole race by running off to be with the Illyrians...that she and Max were fated to have a child that would save the whole planet...

When Danala had opened the pod chamber, that had been the final proof. "But where is your pod?" Tess had asked her sister.

"I didn't come with you dummy. I'm not human...I wasn't cloned. I'm still the same being I was fifty years ago when Laren kidnapped you all and brought you here to this Ring forsaken planet."

And for the first time Tess had not felt alone. She had a sister - one who WANTED to be her sister.

It was an amazing feeling.

Tess had remained a little wary. She had not liked the way that Danala had talked about Maria for example. Danala seemed to have a highly suspicious hatred for Liz's best friend.

"That little whore." Tess had heard her mutter once. "She almost ruined all my plans..." When Tess had asked her about it, Danala had quickly changed the subject. Tess had made sure that whenever she wasn't with Danala, she was with Maria.

Danala might be her sister, but Maria was her brother's love...and Tess had been amazed by how quickly she had loved the idea of being Michael's sister. She could not stand the thought of him being hurt...and losing Maria would hurt him.

Being with Danala became increasingly easy however. The future world she created for Tess with her words was magical...

"And when your child becomes the ruler of our planet, a golden age of peace and prosperity will emerge." Danala had told her only last night. Tess had closed her eyes, imagining being the mother of such a child...a child that would never leave her...that could fill the empty hole that had existed in her heart from the first day that Max had rejected her in favour of Liz.

It had never occurred to Tess that having this child with Max meant that something had to be done about Liz. She wasn't really sure...she supposed that she had assumed that Liz would just fade into the wood-work. Liz had walked away from Max once because she thought it was his destiny to be with Tess. Tess had just assumed that she would be willing to do it again.

Danala had quashed that idea over dinner this evening. "Of course she won't disappear Sabrya. You must take care of her. The hold she has over Jaxon is witchery I tell you! You must save him from himself."

"But I KNOW that Liz loves Max." Tess had replied, feeling distraught that she was going to have to hurt someone that she had come to like and admire. The way that Liz felt about Max...the way that she was willing to risk her entire existence for him... one couldn't help but be in awe of a person such as that.

And suddenly another thought had occurred to her.

What was Kyle going to say?

She had wondered briefly where that thought had come from, had hidden it away for examination later when she was alone.

What did Kyle Valenti have to do with her destiny anyway? Sure, they were friends - good friends - but he wasn't Max...

As Tess stared towards the door of Senor Chow's she realized that later had arrived. She swallowed when she saw Kyle peering in the front window at her, using his hand to shade his eyes.

She knew the exact moment he noticed her. Her heart skipped a beat.

Tess clenched her hands in her lap, steeled herself for the coming confrontation.

She knew he was mad at her...she didn't blame him. She had been acting like a maniac for days. The hot and cold treatment had to be hurting him.

And that was the last thing she wanted to do to Kyle...he was the only one who accepted her exactly as she was. He even seemed to like it when she was snarky...she didn't get it all.

"So, felt like Mexican huh?" Kyle demanded a moment later as he slid into the booth across from her. He was glancing around the restaurant suspiciously. "All alone?"

"Yes." Tess replied quietly. Kyle's eyes narrowed. He didn't say anything. The silence stretched out interminably between them.

"How's Maria?" Tess finally asked, flinched when her voice cracked. Kyle raised an eyebrow.

"Funny, I thought you'd know since Alex told me you slept on a chair beside her bed last night." Kyle sounded proud, but annoyed too, like her behavior was totally perplexing him.

"I meant since then." Tess snapped, being harsher than she intended because she felt awful and was trying to hide it.

"She's the same." Kyle finally replied. "I also heard from Liz." He continued. "They have Max."

Tess felt her heart skip a beat. Danala had been right...he was back. They COULD fulfill their destiny. Tess blinked, jumped when Kyle suddenly reached across the table and grabbed her hand.

"Tess! What the hell is going on with you? Why are you suddenly keeping secrets?" His eyes were no longer frosty. They were blazing with heat - a combination of anger and something that Tess could not quite name.

Tess wrenched her hand away from him. "I don't know what you're talking about." She replied. He sat back, glared at her.

"I don't believe you." He told her stonily. "I don't get it Tess. I thought that we were making some real progress...we're friends - or at least I thought we were. I was the one person you talked to..."

Tess felt her heart go out to him. He was right. He had been the one person she could depend on...the others had always run hot and cold with her...but not Kyle. Never Kyle.

But she didn't need him anymore. She had a destiny to fulfill, a sister who was depending on her.

"It's nothing Kyle." She managed to force the words out, keeping her tone cold. "And even if there were...you're the last person I would tell. You're not one of us Kyle, no matter how much you think you are." She saw him flinch.

"What...what do you mean?" She had never seen him look so vulnerable. He was trying to keep his voice steady, strong, but she could tell it was a trial.

"Just what I said." Tess replied clearly, feeling her throat closing up, as though her heart was trying to stop her from saying what she intended to say. "The only reason you ever found out anything was that you were dumb enough to get yourself shot. Do you think Max would ever have trusted you otherwise? You don't actually believe that?"

Kyle blinked. "No." He finally replied in a monotone. His face was blank, like he was desperately trying to think of a way to disentangle himself from this situation.

"Can you just like leave?" Tess finally asked. "I'm sick of having to explain myself to you." He stared at her for what seemed like forever.

And suddenly his eyes narrowed and he smiled. Tess felt her own eyes widen. She had never seen such an expression on his face before. She couldn't even begin to comprehend what it meant. "Actually, no. I can't leave." Kyle told her evenly. "I have something to tell you."

She wondered why she suddenly felt her entire body tingling from the top of her head to the tips of her toes...his eyes were smoldering, with something in them she had seen countless times, in Max's eyes when he was with Liz, in Michael's when he looked at Maria, even in Alex's when Isabel was around, but it had never been directed at her...

Never her.

Or at least not that she had noticed.

Where had she been?

"What?" She finally managed to squeak.

He stared at her a moment longer. "You can run Tess, but you can't hide from me. I know you're lying."

Tess wondered why her heart suddenly wanted to break with disappointment. "What?"

"Do you know why?" Kyle continued, tilting his head and eyeing her with a combination of amusement and annoyance.

"Why?" She squeaked again. Her heart had started to thunder.

"Because I'm in love with you." He replied simply. She felt herself stop breathing.

"What?"

"You heard me."

She could NOT deal with this now. There was NO WAY she could deal with this.

It wasn't meant to be. She was supposed to be with Max. Her sister had told her so.

But then why did she suddenly feel like leaping across the table into Kyle's lap?

Danala's voice suddenly ran through her mind. "It's your destiny to mother the child that will save our race...it is your duty. Don't betray us Sabrya..." Tess wondered how her sister had known she was wavering...but somehow she did.

They were connected. They were kin.

They were sisters.

Tess looked Kyle straight in the eye and told him. "I don't care." She forced herself to watch his eyes darken with pain. She had to end this insanity now. It was bad enough that she was going to have to take care of Max's soulmate.

She didn't need a soulmate of her own - she could not bear it.

Kyle finally closed his eyes to shut out her face. He slumped back against the booth. "Please leave." She heard him say, repeating the words she had given him moments before.

She didn't apologize. She wanted too, but she didn't. It had to be a clean break.

He was not for her. It was not meant to be.

Tess stood up, stared down at Kyle for a long moment. "Goodbye." She whispered. She walked out of the restaurant.

Part 25

Jaxon followed Mrs. Evans up the stairs and through a doorway at the top. "This is your room." She told him softly. "Do you remember it?"

He surveyed the unfamiliar room impassively. Walking forward, he noticed a picture frame sitting on the desk. He picked it up, stared down at it.

It was a picture of six people, four of whom he recognized.

Jaxon's eyes were immediately drawn to his own face. He was smiling
slightly, but it was clear that he wasn't really paying attention to the camera, but, rather, was focused on the girl sitting on his lap. It was Liz. She had her arm around his neck and she was laughing, her forehead resting against his cheek as though she was too weak to hold her head up.

Directly to their right was a tall, skinny boy with dark brown hair and twinkling eyes. Mirana was standing beside him, her hand in his, smiling openly at the camera.

To their left was Tristandor. He was scowling, but it was not in an angry way. Rather he just looked amusingly frustrated. It was clear that the girl beside him was talking to him. Her mouth was open and she clearly had no intention of looking at the camera. Tristandor's arm was around her though and the way he was holding her...it was clear that they were a couple.

Mrs. Evans came up behind him, glanced over his shoulder. "That was taken on your seventeenth birthday - yours and Izzy's." She told him sadly.

Jaxon glanced at her over his shoulder. He liked Mrs. Evans - Mr. Evans too - he was sorry that he did not remember them...and he was also sorry that it hurt them so much that he did not. "Who are these two?" He asked her, curious. It was clear that they had been friends of his...it was also clear that they were MORE than friends with Mirana and Tristandor, which just served to confuse him.

His sister and Tristandor were supposed to be married to each other. Or at least that is what Tarsus had told him.

"That's Alex, Izzy's boyfriend." Mrs. Evans explained. "And that's Maria." She paused. "She's Liz's best friend and Michael's girlfriend..."

Max turned to look at her curiously. It was clear that the woman he was told was his adoptive mother wanted to say something more. "She's very ill at the moment." She finished lamely.

Jaxon stared down at the picture briefly. He wondered why Maria looked so familiar. He knew that he was supposed to know her, but it was more than that...

He carefully replaced the picture on the desk. "I'm sorry." He said.

Mrs. Evans gazed at him for a moment, smiled briefly again. "Well, I guess I better go make sure that Jennetta is settling in with Isabel." She finally said. She paused, then turned to leave the room. "Sleep well Max."

"Mother." She whirled around. Jaxon realized that the word sounded highly unnatural. He remembered what he had heard Mirana call Diane Evans. "Er - Mom." Her eyes filled with tears. "Thank you."

She hurried back towards him, hugged him before he could stop her. He realized that he didn't mind. He actually sort of liked it. "I'm so glad that you're back Max. We've missed you so much."

"Thank you." He said again, feeling utterly unsure of what to say.

Jaxon watched her leave a moment later, went to carefully sit on the bed. He swallowed, looking around the room again, wishing that he remembered something...anything.

He sighed, fell back against the pillows and closed his eyes.

He was exhausted, sure that he would fall asleep immediately. He semi-hoped that this was all a bad dream and that when he awoke he would be back in his tent in Dernia. He wouldn't even mind waking up in the Citadel. He would be happy anywhere that wasn't this strange planet that he clearly had spent many years on...

And he remembered none of it.

But if he had not come here, he would not have met Liz.

His eyes snapped open at that. He clenched his jaw. No matter how hard he tried to be immune to her charms, he could not stop thinking about her.

She was driving him crazy.

He had sat beside her on the airplane returning from the land she called England to the land of America. Being so close to her had nearly driven him insane. Even when he turned away from her, the clean scent of her had managed to invade his space, making him want to turn around and crush his lips to hers.

In the Miami airport he had felt her eyes on him the whole time, serious and concerned and shining with some emotion that he was trying to avoid at all costs.

And so he had concentrated on being furious.

He had tried to be furious at Tristandor for stealing Jennetta away from him, but to see her face light up the way it did in his presence...well, that hadn't worked.

So, he had tried to be furious at Mirana for betraying him...but one look at the hurt expression on her face every time their eyes met...well, somehow that had been a failure too.

Finally he had tried to be angry with Liz - for bewitching him, for trying to comfort him. It was clear that she knew exactly when he was upset and it frightened him. What frightened him even more was that he seemed able to feel HER emotions as well. And although she was sad that he could not remember her, the overwhelming emotion he was receiving from her was love.

In the end, he had settled on self-loathing. It was easiest. He hated himself for being drawn to these people, even though he knew that they had betrayed him in the past and would do so again in the future.

Now, as he lay on this strange bed in this strange bedroom, he tried to think about what he was going to do. He had to get Jennetta safely home somehow...but he had absolutely no idea how he was going to go about doing that.

Jaxon gave up trying to sleep. He knew that he wasn't going to get any rest until he checked on Jennetta once more.

The Evans household was quiet as he opened his bedroom door and pushed open the door next to his. He knew it was Isabel's room for he had seen Mr. Evans bring Mirana's suitcase in her when they had gotten back from the airport.

It had been strange to arrive at the Roswell airport. There had been several people waiting for them, including Mrs. Evans and a man everyone called the Sheriff. The Sheriff's son, Kyle, was there as well.

Liz had hurried forward to hug Kyle. Jaxon had been surprised when a pang had hit him. He realized that it was jealousy. But it had quickly flown from his mind when Mrs. Evans had taken him into her embrace, weeping all over him.

The Sheriff had moved forward to shake Jaxon's hand. Jaxon had blinked when Valenti had pulled him forward to give him a quick hug. "We're glad to have you back Max." Jaxon had seen Liz smiling at him affectionately as he stared at the Sheriff, perplexed. She had mouthed that she would explain later.

Mrs. Evans had been delighted to meet Jennetta. When she had asked how they had managed to get her into the country, Isabel had smiled for the first time that Jaxon had seen. "As Maria would say, a little Samantha genie hocus pocus." She had whipped out the passport that she had created for Jaxon's small sister.

"Well, a new daughter! Imagine Phillip!" Mr. Evans had looked pleased as well. Jaxon had frowned slightly when Jennetta had continued to cling to Michael's hand.

"Aren't you coming with us?" She had asked him worriedly. Tristandor had smiled down at her reassuringly.

"I'll come see you soon Jenny. I just have to go see someone else first."

Jaxon had seen Michael scowl when Kyle and the Sheriff had exchanged looks. Kyle had led Michael away, had clearly been telling him something that Tristandor was not at all happy to hear.

Jaxon's brother-in-law had been gone a split-second later, running towards the exit at a dead sprint, Kyle on his heels.

When Jaxon had turned back to the others, he noticed that Liz was watching Michael's retreating back, a slight frown on her beautiful face.

That had pretty much been the last sight he had had of her. Before he knew it, the Sheriff had hustled her away, saying that he would drive her home. Liz had appeared to be reluctant to leave them, but she gave in finally, telling Isabel that she would be over first thing in the morning.

Right before she left, she had come up to Jaxon, had touched his cheek lovingly. "Sleep well Max." Her eyes had been shining as she gazed at his face. "I'll see you tomorrow." He had frozen when she had stood on her tip-toes. He KNEW that she was going to kiss him.

He had felt strangely disappointed when all she did was press her lips to his cheek.

Now, as Jaxon stared down at the sleeping Jennetta, he felt that disappointment again.

He had wanted Liz to kiss him.

No, he had NEEDED her to kiss him.

Somehow the idea had come to him that if Liz kissed him everything would be all right.

It was ridiculous, ludicrous, insane...

But then nothing in his life currently made any sense.

Jaxon stared across the room at Mirana, who was curled up in the other bed.

She could help him.

He was at her bedside in an instant. "Mirana!" He whispered urgently, not wanting to awaken Jennetta. His twin did not stir. He tried again. "MIRANA!" Nothing. And then..."ISABEL!"

She sat up abruptly, stared at him. She blinked, her blonde hair tumbling around her shoulders. "Max?" Her tone was hopeful.

"Er no." He suddenly felt very foolish. "Never mind." He moved to leave the room, silently cursing himself for the romantic whimsy that seemed to have taken control of all his senses.

"Jaxon?" Isabel was suddenly behind him, stopped him by grabbing his arm. "What is it? You can tell me. I'm your sister." She was gazing at him with a mixture of hope and affection...it did not gel with the cold harpy he remembered from Illyria, but then this WAS NOT Illyria.

He eyed her a moment longer...and finally...

"I need you to tell me where Liz lives."

He saw her face light up.

"That I can do." She moved away, picked up a jacket that was lying across her bed. She slid her feet into a pair of shoes. "In fact, I can do better than that. I can take you there."


Liz sat curled up on the chaise lounge on her balcony, a pad of paper lying forgotten on her lap. She was staring up at the "V" constellation in the sky, a slight smile on her face.

She was so happy that Max was back, she could even look at those cursed stars without flinching.

He was back. They had done it.

Well, almost, she amended sternly to herself. They still had to convince him that Isabel and Michael had not betrayed him...oh, and also help him to remember being Max Evans....

But Liz knew that it was only a matter of time. The real miracle had already happened. He had come back to them. To her.

It was only a matter of time.

And then she heard it.

She blinked, shook her head, was sure that she was dreaming...

But no...

There it was again. "LIZ!" It was half a whisper, half an echo of days gone by. She almost didn't dare to go to the edge of the balcony to look over.

It would be too, too disappointing if he wasn't really there.

She forced herself to climb to her feet, to go look down on the alley, to the spot where he had stood so many times before calling up to her.

It was not a figment of her imagination. He was standing there, looking up, a perplexed expression on his face. Liz realized quickly that he wasn't alone. She saw Isabel slinking away into the shadows, clearly wanting to leave them alone.

Thank you Isabel.

"Can I come up?" He sounded worried, and even a little frightened.

"Of course." Liz managed to reply, sounding more confident than she felt.

He was beside her a moment later. "Hello." He licked his lips, appeared not to know what to say after that.

"Hi Max. What's going on?" She tried to sound natural, but there was nothing natural about any of this.

The only really natural thing to do would be to throw her arms around his neck and kiss him, connecting with him, loving him the way that she would never love anyone else.

"I'm not sure." He replied quietly. "I needed to see you."

"Why?"

He paused, stared at her. She felt her heart speed up when his gaze dropped to her lips. "I...I don't...I should go." He finally managed to say. "This is ridiculous. I don't even know why I came here."

Liz watched him turn away, felt her heart go out to him. He was so lost. It was devastating to see him this way. Her Max had always been quiet, but he had also been strong and sure of who he was.

This Max was confusion incarnate.

"I know why." Liz said quickly as he moved to climb back down the fire escape.

He turned around. "You do?"

"Yes." She moved toward him. He backed away from her until he was up against the wall that ran around the balcony. He blinked at her, took a deep breath. "I know you Max. You can't hide from me any longer. You want to kiss me...don't you?"

Liz stopped about a foot away from him. It was torture to do so, but it was up to him to make the next move. He was staring at her, looking fascinated. "May the stars preserve me," He finally breathed, gently bringing his hands up to cup her face. Liz felt her own breath stop. "I do."

He brought his lips down on hers.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 8:53:09 PM
Part 26

The minute Jaxon’s lips touched Liz’s the connection was made.

The images rushed through his mind in a blur, making him dizzy. He didn’t understand any of it.

And yet it was all completely familiar…

Flash*

"You’re all right now. You’re all right. You broke the bottle when you fell, spilled ketchup on yourself. Don’t tell anyone…please."

Flash*

"I prefer the term ‘not of this earth…’ Sorry…its not a good time to joke."

Flash*

"I never thanked you…for saving my life."
"Thank YOU."

Flash*

"No we’ve always looked like this…well, except for the third eye….Kidding."

Flash*

"I can’t stop what’s happening to your grandmother, but maybe I can help you say goodbye."

Flash*

"Hey. The first moment anything weird happens, anything at all, you come back."

Flash*

"I’ve been waiting for this for a long time."

Flash*

"Cause if I don’t go right now things are going to change."
"Change how?"
"I’d have to touch your hair because its so soft…and I’d have to tell you that no matter what we go through its all worthwhile for me because we’re together…"
"And then?"
"And then…I’d have to do this…"

Flash*

"…something about Venus in the morning sky."
"I thought she was right in front of me."

Flash*

"What’s so great about normal?"

Flash*

"I mean some girls would give a lot to see themselves fly through outer space."

Flash*

"I look at you and I know you’re the person I’m supposed to be with. I’ve always known it. What happened here that day, when you got shot, and how that brought us together…it’s fate. Look at me. You’re the one Liz…the only one. I could never be with anyone else."

Flash*

"Whether I die tomorrow or fifty years from now my destiny is the same. It’s you. I want to be with you Liz. I love you."

Flash*

"But you mean everything to me!"

Flash*

"Jeez Liz! I’m not dead…I’m sorry I didn’t turn out to be the guy you thought I was…but really there’s no need for the soap opera. I’m doing just fine. I happen to like Pam…she’s fun, not serious…there’s not the boring dissection of every little thing with her…"

Flash*

"But Liz…I DON’T love you."

Flash*

"I don’t understand Liz. Everyone else gave up on me. Why didn’t you?"

Flash*

"I will always be with you Liz. You are my heart."

Flash*

"I loved you from the first moment I laid eyes on you and I will love you until my dying breath."

Jaxon felt Liz wrap her arms around his neck, deepening the kiss.

He couldn’t seem to get enough of her…

The way she felt in his arms was indescribable…the images she sent whirling through his mind….

He had never felt closer to anyone in his life…like he now knew her inside and out…

Like he had come home…

He moved his hands until they were gently cupping her delicate skull, her long hair trailing like silk through his fingers. He slanted his lips over hers, deepening the kiss until he felt like he was drowning…

Liz sighed gently…"Max…"

Jaxon’s eyes snapped open.

Liz seemed to feel the moment that he lost the connection. She moved back slightly, gazing into his eyes seriously. Jaxon felt his breath coming raggedly. He stared at her, felt panic beginning to set in…

He WAS NOT Max Evans…he was Jaxon…he was Jaxon dammit!

"Are you all right?" Liz asked him quietly, refusing to remove her gaze from his…he wanted to turn away from her, but he felt paralyzed.

He swallowed, finally managed to get the words out. "What was that?"

What he had seen…it had all been familiar…and yet those were NOT his memories.

"We connected." Liz replied. "You were seeing ME."

Jaxon blinked at her. "I don’t understand."

"We’ve always been able to do it Max. Ever since the first moment I knew who you were…we’re bonded in a way that defies explanation." Liz took his hand in his. He stared down at where her gentle grip connected them.

"I saw so many things Liz. I saw you when you were a little girl…I saw YOU die…I saw every single memory you have of me." He could not stop himself. He reached up and touched her face. "I FELT the way you feel about me."

Liz’s gaze did not falter. "I love you." She told him simply.

"I know." Jaxon replied, feeling amazed.

For the first time he hated that he could not remember their relationship. He had to accept that there had been one.

She loved him. She would not betray him.

He finally had someone to trust on this cursed planet.

Liz led him over to a chair, gently pushed him down into it. She knelt in front of him, looked up at him seriously. "What happens now?"

Jaxon rubbed a hand across his face, sighed. "I don’t know." He looked at her. "I’m so sorry Liz."

Her beautiful face looked perplexed. "Why?"

"It must hurt you that I don’t remember." Her face tightened momentarily, but relaxed a moment later.

"It’s more sad than anything else. I miss sharing memories with you Max." She placed her hands on his face, forced him to look at her. "But you’re still you…even if you don’t remember. We are still connected, bonded…we will be forever."

Jaxon leaned forward slightly, brought his lips to hers again in a gentle kiss. His intention had been to comfort her, but the fire that existed between them quickly flared again and before he knew it she was on his lap, her hands in his hair…

He placed one hand on her waist to hold her steady, brushed the other one up and down her slender back, loving the way he could feel her breathing. When his hand reached the back of her neck, the skin there was so soft…Her hair brushed the back of his hand, making his heart speed up even more than it already had…

It was like heaven…

It took them both several moments to realize that the phone was ringing.

Liz sighed, gently disentangled herself from his embrace. "Normally I would let that ring…" Liz told him wryly. "But it’s so late it has to be about Maria." Jaxon watched her expression darken as she went to pick up the telephone that was sitting on a nearby table.

Jaxon stood up, watched her back as she talked. He was not listening to her words at all.

He could not stop staring at her. She was so lovely she took his breath away.

He was in SERIOUS trouble.

When Liz hung up the phone, her head was lowered. She did not turn around, did not say a word.

Jaxon knew that something awful must have happened.

"Liz?" He finally broke the silence, moved to stand close behind her, wanting to comfort her, but not knowing how.

He knew that she was upset. Maria, the one that had seemed so familiar in the picture he had seen earlier that evening, had clearly taken a turn for the worse. "That was Michael." Liz finally choked out, still not turning around. "Maria’s in a coma…I saw her earlier tonight." She explained. She still had not turned around. "Her heart stopped twenty minutes ago."

"Liz, I’m sorry." He didn’t know what to say.

"They managed to revive her." Liz continued. "But…I don’t think…I mean…" Jaxon could hear the tears in her voice. Her back began to shake.

He reached out, pulled her gently against him, her back to his front, tried to comfort her. "I am so sorry." He paused. She was quietly sobbing. "Is there anything I can do?" He asked in desperation.

She froze. She said nothing for what seemed like forever, but finally… "We decided not to ask you…you have enough to deal with…"

"Ask me what?" And then he knew.

They knew about his gift.

Of course they did. It was how he and Liz had first connected. He had healed her.

He COULD do something for her.

Jaxon gently turned Liz around so that she was facing him. He lifted her chin with his index finger. Her dark eyes were liquid with tears. If he could do something to stop her from crying, he would do it…He would do anything.

Somehow he was getting the feeling that even though he did not remember their relationship, he would still gladly die for this small slip of a girl…

"Take me to her."

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

Kyle literally thought that Michael was going to hurl the doctor through the wall. "What the hell do you mean you want to unhook her life support?"

At least he didn’t think to blast him, Kyle thought wryly as he, his dad and Alex managed to pull Michael off of poor Dr. Lerner.

"Get a hold of yourself Mr. Guerin!" Kyle’s dad commanded. "You are not helping anyone here. Certainly not Maria."

Kyle could see Amy Deluca watching them all with horror from Maria’s hospital bedside. She finally turned away, began to stroke Maria’s forehead.

Michael pulled away from them all, stalked away down the hospital corridor, raking his hands through his spiky hair. Kyle could hear him muttering to himself.

"I’ll go." Alex said to Kyle, following Michael at a safe distance, giving him a chance to cool down.

"I’m sorry Doctor." Kyle heard his dad trying to appease the doctor. "He’s just a kid and he’s grieving."

"I understand." Dr. Lerner replied, his face still white. He looked like he had just seen his life pass before his eyes.

Kyle sighed. He and his dad had brought Michael and Liz to see Maria on the way home from the hospital. The Parkers had come for their daughter a couple of hours ago. Although Liz had not wanted to leave, she had finally been convinced that she could come back for the night shift at Maria’s bedside.

Michael had refused to go anywhere. He had been a powder keg waiting to explode since Kyle had told him what was going on with Maria at the hospital.

Just like they had known he would be, he was practically insane with fury that no one had told him that his girlfriend was in a coma. They had finally managed to calm him down, but Kyle had seen the expression on his face when Maria had flat-lined.

Michael Guerin had looked like he had died too.

It made Kyle almost glad that Tess had rejected him. He did not ever want to have to feel the horror and pain that Michael had obviously felt at that moment.

Kyle watched his dad go in to comfort Mrs. Deluca. If anything good had come out of this situation, it seemed like Maria’s mom and his dad might finally be getting their relationship back on track.

There was no question that Amy was going to need someone very soon.

Not for the first time that night Kyle wondered why no one had brought Max to see Maria yet.

They had their very own miracle-healer in their midst and he was nowhere to be found.

Kyle had briefly heard from Liz about Max’s loss of memory, but Kyle could not believe that Max Evans, no matter who he thought he was, would ever NOT do something for someone in pain if he could.

He had always been Saint Max. He always would be, even if he did call himself Saint Jaxon now.

At that exact moment the doors leading into the IC unit swung open and Liz came rushing through.

And she was not alone.

Max Evans’ eyes met his as Liz came to an abrupt halt next to him.

The first thing that Kyle noticed was that Liz and Max were holding hands.

Interesting. Saint Max WAS still around.

"Are we too late?" Liz asked breathlessly. Max stood quietly beside her, but Kyle could see his eyes stray towards the window that looked into Maria’s room.

"She’s still breathing." Kyle replied quietly. "The doctor wants to take her off life-support."

"Oh God!" Liz’s eyes filled with tears. "We might be too late."

"It’s still worth a shot." Kyle could see that his dad had noticed Max’s arrival. He was gently helping Amy to her feet. His dad was clearly trying to clear the hospital room so that Max could work his healing magic…

"C’mon Amy. Let’s go get a cup of coffee. The kids can stay with Maria for a few moments" Kyle and his dad exchanged glances as the Sheriff led Mrs. Deluca down the hall in the direction Alex and Michael had taken several moments before. Amy looked like she had already started to shut-down. Grief made her stumble a few steps later. Kyle’s dad put an arm around her, but they kept going.

Kyle trailed Max and Liz into the hospital room. Max was staring down at Maria, a sad expression on his face.

Finally, Kyle saw Max swallow. "Liz, you need to tell me about her - about OUR relationship, I mean if we had one." He finally said desperately. "I need something to be able to connect with her…I don’t remember!" Max sounded upset and frustrated, but determined as well.

Liz smiled wanly at him. "Just think of strawberries." She told him quietly.

Max’s brow furrowed slightly. He looked confused. "Okay."

Kyle put his arm around Liz as they watched Max gently lay his hands on Maria’s temples.

"God, please let this work." Kyle muttered under his breath.

Part 27

*Dreams * Maria

"MICHAEL! Are you insane? I refuse to allow it!" Maria screeched, placing a hand against the wall of the cave to support her weight. Her back was killing her. She took a deep breath, wished that she had a bottle of cyprus oil to calm her nerves.

Fleeing evil aliens was not fun in the best of circumstances.

Doing so while eight months pregnant with an alien baby downgraded the fun factor by about another ten points.

She had never been so tired in her life. But she was not so tired that she couldn’t knock some sense into Michael’s stubborn spiky head.

"No Maria, I am not insane." Michael replied evenly. "We’re sort of in a dire situation here." He raised his eyebrows at her. "Do you have any other ideas?"

Maria scowled at him. "We wait for Max. He said he would be here."

Michael scraped a hand through his hair in the way that usually endeared him to her, but currently made her want to belt him. "It’s been five days Maria. He’s not coming."

"Do you think it’s easy breaking into a fortified encampment?" Max asked wryly as he suddenly appeared at the cave’s entrance. Maria heaved a sigh of relief.

The voice of reason had returned in the form of Max Evans. She had had just about enough of arguing with Michael about the stupidity of turning himself in to Tarsus.

"Thank God." She told Max. "Maybe you can talk some sense into him."

"When has Michael ever been capable of sense?" Max snapped, tossing a bag at Michael. "They’re in there." He told his friend, suddenly looking very tired.

Michael scowled at Max, but turned away without retorting to Max’s comment.

"What are THEY?" Maria demanded, annoyed that, as usual, she was completely in the dark about the plan.

"The orbs Maria." Michael replied peevishly, pulling two red orbs out of the bag. "Do you really think these things will open the portal?" He asked Max, looking unconvinced.

Maria wrinkled her nose. "Not more orbs. I HATE orbs." She muttered. "Orbs were what got us into this mess in the first place."

She saw Max trying to smother a smile. He might be generally ticked off at Michael lately, but he was still capable of laughter, something Michael seemed to have forgotten how to do.

Sure their lives currently sucked….but then, what else was new?

There was a lot to be happy about too.

They had escaped. They were going home.

Maria still wasn’t sure HOW they had managed to get away from the Dernians, but it had happened.

When Max had appeared in the stone circle over eight months ago Maria had felt the first glimmerings of hope that they were finally going to get back to Earth.

And now it was on the verge of happening.

Of course, she and Michael had made one tiny strategic error all those months ago.
One that was going to be VERY difficult to explain when they returned to Roswell.

Maria had imagined the conversation with her mother about a thousand times. Every time it ended up sounding more ridiculous.

"So Mom, you might be wondering where I’ve been for the last year and a half. Actually, I’ve been held captive with my alien lover on his home planet, where he happens to be the right hand to a King. Well, "lover" might be too strong a word for the one time we actually gave into our raging teenage hormones. I mean, we HAD just gone through an alien judgment where we both potentially could have been fried to a crisp…Max should have known better than to leave us alone…but hey! Guess what! We beat the odds…one time lucky for Maria Deluca. Mom, I’m pleased to inform you that your worst nightmare has come true. I am following in your illustrious footsteps by becoming the third generation unwed teen mother in the Deluca clan!"

Maria snapped back to attention when she realized that Michael and Max were still bickering.

"I tell you Maxwell…it’s not going to work!" Michael was complaining as he fiddled with the orbs.

"Just like my plan to escape the camp didn’t work?" Max asked condescendingly. Maria grimaced. THAT was going to piss Michael off…

"Are you saying MY plan wouldn’t have worked?" Michael demanded, advancing on Max with a menacing expression on his face.

"I NEVER said that…all I’m saying is that your plan was not feasible. Maria was in no condition to attempt a direct bolt for the Ring."Max replied, clearly frustrated. He stared Michael down in that serious way of his that had become far too familiar to Maria in the last few months.

"So you’re blaming THAT on me again too!" Michael’s voice was quiet with loosely leashed anger.

"The words are coming out of YOUR mouth Michael. You’re the one who told ME that you could control your - ahem- power source."

Maria realized that this conversation was quickly entering territory she wanted NO part of…

"Whoa! Time out boys! You can play your male ego games later." Both Max and Michael turned to stare at her in irritation. Maria swallowed, took another deep breath. "Far be it from me to keep you two from continuing your twisted Czechoslovakian version of the Odd Couple, but I think we have a situation developing here."

"What?" Michael demanded. Maria gasped suddenly, clutched her stomach. A stabbing pain that felt like it was ripping her apart suddenly seemed to take control of her body. She fell to her knees, trying to block out the pain.

"What’s wrong! Maria!" Michael’s voice sounded like it was coming from a great distance.

The pain seemed to reach a peak and then slowly faded away. When Maria opened her eyes, she saw both Michael and Max close at her side, their faces white. Michael had his arm around her back, supporting her. She realized that neither was looking at her, but were rather staring at each other in horror.

"I think it’s the baby Michael." Max finally said, his voice sounding a little squeaky. Maria turned to look at him, tilting her head in amazement at the terrified expression on his face.

"Jesus! What are we going to do?" Michael demanded.

"Ummmm…hello??? I am still here." Maria said testily. "I think it is safe to say Mr. States-the-Obvious," Maria looked at Max pointedly, "That it IS the baby."

"You can’t have the baby here. " Michael said firmly. "Not only is it too early, we agreed that it would be born on Earth. We’ve got the orbs. We’re going home. The baby CANNOT be born until we’re back on Earth." He kept saying it, as though repeating the phrase "the baby will be born on Earth" would make it so.

Max was nodding his head in agreement.

"Oh sorry." Maria replied sarcastically. "I forgot to tell the baby that."

She gulped, grabbed Michael by the shirt-front as another contraction ripped through her. "Oh my God! This really, really hurts!" She started panting, remembering how labouring woman had looked on ER the last time she had tuned in. She didn’t know much, but she did know she had to breathe…"Oh, this so sucks." She moaned. "You are so dead for this Michael."

When the contraction finally ended, Max appeared to have gotten a hold of himself. He was calmly rubbing Maria’s back. She tuned in to him telling her to breathe.

"These contractions are pretty close together." He said, annoying Maria by stating the obvious again. He wasn’t talking to her though. He was talking to Michael. "We HAVE to get her out of here. Tarsus and his minions weren’t far behind me." Max looked down at Maria. "How long have these been happening?"

Maria scowled at him. "Thanks for including ME in the discussion of what you’re going to do with ME." Max pressed his lips together, looking slightly abashed. Maria felt better. "I think a while actually. I thought I had a backache but it might have been contractions. The pain sort of seemed to come at regular intervals."

"Oh great! Maria, why didn’t you tell me?" Michael asked, sounding put out.

"I seem to recall I was busy keeping you from running off and getting yourself killed." Maria snapped. She clenched her teeth, felt the next contraction beginning to rise. "Oh my God. Oh my God." She tried to stop herself but she shrieked.

"Okay, we need to pull ourselves together here." Maria could semi-hear Max through the haze of pain that felt like it was tearing her body apart. "We obviously can’t go anywhere for the moment."

"We’re dead Max. They’re going to find us." Michael sounded resigned. Maria felt him moving around behind her. When she emerged from the contraction, she realized that she was now seated between his legs, leaning back against his chest. He was stroking her hair comfortingly.

Max sighed. "We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. In the meantime, I CAN make it a little harder for them." Maria watched Max hurry out of the cave.

"Where is he going?" She asked Michael in amazement. She felt her boyfriend shrug.

"Are you okay?" He was still stroking her hair. He sounded very upset.

"Unfortunately, no." Maria replied saucily. "I have a feeling this is going to get worse before it gets better."

She could feel the tension descending on the cave like a blanket. Michael was breathing heavily. Finally he broke the silence. "I am so sorry about this Maria."

Maria felt her heart go out to him despite herself. She willed herself to get through what she had to say before the next contraction took over…she could already feel it building…

"Don’t ever be sorry for what happens between us Michael." She couldn’t turn her awkward body around to face him, but she knew that he was listening. "You weren’t the only one who lost control of their -er how did Max phrase that? - power source…I love you. What happened was only natural." She laughed, realized that it sounded a little hysterical. "Trust us though to always manage the most disastrous results…"

"Do you really think it’s a huge disaster?" Michael asked her quietly.

Maria paused. In reality, she would be lying if she told him that she was eager to have this baby. But on the other hand…

It was MICHAEL’S baby.

"Well, it might be a little sooner than I would have liked…"Maria finally replied wryly, "But it’s your babies I want to be having so at least I got THAT right." The last word came out sounding a little squeally. "Oh no! Oh no! It’s happening again…"

The last thing Maria was consciously aware of was Max returning and then the pain was all that was left.

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

"Well, at least she isn’t green and slimy." Maria said a few hours later as she stared down at her newborn daughter. She felt like laughing like a maniac.

They had done it. Somehow she and Michael…with a little help from Max…had managed to bring this living being into the universe.

The first thing Maria had thought when she’d seen the baby was that it was the most hideous creature she had ever laid eyes on…

"Oh God! Michael! She has your hair!" Maria had shrieked when Max had finished cleaning her up and placed the tiny baby on Maria’s stomach. "Why does she have to have your hair??? She’s never going to have any boyfriends!" She had glared at Max who had started to laugh. "Shut up Max! Just look at her! She’s all spiky!"

"She’s beautiful." Maria had turned her head to stare at Michael. He had been gazing down at the baby, the most amazed expression on his face. "How can she possibly be so beautiful?"

"Are you crazy?" Maria demanded. "She looks like a troll!" Max was still laughing. "Max, would you please shut up! I just know that your and Liz’s kids aren’t going to look like this! It’s not fair!"

"Maria, would you shut up?" Michael snapped. "She’ll hear you!"

"Michael, she’s ten minutes old. I don’t think I’m scarring her for life here."

Max had intervened at this point. "I think all babies sort of look weird when they’re first born Maria. I remember seeing on the Learning Channel that babies born with hair generally lose it anyway." Maria knew that he was trying to reassure her, but she couldn’t stop staring at the baby’s hair. It was exactly the same shade as Michael’s and it literally stood up all over her head.

But then the tiny girl had raised her fist to her mouth, causing Maria’s heart to stop. "Oh my God! She’s perfect!" She breathed. "Her hand…it’s so tiny."

And that was the moment she fell in love with her child.

The labour had been long and arduous but Michael had coached her through it, not even flinching when she had grabbed him by the hair at one point, screaming that she was going to murder him.

It had been Max who had delivered the baby. He had looked dubious at first, but as was usually the case with Max Evans, he rose to the occasion like the leader he was…Maria had been slightly unable to believe that they had actually done it when Max had announced that it was a girl…

She and Michael had a daughter.

Now, as Maria watched Max wander to the other side of the cave to check his illusionary blockade of the entrance to the cave, she turned to Michael who was holding the baby. She looked even tinier in his large hands. He was still staring down at her as though she was literally the most amazing thing he had ever seen in his life.

Maria had never seen a more beautiful sight in HER life.

Michael Guerin finally had his family.

"What are we going to name her?" Maria asked Michael suddenly, realized that she could not believe that they had never discussed names.

Michael managed to tear his gaze away from his daughter to look at Maria perplexed. "I have no idea. All I know is that it is not going to be a soap opera name. My daughter is NOT going to be named Sheridan or Charity. And nothing trendy…there are already too many Taylors and Hunters running around Roswell."

Maria grinned at him. "Gee, you’ve really put a lot of thought into this, haven’t you? And might I inquire as to how you know the names of soap opera characters?"

Michael looked momentarily embarrassed and replied defensively, "Hey, I know what it was like to be one of twelve Michaels in my grade. And I skipped a lot of school in my day Maria." He continued. "There are only so many sports channels."

Maria was still smiling at him affectionately. "I have an idea." She told him quietly, after she had watched him watching their daughter a while longer.

Michael glanced up at her briefly. "Yeah? What?"

"Well, obviously her middle name is going to be Elizabeth." Maria began. Michael raised an eyebrow at her. "Well, I mean duh! But for her first name…I think something signifying YOUR heritage would be perfect."

Michael was confused. "What do you mean?"

"Ren told me about your mother Michael." She saw Michael’s eyes widen.

"What?" He asked finally, after he seemed able to use his voice. "Why didn’t you tell me about this?"

"Well, I thought you had enough to deal with what with all the sisters you suddenly had running around…" She explained quickly, hoping that he wasn’t going to get mad at her. "Anyway, apparently your mother died right after Tess was born. Ren didn’t tell me much about her, but he did tell me her name…it was Jennetta."

Michael looked down at the baby again, this time sadly. He looked up at Maria again. "I like it." He leaned forward, kissed her gently on the forehead. "Thank you."

The moment ended too quickly for Maria…

Moments later Max had returned, a resigned expression on his face. "I’m sorry you guys…They found us." He glanced back at the cave entrance. "That illusion isn’t going to hold very much longer." He eyed Maria, assessing her condition. "It’s too soon. We can’t move you or the baby."

Maria scowled at him. "I’m not a wimp Max. We can go, if there’s a back way out of here."

She saw Michael and Max exchange looks. "There isn’t." Max finally told her.

Somehow Maria didn’t believe them. It was frustrating, but it was apparent that there was no way that either of them were going to let her move.

Michael gently handed Jennetta back to Maria, climbed to his feet. "Are we going to fight Maxwell?"

Max shook his head. "No. We can’t risk the baby. I think she’s the key to this whole thing Michael. We’re going to have to give ourselves up. For now." He amended hastily when he saw the expression on Michael’s face.

"I’m not giving my daughter up." Michael told Max firmly. "I’ll kill her before I hand her over to those emotionless bastards." Maria cradled Jennetta close against her chest, even the thought of her baby dying causing her to begin to panic.

"Oh my God! What are we going to do? Michael!" She tried to keep her voice steady, but that irritating note of hysteria was just below the surface.

Michael never had a chance to respond.

As the trio watched in horror, Max’s illusion faded away like the dispersal of fog…the entrance to the cave was suddenly filled with Dernian soldiers.

Maria was unsurprised when the soldiers parted to reveal the blank-faced Tarsus. He came to a stop a few feet from them.

Max and Michael had moved in front of Maria and Jennetta, but Maria was able to see Tarsus quite clearly anyway. He was staring right at her…

Or rather, he was staring at Jennetta…

Maria felt a shudder run through her body.

She suddenly knew with complete certainty that her baby was in grave danger.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 8:53:53 PM
Part 28

Max seemed to stay connected to Maria for a long time.

Liz couldn’t tell if anything was happening or not. His face was completely blank, unlike every other time she had seen him trying to heal someone. Liz knew that when Max healed, he took the other person’s pain into HIS body. She had seen it happen when he had tried to heal her grandmother enough so that Liz could talk to her…she had also seen it when Max had healed Kyle. It was not a pleasant thing to watch, always made Liz feel ill to think of Max hurting…

But this time there was nothing. It was like he was in a trance.

"Is it working?" Kyle whispered to her, obviously trying not to disturb Max.

"I don’t know." Liz replied, frowning slightly. "When Max healed me I needed to look at him, but you didn’t have to when he healed YOU. I don’t even know if he’s made any sort of connection with Maria."

Kyle was quiet for a while. Liz could tell he wanted to say something to her though. "We’ve never talked about it Liz…I mean, what it was like…"

"Having him save your life you mean?" Liz glanced at Kyle calmly, knowing exactly how SHE felt about it. She was curious as to how Kyle had dealt with it though.

Kyle nodded, paused before replying. "I think I might have actually died Liz. I mean, I couldn’t feel anything anymore…and then it was suddenly like I came back into my body…like I was coming down a water-slide…you know?" He paused again. Liz watched him stare at Max. "What I just didn’t get was why you know? Why would he do that for me? I mean, its not like he liked me."

Liz could tell that Kyle really wanted to know. He wanted to understand who Max was. She wondered briefly if it had anything to do with the way he felt about Tess.

She knew that it was hard for Kyle to always feel like he was playing second-fiddle to Max Evans. First with Liz, then with his father, and now with his once -upon-a-time bride Tess.

"I think he did it for a lot of reasons Kyle." Liz began carefully. "I mean he respected your dad so much and, no matter what you might think, I think he did like you and he was upset that you got caught in the crossfire of something that had nothing to do with you then. But I think mainly it was because he is who he is. He is so good Kyle. I don’t think anyone realizes how good he is."

"Saint Max." Kyle muttered. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. "Is it why you fell in love with him?"

Liz flushed. It was weird to be talking about this with Kyle. She knew that she had really hurt him when she had turned away from him for Max.

She remembered what it had been like to fall in love with Max. It had been like she had had no control over herself but also like she was making the most significant decision of her life at the same time.

She had seen into his soul. She KNEW him in a way that she would never know anyone else ever again.

It was the only way to explain it. She didn’t even know how to put it into words for Kyle though.

Kyle was good too, in his own way.

But Max…he was like a being apart, even in spite of being an alien - kind, compassionate and yet strong and determined too.

And he loved HER.

The miracle of it was what made her love him more everyday…

And even though he didn’t remember loving her…the fact that he now seemed to know that he DID…

It just reinforced even more strongly what Liz had known for a long time.

They were meant to be. That was all the explanation that was needed.

Kyle was still looking at her, waiting for an answer. She finally just whispered, "Yes."

Liz returned her gaze to Maria’s face. Her best friend’s face was serene, and yet their was no animation at all, none of the spark that was Maria.

Liz and Kyle watched Max work quietly for several more minutes.

"Do you think he’s hurting himself?" Kyle finally asked.

Liz had been wondering the same thing. "I don’t know. Maybe we should make him stop. It doesn’t seem to be doing anything anyway."

"I wonder if Michael’s okay?" Kyle said moments later. "Maybe I should go check. It looks like Max could be at this for a long time."

Liz glanced at her watch. A good ten minutes had passed. She was absolutely amazed that no nurse or doctor had poked their heads in here recently.

What kind of ICU was this?

Kyle was making his way to the door when Max suddenly released a great breath. His legs immediately collapsed under him.

Both Liz and Kyle were at his side a split-second later.

Max seemed to be in a daze. "How can this be?" Liz heard him say.

She took his chin in her hand, forced him to look at her. "Max! Are you okay?"

He blinked, seemed to focus on her for the first time. "Liz?"

"It’s me. Max, what happened?"

He didn’t reply immediately. He let Kyle and Liz help him to his feet, then collapsed into the chair next to the bed. "I can’t heal her." He said finally, sounding like he still wasn’t totally with them.

Liz felt her heart drop. She glanced at Kyle. His face was white.

"I’m sorry Liz. I can’t do it." Max had his head in his hands.

"Forgive me for sounding like an ungrateful ass Evans…I mean I know you tried…but why can’t you?" Kyle’s tone was a combination of anger and sadness.

Max raised his head, stared at Kyle. "I scanned every inch of her. There’s nothing wrong with her." He finally replied after a lengthy silence. "At least nothing physical."

Liz watched his eyes. He wouldn’t meet hers. She could tell that Max was hiding something. "Kyle could you excuse us for a minute."

Kyle eyed Max a moment longer but nodded. "I was just leaving. Need to go make sure Guerin isn’t blasting up the place anyway."

After the hospital room door shut behind her ex-boyfriend, Liz didn’t beat around the bush. "What’s going on Max? I think you found out more than you’re saying." Max looked away, stared at Maria’s still form for what seemed like forever.

"I saw things Liz. Things that change everything that I know about Illyria and my place on it."

********************************************************************
"I really don’t think this is a good idea Michael." Alex pulled his parent’s car up in front of the Evans’ house and turned off the ignition. He stared at the dark house, a frown on his face. "It looks like everyone’s asleep."

Michael thrust open his door. "No one gets to sleep until Maria is all right." He snapped. "I mean, Maxwell should have been at the hospital first thing. He’s got the power to fix her, he’s going to fix her dammit. I don’t understand why everyone’s being so protective of the guy."

"Ummm…maybe because as far as he’s concerned you guys basically kidnapped him off his home planet?" Alex asked quietly. "You’ve got to give him a break Michael. He’s dealing with a lot."

Michael ignored him. Alex sighed and followed his friend across the Evans’ front lawn. "Michael!"

Michael turned around, glared at him. "Go through Izzy’s room. Max doesn’t need you barging in through his window during his first night in a strange bed."

A strange look crossed Michael’s face. "I always go through Max’s window." He said quietly, looking sad. He paused, turned back to Isabel’s window, tapped lightly.

The light came on and Isabel’s face appeared at the window. Alex felt his breath catch in his throat.

He hadn’t seen her since she’d been back. He just hadn’t felt right about leaving Maria alone at the hospital and he had known that Isabel was dealing with helping Max adjust to his return…not to mention dealing with a new little sister.

She was so beautiful, even more so with her sleep-tousled hair tumbling around her shoulders, no make-up on her naturally glowing face. How could she possibly be his girlfriend? He barely managed to stop from pinching himself.

She didn’t notice him right away. She was staring at Michael, an annoyed look on her face. "Michael! You’re going to wake the kid." The way she said "the kid." It gave Alex pause. It was clear that Isabel was NOT the "kid’s" biggest fan.

"I’ve come for Max." Michael told her, his tone brooking no opposition. "Maria isn’t going to make it through the night unless we do something. They want to take her off life-support Isabel."

Isabel’s face softened. "Oh no." It was that moment that she looked past Michael to see Alex lurking in the shadows. Her face lit up. "Alex!"

