posted on 7-Dec-2001 7:03:26 PM

Liz leaned over and rested her head on her hand for a moment. She raised her head again and looked at the math problem in front of her. It still made no sense.

*Well I wonder why that is* she thought, *maybe it has something to do with not having more than three hours sleep a night for two weeks, not eating in four hours, and it’s one am*. She sighed, looked at the question again and groaned, resting her head on the desk again.

Her head was killing her. *Why am I working this hard anyway? * She asked herself. Oh yeah. To keep her mind off Ma- no, don’t say that name, she reminded herself for the thousandth time. She did that, and she’d never get any work done.

A single tear rolled down Liz’s cheek. She brushed it away hurriedly, but left her head lying on the desk. Just another moment and then she’d sit up and do the stupid math problem. Just one more minute she promised herself mentally, then promptly drifted off to sleep.

* * *

Max watched Liz from the balcony; chin propped up in his hands. She was so beautiful, in everything she did, totally unselfconscious and focused with everything and everyone. He envied Maria and Alex their closeness to her. Max had thought he could never have that with anyone.

But now he wasn’t so sure. He knew it had hurt her, at least as much as him when they had broken up two weeks earlier. He saw the pain in her eyes when she saw him, saw the defensive shield she had up around him. Max hated having hurt her that much. He hated anyone hurting her.

As he watched, Liz laid her head down on her arm again. She had the hurt look on her face again, even with her eyes shut, not knowing he was there. He saw a single tear roll down her cheek and wanted to kick himself. Why was he doing this? Why was he screwing up both their lives so badly?

Reaching out, Max tapped on the window gently. Liz barely stirred at her desk. Using his powers, he unlocked the window and slid it open gently.

“Liz?” he asked quietly. Realizing she was asleep, he climbed carefully into the room and stepped over to the desk, trying to avoid breaking anything on the floor. There was stuff everywhere; cds, books, tapes, folders, clothes. He’d seen Liz drop most of it on the floor during his nightly visits in the last two weeks. Now inside, Max was surprised by the sheer amount of belongings she had managed to scatter throughout the room. She was usually so neat. Just another way he had messed up her life, this time literally.

Liz shifted a little in her sleep and several strands of her hair fell forward over her face. Max leaned over and brushed them out of her way. She looked so peaceful in her sleep, so free from the pain of the last two weeks.

Liz shifted again, and mumbled under her breath. Max smiled to himself, then realized how uncomfortable she must be sleeping like that. He made his way over to her bed and pulled the covers back. Then he bent down and picked her up carefully, trying not to wake her up.

Max carried Liz over to her bed, surprised by how little she weighed, and laid her down gently, careful not to jostle her. He pulled the coverlet over her and smoothed it down around her shoulders, then just stood and looked at her face for a moment.

Liz was so beautiful, even in sleep; it made his heart ache. Max crouched down beside her bed and gazed at her adoringly. Her hair had fallen forward over her face again. He reached out to pull it back, then let his hand rest on her cheek for a moment.

Liz’s skin was so soft… he traced his fingers down her jaw line, then up again to cup her face in his hand, just touching her. It made him feel… calmer, just to have her that close. He focused on her face again, and before he knew it, he was moving, sliding into her dream.

* * *

Liz was standing alone in one of the school halls. That was the first thing that hit Max – her loneliness, her feelings of separation from everyone else. He blinked at his sudden knowledge of her feelings, then realized this entire world was made up of her mind – of course he could sense her feelings.

Max was leaning against a row of lockers, out of Liz’s line of sight. His vision slowly widened so he could see other things besides Liz. Everywhere he looked, people were packed together tightly, not much space between any two people. But around Liz was a big empty circle where no one was walking or standing. Max watched her turn frantically, trying to find someone, anyone. Her waves of fear washed over him.
Her feelings of pain and loneliness were almost unbearable. And Max was just feeling this second-hand. He couldn’t even imagine what she must have been really feeling. Max closed his eyes for a moment and again felt the motion as he woke up.

* * *

Max looked across to where his hand still rested against her cheek, and remembered her feelings of loneliness. He knew now what he had to do.

Max sat down carefully and pulled his shoes off one at a time, then slid onto the bed beside Liz. He lay down on top of her covers beside her, moved to slide an arm around her and pulled her into him, so close he could smell her hair against him, before sliding back into her dream.

* * *

Max realized, as soon as he re-entered her dream, that even while asleep, Liz knew at some level of her mind what he’d done. Her feelings weren’t as highly pitched, not as frantic. While he could still sense her loneliness, her fear no longer showed as much. He could still feel her sadness and pain at what had happened between them, and it cut him up inside. He started to walk towards Liz, who still hadn’t seen him inside her dream.

Just then, Liz turned towards him. He saw her eyes widen I recognition and hope, and she held out a hand to her. Max hesitated, right at the edge of her empty circle, suddenly unsure. The hope in her eyes died, and she started to turn away again.

Max took another step forward, unable to stand the pain in her eyes he had caused again, and grabbed her wrist. Liz swivelled to face him, eyes wide with shock.

“Max… ”, She started to say. “What… how… ”

Max didn’t answer in words. He slid one arm around her waist and pulled her into him, as he had done with her sleeping body earlier. With his other hand, he slid her hair out of her face and placed his hand on the back of her neck. He tipped his face down towards her and kissed her, ever so gently.

Liz slipped her arms around his back as they pulled apart and rested their foreheads together. She didn’t say anything, but as he looked into her eyes, he knew what she wanted, needed to know.

“Come on,” he said quietly. He pulled his right arm up from around Liz’s waist so it rested around her shoulders instead, and grasped her left hand I his, so her arm was still round his back. He guided her gently down the hall, her “separation circle” smaller now, just enough to keep other people for walking into them.

“You don’t need to be scared anymore,” Max told her gently. “I’ll always be here for you.” Liz didn’t answer loud. She didn’t need to. The trust in her eyes and her feelings was answer enough.

* * *

Liz woke up partially, blinking in the darkness of her room. That had been a very different ending to her dream than the one she had expected. Not that she was complaining, but… it had just reminded her more of what would never happen.

Beside her, Max moved, coming out of the dream now Liz had woken up. “Liz?” he questioned softly, leaning over her in the darkness.

Liz pulled back momentarily, then relaxed, seeing who it was. “Max? What are you doing here?”. She swallowed to stop herself from crying again; knowing it wouldn’t be for the reasons she wanted.

Max smiled down at her gently. “I was watching you, earlier”, he told her softly, “and I saw you crying, so I came in to talk to you, but you’d fallen asleep on your desk”.

Liz looked back at him, confused. “So why am I in bed now?” she asked, not understanding.

“I tucked you in. You need to eat more, you don’t weigh much believe me. But I was watching you sleep, and I touched you…” he looked over at her guiltily. “I went into your dream. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…”

Liz looked back at him. “So… that was really you?” she asked slowly, working it out in her mind. Max nodded in affirmation.

I’m sorry, so sorry… ” He said guiltily. “I should leave… ” He started to sit up. Liz grabbed his arm.

“But that was what you would have done?” she asked hopefully.
Max nodded slowly. “Yes.” He said it so calmly, but it made her heart race, to know he would do that for her.

“So, stay,” she offered him. “If that’s the truth, I don’t mind.”

Max smiled and slid back down beside Liz, resting his arm around her waist again. Within minutes, they were both asleep again, sharing their dreams once more.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 3-Jun-2002 1:08:28 AM ]
posted on 7-Dec-2001 7:04:45 PM
I should warn you before starting this, I don't ven really like this story. I'm told it's good, but it just annoys me, and I wrote it.

After Destiny

Max was across the road from the Crashdown when Liz got back.

Liz had disappeared after the day in the cave, where both their worlds came down. Max had come to her home the next morning, to find her parents just coming back from dropping her at the airport. He didn’t know where she was, how long she was going. He did know why.

Maria had eventually told him that Liz had wanted time away to think over “things”, significant look here, so she had gone to stay with some aunt and cousins in Florida. Which cousins and aunt Maria had not heard of in months, and Max not at all.

Maria herself wouldn’t let him try and call Liz, or tell him where she was. Whenever Liz called home, it was always to Maria, with the exception of one call to Alex, and a very few to her parents. And it was always when Maria was at home, or away from everyone else.

