posted on 13-Mar-2002 10:48:51 PM
A Dupe's Responsibility

Rating: R
Category: Z/M/L
Summary: Zan has a role to play in the future of the pod squad. The story begins at the end of "Ch-Ch-Changes".

Author's note: I've been inspired by so many other authors' works on this board that I wanted to give it a try. It's fun to bring to life a story of your own with such rich characters. Plus, there could never be enough Zan fics to suit my taste. Feedback is appreciated.
Disclaimer: I am borrowing the characters from UPN/Jason Katims but the plotline is my own.

CHAPTER 1

Zan watched her as she stepped onto the bus and hesitate when her foot hit the first step. He saw her take a longing look over her shoulder and from his vantage point, she seemed to sigh softly, almost resignedly. She then shifted the duffel bag higher on her shoulder and turned abruptly into the bus taking the steps quickly. Through the multiple dirty windows, he could dimly see her form walking down the isle and slide into a seat.

As the bus' engine started roughly, Zan saw her look out the window but her expression was unreadable from this distance. The bus slowly pulled away and slid into traffic with a roar. He sighed and then turned away. There were a few things left that he needed to do. A little more information that he had to gather before he stepped into a role that he was reluctant to take on. Being a teenager was one thing. Being an alien was another. Being the dupe of an alien king on top of that made life just a bit rockin'. However, his responsibilities to his king were his current worries. He felt that his future actions were somehow important in the outcome over the following weeks. He wasn't quite sure what influence he would have on the future, but he knew that whatever happened, he had a part in it. Isn't that why he was manufactured, essentially duped from a dupe?

He shoved his hands in his ratty black jeans' pockets, stepped over the curb and across the street to a black VW van. He unlocked it quickly by waving his hand over the handle and jumped into the seat. His next priority was to see to Max. The stereo blared to life with Metallica's "Whiskey in a Bottle" and he slammed on the accelerator, screeching out into the street.

**********

As Max read Liz's letter, he felt his stomach drop lower and lower until when he finished, there was just a lead ball pretending to sit where his stomach usually resided. He slowly dropped his hand with the letter still in it and stared mutely into Michael's apartment. The afternoon light filtered slowly in but he didn't really register it. His thoughts were on Liz and memories shimmered across his field of view. They were great memories of Liz laughing or shyly smiling while hiding behind her curtain of hair. The lead ball turned into a hard pit of ice as realization slowly seeped into his body. She left. She left Roswell. She left him.

He slowly entered the apartment and sat roughly on the sofa. At that moment, he felt two strong emotions. Sadness and fear. The sadness was that she was gone. She was able to leave him in the middle of all of this mess with her developing alien powers. She left him to be alone and to face this crisis by herself. Didn't she know that he would do anything to help her?

He sighed. Of course, she knew. That was why she left. She didn't want his help. She preferred to do this one alone and his gut wrenched at the thought that she didn't just want to do it alone – she wanted to do it away from him. This was a conscious decision on her part to remove herself from his life. This reminded him of the previous time she left him after the orbs revealed their reasons for being on Earth. She had been so strong during that time, even leaving to go to Florida in order to make the split more final. It had taken him almost a full year to win her back.

The fear was that Liz's developing powers were such an unknown. What would they do to her human body? Was her body physically transforming so that she would be like him or was it something different? Would she be able to control them? He had failed in trying to suppress them. The only obvious thing was that the process couldn't be halted and his very presence caused her physical pain. Why? If she was "changing" into something like him, wouldn't he be able to aid it? He thought of the old "oil and water" simile and it seemed to fit. But why? He groaned in frustration. There were always so many questions with so very few answers. He felt so adrift and so inadequate.

Max leaned forward and put his head in his hands. This last year was not one that he wanted to repeat. It had been too grueling and too heart wrenching. Scenes of Liz and Kyle in bed together, fighting alien enemies, Alex's death and Tess' treachery flitted through his mind. Then also his own treachery and moments of weakeness. He squeezed his eyes shut as his past mistakes replayed over and over. He ground the heels of his hands into his eyes and curled up in a ball on the couch and just rocked.

**********

Zan watched his dupe sink into the couch. He was crouched down in some bushes near the entrance of the apartment. The sun was almost down and the desert air was becoming chilly. It didn't compare, though, to the images rushing through his head. Max's life spread out before him as his king rehashed his life. It didn't take a lot of energy to read Max's thoughts. It was really quite simple and quite useful. However, the pain that radiated through his body almost made him growl. Flashes of Max and Liz in the highlights of their relationship, their quiet and seductive courtship, the joy of being together openly. These images changed to darker memories of Liz leaving Max to his destiny, of Liz's supposed betrayal, of Max's stressful relationship between Isabel and his parents. Then suddenly a vision of Max and Ava flashed before his eyes, a night of reluctant passion and the horror of waking up the next day. Zan's intake of breath was involuntary and he grimaced as searing guilt shot through his veins. Then an image of Max with Ava in a small cave as he threatened her life and then her departure from Earth. Zan immediately severed his connection with Max and rocked back on his heels.

"That bitch," he muttered. He knocked his head against the cement wall and looked up to the stars. "Baby, revenge'll neva be so sweet." He sneered at the sky and unconsciously flexed his fingers. A noise to his left made him snap his head in its direction. Rath was walking up and Zan quickly put up a shield to hide himself. Rath, or Michael as they called him, came to sudden halt and warily looked around. Zan held his breath, not wishing to force an encounter so soon. Michael's gaze pierced the growing dark passing over him without slowing. Slowly shaking his head, Michael continued on to the open door of his apartment.

Instantly on alert, Michael cautiously looked in and discovered Max inside. Rushing forward, Zan heard Michael exclaim, "Max! What's wrong?" Zan watched as Max swung his legs around to a sitting position and faced Michael.

"Liz left," he said simply.

Michael closed the door behind him.

Zan slowly rose to his feet maintaining his shield. He walked down the path and out into the street. Max was in good hands, he thought. That Michael was a wary one with fighting instincts. His king would be fine with a warrior like him at his side.

As he walked quickly down the street staying under the deepening shade of the trees, he dropped his shield. Down the next block he found his van and hopped in. The engine sputtered and then fired. He cranked the wheel and made a U-turn on the quiet residential street.

It was time to catch a bus.


[ edited 31time(s), last at 24-Nov-2002 10:52:30 PM ]
posted on 14-Mar-2002 9:43:27 PM
I really appreciate the feedback. It'll keep me posting.

CHAPTER 2

He caught up with the bus as it pulled into a rest stop just outside of Indianapolis. He had been tailing it for a good three hours not worrying about staying hidden. The bus parked in one of the oversized spots and opened its doors. Zan pulled in about four spaces to the right and turned off his engine. He peered through his dusty windshield looking for her. She was one of the last people to exit the bus and he watched as she wearily brushed her hair back from her face. She wrapped her arms around her body in an attempt to stay warm and quickly walked into the entrance of the rest stop's diner.

Zan opened his door and followed her a good twenty paces behind. He watched as she entered the swinging doors to the women's restroom so he leaned against one of the beeping arcade machines. His muscles were tense as he folded his arms against his chest. From the corner of his eye, he caught a blur of movement and he snapped his head around. A guy in his twenties with long hair and punked out clothes approached him and said, "Dude. You got a cigarette I can burn?"

Zan looked him up and down, finally leveling his gaze on the guy's face. "Na, I don't smoke."

The guy looked surprised, taking in the tattoos, piercings, and ratty clothes. He noticed the purple spiked hair and unkept stubble on Zan's face and responded, "Sorry, man. I saw the zippo and just assumed." He pointedly looked down at the lighter hanging from a chain attached to Zan's pocket.

Zan looked at him warily but didn't say anything. The guy persisted. "You sure you don't got a smoke 'cause I'm really dyin' here."

Zan glared at him and leaned forward slightly. "Yo, I said no the first time." He turned his back to the moocher and said, "Get outta my face."

"Man, you ain't gotta be so up and bitchy about it." Zan's shoulders tensed and his fists clenched. The street instinct in him flared to life and his temper soared. Knowing that a confrontation right now would do more harm than good, he slowly rotated and took a step towards the guy. When he was but a few inches from his face, he curled his lips into a sneer and in a low, raspy voice, snarled "I said, get…outta…my…face."

The man looked at the controlled fury burning from Zan's dark eyes and instinctively took a step back. He mumbled an apology before turning and quickly leaving the building. Zan swung back around, the incident already forgotten, and leaned back against the arcade game as he looked for her. His eyes found the restroom door again and then scanned the eating area. He found her in line ordering food.

Pushing himself off the machine, he sauntered slowly in her direction. He got in line about four people behind her and listened as she ordered a hamburger and a coke. She paid the clerk, grabbed the food and turned around. Zan quickly put his back to her as she walked by him, her swinging coat brushing against the back of his legs. After a few seconds, he swiveled around and his eyes followed as she sat at a table in the corner of the restaurant. He noticed that she sat as far away from other people as possible and faced the window so that she could keep an eye on the bus.

He had to admit that some of his tenseness was the upcoming confrontation. He had to approach her in a way that wouldn't scare her off. Although he knew a lot about her from his surveillance over the last couple of weeks in Roswell and also from Max's images, he wasn't sure how she would handle seeing him, Max's dupe. He knew that she was a strong woman and very analytical but he also understood her current situation. He interpreted this move to Vermont as a way for her to escape the inevitable so bringing it back up in her face would probably trigger some hostility. Hell, he couldn't blame her. He had tried to put the alien shit behind him for most of his life.

Well, nothing like getting the inevitable over with.

He moved to her table and approached from behind. He hesitated a moment and then rushed onward. He sidestepped around her, grabbing a chair and sitting backward, faced her direct on.

He watched as her eyes grew round with recognition and her mouth hung open in the middle of chewing a bite of her hamburger. She slid her chair unconsciously back an inch as her hand went quickly to her face in an obvious gesture of surprise. She blinked once and then inhaled quickly which was a poor choice. Suddenly, she began choking on her food and both hands came up to her mouth as she started coughing violently.

Zan began to worry that he would have to do something to help. Tears were beginning to stream from her eyes as she tried to get her breath. He had just started to rise to assist her when she finally got herself under control. She reached for a napkin, coughed a couple of more times, and then took a quick sip of her coke. Then she looked at him again.

"Zan?", she whispered.

"Da one and only." He couldn't help but smirk with amusement at her obvious surprise. Hell, at least she hadn't bolted yet. "And you gotta be Liz"

She continued to stare at him, unwilling or unable to initiate the next step. He watched as she tried to compose herself by sitting straighter in the chair and pushing a wisp of hair behind her ear. Zan mused that the view up close was better than from his usual place from behind bushes, cars, or building corners. She wasn't his type but she was definitely easy on the eyes. He could tell that she was checking him out and he guessed that she was making comparisons between himself and Max. He knew it must be weird to be faced with an alter-identity of your boyfriend - especially when the dupe looked as rough as him.

Her intense gaze began to make him uncomfortable so he decided to take the next step. "Yo, I know this is a surprise and all, but ya gotta sit tight and listen." He watched as one of her eyebrows shot skyward and then her eyes narrowed perceptibly. She still didn't say anything. He had to give her credit that she had enough composure to be quiet and not throw a fit.

"I gotta lot to say. There's a lot goin' on that you ain't aware of so you just hafta listen, 'kay?" He paused trying to think of how to continue. One of his hands nervously began stroking his chin. He noticed her eyes watching his movements and he self-consciously brought his hand down. "As you know, I'm Max's dupe and-"

"Obviously."

"Yeah, well, what I'm tryin' to get at here is… well, the reason you is seeing me sittin' here has to do wit… Na, na, let me back up." He wasn't presenting himself well. Now that he was faced with this moment, the words weren't coming as he planned. He never was one for conversation but he never acted like a fool. "Yeah, well, what I'm gettin' at is this…" He faltered again and looked quickly to the table and sighed heavily.

"Why are you here?" Liz asked suddenly. "That might be a good place to start. Like, how are you alive and why are you following me?"

"Hey, I ain't following you," Zan defensively spit out.

"Yeah, OK. So you always visit this particular rest stop on a Sunday afternoon? C'mon, be real."

"Yo, I got my reasons."

"I'm sure," she said quietly, looking at him intently. Her forgotten food was growing colder by the minute.

He watched her face as several emotions slid over it. She blinked rapidly and then pursed her lips. Then she suddenly reached for her jacket and rose from the seat.

"You know, I'm sure that you have a good reason to be here, but I don't want to get mixed up in whatever…well, whatever it is. I'm trying to move on and this…situation doesn't have to involve me." She took one last look and then turned away.

Zan's hand snatched out and grabbed her bare arm. She flinched away but his grip was firm. He applied more pressure and forced her around to look at him. He could see a tinge of fear in her face, which suited him fine. He had to get her to listen to him and he would resort to intimidation if that's what it took. So he curled his lip in a sneer and said menacingly, "Yo, sit back down. I ain't finished. Hell, I ain't even started."

She tried to yank her arm away but he wouldn't let go. She slowly sank back down to her seat with a mixed look of fear and disappointment. She clutched at her jacket and bent over slightly.

"I'm going to miss my bus," she said quietly.

"Nah, you got plenty of time. See, it hasn't gone nowhere." He pointed out the window and the bus sat quietly, still empty of passengers.

He slowly released her arm and leaned back in his chair. He slouched down, getting comfortable. They would probably be here for a while. He eyed a comfy booth longingly but then shifted his gaze back to Liz. She sat hunched over her bunched coat and looked rather pathetic.

"Yo, ya don't gotta look like I'm Death comin' to visit."

Liz looked up and said, "Yeah, well. I kinda feel like that's the right metaphor."

He cocked his head. "Whattya mean?"

Her eyes shifted left and then right before settling on him. "I mean that I don't want this to happen. I was on that bus to go to Vermont so that I could leave this kind of thing behind." She looked around again before softly adding, "You know, the alien thing."

He smirked and kicked back a bit further in the chair. He crossed his arms in front of him and spread his legs wide. It was amusing how covert she acted. "Baby, you ain't never gettin' away from this 'alien thing'. It's in your blood now and we both know I ain't talkin' metaphors this time." He dipped his head forward and looked in her eyes knowingly.

Her sharp intake of breath and widening of eyes gave him some satisfaction. He had one-upped her, catching her off guard. He leaned back again, satisfied.

"What do you know?"

"I know enough to have found ya here. I know enough to tell ya that ya can't run from this one. It will follow ya like yer damn shadow…tho it won't leave when the lights go out." He gave a sexy, sly smile that made her squirm uncomfortably in her seat. "Anyway, ya need help - that's obvious."

"What's your role in this, then? Why are you here?"

"The reason be my own, sweets. However, I got answers you need right now." He looked away from her and scanned the diner. There were only a few people left munching on their food before hitting the expressway again.

She sighed and leaned back in her chair. She shook her head in disbelief and muttered, "Another conspiracy of fact hiding." She looked at him and saw him raise his eyebrows questioningly. He watched her as she openly regarded his pierced eyebrow. He made his eyebrow dance teasingly until she turned away. She continued, "What I mean is since this whole thing started, we've run into people who have had answers. But they rarely passed them on and always kept us in the dark. It seems that we are always one step behind everyone else."

"Ya talkin' 'bout Nascedo and Ava?"

"Well, yeah, but we called her Tess, not Ava." Her eyes snapped to his and quickly asked, "Speaking of Ava, how's she doing?"

"Don't know," Zan answered cryptically. "I ain't seen her."

"Well, what about Lonnie and Rath?"

His eyes shifted again warily scanning the diner. "I ain't seen Lonnie neither."

He could tell she noted that he purposely left out Rath. Well, that would come later. He watched as she looked out the window, searching out the bus.

She sighed again and said, "Look, I'm still in the dark here. You obviously know something but you're not sharing it with me. Do you have answers about Max, Michael, and Isabel? What do you know of Khivar? What about Tess? Did she make it back to Antar or did her little spaceship miss the left turn at Albuquerque?"

He shifted nervously in his seat and couldn't help but spit out tersely, "Would ya like to say that louder so da whole human race can hear? Jesus, yer talkin' like yer relatin' yer Sunday visit to mass!"

"Well what do you expect? I tell you about how everyone withholds information from us and you sit there smug obviously not too anxious to part with your library of knowledge!" Her voice continued to rise until at the end she was nearly shouting.

Zan raised his arm and motioned for her to quiet down. "Ya don't think I'm gonna lay it all out on the table here in this little podunk excuse for a coffee shop, do ya? I got more sense than that and you should too. Ya gotta learn to pick yer battlefield."

"What? Is this lesson number one in 'How to be a proper alien'? You can't barge in on me like this and expect me to roll over with gratification. I don't want this." Liz stood up for a second time and repeated firmly, "I don't want this."

He looked up at her as she tried to unsuccessfully tower over him. He slowly stood up and took a step until he was looking down in her face. He noticed that she stood her ground though her lip trembled. He cocked his head and said, "So what? Yer gonna run?"

She met his eyes and said, "I have to catch my bus. I'm sure that it's going leave any minute now." She went to turn around but he caught her arm again, more gently than the last time.

With his back to the window, he said quietly, "What bus?".

Liz opened her mouth to shoot a snide reply but then she looked around the restaurant. There were only two other tables with patrons. She sidestepped around him and peered out the window.

The bus was gone.

posted on 15-Mar-2002 8:39:27 PM
Gosh, so many questions. I'd like to let the story unfold and not give away too many surprises.

Katalina: A good Zan? Not too good, I hope. I like to think of him as edgy with even more to hide than S1 Max... smiles

One thing, though. I have't quite decided on the Liz/Zan relationship. However, I definitely know how I want the Zan/Max interaction to happen.

And the story continues...


CHAPTER 3

Max paced the floor. He rubbed the back of his neck roughly and winced at the tight muscles his fingers found. Continuing to rub them, he shuffled over to the fridge and opened the door wide. He stared at the contents numbly, not really seeing.

Michael watched Max from the couch. He shook his head and sighed heavily. "Maxwell, get your nose out of the fridge. You're not going to eat anything anyways and you're just running up my electric bill."

Max leaned heavily on the refrigerator door and peered closer, mainly for the benefit of Michael. He knew that he wouldn't eat anything, not when his stomach was a nest of knots but he didn't want to give Michael the satisfaction.

"Hey, Max! C'mon, man. You're not fooling anyone."

Max sighed and closed the door. He distractedly ran his fingers over the front of the door where the group prom picture was hanging precariously by a Spiderman magnet. He righted it and stuck the magnet over Michael's face. He felt some fleeting satisfaction as though he had just won a small battle.

"Damn it, Max. This is getting old."

Max raised his arm and pinched the bridge of his nose. "You know, Michael. You nag like an old woman."

"Yeah, well. You brood with the best of 'em." Michael smiled at his quick comeback. It had been a depressing sixteen hours since he had come home and found Max curled up on his couch. His nerves were getting frayed watching Max wander aimlessly around the apartment. It normally wouldn't bother him so much except that it reminded him of the way he acted after Maria left him. He frowned at the thought and unconsciously began to rub the back of his neck.

"How did we get like this, Maxwell?" Michael asked quietly.

Max huffed but didn't reply. He began pacing again.

"I mean, first I don't want anything to do with the humans. Then I get all caught up in this thunderstorm of a relationship. The next thing I know I'm leaving you and Isabel at the altar to face God knows what back on Antar. Then I get dumped. I mean, what's the sense in this? Where did it get us?" Michael snorted and then shot up off the couch. He began to pace in the opposite direction of Max.

Max didn't answer but continued his wandering.

"It just blows, I tell you. It blows righteous."

Without looking up, Max said, "We've lost control. That's what happened. Before I saved Liz in the Crashdown, we dictated our every move. We got to make our choices without them affecting anyone else. Now, every time we turn around, something new pops up. It's like juggling a thousand things and trying not to let one of them hit the floor."

"Tell me, Max. What do you want right now?"

Max paused and looked down at the floor. His eyebrows scrunched together as he thought hard. "I want to be a good leader. I want to quit screwing up all of the time. I want to be able to balance this whole alien thing with my life here. I don't want to turn my back on my ancestry any more but yet I don't want to give up my human life."

Michael swung around to face him with an incredulous look on his face. Max looked at him and asked, "What?"

"You just surprised me, that's all. I expected you to spout off something about Liz."

"Well, Liz is a big part of the juggling act. I won't lie - she is the most important thing to me here on Earth. But I have also come to realize that I want to know this other side of me. I need to know."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. I mean, I've experienced the same thing, just in reverse." Michael ran his fingers through his hair in exasperation.

"How about you?" Max asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, what do you want right now?"

Michael hesitated and then said quietly, "I want Maria." Max gawked a bit and then a smile crept slowly over his face.

"I feel like were in the Twilight Zone right now."

Michael huffed in agreement. "Then how do we get ourselves out of Wonderland?"

"I don't know but being cooped up here isn't doing it."

"Yeah, let's get out of here."

**********

Walking down the street, Michael kicked a pinecone into the gutter. "So, why did she leave?"

"To deal with this on her own. Every time I came near her, her powers went haywire and caused her pain."

"But why would you affect her like that? I mean, we don't short-circuit each other. If she is becoming like us, why would having one of us near screw her up?"

"I don't know."

"It must be because we were engineered and she wasn't. Maybe she's missing a few parts. It's not like she was built with a schematic like us."

Max smiled at the comparison of their rebirth to a machine engine. He had never thought of if that way but on some level, it made sense. Their bodies were the engines and their souls were the gasoline. It was sort of sad to break it down into parts like that.

"Max, why did you sleep with Tess?" Michael asked suddenly.

"I don't know," Max answered lamely. After a few moments, he continued. "I'd like to say that it was because I wanted to or even because our alien biological drive forced me to. But in the end, neither of those answers would be the truth. After I thought Liz slept with Kyle, things just became…"

"What! Liz slept with Kyle? What the hell are you talking about?"

"Well, Liz made me think that Kyle and her…well, you know."

"What do you mean 'Made you think'? She tricked you?"

"Yeah, sort of. But you know, I've never understood why. I mean, I know it was to push me to Tess but…" Max trailed off slowly.

Michael stopped in his tracks and faced Max. "Why would she do that? To what purpose? Liz loves you." Michael ran his fingers through his hair again obviously frustrated.

"I don't know, Michael. I just told you."

"Didn't you even ask her why?"

Max frowned and answered, "No, I haven't." His eyebrows formed a severe vee and his frown deepened.

Michael gestured wildly. "Are you crazy, man? That would have been the first words out of my mouth." He spun in a half circle showing his back to Max. "Liz wouldn't have done it unless it was for a reason. She's too methodical."

Max watched Michael's back and noticed how he took deep, measured breaths in order to control himself. He knew Michael was thinking hard but Max couldn't follow where he leading.

"Maxwell, answer yes or no to the following questions." After a few moments, Michael took Max's silence for acquiescence.

"Do you love Liz?"

"What? Of course."

"Do you love or have you ever loved Tess?"

"No."

"Would Liz ever knowingly hurt you unless there was a solid reason?"

Max frowned again. "No."

"Are you the type to spontaneously sleep with someone, like a one night stand?"

"Of course not."

Michael turned to face him and swept his arm in a big circle. "Well, Maxwell, I wasn't a genius in school but do the damn math! These incidents, these situations just don't add up. Don't you see it? They have to be connected somehow. You and Liz are the two most rational people I know and here you are acting like you're in an episode of Dallas or something!"

Max shook his head in frustration and then brushed his temple with his fingertips. He squeezed his eyes shut trying to follow the logic. He felt like the answer was there but it continued to elude him.

"Max, you idiot. Don't you see it?"

"Yeah, well, when you spell it out like that, it does seem a bit…"

Suddenly, a man stepped out from behind the hedge lining the sidewalk. Max still stood with his eyes shut tight fighting with his thoughts. Michael took a startled step toward the person and instinctively raised his hand. Without warning, the man swung his arm up and revealed a small gun in his hand.

Michael let out a startled cry. "Max!"

Max turned around quickly so that both he and Michael were facing the assailant. Somehow, they both felt this wasn't a typical mugging.

The man waved his gun and said, "Step out of the way. I just want the king." Both Michael and Max stiffened at the royal reference. Michael took a protective step in front of Max and raised his arm again. Sensing the move, Max immediately summoned his energy. Suddenly, without another warning the man fired. Michael let out a blast while Max instantly put up his shield. As the green field surrounded Michael and himself, the bullet harmlessly deflected off the surface. The man dodged Michael's shot and fired several more times, each of the shots falling uselessly against the impenetrable wall.

The look of surprise on the man's face was almost laughable if Max's heart wasn't in his throat. His body trembled from the effort and from the sheer adrenalin rush coursing through his veins. Sensing Michael's next move, he quickly lowered the shield as Michael got off another shot. This time the man wasn't fast enough and the energy blast hit him in the lower gut forcing him backward through the air. He landed with a loud grunt half on the street and half on the sidewalk.

Michael circled warily around Max looking for other threats. Sensing none, he moved to the downed man and kneeled next to him. Max stood behind Michael and leaned over his shoulder. The man was muttering and looking to the sky. "They told me your powers weren't fully developed."

"Who told you?" Michael demanded.

The man, obviously hurt badly, grimaced but kept quiet. He continued to look upwards at the sky.

"Tell me! Who sent you after us?"

The man turned his head and looked at Michael for the first time. "I'm not going to tell…" and then he choked up a small bit of blood. He coughed violently.

"You better talk," Michael threatened. He held his hand over the man's body in a bold gesture that meant only one thing.

The light was slowing fading from the man's eyes. "I won't tell you," he managed to whisper. Both Michael and Max leaned closer so that they could hear his words. "But know that your woman is going to die." He sputtered up blood again. Michael looked over his shoulder at Max with a worried look.

Max spoke with dread. "Whose woman?"

The man grimaced again. His eyes closed. "She will never develop. She will never become…" Then he coughed up more blood and his head slowly tilted to the side.

Max straightened and scanned the area around them. Without looking at him, Max whispered, "Michael, turn him over."

"What?"

"Just do it." This time the tone was venomous.

Michael did as he asked and then gawked as Max stepped around him and savagely stomped on the man's back. The body quickly evaporated to dust. Michael had never seen Max act so violently. But then again, he understood.

Their enemies were after Liz.
posted on 16-Mar-2002 2:41:30 PM
Hey, everyone! The feedback is great. I'm dying to answer your questions but I don't want to give anything away. Can you forgive me?


CHAPTER 4

Liz stomped her foot and then threw her coat to the ground. "I can't believe this!" she shouted. She threw her hands up at the sky beseechingly. "Why? Why does this always happen?"

After looking through the window and noticing that her bus was missing, she had run full tilt out of the diner hoping to catch it as it was pulling out of the parking lot. When she reached the outside sidewalk, however, it was obvious that it was long gone.

Zan had followed slowly behind and was currently leaning against the pole supporting the awning to the restaurant entrance. He had one leg crossed over the other and was obviously smug about the present situation. He had both of his hands jammed into the pockets of his ragged, baggy black jeans and was chewing on a toothpick that hung lazily out of the corner of his mouth.

"Why?" she demanded again at the sky. Obviously, she wasn't going to get an answer but it just felt good to scream out her frustrations. She let her hands drop to her sides and whirled on Zan.

"That was a lousy trick! All of my bags were on that bus. And Vermont…" She put the heel of her hand to her head just realizing the full extent of her ordeal. "And Vermont. My God, what am I going to do now?" She slowly sank to her knees. "I had it all planned," she whispered.

Zan pushed away from the pole and sauntered over to her. She looked up at him and winced a bit as the similarities between him and Max hit her full on again. When she had first seen Zan, she knew it wasn't Max but it startled her tremendously. As Zan had talked, she had watched him closely and to see Max's eyes have a hard tint and to see Max's lips sneer was unsettling. It was almost as if someone had pasted Max's features on another's body and then distorted them. It was uncanny, though, to see some of the same mannerisms interlaced with steel. It was like meeting up with a distant relative that looked and moved the same but obviously exhibited a completely different personality.

"Ya gotta get up."

"Why?" She knew she was repeating herself but she didn't care.

"'Cause it's freezin' and we gotta get movin'."

"Where are we 'movin'' to, may I ask?" She slurred out the word, mimicking his accent sarcastically. "I'm assuming that you aren't offering me a lift to catch my bus."

He ignored the barb. "Nah, we got more important things goin' on."

"What if I say no?" She was almost beyond caring now. She had once again lost control of her life.

He towered over her and said, "I'm not givin' you that option."

"Of course not," Liz responded sarcastically. She looked up at him, sighed and then reached her arm up searching for assistance. Zan smirked and then bluntly turned away. He strolled over to a VW van parked a few spaces over and opened the driver's side door. He turned back to face her and said, "Ya comin' or what?"

**********

When she slid into the passenger seat, she glanced around the interior of the van. It was obvious that Zan used it as a house on wheels. In the back, there were stacks of cheap storage boxes with drawers. There was a thin full size mattress with rumpled bedding tossed haphazardly on it. Next to it, there was a shallow metal box welded to the side of the van with what looked to be an alarm clock and various items of jewelry sitting neatly inside. She leaned further between the two seats and noticed two large Igloo coolers behind each. There were no obvious signs of decoration - it was sparse but functional.

"Gettin' a good peep?"

Liz jumped a bit at hearing Zan's voice so close to her ear. She swiveled in her seat and faced forward. She heard him chuckle and watched as he waved his hand over the ignition. The van rumbled to life. He turned toward her and said, "Ya ready for a road trip?"

"No," she replied bluntly.

He chuckled again and mashed the stick-shift into gear. "Glad to see ya still got spunk, Sweets." He backed out of the space and they were off.

**********

Max entered the Crashdown with deliberate strides and Michael was right on his heels. The winter sun was a couple of hours past its peak and was beginning to slowly filter through the alien themed restaurant's windows. Max walked with purpose directly to the back and pushed the swinging door open. As he stepped through, Maria almost crashed into him with a tray on one arm.

"Hey, Max. Watch where you're going, Ok? Jeez, I almost lost an entire tray of food here." Maria went to step around him but Max grabbed her arm. Maria rocked back on her heels and said, "Max! Watch it! What's wrong with you?"

"Maria, go deliver the food and then come right back here." The sternness in his voice caused her to frown but she bit back a reply and said only, "OK. I'll be right back."

He moved out of her way and she went to step forward and ran smack into Michael. The tray tilted dangerously and she gasped trying to reach for it with her free hand. Michael grabbed it and steadied it for her.

"Thanks," she said softly.

"Yeah, well, no problem." Michael answered gruffly. He quickly sidestepped and let her pass. Max stood with a frown on his face. His thoughts were whirling in his head and the awkwardness of his friends' meeting was lost on him.

Michael stepped all of the way through the door and stood next to Max.

"So, what now?"

"We talk to Maria and see if she has heard from Liz. We need to get to her as quick as possible."

"Yeah, Ok. But what then? We don't even know what or who the threat is."

"It doesn't matter at this point. Liz is in danger."

"But Max, we need to have a plan."

Max said gruffly, "Michael. When have we ever had a plan? How can we EVER formulate a plan when we're always in the dark? All I know is that we have to take action. That also means protecting Maria. We're assuming that the Skin was referring to Liz but it's possible that they're targeting Maria. We have to get everyone together - now."

Michael paled considerably. He had assumed that the Skins were after Liz because she was foremost on his mind when the attack happened. Also, she was vulnerable with her newfound powers. When the Skin had said 'your woman', he had naturally believed he was referring to Max. However, now that Max brought the possibility of Maria being a target, he almost trembled at the thought of her in danger. He stepped to the swinging door and peered over it looking for her. He held his breath until he saw her removing the last plate of food from the tray and placing it front of a customer. He couldn't hear her words but he could tell she was playfully bantering with the family at the table. Then she turned on her heels and came toward him. He quickly ducked and then moved to Max's side.

Maria swung into the back and set her tray down. She put her hands on her hips and faced Max. "OK, what now." Her tone was serious but both Max and Michael caught a tinge of weariness in her words.

"You and Liz could be in danger."

"Yeah, well, that's what seems to be on the menu everyday. Tell me something new." She looked closer at Max's eyes and noticed the steel behind them. It seemed that Max was in battle mode and she stiffened a bit.

"Maria, we don't have time for smart comments. We need to get you to a safe place and I have to get to Liz as soon as possible."

His serious tone again cut off her intended smart remark. "Max, what happened?" To this point, she had intentionally ignored Michael. Things were just too strained at this point for her to face him. However, he surprised her when he answered her question.

"We were attacked by a Skin."

"Jesus. I thought they were long gone by now."

"Yeah, well, they're not, OK? Just listen to Max for once."

"No! You listen to me, Michael. I'm leaving tomorrow for New York. I have sworn off this whole drama scene - I can't take anymore of it. You guys just do your thing and let me live my life!" She stamped her foot impatiently while pounding her small fist in her other hand.

Max stepped between them, facing Maria. A shiver ran up her spine as she looked in Max's eyes. There was fury lurking right beneath the surface but most frightening of all was the overt menace. Where was the pouting, indecisive Max that she knew? This was someone different. His next string of words confirmed it.

Max's voice was low and full of authority. "You don't have a choice, Maria."

**********

The road slipped beneath the wheels of the van. The afternoon sun was sinking rapidly to their left. It definitely got darker earlier this far north. It was only 5:30 yet Zan already had to turn on the headlights. They had passed through Chicago and a couple of hours later, they were just north of Milwaukee. Liz had watched Lake Michigan pass by on her side and despite the current circumstances, she was fascinated. Coming from a desert, the expanse of water was overwhelming. 'This is what the ocean must look like', she thought.

To her left, she heard the flick of a lighter as Zan lit up another cigarette. He had been chain-smoking ever since they got on the road. She sighed and said, "Do you really have to smoke while we're in the car?"

Keeping his eyes on the road, Zan said, "Deal."

They hadn't talked much to this point. She had even slept a little. She was worn out from the emotional lunchtime experience. She felt better now though she began coughing from the smoke pooling around her head.

Zan looked over at her derisively and then rolled his window down an inch. She smiled to herself in satisfaction. Throw one on the chalkboard for Liz Parker.

He had surprised her by being a careful driver. Though he drove aggressively, he maintained the speed limit and was even considerate to other drivers. She mentally noted this anomaly in his behavior but didn't even know where to begin in figuring him out.

Zan flicked his butt out the window and rolled it up. The seeping cold air was instantly cut off and the hum of the heater could be heard as it slowly tried to circulate warmth through the interior.

The silence was getting to her so she finally decided to break the ice.

"Are you going to tell me where we're going?"

"Not yet."

"You said in the restaurant that we had a lot to talk about." She received silence as a reply. "Well, are you going to talk to me or is this how you are going to torture me - with silent indifference?"

"I ain't indifferent."

"Prove me wrong."

"I came and gotcha, didn't I? That ain't bein' indifferent."

Liz snorted. "You're right. That's being 'actively interested' or rather 'actively kidnapping' me."

"Ya can view it that way but if you was smart, you'd know different." He glanced at her and saw that she was frowning. He knew she was burning inside so he decided to concede a bit. "Go ahead. I know yer dyin' to play twenty questions."

Liz looked at him and saw that he was smiling. It was the first time that he had actually smiled benignly. She slowly swiveled in her seat to face him.

"Ok. How come you're not dead?"

Zan's smile instantly vanished. He stared straight ahead and frowned slightly. More to himself he said softly, "And she comes right outta da gate with that one."

He shifted in his seat getting a bit more comfortable. He draped his left wrist over the top of the steering wheel and rested his right hand on his thigh. He slouched a bit more, working his jaw from side to side. Liz waited patiently.

"I know what Ava told ya. The truck did run ovah me but I ain't without a bit of my own hocus pocus, if ya know what I mean." His eyes went dark and he began to gnash his teeth. "All I got was a couple a bruises and a skinned knee from hittin' the pavement."

"But Ava said that Lonnie and Rath killed you."

"They didn't wait around long enough. They hightailed it outta there quicker than greyhounds chasin' a rabbit. Rath wasn't da brightest dude on da block." He rubbed his jaw unconsciously and Liz was again reminded of Max. Zan seemed lost in his memory.

After a minute of silence, Liz decided to prod him on. "So what did you do then?"

"I picked my ego and my ass off da street and went huntin'. But they'd split town quick. By the time I figured out where'd they gone it was a few days or so. So I went on a road trip. Only I missed 'em in Roswell by a couple a days." He slammed the flat of his palm against the steering wheel making Liz jump. "I probably passed 'em on the fuckin' road."

"So what then?" Liz asked cautiously.

"I crashed fer the night in Roswell. I found out what was goin' on when I went to dat crazy diner."

"The Crashdown?" Liz asked surprised.

"Yo, that was it. I was prowlin' around lookin' for some eats. Da light was on but da door was closed." He looked at her directly and smirked. "I found out what was goin' down that night."

"Oh, my God. You were watching us through the window? That night with Michael, Isabel, and Ava?" Liz was dumbstruck.

He smirked again but looked back to the road. "Yeah, you were doin' some of yer own hocus pocus if I recall."

"Would you quit calling it 'hocus pocus'? It sounds so…childlike and insignificant."

"Whatever. Anyway, you needed help dat night. I heard dat Max was in trouble so I sorta lent you some hocus pocus," he stressed the word thinly, "of my own."

Liz's jaw dropped. She cupped her head with her hand. "No, you didn't. Isabel helped me. I felt her energy."

"Yo, Lonnie's dupe? She don't got da strength to do that. Her…whadya call her? Isabel? Isabel, Michael, and Max got the abilities of kids." He paused for a beat and then said, "It was me all da way, baby."

Liz sat stunned, unable to really comprehend what Zan said. 'He was there, that night?' she wondered. She shook her head side to side trying to clear away some of the confusion. Then a thought came to her.

"How long were you outside? Why didn't you show yourself?"

He didn't answer for a minute. "I didn't trust Ava. She was one of 'them'. There was no way I was gonna step into that viper's nest until I knew fer sure what the stakes were."

"You didn't answer my question. How long were you outside? Did you overhear our conversation earlier that night?"

He chuckled softly. "Yeah, I heard dat cornball stuff Ava was spoutin'. Dat's when I heard about yer rise from the dead. I knew then, just as Ava did, that you was beginnin' to change."

Liz blushed as she realized what he must have overheard. She had laid her heart out on the table that night to Ava. At least it seemed he was being polite enough not to tease her about it.

"Oh, and if I 'member right, you was spoutin' off some cornball stuff too." There it was. She misjudged again and blushed a bit deeper. It was time to erase that chalk mark right off the board.

A few moments passed when Zan said, "Nah, ya leave it right on up there. Ya need da esteem."

It took a second for his comment to sink in. Horrified, she turned to him with her mouth open.

"Like I was sayin'. Max, Michael and Isabel are playin' kids' games," Zan grinned widely.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 16-Mar-2002 2:52:30 PM ]
posted on 17-Mar-2002 10:24:15 AM
Everyone has such varied theories about what's happening. I hope each chapter reveals a bit more. I don't want to give it away too much.

I like a rough Zan but I also like that he doesn't drop his personality for Liz. In my mind, Zan is simply a physical duplicate of Max - his personality is all his own. But what are his true intentions here?

Just as a teaser, Chapter 6 gets into some heavy Liz/Zan interaction. They have to stop to rest sometime, don't they?


CHAPTER 5

In the back of the Crashdown, Max slammed down the phone. He had been trying to reach Isabel for about two hours. She was out of town for a couple of days because Jesse had to meet a client in Santa Fe and Isabel had decided to join him. Max had her hotel phone number but he just kept getting the hotel's voicemail service.

Maria walked in then and he turned quickly towards her. "Any luck?"

"No. Mr. Parker is being sparse with his information. He won't give me any details about the bus route or when she is expected to arrive." Maria slumped down onto the couch.

"Fine. Michael will be back soon from the station. They'll have all of the route information."

Maria sat sullenly, staring at her feet.

"Maria, I won't change my mind on this," Max stated. "It's just too risky."

"Don't give me that line, your majesty." Max winced a bit. "You're pulling a king card on me and let me tell you, after what you did with Tess, I'm no longer one of your loyal subjects."

Max turned his back on her and faced the wall. He absently studied the First Aid poster hanging in front of him. He replied quietly, "I won't respond to that."

"You know why, Max? Because you don't have the spine. After everything Liz did for you, after sacrificing her happiness AND oh, don't forget sacrificing Alex, you still turned on her. I don't blame her for running away."

Max still stood silently. His shoulders were tense and he was bunching his fists.

"You don't get it, do you Max? Liz and I can take the alien stuff. That's not the issue. What we can't take is the human stuff. The lying and cheating. The inability for you and Michael to fully commit to us. You and Liz were good that first year because you gave your heart to her. You stood by her every minute. She never doubted for a second that you loved her. But then Tess and Nascedo came along and wham! Suddenly, there's an extended alien family and Liz and I became distant cousins."

"Liz did some lying too, you know. It wasn't all me."

"Max, you ignorant fool. She was lying for you. She was lying because she was doing what you wanted."

He abruptly faced her. "I never asked her to push me towards Tess. She did that on her own!" Max's voice was rose until he was almost shouting.

Just then, Michael walked in. He had heard the raised voices and come rushing to the back room to tell them to be quiet. All they needed was for Mr. Parker to come back and catch them in the middle of an alien convention. The scene of Max standing in a seething rage while Maria shot daggers at him sent off alarm bells.

"Whoah. What the hell is going on here?" he demanded.

"Maria, here, was lecturing me on the finer points of being human!" Max threw his hands up in the air.

"Well, you need it! Since you were hatched, I'm sure that you missed the day when they were handing out the 'How to be a Good Human' handbook!" Maria stood up and squared off with Max.

"Hang on a second! What is wrong with you two? Our enemies are targeting us and you two are having a pissing match about human sensibilities? Give me a friggin' break!"

Both Max and Maria backed off a foot though they continued to glare at each other. Michael finally huffed and sat down on the couch. "If you're interested, I got the schedule right here." He dangled the paper in front of them.

Max snatched it out of his hand and started to scan down the page. Michael said, "Don't bother. She should be hitting Pennsylvania just about now."

"Maria, try her cell phone again." Max had calmed down a bit but was still overly irritated. It wasn't a request - it was an order.

"Fine, but I'm sure I'll get another 'Out of Service' message again. And just so you know, I'm leaving to go home after this." She added with emphasis, "Alone. " That earned her glares from both Max and Michael but she shrugged them off. She dialed the number. "It's ringing," she squeaked.

**********

"What the hell is going on? You can read my mind? Max said that you guys couldn't do that!" Liz was beginning to really freak out. She felt so vulnerable. Everything about her had been violated that day. First she was smacked in the face with a dupe of Max. Then she was snatched from her bus and her plans. Now, even her most private possessions were laid out in the open like an All You Can Eat buffet.

"I didn't say Max could."

"Then why the hell can you? This is getting insane." Liz cringed away from him, leaning as far away as possible against the door. She was feeling threatened now and she looked at Zan with new eyes. For the first time, she really began to fear for her life.

"Ah, c'mon. Don't get all rabbity on me. It's not dat big a deal."

"Not a big deal? You just read my mind!"

He sighed heavily. "Like I said, ya got a lot to learn. And I didn't really…" Just then, a shrill ringing pierced the van.

Zan started and said, "What da hell is that?"

"It's my phone. It's ringing." When he gave her dumbfounded look, she said, "You know - a cell phone?" She reached down and picked it up. Zan looked at her sternly. "I have to answer. People will be worried about me and then come looking."

"Yo. Be careful of what ya say. Say whatever but don't be givin' away where we are."

Liz nodded and looked at the phone. The call was coming from the Crashdown. She answered it quietly. "Dad?"

"Chica! It's Maria. Where the hell are you? We've been trying to call but you haven't had service."

"Um, yeah, I know." She looked at Zan and said, "Hang on a sec…" She put her hand over the phone cutting off Maria's "Wait-".

"It's Maria. My best friend. I need to let her know what's going on."

"Whatever. Like I said, anything but where we are." Zan looked at her sternly. "I mean it. Nothing 'bout our location."

"Fine, fine." Liz returned to the phone in time to hear "…going on?"

"Maria, hold up a minute. You need to listen, OK?"

"But Liz, I'm here with Max and Michael and we have to…"

"No, listen Maria. Just listen. I'm not on my way to Vermont. I was kidnapped by Zan." When Zan heard that, he frowned but didn't interrupt.

"Zan?" Liz heard some deep male voices in the background and Maria telling them to be quiet. "Liz, are you Ok? Where are you? Listen, you're in trouble. Max and Michael were attacked today. They think that you're in danger."

Liz looked fearfully at Zan. She held the phone closer to her ear. "Maria, I would have to agree with you."

"Oh, my God. Can you get away? I hear traffic noise. Are you in a car?" Again, Liz heard Max and Michael in the background, their voices tumbling over each other.

"Well, yeah I am." Again she looked at Zan and he pointed to his wrist telling her to cut it short.

"Listen, Maria. Tell Max I was right about where I thought he was from the first time."

"What? Liz, you're talking crazy."

"Just do it, Maria."

"But Liz, can you give us a hint of where you're at?"

Liz looked fearfully again at Zan. He was staring at her intently.

In a rush, Liz decided to take a chance. "I'm sorry, Maria, but my phone doesn't get good reception in Milwau-" Instantly, Zan's hand came up and her cell phone went dead.

Liz hit the talk button but the screen wouldn't light up. The phone was toast.

She looked at Zan. He was scowling at the road. She watched as he lit up another cigarette. He purposely left the window up and blew smoke out of the right side of his mouth. She coughed violently in the fog that enveloped her. No matter how hard she tried to swat it away, it hung around her like a cloud. It seemed he was using his "hocus pocus" to punish her.

"Get used to it, sweets, 'cause you may be gasping for breath again sooner dan ya think."

For the first time since she met Zan, she cried.

**********

Max muscles were bunched tightly. He so full of fury that his body simply trembled. Zan had Liz. He had kidnapped her. She was somewhere on the road in Wisconsin. She was scared. Maria had passed on that much. The fact that the phone was disconnected at the very second she was telling Maria her location meant she had related too much information. Was Zan going to punish her? Why did he have her? Was he hurting her right now?

Max's blood fairly boiled at the thought. Here he was in New Mexico pacing the back of the Crashdown feeling completely helpless. Meanwhile, Liz was with his dupe potentially hurt, definitely scared, and absolutely fearful for her life. Her life!

Both Michael and Maria jumped when they heard a loud crash. They looked over to the corner of the room and saw Max extracting his hand from a very large hole in the wall. They gawked. They had never seen Max in such a state. Even when Liz was taken by Nascedo that one spring, he was terrified and acted with purpose but he had never shown the fury and violence that he was now.

Michael heard Mr. Parker yelling from the front of the restaurant. "Hey, what's going on back there?" In quick desperation, Michael waved his hand toward the hole in the wall. Max ignored the scene and resumed his pacing. Mr. Parker rushed through the back door just as Michael lowered his hand. The wall looked the same as it did before.

"What are you kids doing back here?" When none of them responded, he turned to Maria. "What happened?"

Maria scrambled for an excuse while Max tucked his hand in his armpit and continued to pace. He didn't even acknowledge that Mr. Parker had spoken.