"Hi Iz." He pushed Michael aside, kissed her lightly. He definitely wanted to say hi more significantly, but Michael was breathing down his neck.

"You guys can do that later." Michael snapped, hauling Alex back. "I’m coming in to get Maxwell if I have to drag him out."

Isabel eyed him a moment longer. It always amazed Alex how well she handled herself under Michael and Max’s often high-handed behavior. She was the tie that bound the two male Czechs together and she knew that neither of them would ever hurt her.

She never backed down - from either of them.

"Unfortunately he’s not here." She finally replied.

"He’s gone to see Liz!" A small, dark head appeared under Isabel’s arm. Alex saw Izzy glance down in annoyance.

"Jennetta! You told me that if I told you where Jaxon was you’d go to sleep!" She then turned back to Michael. "Now look what you’ve done! Do you know how long she’s been blathering in my ear?"

Alex frowned. Isabel was not the most patient person in the world, but he couldn’t imagine her being deliberately mean to a child. He saw Jennetta’s eyes fill with tears.

Something was going on here.

"I’m sorry Mirana." Jennetta said quietly.

"Great Isabel!" Michael was clearly angry. He reached past her, pulled Jennetta out of the window and hugged her. "It’s okay Jenny. She just got up on the wrong side of the bed. She yells at me and Max all the time."

Alex watched Isabel’s face during this entire exchange. A bevy of emotions flitted across his girlfriend’s beautiful features - annoyance, guilt, sadness and…yes, there it was…jealousy.

Not for the first time Alex was glad that he was able to read Isabel like a book. The ice queen that everyone spoke of was not HIS Isabel.

"So Max went to see Liz huh?" Michael was asking Jennetta as Isabel’s eyes met Alex’s. He shot her a sympathetic look, sent her the message that they were going to talk about this later.

Jennetta sniffed, looked at Isabel questioningly.

Isabel sighed. "It’s okay." She said, clearly trying to control the tone of her voice. "You can tell him."

Jennetta smiled. "He WANTED to go see her Michael! Isn’t that great news?"

It sure sounded like good news to Alex. He blinked when he realized that Jennetta was staring at him. "You’re Alex!" She turned to Isabel. "He’s cute."

"You’re a little young for him." Isabel replied wryly, grinning despite herself at Alex’s reddening face.

Jennetta tilted her head. "He’s yours forever." She said it in such a strange way, it caused Alex and Isabel to exchange glances.

"Or at least until the next time she forgets to pick me up because of a sale at the mall." Alex quipped, trying to break the tension.

Jennetta didn’t reply, just smiled knowingly. Alex felt like squirming.

"So, it’s off to Liz’s then." Michael decided, gently placing Jennetta back on the window-sill beside Isabel.

"I’m coming with you." Isabel announced.

"Isabel, we can’t leave Jenny alone on her first night here." Michael told her impatiently.

"That’s okay." Jennetta said. "I want to come too."

"No way." Michael replied sternly. "It’s after 1 A.M. It is WAY past your bedtime."

"Oh give her a break Michael." Alex butted in. "She’s not a baby."

Jennetta smiled at him. "No, I’m not." She pursed her lips at Michael primly. "Besides, you’re not my brother. Only Jaxon can tell me what to do. "

"And I’m her sister, and I say she can come." Isabel finished.

Alex saw Michael scowl in irritation, but he gave in. "Fine. But let’s go."

Isabel closed the window briefly while she and Jennetta dressed. They came out the front door ten minutes later.

Alex and Isabel sat in the front seat, Michael and Jennetta in the back. Isabel and Alex exchanged amused glances when Michael proceeded to argue with the little girl for several moments over whether or not she was putting her seatbelt on.

"But you don’t have yours on." Jennetta pointed out reasonably.

"I’m grown-up." Michael replied, sounding frustrated.

"That doesn’t mean your head can’t still crack open."

Alex heard Michael snort. "Seatbelts on EVERYONE." He interjected, feeling like a referee. He saw both Jennetta and Michael open their mouths to protest in the rear-view mirror. "It’s MY car, so I win."

He sighed and relaxed when he saw both Michael and Jennetta frown at each other, then reach to put on their seat-belts. Straightening out Czechoslovakian family ties were not his idea of a fun way to spend his time at one in the morning.

Although he couldn’t be sure, Alex thought he heard Michael mutter, "Yes Daddy." He chose to ignore it.

"Next stop Crashdown!" He chirped, feeling like an idiot. He felt Isabel pat his hand affectionately.

Part 29

Jennetta was Tristandor’s daughter. And she was half human.

Jaxon was still in shock.

He was seated on a bench in front of the hospital, staring at the sun which was just beginning to rise on the eastern horizon. He had told Liz that he needed a few minutes alone to try and work out some things in his own mind. Liz, in her quiet way, had accepted it, told him that she was going to check on Maria’s mom.

He had felt his heart lighten slightly when Liz had run her hand down his face affectionately, had kissed him lightly before she had left. His heart had started to thunder in his chest. He had almost changed his mind about wanting to be alone…but Liz had known that he needed it, so she had left him.

He could still not quite believe what he had seen when he had connected with Maria. It had almost been like he had been living the experience of giving birth to Jennetta through Maria. It had been disturbing and yet exhilarating at the same time.

While connected to Maria, someone he had clearly been close friends with in his life as Max Evans, he had felt exactly what she had felt, had known how much she loved Tristandor - Michael - and their daughter.

It had been beautiful.

And yet, none of it explained how they had reached this point in time.

It was clear from Maria’s dream that he had still been Max during a lengthy portion of his stay on Illyria. How had Michael and Maria ended up back on Earth, with no memory of their child - at least if the way that Michael behaved was any indication? How had he, Jaxon, forgotten who he was? Where had all the memories of a complete life as Jaxon Falconer come from?

The only answer was one Jaxon was not quite ready to accept.

Tarsus was a traitor.

Jaxon sighed as he scraped a hand across his eyes. He was exhausted. The connection, first with Liz, then with Maria, had been strong…he had drained himself.

The only question that had been answered was the one about what was wrong with Maria.

Jaxon had not been lying when he told Liz and Kyle that there was nothing physically wrong with Maria. It was true.

However, there WAS something that could be physically done to heal her.

Jennetta was the key.

He was trying to pretend that he wasn’t really sure why he hadn’t told Liz right away.

But he knew.

He knew that if he told the truth he would lose Jennetta…the one person in the world who loved him unconditionally. He had only just found her. He didn’t know if he was ready to give her up yet.

And yet - now he knew - she was NOT his sister.

Jaxon jumped slightly when a hand touched his shoulder. He glanced to the side, saw that it was Liz.

She was gazing down at him, concern on her lovely face…

Perhaps Jennetta was not the only one who loved him unconditionally after all…

Liz sat slightly behind him on the bench, wrapped her arms around him. She let her head fall to rest on his shoulder. Jaxon turned his head slightly, breathed in the clean scent of her silky hair, which was brushing up against his neck. "Are you okay?" She asked softly. "You looked miles away when I came up."

Jaxon didn’t reply for the longest time.

The decision he made now would forever determine the course of the rest of his life.

If he told Liz the truth, he would be turning his back on being Jaxon Falconer for good. He would be turning away from the only life he remembered…although he now knew that it was false memory.

He would be giving up the sister he had only just found.

And yet, somehow, if it meant being with Liz, it did not seem such a large sacrifice to make.

"I have some things to tell you." Jaxon began quietly. He felt Liz shift slightly. She began to stroke his arm lightly. "I need you to not interrupt me because this is difficult for me…and I really want to kiss you right now, and if you talk I’m just going to have to."

"Okay." He could hear slight amusement in her voice, but it was underlined with sadness.

He knew that Liz was never going to be truly happy again unless her best friend was healed.

"First of all, I want to tell you that I know that I’m in love with you. I don’t know how I know it, but I just KNOW it. I know that I was in love with you when I was Max Evans, and I know that I still am now." He felt Liz stiffen slightly. He was glad that he could not see her face. If he could, there was NO way that he would not be kissing her right now. Her eyes…

An image of her shining eyes came to him….like a breath of memory of some other day…

Flash*

"Okay, fine, if you know so much, the tell me, Max…what’s my destiny?"

"I only know the part I’m hoping for."

"Max?"

Jaxon blinked. Where had that come from?

It was a memory. A memory that did not belong to Jaxon Falconer, but one that belonged to Max Evans.

And it had come from HIM.

He was remembering - he didn’t know where it had come from or what had unearthed it, but it was there…

It meant that they ALL had to be there…lurking somewhere in his mind.

Jaxon felt a rush of joy so intense it left him speechless.

"Max? Are you okay?" Liz had moved around on the bench so that she could see his face. Her expression was concerned.

"I just had a memory!" He finally managed to croak. "It was of me and you and we were walking across the street…"

Liz’s face had stilled at his first statement. He could tell that she was holding her breath. "And?" She breathed.

"You asked me about your destiny and I told you something about there being a part that I was hoping for?" Jaxon stared at her, willed her to tell him that it was truth and not some fantasy that he had conjured up in half-mad mind…

She swallowed. A sheen of tears appeared in those beautiful dark eyes of hers. "It happened. It was after the night we stayed out in the desert all night and then got in huge trouble with our parents…"

Jaxon frantically searched his mind for that corresponding detail.

He came up with nothing. Frustration welled up. He brought his hand up to rub his eyes again, took deep breaths in order to calm down.

There was no use in getting totally discouraged.

Now was not the time for this anyway. There was still Maria to worry about.

"I don’t remember that. I’m sorry." Liz’s face did not fall though.

"You will." She appeared to be on the same wave-length he was…knew that now was not the time to address this. "I think there was something else you had to tell me."

"I do…it’s about Maria…and what’s wrong with her. And its about Jennetta." Liz blinked in confusion.

"Jennetta? What do you mean?"

Jaxon grimaced. "For it to make any sense, I need to tell you a few things about Illyria."

Liz’s brow furrowed. "Okay?"

"When babies are born on our planet they are bonded with their mothers. It’s meant to be a way to protect them until they can be podded." Jaxon watched Liz’s face. She was clearly perplexed.

"You mean that babies are born and THEN podded?" She asked incredulously.

"Yes. They are bonded with their mothers for the first six months of their lives. If the bond is broken prematurely then the mother dies."

"Why?" Liz asked, looking horrified.

"It’s to protect the child. If the mother is bonded to the child, she will never leave it until it can be podded and protected in that way. Over the millennia on Illyria there had been many cases of mothers abandoning their children - the maternal bond did not seem to be a totally natural occurrence with our women. The solution was to genetically encode the woman to be bonded with their child at birth…the bond is resolved after the child is podded at six months."

"What does the pod do?" Liz questioned.

"It matures the child to an age that it can begin to protect itself." Jaxon replied. "My mother told me that Jennetta has only been out of her pod for about nine months."

"So children on your planet lose years off their lives." Liz concluded. "Is it really so dangerous on Illyria?"

Jaxon shook his head. "Time works differently there. I can’t really explain it simply right now, but suffice it to say that Jennetta’s life span will be light-years beyond any human’s. The podding is a safety precaution that has become traditional. Our planet has ever been practical." He finished wryly.

Liz had turned to stare at the sunrise, a blank look on her face. "But what does this have to do with Maria?"

Jaxon did not reply, waited for her to make the connection herself. It was still such a fresh concept to him as well, the fact that Jennetta was not his sister, he was loathe to mention it aloud.

He knew the exact instant Liz connected the dots. "Oh my God! Maria…and Michael?" She turned to stare at him. He nodded. She looked dumbfounded. "Is there any way to stop it - to stop what’s happening to her?" Liz asked a few moments later after she seemed to have digested the information.

"Jennetta." Jaxon replied simply. "She is the only one who can do it."

"Then what are we waiting for?" Liz demanded, jumping to her feet, grabbing his hand and pulling him up after her. "Let’s go get her!"

"Go get who?" It was Isabel’s voice. Liz and Jaxon whirled around. They exchanged glances. Michael, Isabel, Alex…and Jennetta… were standing about ten feet away from them. They had clearly just arrived, were on their way into the hospital.

"Glad to see you decided to show up." Michael snapped at Jaxon. Jaxon frowned slightly. "We’ve been chasing you half-way across town."

Liz interrupted, using a tone that made Jaxon look at her in amazement. "Why would you do that Michael? You called me two hours ago to tell me that Maria was almost gone. We’ve been here since then."

Michael blinked. He looked slightly embarrassed. "Oh yeah." He mumbled. "Sorry, I’m just worked up…"

Jaxon felt his eyes narrow as he watched Jennetta reach up and take Michael’s hand. He tried to control the stab of jealousy that struck him.

She was Michael’s DAUGHTER. She was not his anymore.

And that was when he realized that in many ways he had seen Jennetta more as his child than as his sister. It had been she that had turned the tide, who had made him start to soften his heart against the family he had been convinced had betrayed him…

It felt like his heart was being ripped out.

She had started the healing that it seemed Liz was going to finish…

It was an ending…

And yet a beginning…

Jaxon felt Liz lace her fingers through his. He glanced down at her.

She was worth giving up ANYTHING for.

He turned to Michael. "Take Jennetta to see Maria."

"What?" Michael glared at him. "Why? Aren’t you going to heal her?"

"I’ve tried Tris…ER Michael." He glanced at Jennetta, who was watching him with serious eyes. He smiled at her reassuringly. "You’ll know what to do sweeting." She smiled at him. He felt his heart lighten. She turned to follow Michael into the hospital.

She was not his child - but their bond would not be broken easily. They were connected through the love and affection they shared.

He should have known that she would not let him leave her so easily.

Jennetta was a wonder that continued to amaze him. Her heart was so big…he had forgotten that love was not something that had to be between only two people…

It had been so long since he had allowed himself to feel, he was not thinking clearly…

There was no choice to be made. He could love Liz freely and have enough room left for many others as well. Love existed in many different forms. The way he felt about Liz was on a completely different plain from the love he felt for his young sister…for he would continue to think of her that way. Knowing the truth could not change what she was to him.

Jaxon glanced at Mirana - Isabel - who was watching him with sad eyes.

He swallowed. He had no idea what to say to her.

He still felt the mistrust…it burned within him like a bonfire waiting to erupt.

Although he was beginning to accept that Tarsus had likely programmed him to hate his family, the feelings of betrayal and despair still existed.

He could not forgive he. He turned his face away.

He heard her leave quickly, made himself watch her. Her back was shaking as she hurried through the hospital doors, Alex on her heels.

He hated himself in that moment.

There was only one way to end all the pain and mistrust…

He HAD to remember being the person who loved Isabel and Michael…

There was no other choice. He WANTED to remember.

He missed them.

Jaxon glanced down at Liz. She was staring at the doors to the hospital, a pained expression on her face. He could feel that she was disappointed in him for the way he had just treated Mirana.

He was disappointed in himself.

"I’m sorry Liz. I’m trying…"

"I know." She said quietly.

"But trying isn’t good enough." He continued. She turned to look at him.

"What do you mean?"

"This has to end. No one can endure it much longer." Jaxon explained. Liz continued to regard him seriously. "And for it to end, I’m going to need your help."





Edited by - Kath7 on 09/17/2001 20:57:44
posted on 16-Sep-2001 8:56:11 PM
Part 30

Isabel stumbled through the hospital’s automatic doors, trying to control the sobbing that wanted to erupt.

He hated her. Her own brother hated her.

And it was different this time.

The last time he had acted this way towards her it had all been an act. It had hurt but, looking back, she could remember instances where Max had clearly been trying to shield her from the brunt of his anti-Max behaviour. He had stayed away from her for long periods of time, ignoring her the majority of the time. It had hurt, since they had been so close, but it had been better than the cruel way he had treated their parents, their teachers, their friends.

But this time…the contempt in his eyes was real.

He hated her.

And to top it all off, she had been replaced.

He had another sister, one he clearly adored. Max did not need her anymore. She had thought that maybe he was snapping out of it when he had asked her take him to Liz, but the way he had just turned away from her…

Nothing had changed.

Isabel leaned forward against the wall of the hospital corridor, rested her forehead on her arm.

This was worse than losing him had been.

She felt a light touch on her shoulder. "I’m sorry Izzy."

Alex. Thank God for Alex.

Isabel turned, threw her arms around his neck and let the tears come.


Michael crept down the hospital corridor, Jennetta holding his hand tightly as she trailed behind him.

The hospital was quiet, the early morning cleaning staff the only people visible. Michael could hear a doctor talking quietly to a nurse nearby, but basically they were alone.

Perfect.

They reached Maria’s hospital room moments later. Michael stared through the glass at Amy Deluca. She was seated at her daughter’s bedside, stroking her hair gently. She had her head on the bed beside Maria’s and was staring at her quiet daughter in a way that made Michael shudder.

It was like Amy was trying to memorize what she looked like…so she would remember when she was gone.

Sheriff Valenti was asleep on the couch near the wall. Michael was glad that the Sheriff was around. He would help Amy if this didn’t work.

A brief thought tried to penetrate his consciousness… "But who will help me?" Michael suppressed it ruthlessly.

There was still hope.

Michael glanced down at Jennetta, who was standing quietly beside him, watching Maria and Amy through the window.

This little girl was his last chance - Maria’s last chance. Max had told her that she would know what to do….but she was so small, so fragile. How could he deposit all of the pressure onto her skinny shoulders?

Jennetta’s face was serene as she turned to look up at him. "I can do it Michael. I know just what to do."

She closed her eyes.

Michael blinked when a doctor suddenly appeared at his elbow. The doctor pushed open the door to Maria’s room. "Mrs. Deluca?"

Amy sat up with a start. "What? What’s wrong?"

"I need to speak with you right away." The doctor’s voice was sympathetic but with an underlying tone that brooked no refusal. Amy glanced down at Maria a moment longer, smoothed her hands over her hair, but stood up.

"Michael." Amy said as she passed him. "You’re back." She glanced down at Jennetta. "Who’s this?" She asked, perplexed. Jennetta’s eyes were still closed.

"Oh, she’s Isabel’s new sister, Jennetta." Michael told her quickly. "Er - the Evans just adopted her."

Amy stared at him. "Really? That’s weird."

"Mrs. Deluca?" The doctor motioned impatiently for her to follow him. Amy stared at Jennetta strangely for another moment, but followed the doctor.

Jennetta’s eyes popped open. "Well, that was easier than I expected."

"What? You did that?" Michael asked her, amazed.

Jennetta grinned at him. "Yup. He was getting ready to ask the nurse he was talking to on a date when I entered his mind and told him to come and get Maria’s mother."

Michael grinned back despite himself. For the first time, he actually let himself begin to hope…

This kid knew what she was doing.

Jennetta pushed open the door to Maria’s room, looked at the Sheriff. "We can trust him can’t we?"

Michael nodded.

"I think I’ll make him stay asleep anyway." Jennetta told him, waving her small hand in front of the Sheriff’s face. "I can’t be interrupted once I start."

Michael scratched his head in amazement. This kid was powerful…much more powerful than any of the four of them. She was going to be a powerful ally.

Jennetta was now at Maria’s bedside, her gaze locked on Michael’s girlfriend’s peaceful face. "She’s very beautiful." She commented to Michael.

"I know." He replied quietly.

Jennetta tilted her head slightly. "It’s time to wake up Maria." She said confidently.

Michael held his breath as she climbed up beside his girlfriend and placed her small hands on Maria’s temples.

Dreams* Maria

Maria held her baby against her neck, patted her back comfortingly.

Jennetta was wailing, had been for close to twenty minutes.

Maria did not blame her daughter one bit. She was terrified herself.

She was seated on a small bench in a cavernous hallway, her head leaning back against the stone wall. She had been there for so long, her butt was seriously starting to ache.

But Tarsus had told her to stay there, and stay she would. At least until Max or Michael came to get her.

Today was the day that her fate was to be decided once and for all.

They had been recaptured close to a month ago and while they had been much more closely guarded, very little had changed. She and Michael had been thrown back into their tent, the one they had lived in for more than a year now. Tarsus had wanted to take Jennetta to a wet-nurse, but Maria had flat-out refused. She had been amazed by how easily Tarsus had accepted it.

Max had been separated from them. They had not seen him for close to a week, until Maria had caught a glimpse of her friend one day while she had been peeking out of her tent in direct defiance to Tarsus’ orders.

He had been across the camp, talking to Tarsus…well, arguing was probably more accurate a term. Maria had never seen Max so worked up. He had been waving his hands in the air in frustration, clearly yelling.

It had worried her. Whatever had gotten Max so upset could not be good for her - or her baby.

For while Maria had been treated with the utmost courtesy since their return to the camp, there was an underlying menace in the way everyone regarded her that caused her to be fearful. She knew that she was an unwanted outsider. She had been safe since the original judgment, and also while she was pregnant, but she knew it was because she carried Michael’s baby and not because they were suddenly softening towards her.

And finally the day of truth had arrived.

When Max had come to their tent that morning she had still been curled up on their bed, Jennetta having just finished nursing. Michael had been lying beside her, half-asleep, his hand stroking the baby’s back.

Michael had sat up abruptly when his best friend entered. "Maxwell! How did you get in here?"

Max had not replied immediately. He had been staring at Maria and Jennetta, a strange look on his face, like he was coming to some sort of decision. Maria had felt a shiver run down her spine.

"Tarsus let me come." Max finally replied quietly. "You guys need to get dressed. They’ve come to a decision about you."

Michael climbed off the bed, pulling a tunic over his bare chest. "What did they decide?" He asked warily.

"You’re going home." Max replied.

"What!" Maria shrieked, flinching when Jennetta started to cry. She started to rock her daughter comfortingly. "I’m sorry baby." Jennetta settled against her shoulder, making small noises. "What do you mean? Just like that? It’s been over a year and just like that they decide that we’re going home?"

Michael said nothing, just stared at Max, a suspicious look on his face. "I don’t buy it."

Maria saw Max close his eyes briefly in annoyance. "Guys, why would they let me come in here and lie to you? It’s the truth. You’re going home."

Maria glanced at Michael. That didn’t sound right at all. Shouldn’t Max be saying "WE’RE going home?"

"Why?" Michael demanded.

"Because I told them you were." Max replied simply. Michael glanced at Maria. "They’ve accepted me as their leader."

Max had refused to say any more after that. Neither Maria or Michael had been at all pleased by his recalcitrance, but had both shut-up when Max had stared them down with those sometimes disturbingly serious eyes of his.

The fact that they had both quieted so immediately - it made Maria wonder now if he had done something to them with those eyes of his…hypnosis or something.

They had been brought to Tarsus’ headquarters, which was currently a large manor house in a town near the tent-village that made up the Dernians camp. It had made Maria wonder why the Dernians were all living in tents when much more comfortable quarters were nearby.

She had been told by Tarsus to stay out in the hallway. Her guard, Ren, was standing nearby, his face expressionless as usual. Michael had managed to squeeze her hand quickly before being thrown through a nearby doorway into what Maria assumed was some sort of conference room.

Maria could feel Jennetta settling down against her shoulder, clearly on the verge of going to sleep. Her baby was generally an easy one, but she was very in tune with her surroundings. She seemed to know whenever Maria was upset and those were the only times she cried.

"Do you have any idea what’s going on in there?" Maria asked Ren now. He stared at her for a moment, shook his head. "I thought they had already decided that we were going home. What’s left to decide in there?"

Ren just shook his head again. He could be a most frustrating individual. Sometimes he talked like there was a leaky faucet in his brain that needed to drain as much information as possible and other times he was stoic and silent in a way that irritated Maria because he had so recently been the complete opposite.

Maria had begun to amend her original assessment of him as being emotionless. Ren’s eyes sometimes gleamed in such a way that she wondered exactly how much emotion was still roiling around inside of him waiting to erupt without notice.

Her thoughts on Ren were interrupted when the door to the room where Max and Michael had disappeared flew open. It was smoking. "NOOOOOO! I won’t allow! Max! No!" Maria realized that Michael had used his powers on the door.

Maria jumped to her feet. "MICHAEL!" She screamed.

"Secure him." Maria blinked. That was MAX talking. "Get the girl." Maria just turned to stare at Ren in shock when he gently took her arm, trying not to jostle Jennetta, who had begun to wail again.

The events of the next ten minutes were a blur to Maria. Ren shepherded her down the hallway and out into the bright Illyrian sunshine, which was accentuated by the yellow sky. Maria was frantically trying to catch a glimpse of either Michael or Max…neither had emerged from the room although she could still hear Michael yelling, although slightly muffled now.

The next thing she knew she was gently thrust into a transport by her guard and it took off without further ado. She saw Dernian faces staring at her as they passed through the town’s streets but could see no sign of either Michael or Max.

What seemed like moments later, the transport ground to a halt. Ren was seated across from her. He pushed open the door, stepped out, helped her to do the same. Maria had Jennetta clutched tightly against her chest. The baby was still screaming as though she was in some sort of great pain. It was making Maria panic even more than their wild flight through the Dernian countryside.

For Maria had figured out fairly quickly exactly where they were going…

The Ring.

And there it was, standing silently and majestically amid the yellow waving grass. Maria hated it, hated the way it seemed to be watching them. She knew is was ludicrous…it was just a bunch of rock, but she swore that those stones had ears.

"Where are they?" Maria asked Ren in an undertone. There were people everywhere, starting at her in their silent, judgmental way.

"Coming." Ren replied quietly.

He was right. Moments later another transport arrived. Maria watched Max swing down, his expression grim. He stood to the side, turned back to stare at the door.

Maria gasped when Michael was pulled out of the transport by two guards. He was bound hand and foot and gagged as well. Maria gasped, clutched Jennetta tightly, only eased her hold slightly when the baby squawked in protest.

Despite Ren reaching for her, Maria managed to evade his grasp. She was at Max’s side a moment later. "Max! What’s going on?" Max glanced down at her briefly, looked away.

"Michael and I had a little disagreement." He finally told her, his tone sad.

"Well, what else is new? Why is he tied up?" Maria could see Michael’s eyes practically spewing fire above his gag. He was glaring at Max in such a way, it made Maria take a step away from her friend.

Max finally sighed and took her by the hand, leading her slightly apart from the others. "I’ve managed to negotiate your return with Michael and Jennetta to Earth." He told her.

"Ummm…that still doesn’t explain why my child’s father is tied up like a criminal Max!" Maria could hear a slightly hysterical note creeping in to her voice. This was NOT what was supposed to be happening. Max and Michael were supposed to be working together, not against each other.

Max glanced back at Michael, looking sad again. "They won’t let us all go Maria."

"What?" Maria stared at him in horror. "You’re not staying?" This COULD NOT happen. What was she going to tell Liz? This would kill her best friend. "Max, that is unacceptable! We’re not going without you."

Max grabbed her by the shoulders. "Maria! Please. Michael is giving me enough problems. You need to get the baby out of here. I don’t think they know how important she is yet. You need to get her safely out of here. She is the future of my entire people. This is the only way."

Maria could feel her mouth hanging open. Her baby was in danger! "Okay." She finally managed to croak.
"I’m guessing Michael was not in agreement with you?" She asked wryly, understanding why Max had had his best friend tied up. There was no way that Michael was going to leave willingly without Max.

Max smiled slightly. "Good guess." He sobered again immediately. "Maria…I need you to tell Liz…that I’ll always be with her." His voice cracked.

Maria closed her eyes briefly. Liz was going to be absolutely devastated…and Isabel too…in fact all of them. How were they going to manage without Max? He was the glue that held them all together. "I know Max." She could see the tears that were beginning to well in his eyes. They matched her own.

But she knew that Max would not cry. He was sacrificing himself for her daughter. She would not LET him cry. "We’ll find a way to get you back." She told him fiercely, hugging him, Jennetta squawking again at being crushed between them. Max stepped back, gently touched the baby’s face.

"Keep her safe. She is the key Maria." Maria nodded.

Tarsus joined them. "It’s time. Our agents tell us that your sister is opening the portal." Maria stared at him.

"How does he know that? And how does Isabel know what to do?" She asked Max. Max shrugged.

"Nothing here makes sense." He replied, just shaking his head.

"They need to be in the Ring. You too my lord." Tarsus inclined his head towards Max. Max swallowed nodded. He lifted a hand, motioned to Michael’s guards.

"Bring him." Maria watched Michael struggling against his captors, his eyes shining with an almost mad light of desperation. Max went over to him, laid his hand on his friend’s shoulder.

"Michael. You need to accept this. You have to protect your child." Max removed the gag from Michael’s mouth as it was clear that he wanted to say something.

"This is insanity Max. I should be with you. I’m your right-hand! Your mother told us so."

Max’s eyes narrowed. "Michael, I don’t want to have to order you to go." Maria flinched, saw Michael’s jaw clench. She buried her head in Jennetta’s clean-smelling neck, tried to control her tears.

It appeared that Michael was going to continue to argue with Max, but was interrupted as the Ring began to come to life. Maria watched in amazement as light seemed to shoot from the stones, binding them all together, to create a central pillar of red light so intense, she shielded Jennetta’s eyes.

"It’s time." Tarsus announced. Max began to push Michael towards the light.

"MAX! No!"

Maria walked quietly behind them. She knew that Michael was going to be furious at her for letting Max do this, but she had to respect his wishes. Besides, no matter how much she cared about Max and how much she was going to miss him…her baby came first.

Jennetta had to be safe.

And she almost was.

Maria was only moments away from stepping into the light, when someone’s hand on her shoulder stopped her. She whirled.

It was Tarsus.

Maria could see Max swiftly untying Michael’s bonds. He didn’t even seem aware of Tarsus’ presence with them in the Ring. Maria stared at the being who had caused them nothing but trouble since the first time they had met him.

His eyes, as usual, were blank.

"Don’t tell me you want to say goodbye?" Maria asked him sarcastically. He didn’t reply, just watched Max for a moment. Max was done with Michael’s bonds. Michael was still struggling but Max had him in a firm enough grip that he couldn’t free himself.

"Tell Isabel that I love her." Maria heard Max say to Michael. He glanced at Maria once, his eyes narrowing slightly at the sight of Tarsus.

Yet he did what had to be done. Maria watched him tuck something into the small bag that hung at Michael’s hip. And then he pushed Michael with all his strength.

His friend stumbled slightly, seemed on the verge of being able to catch himself. But it was too late…he was in the light. He managed to turn around. Maria could see the devastated expression on his face, just heard him yelling, "MAX!"

Silence.

Michael was gone.

Max turned to Maria. "It’s time." He took a step towards her, clearly wanting to say good-bye.

And then the unspeakable happened.

Tarsus grabbed Jennetta from Maria’s arms, thrust her tiny form behind him. Maria’s arms were still reaching out for her child when the shapeshifter thrust an orb into her hands, picked her up and threw her bodily into the light. Maria screamed. "JENNETTA! NOOOO!"

The last sight she had of her child was of her guard Ren holding the baby tightly, staring after her.

She couldn’t see Max anywhere.

Then blackness.

Part 31

Stop your crying, it will be all right
Just take my hand, hold it tight
I will protect you from all around you
I will be here, don’t you cry.
For one so small, you seem so strong
My arms will hold you, keep you safe and warm.
This bond between us can’t be broken,
I will be here, don’t you cry.

You’ll be in my heart,
You’ll be in my heart,
From this day on, now and forever,
You’ll be in my heart,
You’ll be in my heart,
No matter what they say,
You’ll be in my heart…always.

Michael stood across Maria’s bed from Jennetta. It took all of his strength not to reach across the bed and haul the little girl away from Maria’s still form.

They had been connected for too long. And it was clearly painful.

Moments before tears had started to stream from Jennetta’s eyes.

It was different from when Michael had seen Max connect with people to heal them. During those times Max was generally still aware of his surroundings although he often became wrapped up in the pain of whoever he happened to be helping.

Jennetta was NOT with him any longer. It was like her body had emptied out. The only sign of life were the tears.

His gaze returned to Maria’s face.

And suddenly his heart entered his throat.

She was crying too.
****************************************************************
Dreams* Maria

When Maria opened her eyes she encountered blackness.

She sat up blinking, trying to make sure that she really had her eyes open.

She did.

The first thought that penetrated the fog of her mind was that she was blind.

"You’re not blind." A voice told her. "You’re just not seeing me. You don’t know what I look like now."

Maria glanced around in terror. Everywhere she looked was black.

Yet she could feel that she was not alone.

"Who are you?" She asked into the darkness.

"It’s me Mother."

Maria’s heart sped up. "Jennetta! Is that you baby?"

"Yes. I’ve come to help you come back to us."

"But, how can you be talking to me? The last time I saw you, you were a month old. Have I been out of it for that long?" Maria asked in horror.

She could hear Jennetta giggling. "No silly. After Tarsus took me away from you, they podded me. I’m seven now - at least in Earth years."

Maria frowned. "I want to see you." She said.

"Are you sure?" Jennetta sounded a little scared, like she didn’t want her to be disappointed or something.

How could she be disappointed? It was her baby…

"Yes."

Suddenly light filled the place where they spoke. Maria blinked, looked around.

They were in the damn Ring.

And yet they weren’t. There was no tall yellow grass, no yellow sky, no twelve moons overhead…

There were only the stones, standing in their timeless pattern, reaching towards the black, star-studded sky that surrounded them.

Her eyes found Jennetta moments later.

Her daughter was standing about ten feet away from her, watching her warily.

Maria felt tears fill her eyes. She looks exactly like Michael!

Her waist-length was exactly Michael’s shade of light-brown. Her eyes were his too, dark and sad.

As Maria looked closer she could see herself as well though. Jennetta’s lips were her own cupid-bow shape and her nose was small and pert, not at all dominant on her face like Michael’s was on his.

Maria opened her arms. Jennetta rushed into them. "I didn’t know who you were!" She sobbed against Maria’s chest. "When Michael brought me to you, I was just going to heal you for him, but I didn’t know that you were MINE too!"

"My baby." Maria stroked her daughter’s soft hair. "How could I ever have forgotten you? How did you get here?" She looked around the Ring warily. "And where is here anyway?" She asked wryly.

"We’re in your dreams." Jennetta replied. "You had to stay in here until we found each other again."

"But I don’t understand how you got here sweetie. They took you away from me." Maria flinched at the memory of Tarsus ripping her baby out of her arms. "And why couldn’t we remember you?"

"I can answer that."

The air nearby seemed to ripple and suddenly an old man in a long robe was standing almost next to them. Maria blinked at him. "Who are you?"

She felt Jennetta stiffen in her arms. "Lucianus! How did you get here?" She pulled away from Maria, went to throw herself at the old man.

"I’ve been watching you since you left us child." The old man replied. Jennetta grasped him by the hand, led him over to Maria.

"This is Lucianus." She explained. "He lives with my mother…" She paused. "Well, I guess she’s not my mother now. I don’t know who she is, but anyway, he lived with us on Illyria."

"Who did you live with on Illyria?" Maria asked, feeling more and more confused. "Not Tarsus I hope?"

"No." Lucianus smiled at Maria. Maria liked him instantly. The old man had the kindest smile she had ever seen. "Jennetta was saved almost immediately."

"By Max." Maria finished in relief. She should have known that Max would never have let Tarsus keep her child in his evil clutches.

"I’m afraid not." Lucianus replied. Maria blinked. "He would have helped her, but he did not remember her."

"I don’t understand." Maria felt her frustration mounting. Why did aliens always have to talk in circles?

"Go and see for yourself." Lucianus indicated one of the stones. As Maria turned to stare at it, it began to shimmer, transforming into what almost appeared to be a doorway. "All will be explained."

Maria looked at him. For some reason she felt that she could trust him. "Come sweetie." She held out her hand for Jennetta.

They walked into chaos.

Maria realized almost immediately that they were back on Illyria - and yet they weren’t. They were there, but as observers, not as actual participants in the events unfolding around them.

It was the Ring and it seemed to be just moments after she and Michael had been thrown into the portal back to Earth. The red column of light was gone, but all the players who had been there in their last moments on Illyria were still in the Ring.

Max was on the ground, three guards holding him down. "You LIED to me!" He was yelling at Tarsus, who was standing over him, shaking his head. Max was struggling against his captors, the expression of rage on his face almost terrifying. Maria had never seen her gentle friend look like that before. It was not Max.

"You have always been too trusting Jaxon. That is the first thing I’m going to program out of you. Trust is weakness. You will never be the king I need you to be if you trust." He shook his head again, this time in disgust. "Take him back to town. I want the cleansing to take place immediately. It better be done when I return."

Max howled in frustration again, was wrenching away from his guards. Maria could see him frantically trying to get to Jennetta, but it was all in vain. They hauled him away.

Ren was still standing near where he had been when Maria had left. He had Jennetta cradled against his shoulder. The baby was screaming at the top of her lungs. Maria did not blame her at all.

Maria felt the older Jennetta beside her shift uncomfortably as they watched what was happening to her younger self.

"Bring the brat to me Ren." Tarsus ordered.

Maria blinked when Ren did not move. His eyes were wide and he glanced behind him, towards the Illyrian side of the Ring.

Tarsus’ eyes narrowed. "What are you doing? Bring her to me." Ren took a step backwards. Tarsus started to walk towards him. "So, we were wrong to trust you. You are a traitor, just like your father before you."

Ren paused. Maria willed him to keep going, to save her baby. "Keep my father out of this." Ren finally replied evenly. "I just saw the sacrifice that was made here - and I saw what YOU did. If this is what not having emotions does…well, I think I made a mistake by allowing myself to be cleansed."

"Too bad it’s not as simple as that." Tarsus replied in the snotty voice that had always made Maria want to punch him, "You HAVE been cleansed. You are mine to do with as I will."

Ren was still moving. "Not anymore. I denounce you for the unfeeling bastard you are. I have witnessed what love is capable of today and it is worth any pain that comes with it. I will not let you have their child."

"Stop!" Tarsus bellowed back. "I command you!" Maria could see several Illyrian border guards peering into the Ring, trying to see what was happening.

She watched in stupefied amazement as Ren took the final steps over into Illyria.

Her guard - she now knew that he had been her friend - had saved her daughter’s life.

Maria hugged her daughter against her side. "Do you know him?" She asked her quietly.

"No. I wonder what happened to him." Jennetta sounded sad.

As she spoke, the world around them began to shimmer. Moments later they were back in the dark-shrouded Ring. Lucianus was gone.

"What happens now?" Jennetta asked Maria.

"I don’t know." Maria replied. "I guess I try and wake up."

She held onto her daughter tightly, willed herself to wake up.

Nothing happened.

"Okay, so much for that idea." Maria finally said, annoyed. "I guess something’s missing." She glanced down at her daughter, who looked equally irritated. It made Maria want to smile despite herself.

"Maybe if you think of all the reasons you have to wake up?" Jennetta finally suggested.

"Well, that’s easy." Maria smiled down at her. "Needless to say, you’re number one."

Jennetta smiled back. "But I’m here already."

"Okay, well there’s Liz of course." Maria watched in amazement as Liz suddenly appeared in front of her.

Liz was smiling at her, beckoning her, visions of all the good and bad times they had shared whirling through Maria’s mind.

She thought of Alex next. And then her mother…and Isabel, Kyle and even Tess. They all appeared to her as though they were with her, but disappeared almost immediately as though trying to whet her appetite to be with them again.

She thought of Max. Her friend, who had sacrificed so much for all of them - and it had all been in vain.

Max materialized in front of her. He held baby Jennetta in his arms.

Maria gasped when seven-year old Jennetta, who had been clinging tightly to her hand, disappeared.

Max stepped forward, smiled at her. "And I would do it again in a minute." He told her quietly. He handed her the baby he was holding. Maria brought her daughter up against her chest and Max was gone.

Maria thought of Michael last.

He was there an instant later, looking annoyed.

"Can we get the show on the road here Maria? I mean, really, aren’t you dragging this out a bit too dramatically?" Michael demanded. He was gone an instant later.

Maria laughed.
******************************************************************
Michael stared down at Maria in amazement. She was laughing.

Her eyes opened a moment later. Jennetta’s eyes opened at the exact same moment. He watched as his girlfriend’s eyes met Max’s sister’s.

A moment later Maria was sitting up, holding Jennetta tightly against her.

Finally she glanced past Jennetta’s dark head, smiled at Michael in such a way, his heart started to beat a mile a minute.

"What are you doing all the way over there spaceboy?" She asked, her tone light and affectionate.

It was all the encouragement Michael needed.



posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:00:12 PM
Part 32

There’s a ship out on the ocean
At the mercy of the sea
It’s tossed about, lost and broken
Wandering aimlessly
And God somehow you know that ship is me.

‘Cause there’s a lighthouse in the harbour
Shining faithfully
Pouring its light out across the water
For this sinking soul to see
That someone out there still believes in me.

On a prayer
In a song
I hear your voice
And it keeps me hanging on
Raining down
Against the wind
I’m reaching out
Till we reach the circle’s end
When you come back to me again.

Garth Brooks

"We’re here." Liz told Max quietly.

She saw him jump slightly in the passenger seat of her parent’s car. His thoughts had obviously been a million miles away again.

She knew that he was searching his memory, trying to find anything familiar in the places she had been showing him all morning.

It had been Max’s idea for her to take him on a tour of the area, of all the places that had played significant roles in his life.

They had started at the Crashdown. The breakfast rush had just been starting when they had arrived and Liz had become aware almost immediately of the whispering.

She had totally forgotten that as far as the town was concerned Max Evans was dead - had been dead for the last nine months.

Max had seemed unaware of the stares at first. Liz had told him to sit at the counter, which he had done. He had been staring around with wide eyes, obviously trying to find something in the restaurant which would jog his memory.

Liz had hurried into the kitchen, had asked Jose to fix them some breakfast. She had not intended to leave Max alone for long, but by the time she got back it was too late.

Pam Troy was seated on the stool beside him at the counter, two of her cronies standing nearby.

Liz had hurried over, hoping to do as much damage control as she could.

"…..when I read it in the newspaper this morning, I couldn’t believe it Max!" Pam was saying in her shrill voice. "I mean, how lucky are you that you survived that river? Is it true that you don’t remember anything?"

Max had been staring at her, a perplexed expression on his face. "No, I don’t." He had replied in that super-polite way of his that was part Max/part Jaxon. "Do I know you?"

Pam’s hand had slid across the counter to inch up his arm. "You sure do…pretty well as a matter of fact."

Liz had wanted to throw up. "Your order’s ready Pam." She had told Pam between clenched teeth. Pam had shot her a snotty look but had left to return to her booth. "Remind me to tell my father to ban her from the premises." Liz whispered to Max, only half joking.

He had laughed. "I’m assuming that I wasn’t friends with that girl?" He had looked momentarily worried. "Was I?"

"Well, not really." Liz had replied, wondering how much she should be telling him. "You did date her for a while last winter."

Liz had felt better immediately at the horrified expression on his face. "I did?"

People had come up to them several times while they had eaten their breakfast, telling Max how glad they were that he was back. He had seemed pleased, but also sad that he didn’t remember anyone.

Liz had smiled secretly to herself when Max had reached for the Tabasco sauce and threw a generous portion of it on his eggs. Apparently SOME things were not forgotten.

They had gone to the UFO Museum next. Milton had almost had a heart attack at the sight of Max but then to Max’s complete embarrassment had proceeded to burst into tears.

"EVANS! I can’t believe it!" He lowered his voice. "We’re going to have to discuss this at length later Evans. I think there was more to your disappearance than the newspaper was letting on. We were getting too close weren’t we?"

Max had glanced at Liz uncertainly. "Er - I guess so."

Milton nodded knowingly. "I knew it. I knew the minute there was no body. THEY abducted you, didn’t they?"

Liz had stepped in that that point. This was getting a little too close to the truth for comfort. "No, nothing like that Milton. Max was picked up by some nice people and they took him to a shelter. It took this long for them to figure out who he was because he had no ID on him and everyone assumed Max was dead so there was no missing persons report."

Milton had raised his eyebrow at her. "Right." He had shot Max a covert look. "We’ll discuss this when you’re back on track Max…alone." He had said in a significant tone.

"Okay." Liz could see that Max was amused. He had apparently figured out what was going on.

They had gone back to the car, Max asking her for some information about Roswell and the famous crash.
"Strangely, I do remember that detail about this place." Max had told her wryly. "I assume that that’s how we ended up here? In the crash."

"Yes. Do you want to go to the crash site?" Liz had asked him.

"No." He had stared off into space for a moment. "I want to go to where the Evans found us." He told her.

"Okay, but I’m not sure of the exact location." Liz told him. "Do you want to go to the school first? It’s on the way out of town anyway."

They had arrived at West Roswell during third period. Liz was pleased. She didn’t think that Max was up to dealing with all the stares and comments his presence surely would have garnered.

She had taken him on a quick tour by his locker, to the band room where he had told her his secret, past Ms. Hardy’s bio class where they had spent so many countless hours working together as the perfect lab team, in between staring at each other and trying to touch each other without getting caught.

Liz had smiled to herself when they passed the Eraser Room. "We spent a lot of time in there right after we got together." Liz told him, blushing a little.

Max had looked at her for a moment, a slight smile appearing on his face. "Really? Cleaning erasers?" He had asked innocently, but his eyes had been twinkling wickedly.

"Not exactly." He had continued to smile. Somehow she knew that HE knew exactly what they had done in there.

He might not remember it, but he knew.

They had driven down the highway where Diane and Phillip Evans had found Max and Isabel wandering lost and alone over eleven years before. Liz knew the scene exactly as it had played out, it having been one of the things she had seen the first time she and Max had connected. She described to Max the way he had felt that day, having felt it herself through their connection.

"You were scared and you were worried about Michael, who didn’t want to come with you, and your first instinct was to hide, but Isabel convinced you to let them find you."

Max had sighed, shaking his head. "How can I not remember any of this?" He asked in frustration, the good mood that had permeated at the school quickly dissipating.

Liz had reached over and taken his hand. He had let her, squeezing it gently in thanks. Liz had felt her heart speed up at his touch. He had been gone for so long - it was still magical every time she realized that he was really back. She wanted desperately to help him find his memories. Until then, he was not truly whole, could never truly be happy.

That was one thing she had promised herself when she had first determined that she was not going to rest until she brought Max home. This time he was going to be happy, and not just for isolated moments here and there. Her goal was to make him happy for the rest of his life.

"You will remember Max. I promise. And even if you don’t…." She had felt his eyes on her. She turned to watch him. "We have our whole lives to make new memories." He had eyed her, his expression unreadable and had turned to stare out the window at the passing New Mexico desert.

Liz had realized that they weren’t far from the pod chamber and had suggested that they go there next.

"That’s weird." Liz told Max worriedly as she brought the car to a stop next to a sports utility vehicle. "Tess is here."

"Sabrya. I can feel her presence." Max said quietly. Liz knew that he had not seen Tess since his return. She wondered if the memories that had been implanted by Tarsus included Tess - Sabrya - as his wife…

Her heart lodged itself in her throat at the thought.

"Well, let’s go see what she’s doing." Liz suggested with false cheer. Max climbed out of the passenger side, following Liz up the cliff-side.

"You wave your hand here." She told him when they reached the ledge where the entrance was located. Max eyed the spot for a moment, waved his hand in front of it. The silver hand-print appeared immediately. Max placed his hand squarely upon it and the stone face slid away.

Liz called to Tess as they entered. She didn’t want to freak her friend out.

She shivered when there was no answer. She could feel a presence here as well.

They were not alone.

Liz ducked her head beneath the opening, followed Max into the chamber proper.

She had not been there since the day Max, Isabel, Michael and Tess had found out their true destinies - since the day that she had walked away from Max and had started the whole horrible chain of events that had led them to this moment.

Liz forced herself to suppress the memory of the despair and heartbreak she had felt that day. It had all worked out in the end. Max was here and even though he had no memory of who he was, he did know that it was HER that he loved, not Tess. He had told her so not five hours ago.

That had to mean something.

Liz nearly stumbled into Max when he came to an abrupt halt. She brought her hands up against his back to steady herself, looked past his shoulder.

Tess was seated on the floor in front of the empty and dark pods, her legs crossed, her hands on her knees. She had her eyes closed and she looked like she was meditating.

"Tess?" Liz asked, worried. She remembered that Kyle had told her that Liz had been acting very strangely since after they had left for England. She recalled the fit that Tess had thrown about being left behind in the first place.

Tess did not move at the sound of Liz’s voice.

Liz felt Max’s muscles tense under her hands. There was no question that he was affected by the sight of Tess. Liz bit her lip, jealousy invading her soul despite herself. She hated to feel that way, but this place…it made her remember exactly the devastation she had felt at the news of Tess’ rightful place as Max’s bride.

And yet, Max made no move towards her. He seemed perfectly content to stay close to Liz.

"Sabrya." He finally said.

Tess’ eyes sprang open suddenly, their blue depths shining with a fervent light. Liz blinked. She had never seen Tess look like that before…even during her most insistent moments that she and Max belonged together.

She looked crazy. Her eyes shone with a zealot’s passion. They zeroed in on Max in an instant, completely ignoring Liz’s presence.

"Jaxon. You came for me."

Part 33

"Jaxon. You came for me." Tess could not believe that he was really here. Danala had been telling the truth.

Her destiny had returned to her.

"Sabrya. You are looking well." He said formally. Tess frowned slightly. Max sounded weird…like he didn’t know what to say to her.

It was probably because SHE was there.

Tess was doing her best not to look at Liz. She was trying to suppress the feeling of guilt that seemed to be pressing on her where Liz was concerned.

She did feel bad that Liz was going to be hurt…but Liz had been the first to recognize all those long months ago that she and Max…make that Jaxon - she had to get used to calling him by his real name if they were going to go back to Illyria…belonged together.

Tess climbed gracefully to her feet. She paused momentarily when Max reached behind him and took Liz’s hand.

What the hell?

"We should tell you Tess…" Liz said, "Max doesn’t remember a lot right now. Tarsus did something to him, to make him forget who he is…"

The way Liz used that "we" - it made it clear to Tess that even if Max had no memory, nothing had changed. She, Tess, was still second best. Somehow Liz had wormed her way back in to Max’s affections in the short time he had been back.

This was not going to be easy. But Danala was depending on her to bring the chosen one into the universe. Max was hers…they were destined to have a child who would unite their world.