Liz wanted time away from Roswell. Away from her parents, friends, work, everything. Max. That much was obvious.

But he still couldn’t stop hoping that sometime soon she would call, and he would at least be able to hear her voice, if he couldn’t watch her every moment, follow her everywhere, and spend his life with her. It wouldn’t, couldn’t be close enough to what they both wanted, but it would have been something.

But Liz was here, now. Bare metres from him. And suddenly, everything he had wanted to say, do, know all summer, disappeared. His mind went blank as he tried to comprehend that Liz was actually here, and it wasn’t his imagination.

She looked almost exactly as she had before she’d left. Maybe a tiny bit taller, he wasn’t sure. She was wearing all three quarter clothing, orange shirt and white pants, despite the heat, and grabbing bags from the back of the cab which she had been getting out of when he saw her.

His eyes, at least, were functioning even if the rest of him wasn’t. They followed her every move as she dumped the bags on the pavement and paid the driver, then carefully picked up her bags with her left hand.

Her left hand? Max wondered for a moment, then saw as she turned for the first time that her right hand and wrist were bandaged, as though she had sprained that wrist.

Liz had gotten hurt. That thought speared through his mind like nothing else could, and he started to move towards her. Then Maria came running out the door of the Crashdown, complete with alien antenna, and grabbed Liz in a hug. Over Liz’s shoulder, Maria managed to message to Max that he was not welcome right now.

Normally, that wouldn’t have stopped him. But right now, he knew, Liz was going to be swamped by family and various friends, and he didn’t want to have “that” talk with her under those conditions. He turned to walk down the street, and slowly count the hours until night.

* * *

Liz managed to unload some of her bags onto Maria, so it was easier for her to climb up the outside stairs to her flat, even with her wrist sprained and her ankle near enough. Max wasn’t in the caf, in a sense she was glad. Liz didn’t know if she could cope with that yet.

According to Maria, her parents had gone away overnight to a café owners’ convention. Liz didn’t care, they didn’t expect her home for another two days anyway. She wouldn’t have come home now if her aunt hadn’t had to leave overseas unexpectedly. As it was, with Maria here, and later Alex, it wasn’t like she was home to an empty house.

“So Liz, how did you really hurt yourself?” Alex asked, after all the basic stuff you go through when your best friend returns from a holiday. “I mean, I know you told us you fell from the back of a galloping horse, while rescuing a child from a burning carriage, but I have a feeling that isn’t the whole story.” He raised his eyebrows at her meaningfully. Liz laughed and wouldn’t answer.

“I already feel stupid enough, I don’t want you guys rolling your eyes and telling me what a moron I am.” she explained with a small smile. “It was so stupid.” And she laughed again and refused to answer any more questions.

But later, when she was alone, she admitted to herself what she wouldn’t to them. Both her arm and leg hurt, and there were bruises down the length of each. Hence the long clothes in the 105 degree weather. And of course her heart hurt.

As much as she didn’t want to see Max yet, she couldn’t help but feel hurt that he hadn’t been here. Of course he wasn’t, she reminded herself mentally. That’s why you came back this way, so he wouldn’t know.

It still hurt. Liz shrugged at her inner self and got up to find something for her wrist.

When she finally found a hot pack to put on it, she sat down again to try and arrange it. The wrist throbbed more than anything, and with only her left hand to hold the pack in place, she was having problems. Liz cursed under her breath as the ‘adjective’ thing slipped again.

She finally got the pack in place and lay back on her bed, cautiously eyeing the bags on the floor. They could wait. Liz stared up at the ceiling, thinking back over the summer.

Exploring a cave with one of the twelve year olds, and fighting off memories the entire time. Different cave, different people, different time. But so much the same, and so much of the same pain.

Holding her youngest cousin, a baby barely a year old in her arms, pulling at her hair and laughing, and then Liz suddenly wondering if she’d ever have children now.

Her aunt talking a friend she hadn’t heard from in years, and Liz suddenly wondering if she’d talk about Isabel and Michael and him leaving that way.

Watching her cousins flirting with boys at the beach, and remembering how she had teased him the same way.

Eating summer fruit, and then seeing a strawberry and having to excuse herself to leave the room.

Bittersweet summer. Like half ripe strawberries. Liz smiled to herself quietly, and got up to unpack her bags.

* * *

Max paused at the bottom of the ladder. Would Liz even want to see him? Would she even be there? What was he even going to do, say? Should he be doing this at all? Max tossed his head, if he’d listened to those thoughts, he wouldn’t have gotten this far.

He paused again at the top of the ladder, not seeing light anywhere. Liz wasn’t out here as he had expected, maybe she wasn’t home at all. She might have gone out with her parents or something. Max pushed himself over the top of the ladder, he could at least check.

He looked around her little balcony. Her candles were out again, he knew she had taken them inside while she went away. None of them were lit, but would she bother if she weren’t going to be out here for at least a while tonight? Probably not. He crossed to her window and looked inside.

He was rewarded first that the window was open, and secondly that Liz was lying on her bed. She was wearing a pyjama set covered with ducks. The short sleeves displayed bruises down her right arm and leg.

Liz had obviously seen him, because she sat up in bed, legs to the side. Max slid into the room carefully. She was staring straight in front of her.

“Max.” she said, more as a statement than a question.

“Liz…” his voice trailed off. What was he supposed to say? He’d forgotten all over again.

“Max. What are you doing here?” Liz asked, finally turning to face him. If she acted like it was over, maybe… maybe what?

“I thought it was a little obvious, myself.” Max answered, grasping at humour. “I came to see you. Alone.”


. Max came over and sat carefully beside her on the bed. “And I thought I could help… you know, this.” He picked up her bandaged wrist in his left hand, his hands so gentle and warm. How could he be so gentle? Liz wondered wildly.

“It’s not that bad, really.’ she lied. Max gave her a little look; she hated that he always knew when she lied. He wondered if she knew how fast his heart was beating.

His fingers trailed up her arm, tracing the marks from the bruises in the dim light from the window. Liz shivered, hoped he didn’t notice. “How’d you do this, anyway?” he asked. He could see her right leg was similarly marked.

Liz came back to the present. “I – fell.” she answered his question. Well, it was semi true.

Max smiled again in the dark, but didn’t ask her again. “How many people know?” he asked her.

“Not many. My aunt. Maria and Alex. That’s it.” Liz answered, trying not to notice his hands on her arm again.

“Not your parents?” Max asked.

“They’re not here, and I didn’t call them.” Why did you tell him that? She yelped silently. She hoped he wouldn’t notice her slip.

“So I can fix this completely. Good.” More than subtle emphasis on that last word, she had a feeling that was more than it could be taken for. “If you want me to, that is.”

Liz panicked. If she said yes, did that mean she saw him as more than a friend? He was, undeniably, but ! “Um… yeah. I guess.” tell me that was a safe answer, oh please.

Max merely nodded once. His hands slid down her arm to her wrist once more and started undoing the bandage. Liz watched despite herself, as her wrist came into view.

Max glanced up at her once, as he pulled the last of the bandage away. There was something in her eyes… and the way she wouldn’t tell anyone how she’d done this. His fault again? Max wondered. If he’d hurt her… he looked down to her wrist.

It didn’t look good. It was swollen around the joint, and hot. Max glanced up to her once, then knelt on the floor at her feet so he could see better. His fingers were cooler now, or maybe that was just comparative to how hot her wrist was.

Liz watched as he shut his eyes, then felt her skin tingle. She decided she didn’t really want to watch as her twisted wrist was set straight again. She could sort of feel it though, a kind of numbing in her hand, and then everything slowly moving into place.

Max didn’t stop there though. His hand slowly slid up her arm. Healing each bruise. She had to watch that, as each bruise faded and then disappeared. As his hand reached her shoulder, just touching her pyjama top, his eyes opened.

“Better?” he asked. She nodded, almost too aware of his hand on her shoulder. They both felt it as the connection, so long forbidden, suddenly crashed open.

Max felt her fear – of him? Yes and no… what he would do. He felt her pain, still raw between them, her irrational anger at the gerbil, she knew it was irrational. And her love, for him, all of him…

Liz knew what he was here for, not only her arm, noble, noble Max. For her. She knew his pain, his fear of what she could do, to him. And love, so much love. She’d always known he loved her, but this was beyond love…

They pulled away at the same moment, their eyes meeting, unintentionally but knowing. They stared into each other’s eyes for a moment, then Liz grabbed his shirt and pulled him up to her, into her.