While Maria's lips twitched in her desperation to lie, Michael quickly stepped in. "Sorry, Mr. Parker. We were goofing around back here and knocked off a couple of the industrial sized tomato cans from the rack."

Mr. Parker looked at him for a second and then his gaze arrested on the fidgeting Max. "Max, you know that Liz left. There's no reason why you should be in the backroom, disturbing my customers."

Max looked up and said without hesitation, "You're right. I'm sorry. I was just leaving." Giving a pointed look to Michael and Maria, he left out the backdoor.

Mr. Parker sighed and then looked at the two remaining teenagers. "Maria, your shift is almost over. It's dead so go on home." He turned to Michael, "And you. Don't you get enough of this place when you work your shifts? Get out of here." Mr. Parker grinned and then returned to the front of the restaurant.

Michael and Maria stared at each other for a second. Maria was the first to speak.

"Yeah, well. I should get going."

"You're not going anywhere unless Max and I are with you."

Maria let out an exasperated sigh. "Listen, Liz is in trouble. I know. I want to be part of the gang to help. Just let me go home and change out of this uniform."

"Fine but we are going with you."

Maria threw up her hands and started for the back door. "Jesus. Whatever. I can't stop you but you guys are acting overly protective." She threw open the door with Michael right on her heels. Maria let out a startled cry when a body crashed into her forcing her stumbling into the alley.

Michael rushed out in time to see Max struggling with a man on the ground. Maria was on her knees where she landed watching with wide eyes. Max was on top trying to pin the man's shoulders to the pavement. Unable to get a good position to help without destroying Max's advantage, Michael had to circle warily. Max grunted as the man beneath kicked a leg up and struck him sharply on the thigh. Suddenly, the man's hand began to glow and Max let out a sharp wail of pain. He fell to side, favoring his arm. Quick as a cat, the man was on his feet and lunged for Maria. His fingers bruised her arm as she twisted out of his grasp at the last second. She let out a startled squeak.

Michael, adrenaline pumping, tackled the man and they crashed into a couple of large metal trashcans. Michael had the advantage of weight and pushed the man down to the ground. He grabbed his shoulder and there was a muffled burst of sound. The man stopped struggling and groaned in pain.

Wheezing, Michael put his knee on the man's chest and fairly screamed, "Talk!"

The man opened his eyes but didn't acknowledge Michael. As the other Skin did, he simply stared up in the sky while holding onto his mangled shoulder.

Max got up and came over to the two men. He roughly shoved Michael off and grabbed the man by his shirt collar. He lifted him six inches off of the ground and snarled in his face. "He said TALK!"

The Skin chuckled menacingly. "I'm not telling anything. Just know that your women are going to die." He chuckled again. Taking Max by surprise, the man threw his head forward crashing it into Max's skull. Max faltered and stepped back releasing his tight grip.

The Skin bounded to his feet still favoring his shoulder. In his direct field of vision was a shaking Maria. He threw himself at her. She tried to dodge to the side but the man managed to lock onto her arm. Her twisting threw him momentarily off balance. Michael, taking a step forward, said, "My turn" and threw a hearty kick at the Skin's back. As he turned to dust, the backdoor to the Crashdown flew open and Mr. Parker rushed out.

"What the hell is going on out here?" Looking, he saw Michael and Maria heaving for breath. Maria was rubbing her arm tenderly. Max was on his knees and had the heel of his hand to his forehead.

This time it was Maria who saved the day. "Um, sorry Mr. Parker. Michael here is taking some Tae Kwan Do classes and was showing us a couple of moves. Unfortunately, he hasn't quite learned control yet." Michael glared at her and Max slowly got to his feet.

"Yeah. It was my fault really. Michael was in the process of showing me a round kick when I accidentally put my head in his path." Michael glared at Max next.

"You kids. I swear. Can you stay out of trouble for one minute? Now get out of my alley and go home to your parents." Jeff was beyond exasperated. They had just disturbed his patrons twice within a matter of minutes. He left slamming the door behind him. Max, Michael, and Maria all heard the deadbolt being engaged from the inside.

"Well, that was close," Michael commented.

Max looked at the dust on the ground slowly filtering away on the slight puffs of air.

"Yeah, too close. He almost caught us that time."

"No! I'm talking about the Skin. He almost had you there, " he said pointedly to Maria.

She stared at the ground still rubbing her arm.

Max said quietly, "I suppose you both noticed what he said."

Michael answered, "Yeah, he said women as in plural."

Maria, still rubbing her arm, motioned at Max. "Can you come over and do a bit of your alien mojo? My arm is killing me."

Max slowly shook his head and said, "Sorry, Maria. But after what's happening with Liz, I don't think that's such a good idea. Maybe we should take you to a doctor…"

Maria waved her hand dismissively. "No, no. It's fine. It's just bruised."

Just then Max's cell phone rang. He looked at the caller ID hoping for Liz's name to appear. Seeing an Out of Area message, he answered carefully. "Hello?"

Max swung away from Michael and Maria with his hand covering his other ear. Both Michael and Maria noticed why he had tucked that hand under his armpit when Mr. Parker had come to the backroom. It was streaming blood from a couple of bad gashes.

Max's voice rose. "What?…Jesus! Are you Ok?…Right…Well, the same thing is happening here…No, no. Everyone's OK so far…Yeah, OK. Sit tight. We'll send help your way." Max clicked off the cell phone and faced Michael and Maria who were waiting expectantly.

"Isabel was just attacked in Santa Fe by a Skin. She's OK and Jesse wasn't with her." Maria's jaw fell open. "But she's scared and needs help."

Maria gasped. Michael turned to her with a look that said 'I told you so'.

Max continued with a hard edge to his voice. "We're under a full fledged attack."

Maria said in a small voice, "OK, OK. Now I'm convinced."

**********

After sneaking out of the back alleyway, Max, Michael and Maria slipped into Max's car. Fearing that it wasn't safe to go anywhere they usually visited such as Michael's apartment, they headed for the open road. Max was driving and Maria sat in the backseat still in her Crashdown uniform. She was trembling slightly, still overwhelmed with the violence she had just witnessed. Max, however, was calm though the car speeding down the road at 100 mph belied his desperateness.

Max questioned Maria again. "So Liz said that I was right about the first time she guessed where I was from?"

Maria nodded from the backseat even though Max couldn't see her. Max screwed up his eyebrows in concentration. "I told her that I wasn't from around here and then she asked from where." He thought harder trying to remember the exact details of that emotionally charged encounter, one of the most significant in his life. "I then pointed to the sky. When she looked up, she whispered…" Max slammed his palm on the steering wheel. "That's it!" he exclaimed. "She asked if I was from 'up north'! Their heading north from Milwaukee."

Both Michael and Maria nodded at the logic.

"OK, so we go to Isabel and get her to safety. Then, once we're a group, we go to Wisconsin," Michael stated as he looked at a road map in his hands.

"No."

"What do you mean, Maxwell. That's a good plan." Michael felt some of his previous feelings of being dismissed rise up. Though Max was king, his king, he was still his close friend. It sometimes irked when Max overrode him because it reminded him of the time when Max never listened to his impulsive decisions.

"Michael's right. That's the best plan. They're attacking us when we are separated from each other."

Michael turned his head to look at her with surprise while Max glanced at her in the rearview mirror.

"Have you forgotten about Liz?" Max asked. "She's out there with some alien maniac that looks like me. Her life is in danger. I have to go to her."

"What about Isabel? We can't leave her unprotected," Michael pointed out.

"That's why you and Maria will go to Isabel and I will find Liz."

"Ohhh no, Max. Didn't you hear Maria? They're attacking because we're separated. We have to stay together."

"And how do we protect both Liz and Isabel by staying together? It will take us at least three hours to drive to Santa Fe. Trying to take a plane would even be longer with the new security measures." Max turned back to the road. "Think about it. You can get to Isabel. I will get on a plane and fly to Milwaukee. I'll pick up their trail from there. Once you two are with Isabel, catch a plane to Milwaukee. Believe me, it's not that I don't want the help. I just have to get to Liz because every minute counts."

Michael looked at Max and said, "I don't know about this. I don't like letting you go off alone."

Max looked at Michael gently and said, "I know. Don't you think I noticed the way you protected me when that first Skin attacked? You were saving your king from harm. You went into action without thinking. It was an awesome sight." Max paused before continuing. "And I appreciate it, Michael. But right now we are only three. If we could pair up in time, I'd choose that. But we don't have any choice right now."

Michael stared through the windshield as the small airport came into view. "You're wrong, Maxwell."

"Michael-"

"No listen. You're right about the plan. It's the only way. But you were wrong about me protecting my king."

He looked at Max. "I was protecting my friend."

**********

Liz looked at her watch. It was about midnight and she was exhausted. It was dark and all she saw as they drove down the two lane road was snow laden trees. Occasionally, they would pass through small towns with strange names like Paradise or Misery. She had never been in Michigan before but it seemed like God's country to her. She had hardly seen any store names that she recognized - things like Best Buy or even Target seemed like a foreign commodity here. A few miles back, she had seen a mile sign that read,

End of the Earth: 8
Houghton: 10

She had chuckled to herself quietly thinking that the humor seemed fitting.

They were coming around a corner and suddenly, there were buildings on each side of the road. She read a sign that said "Welcome to Michigan Technological University". She looked around her and though things were quiet and dark, she could see that they were driving through the middle of a campus. It seemed so out of place from the country she had just passed through.

They continued slowly and seemed to pass through the campus after a couple of blocks. They were entering the downtown area and it seemed dismal. They were forced to one lane since there were large snowplows and dump trucks cleaning up the road.

Her stomach rumbled and she realized that she was starving. She looked over at Zan. Since the phone incident, they hadn't said a word to each other. They had only stopped for gas. Zan had allowed her to use the restroom but every time she exited, he was standing casually next to the door apparently ready for her to bolt. Each time, he always had a pack of cigarettes clutched in one hand.

She was getting used to the smoke. She figured her lungs were thoroughly coated with enough tar and that it helped prevent the violent coughing fits.

Zan whipped the steering wheel suddenly to the right and they slid around the corner on the thick layer of snow. Liz's breath caught in her throat. She didn't feel comfortable driving in this weather. Sure, it was only snowing a bit, but she'd never been around so much snow in her life. There wasn't one thing outside that was at least dusted under a white layer.

"We'll stop to get some eats," Zan said gruffly. His voice was a bit raspy from not using it for so long.

Liz looked accusingly at him. He grimaced and said, "I heard yer stomach growl. I wasn't readin' no minds."

He pulled into a parking space in front of a Mexican restaurant called "Los Dos Amigos". Liz couldn't help but snicker. Zan looked at her and said, "What's up wit you?"

She only nodded and said, "I just came hundreds of miles from New Mexico to land here and eat Mexican."

"Whatever," Zan mumbled. They both stepped out of the van and instantly their breaths vaporized in front of their faces. The crisp air stung her smoke damaged lungs. It felt like she was inhaling particles of insulation and each piece left a burning trail down her throat.

They minced and slipped over the hard packed snow. Liz went to step onto the sidewalk next to a light post when her back foot slipped out from underneath her. Both her arms went up in the air as she struggled to maintain her balance but she fell hard. Her right hip smacked the corner of the sidewalk and her wrist twisted beneath her. Crying out in pain, she rolled over onto her back.

She looked up and saw Zan standing over her with his head haloed by the lamplight. Even in her pain, she blushed at the thought that she had taken a fall in front of him. Ready for a smart comment, she wasn't disappointed.

"Walk much?" he quipped. She just groaned. He squatted on his heels next to her. She went to get up but he pushed her back against the ground. "Just stay down 'til I can get a good look. Be my luck, ya broke somethin'." Liz began to protest but he put two cold fingers to her lips. It was the first time he had touched her since he had roughly grabbed her arm in the diner. It was out of character, enough so that it shocked her into silence. He slowly removed his fingers and she looked at his eyes. They were dark pools that absorbed the light that flickered around them. For the first time, she noticed the fine wrinkles in each corner. She also noticed the weariness in his brows and in the firm set of his lips. He had never seemed more Max-like.

His hands gently gripped her ankle and worked their way methodically up her leg as he probed for any injuries. Her breath caught in her throat as they traveled to her upper thigh. He didn't seem to notice but moved to the other leg before his touch became indecent. After repeating his actions, he skipped up to her hips. He gently pushed on each hip and when she grimaced in pain, his probing stilled. Concentrating, his hand glowed slightly and Liz felt familiar warmth spread in her midsection. It was over in a matter of a couple of seconds and she wondered at his speed. It would have taken Max at least 10-15 seconds to do what Zan just did.

His probing continued up to her stomach. His hands slid underneath the bottom of her heavy coat to get better access to her body. Her hand automatically went to brush him away. His movements stilled and he looked at her face. He could see the fear in her eyes and he sighed.

"Don't worry. If I wanted to feel ya up, I wouldn't be doin' it here on the street when it's God fuckin' cold." When her hands didn't move off of the top of his, he became impatient and threw up his hands in a gesture of defeat. "Do ya want help or not?"

Liz, suddenly furious, said "No! I'm fine. Leave me be."

Zan pinched the bridge of his nose in a weary gesture. "Man, whatever." He stood up quickly, stepped over her prone form and walked to the entrance of the restaurant. Turning around he said, "And?"

She rolled over to her stomach and rested her weight on her hands in order to push herself off of the ground. A fiery pain shot up from her right wrist but she swallowed the groan that threatened to escape. There was no way that she was going to give him the satisfaction. Using her good arm, she stood wobbly and then glared at him as she moved past to enter the restaurant. Zan just shook his head and swore.

posted on 19-Mar-2002 9:08:53 PM
Hope you all enjoy.

CHAPTER 6

Max's plane arrived twenty minutes late. He was swearing to himself as he raced down the concourse. Taking the escalator steps three at a time, he hit the baggage claim area at a full run. Dashing around other travelers he rushed up to the Avis Rental Car counter and said between big gulps of air, "I need…a…car."

After altering one driver's license and one credit card with the wave of his hand, fifteen minutes later, he pulled onto the interstate going north.

The chase was on.

**********

Zan settled more comfortably in his chair. He and Liz were sitting in a corny Mexican themed restaurant that was doing very slow business. Of course, it was midnight on a Sunday. He was even surprised that it was open. He figured it had to do with that the restaurant catered to a lot of college students - college students that kept all hours in their scramble for studying and hell-raising.

He lit up a cigarette using his Zippo dangling from the chain on his hip. He inhaled the sweet smoke, held it in for a few seconds and then slowly blew it back out. He threw his army clad boots up on the empty chair next to him and relaxed. It felt good be off of the road. He'd been up for close to thirty-five hours, driving about thirty of them.

Liz sat across from him, reading the menu slowly. He watched her as her eyes traveled up and down the page. She was spitfire, for sure. No, she wasn't bubbly and gossipy but she had a spine of steel. He noticed how she favored her wrist and smiled grimly. She unconsciously swept her hair behind her ear as she tried to decide on her order. He shook his head and turned his attention to the approaching waitress.

"Hey, guys. Can I get you something to drink?"

Liz looked and smiled warmly. "Yes, please. I would love to have a Coke." The waitress nodded and then turned to Zan. Her eyebrows shot up as she took in his appearance.

"I'll have a Molson," he replied.

The waitress hesitated and then said, "Can I see your ID?"

Zan lazily reached in his back pocket, pulled out his wallet and handed over his driver's license. The waitress peered at it in the dim light, looked at him and then looked back at the picture. "OK, one beer coming up." With the same lazy movements, he returned the card to his wallet and slipped it back to his pocket. "From New York, eh? What are you doing all of way here in God's country? You don't look like the college type." She tipped her head to the side.

"Just visiting a friend, that's all." Zan smiled flirtatiously. The waitress looked briefly at Liz and then turned back to him.

"Well, you have courage to come here from a city like that. There's not much here but the university, snowmobiles and hockey." Zan looked at her in appreciation. She was about twenty-four or so and had it going on in a small town sort of way.

He winked at her and said, "Yeah, I noticed. So what do you do to keep warm in these parts?" The waitress blushed and fidgeted nervously.

He heard Liz clear her throat and shot a glare at her. The waitress felt the tension at the table and said, "Oh, nothing much. I'll grab those drinks for you." She turned around and went to the backroom.

Zan tilted his head and raised his eyebrows at Liz. Liz just rolled her eyes and looked back to the menu. He chuckled suddenly and said, "Look at ya, yer actin' all naïve 'n shit." He watched as color hit Liz's cheeks but she didn't reply. He admired how she wasn't rising to the bait.

The waitress returned with the drinks and a basket of chips and salsa. Writing down their orders, she smiled gamely at Zan but simply turned back to continue her work.

Zan decided to persist. "Ya just ruined a good thing, ya know."

Liz huffed and said, "What good thing? What are you going to do? Invite her back to your van and impress her with your décor? No, I don't think so." She shook her head in emphasis.

"Ya nevah know. She probably got some good digs. Hell, dancin' ain't just for the bedroom. That's part of da thrill. Humpin' in someone's car or on a side street. It don't matter as long as the lovin's good." He knew he was pushing her into a verbal bantering that didn't make her comfortable. He was just testing the waters to see how she would react.

"I suppose you are a master in this domain, huh?" she asked uncomfortably.

"Seems so. Least, compared to you." He waited intently for her reply. He was enjoying himself.

Liz looked up at him and then just shook her head. She looked out of the restaurant windows to the snowy street beyond. She wasn't going to play the game. He liked that. He put his butt out in the ashtray and rubbed his face roughly.

She suddenly faced him and said, "That's how you knew what was going on in the Crashdown that night."

"What?"

"I wondered how you knew everything that was going on. You said you were outside. If you were outside, how could you hear us talking? You were mind reading, weren't you?"

"Yeah." When he wouldn't elaborate further, she continued.

"And me missing my bus? Did you mind warp me?"

Again, he repeated, "Yeah."

Liz's voice rose just a tad. "Do you know how dangerous that is? It can hurt my mind!"

Zan looked at her quizzically. "What are ya talkin' 'bout?"

"Tess' mind warps affected everyone she did them on." She paused. "It was what killed Alex."

Zan looked at her thoughtfully a moment while tugging on his chin. "Mind warpin' don't hurt noone when it's done right. Ava or this Tess could've controlled it if she wanted. Sounds like she was just bein' sloppy."

Liz looked horrified. He wasn't quite sure what he said that had affected her so much. He knew that this Alex kid had been important to her but…

"Then she purposely killed Alex. It was something she could have avoided," Liz whispered quietly. Zan had to lean forward to catch the end of the sentence. He watched as a tear rolled down her cheek. He leaned back and looked away to give her privacy. He knew what loss felt like and he wasn't going to step on any memories right now.

To pass the time, he lit up another cigarette. His stomach was beginning to growl as the aromas from the kitchen wafted across his nose. He took a sip of his beer and let it wash down the dryness from the trip. He savored the taste a moment and then smacked his lips.

"I thought alcohol affected you badly," Liz said.

"It does," he stated simply. When she raised her eyebrows, he continued. "I altered da make-up so dat the alcohol properties go…poof!" His hand holding the cigarette rose and made a gesture of something vanishing in thin air. "But I can still rock wit da taste."

"You know, your New York accent seems to fluctuate. When you were talking to that girl, you lost it almost completely. When you're trying to impress me, it gets heavier."

He fidgeted. "Dat's not true."

"Yes, it is."

"Yo, it's not." He said uncomfortably. He turned in his seat so that he didn't have to face her.

Suddenly, Zan received an image of a second chalk line being drawn on a chalkboard. He grimaced and he saw her smile. She knew that he'd seen it and she was beaming with satisfaction.

But he decided that he wasn't going to be beaten by this girl. He sent another image her way of her violently choking on smoke as she dropped the chalk from her hands to cover her mouth.

Her jaw dropped open and he smirked.

**********

Max stopped at every rest stop along Lake Michigan, hoping to get some sort of sign of where they could have gone. He assumed that they had stuck to the expressway, as that was the fastest method to get wherever they were headed. Each time he stopped, he interviewed each of the workers and showed them a picture of Liz. He was having no luck. After a couple of hours with no leads, he began to despair. They could be anywhere at this point. Canada, Minnesota. Hell, they could have even turned south to put him off their trail.

He tried to reason it thinking that if he were Zan, what would he do. It was pretty messed up thinking because technically, he was Zan. But as hard as he tried, he couldn't even begin to guess. Though he was an alien king, he was no sleuth. But what he lacked in experience, he would make up in persistence.

**********

Zan and Liz were once again on the road. They quickly passed through the remaining two blocks of downtown and turned a corner to the right. Looming ahead of her was a good-sized lift bridge. They rumbled over it and she peered down at the water below. It looked like a river though she couldn't tell for sure.

On the other side, they passed through another sleepy town and then they were once again in the darkness of the country.

After her meal, she was so tired she could barely keep her eyes open.

"Zan, can we pull over and rest for the night? I am so beat. How much further do we have to go?"

"Only 'bout 'nother 45 minutes."

She yawned and asked sleepily, "Where are we?" Zan looked over at her and noticed her drooping features. She almost sounded like a small child. He decided to give in for once and give her a break.

"Why don't ya crawl into da back and crash out. I'll keep drivin' and wake ya when we get there." She simply nodded and slipped between the two seats. She lay down on the mattress and pulled up the covers. In her sleep fogged mind, she noted that the sheets smelled clean and fresh and that the pain in her wrist had diminished to a dull ache. Then she was out.

Zan turned up the heat so that it would reach to the rear end of the van better. He looked back and noticed that she was already asleep. He sighed and looked back to the road. He was looking forward to some sleep himself.

After an hour or so, he pulled into the parking lot of a small motel in a town called Copper Harbor. Using his powers, he permanently locked all of the doors including the two in the back. He rubbed his eyes furiously as the lack of sleep made them burn. He stumbled to the back of the van and noticed that Liz never stirred. Hesitating only for a moment, he slipped off his shirt and shoes and crawled in bed next to her. Turning his back to her, he soaked up the warmth radiating from her body. Content that he was safe, he was asleep in a matter of minutes.

**********

Max, unsuccessful in his search to even find one clue, sat in a rest stop exasperated. He picked up his cell phone and called Isabel. She answered on the first ring.

"Isabel. Hey. Are you guys OK? Did Michael and Maria find you?"

"Yeah, Max. We're fine. I told Jesse that one of our distant uncles died and that I had to get back to Roswell. I then told him that I had to fly to Sarasota for the funeral so not to expect to see me for a few days. He seemed to buy it."

"Any sign of any Skins? And did Liz call?" he asked hopefully.

"No, no signs of the monsters. And no again to Liz. We're holed up in an out of the way motel. We made sure that we weren't followed. What about you? Any problems?"

"None. I haven't seen a thing and that includes any signs of Liz and Zan. I'm not sure what to do." The defeat sounded plainly in his voice.

"Listen, Max. We'll fly in the first thing tomorrow and then we'll help you out. Where are you right now?"

"Near the Michigan border, I think. I'm not sure really. It's really cold here, Izzy, so tell the others to bring warm clothes."

"Don't worry. We'll bring the needed supplies and what we don't, we'll buy." Isabel added softly, "Max, we'll find her."

Max clicked the phone shut and whispered, "But will we be in time?"

It was snowing outside and he watched as the flakes fell softly and hit the hood of his rental. They instantly melted only to be replaced by new ones that quickly sizzled out of existence.

Where was Liz right now and what was she doing?

**********

Liz's eyes came open as the light showed through the dirty windows in the rear of the van. Her mind, still a bit fuzzy, puzzled a bit as to where she was. As it always does, reality crashed in around her. She stiffened and slowly looked around. She was pushed up with her back almost to the side of the van. Looking upwards, she saw the small metal shelf that she had noticed before. Taped underneath it, was a black and white photo of Zan, Lonnie, Rath, and Ava, sitting on the stone steps in front of some run down apartment building.

Liz noticed that Rath and Lonnie sat next to each other, almost intimately. Lonnie's legs were spread indecently wide to the camera and even though she wore green cargo pants, she oozed sex. Rath was turned towards Lonnie with a hungry look plastered on his face while Lonnie looked at something behind the camera. Ava sat alone, one step higher with an unhappy look on her face.

Zan was the only one who faced the camera and though he wasn't smiling, she could tell that he was acknowledging the picture taker. He was sprawled out, lounging comfortably, with his back to the metal railing. His eyes were brooding and they seemed to look directly at her. She puzzled over the picture. They were not a tight knit group. That much was obvious. Only Lonnie and Zan had a cunning intelligence that radiated from their faces.

The other thing she puzzled over was the markings on the picture. With a thick felt tipped pen, there were two Xs slashed across two of the people: Ava and Rath. She shivered at the significance of this.

She noticed the corner of a piece of paper sticking out from behind the photo. Reaching up and wiggling it out, she discovered another smaller photo. This one was in color and it was snapshot of Zan and an unknown woman sitting on a railing with what looked like to be the Empire State building. New York city spread out below them creating the feel that they were almost hovering in the air. Though they weren't touching, they were facing each other and looked like they were in the middle of an animated conversation. The woman wore long dark hair that was not quite not black. It hung free around her face and she was in the middle of pushing away an errant strand. Her skin was olive toned and her body was very curvaceous. She wore black pants and a short black top that showed a tan stomach with a silver navel ring. The clothes were revealing but seemed to accent her body nicely as opposed to flaunting her round curves. She appeared to be the same height as Zan though it was difficult to tell since they were perched up on the railing. She seemed to be in the middle of laughing at something that Zan said.

Liz thought that she was beautiful. Who was this woman? What was she to Zan? A girlfriend?

It was then that she heard the soft snores coming from her right. She quickly tucked the photo beneath the other one and cautiously looked only to discover Zan's naked back to her. The covers had fallen down to his waistline. He laid on his right side with his head lying on the mattress without a pillow. She could see the pulse in his neck beat rhythmically and noticed the small moles that peppered his shoulders and neck. He moved slightly in his sleep and the muscles rippled across his back and shoulders.

Her gaze followed down his body from the loop dangling in his ear, the strong curve of his neck. Her eyes traced the prominent backbone as it gracefully dipped beneath the covers. She saw two long scars that cut across his side and disappeared over the edge. They were dark and rough and didn't have that shiny look that matured scars did. His abs tightened slightly with each deep breath he took.

She held her breath when he jostled suddenly and he rolled over onto his left side. The covers had fallen even more and were now wrapped around his thighs. Thankfully, she noted, he had worn his jeans to bed. But they were baggy and had slipped some in his sleep. A good inch of a pair of white boxes peeked out of the top of them. She blushed a bit as she saw the beginning of the opening that was typical of male boxers. Her breath lodged in her throat when she followed the trail of coarse hair that peeked out from under the waistband of the boxers to where it slowly tapered off at his navel. His stomach muscles were well defined and stepped gracefully up to his rib cage. Now that he had turned, she could see where the two ragged scars ended just above his shallow belly button. Liz noticed the tattoo on his stomach that rested just above the top of his shorts. It was the symbol that was on the pendant and on the orbs. As she watched, the black ink tinted with a bit of silver seemed to flicker in the sunlight.

His right arm rested loosely along his side while his left was curled up under his head to support it. On his right arm was a tattoo of the four-square along with some other strange symbols.

Liz caught her breath when she noticed the two small, silver rings that hung from his nipples. It was hard to imagine that they had always been there, as she had never known. It was like a secret revealed, something for her to tuck away in her Zan library of knowledge. She felt the urge to touch one to see whether they were cold against his skin. Firmly keeping her hands to herself, she forced her way the rest of the way up his body. A dark patch of hair peeked out from the junction of his arm and torso.

His face actually looked serene in sleep. It was tucked in the crook of his arm. His strong jaw line was covered in dark stubble that looked like a rough charcoal streak on his other than perfect skin. Two other earrings dangled from his right ear and a rod stuck from his eyebrow. This was the one that he had taunted her with in the diner. His long dark eyelashes laid gently against his skin and she watched as his eyes moved slightly beneath their lids. His lips were slightly open and from there, his soft snores could be heard. A small puckered indent right above his lip was a sign of a previous piercing removed. His dark hair still stood straight up in rigid spikes. The tips were tinged with magenta.

She consciously compared him with Max. When she had seen Max sleep, his face almost turned boyish. Though Zan's structure and features where exactly the same as Max, she concluded that this was no boy lying next to her. His body radiated warmth and seemed to almost glow. His face, though serene, wore harder lines than Max.

Her mind wandered to thoughts of what and how many hands and run themselves over this body. Who had taken pleasure from nibbling at his pierced nipples? Who had paused to lay kisses behind his earlobes? Who had nipped roughly on his prominent shoulders? And who had delicately licked the silvery tattoo that rested so close to the unknown?

She tried to picture the kind of woman that Zan would allow to enjoy his body. For some reason, she had the feeling that he had high standards. She had no doubt that many women had played him like an instrument but she felt that Zan wouldn't open his body to just anyone who would spread their legs. He would only pick women that he thought were worthy to experience the joy he could give them. She felt her body heat at the thought.

Feeling herself on dangerous ground, she slowly extricated herself from the covers and tried to ease herself over the top of him. As her legs and arms straddled him, he shifted again so that he laid on his back. She came face to face with the silver tattoo and the mysterious trail of hair that disappeared to nowhere. As she took a deep breath, she inhaled the thick, musky scent that only sleep produced on one's body. She closed her eyes and willed her body to keep moving.

Once she was completely over him, she straightened her clothes and turned to the back. She carefully tried the handles but they wouldn't budge. She tiptoed to the front of the bus and slipped into the driver's seat. She tried the handle there not expecting it work and was right. She looked in the various small compartments for the keys but didn't have any luck. In a last ditch effort, she looked up in the visor but she sighed in frustration. Frowning slightly, she thought about the previous day. She had never actually seen keys. He always used his powers to either unlock or lock the doors and to start and stop the engine.

She knitted her eyebrows together and looked at the door handle. She raised her left hand and slowly waved it over it. She was torn when nothing happened. On one hand, she would have been thrilled at being able escape but she would have been terrified if her powers had actually come to life.

Leaning her forehead against the steering wheel, she sighed in frustration.

"Mornin'," a voice called from next to the window. She started and swung around. Zan was staring at her from outside with his arms draped lazily across his chest. She looked behind to the rear of the van. The bed was empty and the two doors were closed. How had he gotten outside without her hearing him or feeling the cold air from the open door?

He wiped his hand across the outside of the driver's side door and then opened it with a protesting wrench. A blast of cold air hit her in the face. She noticed that though he had thrown on his boots that was all that he had bothered with. His jeans still hung low on his hips and the white boxers still peeked out above them. He bare chest gleamed with sunlight.

Hanging one arm seductively on top of the van door and placing the other against the door jam, he leaned in towards her. The thick muscles in his shoulders and forearms turned hard as he put strain on them. His nipple rings lay tight against his chest as the cold had contracted them to hard peaks. He wore a lopsided grin as he leaned even further in. He had definitely noticed that she was looking him over and was acting smug.

His face was mere inches from his. She held her breath.

He cocked his head to the side and whispered, "I got a question for ya."

After a few seconds, she realized he was waiting for her to respond. She swallowed and with as strong a voice as she could muster, she said, "And?"

Without taking his eyes from hers, he said "Do ya like it strong?"

What did he just ask? She couldn't think and gulped nervously. Didn't he notice that it was cold?

"I asked ya a question, sweets."

She gulped again but didn't reply.

"Guess I gotta assume ya like it strong." He reached up to the roof of the van, his hands disappearing from view. Liz got a good look at his washboard stomach as his skin stretched tight against his ribs. Oh, God. Did his pants just fall another half inch?

His arms came down with two steaming cups of coffee. He handed one to her, which she reached for automatically. She wrapped her fingers around it and went to pull it near but he held on tight.

She looked up at his eyes. He winked and said, "Did ya enjoy the show?"

She blushed and turned away. He let go of the cup and firmly grasped her chin to force her to look at him. Suddenly, his eyes were like flint. "I asked ya if ya enjoyed the show?" After a short moment, he flicked his fingers off her chin forcing her head to snap back a bit. "Take a good peep." He flexed his chest muscles in front of her making the nipple rings dance. "'Cause this is all ya get. Understand, sweets? This…" and he ran his hand up and down his body for demonstration. "…is off limits."

With that, he slammed the door shut in her face, forcing her to spill the hot coffee in her lap. Liz sat there shaking and trembling wondering what the hell had just happened.
posted on 21-Mar-2002 11:50:19 PM
Hello, all. Thought I would drop by and reply to some of the feedback.

zannyb & obsessionbyroswell - You really want Zan and Liz together? I am a huge fan of both but not a huge fan of them being together. Doesn't mean that I won't test those waters. Hmmm, Z/L/M interaction. That's a concept definitely worth exploring though I don't think it fits with this story. Don't worry - there will definitely be some tension between the 3 of them!

For those who don't like this Zan. I think that I have achieved my goal. I don't want you to like him too much. He's not a very nice guy. But I'm attempting to humanize him as much as possible in the future chapters. And Liz will definitely play a role in this.

Eraser Room - I've spoiled you, eh? GRINS I am currently travelling right now and I'm trying to pace my posts. If I post everything that I have, then you might have to go for days without an update. Look for something within the next couple of days, OK?

Cinder and Jen C - Is Zan working for the greater good? In what way will he end up helping Liz? He has said that he has a role to play in their future. He commented that Max would be safe with Michael at his side. That doesn't mean he's fully committed to 'his king' - he's a dupe and perhaps his actions will have multiple motivations, eh? After all, he was raised in the sewers...

Again, thanks for the feedback. It has been a lot of fun writing this and hearing from you keeps me motivated to post!!!

AweInspired
posted on 23-Mar-2002 2:14:15 PM
Here you all go. Enjoy!

CHAPTER 7

Max woke with a start. Around 5:00 in the morning, he had visited another gas station just inside the Michigan border that sat near the expressway directly off one of the northbound exits. He hadn't had any luck so when he went back to his car, he had leaned the seat back to catch twenty minutes of rest. He looked at his watch. It said 9:06 and he swore.

Leaping out of the car, he went inside and grabbed a hot cup of coffee and a small pack of powdered donuts. He waited patiently in line while the other customers were rung up and sent on their way. When he reached the clerk, he set his items on the counter and reached for his wallet.

"So where's your girl this morning?" the teller asked him with a smile on her face.

"I'm sorry?"

"Well, last night you came in here with a girl. I was just finishing up my mid-shift," as if that explained it all.

Realization hit him. He yanked Liz's picture out of his wallet and showed it to the woman. "Was it this girl?"

"Well, yeah. Don't you even remember? What? Were you guys like going to a party or something 'cause you were all punked out. That's why I remember you 'cause we don't get many people in here looking like that."

Max's hand was shaking as he held the picture in front of him. "You're positive, right? This was her?"

"Well, yeah. Of course."

"Do you know where they were going?"

The woman looked at him puzzled.

Max realized her confusion and said, "That wasn't me. It was…my twin brother. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated."

The woman looked at him doubtfully. "Well, why are you looking for him then? If he's your brother, why don't you know where he is?" She began to frown.

Max scrambled for a story. "Well, the thing is, he's got my girl. You know, we have this sort of sibling rivalry thing going on." When she looked at him doubtfully again he leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially. "It's sort of this little love triangle and I just have to find her and win her back."

Hesitating for a moment, the woman finally seemed to make a decision. "Well, I have no idea where they were going but I do know that he bought a road map of the Upper Peninsula."

Max's heart leapt. He had a clue! He was beginning to narrow down the search.

"If they were going to this Upper Peninsula, where would be a likely place for them to end up at? You know, like a big city or something?"

The woman snorted. "Honey, you're in the Upper Peninsula. As for where they would go, there isn't anything here that anybody would term big except for the long stretches of road of nothing." Max looked down at the counter in disappointment. "So, you gonna buy that junk or what?"

**********

Zan and Liz walked around in a Goodwill store. She had complained that she didn't have a change of clothes and needed some supplies. Looking her up and down, taking in the large coffee stain that spread across her shirt and jeans, he had just nodded.

Liz was flipping through a rack of jeans and decided on a pair of baggy Lee's. She then picked up a couple of pairs of army green cargo pants and a various assortment of dark shirts, sweaters, and turtlenecks.

She peered briefly at Zan over the top of the clothes rack. He had been sullen since the coffee incident, spitting out terse answers to her infrequent questions. He was leaning against one of the makeshift changing booths, scanning the store. He wore the same clothes as he did the day before.

Gathering up her clothes in pile, she set them on the floor. She lowered herself to the ground and began crawling down the isle. This was an opportunity that she couldn't let slip by. Hopefully, he wouldn't be able to find her among all of the clothes racks.

As she crawled, she checked her cell phone again. It was still dead. When she had entered the store, she had quickly pinpointed a set of pay phones in the far corner. If she could get to them without Zan seeing her, she would be shielded by a rack of heavy coats and he wouldn't be able to spot her.

Trying to crawl as quickly and quietly as possible, she dodge clothes stands and advertisement kiosks. Slinking around a corner, she saw a pair of heavy boots in front of her. Holding her breath, she looked up. A heavy-set bearded man was looking down at her with a bemused expression. Her heart began beating again and she just smiled and whispered, "Looking for an earring." The man just smiled and continued down the isle.

Rounding one last corner, she reached the phones. Standing quickly, she grabbed a headset and shakily punched 0 for the operator. Once she placed the collect call to Max's cell phone, she waited for long moments while it rang.

On the third ring, he answered.

"Max! Oh, my God. Where are you?"

"Liz!" She could hear the relief in his voice and her heart warmed at the concern. Though she knew that Max would do everything in his power to find her, it was like coming home to hear his familiar voice.

"I'm in some town called Ontonagon in the Upper Peninsula. Are you OK? Where are you?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. We're in a town called Copper Harbor. Max, I don't know why Zan has me. I'm OK, he hasn't hurt me, but Max…" Her voice faltered. "He is so strong - stronger than you. I don't know where we're going or what his plan is. I don't think that he is going to hurt me. But I need you. I don't know what's going on…" Her voice trailed off and she fought off tears. It was so good to hear his voice - Max's voice.

"OK, Liz. This is what we'll do. I'll get there as soon as possible." She heard some rustling in the background. "Looking at the map, it shouldn't take me more than a couple of hours." Liz sighed in relief. Suddenly, she felt a tap on her shoulder. With dread, she slowly turned around and gasped. Zan stood right behind her wearing a cocky smirk on his lips. He snatched the phone from her hand. She could hear Max desperately calling her name over the phone.

Zan put his hand to her shoulder, backed her against the wall and pinned her there. He then put the phone to his ear.

Cutting Max's cries off, he said simply, "Yo, Max."

Max went silent. The tight wad of fear burned in his stomach. Liz was caught. Anger also burst through him as he cringed at the thought of Zan doing something to Liz.

"Zan."

"We need to make some new rules."

Max wasn't sure how to reply.

"Since ya know where we are, that puts yer girl in danger."

His head whirling, Max asked "How?"

"Yo, I'm sure ya know by now that being around ya ain't too safe. Currently, yer da number one target."

"I think I always have been. But what do you want with Liz?"

"She plays couple a parts in dis drama," Zan answered cryptically.

"Just tell me something. Are you my enemy or my friend?"

"Right now, neither."

Max said sternly, "Are you going to hurt her?"

Zan's face stilled. His right eyebrow twitched, making the silver rod jump. He answered slowly, "Nah, yer majesty. But she ain't ready fer ya yet."

"How can I trust you?"

Zan looked at Liz and removed his hand that held her shoulder to the wall. He scratched the top of his head.

"Listen, I won't hurt yer woman. But, you two can't be together. 'Member those sparks flyin' the last time ya touched her? All I'll tell ya is dat yer presence is wicked to her system right now." Zan's eyes roved around the store. He seemed to come to a decision. "I'll score a deal wit ya. You leave us alone and we'll stay in contact wit ya. Every night, Liz'll 'E.T.' ya giving ya the low down. In return, ya stay close but ya don't interfere, got it?"

Max felt like he was backed against the corner. "What if I don't agree?"

"I kin make us disappear and ya'll never find us."

"We just found each other. No matter where you take her, I'll find her."

"Maybe, but ya'll lose precious time and ya'll never know what's goin' on."

Max hesitated. "Let me talk to Liz."

Zan handed the phone to Liz with a serious expression. "Ya know da situation. Ya can either have 'im close or we can continue da chase and drag it out."

Liz looked at his eyes and saw the flint in them again. She carefully took the phone and put it to her ear. "Max?"

"Liz. Listen, you heard what he wants. What do you want to do?"

"I don't think that we have much of a choice. Will you stay nearby?"

Max's heart leapt to his throat and he croaked, "Oh God, Liz. I'm so sorry. I'm sorry about all of this. Of course I'll be close. I won't lose you. Michael, Isabel and Maria are coming. We've been attacked again by the Skins - three times in the last day. They seemed to have declared war. I think it might be good to stay away from you until we get it under control. I don't want to lead them to you. If Zan can…" Here, his voice faltered. "If Zan can keep you safe and we can continue to communicate, this might be the best way."

Liz saw the logic but her heart melted anyway. "OK, then that's what we'll do. Listen, Max." Her eyes found Zan's. "I love you."

Zan's eyes went dark. She heard Max's voice carry over a long distance. "I love you, too, Liz." A few charged moments went by and he said, "You should let me talk to Zan again."

"Alright." She passed the phone back to Zan. He put it to his ear.

Max said, "You have a deal. But it's off the minute one night goes by that I don't speak to Liz. I don't care what your intentions are - if I lose contact with her, I'll kill you."

"Chill. We'll stay in dis general area but we'll never give away our exact location. Ya'll hear from her." Zan slammed the phone down in the cradle.

He grabbed Liz's arm and said, "Let's move."

**********

After he paid for the clothes and other assortments of things, Zan led Liz out into the chilly air.

"We need to escalate our plans. King Max said that he would play by da rules, but I can't take da chance. We need to move quickly."

Liz rubbed her arms through her new heavy coat. She jumped up and down to stay warm. "Where are we going to go?"

Zan looked down at her and hesitated. "Ya made a promise, 'member?" She nodded her head. "OK, I'll be holdin' ya to it. We're goin' to Isle Royale."

He turned on his heels and strode down the sidewalk. Liz ran to catch up. "Where?"

"It's an island about ten miles off da coast from here. It's rustic - it only has one lodge with a few cabins scattered across the width of it. I got one on da north side."

"You?" Liz asked incredulous. She didn't think of Zan as the woodsy type.

"It's my safe house."

They arrived back at the van. Zan began packing up his things. He had also made some purchases at Goodwill so his possessions took up two large duffel bags. Liz stood idly by. She noticed that he grabbed the alarm clock and the jewelry and also stealthily swiped the photos from underneath the shelf.

She made a mental note to ask him later about it. The message on it was clear but she felt she needed the details. The thought that Ava was dead left her sad. Why would Zan have killed Ava? She hadn't played a part in the attempt on his life and seemed sincerely mournful at his supposed death.

When Zan finished, the van didn't look much different. The mattress still laid there with the bedding draped carelessly over it. He had removed one of the Igloo coolers but left the other one behind. The drawers remained. One thing that she did notice was that he had packed away six cartons of cigarettes. How long were they going to stay on this island anyway?

He left the van in the parking lot and without another look, began walking down the street with the two duffels draped over one shoulder and the cooler in the grip of his other hand.

Since he had gotten their word on the 'new' plan, he seemed to be a bit more relaxed. He didn't look back but just expected that she would follow. She heaved her new duffel on her shoulder and plodded after him.

They caught the ferry going to the island. It was a five hour trip that was cold and miserable. The wind whipped across the deck of the ship and cold spray occasionally splashed up. Though the country around her was breathtaking, she found herself inside for most of the trip. There were only a few other people riding and they seemed like the rugged outdoors type. Overhearing snippets of their conversations, Liz understood that the island was a conservation park where a lot of scientists would visit to record data on the wildlife and faunae.

Zan had chosen a bench in the corner and stretched out. He was currently asleep. Apparently, the severe rocking of the boat on Lake Superior's wind driven waves didn't seem to bother him. She, on the other-hand, was experiencing a slight case of nausea that prevented her from taking a catnap.

They arrived with no fanfare and tied up next to a rickety dock. Liz stepped down with her bag slung over her shoulder and peered down the long plank. She couldn't see any signs of civilization. Despite the reason she was here, the idea of traversing this island was a bit exciting. It was so different than New Mexico that the scientist in her couldn't help but appreciate this new experience.

Zan pushed her from behind and she walked down the dock. She simply followed the other travelers as they wound up a snow covered path. Wearing new winter boots, she easily kept up with them though she was careful not to repeat her previous fall. In remembrance, she gently stroked her sore wrist and sighed. What would be around the next corner for her?

**********

Standing in a warm lodge, Liz looked around her. It was made of rough-hewn logs and furniture made from similar material. She thought it was very pleasant and wondered what the cabin they were destined for would look like.

Zan had disappeared into a small grocery store that was attached to the side of the lodge. He returned holding his cooler with two hands and motioned her to follow him. On the other side of the store were some rough storage buildings. Zan walked purposely to the one on the far left and waved his hand over the lock. He stepped into it leaving Liz peering inside. A light came on and she noticed a snowmobile and various winter articles such as snowshoes and shovels. She stepped into the dim light.

"I assume that this is how we are getting to the cabin?"

"Yo," Zan grunted as he lifted the cooler into a small trailer on ski runners. "It's da only way to get there unless ya wanna walk three miles in thigh deep snow."

He motioned for her duffel, which he heaved into the sled and his two soon followed. He covered them expertly with a tarp and lashed down the sides securely. He threw her a helmet, which she bobbled and then proceeded to drop.

"You don't seem like a safety type of guy," she mused out loud.

"I ain't. But it cuts down on da wind and saves yer face from getting the skin ripped off from tree branches."

"Oh," Liz murmured, feeling uncomfortable about her lack of knowledge.

Zan stepped onto the snowmobile and primed it. He yanked on the pull cord and it roared to life. He inched it out of the shed making Liz jump to the side. The noise from the engine roared in her ears. Leaving it running, he grabbed the trailer and dragged it outside where he promptly hooked it up to the back.

Stepping inside one last time, he returned with a ten-gallon plastic gas tank that he strapped to the back of the snowmobile.

He shut the doors and again locked them with a wave of his hand.

He put on his helmet, turned to her and said in a muffled voice, "Let's roll."

The landscape was beautiful. They had quickly left any semblance of a road behind them and were riding cross-country. When they were in an open field, Zan would open up the throttle and Liz would cling to his waist from behind as the ground sped rapidly beneath them. The terrain would always vary so that at times, he was picking his way carefully through heavily wooded areas. At times, they had to get off of the sled and literally move it in a 90-degree angle in order to bypass an unavoidable tree. It was exciting yet sometimes painstaking. Quite often, they would startle some wildlife. More than once, Liz saw the biggest deer she'd ever seen lift up their heads in fear and bound away with their white tails raised high like a flag.

She found herself wishing that Max were with her to enjoy it.

**********

Despite the deal he had made with Zan, Max had jumped in his car and sped to Copper Harbor. He had hoped that he would be able to find them and rescue Liz. Though he knew that his proximity hurt Liz, he thought he would get her into Michael's and Isabel's hands and safely secreted away. He had confidence in his family - he had none when it came to Zan.