She wondered why she suddenly felt empty at that thought.

Tess suppressed the brief vision of Kyle that appeared before her. He looked sad and hurt - her heart ached at the sight of it.

Where did that come from? She shook her head, forced herself to concentrate on Max and Liz.

"I’m glad you’re back Max." She said sweetly. He was frowning slightly. "Do you remember ME?"

"I remember certain things…."Max replied. Tess was barely concentrating on what he was saying. She was eyeing Liz’s hand, which was stroking his arm comfortingly.

Is she trying to drive me insane? Tess wondered. And yet Tess did not feel jealous. Again, she felt nothing.

My sister is depending on me. I have to do this.

Tess tuned back into what Max was saying.

"I remember Tristandor bringing you to the palace. I remember our wedding day. And I remember you refusing to come with me when I was forced to leave the Citadel after he and Mirana betrayed me that same night." His tone was harsh.

Tess blinked. What the heck was he talking about? Danala hadn’t told her anything about Michael and Isabel betraying Max…

"I…I’m sorry about that." Tess stuttered. She tried to shut out the sympathetic look Liz was sending her.

Why had she become friends with Liz? This was ten times worse than she had imagined it was going to be. Guilt was beginning to wind its way through her body, making her knees weak.

Max did not say anything else. A cell phone ringing pierced the silence that had descended on the pod chamber after Tess’ last statement.

Liz looked embarrassed. "I’m sorry." She moved away from Max, pulling her cell out of her pocket.

Tess continued to stare at Max, looking for some sign that he knew what was expected of them both.

He wasn’t looking at her at all. His gaze had followed Liz, his eyes warm as he listened to her talk on the phone. "Oh Alex! That’s wonderful!" Liz paused, glanced at Max. She nodded happily at him.

Tess watched the smile appear on his face. "She did it." He murmured to himself, sounding proud.

"Who did what?" Tess asked, a feeling of dread tying her stomach into knots. Max and Liz both ignored her.

"We’ll be right there." Liz told Alex. She rang off. "Maria’s awake!" She told Tess happily. "Alex just saw her."

Tess felt relief flow through her. Michael was going to be so happy!

"How?" Tess asked, addressing Liz more warmly despite herself.

She frowned again at the glance that passed between Max and Liz. Something was not right here…

"We’ll tell you on the way to the hospital." Liz decided. "We really need to go see Maria."

Tess clenched her jaw.

She had a feeling that Danala was not going to be happy about this development at all. The sooner Tess found out about the mysterious "she," the better.

"What are we waiting for?" She asked cheerily. "Let’s go."

Tess followed Max and Liz out into the New Mexican sun, taking one last glance at the empty pods.

Destiny was going to have to wait for the moment.

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

"I can’t tell him Lizzie - not yet." Maria was staring out the window of her hospital room, a far-away expression on her face. Liz looked beyond her friend. She could see Michael, Alex and Jennetta horsing around on the front lawn of the hospital, soaking up the sun. Tess was there too, staring at the little girl. Kyle stood nearby, watching Tess. Liz wondered briefly where Max and Isabel had disappeared to.

Liz had been astounded when she, Max and Tess had arrived at the hospital. Not only was Maria awake, she was walking around, her complexion healthy. But underneath her friend’s good spirits, Liz had detected something else…a new maturity…and a strange disquiet.

They had walked in on Alex, Kyle and Maria all laughing at Michael and Jennetta, who were arguing.
Isabel was there too, but she looked more annoyed than anything.

"But I don’t LIKE pancakes Michael. Isabel made them for me last night - they’re disgusting." Jennetta was saying, a mutinous expression on her face. She was sitting on a chair in the corner of Maria’s room, a plate of rubbery-looking pancakes from the hospital cafeteria sitting in front of her.

"But you haven’t tried them the way I make them."

"Good Lord! NO!" Alex had slapped his hand to his forehead as Michael pulled a bottle of Tabasco out of his jacket pocket. "Run Jennetta! Run for you life!"

Jennetta’s head had tilted to the side. "What’s that?" Her eyes had been glittering with interest.

"This is the BEST part of being on Earth." Michael had replied, liberally dousing her pancakes with the red liquid. Liz wrinkled her nose. Alex was making gagging noises.

Jennetta picked up her fork, took a bite of the pancakes. An expression of pure bliss appeared on her face. In that moment, she looked exactly like Maria whenever her friend ate ice-cream.

Liz had known then that there was no way that they were going to be able to keep the secret of Jennetta’s origins for long. Every time Liz looked at her she could see Michael or Maria screaming out at her. She didn’t know why she hadn’t seen it the first time she had set eyes on the little girl.

She and Max, in sync as always, had not told Tess the whole truth about Jennetta on the way to the hospital. Liz wasn’t really sure why, but it had just seemed to be the right thing to do.

They weren’t even sure if Maria and Michael knew the truth.

That question had been answered about half an hour after their arrival. Liz had been watching Maria closely after their first tearful reunion.

Her friend’s eyes followed Jennetta the entire time.

Maria knew.

It had been Liz who had asked the others to leave so that she could have a few moments alone with her best friend.

Maria had sobered almost immediately. "You know." She had pulled Liz down on the hospital bed beside her.

Liz had nodded. "Max told me. He found out when he tried to heal you." She paused. "How did you forget this Maria?"

Maria had shaken her head. "I don’t know! I have no idea what Tarsus did to me…I mean I KNEW something had happened between me and Michael on that damn planet…but Liz! I forgot losing my virginity! How tragic is that! And how could I forget my own child Liz?" Maria’s eyes had filled with tears of guilt. Liz’s hatred for Tarsus had solidified. How dare he have done this to her friend?

He was evil. First he had hurt Max and now Maria…

She had never hated anyone as she hated the shapeshifter. "It wasn’t your fault Maria! No one remembered. Max doesn’t even remember who HE is…"

Maria had flinched at that. "Poor Max. He tried to save her you know." She told Liz softly. "I saw it all Lizzie. It was just like we thought…he made a deal that he would stay if Michael and I were sent back. He told me that she was special Liz…that she was the saviour of his entire people." Liz put her arm around her best friend as Maria’s voice cracked. "She’s a baby Liz. I have to protect her. She’s not ready for whatever it is they’re going to make her do! I don’t want her to be a stupid chosen one! She has a right to her own life."

"I know Maria." They had been quiet for a while, each reflecting on the fact that while they were happy that they were all back together, there was still so much to iron out.

Maria had finally moved to the window to watch her boyfriend play with his daughter - the one he did not know was his. "I just can’t do it Liz." Maria repeated. "I just have this feeling that he can’t know yet…that if he does, everything will be ruined."

"Max and I will go with whatever you decide Maria." Liz told her firmly. "I really think Michael has a right to know, but it’s up to you. She’s YOUR daughter."

"He’s going to be so mad at me." Maria said softly.

"He’ll get over it. Michael gets angry fast but it burns out quickly." Liz reassured her, although she wasn’t sure Michael ever would get over Maria not telling him about Jennetta.

Liz knew - had known for a long time - that all Michael Guerin had ever wanted was to belong…to be part of a family. It was why he had been the most adamant about finding out who they really were…to find the place that was his in the universe.

Liz knew that his place was with Maria…and their daughter.

She was still angry at Michael herself. Despite having decided in England that she was going to forgive Michael for Max’s sake, letting her bitterness go had not been as easy as Liz had hoped. Seeing Max as confused and lost as he was…it had made the iron enter her soul again.

Max would not be suffering like he was if it wasn’t for Michael.

But in spite of her anger, Liz felt bad for Michael. To keep from him the only thing he had ever wanted…it seemed wrong.

Yet it was Maria’s decision. She knew Max wouldn’t argue. He still didn’t trust Michael or Isabel at all - still remembered them as the beloved family members who had betrayed them. He would see keeping Michael in the dark as a way to protect Jennetta. That would be enough for him.

"The only problem is that Jennetta knows." Maria was saying. "She’s not going to understand why she has to keep it a secret Liz…I can’t believe she hasn’t said anything yet."

"Jennetta is special Maria." Liz replied. "I saw it the minute I met her. I don’t think you’ll have to worry about her…not if you explain it to her."

A soft knock on the door interrupted the charged moment as Liz and Maria stared at each other meaningfully.

Amy Deluca poked her head in. "Hey girls! Can your old mom come in sweetie?"

Liz watched Maria paste a smile on her face. "Of course mom!"

Amy moved across the room, took her daughter into her arms. "I still can’t believe you’re okay Maria! The doctors can’t figure it out…"

"It was a miracle." Maria replied simply, her eyes meeting Liz’s again.

A miracle named Jennetta, Liz thought to herself.

She excused herself a few minutes later. "I’m going to find Max." She told Maria.

Maria waved her away. "Go! Tell that boyfriend of mine to get his butt in here…" Her eyes had met Liz’s again. "Oh, and tell him to bring Max’s little sister." She said casually. "I want my mom to get a chance to talk to her."

"This seems to be the week for miracles…"Liz could hear Amy saying as she left the room. "First Max Evans comes back from the dead and now you baby…"

Liz did not hear Maria’s reply.

She came to an abrupt halt at the sight of Tess Harding talking on the phone. "Okay. Okay! I said I would do it!" Tess’ tone was a mixture of sadness and anger.

Tess slammed the pay phone receiver down, briefly rested her forehead against it.

"Tess?" Liz was worried about Tess. She had been acting so strangely at the pod chamber.

If Tess had not told her with her own lips all those many months ago that she didn’t want to be with Max, Liz would have been seriously worried…but she had seemed to snap out of her weird mood once they were in the car.

And yet…Liz remembered the way her eyes had burned when she had first seen Max again…

"Are you okay?" She asked Tess now, placing a hand on her shoulder comfortingly.

She felt the other girl tense under her touch. She whirled. "Liz! I’m glad you’re here! That was Isabel."

Liz felt a momentary pang of confusion. "Where is she?"

"She and Max went for a drive, to try and sort things out." Tess told her hurriedly. "She said that Max just freaked out. They’re out near the Reservation. She said they were talking and it seemed to going okay, but that he suddenly just went ballistic on her. He got out of the car and took off."

Liz eyed Tess. Something about this did not sound right.

"How did Isabel call you on a pay phone?" She asked suspiciously.

Tess looked at her as though she was crazy. "I called her on her cell. To see how things were going…" She explained.

"Oh. Okay." Liz’s concern immediately switched to Max.

They were expecting too much of him too soon. No wonder he was losing it. She had to find him, help him.

"I’m going to find him." Liz told Tess.

"Can I come?" Tess asked immediately.

Liz frowned slightly. She wasn’t sure it was a good idea. If Max was already freaking out, he didn’t need an audience…

But the hopeful look on Tess’ face convinced Liz.

She remembered Tess’ fit at the Crashdown, how she cared about Max too.

Liz couldn’t say no to her.

"Let’s go."

The way Tess’ face lit up…Liz was convinced she had done the right thing.

The two girls raced out to the parking lot.

Neither noticed the small figure who followed them…




posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:01:56 PM
Part 34

Isabel paused in the entrance to the hospital cafeteria. She could see Max sitting at a table in the corner, by himself, his head in his hands.

Not for the first time since he had returned, her heart went out to her brother.

She missed him so much…and she was so worried about him. Max’s constant state of confusion and suspicion seemed to be draining him bit by bit. The only time he seemed even remotely secure was when he was with Liz or Jennetta.

The emotional roller-coaster on which he was trapped had to be stopped. Isabel had to make him trust her again.

She had no choice. She could not bear to see him suffering and she could not bear to have him hate her.

He was her brother.

She braced herself for rejection, thought about the pep talk Alex had given her earlier. He had reminded her that Max loved her…she just had to make him remember.

Isabel marched resolutely across the room, plunked herself across the table from him. "Hi."

Max’s head snapped up. His brows came together briefly but his tone was not angry as he replied, "Hello."

"Are you okay?" Isabel demanded, deciding that abrasive was the best way to go at the moment. He was likely to just throw "gentle" back in her face.

"Yes." He replied, looking past her, his expression suddenly distant.

"I don’t believe you." She told him sharply. Max’s gaze came back to her face. He frowned more openly.

"I don’t particularly care what you believe Mirana." He snapped.

"Don’t call me that. My name is Isabel - or Izzy as you usually call me." Isabel’s voice was shaking, but she would NOT let him get to her.

Max continued to scowl at her. "I don’t know Isabel." He finally replied.

"And I don’t know Jaxon Falconer." She insisted. "I want MY brother back."

His expression softened. "I do too." He muttered. For the first time Isabel felt a stab of hope.

"So what are we going to do to make it happen?" Isabel asked him. Max did not reply, just shook his head in frustration.

"I have an idea…why don’t you tell me what you DO remember about Michael and I and Liz and anything…" Isabel had no idea if there was any point to this, but she wanted to keep him talking. He seemed open to it at the moment and she wasn’t going to waste the opportunity.

"I don’t remember anything." Max told her shortly. "At least anything about my life here…well, there was ONE thing."

"What?" Isabel leaned forward eagerly.

"Something to do with Liz." He replied. "It’s private."

"But you had a memory?" When he nodded she continued. "That’s a good sign. It means that your Max memories are still there. We just need to sort through your fake Jaxon ones and deal with them."

Max grimaced. "Real memories, fake ones…how am I supposed to tell the difference?"

"Well, I know for a fact that there is NO way that I ever betrayed you - in this life or the last." Isabel told him. "So you can just get rid of all those memories right now."

Max tilted his head. The shadow of a smile appeared on his face.

"Why are you smiling like that?" Isabel demanded. He looked amused. She had no idea what that meant.

"You’re exactly the same as you were before you betrayed me." He replied. "Mirana was so determined all the time…determined that we were going to triumph over the Dernians, determined to marry Tristandor, determined that I was going to be the best ruler Illyria had ever seen…She ordered me around all the time. At least that’s what I remember." He had sobered, sounded sad.

Isabel stared at him dumb-founded. "Tell me what happened."

Max eyed her a moment longer, finally nodded. "Very well - but it’s not pleasant. I’ve realized that these memories are probably not real, but I have them…they FEEL real…"

"I understand."

"Tristandor came to the Citadel in the spring." Max told her. "You had met him in the Waylandian Ring the summer before. You loved him immediately, but he only felt the urge to leave his people when they began to insist that he be cleansed…"

"You mean podded to lose his emotions?" Isabel asked.

"Yes. He and I were close almost immediately. You were married soon after his arrival. The three of us were inseparable."

"What happened?" Isabel whispered. So far it sounded how she expected it would. She, Michael and Max had always been a unit - a close threesome…it made sense that it had always been thus.

"He brought Sabrya to Illyria." Max had a far-away look on his face. "He told me that if I married her, the four-square we would create would be powerful enough to defeat Danala and the Dernians. Our gifts were complementary he told me…together we would be unbeatable. And then you both betrayed me…"

"How?" Isabel swallowed. Even though she knew none of this had really happened, the devastation on Max’s face made her want to cry. To him it HAD been real…

"On the day Sabrya and I wed, Tristandor’s army took the Citadel. Sabrya and I had already retired to our chamber…She tried to murder me in my bed that night. Before it could happen Tarsus came and took me away. He told me that the whole marriage had been a plot to do away with me so that you and Tristandor could take the throne. His leader, Danala, had tried to stop it…wanted to save me. She knew that the only way to reconcile the planet was to come to an agreement with me…but by the time I went to meet her, she was gone."

Isabel frowned. "Gone where?"

"I never knew…Tarsus and I went to war against you the next year…I never knew that you weren’t even on Illyria any more." He told her, shaking his head in disbelief.

"But Max, YOU weren’t on the planet either!" Isabel told him. "You were here. We were killed and somehow brought here…I don’t know how, but it’s the truth. We were NEVER separated."

Max scraped a hand through his hair. "I KNOW it…but I don’t REMEMBER…" he replied in frustration. "What are we going to do?" He swallowed, closed his eyes.

When he opened them, Isabel’s eyes locked with his. "The question is Max…if you’re never able to recover your real memories…are you going to be able to get past the fake ones? Are we going to be able to start over?"

He stared at her, his expression unreadable. But he never had a chance to answer.

Michael came careening into the cafeteria, Alex hot on his heels.

"Jennetta! She’s gone!"

Max jumped to his feet. "What do you mean she’s gone?" He demanded.

"I mean she’s gone. Alex and I were playing with her." Michael sounded very upset. Isabel stared at him. She knew that he had bonded with her little sister, but he almost sounded hysterical. She had NEVER heard him sound that way before…

It freaked her out.

"She decided to go see Maria." Alex continued. "When we went in there a few minutes ago, Maria said she had never been there."

"Where IS Maria?" Max snapped, already striding out of the cafeteria.

"I’m here. Max! We need to find her."

Isabel blinked. Maria was coming towards them down the hallway fully dressed and looking almost as hysterical as Michael had sounded.

"Liz is gone too." Kyle told them as he came around the corner.

Relief suddenly seemed to hit them all at once. "She must be with Liz." Isabel voiced what they were all thinking.

"Why would Liz take off with Jennetta without telling anyone?" Max asked suspiciously. The group all exchanged looks.

"Er…I don’t know." Isabel saw Maria swallow convulsively.

"I have a bad feeling about this." Max told them. "We need to find them immediately."

"But where do we start looking?" Kyle asked, sounding perplexed.

"We split up." Max decided.

"Hey!" Kyle suddenly exclaimed. "Where’s Tess?"
*******************************************************************
Jennetta was crouched in the back seat of Tess’ SUV. She had her eyes closed, was concentrating on making sure that neither Tess or Liz noticed her there. It didn’t take that much power really. She could still listen to the conversation that was taking place between the two older girls in the front seat.

Mind-warps had been one of the first things she had learned to do after she had emerged from her pod.

She had been playing with Michael and Alex on the front lawn of the hospital when a shiver had gone down her spine. She had turned around to see Tess and Liz exiting the hospital and walking towards the parking lot.

For some reason, Jennetta had known that something was wrong. Liz should not be alone with Sabrya…

As Jennetta hid now, she asked herself why she hadn’t told Michael or gone to Jaxon…what had possessed her to get in this car? She was a child - what could she do to help Liz? She had been stupid and reckless, lying to her father about where she was going…

Nothing had happened so far, but Jennetta had entered Tess’ mind, had seen that her thoughts were in disordered confusion…she could not get anything else from her. All Jennetta knew was that Tess was about to do something she didn’t want to…

"So, Isabel didn’t say anything else?" Liz was asking, sounding worried.

"She just said that he had jumped out of the car and that they were close to the Reservation." Tess replied, sounding distracted. "We’re almost there. Don’t worry Liz. We’ll find him."

The car pulled to a stop suddenly. "Why are we stopping? We’re in the middle of nowhere." Liz asked, sounding confused.

"I can feel him Liz. Can’t you?"

"No." Liz sounded even more confused and a bit suspicious. "What do you mean you can feel him?"

"He’s out there somewhere. C’mon. We have to go on foot from here."

"I’m coming with you." Jennetta let her mind-warp go.

Tess and Liz both whirled in their seats. Liz looked horrified, Tess shocked.

"Jennetta! What are you doing here?" Liz demanded. "Does Maria know where you are? I can see by the look on your face that she doesn’t…what were you thinking?"

Jennetta thought quickly. Tess was beginning to eye her suspiciously. "Jaxon disappeared. I saw you leaving, thought that you were going to look for him." She replied. She had figured out that this was why Liz had gone with Tess - to find Jaxon, who she thought was missing. Jennetta wasn’t sure if he was missing or not… but she did know better than to tell Liz, in front of Tess, that she should not be trusting the curly-haired blonde.

Liz’s face softened. "Oh. Well, I think we should call Maria right now. She’s probably freaking out."

"NO!" Tess exclaimed. Liz turned to stare at her. .

"Why not?"

"Because that would spoil the surprise…" A new voice interjected. "Good work Tessie - not only did you bring me the witch that has Jaxon in her thrall, you brought me the brat that everyone on Illyria is proclaiming as the chosen one…The false one, might I add."

Jennetta turned to stare out the window at the girl standing there, peering in at them.

She heard Liz gasp. "Tess, what’s going on? Pam, what are you doing here? Ohmygod…Jennetta! Run!"

But it was too late. The girl standing outside of the car, the one Liz had called Pam, lifted her hand…

Jennetta could hear Liz screaming as she fell into unconsciousness.

Part 35

Michael eyed Maria worriedly out of the corner of his eye as he floored the Jetta’s accelerator. She was staring out the window at the darkening desert landscape, her face practically petrified with fear.

After several attempts to reach Liz and Tess on their cell phones had failed, the group had split up and were now systematically searching the most logical places they might have taken Jennetta.

No one had been able to figure out why either Liz OR Tess would have taken off with the little girl.

And yet somehow they all knew that they had to find all three girls as soon as possible.

No one had dared voice the thought that Jennetta might not be with either Liz or Tess at all.

Max and Kyle were headed for the Reservation, had decided to stop at the Crashdown, the Hardings and the Evans’ on their way through town. Isabel and Alex were going to the Pod Chamber.

Michael and Maria had drawn the short end of the straw and were headed out to the Santa Anna Hot Springs, via Fraser Woods.

Michael wasn’t really sure why Maria had suggested they go to the spot where they had entered the portal to Illyria nine Earth months ago. It was also the spot where they had returned. Strangely, while a year and a half had passed on Illyria, only an hour had gone by on Earth.

But when Maria had suggested it, somehow he had known that it was right.

Unfortunately the Woods were a good two hour drive from Roswell. It had been agreed that the three cars would stay in close contact through their cellular phones. In fact, Maria had just spoken to Isabel, who had been calling from the Pod Chamber. There had been no sign of the three missing girls there. It had been decided that Isabel and Alex would go join Kyle and Max at the Reservation and that they would then all head out to the Woods if the two boys had not found anything.

Maria had been silent ever since.

Michael could not figure out what was up with her. He had tried to convince her that she should stay at the hospital…after all, she HAD just come out of a coma.

Maria had adamantly refused. She had threatened to just follow them all anyway, so they had let it go.

The way she was freaking about Jennetta…it was weird.

Michael could understand Maria feeling a connection to her because the little girl had saved her life - but the way she was behaving…there was something else going on.

This was leaving out entirely the level of anxiety that had claimed him as soon as he realized that Jennetta was gone. Sure he had bonded with her, attributed it to the fact that she was from his home planet and was a lost and scared little kid…

And yet he KNEW that he had to find her…at all costs.

"We’re here." Michael said into the tense silence several long minutes later.

Maria was out of the car before he had even pulled to a complete halt. "Jennetta!" She called. "Baby! Are you out there?"

Michael felt a shiver run down his spine at the sight of the pile of rubble Maria was climbing.

It had once been a cave - a cave housing the hot spring where he and Maria had entered the portal to Illyria…

The cave that Isabel had destroyed when she had reopened the portal from this side, bringing them back.

Michael didn’t remember much about that day…

He remembered Isabel practically strangling him with her hug after she had realized that he had returned to his normal personality - that he was no longer Mr. Zombie-Man…

He remembered having to tell Liz that Max wasn’t coming back…even though he couldn’t remember why…remembered the way her entire spirit had seemed to shut down for the protection of her sanity…

He remembered the fact that he had been wearing tights…which was something he would rather forget (although Alex refused to let him).

He remembered seeing Maria so weak that day…and remembered the rush of love that had filled him at the sight of her. He had not wanted to be parted from her ever again after that day.

Michael shook his head, began picking his way through the rubble. He wondered why he thought they were going to find anything out here…There was no way anyone could possibly have managed to get through the debris to enter the cave that likely still existed underneath.

Maria was still yelling. "Jennetta! Please! Liz! Can you hear me?"

Michael watched her for a minute, a perplexed frown on his face. "Maria?"

She whirled to stare at him. Her blue eyes were wide, panicked. "They’re not here Michael!" He could see that she was starting to shake. "I was so sure that they would be here!"

Michael hurried forward, pulled her into his embrace. "It’s okay. We’re going to find them." He stroked her back awkwardly.

Maria was muttering to herself. "How could I have lost her again so soon? What kind of mo…" She cut herself off abruptly, wrenched herself out of his arms. "I’m calling Kyle." She said, turning away from him, pulling a cell phone out of the pocket of her coat.

Michael stared at the back of her head, blinked. She was being SO weird.

He moved away from her slightly, began to rummage through the debris, decided to keep busy physically, since his brain was largely running on fumes at this point.

No sleep in three days, jet lag, a girlfriend in a coma and then not, the return of your so-called leader without his memories, and now the complete disappearance of a little girl that you had mysteriously bonded with tended to do that to a guy.

And that was when he heard it.

Michael raised his head, listened. He tried to ignore Maria, who was blathering to Kyle on the cell, something about knowing that Tess was responsible for this whole mess…

The sound continued, becoming more and more pronounced.

It was a beeping noise.

"Maria!" Michael barked her name. She whirled and stared at him.

"Kyle, I’ll call you back." She hurried over to him. "What?"

"Listen."

Michael hurried off across the clearing and into the nearby foliage. He was pushing aside a bush when Maria suddenly called out to him. "Over here!"

She was staring down at the ground, a fearful expression on her face.

Michael was beside her a moment later, looking at the same thing she was.

It was a green orb…and it was glowing.
*******************************************************************
Liz awoke with a splitting headache.

She tried to open her eyes, but found that the world remained strangely dark, even when she was SURE she had done so.

It took her fuzzy mind a moment to realize that she was blindfolded.

It took another minute to realize that she was bound hand and foot.

And suddenly a strange flash claimed her…

Liz was breathing shallowly when she came back to herself a moment later.

What on Earth had Pam Troy been doing at the side of the road in the middle of the desert?

It wasn’t until she heard a little girl’s voice that she remembered exactly what had happened.

"I don’t understand why I have to go in here! I’ve already been podded."

It was Jennetta…she had been hiding in the back of Tess’ SUV when Pam had suddenly been there. Liz still felt the absolute flabbergasted shock that had struck her at the sight of Pam Troy raising her hand and blasting Jennetta until the little girl was unconscious. She, Liz, had joined Maria and Michael’s daughter in that state a moment later…

It was unbelievable.

Pam Troy was an alien!

And yet it all somehow made a strange amount of sense…at least there was now an explanation for Pam’s appalling fashion sense…Liz snorted, started to laugh hysterically.

She realized that she was losing it…she forced herself to take deep breaths, to calm down.

Jennetta needed her.

"To protect you sweetie." Liz recognized Pam’s squeaky voice right away, flinched. "You’re still too little to look after yourself."

"I don’t know." Jennetta sounded unconvinced and a lot younger than Liz had ever heard her sound before. "I don’t think Jaxon would like this."

"Jaxon was the one who asked me to do this for you." Pam replied sweetly. "He and I are close friends you know."

"Why isn’t he here?" Jennetta demanded.

"He will be." It was a new voice but Liz recognized it right away.

Tess!

Tess had betrayed them.

Liz couldn’t quite grasp it.

She had come to trust Tess, had been sure that the girl had given up on her so-called destiny with Max, that they were friends…

How dumb could she have been?

And yet, a niggling little voice in the back of her head told her she had NOT been wrong about Tess.

Something was wrong with this whole situation.

Liz shifted uncomfortably on the hard surface on which she was lying.

She heard movement to her right. "I think she’s awake." Tess said, sounding relieved.

"Liz!" Jennetta’s voice came closer. "Can’t I untie her?"

Liz could feel the child nearby. "Not yet." Pam replied serenely. "But you can take her blindfold off."

She felt small hands reaching around behind her head. "Liz! Are you okay?" Jennetta whispered into her ear.

Liz blinked at the bright light that suddenly streamed into her face. It took a moment for the figures around her to come into focus. Jennetta was kneeling in front of her, Tess and Pam standing nearby staring at her.

The room was huge.

It was composed completely of stone - polished stone.

The walls were covered with symbols exactly like those in the cave at the Reservation where she and her friends had returned Michael’s balance almost two years before.

Liz’s eyes widened at the sight that greeted her directly to her right…

Five pods.

Four were dark, as though the light within had burned out long ago…

And one was glowing…

"What’s going on?" She managed to choke out, feeling helpless, bound as she was. Her eyes automatically sought out Tess. The other girl looked away. Liz was sure that she had seen a flash of guilt cross her face before she lost sight of it though. "Tess! Please!"

"Why can’t I untie her?" Jennetta demanded, turning to glare at Pam.

"Because I told you you couldn’t." Pam snapped. Her tone became softer when she saw, as Liz did, Jennetta’s spine stiffen. "She’ll be okay sweetie. Jaxon will take care of her when he gets here. Now come here. We’ve got work to do."

Jennetta glanced once more at Liz, sighed and climbed to her feet.

"Jennetta!" Liz called after her. "Whatever she wants you to do…don’t do it!"

It was as though Jennetta did not hear her though. She didn’t even turn around.

Pam eyed her for a moment, turned to Tess. "Deal with her. I know you want to. You deserve the right Sabrya. She almost stole your destiny from you."

Liz’s eyes widened. She felt a chill run down her side when Tess’ face darkened. The strange glow that Liz had noticed when she and Max had run into Tess at the Pod Chamber appeared in her blue eyes.

She was crazy.

Tess was walking towards her. Liz struggled against her bonds. It was useless…

She could barely even move.

"TESS!" Liz shrieked at her. "Has she brainwashed you?" Tess did not blink. Liz was sure that was what was going on here.

She just KNEW somehow that Tess had not betrayed them. Max, Michael and Maria had all been brainwashed…why not Tess too?

"Tess!" Liz tried again. "Snap out of it!"

A momentary spark of remorse appeared in the blonde girl’s eyes…but then it was gone, like a light had been turned out.

Liz watched in horror as Tess raised her hand and it began to glow.

Liz’s last thought was: when did she learn to do that?

Then all went dark.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:03:33 PM
Part 36

Jaxon sat tensely in the passenger seat of Kyle Valenti’s red Mustang.

There hadn’t been much conversation between them since they had left the hospital. Jaxon knew that he had some sort of history with Kyle, but he had absolutely no memory of it.

And at the moment he didn’t particularly care.

All he cared about was finding Liz and Jennetta. Somehow he just KNEW that they had to find them as soon as possible. They had gone to Liz’s, the Evans and even Tess’…there had been no sign of the girls anywhere.

With every minute that passed Jaxon knew that they were going to be too late.

His memories of Sabrya reminded him that she was capable of anything. He tried to convince himself that Mirana - Isabel - had been telling him the truth…that the recollections he had of their betrayal, including Tess’, were false…

Yet they filtered through his mind clearly, crisply…

*Flash

Sabrya smiling lovingly at him… "Come to bed my love…"

*Flash

The door of their chamber being blasted open, Tarsus standing there, a look of relief on his face…

*Flash

Tarsus grabbing Sabrya by the wrist, hauling her off the bed, watching the dagger in her hand fall to the floor…Shock, horror…betrayal…

He shook his head to clear it. He had to focus.

"Are we almost there?" Jaxon asked, clenching and unclenching one of his fists. He was desperately trying to hold on to his control.

The two people he trusted on this cursed planet - the only two - were in danger…and it felt like they were never going to find them.

"It’s just around the next bend." Kyle replied. Jaxon could see Kyle glancing at him out of the corner of his eye. "You don’t really think Tess has done something, do you?"

"I don’t know WHAT to think anymore." Jaxon muttered. "Why have we chosen this place? Why would they come here?" He asked Kyle a moment later as his companion pulled his car up in front of a collection of small but neat buildings. There was a small market of some sort in front of one of them.

"It’s a Native American Reservation." Kyle explained. "An old guy named River Dog used to live here. He gave you guys a lot of information about Nasedo and your past…"

Liz had told him about Nasedo…apparently he was a shape-shifter, a Dernian…he was the one who had been sent to protect he, Isabel, Michael and Tess on Earth…

And apparently had done a bang-up job of it too…Jaxon thought sarcastically to himself.

Jaxon had stepped out of the car. He looked around. Nothing looked familiar…and yet he could feel something…

"He used to live here?" Jaxon inquired. He looked at Kyle questioningly.

Kyle looked uncomfortable. "He was killed." He paused. "By your friend Tarsus." He snapped a moment later.

Jaxon blinked. He was not surprised. It seemed that Tarsus of Dernia was not at all the person Jaxon had believed him to be. "I regret it." He said softly.

A young man with black hair and dark eyes was watching them from a nearby porch. Kyle nudged Jaxon. "That’s Eddie. You and Michael lived with he and River Dog last summer."

Eddie was walking towards them, a strange look on his face. He stopped a few feet away. "I thought you were dead." He said to Jaxon.

Jaxon smiled weakly. He’d forgotten about that little problem.

"Reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated." Kyle told Eddie, smirking. Eddie frowned.

"Have you seen River Dog?" He asked Jaxon. "We haven’t seen him since you and Spiky left the Reservation last summer. He just disappeared."

Jaxon shook his head.

"He’s lost his memory." Kyle said to Eddie in an undertone, as though Jaxon was unaware of his own condition. He scowled at Kyle.

Oh there was history between he and Valenti all right…and apparently not ALL of it good. The annoyance that often graced Kyle’s face when he looked at Jaxon - well, it was all there in black and white.

"Have you seen Liz?" Kyle was asking Eddie.

Eddie shook his head. "Nah, but Tess was here a couple of days ago."

Jaxon had been staring off across the open desert behind the buildings. He was getting a sense of something in the air…he didn’t like it. His head snapped around at Eddie’s comment though.

"What did she want?" He demanded.

Eddie just shook his head. "She didn’t want anything. She just went out into the desert for a few hours and then came back."

"Was she alone?" Kyle asked suddenly. The look on his face told Jaxon that he was beginning to accept that Tess was heavily involved in Liz and Jennetta’s disappearance somehow. He looked resigned, and yet sad.

"No, she was with another girl." Eddie told him. "She was really trashy…too much make-up, really tight jeans…the whole nine yards."

Kyle looked like he had swallowed something vile. "Which way did they go that day?" He asked.

Eddie pointed them in the right direction.

"I guess we should check it out. Shall we?" Kyle asked Jaxon with a smirk on his face. Jaxon could tell that he was just trying to mask how upset he was.

"Isabel and Michael are on their way." Kyle told Eddie before they left. "Point them in the right direction when they get here."

Eddie nodded, frowning after them.

Jaxon and Kyle started out across the desert, going north.
********************************************************************
"Michael! Don’t touch it!" Maria grabbed his arm as he reached down to pick up the glowing green orb.

Michael turned around to stare at her. "Why not?"

"It’s an orb!" Maria replied. "Don’t you know how much trouble those filthy things have caused?" She demanded, her tone disgusted.

Michael eyed her like she was crazy. "What the hell are you talking about Maria? What do YOU know about orbs?"

He watched her face darken. "Too damn much…" She muttered under her breath. She shook her head, stared straight at him. "Don’t you remember what happened the last time you activated one of these things?" She asked. "You brought that maniac Tarsus of Dernia right down on all of our heads - he turned you into a zombie, practically kidnapped Max and nearly tore us all apart…I think you should just stay away from that thing."

He just knew that she was hiding something from him. That answer had just been too pat…Her eyes were now dancing around the clearing, almost hysterically.

"Maria." She refused to look at him. "Maria!" Maria turned her blue eyes on him. "What the hell is going on with you?"

"What do you mean?" She asked evasively, moving slightly away from him.

"You’re acting all psycho!" Michael replied, feeling like pulling his hair out. He heard Maria snort in annoyance, start muttering under her breath.

"Well, excuse me…I just came out of a coma for God’s sake, not to mention…" She cut herself off abruptly.

Definitely psycho. Michael just stared at her, shook his head.

He moved to pick up the orb. "We don’t have time for this…" He muttered. "This orb is here for a reason…I’m going to find out what it is."

"MICHAEL! No!" Maria made a move to smack it away from him, but Michael put his hands up over his head, well out of her reach. She started to jump up and down trying to get her hands on it.

"Maria! Would you settle down!" He yelled. "See! I’m fine! I’m touching it…I haven’t been turned into…"

His head suddenly felt like it wanted to explode.

Michael fell to his knees in agony, tried to drop the orb…but it was like it was grafted to his hands.

He could hear Maria screaming at him from what seemed like a very great distance…

And then the visions began…

*Flash

"Were you eavesdropping Tristandor?" Michael recognized that voice immediately - Tarsus of Dernia.
"You’re damn right I was! You never tell us anything. We’re not just going to sit on our butts and wait for you to exterminate us." Michael could feel Maria beside him. He could feel his own fear and horror…they were coming for her…he had to stop it.

*Flash

"I love you Michael."
"I love you too."

*Flash

He and Maria standing in a stone circle, staring intently at the orbs in their hands. "I guess we’re okay." He said to her…and then a beam of light knocked them both off their feet…and Max was there.

*Flash

"When has Michael ever been capable of sense?" It was Max and he sounded disgusted.

*Flash

"I think it’s the baby Michael." Complete panic claimed him.

*Flash

"Well, it’s a little sooner than I would have liked…but its your babies I want to be having, so at least I got that right!"

*Flash

"Michael! I’m going to kill you!" Maria screaming in agony, Michael feeling helpless, guilty and yet so incredibly happy he could barely see straight.

*Flash

"Ren told me about your mother Michael…She should be named for your heritage. Her name is Jennetta."

*Flash

"Michael. You have to accept this. You need to protect your child."
"This is insanity Max! I should be with you! I’m your right hand. Your mother told us so!"

The flashes ended abruptly, as though a hand had ripped them out of his head.

When Michael became aware of his surroundings, he realized that he was lying face-down on the ground.

Maria was kneeling beside him sobbing. "Michael!" She was running her hands up and down his back. "Wake up! Damn these things!"

He could tell that the orb was no longer in his hands. He heard Maria grunt as she heaved it away across the clearing. He faintly heard a thud as it landed.

Michael groaned, rolled over onto his back, stared up at the stars.

Maria’s face came into focus. "Are you okay? What happened?"

He didn’t reply immediately. He didn’t know how to tell her what he had to tell her…she was going to freak…she was already half-way to a patented Maria flip-out…

How was he supposed to tell her that Jennetta was THEIR daughter.

He had no idea - but he did know one thing…

Whoever had taken his child was going to pay.

Part 37

"I think we’re lost." Kyle told Max.

Max was standing about ten feet to his right staring off across the darkening desert, a strange look on his face. Kyle hated when he did that. It was at times like these that Kyle remembered that Max was NOT human. His tendency to become spaced out on a regular basis was so much more understandable now.

"I’ve been here before." Max said, not to Kyle but to the air in general.

Kyle rolled his eyes. "Whoopdedoo. The question is: have Liz, Tess and Jennetta been here recently?"

Max turned to eye him, a slight frown on his face.

Well, that made it official. Max might not remember him, but he DID know that he and Kyle WERE NOT friends. Sure they trusted each other - but there was too much history there for them to ever really become close.

Kyle still had not forgiven Max for stealing Liz from him or for preoccupying Kyle’s father on a regular basis- nor had he forgiven him for being who he was…the one person standing between he and Tess.

Although, Kyle thought bitterly, its unlikely that Tess would want to be with me even if there was no Max Evans.

"Liz is nearby." Max replied, staring into the distance again. Kyle scowled again, shivered slightly. Max really was a freak…and he had turned Liz into one as well. Kyle would never get used to the connection that existed between the two of them.

He had never stood a chance with Liz.

"Lead on oh mighty one." Kyle muttered as Max took off at a steady pace.

Kyle was almost positive that Max was leading him on a wild goose chase - until Evans stopped so abruptly Kyle almost rammed into his back. "We’re here." Max told him unnecessarily.

"We’re where?" All Kyle saw was desert. It was almost dark and the occasional scrub brush was shadowed and barely visible. Kyle wondered how he and Max were going to find their way back to the Reservation in the dark. "We’re in the middle of nowhere." His eyes widened as Max’s hand suddenly lit up, brighter than any flashlight Kyle had ever seen. "Jesus!"

Max crouched near a large rock, seemed to be peering under it. He turned back and smirked at Kyle. "Are you game Valenti?"

It was then that Kyle noticed the hole in the desert floor. It was almost hidden by the boulder, but was clearly visible now due to the light thrown by Max’s hand. The shadows thrown by the darkening sky had hidden it from view.

"One hundred and seventy pounds of Greco-Roman wrestler at your service." Kyle replied, setting his jaw.

Max’s expression was amused. "Fine. I’m in charge here. If you can’t accept that then I suggest you stay here and wait for Michael, Isabel and the others."

Kyle rolled his eyes. "I’m not stupid Max." He paused and met his former nemesis’ eyes straight on. "You can trust me."

"I knew I could." Max replied seriously. "I have a feeling that we might now have gotten along in the past but I don’t doubt that you care about Liz and Tess - and so I can trust you."

Max turned away, stared down into the hole again. "Well, I might have been here before but I DON’T remember how far a drop it is." He muttered wryly.

Kyle pushed past him. "There’s only one way to find out."

Kyle was through the hole and had dropped the ten feet or so to the stone floor of the cave it led to before he could think about it.

If sports had taught him one thing it was to go with instinct first and think about the consequences later. He had landed himself in trouble a few times but had also ended up on more All-Star teams than he could count.

Fear was the enemy.

Fear would stand between he and saving his friends.

No fear.

Max landed softly beside him a moment later. He used his lit-up hand to examine the walls of the place in which they found themselves.

Kyle realized it was not so much a cave as it was a tunnel. The walls were completely smooth, had clearly been polished at one time as well. Dust covered the etchings that spread off in both directions.

The symbols on the wall were familiar to Kyle. He had seen Isabel wearing a necklace with one of them and he had also seen it on one of those damn blue orbs. He thought he had seen several more on some papers over at Tess’.

"Which way?" He whispered to Max.

Max motioned to footprints in the dust on the floor. "Follow me."

They walked for what felt like forever. Kyle knew that they were headed deep into the earth.

It was clear that this tunnel was NOT natural - and that it had been here for a long time. It was humbling to reflect on how long that meant Max’s people had been connected to or on Earth.

Aliens had been among them for a long time - proving that the human race was pretty darn out of it.

The Crash of ’47 had not been a beginning…more likely if had been an ending.

Max halted abruptly again. Kyle stumbled, scowled. "Will you please warn me the next time you’re going to do that?" He growled softly.

Max shot him an annoyed look. "Quiet. We’re close." He stared at the smooth walls on both side of the tunnels. "I can feel Liz nearby…" He started to feel the walls for an opening of some sort.

Kyle did the same on the opposite wall. "Are you sure we shouldn’t keep going?" He asked several minutes later.

"No." Max replied shortly. "Wait a minute…." Kyle turned to watch as Max started to pass his hand gently over the wall, careful not to miss a spot.

"I don’t think this is the time for dusting Evans." Kyle finally said when Max looked like he was never going to stop.

At that exact moment a silver handprint appeared suddenly under Max’s hand. Kyle blinked.

Max shot him a look over his shoulder. "Stay here and keep watch."

"The hell I will!" Kyle replied urgently. "You need me to watch your back."

"I don’t know what we’re going to find in there Kyle. If I’m not back in fifteen minutes I want you to head back to the surface and find Michael and Isabel." His gaze was steady. "You said that I could trust you."

I just knew he was going to throw that back in my face! Kyle reflected, annoyed. "Fine." He said shortly. "Fifteen minutes."

Max nodded, satisfied. He lifted his hand, fit it squarely on the silver handprint. Kyle watched amazed as the stone wall slid away, revealing another smooth tunnel.

Kyle would never get used to all this alien hocus pocus.

Max was gone a moment later. Kyle sighed and pressed his back against the smooth wall, sliding down until he was seated on the floor of the tunnel. He was suddenly extremely weary.

It was pitch black now that Max had left with his magic hand. He was going to have to feel his way back up the tunnel if it came to that.

Kyle wondered how he was going to see his watch to know when fifteen minutes were up.
********************************************************************
Jaxon made his way carefully down the smaller corridor. He heard the wall slide back into place behind him but he ignored it.

All he was worried about was what was at the far end of this tunnel.

He knew Liz was nearby. He had sensed her flash of fear when he and Kyle had stopped to find the handprint.

If he had doubted their connection before this, their was no doubt now.

There was a bond between he and this human that could not be explained - nor could it be denied. He understood now why he had fallen in love with her when he was Max Evans…and he also understood why he could not resist her now.

They were two halves of the same soul. There was no other explanation.

He did not know what game Sabrya was playing, but somehow he knew that she was behind Liz and Jennetta’s disappearance - had known it the minute he had become aware of the fact that they were missing.

Jaxon almost stumbled upon them without meaning too. The tunnel was still dark when it suddenly opened up into a huge lit cavern. The light was blinding after the blackness of the rest of the complex.

He heard Sabrya’s voice before he saw her. "She is taken care of." Her tone was harsh.

"Good work Tessie. Now come here and help me get Jennetta prepared for the transformation."

Jaxon felt his heart stop. He was concealed behind a stone overhang, but he could hear everything that was happening. The voice of the other girl was familiar to him, just on the edge of his memory.

"I still don’t understand why Jaxon wants me podded again. I don’t know if my mother is going to like this." It was Jennetta. Jaxon allowed himself a slight breath of relief that she was apparently healthy at the moment. But when her comment penetrated his mind, he grimaced. They were using Jennetta’s love for him to control her.

It was time to find out who was betraying him. He had to save his sister before they did whatever it was they were planning to do to her.

He was also concerned by the fact that he could no longer feel Liz anywhere. Had they moved her?

Jaxon stepped out from behind the overhang. "I don’t want you podded sweeting."

Jennetta was across the cavern. Sabrya was standing next to her, a hand on his small sister’s shoulder.

Sabrya turned her blonde head, stared at him her eyes wide. She turned to her companion in confusion. Jaxon could not see the other girl as she was hidden by a bank of five transformation pods.

Jaxon frowned when Jennetta ignored him completely. She was waving her small hand across a lit pod. The organic sides opened and she stepped into it. It’s side melded together behind her.

"Jennetta!" Jaxon rushed across the chamber, but it was too late. The pod had begun to fill with the clear liquid that was the transforming agent.

His sister was going to be cleansed. She was too young! It would kill her!

And yet there was nothing he could do to stop it. Once the transformation was begun, cutting it off in the middle was a guaranteed death sentence.

He clenched his jaw as he watched the pod fill completely. Jennetta’s eyes closed calmly as the liquid covered her face. She looked peaceful - as though she was asleep.

A flash of intense anger stabbed through him.

Jaxon rounded on Sabrya. "What have you done?" He roared at her. His betraying former bride cringed away from him.

"Max! Please."

Jaxon forced himself to take deep breaths. Completely losing control was not going to solve anything. "Where is Liz?"

"She’s where Tess left her."

The other girl stepped out from behind the pods. Jaxon’s eyes widened. It was the girl from the Crashdown who had approached him earlier that day - Pam Troy.

She was pointing across the cavern.

He didn’t want to turn around. He knew it was going to be bad…

It was only now that he realized that he could not feel Liz’s presence at all.

He stared at Sabrya for a moment longer. "What have you done?" He asked again, softly, shaking his head. Jaxon watched her blue eyes fill with tears. She broke his gaze, turned pleading eyes to Pam.

"Danala! Please! Explain it to him."

Jaxon swallowed. "Danala." He said evenly. "I should have known."

"Tarsus has told you about me I see." She smirked at him, but her eyes were flat with disdain.

"He lied about you - just as he lied about everything." Jaxon replied. He glared at her. "I don’t have time for you."

He forced himself to turn around. His breathing was uneven as his eyes found Liz…

The sight of her felt like a physical blow.

She was curled up near the wall. Her hands were bound behind her and her feet were tied as well.

Her dark hair covered her face, but he knew that she was dead. There was no sign that she was breathing and the black mark in the centre of her chest told him all he needed to know.

He could not feel her…her spirit was not present in this place at all.

She was gone.

The emptiness that welled within him was suffocating.

Jaxon felt his throat closing up. "Liz." His knees were giving out on him. He managed to stumble to the wall to support himself.

He had to go to her. He had to try and heal her. But he couldn’t make his legs move.

His entire body was numb.

His entire being knew that it was too late.

He could not bring back the dead.

"Max!" It was Sabrya. She had moved behind him.

He managed to control his voice when she touched his shoulder. "If you touch me I will make your death VERY unpleasant." He told her through clenched teeth. He felt her flinch away from him. He turned blazing eyes on her. "You are going to die Sabrya - trust me…but HOW is still to be determined. I suggest you keep your filthy hands off of me."

"But don’t you understand? It had to be! She bewitched you Max…Danala told me so! She was standing between us - preventing us from creating the child that is going to save our people." Tess’ eyes were wide and glinting with tears. "I didn’t want to do it - but I had to! Our destiny is to be together."

Tess and Jaxon both whirled as Danala broke into peals of laughter.

"As you can see Jaxon, she is just as stupid in this life as she was in the last…" She was shaking her dyed blonde head. She was laughing and yet it was disturbing because there was no real humour in it.

Jaxon knew that after the cleansing Dernians did not truly understand humour.

"What - what do you mean?" Jaxon could see Sabrya staring at her sister, an expression of horror on her face.

"We’ve already got our chosen one little imbecile." Danala indicated Jennetta, floating peacefully in her pod. "Who do you think this is?"

"Then why?" Tess was staring at Liz’s corpse, her eyes shining with guilt and terror.

"We kidnapped her for the simplest reason in the world." Danala replied. "To get our hands on Jaxon of course. It was just pure chance that she brought the little saviour of Illyria along with her."

She turned her dark eyes on Jaxon. "And you fell right into my trap "your highness." Prepare to die Jaxon Falconer."

Jaxon was listening to her, but his mind was elsewhere.

He could not stop his eyes from returning to Liz’s form, so small and helpless.

How could such a fragile body have contained such a brave spirit…in fact his entire world?

And then he knew…

He had failed…

His sister was going to die…

His Liz was already gone.

He did not want to live without her.

Jaxon turned back to Danala. "So be it." He told her without hesitation. "But I’m taking you with me."



posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:06:00 PM
Part 38

When Michael and Maria arrived at the Reservation, Isabel and Alex were already there.

Isabel was pacing beside the Jeep, her expression grim. Alex stood nearby, his arms folded across his chest. He was watching her with concern.

Michael could tell right away that the situation was not good.