Their mouths crashed together, memories passing freely between them now, connection open like a flood. He could feel everything she felt, knew what she wanted. Max ran his tongue across her lips, urging them open. Liz opened her mouth willingly, needing more.

It wasn’t a gentle kiss. It was full of need, wanting. Liz let her hands roam freely over his back, clutching at him. Max had one of his hands wrapped into her hair, the other sliding under the back of her shirt. She pulled him even closer.

Max tore away on a gasp, pushing Liz gently down onto her bed and lying over her. She pulled at him, trying to bring his mouth back to hers. “Liz, I love you.” He finally kissed her, and then over and over again.

* * *

Liz stretched slowly, arching her entire body, eyes still shut. As she did, she slid against the warm body that had protected her all night. She smiled, moving closer.

An arm came around her shoulders, wrapping her in closer to him. Max spread his hand across the warm skin of her shoulder, fingers tracing tiny patters on her skin.

Liz smiled to herself. So perfect. The two of them together, like this. She considered rolling over to face Max, but it was so warm and comfortable just like this, why bother?

Just as she finished that thought, Max moved. Before he even started, she knew what he was going to do. Starting at the joint of her shoulder and neck, he kissed a slow trail all the way to just under her left ear.

His hand slid from her right shoulder across her chest to her other arm. Pressing gently, he tipped her gently so she was more on her back. Then he resumed where he’d left off, kissing from under her ear across her cheek.

Liz rolled over fully to face him, her hands coming up to hold his shoulders. He continued kissing her face, across her cheek, over her nose, across the other cheek. Tiny kisses, sweet kisses. Max continued his exploration, kissing up her temple, along her brow line.

He came back to her ear, kissed that. “Love you.” he whispered softly.

At that, Liz’s eyes teared. She couldn’t help it, he was so incredible. He loved her so completely. Liz knew herself well, and knew she wasn’t that lovable. But he did.

“Liz?” Max asked, “What’s wrong? Liz, god, I’m sorry.” His eyes were fixed on her. “I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have…”

Liz grabbed his shoulders before he could pull away. “Max, no! I’m not sorry about it. Any of this.” his eyes were still worried. “I wouldn’t take any of it back.”

“You’re ok? I didn’t – hurt you?” Max touched her cheek. Liz fought off an urge to cry harder. He was incredible.

“I’m fine. Promise.”

“Why are you crying? God, Liz, if I hurt you – I don’t know what I’d do.” His hand slid down her face to hold her chin.

“You didn’t. I’m just – happy.” Liz moved her hands down his back, revelling in the feel of his skin and the muscle beneath it.

“Do you always cry when you’re happy?” Max asked curiously. She nodded, trying not to laugh at the look on his face – solemn and curious all at the same time. “I’ll have to make a note of that.”

He bent down to her, just touching her lips with his own, brushing so lightly. Hardly even a kiss. She tried to move up to meet him, only to have him move back. Frustrated, she lay back.

His hands wove into her hair, holding her head in place. Liz waited, looking up at him. As she’d known it would, the kiss finally came – a real kiss now. She opened her mouth to his probing tongue, slipping her own to him.

Max opened his mouth to hers, tangling tongues with her. Her hands slipped up to his head, threading her fingers through his short hair. It occurred to Liz suddenly that this was the kind of open-mouthed kiss lovers shared. She had no objections.

Just as she started to think he couldn’t go on without a breath, they both pulled apart. Max rested his forehead against hers as they fought for breath.

Liz pushed him away gently, once they’d both caught their breath. She rolled over to check the clock on her bedside stand.

“When are your parents getting back?” Max asked.

“Three or so hours from now. So Maria said.”

He sighed. “Time to get up I guess.”

Liz smiled at that. “I guess.” She sat up in the bed, looking down at him.

Max’s hand snaked up to grab hers before she could move from the bed. “Forgetting something?” he asked.

She gave him a teasing smile. “Not that I can think of, no.”

“I should remind you.” He sat up to grab her and kiss her again. Not quite the same standard as the last one, but definitely some action there. “I need a good morning kiss.” He told her as soon as they broke apart.

“What was the last one then?”

“Oh that.” He thought for a moment. “Call it a pre-getting-up kiss. I don’t care.”

Liz smiled and rolled her eyes at him. Max watched as she stepped from the bed, her skin now unmarked by the bruises that had previously marked her skin


“Hmmmmm?” she turned from looking for something on her dresser.

“How did you hurt yourself?” she hadn’t answered last night, but now – last night had changed a lot of things.

“I fell. I told you.” Liz turned back to her dresser. He could see her face in the mirror, looking tense.

“I know. You told me that part. How did you fall?” Max asked.

Liz faced him again. “You’re not going to give up, are you?” she asked. Max smiled slightly. She already knew the answer. “I couldn’t sleep at night, because I was thinking about you. I went walking around two am. I slipped outside and landed badly on the rock I was climbing around on. Okay?”

She still wasn’t happy about his asking questions. Max slightly smiled again. “You have no idea how many times I hurt myself over the summer because I was thinking about you.”

The look in her eyes softened. “Really?” she asked.

“No, I’m telling you this just so you don’t feel too stupid.” Max teased. She raised an eyebrow at him, which made him laugh. “I love you, Liz.”

Her eyes flashed as she remembered other times he’d said those words. He knew there weren’t nearly as many as he’d like, as many as she deserved.

“I love you too Max.”

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 7-Dec-2001 7:15:50 PM ]
posted on 7-Dec-2001 7:06:15 PM
Ending Our World

WARNING: Probable rating NC-17. I don't know how I even wrote it, besides that I was angry at the time.

Author: gij, aka Puzzlechild

Email: roswellbabette⊕

Feedback: Feedback takes a short time, death takes forever. Think about it.

Disclaimer: I don’t own any more of Roswell than could be accounted of by posters, tapes and a site could allow for. Realistically, do you think I would have let a plot development like EOTW go to waste the way they have? No? No.

Summary: When did the world really end, and why? Dark, dark alter reality for a day or so after EOTW.

* * *

Max paused outside the window. She was inside, he could hear her moving around. With who, he taunted himself, doing what. Nothing he could control. She had made it clear enough that no one could tell her what to do. Not Maria, Alex, her parents, Max. Obviously not Max.

But Max had been weak, and now he was strong. It was obvious she hadn’t loved him. Freed of that tenuous hold, there was so much more he could do. He smiled to himself, and rapped his knuckles against the window twice.

Inside, Liz spun around toward the window. Her face flashed with a myriad of emotions, then assumed the careful blankness she had worn around him for what seemed like days now. She crossed the room carefully and opened the catch on the window, allowing him to slip it up.

“Max? What are you doing here?” she asked. No curiosity, just a questioning of motives for his appearance at her window. There was nothing he could want from a girl he knew was spoiled goods, was there.

“I came for something of mine, sweetling.” Not just his, obviously. He wondered how many others she had shared her body with. Enough, he was sure.

“Which would be…?” Liz asked. Confused, she was. Amusing. Miss Liz should have considered consequences when she shared something that wasn’t hers.

“Right here, angel.” Max picked up one of her hands from her side and held it. Sliding his hand up, he gripped her wrist. “Although technically mine no longer. How many others have you shared with?”

“Max… you’re scaring me.” She was, too. He could feel it through the connection between them that still lingered.

“Maybe you should have worried about that before you gave away what wasn’t yours.” His fingers gripped her wrist with an almost cruel hold. Liz cried out involuntarily.

He smiled, then. A tiny little smile at the corners of his eyes and mouth. His second hand pulled her waist up against him, and then gripped her other arm.

“Max… what are you doing?” she really was scared now. Max could feel it still.

“I told you, angel. Taking back what should have been mine.” He picked up her first hand and browsed along her arm, planting occasional kisses and bites. Her other hand pushed at him weakly.

“Max, no. Please, no.” Liz pleaded. “You don’t understand.”

He ignored her plea, pinning both her hands against her body with one of his own, and used his second hand to strip away her shirt. Dropping it to the floor, he worked his way along her shoulder, biting and sucking his way to her neck.