He was too late, it seemed. Copper Harbor was a tiny town so it wasn't difficult to extract information from the locals about a man that looked like a thug that was traveling with a girl with long brown hair. He traced them to the motel and discovered the van. The motel attendant didn't have anyone that matched their description on the register which completely puzzled him. They probably had arrived in the early morning hours so why hadn't they gotten a room? Unless Zan had just dumped the van in the parking lot after their phone conversation in order to throw him off.

Hoping against hope, he staked out the van on a long shot that he might catch them when they returned. After five hours passed, he had to face the fact that Zan had already fled, dragging Liz with him.

It was then that Isabel had phoned to let him know they had arrived. He left his stakeout and met her, Michael, and Maria at a cheap hotel on the outskirts of the town. He hugged Isabel tightly, glad that she was safe. He then walked stiffly to stand in front of Maria. She had crossed her arms tightly to her chest and just glared at him. Ignoring the obvious tension, he pulled her roughly into his embrace. Though she didn't return the hug, she didn't slug him either. He felt that was a small step towards repairing their strained friendship.

They had agreed that they would stay the night there in the motel. However, after Max brought them up to speed on the current situation, they decided as a group that their stay looked like an extended one. The following day, they planned to rent a cabin from one of the many lodges that advertised along the roadside. It was time to dig in and be prepared for whatever happened next. They had no doubt that they would see the Skins again - it was just a matter of time.
posted on 25-Mar-2002 10:17:42 PM
How are you enjoying it so far? Now we have Liz and Zan alone in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. I wonder who will kill who first... :-)


CHAPTER 8

They arrived with a roar in front of a small square cabin. The windows were boarded up and the slightly arched roof was heavy with snow. They had to dig their way through a six foot snow bank in order to reach the door. Zan pushed heavily on it and it gave way with a protesting groan. Stepping inside, she looked around. It was dark. Zan walked over to something hanging on the wall and passed his hand over it. It flared to life and Liz's nose caught a faint whiff of kerosene. Zan then passed his hand in a sweeping motion around the rest of the room and several wall-mounted lamps lit. The light flickered slowly and she got her first good look.

It was only one room. To her immediate left was a ragged overstuffed couch and chair that faced an unlit fireplace. The fireplace was surrounded by heavy stonework and a rough log mantle perched on top. In the farthest corner, a queen sized iron rail bed sat nestled against two walls. There was an old fashioned quilt neatly tucked over the top. At the foot of the bed, sat a large claw foot tub that stood forlornly by itself. Directly in front of her was a small kitchen that seemed sparsely equipped. Several large wood cabinets hung on the walls over the formica counter tops and a rickety metal table with four chairs sat next to one of only two windows in the cabin.

She instantly felt good about the place.

Zan faced her and said, "I gotta do some work on it to make it livable. We got runnin' water 'cause we're tapped into a well. There's an outhouse out back 'long wit a small sauna. Got no electricity so everthin' runs on kerosene. Also got a small generator case we need it." He raised his hands and swung around in a circle. "Dat's it. Was it da hell ya was expectin'?"

Liz only shook her head.

"A'right."

He moved past her and walked outside. He carried everything indoors while she walked around examining the place in closer detail. On his way out again, he shut the door. She heard the snowmobile roar to life as he moved it to behind the cabin.

Liz suddenly felt exhausted. She crawled onto the top of the bed and pulling her heavy coat up around her ears, she sank into oblivion.

She awoke to the sound of heavy scraping on top of the roof. When she looked, she noticed that the boards on the two windows had been removed and that it was dusk outside. There was a fire lit in the fireplace and the flames crackled and popped. She stood up and walked to the kitchen. There was a pot on the gas stove that seemed to be simmering. She took a deep breath and her stomach rumbled violently. Clutching her hand to her midsection, she heard the scraping on the roof again.

Reaching for the door, she stepped outside and into the cold twilight. Suddenly, a heavy weight came crushing down on her and she was forced to her knees. Sputtering, she realized that she was surrounded in a mound of snow. Looking up, she saw Zan crouched on the edge of the roof looking down at her. He was laughing.

"Just cleanin' off da roof so it don't buckle."

"Yeah, I see that," Liz muttered as she got to her feet and brushed the snow off of her arms and legs. Some snow had drifted underneath her collar and it was beginning to melt, sending long cold shivers uncomfortably down her back. She heard his laughter again and couldn't help but smile back in return. Zan stood up and disappeared from view. She decided that the safest place was inside so she scurried quickly through the door. She quickly shed her heavy coat and boots.

While she was waiting for him to come inside, she decided to unpack some of her things. As she was finishing, Zan stepped in and a blast of cold air shot into the room. He shook himself off and took off his coat and boots and set them next to the door.

He looked at her briefly and then walked into the kitchen area. He stirred the pot and then grabbed a couple of bowls.

Setting them carelessly on the table, he began scooping out two helpings of a thick beef stew. He sat down and began wolfing down the meal.

Annoyed that he didn't wait for her, Liz sat down at the table across from him and began eating with the same earnest. He was done way before her and he went for a second helping. The stew was simple but tasted good. She finished her bowl as he finished his second.

Grunting with satisfaction, Zan leaned back in his chair and lit up a cigarette. He tilted his head back and slowly released the smoke up to the ceiling.

"We got water now and plenty of wood is stacked right outside. The ice box is lit and by tomorrow mornin' should be cold 'nough to put stuff inside."

She looked at him in amazement. He had done all of this while she was sleeping?

He didn't seem to notice. For the first time since she had met him, he seemed completely content. The wariness in his face was gone and his body was sprawled comfortably in the chair. His head swung slowly down and met her gaze directly. He smiled a crooked smile and said, "I'm game for 'nother round of twenty questions."

"Yeah, OK." Liz sat up straighter in her chair. "What happened to Ava and Rath?"

Zan looked thoughtfully at her as if trying to decide what to say. "Well, Ava got killed by Lonnie. After da summit incident, Lonnie tracked her down and…" He made a slicing cut across his throat.

Liz gazed at him mournfully. Ava wasn't an angel but Liz had made a strange connection with her. Ava had seemed strangely out of place with the dupes and the last time Liz saw her, hopeful for the first time in her future. That her life was snuffed out in that new phase of her life made Liz sad.

"What about Rath?"

Zan's eyes bored into hers. "I killed him."

Liz just nodded. She had expected as much.

"What about Lonnie? Where is she?"

"On da run hangin' wit a bad crowd."

"Are you going to kill her too?"

"Damn straight. She was da brains behind everythin'. Rath wouldn't pick his nose without her."

"Don't get me wrong here, I'm not on the cheering side for Lonnie but isn't she your sister?" Liz asked questioningly.

Zan looked at her darkly without flinching. His direct gaze made her hiccup.

"She no longer my sister."

"Oh, OK."

Liz stood up and began clearing off the table. Over her shoulder, she asked "What about your powers? How come you're so much stronger than the rest of them?"

"I'm da king's dupe. I got everything."

"But how come Max doesn't then?" She ran a bit of cold water into the sink and began to scrub the bowls.

Zan swiveled his chair so that he could face her. He took another long puff on his cigarette.

"Dat'll come later." Liz sighed.

"Fine. What can you tell me then?"

Zan stood up and walked over to her. He leaned back on the countertop and crossed one leg over the other one casually. "I can tell ya about what's happen' to ya."

Liz paused and looked up at him.

"You can?"

"Yeah. Dat's one reason I got ya out here so dat ya can start learning how to control yer powers."

"Why can you and Max can't?"

Zan put his chin down and peered at her from under his eyebrows expectantly.

"Jeez, OK. So you can't tell me that either." Liz finished the last of the dishes and wiped her hands on a towel.

Zan walked back to the table and lit another cigarette from his dying one. He put out the smoking butt and then grabbed the ashtray and walked over to the couch. He put the ashtray down on the ground and flung himself onto the cushions.

Liz walked over and settled in the chair.

"What do you know about my powers?

"When King Max healed ya, he transferred his abilities through the connection he made."

"So then, everyone who is healed by Max will go through the same process."

"Nah, not necessarily. Depends on the connection he made wit da person. Ya can heal without…" He waved his hand airily. "Without passing 'em on."

"What's happening to me then?"

"Yer body is tryin' to cope with the awakening of yer mind. Usually, the change progresses naturally but yer connection with Max has escalated 'em. Therefore, ya need help to catch up with yer…" and he tapped his head.

"Am I in danger?" Liz asked.

"Well, you ain't dying but your body is strainin' hard right now. 'Cause of the load it's taking, you might spout off a blood clot and stroke out or possibly some sort of organ failure. Depends on a lot of factors."

Liz paled. She nervously played with her shirt cuff. She had images of a clot rushing through her veins on its way to her brain. She began to tremble.

"Ya ain't got no blood clot, baby."

"How do you…Wait a minute. You just did it again. You read my thoughts." She looked hard at him and said, "I really wish you'd quit doing that."

"I ain't doing it. You are."

**********

Liz stood up quickly. "What do you mean?"

"I mean…" he answered, dragging out the word, "…that you're doin' it. You're projectin' yer thoughts at me. I just happen to be on the receivin' end."

Liz looked perplexed. "You mean that I am sending out my thoughts and you just happen to be able to comprehend them?"

Zan simply nodded. "I don't get everythin'. Only what you send my way."

"I don't get it. Can you do this with everyone?"

"Nope, only with little green dudes or in yer case, babes."

Liz ignored the reference. "So you can't read a normal human's thoughts?"

"Nope. Their brains ain't like ours. They don't have the power to project. If they don't got the power to project, then we can't receive."

"We…" Liz repeated thoughtfully. She still hadn't come to terms with what was happening to her. She still felt that she was an outsider to the pod squad. A human.

"Can you send to a normal human?"

"Same deal. They got to have the stuff to receive."

"So can all aliens do this or is it a specific gift?"

Zan sunk lower into the couch and curled his arm around the top of his head. His other hand rested on his lower abdomen.

"It's the one gift that we all got."

Liz settled back into the chair beginning to think it through like a scientist. "Do you know how it works? I mean, do you know the physical properties of it?"

Zan scoffed. "Nah, I just know how to do it."

Liz contemplated some more for a minute. "Then I can control what you see."

"Yeah and I'd really like it if ya did. I'm gettin' sick of seein' da many ways ya want to torture me."

Liz let a small smile slip out. "OK, then. Teach me."

"What? Now? No way. I'm beat. Plus we gotta get 'on da line' with King Max."

"You have a phone all the way out here?"

"Yeah, nimwit. Right here," and he tapped his head for emphasis.

"Oh." The 'nimwit' comment stung. She was used to being the one who figured things out first.

"Da first few times, I'll have to help ya out. You'll gradually get control and then ya can do it on yer own."

"Is it dream walking?"

"It's along the same lines but Max don't have to be asleep. It's like when you rang him in New York."

"Oh." Again, she felt very small.

"C'mon over here."

Zan sat up on the couch and sat Indian style. Liz walked over and sat across from him keeping her distance.

"Hell, I ain't gonna hurt you. I hafta touch ya to do this."

She scooted closer until her knees were touching his. She felt uncomfortable being this close to him especially face to face. He reached out and grabbed her hands.

"OK. This is what is goin' down. I'll assist you in contacting him. All I'm gonna do is lend ya the energy just like at the Crashdown. All the work will still be done by you - I'm just acting as an amplifier, so to speak."

"Will you be there with us?"

"Yeah, I gotta be. If I'm helpin', then there's no way 'round it."

"Yeah, OK." Her voice trembled a bit. This scared her.

"Don't worry. I ain't gonna let go."

She looked into his eyes for confirmation. "OK."

They closed their eyes and Liz concentrated on Max. She pictured him in her mind smiling and looking down at her. He wore his new black leather jacket and he had a five-o'clock shadow. She concentrated on his eyes and the way that they made her feel. She was dimly aware of a tingling in her hands that spread up through her arms and into her stomach. It traveled upwards, setting her face on fire and then in her mind, she felt an explosion of tiny sparks. Then she felt a push and she was standing in front of Max.

He was pacing a motel room. It had cheap décor and smelled faintly of must. When he swung on his heel to make a return trip, he saw her. "Liz?"

'Hello Max,' she mouthed. She couldn't project any sound. It was just like when she helped in New York. Frustrated, she looked over Max's shoulder and saw Zan sitting on one of the cheap chairs, smoking a cigarette. Following her gaze, Max noticed Zan for the first time. His fists clenched but he didn't make a move. Zan swept his hand toward Liz and said, "Like I promised."

Liz walked over to him and mouthed some words. She pointed to her lips and made gestures of sound coming out of her lips. Zan smiled and held the palm of his hand towards her. She felt another tingling in her throat.

Satisfied, she turned back to Max. "Hello, Max."

"Liz." Her name escaped his lips softly. He walked over to her and wrapped her in his arms. She smelled the leather from his coat and melted in his embrace.

He slowly released her and held her out at arm's length. "Are you OK?"

"Yes, I'm fine." She smiled brightly at him. "It is so good to feel you."

He beamed and gave her a wide smile. "Same here. So where are you? What have you been doing?"

They heard a noise behind them and they both turned. Zan raised a finger warningly and said, "We had a deal."

Max looked at the floor and turned back to Liz. "Sorry. I'm just worried. Why is he here?" Max tilted his head in Zan's direction.

"He's helping me make this connection. I couldn't be here unless he did." Her entire focus was on Max. He looked worn like he hadn't gotten enough sleep. But his eyes still mesmerized her. She forgot completely about Zan.

"You look good."

"Where are Michael, Maria and Isabel?"

"They just got here and went to grab something to eat. I didn't want to go, just in case."

"Max, you have to eat." She reached up and stroked his face. His eyes closed as she cupped his cheek gently. He reached his hand up and covered hers with his. He kissed the palm lovingly.

She leaned into him and placed her cheek against his chest. She could feel his heartbeat as it pounded rapidly. It was so familiar and felt so safe. She simply sighed with contentment.

She began to feel the tingling again in the tips of her fingers. Startled, she pulled back. Zan's voice wafted over to her. "You losin' it. We gotta split."

Liz looked up at Max and mouthed 'I love you' and pressed her forehead against his. He kissed the top of her head and then nestled his forehead against hers again. The tingling in her fingertips had reached her stomach. He whispered, "I love you too."


Then she felt the push again. Coming back was harder. It felt like her arms were lead and she gasped for air. Opening her eyes, she realized that Zan still had her hands in his. At some point during the connection, their bodies had leaned forward until their foreheads had rested against the other. Startled, she jumped back in time to see Zan's eyes snap open.

She couldn't define the look that he gave her. He slowly released her hands and leaned backward. His lips were slightly parted and he looked spooked. Then his eyes focused as he seemed to come back to reality. He leaped off of the couch like she had burned him. He stood looking down at her with a wide-eyed expression and then fairly ran to the door. Throwing on just his boots, he burst out into the dark.

Puzzled but still warm with the feeling of Max, Liz fell back on the couch with a smile.

**********

Zan pushed his way through snow that sometimes reached his waist. The physical exertion caused him to gasp for breath and sweat heavily but he wouldn't stop. It felt good to punish his body.

After fifteen minutes of plowing through the snow, he reached a small frozen pond. He stopped at the edge, leaning down to hug his knees as his lungs screamed for air. Slowly, he regained his breath and straightened to full upright position. Looking up, clouds filtered the full moon's rays, which created a muted lighted effect. The ice on the pond couldn't be seen under the several inches of snow but he knew it was there.

The experience with Liz had freaked him. By lending his power to her, he had had to make a connection. Because of this connection, he had felt everything she felt. The joy and love for Max had washed through his body making him light headed. He had never experienced feelings like that because he'd never let anyone close enough. But the love had washed over him and now he stood at the foot of the pond with an ache in his stomach that he couldn't rid.

"Fuck."

It felt good to curse aloud. The scene around him seemed almost pristine and defiling it with a filthy word made him feel like he regained some semblance of control that he had recently just lost.

"Fuck!" he screamed at the top of his lungs. The snow only muffled the outburst taking away some of its edge. Defeated, he stomped his feet to keep warm. While he was running, he hadn't noticed that he'd forgotten his coat. The need for escape had driven him mindlessly out of the cabin and away from one who had caused these feelings.

Feeling calmer, he stared out over the lake beginning to appreciate the scene around him. In New York City, there wasn't much nature to experience excluding the human kind. And he just didn't trust the human kind. He trusted the alien kind even less.

Rath had killed a storeowner one night when he was caught stealing pharmaceutical products from a drug store. Leaving the man in a pool of blood, he'd fled back to the sewers where he'd bragged about it. Disgusted, Zan had pretty much ignored him until Rath spouted off about how he'd used his powers to burn a hole in the man's chest. Furious that Rath would risk exposing them like that, he faced off with him. Rath snarled and called him a "weak-ass pussy" but in the end, he backed down just like he always did.

Zan had stalked off and returned to the drug store in order to clean up Rath's mess. After 'altering' the wound on the dead man so that there wouldn't be any traces of alien activity, Zan had gone to the cash register to empty it. They needed the money and he had no morality issues when it came to stealing from a dead man. Underneath the cash drawer, he had discovered the deed to the cabin. Intrigued, he had looked it up on a map.

After returning to the sewers and finding himself in the middle of another confrontation with Rath, he split. He used the money from the cash register and hunted down the cabin. Thinking that he'd simply hide out for a couple of days, ransack the place and go back, he had surprisingly found the woods comforting. After a few days, he realized why.

The natural world held a wonder that he found attractive. There were rules here that couldn't be altered. Also, nature didn't backstab, scheme or threaten. He'd found a peace away from the honking horns, smell of the sewer and Lonnie and Rath's infidelities. He knew they were making alliances behind his back. Each day with them became more and more a game of intrigue. The stress of staying on top wore him out.

So, for the two years prior to the truck incident, he'd sneak up here for a few days at a time to just chill and get a grip. Lonnie, Rath, and Ava were used to him disappearing though usually it was because he had shacked up with a woman. They had just assumed that he was continuing to do so.

Sighing heavily and taking one last look at the pond illuminated by moonlight, he stomped back into the trees. No matter what, his responsibilities had to be fulfilled.
posted on 27-Mar-2002 11:11:38 PM
Gosh, the feeback has been great!! I thank you profusely for your interest! Hopefully, this next chapter will answer some questions.

In response to the possibility of a Zan/Liz hookup, I had said earlier that I'm not a fan of a Z/L relationship. However, I'm really interested in testing the waters and creating tension for the three characters so perhaps those who want a Z/L theme still might be satisfied.

As Zan might say, "Yo, ya nevah know - it don't matter where ya dance, as long as da dance jives."


CHAPTER 9

Arriving back at the cabin, he found Liz sitting on the couch with a smile on her face. Irritated, he huffed and made a beeline for his cigarettes. As the smoke invaded his lungs, his nerves began to calm.

Liz watched him expectantly. She felt his mood and knew that if she questioned him about what happened earlier, he would only lash out. There were so many things that she didn't understand about him. His personality seemed so layered that she couldn't even distinguish where one ended and the other began. There wasn't a pattern to his behavior and almost every hour, he surprised her by doing something unexpected. After spending almost a day and a half in his presence, she felt no closer to discovering who he was.

Brushing her hair back from her face, she was horrified to discover that her hair hung in damp, oily strands. Rubbing her fingers on her cheeks, she envisioned layers of dirt balling under the gentle strokes. It had been two days since she'd taken a shower.

Longingly, she glanced at the claw foot tub. Wanting more than anything to wash away the dirt, she pondered at the indiscreetness of the tub's placement within the cabin. Wavering in her decision, she finally decided to confront Zan about it.

He stood in front of the window by the kitchen table staring off into the night. His cigarette dangled from his fingertips and she watched as a long chunk of ash fell from the tip without his knowledge. He seemed deep in thought and she wondered if it had anything to do with his strange behavior from earlier. She shook her head knowing that she wouldn't find any answers by pondering the situation. There were just too many unknowns.

"Zan?" she asked hesitatingly.

"Yeah," he answered without turning from the window.

"I really need to clean up. Is the tub functional?"

"Yeah."

"Well, um, can I use it?"

"Whatever. Ya don't gotta ask my permission."

"But…" She hesitated.

Zan cranked his head and looked over his shoulder. His face held a blank expression.

"What about… Well, how can…" Liz faltered again. He watched her stoically. As it didn't appear that he would to offer any help out of the awkward situation, she decided to concede defeat. He didn't seem to be the type of person who was concerned with discretion when it came to nudity. She still felt the after effects of her 'visit' with Max and didn't want to spoil it. "Forget it."

She stood up and went to the kitchen. Zan turned around and continued to stare out of the window. She grabbed a large stewing pot, filled it with water and set it on the stove with the burner on high.

She then walked over to the tub, turned on the faucet and ran the ice-cold water. It slowly began to fill. Scrounging through her belongings, she found the soap, washcloth and cheap shampoo she had picked up earlier that day. Setting them near the tub so that they were within reach, she walked back over to the stove and stood patiently while it slowly heated.

Zan finished his cigarette and dumped it in the ashtray. Seemingly suddenly aware of his surroundings, he looked in her direction. His eyebrows narrowed as he took in the slowly heating pot and the running water in the tub. Rolling his eyes, he walked over to the stove and turned the burner off.

"Ya don't gotta do that. Yer just wastin' gas."

She looked at him expectantly but kept quiet. He looked at her for a moment and then strode over to the tub. Sitting on the edge, he stuck his hand under the running water. Liz walked over and looked over his shoulder. His hand glowed slightly as the rushing water cascaded around it. After a minute or so, she began to feel warmth radiating from the water in the tub. As it neared the top, he turned off the faucet and then swirled his glowing hand through the standing water. Soon, steam rose from the surface.

She watched with some amazement as she again realized that this was probably beyond Max's capabilities. It had taken extraordinary strength and control to keep the energy flowing for the length of time Zan needed to warm the water.

When Zan was satisfied, he stood up and faced her. She nervously crossed her arms in front of her and said quietly, "Thanks."

He didn't answer but stepped around her and returned to the window. She heard the flick of a lighter and the glow from the end of his cigarette was illuminated in the glass. Turning back to the tub, she looked longingly at it. Looking back at Zan again, he was still facing the window.

Turning her back to him, she quickly began to undress. She wanted to get into the tub as soon as possible in order to avoid an embarrassing situation to herself. Catching a movement out of the corner of her eye, she instinctively put her recently removed shirt to her chest and held her breath. Suddenly, the room grew noticeably darker and she looked over her shoulder. Zan still stood in front of the window but his arm was raised at his side. She realized that he was extinguishing each of the kerosene lamps one by one. Thankful for the privacy of the dim light, she stepped into the tub and submerged herself in the water.

Lathering quickly, she enjoyed the feeling of the dirt falling away from her body. The soap soon created a thin film over the top of the water and Liz was again thankful for the layer of protection however meager that it was.

Wetting her hair, she flipped it over her head and began to massage the shampoo into the roots. She went through the motions quickly, half expecting Zan to appear at the side of the tub and heckle her just for the embarrassment factor. Submersing herself, she rinsed as much soap and shampoo out as possible. She glanced again but Zan but didn't seem to have moved a muscle during her ministrations.

Wishing she could just soak and allow the hot water to seep into her pores, she felt too uncomfortable to truly enjoy the experience. Taking one more look in his way, she deemed it was safe and quickly exited the tub. Drying off behind a large towel in record time, she slipped on a clean t-shirt and a pair of sweat pants. Feeling comfortable once again, she slowed to a normal pace and wrapped her head in the towel.

She noticed that the fire had died down considerably and debated what to do. Seemingly on cue, Zan turned around, strode to fireplace and began to stoke it. The mood in the cabin was eerie. No words had been spoken in the last ten minutes. She reached into the deep water and grabbed the stopper at the bottom.

"Nah, don't do that. I gotta wash." Surprised, Liz let go.

She removed the towel from her head and hung it on a rack sitting next to the tub. A bit uncertain about what to do next, she looked from the bed to the couch. The bed was large and the couch was lumpy. Where would Zan choose to sleep? Torn, she opted for the bed, leaving the decision to him. Guilt nagged at the corner of her subconscious. It was a feeling of infidelity to Max. She could choose the couch and solve the dilemma. A part of her, however, wanted to see what Zan would decide. Her path chosen, she crawled under the heavy blankets and quilt.

She watched as Zan fiddled with a log one last time. Satisfied, he closed the screen. Turning in her direction, he seemed to hesitate only for a second before walking over to the tub. Repeating his performance from before, the water was soon steaming. Liz continued to watch him.

Turning his back to her, Zan slowly removed his clothes. He grabbed the ends of his shirt and tugged it over his head, throwing it in a heap on the floor. Reaching down, he slid both socks off of his feet and added them to the pile. Then his hands went to the jeans button and Liz held her breath. Expecting him to make some sort of snide comment, she was surprised when he removed his jeans quickly and without compunction. Still with his back to her, he stood in the pair of white boxers she had seen earlier that morning. They hung snugly to his body and hinted at his shape. For the first time, she saw the muscles that bunched at his thighs and calves.

He was either ignoring the fact that she watched him or didn't care that her eyes were glued to his frame. Never understanding the thrills of voyeurism before, the streaks of heat running up and down her body surprised her. In the quietness of the cabin, purposely watching a man slowly undress before her without permission became intensely erotic. Underneath, however, she felt that he allowed her to watch as a form of an apology. Instead of feeling played, she found that she wanted to take advantage of this gift.

He reached over again and tested the water. Before she could react, he reached inside the waistband of his shorts and pulled them down. As he was half turned away from her, she viewed the rippling muscles of his backside. She studied the hard lines of his hip bone and the slight curve of his back as it reached the top of his buttocks - for some reason, the view of that angle of his body was perfect. It seemed the hint of the unknown was more alluringly sexy than if she could view all of him. As he turned to step into the tub, she hid her face in the pillow in order not to spoil the image. Though he had allowed her to watch until that point, she felt that she couldn't violate him by stealing a glance of his remaining intimate vulnerability.

The whole scene seemed to have taken on a surreal quality as she heard his body slide beneath the surface of the water. The only other sound in the cabin was the crackling fire and an occasional wind gust from outside. She removed her face from the pillow and flipped on her back to stare at the ceiling. His form remained etched in her field of vision.

"What's so special 'bout King Max."

His voice carried so softly that she almost didn't catch his words. Her first reaction was to play dumb at his question but she bit back the impulse. Zan seemed like a different person right now and for some reason, she didn't want to spoil the mood. His actions since he'd returned from fleeing so suddenly clearly represented melancholy. Unknowingly, an instinct to shield him from further pain arose.

Pausing for a few seconds, she answered to the ceiling. "I love him."

"Why?"

She considered her answer. "I suppose because he saved my life. Because he risked everything to do so."

Zan just cocked his head in a questioningly manner.

"It's because of who he is. The way he looks at me. The things he changed in his life to be with me." Images of the shy looks Max used to send her way arose in her mind.

"I still don't dig it." His voice remained quiet and surprisingly, lacked the usual challenging tone. He seemed genuinely curious.

"Oh, I don't know. How do you explain something so emotional, something so intertwined with your own soul? I don't have the words to describe it." She turned on her side, propped her head on her hand and looked towards the foot of the bed. He faced her in the tub with his arms resting on either side. His head reclined on the edge and stared up at the ceiling. Most of his upper torso remained above the water line and she could clearly see his pierced nipples. However, the dimness in the room prevented her from seeing through the water's depth.

"It just don't make sense to me."

Curious, she scooted to the foot of the bed and viewed him through the iron rails. "What do you mean?"

"How 'bout now? You still dig 'im after he fucked Ava?"

"Tess," she corrected automatically though his words stung. He'd hit on the sorest spot in her life. Had she really forgiven Max for sleeping with Tess? That Liz loved him was not an issue. But she still didn't know how to ever get over that hurdle.

"I was crushed… well, still am crushed. I mean, I had saved myself to be with him and I thought it was understood that our first time would always be together. After everything that has happened, that one thing is the hardest to overcome."

"So he got some action and yer still hangin' in the breeze. If I was ya, I wouldn't take dat shit."

Liz knew that she should have taken offense to the remark but she couldn't be mad. What Zan said was true. Max was no longer a virgin and she was. She was absolutely humiliated and she had to be honest with herself - in a way, she wanted to hurt him as bad as he had hurt her. After all, hadn't she sacrificed her love for him at his request to an enemy? An enemy that his future version of himself should have been aware of?

Shaking her head at the disconcerting feelings, she gathered up her courage and asked "Haven't you ever loved someone or been loved back?"

"No," he said simply.

"Have you ever wanted to?"

He remained silent and after a bit, she realized that he wasn't going to answer the question.

"Zan, who is the woman in the picture?" Almost expecting him to lash out at her, she was surprised when he answered quickly.

"Shandra."

"What is she to you? Do you love her?"

The silence stretched again. Liz feared he wouldn't answer but he did.

"She was a friend." Noticing his use of the past tense, she felt a bit of dread of what she might discover.

"She was only a friend?"

"Yeah," Zan sighed and settled further into the water. "She was just a friend. One day, I used my powers to score some money from a till - I saw that she'd seen it. She followed me on the subway until I got off. I snuck around a corner and grabbed her as she followed. I had her pinned against the wall, seconds from causing serious damage when she said, 'You're amazing.' Dat's it. Dat's all she said when I was all in her face ready to do some serious mutilation."

"What happened then?"

"I was so surprised I let her go. I mean, what a cornball thing to say. But she didn't run. Jesus, she was beautiful. She just stood there and looked at me with this wonderment, almost reverence. I freaked and ran."

After his last words, he slipped under the surface of the water and than reemerged with water running down his face. He snorted water out of his nose and rubbed his eyes. He then roughed up his hair with his fingers and shook the water from it. "After a few days, I hunted her down. I'd shaken the incident off but I couldn't allow noone to be in on da secret. I found her in her apartment while she was sleeping. There were these charcoal sketches all over her apartment of me. They were…" he hesitated, looking for the right words. "They were of me but weren't, know what I mean? The guy in da pictures looked like me but the power and da purpose that radiated from him wasn't me. It was like I was lookin' at myself but I didn't feel like it was myself. Some other dude was in those sketches wearin' my skin. That guy looked hopeful and looked like he had purpose and a vision."

"She drew your potential."

He sighed. "I don't know what it was but I was intrigued. I let her be that night but confronted her a few days later. I tried to intimidate her but she wouldn't let me. It was like she saw someone else when I was standin' in front of her."

He added simply, "It was refreshing."

"So she knew that you were an alien."

"Nah, I never told her. But she knew I had some abilities - guess she thought I was psychic or somethin'. I'd show off small things to her and she'd just beam." Liz watched as he smiled. It must have lifted a weight off that someone finally knew his secrets. Well, Shandra didn't know all of them but he apparently didn't have to hide from her like he did everyone else.

"So you fell in love with her."

"Nah, that's da thing. I didn't. After hangin' together for a few months, she said that she loved me but I just didn't feel it back. Sure, she was special but dat's all it was."

"What happened then? That must have been hard for her to have expressed herself that way and not have you say it back."

Zan tilted his head forward so that he looked directly at Liz. "Who says I didn't say it back?"

"Oh." Not knowing what to say to his comment, Liz said, "Then how did it end?"

Zan leaned even further towards her and grabbed the sides of the tub. He cocked his head to the side and sneered. Tension coursed through Liz at the sudden change.

With an edge to his voice, he replied, "Whatya think happened? Lonnie killed her…" he paused and then added with quiet menace. "Just like all the others before her."

**********

Max stared at the ceiling but couldn't sleep. Seeing Liz had given him energy and released some of the tension. It was nice that he could be near her without causing her pain. She looked good and seemed unharmed by Zan. He still didn't trust him - how could he? He felt pretty helpless but the fact that he would see her every night smoothed the edges of his frustration.

Punching the pillow further under his head, he willed himself to sleep. They had a lot to do the following day and he knew that sometime in the near future, there would be a battle that would decide the pod squad's fate.

He wondered if Liz had the same trouble sleeping as he did. Where was she? Where did she sleep at night? And specifically, where did Zan sleep?

**********

Startled, Liz sat up straight on the bed. "What do you mean Lonnie killed her? What others are you talking about?"

"Yo, I mean what I mean. She offed 'em. Any bitch that I shacked with that lasted more 'n a week began to show up stiff. Da first was killed by a hit 'n run. I didn't think too much of it. The second, by a late night muggin'. By da third, I got wise. At da time, I didn't finger Lonnie. I figured it was some dude that I pissed off once that decided to get even. Den da summit thing was on da plate. All sudden like, Lonnie's all in my face 'bout it. I got suspicious. I knew her and dat gutter rat Rath were playin' on da side - I just didn't know who was da otha players."

Liz noticed that his accent suddenly became stronger. Over the evening, he'd tempered it either consciously or unconsciously. She began to tie the strength of his accent with how high his emotions were running.

"One night, me and she had words. Things had gotten tense - more'n usual. She let fly how'd she'd hoped I be miserable 'n shit. I told her to can it. But she got in my face and started namin' da girls dat had died. She knew every single one of der fuckin' names and described each of der last moments. She was pumped beyond reason - flyin' off da walls 'n shit. I smacked her down on da couch - I coulda killed her I was so steamin'."

"But you didn't."

"Nah. I got to realizin' dat she was beyond crazy. I had to cool it and decide what ta do. I mean, I just found out dat my sister was offin' my girls just so as I wouldn't be happy."

He leaned back in the tub forcefully. Some of the water sloshed over the side and onto the wood floor beneath. He sighed heavily and some of the furious energy that had raged through him seemed to have dissipated. "At da time, I was hittin' it hard wit Shandra. I threatened Lonnie dat if she evah touched her, I'd kill her. Da followin' night was when they got der revenge. After the truck thing 'n discoverin' that they'd already split, I booked it to Shandra's." He took a lengthy pause before continuing. "She was strung up in da apartment, hacked up pretty good. It was da worse Lonnie'd ever left 'em. Every sketch of me was slashed. By da look of things, she'd done it a good four hours before." Zan ran his hand over his face like he wanted to erase the picture from before his eyes. Liz sat horrified, unable to respond. No wonder Zan was closed off. Every person he'd ever gotten remotely attached to was either a traitor or killed.

"So, baby. Is dat da answer you was lookin' for? Ain't it a sweet story?"

"No. It isn't."

Zan just chuckled. "I betcha dat nevah happened to you, sweets, in dat podunk town ya called home."

Rage flared through her. "I lost a friend, Zan. Someone that was very important to me. I've also been shot and nearly died, chased by the FBI, kidnapped by a look-a-like evil Max, chased by the police, shot at again, locked up in a jail cell twice, found out that the man I loved was promised to another, had his future version of himself tell me that I had to sacrifice everything I held dear, found out that he'd slept with Tess and that she was pregnant, almost lost him on a spaceship, and then to top it off, I find out that I'm changing, that it might kill me, and that I'm going to be an alien hybrid soon if not already." She paused to catch her breath. Then she continued in a softer voice. "So no, I didn't go through what you did living in the sewers. And what you experienced was a terrible thing. But don't ever sit there and assume that you're the only one who's had it hard, you arrogant, self-centered prick."

She gave him a steady look and then turned her back on him. She crawled underneath the covers and curled up against the wall.

After a few minutes, she heard him get out of the tub and dry off. She heard the water draining slowly as he walked quietly over to the fire and banked it for the night.

Then he was crawling into bed next to her and she felt him face the other direction. Their skin, though not touching, prickled as though from static electricity.

His muffled voice floated over to her. "A'right. I kin respect that."

***********

Things changed a bit after that first night, Liz realized. It had been three days since they had arrived. Each morning, she awoke to Zan cooking breakfast in his tight under shorts. Uncomfortable at first, she was forced to come to terms with it by the constant exposure. Zan usually didn't throw on a pair of pants until midmorning when he had to run outside to the outhouse. Even then, he'd just throw his heavy winter jacket over his bare chest. When he returned, he'd just drop his coat and strut around the cabin. He only wore a shirt when he spent extended amounts of time outside, chopping firewood, shoveling snow, or doing odd maintenance jobs on and around the cabin.

Each night she had visited Max. Because of Zan's constant presence, they simply held each other, comforted by the other's nearness. She had learned that Max, Michael, Isabel, and Maria found a set of cabins just outside of Copper Harbor. They had begun fortifying it, knowing that a confrontation with the Skins would probably come. Though Max hid it well, she knew he was scared about the possible coming battle. Whenever she attempted to express concern, he would just wave the subject away and ask about her. She explained how Zan was helping her with her powers and each day would give Max a report of her progress. She couldn't help but notice the looks of fierce jealousy Max shot Zan. To Zan's credit, he mostly left them be and ignored Max's deathly glares.

Every visit with Max comforted on her on many levels. Max was her home and her safety and in their time together, Liz felt herself. However, in the fringes of her mind, the resentment that she'd expressed to Max before she left for Vermont was slowly resurfacing. As each day with Zan passed and she felt a bit more comfortable with him, she didn't feel the need to cling to Max as she had in the beginning of this whole ordeal. When she felt her life was threatened, her first instinct was to run to him. However, now that she was feeling more secure, the nagging doubts began to plague her. How was this issue ever going to be resolved?

She'd noticed that after each visit with Max, Zan made a habit of leaving the cabin though he usually returned in better spirits than he did that the first night.

Liz found the times when he worked outside a relief. Though the cabin was charming, it quickly became wearing to have to share it with Zan 24/7. His moods, though more tempered than before, still flew through the cabin like a black thundercloud. She however, was beginning to callous herself to his biting words or sullen temperaments. She no longer flinched when he made a punishing comment intended to either intimidate or frighten her. After four days with this man, she figured he would have physically harmed her a long time ago if that was part of his plan. And he definitely had a plan. That much was obvious but she remained in the dark to even a hint of what it was.

Being grateful for one thing, Liz thought about Zan's help in regard to her powers. Each day, they would spend three to four hours together so that she could learn to manage the changes occurring in her body. They started small. He tried to teach her how to summon the energy at will but keep it simmering at her fingertips without releasing it. Guessing that you had to be born with the power to have a natural instinct for it, she'd blown up several dishes and charred the sides of the cabin. Zan constantly had to clean up after her, using his own powers to undo her attempts. Once, after she had set the couch on fire, Zan had sworn and called her 'pathetic even fer a damn human'. Liz quickly pointed out that the reason the couch was currently ablaze was because she was just like him. No longer could he lump her solely as part of the human race. He'd only shook his head, doused the fire with a wave of his hand, and forced her to continue.

One thing for sure, she didn't short-circuit when Zan touched her. While Max's nearness had created green energy sparks that would sizzle through her hands and leave searing trails of pain, Zan's presence seemed to do the opposite. Her body calmed at his touch as if he turned down the flame raging inside her. When she asked about it, he told her that it was a conscious effort on his part to damper the powers that threatened to control her. She wasn't sure what he did, but physically, being with him provided wonderful moments of relief and calm. She hadn't realized just how much the energy boiling inside her had agitated her system until he removed the edge.

Zan remained quiet however on his true purpose and why he, a dupe of the king, was ten times stronger than the original. Liz pondered this but, again, remained in the dark. So many unknowns and so much of Zan. By afternoon of the third day, it came to a head.

She'd finally had some success earlier that morning with harnessing the power within her. Of course, she didn't have any control once it left her body but she could now mostly release or retain it at will. It seemed like so much work for something that came to Zan so naturally. They'd decided to stop while they were ahead and he gave her a break until mid-afternoon. He'd then stepped up the practice exercises. He wanted her to decipher the different threads of the energy. He described it in the following way. Each alien hybrid was born with certain abilities. Each of the abilities was born from different types of power sources. These source types were tightly intertwined forcing the hybrid to distinguish and unravel the strands of power in order to use if for different purposes. He described the thought transference as one example. Dream-walking, changing molecular structure, power blasts, shields, mind warping, and something he called time shifting were all controlled by different threads of power.

Since the rest of the abilities were familiar to her, she'd asked him to explain time shifting. Standing in the kitchen while he fixed himself a cup of coffee, he smirked at her sitting on the couch. The next thing she knew, Zan was sitting next to her. Startled, she leaped to her feet with a squeak. Looking down at him in awe, she noticed that not only had he appeared out of the blue but also his coffee was half finished. Enjoying her speechlessness, Zan just smirked again. Then before her eyes Zan disappeared and reappeared back in the kitchen leaning back against the counter and sipping on a recently filled cup.

Once her heart rate returned to some semblance of normal, she asked him to explain. Apparently, he had the ability to alter the flow of time within a certain distance. By speeding it up considerably in the space around him, he could move normally though the human (or alien) eye couldn't detect it. This was the most difficult exercise of his abilities, he explained. It required significant amounts of energy to control the time shift which limited him in the length he could command it. He considered his little trick to be average on the scale of difficulty. Usually, if he used it for too long or too often, then his body would be wiped out and it would take time to regain his strength. Because of the level of difficulty, it would be the last thing to teach her.

"Zan, do I have the potential for all of those things that you listed? I mean, do I have the correct power source?"

"Definitely. You was healed by Max so he transferred his abilities to ya."

"I still don't understand. Then why can't Max do these things?"

"He can."

"Then why haven't we seen it before?"

Zan gave her a hard look. "I wouldn't tell ya before so I ain't tellin' ya now."

Exasperated by his constant blocks to vital information, she got angry. Here she was, in the middle of nowhere, learning alien powers and Zan fed her bits and pieces of information when he deemed it necessary. Especially information regarding Max.

"Jesus! When are you going to tell me? I'm sitting here against my will doing everything you tell me. Yet you get to pick when and where you want to feed me information?"

"So?" Zan answered darkly.

Seeing that he was turning nasty and that following this conversation track was going nowhere, she spat out, "Fine! You play your little game. I'm going out." She threw on her winter gear and left Zan standing in the kitchen.

Stomping through the snow, she made her way through the trees that surrounded the cabin. Furious, she noticed the by now familiar tingling at the end of her fingertips. Pulling off a mitten, small green sparks traveled up and down her arm. Her anger had flared the energy inside her and she fought to control it. Fearing that she was losing the battle, she turned into a field the butted up against a large rock bluff. Burning with the need to release the power, she put her back to the rock and faced the clearing. Then she let loose.

She didn't aim at anything in particular - anyway, she couldn't hit it if she tried. She just faced the clearing and let the power run through her. Energy blasts roared across the clearing surprising her at their strength. The power continued to surge. She tried to turn them to the ground and succeeded in scorching a track through the snow and about a foot into the frozen ground below.

Beginning to tire, Liz tried to reel the energy in. Slowly, she got command of it and again, felt the tingling in her arms. Slumping against the face of the rock, she put her hand to her head in frustration. Unwittingly, she scorched her forehead in the process. In pain and furious with herself, she lifted her arms to the sky and just roared. The energy flowed from her skyward.

Belatedly, she realized there was a small outcropping at the top of the bluff. Shearing it off with her first blast, small bits and pieces of rock began to rain down around her. Reeling the power back in, she covered her head to the falling debris. Suddenly, she heard a large roar. Risking a peek, she looked upward. Snow began sliding off the top of the bluff and before she knew it, a full fledge avalanche ensued. Unable to dodge it in time, she covered her head again and fell to her knees as the first waves of snow hit her.

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 29-Mar-2002 8:09:30 PM ]
posted on 29-Mar-2002 9:38:03 PM
For Akris, since you missed the Panic Room for this. Next time, go see the movie!! Zan will always be waiting for you...

I'm back from my 2 weeks of travelling. I used to be 4 chapters up on you guys but now I'm down to about 1 1/2 so I will attempt to plug away at it this weekend. At least one more chapter will be up by Sunday and if I get truly inspired, I might send up another one.

sablaine: Um, I'll reserve Zan for you if Liz doesn't cut the mustard. He might be a bit used, though. smiles.

Thaea: Yeah, the situation of Max's infidelity is a difficult one to write. I am beginning to discover why the writers seemed to have avoided this very important plot line.

roswellluver & Rainqueen: All in good time, all in good time... smiles

zannyb: Keep hoping tho you may find a weird sort of satisfaction in the end.... wink.

Mary N OO8: I think we're all more embarassed about our own bodies than others. I wanted Liz to be a bit bold and "take" something from Zan in that scene. She had some control there even if it was on the naughty side...

BLS40: Good point about the two wrongs not making a right. But I think that we have all experienced a time when the hurt is so deep that no matter how much you love the other person, sometimes you just want them to hurt too. Selfish, but very much a reality - at least in my life. Don't worry, though. One of the reasons I fell in love with Roswell was the nobility of the characters! Stick with it!

Ellegon: I'm glad you stopped by on your friend's recommendation. You're confused about who you want to root for? Yeah, well me too... smiles


Thanks again, everyone!


CHAPTER 10

Sipping his coffee, Zan fumed back at the cabin. He paced from end to end occasionally swearing under his breath. Liz's comment infuriated him. Partly because he was in control here and she had no right to question him. However, the other part, he figured, was due to a nagging guilt he felt tugging at the back of his mind.

He'd grown up with so many questions and rarely received answers. In that respect, he understood where Liz was coming from. It wasn't until the last few years that a lot of the puzzle pieces had fallen together. He knew so much more than she did but he wasn't ready to tell her yet. Damn her for pushing him!

He heard a rumble from outside and turned to the window. Unsettled but unable to see anything, he reached for a cigarette.

A wave of terror swept through him and he instantly went to his knees covering his head. His coffee cup flew unnoticed from his fingers and smashed into small pieces on the floor. Realizing immediately that this feeling was projected from Liz, Zan felt himself gulp for breath and cough on imaginary liquid that burned his lungs. Overwhelming fear pumped his heartbeat until he couldn't breath. Unable to even move because of the panic that enveloped him, he had no choice. He tuned her out. As quickly as it had come, the feeling left him. On his knees, he gasped for oxygen. Knowing she was in trouble, he shot to his feet and raced for the door.

**********

Terrified, Liz choked again on the snow that had forced its way into her lungs. The pressure all around her was suffocating and she began to panic. Trying to take measured breaths, she violently coughed again as her body tried to expel the water from her air passage. Shaking, she tried to cover her mouth but found that her right arm was pinned under the massive weight of the snow. Her left hand was trapped near her face. Taking another breath, she almost inhaled more snow. She wiggled her fingers in front of her trying to create a small air pocket which seemed to help.

She panicked again when she opened her eyes. Unable to see a single thing in the utter darkness and unable to move any part of her body except the fingers of her left hand, she began to cry.

**********

Following Liz's tracks, he found the clearing. His jaw dropped as he saw the freshly fallen mountain of snow. Knowing now what happened, he raced to the spot. Pockets of snow still fell from above and hit the mound with soft plops. Afraid that another avalanche would bury her further, Zan reached up and created a force field in the shape of a dome over the area. Falling snow hit the top and sizzled.

He then began clearing away the snow with sweeps of his hand. He forced himself to go slow so that he wouldn't accidentally hurt Liz when he got near.

He tuned her in and sent an image of him coming to help but all he received was darkness. Doubling his efforts, snow began flying in all directions.

**********

The small air pocket didn't last for long. The oxygen quickly ran out and Liz found herself recycling her own carbon dioxide back into her lungs. She knew that it was bad especially when her head began to tingle from the lack of good air. Frightened and alone, she tried to picture Max. A few seconds later, true darkness settled over her.