"Finally!" Isabel exclaimed as Michael and Maria climbed out the Jetta. "Where have you been?"

Michael watched Maria rub her eyes frantically. "Don’t even get me started. Let me just say, the next time ANYONE finds an orb…" Both Alex and Isabel turned to stare at her. "UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES IS ANYONE GOING TO TOUCH IT!" The last came out as a shriek.

Isabel eyed Michael. "Do I even want to know?" She asked wearily.

"There’s no time." Michael replied abruptly. "Are they here?"

"Eddie said Kyle and Max took off across the desert about an hour ago. He hasn’t seen them since." Alex replied.

"Let’s go." Michael said, leaving no room for argument.

He had to find his daughter. It was all he cared about at the moment.

He and Maria had not exchanged a single word during the entire ride from Fraser Woods to the Reservation. Michael had not known how to broach the subject of telling her who Jennetta was, not to mention Maria had not exactly been in the most accommodating of moods. She was still furious at him for scaring the living daylights out of her with his little "orb incident," as she had started to refer to it.

He had sort of been relieved.

It wasn’t that he didn’t want Maria to know…

It was just that he sort of wanted to savor the secret to himself for a while. He knew that the minute Maria found out she was going to totally lose it…and while normally he sort of enjoyed dealing with her freak-outs, right now…

He had more important things to worry about.

He just knew that Jennetta was in danger and that had to be his first priority. He knew that Maria was going to be pissed at him- big time - but he would deal with that later.

As the foursome trekked across the desert Michael knew exactly where they were going.

Their destination was the transformation chamber - the place where this whole catastrophic chain of events had begun when he had allowed Tarsus to cleanse him.

Michael’s guilt over his own stupidity in trusting Tarsus had been torturing him for months - ever since Max had first disappeared and Maria had first shown signs of illness.

The moment he had found out the truth about Jennetta his guilt had completely disappeared.

It was now clear that there had been a purpose to it all.

If the result of all that pain had been his daughter…well, then it had been worth it.

Now they just had to make sure that the whole affair didn’t end tragically anyway.

Michael did not hesitate as he, Maria, Alex and Isabel plunged trough the pitch-black night. The stars were out, but there was no moon to light their trajectory. They had only one flashlight between the four of them. He knew the route though, having taken it so many times with that bastard Tarsus.

He heard Alex trip on something, swear.

The stress was getting to them all. Michael could feel Isabel on his right, their connection through the four-square strangely strong at the moment.

She was wound up, clearly ready to explode at any moment.

Something was seriously wrong.

He tried to keep his voice low as he spoke to Isabel, hoping to keep Maria out of whatever was troubling Isabel for a while longer.

He was still concerned that all of this was too much for his so recently comatose girlfriend. He was trying to shield her from as much of the crap that was going down as possible, but of course Maria was having none of it.

"What’s wrong?" He whispered.

He could see Isabel’s head swing around to face him in the dark. She paused before replying. "I dreamwalked all of them Michael - Liz, Tess, Max - I even tried Jennetta…I couldn’t get a thing."

"So, it’s not like it hasn’t happened before." Michael replied quietly, although he felt like he had been punched in the stomach.

If his daughter was hurt before he even got a chance to know her….well, someone was going to pay - big.

"This is different Michael." Isabel told him, her tone troubled. "I’ve always been able to get in a bit - even if people shut me out once I was in….this time it was like hitting a big wall. I couldn’t break through at all."

Michael pressed his lips together, flinched as Maria tripped into his back.

He glared over his shoulder at her. "Eavesdrop much?" He demanded in annoyance.

"Oh put a sock in it spaceboy." Maria flared back. "You’re hiding something…I know it. Don’t you think that the time for secrets is over? Secrets have done nothing but cause trouble…"

"Really?" Michael asked evenly. "I have a feeling that I’m not the only one with a secret."

"Would you two please just stop?" Isabel asked, irritated. "We don’t have time for your bickering love-fest."

"Amen." Alex added from somewhere on Michael’s left.

Maria snorted, but shut up. Michael knew that she was glad to do so now that he had called her on the fact that she was keeping something from him.

He wasn’t at dumb as he sometimes pretended to be.

Maria had been a little off ever since she had come out of the coma. Oh, she was Maria all right, but she was strangely quiet about how Jennetta had healed her…

He knew that there was more to it than just a good old Max miracle-type healing…

And it suddenly hit him like a bolt of lightening.

She knew. Maria knew.

She had known for the last twelve hours and she hadn’t told him.

He rounded on her, his rage almost completely out of control. It took all of his strength not to grab her and shake her. "MARIA!" He couldn’t stop himself.

Michael heard her stumble. Alex’s voice indicated that he had caught her. "What the hell…Maria are you okay?"

Michael felt Isabel grab his arm. "Michael?"

Michael was glad that he couldn’t see Maria’s face. To see the knowledge of her lie written on her face…

Alex’s flashlight was in his face. "What’s wrong?" Alex demanded, sounding perplexed and not a little irritated himself.

"She knows." Michael replied, turning away.

Maria was now at his side, grabbing his other arm. " I know! Of course I know! Be mad at me Michael - at this point I don’t care…but we have to get her back. That’s all there is to it. You can’t let this stand in the way." Her voice faltered slightly, but Michael was most amazed by what he didn’t hear in it.

She wasn’t at all sorry.

"It won’t." He managed to bite out. "We’ll discuss it later."

"Discuss what?" Alex demanded.

"It’s between Maria and me." Michael replied, his fury still radiating through every vein in his body. He was taking deep breaths as he began to walk again.

"Well, then I suggest you keep your cave-man bellows to yourself." Isabel snapped. "Are we almost there?"

"I think so…" Maria whispered. "I can feel it…"

"What?" Alex asked.

"Nothing." Maria replied.

Michael shivered.

She was right. It felt like they were walking into a void…of nothingness.

It felt like the entire world had been sucked dry of life - of feeling, of emotion. Michael could feel the void tugging on his own senses, trying to force him to give his own up…

He swallowed. "We’re here."

Alex shone his flashlight on the boulder Michael remembered that hid the entrance to the tunnels.

All four of them stared into the darkness for a long moment. The feeling of emptiness was coming from within the underground complex.

Michael straightened his spine. His child was in there and she was in danger. "Let’s go." He said resolutely.

Not a single one of them argued.
********************************************************************
Kyle heard Max yell even through the stone wall that had slid back into place after Max had passed through it. He jumped to his feet, felt his blood run cold.

That shout had been unnatural - like the agony of every living being on Earth had come together in a cacophony of grief so intense it literally shook the foundations of Kyle’s soul.

It could only mean one thing…

Something had happened to Liz.

Kyle had absolutely no idea how much time had gone by. The Max-proscribed fifteen minutes might have ended, but sitting in the dark had made him totally lose track of the passage of minutes.

For all he knew it might have been three seconds - or three hours.

All he knew was that he felt like he had been waiting forever.

He briefly considered actually following Max’s orders and finding his way back to the entrance to the tunnels, to go in search of Michael and Isabel and a little Czechoslovakian fire-power.

But the memory of that yell still reverberated in his ears…

There was no time to go for back-up. He needed to get in there now.

Only one face was etched on his brain - Tess.

He didn’t care what the hell she had done. He loved her. He had to get to her.

Kyle started to feel along the smooth stone, feeling for an opening of some sort…it had to be there somewhere!

"Dammit!" Kyle muttered to himself. He thrust his hands through his hair in frustration.

It didn’t help that he couldn’t see a bloody thing. His eyes couldn’t even adjust to the dark. There was no light whatsoever to allow it.

He clenched his fists, glared at the offending wall.

Kyle had NEVER wanted to be an alien, but what he wouldn’t give for even a smidge of Alien voodoo at the moment.

He swiped his hand over the surface of the wall in irritation.

The handprint suddenly shone out at him, its silver glow actually lighting up the tunnel in which he found himself.

Kyle blinked, stared down at his hand. "What the…"

Oh who the hell cares? He asked himself silently. Just go with it Valenti.

Kyle bit his lip as he moved forward and placed his hand squarely on the handprint.

He was not at all surprised when the wall began to move.

He was past it the moment the space was big enough for him to squeeze through. He was half-way down the smooth corridor before it even occurred to him to mark the spot for the others.

He hurried back in the direction from which he had come, stuck his jacket in the between the entrance and the far wall just as the door began to slide shut…

Kyle could see light shining at the far end of the tunnel. As he moved closer he began to pick up voices…

"….you fell right into my trap your highness." Kyle paused, frowned. That voice sounded horribly familiar. "Prepare to die Jaxon Falconer."

Pam Troy! Pam frickin’ Troy! He would know that whiny voice anywhere.

Kyle was so stunned he literally couldn’t move for a moment.

He managed to shake off his stupor as her last words penetrated his brain…prepare to die…

Well, it was clear that Evans DID need back-up. So much for his allmightiness…

But Max’s response to Pam’s taunt caused the hair on the back of Kyle’s neck to stand on end.

"So be it." His voice was calm, but with an underlying note of steel that made Kyle damn glad that he was not facing down Max Evans at the moment. "But I’m taking you with me."

Oh crap. It was alien smackdown time.

He glanced back down the tunnel nervously, hoping that Michael and Isabel were on their way.

Kyle inched forward, found himself standing behind a stone overhang. He couldn’t see a bloody thing.

He heard Tess before he saw her. "Can’t we talk about this reasonably?" She was asking, her voice terrified.

"The time for talk is over Sabrya." Pam replied. "I have the chosen one…There is no need for any of you anymore. Your time has ended."

"What?" Tess’ voice cracked. "But what about my destiny…my destiny with Max?"

"Oh will you shut up about that?" Pam asked. "Destiny, shmestiny. None of it matters now."

Kyle poked his head around the overhang, saw Max standing across the way, his back to him. Tess was standing behind him stiffly.

Pam was positioned in front of a bank of egg-shaped containers.

Kyle realized that these must be the infamous pods. He had never seen one before…until this minute he had never fully accepted that Tess and the others had actually come from these things, but seeing them made it all too real.

His heart sank at the sight of the kid - Jennetta - floating in one of them. Her eyes were closed and she looked peaceful. Kyle wondered what Tess would have looked like in hers before she was born…

He shook his head, forced himself to focus.

He couldn’t see Liz anywhere. He scanned the large chamber and felt a sigh of relief when he caught sight of her nearby, in fact only about ten feet to his right.

She was lying on her side, bound hand and foot. Her eyes were wide and staring at the scene playing out in front of her. "Max! Max! Listen to me!"

Max was ignoring her completely though.

Liz closed her eyes briefly, seemingly frustrated. She began twisting against her bonds. Kyle watched as her eyes passed over him briefly, then lit up.

Kyle realized that she had seen him. She was motioning him to come over to her with her head.

"It’s okay Kyle! They won’t see you! Hurry!"

Kyle paused, saw Tess glance behind her. Her blue eyes were unreadable as they came to rest on his face.

She blinked once and turned back to Pam.

What the…?

He hurried over to Liz’s side, untied her. "What the hell is going on here Liz?" He demanded.

Kyle glanced nervously towards Max and the others. None of them had moved. Max and Pam were staring each other down in what must have been some sort of weird pre-"I’m going to fry you" alien ritual.

It was bizarre - like they were waiting for something.

"Tess is doing it Kyle." Liz explained, rubbing her wrists, clearly trying to get the feeling back into them. "Danala told her to kill me…instead she began an illusion. I have no idea how she’s keeping it up. Her power has totally increased."

"Then why can I see what’s happening? And who the hell is Danala?" Kyle asked, perplexed.

"Pam is Danala." Liz told him, sounding exasperated. Well, excuse me - I came in a bit late, Kyle thought to himself. "Remember Tess has to tailor the illusion to everyone she wants to see it." Liz continued, moving towards the three others. "I have no idea what to do here…" Liz moved past Max, stared up at his face in concern. He looked right through her, but his mouth was moving.

Kyle realized that some sort of conversation was happening between Max, Tess and Pam but he couldn’t hear a word of it. Apparently, there wasn’t a pre- "I’m going to fry you" ritual going on. Tess was shutting him out of whatever was happening.

And yet he could SEE it all. He just couldn’t hear it.

"Liz! Get over here!" Kyle called to her. "We have to go find Michael and the others."

Liz looked over at him. "I’m not leaving Max." She said stubbornly. "He’s going to lose it in a second Kyle. He almost attacked Tess a few minutes ago. I couldn’t hear what they were saying but I saw the look on his face…I don’t know what they told him…" She was standing beside Max, was reaching up to touch his face…he was totally unaware of her.

"Liz…." Kyle moved forward to grab her.

At that exact moment he looked over at Pam and realized that she had pulled out a gun. Kyle froze. "OH MY GOD! Liz!"

Liz whipped her head around, sending her dark hair flying around her face. She saw the gun…saw exactly where it was pointed and screamed.

"MAX!"

Kyle tried to get to her…he really did. He made a diving leap, landed hard on his side about two feet away from her.

But it was too late.

Liz had thrown herself in front of Max…just as he saw Pam pull the trigger.

And the next thing Kyle knew, all hell broke loose.

Part 39

"Destiny, shmestiny! None of that matters now!" Pam was screeching at Tess, making Jaxon’s ears ring.

Tess was still standing close behind him. He was still ready to kill her, but he had to deal with Pam first. It was clear that she was the real ring-leader here.

He was doing his best to function normally, like the warrior king that he was.

It was almost impossible though. Every fibre of his being was telling him to just let them kill him. He felt like his entire heart had been ripped out of his body…

He was doing he best not to look over at Liz’s body. It was difficult considering the only thing he wanted to do was go take her in his arms and then join her wherever her beloved spirit had gone.

But he had to save Jennetta first. It would be his last act…

She was destined to lead their people to greatness. Once she was saved, he would be free to go…

"I don’t understand Danala! We’re sisters! How could you betray me like this?" Sabrya sounded absolutely astounded.

"You were the one who betrayed me little one." Danala sneered. "You married HIM, even though you knew it was the last thing I would want. You chose our brother over me and you all paid for it with your lives." She paused, smirking. "It is time to pay the price of your stupidity in this life as well."

Tess touched him on the shoulder. Jaxon flinched away from her. "I told you not to touch me." He growled.

"I’m sorry Jaxon. I was so wrong! Please, you must save us both!" He had turned to stare at her.

"Are you crazy?" He asked, literally floored by her gall. She had murdered Liz in cold blood and she actually believed that he was going to save her?

Tess lowered her voice, gazed at him pleadingly. "It’s not what you think. You have to trust me…MAX!"

"You’re the last person I’d trust." He replied coldly, turning back to face Danala.

But it was too late. The brief distraction had been enough. Danala had a human weapon, a gun, in her hand and she had it pointed directly at him.

"Now it’s time for you to die like the human dog you’ve become oh mighty one." Danala told him, no expression on her face. "It is time for me to take my rightful place as the right hand of the chosen one and for me to help her to lead our people to the rebirth you have denied us for so long."

"NOOOOOO!" Sabrya screamed. Jaxon felt her push him, but the gun had already gone off.

He braced himself for the impact.

The bullet never hit him.

Something slammed into him with force great enough to knock him to the ground, but it wasn’t a bullet.

"What the…"

"Max! It’s Liz!"

It was Tess who was screaming at him. He had no idea how this had happened but she was right.

Somehow Liz was alive and sprawled across him. She had clearly just jumped in front of the bullet meant for him.

She wasn’t dead!

And yet…she was well on her way to returning to that state. He felt her blood soaking the front of his shirt.

He managed to gently turn her over.

Liz’s eyes were open. She was staring up at him. "Max!" She managed to gasp.

He swept his hands across her looking for the wound. "Shhh…you’re going to be fine my love. Just tell me where you’re hurt."

She didn’t reply. Her eyes rolled up into her head.

"Ohmygod! Max, do something!"

Jaxon realized that it was Mirana’s voice. He glanced up to see his sister, Kyle and Alex all gathered around, watching both he and Liz with horror. He realized quickly that they were actually encircling them protectively. He could hear Tristandor yelling nearby.

He had no time to wonder what was happening with Danala…he had to help Liz.

He already knew what it felt like to lose her. There was no way he was going to let it happen again.

Jaxon gently laid Liz down, ripped open her shirt. He grimaced at the blood welling up from the wound in her stomach.

"Liz, you have to look at me! Liz, please!"

Liz’s eyes fluttered briefly. "Max…"

It was enough.

The connection was instantaneous as he placed his hand palm down on the gunshot wound.

Flash*

"You’re not an al…an alien?"

Flash*

"I don’t care."

Flash*

"You were the one person I really wanted to talk to…"

Flash*

"I guess these are the things we do when we feel a certain way about someone…"

Flash*

"You made me a part of this Max."

Flash*

"You saw my fantasy…"

Flash*

"I love YOU."

Flash*

"Max…I need you to promise me that you’re coming back to me…"

He concentrated on forcing the bullet to disintegrate into her bloodstream. When it was gone, he began to knit torn tissue and muscle together, until there was no wound left.

She was completely healed…and yet the connection continued.

He realized suddenly that what he had seen before had not been HER memories…they had been his…

He was aware of his surroundings, could feel Liz sitting up, felt her bring her hands up to his face…

But he was concentrating on the memories that were coming back in a great rush - as though a floodgate somewhere in the dark recesses of his mind had opened.

Flash*

He reached out to take Isabel’s hand, determined not to be separated from her, even though Michael was too scared to come with them…

Flash*

He cried himself to sleep every night until his mother gave him a toy house telling him that he would always have a home…

Flash*

He climbed off the school bus, saw the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She was smiling happily at her friends. He knew that she was the one…

Flash*

Michael appeared at his window, asked if it would be alright if he slept on his bedroom floor…

Flash*

Liz weaved her way towards him, through the tables at the Crashdown. She had a welcoming smile on her face. He felt his heart speed up just at the sight of her…

Flash*

He and Isabel played basketball with their parents in the driveway, knowing that he was loved…

Flash*

Maria handed him a strawberry, a smirk on her face and yet a strange expression of acceptance as well…

Flash*

Alex and Liz laughed at the counter in the Crashdown, Liz’s alien antennas bouncing merrily…
Flash*

Tess, Michael, Isabel and he stood in the desert with the new knowledge that Tess was one of them…

Flash*

Kyle handed him a flask, a challenging expression in his eyes, and yet a certain amount of understanding and sympathy as well…

Flash*

Liz smiled at him as she opened the note he had given her about meeting him in the Eraser Room for sixth period…

The memories began to flow more freely…returning to their rightful place.

They were HIS memories. He knew who he was.

He was Max Evans.

Flash*

"Max! What are you doing?"
"Let go of me!"

He had to get to her! His entire life would be over is she was gone…they didn’t even really know each other… but she was the one…

Flash*

"You’re all right now. You’re all right. You broke the bottle when you fell, spilled ketchup on yourself. Don’t tell anyone…please."

"LIZ!"

"I’m right here! Max, look at me! I’m okay!"

He shook his head, stared into her beautiful face. Her eyes were glued on his face with concern.

How could he have forgotten her?

And yet he never had…he had always remembered how he felt about her…he just hadn’t remembered why…

He did now.

"Are you okay?" He demanded, running his hands back to her stomach, feeling the sticky blood still…but her skin was smooth, perfect. He glanced down.

A silver handprint was clearly visible on her abdomen…

Just like the first time.

He remembered how shocked he had been to see it. He had never healed anyone who had been so hurt before, had had no idea that he would mark her like that.

But she had already marked him…the love he had felt for her since the first moment he had seen her had marked his entire destiny…

It had all come down to that moment in the Crashdown…it was where it had all begun, it was where his loneliness had ended. It had been a beginning and an end…

And it had brought them down to this exact moment - again.

Her love saved him every day.
********************************************************************
Kyle had almost had a heart attack when he had seen the bullet slam into Liz. She had collapsed on top of Max, which had caused Tess to panic to such a degree that she had dropped the elaborate illusion that she had weaved to fool Danala.

Kyle felt a frisson of sheer dread when Danala become aware of his presence. She turned dark, emotionless eyes on him, rolled them as though he was some bug that needed to be stomped on…

A minor inconvenience, but annoying nonetheless…

He saw Max rip open Liz’s shirt from the corner of his eye. He hurried over to stand guard over them while Max tried to save Liz’s life.

And yet his entire attention had remained focused on Tess and Danala and the showdown about to take place.

"You betrayed me again!" Danala said to her sister, sounding mildly miffed.

Kyle could see that Tess was trembling as she replied, "I remember what false promises of family did to Michael. I wanted to believe you so badly, but when you wanted me to kill Liz…I knew that you didn’t care about me at all. You had to know that I wouldn’t turn on my REAL family to such a degree."

Danala quirked an eyebrow, looking somewhat interested by this explanation. "Hmmmm….I underestimated the strength of your human ties I suppose. It’s interesting. But it doesn’t change anything little one. You will still die."

"You’ll have to kill me first." Kyle saw Michael come through the entrance into the cave. He looked absolutely infuriated. "You are not going to touch my sister."

"Michael! Jennetta is over there!" It was Maria, and she sounded absolutely horrified. "She’s been podded!"

If possible, Michael’s face became even more furious.

Danala looked pleased. "Tristandor! How convenient. Now I don’t have to go in search of you. I can take care of you right here as well my treacherous brother."

Kyle saw that she still had the gun she had used to shoot Liz in her hand. She tossed it aside. "But this time I won’t make the mistake of using these ridiculous human weapons."

Danala raised her hand, pointing it directly at Michael. It began to glow…

Kyle saw Michael grab Tess, who was standing close beside him.

It was the last thing he saw.

A flash of light so bright filled the chamber, Kyle had to close his eyes.

An explosion rocked the entire room, knocking Kyle into Isabel, who was standing close to him.

He hadn’t even seen her come in.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:07:49 PM
Part 40

Michael grabbed Tess by the hand as he saw Pam’s had begin to glow.

They had to end this - now.

And he knew exactly what to do…

"Tess, help me!" Michael yelled at his sister. He could feel Tess’ indecision. She knew that Danala was their sister, was reluctant to completely destroy her.

Michael felt no qualms whatsoever.

The bitch had hurt his daughter. He owed no loyalty to her.

His loyalty was to his REAL family - Jennetta, Maria, Max, Isabel, Liz, Alex…even Kyle and certainly Tess.

Danala was going down.

He was beginning to go blind from the intensity of the light that Danala was creating. He could feel his eldest sister gathering energy from the walls around her. He realized that the entire complex in which they found themselves was like a giant power conductor…just like Stonehenge had been when Isabel had opened the portal from Illyria.

And Michael understood. Stone increased their power.

Michael threw up his own hand. He had to access some of that power before Danala completely drained it - had to control it so that SHE couldn’t. He used his connection to Tess through their linked hands to try and communicate to her what he was trying to do.

~*Tess!*~

**MICHAEL!**

~*Help me Tess!*~

**She’s our sister Michael!**

~*She’s going to kill us! She does not care a flying fig about either of us. She’s one of THEM Tess. You have to help me.*~

**But we’ll be alone!**

~*You will never be alone Tess. I promise.*~

Michael could see images whirling through his younger sister’s mind…knew her loneliness, recognized in it the same feeling he had always had growing up…

Flash*

Seven year old Tess breaking free of her pod, seeing the other three pods dark and empty…knowing that she had been abandoned…

Flash*

Ten year old Tess decorating Nasedo’s house for Christmas…then crying herself to sleep when he never came home…

Flash*

Sixteen year old Tess seeing Isabel across the quad at school, approaching her long-lost friend with her heart in her throat…

Flash*

Tess hearing Max telling Michael how to be romantic, realizing that he was in love with someone else…

Flash*

Max yelling at her, "YOU’RE not one of us!"

Flash*

"I knew it was meant to be!" Ecstatic happiness that her destiny with Max had been confirmed by his mother on the message from the orb…
Max pushing her away from him with a simple, "No…" and going after Liz.

Flash*

Michael and Isabel telling her that she had to stay in Roswell while they went to England with Liz…that she couldn’t help them bring Max home…

Flash*

Pam coming to Tess, telling her who she really was…renewed hope that at last she wasn’t going to be alone…

Flash*

Kyle telling her that he loved her… Tess refusing to accept that it could be true…she had learned not to trust love…

Flash*

Tess realizing that Danala was evil, that she wanted Tess to be evil, that she could not be….she was alone again…

~*Tess! Listen to me! I promise that if you help me…you will NEVER be alone again…*~

He could hear Tess sobbing somewhere outside the connection. **How can I believe you? Everything I’ve ever been told has been a lie!**

Michael frantically searched his mind for an argument that would convince her…he was still competing with Danala for the energy in the room, felt himself weakening in the battle against his older and more experienced sister. His legs were beginning to give out on him.

He had never been very good at controlling his powers.

He had gotten better - but in a tug-of-war against someone of Danala’s experience? He had already lived two separate lives in the years that she had been refining her gifts…

Finally he threw out the first thought that came to mind. ~* You’re an aunt!*~

**WHAT! What on Earth are you talking about?**

Michael threw an image of Jennetta in his sister’s direction. He showed her all that his daughter was - her intelligence, her sweetness, her dimples…and then he threw her the image of Jennetta in the transformation pod, her eyes closed…

~*Help me Tess!*~

Michael felt Tess’ rage explode within her - rage that her brother was going to lose his child…He felt the exact moment that she began to help him absorb power from the walls around them.

The brightness of Danala’s energy was beginning to fade to the periphery of his vision. He and Tess were handling so much power it was drowning out the other girl’s…

And Michael knew exactly when they began to win…because Danala spoke to them.

~~Tristandor! Sabrya! Don’t betray me again! Please! I cannot bear it…~~

Michael felt his heart contract at her sobs. He felt Tess weakening beside him.

**Danala! We can still stop this!** Tess exclaimed. **YOU can stop this…**

~*Tess, she’s playing you!*~ Michael screamed at her with his mind.

~~Think about what the three of us could accomplish on Illyria together.~~ Danala offered.

She sent images of Michael, Tess, Danala, with Jennetta and Maria as well, gathered around a table, laughing, hugging…Michael blinked when he realized that Kyle was there as well. And then he knew…Tess WAS in love with Kyle.

Danala sent a picture of thousands of people in a square cheering for he and his sisters. ~~We can be a family again. All we need to do is rid ourselves of Jaxon Falconer and his silly twit of a sister once and for all. And then we can be together my beloved ones.~~

Michael could feel Tess beginning to let go of their connection. Danala’s false promises were too tempting…~*Tess! She’s lying! Fight it! You already have a family!*~ He sent her images of Max, Isabel, Liz, Alex…tried to show her how much he loved them…tried to remind her of how much he KNEW she had come to love them…

He sent her images of the carnage in Dernia - disaster after disaster caused by their older sister’s emotionless and incompetent rule…he remembered it all thanks to the orb.

He sent her images of the peaceful High Kingdom of Illyria, of how beloved Max and Isabel were there…of how beloved THEY, Michael and Tess, had been there because their marriages had united two ancient enemies with a new hope of peace.

Finally he sent her an image of Danala killing Jennetta with a blast of her hand. The very idea of it made him physically sick, but this was no time for squeamishness.

He was fighting for his sister’s soul here. He was fighting for the lives of his nearest and dearest.

He would stop at nothing to win.

Michael sighed with relief when he felt Tess beginning to power up again.

He could feel Danala beginning to weaken. ~~Tris! Sabbie! No! Please!~~

But Michael felt no emotion from her. She wanted to win for the principle of it but the irony of all ironies was that she was going to lose because she didn’t care.

She didn’t care about anything enough to win. Tess and Michael were going to defeat her with the power of their love for those they were protecting…

He realized that his sister Danala had been dead from the day she had entered her transformation pod in Dernia a generation ago.

Living without emotion was not really living at all.

Michael grasped Tess’ hand and made one last push to drain Danala…he felt her beginning to fade away…she was burning out…THEY were burning her life force out…

And then - with a flicker - she was gone.

Michael began slowly to disperse the energy he held within his fragile human body. He couldn’t quite believe the extent of it…

He spoke to Tess in his mind. ~*Let it go slowly Tess. If we release it all at once we might still kill them all.*~ He felt that Tess understood.

It felt like an age before the last of the power they had collected had been released. It then took another few moments for Michael to get his bearings.

He blinked, clearing his vision. He was still seeing dots in front of his eyes due to the damage the intense light they had created had caused.

Michael could see Isabel, Alex and Kyle all huddled protectively in a little group over Max and Liz. Max and Liz had their arms wrapped around each other.

He saw Alex tentatively beginning to open his eyes. "Is it over? Did we win?" His friend asked in confusion. He was looking around, clearly searching for Danala’s body, for any sign that she was dead.

"She’s gone." Michael told them all quietly.

"You better mean gone as in dead, not gone as in "Uhoh! She escaped and will return to haunt our dreams!" If Alex was joking, it meant he was going to be all right.

"She doesn’t exist anymore." Michael replied firmly.

"Michael." He realized that he was still holding Tess’ hand. He looked down at his sister. "Thank you." Her blue eyes were shining with unshed tears.

"Thank you." Michael returned. He looked across the chamber at Maria, who was crouched against Jennetta’s pod. Her eyes were open and she was staring at him, her lips pressed together.

Michael took a deep breath, went to join her. "Are you all right?" He asked as he knelt down next to her.

"That was some light show." Maria replied, her tone unreadable. "Is she really gone?"

"Yes."

"So how are we going to find out how to fix our daughter?" She asked him, licking her lips.

Michael sighed, pulled her into his arms. All the anger he had felt at her for not telling him the truth about Jennetta the moment she found out had drained away. There just wasn’t time for it.

Jennetta needed them strong and together.

"I don’t know." Michael finally told her, wishing above all things that he did.

Part 41

Max helped Liz to her feet. He saw Isabel and Alex move away to give them a little privacy. Kyle was already across the chamber talking to Tess.

"Are you okay?" He asked with concern. She was rubbing her eyes, clearly trying to refocus after the brightness that had filled the transformation chamber when Michael and Tess had destroyed Danala. Max gently stroked his hand across her eyes, healing the damage that had been done.

Liz blinked up at him. A radiant smile burst across her face. "I am now." She threw her arms around his neck. "I couldn’t get to you Max. I was so worried that you were going to do something to Tess that you’d regret." She eyed him seriously. "I’ve never seen you that angry Max. I was scared you were going to do something crazy."

Max remembered how he had been more than willing to die if it meant being with Liz again. He didn’t think he had better let her in on that little piece of information.

"And jumping in front of a bullet wasn’t crazy?" Max asked, raising an eyebrow at her.

Liz looked momentarily embarrassed, but her eyes were glinting with a hint of anger. "I had no choice. I was NOT going to lose you again. I don’t care if you don’t remember it Max. You are mine and I will do anything to protect you. You couldn’t explain what compelled you to heal me when I was shot the first time and I didn’t think before doing what I did. I would die for you." She said fiercely.

Max gazed down at her in amazement, his heart swelling with so much love for her that it nearly brought him to his knees. She didn’t know that he had his memory back! She didn’t care if he ever got it back. She would die for him. What had he ever done to deserve her?

"You know why I did it Liz." Max whispered, pulling her against him. She shivered as he spoke into her ear. "I was YOU. If I die tomorrow or fifty years from now my destiny will be the same. It’s you."
Liz had pulled back, was staring up at him, her mouth parted slightly in shock. "It will ALWAYS be you."

"Max!" He silenced her with a kiss. Her silky hair fell across his hands as he brought them up to cradle her beloved face.

The connection was instantaneous. He saw directly into her soul, saw her as a little girl, saw the first time she realized she loved him, saw the entire story that WAS Liz.

She broke the kiss, pulled his head down so that their foreheads were touching. "I love you. MY Max."

"Always." He kissed her again.

It took a moment for him to realize that someone was clearing their throat. Max brought his head up, pulled Liz close to his side. Isabel was standing there, looking a little disconcerted.

"I don’t want to interrupt guys, but I seriously think Michael is going to blow a gasket if you don’t get over there Jaxon."

Jennetta! Max started with guilt. How could he have forgotten about his sister?

Grabbing Liz by the hand, he hurried across the chamber. He called over his shoulder to his other sister. "By the way Iz. Its Max, if you don’t mind."

"WHAT!" He heard Isabel shriek. He knew that he was going to pay for THAT later.

Michael and Maria were standing near Jennetta’s pod, hopeless expressions on both of their faces. Michael had his arm around Maria’s shoulders. Max could tell that he was only holding it together for Maria’s sake. She was clearly on the verge of a breakdown.

Maria turned her stricken face to Max. "What are we going to do Max? My baby is going to be one of those zombies. If that witch Danala wasn’t gone I’d kill her myself."

"Your baby?" Alex and Isabel had come up beside them. Max had no idea where Tess and Kyle had disappeared to. Alex was staring at Maria in shock. "I think we missed that little tidbit."

"It’s a long story." Max said. "Suffice it to say for now that’s it true. Jennetta is Michael and Maria’s child." He looked at Michael warily. "How did you find out?"

Michael frowned slightly. "Not from where I should have apparently. Did you know about this too Maxwell?"

Max grimaced. "Er…I sort of found out when I tried to heal Maria earlier." Michael just sighed in annoyance.

"Why am I NOT surprised? I found a green orb near that Santa Anna Hot Spring." Michael explained. "When I touched it I got a bunch of flashes. All my memories for when we were on Illyria came back." He paused, looked pensive. "It was like they were stored in there or something."

Max felt dawning realization. "That was what I put in your bag before I threw you into the portal to come back." He grimaced. " I saw Tarsus fiddling with them before we came to get you to come back to Earth. I didn’t know what they were when I stole them from Tarsus. I thought that you guys might be able to use them to open the portal so that I could come home. I gave one to you too Maria." Max closed his eyes, anger burning through his veins as he realized that Tarsus had tricked him again. "Tarsus must have wanted me to take them, just pretended that he didn’t…"

"HOLD IT!" Isabel interrupted. "Let’s back up. Michael doesn’t seem to be the only one with his memory back. Max, how?"

Michael’s head jerked at that news. His eyes lit up with hope. "Is it true?" Maria didn’t react at all. She had moved directly in front of Jennetta’s pod and was tracing the little girl’s face through the transparent organic material.

"It came back when I healed Liz." Max explained. "The connection was so strong, it must have bumped everything back where it belonged."

"Return to where it all began…" Isabel was muttering under her breath. "Of course! That’s what Mother meant when she contacted me the first time."

"What?" Max asked, confused.

"Mother contacted me. It was how we knew that we had to go to Stonehenge to bring you back." Isabel explained. "We thought it was you at first but then I was able to contact her later too." Isabel suddenly looked upset. "Make the sacrifice." She looked at Michael in horror. "You don’t think she meant Jennetta? That we had to sacrifice her to get Max back?"

Michael’s mouth compressed into a thin line. "That is one sacrifice that I will not be making."

They all stared at each other uncomfortably. Max had no idea what to do. All he knew is that they couldn’t bring Jennetta out of the pod until the cleansing was complete. It would kill her…He didn’t know nearly enough about how the whole process worked, as it had never been successful on him. He had been brainwashed, but not cleansed.

"Isabel!" Michael exclaimed suddenly "Didn’t you talk to your mother by using the stones in the Henge?"

"Yeah, so?" Isabel said.

"I used the stone walls here to tap into enough energy to destroy Danala. You might be able to do it to contact your Mother." Michael said. "You can ask her if there’s any way to reverse the cleansing."

"We already know of a way." Maria said quietly.

Everyone whirled to stare at her. "What do you mean Maria?" Liz asked.

"Think Michael. How did your cleansing get reversed?" Maria’s face was expressionless. Max watched all the colour drain from his best friend’s face.

"The portal." He turned to Max suddenly. "Where are the orbs? We have to go back to Illyria."

"That won’t be necessary." Max felt Liz’s hand tense in his. A new voice had entered the conversation.

"Eddie!" Max glanced at Isabel uncomfortably. He was pretty sure that by now Eddie had some inkling of the truth about them, but it was still weird to see the Native American man staring at them all standing as they were in front of a bunch of pods.

"What are you doing here?" Michael demanded suspiciously. Max saw that he had moved to stand in front of Jennetta’s pod protectively. Alex put his arm around Isabel in a similar fashion.

Eddie just grinned, rolled his eyes. "You’d think that by now you’d know that things are NEVER as they appear."

Max felt his heart stop as Eddie’s hand came up and began to glow.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:08:54 PM
Part 42

Kyle approached Tess cautiously as everyone seemed to be getting their bearings back after the big "Bye-bye Danala" fireworks display.

She was watching Michael and Maria as they ran their hands over Jennetta’s pod, clearly trying to figure out how they were going to save her. Kyle stood quietly beside her, waited for her to speak.

"It’s my fault. My brother is going to lose his daughter because of me. How could I have been so stupid Kyle?" She asked, her tone sad.

"You did the right thing in the end." Kyle said quietly.

She whirled on him, her blue eyes flashing. "Try telling that to that little girl!" She snapped, whirling on her heel and running down the stone corridor that led out of the transformation chamber. Kyle was on her heels instantly.

He caught her arm just as she was about to escape out the stone doorway that led into the main passage. "You have no right to do this Tess."

She was trying to wrench away from him, but his words stopped her. "Do what?" She asked, sounding confused.

"Run."

Tess eyed him for a moment, blanched, then her expression became panicked. Her eyes were darting all over the place, seemingly anywhere but his face.

"TESS! You owe it to them to help fix this mess!" Kyle yelled. She flinched.

"No one wants me here anyway Kyle." She finally said quietly.

"And what am I?" He demanded. "Oh, I forgot. I’m just a pointless human." He paused, saw Tess’ eyes widen at his tone. "I know I might not be anyone important to you, but I want you here." Kyle could feel bitterness drifting into his voice, did his best to suppress it. "And Michael trusted you enough to ask you to help him get rid of the Wicked Witch of Dernia."

"He wasn’t thinking." Tess said stubbornly. "As soon as he remembers that I let Danala pod Jennetta he’s going to flip out on me." She paused, tears filling her eyes. "And Max is going to hate me for sure. For what he thought I did to Liz…for even letting Danala get near her."

Kyle felt like he had been belted in the stomach. "It always comes back to Max doesn’t it." He finally managed to say, keeping his voice steady with all his willpower. For the first time in his entire life he felt like crying over a girl. Even when Liz had dumped him it hadn’t been THIS bad. And he and Tess had never even kissed.

You are one hell of chump Valenti, he thought to himself. "To hell with it…" He muttered to himself. He let go of Tess’ arm, turned away to head back to join the others. "If you want to go, go…if you can’t put your faith in anyone, then you don’t deserve them anyway."

"Kyle…" He could hear some note of pity in Tess’ voice. It made him want to throw up.

"Just go." He walked away from her. He had his back to her, but he could tell she hadn’t moved.

"KYLE!" The tone of her voice was completely different. She sounded completely caught off guard. Kyle whirled in time to see Eddie walking swiftly past him. He didn’t even look at Kyle.

"What the…"

Tess had run up to join him.

"What is he doing here?" She asked, sounding frightened.

Kyle rolled his eyes. "Why do I have the feeling it can’t be good?" He started after Eddie at a fast clip.

"KYLE!" Tess yelled again.

Kyle sighed, turned. "Can I help you?" He asked sarcastically.

Tess was biting her lip, clearly undecided. Kyle felt his thoughts drifting to one of his many fantasies about kissing those lips…

Oh for…Don’t you have any self-respect you moron? Kyle asked himself. "Have you gotten over yourself yet?" He asked instead, being far meaner than he intended.

After all, it wasn’t her fault that she didn’t love him, that she loved Mr. Perfect, Max Evans. She had tried to get over it, but the ease with which she had re-embraced her destiny when Danala asked her to - well, it was pretty clear that she was never going to get over Max.

And hey, who could blame her? He was a saint - a bloody, fricking saint - one that Kyle even admired if he told himself the truth.

"I’m coming." She finally said, hurrying past him.

They arrived just in time to see Eddie raising his hand.

Kyle and Tess exchanged looks of horror. The native man had his back to them, but it was clear that he intended harm to their six friends, all of whom were huddled around Jennetta’s pod.

Kyle saw Max thrusting Liz behind him, saw Michael raising his own hand, but it was going to be too late…

And then the most unbelievable thing happened. Eddie began to shapeshift.

Isabel seemed to realize what was happening at the exact same time as Kyle because she launched herself at Michael, forcing him to put his own hand down…it had just begun to glow.

When the bright light of his transformation had dispersed, in Eddie’s place stood a young man with dark hair. He was shaking his head as though clearing it.

Kyle grabbed Tess’ hand, began to move closer cautiously. They were still too far away to hear what was happening.

But there was no way they could miss Maria’s shriek of joy. "REN!" She pushed Michael aside, threw herself at the new alien among them. She began to rain kisses all over his face. "Thank God! Thank God!"

Ren looked slightly uncomfortable, but he was laughing. "Please Maria…I’m not used to…" But Michael had already grabbed Maria by the waist and was hauling her off of him. He did not look pleased.

The alien called Ren, whom apparently Maria knew, turned to Max, bowing at the waist. "Your highness."

Max was frowning. "Where’s the real Eddie?" He demanded, clearly understanding something here that was beyond the rest of them.

Kyle and Tess had joined the group near the pod by now, so Kyle could see the shapeshifter’s face clearly. Ren looked sad for a moment. "I’m afraid he’s dead."

Kyle heard Liz gasp. "Poor Eddie!"

"Tarsus?" Max asked, his tone furious. When Ren nodded, he demanded. "When?"

"Last summer." Ren replied.

"Jesus…" Kyle heard Michael mutter.

"When did you get here?" Maria asked, interrupting the conversation. "Are you here to help us with Jennetta?"

Ren’s eyes took in the pod. They were gleaming strangely. "In a manner of speaking…" He replied.

Wonderful, thought Kyle, more alien double-speak. Half the time he didn’t know why they even bothered to speak English. It wasn’t like he ever understood half of what came out of their mouths.

"Who sent you?" Max asked.

"Your mother." Ren replied. "I followed you through the portal when YOU followed Jennetta. You didn’t think she would let you go unprotected did you?"

"But where were you?" Liz asked. "We didn’t see you…"

Ren eyed her, amused. Liz shifted uncomfortably. Max put his arm around her reassuringly. "So this is Liz?" Ren asked. "She is as lovely as I was led to believe." He could see that Liz looked embarrassed, tried to ease it. "I apologize your highness." Kyle raised an eyebrow at that. Liz eyes widened. Max had a half-smile on his face, as though he wasn’t surprised. "I awoke before the rest of you. The force of the explosion after a journey through the portal is not nearly as harmful for me as it is for you. I shapeshifted so that I blended with the stones in the Ring and followed you all when you awoke."

"Who cares about any of this?" Maria demanded, interrupting yet again. "What are we going to do about our daughter?"

"I’m afraid that there is very little that can be done other than to wait." Ren told her. He didn’t sound the least bit upset.

"WHAT?" Maria shrieked. "I won’t just let my baby be turned into a pod person!" Kyle grimaced. THAT had been piercing. He could see Michael’s nostrils flaring, as though he was trying very hard to hold onto his temper.

"Fear not my lady." Ren said soothingly. "Everything has turned out just as it ought. It is all coming to be as it was meant to…as it was written in the stars…"

"Are you telling me that my child is meant to be a zombie?" Maria shrieked again. She rounded on Michael. "I won’t have it Michael! I mean it…I’ll kill her first! My daughter is NOT going to be like Danala and all those freakish Dernians!"

Ren had advanced, touched Maria’s shoulder. She whirled, her face a mask of grief and rage. "Why did you even save her if this was what was going to happen anyway?" She yelled at him.

"My lady, please! You misunderstand…Jennetta is not being cleansed!" Ren told her pleadingly.

Michael clamped his hand over Maria’s mouth, effectively shutting her up, although she continued to struggle against him. Kyle could see that she was quickly becoming hysterical.

Max had finally stepped up as well. "I suggest that you do tell us what is going on then Ren." He eyed Maria with concern. She seemed to calm down slightly at the look Max gave her. Kyle frowned, wondering if alien voodoo had anything to do with it.

"The salvation of our planet." Ren replied seriously.

Part 43

"Is it possible for Czechoslovakians to give straight answers?" Liz heard Kyle mutter to Alex. Alex snorted.

Ren turned his dark eyes on Kyle. Kyle smirked, trying to look innocent. "I will try and explain."

"It better be quickly." Kyle replied, indicating Maria. "She looks like she’s about to explode." She was still struggling against Michael’s grip.

"Jennetta is undergoing a transformation but not the one you think." Ren told them. "These are not cleansing pods." He turned to Michael. "Are these the pods Tarsus used to cleanse you?"

After Michael nodded, Ren frowned. "I don’t understand how that was possible. These pods were meant for incubation, not cleansing." He pointed at the four dark pods sitting nearby. "Those were meant for Jaxon, Mirana, Tristandor and Sabrya. They are dark because the four of you matured naturally and therefore never had cause to use them."

Liz could feel Max tense beside her. "What do you mean we ‘matured naturally’?" He asked.

Ren appeared to be deep in thought. "The history is vague but from what I understand, the four of you were never meant to grow up human." He paused, clearly trying to straighten something out in his own mind. "My father was sent with you, was supposed to allow you break free naturally from your infancy pods and then repod you for complete maturation. But the Crash changed all that. My father and Silesa managed to hide both sets of pods before they were captured - as you have probably determined from these tunnels, our people have been to Earth many times before and my father and his companion knew it well, but not well enough to avoid detection for long. The Crash was impossible to mask. By the time my father managed to escape from the government, Silesa had been killed and Jaxon, Mirana and Tristandor had already broken free of their pods and were gone."

Liz felt a stab of shock. "His father?" She asked Max under her breath, although she had a good idea who Ren’s father had to be. Max squeezed her hand, acknowledging that he had thought of the same thing.

"Who is your father?" He asked. It was clear that everyone else was fine with Max taking control of this situation. It was what he did best.

Ren’s expression darkened. "My father was Laren -the one you knew as Nasedo."

Liz heard Tess gasp. "Knew? You don’t mean he’s dead too?" Liz glanced at the blonde, who looked to be on the verge of tears. Although he had likely not been much of a father, he was the only family Tess had ever known. Liz was surprised that Kyle made no move to comfort her. In the end Michael went and put his arm around her, dragging Maria along with him.

Maria was half in a daze anyway and didn’t seem to mind. She didn’t really seem to be taking any of the conversation in. She just kept her eyes glued on Jennetta, clearly looking for confirmation that her daughter still lived.

Tess glanced at Michael in confusion at first, but her face smoothed and she seemed to light up from within.

"Danala’s first act upon arriving on the Earth was to kill my father. Tarsus contacted her immediately after he assumed the old man River Dog’s form, which helped him in his plan to get close to you, by imitating someone you trusted. Danala came and tracked my father to the Special Unit where you had sent him and killed him." Ren told them stiffly.

"Nasedo warned us that there were beings searching for us." Max admitted. Liz could feel the guilt emanating from her boyfriend in waves. "I decided to activate them anyway."

Michael looked upset too, but was more angry when he interjected, "It wasn’t your fault Maxwell. Nasedo had the responsibility to tell us why it was so dangerous. Instead he abandoned us. Going to the Special Unit was clearly a mistake. We should have left town." Michael glared at Ren challengingly. "Nasedo should have made us!"

Liz eyed Ren worriedly. He had his lips pressed together, angry that his father was being disparaged, but his tone was even as he explained. "My father was programmed to obey Jaxon at all costs - even if it turned out to detrimental to the four of you."

Liz couldn’t help herself. "Why?" She asked. "Wouldn’t it have made more sense for Nasedo to be the one in charge? At least until Max and the other three were old enough and experienced enough to assume leadership?"

Ren smiled at her sadly. "Again no one counted on the Crash. My father’s main function was to protect the pods and repod the four when they broke free. All the memories they needed to rule and to return to Illyria were programmed into the second set of pods. My father was never supposed to have to make any decisions. The problem was that, although Milena trusted my father, Hamor, Jaxon and Mirana’s stepfather, did not trust him completely. He had already been a turn-coat once you see."

And Liz understood. "So Hamor made it so that it would be physically impossible for Nasedo to betray them."

"Indeed. We all make mistakes." Ren said quietly. "Mine was not to recognize earlier that my father had taken the true path, that cleansing was wrong and made the Dernians weak. Hamor’s was not to see that my father could be trusted."

"But this still doesn’t tell us what is going on with Jennetta." Michael inserted impatiently. "So she’s in some sort of incubation? How long does it last? What does it mean?"

"It is supposed to last the same time as the original podding." Ren replied, eyeing Jennetta’s pod, a worried expression on his face. "That is to say several months."

"But we were in our original pods for almost forty years!" Isabel exclaimed. She had obviously been listening closely to Ren, but this was the first time she had spoken. Liz knew that hearing about anything alien was hard for Isabel. She had always been the one who wanted nothing to do with her alien heritage. She liked being a human.

Ren just looked upset. "We have never been able to figure out what went wrong. Lucianus determined that it must have had something to do with space travel and time changes and all the things that are so hard to control in the infiniteness of space. Perhaps even the trauma of the Crash caused them to fail - or at least delayed them. They are organic after all."

"Which brings to mind another little question." Alex muttered. Everyone turned to look at him. He reddened slightly. "Sorry, keeping it shut over here."

"No Alex, we’re all a part of this now." Max said quietly. "What is it?"

Alex swallowed, but spoke up. "Well, I mean, why were you guys sent in a ship in the first place? How dumb was that, what with all the portals that everyone seems to be able to open all the time. It must have taken a really long time to get here…what was the point?" Alex seemed to be on a roll now. "Which also begs the question, what is up with all the indiscrepancies in time anyway? When you guys were gone," He indicated Michael and Maria, "It was like one hour here, but clearly a lot longer on Illyria." He nodded towards the pod. "Jennetta being the prime evidence of that."

"But Max was gone so much longer - close to a year on Earth." Liz added. "But when he came back he hadn’t aged by three hundred years."