Her hands still pushed feebly at him. He momentarily considered blocking the part of her mind that allowed her to use her arms, then discarded it for a better idea. He backed her to a wall and used his powers to pin her arms behind her.

He kissed the side of her neck again, then raised his hands to the back of her head. Pulling her forward slightly, he kissed her, his tongue forcing rather than requesting entrance. Liz moaned, more from shock and fear than anything else. But if Kyle had had her, so could he.

“Sorry yet, dear one?” he asked her as he pulled away. Her eyes, huge and scared, looked up at him.

“Don’t do that.” Max ordered her irrationally. He justified it to himself; in giving herself to Kyle she had destroyed any reason he had to protect her. Once that was gone, there was only this.

He knew that. She knew that. So why the pain and fear in her eyes? There was no sense to it. What was there sense to anymore?

“Max… no. Please don’t do this. Please.”

Not the time to think. He was here for a reason. He dropped his gaze from her eyes, dragging it slowly down her body. Without her shirt, he could see more clearly the body that had captivated his mind for most of the year before. Her breasts were small, but complemented her tiny waist, and the beginning of the curve to her hips. Low slung cargo pants obscured his view of the rest of her body.

He glanced back up to her eyes once, then undid the top of her pants. Moving away from her body for a moment, he slid them down her legs and over the end of each bare foot, a strange tenderness in his movements. He dropped them to the floor behind him and then stood, walking quickly to the door.

He held his hand over the lock for a moment. It glowed for a second, then appeared normal again. No one could pass that now. He allowed the knowledge to pass to Liz via the connection that still bound them. Interested, he watched her shoulders fall slightly, and then reassert herself.

Max turned, facing the girl still pinned against the wall of her own bedroom. “No one will come for you now, angelheart.” He adjusted the hold on her arms, then picked her up and carried her across the room, placing her gently on the bed. Laying her back, he pinned her arms over her head this time.

Remembering something, he reached around her to unpin her bra, then released her arms one at a time to remove it from her entirely. She tried to fight him them, his strength easily overpowering her smaller frame. She turned her face away as he lifted the garment away from her, refusing to watch him look over her near-nudity.

There was more than enough to look at. Her hair made a dark curtain where it had fallen across the pillow, tousled from where she had tried to fight him. Her freed chest breathing fast, adding a small momentum to her slight breasts. Her waist curved well to her hips, culminating in long, sensuous legs.

Max turned away for a moment, stripping himself of clothing. He folded each item, draping it neatly over the back of her chair. He kicked off his shoes, pulling away his socks, and placed them neatly underneath his other clothes.

Liz still looked away from him, staring at the far wall instead. He saw her shoulders move again, more a sob than anything else. He stifled his irritation, what more had she expected? If Kyle could take her, so could he.

He knelt on the bed beside her, trailing gentle fingers down her sides. He ran them up to her breasts and circled her nipples, enjoying the softness and suppleness he found there. Liz made a sound half gasp, half sob.

Max trailed his fingers down her sides again, to the sides of the panties she wore as her only covering now. He slid his fingers under the sides and pulled them down her legs, revealing the dark curls underneath.

He could smell something he knew from before: the times they had made out seriously, gotten close to where they were going in a sense now, he had smelt it too. The dampness between her legs was rewarding in more than one sense: why hurt the girl more than necessary? She was his to take, but why harm?

She looked away still, only breathing a little harder as he explored the place between her legs. Max crawled back up her body, taking her mouth in another owning kiss. Mine, he was saying. Mine to take and no longer yours.

The ache between his own legs was becoming unbearable. He slid his hand down her body again,, finding the slick opening he searched for. With a move instinctive born, he slid inside her.

Liz gasped reflexively as he pushed his way inside her. Her face turned back to his, eyes wide. He ignored that, surely she didn’t think they had come this far only to stop now? He felt something tear inside her and pushed past it.

Her eyes blazed hot and deep as he looked back to her. He could rape her, that look told him, but she would never surrender what was hers. One day, he would know what that was too.

“All right, angel?” he asked her, not expecting an answer. What could she say? Admit further weakness, or hold strong? Both options were pointless and degrading. She fixed her eyes above her head, ignoring him. Max didn’t really care.

He started to move inside her body, building his own rhythm. Liz lay flat underneath him, not even moving. That wasn’t his intention. In her own way, she could enjoy this too. His hand slid down over her stomach to where it had been before, nestling inside soft curls.

He found the tiny bump he had noticed earlier, rubbed his thumb over it in time with the movement of the rest of his body. Her hips raised to meet his own now, however involuntarily. He continued the movements as he moved inside her.

Her face was slightly flushed, he noted, retaining images to hold for later. Her hair had resettled when she moved, spreading out around her head in all its’ dark glory. Her eyes still stared up straight into his, refusing to look away, no matter what her body urged her to do. He could feel her fighting the build inside her body which still climbed.

His own build was accelerating, he moved faster, trying to ease the ache no longer just his. He supported part of his weight on the hand by her head, the rest pounded into her over and over again. What was this? Deeper, harder, stronger. He could sense Liz feeling the same thing, through a desperate anger against it. Feeling that, he suddenly moved his thumb to exactly where he knew she needed it.

Liz shrieked, both silently and aloud, as climax washed over her. Max dropped to her mouth and kissed her again, made one more surge and felt his own release. His moan was muffled inside her mouth, reverberating within her throat.

He slid through and within the waves of pleasure, burying himself within it. Burying amongst it the images of pain he no longer wanted or could keep. He let images of Kyle and Liz within this bed slide away, dropped the fury that came with it. Loosened his grip on images of his own self taking Liz tonight, now.

Finally falling, Max slid back into his own body. Liz had finally looked away from him, her eyes were shut, face turned slightly to the side. He kissed her lightly this time, leaving almost no trace of his passing.

Max pulled out of her, sliding his weight to the side of her bad not to crush her. He released her arms from over her head, letting them fall now to her sides. Soon, she would notice, try and leave. He might let her.

He settled beside her, enjoying in a sense the feelings of power he had evoked. His sensing of Liz showed her body to be more than sated, her emotions afraid and angry. Somehow, he could sense her more now. Stronger, clearer.

Tentatively, he reached for her memories of this room, this bed.

“You have to make me fall out of love with you.”

“The end of the world?”

“He sat down. You got him to sit down with her.”
“Rah-rah. What?”

“I can’t go out with you ever again. Please, stop doing this.”
“I can’t.”

“Cemented. So when you say cemented, you…”
“We made love.”

“Do you know how hard it was for me to tell him I didn’t want to die for him? he’s the only reason I’m alive right now.”

“No. Undergarments stay on.”

“I just wanna make sure that I made it clear we’re not gonna…”
“Consummate. I understand.”

“I’m here to help. My body is merely a vessel.”

“Well, I guess it worked.”

“Don’t you realise what you are to me? An you’re always gonna be? You’re the love of my love. Everyone else is gonna be second best. There’ll never be another you.”

Max looked suddenly down from the images cascading across his eyes. Down at Liz, halfway between unconsciousness and sleep.

“No. No, no, no.”

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 25-Jul-2002 2:56:21 AM ]
posted on 7-Dec-2001 7:08:41 PM
The Future’s Overrated

Author: gij, aka Puzzlechild

Category: Uh, M/L. The dark variety. This is the sequel to Ending Our World, maybe a kind of carry-over, so if you haven't read it or don't want to walk the walk of the damned, bail now.

Summary: the morning after. I think you all know which night it's after. Some Dupes, some skanky alien ho, some Max-the-freaking-idiot being a fool. Not much humans. The dupes aren't exactly like our dupes, just because they pissed me off. So, think of them as AU dupes. They have similar names, that's deliberate. I'm sure you'll all work it out.

Disclaimer: So obviously not mine that I don't believe I actually have to write this. See, I can write, I can make a decent plot device, and I don't believe in the use of a skanky alien ho, unless she dies within two episodes. Sorry. The title is from Arkana's song, The Future's Overrated, which I really think should become the dreamer anthem. Listen to the song and tell me what you think.


Phone rings:

Ring, ring.

Ring, ring.

Answering machine picks up:

Hi, this is Zaraneha - I mean, gij. If you would like to join the interplanetary effort to invade and take over the Earth - I mean, leave a message, please state your name, race, eye colour, names of all present and potential children, credit card number, social security number, the names of the people you personally know who take drugs or are communists, e-mail address and your message, after the story. Thank you!