**********

Zan was scared. He'd cleared away the first half of the snow and he still hadn't found her. He'd begun to tire a bit but he pushed beyond his limit. He had to keep moving.

A minute later, he caught a pink hand sticking out from underneath the deepest part of the mound. Resorting to pure human strength, he grabbed it and tugged but the rest of her body wouldn't follow. In desperation he yanked harder and heard a pop. Realizing he'd just dislocated her shoulder, he dropped to his knees and dug around her. After approximately two minutes, he'd uncovered her torso. She wasn't breathing. He ripped open her jacket and put his hand to her chest. A couple of seconds later, her chest rose as oxygen filled her lungs. Still unconscious, she choked. He quickly turned her head as she vomited onto the white snow. Her air passage clear again, she began to breathe a bit easier. He extradited the rest of her body, gathered her up in his arms, and began the short run back to the cabin.

Behind him, the shield evaporated and a few hundred pounds of heavy wet snow hit the earth.

**********

Laying her on the bed, he checked her breathing again. Though her respiration was shallow, air filled her lungs. Shivering, Zan ran to the fireplace and with a wave of his hand, the fired roared higher. If he was cold, she must be freezing and he needed to warm her.

Returning to the bed, he stripped her down to her bra and underwear. Gently, running his hand over her body, he discovered that beyond her dislocated shoulder she also had a cracked rib and a broken ankle. Quickly repairing all three of these injuries, he noticed her breathing became deeper and more regular. Apparently, the broken rib had interfered with her respiration.

Running his hands over her one more time, he paused over her sprained wrist from the night in front of the Mexican restaurant and healed that. Her body was ice cold. Even unconscious, shivers racked it uncontrollably. He wrapped her tightly in the quilt and then began to run water in the tub. Heating it as quickly as possible, he dropped her slowly into the steaming water.

Careful to keep her head above the water line, he submerged as much of her body as possible. He massaged her arms and legs with his free hand while supporting her head with his other. Five minutes passed and Liz's eyes fluttered opened. Her skin color had returned to a healthy color and her lips were no longer blue.

Relieved, Zan let out a sigh. Liz stared up into his eyes still processing where she was. Slowly rolling her head from side to side and taking in her surroundings, she returned her gaze to him. Smiling slightly, she mouthed 'Thank you.'

Overwhelmed with satisfaction, he simply nodded. Now that the adrenaline rush was past, his body sagged with weariness. He didn't trust himself to speak. No matter how strong he was, after doing the time shift stunt, creating the force field, powering away the chunks of snow and healing her had taken its toll.

Lifting her gently from the tub, he didn't have the energy to wave away the water. So he grabbed a towel and patted her dry as she leaned against him. She'd fallen back asleep but looked better than she had before. Once she was dry, he dug far down in his reserves and slowly dried her hair. Then he carried her to the bed and placed her in it. He undressed down to his underwear, crawled in behind her and spooned his body around hers so that he could pass on his body heat. Exhausted, he closed his eyes. His chin rested on the top of her head, which was snuggled deep into the pillow. He wrapped his right arm around her waist and pulled her snugger to his body.

Without another thought, he fell asleep.

**********

It was evening and Max was exhausted. Skipping dinner again, he'd flopped on his back on the bed. For the last three hours he had waited for Liz to visit but she was late. Now pacing the cabin, he worried about where she was. Her last three visits had been very regular and he treasured every single one. She'd told him about how she was learning to control her newfound powers. He couldn't help but feel surging jealousy at the thought Zan could provide something for her that he couldn't. Still in the dark as to their location, he listened to her stories carefully to see if he could find clues. Now that Zan and Liz were together and Liz seemed safe enough, he didn't want to remove her from the safe place. But he did want to know her location so that if he needed to get to her quickly, he could do so. However, he couldn't decipher any helpful information from their conversations.

Liz spoke about her burgeoning powers with enthusiasm. She no longer seemed to look at them as a curse. For this he was thankful because he couldn't help but feel guilt over what he had caused. Again, however, he wished he were the one able to share the experience with her. It had been a long time since she had smiled because of something he did for her.

He'd also felt her pull back a little. She remained affectionate with him and he could feel her love, yet each night, she became slightly more reserved. Probably not something others would notice, he'd definitely felt it yet he couldn't question her. Not with Zan watching over their shoulder like a parental chaperone. Max's ire toward his dupe grew as each visit came and went without Max being able to completely express himself.

With a frown, he came back to the present and wondered where she was and if she was safe.

**********

Zan woke first in the darkness of the cabin. Night had fallen and the fire in the fireplace shed the only light. Opening his eyes, he peered at the wall over Liz's head. Her body was wrapped tightly against his and he could feel her back expand with each breath against his chest. His right arm was wrapped around her waist while his left arm cradled her head.

Feeling comfortable, he didn't care to move. It had been a long while since he'd shared a bed with a woman and though this wasn't the typical situation in which he found himself, he wanted to bask in it a little longer. In her sleep, Liz had reached up and gently grasped his forearm tucked under her head. Also, sometime when they were sleeping, their legs had intertwined. Zan took a deep breath and pulled her closer. He felt her body wiggle in her sleep as she tried to mold her body to his.

When he first spoke to Liz Parker, she hadn't sparked his sexual interest a bit. He took to taller, more curvy women than her and to him, she looked like she was the small, innocent schoolgirl type and though that fantasy may excite some men, he preferred older, more experienced women.

This perception of her had now shifted slightly. First, spending time with her convinced him that though she wasn't brassy, she was far from being meek. Discovering that she was a virgin while sleuthing in Roswell, he'd first laughed condescendingly to himself. He'd assumed she was the prudish book type. Even the time he spent on the road with her in the van strengthened the perception. He knew that she had watched him while he pretended to sleep which irritated the shit out of him because he felt that she'd been measuring him against Max. But after watching their interaction, he realized that she wasn't prudish at all. She simply reserved all of her sexual energy and poured it over the man in her life.

Secondly, because of the connection he had to maintain in order to help Liz visit Max, her feelings washed over him in waves. He couldn't tune them out without removing the assistance Liz needed. He'd endured the alien feelings of love and commitment every moment Liz and Max were together. After each visit, he found the feelings lingering and he took to leaving the cabin in an attempt to expel them from his system. No matter how he tried, though, each visit left a residual feeling of warmth towards her that, while it began to thaw his attitude, he felt a keen resentment towards.

He'd never allowed himself to feel too much for anyone, not with his surrounding environment and his alien status. He'd made a small allowance with Shandra and though he hadn't loved her, he'd grown quite fond of her. There was contentment in the rhythm of the life they shared. She had never asked for much and he'd given her what he could. It was the closest to a relationship that he'd ever had.

Then Lonnie had ripped that life away from him.

He'd mourned Shandra terribly. Though typically human life held little value to him, she had been special.

Flickering firelight danced on the walls. Allowing his guard down, he tilted his head and inhaled the scent of Liz. He removed his arm wrapped around her waist and traced the length of her arm enjoying the touch and feel of her skin. Extraditing himself carefully from beneath her head, he raised himself up on his elbow so that he could get a better view of her. Inching away a bit caused Liz to slowly roll onto her back. He peered down and took her body in.

She lay quietly in only her bra and underwear. Knowing now how she guarded her sexuality, being able to view her in this manner thrilled him. She lay open to him, unfolded in sleep. Her skin was unblemished except for the raw scorch mark that marred her forehead. Knowing that the avalanche could not have created the injury, he pondered where she'd gotten it.

Her hair swept back on the pillow and several strands were caught wildly over her cheeks and chin. He moved slowly and removed the locks so that he could scrutinize her face in its entirety. Now warm, her skin was pink and translucent. Her cheeks held a slight reddish tinge that mimicked sexual passion. Her mouth was closed, her lips pressed gently together. He watched her pulse beat rhythmically in her neck and he hesitantly placed his fingertips against it feeling the life he had saved earlier that day beat through her. He gently brushed the curve of her neck to her shoulder and traced her collarbone.

Her chest rose beneath his touch with each breath. His eyes strayed to her breasts hidden beneath the lacey fabric of the black bra she wore. Burning the image to his memory, he trailed one fingertip down between them and slowly hooked his finger under the bottom of the bra. Knowing that a simple tug would make the clasp break raised the temperature of his body. His heart began to pound with want. Acknowledging the familiar warm tug in his loins fueled him further. Hesitatingly, he released the fabric and stroked the skin beneath her breasts. He made circular motions across her stomach, each pass taking him closer to her navel. The bed quilt fell across her hips haphazardly and he reached to pull it down.

His hand hovered over the edge of the blanket. It began to shake as he struggled internally about whether to continue. He grew up in the sewers and on the street. He didn't hold much for compassion or moral nobility. Unlike Lonnie and Rath, though, he'd drawn some lines early on in life. He'd never taken a life unless it threatened his own. When he had killed, however, he didn't feel any remorse. Also, he didn't steal from anyone who couldn't afford to lose it. He'd been down enough to know the physical and emotional pain that came when your last morsel of food or your last bit of cash disappeared.

Lastly, he had never once taken something from a woman who wasn't willing to give it. There was no joy in forcing a woman, to have her struggle and cry beneath you as you stripped her of her dignity. He'd always enjoyed it rough but was also man enough to appreciate that the woman was getting pleasure from him.

He slowly released the quilt and it dropped back to Liz's stomach. She stirred and Zan watched as her eyes slowly opened.

She focused on him and whispered, "Zan?"

"Da one and only."

Grabbing the quilt unconsciously to cover herself from the growing coolness of the cabin, she asked, "What happened?"

Looking down at her he perched his head in his hand, he said, "You had a meetin' with a shit load a snow." Her eyes widened as her memory returned.

"Am I OK?"

"Sure, baby, you're just fine but you need to rest…" He stroked her forehead with his hand - a small bluish light came to life and died just as quickly. Her eyes fluttered once more as she struggled with the sudden overwhelming need to sleep.

"What about Max?"

Zan's eyes darkened, turning flinty in the dim light. His lips tightened and he forced control on himself. "Don't worry. I'll handle da king."

Already half asleep, Liz murmured, "Tell him that I love him."

"Yeah, sweets, whatever." But he was talking to a sleeping body.

**********

Max was frantic. It was midnight and still no Liz. He was torn between waiting it out a bit further and running to Michael and Isabel in an attempt to find her. Frustrated, running his fingers through his hair, he made his decision. Grabbing his jacket, he swung to the door only to find Zan slouched against it smoking a cigarette.

Looking wildly around the room but not seeing Liz, he faced Zan. "Where is she?"

"Chill. She's fine. Just unable to visit tonight." Zan took a long drag on his cigarette and flicked the ash to the floor.

"Where the hell is she then?"

"Yo. I told ya already, she's fine."

Quick as a cat, Max grabbed Zan by the scruff of his shirt. Their noses only inches apart, Max snarled, "I told you before that if she misses one night I would kill you."

Zan held his gaze but his twitching eyebrow belied his rage. His voice laced with menace, he snarled back. "Get yer fuckin' hands off me, yer highness."

Max only tightened his grip. Then, suddenly, he was grabbing at pure air. Zan had disappeared right before his eyes.

"Ovah, here."

Swinging to the voice, Max saw Zan casually leaning in the opposite corner of the cabin. Furious, he rushed him again only to have him disappear.

"We kin play dis game all night if ya want."

This time the voice came from his right and Zan was sitting in the window with his arms wrapped casually around his knees. Max held himself in check, not wanting to lose him again.

"Dis is only the dream world - ya can't hurt me just as I can't hurt you."

"Like I said before, where is Liz?"

"Yo, she can't get here but I kin take ya to her. I'll do it only if ya chill and quit gettin' in my face 'n shit."

Already a bit amazed by Zan's ability, Max slowly asked, "How?"

"Same ways as I gots here. I'll just reverse it and E.T. ya back wit me."

Max looked at him, warily skeptical. What if this was a trick? What if Zan led him into a trap? But it involved Liz so he had to take the risk. If she couldn't come tonight, then she was in trouble and he had to find out why.

"Alright, I'll go with you. But what is wrong with-" Before he could finish his sentence, there was a warm tingling sensation in his head and suddenly, he was standing in a dimly lit cabin.

Looking around him, he took in as many details as he could. He immediately noticed Zan sitting at the kitchen table smoking a cigarette. Zan nodded his head toward the other side of the room and Max followed with his eyes. With her back to him, Liz was curled up in the large bed. Rushing over to her, he sat on the edge of the bed and tenderly stroked her cheek. He laid a hand against her forehead and used his powers to try to assess her well-being.

"Yo, don't ya listen? I told ya dat this is a different plane - ya can't do shit like that here."

Max seethed at the barb but held back. He needed information that only Zan was able to give. "Why is she asleep? Why couldn't she come tonight?"

Zan got up from the table and stood behind Max. "She got caught in an avalanche and got pretty banged up."

Max whirled. "She what?"

Zan held up his hands defensively and said, "Chill, she's OK. I took care of it. She got nothin' wrong with her now but I forced her to sleep so her body would heal completely on its own."

"Where were you? Why weren't you watching out for her?" Max stood up and turned towards Zan. "You said you were going to protect her."

Zan clenched his hands into fists. Setting a steely gaze on Max he said menacingly, "And ya told her that she 'meant everything to you' yet ya fucked Ava on da side."

Max lost all control and lunged for Zan. Zan eagerly waited for the fight being brought to him. Thrown back by the power of Max's thrust, Zan lurched backward and fell to the floor with Max on top. Max's hands were wrapped around his throat and he kicked upward, sending Max crashing over his head. Zan stood just as Max began to get to his feet for another charge. Zan raised his hand, a green shield appearing as Max warily circled him.

"Like I said before, ya can't hurt me here."

"You sonofabitch! You're telling me about the mistakes I made? Who the hell do you think you are?"

"It's true, ain't it? Didn't ya leave Liz in the lurch while ya bagged the blonde bitch?"

Max continued to circle him. Zan easily kept the shield raised between them.

"That's not how it happened."

"Dat's not it, prince? Explain it to me, den, 'cause I know fuckin' and it seems to me that ya aced it."

Max dropped his hands and stopped circling. He pinched the bridge of his nose and squinted tightly. "OK, fine. You win." He walked over to the edge of the bed and looked down on Liz. All of her words from before she left for Vermont crashed down around him again. There was no getting around it. It had happened and he couldn't pretend that it didn't. He reached down to touch her again when Zan's voice stopped him.

"She can't hear us or feel ya touch her."

Max took one last look and then turned around to Zan.

"Alright, then. Let's talk."

**********

Both men stood warily facing each other in the kitchen. Zan slouched against the counter with another lit cigarette dangling from his lips. Max leaned against the table with his hands folded across his chest.

"Why do you have her?"

"She needs to control her powers. If she don't, den she could die."

"Alright. I understand that much. Why you?"

Zan took a long drag on his cigarette and slowly released the smoke from his lips. "I gotta do it. Der's no one else."

Max shook his head. "So? Why do you care?"

Zan contemplated for a moment. "I'm yer dupe. When you was made, so was me. We was made exactly the same. Der's no difference between us, 'cept one."

Max waited patiently as Zan put out his cigarette and continued. "I got programmin' instructions dat ya didn't. They filled my head with shit dat I can't shake."

"And that is?" Max prodded.

"I gotta take care of da king - watch his back 'n shit."

"You're a protector?"

"Not in da traditional sense. Not like Nascedo was supposed to be. Unlike Lonnie, Rath, and Ava, I always knew 'bout ya in Roswell. Dey found out a few years back."

"Then where the hell were you when the FBI kidnapped me and the Skins attacked?"

"Yo, Nascedo was there protectin' yer back. I had to stay in New York and keep an eye on Lonnie and Rath. The summit was a comin' and I had to keep 'em away from it. They wanted me to pose as ya and steal da show but I kept puttin' 'em off. Den, they made der move and da next thing I know, I'm smacked against da pavement wit tire tracks on my chest."

"So where were you when I was in New York?"

"Helpin' from Roswell. 'Member dat little astral projection of Liz - she did dat wit my help."

"I thought-"

Zan waved his hand dismissively. "It was all me. I've been watchin' since 'cept when I made some side excursions of my own."

Max's eyes narrowed. "Liz mentioned that Lonnie killed Ava and that you killed Rath."

"Yeah, just doin' my job," Zan chuckled humorously.

"So what about Lonnie? Where is she?"

"Out der, somewhere. Watch out fer her, 'cause she's pissed 'n rarin' to rumble."

"Have you seen her since, you know, the truck..." Max trailed off uncomfortably.

Zan smirked and then grabbed his shirt and pulled it over his head. Turning his right side to Max he pointed to the ugly scars that marred his skin. "Yeah, I saw da bitch and as ya can see, saw her real intimately."

Max grimaced. "Why don't you just heal them?"

Zan threw his shirt on the countertop and crossed his arms in front of his chest. Realizing how alike their poses suddenly looked, Max unfolded his arms and rested them on either side on the table.

"I use 'em to 'member how bad I want her dead." Zan's voice had dropped an octave.

"I thought you were going after her to protect me."

"Well, dat would be a bonus. I want her dead fer my own reasons."

"OK, OK. Then what about Liz? If you're supposed to protect me, then why did you go after Liz?"

"Like I said, I'm da only one who can help her. Do ya want me to leave her be and see if she dies from a blood clot?"

Max said quickly, "No, no." He looked closely at Zan and said quietly, "But why all of the secrecy? Why did you have to kidnap her? Couldn't you have been up front with us?"

Zan flexed his muscles. "Yo, she's become a target just like ya. Da Skins found out about her little alien tricks and now they're comin' after her. Which do ya think is better - shackin' her up wit me in da middle of nowhere or wit ya right in der line of gunfire?"

Max repeated himself. "But why couldn't you have just told us?"

Zan huffed. "'Cause I do shit my way."

Max sighed. Zan was frustrating as hell. It was like walking down a maze when dealing with him. One minute, your way is blocked and you travel around in circles looking for a way out. Then next, you find a way forward and the path seems suddenly revealed only to be blocked again by a solid wall.

"A word of caution, yer majesty." Zan rolled the word sarcastically from his lips. "Da Skins are worried 'bout Liz becomin' one of us. They're also worried 'bout the rest of yer human herd changin'. They're gonna try 'n wipe out any human that could be a threat. They worried 'bout ya growin' stronger as a group."

"Yeah, I know. I already ran into a couple of them. They mentioned that they were going after all of the human women in the group."

"Not just da humans, prince. Der after Liz too."

"That's what I mean."

"Nah, man, ya don't get it. Liz ain't human no more." Max's head snapped up and stared at Zan. "Ya gotta stop thinkin' of her like dat now."

Max pondered this a moment. Though all along he knew that this was probably what had been happening to her, he really hadn't faced the truth. Liz was no longer human. Liz was like him. In one respect, he felt sad that she was losing that side of her. She must be terrified to know that she was changing in such a way that her entire life will be altered. On the other hand, he selfishly felt happy. Liz would be like him. There wouldn't be that barrier any longer between them.

He looked longingly over at her. If only his child wasn't out there somewhere. He knew that this one fact haunted Liz as much as it did him. Whereas he wanted to find his son, Liz wished he didn't.

"Man, I don't believe dat ya was ever engineered to be a king."

Startled, Max looked up. "What?"

"Ya still thinkin' dat ya got some kid out there? Get real. It never existed. Ya hear me? And this Tess? She never left da planet."

**********

Reeling, Max fell into a chair and leaned onto the table. "What are you talking about? I felt him."

"Dude, she played ya from day one. She'd been mind warpin' ya - ya gotta be an idiot not to see dat."

"So I didn't even sleep with her?"

"Nah, dat happened fer real. She coulda tricked ya into da bed, but once ya was there, it was all you."

"How do you know all of this?"

"'Cause da reason I got this scar was 'cause I got ambushed while huntin' Lonnie. I coulda handled her by herself but I got ganged up on by her, Tess, and 'bout ten Skins."

Dumbfounded, Mas asked, "You saw Tess?"

"Yeah, man and she was a hellcat, let me lay it on ya. Her 'n Lonnie were braggin' 'bout yer mind warp it right in front of me."

"Jesus." Max slumped closer to the table.

"Da bad guys are closin' on us. You and da rest of da gang got a plan?"

A bit in a daze, Max answered on autopilot. "Yeah, we're getting ready."

Zan lit up another cigarette. "A'right. Ya bunker down. It'll take 'em a bit to find ya - just be ready when they do."

Max looked at his watch. He realized that he had been with Zan for approximately two hours. Amazed, he stood up and walked over to him. Zan instantly went on the defensive and his muscles tightened reflexively. "You've had me here for two hours. Liz said that you were a lot stronger than me. How is that possible?"

Zan scowled. "How many times is dat record gonna play? I ain't tellin' why."

Frustrated, Max decided to flex his royal muscles. "Zan, tell me why you're stronger than me."

Zan gave Max a disgusted look and then sneered. "Ya can't play dat card on me. I told ya I was programmed to protect da king but I also said dat it wasn't traditional like. Ya can't make me do somethin' by givin' a direct order."

Max sighed. It had been worth a try. How Liz put up with this all day long amazed him. He wandered back into the living area and stood over Liz. He took in her surroundings, trying to commit everything to memory. He saw her things standing in crates in the corner. Walking over to them, he grabbed a sweater and put it to his nose, breathing deeply. This may have been the dream plane but it sure felt real. Looking around him again, it finally hit him that there was an exposed tub and only one bed. Jealousy flared hot in his veins and he strode around the corner to face Zan.

"Where do you sleep at night?" he fumed.

Zan gave him an arrogant grin while cocking his head to the side and flexed his chest muscles, making the nipple rings shake. "Where da ya think?" Watching the color race to Max's face, his grin widened. "That said, it's time to jet."

Suddenly, a lethally furious Max stood in his own room, alone. The lingering smell of cigarette smoke sent his fist crashing through the wall.
posted on 31-Mar-2002 7:29:07 PM
Hey, everyone. I thought that I would hit you with two chapters. I enjoyed 12 so much that I'm going to post it right behind this one.

Just a couple of quick shout outs:

BLS40 Thanks for sticking with it though I'm not too sure if you will be happy with the next couple of chapters. But I still ask you to trust me.

LEL Nookie? Hmmm, nothing explicit but I love sexual tension. Let's see where it leads us.

Tabasco Liz Zan is a bad boy, isn't he? So bad he might just make a full circle to being good... grins.

Eraser Room Thanks for the compliment about being true to Max's character. I'm trying to do that with all of them - I think that they are great characters and I don't want to mess too much with their make-up. Thanks for for the great feedback. I like a jealous Max too as you will soon see.

WinterRain Thanks for visiting!! It's a pleasure to have you along for the ride.

And here we go....


CHAPTER 11

When she'd woken up the next day, Zan was nowhere to be found. She'd gotten up and made breakfast for herself, aching slightly with every movement. Recalling the events from the day before, she knew there was good reason. Noticing that her wrist felt better, Liz smiled to herself. Zan had proven himself yesterday - she didn't necessarily trust him but he'd shown that her safety was important to him. Also, by healing her wrist, he'd conceded something to her, albeit small.

As she waited for the small burner to heat the water for the hot chocolate, she decided to take a chance. Sliding her hand into the ice cold water, she concentrated hard, trying to separate the correct energy thread and control it in the limited space offered to her. Focusing, she allowed the energy to gather and then slowly slip through her. Squeezing her eyes tight, she spread her fingers wide in the deep saucepan. The tingling traveled up and down her arms, making her fingertips burn where the energy concentrated itself. Yelping, she pulled her hand back as the water began to scorch her hand. Amazed, the water emitted vapors of steam before her astonished eyes. Looking at her hand in wonderment, it took a few seconds for her to notice that each fingertip sported a red welt.

Too excited to really feel the pain, she jumped up and down. She had a success! The pot hadn't flown across the room and the stove hadn't exploded. Dancing in a circle, she couldn't contain her happiness. It didn't even faze her when she came face to face with a wary Zan. She simply wrapped her arms around him and laughed in his ear.

Forced to hunch down to accommodate the weight suddenly thrown around his neck, Zan was unsure what to do with his hands. Hugs being unfamiliar to him, he didn't quite know how to react. However, before it became awkward, Liz released him and danced away. Caught up in her enthusiasm, he managed a lopsided grin. He'd watched her as she'd heated the water and though it was difficult to admit, he'd wanted her desperately to succeed.

"Did you see that? Did you see how I did it? I did it!" Liz beamed.

"Yeah, sweets, I saw it. Not bad."

"Not bad? How can you say that? I didn't blow anything up!"

He managed another lopsided grin. He had to admit he was a bit proud. However, he couldn't help himself when he said, "Nah, ya didn't blow nothin' up, but ya scorched yer hand."

Liz pouted as she felt Zan push her down a notch. With the first feelings of joy past, the throb in her fingertips became noticeable. Frowning, she studied them and noticed how the welts had turned to angry red blisters.

"I must have burnt myself in the water."

"Nah, the water didn't do that. Ya was unsteady in releasin' the power and it scorched on da way out." Noticing her grimace of pain, he stepped towards her and grabbed her hand. Lifting her palm and turning it so that it faced him, he laid the flat of his palm against hers. Her small, splayed fingers came only three-quarters of the way to the end of his. Looking intently in her eyes, he pushed his healing power through his hand and slowly began to heal hers. Locking his gaze on her when he saw the look of warmth in her eyes, he slowed the healing energy so that the moment would last longer.

Liz found herself staring into Zan's eyes that were so much like Max's. They'd lost their usual mocking tone and shown at her with… with what? Compassion? She wasn't sure but she was unwilling to break the moment. It seemed like forever that their hands touched, feeling the healing passing through his hand into hers. The burning sensation on each fingertip slowly died until no pain existed. However, Zan continued to keep his palm pressed against hers long after she felt the healing end. She couldn't break their eye contact. The moment became intimate and she watched as his eyes changed until they were almost sparking. Unsettled, she slowly slid her hand away from his, breaking the moment. Blinking a couple of times in order to come back to reality, she forced herself to give him a small smile.

"Thank you, Zan. I don't know what I would do without you to clean up my messes."

Zan continued to stare intently at her even as his arm slowly dropped to his thigh. He cocked his head to the side and his chin twitched a bit as if puzzling over something. Though Liz knew his eyes were focused directly on her, she felt as if he was looking at something far off.

"No prob, sweets."

**********

Michael and Isabel looked at each other questioningly. The past few days had been filled with planning and stockpiling. They'd all worked well together knowing that it was a must in order to be strong enough to fight whatever would show up on their doorstep. Max had been a different person. Without arrogance, he'd stepped smoothly into the role of leader and the group around him had naturally allowed him. It seemed that when faced with a real situation, the pod squad instinctively took on their roles. Even Maria had quietly accepted Max in his new confidence.

However, all day, Max was clearly agitated. Being obvious that he hadn't slept well, they'd wondered what was causing his slightly soured mood. When questioned, he merely shrugged them off saying it was nothing. Yet, when Maria had asked how the visit went with Liz the night before, he'd flown off the handle and snapped at her. Maria, in turn, had thrown back a biting comment before each of them left for their respective cabins, slamming the door behind them.

Michael folded his arms against his chest and said, "I'm beginning to hope that the Skins show up soon. The sooner it's ended, the sooner the moody twins can each go their merry way."

Isabel simply nodded in agreement and turned back to the blueprints lying on the table.

**********

The day had passed in a strange way for Liz. After healing her hand, Zan had gone on a rampage to teach her more things. The first thing they tackled was controlling her thought transference. Her experiment with the water seemed to have opened up a floodgate. Learning new things was easier, now that she'd figured it out the first time. Within a couple of hours, she'd learned how to block her thoughts from Zan and in the following hour, how to control sending thoughts to him.

She felt relief at now being able control what he received from her. It had been unsettling never knowing what he saw. Her private thoughts were her own again and that little step gave her a sense of power that she really hadn't felt since she had come to the cabin.

Liz was also enjoying the little games they had been playing all afternoon. In testing her abilities, they had to send thoughts back and forth to one another. Zan quite often sent her neutral images of rock concerts he'd attended, various postcard-like images of New York, and even images of his days of spying on her and the pod squad from back in Roswell. She'd been amazed at how much he had actually watched them.

She, in turn, passed on thoughts of the desert, the cliff overlooking the lake, and various school functions that she had attended. Again, like Zan, she kept the images neutral not wanting to give away too much of her private life.

She had a good laugh when she sent him thoughts of complicated math problems and he rolled his eyes and flopped back on the couch with a sigh.

"Wit everythin' that ya coulda shown me, ya hafta send garbage like that?"

"What would you have wanted? A picture of a playboy centerfold?"

"Hell, yeah. Woulda made all this work worthwhile."

Liz laughed again. "Well, I probably would have gotten the proportions all wrong anyway."

"Long as da proportions are outta whack in all da right places, it's all good." Zan answered lazily. He rubbed his stomach contentedly with a wistful smirk on his face.

Liz snorted. "Typical."

"Whatever. Ya can't change nature, baby."

Feeling happy with her recent leaps of success, she felt the need to get out and exercise. Though Zan had spent a lot of time outside, she'd been cooped up most of the days. Her one excursion out being a failure, she needed to stretch her legs and see something new.

"Zan, let's get out of here. I'm going stir crazy."

Zan peered at her from underneath the arm thrown over his eyes. "Ya sure? Your last trip came tumbling down all 'round ya."

"Very funny. C'mon. I want to breathe some fresh air and take a look around."

Groaning, Zan raised himself to a sitting position. "Well, guess ya can't be trusted on your own."

They dressed and left the cabin out into the clear day. Liz had to squint because the sun's reflection off the surrounding snow created a piercing glare. Zan reached a hand into one of his pockets and handed her a pair of sunglasses.

"Don't you need them?"

"Nah, I'm an alien, 'member? I can handle it."

"Then why do you buy them then?"

Zan looked at her like she was clueless. "'Cause I look wicked when I wear 'em."

Liz snickered and put them on. The light became bearable and they began trekking through the trees. Zan walked first in order to forge a trail that would allow Liz to follow. They walked in silence, both a bit winded by the exertion it took to get through the drifts of snow.

After about an hour of winding slowly up a gradual incline, Zan held out his hand, motioning Liz to stop. Putting his fingers to his lips, he took a cautious step forward. Liz tiptoed behind him unsure about what was happening up ahead of them. They came into a small, open area and without turning around, Zan reached behind and grabbed her arm with a firm hold. Freezing, Liz tried to breath silently.

With his other hand, Zan created the green force field in front of him and then slowly pulled Liz to his side. Peering around his shoulder, she finally saw what made Zan so cautious.

A sleepy black bear was scratching its back against the rough bark of forlorn looking oak tree. Up on two legs, the bear put so much of its weight against the sad, little tree that it shook violently with every thrust of the bear's muscular legs. The bear began to grunt enthusiastically with each upward motion.

Liz, with mouth agape, watched with wonderment. Somehow knowing that the shield around them provided the needed security, she stepped fully to Zan's side. It was absolutely amazing to her to be this close and watch such a huge, potentially dangerous animal. Vibrations rattled in the earth beneath her feet each time the bear hit the tree hard.

Puffs of vapor escaped from the bear's nostrils as he dropped to all fours and shook himself vigorously. Grunting and swaying his large head side to side, he slowly began walking towards them. Zan quickly latched onto Liz's arm and moved them safely out of the bear's path.

Liz watched as the bear lumbered by, speechless. Zan waited for a full five minutes before lowering the shield and releasing her arm. She stepped in the direction of the bear's retreat, still unable to even utter a sound.

"C'mon. We got more to see."

Finishing the last of the climb, they found themselves at the top of the very bluff that had been Liz's nemesis the day before. Since most of the snow had already fallen to the field below, the top of the bluff was relatively clean. They stepped out onto the bare rock and the valley spread before them. Liz took a deep breath of the frosty air and absorbed the beauty around her. She could faintly see the top of Zan's cabin through the trees and a thin trail of smoke from the chimney wandered up lazily into the sky. Looking at the horizon, she could easily see Lake Superior from their vantage point. The dark, blue water stretched as far as she could see.

She sighed contentedly.

Quiet until now, Zan took a step closer to the edge. It made Liz uncomfortable that he stood so near the drop off but it didn't seem to bother him a bit. She looked at him closely and his face seemed almost serene. When she'd first heard that Zan had a cabin in the woods, she'd assumed that the city, street-wizened man would stick out like a sore thumb. However, his toughness seemed to blend smoothly here in this environment and the simple way in which he commanded the space around him left no doubt in her mind that he was in his element. Even with his tattoos and piercings, he made a good woodsman.

After a few minutes of quiet reflection, Liz's hands and feet began to feel the chill.

"Zan, I think I'm ready to turn back. It should be dark in another hour or so."

Seemingly irritated by the interruption in his meditation, he looked at her over his shoulder. "Yeah, OK. But I ain't walkin' back through that snow 'gain. Havin' to make trail for you the whole way weren't no fun."

She ignored his complaint and simply shrugged. "Well, it's the only way back so let's go."

"Nah, I think I'll take da shortcut."

"What short-" Before she could finish, she watched with horror as Zan stepped out over the rim of the bluff and disappeared. Rushing to the edge, she got down on her hands and knees and carefully looked down

The height was dizzying. Searching out Zan, she saw him standing in the field about fifty feet away from the mound of snow that had once covered her. He stood with his feet firmly spread apart and his hands stuffed in his pockets.

She called down to him. "Zan, how did you get down there?"

"I created a cushion of air. It was easy."

"Well, can you do it for me so that I can join you?" Liz felt foolish as she heard her voice echoing around the valley.

"C'mon, sweets. Thought you was all alien now."

Liz felt frustrated. There was no way that she had the confidence to perform a feat like that. Especially when it involved her life.

"There's no way that I'm going to try that."

"Well, guess ya goin' da long way 'round." Zan turned his back on her and began walking away towards the cabin.

Furious, she stood up and backed away from the edge. How could he leave her like that? "Zan!" she called but he didn't answer. His back disappeared into the tree line.

Stomping her foot, Liz looked over the edge again. Could she do this? Taking a small sliding step forward she felt her body begin to tremble. No way. It wasn't worth it just to try and prove something to that monster of a man. She glared in the direction he'd taken. Using all of the energy she could, she sent him a mental picture of a gruesome torture technique that she'd like to perform on him and then followed it with a picture of her dead on the ground.

Furious, she turned away from the edge and began to follow their trail back. She had to try and make it before the sun set otherwise she could get really lost. Also, she didn't like the thick, mountain of dark clouds she'd seen to the south. It couldn't mean anything good.

An hour and half later, she finally found the cabin in the pitch black of night. So angry, she could barely catch her breath, she started sending more mental images of different torture scenarios towards the cabin. She swung the door open and began the berating torrent of scathing remarks Zan deserved. Only she found that the cabin was empty. Perplexed, she looked around and jumped back a step when she found Zan standing right behind her.

He looked cold and miserable. He glared at her. "I couldn't let ya get eaten by dat bear, now could I? King Max woulda ripped me a new one." He stomped past her obviously fuming about the long journey he had made and about the images he'd just received.

Liz felt no remorse. He could have told her that he had trailed her all of the way home. She wasn't going to kowtow to him simply because he acted like a decent person. He'd have to learn that in order for her to respect him, he'd have to return the favor.

He could beat her when it came to alien powers but she could hold her own in the battle of wills.

She didn't notice the first heavy snowflakes beginning to fall as she closed the door to the night.

**********

"Hey, Max."

"Liz?"

She walked over and sat next to him on the bed. He pushed up with a sleepy smile and leaned his weight on his elbow. Rubbing his eyes, he tentatively reached forward and stroked her cheek tenderly.

"Falling asleep before I get here, huh?" Liz teased gently.

"Sorry…We spent all day hauling supplies into the cabins and boarding up the windows." He yawned and then sat up straighter. Swiveling his gaze around the room, he turned back to her. "Where's Zan?"

"I went solo tonight."

Amazed, Max exclaimed, "You're doing this on your own?"

"Yep. But it will probably be a bit shorter than the last trip since it's only just me. I'm still learning and building the strength to project myself."

Grinning, Max leaned forward and crushed her to his chest. "I don't care how much time I have with you as long as we're alone. It was driving me crazy having him here each time."

She rolled her eyes and eased herself out of his embrace. "I know what you mean."

"Is he being good to you, Liz?" Max probed earnestly.

"I'm not sure if 'good' is the right word but he is helping me." She pushed a strand of hair behind her ear.

"Liz, there's a really bad snow storm on the way. You have to tell me where you are."

She looked at him thoughtfully for a second and then looked down at the bed. "Max, I don't think that is a good idea. We both made a promise to him."

"But Liz. Your life could be in danger and what if you need me?" he questioned softly.

"I know, I know. But I don't feel right in revealing it right now. Though he's coarse and difficult, Zan has made a lot of efforts and even saved my life."

With a frown on his face, Max pulled back a little. "But Liz, he kidnapped you." When Liz continued to look at the bed and fiddle with the fringe of the comforter, he placed a finger gently under her chin and lifted it so that he could look in her eyes. "Do you trust him now?"

Shaking her head from side to side, she said quickly, "Not completely but he has shown that he wants to help. I'd be dead if he hadn't rescued me."

Max's stomach began to tighten. He wanted to say, 'But he wasn't supposed to let it happen in the first place!' but he kept the comment to himself. He didn't want to spoil their first solo visit with harsh words but he had to understand Zan and Liz's relationship. Though it was obvious she was still wary of his dupe, she'd shown a surprising loyalty by not sharing their location. This added to the clenching of his stomach.

Hesitant and almost afraid to ask, he spoke the dreaded question. "Do you two sleep together?" After Zan's departing words from the night before, he had seethed with not knowing. Liz and he had decided not to keep anything from each other anymore so he had to confront her about this.

She looked him straight in the eyes and before she opened her mouth, he knew the answer. "Yes."

Pulling back completely so that they were no longer touching, Max looked away. He tried to control his breathing. So they slept together. But what did that mean?

Liz noted Max's jealousy and felt mixed feelings. She could ease his mind with one sentence about how she and Zan only slept. However, on the other hand, she enjoyed his discomfort in an almost morbid way. She knew her actions were innocent but she had some satisfaction of Max feeling part of the feelings that she had when she found out about Tess.

Max finally looked at her again. She could see his internal struggle - wanting her to clarify what her statement meant and yet not wanting to verbally admit that he doubted her actions. Coming to a decision, he hesitantly reached for her hand.

"Does this change anything between you and me?"

Liz wanted to say yes again in order to make him squirm again but she couldn't lie. The time spent with Zan had not altered the way she felt about Max. The issue of Max and Tess had altered it. So she said, "No, it doesn't Max."

Max sagged slightly with relief. Until his visit with Zan last night he had never imagined Zan as a rival. Out of everything that had happened, this seemed like the furthest thing possible. But Zan had gotten his hackles up and he realized now that was his exact intention.

However, he knew from the manner in which Liz had answered him that things were not all OK. Of course, he knew why. They had to face the Tess issue head on or they would never get around it.

"Liz, we need to talk about Tess and…" He trailed off, unable to even utter their names in tandem. "You said a lot of things before you went to Vermont and I know we have to face them. We've avoided this for much too long."

Liz looked down again. "I know, Max. I just don't know what to do about it. I love you so much yet it hurts so much. I can't get it out of my head. It's like a broken record playing in the background every time I kiss you." She gently squeezed his hand to soften her words.

"I don't know if Zan told you or not, but last night we talked. He told me that I don't have a son." Liz's head snapped up in surprise. "Apparently, Tess mind-warped me into thinking that. She never left and is currently running around with Lonnie."

"And the two of you? Did…

it

…happen?"

Hanging his head, Max nodded. "He said that part happened. Tess and Lonnie bragged to him about what she did that night."

He didn't have a child? Surprisingly, she found that she wasn't relieved at all, not when Max's infidelity still remained a fact. He continued, telling everything her everything Zan had confided in him during their lengthy conversation.

Suddenly, she felt the tingling again.

"I'm really sorry, Max. But I can't continue this anymore. I'm going to have to go." It was a terrible place to end their conversation. Max looked at her sadly and repeated his earlier action of stroking her cheek.

He asked quietly, "Are we going to get through this?"

She tried to muster a smile and managed a thin one. She closed her eyes and leaned against his fingers. "I want to. I want to so much."

posted on 31-Mar-2002 7:35:17 PM
CHAPTER 12

She returned back to the cabin slowly. A bit dazed, she took her time regaining her senses. The warm air and the sound of the crackling fire surrounded her. Blinking her eyes open, she looked straight into the flames. Stretching slightly on the couch, she snuggled a bit deeper under the warmth of the quilt. Her visit with Max had been a difficult one. She didn't want to have to think about it so soon afterwards.

Noticing Zan stretched out on the floor in front of the fire, she asked, "How long was I gone?"

"Only 'bout twenty minutes."

"Oh." It had felt like longer. Her body was tired from maintaining the connection.

Aware of the wind howling outside, she asked, "The storm is here?"

"Yeah."

"Will it be bad?"

"Could get snowed in fer a few days."

Zan seemed to have lost his irritable mood from earlier. His attitude swings wore her out but she did relish in the moments when he seemed open. Now seemed like one of those times.

"How long will we be here?"

"Long as it takes."

Pulling the quilt closer to her chin, she asked, "What about Lonnie? Max said that she is still out there. Is she going to go after Max, Michael, and Isabel?"

"Yeah."

"Can you do anything to stop it?"

"Nah. It's gonna happen soon, though."

"How do you know?"

"'Cause I can feel Lonnie and she's gettin' closer." Zan stretched his arms above his head.

"Then I need to tell Max."

"Don't worry none. We got time."

She let a minute of silence pass. "Zan, what about you and Lonnie? How's it going to end between the two of you?"

"I'm gonna kill her." The icy tone of his voice and the simple way he said it sent a chill up her back. The hate between those two was so strong that it was hard to imagine they ever lived together. She didn't know if she could blame him, though. After what Lonnie did, she'd probably feel the same way.

"Then what is your plan?"

"Like I said, don't worry none."

Liz sighed and looked up at the ceiling. One of these days, she'd learn how to get information out of Zan if it killed her.

"Then what is your plan when this is over and done with? Are you going to live in this cabin forever?"

"Maybe." He looked up at her with a sly smile. "Why? You offerin' to keep my bed warm?"

Used to his innuendos by now, she couldn't help but banter a little back. "Nah, don't think so. To use your vernacular, 'you ain't all dat'." She smiled playfully at him.

"Honey, you just haven't taken the test drive yet. I ain't had one unsatisfied customer yet."

She laughed loudly at his teasing. "Zan, there's nothing you could do that could get me in that seat next to you."

Zan leaned forward and with another teasing smile said, "But, baby, I'd let ya drive."

Beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable, she decided to end the bantering. "Regretfully, I have to decline." Remembering something, she leaned a bit towards him. "Besides, you said earlier that you were off limits. Why the sudden change of mood?"

He let out a noisy sigh and flopped back on his back. "Shit, you was lookin' at me like a piece a meat and I couldn't stand gettin' all the different images of how I compared to da king." His voice lowered an octave. "Besides, a man kin only take so much."

She had to admit that in the van she had violated his privacy. At the time, he was her captor and she blatantly avoided observing the normal decency decorum. She realized though that he had become more human to her now.

"So now that's changed? If I wanted…" She hesitated, uncomfortable with how to ask him.

"Yah, mean, would I fuck ya if ya asked?" The words were crude but his voice held a lightness that tempered them.

"I suppose. Not that I am…asking, of course." she added quickly.

"Of course." His voice again went dark and husky. He rolled on his side and faced her. "I haven't made up my mind yet if yer up to my standards or not."

Surprised, she could help asking. "Standards? What standards?"

"Jesus. Ya think that I'll just sleep with any ole skank? Course I got standards." He seemed irritated at her question.

"I didn't mean it like that - like you shouldn't have any. I just got the impression that you wouldn't be real choosy." When he didn't answer her right away, she prodded him. "Tell me about some of the women you've been with."

He fidgeted a bit which was uncharacteristic for him. Obviously, he was trying to find the right words to express himself.

"Well, most of 'em were tall and leggy. Long hair, usually dark complexion. I went for a lot of foreign women like from Greece or Lebanon."

Liz rolled her eyes. "Tell me about what they're like, Zan. You know, their personalities."

"Shit, woman, I was gettin' to that." He sat up and crossed his legs Indian style. "Most of 'em were either career women or artists. I got shit fer brains all day long sittin' in the rat hole with Lonnie, Rath, and Ava so I looked forward to havin' real conversations. I never made friends wit no male street punks so I shacked up wit a lot of women. I went after da independent ones, ones that didn't need a shoulder to cry on."

"No disrespect, Zan, but you don't look like the type that women like that would go for."

"No? Well, they liked runnin' in the gutter sometimes. Gave 'em a thrill." He smirked. "Sometimes it was to get back at a boyfriend or husband. It was all good." He looked to be mulling over pleasant memories and a small smile traced his lips.

"Didn't that make you feel lousy - knowing they were using you?"

This time, his gaze focused on her and his demeanor became stern. "I didn't get into nothin' I didn't want. I always chose who I shared my bed with. They may have been usin' me but I got what I wanted, all the same. We both knew the stakes and where we stood on the playin' field."

Not wanting to tread further on what seemed dangerous ground, she conceded to him by simply nodding.

"Haven't ya ever just taken what ya wanted 'cause at the time it was what ya needed?"

"Not sexually, no. I was raised differently. I'm not saying that I was raised better just different. I always wanted to wait and share it with someone who I felt a deep connection with."

"That worked well fer ya, did it?" Again, the words were harsh but his sarcastic tone wasn't accusatory.

"Doesn't seem like it, does it?" she answered wistfully.

Jumping to his feet, Zan reached out his arm for her. "C'mon. This chattin' is gettin' a bit heavy. Let's have some fun."

Looking outside, Liz couldn't help but ask, "How? It's snowing like a banshee outside."

"'Member the first day we came, I told ya about the sauna outside? It's just sittin' there."

Thoughtful, she looked up at his outstretched hand. She felt a bit uncomfortable about going into a hot, sweaty sauna with this man yet at the same time, he was beginning to intrigue her. She knew how jealous Max would be if he knew but she couldn't help but feel she deserved to act a bit on the wild side. It's not like she was going out there to have sex with him.

Deciding, she accepted his hand.

**********

Alone in his bed, Max contemplated his conversation with Liz. The situation was a terrible one. He'd shared something with someone that had been rightfully Liz's. Though at the time, Liz had pushed him away and Tess had encouraged the situation with her mind-warp, it still didn't change the fact that he already had sex with someone other than Liz. It didn't matter that he wished he could take it back. He had to now deal with the situation as it stood.

The only option that kept popping into his head was that the stakes needed to be even before they could move forward. In other words, Liz had to sleep with someone else before they could continue their relationship in any fashion.

Just the thought of it made his entire body ache from jealousy. He didn't want anyone else's hands on Liz's body. The fact that it was hypocritical didn't escape him. He knew that they were in this situation because of his actions but giving Liz up to someone else seemed beyond his limit. He'd already thought once that she had slept with Kyle and it had taken a long time before he could come to terms with it. He didn't know if he could go through it again.