They all turned back to Ren. The shapeshifter sighed. "This is a bit complicated." When they all still looked interested, he continued. "Briefly then - you were sent on a ship because only Jaxon and Mirana have ever had the gift of opening the portal. It is - and always has been - activated through the Waylandian Ring and only the true heirs of Ilyria, called the Blue Prince or Blue Lady - depending on sex - and the White Prince or White Lady, can activate it."

"And they couldn’t activate it because they were already dead." Kyle finished. He smirked at Max. Liz wanted to smack him. Kyle did not seem very inclined to be kind to Max since he had been back and Liz was sure that it had everything to do with Tess. She sighed.

"That still doesn’t explain the time differences." Max said, clearly ignoring Kyle.

Ren nodded, continuing. "When your essences were cloned and sent to Earth an interdict was passed on Illyria. That’s to say, basically time stopped. The planet was awaiting your return. Danala managed, somehow, to keep time going in Dernia however. It didn’t really matter one way or the other. Our lifetimes are so much longer that most of the people you knew in your first lifetimes would still have been around when you returned. The four would have lived for hundreds of years had their lives not been cut short violently. Your father was killed in much the same way. He was very young when he died, barely fifty years old, another victim of the conflict between my people and the Illyrians."

"Sort of like Chewbacca." Liz heard Alex say to himself. Again they all turned to stare at him. He held up his hands defensively. "Hey! Don’t blame me! Chewie was like three hundred years old in Star Wars!" Isabel rolled her eyes. "He was!" Alex exclaimed.

"And Yoda was over eight hundred." Kyle added. He smirked at Max again. "Apparently you guys are sort of like little green men after all."

"Kyle!" Liz glared at him. Liz glanced at Max. He actually looked amused, which seemed to annoy Kyle even more.

Liz noticed Tess watching the whole exchange, a strange look on her face.

"Anyway…" Michael began motioning with his hands for them to speed it up. "What you’re saying is that Jenny could be stuck in this thing…" He tapped the pod, "For fifty years?"

Ren just shook his head. "It cannot be speculated. I still cannot figure out how Tarsus managed to cleanse you in one of them Tristandor."

Liz could see Max’s face frowning pensively. "He must have altered them somehow."

"What do you mean?" Ren asked, seeming intrigued.

"When Michael was cleansed Tarsus had to make him go in a bunch of times, but when he tried to cleanse me it only took once." Max elaborated. "He told me at the time that it was because he was having some problems with the cleansing pods. He thought they had been damaged in the Crash. He obviously didn’t know that they weren’t cleansing pods at all. In the end he must have modified them somehow."

"Which could also explain why Michael’s cleansing was reversed with the journey through the portal. His cleansing was faulty to begin with." Maria spoke up. Everyone turned to stare at her. She had been quiet for so long Liz was sure that she had gone into a state of advanced shock.

"It makes sense." Ren nodded.

"I just have one question." Maria continued.

Ren smiled at her sympathetically. "Yes my lady?"

"How old were Michael and the others supposed to be when they emerged from their second podding?"

Ren grimaced. "Older." He said sadly.

"How old?" Maria demanded in a fierce voice.

"The age they were when they were killed." Ren swallowed, looking uncomfortable. "Jaxon, Mirana and Tristandor were all 21. Sabrya was 19."

"But Jennetta was never supposed to exist." Michael said. "How old is she going to be?" Liz could hear a note of fury beginning to creep back into his voice.

Ren licked his licks, clearly not eager to answer. "She was supposed to exist." He finally said cryptically.

Michael was breathing deeply. Liz could feel Max tensing up, preparing to stop Michael from attacking the shapeshifter, which he seemed on the verge of doing. Yet Michael’s voice was disturbingly calm when he said, "We’ll get into THAT later. I want to know how many years my daughter is going to lose."

Ren closed his eyes. Liz could tell that he was upset. Finally he spoke. "A random age was programmed…." He swallowed again and then spat out the horrible truth. "Jennetta will be 21 years old when she emerges from the pod."




posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:10:29 PM
Part 44

Max rubbed his eyes as he guided the Jeep down the highway. His mind was whirling with all the information Ren had provided over the last couple of hours. He knew that he would be mulling it over for days.

He had not absorbed the horror of the announcement Ren had made about Jennetta’s future. His little sister was losing her childhood, Michael and Maria were losing the joy of watching their daughter grow up…they had already lost so much. The unfairness of it was like a physical pain to Max.

And there was absolutely nothing any of them could do. It certainly wasn’t like they hadn’t tried to get Ren to give them some sort of hope that the process could be halted.

Maria had been the first to react to the news. Her eyes had rolled up in her head and she had fainted from the impact of her grief. Michael had barely managed to catch her before she hit the floor. Liz had left Max’s side, rushing to Maria.

Michael had let Liz take Maria in her arms, had let her talk soothingly to her best friend. The rage in his voice was barely controlled as he asked, "Why? Why is this happening to my daughter?"

"It’s her destiny." Ren replied, sounding upset that THEY were upset, but clearly a little confused as to WHY they were all so upset.

"Not that word! Please! Anything but that word!" Tess had shrieked from where she stood, near the maturation pod that might have originally been the one meant for her.

Michael had pressed his lips together. "How can this be her destiny?" He demanded. "She wasn’t supposed to exist! I was supposed to be with Isabel, not Maria. How can my half-human daughter be the ‘salvation of out planet’ as you so eloquently called her a while ago?"

Max had blinked, stared at Michael. This was not the act-first, think about consequences later Michael to whom he was accustomed. The whole ordeal he and Maria had endured together had matured him in a way that made him almost unrecognizable to Max.

The old Michael probably would have beaten Ren into a bloody pulp by now.

Maybe SOMETHING good HAD come of this whole catastrophe, although Max almost missed the old Michael. It would mean that none of this had ever happened. He would not have wished the tragedy his best friend had endured on anyone.

"It was a safety clause." Ren explained. "Although the Crash was not anticipated, it was determined that something MIGHT go wrong. If any of you were to die on the journey or during the maturation process, it was decided that the remaining three would be allowed to live out their lives on Earth. The Four were only capable of uniting the two factions as a unit." He glanced significantly at Jennetta. "And yet a ruler would still be needed." He paused, continued wryly. "It was hoped that at least one of the remaining four would produce a child - one that could be taken to Illyria and proclaimed the unifier."

"That still doesn’t explain anything about Jennetta…" Alex said. "How could it have been known that she would be born? And how could ANY child born on Earth be a unifier? It wouldn’t be half-Dernian/half-Illyrian, which seems to be what you have all decided is the answer to all the problems."

"The legend." Ren had explained. "It was always assumed that the Chosen One would be half-Illyrian/half-Dernian because it was known that it would be a child of mixed blood. The annals never specified what specific conditions were attached to being the Chosen One, only that it would be a child of two heritages. No one counted on the fact that it would be half-human." He paused again. "Except for Lucianus, which is why he insisted that a fifth pod be sent."

"What?" Isabel had asked the question they were all thinking. "What on Earth are you talking about? What do humans have to do with any of this?"

Ren had raised an eyebrow. "You cannot tell me that you have not all wondered why everyone on Earth looks exactly like everyone on Illyria? Or why Earth was chosen as your destination in the first place your highness?"

Michael and Max had exchanged looks. "Well, I guess I haven’t…" Max finally replied, feeling a little sheepish.

Ren had looked perplexed that they were all so dense. "Earth was an Illyrian colony."

"So the X-Files are true!" Alex had exclaimed. "I knew it!" When everyone had turned to glare at him, he reddened. "Er - sorry."

"The portal was created specifically for that reason." Ren had explained. "Our explorers came here many thousands of years ago, so long ago that the Dernians as a faction did not even exist yet, to build the Ring that would receive the portal that only the true heirs could open. It was hoped that travel between the two worlds would be frequent and beneficial to both planets, but something needed to be done to overcome the problem of time loss that results from space travel. Stonehenge, as the Ring on Earth has been called, was meant to receive the portal so that the energy from the stones could absorb the lost time." He had paused again, looking pained. "Unfortunately the humans were so unadvanced at that stage that the whole project was deemed worthless and Illyria abandoned the plan."

"That still doesn’t explain why Illyrians look like humans." Liz had put in from where she was still holding Maria. Maria was no longer unconscious, although she looked slightly dazed. Max could tell that she was listening to what was going on around her though.

Ren had shrugged. "It was why Earth was chosen. The Illyrian genetic make-up is so similar, it was determined that it was the best planet with which to make contact. Dernians are of course shapeshifters, but our genetics are very closely linked as well. Illyrians used to have the ability but have lost it over the millenia from lack of use." He had looked at Liz, Alex, Maria and Kyle significantly. "Even HUMANS have the ability. They have many aspects of their brains that they do not access. It is the great tragedy of the species as a whole." Ren glanced at Jennetta. "But Lucianus knew that humans would still have a role to play in our history."

"Nasedo told me something similar - about the untapped reaches of the human mind I mean." Michael had told Max. He looked at Jennetta, floating peacefully in her pod. A deep despair seemed to come over him. Max clenched his jaw. His own sadness was growing. "Jenny - or any other child born to any of us - has always been doomed then."

"Who is Lucianus?" Liz had asked.

"Lucianus is the beginning and the end." Ren replied evasively.

"In English please." It was Kyle who had spoken up at this point. He was shaking his head. "I mean, can’t they ever just spit it out?" Max eyed him for a minute, concerned. Kyle had been behaving strangely ever since he had returned to the transformation chamber with Tess. He looked like he was about to snap at any moment.

"I don’t really know how to put it into words. Lucianus is the power of the Ring in Illyrian form." Ren had explained, shaking his head. "That’s not really right though either."

"He isn’t…God?" Liz had asked quietly. Max had felt his heart stop. He stared at Liz. The expression on her face was unreadable.

"No. Not exactly. He is not the Creator." Ren replied, scratching his neck. "He is energy, maybe a small part of the Creator."

"Why is he on Illyria?" Max had managed to ask.

"Is he not everywhere?" Ren had shot back. He clearly wanted to change the subject, it being one with which he was uncomfortable. Max had realized that Ren’s manner of being in control of a situation was by knowing about every little in and out of the story. Things he did not understand, he preferred to ignore and just accept.

But then who didn’t have a little bit of that in them?

"Anyway, Tristandor, I must disagree with you that Jennetta is doomed." Ren had told Michael.

Max had felt an overwhelming sense of relief sweep through the transformation chamber. "Then the transformation can be stopped?" Maria had asked, as Liz helped her to her feet.

"No." Ren had stared at her. "What I meant was that she is to be the Chosen One, the saviour of our people. She will know all of this when she emerges from the pod. She will be ready to take her place on the throne of Illyria, will unify the people and bring peace to the planet."

"But she’s only a little girl." Maria had said. "She’s my baby. I barely know her." Max had seen the tears welling in her eyes. Michael had reached out, pulled her into his arms. Max had felt a flash of pain from Liz’s direction, knew that she was grieving for her friend.

Liz had come and taken his hand, looking for comfort, frustrated that she could do nothing to help Maria and Michael.

"But what of us?" Max had asked. "If Jennetta is to sit on the throne, are none of us needed anymore?" He realized that he didn’t care one way or the other. He had absolutely no intention of returning to Illyria, come hell or high water. But he was curious to know how they could be replaced so easily.

"I don’t know." Ren frowned slightly. "I only know that Lucianus foresaw that Jennetta would be the one."

"It might be nice for Lucianus to pop in right about now." Alex had muttered. Isabel had pinched him warningly. "Again, sorry. Frustration being vocalized in unnecessary angst."

Max and Liz had both been watching Michael and Maria with concern. The despair that surrounded them was almost suffocating.

"Michael…" Max had finally said, trying to find out what his friend wanted them to do.

There was silence for a moment. And then, "I think we need to be alone with her for a while Maxwell."

Ren had interjected then. "I cannot leave her. I am her bodyguard."

Max had intervened firmly. "You can leave her for one night." He told the shapeshifter.

"But Tarsus is likely trying to find a way through the portal." Ren had argued. "He will know that Danala has been destroyed."

"One night." Max had repeated. Ren scowled, but nodded finally nodded his head.

"Yes your highness."

And they had all left, Max telling Michael that they would be back first thing in the morning.

Now, Liz was quiet beside him in the passenger seat, although her hand was resting on his leg as though she couldn’t stand not to have some sort of physical contact with him. He was glad, because he felt exactly the same way.

In the back seat Isabel had fallen asleep with her head on Alex’s shoulder. Alex was staring off into the pitch black desert night, silent, as they all had been since they had left the Reservation. Kyle, Tess and Ren were following in the Mustang.

"How can things ever go back to normal after this Max?" Liz asked him quietly, shattering the unnatural stillness that had permeated the car.

"They can’t Liz." Max picked up the hand that was resting on his leg, brought her palm to his lips. "But as long as we’re all together, somehow we’ll work it out."

Liz was quiet for a moment longer and then she said, "I want you to promise me that if you ever leave again, that if you ever decide you have to go back there, that you’ll take me with you."

"Liz…"

"I mean it. I know that you would never break a promise to me. It’s why you didn’t promise that you’d be back the first time you left. You didn’t know for sure that you’d be able to come back." Max turned his head, looked at her lovingly, before he turned his eyes back to the road. "So I’m not getting out of this car until you promise me."

The lights of the city were appearing ahead of them. Max felt his heart swell.

His home. Roswell was his home. EARTH was his home.

It was where he had found Liz, his true love, the one person in the universe who completed him…

He would never leave it again.

"I’m not going anywhere." He told Liz firmly.

"Max! That’s NOT a promise!" Liz’s voice was rising.

Max smiled slightly to himself. If Liz Parker was anything, she was stubborn. "I promise that I will never leave YOU again." He turned to look at her again. "I swear it. And if that means that you have to come across the universe with me, well, I guess that’s what will happen."

But I’m not going anywhere, Max thought to himself. And neither is Jennetta, if I have anything to say about it.

Part 45

"Michael?" Maria’s voice was soft as she spoke. She wasn’t sure whether he was asleep or not.

They had not spoken a word since the others had left a couple of hours before. Michael had simply backed up into one of the stone walls near Jennetta’s pod, sliding to the floor, without saying a word.

It was like he had given up. His expression was completely blank as he continued to stare at Jennetta in her pod. Maria had gone to sit beside him. She had jumped when he had put his arm around her shoulders, pulling her up close to his side.

And that was how they had sat, both reluctant to take their eyes off their daughter, in case they missed something that would help them to stop whatever was happening to her.

"Hmmmm…"

"Can you see anything happening?"

This was what Maria had been looking for for the past few minutes; any sign that Jennetta was changing physically in any way. But she didn’t look any different. The only thing was that her face had lost the animation that had been such a large part of who she was. She did not look to be in any sort of pain; only serene and oblivious to what was going on around her.

"No." Michael replied gruffly.

"I wonder how long it will be before she starts to change." Maria shivered at the thought of it, the thought that her daughter was going to start maturing until she was actually older than Maria herself.

It was just WRONG - on every level.

Maria knew that she had not been very strong up to this point. She had become nearly hysterical when Ren had first told them there was nothing they could do to stop what was happening to Jennetta. And then she had fainted…

She, Maria Deluca, had fainted. What was up with that?

"I don’t know." Michael told her. "I would guess it would be soon if the pods are working right. If they aren’t…well, it could be years."

They were quiet for a while longer. It was not an uncomfortable silence but there was something underlying that had to be addressed. Maria didn’t know if this was the right time to do it, but she didn’t know if she could stand to have any sort of conflict between she and Michael. Not now.

It was ironic really. Her entire relationship with Michael over the two years that they had been together off and on had revolved around conflict. It was one of the things she loved most about him - that he nearly drove her crazy on a regular basis. He challenged her.

And yet now, the last thing in the world she wanted to do was fight with him.

But if that was going to stop they were definitely going to have to master the art of communication.

Max and Liz had done it. They didn’t even have to talk and they were in perfect sync. But the bond that existed between those two was not something that Maria could ever hope to approximate.

What Max and Liz had was not normal. It was something apart. Those two were in many ways, quite literally, one soul divided into two bodies - to the point that Maria did not think that they could live without each other. She was still convinced that the only reason that Liz had survived their separation while Max was on Illyria was because she somehow KNEW that he would come back to her someday.

Maria had often complained to Michael that he should be more like Max. But that wasn’t what she wanted really. All she wanted was the chance to be with him, the chance to share something with him.

And Jennetta had been that chance.

But now that chance was gone and it was all up to Maria again. She could not depend that their daughter would bind him to her. For all they knew Jennetta WOULD leave when she came out of her pod. They couldn’t read the future.

Maria could not depend on him staying around because he loved their daughter. She was going to have to do it herself.

It was scary.

"Michael?"

"What Maria." His tone was not annoyed, just exhausted. Maybe this wasn’t the time…

"Why didn’t you tell me about Jennetta when you found out?" She couldn’t stop the words from tumbling from her mouth. She flinched, felt him stiffen beside her. She couldn’t look at him.

"Why didn’t you?" Michael finally asked, not answering her question.

"Michael! Why can’t you just answer me?" Maria demanded, shocked by the intensity of the fury that coursed through her. She knew that it wasn’t anger at Michael…it was anger about the unfairness of the entire situation in which they found themselves. And yet she couldn’t control herself. "You always shut me out! Would you even be here if it wasn’t for Jennetta?"

Maria pulled away from him, keeping her back to him. She tried to control the tears that threatened to pour from her eyes.

Michael didn’t say anything for a long time. Maria wondered if he actually HAD gone to sleep.

So help me…if he’s asleep…

Maria jumped at the sound of his voice. "Maria, I want you to tell me why you didn’t tell ME." His tone was urgent.

"Why?" Maria demanded, jumping to her feet and whirling on him.

Michael stared up at her, his expression unreadable. "Because I’m guessing it was for the same reason that I couldn’t tell you."

Maria froze. Finally she whispered, "I think I knew that she wasn’t going to be ours for good." Maria paused, horrified. But it was true, somehow, deep down, she had known that they were going to lose her…

And more than she couldn’t bear that for herself…she couldn’t bear it for Michael.

She couldn’t bear the thought of the pain she knew that he would feel.

Michael had climbed unsteadily to his feet. His eyes were bright. Maria realized that it was with tears.

"Me too." He continued to stare at her, until she couldn’t stand it anymore. She threw herself against his chest and sobbed out her grief at the fact that while their daughter would live, she would never be theirs.

Jennetta belonged to her planet. Just like Max, Isabel, Michael and Tess had always belonged to Illyria.

The Royal Four had escaped their destiny, but only because they were sacrificing something even greater than themselves.

They were sacrificing their future, in the form of a small child, one who would not be small for much longer.

"We’re… going to have to…to give her up Michael." Maria finally managed to say after she had cried herself dry, hiccuping twice before she could get it out.

"I know."

There was another long silence.

"Why us?" Maria asked eventually.

"Because we’re the ones who would KNOW how big a sacrifice it is." Michael replied, sounding more sure than Maria had ever heard him. "Max and Liz…they would be devastated, but for them, giving each other up would be even worse. They’ve had to do it once already. They made their sacrifice."

"But us?"

Michael pulled back, looked steadily at her face. "Be honest Maria…if you knew that we could keep her forever, but the price was that we could never be together…would you do it?"

"Yes." Maria said without hesitation.

Michael smiled weakly. "Me too."

Michael sank back against the wall, bringing Maria down with him. "You know," Maria said after a while, "I don’t think it’s about Liz and I making sacrifices at all."

"What do you mean?" Michael asked, sounding angry. "You both have given up just as much as me and Max."

"Well, duh. I mean, I know that, but I don’t think your people particularly care about us." Maria replied. "I think it’s all about you and the other three sacrificing…I mean, think about it. Max gave up Liz by going back to Illyria. You’re giving up Jennetta. Tess gave up her dream of Max and destiny and family. And Isabel gave up her mother." She paused, thinking hard. "You all made the ultimate sacrifice to save your planet. Your sacrifices resulted in Jennetta - the Chosen One."

"Hmmmm…" Michael snorted. "Nice planet I come from…I’m damn glad I never have to go back."

"But think about it Michael…if it’s true, then maybe we won’t have lost Jennetta forever. Max got Liz back, Isabel has regained some sort of contact with her mother AND has Mrs. Evans….and Tess has US to replace her family." Maria could feel herself beginning to get excited. "Maybe we just have to be willing to make the sacrifice but in the end it won’t happen!"

Michael pulled her more tightly against him. He rested his chin on top of her head. Maria felt her eyes drift back to her little girl, so quiet and yet so peaceful in her pod. She knew that Michael was looking at her too. "I hope so." He finally muttered.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:12:18 PM
Part 46

West Roswell High, New Mexico - February 2002 - Six Months later

Liz hurried down the empty corridor, already tardy for AP English. She and Alex had left campus for lunch at Senor Chow’s because Alex had a coupon that expired that day, but their waitress had been so slow, in the end their idea of a leisurely meal had flown out the window. They had practically wolfed down their food but they were still late.

"See that your dad never hires that girl at the Crashdown." Alex had ordered as he had rushed away from her on his way to Computer Programming.

Liz had almost reached her class when an arm suddenly reached out from a nearby doorway, grabbing her and hauling her into a vacant classroom. Liz barely had time to gasp before Max’s lips were on hers.

As was always the case, all thoughts of being responsible instantly flew out of Liz’s mind. Max’s warmth, his scent infiltrated her senses, making her dizzy.

The flashes began almost immediately.

In the past, flashes had been solitary events, either brought on by great stress or interesting circumstances - if you could qualify finding a "damn orb," as Maria had dubbed them, an interesting circumstance…but now - they were as natural as breathing.

When Max and Liz’s commitment had solidified, the flashes had become a normal part of every moment they spent together. They heightened the connection that existed between them and Liz would not have traded them for a million dollars. She knew him inside and out because of them - not only who Max Evans was, but also who Jaxon Falconer, King of Illyria had been, for those memories were still intact as well.

Liz also loved that Max knew everything there was to know about her. It had been scary at first, to have yourself be so naked and vulnerable to another person, but in the end she would have it no other way.

Plus, it was darn fun seeing some of the dirty thoughts Max had about her.

Liz finally pulled away, scolding jokingly. "I’m sorry sir but I have a boyfriend and I don’t think he would be very happy to find me in here with you. You really must learn not to accost young ladies." She knew the smile on her face in no way matched her tone, but she couldn’t help it. She had no control of her happiness where Max was concerned. When she was with him, she was happy. When she wasn’t with him, she was happy that she soon would be. That was all there was to it.

Max gazed at her with hooded eyes. "Don’t you know about my reputation miss?" He asked teasingly. "I’m honouring you with my presence…you should be grateful! Your boyfriend would more than understand. I mean, I am the FAMOUS Max Evans."

Liz smirked at him. Max was referring to the infamous photos of them that Pam Troy - aka Danala - had posted on the Internet all those months ago. Max had still been missing during that little horror show, but he had definitely heard about it.

Oh, had he heard.

Only several days after he had set foot back in West Roswell as a matter of fact… which had been two days after they had destroyed Danala and Jennetta went into the pod. He had not wanted to leave her, but Liz had finally convinced him that it was up to Michael and Maria to look after his little sister.

It was the way they wanted it and they all had to respect it. They would help as much as the pair wanted them too, but it had to be Michael and Maria’s decision.

Liz had reminded him that not only was he half a year behind his classmates in school because of his months on Illyria, he had also been flunking most of his classes when he HAD been at school. This, of course, had all been part of his anti-Max act, but obviously no teacher was going to accept that excuse. And so Max Evans had spent most of the last six months desperately trying to catch up on almost a year’s worth of school work on top of his Senior Year work, hoping that he would still be able to graduate with his class.

Unfortunately Max was too darn honest to use his scanning ability to make his task a little easier, but then that was one of the things Liz loved about him. But it did mean that he was often exhausted.

It didn’t help that he had insisted on returning to work at the UFO Museum and that he also drove out to the Transformation Chamber at least once a day to check on Jennetta and Ren, the latter having set up camp within the Chamber to guard the precious one housed there. And this was on top of his shifts looking after Jennetta anyway.

And then there was the fall-out from Max’s return from the dead…and those infamous pictures.

Max had entered the school on that first day encircled protectively by Isabel, Alex, Tess and, of course, Liz. Liz had even convinced Kyle to meet them at the front doors although he had been strangely missing in action during the two days since they had defeated Danala.

People had been thrilled to see Max. Before the anti-Max routine, he had been very popular. Sure he had been quiet and mysterious, but everyone knew that he was just about the nicest guy in the world. That sort of thing could not be hidden. Which was why the anti-Max behaviour had been so shocking and extreme…

They had all read the headlines in the newspaper, had seen it on the news: MIRACLE RETURN OF PRESUMED DEAD LOCAL TEENAGER. The papers in Albuquerque had picked up the story. Liz had been shocked to even see a report of the story on a network newscast a few days later, it clearly having been of enough human interest for Peter Jennings to talk about it.

Everyone was looking for miracles it seemed.

The Sheriff had done his best to shield the Evans from the brunt of the publicity, but they had been forced to endure it for several days.

And then when the kids at West Roswell had finally started to simmer down about Max’s miraculous return, they had begun to notice that not only was Max Evans back from the dead, but clearly so was his relationship with Liz Parker.

It had been their own fault really. Max and Liz had barely managed to keep their hands off of each other half the time. They had just spent so much time apart, had not really been together and half-way safe since the time before Tess had appeared in Roswell almost two years before. They couldn’t help it. And it was noticed immediately of course…

And certain people took it to mean something that they shouldn’t…mainly people that had known Pam Troy.

Liz still hadn’t found her journal. Tess had searched Danala’s belongings, which had been stored in the Pod Chamber, but the book of the history of Max and Liz had not been among them.

Liz remembered the exact moment Max had first heard that practically the entire school had seen those pictures.

They had all been sitting in the quad eating their lunch about two weeks after D-Day as Alex had taken to calling that horrible event, it being short for Danala Day. No one thought it was very funny, but they couldn’t exactly go around talking about it openly otherwise. Destroy Evil Alien Day had just not seemed appropriate somehow.

A routine had begun with everyone sharing the job of sitting with Jennetta because, although they wanted to, Michael and Maria had determined that they could not keep her a secret, look after her AND lead semi-normal lives to keep that secret at the same time, and thus had had to delegate. Clearly Ren was always there, but no one wanted Jenny to be alone when she first came out of the pod.

Alex and Isabel had been on duty and therefore were not sitting with them, but the rest of the gang was there, including Michael and Maria. Even Kyle had deigned to join them, although his distance had been increasing with every day. Liz knew that it had everything to do with Tess, but she had no idea what to do to help that situation.

It had been equally clear to Liz that TESS had not known what to do about the awkwardness between the two of them and so chose to ignore it. This had resulted in Kyle being even more hurt and pulling away from the whole group.

Because, as Kyle had told Liz when she had confronted him about it, Tess didn’t have anyone else. Kyle would survive without the group, but Tess wouldn’t. Liz had gone over to Max’s and cried on his chest about how sad she felt for her friend. Max had stroked her hair and told her that it would all work out if it was meant to…just look at them.

And so, the grouping on that particular day had been strange. Tension had been in the air. Michael had been grumpy for days, and while no one blamed him, it was still hard to deal with. Maria was no longer MARIA. She was quiet and sad and barely spoke at all. Tess had been chattering, trying to erase the unnatural silence and Kyle had been staring everywhere but at Tess. Max and Liz were holding hands, both upset at what their friends had come to.

They had all been jerked from their respective funks when Sandy Snell and Julie Lucas, two of Pam Troy’s lackeys if Liz remembered correctly, although it was hard too because Pam had always failed to keep friends for very long, had come marching up to them. They had looked frightened but determined as well.

"What did you do to Pam? Everyone’s been treating you like gold just because you disappeared Max Evans, but we don’t care!" Sandy had said, her voice dripping with venom. "I know you did something to her and that your crazy group of friends helped you!" She had stated, staring straight at Max.

Liz had felt Max flinch.

Pam Troy was another problem that had yet to be resolved. They had no idea what Danala had done to the girl when she had assumed her form. They had already determined that the Pam Max had dated was the REAL Pam. Although they were fairly sure Michael and Tess’ evil sister had murdered her, they had no idea where her body was. And they also had no idea what to do if Pam’s body WAS ever found.

The Sheriff had helped them, but they all felt terrible having to tell the Troys that Pam had run away. And yet there had been little else they could do. Liz knew that while Max had despised her, his guilt over Pam’s fate was yet another burden added to the heavy load he already carried.

"What the hell are you talking about Snell? Get lost!" Kyle had sneered, trying to rid themselves of she and Julie. But Liz had felt her heart go out to Pam’s friends despite herself.

She certainly had hated Pam, having been her victim once upon a time, but no one had deserved the end Danala had likely visited on her.

Sandy had flinched, clearly slightly intimidated by Kyle and his social status. She knew that he could ruin her, but Liz had to admire her backbone, if not her next words, when she continued. "I mean, I think you thought Pam was responsible for those pictures and now that you and Liz are back together, you wanted to get rid of her."

Liz had felt Max tense up. "What pictures?" He had asked Liz under his breath.

But Michael had spoken up at this point. "You’re crazy woman! Who the hell would ‘take care’ of someone over something like that?"

Sandy had stared at him. "I didn’t think you had killed her or anything…just that you made her run-away somehow." Her eyes widened and she looked terrified. "Did you kill her?"

Michael had snorted, rising and getting ready to leave. "I don’t have time for these high school dramas." He pulled Maria to her feet. Maria had eyed Max sympathetically before they left.

"We’ll be with Jenny!" She called to Liz as they disappeared.

"We’re sorry." Liz finally said gently. "We don’t know where Pam is."

Sandy’s eyes had filled with tears. Julie had taken her by the arm, pulling her away. "I’m sorry." Julie told them. "She’s just really upset."

"I didn’t know Pam Troy had any real friends." Tess said after the foursome of she, Kyle, Liz and Max had sat for several moments in uncomfortable silence.

"I guess everyone has SOMEONE who cares about them." Liz replied, squeezing Max’ hand. She could feel his curiosity about those pictures that Sandy had mentioned, but also his guilt over Pam. She knew exactly what he was thinking. If he wasn’t who he was, innocent people wouldn’t be getting hurt.

River Dog. Eddie. Pam…even Nasedo and Silesa and her mate, who had died protecting him and Isabel and Michael and Tess. Liz knew that he carried the weight of their sacrifice around with him constantly.

That was just Max.

And that was when the rumours had started again. They were all sure that Sandy was responsible. Liz had had to tell Max all about the web-site. He had been horrified at first, that their privacy had been violated in that way. He had also been aware of the danger of Liz’s journal’s still missing status. But eventually he had started to see the humour in the situation, even had started to tease Liz about it because it still made her blush.

But as Max had told her finally: "I don’t care if people see how much I love you Liz. I mean, they can see it when I LOOK at you. They are probably assuming that we do that stuff anyway."

"How can you be so calm about this?" Liz had asked, reddening just thinking about it.

"I have other things to think about." Max had replied, pulling her to him and showing her EXACTLY what he was thinking about.

Things had slowly begun to return to normal, despite all the questions they still had.

They had exhausted Ren’s knowledge about what was happening to Jennetta. The transformation had begun. It had been Max who had first noticed the difference, he being the one who still knew her the best. It was slow, but she was definitely maturing.

She looked about thirteen at the present stage. It was disturbing and unnatural, but it was still Jennetta…and with every passing day she looked more like Maria. Her colouring was still all Michael, but her face was almost an exact replica of her mother’s.

Maria had cried when Isabel had pointed it out.

The other major concern was Tarsus. Max knew him, knew that he would not take Danala’s destruction lightly. Their fear of his return had calmed down slightly when Ren had reminded them that only Isabel and Max could open the portals.

"He got here the first time." Max had replied darkly. "And so did Danala…and I KNOW that Izzy didn’t bring them."

"Tarsus followed you on a ship the first time. He had been on Earth for decades, searching for you. He only found you when you activated the orb the first time." Ren had explained.

"And Danala?" Liz had inquired, knowing exactly what Max was thinking.

Ren had frowned. "Hmmmm…"

And they had left it at that….and so they worried.

Now as Liz threw her arms around Max’s neck and kissed him again, all these worries interfered again.

Max pulled back slightly, bringing his forehead to rest against hers. "What’s wrong Liz?"

Liz sighed, brought her hand up to touch his face lovingly. "The usual."

Max took her hand, smiled weakly. "I take it by that you mean the English test you are presently missing?" Liz eyed him seriously, knowing that he was just trying to cheer her up. He was so strong…always worrying about everyone else before himself.

But clearly right now he wanted to forget their problems. She would let him…for now.

"I guess I better go." She replied reluctantly.

"Hmmmm…" Max brought her hand to his lips, kissing her palm lightly. "I’ll only let you go if you promise to accompany me on a lovely carriage ride out to the desert later this afternoon milady."

Welcome back problems, Liz reflected ruefully. She and Max were on the evening shift with Jenny…

"You have a deal your highness." Liz replied with false cheer.

As Max walked Liz to her class, they both paused as they noticed Tess at the far end of the corridor staring into a classroom.

She must have felt their presence because she turned, saw them, and then whirled, running outside through the double-doors nearby.

"What was that all about?" Liz asked worriedly.

Max sighed. "I guess I’d better go see." He pulled her in for one last kiss. "I’ll see you later."

Liz watched him walk away, feeling the combination of complete happiness that being with Max engendered within her and sadness that nothing could ever be just normal.

It never would be again.

Part 47

Max paused briefly outside the doors of the school, surprised to see that Tess hadn’t run very far. She was sitting on a bench on the front lawn, staring off into space, a sad look on her pretty face.

He knew that whatever was upsetting her was not about he and Liz. Liz had told him that Tess had accepted that he would not be with her long ago. It was why Liz had somehow known during the whole time that it looked like Tess was betraying them that she was not. All the stuff with Danala had been a momentary back-step…something Tess had not been able to resist for a time, that feeling of being important…of being needed.

Tess had not had that feeling for a long while - had not had it since it had become clear that Max was never going to fall in love with her, that she was never going to be the "bride", that all that she had ever been raised to be was not going to come about. Danala had given it back to her briefly, but she had managed, in the end, to see it for the lie it was.

Max knew that Tess had never been in love with him - and that now SHE knew it too.

And so this had to be about Kyle.

He didn’t know what to make of Kyle half the time. He didn’t know what had gone down between Kyle and Tess on the day Danala had been destroyed, but whatever it was, it had not been good. He knew that Kyle was trust-worthy and loyal, but Max also knew that it was not to HIM. Kyle cared about Liz and Maria and Alex - even Michael and Isabel, having bonded with them during the period when Max had been on Illyria - but he only tolerated Max.

Max knew that Kyle was grateful that he had once saved his life, but that didn’t mean that they would EVER be friends. Kyle had some gripe with him that it was unlikely would ever disappear. And Max couldn’t blame him. If he had been dating someone like Liz, only to find out that she had a soulmate about to enter her life - well, hell, he would have been pissed too.

And yet, somehow Max knew that none of this was about Liz either. It was about Tess.

It was Tess that Kyle loved - or so Liz had told him anyway. From the way Max had seen Kyle behave around Tess since he had had his memory back, he had trouble believing it.

He had even told Liz so. She had just smiled affectionately at him, clearly thinking he was an idiot.

"Max, how did you behave around me before I knew the truth about you?" She had asked, raising a delicate eyebrow at him,

Max had felt confused. "I don’t know. I guess I sort of stayed away from you." He had finally replied, having no idea what she was talking about. Of course that was not entirely true. He hadn’t approached her anyway, well, except in Bio lab, but he had certainly not stayed away. Michael used to joke that they should have a reserved table at the Crashdown because Max always wanted to go there to ogle the waitresses.

"But you loved me?" Liz asked.

"Of course. You know that."

They had been on Liz’s balcony, curled up together on the chaise lounge. She had sat up as soon as they had begun this conversation though and was staring down at him incredulously.

"So then why did you stay away from me?" Liz had inquired mischievously.

"To keep you safe." Max had replied instantly, sure that was the right answer.

Liz just grinned. "Sorry. Wrong." She leaned down and planted a gentle kiss on his lips to make him feel better, and although he was slightly distracted, he felt a twinge of annoyance.

Max had frowned at her. "I am NOT wrong. I think I know what was going through my own mind!" He had replied, knowing he sounded miffed.

Liz had just continued to smile tolerantly. "But no one knew anything about your Czech status then Max. And you and I were barely friends…we were just school buddies. Why would you have to keep me safe?"

Max had opened his mouth to reply, but then frowned, remembering suddenly exactly WHY he used to stay away from Liz.

"I didn’t think that someone like you could ever be interested in someone like me." He finally said quietly, looking up at Liz. He and Liz had gone through so much together since then, he had almost forgotten what it had been like to be that boy - madly in love with someone he was sure he was never going to have in his life. Liz had been smart and popular and so breathtakingly beautiful AND dating the captain of the football and basketball teams - he had been a nobody. That wasn’t even bringing into account his other-worldly origins, which should have been the biggest obstacle of all. "And so I didn’t even try - I just wanted to keep the dream alive by not doing anything about it." He continued, feeling a little sad for that boy he had been.

It had sucked.

Liz’s eyes were shining down at him. "You were so dumb." She had gently touched his face. His heart had swelled at the love he had seen in her gaze as she leaned down again, her silky, dark hair falling around them like a curtain. "I was born to be yours and you were born to be mine." She had whispered, kissing him nearly senseless.

But that conversation had come back to him later and he knew now exactly what Liz had been getting at. Kyle was distancing himself from Tess because he loved her and he was sure that she would never feel the same way. The hurt was too much to deal with and so he stayed away.

And yet the look on Tess’ face told him that Kyle had nothing to worry about.

Max had glanced into the classroom Tess had been staring into as he had chased after her. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what had upset her.

It was a study hall. The teacher was busy marking at her desk and was virtually ignoring what the students were doing.

But of course the teacher had not interested Tess. Kyle was in there, surrounded by three cheerleaders, all giggling, one of them actually on his lap.

And yet, although Kyle had been laughing, Max had seen the distance on his face. He was not happy.

Max realized that Tess had become aware of his presence. She did not try to flee though. She was just gazing at him, her expression blank.

Max walked over slowly, indicated the seat beside her. "Mind if I join you?"

Tess pursed her lips momentarily, but nodded. "No." She looked away. "I take it Liz sent you." She paused. "I don’t know why that girl is so nice to me. I almost killed her."

Max touched her shoulder lightly. She turned to look at him, her face still unreadable. "But you didn’t. And she didn’t send me."

A flash of surprise crossed Tess’ face before she managed to suppress it. Max didn’t blame her. He and Tess were not on bad terms, but it had taken him a while to get over the rage he had felt at her when he had thought that she had murdered Liz.

He would have killed her then - and painfully too.

And so he had left her alone and she had kept her distance from him. She and Michael were extremely close now and she and Isabel were getting back to the friendship they had shared when they had first met. Maria was preoccupied with other things, but Tess and Alex had developed a fairly close friendship as well. Max thought it was because Alex remembered how it had felt to be an outsider, way back when they had all been lying to him at the beginning of their sophomore year.

That had affected Alex far more deeply than he let on, Max knew. He was the most loyal of them all, would die for any of them, and that was probably what had hurt him the most. That he had not been trusted. So now that Alex knew that Tess was not out to hurt Liz or claim Max, he identified with her and had befriended her.

Everyone could see that Tess was no longer interested in Max. Max wondered why Kyle couldn’t.

"Tell me how I can help you Tess." Max said now, feeling for all the world like he would do anything to make her happy. He didn’t like to see anyone as miserable as Tess currently was. They still had a bond through the Four Square and he could feel her emotions quite clearly, even though she was trying to mask them.

"I don’t know what you’re talking about." She snapped suddenly, getting to her feet.

"I saw Kyle with those girls." Max interjected smoothly. She halted in mid-step. She had been about to run away but she collapsed back on the bench instead. Her mask fell away and her misery was suddenly plain.

Max remained quiet, waiting for her to open up.

Tess bit her lip, trying to control her tears. "He hates me." She finally said quietly.

Max wondered why it was always the two people most closely involved in a situation that could not see what was directly in front of their faces. "I don’t think so Tess." He replied gently.

But she didn’t answer, just kept staring off into space. "Do you know what I said to him the first time he told me that he loved me Max?" Max just shook his head. Tess turned to eye him. "I told him I didn’t care. I told him that to his face, as cruelly as I possibly could. I WANTED to hurt him Max." Tears were falling in earnest now. She was not sobbing, just silently crying. "I wanted to hurt him even though I felt the same way. He’s the only person who has EVER accepted me exactly as I am. But I was so scared and so stupid that I trusted Danala and I chose to hurt him rather than face the way I felt about him." She paused, shaking her head. "I wanted to hurt the one person I loved more than anyone Max. What kind of person does that make ME?"

"I think it makes you human Tess." Max replied quietly. She jerked in surprise. "I know that you have always wanted to go home, that you never wanted to accept what we were…but it’s the truth Tess. No matter where we come from Tess, the fact that we can love the way we do, it makes us human." Tess was staring at him, a strange expression on her face. "I once told Liz that loving her made me human. I think we both know that you NEVER loved me…it was loving Kyle that made YOU human. And there’s one part of being in love that really sucks Tess…" Max smiled sympathetically at her. "Sometimes it really, REALLY hurts."

Tess rolled her eyes, a bit of her spirit coming back. "That I know." She said. She sobered again very quickly, looking sad again. "But I’ve heard that old phrase Max: there’s a thin line between love and hate. I think Kyle has crossed it." She shook her head again. "I know that he thinks that I’m in love with you and I don’t know how to show him that I’m not. I always run away Max. But I’m sick of running…"

Max put his arm around her comfortingly. "While I disagree with you, IF Kyle HAS crossed that line, well, then you’ll just have to pull him back over to the other side."

Tess was stiff in his embrace for a moment, but relaxed suddenly, sighing. Max had a flash of the affection he had had for her when she had been Sabrya and he had been Jaxon. He had never been IN love with her, but he HAD loved her, more like brother and sister than anything else. Their marriage had been meant to end the disastrous conflict that divided their planet. It had been meant for good and it HAD been good. It just had not been meant to be.

"Tess, I once gave up on love." Max told her after they had sat in companionable silence for a while. "I didn’t tell Liz or anyone what was going on with Tarsus and it led to all that we’ve gone through since. If I had trusted people who loved me, maybe we could have stopped it all before it started." He squeezed her gently. "We’ve already figured out that you, me, Izzy and Michael are stronger as a unit. I KNOW that I’m stronger with Liz by my side. I think that if you love Kyle you’re going to have to tell him…but not just that…you’re going to have to let him in…you can’t keep any part of yourself separate or it will never work."

Tess was gazing up at him, looking amused. "Max, you do realize that you’re a guy don’t you?" She giggled. "You sound exactly like a girl. Guy aren’t supposed to WANT to let people in."

Max felt himself reddening, but he grinned. "Well, if we’re a matched pair, I guess you’re the guy then, since you’re the one who has trouble expressing her emotions."

Tess stared at him in open-mouthed shock for a moment, but suddenly burst into peals of laughter. She threw her arms around him, hugging him affectionately. "I know that Liz knows how lucky she is." Tess told him, still laughing. "But I’m going to make sure that she never forgets it."

Max had been laughing too, but he pulled back and stared at Tess hard. "You’re lucky too Tess. Kyle is a good guy. I think we all take him for granted a bit. He deserves to be happy and you need to talk to him - sooner rather than later."

Tess sobered again, nodded. "I know. It’s just scary Max."

Max raised an eyebrow at her. "What’s scarier Tess, talking to him or losing him?"

"The second." Tess replied seriously. She smiled at him again. "Thank you Jaxon."

"Thank YOU Sabrya." Tess hugged him again.

Neither of them noticed that the bell had rung or that Kyle Valenti was standing at the entrance to the school, a girl on each arm. He had been standing there for quite a while, had witnessed at least TWO hugs between Tess Harding and Max Evans.

He didn’t react. He just shook off the cheerleaders and stalked to his Mustang, pulling out of the parking lot with a squeal of tires.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:13:51 PM
Part 48

Kyle glanced at his watch, swearing as he sped the Mustang down the highway. After seeing Max and Tess together he had gone to work off some of his frustration at the gym. Time had slipped away from him and he was now definitely going to be late for his Jennetta baby-sitting duty.

He wasn’t quite sure how he had ended up on the rotation AGAIN. He had been doing his best to distance himself from everyone since Tess had basically started ignoring him for the last few months, but Liz refused to let him drift away. She would just call him up, tell him when he was scheduled for the week and had so much faith in him, he couldn’t bear to disappoint her by not showing up.

Liz impressed the hell out of him. He had always known that she was special, but over the past few months, the way she held them all together…it was incredible. It was too hard to let go of Liz too. And if it meant having to see Tess to keep her in his life, well, he had thought that he would be able to handle it…

And, despite himself, Kyle had wanted to give Michael and Maria a hand. It wasn’t THEIR fault that Tess wanted nothing to do with him.

At least Liz had stopped asking him if he had talked to Tess. He did his utmost to avoid talking to Tess. It was just too painful. And Tess certainly made no effort to talk to him, although he did find her staring at him an awful lot. He had no idea what she was thinking when she did that, but she didn’t ever turn away when he looked back.

It was weird. It was like SHE didn’t want him, but she didn’t want anyone else to have him either. Did she know that just by looking him she could drive him crazy for weeks, wondering what she had been thinking, whether she had been feeling sorry for him, or whether she was just comparing him to her beloved Max and finding all his shortcomings…

Just like Liz had done.

He had had enough. It was time to cut the ties. This was DEFINITELY the last evening he was spending in a room buried deep under the desert floor playing cards with Ren and Alex. He HAD to move on.

He wanted to be a normal teen-age jock again. He wanted to have fun and go to the prom with some hot babe and not wonder if the alien kid had hatched yet.

He wanted "normal" dammit!

He wanted to stop dreaming about icy blue eyes, glossy pink lips and masses of curly blonde hair. He wanted to get the image of Tess laughing and throwing her arms around Saint Max out of his head.

Did the girl have no self respect? Max was more than taken… he was damn-well practically married to Liz. Not that Max had looked too upset to have Tess practically in his lap earlier that day…

Damn him.

Kyle swore again as he turned the wheel sharply, cutting across the desert. He knew his dad would be pissed if he could see how he was driving but Kyle didn’t give a crap. He wanted to get to the transformation chamber, do his duty and then get back home.

He slammed on the brakes near the entrance to the tunnels. He could see the jeep parked nearby. They had been careful not to come by way of the Reservation anymore. The chamber was deep enough into the desert to be virtually impossible to find for anyone who wasn’t looking for it, but the last thing they needed was someone stumbling across it because they wondered where a bunch of teenagers kept disappearing to…

Kyle wondered briefly WHY they couldn’t be going out into the desert to drink illegally like normal kids.

He sighed, climbed out of his car and rummaged around in the trunk for the flashlight he carried there now. He was in the tunnel moments later, used to the ten-foot drop by now. He usually only used the ladder Max had brought out when he left.

Switching on the flashlight Kyle yelped when Ren’s face appeared in the beam.

"Holy Crap! You scared the hell out of me!" He kept the beam trained on the shape-shifter’s face. "What are doing here? And why are all the lights out?"

"I was leaving." Ren explained patiently, his expression blank as usual. "I turned OFF the lights right before you nearly jumped on my head."

Wise guy.

Kyle had grown to like Ren in spite of his general state of serenity and his complete lack of sense of humour. At least he let Kyle beat him at poker once in a while. He was damn good at poker, what with that stony expression. But the guy’s poker-face could get tiring…

"Why didn’t you turn on the lights?" Ren was asking, raising an eyebrow, clearly not at all upset by the fact that Kyle was still shining his flashlight directly in his eyes.

Ironically, several weeks after Jennetta had gone into the pod, it had been Kyle who had figured out how to power up the compound.

It had been by accident actually. He had just been finishing up a shift with Michael.

He liked being on Jennetta duty with Michael - he brooded and left Kyle alone. Maria had a tendency to get all weepy and Liz would never shut up about Tess, about how great she was, about how much she liked her. Isabel usually just did her homework, while Alex seemed to think that Kyle LIKED being his sounding board for all the new songs for his stupid band. Max was just Max - irritating on every level - always perfectly pleasant and nice and quiet and Kyle never had any clue what Evans was REALLY thinking…irritating.

But Tess was the worst. They would sit in stony silence, neither speaking to each other, only to Ren.

And she stared at him with that blank look of hers.

It sucked.

It sucked because it always made him remember how much fun they used to have with each other during the months that Max had been on Illyria, when they had become friends…both outsiders, both trying to fit into a group that had shared a secret for so long, that newcomers were sometimes left out in the cold. They always used to laugh about how annoying all the others were, had bonded over their mutual outsiderness…had bonded in not wanting to admit how much they WANTED to be accepted…to belong.

Yup. It sucked. It didn’t help that he was madly in love with her, but the transformation chamber ordeal usually made him sadder about the loss of her friendship than about the loss of something that had never been.

And yet, he couldn’t make the first move. He just couldn’t do it anymore.

A guy had to have SOME pride.

And so they sat in silence on the rare occasions they were scheduled together.

Anyway, on the day in question, he and Michael had been covering the entrance with some scrub brush from the desert when Kyle had tripped on a small rock and had gone smashing into the large boulder that covered most of the hole in the desert floor.

He had put out his hands to stop his fall and when he took his hand away, a silver hand-print had been shining up at him.

Michael had come up behind him. "What the…" He had stared at the hand-print, then stared at Kyle. "How the hell did you do that?"

Kyle had blinked, staring at his hand, suddenly remembering when he had opened the doorway into the transformation chamber on D-Day. He had totally forgotten with all the other crap that had gone down that day. "I have no frigging clue."

Michael had set his palm against the hand-print. They both started when a bright light suddenly shone out from within the hole. "Jeez." Michael breathed.

Moments later they had heard Max calling up from within the tunnel, where he had been on his way to join Liz for their shift. "What’s going on up there?"

"What’s going on down THERE?" Michael had demanded

"All the symbols on the walls are shining." Max had called back. His dark head had appeared out of the hole a moment later. "What did you guys do?"

"Kyle did it." Michael replied, looking at him suspiciously. Max had also looked at Kyle questioningly.