* * *

Max was gone. That was the first thing that registered.

The second was the pain that rocked through her abdomen and darted like a lightening bolt to split her head as well. Liz literally thought she was being ripped apart.

The third was that somehow, someway, she had to stop anyone knowing this had ever happened.

Future Max had never been exactly explicit in how the world had ended. She had seen, somehow, that a jealous Tess had had something to do with the whole thing. Not just leaving Roswell, but actively fighting against them. And she was jealous, not of what had existed between Future Max and Liz, but because Max was no longer hers.

And what if Tess found out about this? Max was still pushing her away, coming to Liz even for this reason proved that. She couldn't know. No one could know. The world would still end, and once again it would be Liz's fault.

Always her own fault. She couldn't blame it on anyone else. She had driven Max to a breaking point, where he couldn't be responsible for his own actions. And so this had happened. Always her own fault.

Always her own fault that people died. That people were in danger. That the group was pulled apart. Her own fault, her own shame. No one could know, please don't let anyone else know. Please. Liz curled around the pain inside her and closed her eyes.

* * *

Isabel walked into her brother's room, looking absent-mindedly for one of her shoes. She didn't expect to find her brother out of bed, or possible even awake.

Instead, she found him sitting against his bed, his legs curled to his chest, a look of horror in his eyes.

"Max? Max!" Isabel cried out involuntarily. "Max, what's wrong? What happened?"

"Is?" his voice was faint, his eyes unfocussed.

"Max, what happened? What's wrong?" she asked again. God, what could do this to her brother? Yesterday, yes he had been brooding, but it was like he had made a decision, was getting on with things. Now( Gods, what was his decision?

"I( happened. My fault." Max muttered, still not looking at her. "I did it all. My fault. But I love her. I loved her."

"Max, I know you love her. But it's over." Isabel was getting scared. Maybe the shock of what he had seen was only just getting to him. "You said Liz said it was a mistake. It wasn't your fault. Couldn't be."

"Not that." He muttered again. "That was my fault too. Just not here, not now."

"What do you mean, not here and now? Max you're not making sense." What was he on about? "Help me here Max. Tell me what's going on."

"Ask Liz." Those words were clear, at least. "She needs you. I can feel it, now. I know what she's feeling. Go to her."

"Max, why me? How can you feel her? What do you mean, she needs me?" Isabel was utterly lost.

"Liz needs you. I can't do it, it was me to begin with. Michael can't do it, neither can that stupid ho. Help her." Suddenly his eyes focussed, he looked up at her. "Please, Isabel. Don't ask more questions. Just go to Liz, in her room. She needs help, and I can't give it to her. Please."

He didn't order her, as he probably had the right to do so. He pleaded for her help. Not for him, but for Liz. Her people had made a good choice; a leader so self effacing he asked help for someone who had betrayed him before himself. Someone he still loved.

Put like that, Isabel didn't know why she was still here.

* * *

The girl was still lying curled up on her bed. Well, after what had happened the night before, Rathe wasn't surprised. Anyway, it made things that much simpler.

He signalled to Lonia, who was just up the ladder. The girl seemed completely oblivious to them. He glanced back at Lonia, who was signalling to him. He moved back over to her quietly.

"What?" he breathed.

She leaned right into him to speak as quietly as possible. "The other girl's here. What's her name, Isabel."

Rathe sighed in irritation. The girl had to come now, and if Isabel turned up, things would get complicated. "Fine. We'll take them both. The little one first."

Lonia didn't reply, just moved away from him and towards the window. She crouched down beside it and waited for him.

He slipped inside, landing lightly on the floor. The girl on the bed had heard him, and was looking up with a kind of terror in her eyes.

He jumped forward and grabbed her wrists with one hand. With the other, he touched one of her temples, and she immediately passed out.

Rathe stood up, and looked over her. The girl was still naked, curled up into herself on her bed. With a sigh, he reached for one of her sheets and tugged it off the bed. He draped her form quickly and efficiently, then hoisted her over his shoulder.

"Loni," he hissed at the window. "Here, take her. I'll get Isabel, once she comes up."

Hands appeared, followed by Lonia. She took Liz's limp form and carried her towards the ladder.

Rathe looked around quickly and moved back towards the door. When the Lady Isabel paid a visit, he would be waiting.

* * *

Isabel stepped inside the Crashdown, looking around for Liz. She wasn't serving, neither was Maria. Maybe up the back, then. Max had said Liz was in her room, but she might as well check.

Isabel passed through the double doors. The back was empty, the lockers all neatly shut, the door into the kitchen shut. Maybe Liz was still upstairs. With what Max had said, that made more sense. She started to climb the stairs, wondering absently where Jeff and Nancy Parker were.

At the beginning of the hall, she looked around again. There were absolutely no signs of life from anywhere in the house. What the hell was going on? She moved down the hall to Liz's room, the last door on the left.

She knocked softly, then cracked the door open. Liz wasn't inside, so she opened it all the way.

"Isabel. Hi, how's it going?" a male voice, suddenly, from behind her. Liz's bathroom. She spun on the spot to see a guy about Michael's size and height, dark hair, dark eyes, mocking smile.

"Who are you? And what are you doing here?" she demanded. Why was this guy wandering around in Liz's home?

"Me? My name's Rathe. And I'm waiting around for you. See, Isabel, you're about to go on a trip with your good friend Liz. Alrighty?" he lunged forward and grabbed her wrist. An instant later, his hand was over her mouth. "Now come along and be a good girl, Isabel."

Helpless, Isabel let herself be guided out of Liz's room and into a van waiting in the alley beside her balcony.

* * *

The Queen was waiting when Rathe and Loni got back to the cave. Leaving Liz and Isabel in the van, they came forward to report to her.

"Queen," Rathe said, bowing his head with just the faintest trace of a sneer. Lonia copied his motions, her face perfectly blank.

"Rathe." The Queen answered. "Report. Do you have the girl?"

"Yes, Lady." He replied, keeping his voice clear of the derision he felt. "We found her where you said she would be, after playing games with the King last night."

"Excellent. Were there any complications?"

"Just one, your honour." Rathe answered. "The girl Isabel turned up just as we were leaving. We took her as well."

"Isabel?" The Queen asked, more statement than question.

"Yes, Lady. We didn't have a lot of choice."

"Inconvenient. Well, eventually we would have needed to take her too. Put them together somewhere."

"Yes, Lady." Rathe bowed his head again, Lonia followed his lead. They both left the room.

The girl who had insisted upon being called Queen sat back on her chair. She stared through the small patch of daylight she could see through a hole in the roof, fingers absently toying with a blonde curl.

posted on 7-Dec-2001 7:09:33 PM
Part Two

Isabel looked around inside the small room she and Liz had been put. It was really a smaller section off a larger cave, with the difference that Rathe had sealed off the small opening into the larger cave.

A series of small holes in the ceiling let in some light but not enough for Isabel to be able to see clearly. As her eyes adjusted, she could see more. The ground was sand, the walls solid rock. Under the gaps in the ceiling, the sand was wet from the recent rain.

Against one wall was a pile of blankets, atop of them some of Liz's clothing Lonia had tossed in after Rathe had put them in the cave. Liz was lying on the floor beside the pile.

Isabel crouched down beside her, a hand reaching to touch her face. The human girl was still unconscious from whatever it was that Rathe had done to her. The sheet she was wrapped in had slid down somewhere along the line, ex posing one of her shoulders and half her back.

Along her shoulder and part of her arm, Isabel could see a series of what looked like tiny bite marks. What was that about? Had Rathe done that to her? She froze, remembering something Max had said; I can't help her, I did this to her..

He couldn't have. No, she wouldn't have let him. Max would never do that to Liz! How many times had he told her how much he loved Liz, would do anything for her, would give his life for her. And Isabel knew that Liz would have done the same for Max.

She shoved that thought away and knelt over Liz, trying to help the small human girl. She would wake up, and tell Isabel what had happened, and then they would get the hell out of here and not have to worry about her brother stalking the love of his life.

Isabel couldn't heal nearly as well as Max could, but she did possess some secondary powers for it. And Liz was female, and a friend, and that made it easier to form a connection with her. She searched through veins and arteries, searching for what Rathe had done to Liz.