Of course, he knew he would. He would accept Liz after anything, he loved her that much. He knew that she wouldn't do it out of spite or revenge if it ever happened. It just may be the only way that she could ever come back to him with a clear mind. But how would it affect their future together? How could they ever continue without resentment towards the other?

The worst part about it was that Zan suddenly seemed like a likely candidate. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get images of that one lonely bed out of his head.

**********

The wind roared around her and she faltered in the snow as she followed Zan. He'd gone out about a half hour earlier to stoke the sauna and get it ready. Now they were trekking back to it but the storm had kicked up another notch. She could barely even see Zan who was trudging just a couple of feet ahead of her.

Going to one knee as her ankle gave way and the strong wind suddenly changed direction, Zan came back and offered her his bare hand. She gratefully reached for it and got to her feet. He yelled something but the wind whipped his words away and she shook her head vigorously to let him know that she didn't understand. He turned his back to her and continued plowing through the snow, steadying her each time she took a misstep.

Finally, they reached the door to the small but sturdy building. They quickly entered and shut the door to prevent the blowing snow from getting inside. Though the wind still howled, the noise wasn't nearly as bad in the little shelter.

Looking around her, Liz saw they'd entered a small foyer which acted as a changing room. To her left stood a closed door from which a golden light and warm heat emitted. Even the changing room area was warm and she took a deep breath of the hot, moist air.

She watched as Zan took off his big parka and hung it on a ready peg. He turned to face her.

"OK, I got the fire goin' in the next room." He looked her up and down slowly making her uncomfortable enough to fidget. "Ya know, ya can't wear those clothes in there. Ya gotta have to strip down to yer skivvies."

She looked at him defiantly. "Yeah, I know. I'm OK with that."

"Ah, but whatever would King Max think?" he asked mockingly.

"That's between me and Max."

"A'right. Chill. Just askin'. I don't want no ass whoopin' when wind reaches 'im."

Liz didn't bother to comment but proceeded to remove her coat. Waiting a moment, Zan followed her lead. He stripped off his shirt and jeans quickly so that he stood in his shorts. This being a familiar scene, it didn't bother Liz much. But she was uncomfortable with undressing in front of him. However, she'd already basically told him off about it, so she undressed as quickly as possible. Laying her clothes in a neat pile on a bench, she faced Zan. She almost expected a smart comment but other than his eyes doing a quick once over, he simply stepped past her and into the sauna area.

The heat hit her in a suffocating wave. This was the first time she'd ever been in a sauna and she didn't realize that it would be so hot. She'd imagined it would be like the warm steam bath that always came from a lot of girls showering in the girl's locker room at school. However, this was so hot she found it difficult to take a breath.

"Close the door quickly or all of the heat will get out."

She did what she was told as she took in the small room. Directly across from her in the corner was a fifty-gallon barrel with a small door in the middle sitting on rusty hinges. On the top, a large pan held many rocks that looked to be steaming. Benches lined the walls to her right and she watched as Zan stepped up and sat on one of them. She crossed over to the other set and inhaled sharply as the head of the wood burnt her feet.

"Here, take one of these to sit on." Zan threw her a white towel, which she quickly placed on the seat beneath her and then settled down. The bench raised her even more in the room and the heat was even more oppressing. She found she had to concentrate on breathing in the heavy, wet air. After a couple of minutes, it became easier. Her body was now covered in sweat and her bra and underwear clung to her moist body.

Zan was leaning back against the wall with his legs spread wide and his head tilted back. He seemed relaxed. As she adjusted to the heat, she noticed her own muscles naturally releasing their tension and she began to feel like a wet noodle.

"Wow, this is wonderful."

"Yeah." Zan sighed contentedly.

"Is it common to have saunas in this area?"

"Lots of settlers from Finland came here. Saunas are big there. Guess they brought the concept with 'em."

"Makes sense. It's this cold in Finland too."

"We can only stay in here a max of thirty minutes or so. Otherwise, the heat'll get to us."

"OK."

Zan stretched out the towel on the bench and lay down on his back. He bent his right knee and let his left leg dangle lazily. He cupped his hands and cradled his head on the hard bench surface.

Liz couldn't help but watch him though she was careful this time to keep her thoughts hidden from him. His body shown with a sheen of sweat making each muscle more defined. Each time he moved, his abdominal muscles would ripple sliding over each of his ribs. Knowing he hadn't liked her comparing him to Max, she still couldn't help it. Zan was a bit larger than Max. Max had lost weight over the last couple of years so that though he was still extremely muscular, he bordered on wiry. Zan still had the heft that Max had lost. He looked more solid.

Also, though they were exact duplicates, Zan moved differently, more cat-like. His body looked like a coil wound tight and quite often, when he moved suddenly, it was as if the energy boiling just under the surface exploded with controlled intentions.

Liz realized that though she was looking at Max's dupe, she was beginning to miss the Max-like characteristics that used to jump out at her. Zan was becoming his own person to her, a unique individual.

"Yer starin' again."

Shocked, Liz came back to herself. Zan's eyes were still closed so how could he have known?

"But I kept my thoughts from you."

"It don't take no alien abilities to feel when someone's watchin' you." Zan chuckled. Liz felt a blush steal across her already overheated cheeks.

"I was just noticing how I don't see Max in you as much as when I first saw you."

"Good 'cause beyond the same DNA, he and I don't got a lot in common."

"That's true. You are two very different people."

Still on his back, Zan said, "So what's da verdict? Which one does it for you?"

"Max," Liz replied immediately. There was no doubt in her mind that she was more attracted to Max. Though Zan looked like him, he didn't quite have the same spark that Max had.

"Yer sure?" Zan drawled. "'Cause I've been gettin' vibes otherwise."

"Yes, I'm sure."

He slowly rose to a sitting position. She couldn't help but notice how the tattoos on his body glistened. He looked at her with a predatory glean in his eyes and his presence seemed to grow in the room and surround her. He stared at her intently, his gaze just as magnetic as Max's ever was but this was different. It was bold and commanding, almost forceful in the way it fell on her. It was overpowering and she felt her body respond without realizing it. She couldn't quite decipher how it made her feel. It felt like she was…

Targeted.

She'd never experienced this side of him - it was almost awesome in its power.

He eased his body off of the bench and to the floor. Liz watched his every movement, unable to break the gaze that he forced on her. He walked slowly but with purpose until he stood directly in front of her. Kneeling between her feet, he raised himself until he almost looking down at her forcing her to spread her legs wide. Liz felt her body instantly react to this sudden invasion of private space by flattening up against the wall. However, it prevented her from escaping any further.

He leaned in closer until his face hovered only inches from hers. A smirk appeared sexily on his lips and Liz found herself staring at the silver ring hanging from his eyebrow. Almost in slow motion, Liz felt him put his hands on the wall to either side of her head.

Removing her gaze from his eyebrow, she became ensnared again by his eyes. They appeared almost black in the light. They held hers for a moment before slowly dropping. Liz felt a burning sensation run all the way down her body as his gaze drifted down the side of her neck. She watched as he leaned in even further until she could feel his breath, hot on the skin below her ear. He traveled achingly slow down her neck, his lips almost but not quite touching her skin. Fire burned in its wake.

Her body began to tremble from the strain.

He pulled back again and locked his eyes with hers once more. She tried to speak but he placed a finger gently to her lips, again, not touching but creating a static-like electricity to dance on their surface. He smirked again and then boldly allowed his gaze to drop below her chin.

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, willing herself to stop this. But she couldn't and really didn't want to. He made her feel alive, wanted, scared, and excited all in one moment. He still hadn't touched her and the second he did, she would stop him. But the ache he was creating in her body almost gave her pleasure in a painful way.

He placed his hand once more next to her head. Again, he leaned forward and she felt his hot breath travel from her collarbone. The fiery sensation traced down each shoulder and she gasped when she suddenly felt it between her breasts. She went rigid either from fear or expectation. The electricity running through her body prevented the ability to rationalize.

With his other hand, he traced the outline of her body. The cushion of air between his palm and her skin was palpable and it was as if he was really touching her as he traveled down along the sensitive skin alongside her breast, down her side, hip, and thigh and ended at her knee. He moved his head back and leveled it once more with hers. He moved closer, until his lips almost brushed hers. He then retraveled the same route up her body. She began to tingle with the expectation of it reaching the now hypersensitive area near her breast. He didn't disappoint her and lingered teasingly in that area. Then he slowly pulled his hand back and gently placed it on the wall. Liz didn't think it could be possible due to the suffocating heat of the sauna but her skin felt cold when his hand left her.

"What 'bout now, baby?" His breath whispered against her lips. Heat radiated from his body. She was acutely aware of his proximity between her legs and couldn't help the flush of heat in her lower regions. Every muscle ached and shivered all in one motion.

She could only get one word out of her mouth. It was difficult but she pulled it up from what little reserves she had.

Quietly, she whispered, "No."

"No to what, baby? You don't like this?" He tilted his head and she didn't think it was possible but moved his lips even closer. If even a muscle twitched, they would come into contact.

With conscious effort not to move, she again whispered, "No." This time, it came out almost pleadingly.

Zan only mumbled, "Hmmm…" against her lips. Liz opened her eyes and looked directly into his. Until this moment, she thought that he had simply been playing her, making her body respond to him just for the game of it. But she saw burning desire. His eyes raged with it.

Suddenly afraid, her body recoiled. Why was he looking at her like that? What if he couldn't control himself?

He sensed the moment her mood changed. She watched as the passion slowly drained from his eyes and a seeming weariness took its place. He backed off a little and looked at her suddenly heaving for breath. In control once more, he smirked.

"Yep, definitely vibes." His voice, though still a bit husky, sounded more normal. He looked around. "Whew. Gettin' hot in here. Think I gotta change the mood."

Suddenly, he scooped her off the bench. Kicking a bit, she tried to get out of his grasp but his grip was iron. He opened the door with his powers and then opened the one to the outside also. A freezing gust of wind sent her shrieking. Before she knew it, they were outside in the blizzard and Zan tossed her up into a soft snow bank. Screaming as her hot skin hit the cold snow, she swore out loud. Zan laughed loudly.

"Why Liz Parker, who knew such language existed in yer vocabulary."

Still laughing, he threw himself into the snow next to her.
posted on 3-Apr-2002 8:57:26 AM
Hi, Everyone!

I know that I have been pretty regular in giving you updates. Unfortunately, I won't be able to get a part up until sometime this weekend.

Just to give you a teaser, things will begin to start happening now - confrontations galore!

Cinder - thanks for the bump! Perhaps it was a gentle nudge, eh? smiles.

AweInspired
posted on 7-Apr-2002 8:32:23 PM
Hi, everyone. Here's the next part - sorry 'bout not posting for a while. I was on vacation and didn't have access to the internet or a computer for that matter.

Hopefully, the next chapter will be up by Wednesday at the latest.

BTW, thanks for the bumping....



CHAPTER 13

The following days became a blur of moments of inactivity and focused hard work. Zan seemed to ignore that the intense moment shared in the sauna ever happened. Content with that, Liz never brought it up. She herself felt conflicted about what it all meant. Each night spent with Max was tense as they tried to hash out the difficult Tess situation. As hard as she tried though, she couldn't really move beyond it. She and Max spent tender moments together but any possible thoughts of real intimacy between them were forgotten.

She couldn't really forgive him but she couldn't stop loving him either. No matter what happened, she knew that Max was a good man who made a terrible mistake, influenced though it was. It was just terrible that that mistake had to involve her in such an intimate manner.

Though the name Tess had always been bitter on her lips, it became a vile roadblock to her happiness once again.

The other half of the coin was Max. She knew that he felt terrible and would change the past if he could. She could see that he hurt just as she did. His feelings of guilt, however justified, tore at her heart. One night, she even ended her visit short so that she didn't have to view the open emotional distress that he wore on his sleeve. The distress wasn't over what he did but compassion for how much he had hurt her. She really didn't know how she wanted him to act towards her. She didn't want him to continuously tiptoe or act contrite but neither did she want him to ignore the pain that he had caused her.

It was getting to the point that she almost dreaded the visits with him because it became so distressing. A solution did not seem within their grasp.

During the days, she again spent time with Zan perfecting her powers. She'd gained some control over altering the molecular structures of items around her. However, she hadn't made any attempt to heal of any sort. She didn't feel ready to test her powers against live flesh yet.

The dream walking was just an extension of the projecting and she found it even easier. She'd dream walked both Michael and Maria as test runs with no problems. She and Maria shared some tearful moments as they both related their current situations.

The mind-warping was more difficult for her. The required concentration level was high and with everything going on around her and currently in her life, she found it very tiresome. Also, she wondered if she held a mental block because it was one of Tess' strongest abilities. She could only sustain it for a few seconds, enough to confuse Zan but not really trick him. He showed frustration at her inabilities in this area but she waved them away. She knew that she would do it in her own time.

They'd just started working on the energy fields during the morning of the fourth day of the blizzard. They'd been unable to go outside except for brief excursions to the outhouse. Each time, Zan would have to power his way through the five to six foot snowdrifts that appeared each morning and which occurred by the end of each day.

Zan explained the two different types of fields that he could create. Visually, they looked the same but each held a different function. The first, he explained, was a barrier that was virtually impenetrable. This one essentially created a wall to separate him and whatever he used it against. He pointed out that this was what he used when he had leapt from the top of the bluff. Liz mentally noted to herself that this was the one Max could call up at will.

The second was a wall that concealed Zan or whomever he held behind it. It was a method of camouflage that he could emit quickly and fool whatever or whomever stood in front of it. Different than a mind-warp, he didn't have to enter anyone's minds to create the illusion. As in the case with the black bear, which he wouldn't have been able to mind-warp due to the incompatibilities with their brain structures, it came in handy with wildlife and large groups of people. The disadvantage was he remained exposed to his sides and back as it only created the illusion to those standing directly in front of him.

Liz found she could easily call up the impenetrable wall but the camouflage was more difficult. Zan kept correcting her, saying that he could still see her though she was managing to distort her image somewhat. After working for about an hour, Zan finally told her that they had to stop because of the headache caused by looking at her warped image.

Exhausted, they both flopped on the couch.

"Zan, it seems that I am getting more and more control. Does this mean that I don't need you any more? I mean, for safety sake?"

"No, you still need me to temper the energy. Yer movin' 'long quick-like, though. I'd say ya only need 'bout another week."

"Week?" Liz exclaimed. How could she sit in this cabin for that long?

"Don't worry none. Time'll fly by."

Defeated and worn out, she couldn't see how the time could 'fly by'. As interesting as it was to learn and grow her newfound powers, she missed the comfort of her home and familiar surroundings. Zan was becoming bearable but they still grated on each other's nerves. She didn't know if it was because of their strange relationship or because of the cabin fever they both were experiencing.

Shocking her, Zan bolted up and out of his chair. Standing tensely, he seemed to be looking beyond the walls of the cabin. Her heart suddenly in her throat, Liz watched him carefully, instantly on edge. She looked around them and peered outside though all she could see was white. Watching Zan intently, he looked as if he were in some kind of trance.

Just as quickly, he returned and whipped around to face her.

Fury lining his face, she watched as his hands clenched into fists.

"Get ready, sweets. Life is gonna get interestin'."

"What?" Liz cried when suddenly, Lonnie appeared before her, her eyes flashing menacingly.

**********

Max, Michael, Isabel, and Maria all sat in Max's cabin as they discussed different battle strategies. They'd fortified the cabins as well as they could. They hauled in food supplies and as well as many different survival items they could think of. Piles of first aid kits, rope, duct tape, shovels, gallon water jugs, and the like all lined the walls of each cabin. They'd secretly created adjoining doors so that they could pass from cabin to cabin without going outside. Back-up generators were also positioned in each room in case the electricity was cut. They'd lined the roofs with metal to avoid the possibility of fire being thrown from above.

They couldn't think of anything else physically to do so they were now discussing strategies in case of a full frontal attack, a lengthy siege or alien related scenarios Lonnie, Tess, and the Skins could throw their way. Liz had warned them that Zan felt Lonnie was getting nearer so they all were on edge waiting for the fight to come for them. They didn't question how they would find them - it really felt that this showdown was inevitable and to be honest, all of them, except for possibly Maria, were looking forward now to the confrontation. They were getting tired of being hounded and having to look over their backs, constantly on the look out for danger.

They could only wait for Liz's lead on when the enemy would arrive.

**********

Trying to maintain her composure, Liz rose from the couch and cautiously stood behind it. She knew that Lonnie's being here was only a projection but it didn't make it any less frightening for her.

"Zan." Lonnie slurred over his name with obvious venom. She wore tight black leather pants and a matching leather sleeveless top that left nothing to be revealed. It hugged her like a second skin.

"Yo." Liz watched as Zan's eyebrow twitched. She knew him well enough by now that he was boiling on the inside, seething to inflict some serious harm on this woman, his sister, standing in front of him.

"Gotcha a cozy crib, don'tcha? Real countrified 'n shit."

Zan didn't respond though the twitch in his eyebrow accelerated. Liz gripped the back of the couch tighter.

"Gotta say it ain't to my taste, but ya 'n me nevah did see eye to eye, did we?"

"Quit shootin' the shit, Lonnie."

She glared at him with such hatred that Liz took a step back. Lonnie's mere presence seemed to have chilled the warmth of the cabin. It became even icier when Lonnie's cold gaze landed on her.

"'Lo, mouse. Runnin' wit a different crowd, ain't we?" Liz didn't respond not knowing what to say to the woman of pure evil standing in front of her.

Lonnie sneered at her and then turned to face the fire. Exaggerating the movements of warming her hands against the heat, she turned and sat down on the stone hearth. Like in Roswell, she spread her legs indecently wide and rested her elbows on her knees while clasping her hands in front of her.

"I see dat we got a situation dat needs some reckonin'. Zan, my boy, we needs to come to some sort of an agreement heah."

Folding his arms in front of his chest, Zan said in a low voice, "I ain't yer boy."

"Nah, I s'pose ya ain't 'n ya nevah was, were ya? Not like Rath was but I guess that be history, eh?" Her eyes turned even icier. "Ya saw to dat real violent like."

"Ya come here to hash up old memories, Lonnie, or did yer puny brain already ferget yer purpose?"

"Listen, yer majesty, ya don't got da right no more to order me 'bout." Zan's eyebrow raised slightly and Lonnie noticed. "Ya didn't think ya could hide it forevah, did ya bro? Da truth always gets set free. 'Especially when ya got da likes of Ava's dupe on yer side. She's a clever bitch 'n she told me all 'bout yer little meetin' with Nascedo."

Liz's head snapped to Zan trying to fathom the direction of this confusing conversation. The tension in the room was so thick it felt like one little misstep could send the balance careening one way or the other.

But Nascedo saw Zan? What was Lonnie talking about? Looking for answers in Zan's direction, however, proved fruitless. He gave no indication that he even heard what Lonnie had just said.

Liz's questioning glance didn't go unnoticed by Lonnie, though. She jumped on it like a cat.

"So, dearest bro didn't tell ya 'bout Nascedo, eh? So, mouse, whatya think 'bout livin' it up wit da king now?"

"Enough!" Zan roared. Both women flinched from the intensity of the volume. It seemed to reverberate from each of the walls. Liz had never seen him so close to violence. It scared her.

Lonnie recovered quickly, though, and attacked with venom. "Don't ya go screamin' at me, brother." The name slid derisively off her tongue. "I ain't yer slave no more. I got my own army 'n yer gonna pay fer what ya did." Lonnie looked like she was going to come apart at the edges she was so full of rage. She leapt to her feet and pointed an accusatory finger at Zan. "Ya thought ya could get away wit it, huh? Ya was good, I'll give ya dat. Ya hid da truth so well dat none of us evah suspected. How could we? Ya had us runnin' 'round in circles, chasin' our tails all da time. Lookin' back, I see why now." She took a step towards Zan. "Tell me, yer majesty, would ya have evah told us? Or wouldya have left us in da trash while yer jetted on yer sweet way?"

Zan lifted his chin and looked down on her condescendingly. "I was gonna let ya rot."

Liz watched as Lonnie's face turned red with rage. Zan hadn't been kidding when he said that Lonnie was crazy. With every approaching minute, she looked like she was about to crack.

Zan held his ground. "Lonnie, just tell me why yer here 'n get it ovah wit. Dis is tirin' shit, rehashin' old ground."

"Yer goin' down, Zan. You and dat punk Max. Yer all gonna burn 'n den I get my ticket home." She whirled on Liz. "I'm gonna have fun watchin' ya scream as I rip yer heart out while yer king watches."

Zan moved so fast that Liz didn't even have time to blink. One minute he was standing over by the front window and the next, he was blocking the way between Lonnie and herself. His arms no longer crossed against his chest, she watched as the cords of muscle knotted in his forearms and biceps.

"Lonnie, yer already on my list. Ya touch her 'n I promise that ya will scream every last minute of yer miserable life." His presence again seemed to fill the room. "Ya hear me, sister? Right down to yer last breath, I'll make sure dat ya feel da pain Shandra did ten-fold."

Lonnie took a step back. Liz noticed that she actually had spittle hanging from her lip. Her eyes leaped between her and Zan, crazily trying to keep both of them within her line of sight.

"Protectin' yer bitches again, eh, Zan? It ain't gonna help not wit da hell I'm bringin' yer way." She laughed hysterically. "Not like it evah helped."

Then, as suddenly as she had appeared, she was gone.

**********

Shaking, Liz crossed to the chair and slowly slid into it. Zan continued to stand in the middle of the room again seemingly in a trance. Not sure what she wanted to say anyway, she decided to wait until he came back from wherever he was.

After a minute or two, he finally relaxed and shook his head. Ignoring her, he slowly walked over to the kitchen table and picked up his pack of cigarettes. Lighting one, he inhaled deeply and then slowly let the smoke escape his lips. He looked out the whitewashed window seemingly unaware that he couldn't see outside.

Unable to remain quiet any longer, Liz called his name softly.

He turned wearily and then walked back to the living area.

"A'right. I know ya got twenty questions. Fire away."

She wasted no time. "What did Nascedo come to see you about?"

"He wanted me to turn on the Royal three in Roswell. Our set of dupes were the back ups in case the Royal four didn't make it. But we was never meant to step in before da other ones." He sat down heavily on the couch and then took another drag on the cigarette. "Nascedo had other plans. He cornered me one day 'bout two years ago and laid it all out on da table. He explained the whole deal with Khivar and Tess' role in the deception. He wanted to deal me in. At the time, it sounded like a sweet thing. So I took 'im up on it."

Liz was confused. Zan worked with Nascedo? Then he was their enemy.

"But why? Aren't you supposed to protect Max? How could you go against him?"

"See - dat's the thing. Nascedo didn't know about that programmin' I had inside of me. Apparently, the high 'n mighties up on Antar didn't share that piece of information with him. Not even Lonnie, Rath, or Ava knew. And I sure as hell kept my meetin' with Nascedo on the side."

"But you just said that you joined forces with Nascedo."

"I said I took 'im up on it. I didn't tell 'im everythin'." He took another long drag and then leaned forward resting his elbows on his knees. His demeanor, though stern, seemed almost child-like in a beseeching way. "Ya gotta understand somethin'. I hate this alien shit. Ders nothin' I want more than to get outta this situation. I don't want none of dis responsibility. I knew 'bout Max long before Nascedo and I hated 'im - I hated 'im 'cause he was da reason I couldn't just turn my back and jet. Our link - dis programmin' - forces me to keep playin' in dis game."

He slumped back in the couch but maintained his eye contact with her. Liz realized that what he was saying must be difficult for him.

He continued softly. "It's all messed up like. I hate 'im but at da same time I got to be loyal. When Nascedo approached me in da sewers, I thought it was a killer deal. Max would be out of da picture 'n I could get on wit my life but I couldn't get dis shit outta my head." He tapped his head for emphasis and then took another drag on his cigarette and looked away. "Unfortunately, I didn't completely understand what Nascedo wanted and the next thing I know, things got completely out of control."

Confused, Liz looked closely at him. "What do you mean?"

"Well, after Lonnie's visit here, you 'n me are in some shit load of trouble."

"They're going to come after us?" Liz asked in a small voice.

"Yeah."

"I thought their main focus was to kill the king. Isn't it?"

"Yeah."

"I don't understand. Lonnie wants to kill you and they want the king dead? Aren't you afraid for Max?"

"Nope." Zan raised his head and gave her a penetrating look.

"But…"

"C'mon, baby. Ya can figure dis out. Connect da pieces."

Suddenly, it dawned on her. Lonnie's references. His strength.

"Oh, my god." She sat straight up in the chair. "Max isn't the king. You are."

Zan smiled tiredly and took another heavy drag on his cigarette.

"Da one and only."

**********

Liz stood up and began pacing. "But you said the original set were in Roswell. You said that you were the back up. How can this be?"

"Nascedo."

Liz stopped pacing and faced him with a questioning look.

He sighed. "I told ya that Nascedo came to visit. Max and me are dupes. We're one in da same. Dat means I got da royal seal implanted in my brain too." He put out his cigarette. "When Nascedo offered me a chance to get outta dis mess, I jumped at it. I didn't ask fer no details. Da next thing I know, Nascedo's unlockin' me."

"Unlocking?"

"Me and Max are da king. 'Cause we're da king, we got everythin' - I mean all of da powers. That's part of da bloodline - we was bred to have more strength and abilities den those 'round us. A perk to da job, if ya will." He smiled wryly. "Only ya got to have someone release 'em."

"So Nascedo had this ability?"

"Obviously."

Liz shook her finger at him. "Get off my back. You just threw a bombshell in my lap and I'm just trying to keep up."

Zan threw his hands up in the air. "A'right. Peace." He looked up at her and said, "Can ya sit down, at least? I'm gettin' dizzy watchin' ya."

She reluctantly sat down but gave him a hard stare.

"So, this unlocking procedure, it gives you the birthright, then?"

"Yeah."

"What does this mean to Max? You said that he is the original and you weren't supposed to step into his place."

"Baby, I don't want it. Like I said, I just want out. Even if I wanted to, I can't keep goin' on like this. I was given the birthright but I'm still tied to Max. He can have all of it."

Liz looked at him with raised eyebrows. "You have all of this power and you will just willingly give it up?"

He sighed heavily. Liz noted that he looked worn and tired. When he spoke, she had to lean forward to catch his words. "I'm wearin' da wrong shoes. My whole life has been manufactured and I ain't got no say in what's happenin'. Dis ain't da path I was supposed to take."

Liz let the moment linger before asking her next question. He suddenly seemed defeated and she felt a tug at her heart. None of them had asked for this, Zan especially. She asked quietly, "Then how are you going to give this over to Max? What do we have to do?"

He swung his head tiredly in her direction. "Only one of can be unlocked at one time. Fer Max to take over, we need to migrate the birthright. Like Nascedo, we need a third party to do it." He paused and looked straight into her eyes. "'Cause Max healed you, yer da only one who has da strength and abilities. It's gotta be you."
posted on 10-Apr-2002 10:03:36 PM
Gosh, I'm feeling so bad right now. I am again on a road trip and I'm so tired that I can barely think. I don't have the next chapter completely finished yet even though I promised it for today.

I have so much to say to the feeback (I'm flattered, really) - expect detailed responses from me to those who have contributed their opinions!

As for the next part, let's say look for it this weekend.

As a side note, doesn't everybody miss Pinky Banana's "A Dupe Jones"? I have seen a new part in so long and that was one of my favorite fics.

Though I'm not posting a part today, Zan has been running through my head constantly - he's become almost a real person to me. How 'bout you guys???

Take it easy and I'll be back!

AweInspired
posted on 14-Apr-2002 5:02:03 PM
Hey, there!!

I just wanted to let everyone know that I will have the next part up tonight!

I'll also respond to your generous feedback.

AweInspired
posted on 14-Apr-2002 8:43:13 PM
Hello, all! I'm back and should be in town for the next month - that means more regular updates. First, here are some answers to your questions.


zannyb: "...I don't think Liz loves Max as much as she claims because she can't accept him back after the way he betrayed her (and rightfully so)...."

This is a tough statement because though I don't believe in revenge sex, I also believe that someone can be so hurt that no matter how much you love them, you can't immediately accept it. I think that you have to have a growth period in order to come to terms with it.

EraserRoom: "...Max's logic is...interesting. But no way will two wrongs make a right in this situation. IMHO, Max believed that Liz slept with Kyle and he got past it. It took a long time, but you know he wanted to be with her. If Liz can't do the same...well that says a lot about her feelings for him..."

Again, my response is along the same lines as with zannyb. I totally agree about the two wrongs not making a right though you may not believe me after the next chapter.

Mary N OO8: "..., I love the tension that is growing between Zan and Liz. However, I don't see Liz being the type to give into those feelings. For one she knows how much more complicated it would make things between herself and Max..."

I think that you're right - it's not in Liz to lose control but I would like to see her do it a bit. All of the other characters have been allowed to slip up and be selfish except for her so I would like her to have some fun.

mpls muse: "...I'm totally not opposed to Liz sleeping with Zan first - as long as Zan finds love w/someone else. I just like him so much and wouldn't want to see him hurt when Liz goes back to Max...."

Ah, mpls muse, you have hit on a sore spot in my decision to take this story in a certain direction. You ask a very good question: If Liz ends up with Max, what will happen to Zan? I think of Zan as a very tragically flawed character and will treat him as such. Hope I don't disappoint!

Strawbehrry Shortcake: "...Are you going to include Kyle in this also?? Max's connection to Kyle was different, so he may not get powers, but shouldn't he be with the others?? I know the skins threatened the girls and Jesse, but he is also apart of this!!..."

You have brought up a partial flaw in my story. I have excluded Kyle and Jesse from possible targets. After writing a few chapters, I realized this and didn't know quite how to write them in. So you are right!! Perhaps I'll still find a way to deal with it.

Watcher Tara: "...Has Liz contacted anyone other than Max? You'd think Maria would want to be around for a Liz update. Could Liz connect with any one other than Max?..."

Thanks for stopping by!! I'm a big fan of your writing. As you have probably have already read, she dreamwalked both Michael and Maria. I haven't elaborated much on this though you are probably right - Liz would want to contact her friend more that I have written. I will probably include that in a future update.

Thaea: Brand of cigarettes - I totally seem him smoking Reds too. Nothing but the harshest for our boy.

Cinder: Thanks for the bumps!

And to everyone else, your feedback is greatly appreciated. It really means a lot. Many of you have questions regarding the unlocking procedure and how it will be transferred. These questions will hopefully be answered in the chapters following this one.

Also, I have lied to you. I said that I wouldn't take the physical relationship very far with Zan and Liz but I feel now that I need to.

Note that the next chapter is NC-17.

**********

CHAPTER 14

"No."

"Whataya mean 'no'?"

"I mean what I mean. No." Liz's voice remained flat. She stood up from the chair and stood over Zan. "No," she repeated. She then walked over to the kitchen area and calmly began doing the sparse dirty dishes left over from earlier that morning.

Zan rose from the couch, some of his old energy returning and stalked into the kitchen. "You can't say no, sweets." His use of the semi-endearment never sounded so snide. His hackles were raised and the sneer on his face clearly showed his anger.

"Yes I can."

"I didn't spend all dis time wit ya in order to get da boot now." Placing his hands on his hips, he stood rigidly, directly behind Liz. She continued to ignore him and went about rinsing the already clean dishes.

Frustrated, Zan reached out and grabbed Liz's shoulder and forcefully swung her around. Immediately, a green field erupted between them just a hairs breadth after splats of soapsuds hit his face from Liz's swinging hand. The field hovered between them, sparkling intensely. Liz's hand, held protectively in front of her, wavered slightly. Zan took a step back with an angry frown slowly forming on his face.

"Don't pull dat shit on me."

"Why not, you kingness? You taught me how to do it. As you can see, you did a good job." Liz's voice rose in volume. "You son of a bitch. This whole time I thought you had me here 'cause you were somewhat concerned with my safety. Only, I find out that you needed me desperately to 'unlock' you. Talk about feeling like a dupe. I actually thought you and I were making a connection."

Zan took an aggressive step towards her, trying to intimidate her to drop her shield. She took a half step back in order to brace herself and the shield glowed even brighter. "You used me." This statement wavered slightly from her lips. Though said in anger, it also contained a thread of vulnerability.

"Everyone uses each other, sweets. That's the name of the game."

"Not everyone, Zan. Some of us try to be good and compassionate about the people around us - human or alien."

Zan scoffed. Scratching the back of his head with his right hand, he peered up at her from slightly lowered lids. "Ya mean yer not like me then, huh?"

Liz's lips trembled as she slowly shook her head from side to side.

"So what's da deal wit da foreplay, eh?"

"What?"

"Foreplay, baby. You've been droolin' over me and takin' small treats of what I got to give ever since I picked yer ass up."

Incredulous, Liz gawked. "What are you talking about?"

Zan stood straight, arching his back slightly and crossed his arms in front of him. "I'm talkin' 'bout yer stolen glances and yer little play actin' in da sauna."

"I didn't do that; you did. You came on to me." Liz's lips began to tremble both from the strain of holding the shield up and the difficulty of listening to what he was saying. In the back of her mind, she guessed where he was leading and she didn't want to hear it, because if she heard it aloud, then it would become real. She dropped the shield quickly and shouldered past Zan, knocking him roughly to the side. Taking quick, large steps towards the door, she reached for her coat hanging on the peg next to the door. All she wanted to do now was escape.

She froze though when she felt his warm, moist breath on the back of her neck.

"I may have been da one in motion but you sure as hell wasn't. Ya coulda stopped me at any moment. Ya wanted it. Ya needed it. What I can't figure out is… Did ya want it 'cause ya haven't gotten it in so long 'n yer body is achin' fer it or..," He pressed his body full against her back. The hardness of his muscles molded around the contour of her back. Squeezing her eyes tight, she shook her head. Zan leaned further and nipped roughly at her ear. "…or maybe it's 'cause ya want me as ammunition against Maxie boy." Liz shuddered, unable to peel away from the man standing behind her. This was what she didn't want voiced. He swung slowly around the back of her neck and nipped hard at her other ear. She flinched this time as the pain flared hot. "Either way, ya usin' me to get what ya want. Admit it, baby. Yer no better den me in dat department."

She held her breath and slowly turned around. Tilting her head and looking up into Zan's intense stare, she put her hand on his chest and leaned into him. Zan's eyes only widened slightly as she thrust her body up against his. His hard body never even wavered from the force. If anything, he ground closer to her.

Liz looked him directly in the eye before saying almost tenderly, "Zan, I will never be like you. I don't ever want to be like you." Then her expression turned to ice. "And don't think that you can take advantage of me in any way. As for this moment that we're sharing?" She scratched her fingernails against his chest seductively. "It's over."

Zan's body flew backward and slid roughly along the floor. A muffled grunt slipped through his lips as his back hit the small wall separating the kitchen from the rest of the living area.

Satisfied, Liz turned around and opened the door only to find Zan standing knee deep in snow on the other side. Startled, she took a quick look behind her and the space where Zan's body had lain just a moment before was empty. Looking back at him, she felt a moment of fear at the hot glare in Zan's eyes.

"You ain't goin' nowhere." The statement rumbled from deep in his chest. He raised his hand between them and Liz felt herself lift from her feet and fly backward until she hid hard against the wall in the kitchen. Looking down, she saw her feet dangling six inches above the floor. She tried to move her arms and legs but she was pinned to the wall by the force of Zan's will. He walked into the cabin and slammed the door behind him. Moving so quickly that his motion created a blur of color, he suddenly stood right before her.

"I'm da man here - ya 'member dat." His voice was low and continued to rumble from deep within him. Liz felt fear but only for a moment. She stared at his blazing eyes and was hit with a sense of wonderment. Zan was scared. He was scared that she would leave him and force him to resume the awful situation he had put himself in. If she didn't help him to transfer the kingship on to Max, he was trapped forever. The violence he was currently exhibiting was only bravado to intimidate her to stay.

This revelation spurred her into action. He may be 'da man' but she had the ultimate control now and she was not without her own tricks.

Unable to do anything except move her head, she cocked it to the side and gave him a sly grin. "Da man, eh Zan? I'm not so sure about that." She looked him up and down slowly, raking his body with her steady glare. "You don't seem to be all that, not like Max." She could see the fury invade his face like a storm. She continued to goad him. "After all, Max is the real king. You're just his replacement." She watched as his upper lip curled into a sneer and he began to raise his hand. Then she made her move.

Zan's body ached from the anger that welled up inside him. He wanted to hurt the woman suspended before him. He wanted to break her spirit and make her tremble. Her rebellion goaded him and triggered the one insecurity he recognized within himself. He had to put a stop to this right here and now. He raised his hand and then… she disappeared right before him.

Confused, he relaxed his energy and whirled around looking for her. He spied her standing over by the window with an evil smile spread across her lips. In a rage, he lunged for her and found himself grasping at thin air. It was an illusion. Realizing his mistake, he looked behind him.

After he fell for her simple mind-warp, Liz felt herself slowly slide down the wall until her feet touched the ground. His hold over her gone, she projected an image of herself by the window and then tiptoed until she was standing right behind him. When he turned, she placed her hand on his chest and created a field of energy that surrounded him in a tight bubble. The green field shimmered and danced as it wrapped itself around him until he was barely able to move within its narrow confines.

Satisfied, she crossed her arms in front of her and cocked her head to the side. Her long, flowing brown hair cascaded over her shoulder. She watched with amusement as Zan tried to force his way out of the barrier without success. When he finally turned his attention towards her, she chuckled. "Stuck, eh? Having a hard time?" She walked around him in a circle to admire his immobility. Returning to face him, she said, "Can't get out? Too bad. Now you're trapped just like I have been for the last week. Doesn't feel too good, does it?" She watched as Zan's lips moved but she couldn't hear any sound. Seeing his frustration, she only laughed. She wouldn't help him.

But perhaps he deserved payment for some of his earlier 'punishments'.

Closing the space between them, she lowered her eyelids slightly. Waving her hand in a broad motion, the field shimmered and faded from view. She watched as Zan tried to move again but realized that though the field was gone, his immobility became even more strict. The only thing he could move were his eyes as he followed her actions. Anger stilled burned bright within their dark depths and this sight satisfied her even more.

"See Zan? You've taught me well. I've learned how to use many of the powers you've shown me." Stepping closer until there was only an inch between their bodies, she continued in a huskier voice. "There are other things that you have taught me also."

She reached a confident hand up and cupped his face. His eyes followed every movement. Tenderly, she stroked his face and lightly brushed her thumb across his lips teasingly. She watched as Zan's lids closed for a brief moment and then reopen with a different emotion peeking from their depths. She read an angry resignation and it spurred her further.

Using both hands, she traced his jaw line and slid her palms slowly until they circled his neck. Slightly increasing the pressure, she enjoyed watching Zan's eyebrow twitch for an uncomfortable moment. Her hands continued down and gently brushed the tops of his shoulders.

"This just won't do - not at all." She waved her hand again, and the ragged black t-shirt dissolved from his body. He stood before her in faded, baggy blue jeans that hung low on his hips. His chest heaved as he took deep breaths. She could tell that he was still fighting her shield but she wondered now whether his deep gulps for air could be related to only that. She found her own breaths quicken and she reminded herself that this was payback for his awful treatment of her.

She took note again of the rough tattoos, the nipple piercing, and the mysterious trail of hair that disappeared beneath the rim of his jeans. Unconsciously, she touched his bulging pecs and they leapt beneath her fingertips. She ran her fingers teasingly across his body, creating tender trails that made his skin jump beneath them. His golden skin began to take on a shine from the stress of what he was going through. Her fingers slipped lower and she traced the path of the faint patch of hair down to the button of his jeans. She dipped her index finger behind the button and Zan's stomach tightened, allowing her further access. Liz simply tugged on the button teasingly and then raised her eyes to his.

"Do you like that, your majesty?" Surprising herself, her voice came out raspy.

Because of the field, she couldn't read his face but his eyes were fierce and they stared at her hard. Definite moisture now clung to his brow.

She lowered her eyes to the vulnerable spot directly behind his right ear. Pressing her hands flat against his chest, she reached up on her tiptoes and breathed lightly in his ear. Darting her tongue out, she traced a small path around his earlobe and then bit hard. She continued her rough nibbling up his ear while her hands kneaded his chest. Feeling metal beneath her palms, she zeroed in on the dangling rings and gave them a soft tug while she sucked lightly on the earlobe she damaged before.

Leaning back to catch her breath, she lowered herself on her heels. Zan's ear flamed from her ministrations. Smiling smugly, she looked back up at him. Flicking both of his nipples at the same time, she whispered, "So how does it feel, huh? How does it feel to be teased and tortured?"

"Nothin' like what's goin' happen' next, sweets." Jumping back, she saw Zan's smirking smile. "Yer just a beginner, honey, and gotta pay closer attention if yer gonna hold me down fer long."

She tried to raise her hand in front of her but Zan pushed it away roughly. He grabbed both of her wrists and cocked his head to the side. With a hungry grin, he said "My turn."

Liz found herself pinned against the wall in the same fashion as before except that her arms were raised above her head. She struggled but couldn't move anything beyond her head.

Zan's gleaming body swaggered slowly towards her. "So I ain't all dat, eh? I don't rate very high on da Max scale? Well, I got sumptin' to tell ya." He leaned forward until she could feel his breath push slightly against her lips. "I got my own scale."

Liz trembled. She was playing a dangerous game right now and felt like she was playing it blind. She didn't know how to win but she was beyond caring at the moment. She was playing for two reasons. One, to get the best of Zan though she now didn't know quite how to do that, and two, because Zan did raise the heat in her body to violent levels. The attraction between the two of them was different than between her and Max. She shared love, intense passion, and security with Max and while almost violent and angry passion surged between her and Zan. Both connections were intensely strong but in such different ways. She didn't love Zan but for some reason, at this moment, it didn't stop her from wanting him. In a way, she was curious to see how far the two of them would go until a winner was declared. In the middle of this heated moment, she really wanted to play the game until the end.

He paced slightly before her trying to decide what to do next. Whirling suddenly, he took a step to the counter and grabbed his cigarettes. This girl got his temperature boiling and he had to calm down a bit. Taking a drag, he walked back to her and dangled the cigarette from his twitching fingers. He watched her expression and knew that she was daring him to do something. Well, he was never one to leave an unsatisfied customer.

Standing in front of her, he took in her blazing eyes and trembling body. "Honey, I'm goin' to show ya somethin' that Max never can. Yer gonna get a lil taste a heaven 'n when I'm done wit ya, all dat will be left is a puddle."

Liz laughed and said, "I'd like to see you try."

Inhaling on his cigarette, Zan slowly blew the smoke away. "As ya wish."

He hitched his jeans up higher on his hips, took one last drag and then stubbed out his cigarette. He studied her for a moment hanging helplessly against the wall. He tugged on his slightly aching ear as he took in her current clothing situation. She wore a tailored black button down shirt that, because she was stretched out against the wall, rose high above her low cut button-fly jeans. Her soft, flat stomach heaved as she struggled under his power. It looked inviting but he decided to get to that part later.

He reached up and flicked her chin. She shook her head angrily and continued to glare at him. He laughed softly and then took one finger and trailed down her throat, down her chest until he hit the first button on her shirt. Using his powers, the button slowly slid undone. Continuing downward, he pressed a bit harder against the tender skin between her breasts until he got to the next button. He smirked and said, "I gotta even the playin' field, dontcha think?" As emphasis, the next button popped open.

Liz just glared but didn't reply. He traveled down to the next button and slowly popped that one open also. He did the remaining three buttons in rapid succession, startling Liz slightly. The flaps of her shirt hung loosely open revealing the lacey black bra underneath. At the sight of it, Zan felt his body temperature raise a notch.

He grabbed each side of her firmly, his thumbs almost meeting in the middle of her stomach. Liz felt tingling along her skin at every inch of contact and shivered. He squeezed gently and then rubbed his thumbs up and down her rib cage. He leaned forward until his face was only a couple of inches from hers.

"Is this what ya wanted?" Liz held her breath but didn't answer him. He tilted his head slightly and moved closer until his lips were merely millimeters from hers. He removed his right hand from her side and roughly cupped her head. His thumb firmly pressed into her cheek as he forced her head to the side. "I asked ya a question, sweets. Do ya want what I got to give?"

Liz, overcome with his presence so close to her, could only whisper one thing. "Yes."

His lips bore down on hers hard and demanding. If she had any pretenses about him being gentle, they immediately flew out the window. He ground into her, forcing her mouth to open more as he took what he wanted. She pushed against him determined to give back what he dished out. His lips seemed to everywhere at once, intermittedly sucking and biting causing minute flashes of pain to sear across her mouth. She returned the violent kiss in kind, taking his bottom lip between her teeth and stretching it until he jerked away and bore down her again. His tongue invaded her mouth searchingly and she followed his lead. Pushing the initiative, she forcefully pounded her mouth against his and his head eventually gave ground to her advance so that she was careening her neck forward.

Removing his lips, he then pinned her head back to the wall with his hand and roughly turned it to the side exposing her neck. She grunted as she fought against him but he held her firmly. His lips ravished her neck, traveling up and down varying his plundering with nips, wet kisses, and hard suction. She gasped with both pleasure and pain knowing that he would be leaving black and blue marks when it was all over and done with.

He bit along her collarbone while he stroked her face with his thumb. She turned her face into his hand and took his thumb into her mouth. She sucked hard on it and heard him moan loudly. His thumb hooked on her bottom teeth, forced her mouth open and then leaving her bruised shoulder, raided her mouth again.

His left hand, still gripping her side traveled up underneath her flapping shirt and his thumb grazed her nipple through the lacy fabric. Shock waves ran through her body from the brief touch and she would have bucked if she weren't pinned against the wall. Being unable to release some of the more violent emotions running through her body, they built up tremendously, like waves of fire flowing right beneath her skin.

Meanwhile, Zan's hands crept to her armpits, gripping her and lifting her slightly against the wall. He buried his face against her chest and his wiry bristles scraped her almost raw. He nosed away the flaps of her shirt until her breasts lay exposed to him beneath the lacy fabric.

He planted a hot kiss between her breasts and then bit at the clasp directly in front of him. Realizing that in his concentration, he had let up on the power holding her against the wall, she pushed with all of her might. She forced him away from the wall and she fell to her feet in a crouch.

She powered him across the kitchen, him fighting every inch of the way until his back hit the cold door. She pressed her body against his and raked her nails up and down his arms. Gripping his arms and forcing them back, she bit at his neck and shoulders determined to leave the same burning marks on his skin as he had done. Attacking him with all of the suppressed anger and passion contained in her body, she bruised and tore the top layers of his skin. She then lowered her ravishing to his left piercing and, sucking it into her mouth, she bit. She heard him groan either from pleasure or pain. She left his nipple and trailed down, planting wet kisses along the top of his jeans. Zan groaned again and then grabbed her by the shoulders, pushing her slightly away. He lifted her then, and placed her on the old kitchen table. Using his hand, he swept away the various articles and they crashed to the floor. He pushed her down flat on the table, allowing her legs to dangle over the edge and stood before her.