"You were able to activate the hand-print Kyle?" Kyle had felt himself getting his dander up just at the sound of Max’s "leader" voice.

"Yeah, so?"

Max’s eyes had narrowed. "Liz can do it too - at least at the entrance to the chamber." He glanced at Michael. "We always suspected it…now I guess we know for sure." Michael had just been shaking his head.

"Know what?" Kyle had demanded, looking from one to the other in annoyance. "Stop speaking in alien and tell me what the hell’s going on."

"Maxwell changed you." Michael finally ground out, scratching his head. "When he healed you…"

"We always knew that something was up with Liz, with the flashes and stuff." Max sounded a little disappointed as he continued. "We just thought it was a special connection between the two of us."

"It was the healing." Michael had finished.

Kyle had felt sweat break out on his forehead. HE was part alien??? He was going to have to talk in indecipherable Czech speak! "Maria can’t do it? Alex?" Kyle had asked desperately.

Both Max and Michael had just shaken their heads. Michael’s expression had begun to look interested, like he thought maybe Kyle’s head was going to explode. Max had just looked guilty.

He had felt like he was suffocating…

He was trapped! He was ALWAYS going to be connected to these people.

He would never be able to escape HER.

"Kyle are you okay?" Max had asked, sounding upset.

Kyle had forced himself to take deep breaths. There was no way he wanted Max to see how disturbed he was. He was NOT in the mood for a bonding session with the heart’s desire of HIS heart’s desire.

It always came back to Tess.

"I’m fine." He had snapped. He pointed down into the hole. "Shouldn’t we check out what else has been turned on?"

Max and Michael had exchanged glances again, but had followed him willingly.

It turned out that an awful lot had been "turned on."

A glowing trail of silver hand-prints had shone out from the stone walls, disappearing into the distance in both directions. The many carved symbols had been lit up as well, creating a perfectly pleasant glow that made flashlights no longer necessary.

Max had put his hand against the closest hand-print. None of them had been surprised to see the wall swing out.

Michael had tried the next one. Another door-way.

There were rooms everywhere. And they all looked like they had been lived in once upon a time.

And it was again reinforced to Kyle that aliens had been among them for a LONG time.

In the months since the "lights had been turned on," most of them had explored the compound extensively. There were still hundreds of rooms that none of them had seen…the tunnels seemed never-ending.

The only person who didn’t EVER touch another silver hand-print was Kyle. He wanted nothing to do with any powers…

He was human and he planned to STAY human.

"I’ve told you." He snapped at Ren now. "I don’t DO the lights here."

Ren just raised an eyebrow. "They’re waiting for you." He nodded down the corridor.

"I thought you were on duty tonight." Kyle called after the shape-shifter as he began to climb the ladder to the surface.

Ren glanced down at him. "I am always on duty." He replied simply. "The King insisted that I come up for some air."

Kyle smirked. "You are looking a little peaked Renny old boy." The shape-shifter just stared at him.

Kyle sighed. No sense of humour…it seemed to be a Czechoslovakian characteristic. Max and Michael had crappy senses of humour too.

He was glad that his had not been damaged in the transfiguration.

He kept his flashlight trained on the floor as he hurried down the tunnel. He wondered if anyone was ever going to bother to dust.

A good ten minutes later he reached the entrance to the transformation chamber. It, of course, looked exactly like the rest of the walls, but he had been there often enough that he knew where to stop.

This was the one place that he had no choice but to use a little alien voodoo as Maria called it. He waved his hand over the wall, scowled as the entrance hand-print flashed out at him.

"Bloody Czechs." He muttered to himself, glancing at his watch again. "Only four hours. You can do four hours Valenti - and then its over."

It was as the wall slid away that Kyle came face to face with Tess.

She blinked. "Kyle."

Kyle groaned to himself. He was SURE the schedule had said "Alex."

"Tess." He managed to mumble.

She started to babble. If he hadn’t heard it himself, he wouldn’t have believed it. Tess Harding was babbling.

She had not said word one to him in four months and now she was babbling.

He would never understand women.

"I was just…I mean, Alex had to practice with the Whits…he couldn’t put them off again….so I thought…you know, that I would help him out. So that’s why I’m here…you know, to help Alex out?"

Kyle just stared at her. "Then why are you coming OUT of the chamber?"

Tess whitened. "Er, well, Max and Liz are in there. I just came in and…well, they’re sort of busy…so I thought I would come and look for you…since I knew you were coming and all." She trailed off lamely.

"Busy" meant that Max and Liz were likely making out, since the two of them couldn’t seem to keep their hands off of each other. The idea of them making out under Jennetta’s pod grossed him out a little, but hey different strokes - it wasn’t like the two of them were EVER normal when they were together.

What annoyed him was that this was why TESS was upset -upset enough that she hadn’t even interrupted…she had just fled. Kyle didn’t blame her. Even after literally throwing herself at Max today, he had still gone back to Liz.

"Sorry about that." He muttered, looking at the floor. He might think she was deluding herself, but he didn’t enjoy the fact that she was likely always hurt by how little chance she had with Max.

"You’re sorry about what?" Tess asked, sounding confused.

"You know…about Max and Liz."

"You’re sorry that Max and Liz are fiddling with the orbs?"

"Is that what they’re calling it these days?" Kyle smirked. Tess just blinked at him.

"Huh?"

Kyle eyed her for a minute. Tess wasn’t usually this dense. "Never mind." He shrugged in the direction of the tunnels. "Wanna go for a walk?"

What the hell are you doing you idiot? A voice in the back of his head was screaming at him. He ignored it. He just wanted to make her feel better.

Idiot.

Shut-up, he told the voice.

Tess smiled at him. Kyle was surprised at the warmth he saw. "Okay."

"We’ll be back soon you horn-dogs!" Kyle bellowed over his shoulder as they exited the corridor into the transformation chamber.

He ignored the weird look Tess gave him.
********************************************************************
Max and Liz stared at each other as Kyle’s yell drifted into their ears.

"What the heck is he talking about?" Liz asked. Sure they were holding hands while eavesdropping as Tess made her move, only having done so after Liz and Max had practically pushed her out to meet him, but "horn-dogs?"

"One track mind." Max sighed, rolling his eyes. He slid his arm around her waist, planted a light kiss on her temple.

Liz shivered, smiled at him. "Speaking of one track minds…"

She pulled away from him, went back to the stone table nearby. She stared down at the orbs she and Max had been examining when Tess had come in a few minutes before. Ren was convinced that these purple ones that Michael had uncovered in one of the compound’s other chambers were communication orbs - but REAL ones this time. The original blue orbs had had the capability to store one message, but if these orbs could be made to function, contact might be re-established with Illyria.

Liz picked up the nearest orb, traced the symbol on it thoughtfully. It looked like a shooting star. "Do you think she’ll get up the nerve to tell her how he feels?" She asked Max as he came up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist and resting his chin on her shoulder. Liz leaned back against his chest, bringing the orb up to eye-level.

"Staring at it isn’t going to make it tell you how to work it Liz." Max told her affectionately.

"Hmmmm…" Liz sighed, placing it back on the table. She wasn’t sure why she wanted them to be able to contact Illyria so badly…

It was just a weird feeling she had…that they had better be in contact with Max’s home planet soon. That something terrible was happening there.

Liz suppressed the shiver that wanted to erupt. She turned in Max’ s arms, couldn’t resist kissing him lightly before asking again,. "Well? I really want them to be happy Max. Kyle has just been so distant…I worry about him. He needs Tess."

Max pulled her against his chest. "I do too Liz. But I just don’t know. It’s been six months. It might be too late."

"It’s NEVER too late for love." Liz insisted. "I would wait for you forever."

Max pushed a stray hair behind her ear. "Thank God." He replied seriously. He bent his head to kiss her again but they both jerked when a piercing squeal suddenly filled the chamber.

"What the…" Max was frantically looking around the chamber, trying to identify where the noise was coming from. Liz was not surprised when he thrust her behind him. Always over-protective.

And yet, that noise…it sounded like something was dying…

"I think it’s coming from the pod Max!" Liz exclaimed. He turned to stare at her.

"Jennetta!" They both said at the same time.

Something was horribly wrong.

Part 49

Kyle and Tess wandered down the stone corridor in silence. Neither had said anything since they had left the transformation chamber but it was not an uncomfortable silence. For the first time since their argument the day Jennetta had gone into the pod, Tess actually felt comfortable in Kyle’s presence.

He had definitely seemed concerned about her when he had asked her to walk with him. It was helping her to work up the nerve to talk to him about how she felt.

Now if only she could spit it out!

"I’m sorry about what you saw Tess." Kyle said abruptly, just as Tess had opened her mouth to speak. She blinked.

He must be talking about the cheerleaders from earlier today Tess reflected. She wondered how he had known that she had seen him with Lisa Talbot on his lap in study hall.

"Oh, well…" She said quietly.

"I don’t know what you expect though." Kyle continued, sounding upset. "You know how they feel about each other. Max is never going to feel for you what he feels for Liz, no matter how hard you throw yourself at him."

Tess stopped in her tracks. "What on Earth are you talking about?" He couldn’t STILL think that she was in love with Max? Was he insane? "Kyle…"

But Kyle wasn’t listening to her. Tess realized that he too had stopped, but that he was staring at the wall, a perplexed expression on his face. "What the…" He turned to look at her. "Look at this!"

Tess frowned, wanted to set him straight about Max, but the insistent expression on his face made her go look at the whatever he was tracing with his index finger. "What?" She demanded.

She couldn’t see anything. All she saw was Kyle’s hand tracing a blank wall. "What Kyle? There’s nothing there."

Kyle whipped his head around, stared at her. "You can’t see it? I don’t understand…it’s so clear!"

"What is it?" Tess demanded, peering more closely. Still nothing.

"It’s a window Tess!" Kyle exclaimed, tapping on something he could obviously see clearly but she couldn’t see at all. "It’s a small window." Kyle was standing about two inches from the wall at this point, his noise almost pressed against the wall. "There are a bunch of bookcases in there!"

Tess wondered if he was going crazy. She pushed him aside, traced her hand over the spot he had been looking. All she felt was solid rock.

Kyle was standing further back now, scanning the whole wall. "There’s got to be a way in there…" He began to run his hands over the walls. Tess stared at him for a moment, shrugged and started to do the same.

A silver hand-print suddenly popped out of the wall under Kyle’s hand. "AHA!" He sounded triumphant. "Would you care to do the honours?" He asked, gesturing towards the wall.

Tess sighed, realized that there was apparently no way Kyle was going to listen to her when there was a mystery to solve. Men! She stepped forward, placed her hand firmly against the hand-print.

Nothing happened.

Tess frowned. She lifted her hand, replaced it carefully on the hand-print. Again nothing.

"I don’t understand." Tess said, looking back at Kyle. He was scowling in annoyance.

"Here. Let me try." Just as Kyle moved to put his hand on the familiar insignia, a piercing noise erupted from the direction in which they had come. "What is that?" Kyle demanded, momentarily distracted from his discovery.

Tess threw her hands over her ears. "I think it’s coming from the transformation chamber. We better get back there!" She yelled at him. The noise was reaching a crescendo, too loud to talk over comfortably.

She saw Kyle glance at the hand-print once more. He pressed his lips together, nodded. "Lead on!"

*******************************************************************
"Max! What’s going on?" Liz shrieked at her boyfriend. They had both bolted for the pod once they realized that the piercing noise was coming from Jennetta’s incubator. The noise was becoming more and more high-pitched, causing Liz to throw her hands over her ears. Max was doing the same. Apparently he couldn’t hear her question because he didn’t even look at her.

Liz forced her hands down, began to run them over the pod. Everything seemed normal. She stared in at Jennetta. Michael and Maria’s daughter’s expression was the same as it had been for months - serene and unaware.

And then she felt it. A tear in the organic material that made up the pod. It was small, but it was there. Liz could feel a thin thread of gooey liquid sliding over her hand as she tried to plug the hole.

"Max!" Liz yelled, causing him to whip around to stare at her. He had been running his own hands over the far side of the pod. "There’s a hole!"

Max was at her side in an instant. Liz grabbed his hand, showed him exactly where the tear was. She watched his hand begin to glow as he tried to mold the molecules that composed the pod to repair the hole.

The high-pitched squeal stopped abruptly as the pod closed under Max’s hand.

Liz sighed with relief. "Max! What just happened?"

Max was still running his hands over the pod, clearly searching for other tears. "I have no idea. I think that was an alarm of some sort - to let us know that something was wrong."

Liz felt a frisson of fear descend her spine. She traced Jennetta’s face through the transparent pod. Was the pod damaged after all? What was going to happen to Jennetta if something happened to the pod before the transformation was complete?

Tess and Kyle came barreling into the chamber moments later. "What the hell happened?" Kyle demanded breathlessly.

"Something’s wrong with the pod." Max replied evenly. "Liz, can you and Kyle go find Ren? I don’t want to leave in case I need to fix it again."

Liz didn’t have to be asked twice. She was out of the transformation chamber in a flash, Kyle on her heels.

She was not at all surprised to find Ren sprinting down the corridor towards them several minutes later.
"What happened?" The shape-shifter demanded, grabbing Liz by the shoulders so that she wouldn’t fall when they practically ran into each other. Liz had never heard the stoic Ren sound so upset.

"The pod is leaking!" Liz explained as they hurried back in the direction from which they had just come. "Max fixed it, but I don’t know if it’s going to hold."

Ren took off at a dead run, leaving she and Kyle far behind. They both stumbled to a halt, breathing heavily. Even Kyle, who was in excellent shape, had no chance of keeping up with Jennetta’s bodyguard.

"Is she going to be okay Liz?" Kyle asked as they hurried back down the corridor. He sounded kind of weird. Liz turned to look at him. His expression was unreadable, but Liz thought she saw a flash of frustration pass over it.

"I don’t know." Liz replied, feeling scared again. What on Earth were they going to tell Maria and Michael if something happened to Jennetta?

Maria! She had to call Maria!

Liz stopped abruptly, knowing that she should go back to the surface to call Maria on her cell phone. And yet she was torn. She didn’t want to call and worry her friend if Jennetta was going to be okay.

Kyle had stopped, was staring back at her. "Liz?"

Liz’s decision was made for her when Max appeared suddenly, a worried look on his face. He came up to Liz directly, pulled her into his arms. He looked incredibly exhausted. Liz could feel his heart beating a mile a minute where he had pressed her up against his chest.

"Max! What’s happening?" Liz demanded, pulling back.

"Sorry." Max said, releasing her. "I just really needed to do that. I almost had a heart attack back there."

"What’s going on Evans?" Kyle asked.

"The pod is starting to decompose." Max replied tiredly, rubbing his eyes wearily.

Liz gasped. "But the transformation is nowhere near being complete!" She exclaimed.

"Isn’t that a good thing?" Kyle interjected. "The kid’s like only thirteen or fourteen right now. If we can pull her out, Michael and Maria can still have some time with her while she’s growing up."

Max just shook his head. "Ren says that if she comes out of the pod before the transformation is complete…" He trailed off, clearly not wanting to say it.

"She’ll die." Liz finished for him, feeling the wave of sadness that had passed through Max.

Max took her hand. "We need to go get them Liz - in person. Tess and Ren are there to keep the pod going as long as possible…or at least until we can get Michael and Maria back here."

Liz felt a pang of horror. How was she going to tell her best friend that her daughter was going to die?




posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:16:45 PM
Part 50

When destiny calls you, you must be strong
I may not be with you, but you’ve got to hold on…

Phil Collins

Kyle rubbed his temples in frustration. He was leaning against the stone wall of the corridor where Max and Liz had left him several minutes before.

He had no idea what to do.

An hour ago he had known EXACTLY what he was going to do. He had been coming to sit through his last shift of pod-watching and then he was going back to his normal life. He was going to forget about aliens and planets in the midst of civil wars and chosen ones in pods and blondes with lips that looked just too damn kissable.

And now he had that same blonde actually speaking to him again, he had the kid in the pod likely on the verge of death and he had an extra-terrestrial library that might actually be a figment of his imagination.

He was trapped. Again.

Why the hell did he actually have to have a conscience? It was all his dad’s fault - him and his stupid ideas of loyalty and commitment to a cause.

Why couldn’t Kyle just have inherited his dad’s keen fashion sense?

Kyle sighed. He knew now that he wasn’t going anywhere. He was irreversibly stuck.

The least he could do was go satisfy his curiosity. If he wasn’t going to regain his freedom, well, he could at least prove to himself - and Tess - that he wasn’t bonkers.

He had seen the way she had looked at him when he had been staring through that window…the window that was completely invisible to her. She thought he was crazy.

He was definitely crazy, but not for the reason she thought. He was crazy in love with her and wasn’t going to be able to distance himself from her again.

And so maybe he could get some information for her.

Kyle took off down the corridor back towards the transformation chamber. As he passed the spot where the entrance to that room was, he wondered if he should go see if Jennetta was okay. But then, there wasn’t anything he could do if she wasn’t. It was better for him to find out what was in that room.

Maybe there was even something that would be able to help them save Michael and Maria’s daughter.

He kept going.

It took longer than he had expected to get back to the spot where the window was, still as plain as day to him. He must have been too preoccupied to actually be in Tess’ presence to realize how far they had walked together before they had stumbled across it.

The hand-print he had managed to reveal still shone out from the wall, not having faded back into obscurity yet.

Kyle stared at it for a moment. It seemed unlikely that it was going to work for him. If Tess, a full-fledged hybrid, hadn’t been able to open it, why would he, only an alien by proxy, be able to?

And yet somehow he knew that he could.

He narrowed his eyes, lifted his hand and placed it squarely on the hand-print.

The wall slid away without a sound.

Kyle swallowed. It was point of no return time here. If he stepped through this doorway, he was committed. Whether he and Tess ever worked out or not…he would have made his choice.

He took a deep breath. There was really no choice to be made. Kyle entered the room, his eyes wide.
********************************************************************
The ride back to the alien desert compound was deadly silent.

Michael and Maria were in the back-seat of the Jeep, both staring out the windows into the black desert night. Neither had said anything since Max and Liz had found them having dinner at Maria’s mom’s house., surprisingly with the Sheriff as a guest. They had been playing "normal" teenagers tonight and had even seemed to be having a good time.

Until Max and Liz had come to the door. One look at Liz’s stricken face and Maria had known. She had grabbed Michael’s hand and had hauled him out the door without a word. The Sheriff and Amy Deluca had stared after them, perplexed. Liz had managed to come up with an excuse that Alex was sick but, although Mrs. Deluca seemed to buy it, the Sheriff had looked even more suspicious.

They were now so entangled in a web of lies with their parents, Max had just shrugged and followed Liz out to the Jeep, where their friends had been waiting impatiently.

Now Max glanced at Michael and Maria worriedly in the rear-view mirror.

Michael’s lips were pressed tightly together. He looked like he was about to explode. Maria, on the other hand, was as white as a sheet. She had not fallen into her usual hysterics when they had been alone. Instead she had just clammed up, refusing to say a word until she knew for sure that there was no hope. It was more worrisome than any crazy Maria hysteria would have been.

They both looked like they had given up - like they were resigned that their daughter was truly lost to them this time. And it almost killed Max that he couldn’t tell them differently.

He felt Liz take his hand, knew that she could feel how upset he was. He knew it because he could feel how sad SHE was. Their emotions were so heightened by the tragedy about to take place, the connection between them seemed more intense then ever. Just being with her made him feel better.

And yet - his little sister was dying.

Max glanced in the rear-view mirror again, saw that Alex and Izzy, in Alex’s parent’s car, were still close behind them. Liz had called them on her cell phone. It had seemed crucial that they should all be at the transformation chamber if this truly was the end for Jennetta.

The little girl - not so little anymore - had become such a huge part of all of their lives. They had barely known her - even Max had really only known her for a week before she had gone into the pod - and yet the imprint she had left on their lives would never be duplicated.

She was the living representation of everything great that the bond between three humans and three aliens had created.

She was the miraculous result of a day which seemed so long ago now - of a day that a secret had been revealed and had opened up a whole new world for them all - a world of new horizons for the humans, a world of acceptance for the aliens. If Max and Liz had not connected through near-tragedy two and half years ago, none of them would be where they were now.

They were bonded - a unit. They were on the verge of saving a whole divided planet.

And they were about to lose the saviour of that planet. Even worse, they were about to lose the symbol of what a bond of friendship and love could create.

It was too much to bear.

Max felt a wave of pain hit him, felt Liz squeeze his hand as she felt it too.

God - they couldn’t lose her. It was just unfair. Not after all they had been through…

The silence of despair in the Jeep remained unbroken.
********************************************************************
Kyle stared around the room, barely breathing. There were shelves everywhere, extending back into the stone chamber as far as his eyes could see. And they were all full to bursting…with books and scrolls and things he didn’t recognize at all.

He moved forward slowly, barely noticed the wall sliding shut behind him. He picked up a volume on the nearest shelf, blinked at the strange material which the book was made from. It was some sort of silvery metal, felt cool to the touch.

Kyle flipped open the cover, stared down at the strange markings on the pages, which were made of the same hard metallic stuff. He frowned, wished for once that he DID understand Czechoslovakian. He put the book back on the shelf where he found it, sneezed as it stirred up a thick cloud of dust.

And then he saw them. Footprints on the floor, leading down one of the aisles…

This place had obviously been closed for years if the dust everywhere was any sort of indication. Those footprints could have been there for years, undisturbed in the stillness of the subterranean library.

But somehow Kyle knew that they had NOT been there for years.

He followed them slowly, swiping his hand across shining hand-prints here and there on the shelves. These activated the lights in the room as he proceeded. He could feel excitement building within him. It seemed impossible that there wouldn’t be some sort of answer in this treasure throve of alien information - there had to be something here that could help Jennetta!

As quickly as his hope came, it deflated. It would take millennia to sift through all the crap in here. How on Earth was anyone supposed to zero in on the exact volume that MIGHT be able to help them?

Kyle continued to follow the footprints, at least determined to find out what whoever had been here had been looking for.

When he stumbled across it he found that he was strangely unsurprised.

At the end of the long aisle between book-shelves sat a table - and upon the table was a brown leather book that looked entirely out of place in this chamber full of alien lore on alien paper.

It could only be one thing. And when Kyle picked it up, flipped open to the first page, it was confirmed.

September 23rd. Journal entry one. I'm Liz Parker and five days ago I died. After that, things got really weird....
*******************************************************************
Isabel sat tensely beside Alex in his parents’ Volvo, her hands clenched in her lap. She could feel Alex glancing worriedly at her every few minutes or so, but if she looked back she knew that the sympathetic expression on his face would cause her to burst into tears.

Something was wrong. She had known it all day. And it was something beyond Jennetta.

She should have felt relief when Liz had called her to tell her that the pod was decomposing. It should have been the answer for why she had felt like she was about to jump out of her skin all day, but instead Isabel had just become even more on edge…like Jennetta was only the beginning…

It was something else. Something bigger - something inherently more terrible.

Isabel heaved a sigh of relief as Alex finally took a sharp right, following Max and the others in the Jeep across the moon-lit desert. She grimaced slightly at the familiar bumps, but kept her thoughts inward.

What the heck was the matter with her? What was wrong?

Alex pulled the car to a stop near the big boulder guarding the entrance to the compound. He reached over, stroked her neck. "Isabel. She’s going to be okay."

Of course Alex thought this was about Jennetta. What else could it be about? And yet Isabel had never bonded with Jennetta the way the others had…in the short time she had known the little girl, briefly her sister and then not, she had been insanely jealous of her…hating her for having Max’s love, for replacing her as his sister, for being the sister he remembered, the sister he loved…

She and Max had been gradually working their relationship back to the closeness they had shared before the anti-Max episode which had led to the whole Illyria catastrophe. Isabel knew that Max’s guilt over how he had treated her, how he had HATED her, was intense. Isabel’s guilt over her poor treatment of Jennetta had been just as deep. She had blamed a situation on the little girl that had had nothing to do with her…and she had never had the chance to make it up to the kid before she had been podded.

And yet this was not what troubled Isabel. It was something else, something just beyond her reach…

Isabel smiled weakly at Alex now, opened the door and climbed out. She could already see Michael’s spiky head disappearing down the hole. Max was swiping his hand over the silver hand-print, turning the lights on at the entrance. Liz and Maria were standing nearby, Liz with her arm around her best friend.

When it happened it was as sudden as it had been the last time. One minute Isabel was standing near the car, completely fine…the next she felt like her head was about to explode.

This time Alex didn’t catch her when she collapsed, although she caught a glimpse of his horrified face before her eyes rolled up into her head…

Flash*

*MIIIRRAAANNNAAA!!!!*

Flash*

*I NEED YOU!!!!*

Flash*

*MIIIIRRAAAANNNAAAA!!!*

As quickly as the flashes had come, they were gone. Isabel opened her eyes, realized that she was cradled in Alex’s arms, that Michael had come back out of the compound, that Max and Maria and Liz were all staring down at her in terror.

Max fell to his knees beside Isabel and Alex, pushed her hair out of her face. "Izzy! What happened? Are you okay?"

Isabel nodded, pushed herself away from Alex, who grunted in annoyance, but didn’t even bother to try and stop her from climbing to her feet. He knew better by now, but he did keep his hands firmly on her arms as she rose unsteadily.

"Was it your mother again?" Liz asked, her face concerned, but excitement beginning to enter her eyes. Isabel saw Maria perk up as well.

Isabel shook her head, stared at Michael who was staring back at her.

"No…" She paused, not sure if she was right, not sure if she should get their hopes up… "I…I think it was Jennetta!"

Part 51

Liz was the last to enter the transformation chamber. She caught sight of Kyle hurrying down the stone corridor from the opposite direction just as she was about to go through the entrance. He seemed excited. Actually, he was GRINNING.

"Liz! You’re never going to believe what I found!" He exclaimed, pulling something out from behind his back.

Liz felt her eyes widen. It was her journal! A feeling of relief flooded through her, bringing tears to her eyes. She hadn’t realized how much she had missed the book that held the history of her relationship with Max until Kyle placed it back in her hands.

"Where did you find this?" She finally managed to ask Kyle, her voice cracking slightly as she flipped through the familiar pages.

"There’s a gigantic library about ten minutes from here." Kyle explained as they made their way into the transformation chamber where the others were gathered. "There are like a million books and other things in there."

Liz snapped her head around to stare at Kyle. "Do you think there might be something in there that could help Jennetta?" Liz asked excitedly, her journal all but forgotten in the hope that suddenly claimed her.

Kyle just shook his head. "I can’t say, but Liz, the place is huge. I don’t think we’d ever find it, even if it existed."

Liz sighed with disappointment. They entered the main chamber in time to hear Isabel saying, "I think that I might be able to connect with her. I got the feeling that she had something to tell us."

Kyle looked at Liz. "What’s going on?"

"Isabel thinks that Jennetta contacted her." Liz explained.

"I want to go with you!" Maria was replying, sounding upset. "If anyone should be able to connect with her, it’s me!"

"She called for me." Isabel said firmly. "I’m going in alone."

Ren shook his head. "I don’t know about this my lady. Jennetta is absorbing very specific information in that pod. Even a momentary interruption could cause the whole system to break down."

"It’s breaking down already!" Michael interjected. "I say let her do it!"

"I cannot." Ren said. "My job is to see that she comes through the transformation safe and sound. I cannot allow the slightest…"

"I’m her father!" Michael yelled, looking like he wanted to punch Ren out.

"She belongs to Illyria." Ren replied simply. "Decisions about her safety may not be made arbitrarily."

Liz saw Alex step forward. He was as aware as she was that Michael was at the breaking point. He clearly intended to step in if his friend lost it and attacked the shapeshifter.

"But if she’s going to die anyway…" Maria said quietly. "Shouldn’t we find out what she wants us to know?" She moved forward, touched Ren’s arm. "Please Ren…"

"I can’t." But Liz could hear the weakening in his voice.

Liz looked at Max. He was listening to the conversation in silence, an unreadable expression on his face. Liz wondered why he wasn’t intervening. She knew that if he commanded Ren to let Isabel try, that Ren would do it. He never refused a direct command from Max.

Just then the entire chamber was flooded with the same piercing squeal that Max and Liz had heard the last time a tear had appeared in the pod. Michael rushed forward, ran his hands over the pod, found the tear and closed it under his hand. Maria had thrown her hands over her ears, was staring at Jennetta in horror.

"The tears are coming more often now Ren." Tess said. "That’s the third time in the last ten minutes."

Liz saw Ren swallow. For once his face was not an implacable mask. He was biting his lip, undecided. He looked at Max for guidance. Liz watched Max raise an eyebrow at him. She frowned. What on Earth was going on in her boyfriend’s head? For once she could not read him at all…

"Very well." It sounded like Ren had to spit it out. He turned away. The group collectively breathed a sigh of relief. Liz wondered why they had all felt the same need to have Ren’s permission to do this…Michael and Maria were her parents…Max was like her brother, was responsible for her on Earth. And yet they had all known that if Ren had not wanted Isabel to connect, they would not have done it.

Very strange.

Isabel moved forward, gently moved Michael aside. Her almost brother was still frantically running his hands over the pod, clearly searching for more tears. "Michael…"

Michael turned to stare at her. "Izzy…please. You need to get her to tell you how we can help her!" For the first time since this whole disaster had happened, Michael really seemed on the verge of losing it. Liz felt her heart go out to him. He had been so strong - all for Maria Liz knew. And yet he needed Jennetta even more than Liz’s best friend did.

Liz remembered how angry she had been at Michael during the months of Max’s disappearance. She remembered telling herself that she was going to forgive him when Max came back, but in her heart she never had. She and Michael were perfectly civil to each other, but they were not friends any longer.

But in this instant, seeing him crumble - finally - Liz loved him. Maria seemed incapable of moving from the spot where she stood rooted, so Liz went and took Michael’s hand, pulling him out of Isabel’s way. She put her arm around him. "It will be okay." She whispered.

Michael stared down at her, his eyes blank. He swallowed, nodded. Liz felt his spine beginning to straighten under her arm.

Isabel was rubbing her neck, staring at Jennetta’s face through the pod. She turned to Alex. "I need you to pull me out in fifteen minutes."

Alex nodded, looking worried, but as usual not trying to stop Isabel from what he knew she had to do. He knew her better than anyone else, knew that holding her back was the way to lose her.

Liz held her breath as Isabel closed her eyes, placed her hands directly on the pod.
*******************************************************************
Isabel opened her eyes, looked around in confusion.

She was alone in a field of waving yellow grass. The sky above was the same yellow, peculiar and disturbing…

"Jennetta!" Isabel called her sister’s name, looked around desperately. She caught a glimpse of movement far to her right. She took a deep breath, started walking in that direction.

Moments later huge standing stones were looming above her. The place was exactly like Stonehenge, yet without the fallen stones, without the destruction of centuries…the monoliths stood in perfect symmetry, a perfect ring of power.

Isabel paused on the periphery, swallowed and stepped through into the circle.

A tall, dark-haired girl - really a woman, although she was likely only a couple of years older than Isabel - was waiting for her. She looked familiar and yet not. "Hello?" Isabel said quietly.

The girl stepped forward, an expression of relief crossing her face. "Mirana! You came!" She rushed forward, grasped Isabel’s hands.

A series of flashes hit Isabel’s mind like a torrent of emotion. Michael and Maria’s faces, Max’s face, images of a palace, of a woman who looked like Isabel but was not her, images of pancakes and Tabasco sauce and Big Macs, images of an old man with a long white beard…

She blinked, shook her head. "Jennetta?" She gasped. And Isabel realized suddenly why the girl looked so familiar. She looked like a cross between Michael and Maria - just like the little girl they had known and the adolescent in the pod did as well. Her hair was Michael’s light brown, her eyes the exact same shade as her father’s. Her face was all Maria’s though, from her pert nose to her rosebud lips. Her height had obviously been inherited from Michael, although she was slender and delicate boned like her mother.

"Yes, it’s me." Jennetta acknowledged. "You’re seeing how I will look when I come out of the pod. My internal maturation is almost complete." She explained at Isabel’s perplexed look. "The outside takes a little longer." She continued wryly. She sounded impatient actually - sounded exactly like Michael.

Isabel reached out and hugged her, suddenly feeling a connection to this person that she had never allowed herself to feel before. This was Michael’s DAUGHTER. "Are you okay? Michael and Maria are seriously freaking out." Isabel told her. "Why did you call me here?"

Jennetta looked sad. "You have to let them know I’m all right Mirana. This is what had to be. It was why I didn’t let Liz or Jaxon stop me when they tried. Danala did not know what she was doing when she put me in the pod, but I knew it was right. It’s my destiny."

Isabel flinched at the word. Destiny had not been kind to any of them. "But the pod is decomposing Jennetta!" Isabel told her, realized that time was running out. She had told Alex to pull her out of her trance after fifteen minutes. She had to be close to that time now.

Jennetta looked embarrassed. "Um…actually…that’s my fault."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I needed to get your attention somehow!" Jennetta explained defensively. "And I couldn’t contact you unless I had a way to send a message through the pod."

Isabel stared at her open-mouthed. "Are you telling me that everyone thinks you’re dying for no reason?" Isabel demanded, feeling a flash of anger. Jennetta grimaced.

"Not for no reason." Jennetta reached out and grabbed Isabel by the shoulders. "You must listen to me Mirana…and hear me well. All is not well on Illyria. I do not know what is happening there, but I have been visited by Lucianus here - he teaches me - and I know that there is something desperately wrong…" She paused. Isabel saw tears fill her eyes. "Our planet is in the greatest danger it has ever faced. You must find a way to contact Mother. You must find out what is happening! It is information that I will need when I come out of the pod."

"When will that be?" Isabel demanded, doing her best to take in what Jennetta was telling her. She was still trying to adjust to the fact that the girl was safe, that she was not going to die.

"Soon." Jennetta replied. "Until then, you must keep this to yourself - I cannot have the others worrying…they have been through enough. They must continue to live their lives normally until the time of reckoning arrives. Tell my mother and father that I am well, that all is as it should be. Tell them I will return to them soon. But you MUST contact our Mother Mirana. We must know what we are going to face when we go back…"

Isabel started. "Go back?" A feeling of dread, unlike any she had ever felt before ran through her, like someone had stepped on her grave.

Jennetta sighed, nodded sadly. "You must find out what is happening Mirana. You must!"

Isabel covered her face with her hands. Go back to Illyria! They were all going to have to go back! She could not face it. She did not want to go back. Earth was her home! She was going to have to leave her parents and her friends…and Alex…

"Isabel!"

Isabel’s head snapped up. Alex’s voice…it was time to go back…

"ISABEL! Wake up!"

"They are calling for you." Jennetta said, her eyes wide. "Remember what I have told you Mirana…tell them all will be well with me…but find out the truth! You must find out!"

"ISABEL!"

"Jennetta!" Isabel screamed as Jennetta began to fade away in front of her. "Can we take them with us? Jennetta! Please! Answer me!"

"ISSSABBEELLLL!"

Isabel felt as though thousands of hands were grabbing at her. She was being dragged from the Ring. Jennetta stood perfectly still in the spot Isabel had left her. Her dark eyes were unreadable as she raised her hand in farewell…

"JENNETTA! TELL ME!"

But she was gone.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:19:09 PM
Part 52

Max watched Isabel’s eyes fly open. She had started screaming right before Alex had finally pulled her out of the trance into which she had gone when she had connected with Jennetta. Her words had been indecipherable but her last scream had gone through him like a knife…

"JENNETTA! TELL ME!!!"

Max hurried forward as Isabel collapsed into Alex’s arms. Her face was white. Max turned her around gently, placed his hands on both sides of his sister’s face. "Izzy? Are you okay?"

"What happened Isabel?" Michael demanded. He was still standing with Liz. Max noted that he seemed to have gotten a handle on himself again. His stone wall was back in place. He seemed to be taking his strength from Liz.

Maria was standing nearby, her hands clenched in front of her, as though that was all that was keeping her on her feet.

"Give her a moment!" Alex snapped. He was stroking Isabel’s hair. She seemed to be in some sort of a daze still. Max stared into her eyes. He wasn’t sure if she was actually back with them yet…

Isabel’s eyes closed briefly and she gasped once for breath but then began to breathe calmly. When her eyes opened they found Michael’s face immediately. "She’s okay!" A smile broke across her face. "She’s fine you guys! I spoke with her!"

Max could see incredulity cross Michael’s face. "You really talked to her?"

Isabel nodded, eased herself away from Max and Alex. "She’s really fine." She brought her hands up to cup Michael’s face, pulled him into a hug. "She told me tell you that she made the choice to be in that pod." Isabel pulled back, looked at Liz and then Max. "She said that neither of you could have stopped her. It was her destiny…"

"But what about the pod?" Maria asked. "It’s falling apart!"

Isabel rolled her eyes. "She’s definitely your daughter." She told Michael, poking him in the chest. "She did that herself. She was trying to get our attention!"

Michael’s face darkened. "I think she gets that from Maria." He muttered.

Max looked at Isabel again. "There’s more Isabel. What else did she tell you?" His sister’s face whitened again.

"She just told me that she was fine, that she would be coming out of the pod soon." Isabel replied evasively. Max frowned. Somehow he knew that his sister was lying to them.

"How soon?" Maria asked.

Isabel shrugged. "She just said soon."

There was a long moment of silence.

"Well, what do we do now?" Tess asked finally.

Isabel looked from face to face, deadly serious. "Jennetta said that we had to let things go back to normal." She told them. "I don’t think she wants us putting our lives on hold any longer…" She paused, looked straight at Michael, then Maria. "She wants us to live our lives to the fullest…which means no more shift work."

"That’s ridiculous!" Michael bit out. "I have no intention of leaving her in this place all by herself!" Maria was nodding, had moved closer to Michael and taken his hand.

"It’s what she wants Michael!" Isabel replied stubbornly. "We have to respect it!"

"No." Michael was shaking his head. "No way!"

"Michael! You don’t understand!" Isabel said, sounding frustrated. "She isn’t a child anymore!" Isabel pointed at the pod. "She looks like a kid, but she’s not! I was talking to an adult in there…a very insistent adult. She is the Chosen One! We have to do what she asks!"

"I will stay with her." Ren spoke up for the first time since Isabel had emerged from her trance. "It is what I am here for."

"But why?" Maria asked, sounding like she wanted to cry. "Why doesn’t she want us with her?"

Isabel’s face softened. "Because she loves you Maria. She knows how hard this has been for you. She wants you to have a life. She’s going to be with you soon enough. You need to live your lives until that time comes."

"I don’t know if I can." Maria said quietly.

"It won’t be a complete break." This came from Kyle who had been listening quietly since he and Liz had come in. "We have other things to do around here."

Max frowned. "What do you mean Kyle?" He saw Kyle’s face harden momentarily.

"I mean that I found something." Kyle replied. "Something that might give you guys all the answers you want." Max saw Tess look at Kyle, one eyebrow raised.

"I don’t know Kyle…"

"I went back." Kyle told her, cutting her off abruptly. "And I got in. I wasn’t imagining things." He looked at Liz. "Show them."

Liz jumped. "Oh. I forgot!" She hurried over to the table where the two purple communicator orbs still sat from where Max and Liz had left them earlier in the evening. She picked up a book sitting beside them. "My journal!" She announced, a smile breaking across her face. Max smiled slightly to himself, momentarily amazed again at how beautiful she was and that she was HIS…

"Where was it?" Isabel asked, sounding relieved.

"There’s like a storage chamber slash library further underground." Kyle explained. "Tess and I found it earlier. Well, I found it…" He amended. "Tess couldn’t see it - she couldn’t open it either."

"But clearly you went back." Tess said. "And YOU could open it…" She looked at Max, her blue eyes perplexed. "What does this mean Max?" Max saw Kyle frown slightly.

"My question is: how did Liz’s journal get in there?" Alex demanded. "I thought Danala had it. And why would it be in an alien library anyway?"

Max scrubbed his hand across his face. He was suddenly exhausted. It seemed like every time they found any sort of answers, a whole new load of questions were dumped into their laps. "Well, I don’t know that we’re going to find out tonight." He finally told the others. As usual, they were all beginning to look at him, waiting for him to make a decision. He looked at Michael. "And I don’t think we should leave Jennetta alone either…we’ll just tone down how often we’re here. We can set up a schedule where a few of us come and relieve Ren for a couple of hours every day, but I don’t think it needs to be around the clock anymore." He frowned again, stared at the leather bound book that rested in Liz’s arms. "We can go check out this library tomorrow. In the meantime, I think we should all go home and get a good night’s sleep for once."

The others seemed to be in agreement, although Michael and Maria decided to stay with Jennetta for at least one more night, just to make sure that the pod was going to stay intact. There had not been another alarm since Isabel had returned from speaking with their sister, but it was better to be safe than sorry.

Alex and Isabel left first, Isabel almost asleep on her feet. The connection with Jennetta had taken a lot of energy. Max knew that she was still hiding something - he could see it in her eyes as she turned for one last look at Jennetta, who was still floating peacefully in her pod. Max sighed, decided that he would try talking to her in the morning. He did not miss that she paused to stare down at the purple communicator orbs sitting on the table though, nor that she carefully picked one up and put it in her purse.

Kyle left next. Max thought for a moment that he was going to offer Tess a ride home, but in the end he didn’t. Things seemed to be a little less tense between the two of them, but it was clear that they had not managed to really talk about what was going on with them.

And so when Max and Liz left, they took Tess with them in the Jeep. The conversation on the way back to town was casual and relaxed, clearly they were all relieved that Jennetta was going to be all right. Somehow now it didn’t seem quite as tragic that Michael and Maria were not going to get the chance to be real parents to her…at least they knew that she was going to live.

The minute Tess exited the Jeep though, Liz turned to look at him seriously. "Okay, what’s going on."

Max blinked at her. "Huh?" Liz just eyed him for a moment, raised an eyebrow.

"Why did you let Ren make the decision about Isabel going in to talk to Jennetta? You know that he would have done whatever you asked him to do…"

Max put the Jeep into gear before he tried to answer. "I’m not sure why I did it." He finally told her honestly. "It just seemed that he needed to decide…I sometimes wonder…"

"What?" Liz asked quietly. "Whether you can trust him?"

As usual she had hit the nail right on the head. "He’s like Tarsus Liz…or at least he was. I know Maria told us that he saved Jennetta’s life when she was a baby, I know that he technically had his emotions returned when he came through the portal…but I needed to know if he was able to make a decision that INVOLVED emotions. I needed to know if he would take a chance on something important. I remember how cold he was when she first went into that pod. He seemed incapable of understanding why we were upset…"

"So you were testing him." Liz finished.

"I guess I was." Max agreed. "To see if he could make a decision, take a chance…she obviously needed to talk to someone. I think she might have been lonely…I needed to know if he is capable of breaking the rules, to let emotion rule him on something that isn’t really going to make a difference in the long run. If Jennetta was going to die in that pod anyway - didn’t it make more sense for her to not be alone? If he couldn’t see that…than I didn’t want him around."

Max realized that he hadn’t even really been aware of what he was looking for from Ren when he had let him make the decision. Now that he knew, he was pleased that Ren had passed the test Max had not even known he had been giving him. Max knew that if Ren had refused in the end, Max would have ordered him to let Isabel be with Jennetta. He was glad that it had not come to that.

If Max had learned one thing on Illyria, it was that losing your ability to feel compassion was the one thing a leader should never allow to happen. If he was going to be any sort of leader, in whatever capacity, it was the one thing he would never allow to happen again. Max knew that the love he felt for his friends, for his family, for Liz above all was what made him strong.

"Why now though?" Liz asked. "It’s been months Max. Why were you testing him now?"

Max just shook his head. "I just have a feeling Liz…something’s coming…and I think that we need to know exactly WHO we can trust. Jennetta coming out of that pod, it’s going to be a new beginning. I have no idea where any of us fit into it…if she’s the Chosen One, where does that leave me, Isabel, Michael and Tess? I can’t believe that our role on that planet is just going to disappear completely."

Max felt the flash of fear that ran through Liz as though it was his own. He turned his eyes from the road, looked at her. Her face had gone white. "Liz?" He asked worriedly. "What’s wrong?"

"Pull over." Liz told him abruptly. They were on the main street of Roswell, close to the Crashdown. Max felt a genuine flash of fear of his own. He quickly pulled the Jeep over, turned it off.

"What’s wrong?" Before he even had the words out again, Liz had her seat-belt off and had turned to face him. She had her hands on both sides of his face, forcing him to look at her. "Liz?" He was truly scared now. He had never seen her act so strangely.

"You remember what you promised me…" She said seriously, staring him straight into his eyes.

"What?" Max touched her face, felt his heart contract when tears began to fill her eyes. "Liz…"

"You promised me that you wouldn’t leave me behind again. I can’t do it again Max…I mean it." She swallowed. "I need to be with you. I have to know that you’re safe. I cannot do it again Max."

Max frowned slightly. For the first time, she was letting him see how hard it had been for her when he had been gone. She had been so preoccupied with helping him to regain his memory when he returned, it had never even occurred to him that she needed to be "healed" in a sense. He was very good at healing physical complaints, but he couldn’t believe that he had not realized how much she had suffered emotionally while he was gone. "Liz…"

She wiped at her eyes angrily. "Max…" She retorted. "If you leave me behind, I swear I will follow you and you are not going to like what happens to you when I do find you!" Max stared at her, felt his mouth fall open.

"Liz, listen to me." He finally managed to say. "I know what I promised you…and I meant it. We are never going to be separated again. At least not because I leave you behind." He reached out, tucked a stray lock of her silky hair behind her ear. He pulled her into his arms. "Because I cannot let you go. Ever. You are my strength. I wouldn’t be me without you."

He felt Liz running her fingers through his hair. "I just know that something awful if going to happen if we let them separate us again Max." She whispered. It didn’t sound like he had reassured her at all - or that it had anything to do with her not trusting HIM.

Max felt a shiver of dread run down his spine as he stroked Liz’s hair comfortingly.

Somehow he knew that he had been right.

Trouble was ahead.

Part 53

Liz woke up to sunlight streaming through her bedroom window. She rolled over and stretched, sighing. In that moment before she was truly awake she smiled softly to herself, wondered when Max had gone home. She knew that he had still been lying beside her on the bed when she had gone to sleep. He had been stroking her hair, his heartbeat strong and steady under her ear…

And then a shiver descended her spine and she was drawn back into the paralyzing feeling of terror that had immobilized her the night before, when Max had started talking about his role as leader, of the possibility of a return to Illyria…

She was completely awake now.

Max had been worried about her after her little outburst the night before. She knew that he had never seen her like that before. The only time she had ever let her fear control her as it had the night before had been when Max had been taken by Pierce almost two years before.

The terror she had felt that night…she barely remembered anything from the moment she had realized that it was Nasedo in that bus with her until she had stumbled into Michael’s embrace several minutes later…complete and utter fear had practically rendered her incoherent.

She had hated that feeling more than anything, had fought it ever since. When Max had been gone the last time, she had managed to control it, using the promise she had made him to be strong for the others to solidify her resolve.

But now that he was back - that he was TRULY hers - she knew that if they were separated again…only horrible things would come of it. And not just for them…

Somehow she knew that if they lost each other again, every single person they cared about would be affected.

And so she had forced him to acknowledge his promise that he would never leave her again.

It was not that she had not trusted him…Liz knew that when Max made a promise, especially to her, it was kept. She had just needed to hear it, to try and convince herself that it was enough.

But all the wonderful things he had said to her and not managed to do anything about the cold feeling that had her heart in its thrall.

Something was coming…

It had upset Max, Liz knew, that she had been so irrationally terrified, but she had been unable to stop herself from clutching at him desperately after he had accompanied her up to her room, ordered her into her pyjamas and had tucked her into bed.

"Don’t leave me Max!" Liz had insisted when it was clear that he meant to go home. His dark eyes had gazed at her for moment, concerned, but he had taken off his shoes and had climbed onto the bed beside her, pulling her into his arms and had let her fall asleep in his arms.

Liz sat up now, clutched her pillow to her chest. She rubbed her eyes wearily, realized that she heard her parent’s phone ringing elsewhere in the apartment. Liz knew that both of her parents were likely dealing with the Saturday rush in the Crashdown, that she should probably answer that, but she was just too tired to deal with it at the moment.

Her eyes lit on her journal, which was sitting on her bedside table. Her heart lightened marginally. At least they could stop worrying about THAT…although now there were even more questions…

They knew from Tess that Danala was the one who had taken it - it still freaked Liz out that Michael and Tess’ emotionless and dangerous sister had been anywhere near her home, near her parents, which she had to have been to get her hands on the book - but how had it ended up in this mysterious subterranean library that only Kyle Valenti of all people could see OR access?

Liz stood up, dropped her pillow and picked up her journal, flipping through it. She paused at the last written page, at the entry she had been in the middle of writing when Isabel had called her with the first news that Max was on his way back to them…

"I'm Liz Parker and nine months ago I died.
Or at least that's what it feels like.
When you left Max - my life just ended. Oh, I go through the motions. I have kept my promise to you. I am strong. I am a rock. I am everyone else's shoulder to cry on.
I refuse to cry.
Max! Where are you???
I am trying so hard to be strong but it just gets harder and harder every day...
I feel so alone. I miss you so much.
Everyone misses you. It's like we've all gone to sleep waiting for you to come back..."

Liz slammed her journal shut, resolutely removed the brick from the spot in the wall where she kept it. She placed her journal back in its rightful place, put the brick back.

NO MORE! Liz told herself sternly. This is NOT you. You are not a scared little girl…you are going to make sure that NOTHING happens to Max or ANY of your friends. You are in control of your destiny Liz Parker and you are going to stay in control.

And the way to stay in control was to get as much information as possible.

Liz picked up her phone, dialed Kyle’s number. When she rung off several minutes later, she breathed a sigh of semi-contentment.

Step one.

Liz was about to call Max to tell him what she was planning to do when a knock sounded on her bedroom door, distracting her.

"Lizzie, honey…can I come it?" It was her dad. Liz frowned slightly.

"Sure Dad." Mr. Parker cautiously opened the door, poked his head around it.

"I wasn’t sure if you were up sweetie." He pushed the door open entirely. "You were home awfully late last night Liz."