There. He had somehow pinched the artery at the base of her brain, forcing her to lose consciousness or risk brain damage. Isabel reached out with her powers and released the pressure. With a little luck, Liz would wake up soon, and they could get the hell out of here.

* * *
Aeva looked up through the small hole in the wall of her cave that served for a window. Rathe had insisted she stay inside, away from the sight of the “Queen”. Yeah, right. Tess had been no more the queen than she herself was now.

But in this life, she was somehow convinced that she had been. And even if she hadn’t been, she should have been. And Rathe and Lonia were supporting her in that now, even if only to serve their own ends.

Tess despised Aeva. She was, Tess claimed, a demonstration of the weakness that had resulted in the near death of their home planet. And Tess was obviously a prime example for the strength that would now be needed to win it back. And so Aeva was stuck in a small cave, until someone killed the stupid ho.

It was pointless following her anyway. Tess hadn't been the queen and didn't have the knowledge that they needed to activate the Granolith. Neither did Aeva, but she knew who the Queen really was and that they needed both her and the King to use the Granolith. Without the presence of both, they were wasting their time.

And it was unlikely now that Elizabeth would do anything with the King. Aeva could feel even now her emotions from the night previous. She had avoided direct mental contact with the girl, but nothing could block the emotions that should have had her at Elizabeth's side instantly. They had ripped through her like a hurricane on a clear day, tearing apart the girl who would have been her guardian, had things worked out differently.

But whatever had happened had ended with them apart. The Queen that was to have been part of their unit had not survived her infancy. Born several years earlier than the others, they could not know her story, more than that she had escaped her pod and later disappeared.

When Aeva had first emerged from her own pod, the first thing she had done was to sense out the others in her protection. Rathe had been the first she found, seemingly unharmed. Lonia had swiftly followed his discovery, seeming only mildly un-normal at first. It was not until her adolescence that her mind had surrendered entirely. Zan had been as normal as Rathe, only pressuring Aeva for knowledge of his queen.

The queen that had been born from the pod among them, Aeva could not locate. She had mind-searched all the area for miles around them. It was not until years later, after Zan had suffered his early death at Rathe's hands, that she found anyone remotely like the Queen she searched for. And she was not their own Queen, but apparently from the other unit that had been sent soon after their own.

Aeva knew not to interfere with that group. They would have their own guardian, though whenever she mind-touched with them, she could not find her. In the end, what had worried her was that their Queen did not seem to be aware of her place within their unit, nor those of it her. Over the years, she had mind-touched their Queen many times, careful never to let her be aware.

And now that their guardian had turned up, she was all but raving insane. Believing herself to be the Queen and Max as her mate, she was enraged that he loved another. She had tried to drive them apart by replacing a missive from home with her own mind-warp production, and for a time seemed to have succeeded.

When Elizabeth had returned from spending the summer with her 'aunt', Tess had been triumphant. She had believed Max was her own prize, to be directed at her own will. Aeva had been afraid after that last time she had touched with the Queen and with Tess, not knowing what would happen to the girl.

The next time she had felt anything from the other unit's Queen had been the previous night. Closer now to Elizabeth as well as the King, Aeva had been unable to block away the mental pain of a girl who might have been her own charge, under different circumstances.

And now Elizabeth had been taken by Tess, to what purpose Aeva was yet to be informed. She only prayed that the girl would not be harmed further.

* * *

Rathe was bored. The "Queen" had dismissed him, not to return except at her pleasure. Aeva was still cave-bound, and Lonia wasn't exactly sharing her thoughts with him. The girl was a half-wit anyway, not exactly ideal to carry on a conversation with.

He looked around the section of cave that served as a room for the two of them. The pile of blankets in a corner that they shared, the tiny light-globe of power against a wall, the sand floor. Lonia, sitting against one of the walls, staring blankly forward.

The girl was fine for a mate, but somewhat lacking in other respects. Anything resembling a brain, in any case. Her powers were strong though, and she would listen only to him about using them.

Rathe thought absently about her double, Isabel. That one obviously had some more brains, and some spirit. And they were compatible, the people back home had ensured that even if some of a royal four died off, there would still be enough of them to carry on the royal line. Maybe he could have some sport with the girl later.

If they were still around later, anyway. The "Queen" had ensured him that once they had the human girl, the King would soon follow. Once he was there, they could get rid of Tess, kill the human girl and use her energy to send back Rathe, Lonia, Max and Aeva.

Maybe not Lonia, though. If they took Isabel instead, the King might be more willing to activate the Granolith for them. Tess said he would be angry over the death of the human girl, but if Isabel was threatened, he would have to do as Rathe said.

But why would he be angry over the human girl? Rathe knew that Max had raped the girl. So why did it matter if she died? Maybe she was a favored bed-mate or some such thing.

But that again made no sense. Tess had only joined with them after the King had bedded the girl, out of fury against the girl. Because Elizabeth was his first mate, she would also be his only until her death, although only the Queen could carry his child. When the girl died, he would be able to seek another mate, and it was Rathe's plan that it would not be Tess, but Aeva.

Again, he returned to the choice; Lonia, who he could command, or Isabel who was as yet an unknown quantity? Or quality, he reflected with an unpleasant laugh. Lonia looked up at him at his laugh, her face still blank.

Well, if he was to determine Isabel's quality, he would need something to compare it too. He motioned to Lonia, who obediently walked over and lay down on their bed. Rathe joined her.

* * *

Max stared blankly out in front of him. He could barely sense her now, her mind calm. When he reached out to her, he sensed only more of the same blank wall that he had felt after leaving her the night before. She must be sleeping again.

Why would she be sleeping? Max asked himself. He'd hurt her, he knew. God, how could he not have hurt her? And what if his being different had hurt her in some other way that he had been too crazed with pain to think of?

Maybe that was why she was sleeping again. Her body, utterly drained by what he had done to her, couldn't hold up to the strain of being awake. Maybe she was even unconscious again. God, how could he know? Why wasn't Isabel helping her?

Max remembered earlier, when she had woken briefly, the sudden terror she had felt. And then she had slept again, almost immediately. What had inspired that terror? Surely not Isabel, though she would have been arriving around then.

Maybe it had been Isabel that had so badly scared her, and Is had needed to put her to sleep, or knock her out. More pain for her.

Her, she; Max taunted himself. Can't you even think her name? Or do you really believe that only once you do, it will become real?

Maybe it won't, unless you do. Maybe it was just another dream, inspired by anger and angst and hurt. Maybe it was just his subconscious striking back at him for being fool enough to let her leave for the summer. Maybe she had never even slept with Kyle. Maybe he was just completely insane.

No. Max couldn't hide like that, nor would he. He, and only he, had hurt the girl he thought he loved more than his own life, more than she knew she could be hurt.

You still can't do it, can you? Say her name. Think it, even. Don't hide behind a wall of obscurity.


"Liz. Elizabeth Parker." He said it aloud. A bare instant later, their connection tore wide open as Liz woke up and then screamed.

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 27-Feb-2002 1:27:25 AM ]
posted on 7-Dec-2001 7:10:19 PM
Part Three

Isabel spun as Liz shrieked and bolted to her side. The girl continued to scream, her eyes unfocussed, the sheet draping her coming undone as she sat up. Her hands fought Isabel as she tried to reach the smaller girl.

"Liz. Liz. Liz! Listen to me!" Isabel grabbed the other girl's shoulders and tried to make Liz look at her. She continued to fight, her face a mask of fear, anger and pain. "Liz, it's OK. Listen to me!"

Some part of Liz could hear Isabel talking to her, but she was wrong. It wasn't okay, it would never be okay, nothing was okay. The scream that ripped through her was a rejection of the idea that anything was okay. More than that, it was a protection against all those things that were once good and now only menaced. As soon as it ended, they would find her. He would find her.

"Liz, no, listen to me. They won't hurt you, he can't hurt you. I won't hurt you."

She was lying. She had to be lying. They had already hurt her, why wouldn't they again? And Isabel had never hurt her, but she could now. She was wide open to anything anyone could do to her. Max had proved that. She shrieked in a rejection.

The scream was wearing her down. Her throat was wearing away, her lungs crying for air. She tried to breathe, bring in the air she so needed, more than she needed the protection of her scream. Her mouth shut a moment, cutting off the sound as she tried to breathe.