His golden skin gleamed with sweat and she could see how his muscles slightly trembled. At that moment, she admired him. He looked confident and beyond sexy. Just to gaze at him, made her body burn in all of the right places. She could clearly see how aroused he was through the heavy material of his jeans. Knowing what lay beneath, she blushed slightly. She felt herself mentally opening up to him and on a subconscious level, knew that she was beginning to trust him.

Sensing the slight mood shift in her, he moved slower. He stepped to the side of the table and with a wave of his hand, her shirt disappeared. Tracing one finger down between her breasts to the top of her jeans, he only hesitated a moment before undoing the first button. She tensed a bit but he ignored it and moved to the next one. When all five were undone, he spread the flaps of her jeans wide. He then moved to the end of the table and pushed her knees open. Leaning over her, he planted rough kisses below her breasts and around her stomach. He teased at her navel and then moved to the top of her black underwear. His hot, wet breath sent shivers through her as he skipped across the sensitive skin. Then he grabbed the sides of her jeans and while he continued to ravish her, he tugged them off her hips, down her legs, until they pooled onto the floor.

The pace had definitely slowed and though it was not as frenzied as before, the tension was not any less. It became a slow burn as opposed to a raging fire. He slid his body up until he came face to face with her. His lips pressed firmly against hers without the bruising effect from before though it was still demanding. She kissed him back and wrapped her hands around his neck. When he started to pull back, she held him in place until she felt satisfied and then finally released him. He smirked knowingly at her.

She felt his lean body at every point that it touched hers. He placed himself between her legs and she felt his hardness pressing against the sensitive spot between them. Almost unconsciously, she rubbed herself against him to relieve some of the ache between her legs. His hips dipped as he pressed himself more firmly against her. A small moan escaped her lips. Repeating his actions, Zan raised himself so that he held his weight on his hands. Slowly, his hips ground against hers until Liz squirmed.

Zan continued his movements as he dipped his head to her breast. Like before, he gripped the front hook with his teeth and twisted slightly. The clasp released and the fabric on both of her breasts slid slightly outwards. Even the scraping of the fabric against her sensitive nipples sent shivers through her body.

He nosed away the fabric from her right breast and placed wet kisses around it, moving slowly inward with each pass. He turned his cheek to her and rubbed the wiry hair against the tip and Liz's body jumped. Quickly he covered it with his hot mouth and the almost painful feeling fled and was replaced with a slight suction that both soothed and reached deep into her body, creating tingling sensations all the way down to her toes. She arched her back into his mouth and grasped his head on both sides.

Zan repeated himself with her left breast and Liz began to feel herself losing control. She kept her eyes closed tight and fairly grimaced with the strong feelings coursing through her. He cupped her other breast and she felt a warm tingling at his touch. She faintly realized that he was using his powers to enhance the feeling that he was inflicting on her body. The passion raged through her like a storm. She could only moan and squirm beneath him now, reduced to a pool of raging hormones.

"Zan, please," she whimpered.

He backed away a bit from her but continued to run his hands up and down her body, keeping the fire stoked within her. He slid his hand down her stomach and cupped her through her underwear. Liz bucked beneath his touch.

Are ya ready, sweets? he thought to her. His voice burned in her mind. She could only nod as her body began to tremble violently.

He applied gentle pressure to the area and alternating the strength of the pressure with each finger. Liz bucked again and felt the warmth gathering in her lower area. It burned hot and then began to slowly radiate outward across her abdomen. Zan sensed it and increased his pace dramatically. Liz felt the sudden tightness and then suddenly her orgasm exploded. Reality slipped away from her as she convulsed and with another movement from Zan's fingers, the fire burst through her body. It seared as it traveled and when it reached her head, she cried out and then the world went black.
posted on 18-Apr-2002 8:26:04 AM
Hello, there.

I just wanted to let you know that I will have another chapter up by tomorrow evening.

Take care everyone!

AweInspired
posted on 19-Apr-2002 11:16:36 PM
Here it is, as promised.

RoswellLady I thank you for your post and I'm glad that you enjoy the story so much. I hope the 'life issues' are not too difficult and that you are taking care of yourself.

To everyone else, I apologize for the awful ending. I have to admit, that I didn't think that it would affect everyone the way it did. The beginning of Chapter 15 probably isn't going to satisy you right away but I was missing Max.


CHAPTER 15

Max sat in the tattered comfy chair in the corner of his room. Liz was late again and he was worried. It was nearing midnight and he had been waiting for over three full hours. Several scenarios were running through his head at the moment. One, she was hurt. Somehow, in learning to use her powers, she had hurt herself. Two, Zan was preventing her somehow from contacting him. Perhaps he had decided to renege on their bargain. Max was still confused over Zan's insistence on bringing Liz into the situation. He knew only what Zan had told him, that he was the only one who could help her to come to grips with the burgeoning power within her. Max, however, wasn't sure that was the total story. First, he didn't even know whether Zan was telling the truth. Second, if Zan was telling the truth, there had to be more to the story than what Zan was letting on. Max knew enough that Zan would withhold information to suit his own purposes - his own agenda.

The last thought that kept racing through Max's head was the worst. He and Liz had not been doing well in their recent visits. He felt her love but the rift between them seemed to be growing each day. It was becoming an impassable chasm and he was nearly distraught over the thought of losing her. The most difficult part of this situation was that it was due to his own mistakes felt that no part of the growing tension between them was Liz's fault. However, he knew that just by admitting his guilt and recognizing the pain that he had caused would not heal the scar that had formed on their already blemished relationship. He struggled to think of some resolution but it always circled back to Liz and her own ability to come to terms with it. He would not force or coerce her into accepting him again. He knew that the only way for her to find the healing path back to him would be a personal journey. Unfortunately, in his mind, this path included the helping hands of his dupe.

Not knowing what happened on a daily basis within the confining walls of that cabin was the worst. On one hand, he didn't want to know. Ignorance of the situation partially soothed him. However, on the other hand, he burned to know if Liz's return to him involved Zan's involvement. If so, would Zan become a roadblock on her path back to him? What if she found herself more comforted in the arms of his twin?

Max grabbed both sides of his head and ground the heels of his hands into his temples. He berated himself silently. It would do no good to sit there and imagine what could happen. One thing that he had to keep in the front of his mind at all times was his trust in Liz. If there was any lesson to be learned from their shaky past, it was that Liz didn't falter and always took the needed actions to resolve a problem. He sorely wished that he could help her in some small way but knew that this wasn't his fight.

"Yo."

Startled from his thoughts, Max snapped his head up. Zan was leaning against the wall on the opposite side of the room.

"Zan," Max said calmly.

Zan simply nodded and exhaled a plume of smoke.

"Where's Liz?"

"Unable to come tonight… 'N before ya ask, she's fine."

Max slowly rose to his feet and squared off with his dupe. Zan had become a wildcard in his relationship with Liz and a possible rival. Surprisingly, though, once faced with him, Max didn't feel the burning anger and resentment he had feared would bubble within him. He felt only a sad resignation that this was a battle he couldn't fight and completely beyond his control.

He inspected Zan quietly, trying to see him as Liz might. She had protected him in subtle ways over their last few visits and though it grated on him, he'd never mentioned it. He tried to imagine some goodness in Zan yet the picture never materialized. Sighing, he ran his hand through his hair.

"Why can't she come?"

"What? No threats? Too bad. I was hopin' to rumble." Zan's words were cocky and taunting. Max didn't rise to the bait.

"I figure there's a good reason why she's not here. I have to trust that you are telling the truth that she is safe. Beyond that, I am curious as to why she didn't come in person." Max shuffled to the mirror hanging on the back of the door and peered at his reflection casually. He rubbed at the three day's worth of stubble lining his face and then turned back to Zan. "Can you tell me why?"

Zan seemed to consider his words carefully and then looked away. "Nah, it ain't my story to tell."

Max sighed again. "I'm losing her," he mumbled under his breath and then turned away once more.

Zan watched Max's back thoughtfully. He had arrived tonight intending to taunt Max into a confrontation but it was apparent that he wasn't going to take the bait. Zan quickly backpedaled and reconsidered his approach.

"What does it matter, man? Ya'll find another."

Max simply shook his head while keeping his back to Zan. He rubbed the back of his neck, unconsciously relieving the tension that had been building all night. This was one conversation he didn't want to have with his dupe.

"I mean it. Why ya got yerself all hooked on dis woman?"

After a long pause, Max finally turned around and faced him. Zan noticed the worry and tension lines that creased his face. Within the last few moments, Max seemed to have aged ten years.

"I love her."

"Yeah, and?"

Max huffed and then looked Zan directly in the eyes. "Do you know what that feels like? I don't know if you do or not, but for me, it means that she's all I think about. My goals in life are this: love Liz, protect Liz, comfort Liz, hold Liz. I want to be there every time she laughs. I want to experience every single tear. I want to smell her on my clothes. I want to see her every day of my life. I want to hear her sigh. I want to witness her pout. I want to experience her pain. I want to shield her from every hurt in the world." Max took a step forward and Zan watched as his face became more animated. "I want her. I want Liz. She makes me want these things - no one else. And the thing is, she wants exactly what I want. Everything that I want to do for her, she wants to do it back ten-fold. No matter how much I have to give to her, she has more to return." Max spread his arms in a large sweeping motion. "We fit together."

"But yet ya fucked Tess."

Max shook his head in resignation. "Yeah, I did. Not that I have to explain in detail, but it was a very confusing time for both of us and I made one of the largest mistakes in my life. But because I love her so much, I will do anything to make it right again. And because she loves me, she's willing to try."

"Why she would take yer sorry ass back is beyond me," Zan scoffed.

"That's what love is, Zan. At least, that is the love between Liz and myself. I don't know if we'll get through it but I believe in us. Even more than that, I believe in Liz."

Zan watched him thoughtfully for a few moments. "How is she ever gonna trust ya again, huh? How does she know dat the past won't be repeated?"

"One thing I've learned is that with all of the alien crap that has shrouded my life since birth, I am only human. I mean, I've got all of these super-human abilities, alien powers and the like, but at the core, I am human. I owe that discovery to her. Just because I'm part alien doesn't mean that I am perfect. I will continue to stumble along my path in life just like every single other person around me."

Zan frowned. Max's words whirled through his head. The concepts were so foreign to him that he couldn't attach any sort of understanding to them. He sensed that Max's confessions rang sincere and they tickled the back of his mind. He pushed them back, promising himself that he would sort through them later.

Shaking his head, he said, "Whatever, man. Ya deal wit it. But we got other shit to discuss." He took a final drag on his dying cigarette. "Lonnie visited our crib today. She's gettin' nearer 'n ya gotta get ready."

Alarmed, Max exclaimed, "Visited? What-"

"I mean she projected herself. Her 'n that bitch Tess are sniffin' us out like hound dogs. I suspect yer gonna have yer hands full within a few days or so."

"Any ideas on what we got to deal with?"

"I'm guessin' 'bout tweny of 'em all together. All skins 'cept our cheatin' ass family."

Max nodded absently. "OK. Well, we're as ready as possible." He looked up and peered closely at Zan. "You promised to take care of Liz. Are they any threat to the two of you?"

Zan looked darkly at him for a moment before replying slowly. "No, man. They're no threat."

Max hesitated for moment before deciding to continue. "OK. Then are you going to come and help us since you're my protector and all?"

Zan flicked his cigarette to the floor and replied brusquely. "Yo, if ya need me, I'll show up."

Max felt Zan's tension and his sudden decision to end the conversation. He watched him closely trying to decipher what was going on behind the angry face.

Zan noticed and defiantly stared back. Max only sighed in return and said, "Zan, tell her…" he trailed off slowly. Zan watched as Max's attention seemed to drift inward. He opened his mouth to say something when Max continued softly. "…Tell her that I missed her tonight. And…" Max paused again and looked Zan directly in the eye. "…take care of her."

Catching the multiple layers behind the open plea, Zan swallowed a smart comment back. He returned Max's look openly and understanding passed between them. He simply nodded.

Max caught Zan's recognition in his dark eyes and then, he was gone.

Max turned off the light and quietly slid onto the bed. The quiet and darkness surrounded him, which suited him just fine.

**********

Zan came back to himself in the cabin. He heard the last efforts of the dying storm knock against the windowpanes. The fire, banked low, crackled and spit as it hit knots full of pine pitch. One kerosene lamp burned low in the corner causing long shadows to stretch across the room.

From his position on the couch, he looked right and saw Liz sleeping peacefully in the bed. Images from their earlier tryst flashed across his memory and he smiled slightly. It had been a fierce battle between the two of them but he had finally broken her down. She'd acknowledged defeat the minute she had spread her legs wide and though in some remote corner of his consciousness he felt satisfaction of his win, for the most part he felt confused.

He had been playing his cards since the moment he picked her up at the rest stop. It had been a complicated game for him, one of the most difficult in his life, because every little action on his part had been calculated in order to achieve what he had today. Liz had been a difficult woman to gauge - she had layers of vulnerability mixed with steel and trying to chip through each one was wearing. Fortunately, for him, he had a lot of experience with different types of women so he had the knowledge to play his hand right. But, he thought to himself, it was a bittersweet victory. One he wasn't quite sure he was proud of, but a victory nonetheless.

He felt tired. He was juggling so many balls right now that even for someone of his extraordinary abilities, he had to remain sharp twenty-four-seven. If he even dropped one at this point, the whole situation would come crashing down around his ears and he couldn't let that happen. Too much was at stake. He reflected on the disastrous turn of events triggered by his meeting with Nascedo. Having been unlocked, he had a wealth of strength and powers that no one around him could match - not even Lonnie. With it, however, came demanding requirements. The protector encoding embedded in his brain remained a direct contradiction to the royal role. He couldn't be king and protect the should-have-been king at the same time.

His thoughts turned to Max. He still hated him with a passion. Max was the core of all of his problems and he felt cheated from the pseudo life he could have lived as a 'person' living in the shadows on Earth. If it wasn't for Max, he would have disappeared a long time ago and become a different person. Instead, however, he had lived more than ten years in a dirty pit with monsters for a family. Zan silently corrected himself - Ava hadn't been a monster but she sure as hell hadn't been a model companion.

While he had been spying on the Roswell three, his impression of the group from afar had been mixed. He'd assumed that they'd be soft and child-like in their alien roles. He'd been surprised, however, to see that they had experienced more battles than he'd originally thought. Though they were far from being experienced warriors, for that is what they needed to be if they wanted to survive, they were on the road to achieve that status. Zan had been most impressed with Rath - no, Michael. He'd seemed the most aware and ready to deal with the turbulent future they will definitely face. Of the three, Zan felt he could relate to him most.

Lonnie's dupe, Isabel, however, remained a slight mystery to him. He couldn't help but attach some of his hatred for Lonnie to her look-a-like though he now knew they were complete opposites. Isabel contained the strength but lacked the focus Michael had. She seemed able to ignore their ancestry, proving it by marrying a clueless human. But Zan had seen her step to the plate when the occasion arose so he figured she was not yet a lost cause.

Lastly, Max. Through his thick veil of hate towards him, Zan had watched Max's leadership capabilities with a sharp eye. Max seemed capable in most situations but some of the mistakes he had made had been almost inexcusable. Some of his decisions had put himself and the rest of the group in needless dangerous situations. Zan figured that Max needed to harden himself and stay focused. After Zan's stint with spying and his intermittent meetings with Max, he finally realized what was distracting Max to such a degree. That something was sleeping in his bed.

Now that he could take the time to contemplate Max's words from his recent visit, Zan stretched out and became more comfortable. He had to admit to himself that he hadn't understood the depths of Max and Liz's relationship. Unbeknownst to either the New York set or the Roswell set, he had made a few trips to Roswell in order to keep up to speed on Max's situation. He'd gone infrequently because the three were doing a good job of keeping their secret safe. Max especially had almost completely withdrawn himself from society and became a figurative fly on the wall. Zan had appreciated that because it made his job easier.

Actually, Zan had known about Liz for a very long time. In fact, he discovered Liz's existence at the same time he had discovered Max's. He thought back to the first time he had heard about her and grimaced. The meeting with the mysterious stranger had initially put him on this path and, along with his programming to protect the king, he had resented it. Zan's very core defined him as a person who chose his own actions and path in life and from almost the very beginning, he had lost control over it.

He glanced again at the sleeping figure. His resentment over his lost life had once been directed at Liz also but over the last few days, it had died to almost nothing. He had begun to realize that others, like him, didn't have a say in what was happening and had almost as little control as he did. He looked deep within himself to try and hate the woman in his bed but he just couldn't do it.

He rose from the couch and walked over to her. Sitting gently on the edge, he watched her as she slept. He was developing affection for her, which surprised him. She wasn't normally his type. Because of what he was forced to do, he couldn't allow himself to become attached in any way. Today's duel may have been perfectly planned and designed on his part, but many of his actions had come from deep within him. He had caught himself acting naturally instead of following through on his tightly crafted script.

Hesitating, he placed his hand on her hip. She'd overloaded today because of him. He'd been so intent on pleasuring her, to the point of even enhancing the feeling for her with his powers, that he'd forgotten she hadn't fully matured yet. In the heat of the moment, he'd released his barrier on the energy surging in her. That alone may not have triggered the situation but coupled with the alien enhanced helping hand he'd given her, it had been too much.

When she'd collapsed on the table, his heart had leapt to his throat. He'd immediately rushed to kneel by her head and scanned her body for injury. Discovering what had happened, he cursed himself soundly, gathered her up in his arms, and placed her in the bed. He had curled himself around her, just holding her tight to his body. He found himself not wanting to leave her side until he knew for sure that she was OK. After an hour, Liz had woken groggily and attempted to ask what happened. Zan only shushed her and then used his powers to make her sleep longer.

As he sat next to her now, Zan felt a moment of confusion on what he should do next. Until this afternoon, he had had no doubts about putting his plan in place. His experience with Liz and then with Max, however, was now making him falter. There were suddenly higher stakes than he had first imagined. Not just for Max and Liz but also for himself.

That scared him most of all.

**********

Liz awoke suddenly to the quiet of the cabin and sat up straight in bed. Early morning light filtered through the two windows. Disoriented for a moment, she looked wildly around her until her gaze fell upon Zan lying next to her. He watched her quietly, his expression unreadable. She jumped slightly. She was not used to waking up with Zan next to her. Every morning since they had come to the cabin, he'd always risen before her. Every night, with the exception of the first, she had gone to sleep before him. It didn't really feel like they were sharing the same bed.

She returned his gaze, chewing on her bottom lip, trying to decide what to do next. The previous day's activities were still vivid in her mind and she had to admit, she was fearful how Zan would treat her today. She had exposed herself to him, both emotionally and physically. Of the two, she was most uncomfortable with the emotional side. In their battle of wills, she had lost and she more than half expected him to gloat on it. Overall, she also felt vulnerable. Giving her body to someone was not something she had ever taken lightly and she felt afraid that he would demean the encounter and in the process, demean her. She didn't want to confront the possibility that she had made a mistake.

Watching him now, she couldn't fathom what he was thinking. She felt that he could go either way on her and she tensed with uncertainty.

Then she frowned. There had been meaning for her in yesterday's incident. She couldn't let him take that away from her. Their moments together would only become scandalous if she gave him permission to make her feel that way. The true meaning of it could be kept tight to her heart and beyond his power.

Uncertain of how to make the next move, she opened her mouth to speak but then closed it again. Zan continued to watch her and it made the already awkward situation even more tense. Why couldn't he at least say something? Why couldn't he make the first move as a small gift to her?

As if reading her thoughts, a small smile grew on his lips. She relaxed a bit and returned a similar smile back, even if it was more timid. Realizing suddenly that the quilt was pooled around her hips and that she remained exposed to Zan from the waist up, she blushed. She reached down, fumbling for the covers. Zan reached out slowly and stilled her shaking hands, firmly preventing her from getting a grip. He then covered her hand in his and brought it to his chest. Unsure, she didn't move.

"It's still early," Zan said softly. "No need to get up just yet."

Watching his face carefully, she still couldn't discern a specific emotion. She slid down beneath the covers, careful not to get too close to him and covered her torso with the quilt. She slowly retracted her arm and tucked it beneath her chin. Zan sat up a bit in the bed and used his pillow to support his back as he leaned against the headboard. He reached over to the nightstand and grabbed a cigarette. Fumbling for a lighter, he grunted impatiently and then proceeded to light the end of the cigarette with his finger. Liz had to smile at the E.T. like quality of the scene in front of her.

"E.T. could phone home, unlike us."

Realizing that her guard was down, Liz consciously slid the block in place so that she didn't send anything Zan's way. In the heat of the moment yesterday, she had let it down which had allowed him to communicate with her as he did. After everything that had happened, she hadn't thought about putting it back up again.

The memory of Zan's searing voice in her head sent fiery chills down her body.

"Wish ya coulda sent that thought my way. Musta been a good one." Zan smiled slightly and then took another drag on his cigarette and blew the smoke out of the corner of his mouth. He looked down on her with a bemused expression.

"What?" Liz couldn't help but ask.

"I won, ya know."

Liz only huffed. "Only because I let you."

"Don't matter. I still won."

Liz hesitated for a beat before taking a chance with her next words. "I don't know about that. I think I got the better end of the deal."

He chuckled. "Perhaps, but it was a helluva ride from my seat too."

Liz couldn't help but smile. It was a small admission on his part that he'd enjoyed the experience too and she relaxed. "Zan, what happened to me, you know, at the end?"

"I told you that you'd be a puddle when I was done with you," he said softly and winked at her. Then his expression became more serious. "It was my fault. I stopped controllin' the power levels inside your body and you became imbalanced at the end."

Liz had to smile. Unbalanced wasn't a strong enough word for what she experienced. Blacking out had almost been a relief from the amount of ecstasy that had burst through her body. It was one of those moments she would love to repeat even if it meant falling into a black abyss in the end every time.

"Well, no harm, no foul," she said teasingly.

Zan scowled slightly. "But there was harm. You're OK now but you coulda really been hurt - beyond my help, even."

Liz studied his profile closely as he sucked on the cigarette with more force. She realized that he had been really concerned about her. "But I'm here with no lasting injury so everything's OK."

He turned his head and looked at her. "It was my fault."

Liz had to laugh out loud. Here Zan was, showing insecurity! It was the first time since she had met him that he had willing shown her a weakness. It felt like she was in the Twilight Zone.

Zan's scowl deepened. "What's so hilarious?"

"You. You're worried about me almost getting hurt and all I can think about is when I get to have a repeat performance."

A grin slowly stole across his face and then he laughed out loud. "Yeah, well, I told you that all you had to do was take da test drive."

"But I didn't get to drive," she complained playfully.

"Baby, all you have to do is ask."

Feeling bold, Liz made a decision. She pushed the covers down and crawled to her knees. Zan watched her as he blew another plume of smoke from his nose. With the intense look on his face, she didn't feel uncomfortable being half naked in front of him. She crawled over and forced her way onto his lap. She straddled his legs so that she faced him directly. She placed a hand on his chest and asked in a sweet voice, "Sir, may I take control of this vehicle?"

Zan reached over and put out his cigarette before replying. "Depends. You got any tickets for reckless drivin'?"

"Not yet but there's always a first," Liz replied huskily. She leaned forward slowly and placed a gentle kiss on his lips. Zan responded in kind but made no attempt to interfere. His hands remained at his sides. She pulled back and was rewarded with a lopsided grin.

Encouraged, she repeated the kiss but with more intensity. She settled herself more comfortably in his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck. She pressed her naked chest against his and released a small moan into his mouth. Zan allowed her to set the pace and matched the intensity of each of her kisses.

She ground herself further against him. Her hand began to slip downward when the images began. They assaulted her senses, ten times more powerful than anything that she had ever experienced before. Pictures of New York City streets, distorted views of the subway system, noisy images of Lonnie washed over her. These weren't like anything that she had ever experienced before and seemed so foreign to her. Images from Max had always been of her and him. Max had always…

Liz gasped and pulled back from Zan. Fear and guilt flooded through her and for a moment she saw Max in front of her with a weary look on his face.

She couldn't help the name that escaped her lips in a moan. Max.

Instantly, she felt Zan stiffen. Focusing her eyes again, she caught a glimpse of hurt before fury eradicated it. She knew she was in trouble.

"Max?" he snarled. He grabbed her around the waist and easily flung her to the end of the bed. "No bitch never called 'nother man's name when in my bed." His eyes lashed her and she almost felt the physical whipping across her body. She wrapped her arms around her chest, trying to cover herself.

Zan flung the covers off and leaped out. He turned and stood over her, shaking with anger. "'Specially when it be a pussy's name who ain't got a clue."

The insult against Max raised her hackles. He could yell at her all he wanted but there was no way Zan was going to demean Max, especially when he wasn't here to defend himself. "You just shut the hell up about Max."

"Yeah? Dat man ain't got nothin' goin' on. He's a waste of space."

"I told you to be quiet! Max is ten times the man you are."

Zan lurched forward and grabbed the hair at the back of her head and yanked down, forcing her to look up at him. The muscles in her neck strained against the unnatural position. She looked fearfully up into his stormy eyes as her small fists beat helplessly against his body.

His words slid like venom from his lips. "Dontcha ever question my manhood again, ya got it? Not in my crib 'n 'specially not in my bed. Yer just a tool to me, somethin' fer me to use to get what I want." He yanked a bit harder and Liz couldn't help the small whimper of fear and pain that escaped. At her small cry, Zan stilled. Slowly, the anger left his face and a cold mask of nothing replaced it. He let go of her suddenly, took one last look and whirled away from her. He stalked towards the door and she watched as layers of clothing appeared with each step. By the time, his hand reached the doorknob, he was fully dressed including his heavy parka.

He turned slowly around and faced her. "I'll get what I want, I promise ya. This'll go all da way to da end. It's too late in da game." And then he was out the door.

Liz trembled on the bed, still clutching her chest. She heard the snowmobile start up with a roar and then the sound quickly faded in the distance. Getting up on shaky legs, she gathered her clothes and dressed. Going to the front door, she grabbed her heavy jacket and yanked on the handle. The cold air hit her warm face like a bucket of ice water. She sniffled slightly and then shook her head. He may have the snowmobile but there was no way she was going to stay here and wait for him. Even if she had to trudge through all of the snow, she'd get to the other side of the island and take the ferry back. Back to Max, Michael, Isabel, and Maria.

She stepped across the threshold and instantly knew that something was wrong but her momentum carried her forward. She smacked against an invisible wall that knocked her off her feet and back into the cabin. Standing, she reached forward and felt the energy field pulsing beneath her fingertips.

Stepping back, she lifted her hand and threw an energy blast at it and had to immediately duck as the blast ricocheted back into the cabin and destroyed one of the kitchen chairs. Her heart rate racing, she tried again but with the same results. This time, the entire table took the brunt of it and things went flying.

Yelling in anger, she turned to each of the widows and found the same results. Zan had put a field around the cabin, imprisoning her within. Since he was so much stronger than she, she couldn't manage to get past it. Furious, she turned her anger against a wall and blasted it until it was scorched and smoking.

Collapsing, she fell in a heap in the middle of the floor.

She was a prisoner.

She was Zan's prisoner.

Eventually, he would have to come back.

Eventually, she would have to face him.

She began to cry.
posted on 25-Apr-2002 8:47:17 AM
Hi, everyone!

Gosh, wonderful feedback!! My computer went on the blink and I almost lost the story. However, this means that I haven't had the resources to continue the story!

I've been going through serious withdrawal and even considered writing it out on paper - but my hands aren't conditioned anymore! Serious hand cramps, let me tell you.

So, this means that I will only be able to get an update out this weekend -- most likely on Sunday.

To the comments about how I have written Zan as being tough without a heart of gold... You know, I have never envisioned him in any other way. I always felt a bit disillusioned with other fics that had him falling or destined for Liz because it just didn't fit with the picture in my head.

However, Liz will definitely play a role in shaping him just as he will play a role in shaping her.

Many smiles - it's almost the weekend (kinda).

AweInspired
posted on 29-Apr-2002 8:40:17 AM
Unfortunately, the computer bugs have not been ironed out. I got my computer back but realized there were some problems so it's back with the IT department.

I apologize to everyone and promise that I will get the next part out as soon as possible!

AweInspired
posted on 6-May-2002 3:44:13 PM
Gosh, everything has blown up in the work and personal life arenas. Computer is up & running - we're now stylin'. However, I've had out of town visitors and have future travelling coming up. Since it will be in Europe, I don't know if I will have connection. Also, I will probably be out & about trying to take advantage of some sightseeing on a company trip.

I can't promise when I will have a new part for you all.

!! HOWEVER, I will make a promise - this fic WILL be completed. It's almost finished in my head - I just need to find some time and get it down on paper (um, I mean on the computer). !!

Many smiles and good cheer to all of you.

AweInspired
posted on 20-May-2002 3:29:01 PM
hi, again!

I'm still here!! I'm on the road again this week but I think that I will be able to have a part up by the end of this week.

Something for everyone to read over the holiday weekend!!

aweinspired
posted on 31-May-2002 12:17:17 PM
Oh, My. Yes, I am back and I apologize over and over and over... well, you get the idea.

I have had to travel so much for work that I haven't even been able to scoop out the dead fish that's apparently been floating in my fish tank for 2 weeks. Nasty stuff going on in my life, I tell you.

But I have finally found the time to give you a long awaited update. If I were you, I would be upset because now you are forced to read Chapter 15 all over just to catch up somewhat on the story line again. Well, again, I apologize profusely.

I submit this humbly and hope it meets your expectations. Many grins.


CHAPTER 16

"Maria."

She rolled over at the sound and buried her nose in the pillow.

"Maria." The call came a bit more insistently this time.
She groaned and waved her arm sleepily. "Leave me be. I gotta sleep."

"Maria, wake up."

Groaning louder, she flipped over on her back. "Ugh, this better be good, Isabel."

"Ria, it's Liz. Open your eyes."

Her eyes flew open then and sitting on the edge of the bed was Liz.

"Liz! Oh, my God!" She sat up quickly and dove forward to give her best friend a hug. Liz leaned into her just as forcefully, crushing her friend tightly to her. A few moments passed when Maria slowly released her.

"I don't understand. How did you get here? Oh, my God! Does Max know?" The words came out in the typical Maria rush and Liz smiled at the familiarity of her good friend. She held up her hand to slow Maria down and then reached for her fingers. Grasping them tightly, Liz felt calmer than she had in the last few hours.

"I'm not really here, Ria. I'm projecting myself from where Zan and I are staying."

"Oh." Maria's eyebrows crinkled and her lips formed a small frown. "That must be what Max talks about when you 'visit' him."

Liz sighed at Max's name and quietly agreed. Max. He was the next one she had to visit but she just had to get her equilibrium back first and so she had decided to visit her best friend because that's what best friends were for.

"Maria, I have so much to tell you and I don't really know where to begin." Liz looked down where she was grasping Maria's hand and realized that her knuckles had turned white. She slowly released the tension but refused to give up contact.

Maria frowned again, this time more deeply. Liz knew that she could read her like a book and the comfort and safety that came from that broke down her self control again. She threw herself forward and hugged Maria again and sobbed quietly. Maria rocked her gently and murmured small, encouraging sounds until Liz felt strong enough again to sit back and wipe her eyes furiously.

"Boy trouble."

Liz looked up through blurred eyes to see the serious expression on Maria's face. "Huh?"

"This must be about Max and Zan. Every time you visit Max he tells us you are safe and doing well. But Max hides his emotions badly and after that one summer, I've learned to see the 'all is not well with Liz and I' look on him."

Liz looked wonderingly at her while her mouth opened and closed silently.

Maria shook her head. "First things first. Are you healthy?"

Liz nodded.

"And your powers? All is well there?"

Liz nodded again.

"And Zan? Has he hurt you?"

Liz hesitated before shaking her head and looking down to her fingers clenching the bedspread.

"I assume we're on borrowed time here, right?" Liz nodded and opened her mouth to say something but Maria interrupted. "No, we don't have a lot of time and I know you. If we had to go through the regular routine of me trying to dig information out of you, then we'll never get through it." Maria pulled her legs up and sat Indian style straightening her posture. She suddenly seemed very professional and efficient. "I'm going to take a wild stab here and say that you are confused between Max and Zan."

Liz's mouth slowly hung open and felt that she could only nod dumbly.

"Right. You love Max. Max hurt you beyond belief. By the way, he caught us up on the sex but no baby thing. Still can't believe he could have been so irresponsible and-" She caught the look in Liz's eye and rushed on. "But that's in the past and we need to deal with the present. So, you're hurt, Max is feeling bad, you still love him and suddenly, you've got a rebel Max at your fingertips and he's got you all tied up in knots."

Again, the dumb nod.

"You're worried about how to repair things with Max while trying to juggle superhuman powers and a dark, spiky haired sex pistol all at the same time?"

Dumb nod.

"Not to mention that the hounds of hell are stalking us and are threatening our very existence. Is that a pretty good overview?"

Nod.

"OK. As you can see, I've had a lot of time on my hands to contemplate this very issue."

Liz finally managed to stutter. "How'd you guess about Zan?"

"Honey. You and Max are on the rocks. Zan is Max's dupe but with a touch of the wild side. You're alone and isolated in that cabin of yours - yes - Max told us about that, also." Maria paused and winked. "I just put myself in your shoes and along came the answer."

Liz could only stare.

"But the big question is, how to solve it. And this is where I need some participation from you because I don't got a clue," Maria finished unhappily.

Despite the topic, Liz smiled at her energetic friend. Life just became easier when sharing it with your best friend.

Maria smiled back but then became serious. "Do you like this guy?"

Liz sobered also and answered truthfully. "There are times when I am really attracted to him. There are times when I want to wring his neck. And there are times when he scares me."

"Liz! Has he hurt you?" Maria asked quickly.

Liz stared intently at her for a moment debating how much detail she wanted to give her friend. Deciding there just wasn't enough time, she replied, "Not really. But there is a really violent streak in him and he has shown moments of it to me. Also, he's kind of rough when, well, you know." Liz knew she ended lamely and by the look on Maria's face, knew she had to explain further. "He plays rough," she said intently. Maria looked puzzled for a moment and then a knowing look came across her face.

"Of course, I demand details-" and then at a look from Liz added quickly, "but I will waive my usual requirement until a better time and place."

Liz sighed unhappily.

"Liz, 'cause you're my friend and all, I have to ask this of you." Liz looked up at her expectantly. "Are you using him to get back at Max?"

Liz didn't even have to think on that one. "I don't know, Ria. I just don't know. There are times when I really feel something but there are others when I wonder 'What the hell am I doing?'"

"You should probably talk to both Max and Zan about it." Liz was already shaking her head quickly.

"I'm just not ready to do that yet. Besides, Zan isn't even here. He threw a tantrum, locked me in the cabin and ran away. I can't go anywhere. I've been sitting here for four hours and have no clue where he has gone. It's embarrassing but I can't even get to the bathroom!"

Maria watched as an angry flush rose on Liz's cheeks. She looked down and noticed sparks of energy leaping between Liz's fingers and held her breath. Liz noticed and looked down. Instantly, the sparks disappeared and Liz looked up guiltily. "I'm sorry. Sometimes I forget."

"Um, no problem. I just gotta get used to it is all."

Liz looked at Maria and said, "I just don't know what to do. I love Max. I can say that with a free heart and mean it with everything I have. But I hurt too. He hurt me. And Zan, he has just sparked something internally that I probably could have ignored under other circumstances. But now…" she trailed off sadly.

"Liz, I haven't been where you are but nobody would judge you if you wanted to explore this…" She groped for the right word. "…thing you have with Zan. I don't believe in revenge sex but if you need it for yourself before you can move on with Max, then you have to decide that on your own. You can't worry about how Max will feel about it. This is about you and dealing with the pain and frustration inside of you."

Liz looked at her thoughtfully for a moment and then brushed a strand of hair away from her face. "OK. You're right." She leaned forward and gave Maria a tight hug again. "Thanks again. What would I do without you?"

"Well, so many things pop into my mind…" They laughed together and then chatted about what was going on with Michael, Isabel, and Max before Liz felt her control draining away. On the spur of the moment, Liz quickly explained to Maria where Zan's cabin was located and got a solemn oath from her not to tell Max unless the situation became extreme. With a heartfelt goodbye, Liz told her to be safe and then broke the connection.

Back in the empty cabin, Liz took a deep breath and felt energized. She still wasn't sure what she was going to do but the way seemed brighter and held more options.

**********

Zan parked the snowmobile behind the cabin and slowly took off of his helmet. He shook his head furiously, as much as to loosen his matted down hair as to clear his thoughts. He'd spent ten hours away from the cabin, alternately riding the snowmobile and hiking and now it was dark. The exercise had helped to clear his head a little.

He felt so tired. Physically but also mentally. Trying to maintain tight control of the situation took so much energy and after this morning, it hit him like a Mack truck. He'd lost it this morning when he heard her murmur his name - no, not his name but the man he hated most. If he had been playing his cards right, he should have let it roll of his shoulders and ignore it. But the rage had surged through him and he hadn't been able to control his reaction. Jealousy was unfamiliar to him except when it came to Max Evans.

Max. The man who had all of the power of kingship. The man who got the easy end of the stick. The man who had a family and friends he could trust. The man in love with the girl inside.

Zan had hated Max Evans from the day he discovered he existed because he had what Zan secretly always wanted. A life.

The silent admission burned like a hot, burning stone in the bottom of his stomach. It sat there and caused his stomach to clench slightly, doubling him over the front of the snowmobile. He latched onto the handlebars tightly and grimaced. Zan hated weakness in himself and Max Evans was his weakest point.

Because of Max Evans, Liz Parker was now a part of his life. And he had hurt her physically today because he had lost his cool. He'd never done that with any woman. He didn't want to face what that meant. It made him feel even lower.

Throwing his head back, he roared at the stars. "Fuck you!" he screamed, the sound of his yell muffled by the recent heavy snowfall. Closing his eyes tight, he hung his head and whispered "Fuck you. I ain't doin' it."

For once, he doubted whether he had the strength to continue the plan.

**********

Liz heard the scream and stood to face the door. She hadn't been able to hear the words but they sounded like they were shouted in anger and not fear. Her heart racing, she waited but heard nothing else. The roar of the snowmobile had alerted her to Zan's return but the scream created images of him being attacked by Lonnie to skirt across the forefront of her mind. Not sure if the continuing silence was a good thing or not, she heard the stamp of feet at the door and then it slowly swung open. Zan stood in the dark, apparently alone and unhurt but hesitating at the entrance.

The shadows hid his face so she couldn't see his expression. It didn't really matter to her actually. She had decided hours ago how she was going to handle the out-of-control situation and his current state of mind wouldn't affect the words she would have with him.

That was until she heard him murmur an apology. His voice was so low she almost missed it but it was definitely there. He slowly walked forward into the light and the expression on his face caused her stomach to tighten. Hard lines of strain prominently glowed in the lamplight. His eyes were lackluster, devoid of their usual cunning mirth. His shoulders were slumped and he stood awkwardly, putting most of his weight on one leg. His arms hung limply at his sides.

She had never seen him like this before. Defeated. It was the last thing she had expected. Anger, snide remarks, hurtful goads, yes. Not this.

She shivered slightly and he turned slowly and closed the door behind him. The sound of the door hitting the jam seemed to reverberate around the cabin. Zan then turned and faced her again. He looked straight at her and did nothing to hide the pain on his face.

Liz immediately thought something had happened to him. Maybe he hurt himself while he was gone or… She inhaled sharply. Max! Something happened to Max.

"No, baby. Nothin' like that." His voice was low and strained. He continued to stand in front of her. Liz frowned. What was going on?

He took a small step toward her. She backed up a half step, unsure of what was going on. His mood confused her and she didn't know how to react.

A pained grimace stole across his lips. He looked at the floor for the first time and then, to her surprise, sunk slowly to his knees. Concerned, she unconsciously stepped forward before catching herself.

"Ya got a right to be wary, baby. When it all comes down, you don't wanna be 'round me."

Speaking for the first time, Liz asked quietly. "What do you mean?"

Zan raised his head and peered at her with an agonized look on his face. "I ain't nothin' but trouble."

"That's true," Liz agreed hesitatingly. What was going on? What had happened out there that had broken him so?

He kneeled there silently. She took another small step forward. "Zan, what happened?"

"Huh?" He looked at her dumbly.

"What's wrong?"

He shook his head slowly and looked at the floor again. He sighed and said, "Nothin'."

She took another step. Zan knelt right before her now and she looked down on his spiky hair. His coat had fallen back on his shoulders, bringing the shirt down with it and she noticed the small freckles that peppered his shoulders.

She frowned and then asked cautiously. "Did you do something bad while you were gone?"

Shaking his head from side, he looked into her eyes again. The agonized look was gone and all she saw was pure misery. "I'm sorry 'bout this mornin'. I handled it badly. I hurt you."

Liz fought the impulse to tell him no but letting him off the hook was wrong. She couldn't ignore that it had happened and besides, they were adults now. They all had to be accountable for their own actions. So, instead, she simply nodded.

Her eyes widened when she saw the water that suddenly glistened in his somber brown eyes. Where was the hard, cocky man that left this morning? The one that had left her locked up all day long, fuming? Before her sat a dejected man grasping for a lifeline.

There really was only one thing that she could do and knew how to do well. She closed the space between them and laid her hand on his head. He seemed almost boyish as she looked down on his haggard face yet the warmth that came from his body was decidedly manly. She cupped the back of his head and gently pulled him to her. He placed his cheek against the material of her shirt covering her stomach and then wrapped his long arms around her. He gripped her fiercely and held on while she gently stroked the top of his head and rubbed the back of his neck.

Just like Max, Zan seemed capable of turning her emotions upside down, just like a ship in a stormy sea. One moment riding the crest of a wave. The next, plunging down the other side.

It seemed that even Zan needed a hug. Wonders would never cease.

**********

Zan clung to her for several minutes before his grasp slowly began to loosen. She didn't know quite what Zan was looking to her for, whether it was just comfort or something else. Since she didn't know what was causing him to act the way he was, she didn't know how to help him solve his obvious dilemma. So she decided to just follow his lead.

He pulled back slowly. She slowly knelt until she looked him in the eye. She cupped his face with her hands and asked quietly, "How can I help?" Two days' worth of whiskers scratched slightly under her fingertips.

A flash of emotion appeared before the defeated look returned quickly. "Why do ya wanna help? After what I did…"

She shook her head and quickly interrupted. "I forgive you so let's move on. Is that what is bothering you? This morning?"

She watched him closely and saw him hesitate. When he just nodded, she knew he was lying. There was something else that was bothering Zan but she allowed the moment to pass without confronting him. Another time perhaps but he was in no shape for verbal bantering.

Liz let her hands fall to his shoulders where she gripped him slightly. It was then that she noticed that he was wet and shivering slightly under her touch. Her mouth opened to ask why he was soaking wet but again decided to let it pass. The 'why' didn't matter right now.

"OK, Zan," she said quietly but firmly. "I don't know what is going on but for right now that's fine. However, we need to get you out of these wet clothes." Zan's blank expression stared back at her. He made no move.

So she proceeded to take off his wet jacket and t-shirt underneath. He did nothing to help her except lift his arms when she lifted the shirt over his head. Liz moved quickly and methodically. The clothes lay in a heap next to them. She forced Zan to get to his feet where she quickly unbuttoned his jeans and with some difficulty since they were wet, managed to get them off his hips in a pool around his ankles. He mechanically stepped out of them until he was standing before her in his jockey shorts.

Not allowing herself to feel the moment, she steered him to the bed talking to him as she led him by the hand. "I don't know how to dry or warm you with my powers. Not safely anyway, on a human… ugh, alien… umm, hybrid…" She fumbled uncertainly until she saw a small twitch at the corner of Zan's mouth. "…So we need to do this the old fashioned way." Zan sat on the bed and she wrapped the quilt around his shoulders until he lay quietly down. She bundled up his feet. "I'm going to run the tub and get you in some hot water. That will be the best way to get you warm." She left him and began running the water. Then she turned back.

"Now I'm going to do the one thing that I have been dying to do all day."

Zan managed to slightly raise an eyebrow in response.

"I'm going to the outhouse." With a quick smile, she fairly ran to the door and without putting on a jacket, raced out into the night.

**********

When she returned the water was just past the halfway mark. Trying to keep the mood a bit lighter, she chatted with the silent Zan. "I'm going try and warm the water the way you showed me. I think it safer to practice on the water than on you. The most that could happen is that I could create a small tidal wave." She swirled her glowing hand smoothly through the water as she talked. She didn't know if it was working or not or even if Zan was listening. When she had returned, his eyes had been closed but she could see that he still visibly shivered under the quilt.

"I visited Maria today. It had been too long since I had last talked to her." Avoiding the real reason why she saw Maria this afternoon, she related some of the small chitchat they had been able to exchange in the short amount of time. "She says that you told Max about Lonnie getting closer. They have fortified the cabins pretty well it seems. Now they are all experiencing cabin fever. She says that when Jesse returned to Roswell, Kyle has been spending a lot of time with him in order to keep a watch out. Apparently, they haven't seen anything. Well, that is Kyle hasn't seen anything. Jesse is still clueless." She felt a stab of satisfaction as she tested the water with her other hand. It was definitely getting warmer. Deciding to take a risk, she increased the power flowing into the water to see if she could heat it up any quicker.

"Michael and Maria seem to be still bickering. But that doesn't mean anything. When they were together at their happiest they bickered. When they're apart and feeling the worst, they still bicker. So that's no measurement." Liz knew that she was rambling but it felt kind of good to hear her voice in the quiet of the room. Zan hadn't even twitched on the bed but she felt that he was listening. Checking again, she nodded satisfactorily. The temperature was almost right. Just another minute or so.

"Isabel. Well, Isabel is keeping the tension down among the whole group. That has always seemed to fall on her shoulders - to act as mediator. I think that Max and Michael just about fell over when she told them about Jesse at the end of last summer. I mean, it was so out of character for her to get that involved with anyone. And she hid the relationship so well."

Grunting happily, she stopped swirling through the water. The heat actually felt good. She, herself, had begun shivering uncontrollably due to her rendezvous with the ice cold outhouse.

What about Max?

The thought seemed to have slid stealthily into her head unawares. Her first reaction was to close the connection but she relaxed and allowed herself to open up even more.

I didn't talk to him today yet.

Silence from the bed.

Liz rose and walked over to Zan. She reached down and touched his shoulder. "Zan, the water is ready." He slowly rose to a sitting position and shrugged the quilt off his shoulders. Crossing his arms in front of him, he gripped each shoulder as his teeth clattered together.

She led him to the tub and made sure that he carefully slid beneath the water. He sunk down until his mouth hovered below the water line. Hesitating, she turned around to put out the kerosene lights lit all around the room.

Sit with me. She paused but didn't turn around. Please.

"What about the lights?"

You got powers.

She almost laughed. Her powers still felt alien to her and they were not the first thing she thought of when attempting to complete a task. She looked around her and then slowly raised her hand. One by one, each of the lights winked out. The fire in the fireplace burned brightly, providing enough illumination in the room to see clearly. She pulled up a stool and sat next to the tub facing Zan.

His eyes were still closed and he still remained almost completely submerged. It felt odd that he was communicating to her while his mouth remained below the water.

She decided that if it made him more comfortable, then she would follow his lead.

Why didn't you just warm yourself?

A few moments passed. Sometimes, I just wanna feel human.