Liz grimaced. "I’m sorry Dad. Alex was sick…"

Mr. Parker frowned. "That was Amy Deluca on the phone." He interrupted her. Liz blinked.

"Oh really?"

"She was wondering if Maria had stayed over here last night…she never came home. Amy tried Michael’s but he’s not home either. He didn’t come into work this morning either."

Liz sighed. "I think Michael stayed with Maria at Alex’s." Liz explained, feeling guilty as always that she had to lie to her father.

Mr. Parker just raised an eyebrow. "Lizzie…." He sounded like he wanted to say something else.

"Yeah Dad?" Liz was becoming distracted. She could feel her fingers tracing the digits to Max’s phone number on her phone. She stopped abruptly when she saw that her dad had noticed.

"Nothing." He sighed heavily. "What are your plans for today sweetie?"

"Oh, Kyle and I have a project." Liz explained, pleased that she didn’t have to stretch the truth this time. They DID have a project - just NOT for school.

"Okay." Mr. Parker moved forward, kissed her on the forehead. "Be home for dinner. Your mom is cooking."

Liz nodded, watched him go, her heart heavy. She knew that her parents were doing their best to trust her, but it had to be hard. She had managed to cover her many overnight Jennetta baby-sitting sessions with various sleepover excuses, aided by the Evans and the Sheriff who could be counted on to cover for them, even though it upset them to do so.

The Sheriff had even told Max a few weeks ago that he thought that all the parents should be brought in on the secret, that the support that they could provide would ease their burden somewhat. Max had said that he would think about it, but Liz knew that he wasn’t seriously considering it…it had practically taken complete disaster for him to let Isabel tell THEIR parents. Liz knew that he worried most about HER parents’ reaction, that they would hate him, ban them from seeing each other.

Liz feared it too. Not her dad - he was reasonable…but her mom, she had the tendency to majorly over-react. She would not hate Max because of who he was but she would be supremely uncomfortable by the information of how often Liz had been in danger BECAUSE of who Max was.

Of course, the Sheriff still did not know the whole truth either. While he knew that Jennetta was important on their home planet and that she was in incubation and that they were all protecting her, he didn’t know that she was Michael and Maria’s daughter. He believed, as did the Evans, that she was Max and Isabel’s sister and that was how they intended to keep it.

Liz shook herself. She didn’t have time to worry about her parents at the moment. There were answers to be uncovered and they were waiting for them at the transformation chamber. She dialed Max’s number quickly.

********************************************************************
Kyle sighed when Max’s Jeep pulled to a stop outside his house. Liz hadn’t mentioned that she was bringing King Max with her. He pressed his lips together even more tightly when he climbed into the Jeep and saw Tess staring back at him.

Liz turned around in her seat, smiling warmly. "Hi Kyle!" He just stared back at her with a raised eyebrow. "Tess and Max wanted to come help. It’s probably best anyway - you know, so we can see if Max can open the library?" Her voice was heavy with forced cheer, pleading with him to not get upset.

When Liz had called Kyle that morning, she had told him that she had been thinking about the library and about why Tess couldn’t see it but he could.

"Do you think it might be because of how Max changed us? That maybe I can open it too?" Liz had asked him.

Kyle had gotten a weird feeling in the pit of his stomach. He didn’t like to be reminded that he had been changed. "Er…I don’t know. I mean, it might explain why I CAN open it, but it doesn’t explain why Tess CAN’T."

"Well, I guess we’ll find out." Liz had replied.

Now as they drove through the desert, towards the place Kyle had VOWED to himself yesterday he would never be visiting again, he found that he was scared to find out what this all meant.

Because every single time he found out anything else about the Czechs or about how they affected HIM, he was a little more tied to them. At the rate he was going he might as well just start outfitting his spaceship for the return voyage to Illyria, because there was no way he was going to escape.

Kyle glanced at Tess out of the corner of his eye. She had been quiet since he had gotten into the car, was staring out across the desert, her back tense. For the millionth time in his life he wondered what she was thinking.

Seeing movement in the front seat, Kyle turned back in time to see Max reach out and stroke Liz’s hair gently. He only did it a few times before returning his hand to the steering wheel, but Kyle grimaced, glanced at Tess again. He hoped she hadn’t seen that. He might resent the hell out of the fact that Evans had Tess’ heart, that she didn’t care about him as anything more than a friend, but it didn’t diminish the fact that he didn’t want to see her hurt.

Tess had not moved, just continued to gaze off into the distance, her blue eyes clouded.

"Tess?" Kyle nudged her lightly. "Are you okay?"

She turned abruptly, stared at him. "What?"

"You seem kind of distant." Kyle told her awkwardly. He wondered why he was even asking her. It wasn’t like she was going to open up in the same car as Max and Liz…

He realized that he REALLY wanted her to say she was okay. Maybe, if she said it… He realized that he was being a complete tool. Saying that she was okay in front of Max and Liz did not mean that she was okay…did not mean that she was NOT in love with Saint Max.

He did NOT want to see her glance uncomfortably towards the front seat, did not want to see her eyes meet Max’s in the rear-view mirror…Kyle watched in astonishment as Max raised an eyebrow at her. Kyle looked back at Tess, saw her swallow and shake her head slightly.

What the hell? Were they having some sort of voodoo alien head talk? Kyle looked at Liz, who seemed oblivious. He saw Max reach out and take Liz’s hand.

He started when Tess touched his arm. "Kyle?"

"Huh?" He blinked at her. What the hell was going on here?

"I need to talk to you about something later okay? I…"

Kyle could not process what she was saying. He was still trying to understand what he had just witnessed transpire between Max and Tess - and right in front of Liz…

"Okay?" He realized that it sounded more like a question than a definitive answer. He realized that he had absolutely NO desire to talk to her alone, to have her ask his advice about Max, about how to let Liz down easily…

And Liz had no idea.

Anger - red hot and sudden - shot through him. Damn them both! They could stomp all over his feelings, but if Liz got hurt in their damn alien head games with each other…

He would kill them both. Gladly.

*****************************************************************
Tess trailed Max, Liz and Kyle down the long stone corridor. She was running her hand along the cool wall, feeling the pocks and ridges that marked where various symbols had been carved into the wall.

She frowned at Kyle’s back. He looked like he had a broomstick stuck in his shirt he was so stiff. He was being really weird again. The tension between them had seemed to break slightly last night, but they were clearly back to square one for some reason that she didn’t understand.

She knew that she had been ridiculously uncomfortable in the car, sitting beside Kyle in the back-seat and refusing to speak to him. But she had been scared. Scared that is she opened her mouth, every hope and fear she had for the two of them would come tumbling out, embarrassing both of them in front of Max and Liz.

No matter how much Tess liked Max and Liz, and she did, she did NOT want them witnessing her attempt to work things out with Kyle. It was private.

Not to mention she was new at putting her heart on her sleeve. She certainly wasn’t new at throwing herself at someone - she grimaced wryly at Max’s leather jacket clad back ahead of her - but she was new to the feelings that the person she wanted to throw herself at engendered.

She had never felt even half of these feelings when she had wanted Max. With him, it had been all about desperation, all about what she had been told was her destiny for her entire life. It had been about making Nasedo proud of her, about finally finding her place in the world.

With Kyle, she was pretty sure she had found it. Without even trying…and it scared her to death.

But she was NOT going to hurt him again. She still remembered the stricken expression on his face when she had rejected him in Senor Chow’s all those months ago. How she could have been so callous…it sickened her. But she knew why.

She had been scared to death then too.

Tess sped up slightly when she realized that the trio ahead of her had stopped, were staring at something on the wall.

They had arrived at the complex, had quickly checked on Ren and Jennetta, but had almost immediately made their way down to where Kyle had found the library. Liz and Max had been hand in hand as usual, but Kyle had stiffly stalked away from Tess, apparently not even wanting to walk beside her for some reason that was beyond her. And so she had trailed behind, feeling sad and confused and trying to regain the courage to confront him.

Now the three of them were staring back at her impatiently. She hurried to join them. "Let’s get this show on the road - and maybe finally get some answers." She told them, her voice much too cheerful, trying to hide where her thoughts had been.

Kyle was staring at her with hooded eyes. He frowned slightly, turned to Liz. "Can you see it?"

Liz nodded. "A window right?" Tess could see that Max was peering at the wall in much the same way she had yesterday. She was almost positive that he couldn’t see this so-called window either.

He confirmed it when he spoke. "I don’t see anything. Can you open it again Kyle?" Tess saw Liz glance at Max, looking perplexed. Tess didn’t blame her. This whole situation was indeed strange.

Why on Earth could two humans see an alien library while two aliens could not?

Kyle nodded, waved his hand over the spot where they had found the hand print. It shone out brightly moments later. He gestured to Max. "We already know Tess can’t open it. You should try and then Liz."

Max nodded, stepped forward, placed his hand squarely on the familiar symbol.

Tess realized that she was holding her breath. She let it out in a great gasp when nothing happened.

Kyle was still frowning. Tess saw his eyes meet Liz’s significantly. Liz stepped forward, placed her much smaller hand on the hand print.

Almost immediately the wall slid away.

Tess saw Liz and Max exchange a glance. Max looked completely stupefied. "Well, I guess we should go in." He finally decided, sounding weary. Tess didn’t blame him. All of this was just unleashing even more questions that they were unlikely ever to get answers for. Why did everything always have to be so weird?

She took a deep breath, stepped through the opening after Kyle - and gasped.

She had been sure that Kyle had been exaggerating about the size of this place, but apparently not. Metal shelves stretched out in both directions, to the point that she couldn’t even see the end. Articles and books of every size and description filled the shelves to over-flowing.

"Max! What is this place?" She asked, knowing that he too wouldn’t know, but needing to speak.

"I have no idea." Max replied, picking up a tome from the nearest shelf. "How could all this stuff be here? We couldn’t have brought it ALL with us on the ship…"

"Can you read it Max?" Liz asked, peering over his arm as he flipped through the metal book in his hand. Max nodded.

"I think so. Just give me a moment…" Liz squeezed his arm, began to rummage through some other stuff nearby.

Tess stared at the book in Max’s hands. It looked very similar to the one Tess had found in the Roswell Public Library on her very first outing with Kyle all those years ago. Nasedo had told her where to find it, had told her that if Max saw it, he would remember her…

Tess shuddered at the memory of how desperate she had been for Max and Michael and Isabel to remember her…she had been so lonely. She had felt bad about using Kyle then, but she had seen the tension that existed between he and Liz, between he and Max. She had known that if Max and Liz thought that she was interested in Kyle, they would follow them.

Of course, she hadn’t realized at the time that they all thought she was a murdering maniac.

Tess felt a hysterical giggle about to erupt. Liz whipped her head around to stare at her, her eyes flashing with concern. Tess pinched her arm, forcing herself to calm down. She smiled wanly at Liz, began to wander down one of the aisles, trailing her hand along the shelf.

She needed to be alone for a few minutes. Being around all these things - most of them likely from their home planet - it was hitting her over the head again. Earth was NOT her home…

Tess finally picked up a book off the nearest shelf and began to flip through it. It was written in the same strange series of dashes and dots as the destiny book too…the language was so familiar, and yet not…it was supremely frustrating.

She threw the volume back on the shelf, strolled down the aisle for a few more minutes.

It was incredibly quiet in this place. The lights came on as she touched hand prints on the shelves, which only reinforced how dusty it was in the room.

And that was when she saw it.

In a small alcove at the end of the aisle there was a small table, two books sitting on top of it, both silver and metallic like the one Max was looking at way behind her.

A single light was shining down on the table. Tess frowned, moved forward. She glanced up at the rock ceiling above the table. She saw absolutely no source for the light.

Weird.

Tess picked up the nearest volume, flipped through it, felt her eyes widen.

Her own face stared back at her from the page. Max, Isabel and Michael were also on the page.

Tess flipped the book shut, looked at the cover, realized that it was another copy of the destiny book.

She carefully placed it back on the table. She did NOT want to look at THAT at the moment.

She picked up the other book, expected it to be the same.

Tess carelessly flipped through it. She paused briefly, when a page flashed past…

Something had caught her eye. She flipped back to the page…

Her heart stopped.

This book was NOT the same. She heard a gasp behind her.

Tess whirled, slamming the book shut, saw a white-faced Liz standing not two feet from her. She had obviously looked over Tess’ shoulder to see what she was looking at…the two girls stared at each other in shock.

"Liz?" Tess did not like the look on the other girl’s face. Liz looked like she was about to pass out.

"Tess…" Liz managed to say in a strangled voice. "What…"

Tess just stared at her.

Liz tried again. "Did you see what I saw?"

Tess took a deep breath, finally nodded. "If you’re wondering if I saw YOUR picture in this book…well, yes I did."

The silence following this pronouncement was deafening.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:20:43 PM
Part 54

Tess and Liz were still staring at each other, both completely shocked by what they had found in the book that was still sat closed in Tess’s hands.

Liz jumped when she heard Max’s voice nearby. He was obviously talking to Kyle but the words were indistinguishable. The size of this library was truly incredible. The fact that she and Tess could hear them at all meant that they were fairly close by.

Which also meant that they had to figure out what they were going to do with this book as soon as possible.

There was no question in Liz’s mind that she was going to tell Max about what they had found - and yet…

She remembered the horror of hearing that message from Max and Isabel’s mother that day in the pod chamber. She remembered how certain Max had been that he wanted to know the truth rather than live in ignorance…and their whole world had fallen apart the minute that message had finished playing.

They had to know what this book meant before she and Tess told anyone about it.

"Liz?" Tess sounded scared. "Should we…?" She trailed off, lifting the book questioningly.

"Open it." Liz replied firmly, taking a deep breath and straightening her back. She looked around carefully. "But hurry…" Tess’ eyes widened. She seemed to understand exactly what Liz was saying.

For the moment this would stay between Tess and Liz.

Tess opened the cover quickly, flipped through the pages and pages of impossible to read text.

And then, there it was…Liz’s face staring up at them from the centre pages of the volume.

And she was not alone. Max’s face was right beside hers.

Liz swallowed. Her heart was beating at about fifty times its usual pace. What on Earth could this mean?

"Liz?" Tess was looking at her worriedly. "Are you okay?"

Other than feeling like her entire world as she knew it was changing, Liz was fine.

She was an alien.

There was no other explanation for it. Not only that, she was somehow connected to Max…connected enough that her face was printed beside his in some alien text.

Her emotions were in complete turmoil….fright, anger, confusion, betrayal…her life was a complete lie.

Why had her parents never told her that she was adopted? What was the point of it? Why had she never had any powers until Max healed her? It wasn’t like she really had any incredible powers NOW either. She could connect with Max intimately, which was definitely special, but not in any way as powerful as Max’s ability to heal or Tess’ mind-warp or Isabel’s gift of entering dreams or Michael’s power to kill with a single blast from his hand…

And yet her overwhelming sentiment was one of great joy.

She had always known that she and Max were meant to be. The proof was finally sitting right there in Tess’ hands.

But there was sadness too - that what they had was not as fateful as they had always believed. Just like Max had not chosen to be mated to Tess, apparently he had not chosen Liz either.

Or at least not without a lot of help.

Liz shook her head, trying to clear it of all the thoughts flooding it. She would have time to think about what this all meant later. For the moment they needed to figure out exactly what this book said.

"What’s that?" Liz asked, her eyes lighting on the other book sitting on the table nearby.

Tess glanced at it. "Oh…" She paused. "That’s the book I found in the library a couple of years ago." She finally said reluctantly.

"The destiny book?" Liz asked. She had never seen it before, had only heard about it. She went and picked it up, flipped through it. She pressed her lips together at the pictures of Max and Tess holding hands, a baby in Tess’ womb, of similar pictures of Michael and Isabel…

"I don’t understand." Tess was saying. "How can THAT be true AND this?" She held up the book in her hands, her expression perplexed. Liz was relieved that she didn’t seem particularly upset that for one book to be accurate, the other had to be hogwash. But then Liz had known for a long time that Tess had never had half the feelings for Max that she, Liz, had. The fact that she was also madly in love with Kyle seemed to be softening the blow that maybe all that destiny talk had been just that…talk.

"I don’t know." Liz replied. "That’s what we need to find out." She glanced over her shoulder. She could feel Max’s presence getting closer. While she felt incredibly guilty that she was going to be keeping something of this magnitude from him, she convinced herself that it was for his own good.

She knew exactly how Max was going to react to this. He was going to be absolutely overjoyed…and while Liz certainly wanted that, she also didn’t want him to get his hopes up until they knew EXACTLY what they were dealing with here.

"There’s only one person who can tell us what that thing says other than Max." Liz went on.

Tess nodded, understanding. "Ren."

"Right." Liz acknowledged. "And the sooner he tells us, the sooner we can tell the others."

"I’ll go take it to him right now." Tess replied. She turned on her heel, hurrying back in the direction of the door to the library.

"Tess!" Liz called after the fleeing blonde. Tess stopped abruptly, whirled. "Thank you." Liz said simply. Tess just smiled. She seemed to know that Liz was thanking her for far more than just going to Ren.

Liz was thanking her for giving up her claim to Max, was thanking her for being a friend.

Because in Liz’s mind there was now no doubt that Tess was a friend. She was among the best.

Liz took a deep breath, went off in search of Max, trying to put the entire matter out of her mind for the moment. She had to act normally around Max. She knew that he was already worried enough about her. If she started to act brittle and flighty - which was how she felt - he was going to get worried…and maybe even suspicious.

If there was one truth about Max Evans, it was that he KNEW Liz Parker. He was going to know she was hiding something.

Liz silently prayed that Ren cleared up the mystery as soon as possible.
********************************************************************
Kyle was forcing himself to be civil to Max. It wasn’t Evans’ fault after all that Tess was madly in love with him.

Although from what Kyle had witnessed in the jeep an hour or so ago, and after those hugs he had witnessed in the quad at school yesterday, Kyle was beginning to wonder.

If Max was playing both girls, Tess AND Liz, or if he was giving Tess false hope, Kyle was going to murder him, the fact that Evans was the King of a far-distant planet be damned.

But for the moment, until he had true proof, he had to be cool.

"So, can you read it?" Kyle asked now. Liz had left a few minutes before to find Tess. Max had seemed to understand why although Kyle didn’t. Evans had just nodded, giving her an absent-minded squeeze before she disappeared. He had been engrossed in trying to decipher the alien text in front of him.

"As far as I can tell," Max replied, "It’s an agricultural treatise of some sort…"

Kyle grimaced. "Like how to plant corn or something?" How boring was that?

"Sort of." Max replied, sounding tolerantly amused at Kyle’s tone.

Smug bastard, thought Kyle. Kyle knew damn well that Max was just as uninterested in planting corn as he, Kyle, be it alien corn or not.

"So you remember all this alien language then?" Kyle asked now, knowing he sounded confrontational but certainly not caring one iota.

"I remember the language." Max replied. "I remember BEING the Jaxon I was when I came back here…so I remember Illyria, what its like there and stuff like that. What I don’t remember," He continued, "Is my REAL life as Jaxon. You know, the one that Tarsus DIDN’T invent."

Kyle felt a pang of sympathy despite himself. Max sounded sad. It had to suck to have your mind played like that. It also had to suck to know that you had lived a whole other life that you couldn’t remember… especially one that had apparently ended so badly.

Max had apparently shrugged off whatever sadness he was feeling though and was beginning to rifle through other volumes on the shelves. Kyle sighed, started to do the same, although if all the books here were as boring as that one on farming, well, he wasn’t really sure WHY they were bothering.

Several minutes later Liz appeared from a nearby aisle. "Hi." She said to both of them, her voice sounding a little strange - all squeaky actually. "Find anything interesting?"

Kyle saw Max pause in the middle of sorting some books nearby. He stared at Liz, apparently also hearing in Liz’s voice whatever it was Kyle had heard. "What’s wrong?" He demanded, glancing behind her briefly before returning his eyes to Liz’s face. "Where’s Tess?"

"Nothing’s wrong." Liz replied. Her voice sounded a little stronger. "I guess I’m just a little tired." She turned away, picked up a book from a shelf beside her and began to turn the pages. "Oh and Tess went to talk to Ren about something…" She glanced at Kyle momentarily, then looked away.

What the hell?

Kyle looked at Max, who was still staring at Liz suspiciously.

"I think I’ll go find her." Kyle said suddenly. Liz’s head snapped up. Her eyes widened.

"Kyle, I don’t think that’s a very good idea." She said, much too quickly.

"Why not?" Kyle demanded. Max looked confused too.

"What’s going on Liz?" Max asked, sounding worried.

"Nothing." Liz insisted. "Tess just needs to talk to Ren about something to do with Illyria…and she needs to do it alone." Kyle did not miss the significant look she sent Max. He seemed to relax minutely, as thought he suddenly understood something.

Kyle frowned. This had something to do with him. He just knew it. Apparently no one wanted him to know, but he was damn well going to find out what was going on around here…

But first he had to get away without either Max or Liz stopping him.

"Whatever." He said, trying to make his voice sound as unconcerned as he could. "I’m going to look down here." He indicated another aisle. Max nodded, still looking at Liz.

Kyle hurried down the aisle, paused to look back. He saw Max talking seriously to Liz, saw Liz reaching up to stroke his hair. She took his hand and pulled him off in the opposite direction.

For the first time Kyle felt real gratitude that Liz and Max couldn’t seem to keep their hands off each other. It was the distraction he needed. He turned abruptly and made his way back the way he had come.

He was soon back out in the stone corridor and hurrying towards the transformation chamber where Kyle knew Tess would have gone to find Ren. He couldn’t be that far behind her.

What seemed like eons later Kyle had reached the spot where the entrance to the transformation chamber was located. He swiped his hand across the wall, placed his palm squarely on the familiar silver hand print.

The entrance swung open and for one moment Kyle considered what Liz had said - that whatever it was Tess was talking to Ren about was private. But he had to know - if she was talking to the shapeshifter about HIM…he had to know once and for all, had to know if he had any chance with this girl.

Kyle entered the short corridor leading to the chamber proper. He paused behind the overhang that guarded the large room. Tess’ voice floated out to him quite clearly.

"…know what it means?" She was asking, sounding agitated.

"Not really." Ren replied, sounding perplexed, or as perplexed as Mr. poker-face was capable of sounding anyway. "This doesn’t make any sense."

"But it changes things…doesn’t it?" Tess’ voice was a combination of confusion and excitement.

"It doesn’t change what Jaxon was to you, Sabrya." Ren said seriously. "He was your husband. I don’t know how Liz fits into that equation."

Kyle felt his heart stop. What the hell were they talking about? Was Tess asking the shapeshifter if there was a way that Max could be with both Tess AND Liz?

"But she does fit somehow…obviously." Tess continued, sounding like she was trying to work something out in her head. "I mean, it was sitting right there beside the destiny book. So maybe she CAN be with Max and we can STILL follow destiny."

"I don’t know." Ren was saying, although Kyle could barely hear him through the rushing of the blood through his brain.

All he heard over and over was "we can still follow destiny…we can still follow destiny…"

It had never been more clear that Tess Harding had not given up her hope that she and Max were going to be together someday. Apparently she wanted it so badly, she was even willing to share him with Liz.

His first reaction was complete and utter amusement at the absurdity of the idea. He almost broke down laughing hysterically at the strange idea of Liz as an alien king’s concubine. That was SO NOT happening…not if he had anything to say about.

And then the pain hit.

Kyle wondered why it hurt so much to hear those words coming out of Tess’ mouth. He had KNOWN it all along, had known that she was pining for Max, that she was never going to get over him, but yet it still felt like she had used her small hands to reach into Kyle’s chest to rip his heart out.

His knees felt weak. He collapsed against the stone overhang, smashing his head against the rock accidentally. "Dammit!" He groaned without meaning too.

He wasn’t sure if the daze in which he found himself was from the pain in his head or the pain in his heart.

All conversation within the transformation chamber stopped abruptly.

A moment later both Ren and Tess were staring at him, Ren frowning, Tess looking scared.

"Kyle!" She exclaimed. "What are you doing here? How much did you hear?"

Kyle did not look at her face. He had to get out of there before he was physically ill. "I was just leaving." He hoisted himself off the ground where he had found himself after hitting his head.

"Kyle…" Tess took a step towards him as though she wanted to help him.

"Stay away from me." Kyle bit out. "I’m leaving. I can’t deal with YOU right now."

He was half-way out the entrance when Tess called after him. "You can’t leave Kyle! You don’t have a car here!"

Dammit!

"I’ll call my dad." He replied. "Just stay away from me."

"Kyle!" Tess pleaded. He could feel her close behind him. "It’s not what you think! Liz and I…"

"Don’t even say it." Kyle ground out. "I KNOW that Liz has nothing to do with this. I know Liz. And apparently I was right about YOU all along too."

He stalked off. He knew that Tess was not following him. He heard her gasp, took it for outrage, since he had basically just called her a slut. Not that he had EVER thought of her that way - in fact still didn’t.

She was just a girl in love with another guy. She had never lied to him. She had never tried to hide it.

She had never been his.

Kyle wondered why he was having such a hard time seeing in front of him. All the lights were still on in the underground complex.

And then he understood. He was crying.

Part 55

Max watched Liz’s back disappear through the doorway into the Crashdown, a slight frown on his face.

There was no doubt that she had been behaving strangely ever since she had gone to have her talk with Tess in the library. She had been doing her best to hide it but he knew her. The tension had been coming off of her in waves, and yet, no matter how many times he asked her, she just denied that anything was wrong. She had even kissed him a couple times in hopes of distracting him, but what had been MORE distracting was the fact that she had clearly clamped down on all of her emotions before doing so.

When she shut off the connection Max knew for sure she was hiding something.

Tess was acting just as peculiarly. She had been glassy-eyed and staring when she had come back to the library after talking to Ren. She had looked right at Liz, shaking her head slightly.

"Where’s Kyle?" Max had asked the logical question but had been perplexed when Tess had replied that he had called his dad to pick him up. Something about basketball practice she explained, but Max had not bought it for a minute. Her tone of voice had been choked and it was clear that Tess was holding in her feelings by the barest thread.

Max had raised an eyebrow at this, but hadn’t pushed the point, sure that Liz would tell him what was going on eventually. But even when they had been alone she had chattered on about inane things - about how exciting the library was, about their biology test on Monday. Her hands had been clenched in her lap and she had stared straight out the front wind-shield of the jeep, effectively not allowing him to get a decent glimpse of her face in an attempt to figure out what was going on.

And when he had finally pulled up in front of the her parent’s restaurant she had seemed actually eager to get out of the car. He had never seen her like that before. Usually they dragged out every minute until they had to be separated, even to the point that sometimes he had to pretend to leave and would then come and visit her on her balcony. But this time, she couldn’t get out of the Jeep fast enough. She had kissed him distractedly and told him that she would call him later and then she was gone.

Something had happened. There was now no question. And there was only one person who could fill him in.

Max backed the Jeep out of its parking spot and drove to Kyle’s.
********************************************************************
Liz hung up the phone, sighing in frustration. She had just spent twenty minutes talking to Tess. Ren had been unable to really tell her anything about the book. The language had apparently been Illyrian, but a strange dialect of it which had made deciphering the text the work of several days - like Chaucer’s English in comparison to present-day English. Tess had left the book with Ren in hopes that he would be able to make heads or tails of it.

It was then that Tess had told Liz about what Kyle had overheard.

"He totally flipped out Liz!" Tess had exclaimed, how upset she was reflected in her voice on the telephone line. "He wouldn’t even listen to me. I’m not even sure WHAT he heard…but clearly he took it the wrong way! I couldn’t even tell you in front of Max because he doesn’t know about any of this."

"I’ll talk to Kyle. It will be alright Tess." Liz had promised. And she had every intention of doing so, but she had something else to take care of first.

She knew that Max was more than aware that she was hiding something from him. The hurt look on his face when she had kissed him goodbye an hour before had almost made her spill everything, but she had to get more information first. She had to protect him, had to find out what all of this meant, if it would hurt him in any way.

As soon as Ren told her anything, she would tell Max everything.

In the meantime, she had to go have dinner with her parents. Which was perfect, because she had every intention of finding out what they knew about the insanity that had suddenly become her life.

Several minutes later Liz was seated at the dining room table. Her dad was at one end, her mom at the other and they were laughing about some strange customer who had been in the restaurant that day.

"So then he says "Have you ever seen any aliens?" Jeff told them. "I told him only every day and that he was certainly among the strangest I had ever seen…and then he THANKED me."

Liz smiled weakly as her parents broke down into gales of laughter again.

"This crazy town." Nancy Parker wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. "It’s certainly never boring!"

That was the understatement of the year Liz thought.

Jeff was still chuckling when he noticed that Liz wasn’t really paying attention to his story. "Is something wrong honey?" He frowned slightly. "Did you have a fight with Max?"

Liz felt a flash of annoyance. "No! I do think of things BESIDES Max you know Dad!"

Liz mentally kicked herself as Jeff blinked, looked down the table at his wife, who shrugged. "I know that honey. You just seem sort of distant."

"Did you know that Max is adopted?" Liz asked her parents suddenly. Great Liz, she reflected, as Nancy and Jeff exchanged another perplexed look, now they’re really going to think you’re bonkers.

"No I didn’t." Nancy replied finally. "Did you just find this out sweetie…is Max upset about it or something?"

Liz shook her head. "No." She told them. "I just thought that you might not know." Liz examined both of her parents, trying to look casual. She searched for a flash of guilt or surprise or anger on either of their faces but they both looked completely open.

"Sometimes I feel we don’t know much about Max." Jeff told Liz, clearly pleased that she had broached the subject. "Maybe we should have invited him for dinner tonight."

"Maybe." Liz replied non-committaly. She was more confused than ever. She wondered if she should just come out and ask her parents if she was adopted…but then they would want to know why…and what was she supposed to say? Oh, because I found my picture in an alien book and it looks like I am linked to an alien king for some reason that I don’t understand.

That would go over just great.

"He’s been back for quite a while." Nancy interjected. "Is he getting caught up at school? How is he doing?"

"He’s doing great." Liz said hurriedly. "I’m sure he would love to come over for dinner some night."

"I often think about how hard that whole situation must have been for his family." Nancy continued. "What a miracle it was when he came back! But it must have been even more difficult for Max…to not know WHO you are for all that time - where you came from!" Nancy just shook her head in sympathy.

Liz stared at her mother. She seemed to be opening the door for this conversation!

"Do you ever wonder about where YOU came from mom?" Liz asked quickly

Nancy blinked again. "I know where I came from Liz. I came from Florida. I was born there. I met your dad in university and we’ve been happy ever since." She smiled down the table at her husband, who smiled back affectionately.

"What’s this all about Lizzie?" Jeff asked a moment later.

"I just realized earlier that we never talk about what it was like when you and mom were kids." Liz told him. "I want to know more about you. I mean, I need stories to tell MY kids about their grandparents."

"Liz, don’t you think its a bit soon to be thinking about YOUR children?" Nancy inquired. Suddenly she blanched. "Wait a minute! This isn’t about what I think it is?"

Liz frowned. "What?" She asked in confusion.

"Liz." Nancy looked like she was about to be ill. "You and Max…"

Liz glanced at her father, he looked just as confused as she, Liz, did. "What mom?"

"You aren’t pregnant?" Nancy almost choked on the last word. "Is that why you’re always so secretive?’’

"WHAT!!!" Both Liz and Jeff yelled at the same time. Jeff turned to look at his daughter in horror while Liz just brought her hand to her forehead in frustration and then started to laugh, although this situation was certainly the farthest thing from funny there was.

"No Mom!" She managed to say, through giggles. She placed her head down on the table and laughed.
"I just wanted to know if I was adopted!" She finally managed to tell her parents.

The room became deadly silent. Liz stopped laughing as abruptly as she had begun.

Nancy and Jeff were staring at each other.

"Mom?" Liz asked, feeling scared suddenly.

"Liz! Whatever gave you that idea?" Nancy finally asked, sounding forcibly cheerful. "Of course you’re not adopted! You look exactly like your father!"

Liz turned to look at her dad. He was avoiding her eyes. "Dad?"

"You’re not adopted Liz." Jeff said firmly, finally looking her right in the eye. "I was in the hospital room with your mother the day you were born."

Liz looked from one to the other suspiciously. She believed them…she knew her parents and she was pretty sure that she would know if they were lying to her…

And yet…

She excused herself several minutes later and went to call Max.

It was time to tell him the truth. She needed him.
*****************************************************************
Max flopped back on his bed in frustration, glancing at the clock on his bedside table. It was late - almost eleven o’clock.

Where the hell was Kyle?

There had been no one home at the Valenti house when he had gone there from the Crashdown. Max had then driven to the school, remembering what Tess had said about basketball practice - but the school had been locked down tightly. Clearly no practice had taken place there recently.

Max had even gone so far as to call the Sheriff at work. Valenti had told him that he had no idea where Kyle was…as far as he knew he was still working on that school project with Liz.

"What is this about Mr. Evans?" The Sheriff had asked suspiciously when Max had been silent for a moment or two after that announcement.

"Nothing." Max replied quickly. "Can you just ask him to call me when you see him?"

The Sheriff had agreed but Max could tell that he was not satisfied. Max felt bad. They had done their best to keep the Sheriff out of as much of their business as possible since the whole White Room/Destiny fiasco. He had been extremely helpful when Max had disappeared too, but Max still felt wary about getting him too involved. He didn’t want what he was to get the Sheriff into trouble, worried still that the Sheriff might get into trouble for bending the laws he already had on their behalf.

They owed the Sheriff too much already.

Unfortunately Kyle’s connection to Tess was making keeping the Sheriff out of it more difficult with every passing day. The fact that Kyle was changed by what had happened when Max healed him…it meant that nothing would ever be the same for the Valenti family again.

Every single person Max came into contact with suffered in some way.

When Max had finally returned home from his search for Kyle, his parents and Isabel had been standing in the front hall with their coats on.

"You’re just in time Max!" Diane Evans had exclaimed, sounding pleased. "We’re going to Senor Chow’s for dinner. We thought you might be at the Crashdown for dinner, but now you can come with us."

Max had considered begging off but one glance at the dirty look Isabel sent him and he agreed. Max knew that Isabel still thought that he was a little stand-offish with his parent, wanted him to change…

It was just hard for Max. He was grateful that his parents knew the truth, that they loved him anyway, but he was still Max Evans. The only person he ever really opened up to was Liz…that wasn’t ever going to change, no matter how much Izzy wanted them to be one big happy family.

He loved his parents, and trusted them, but he was still always on guard…

The Evans had not returned home until about fifteen minutes before. Max was now exhausted and full of food that wasn't sitting very comfortably in his stomach.

Nothing was right with his world when things were weird with Liz.

He sat up with a jolt when at that exact moment a soft tap came at the window. He knew it was Liz immediately. He could feel her presence and the only other person who ever came to his window was Michael, a ritual that had virtually ended when Michael had gotten his own place.

Besides, Michael rarely had any qualms about barging right in. A polite little tap was NOT Michael.

Max hurried to the window, opened it, smiling with pleasure at Liz, who lit up at the sight of him.

"Finally!" She said as he helped her through the window. She threw her arms around his neck, sending them both careening across the room and tumbling onto the bed. She kissed him until he was dizzy. "Where have you been?" She demanded several minutes later when he finally managed to come up for air. "I came over earlier but when you weren’t here I went to Alex’s to wait. He didn’t know where you guys were either!"

"Out for dinner with my parents!" Max gasped, pushing her long dark hair away from her face. "What the heck is going on Liz?"

Liz’s expression darkened. "I guess I don’t have to tell you that I haven’t been straight with you today." She finally managed to say, sounding guilty.

The feeling of relief that flooded through Max was almost weakening in its intensity. "I suspected as much…" He replied lightly, stroking his hands through her hair. "What’s wrong?"

"I don’t know if ANYTHING is wrong." Liz replied evasively. "I don’t think I know anything anymore."

Max ceased the movement of his hands which seemed to have a mind of their own when it came to Liz. "What do you mean?" He could feel her confusion and fear, and yet there was a mingled sense of complete happiness as well.

Liz touched his face, her expression tentative. "Tess and I found something today…" she began.

It took a good fifteen minutes for Liz to finally manage to tell him everything. He just stared at her in shock when she told him about the book, about their pictures, about the fact that Ren couldn’t decipher it, about questioning her parents about her heritage…

When she had finally finished, he was silent for several moments. An overwhelming sense of peace was settling over him, as though the missing pieces of a long-running puzzle were finally falling into place.

He had know it all along. Liz WAS his destiny. It wasn’t even a matter of choosing it anymore…although it was the thing he wanted above all others. She was HIS. For good. And no one could deny it anymore.

"Max?" Liz’s voice was small as he continued to lie beside her silently, just enjoying the way her hair brushed against his neck when her head was on his shoulder as it currently was.

"I don’t think I’ve ever been so completely happy in my entire life." He finally told her. He felt Liz shudder in relief. He flipped over onto his elbow so that he could look at her face. "But why didn’t you tell me this right away?" He asked, not angry, just curious. He knew that she had to have had a good reason.

Liz was staring up at him, her eyes dark pools of doubt. "Max, we don’t know for sure what it means! This is why I didn’t tell you right away…I knew that you would get all dreamy and we can’t let this cloud our judgment. What if it doesn’t mean what we think it means? What will we do then?"

Max raised an eyebrow. "Do you think I care?" He asked gently. "This only reinforces what we’ve known all along. We belong together."

Liz still looked worried. Max was determined to make her feel better. He lowered his head, kissed her gently on her forehead, her eyelids, her cheeks, her nose. She was sighing when he finally reached her mouth.

He felt the connection open between them immediately, let himself fall into it…the love she felt for him was humbling and yet, it completed him as well.

There were no more words for a very long time.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:22:52 PM
Part 56

Isabel sat on her bed, staring at the purple orb that sat on her bedside table. She was frozen with indecision.

The dinner out with her parents and her brother had only made her fear worse - had only emphasized how much she loved her life on Earth, how little she wanted to go back to Illyria…

And yet she knew that she had to find out what was happening there. Jennetta had been so sure that something was wrong.

Isabel had only seen her real mother once, that time they had played the destiny message in the pod chamber. She had only spoken to her once directly, when they had managed to use Stonehenge as an interstellar telephone booth.

Diane Evans was her mom. There was no question about it. Isabel almost felt like she was betraying her mom by even considering contacting Milena. And yet she wanted to.

But then again, she didn’t. She didn’t want to know, didn’t want to be told that they had to go back, that she had to leave Alex and Maria and Liz and Kyle and her parents behind.

And so Isabel stared at the orb, tried to ignore the fact that it felt like it was calling to her - "Use me! Use me!"

For the three thousandth time since yesterday, Isabel considered going to Max, telling him the truth about what Jennetta had asked her to do - in fact had insisted that she do. Let him make the decision! He was the king!

But she already knew what Max would say. He would say that they had a duty to find out the truth. And that would land her right back where she was - in indecision-land. Because just being told to do it was not going to be enough. And then Max would be mad at her.

Isabel sighed, picked up the orb, turning it over in her hands. Just do it Isabel! She commanded herself internally. Close your eyes and try and use it!

She dropped the smooth rock onto the bed beside her. She was going to talk to Max. Maybe it WOULD be easier if he told her what to do.

Isabel stood up quickly, smoothed down her red silk pyjamas and patted her hair. She didn’t want Max to see how flustered she was. She wanted to do and say what needed to be said on her own terms.

She was in front of her brother’s door with her arm raised to knock when she suddenly became aware of soft voices in his room. He wasn’t alone. Isabel realized that it had to be Liz, that she had likely come through the window. No one else would be in Max’s room so late.

She couldn’t do it tonight then. She wouldn’t do it until she spoke with Max.

Isabel rolled her eyes, let the annoyance rush through her. While she loved Liz like a sister, it was very irritating on occasion to have to always come second with her brother.

She refused to allow herself to reflect on the fact that it was almost a relief to be able to blame someone else for not being able to use the communicator. It wasn’t her fault. She wasn’t afraid. She had just decided that Max should know, that was it! Since he and Liz couldn’t seem to spend a minute apart, it would just have to wait.

She refused to reflect on the fact that Max would just tell Liz everything about their conversation anyway, that Isabel could easily go in there and ask them BOTH what she should do.

Tomorrow would be soon enough.

Isabel marched back into her room, resolutely pushed the orb near her pillow. She would talk to Max tomorrow. Everything would be fine.

She tossed and turned for what felt like hours, but finally, close to dawn, Isabel drifted off into a light sleep. She didn’t even notice that the orb was touching her hand.

It was only later that she realized that was probably why it happened.
*********************************************************************
*DREAMS* Isabel

Isabel sat up, blinked.

She looked around, confusion flowing through her. She was sprawled on a white marble floor, the cold seeping through her silk pyjamas as though she was naked. There were tall windows covering the white walls surrounding her, a dull yellow light seeping through and making the walls muted as well.

The silence was deafening.

Isabel shivered. She felt as though she was freezing to death. She didn’t like this dream. Fortunately one of the benefits of being a dreamwalker was that she could wake herself up out of dreams she was not enjoying. And she was definitely NOT enjoying this dream. Being uncomfortable and cold were not options when she COULD be dreaming about she and Alex living in New York, Isabel a famous super-model, Alex a gazillionaire because he had invented some new amazing software for Microsoft…

Isabel shivered again, pinched herself.

Nothing happened.

She stayed exactly where she was.

Isabel frowned slightly, pinched herself again, harder this time. She closed her eyes, knowing that when she opened them she would either be awake or on a beach in Maui with Alex and her friends sipping Mai-tais.

And yet she was supremely not surprised to find herself still freezing AND in the white chamber when she opened her eyes.

Suddenly fear claimed her. Was she dead? Had she died in her sleep - destined never to wake up?

It was then that she became aware of the fact that the silence was no longer solid…she could hear screaming and strange crashing noises coming from somewhere…

She climbed unsteadily to her feet, looked around for a door-way. There didn’t seem to be one anywhere. Isabel moved towards one of the floor-to-ceiling windows, cautiously peered out.

And found herself staring into hell.
*******************************************************************
"MAAAXX!"

Max sat bolt upright in bed, winced when he realized that Liz had still been cradled against his chest. He glanced at the clock. It was 5:14 a.m. Their parents were going to kill them!

Liz’s eyelashes were beginning to flutter, as she became aware of the loss of Max’s warmth. "Mmmmm…Max?"

Max stared down at her for a moment, wondered what it was that had jolted him awake.

And then it came again. "MAAAXX!"

It sounded like a wail and a plea rolled into one. Liz’s eyes snapped open, stared up at him in shock.

"Izzy!" They both said at the same time.

Max was on his feet and out his bedroom door in two seconds flat. His mom and dad were already stirring in their bedroom. "Isabel!" Max heard his mother stumbling around in the stupor of someone just woken from a sound sleep.

Max didn’t pause. He threw open his sister’s door, saw that she was lying on her bed, her hands clasped around an object that was resting on her stomach.

She was weeping silently now. Max could see that she was still asleep.

He fell to his knees beside her bed. "Isabel! Wake up!" Max felt Liz come up behind him, could feel her concern coming off of her in waves.

He tried to shut out the way Liz always seemed to claim all of his senses whenever he was in her presence. He had to worry about Isabel now. "Isabel!" Max gently shook her. She continued to weep, suddenly let out another ear-piercing shriek.

"JAAAAXX! Mother!!!"

Max flinched. He realized that she had not been saying "Max" at all, but rather "Jax," as in "Jaxon." Something was definitely wrong.

"TRIIISSS!"

Max felt helpless. He continued to shake Isabel but she refused to open her eyes, seemed to be trapped in a nightmare.

Max could hear Liz speaking quietly to his parents, who were now both in the room as well. He ignored them, placed his hands on Isabel’s temples and struggled to connect with her.

He knew what he had to do. He had to go in and haul her out of whatever horrifying dream she had become entrapped in.

The images began to flow fast and furious…

Flash*

Isabel, accompanied by Michael, bursting into a chamber. He could feel Izzy’s absolute terror… He felt her heart stop in horror at the sight that she and Michael found. Max recognized himself sprawled on the floor, blood seeping out from beneath him. He saw Tess lying peacefully on the bed in the room, looking like she was sleeping, except for the blood that stained the pillow behind her head. And suddenly the girl on the bed was no longer Tess…it was Liz…Max felt Isabel’s terror becoming a frenzied crescendo…

Flash*

Isabel in a long, white, blood-stained gown. Max realized that she was cradling a body in her arms… it was Michael. He could feel her fear, and yet resignation, as faceless beings advanced on her…she knew she was going to die…And suddenly the boy dead in his sister’s arms was no longer Michael…it was Alex…and Isabel’s grief increased ten-fold…

Flash*

Bodies everywhere…blood stained the walls of a white marble chamber…a room lit by a dull yellow light…

Flash*

A woman, Max saw that it was their real mother, standing in the Waylandian Ring, her arms outstretched… "Save me my daughter! Mirana! Save me!"

Max could feel himself beginning to get lost in the flashes. They seemed to be repeating on a constant loop…

He had to get Isabel out of there.

"Izzy! Isabel!" He called her name, searching for her conscious self amongst all the chaos that existed within her mind.

He could feel his sister slipping away into insanity…her mind was like a thin thread…he didn’t know how he saw it, but he did…it gleamed in front of him like spun gold…

As suddenly as he was in Isabel’s mind, he was out.

Max collapsed onto the bed.

It seemed like a very long time before he realized that Liz was beside him, lightly stroking his face. "Max! Wake up my love! Max…"

He closed his eyes momentarily, reopened them and focused on Liz’s face. She was looking at him with fear in her eyes.

"Isabel?" He croaked, after trying twice.

"She had one of the purple orbs in her hands Max." Liz told him quietly. "I took it away and she woke up."

Max looked across the bed, saw that his sister was sitting up, was being cradled in their mother’s arms. He frowned. "How long have I been out?" He asked.

"At least five minutes…" Liz replied, pulling him off the floor and on to the bed beside her. "Are you all right?" She was running her hands all over his body, checking for injuries, although he could have told her that she wasn’t going to find anything physically wrong with him.

It was all in his mind. He knew he was NEVER going to be able to erase those horrifying images he had seen in his sister’s head.

Max turned to look at Isabel. She was staring off into nothingness, her dark eyes wide and blank. She was clutching their mother as though she never wanted to let go. Diane was stroking her blonde hair, crooning nonsense, trying to soothe her.

Max couldn’t even begin to imagine how she was suffering. She had been LIVING those horrible things…

And suddenly he was staring right into his sister’s haunted eyes. She blinked, became aware of him. "Max…" She swallowed. "Did you see it?"

"Yeah Iz." Max nodded weakly. Liz had her arm around him. He could feel her trying to will some of her strength into him - it actually seemed to be working.

"Max, it’s not what you think." Isabel continued, as though he hadn’t spoken. "That wasn’t the past…I thought it was at first. But it wasn’t."

"What are you saying honey?" Diane asked, continuing to stroke Isabel’s hair. "What did you two see?"

Isabel ignored her. "It was the future Max…If we don’t go back to Illyria, that will be OUR future."

Part 57

Roswell, New Mexico - May 2002 - four months later

"Alex! Finally! Why are you so late?" Isabel’s next comment was practically a screech. "What the heck are you wearing? You are not going to MY prom in that!"

Liz tried desperately to control her smile, but when Michael snorted suddenly causing Maria to burst out laughing, it was like a chain reaction. She started to laugh too, which caused Max to grin - it was a rare phenomenon for something to make Max REALLY laugh and Alex’s usual high-jinx still weren’t quite enough.

Liz watched Isabel’s face, saw her friend’s cheeks turning pink as she resolutely fought the smile that was threatening to break out across her beautiful face. She was trying very hard to maintain her stern expression, but it was clear that she was fighting a losing battle.

Diane Evans lowered the camera she had been pointing at Isabel. She had been in the process of taking one of the innumerable candid shots of the group that she had been insisting on since Max and Michael had picked up Liz and Maria over an hour before. Her blue eyes widened and she started to laugh too.

"Nice man." Michael was saying. "Why didn’t you tell me you were going to wear that? I would have found one too." Maria was rolling her eyes. "Thank you." She mouthed to Alex.

"That really is a very…er…interesting ensemble Alex." Mr. Evans said, glancing worriedly at Isabel. When it was clear that his daughter wasn’t really mad, he let himself chuckle.

Alex just shrugged, gave a patented Whitman thumbs-up. "I always like to do it up in style. If you can’t go powder blue, why go at all? My dad saved this for my wedding, but he decided the prom was okay too." He hiked his pants in the air, showing off his white patent leather shoes. "Of course, these are the best part."

The shoes actually earned a laugh from Max, which Liz barely noticed because she and Maria were leaning on each other for support, as they laughed hysterically.

Michael was circling Alex, stroking his chin. "Hmmm…I disagree. I really think it’s the shirt that completes the outfit."

Alex was nodding, primping slightly in front of the mirror over the Evans’ fireplace. "Yeah. I decided ‘My Girlfriend is an Alien’ was a little too out there. No one would believe it." He grinned at Isabel in the mirror. Her lips were pursed, but Liz could see that her eyes were shining.

"And they are going to believe that?" Liz asked, smiling. She pointed at the T-shirt Alex wore under his powder blue tux jacket. It had an arrow pointing downward and said "Alien Bun in the Oven."

Alex just continued to grin at Isabel. "One can only dream." Isabel blushed crimson. Mr. Evans looked horrified, Max repulsed and Mrs. Evans, despite her usual self, actually collapsed on the sofa she was laughing so hard.

"Class all the way Whitman." Maria said, jabbing Alex in the ribs. But Alex just jokingly pushed her aside, taking Isabel by the hand and sweeping her into a dip so deep he almost dropped her. Mrs. Evans started snapping pictures, although Liz was sure they were all going to be out of focus since she couldn’t seem to stop giggling.

Liz went over to Max, kissing him lightly to try and erase the mental picture she was sure he was conjuring in his head. She could tell that he was beginning to get a little steamed. Isabel WAS his sister after all. She felt him relax slightly.

She knew that he wasn’t really mad. It was so good to see Isabel actually smiling and having a good time. And, of course, it was Alex who had put that smile there. He seemed the only one capable of doing so these days.