As soon as she opened her mouth again to continue the sound, Isabel clapped her hand over it. Liz fought the arms that were wrapping her, the hand over her mouth, the rough embrace she was locked in. Struggling for breath again, she sobbed instead of screaming.

Isabel wrapped the smaller girl into her arms, holding Liz against her body. She still fought, or tried to, pushing feebly at Isabel holding her. Finally she surrendered, sobbing silently, her body shaking in the relief of this release.

She was shivering now, too. The sheet that had covered her form had almost fallen away, scarcely covering her otherwise bare body. Isabel averted her eyes and tried to reach Liz as best she could.

Through the empathy that let her walk other people's dreams, she could sense Liz. Afraid, in pain, helplessly angry, weak and ashamed. And desperately, heartbreakingly alone. Just sensing it all through Liz made her own head hurt.

"Liz, it's okay. It'll be okay. They won't hurt you, I won't let them. I won't hurt you, I'm here. You aren't alone. I promise I won't let them hurt you again."

The fear Isabel had felt at her brother over what she believed he might have done had flared into a burning fury towards him. How dared he? No matter what Liz had done, no one deserved the kind of pain she was in. Isabel's words were in no means empty platitudes. She would die before letting Liz go through more of this pain.

"Hey, hey. Liz, it'll be okay. No one will hurt you, I promise." Isabel rocked her gently. Liz clung to her, still sobbing, but softer now. She rubbed the smaller girl's back soothingly, filled with an overwhelming sense of compassion. How could anyone want to hurt her?

Gradually, Liz's sobs subsided. Her tears were spent, her body sore, her mind exhausted. Her strength was gone, and she shivered in the cool air of the cave that served as their room.

Isabel stroked her hair, then reached for the sheet that was coming away. She wrapped it firmly around Liz, tucking the corners in so that it would stay. She released her hold around the smaller girl, then helped her to sit on her own.

She reached for the clothes that had been thrown in after Rathe and Lonia had put Isabel and Liz into this room. As she held them out to Liz, the girl shrunk back, fresh tears springing to her eyes.

"Liz? What is it?" Isabel asked. The girl looked like she might have another breakdown on the spot.

"That's what I was wearing last night, before(" her voice broke off. "Before( " she tried again, and couldn't complete the sentence.

Great. Well, it was logical that that halfwit Lonia would have picked up the nearest items of clothing for Liz, not wanting to hang around. It wasn't her problem if Liz completely broke down.

"Liz," Isabel started. What could she really say? It was illogical, but Liz would be associating these with what had happened to her. It wouldn't be surprising if she never wanted to see them again. "Look, forget wearing them before. But you're cold, and you can't just stay there."

"Why not?" Liz asked. "It's not like we can go anywhere. And it's bad enough that I can sense him all the time without being reminded constantly." Her voice was rising near a shriek. "What do you people want from me? Wasn't it bad enough already, with everything else I had to do?"

Isabel didn't know what Liz was talking about, but she was obviously near hysteria. She dropped the clothes and took a step back towards her, but Liz held up her hands against her, refusing any small comfort she could offer.

"And what's the point?" Liz continued, her eyes feverishly bright. "Something else will just happen, some one else will just come along and use me, make me betray you, drive you or whoever's left away, maybe get kidnapped." she was shaking again, her body unable to take the strain all this was taking on her. "No, really, Isabel. What's the point?"


"Yeah, it's me. It's always me, isn't it? So tell me Isabel, what are you here for? What are you going to try and take from me?" her voice broke up, and she was forced to stop, trying to catch her breath.

Isabel ignored her last words, and knelt beside Liz. The girl didn't look up, just tried to breathe as tears continued to roll down her face. Carefully, she took Liz back into her arms and held her. She didn't fight, just lay there as Isabel hung onto her, treating her as delicately as if she was glass.

Eventually, Liz took a deep breath, let it out, and tried to say something. Isabel leaned back a little, still hanging onto her, and let her speak.



"I'm sorry. It's not your fault."

Liz was apologising for losing the plot after Isabel's own brother had raped her. What was the girl, a saint? Maybe she had a deep seated desire for martyrdom. Well, not here, not now.

"It's not your fault either. It's okay. I understand."

"I'm still sorry."

"So am I. Sorry I didn't know, didn't stop him."

"You couldn't have."

"Maybe. We'll never know that." Isabel still regretted that she hadn't somehow known to stop her brother.

"Probably not."

"Okay. Do you want to put some clothes on now?"


* * *

Aeva brought her knees down slowly, reaching gently for Liz's emotions again. She was calmer now, her emotions no longer as open. Unless she was as distressed as she had been just now, or the night before, Aeva could block out her thoughts and emotions.

At a greater distance, Aeva wouldn't have been as open even to those which had ripped through the tiny Queen the night before. She would have sensed them, being openly empathetic as she was, but with Liz not her specific charge, she could possibly have blocked them.

Liz. Liz, not Elizabeth. Aeva knew where she had picked up that information-bit. When one of their own was as torn as she had been moments before, their thoughts were totally open. An empath such as herself would pick up those thoughts unintentionally, especially when as physically close as she was to Liz.

And Isabel was with her. That was strange, Aeva couldn't think of any possible reason that Tess would want Isabel for. Admittedly, Lonia was a half-wit, and Tess would want a full unit to travel back with her, never dreaming that such a journey was impossible without the true Queen.

Although of course Tess believed that she herself was the Queen. And possibly Rathe did too. And if Rathe did, Lonia might as well, because she would follow him in everything he did. This was utterly bizarre, and already giving Aeva a headache.

She could ponder the implications and possibilities of all this later. For now, she instead used her mind to examine what Rathe had done to the walls of this cave to seal her inside. If she could do so, maybe she could also open it.

Once she had gotten out of her cave-room, Aeva wasn't sure what she was going to do. Liz and Isabel needed to get out of here, and fast. Maybe they weren't her original charges, but with a deranged guardian, an ambitious Rathe and his Loni-on-a-leash, they needed some help.

posted on 7-Dec-2001 7:11:23 PM
Part Four



"I'm done. Feel free to turn around. Or not, you know, if you want."

Isabel turned back to face the other girl. Her mouth was pulled a little to one side, an eyebrow slightly raised. "Was that a joke?" she wanted to know.

Liz shrugged. "More or less. I figure we're having enough fun here, I might as well just add to it." She moved to sit against one of the walls, and winced.

"Hurts?" Isabel asked. The only way about this situation was to be matter of fact, as far as she could see. They weren't in an ideal situation for subtlety and respect of feelings.

Liz tried to smile, and failed. "I knew I was supposed to hurt, but I never expected this much. Or in which places."

Isabel could all but physically feel the sorrow and pain that had passed through Liz with her words. "If you want, I can( help." She offered lamely.

"I thought you couldn't heal." Liz answered. Her eyes were already half shut, and Isabel could sense her exhaustion.

"Not much. Not like M- the others." She corrected herself hurriedly. "I can do some, repair basic damage. It's part of manipulating molecular structures, which we can all do."

"Anything you can do would be more than welcome." Liz told her flatly.

Isabel felt there was one more point she had to make. "One thing. I have to connect with you, if I try to heal you. I can't( control( what I see."

Some emotion flickered over Liz's face, but she quickly suppressed it, whatever it was. Her face remained otherwise blank. "Isn't it a little late for that kind of delicacies?" she asked, a little bitterly.

Isabel shrugged, a pointless exercise as Liz had finally surrendered and shut her eyes entirely. She knelt in front of the human girl, and set a hand to her forehead, and settled the other gently just over her stomach.

Liz had opened her eyes now, and Isabel was close enough to see the old pain overlayed by new, and equally new fear and anger. She tried to push away her empathy sense, and realised for what she was attempting, that was pointless.

Without being instructed, Liz had timed her breathing with Isabel's own. Isabel reached for the connection between them, and formed it easily.

Now she could sense all of what it was to be Liz. When she had spoked to Max previously, she had discovered this was different to his way of healing. Max would find the damage and use his own energy to heal it. Isabel would sink into the person and encourage their own body to heal damage. It was probably also the reason for their different healing strengths.

Isabel could feel all of what it was to be Liz. Carefully, she shielded her mind so she wouldn't lose herself within Liz's mind and thoughts and body, and searched for damage.