She nodded and then realized that he couldn't see it behind his closed eyelids.

I understand.

She heard him mentally sigh. Yeah, I guess ya do.

She felt at a loss for words and shivered despite herself. The cold from the jaunt outside still hadn't left her bones. Zan seemed preoccupied and remained silent. Small ripples ran across the surface of the water as his body shook uncontrollably.

Zan, about Lonnie…

Please. No alien shit right now. Not tonight.

Taken slightly aback, she nodded again.

Sorry, Liz. I didn't mean it that way.

He opened his eyes when he thought this to her but still remained submerged. His use of her name was such a rarity that it struck a chord. It almost seemed an endearment. She decided that a lot of Zan's boundaries and walls were down tonight.

It's OK.

She watched as his eyes slowly closed shut and then she looked away. Zan's mood almost frightened her and again, felt at a loss at how to react.

Why haven't you talked to Max?

She jumped at the one. Even though they were communicating with just their minds, emotion and meaning could still be conveyed. In fact, she felt that more meaning could be passed on than just by the tone of someone's voice and body language. It was almost as if one's emotion could be passed with the thought so that the receiving person felt the same thing.

Zan, however, had cloaked this last question. She felt torn on how to answer. On one hand, she was completely confused herself at why she was avoiding her talk with Max. She knew some of the reasons: guilt, sadness, fear. On the other hand, she didn't know if she wanted to express this with Zan after his reaction this morning. Wouldn't it just set him off to talk about Max? Was he goading her into a fight?

She decided that honesty was the best method; if Zan couldn't handle her answer, then he shouldn't be asking the question.

I'm uncertain of what to say to him.

Silence. Still not looking at Zan, she thoughtfully continued. I love Max, Zan. I have loved him for a very long time.

Liz paused for a moment. I have never been in this situation before. I have always loved Max. I have lied to him before in order to get him to do something he normally wouldn't have. I had… I had to push him in a direction he didn't want to go but it was one he… I mean, I knew was best for him.

Future Max.

She snapped her head and stared at him openly but he hadn't opened his eyes. He remained motionless.

How?-

Remember, I spied on everyone in Roswell 'n plus you were projectin' a lot of yer thoughts to me in the beginnin'. Zan paused and then continued vaguely. That's how I knew 'bout yer experience with him.

Liz frowned. The manner in which Zan had projected that thought seemed layered. He was definitely holding something back from her but she didn't know what.

So you know the whole story?

Yeah.

Haltingly, she continued. Then you know what lengths I will go to keep him safe. But other than that one time, I have never lied to him.

So ya don't wanna talk to him now 'cause yer scairt of tellin' him a lie. It was a statement and not a question.

Liz nodded thoughtfully and then realized what she was doing. Yeah.

She shivered again and clutched her arms around her torso. Zan, look at me. His eyes slowly opened. She noticed vaguely that his shaking had slowed. I am having a hard time with Max because of two reasons. One, he slept with Tess and we are trying to find a way through that mess. Two, because of you. His gaze remained steady on her. I know this doesn't mean much to you but I have had limited experience and I just don't share myself with anyone. What happened yesterday meant something to me. What, exactly, I don't know. But I do know that I enjoyed it even though it scared me at the same time. But how do I go back to Max now and continue trying to build up a trusting relationship when essentially I have betrayed him in the same manner as he did me? And, the flip side to this is you. Perhaps I was using you. I just don't know. I know that from here on out, I want things to happen because it's natural and that neither one of us is trying to goad the other on and push their limits. She took a deep breath and then held it. It was out there now. Zan's eyes had never wavered during her talk and she had to admit that it unnerved her. Going on the recent past, he could react violently either way.

As she shivered again, Zan slowly sat up in the water until it came up only to the middle of his chest. His tattoos gleamed in the firelight. She noticed that the nipple rings were missing tonight.

He leaned forward and gently grasped her bicep. For the first time that night, he smiled gently and she felt heat radiating through her body. She sighed with the warmth of it and smiled back.

Thanks.

Anytime.

He let go slowly, allowing his finger to trail gently down the length of her arm. Then he stood up in the tub and stepped out. With a wave of his hand, he dried himself completely. Then he reached for her hand. As he led her to the bed, she waved her hand down the length of her body and suddenly, instead of jeans and a sweatshirt, she was wearing one of Zan's ragged t-shirts that hung to the middle of her thighs.

When Zan pulled down the covers of the bed and turned to her, his eyes lit up at the sight of her. He pulled her gently to him and held her tight against his body. He buried his nose in her hair and sighed deeply.

Baby. She gently squeezed him in return and then they crawled into bed. She lay on her back while Zan rested his head on his hand and gazed down at her.

How are you now, Zan? she asked sincerely.

Better, sweets, better. She could feel the change in him. Though he remained subdued, he didn't seem nearly as despondent as he had appeared earlier.

His head slowly sank towards her and she closed her eyes moments before his lips found hers. The kiss was more of a caress than anything else and she sighed against his lips. He deepened it slightly allowing her to feel his want and need. Then he slowly pulled back, again tracing feather light kisses along her lips, cheeks and forehead. Pressing his cheek against hers, he thought to her, Thank you, baby. The thought pervaded her mind along with powerful waves of contentment, happiness, and passion. It felt as if a sudden wave of warm water sluiced through her body and she could only sigh in response.

Then Zan laid his head on the pillow and spooned her against his body. He laid small kisses behind her ear, on the top of her hand, and gently rubbed her arms until he finally wrapped one arm around her.

They fell asleep like that while the fire slowly died down.
posted on 12-Jun-2002 10:19:02 AM
Everyone is being so good about bumping! I am about half way through the next part - it's the first chapter where I am stumbling a bit but hopefully I will be able to find my groove.

I had my first Zan dream the other night - hmmm, let's just say I will keep the details to myself but it definitely was enjoyable! I couldn't think about a more pleasant subject to dream about unless it was both Zan AND Max.

*wink*

I have given up on promising when the next part will come out - I haven't been true to my word in the past and I don't want to mislead anyone. I am out of town 3 weeks a month now and my schedule constantly shifts around but just know that I will continue to work on it and update as soon as humanly possible!!
posted on 10-Jul-2002 6:26:15 PM
Hello! **as she ducks**

"Where the **** has she been," y'all must be wonderin.

Well....

I haven't died.
I haven't gotten injured and spent the last 2 weeks in a hospital having to watch daytime soaps with my eyelids propped open with toothpicks as some sort of intern's sick joke.
I haven't run off and gotten married to Brad Pitt - again (this happened last year - please don't tell Jennifer).
I haven't been trapped under my fridge, being forced to survive on moldy brownies and cheap beer.
I haven't been stalking Jason Behr saying things like "Aw, c'mon Zan. Prove to me that you're da man. Wink, wink... Nudge, nudge..." or "Yo, I gotta get me a piece a dat".

Gosh, after writing that, I don't think that I have any valid excuses... *wink*

Sad to say, the only excuse that I have is that work has taken over my life. Serious, serious stress but I possibly see a light at the end of the tunnel.

I PROMISE you that I will continue and FINISH this.

Maybe a part will be ready by Sunday - please don't get your hopes up - it is a big IF.

I am missing it as much as you, believe me.

Many thanks to all of you bumping. It really warms my heart.

Cheers.
AweInspired

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 10-Jul-2002 6:27:30 PM ]
posted on 14-Jul-2002 10:17:55 PM
Do you remember this story? Well, here it is. The long awaited chapter. I hope you enjoy and I think that I will be able to give more regular updates in the future.

CHAPTER 17

Maria exited the room where Max stayed through the connecting door and merely waved away both Isabel's and Michael's questioning looks. She knew they were curious about why she had secluded Max away for the last hour but she wasn't ready yet to relate what they had talked about. Though she was still angry over Max's infidelity with Tess, she still considered him a good friend and Liz loved him. That alone had been the driving factor to her decision to talk to Max.

After Liz left her, Maria had sat on her bed for a long while contemplating the difficult situation that Liz found herself in. As hard as she tried, she really couldn't find an easy solution to Liz's problem. It really came down to Liz and the journey she took to truly forgiving Max. Maria had chuckled to herself when she thought of Liz and Zan. What an odd pairing. There couldn't be two people who were complete opposites, at least in lifestyle. Maria didn't know him personally but what little Liz had shared of him, it seemed that his personality matched his rough image. Well, she had thought to herself, as the saying goes…

Maria swept through the room under the penetrating looks from Michael and Isabel and walked into the third room. She flopped herself on her bed and stared at the ceiling. Both her and Isabel shared this last cabin while the two men had their own. She smiled as she remembered when she had protested the arrangement, but Michael had put his foot down. He reasoned that she was the only one without alien powers and unless she wanted to stay in the same room with him or Max, she had to stay with Isabel so that she could be protected.

The arrangement hadn't turned out to be that bad. Isabel was a good roommate. Much more easy going in the intimate living space than Maria would have given her credit for. They had even talked briefly about men though Maria didn't feel one hundred percent comfortable sharing all of her feelings. Those were only for Liz and Maria had felt the loss of her best friend greatly over the last few days. She knew that Liz was in a dangerous and confusing situation right now but Maria had also been through a lot herself. First, almost getting blasted by a Skin and having to go on the lam. Then going through the emotionally and physically draining period of looking for Liz. It didn't help to be in the same cabin space over the last few days with a moody Max and an increasingly volatile Michael. To top it off, they were sitting ducks waiting for a small army of their enemy to hunt them down and attack them. Maria sighed loudly. Life had never been simple since the aliens had come into their lives.

Of course, it didn't help to be cooped up with Michael. Their relationship was strained to the say the least. Maria had tried so hard to put him behind her yet it seemed that fate would not let it happen. It wasn't that she didn't care for him. 'Well, rather love him', Maria silently corrected herself. She had just been craving a normal teenage life and Michael would never be able to give her that.

She mentally book shelved that thought. There were too many confusing emotions to sort through and she just wasn't ready to deal with them yet. Her mind wandered to the last hour and she smiled slightly.

After Liz's visit, Maria had come to the decision to talk to Max and get a feel for what was going on with him. He had closed himself off from everyone since they had arrived and so obviously hadn't talked to a single soul about what must be tearing his heart apart. So, in her typical brashness, as soon as Max had returned with Michael from getting some last minute supplies, she had ushered him into his cabin and shut the door. She smiled again as she rehashed the scene.

~~~
"We're back," Michael called gruffly as he stepped through the front door of the middle cabin. Max followed right on his heels, both men reeling slightly from the amount of bags they both held. Michael stumbled to the closest table, set his load down and then turned and relieved Max of his. Isabel walked into the room and began rummaging through the bags with Michael as she took inventory.

Maria stood in the back of the cabin with her arms crossed in front of her and peered intently at Max. She thought that he was doing a fairly good job of covering his feelings. He bantered lightly with Isabel and Michael and then began a serious talk of their readiness for the upcoming confrontation. He grilled both of them, just like he had in days past, making sure that everyone knew their roles. After he had finished, he'd leaned against the wall and stared down at the floor. Either his shoes were really interesting or Max Evans was having deep thoughts. Maria had also glimpsed the dark circles under his eyes and knew that he wasn't sleeping well. Grunting, she went into action. She stalked over to him and grabbed his arm.

Max's head snapped up and at first, looked confusingly at Maria before looking to Michael and Isabel with a beseechingly look as she dragged him through the room and into his cabin. Some king, she thought to herself. When in trouble with a girl, he simply looked confused and asked for help from his playmates. She would have laughed out loud but suppressed it out of the serious purpose of her mission.

She turned after closing the door behind her and pinned Max with a penetrating look. Looking confused but obviously not wanting to play into her hands, he simply raised an eyebrow at her and crossed his arms.

'Hmmm,' she thought to herself. 'Perhaps Max didn't need help after all.' She decided to get right to the point.

"OK, girlfriend. Spill."

"About what?" Max continued his defensive posture.

"About what?" Maria exclaimed. She threw her hands up in the air. "How about how this whole Liz thing is ripping your heart out?"

Max looked down and rolled his head side to side. "Listen, Maria. Isabel has already…"

Maria cut off quickly. "Well, I'm not Isabel and I don't give up that easily."

"I really don't want to…"

"Yes, you do. You're just trying to take the whole world on your shoulders like you always do." Her tone softened a bit. "Max, everyone needs to dump sometimes. Even kings."

Max looked up quickly and then proceeded to rake his hair with his fingers in a nervous gesture. "This is between me and Liz and…"

"Would it help if I told you Liz came to visit me this morning?"

Max's eyes widened slightly and his hand froze mid pass.

Maria calmly sat down in the dilapidated easy chair and wrinkled her nose. Most of the furniture in all three cabins smelled slightly of mildew. Slowly folding her legs underneath she watched with satisfaction as Max sat down on the edge of the bed.

"What did she say?" he asked softly.

Maria frowned slightly. "I'm not going to divulge the secrets of my best friend's heart. However, now that I have an handle on what's going on, I want to try and help you."

He sighed and then fell back on the couch. "Help? How can you help?"

"Why don't you start by telling me what you feel about all of this that is going on?"

After a moment, still staring at the water stained ceiling, Max answered. "Confused."

When she noticed that he wasn't going to continue, Maria prodded impatiently. "And?"

"I'm confused about everything. Each time that Liz visits me, she pulls back more and more. I try to tell her how much I care about her and how sorry I am about the whole…" He paused and then gestured absently. "Tess thing. But I don't think that it is helping at all. I think that she knows all of it and it doesn't matter."

"Of course it matters. If you didn't admit to her that you had acted like a dog then you two wouldn't have even gotten this far." Max's head rose from the bed and he stared at her.

Maria waived her hand loftily in the air. "Well, it was a dog thing to do."

"I thought you wanted to help?"

"I am helping."

Letting his head hit the bed again, Max only grunted.

"Anyway, it's this road block that we can't get by and now with her powers and Zan…" Max trailed off. Maria noted this immediately. Obviously, he didn't want to talk about Zan.

Well, usually when someone avoided a topic, that tended to be a major part of the problem so she decided to tackle it head on.

"Right. Zan. Let's talk about him."

Max sat upright warily and stared straight at her. Maria shifted slightly. Sometimes Max's intense looks could really get under her skin. It was hard to keep your cool when someone looked you steadily in the eye.

"What part of Zan do you want to talk about?" he asked carefully, all the while maintaining his gaze.

"Well, how about the part where you're jealous and unsure about Liz's feelings for him."

Max's head fell into his hands as he slowly shook it back and forth. "I knew it. I knew it." He kept repeating it over and over until she broke in.

"Knew what, ole wise one?"

He looked up at her with a stricken face. "She's with him."

"Of course she's with him. He has her secluded away - you know that."

"No, Maria. I mean she's with him. You just confirmed it."

Alarmed, Maria sat straight up in the chair. "I did what? I didn't confirm anything."

"Obviously, Liz has talked to you about him. You know that Zan's been a source of tension between us. I didn't tell you so you must of heard about it from Liz." Max threw his hands up in the air. "If Liz is talking about it, then it has to be something serious."

Confused about this sudden turn, Maria tried to break in. "No, Max. You don't…" He ignored her and shot up from the bed and began pacing the room. She thought he would go bald by the way he kept violently running his hands through his hair. He pushed through her interruptions and continued to mutter to himself.

"I've lost her. I knew it. There was no way that she would every forgive me. I ruined it - everything."

Maria finally shouted out, "Max!" He stopped pacing and looked at her. "You stupid fool. You haven't lost anything."

"I haven't?"

"No, you idiot. From now on, don't jump to conclusions or otherwise I will be in some serious trouble."

"You're serious? I haven't lost her?" He looked at her doubtfully.

"No, and must I repeat, idiot."

"Then Zan isn't a threat?"

Maria swallowed convulsively. How was she to handle this? The only thing she could think of to do was to face it head on. The truth might hurt but Max couldn't make decisions on lies.

"I wouldn't go that far." She watched as his face fell again.

Beginning to get angry, she stood up and squared off from him. "Listen, you big oaf. You love Liz. Liz loves you. You did a terrible thing to her. She has to deal. But you moping around this cabin and saying 'I'm sorry' like a broken record isn't going to get her back. You have to prove that to her." Max stiffened through her speech and by the end, was standing with his legs spread apart and his arms crossed. 'Good,' she thought to herself. 'He's getting angry. Maybe it will spur him to action.'

She watched the shifting emotions in his eyes and waited expectantly to see how he would react. By his pursed lips, she knew he was barely keeping a lid on his suppressed anger. "How can I prove it to her anymore than I already have?" She could tell how difficult it was for him to ask politely.

"Max, no woman wants a wimp and no woman wants a stone statue. You won her heart the first time by saving her life. You risked everything for her. In return, she has risked everything for you. You have to start risking again. You have to risk your heart."

The silence stretched for a few moments before he answered. "How?"

"By giving her space but by letting her know in no uncertain terms that you are not willing to give up until she says so. You have to protect her and be her champion without running over her." She paused. "Max, you've let Liz set the pace so far. You've done that because of the guilt you feel. But, honey, there has to be a time when you forgive yourself otherwise Liz will never forgive you. Do you think that she will want to be with a person who constantly berates themselves over their past mistakes?" Maria arched her eyebrows at him. She had his full attention now.

Max shook his head slowly.

"Then do it."

"How? How do I be her champion? We are stuck here waiting for a small army of aliens to attack us any day. She's safer where she is. She's safer with Zan."

"I don't know, Max. But somehow you will figure out a way. Why don't you start by visiting her tonight? She always comes to see you - why don't you make the first move?"

Max hesitated. "Liz has taught me how to do it. I didn't before because I couldn't picture where they were. Now I can but I'm afraid to…"

Maria nodded sympathetically. "I know. You're afraid that you might see something you don't want to."

He only nodded in response.

"Well, you're going to have to have a strong stomach. And Max, whatever you do, don't try to get between her and Zan. One thing a girl hates is for men to fight over her like she is a piece of meat. Be strong like Brad Pitt strong - not prehistoric caveman strong." She got a wry grin out of him for that.

Putting her hands on her hips, she smiled brightly. "Well, I think that I have done my duty."

Max smiled for real this time. "Duty?"

"You know, best friend saves best friend and best friend's boyfriend relationship duty."

"Ah, yes. I see now."

Maria gave Max a hug and then tweaked his nose. "Just so you know, I'm rooting for you on this one."

"Thanks, Maria."

"No problem." She smirked over her shoulder as she opened the door and left the room.

~~~

Maria smiled to herself lying on the bed. She had to admit that she'd done a pretty good job. Liz would be proud of her. Of course, she would be proud when this whole thing was over and done with. Maria somehow suspected that Liz wouldn't be too happy that she had been interfering. Well, sometimes that was a friend's job.

Suddenly, the door flung open to her cabin. Max stood in the opening breathing heavily.

"Liz!"

Maria looked at him with a confused expression.

"If I had to picture the cabin to visit it, then that would be the same for everybody else."

"Yeah, and?"

"If I had to picture it, then so did Lonnie. She knows exactly where Liz is."

Horrified, Maria looked at Max and therefore Michael and Isabel peering over his shoulder.

"We're decoys. She and Tess are going after Liz."

**********

"Damn him!" Max swore as he swung his fist through the dividing wall. The decaying plaster gave way easily.

Concerned, Isabel tried putting her hand on his shoulder to get his attention. He merely shrugged her off and paced to the other side of the cabin.

Maria was frowning and Michael looked confused.

"That bastard. He's known this whole time that she was coming after him."

"How do we know that for sure, Max?" Isabel asked. "I mean, I can't believe he'd take her to a cabin in the middle of nowhere by himself if he meant to take on an army."

"Yeah, and he's been helping Liz with her powers. Why would he go to the trouble if he was just using her as bait?" Michael offered.

"I don't know. Maybe the bastard is just bored and is passing the time. Or maybe what he has said is true. Maybe Liz's powers were going to kill her and dead bait's worthless." Everyone, including Max, cringed when the words left his mouth.

"But, Max. Liz had never been here before and she was able to visit you. The same could be true for Lonnie." Maria was trying to keep a cool head which was difficult since their leader had gone ballistic.

Max stopped pacing and glared at the floor in thought. "Liz and I have a connection that came when I healed her. I doubt Zan and Lonnie have that same connection."

"But they could. Which means that maybe she doesn't know where they are," Michael stated.

"And what if we're wrong? What if they are targeting Liz? I mean, why would Zan secret Liz away somewhere? Why couldn't we all be together and he still teach her what she needs to know? And don't forget the Skins that attacked us - they said they were going after the women."

"I don't know, Max." Isabel stood dejectedly, unsure about how to react.

"Can we even take the chance? What if I'm right? Would it hurt to find where Liz and Zan are and go to them? I mean, whether Lonnie and Tess attack here or there, it really doesn't matter."

"But if they are really after you, then you would be bringing the fight right to Liz's lap." Maria was trying to reason out the truth inside her head.

"I feel better doing that than leaving her alone with him," Max answered pointedly.

"Max, don't let jealously drive this decision."

Max glared hotly at Maria but she returned his gaze with the same intensity. Liz was her best friend and there was no way that she'd let Max jeopardize her safety if he was thinking with his caveman genes. Well, caveman/alien genes, that is.

"Listen, I can't risk it. I'll visit Liz tonight and find out the location of the cabin. She'll have to tell me when I lay it out to her."

"And then what, Max?" Michael put one hand on his hip and pinched the bridge of his nose with the other. "Go gallivanting over there by yourself so that you leave only Isabel and myself to defend Maria against twenty aliens?" He noticed Maria's glare at the defense comment. He glared back at her, though. This was no time for her to get uppity about women's rights.

"No, I think you should come with me." Isabel and Michael glanced at each other with surprise. It wasn't often that Max asked for help.

"We'll be stronger as a team and I don't know what to expect from Zan. He is much stronger than me for some reason. If he decides to defend his territory and keep Liz hostage, we'll need to work together."

The four of them looked at each other and then Michael shrugged. It seemed to be the catalyst for consensus since both Maria and Isabel nodded at the same time.

"OK. I'll visit her in a couple of hours. Between now and then, we need to gather up our supplies."

Maria hesitated. She should tell Max that she knew already where they were. But looking around the room, she knew it would take a couple of hours anyway to get their things together. She decided she would let Liz tell Max - that way, she wouldn't be breaking her confidence and the results would be the same.

As she returned to her room, she heard Michael mumble something about the storm better be letting up. Maria looked outside and saw that the snow was still coming down as hard as ever. How they would ever make it in this weather, she didn't know but she did know that it wouldn't stop Max.

Well, she'd told Max to be Liz's champion.

She had to learn to keep her mouth shut in the future.

**********

Tess sat in the back of the large moving van along with ten other people. The sky was beginning to get dark at least from what they could see through the blowing snow. Tess lay quietly in the corner, uncomfortable with all of the bouncing around. The roads were terrible in Michigan. It seemed that every ten feet there was a crack in the pavement that made the van jump violently. It even made her stomach queasy.

The storm had slowed them considerably, which had been working Lonnie up to a frenzy. That was one reason why Tess had crawled over to a corner and curled up on a thin pad. Ever since Lonnie had visited Zan, she had been like a mad woman. She kept screaming at everyone and berating the driver for going too slowly. Tess knew that Lonnie had a screw loose but the last couple of days had actually been terrifying being in her presence.

In the end, though, Tess really didn't care. As long as Lonnie fulfilled her promise, Tess didn't care if Lonnie started ripping her hair out and bleeding from the gums.

Liz Parker was going to die.

Tess smiled cruelly as she slowly drifted into a fitful sleep.
posted on 4-Nov-2002 7:23:08 AM
Hey, everyone!

We have a working story! We're missing some chapters but I will repost them when I have a chance.

Currently, I'm in Europe and unable to repost OR post my new 2 chapters that are just sitting there getting dusty.

I have been on the road straight for 5 weeks - Milwaukee, Chicago, Boston, England, Denmark, Cleveland, etc. You name it - I've probably been there recently!

Glad to see we're back in business. A shout out to all of you faithful readers!!!!!!!

YOU ROCK!!!!!!

To the newbies, welcome and I promise to fix the problem as soon as I can.

Much love!

Awe
posted on 18-Nov-2002 11:03:39 AM
Hi, All!!

I'm back in the country which means I can post something new this weekend! Also, I will repost all of the lost chapters...

Norma, hope you're holding it together and can wait until then!

Many smiles.

Awe
posted on 19-Nov-2002 12:55:01 PM
You guys are TOO funny! I laugh constantly when I read your posts!

"Writing Goddess", Norma??? Please, you flatter too much. I sense a hidden need to flatter the writer extensively so that they will post, post, and then post some more.... LOL! If I get compliments like that, I'll mention your name over and over!

Norma, Norma, Norma, Norma, Norma, Norma, Norma, Norma, Norma, Norma, Norma, Norma, Norma, Norma.

2crzy4roswell - You crack me up, girl! I'm so glad that you enjoy the story. Of course, the visual of an overloading computer may now hinder my writing.... ;-) Gosh, I feel like Danielle Steele, or something. LOL

Many smiles to all!

Awe

posted on 24-Nov-2002 10:45:05 PM
Here are the missing chapters!!

CHAPTER 18a

The fear had constricted Max's chest into a tight wad forcing him to take shallow breaths. Liz was in danger – he knew it no matter how many times Michael tried to talk reason into him. The picture seemed clearer now even though he didn't fully understand some of the motives. For instance, why did Zan want to face off with Lonnie, Tess, and the shapeshifters by himself? What role did Liz play in Zan's schemes? Why did Lonnie and Tess want to kill Zan as opposed to himself and the remaining pod squad?

These thoughts whirled through his head as he gathered his things together. It had been almost an hour since he had burst into Maria's room and convinced the others that they needed to go to Liz. Michael and Isabel were collecting their gear also. For once, Maria had been uncharacteristically quiet and had gone about readying herself.

He flopped himself on the bed and glanced outside. The snow hadn't lessened one bit. The storm would work to both their advantage and disadvantage. They could travel quietly and leave no trail but their speed would be severely hampered. He didn't know yet where the physical location of the cabin was but he hoped to find out in the next hour.

His breath hitched in his chest as he thought about visiting Liz. He wouldn't know what he would be walking into once he got there and that unknown had driven him crazy for the last hour. Maria had unconsciously divulged knowledge regarding Liz and Zan and these thoughts twisted his stomach again.

What if he popped into the cabin right in the middle of something? What if Liz and Zan were kissing or even worse… No! Liz's safety came first. That had to be his main focus.

He closed his eyes and concentrated.

**********

The cabin slowly came into focus. Dim light filtered through the frosted panes of the windows. He looked around, a bit disorientated at first and calmly tried to get his bearings.

He looked to his right and noticed that the kitchen table was in a shambles. He didn't remember seeing it like that before. There were scorch marks on the walls and instantly, fear gripped his belly. What had happened here to cause all of this damage?

The fire was low and needed fuel. It was chilly and he noticed his breath crystallize and plume out before him. It wasn't just chilly, it was downright cold.

He looked around the room again, searching for Liz. Suddenly, he felt movement behind him and Zan smiled briefly as he felt her snuggle closer to him under the covers.

CHAPTER 18b

Liz had felt when he had woken. She hadn't slept well due to the whirling thoughts in her head and also, because it was strange to sleep in the same bed with someone else when you weren't used to it. He hadn't stirred the entire night. She wondered if he always slept like that or if was due to last night's exhausting scene. She still didn't know what had caused Zan to break like he did and it would be one of the first questions on her agenda today.

However, it was cold in the cabin and she snuggled closer to him to take advantage of his body heat. His back was to her and she could faintly see the small moles that peppered his shoulders.

Mornin'.

She smiled. Good afternoon, actually. Their connection was still open from last night. She found herself feeling comfortable with this mode of communication that he seemed to prefer lately.

You want coffee?

She grinned into the pillow. This was sort of like an old married couple scene - the ones where the couple wakes up blissfully together and then go through their usual morning routine.

Sure. If you're making.

I'm makin'.

Without another word, he slipped out from under the covers cursing as his bare skin hit the cold air. Liz frowned a bit as she noted the lack of any affection or real recognition from him. Perhaps it wasn't the perfect Hallmark moment after all.

She watched as he raised his right hand and the fire came to life with a roar. He gripped both of his arms and rubbed vigorously. The motion revealed the ragged scar on his side.

How did you get that scar?

He had moved into the kitchen and fixed one of the old coffee percolators before answering. His back remained turned to her.

Lonnie. Through the connection, Liz felt his hate pour through attached with sketchy images of a sneering Lonnie. She shivered unconsciously underneath the warm covers.

How?

He had wrapped one hand around the pot and Liz watched as a warm light emitted from his grip. The smell of coffee wafted to her.

You wanna ruin a perfect mornin' wit shit like that?

Liz set her jaw with determination. Yes.

She didn't think he was going to answer her and was just going to say something again when he interrupted.

A'ight. I'll tell it. Just let me get my mornin' cup and let me burn one. The pot began to boil and he instantly released it. He quickly grabbed two cups and filled them. Then he turned and began walking back to the bed.

Liz had buried herself underneath the covers until only her eyes peeped out. She watched Zan's body as if in slow motion as he came toward her. The fire played slightly on the muscles of his chest. His stomach tightened and small ripples played across his abdomen. The orb tattoo shimmered slightly, as the silver ink caught the light. The jockey shorts from last night, black and hugging tightly to his hips, left nothing to be desired. She felt heat envelope her body and blushed slightly at realizing it.

Zan stopped at the edge of the bed, set the two cups of coffee on the nightstand and smirked as he looked down at her. Didn't realize you were the type to get nasty thoughts in the mornin'.

Liz's eyes went wide and she just about shut off the connection in shame when Zan looked at her with amusement in his eyes. Don't blush, sweets. It's not like you haven't gotten me overheated before. An image of her laying on the table, flushed with passion, flitted across their connection. Liz ducked her head in embarrassment but then she felt his desire rush across. His want and need at the time was almost overwhelming and it crushed the breath right out of her. Her senses reeled slightly and she closed her eyes tightly to gain control over her reaction to his desire.

See? Ya got nothin' to be worried 'bout 'cept… and he paused dramatically. She opened one eye and peeked out at him expectantly. He gave her a lopsided grin. … 'cept how cold my skin is goin' feel next to yours. With that, he threw back the covers and leapt into the bed. Liz gave a small scream as the cold air hit her body and she grabbed what covers she could and wrapped herself tightly in them.

Zan chuckled. He sat upright in bed with his back against the headboard. He reached over and grabbed a cup of coffee. Don'tcha want one? Liz mock pouted and said out loud, "No. It's too cold."

A'ight. All the more for me. He took a long sip, slurping noisily. Liz smiled slightly as she watched him trying to torture her with loud smacking sounds. She had to admit that it smelled wonderful but she just wasn't quite ready yet to leave her warm cocoon. She watched as Zan reached over and deftly lit a cigarette while maintaining perfect balance with the coffee cup.

Oh, god, she thought. He was so sexy that he even made cancer sticks look slightly appealing to her now. Ugh.

Zan took a long drag on the cigarette and a small smile played out on his lips. He leaned back against the headboard, closed his eyes, and groaned with pleasure.

What's up wit the kitchen table and shit?

The angry feelings of being trapped in the cabin the whole day rushed back to her. Even if something had happened to him yesterday to break him down, she was still angry about his actions. Resolutely, she sat up and reached over for the steaming cup of coffee on the table. She felt Zan lean forward and sniff her hair which trailed along his bare chest. She purposely tucked it behind her ear and away from him. He leaned back against the headboard and allowed her grasp the hot coffee mug and then retreat back to the other side of the bed. She peered at him over the cup as she sniffed the delicious coffee aroma.

"I got bored waiting for you to come back," she answered aloud watching his every reaction. His face didn't give anything away as he returned her stare though she felt a slight trickle of regret flash across their connection. Instantly, he cut it off and she sighed at the loss of it. She, too, walled her own emotions so that he couldn't read her.

This morning was going to be another battle of the wills.

"So you felt that tearin' the place apart would make it all good?" The corner of his mouth twitched into a slight smirk.

In an even tone, she responded. "No, I wanted to leave and tried everything I had to get out of here. Unfortunately, you are stronger than me so I was stuck. I figured that since you were the reason I couldn't go then you could clean up the mess." She kept her gaze level with his and took another sip of coffee.

Zan shook his head slowly side to side and whistled softly. "Man, you are a one strong chick, you know dat? I can't get a finger on you."

Liz didn't respond and continued to silently sip her coffee.

Zan took a drag on the cigarette and looked thoughtfully down to the foot of the bed. Slowly, the smoke escaped his lips as his eyes became unfocused. Liz wrenched her gaze off from him and snuck a quick peek in the same direction. Instantly, she knew he was remembering yesterday morning and how violently he had reacted.

In spite of herself, she shivered.

Zan whipped his head around and looked at her quickly. She slowly brought her eyes to meet his steadily.

"You scared me."

"I know."

"Will it happen again?"

He dropped his eyes and stared absently at the quilt. "Can't promise nothin'."

Liz continued to stare at him. Softly, she said, "That's a little boy's answer." Then she braced herself.

However, Zan didn't respond immediately. He hesitated a moment, reached over and stubbed out his cigarette. Then he turned back to her and nodded. "It's all I kin give, though."

Liz wasn't completely satisfied but enough so that she could drop the subject. Zan had acknowledged that what happened was wrong but she didn't feel completely at ease yet.

"Tell me about the scar."

Zan threw back the covers and swung his legs over the side of the bed. The fire had warmed the cabin considerably - even so, goose bumps appeared on his skin. He stood and began to slowly pace the length of the cabin going from the bed to the front window and back again. He crossed his arms in front of him when he stopped in front of the bed. He met Liz's eyes directly.

"You knows there's no love lost between me and my sis. From day one, when we fell outta those pods, there was tension. She hated knowing that I was king of da crib, in this life and the last, and resented it every moment of our wakin' lives." He began pacing again. "At first, when we was little, I tried winnin' her affection but there was always a wall between us. I learnt quickly not to trust her, not to trust any of 'em, and still maintain da peace."

He lit another cigarette and began another round of pacing.

"After the truck and Shandra, I told ya I went huntin'. I missed 'em in Roswell but what I didn't tell ya was that I continued to hunt for 'em. I tracked 'em to a small place in New Jersey. I waited a few days, trailin' Lonnie and Tess lookin' for an opportunity to ambush 'em. One night, I followed 'em to a warehouse district. It was dark so I kept mostly to the shadows. They were creepin' about themselves, tryin' not to make any noise. I lost 'em briefly 'round a corner. Next thing I know, sparks were flyin' and screams were tearin' through the air."

He flopped down on one of the chairs and sat, spread eagled while he puffed on his cigarette. His eyes were unfocused as he recalled the events of that night.

"I got as close as I could but they were already movin' on. Curious, I snuck out a few minutes after they left to survey the damage they'd done. Only, the only thing broken was Ava, lyin' twisted on da ground."

Liz's hand went to her mouth to cover the gasp that had threatened to leap from her throat. Poor Ava, she thought. What a horrible way to die. Tears filled her eyes.

"Anyway, when I got to her, she just looked at me, smiled and squeezed my hand. Then she died." Zan's voice had gotten softer and softer towards the end of the sentence. "I didn't have time to do nothin' to help her."

Tears spilled onto Liz's cheeks and she sniffled quietly. It didn't matter that her and Ava hadn't been that close. The few hours they had spent together had won the punked out girl a permanent place in her heart.

Zan noticed her tears and walked over to the bed. He knelt at the edge and though he obviously wanted to comfort her in some way, he only nervously raked his hand through his hair.

"Da way she smiled at me - it was strange. We was never close and there seemed to be…" Zan trailed off and he gestured absently in the air with his hand.

"Zan, she thought you were dead. You being there probably made her think she had already died."

Zan only huffed and shook his head.

"Zan, she loved you," Liz said softly. "Didn't you hear her in the Crashdown that night? She had always loved you even though it wasn't returned."

He looked up then and met her with an unreadable look. His eyes were dark in the shadows of the cabin and she couldn't read them. She decided not to try. Whatever had happened between Zan and Ava was the past and a dead past at that so she prodded him on. "What happened then?"

"While I was holdin' her hand, Lonnie, Rath, and Tess attacked. There was the three of 'em plus another ten Skins. They came out from behind trashcans and around the corner of buildings. I was surrounded instantly. They were so cocky, thinkin' that they had me cornered. Up until that point, I'd never shown the full extent of my powers. I'd always shown enough so that they knew I was stronger but never all of 'em. That night, I had to use 'em all."

Liz noticed his voice turn to ice. It must have been a terrible sight to see, Zan violently protecting himself against the others. Zan got up again. He stood over her and thoughtfully rubbed his chin.

"I got Rath with my first strike. That was pure pleasure killin'." Liz shivered. "Instead of hightailin' it outta there, I decided to try an inflict some serious damage and really test what I could do. It was a long fight with Lonnie and Tess always dancin' out of my reach. They forced the Skins forward and sacrificed them like pawns while they tried to get at me." He looked down and thoughtfully rubbed the scar on his side. "Lonnie got a good one in. She'd found a rusty head of a pitchfork layin' in a trashed out corner of one of the buildings. Using her powers, she launched it at me just as I was turnin' to deal with Tess. It raked through my side pretty deep. I knew I couldn't heal myself and continue to fend off Tess and Lonnie so I 'warped' time and left. I'd used up so much of my energy, I had just enough to find a safe place and heal myself."

Zan watched Liz's horrified expression slowly lessen as his tale sunk in.

"That, sweets, is the modern day tellin' of 'A Day in the Life of the House of Antar'."

"Real funny, Zan."

He only chuckled. "Now for some breakfast."

"But it late afternoon."

"There's never a wrong time for flap jacks."

**********

Maria paced impatiently from one end of the room to the other. Max should be trying to get to Liz by now. No matter what she told him, Maria feared that this alien-human-alien triangle was about to blow up in somebody's face and she knew that if it did, both Liz and Max would be devastated - perhaps even enough to damage their relationship forever.

She only hoped that Max would be strong.

**********

Max concentrated harder.

The room of the cabin slowly came into focus and shimmered once before coming in clearly. Max knuckled his eyes gently to clear them of the dizzying sensation. When he opened them again, the scene around him stood still and sighed quietly in gratification. His stomach already felt queasy with the thought of coming here - he didn't need to compound that with motion sickness.

Without thought, his eyes immediately tracked to the bed as if searching out the worst-case scenario. His breath hitched a moment when he saw a human sized lump under the covers. Watching it steadily, he slowly walked up and stood hesitatingly over the bed. What should he do? Wake her or them up? What were they doing in bed anyway?

"Yo."

Max jumped like a cat and swung quickly around. Zan was facing him from the kitchen area with a spatula in one hand and a cigarette in the other. They eyed each other warily until Zan broke the moment with a grin. He turned around and deftly flipped some pancakes.

Max took this all in silently, quickly noting Zan's state of undress. His ears burned hotly as jealously flared. He turned back to the bed quickly and reached out and tapped the lump with his finger. Then he grabbed the quilt and pulled it back, revealing a couple of pillows that had gotten tangled up in the blankets. Letting out a quick sigh, he released the quilt and walked over to Zan.

"Where's Liz?"

"Ya mean she ain't in my bed?" Zan smirked and then took a long drag on his cigarette.

Max knew that Zan was goading him but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't keep all of it out. His ears burned hotter at Zan's bed reference but he tried to keep his cool.

"No, she's not. Where-" Just then, the door opened and Liz entered in a whirl of snowflakes. She stomped her feet a few times. "Whew, it's cold out there. And the snow hasn't let up a bit. Thank god it's so cozy in here otherwise-" Liz's voice cut off when she looked up and saw both Zan and Max staring at her.

It was a like a nightmare come true. Zan stood cockily in his underwear with his signature smirk. Max stood resolutely with his arms crossed in front with a frown pasted on his face. They had one thing in common though. Both of their eyes were like flint.

Trying to swallow the extremely large lump that magically appeared in her throat, Liz managed to croak out, "Max?"

"Hey, Liz." Though his voice was soft, his eyes remained hard.

"What are you doing here?" She glanced quickly at Zan and opened their connection.

Please. Put some clothes on.

Why? I'm comfortable. Zan grinned and flexed his muscles.

Do it, Zan. Don't make my life miserable.

Max had opened his mouth to respond but closed it as he watched the dynamics between Zan and Liz. She was concentrating intently on him and he could almost see the silent communication pass between them. With a huff, Zan left his elbow and walked over towards the bed. He grabbed a pair of jeans and gruffly pulled them on. He zipped them but left the button undone and then strolled back over to the griddle. He grunted as he flipped the burned pancakes into the trash.

When Max turned back, Liz repeated her question. He looked at her for a moment before answering. She wore a heavy parka with large boots that were obviously Zan's. Other than that, her legs were bare.

"I came to talk. Perhaps you should put some clothes on."

Stunned, Liz looked at him. This wasn't the Max that she had last talked to. That Max had been sweet and enduring and apologetic. This Max seemed just the opposite.

Without answering, she slowly slid off the parka and waved her hands over her body as she did so, jeans and hiking boots appearing from underneath. However, she wasn't quick enough to hide the fact that she was clothed only in a t-shirt before she changed, Max noticed. His heart leapt in his throat. The worst seemed to be coming true.

Liz hung the parka on the coat rack and motioned to the couch. Max didn't move.

"I think I would prefer to talk to you alone, if that's OK?" He looked to both Liz and Zan when he said this. Zan turned to him and suspicion lined his face. Liz only nodded and then looked intently again at Zan. Zan scowled and glared at Max. Max met his eyes evenly.

The tension in the air was thick.

Out loud, Liz said, "Zan, please."

"I ain't some dog to order 'round. I'm hungry. I'm goin' to eat my flapjacks." With that, he turned his back to Max and Liz and poured batter out for two more on the griddle.

Liz sighed and motioned again for Max to take the couch. He reluctantly sat at one end while Liz sat at the other.

Max never felt so far away from Liz than at that moment.

Liz gave him a small smile and then pointed to her mouth and then her head and then pointed at him. Max looked at her with confusion. Liz tried again by making talking signs with her fingers and then pointing from her forehead to his. Max instantly understood and then opened his connection with Liz. He had never done this before but he was sure that he had just witnessed that silent communication with Liz and Zan. If they could do it, he could do it too.

He was the king after all.

Actually, we have to talk about that.

Startled, Max looked at her with wide eyes.

I know. It's weird, isn't it? It's like having a radio inside your head.

Max swallowed and then nodded slowly.

Try sending something my way.

Max concentrated and then smiled with satisfaction when Liz gave a small laugh.

Yeah, I know. Zan can be like that sometimes. I think 'asshole' might just the right word for him.

Max relaxed a bit. Maybe things weren't as bad as he thought.

What are you doing here, Max?

Max's smile left his eyes and he glanced over at Zan. He was leaning against the counter, staring openly at both of them.

Can he hear us right now?

Liz quickly glanced over at Zan too and frowned slightly. No. I've severed our connection. He shouldn't be able to.

Max's stomach clenched when he heard that she had been sharing a connection with Zan. Uncontrollable jealously flowed through him. Liz felt it immediately and a blush stole across her cheeks. Fortunately, Max didn't see it as he was still staring at Zan.

Max. Please. Tell me what's going on.

Reluctantly, Max pulled his gaze away from Zan and looked at her. His eyes were intense and he held her eyes like a vice. Max was always like that. He could still her indefinitely with just one look. They seemed to search her soul slowly, asking indefinable questions, and caressing her in all one motion. She held her breath. This was her Max, the Max that loved her and who she loved. It felt like old times, communicating like this. She felt a smile steal across her lips before she could stop it.

Max felt the change in her and responded accordingly.

God, I miss you, Liz.

All of his feelings swept through the connection with that one simple statement. The breath left her body from the overwhelming force of it. He loved her. He wanted her. He was scared for her.

I miss you, too, Max.

He smiled and then reached forward slowly to gently grab her hand. He looked down and sighed at the rightness in it. Her small hand fit perfectly into his. His thumb gently stroked her palm and he felt her shiver.

Zan watched them uncertainly. He didn't need to hear what was being said to see what was happening. The connection those two had was beyond anything he had ever seen before. Max was slowly winning Liz's heart back and it was happening right in front of his eyes. He couldn't contain the longing that suddenly seared through his body.

No matter what he had been charged with to do, he didn't have to stand around and watch it. He had unknowingly stamped out a territory and suddenly there was a rival to challenge him. It took all of his will power to simply put down the spatula and walk out the door.

Liz and Max didn't even notice.
posted on 24-Nov-2002 10:47:23 PM
CHAPTER 19

Max felt better than he had in days. He was sitting on the couch with Liz, gently holding her hand, and he really felt connected with her. It had happened so quickly and unexpectedly that he felt a goofy grin steal across his face.

Max? Liz asked across their connection. She also sported a healthy smile and he could see amusement twinkling in her eyes.

Oh, sorry. Max gave her an embarrassed smile before squeezing her hand. Just lost my train of thought for a sec. He cleared his throat and then realized how foolish that sounded since they weren't communicating out loud. Shifting a bit uncomfortably on the couch, he looked intently at her.

Why don't you tell me why you are here? Liz prodded.

Reality hit him quickly as he remembered the purpose of his visit. I think that you are in a lot of danger. I think that Lonnie is going to come after you and not the rest of us.

Liz looked at him calmly and then looked down at the couch. She carefully removed her hand from his grip and rubbed her two hands together. Max, there's a lot I have to tell you. I've learned a lot from Zan.

At his name, Max looked up to find the object of their talk and realized that the cabin was empty. He stood up quickly and scanned the entire inside.

Where's Zan?

Liz also stood up and sniffed the air. "Shit."

The sudden sound of her voice made him jump. His head also snapped at the obscenity that had left Liz's lips. Liz rarely swore. In fact, he could maybe remember only two or three times that she had let something slip in the past. He frowned, thinking that it was perhaps Zan's influence.

"He left the burner on." Liz strode into the kitchen area and turned the gas range off. Max also sniffed the slightly smoky air and could even taste the acrid tint in his mouth. He had been so wrapped up in Liz that he hadn't even noticed it.

"Where did he go?"

"I don't know. Sometimes he just goes out for walks and doesn't tell me."

"In weather like this?"

"Who knows? It's Zan we're talking about."

Max walked over to the window in the kitchen and reached to pull it up. Though it was blowing snow outside, it would still be better than smelling the awful air.

"What are you doing?"

"Just opening the window to the let the bad air out," Max answered quizzically. It seemed obvious.

"I already took care of it."

Max straightened quickly and took another whiff. Sure enough, the air was clean and even had a hint of strawberries. He looked in astonishment at Liz who was pacing absently in the kitchen.

Liz's powers were so new to him. He hadn't seen her use them very often. He'd seen her clothe herself after she came from the outside but he had been so distracted at the time that he hadn't really let the novelty sink in. The fact that she was able to clear the air in the whole cabin and the seemingly offhand manner in which she accomplished it, shocked him.

Liz was strong, maybe stronger than him. Did she know that?

He walked slowly over to her with awe written across his face.

"Liz." She continued to pace the kitchen distractedly with her hand cupping her face in concentration.

He called a bit louder this time. "Liz!"

Startled, she looked up to see a look of wonderment on Max's face.

"What?" she asked in confusion.