It had been four months since Isabel had had the first orb-induced nightmare. They had not stopped since. Apparently the purple orb had triggered the first one, but it had not been necessary for it to be in Isabel’s hands for them to return.

Liz sobered slightly, glancing at her friend, who was smacking Alex lightly as he finally let her up. She moved over to the mirror, began fussing with her upswept blonde hair. Her ice-blue dress was floor-length and made the most of Isabel’s blonde ice-queen quality. She looked exquisite. But not even her usual perfect make-up job and immaculately put-together look could hide the dark circles under her eyes.

No one had wanted to go to the prom. It had seemed wrong somehow, with Jennetta still in her pod and Isabel suffering from nightmares that seemed to be threatening more horrible times to come. Not to mention the fact that both Kyle and Tess were missing.

Well, Liz reflected sadly, as Max put his arm around her, squeezing gently, it’s not like Kyle hasn’t been missing for a long time.

Liz sighed as she thought about what the last months had brought, in spite of her promise to herself and to Max that they were going to have fun that night - that they were going to let all the craziness go for once.

After Isabel’s first nightmare, Max had driven Liz home that morning in dead silence. When they had reached the Crashdown, it was still very early, barely six-thirty and so there had been no one on the Main Street. Liz had undone her seat-belt, climbed onto Max’s lap and had wrapped him in her arms. He had buried his face in her neck, his hands twining through her loose hair.

It was then that he had started to shake.

He had been strong for Isabel, but Liz knew that whatever it was Max’s sister had seen, Max had seen it too. And it had been horrible. Max had been incapable of talking about it at the time, but he had told Liz later and it had been almost worse than she had imagined.

And it refused to stop.

Max and Liz had managed to escape a serious talking to by their respective sets of parents over the fact that Liz had fallen asleep in Max’s bed because of the Isabel issue. The Evans had called the Parkers to explain. All Liz’s dad had said when she came into the Crashdown was "Call next time honey."

The Parkers had seemed inclined not to want to upset Liz anyway that morning. Liz suspected it had to do with how weirdly they had acted when she had asked if she was adopted.

And so Liz had been free to call Tess when she finally reached her room. Her friend had been up, getting ready for school. Tess had been upset to hear about Isabel, but Liz had heard the underlying distraction in Tess’ voice on the other end of the line.

Finally she had broken down and asked. "Did you talk to Kyle yet Liz?" Tess paused, sounded upset. "I don’t mean to sound uncaring here - I mean, I do care about Isabel, but I just can’t concentrate on anything until this thing with him is resolved."

Liz had sighed. "I haven’t talked to him Tess. I’ll do it at school today."

She would have too - except that when she arrived at school, the rumour was already flying.

It was Tess who had brought it to her, flying out the front doors of West Roswell, a stricken expression on her face. "LIZ! He’s together with Vicky Delaney!"

Liz had been with Max. They had been standing near the Jeep, holding hands, trying to work up the energy to care about school when Tess had appeared. "What?" Liz demanded, letting Max go and grabbing Tess by the shoulders.

"You heard me!" Tess had screeched, almost hysterically. "I got to school this morning and that witch Courney James came over to me and asked me if I had heard. I said heard what…and SHE said that Kyle had gotten back together with Vicky Delaney!"

Liz had just stared at Tess in open-mouthed amazement. "This can’t be true Tess. I know Kyle. He’s been trying to distance himself, but he just can’t do it. He LOVES you."

Tess had swallowed convulsively, her blue eyes glittering with tears. "I was such a little idiot Liz! Of course he’s given up. He probably SHOULD be with Vicky. At least she’s normal…" Liz had exchanged a look with Max. He had seemed upset, but was quiet. Liz had seen that he couldn’t deal with this right now. She could tell that Isabel’s horrible nightmare was still replaying itself in his mind.

"I’m going to get to the bottom of this." Liz had told her resolutely. She had gently led Tess to the passenger side of the Jeep. She had returned to Max, hugging him briefly. "Take Tess to your parent’s house. I don’t think either of you are in any condition to be here today. You can check on Isabel."

Max had just nodded, smiling sadly at her. "Have I told you today that I love you?" He had asked as he enfolded her in his arms.

"And I love you." Liz had replied. She had watched them drive away, fear in the pit of her stomach. She was used to it by now. Her feeling that something horrible was about to happen was still as strong as ever - but if she could at least patch up one disaster, she would.

Liz had finally found Kyle after third period. He had been difficult to miss actually, considering that he was standing in the middle of the main hallway, his arm around Vicky Delaney, surrounded by a bunch of jocks and cheerleaders in various states of general rowdiness.

Liz had marched right up to him. She had been surprised by the anger she felt coursing through her. She could see that Kyle was miserable although he was doing his best to appear that he was having a good time, kissing Vicky perfunctorily every few minutes or so.

"We need to talk." Liz had told Kyle curtly, glancing at Vicky and forcing a smile. "Can you excuse us for a minute?" After all, none of this was Vicky’s fault and she really was a nice girl. Kyle using her to get back at Tess was even worse than if he had used someone who deserved it - like one of Pam Troy’s cronies.

Vicky had just smiled her fairly blank smile. She was a nice girl, but she wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. "Sure Liz. Nice to see you."

Liz had grabbed Kyle by the arm, none too gently, and had hauled him off to the Eraser Room. She had known that THAT was going to be around school in less than an hour too, but privacy had been of the essence. She had been able to tell that Kyle was actually considering NOT talking to her, but he wasn’t quite at the point where he wanted to hurt HER too. Liz knew that Kyle still had a very protective tendency towards her and she planned to take full advantage of it.

"Okay, what are you doing Kyle?" Liz had demanded when they were finally alone.

Kyle had not answered her question directly, instead had stuffed his hands into the pockets of his letterman’s jacket, and had asked a question of his own. "Where’s Saint Max? Oh wait! Didn’t I see him driving off campus with Tess first thing this morning?" His tone had been patented Valenti sarcasm. Liz had felt herself bristling despite herself. If there was one thing Kyle was talented at, it was the pointed one-liner.

Liz had eyed him for a long moment, until Kyle began to squirm. "What are you implying?" She finally asked. "You don’t still think that there’s something going on between Max and Tess?"

Kyle had just sighed. "Honestly Liz, I don’t think MAX has anything going on with Tess. But its time to face facts here. She’s NEVER going to get over him."

"ARE YOU INSANE?" Liz had practically yelled. Kyle had backed up a step he had been so surprised. Liz had been slightly surprised herself. She NEVER yelled. "Kyle, I expected more from you. You’re not a dumb jock. You’re one of us. Tess loves you. Why is it that you’re the only one who can’t see it?"

Kyle had just closed his eyes, looking defeated. "Liz, I just can’t do it anymore. It’s too much. I can’t deal with it. She doesn’t love me. She loves him. I know you don’t want to believe it, but I HEARD her talking to Ren. She was asking if it would be possible for you guys to share Max…"

Liz had just stared at him in shocked disbelief. "You’re basing this assumption on a conversation you overheard, that you eavesdropped on LATE?" She had felt like laughing. "Kyle, Tess was asking Ren about something she and I found in the library yesterday. Something that changes everything we’ve ever known about the destiny that Max and Tess and Isabel and Michael have been told about."

Kyle had just rubbed his forehead. "Even if what you say is true Liz…"

"It is!" Liz had exclaimed, frustrated beyond measure.

"It doesn’t matter anymore. I’ve come to a realization…I can’t do it. I just can’t deal with any of this. And it’s not just about Tess. He CHANGED me Liz. He changed YOU! I never asked for this!" Kyle was hunched up in his jacket looking like a scared little boy. "I just can’t deal with it. I keep getting pulled back in and I want out. I love her, but I can’t give up a normal life for her Liz. I’m not you."

Liz had just shaken her head. "I can’t believe this." She finally said, feeling sick. "I never thought I’d see the day that you were a coward Kyle. And I know you’re lying. This is all about Max and how you can’t give up this crazy delusion that Tess loves him. How can she love him? She doesn’t even know him! It’s YOU she knows…it’s YOU she loves. You’re her best friend!"

Kyle had turned away. Liz could tell that he was trying to hide the fact that he was about to cry. She had never seen her friend in so much pain. Somehow Kyle had become lost on the great adventure that the eight of them were entangled in together. How had they lost him?

"Kyle, please don’t shut us out." Liz had pleaded, ready to burst into tears herself.

"I have to Liz. Please just go. Leave me alone."

"I’m not leaving you." Liz had replied stubbornly, placing her hand on his back in comfort.

She HAD started to cry when he flinched away from her. "Then I’ll leave. And please don’t talk to me about this again. I have to move on."

Liz had almost run after him, had almost gone screaming down the school hallway after him….

But she had been weak that day. She had let him go.

He had never come back.

Kyle had returned to being Mr. Popularity, had not spoken to any of them since. He dated Vicky, played basketball, played baseball….he had left them. His facade of normalcy was so good, Liz almost believed it. But she knew better.

Liz knew that they would see Kyle at the Prom that night, that he would be there with Vicky…but they had become used to it…it was unlikely that any of them would exchange two words with Kyle.

And that was the worst part. They had become used to letting their friend shut them out of his life.

The decision to go to the Prom had not been taken lightly. No one had been comfortable with the idea, feeling like they were being petty and selfish by wanting to enjoy one of the rites of passage of high school.

It had been Maria who had finally decided for all of them.

Liz knew that Maria spent most of her free time at the transformation chamber with Jennetta, waiting desperately for her daughter to emerge from her pod. She had seen Maria gradually accepting over the long months of the transformation that she was not going to get see her daughter grow up.

Somewhere, somehow, over the last month, Maria had achieved an epiphany.

She had appeared at Liz’s bedroom door at midnight a few weeks before. She had been soaking wet and had looked embarrassed to be there, especially when she saw that Max had fallen asleep on Liz’s bed. He was so exhausted all the time, Liz had just decided to let him sleep for a while before waking him in a way that would be pleasant for both of them and then sending him home.

"I’m sorry. I’ll come back tomorrow." Maria had said. But she had seemed relieved when Liz had grabbed her by the arm, pulling her into the Parker’s kitchen.

"What’s wrong? Is it Jennetta?" Liz had demanded, going immediately to the freezer and pulling out the ice cream.

"No." Maria had replied. "Well, sort of…" Tears had welled up in Maria’s eyes, causing Liz to set the carton of ice cream down in order to put her arm around her friend.

"Maria! What’s wrong?" Liz had been able to tell that her friend was undergoing an internal struggle of some sort…like she was trying to hold back what she really wanted to say.

And then the dam had burst.

"I want to go to the prom!!!!" Maria had wailed. "I’m a horrible person! My daughter is in a pod and is going to be older than I am when she gets out and I want to go to the prom!" Maria had grabbed Liz by the shoulders, staring at her. "Tell me I’m a horrible person. I know I am!"

Liz had felt her heart go out to her best friend. "You’re not a horrible person Maria. It’s only natural that you’d want to do something normal teenagers do. I mean, we didn’t go last year because Max was gone…" Liz had trailed off, briefly remembering how horrible that had been. "How did this happen?" Liz had asked, wanting to erase that awful memory.

"I was at the transformation chamber with Ren. He was walking me to my car. When we got outside, we were both surprised to see that it was pouring…it was raining so hard that the entrance to the complex was flooded. Liz, I fell into the puddle! I didn’t see it and I fell in."

Liz had raised an eyebrow. "Well, I can see that you’re wet. But what does this have to do with the prom?"

"I’m getting there." Maria had replied, sounding more like her old Maria self than she had in a long time. She was babbling in a way that Liz had never thought that she would hear again. "So anyway, I fell in and just sat there staring up at Ren. And then you’ll never believe what happened Lizzie! He laughed! That stone-faced alien actually laughed at me!"

Liz had swallowed, trying hard not to laugh herself at the complete astonishment in Maria’s voice. "Okay?" She had waved her hand in front of her, prompting Maria to continue.

"Anyway, I just stared at him more and then I started to laugh. I laughed Liz. I haven’t laughed in so long…I mean REALLY laughed." Maria had looked so guilty, Liz had reached out to hug her. "And it felt SOOOO good."

"I’m glad you laughed." Liz had told her seriously. "Jennetta doesn’t want you and Michael putting your lives on hold. She told Isabel that."

"But I didn’t believe her Liz!" Maria had exclaimed. "And even if I did, I certainly wasn’t going to listen to her. I’m her mother! I know better than she does…" She had trailed off, looking astonished again. "But then I realized - I don’t know better than she does! I’m eighteen years old Liz! I’ve spent maybe a total of a month with my daughter. I’m a kid!"

Liz had felt sad for a moment. "We’re all kids Maria. We’ve all had to deal with so much stuff kids should never have to deal with."

"And it’s not fair." Maria had replied. "And I think we’ve done a pretty decent job up until now in spite of that…" She had pursed her lips. "And I want to go to the prom! I want to have pictures to show my grandchildren of when I was young. Of course, at the rate I’m going I’m likely to have grandchildren by the time I’m twenty, but that’s another story! I want to go to the prom!"

Liz had smiled, her love for Maria increasing tenfold. Her friend was finally dealing with her own wants and needs for once. It was about time. Maria had put up with enough crap to fill three life-times. "So we’ll go." Liz had told her quietly.

And so they were going. All of them.

Except Tess, which was why, despite all their attempts to have at least one night just for THEM, a night that was just about them, about being young and carefree and HUMAN…something was still off.

Max and Liz had tried to convince her to come with them, but she had just raised an eyebrow and said "Yeah right."

Michael had tried ordering her to go with he and Maria. Again she had just stared him down. Liz had never seen Michael cower like that before. Tess had her brother wrapped around her finger by now. Even the thought that she might get mad at him had made him back down almost as quickly as he had tried to "convince" her.

Isabel had even secretly tried to find Tess a date, but when Tess had found out, her fury had been so scary, even Isabel had left well enough alone.

It had been to Liz that she had told the truth.

"I won’t go with anyone but Kyle. And I won’t go to see him there with someone else."

And so the night wasn’t perfect. But it was pretty close - or as close as they had come in a long time.

Liz should have known that it couldn’t last.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:24:37 PM
Part 58

Kyle managed to plaster a smile on his face as he and Vicky posed for the photographer. It was a complete sham, trying to pretend that he was having a good time, that he wanted to be there, that he wanted to be with Vicky. But then, his entire life was a sham, so it wasn’t like anything was new.

"C’mon Kyle! Let’s dance!" Vicky grabbed him by the hand, pulling him out onto the dance floor, which was currently packed with gyrating high school seniors. Kyle rolled his eyes. This was the absolutely last place he wanted to be but throwing himself lock, stock and barrel back into jock-land unfortunately meant that the prom was a social obligation.

He couldn’t believe he was actually concerned about frigging social obligations.

And they were actually playing that Vitamin C song - the one about graduation and about being friends forever.

He wanted to kill himself.

He was definitely losing it. Not that this came as any sort of surprise. He had been losing it for a long time - since the day he had admitted to himself that he loved Tess and that she was never going to love him back.

Kyle missed her. He missed them all.

He missed Liz, the understanding friend he had found in her whenever they talked. He had always loved Liz, always would. She was completely above him in every way, but she loved him too and he knew it when he was with her. She was the only true friend he had ever had.

He missed Maria - her craziness and her love of life, although there hadn’t been much of that over the last few months. He missed Alex, even if he did used to torture him by making him listen to all his new songs. He missed Isabel’s snootiness, which hid a sharply wicked sense of humour. He missed Guerin’s grumpiness

Finally, and, yes, Kyle had to admit it to himself, he even missed King Max. He had always been able to tell that there was something apart about Max Evans, and while it had often pissed him off, he had always admired the guy, even wanted to be like him. It wasn’t Max’s fault that he had everything Kyle had ever wanted.

Of course, Kyle had seen them all at school over the few months since he had made his break from them. It wasn’t like they had fallen off the face of the planet just because he wished they would, wished that they would stop flaunting what he had once had with them in his face. He would see Liz and Max sitting quietly together in the quad, completely wrapped up in each other as they always were when they were alone, would see Liz and Maria and Alex laughing together in the computer lab, would see Michael and Max having one of their intense - read argumentative- conversations in the parking lot, would see Isabel and Liz studying in the library…

And needless to say, SHE was even MORE everywhere then the rest of them.

He would turn one way and she would be walking down the hall-way with Michael and Maria, trying to mediate their bickering. He would turn another way and she was talking intently to Liz on the front steps of the school. But he saw her most often with Max, as though they were deliberately trying to torture him. She and Max seemed to be the best of friends these days.

Tess Harding was haunting him.

She knew she was doing it too. They had gone back to the game of her staring at him all the time - in class, in the hall-way, if he saw her on the street. Even when she had no idea he was in the room, her blue eyes were always on him, penetrating him, looking hurt, making him feel guilty.

She was going to drive him crazy.

At least he knew for a fact that she wouldn’t be there tonight. He would be able to get through this damn prom without having to watch Tess with whatever bohunk she brought. Kyle knew that it was unlikely that any of them would come. He was sure that they would have decided that it would just be weird, what with all the crap they were constantly dealing with.

Kyle often wished that he knew for sure that they were all right - that Jennetta was okay. He knew that Max kept in touch with his dad, but that the Sheriff was even more out of the loop than he had been since Max’s disappearance. Max was trying to distance his dad, didn’t want to put him in danger. Kyle knew it, but it was still annoying that that one venue of information had completely dried up.

He knew that his dad was worried about him. Kyle even thought he might have mentioned how worried he was to Amy Deluca since she always asked him if he had talked to Maria lately. It was ironic that as Kyle cut himself off from Amy’s daughter and her friends, Amy and Kyle’s dad seemed to be growing closer and closer. It was bloody typical. If he wasn’t seeing one of THEM, he was seeing their parents.

Kyle felt Vicky put her arms around his neck. Tuning back into what was going on around him, he realized that a slow song was beginning to play. He put his arms around his unwanted girlfriend’s waist, sighing. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Vicky - he did - but unfortunately his heart didn’t belong to him anymore. He didn’t have it to give to anyone else. Nothing had changed. Even if he never spoke directly to Tess again, she had him.

But at least he didn’t have to see her tonight…didn’t have to see any of them.

Of course, it was just as this thought was running through his head that Vicky suddenly said, "Hey! There’s Liz! She looks great!"

Kyle’s head whipped around despite himself, his heart in his throat.

Liz was standing in the entrance to the gym with Max. She looked beautiful just as Vicky had said. Her dark hair fell around her face in those ringlets that she sometimes wore, the ones that made her look like some Renaissance goddess come to life. Her dress was light pink and fairly simple, but it emphasized the complete naturalness of Liz Parker’s beauty. And since she happened to be talking to Max at the moment, her entire being seemed to radiate with some weird sort of energy that lit up the entire room around her. Kyle didn’t blame Evans at all when he suddenly pulled Liz close to him, kissing her lightly on the forehead. While Kyle loved Tess, he could still remember the time when Liz had been everything that was perfect to him. Looking at her tonight reminded him even more strongly.

At the thought of Tess, Kyle felt his heart drop to his toes. He scanned the group coming in behind Max and Liz. First Isabel and Alex, Isabel drop-dead gorgeous as usual, Alex looking absurd and yet completely comfortable in a powder blue tuxedo. They were followed by Maria, who had already started to drag Michael towards the photographer. Michael was tugging at his tie, looking like he was about to strangle. He must have muttered something to Max as he passed him, because Max grinned and Liz scowled at him.

Kyle’s heart began to beat at a more normal pace when he realized that Tess was nowhere to be seen.

"We should go say hi!" Vicky said suddenly, following his gaze.

"NO!" Kyle said too quickly. Vicky stared at him, her blue eyes confused.

"I thought they were your friends."

"Vicky, have you seen me with them at all since we started dating?" Kyle demanded, annoyed at himself for using such a mean tone. "I’m not friends with them anymore." He continued in a gentler voice.

Vicky frowned slightly. "Well, okay, I guess."

"Let’s dance." Kyle decided that changing the subject was the best possible solution to the awkward silence that had suddenly sprung up between them. Vicky allowed herself to be led onto the dance floor.

Kyle did his best not to look at any of them, but this didn’t mean that he wasn’t aware of the exact moment that Liz became aware of him.

She and Max were standing near the punch bowl, watching the dance floor, where Alex and Isabel were already cutting a rug, Alex dipping Isabel all over the place, to the point that she was practically in hysterics.

Liz’s eyes seemed to light up the minute they met his across the crowd. He saw her say something in Max’s ear and then she was on her way over.

Oh hell.

He had not actually conversed with Liz since that horrible scene in the Eraser Room a few months ago - the time he had actually cried. They had said hi in the halls, but Liz had seemed at a loss about how to deal with him. It was clear that she wanted to but that she didn’t know what to say to him. He knew that she thought he was an insane imbecile, that she thought that Tess loved him, that she was sure that there was nothing going on between Tess and Max, knew that she was frustrated that he couldn’t say that he felt the same.

And so the fact that she was actually approaching him was a surprise - and yet not. This was Liz after all, Miss "I’ll never give up on my friends" Parker. She had practically brought Max back from Illyria with the strength of her will alone.

"Hi guys!" Liz said, her voice friendly, but with a vein of steel running through it. There was no way Kyle was avoiding this confrontation.

Vicky turned, smiled. Kyle knew that she genuinely liked Liz. Why did the girl have to be so darn friendly to everyone? Why couldn’t he have picked one of Pam Troy’s mean robots to date? But then he hadn’t wanted to completely torture himself…

"Hi Liz!" Vicky said brightly. "You look beautiful!"

Liz smiled her kind smile, the one that made Kyle know that he was in real trouble. "You too Vicky." She turned to Kyle, her eyes determined. "Do you mind if I cut in?"

Vicky smiled again. "Not at all. I need to go powder my nose anyway." Vicky kissed him lightly on the cheek before deserting him with the one person who was capable of getting past his resolve.

He was dead meat.

Kyle sighed when another slow song came on. Liz raised an eyebrow at him, grabbed his hands and practically forced him to put his arms around her. "Well?" She asked after they had danced for several moments in tense silence.

"Well what?" Kyle knew he was being a belligerent idiot, but he had to protect himself somehow.

"Are you ever going to let us in again?" Kyle stared down at her. Liz’s eyes were filling with tears. Oh man, she had brought out the big guns early.

"Liz…" Kyle felt completely helpless.

"We miss you Kyle. All of us." Liz said significantly. Kyle knew she was talking about Tess.

And then he was mad. "I haven’t seen much evidence that ANYONE misses me." Kyle snapped. "The Queen of Illyria seems to be doing her best NOT to address me in any situation. All she does is stare at me."

Liz flinched slightly at his tone. "She’s scared you’re going to reject her again."

Kyle scowled. "This is really unfriggingbelievable Liz! I never rejected Tess! She was the one who told me that she didn’t care when I told her I loved her."

Liz was staring at him steadily. "But the two times she tried to talk to you, you either got distracted or you refused to listen to her."

Kyle was almost seeing red he was so angry. He knew deep down that it was at himself, but Liz, unfortunately was a convenient target. "How many times do I have to tell you that I want nothing to do with any of you Liz? But especially with her! Why can’t you leave me alone?"

Liz didn’t seem upset at all by his tone of voice. "Because I love you. You are one of us. We will always be here for you. Especially Tess. Do you know she’s not here tonight because she wouldn’t come with anyone who WASN’T you? Those were her exact words Kyle. If you can’t get it through your thick skull that Tess loves you, well then I guess you don’t deserve her." Liz pulled away from him. Kyle stood frozen in the middle of the dance floor staring after her as she stalked away.

He didn’t deserve her…

They were the exact words he had said to Tess all those months ago - in the transformation chamber on the day that Jennetta had gone into the pod. He had told her that running away from the others when they needed her meant that she didn’t deserve to have them.

He WAS a complete moron.

He needed air. Quickly.

Kyle stumbled to the nearest entrance and managed to smash into the person coming in. He reached out to steady the girl, mumbled an apology.

And then he realized who it was. Tess Harding was staring at him, her blue eyes unreadable.

Kyle’s heart stopped. "What are you doing here?" He managed to croak. He realized that his hands were still clutching her silky, bare shoulders. Her gold dress was sleeveless, clinging to every single curve she possessed, her blonde hair tumbling around her shoulders in that tousled way that always made her look like she had just climbed out of bed. Kyle dropped his hands immediately.

"You know exactly why I’m here." Tess replied. Kyle was staring at her glossy lips. He was beginning to get dizzy. "I’ve come for you. And you’re not going to escape me again."

He was DEFINITELY dead-meat.
*********************************************************************
Love of my life
I don’t have a lot to give you
What’s in my heart is all that I can really give you
Love, undying love is all I have
A handful of words that might make you laugh
And all the strength you need
To make it through all your troubled times
I give all of myself to you
Only you
My dream come true…

Love of my life
You were all I ever wanted
To be with you
Was all I ever really wanted
You, you’ve made my life a fairy-tale
You’ve added love to a life that was so stale
And know that I’ll be here
Always for you
When you need a friend
I give all of myself to you
Only you
My dream come true.

I’ve been waiting my whole life for you
Now my waiting is through
All the nights I spent dreaming I knew
That my dream would come true…

So many nights
I lay awake dreaming I knew
One day I’d be with you
Now all my nights of dreaming are through
‘Cause my dream has come true.

Frozen Ghost

Max watched Liz stomp away from Kyle, her expression furious. He could tell that she was trying to hide how angry and upset she was, but he KNEW her.

She came and stood beside him, her arms crossed, clearly still fuming.

"I take it that didn’t go well." Max asked unnecessarily, reaching out and pulling her against him.

"I don’t want to talk about it." Liz replied. "He’s a completely blind fool. I give up."

Max kissed her on the temple lightly. "Right."

Liz pulled back, glared up at him. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"Just like you gave up on bringing ME back from Illyria?" Max raised an eyebrow. Liz scowled at him, but Max could tell that she was beginning to calm down.

"You can be really annoying, you know that?" She finally asked, a look of resignation appearing on her face.

"You can’t fix everything all the time Liz." Max told her, running his hands up her arms. He felt her shiver slightly. She began to relax, her eyes glowing in that way that was reserved solely for him, in that way that made him thank his lucky stars ten times a day.

She was so incredibly beautiful, it sometimes still took Max’s breath away. And he wasn’t just talking about on the outside, although that went without saying. When Max had first laid eyes on her earlier that night, he had literally wanted to sweep her off her feet in order to lock them both in her bedroom, not to emerge until the next morning. He had managed to restrain himself, however, but only because he was looking forward to holding her against him while they danced at the prom. He hadn’t danced with her properly since their first date. Since that had been one of the most incredible experiences of his life, he had definitely been looking forward to a repeat of that magical feeling tonight.

And yet, Max knew without a shadow of a doubt, that it wasn’t Liz’s exterior beauty that made him want to bind her to him forever. He had seen her soul, knew it for the spectacular thing that it was. She was so good and kind and intelligent. She was his angel, his soulmate. She always would be.

They still hadn’t figured out what the heck that book she and Tess had found in the alien library meant, but Max didn’t really care. He didn’t need a book to tell him what he already knew. Liz completed him - she was the other half of his whole, his dream come true.

"I just want them all to be as happy as you’ve made me." Liz was telling him. Her hands were snaking up around his neck. It was his turn to shiver.

"And they might be Liz." Max replied, "But you can’t force it. If it’s meant to be, it will be."

"What happened to ‘we make our own destiny?’" Liz asked, her eyes laughing up at him.

"Well, since I’ve already made mine," Max replied jokingly, "I’ve decided to move on to a new catchphrase."

"Really?" Liz’s eyes darkened with love. "Well Mr. Destiny-Expert, let’s say we show these amateurs what real destiny is about." A slow song was beginning again. Max allowed himself to be pulled out among the swaying couples. He wished momentarily that they were alone on Liz’s balcony, under the stars. Now that would be PERFECT.

And yet, he certainly was not complaining as Liz came into his arms, her body warm and inviting.

Making your own destiny was the best.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:26:54 PM
Part 59 - Conclusion

Tess tried to ignore the scowl on Kyle’s face as he stared down at her. She had promised herself that she was going to say what she had to say to him and that was final. If he turned away from her after that she would leave him alone forever. But she couldn’t go on being a coward, avoiding the confrontation that HAD to happen between them.

She had almost convinced herself that she could avoid it. She had told the others many times that she wasn’t coming to the Prom, that she wouldn’t go and see Kyle with another girl. She had even told Liz and Isabel that she was looking forward to a night at home, that she just wanted to watch T.V. and paint her toe-nails. She had been able to tell that they hadn’t believed her, but that they had decided to let it go. It was clear to both of her friends that there was no convincing her.

Of course, Michael had not given up as easily.

While Tess was pleased that he had accepted her offer to move into the empty Harding house with her after the forging of their bond on D-Day, it was slightly irritating to have a brother constantly watching over her. The closer they became, the more protective HE became, and although he technically wasn’t older than her in THIS life-time, he still had an annoying tendency to act like the older sibling.

She had been sure that she had finally bullied him into submissively leaving her alone for the night when he had come down the stairs in his tuxedo. She had frowned at him, annoyed to see a silky gold dress draped over his arm.

"What is that?" She demanded.

"Maria bought it. She said it would fit you. Put it on." He ordered her. "I’m not letting you sit at home alone the night of your prom. I’m not going to have any fun thinking about you sitting here pouting and if I don’t have fun, Maria won’t have fun, and Maria WILL be having fun tonight. Valenti’s an idiot and doesn’t deserve you."

"Don’t say that about him!" Tess had said, anger instantly flaring. "He’s had a lot to deal with!"

Michael just raised an eyebrow at her. "Yeah. Gee. We should be REALLY sorry that we’re aliens, that Max saved his life, that you love him. Excuse me if I don’t feel his pain."

"Michael."

"Get dressed Tess. I’ll be back to pick you up in an hour."

"I don’t have a date! I’m not going without a date!" Tess had pleaded desperately.

"You’ll find a date." Michael had replied dismissively. "Maxwell is waiting for me. We’ll be back in an hour."

And he had left, slamming the door behind him. Tess had clenched her fists, screeched in frustration.

But she had gotten dressed. She had known that Michael would just drag her to the dance in her pyjamas if she didn’t.

When she had finished doing her hair and her make-up, she had stared at herself in the mirror for a long time.

She was a coward. She knew it, knew it was the real reason that she hadn’t wanted to go to the prom. She had let Kyle run away from her in the transformation chamber, hadn’t tried to sort out the problem. She had wanted Liz to fix everything for her, had given up when it hadn’t worked. She had decided to MAKE Kyle come to her. She had known what she was doing to him, staring at him, making sure that she turned up everywhere he was bound to be.

She had been torturing him, daring him NOT to be with her.

And it was all because SHE was the coward, was scared he would reject her again. But she couldn’t go on like this. She loved him. And if he was going to reject her again, well this time it would be on her terms. He would have to do it with the proof of her love for him staring him directly in the face. She wouldn’t let him hide behind his jealousy of Max Evans.

This had nothing to do with Max. It had everything to do with Kyle Valenti and Tess Harding and the fact that they were both scared to death of what it would mean if they actually let this go somewhere. There would be no more excuses. THEY would be responsible if things got screwed up, they would be responsible for making their own happiness.

And so she had been waiting when Michael and Maria had come to pick her up.

She had almost lost her nerve when they had arrived at the school. It was going to be hard to walk into that gym all alone. They had been running late as it was, having fallen behind Max, Liz, Isabel and Alex in the Jeep. Maria had been hauling Michael by the arm, trying to catch up. Everyone was going to be in there, watching the door, watching her come in alone…

Tess had felt her heart speed up nervously. She had paused on the front steps to calm herself. She had sat down, careful not to muss her dress, had stared up at the stars for several long minutes. The "V" constellation, the one that sheltered their home world, had winked down at her, almost daring her to go through with this.

She knew that they were never going back there. Her life there was over. She had been Max’s wife in another life-time, but that was not her life anymore. She was Tess Harding, not Sabrya of Dernia - and Tess Harding wanted Kyle Valenti. It was simple as that.

Tess had decided to go in through a side door, hoping that she could slip in unnoticed and find Kyle. She hoped that she would be able to scope out the situation first. She felt bad that Vicky Delaney was going to get caught in the middle of this situation, but Tess admitted to herself that there were only seven people on this planet that she really cared about…well, nine if you counted Jennetta and Ren. She knew what she wanted and she had to go for it. Kyle had the right to make an informed decision.

And so she had been mildly surprised to find herself stumbling into Kyle’s arms the moment she walked into the gym. He had momentarily looked like he was seeing a ghost. His face was white and he actually looked a little sick.

Her heart began to thump a mile a minute. She couldn’t do it! She wasn’t ready!

The shock in his voice managed to make her focus. "What are you doing here?" She felt him clutch gently at her bare shoulders. It sent a shiver down her spine. She swallowed. He dropped his hands quickly, like he had been burned.

"You know exactly why I’m here." Tess replied, relieved that she sounded more confident than she felt. "I’ve come for you. And you’re not going to escape me again."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Kyle demanded, clearly quickly regaining his senses. He looked beyond her. "Are you here alone? Liz said you weren’t coming!" He sounded astounded that Liz might have lied to him.

"She doesn’t know I’m here. I was with Michael and Maria." Tess replied, licking her lips. She smiled slightly to herself as Kyle’s eyes seemed to become glued to her mouth. He began to blink rapidly, as though he was about to pass out. She frowned slightly. "Kyle? Are you okay?"

He brought a hand up to his temple, rubbed. "I don’t think so. I was on my way out for some air."

"Good." Tess said quickly. "We need to talk - privately."

Kyle stared at her. "Why?"

"Because I have things to say to you - things you haven’t let me say. I’m tired of running Kyle." She reached out and touched his cheek. "I’m so tired. And I think you are too. I just want…"

She was interrupted suddenly. "Kyle!" Tess recognized the voice immediately. It was Vicky Delaney.
Kyle whirled guiltily.

Vicky was standing nearby, watching them, her face completely lacking in suspicion. "There you are!" She exclaimed. "Hi Tess! I didn’t know you were here. You look beautiful." Tess wondered why SHE suddenly felt guilty. Why couldn’t Pam Troy still have been around for Kyle to date? Tess would have enjoyed having Kyle dump HER unceremoniously. Why did Vicky have to be so darn NICE?

"Thanks Vicky." She managed to reply. "So do you." And she did, damn her.

Vicky moved up next to Kyle, linked her arm through his. "I just talked to Sandy. She said they’re announcing the king and queen soon. We better go back in."

Kyle just nodded mechanically, still staring at Tess. He looked like he had been hit by a truck.

"I’ll wait for you." She mouthed after him. He nodded again.

Tess followed Vicky and Kyle into the gym. She could see Max and Liz dancing nearby, completely in their own world as usual. She scanned the room, sighed in relief when her eyes lit on Michael, Maria, Alex and Isabel sitting at a table to her left. Maria was sitting on Michael’s lap, wrinkling her nose as Alex pulled a bottle of Tabasco sauce out of his powder blue tux jacket, dolloping Isabel’s chocolate cake liberally.

"Why don’t you carry Tabasco in YOUR purse?" Michael was asking as Tess came up to them. "What kind of girlfriend are you?"

"The best you’ll ever get Spaceboy." Maria replied, smacking him lightly on the head. It pleased Tess to see her brother and Maria teasing each other again. They had been in a state of stupor for so many months now. While there was still always an underlying note of sadness in their demeanor, they were finally trying to live again, at least a little bit.

"Ah! Lady Tess!" Alex stood up, bowing her into his chair. "You look divine."

"I’m sorry I can’t say the same." Tess replied, smiling despite herself at Alex’s hideous ensemble.

"You came!" Isabel stared at her, her expression gradually melting into a smile. As quickly as the smile appeared, it faded, as Isabel’s eyes began to scan the crowd.

"I’ve already seen him." Tess reassured her friend. "It’s okay." Tess saw Isabel and Maria exchange a look. "Really you guys! It’s okay."

At that moment, a drum-roll began and a spotlight focused on the stage at the far end of the gym. Coach Clay, looking ludicrous in a tuxedo about ten times too small for his roly-poly frame, accompanied by Ms. Hardy, climbed onto the stage. They had a pair of envelopes in their hands.

"Prom King and Queen!" Isabel rolled her eyes. "Really! How immature are we?" Tess and Maria exchanged an amused glance, both appreciating the fact of how much Isabel had changed. The old Isabel would have been sitting on the edge of her seat in anticipation of being called up on stage, her acceptance speech already planned out in her perfectly coifed head.

It was absolutely no surprise to Tess when Kyle and Pam’s names were read off as the King and Queen. Tess smiled slightly to herself at the completely annoyed expression on Kyle’s face as Ms. Hardy placed the fake crown on his head. He reached up quickly and pulled it off.

She wasn’t worried, Tess assured herself. She had made her move. She had seen the look on Kyle’s face. She just had to wait for him to come to her. Vicky deserved to enjoy her moment, even to enjoy the whole evening. Tess could wait.

She tried to ignore the butterflies in her stomach, tried to forget that Kyle hadn’t really said anything at all reassuring during their brief conversation, tried to forget that SHE hadn’t really said anything to him at all.

Tess was watching Kyle dance with Vicky moments later, a slight pang of jealousy beginning to hit her when suddenly a cell phone ringing caught her attention.

It was Isabel’s. Her purse was sitting on the table in front of her. The five of them all turned to stare at it.

"Well, answer it!" Michael finally snapped. "Why are you acting like you’ve never heard a phone ring before?"

It was at that moment that Tess noticed the expression on Isabel’s face. Her friend was swallowing convulsively, her visage completely white. "Alex!" Tess grabbed for Isabel’s purse. "Catch her! I think she’s having a vision!"

Alex just managed to catch Isabel before she went toppling out of her chair. Maria and Michael had both jumped to their feet. Tess barely noticed that Max and Liz had come running up, Max instantly on his knees in front of his sister. Alex was gently slapping Isabel’s cheeks as Tess answered the phone, expecting to hear Mrs. Evans’ voice.

"Hello?"

"Who is this?" The voice was familiar. Ren! Tess’ eyes widened.

"It’s Tess. What’s wrong? Is Jennetta okay?" Tess waved Michael away as he made a grab for the phone. She could see that Isabel was just beginning to come out of her trance. She was shrugging away from Max and Alex, wanting to be solitary as was usually the case after something like this had happened.

"She’s fine." Ren snapped. "Let me speak to his Highness."

Tess felt a flash of irritation. "This is your Queen." She snapped back.

"Not anymore." Ren replied, sounding a little more calm. "Please let me speak to the King Tess."

Tess rolled her eyes, handed the phone over to Max. "It’s Ren."

Max turned away, covering his other ear as he tried to talk to Jennetta’s bodyguard. The music had picked up again, the pounding beat ringing in Tess’ ears.

"I think we should get Isabel out of here." Alex was saying. He scowled slightly when Michael pushed him aside, sweeping Isabel up into his arms. "Hey!"

"Get the door." Michael ordered. Tess looked around uncomfortably. People were beginning to stare at them. Couldn’t Michael ever think before he acted?

Alex just rolled his eyes, hurried ahead to get the door. It wasn’t until they were in the parking lot that anyone thought to ask Max what Ren had wanted.

Max was standing quietly near the Jeep, his arm around Liz, a strange expression on his face.

"Maxwell! What’s going on?" Michael demanded, clearly remembering about Ren now that Isabel was safe.

"I know." Isabel said quietly. She was looking at Max steadily. "Jennetta is about to be born."

Maria shrieked. "WHAT???? Why did he ask to speak to you?" She grabbed Max by the lapels, shaking him. "What’s wrong with her? What bad news does he want you to break to us gently?" Tess looked at Michael, could see that her brother looked ill.

"Maria!" Max managed to grab her hands, lower them to her sides. "She’s fine! The pod is preparing to let her break out. We need to get out there fast." Tess saw the look on Max’s face though. There was still something he wasn’t telling them.

Of course Liz knew it too. "Max, what is it?" She asked quietly.

"I know THAT too." Isabel broke in, her voice still little more than a whisper. "Tarsus has taken the Citadel."

They all stared at each other in shock. The silence was deafening.
********************************************************************
It seemed to take forever to drive out to the transformation chamber.

At the best of times it took close to a half and hour. Now that they wanted to be there immediately, it felt like three hundred years.

Michael thought he was going to lose his mind before Max finally slammed the brakes on the Jeep, screeching the car to a stop near the boulder that hid his and Maria’s entire world. He had long since discarded his jacket and tie, feeling like he was strangling.

Their daughter.

Jennetta was coming back to them. But she was going to be entirely different. She was going to be older than him for Christ’s sake!

Michael felt the pang of despair that had been a familiar friend over the past eight months, since the day his little girl had left them.

Stop it! He ordered himself sternly. You need to be strong for Maria. And you can’t let Jennetta see you like this. She has to know that you still love her, that you still want her.

The ludicrousness of the entire situation was not lost on Michael Guerin, however. Not for the first time he wanted to laugh his head off that his life should have turned out thus. All he had ever wanted was a family - and then when he finally had his chance, it was taken away from him.

And yet he knew that it hadn’t been.

He thanked his stars everyday that he had his friends. It had taken losing Jennetta to make him realize that he wasn’t alone, that his family was made up of his six closest friends.

The seven of them practically sprinted down the corridor to the transformation chamber after Max had activated the lights. The girls had all removed their heels, although Maria did go careening into a stone wall at one point when she slid on her stockinged feet.

And yet, without a word, of one accord, they all stopped abruptly at the spot where the entrance to the transformation chamber lay.

Max’s eyes met Michael’s seriously. He looked at all of them closely before saying. "Are you all ready for this? Nothing is going to be the same again."

Michael swallowed. Truer words had never been spoken. Well, of course, they HAD been spoken, MANY times before. It was the price of being a teenage alien. But this time - well, it was REALLY true.

Everyone was nodding. Michael saw Liz reach out to take Max’s hand. She looked scared. He reached for Maria.

"Let us go first." He said quietly. The others all nodded again. Michael felt Tess take his other hand, squeezing it reassuringly, then letting it drop.

Michael lifted his hand, swiped it across the wall, swallowed as the familiar silver handprint glowed out at him. He took a deep breath, placed his palm squarely upon it, watched the wall swing away.

But, in the end, of course, as was always his luck, they were too late.

Ren had his back to them as they entered. He was bent over something lying on the cot Max had had brought in for the shapeshifter many months before.

Or someone, rather.

Michael felt Maria squeeze his hand. When he looked down at her, she was indicating the empty, dark pod nearby. The one Jennetta had occupied for so many months.

Michael closed his eyes briefly. He knew what she looked like, had seen her earlier that day, floating peacefully, a little girl no longer.

And yet he was still shocked when he opened his eyes and saw her.

Ren was helping her to her feet, although he did not look pleased to be doing so. "You should be resting Your Highness."

"Nine months seems like long enough to sleep." Her voice was smoky, no trace of the little girl she had been in its tone. Michael realized that she was staring at Maria, felt his own heart stop when her dark eyes shifted to him.

"Jennetta." Maria sounded like she was about to burst into tears. And yet she didn’t move. She seemed glued to the floor. Michael understood perfectly, considering he felt exactly the same way.

She was taller than he would have expected, as tall as Isabel for certain. Her floor length white robe only emphasized her height. It made her resemblance to Maria even more shocking, the fact that she was so much taller than her mother. Their faces were practically a matched pair.

But he saw himself in her eyes.

She was not moving, just watching them carefully. Slowly a smile began to appear on her face. "Hello." She paused, laughed quietly. "I don’t know what to call you." She admitted finally. "Mother and Father seems slightly absurd now."

At that, Maria began to cry in earnest. Michael saw the expression of distress that crossed Jennetta’s face. "I’m sorry!" She exclaimed, hurrying towards them, Ren staying close to her, looking extremely frustrated. And then Jennetta was hugging Maria, as Maria continued to sob. "Mother, please!" She sounded flustered, sounded exactly how Michael felt when he didn’t know how to comfort his girlfriend.

And then Maria was speaking, babbling actually. "My baby! I’m so glad that you’re okay!" Michael blinked. It was then that he realized that Maria was LAUGHING.

He closed his eyes again, snorted. "Will the insanity EVER end?" He muttered to himself.

He had not intended anyone to hear him. But Jennetta did. She looked at him over Maria’s shoulder, reached out her hand to bring him closer. "It will end. I promise."

Michael saw his eyes move past him. He could hear the others entering the chamber, although he could tell they were trying to be quiet.

"Jaxon!" Jennetta pulled away from Maria, threw herself into Max’s arms. Michael managed to suppress the twinge of jealousy he felt. He knew that Jenny loved Max. It was all right. There was room for both of them in her heart.

Max pulled back, put his hands on her shoulders, scanning her face closely. "Are you okay?" He asked seriously, in his intense Max way.

Jennetta smiled sadly. "What was meant to be has happened." She replied. She turned to include the whole group. "I know that this has been difficult for all of you." She moved near Maria again, taking her mother’s hand. Michael just shook his head. He wondered if he would ever get used to the absurdity of the fact that his daughter was now older than him.

Jennetta was still speaking. "And I’m afraid that its not over yet." She focused on Isabel, who was standing slightly behind Alex, clutching his hand. Michael frowned. Actually, she looked like she was HIDING behind Alex. "Mirana. I know that Mother has contacted you."

Isabel nodded reluctantly. "The Citadel has fallen to the Dernians." She paused. Michael looked back at Jennetta. His daughter was just gazing steadily at Izzy, her expression unreadable, as though she knew that Isabel was holding something back. Isabel licked her lips. "And the Ring has been claimed." She finally said in a great rush.

Michael heard Liz and Tess gasp, almost in unison.

Jennetta lifted her chin. "Which is why it is time to go back." She said without a moment’s hesitation. "The prophecy is ready to be fulfilled. Illyria has entered its darkest days."

Michael swallowed, closed his eyes to avoid the tears that he felt collecting there.

So it was over already. She was lost to him. She was going back to Illyria.

"We are all needed." Michael’s eyes snapped open. Jennetta was looking right at him, a slight smirk on her face. He realized that that smile looked VERY familiar. In fact Maria had used it on him only an hour before when he had teased her about the Tabasco sauce. "Did you really think I could do this alone?" She demanded, quirking an eyebrow at him.

Everyone stared at each other for several moments and then Alex spoke, breaking the silence.
"What DOES one pack for Illyria in the summertime?" He asked Isabel, stroking his chin pensively.

In spite of the fact that there was absolutely NOTHING funny about this situation, everyone burst out laughing.

In later years Michael would look back on that moment as the last one of their childhoods. For one brief shining moment he had felt the hope that had risen in that chamber. It was something pure, something strong.

Together they could do anything. They would free their planet and live happily ever after.

Of course, it didn’t work out that way.
*********************************************************************
Max groaned, pulled his pillow over his head. He did not want to open his eyes. Maybe if he ignored the phone, it would stop ringing.

He had been dreaming about Liz. It had been their wedding day and their happiness had been almost painful. All of their friends and family had been there, including his mother from Illyria and Jennetta and Ren. And, although all the trappings of the wedding had been traditional, down to Liz looking almost unbelievably beautiful in a long white dress, they had been in the Waylandian Ring, the one known as Lucianus bringing their palms together….

"Let this union heal the breach that exists. So it is written in the stars, so shall it be…" The old man was intoning when a piercing noise had suddenly interrupted the whole proceeding.

Dream Michael had rolled his eyes in annoyance. "Can’t anything go right? Even in your dreams Maximillian?"

Max sighed, opened his eyes. He realized that someone was tapping on his bedroom door. "Max? Are you awake honey?"

"Coming Mom." Max glanced at the clock. He frowned slightly when he saw that it was only five-thirty in the morning. He opened his door, padded down the hallway, rubbing his face tiredly.

It had been close to three a.m. when Max had gotten home from dropping Liz off. They had made it back to the Crashdown by one, but, of course, Max had gone up to Liz’s bedroom via his usual route over her balcony. Isabel had taken Jennetta home with her, the Evans being the only ones with any idea of who she was and what had been going on.

Max had felt strangely at peace as he lay on the chaise lounge waiting for Liz as she locked up downstairs. He had been staring up at the "V" constellation, almost excited to be going back there, to be taking care of his responsibilities to his home world once and for all.

After that he would be free. Free to live the life with Liz that was all he really wanted.

Of course, it wasn’t going to be easy, but Max had no doubt that it was going to happen. Finally.

Liz had finally joined him, bringing the quilt off her bed. She had changed out of her prom dress and had pulled her hair into a pony-tail on top of her head. Max had known that wouldn’t last long though. He had every intention of kissing her with her hair tumbling around his face in the way he loved.

She had curled up next to him, her head on his shoulder. "What are you thinking about?" She had finally asked quietly, after they had laid in companionable silence for quite a while.

"I’ll show you." He had replied, bringing his lips to hers, sending her the flashes of exactly how wonderful their future was going to be together…it had been the perfect ending to an otherwise chaotic evening.

Max was in the front hallway before it dawned on him that it hadn’t been the phone ringing that had awoken him at all. It had been the doorbell.

He frowned, felt a shiver of dread run down his spine as his mother turned to look at him, her eyes wide with horror. She was in her dressing gown, clutching it to her chest with tight fists.

The Sheriff was standing in the doorway, his hat in his hands. Max wondered why he was holding it like that - like he wanted to strangle it. The hat had totally lost all shape in the Sheriff’s hands.

"Max." Max stared at him. The Sheriff NEVER called him Max. It was always MR. Evans. It was just his way.

"Sheriff?" Max looked at his mother again. He could see that she was starting to move towards him, her hand outstretched. "Mom?"

"Honey…" Diane paused, swallowed. Max heard his father and Isabel descending the stairs behind him.

"What’s wrong?" Izzy asked, yawning. Max turned to look at his sister. Jennetta was standing on the stairs behind Isabel, her dark eyes wide.

Max turned back to the Sheriff. "What’s wrong?" He saw Sheriff Valenti look at his mother, as though he didn’t know what to say.

And then Max knew.

Something had happened to Liz.

The End

Read the third installment of the "Illyria" trilogy - Union - currently in progress on the Roswell Fanatics Board to see what happens.