"Did you see what you just did?" Liz only looked at him with more confusion. "You used your powers to clear the air."

"Yeah. And?"

"Well, that's amazing!"

Liz realized then her display of powers was a surprise to Max. She had been able to get used to them over the time spent with Zan and even use them sometimes without a second thought. This was the first time Max was seeing her since she had started controlling the changes within her.

She smiled tentatively. Max seemed awed at her ability and all she had done was remove the smell from the air. What if he found out that she could do all of these other things and even some things that Max wasn't able to do, like mind warp?

"Yeah, it is, isn't it?" she offered timidly.

"Of course it is!" Max exclaimed and then the next thing she knew, Max had wrapped her up in a bear hug and twirled her around. He was laughing loudly and was squeezing her so tightly, that she had to struggle a bit for breath. But she chuckled with him, becoming excited by his mere enthusiasm.

He set her down and grabbed both of her hands. "What else can you do?" he asked eagerly.

Feeling more secure, Liz answered, "Do you want me to show you?"

Grinning like a little boy, Max said, "Hell, yeah." Then he walked over to the one of the kitchen chairs that had survived her wrath and, turning it backwards, sat down facing her.

She smiled and then looked around the cabin. What kind of things could she show him?

With a flick of her hand, all of the gas lamps flared to life and they were bathed in their warm glow. She concentrated on the fireplace and the fire roared higher as it received the extra oxygen she fueled it. Looking around for something more to show him, her eyes fell on Max. His face showed complete support and amazement. It gave her enough confidence to perform her next 'trick'.

Max watched each performance with a smile. It was absolutely amazing to watch his Liz doing these things and it really amazed him that she seemed to do it effortlessly. He watched as she turned to him and with a wink, she disappeared.

Startled, he stood up so quickly that the chair toppled underneath him. His feet got tangled up in the rungs as he tried to extradite himself clumsily. Freeing one leg, he looked up and scanned the cabin. She was gone. She simply vanished from his eyesight. Trying not to panic, he untangled his other leg and stood a bit self-consciously in the center of the room.

After a few moments, he asked aloud, "Liz?"

An amused voice whispered in his ear, "Walk much?"

Out of nowhere, she appeared right next to him. Shocked, he flinched and took a step sideways which was a bad move. The offending chair was still upended right next to him. Tripping, he tried to catch his balance even as he felt himself toppling over. He heard Liz's exclamation of surprise and felt her small hands try to grasp his shoulder to steady him, but to no avail. Much to his humiliation, he found himself in a tangled mess on the floor, looking up at a concerned Liz.

"Are you OK?"

His pride hurt more than anything, he refused her help as he once again fought to disentangle his legs from the chair. Frustrated, he finally kicked it hard so that it flew with a loud bang and crashed into the corner of the room. Satisfied, he tried to gather his dignity together and stand up casually.

"Um, yeah. Just fine." He had to maintain what little male pride he had left.

Liz, on the other hand, once realizing that he wasn't physically hurt, began to laugh uproariously, unable to contain her mirth. Max, beginning to see the humor in it, chuckled a bit himself.

Wiping tears from her eyes, Liz managed to struggle out an apology which Max graciously accepted.

Finally, once both had completely regained their composure, Liz continued showing Max some of the various things she could do. She changed the color of her clothes, she heated a pot of water, and she moved heavy objects about the room. She also showed him the different shields that Zan had taught her to project. She explained where the energy came from and how not every alien had all of the abilities.

At the end of it, Max merely shook his head. It was pretty overwhelming that just in the last couple of weeks, Liz had learned more about his powers than he, Isabel, and Michael had their whole lives.

"What else can you do?"

"Well, as far as I know, there are only two more things beyond what I have shown you. Healing and time shifting. Healing you already know about but I haven't had the courage to try yet. Zan said that the time shifting was the most difficult so he wasn't going to show me until the end."

Max nodded thoughtfully. "Why is Zan showing you how to do all of these things and not me?"

Liz shifted uncomfortably and then motioned Max to sit down. "Well, you see. That's where we need to talk…"

**********

Maria tiptoed into Max's room and saw him lying quietly on his bed. His eyes were closed but his eyes danced underneath the lids. She hoped that Liz was cooperating and telling Max where they were and that she understood the danger she was in. If things were going badly between the two of them, she knew that Liz could be stubborn.

She sighed and left the room, quietly shutting the door behind her.

Isabel and Michael's heads lifted from packing and looked questioningly at her.

"Well?" Michael asked.

"I think he was successful and they are together. Whether he gets the outcome he wants is a different matter, though."

Michael simply huffed and continued his packing. Isabel gave Maria a supportive smile and then returned to stuffing clothes into a knapsack.

**********

Zan walked through the blinding snow, leaning his weight into the wind. Once again, he found himself fleeing the cabin out into the middle of the night, trying to avoid the feelings of alienation that Liz and Max's love seemed to cause in him whenever they were together. He trudged through high drifts and even had to power his way through some of them.

His heart was pounding terribly and he wasn't sure if it was completely due to the physical exertion. Seeing Liz and Max connect again was almost like a sledgehammer against his chest. Most of his feelings were due to the jealously he held against Max. Max had had everything in his life and seeing him happy with someone he loved was almost too much to bear. He had to admit to himself though, that some of it was because Max was inside the cabin with her. He had promised himself that he wouldn't get close to Liz throughout this ordeal but slowly, she had seeped into his pores.

He didn't love her. He knew that. He didn't even see a future for them, especially knowing what he knew, but the feelings were still there. He had become attached and he mentally kicked himself. With everything hanging in the balance, he definitely didn't need that shit.

The question hung in the air, though. What should he do about it? There weren't many options left open to him. For him to fulfill his task, he had to let go of her in the end. If he didn't, then he wouldn't be able to lead the normal life that he craved so much. Did he like her enough to give that up?

Getting angry, he threw a power blast against a downed tree, trying to take his frustration out on the world around him. Even with the wind thundering in his ears, however, he still heard the rumbling roar that arose after the pieces from the downed tree finished raining down around him. Startled, he peered into the night as a large, black shape rose in front of him.

"Oh, shit."

**********

Max sat in stunned silence as Liz looked at him expectantly. She had just finished her tale and was waiting anxiously while Max absorbed her words. He hadn't interrupted her much to ask questions and she wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not.

He pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut tight. She knew his mind must be clogged with all of the new information and he was trying to sort it out logically. Though Max always claimed she was the smart one, he was exceptionally bright and she knew it wouldn't take him long to put the pieces of it together.

Max's mind whirled. Zan was his protector by special programming implanted by the aliens on Antar. This Max already knew. Nasedo betrayed the pod squad which he also already knew - he just hadn't known to what extent. Nasedo had unlocked Zan to make him the true king of Antar only Zan's programming prevented him from fully taking over the throne. Zan had the king's powers, which meant he was at least ten times stronger than anyone else, and had full use of all of the different abilities.

He had taken Liz 'captive' to help her with her powers in order prepare her to migrate the powers over to Max. Liz was the key to this migration. She was the key because she had been healed by Max, who, unknowingly during this process, had transferred over this ability. Zan knew that Lonnie and Tess were targeting him because they were aware of his unlocking and also, simply for Lonnie's unnatural hatred of her brother. He also knew that they wanted Liz because of the changes that were occurring within her. She was strong, unnaturally strong.

The last straw was that Lonnie had it out for Liz simply because she was in some way attached to Zan. Lonnie's rage included anyone Zan let in his life and now that person was Liz. If the past was to be repeated, Lonnie will kill Liz out of mere spite and hatred for Zan, let alone for the fact that Liz now had powers.

Never in his wildest dreams had he imagined this.

He had to admit that he felt a pang of loss and jealousy at knowing that Zan held the kingship right now. Even though Max had fought his position at being the leader of the group, let alone the leader of an entire planet, he had begun to accept it. He had even secretly been trying to imagine different ways that he could unseat Khivar without leaving Earth. It was a weird feeling to know that something that he really never even wanted had been taken from him. Well, sort of.

He noted that as Liz was telling him the story, the main feeling he had was jealousy that his true birthright was being stolen from him. He sadly noted that he never even considered that it might be a blessing in disguise. No matter what happened, he had to take on his responsibilities as the king and letting Zan step into this role was not an option. It was strange that it took his position being threatened to truly understand it.

However, his fear for Liz's safety bloomed a hundred-fold now that he knew the truth. He had to get her out of there and to some place where he could safely protect her. There was no doubt in his mind now that Lonnie and Tess would go after Zan and Liz first. Like a light bulb going off in his head, he realized that suddenly the original pod squad was lower on the priority list. Why go after them, when they could go after the 'real' King and Liz too?

Grabbing Liz's hands with his own, he looked directly at her. "Liz, Lonnie must know where you are."

"What do you mean?"

Max explained his theory that he had discovered with Maria. "She has to know otherwise she wouldn't have been able to 'visit' Zan."

"I don't know, Max." Liz looked at him worriedly. What if he was right? Then she was right in the path of Lonnie. "I mean Zan said that Lonnie would be coming after us, but I never thought that she actually knew where we were. I just thought that she was going to take a long time to hunt us down and that we had lots of time to prepare. By then, we would all be together, ready to take them on." She suddenly felt very vulnerable.

"I have to be right. Whatever game Zan is playing, he is putting you right in the path for a collision."

Liz shook her head from side to side. "I just don't know, Max. I mean, Zan has his secrets but I can't imagine that he would put me in harm's way. He needs me for the unlocking, right?" She didn't sound so sure now. Max knew Liz well enough to tell when she was holding something back. The tremor in her voice meant that she was worried about something more than the words she had just said out loud.

Max felt himself on some slippery ground. He still didn't understand the nature of Liz and Zan's relationship. He had just connected with her in a way that they hadn't for a long time but that didn't discount the events that had happened here in the cabin over the last week. As much as he dreaded it, he knew they had to lay it on the table.

"Tell me what is going on between you and Zan," he said softly.

Liz was startled out of her reverie and immediately yanked her hands away from Max. She watched as he cringed at her actions and instantly felt regret. It was an action of a guilty party and even though she knew she shouldn't feel that way, she did. It was Max she was hurting and no matter how much he had hurt her, she didn't want to hurt him.

"Oh. Yeah, right. Zan." She couldn't form any more words so she stood up and paced nervously. What could she tell Max? She had been dreading this moment for a few days now and was still at a loss as to what to say.

How could she explain something to him that even she didn't understand?

She had felt so close to Max in the last hour or so that she had almost forgotten all of the external conflicts. In fact, she realized with a smile, she hadn't even thought of Max and Tess' night of passion. That barrier had disappeared when he had come for her. She smiled even broader when she realized that perhaps she was beginning to overcome this hump in their relationship. Her time with Zan had made her realize that you could still love someone deeply and experience feelings for someone else. It didn't necessarily lessen the feelings for the original person.

Max's time with Tess, though it still hurt, did not seem this insurmountable hurdle anymore. Yes, Max did sleep with Tess. She understood now it was probably a combination of loneliness and alienation and probably was even influenced by Tess' mind warp. Hadn't she convinced everyone that she was pregnant? Why couldn't she have nudged along a despondent Max in a direction she wanted him to go?

At the time, he still thought that she had slept with Kyle. Why wouldn't he feel alienated, even enough to turn to someone else? Hadn't she felt the same way this past week?

Another broad grin flashed across her face as these revelations came to her. She needed to tell Max everything. About Future Max and the current situation with Zan. He needed to know so that they could move forward. That's when she heard a groan from the couch.

Max, on the other hand, saw the smile that had graced Liz's lips multiple times and cringed inwardly. He assumed that she was picturing Zan in her mind and that this picture was bringing the smiles. He watched her pacing and with each pass, his heart sank. He didn't think that he was going to like what he was about to hear, but he knew he had to. He had to be strong and fight for Liz and he wouldn't be able to fight a situation that he didn't understand.

Unfortunately, he felt his grip on the 'visit' beginning to loosen. He was beginning to tire and knew that he wouldn't be able to keep it up in order to finish the conversation. So he groaned at the disappointment, which is what brought Liz's attention back to face him.

"I'm running out of juice here, Liz. I have to go soon." Seeing her face fall, he reached out and squeezed her hand. "I'm sorry. I know that we have a lot to talk about."

"It's OK. I understand."

Shaking his head, Max focused on his next question. "Where are you? Where is this cabin so that we can come to you?"

Liz nibbled on her lip as she thought about what to tell Max. If what Max said is true, then Lonnie was coming soon. Did she want Max here? Yes! her heart cried out. She wanted Max's protection more than anything. But she also wanted to protect him. If there were going to be a battle here, she and Zan would have to prepare. If Max came, then he would be put at risk and she didn't want him to do that only for her. He was in enough danger as it was.

She also wasn't thoroughly convinced that Max was right.

Realizing that she was risking the tremulous relationship that they had just begun building up, she shook her head.

"I can't, Max."

"What! Why not?" Max shot to his feet and grabbed her by both of her shoulders. "What are you talking about? You have to tell me. Otherwise, how can I protect you?"

Liz stiffened her resolve. "I'm sorry but I won't put your life in danger too. If what you said is true, then Zan must have a plan. I have to trust him that he has things under control. I don't want you to get hurt if you don't need to."

Max gave her a stunned look and then tried to calm himself. So this is what she was trying to hide from him before. She had faith that Zan wouldn't betray her or put her life in danger. He tried to talk reasonably. "Wouldn't it be better then to have more people on your side to fight?"

"Of course. Just let me talk to Zan first. I need to figure out what is going on before I make any rash decisions."

Max felt like his entire being was about to explode. Lonnie may show up at any moment and Liz wanted to talk to Zan first? He didn't trust Zan one iota and didn't think that Liz should either. But how could he convince her of that without sounding like a jealous fool?

Liz could see the inner turmoil in Max but she couldn't give in to him yet. Not when she could protect him. "Max, I promise that I will visit you as soon as I know what is going on. Until then, sit tight, and be prepared to move."

Max let out a frustrated sigh. Short of physically forcing her to tell him the location of the cabin, he didn't have a lot of options. He knew that Liz Parker could be one stubborn woman.

"OK. You win. But you promise that you will let me know what is going on as soon as possible."

Liz gave a small giggle and put three fingers to her forehead in a mock salute. "Scout's honor."

Max gave her a wry grin and then pulled her in for a tender hug.

In her ear, he whispered, "I don't want anything happening to you, Liz. Your life is precious, and if Zan ever threatens that, I will take him down. Do you understand?" Liz shivered at the steel in his words. "Whether you love him or not, I will never let him harm you."

Troubled, Liz pulled slightly away and nodded her head slowly. Max placed a tender kiss on her forehead and then cupped her face. "No matter what happens, know that I love you and I will continue to fight for you until you tell me to stop." Max's body shuddered as he began to lose grip on the connection. His image wavered slightly and Liz quickly leaned in to kiss him. He smiled against her mouth and stroked her cheek with his thumb. She felt him mumble something against her lips and she started to say something when a crash at the door made her jump.

Both Max and Liz turned in unison to see a frightening sight come through the door. Zan, covered in blood, stumbled and fell to the floor as the snow whirled around him.

"Zan!" Liz cried. Max, to his horror, felt his last remaining strength fade and he winked out of existence.

**********

Max sat up straight on the bed in a cold sweat.

Leaping off the bed, he raced into the next room in a blind panic.

"It's started!" he yelled to a stunned Michael, Isabel, and Maria. "Lonnie's attacked Liz and Zan!"

Maria leaned against one of the dressers as she felt her legs begin to tremble. Liz!

Max started racing around the cabin, gathering his things. "We have to get going. We have to go save her. Oh, my god! She's all alone!"

Michael grabbed Max's arm in order to slow him down. Max, in a full rage, threw off his grasp. "No! Get going, Michael, or so help me…"

Realizing that Max wasn't kidding, Michael backed off.

Isabel decided to try. "What do you mean, Max? They're under attack?"

"Yes! Now get moving."

Stung, Isabel grabbed her four bags and began to throw on her jacket. Max's desperate energy was beginning to seep into everyone and they all flew about in a nervous panic.

Suddenly, they heard a keening wail, and found Max on his knees in the middle of the floor. He was holding his head in his hands and rocking back and forth.

Isabel tentatively touched his shoulder. "Max? What's wrong?"

"I don't know where they are. Liz refused to tell me. I don't know how to get to her." Max's voice, before so authoritative and commanding, instantly reverted to a whimpering plea. "I can't get to her. I don't know where the cabin is. She wouldn't tell me."

A hush settled over the cabin and roaring wind from outside buffeted the outside walls.

The quiet was broken when a small voice from the corner of the room said, "She told me."

**********

Feeling a sudden emptiness at her side, Liz realized that Max had disappeared. Knowing his strength had run out, she raced over to the prone Zan lying on the floor. She could hear him groaning and knew that it must be pretty bad. She looked outside for the obvious threat but the swirling snow obscured her vision. Raising her arm, she put up the protective field around her and Zan, not knowing what she was protecting them from. Were Lonnie and Tess about to walk into the cabin?

Fearfully, she used her powers to shut the door to the blackness of the outside and felt a bit more secure. Why, she didn't know, but staring out into the unknown darkness was a bit disconcerting.

Turning her attention to the unconscious Zan, she gently rolled him over until he lay on his back. She could see a large gash on the upper part of his shoulder that had torn right through the heaving lining of his parka. The parka itself was shredded around the wound.

There was an even larger gash across his chest and Liz mentally noted that this was where all of the blood had come from. The entire front of his jacket was soaked in red and her heart skipped a beat, thinking that there couldn't be that much blood in his body if there was that much just on his coat.

Beginning to panic a bit, she looked to his face. His skin was pale and his lips were slack. She gently called his name and instantly his eyes opened. With consciousness came the pain, and he grimaced severely and groaned loudly.

"Zan, what happened? Was it Lonnie?"

"No. Not Lonnie." His words came out in a strained whisper.

"What happened then?" When his eyes began to cloud over again, Liz tapped him lightly on the cheek. "Zan! What happened?"

"Fuckin' bear," he managed to whisper before he passed out again.

Liz instantly released the shield covering them knowing now that it wasn't an alien attack. She sat back on her heels and fretted. He needed to be healed and she had never done it before. She shook her head and said aloud, "No time to worry. I'm the only one here and therefore the only one who can do it."

Knowing that his dead weight would be too much for her to carry, she simply left him on the floor. She ran over to the bed and grabbed a pillow, which she placed gently under his head. With a wave of her hand, all of his clothes except for his shorts disappeared.

With the garments gone, the stark reality of the wounds hit her. The gashes were deep and steadily oozed wet blood. The one on his chest was definitely the worst. She would have preferred to try to heal the one on his arm first since it was her first try at healing. The thought of making a mistake anywhere around his heart made her nervous but she knew that she didn't have enough time.

She placed both hands on the wound and closed her eyes. She tried connecting with Zan but because he was unconscious, she couldn't reach him. Opening her eyes, she started calling his name, trying to get him to wake up. She slapped his cheek hard and yelled in his ear. Finally, his eyes slowly came open and he looked directly into her frantic ones.

"Zan, keep your eyes open. Keep looking at me. C'mon. I need you to stay with me." She placed her hands over his chest and reached out for him through the connection. She felt him hovering just out of her reach before she latched on to him firmly. Their connection sprang to life and instantly, she felt the pain that he did. It flowed through her and threatened to consume her. She gasped at the intensity of it, all thoughts flying from her head as she struggled to control her reaction. She slowly pushed the pain away from her enough so that she could think. Is this what Max felt whenever he tried to heal someone?

She looked into Zan's eyes and saw the life slowly being drained from them. Instead of the bright golden-brown that usually stared back at her, they were a full flat-brown and this was enough to jump start her. She was losing him.

"OK, Zan. I'm going to try and heal you. Stay with me."

She closed her eyes and naturally let the tendrils of energy flow from her fingertips and search through his torn flesh. She probed gently trying to understand the nature of the damage so that she could repair it. A flicker of fear jumped into her mind at the thought that she wouldn't know what to do and wouldn't be able to heal him. The pain came rushing back and she whimpered out loud. A tear formed and trickled down her cheek as the pain once again threatened to consume her. She fought, pushing it back to the edges of her mind, until it again became bearable. She continued her probing and discovered the damaged blood vessels. Searching out a particularly bad one, she concentrated on it, trying to imagine what a healthy, uninjured vessel would look like and in her head, began to paint a picture of it. To her surprise, she felt the vessel begin to close up until it matched the picture in her head. With a rush she moved on to the next one and the next one until she couldn't find any major bleeding.

Then she concentrated on the torn flesh and began to slowly knit the skin together until she couldn't feel any more tears in his chest area. She opened her eyes to see her handiwork and was pleasantly surprised. His chest looked as good as new. She looked into Zan's eyes and saw that they were more clear if not tired looking. He nodded his head slowly and she gave him a small smile back.

Then she focused on his arms and this time, found that she could move a bit quicker than she had on his chest area. She was getting the hang of it now. As the last piece of skin knitted itself together, she relaxed and instantly felt the strain of her actions push her down. She hadn't realized just how much this had drained her.

She kept pushing herself though. She passed her hands over the rest of his body, checking for injuries. She found a large lump on his head just above his hairline. Here, she concentrated on making the swelling go down. When she was satisfied that the rest of his body was OK, she still didn't let down. She placed each of her hands on either side of Zan's head.

"Zan, look at me again."

His eyes much clearer, Zan nodded. "Bangin' job, sweets," he whispered.

"Um, yeah. Thanks. But keep looking at me."

Through the connection, she forced a lot of her energy into him trying to restore his depleted reserves. She knew his body was beyond tired and she was trying to give him some more energy so that he could do some of the last healing on his own.

His eyes opened wider as he realized what she was doing. He grabbed both of her hands on either side of his face and tried to yank them away but she was concentrating too hard.

"Sweets, you gotta stop. It's too much for ya. I'm all good."

But Liz ignored him and continued to transfer her energy. As it rushed into his body, he finally had enough strength to pull her hands away from his head.

"Liz! You hafta stop! You'll kill yourself!"

She gave him a tired smile. "You feel OK?"

"Yeah."

"Good." Then she passed out on top of him.

**********

Lonnie stood with her hands on her hips and looked down the snowy road. The rest of them, the Skins in both vans and Tess, were holed up in the run down motel to her right. The highway patrol had finally closed down the roads and they were stuck in some little town that started with an H. The police hadn't just closed down the roads - they had also closed down the bridge that separated them from the rest of the peninsula. She screamed in frustration.

She shook her fist in the dusk light and said, "I'm comin' Zan, baby. Ya better be prepared for some serious pain."

She then turned on her heels and walked into the local Mexican restaurant.

**********

They all crawled into the SUV that Michael, Isabel, and Maria had rented. Their gear was already loaded into the back. Max made the engine roar to life and then slowly made his way out onto the local road. It was a good thing that the SUV had four-wheel drive; otherwise they would never have even made it out of the parking lot. The plows weren't able to keep up with the snow and as if to prove a fact, the truck fishtailed once he came out of the turn. Max merely set his mouth in a grim line and concentrated on the road.

They were on their way to the ferry and come hell or high water, someone was going to take them across to Isle Royale.
posted on 24-Nov-2002 10:49:06 PM
And now with the NEW part! Enjoy!

CHAPTER 20

Max gripped the wheel tightly in order to keep the vehicle on the road. There was an eerie silence in the car as they plowed through the heavy snow on the deserted streets. Living in the desert hadn't exactly prepared him for weather like this. Just keeping the car between the two snow banks was making sweat appear on his forehead. The snow banks were his only gauges, as he couldn't see any pavement let alone dotted or solid lines. If a car was coming in the opposite direction, he didn't think that he would have time to swerve and get out of the way.

He took a right turn onto a larger road, easing slowly around the corner. Suddenly, a large, dark shape loomed out of nowhere in front of him and he hit the brakes in a panic. Unfortunately, this only caused the car to skid and he found himself desperately trying to regain control as the rear end of the car began to slide. Keeping his eyes on the snowplow that had magically appeared, he fought the wheel. Letting up on the brakes, he managed to get the back end in line again as the other members of the vehicle released a collective sigh.

"Good going, Maxwell." Michael released his grip on the dashboard and flexed his fingers.

"Hey, if you think you can do any better then-"

"Hold up. I just meant good job. It was a nice save." Michael shook his head in frustration. Max was wound so tight that every little thing set him off.

Max only pursed his lips tighter and focused on trying to get around the slow moving plow. Jerking to the left, Max risked the possibility of oncoming traffic and slowly passed the lumbering giant. Once in front, he got his bearings and realized they were only a few blocks from the ferry house.

The next task will be to convince the ferryman to take them across outside of the normal hours and in the middle of a raging blizzard. Max didn't know how they would do it but even if he had to physically intimidate the man, he would be setting his feet on the island before morning.

**********
Tess sat uncomfortably as she watched Lonnie shovel food. The Mexican restaurant had been about to close its doors for the night due to the storm but Lonnie had threatened them into changing their minds. Tess watched as the frightened waitress walked slowly to the table with a pitcher of water in order to refresh their glasses. The rest of the team sat in close groups around the small, square tables. They were loud and brawly, every inch a group certain of their upcoming success.

Tess tried to share in their confidence but she was failing miserably. She was about to walk into a big unknown with a group of people she couldn't trust an inch. Who knew how much power Zan really had? He had been unlocked but even Nasedo had never told her what this process truly meant. Try as she might, she couldn't pull up the memories from Antar about the exact powers Zan had possessed.

Also, he had spirited Liz away with him – without Max. Not even Lonnie knew what this move meant. Why had Zan put his protective arm around her? Why hadn't his arm included Max also? If Zan meant to harm Max, he would have hurt Liz by now. Apparently, however, they had been in frequent contact over the last week. Though the communication had seemed strained, they were still talking without open hatred.

Tess smiled inwardly to herself. Their scouts had found Max, Michael, Isabel and that worthless human, Maria, a few days ago. It was all it took for Lonnie to put two and two together to figure out where Zan was holed up. Tess even shuttered remembering the cold conversation shared with Lonnie about four days ago.

**********
They had been camped outside of Phoenix for the past three months where their scouts had been reporting back to them on the moves of the royal three. Information had lead them to believe that all was not well in the Max and Liz relationship. In fact, some of the Skins on patrol had even seen some possibility of surging powers in the female human.

A Skin came rushing into the nondescript motel room in which Lonnie had been living. He poured out the story about how they had traced a call received by the two humans, Kyle and Jesse. The call had originated in a little town called Copper Harbor, Michigan and they were sure it was Lonnie's dupe who had been on the line.

Tess watched as Lonnie opened up a battered atlas and frantically traced her fingers over the various roads throughout the lower part of the state. Getting frustrated, she threw the map against the wall with a loud yell. Tess slowly rose to her feet and picked the atlas back up.

"Lonnie, you were only looking at the lower half of Michigan. There's a whole 'nother part north of it."

"How you know so much, eh?" Lonnie sneered. "Oh, yeah. Right. You been havin' to live close wit 'em for so long. You even been to school 'n shit."

"Shut up, Lonnie. At least I can talk right." She watched as Lonnie's face began to turn red and then continued hurriedly on. "Besides. It worked in our favor now, right?" She pointed out the small town on the tip of the Keewenaw Peninsula.

She watched the flush that had stolen over Lonnie's face. It turned an even darker shade of red. Steeling herself, she slowly inched herself away waiting for Lonnie to explode. It never came, though. Lonnie merely closed the atlas slowly and then curled her fists around the edges. Her knuckles turned white and her hands began to shake. Suddenly, the atlas turned to dust on the table. Lonnie slowly stood up and turned her back on everyone on the room.

"Get out." Her voice was so low, Tess almost missed the words.

"Lonnie?" Tess was almost hesitant to ask, not wanting to provoke her into a mad frenzy. Lately, Lonnie had become more and more unstable. Tess had tried to convince her that they should go after the Royal Three before they attempted to take on Zan. It seemed logical as they were the most vulnerable but Lonnie had put her foot down. She wanted her brother dead and nothing was going to stop her. Tess had only shrugged. She wanted Zan dead also but more importantly, she wanted Liz.

"Leave me be. I got somethin' to take care of."

Confused, Tess didn't argue. They now had a destination and it was time to get packed.


**********
Tess came back to the present. Lonnie had definitely taken care of something. She had 'visited' Zan. Tess had been furious with Lonnie for tipping their hand. They could have simply gone to Michigan and used the element of surprise to catch Zan and Liz unawares. As it stood now, they had to know they were coming. And who says that they were even still there? If Zan were smart, he would have hightailed it someplace else.

Apparently, Lonnie had known about the cabin for some time. Zan was notorious for disappearing for days or weeks at a time and once, Lonnie had followed him. She had apparently returned to New York, laughing about her backward brother, and shelved the information for later use.

As Tess picked at her rice, she looked outside. The lamplight was hardly visible behind the blowing waves of snow. It looked like they were stuck for a while and that added another layer of stress for Tess.

Lonnie would be furious. And that usually meant someone would get hurt.

**********

The SUV slid into the ferry parking lot and hit a large snowbank with a soft thud on the passenger side. Max hit the gas softly, trying maneuver away from the pile of snow. The tires simply spun as the back end rotated around slowly. Frustrated, he slammed the gear into park. Turning to Michael, Isabel, and Maria, he said, "OK. Michael and I are going to go into the ferry office and charter the boat. You two get the gear ready for when we come back."

Without waiting for an answer, he jumped out the driver's side door and started running towards the little office building.

"Well, you heard our fearless leader." Huffing indignation, Michael scooted across to the driver's seat and swore when he hit his knee on the steering wheel. Groaning, he almost fell from the vehicle and then started limping after Max.

Maria and Isabel stared at each other. Maria simply shook her head, opened her door and walked to the driver's side door. Shutting it with a bang, she jumped back into her seat and closed the door. Shivering violently, she muttered the only thing she could from between her chattering lips. "Men."

**********

"No ferries?"

"No, sir. Not in this weather. You're even lucky that you caught me. I just walked down from my house to get some paperwork. Figured since I was going to be snowbound for a couple of days, I might as well get caught up on the books." The old man behind the counter hardly looked up as he shuffled some papers into a manila folder.

"But you have to take us." Michael watched as a desperate light began to fill Max's eyes.

"I will do no such thing. I'm not going to risk my life to take a couple of crazy teenagers over for a party."

Michael tensed as he saw Max's teeth clench. He saw that Max was about to lose control and it scared him. Ever since they left the cabin, Michael had been uneasy. Max was usually the pillar and he was beginning to become unglued. Michael felt himself getting swept away on Max's emotions and he shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. If Max couldn't be rational, then he had to be, otherwise this situation might turn ugly.

"Sir, this is an emergency. We have friends on Isle Royale that could be in danger."

For the first time since they had entered the little office, the old man looked up. "Well, that's a different story."

Both Max and Michael sighed in obvious relief.

"It's a different story but still one that I can't do nothing about. I'm grounded by the Coast Guard. They won't let me out of the harbor for any reason."

Max reached across the counter and grabbed the old man by the scruff of his shirt. Fear sprang into the man's eyes and instantly, Michael intervened. He caught Max by the wrist and broke his grip on the man.

"Max! This is NOT the way." Max fought him and Michael was forced to back him up against the wall, struggling the entire way. Keeping his voice quiet so he couldn't be overheard, he whispered harshly. "You fool! Are you going to start hurting innocent people? How would Liz feel about that?"

Max's eyes seemed to refocus and he stopped trying to struggle against him. "I told you, Michael. I don't care what it takes, I'm going to get to that island."

"And do what? If Zan and Liz are being attacked, it will be all over by the time we get there. We can't do anything right now. You yourself said that you didn't actually see Lonnie and Tess. What if it wasn't them? It would be to their detriment as much as Zan's if they attacked during a storm like this."

Max shook his head and let it drop to his chest. "I have to help her, Michael. Don't you understand?" His voice was small and no longer contained the surging anger from before.

"I do and I'm going to help you, help her. But threatening old men is not the way, got it?" He let go of Max warily and when he was sure that Max wasn't going to make a move, turned and walked back to the sputtering man.

"I'm going to call the cops! How dare you two punks try and -"

Michael held up a staying hand and waved it in weary defeat. "We're sorry. We didn't mean to frighten you. We just have friends that are in a lot of trouble and need our help. We have to find a way to the island as quickly as possible."

Slightly mollified, the man straightened his collar and shrugged his shoulders, refitting his heavy parka to his body. He kept one eye on Max who remained slumped against the wall. "It's no way to treat someone if you're looking for help."

"I know. And we're both really sorry." Michael gave Max a quick glare before turning back to the ferryman. "You can see how important it is to the both of us."

"Even if my mother were dying on that island, I wouldn't be able get there. It's not physically possible and it won't be for another day, if the weather reports are right."

Michael heard the door open and he turned in time to see Max outlined by the snowy night before the door slammed behind him.

"Well, thanks anyway. We appreciate it." Michael stepped back from the counter and reached for the door.

"You know, your friend there. I remember him from before. He used to have all of these tattoos and piercings. His hair was all spiked too, if I recall."

Startled, Michael turned back to him.

"He sure was a right bit nicer when he looked like a punk, if you ask me."

Michael could only chuckle at the irony as he stepped back into the storm.

**********

Liz looked up from the table and watched as Zan prepared a very late dinner. She had woken up on the couch to a very concerned looking face.

"Don't ever do that again, got it?"

Liz only smiled and said, "You're welcome." Huffing, Zan got to his feet from his crouch on the floor and began to fume. He had paced and paced in front of the fire, spewing out curses and graphic ways he was going to hurt her, while she smiled the whole time from the comfort of the couch. She knew that he was blowing off steam for two different reasons. First, he wasn't the type of guy to say thanks and that he was uncomfortable being in her debt. Second, she had scared him by trying to give too much and therefore putting herself in jeopardy. He was concerned about her and she had given him a scare. She continued to smile and snuggled deeper under the covers until he spent his energy.

When he had finished, he had walked over and knelt next to her on the bed. He had tenderly brushed the hair back away from her eyes and cupped her cheek. He looked deep into her eyes, searching for something. She simply stared back at him, content that for the moment, all was well in the world. Placing both hands on either side of her head, he made a connection and she felt him probe throughout her body to see if there was any damage from the earlier healing. Satisfied, he'd leaned forward and startled her by giving her a quick kiss before lifting her off of the couch. He wrapped her in a blanket and then shuffled her to the kitchen.

"I believe we didn't get no dinner."

"Please, no flapjacks, whatever you do. I still have burnt smell of them in my nose."

He laughed a good hearty laugh. Liz smiled, feeling that everything was all right. She felt good. Refreshed. Looking at the clock, she realized that over two hours had passed since Zan had slumped through the door in a mess of blood. It was now one o'clock in the morning.

"Isn't it a bit late for dinner?"

"It's never too late to eat." Zan had his back to her has he rummaged through the various cabinets, pulling out random items and setting them on the counter. He'd only bothered to put on a pair of jeans and his muscles rippled from straining upwards. As usual, his pants fell slightly on his hips and the tops of his underwear peaked over the top.

He turned so that she watched his profile as he searched through the freezer. She had to admire her work. His skin remained unblemished except for the old scar that had been there from before.

"Admiring again, eh?"

Instead of blushing and turning away, she simply laughed. It felt good to be sitting here in a warm kitchen being waited on. Having Zan back with his usual bantering made her feel lightheaded. Right now, there was nothing wrong in the world.

"Yeah, I have to say that I do good work."

Zan took his head from out of the freezer for a second and gave her a crooked grin. "Not bad for a newbie."

She watched him begin to prepare her meal, amazed all over again by his proficiency in a kitchen. She wrapped the blanket closer to her, stood up and walked over to the door.

"Where are you goin'?" came an indignant voice from over her shoulder.

She turned around startled and realizing she was only inches away from Zan's concerned face. "Nature calls."

"Let me go with you."

His gaze bore down on her and there was a fierceness to it that made her catch her breath. She could see each individual stubble on his chin and could feel his warm breath against her cheek. Looking into his eyes, they sucked her in and she felt instant desire. Forcing herself to look away and not get caught in his spell, she looked down and stared at his soft, full lips. Realizing this was trouble too, she looked down at her feet. Then, however, she could see his six pack abs and taut skin across his ripped stomach. Again she noticed the trail of hair that lingered above the belt line and trailed mysteriously downward. Startled by her body's reaction to his, she snapped her head upward.

She tried to regain control of the situation by saying, "I think I can manage by myself." She tried, unsuccessfully she knew, to put a sarcastic edge to the words.

"I know you can," he said softy, his breath gently caressing her skin. She inhaled sharply as he leaned slowly forward. Her mind went blank as his lips touched hers. They gently brushed and lingered with expectation. She responded automatically by tilting her head slightly and parting her lips to his invitation. He bore down more firmly, forcing her lips open wider as he stroked the inside of her mouth with his tongue. He wrapped his arms around her and crushed her to his bare chest, sifting her hair with one hand while the other cupped the side of her head and cheek. He lifted her so that he could access her mouth deeper and pushed her against the door.

Liz's arms were wrapped inside the blanked so she was unable to clutch to his smoldering body. He pinned her tighter against the door and ravished her mouth. Then he nipped and suckled down her cheekbone and then sucked gently at the base of her collarbone. Liz moaned at the tingling sensation that shot through her body from the intimate caress. He traced his way up the other side of her neck and nipped lightly at her ear.

She was completely at his mercy, unable to stop him or return in kind the ministrations he was bestowing upon her. All she could do is receive and that drove her crazy. She turned her head to the side, straining the muscles in her neck so that it would expose more skin for him to tantalize. He went for the hollow where her neck joined her shoulder. She shivered from the sensations he was creating and moaned louder. Suddenly he pulled his lips from her skin and she groaned from the loss. A heartbeat passed and she turned her gaze back, worried that something had happened to make him stop. Instantly, she was satisfied as his lips covered hers again in a lover's embrace. She responded by opening to him and then dueling her tongue with his. She sucked on his bottom lip pulling on it gently, releasing it and then attacking his lips with hers. She felt rather than heard him groan deep in his throat.

Then he pressed against her in a different way. His hips pushed into her, grinding against her pubic bone rhythmically. She gasped at the sensation which he quickly cut off with a searing kiss. Frustrated by her lack of mobility, she began to wriggle in his grasp. It only forced him close in even tighter and she could feel his hardness through the many folds of the blankets. A hot wave shot through her and she threw her head back against the door with a small thud.

In response, Zan stopped his grinding and simply nipped at her chin and the delicate skin beneath. Liz heaved great breaths of air, trying to calm her body and regain her senses. Zan, feeling the slight shift of mood, cupped her head and tilted it down to him so that he could kiss her in a long, smoldering fashion. Then, releasing her lips, he gasped and pressed his cheek against hers. His heaving breathing roared in her ear and she was thrilled at the sound. She felt her heart beating wildly and willed it to slow down.

After a long minute, Zan pulled back slightly and slowly lowered her to the ground. His body was still pressed firmly against her and Liz was glad as her knees were shaking quite violently. His hands wandered to her face and cupped her head. He stroked both of her cheeks with his thumbs. Liz closed her eyes at the tender caress. He lowered his lips once more and kissed her gently, not probing this time but only caressing her mouth. Liz opened her eyes and sighed as she noticed that his eyes were closed. His lips gently released hers and he pulled back.

His golden eyes gazed at her and Liz noticed that for the first time since she had met him, the tension lines had left his face. He seemed almost boyish but for the smoldering, flickering glints of light dancing in his eyes. He smiled slowly.

I didn't let you go.

She merely smiled back and shook her head.

I should let you go.

Liz nodded her head slowly.

He stopped smiling and looked at her intently. A seeming sadness spread across his face as he continued to gaze down at her.

What if I don't want to let you go?

Liz stopped smiling, realizing there was more behind Zan's words than simply letting her out the door. Not knowing exactly what he meant, she didn't respond except by looking at him questioningly.

He stepped backwards and one of his hands released her cheek. She heard a rustling next to her and then he was holding up her jacket.

"You don't want to forget this. Not tonight." He helped her shrug into the coat after unwrapping the blanket from her body. He kissed her softly and then turned away and walked back to the kitchen. Not quite sure about what happened but knowing that the tender moment had not been lost, Liz went out into the snowy night.

**********

After a long ride back home, long due to snow not distance, Max, Michael, Isabel, and Maria dejectedly walked into the cold cabin. If it was even possible, the weather had gotten worse. Max was severely strained just from the drive itself not including the emotional rollercoaster he was riding. Everyone else was also drained from both the situation and the tenseness of the drive. Coming from the desert, weather like this seemed like a fairyland.

Stomping off the snow, all four were startled when they heard a voice say, "You all look like snowmen."

There was Liz standing in the middle of the room with a playful smirk on her face. Max rushed over and picked her up, hugging her closely to him. The other three heaved a deep sigh of relief. Obviously, Liz was safe and not dying a horrible death.

Max set her on the ground and asked if she was okay. Liz assured him that she was. Maria walked over and pushing Max out of the way, gave her friend a big bear hug. "Good to see all is well, girlfriend."

Michael and Isabel gave small waves from the other side of the room and Liz sent a warm smile their way. Looking up at Max, Liz said, "I thought you might be worried so I decided I should come visit and let you know that all is well."

Max looked down at her carefully as if trying to validate that she was telling the truth. "Are you sure? What about Zan?"

Liz frowned slightly and said, "Well, he was attacked by a bear." At the collective sharp intake of breath in the room, she raised her hand and continued. "He's okay though. I was able to heal him so there's no lasting damage."

Isabel stepped forward and said, "You healed him?"

Liz nodded her head with a grin. "Yeah, pretty amazing, huh? I wasn't sure that I would be able to do it but once I started, it just came naturally."

Everyone started congratulating her while Max stood to side quietly. He seemed preoccupied but Liz didn't notice as she explained in brief detail what had happened.

"Afterwards, I thought that you might be worried. All you saw, Max, was Zan covered in blood and I knew that that would probably send you in a blind panic."

Giving a look to the rest of the group and raising a quick hand to an opened mouth Maria, Max quickly answered, "We were worried but I think panic would be the wrong word."

Liz couldn't help but catch Maria's and Michael's rolling eyes and guessed that something very different had happened. Content, though, that they were all safe, Liz smiled at Max and simply said, "I'm glad."

The other three quickly murmured good-byes and left the two of them alone. Max walked over to Liz and gave her a gentle hug. Liz could feel his relief wash over her in waves. She pulled slowly back and smiled up at him. Then she stepped away.

"Max, you can't worry so much about me."

"You know that I will no matter what you say."

"I know, but from the looks on everyone's faces here, I think that maybe you worry too much." She chuckled slightly.

Max merely nodded his head.

"Where were you coming back from, anyway?"

"We were on our way to find you. After seeing Zan all torn up, the only think I could think of was that Lonnie and Tess had attacked. So we were trying to get to you. Only, the weather is so bad, that we can't get any ferries over to the island."

"Really? It's snowing really bad where…" Liz trailed off as Max's words sunk in. "You know where we're staying." It was a statement of fact – not a question.

Max answered calmly. "Yes."

Liz shook her head and sighed heavily. "Maria."

"I had to!" came a muffled shout from one of the doors followed by loud shushing sounds.

Liz couldn't even manage a smile. "Max, I told you that I wasn't ready to let you know where we were."

"But, Liz…"

"No buts, Max. I specifically said that I wanted to talk to Zan first."

"I won't say that I'm sorry. I thought you were in trouble. I reacted the only way that I could and the same goes for Maria."

"That's right! I only did-" The muffled shout was obviously cut off from a covered hand. A short yelp sounded a second later with Michael's booming "Ow! That hurt!" floating through the door.

Liz didn't know whether to be mad or grateful for Max's and Maria's obvious concern so she decided to move on.

"Max, I don't want you to come until I tell you."

He took a step towards her, his face a mask of confusion. "I don't understand. Why don't you want me there?"

Liz could only look up into his eyes with a small frown. She knew this was going to be difficult but she said it anyway. "I'm not ready yet."

The words seemed to reverberate around the room. Max reacted as if it had been a physical slap. He took a step back and shook his head. He pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes tightly. Not wanting to ask but having to anyway, he said quietly "And what does that mean?"

"It means that I'm really confused right now."

Max's courage failed him and he couldn't pursue it further. It didn't need to be said anyway. It was written on her face. She was confused between him and Zan. What had happened when she had healed Zan? Did they make a connection like he and Liz did at the Crashdown?

The only thing he could do was let her go. And no matter how he felt he couldn't punish her for her decision. He walked slowly over to her and gave her a loving hug. Burying his face into her hair, he murmured, "I hope you figure it out."

"I will, Max," came a muffled cry in his chest. She gave him one last squeeze and then he was holding on to empty air.

**********

Isabel came out a few minutes later. Max was still standing in the middle room with his arms hanging loosely at his sides.

"I'm sorry, Max."

"I know."

Isabel walked over to her brother and gave him a fierce hug. "She'll be back."

Max simply shrugged in her embrace. He pulled away first and then turned his back as he dried his tears. Maria and Michael came quietly into the room.

"Well, there's one thing we know," Max said as he came to face them. "She's strong."

"What do you mean?" asked Michael when nobody volunteered anything else.

"She has strength we can't even imagine. You didn't see how torn up Zan was. That he was still even able to move is a mystery."

"But, Max. You said that she was learning new powers. What's so special about this that makes you think she's so strong?"

"Remember when I healed those cancer children?" Michael nodded. "Remember how I couldn't use my powers at all right after? It took hours, most of a whole day, before I could even draw on a little bit."

Max looked up and stared everyone in the face. "Liz brought someone back from the dead on her first try and was still able to visit me within two hours afterwards. She didn't even look strained and 'visiting' is one of the hardest and most draining things next to healing that I've ever done."

Both aliens and the pixie human could only stare at him open-mouthed.

**********

Liz returned back to the sauna room. After using the outhouse, she had sneaked into the relatively warm area so that she could visit Max. She had known that he would be worried and she felt that he deserved her to visit without Zan being in the same room.

She knew now that she was separating the two of them in her mind and wanting to keep them physically apart. In her heart she knew why.

Zan's kiss had changed things. He was waiting for her in the cabin and she needed to take this all of the way. For once and for all, she was going to discover how Zan felt about her.

And in the process, she was going to find out how she really felt about him.
posted on 5-Dec-2002 1:54:26 AM
Do I get to bump, too?

smiles
posted on 8-Dec-2002 3:47:00 PM
Please don't kill me. I got called out of town again with only a day's notice so I'm on my way to the U.K. in an hour or so.

I did write a second part but when I went to do some final edits, I ended up not being happy with it so I'm rewriting parts.

Which means no new part for at least a week.

I apologize profusely. I bow down in humbleness...

AweInspired
posted on 20-Dec-2002 9:35:20 AM
Hi, all.

I got back from the U.K., then went to Chicago, and am now just getting a breather.

I fly out this weekend to visit family and I have made a command decision - I am NOT taking my computer.

Before I begin ducking, I just want to explain the situation. If I bring my computer, I will then be tempted to do work. And to be honest, I am ALL worked out at the moment.

SO, you will have a new part in either the first or second week of January.

I want everyone to have a Happy Holiday and a great New Year. Be safe, be content, and be happy!!

Love to you all,

AweInspired