The majority of the damage to her physical body was minor. Bruising, overly tensed muscles, the tiny bite marks along her neck and shoulder. Each injury she found further increased her fury with Max, as healing each mark opened her mind to Liz's memories of how it had been made.

Finally she came to the fine membrane that had torn when Max had forced himself on Liz. Isabel didn't know what to do about that. She couldn't replace it, nor remove the constant pain it caused Liz. Finally, she passed some of her own energy into Liz, hoping her body would heal itself as necessary.

When she was released from the trance that her healing seemed to cause, Liz was asleep. That had never happened to Isabel before, but then there was no reason for her not to do so. Liz had been passive, not active, in her healing.

And it was probably not a bad idea to do so. The limited healing she had been able to offer Liz had nonetheless drained her. Looking around, she saw the pile of blankets from earlier. With an effort, she grabbed a couple and covered Liz, then curled up next to her and pulled another blanket over herself.

* * *

Rathe motioned Loni to stay where she was. She nodded and leaned into the wall beside her, closing her eyes. He watched her for a moment and then turned back to the door to Aeva's cave.

He set his fingers to the side of the living rock that formed her door, and focussed his powers on it. It glowed for a moment and then started to thin out, creating a Rathe-sized opening.

Inside, Aeva was standing in the middle of the room, staring absently through her 'window'. She used to do that before, too, Rathe remembered uneasily. She'd be standing there staring into the distance, and then she would suddenly snap out of it and tell them all something. The strangest thing about it was that she was always right.

He strode into the room and grabbed her arm, shaking her. Aeva jerked suddenly, her eyes rolling back in her head, and then abruptly focussed.

"Rathe, what the hell do you think you're doing?" she asked angrily.

He ignored the question. It was fairly obvious that he wanted to talk to her. "What were you doing?" he countered.

"Staring out a window, what do you think?" she snapped. "Or will you now seal me into some cave without one, so that on the off-chance you want to natter at me for a while, I can't possibly be already doing something?" she yanked her arm out of his grasp and turned away from him.

Oh, feisty. "Well what were you doing anyway?" Rathe demanded.

She gave him an unfriendly look over her shoulder and ignored him. Fine, she could be that way.

"You're being moved into a different cave in any case." Rathe told her. "Tess can sit on her pretend throne, but I at least have plans for the true Queen."

Aeva turned back to look at him, disguising the interest he had suddenly perked. If he knew Tess sure as hell wasn't the Queen, what was with him acting like some pathetic lackey?

"The true Queen." She repeated tonelessly. Let him put his own cards on the table. Or the dirt floor, in this particular case.

"Yes, the true Queen." Rathe said again. "I have no reason at all to follow Tess's every whim. Why would I, when I can set a true Queen on the throne, and enjoy the power she could easily extend me?"

Aeva tried to stop herself from thumping him over the head with something large and unpleasant. Maybe that would wake him up from the delusion he was living inside of.

"So you want a true Queen on the throne, to rule alongside the King, rather than that frog-spawn Tess." Aeva summarised for him. She frowned. "Then why in hell did you go and kidnap Elizabeth on by order from Tess?"

"Because she was right about one thing, with Elizabeth here, the Kinglet Max will come try and rescue her. Once he is here, we activate the Granolith on her energy and Max will send us home." Rathe answered, looking as close as he could get to enthusiasm.

What was he, insane? He seriously thought that Tess, and therefore Aeva, was the Queen? Reality check please. She had told him a thousand times her duty was to be their guardian. Was there any possible way that could translate to, "Oh, and by the way, I'm also your Queen, and you'll follow my every command"? God, her life was nothing but insane.

"And what would you do with gecko-girl?" Aeva asked, playing for time. She jerked her head towards the main cave to indicate Tess.

"Kill her. We have you as Queen," Rathe performed a mock bow, "Maxy as kinglet, me as his wonderful second-in-command, Lonia or that girl Isabel to be sister dear, and Elizabeth as the energy to send us home." He shrugged. "What else would we do with her?"

What else indeed. The rest of his plan wasn't for real, but Aeva still hoped she'd get to kill Tess.

"What did you mean by I was moving caves?" Aeva asked. If he was for real, she'd be able to get out of whatever place he put her in and find Isabel and Liz. Then maybe she could kill Tess.

Rathe gave a little smile. "I don't want Tess throwing one of her little Queenly tantrums and coming to find you on her own. I think it'll be a safer investment for both of us if I put you somewhere she doesn't know about." He shrugged elaborately. "And to choose between Loni and Isabel, I really need a little more information on what she's really like. And of course you can have some fun playing sleepover."

"Get to the point." Aeva had almost forgotten his tendency towards long-winding stupid speeches. All they ever did was annoy his audience.

"In any case, I didn't put Isabel and Elizabeth quite where Tess told me to," Rathe continued as if Aeva hadn't spoken. "They're somewhere quite different, in fact. And you can go join them."

He truly was either completely insane or even more a moron than Aeva had thought. He was actually going to put her in with Isabel and Liz? Oh, thank you whatever god there is.

"Now, how about you go meet your new friends?" Rathe asked her as if she was Lonia. Not the time to argue. He stood up and gestured towards the door he had made earlier. Aeva stood up and silently followed.

posted on 7-Dec-2001 7:12:04 PM
Part Five

Max scraped whatever was left of his body off the floor and staggered towards his window. He had to get Michael, and they had to help Isabel and Liz. Whatever had just ripped through him had shown him exactly what was going on.

At his window, he tripped and fell to his knees. He tried to push himself to his feet, failed. What was wrong with him? His body felt like it was weighted with lead, and too exhausted to lift a finger. He let his head slide down to rest on his knees, trying to work out what was going on.

The thoughts and feelings and emotions that had gone through him like a flood in the desert - he knew where they were from. And worse, he was starting to realise why he had felt them.

Liz. It had to be. He recognised her mental signature, he'd touched it too many time with his own mind not to recognise her. And what he had seen had removed any doubt that might have remained. His own face in her room the night before, followed by( what had happened(

God, how could he? How had he not known? Liz would never have betrayed him, let alone with Kyle. He knew that now, knew it from Liz's own conviction of the same thing. And Max, too blind to see what anyone would have known, had deliberately hurt her more than she had known she could be hurt.

And in forcing himself on her, he had permanently established the tenuous bond that had already existed between them. Liz would never be free of her rapist's presence, and he could never forget what he had done to her. If there was a better way of trying to destroy her, Max was yet to think of it. Of course, he had managed to get this far on instinct alone.

And then, because he was too stupid to protect her, she had been taken by some alien bastard for Gods only knew what purpose. And just to add to that, he had been too stupid and ashamed to help her himself, and had sent Isabel to be taken at the same time.

Somehow, he had to undo all of this. Max could never erase what he had done, but maybe he could atone for some of his own stupidity. To start with, he had to get Isabel and Liz away from whoever it was keeping them.

Her memories had been distorted and strange, but there was no other way to find out where Liz and Isabel had been taken. He could try and reach for her again, the way he had right after( what had happened, but did he have any right at all to do that?

If it helps Liz, I have to try, he told himself mentally. If he only knew why he was so exhausted( an image of Liz screaming, Isabel beside her, rose up into his mind. This was what she was currently feeling, it had to be. And through their current connection Max shared it with her.

What is she doing now? An unavoidable curiosity wanted to know. Is she in pain, is she asleep? Is she fighting for her life, trying to defend Isabel? Sudden fear shot through him. How would he know if she was? Mentally, he reached for his sense of Liz.

She was asleep, her mind and body exhausted. Her unconscious mind was unaware of his mental probing. Max pulled his awareness back to his body, suddenly realising what he was doing. He was insane, that was all there was to it.

If she could sleep, maybe so could he. Right now he couldn't do anything to save his own life or hers. Exhaustion swept through his body in waves, and surrendering, he slept.

* * *

Isabel was never sure afterwards what had waked her. Aeva had later told her that it was bare minutes between her arriving in their cave and Isabel waking up. She'd been surprised, she said at the time, that Isabel had been able to sense her as she had. Isabel herself was doubtful, but let it pass.

At any rate, the first thing she had seen upon sitting up had been the short blonde sitting against the opposite wall of the cave. Isabel immediately stiffened.

"Who are you, and what are you doing here?" she demanded to know, stifling a curiosity as to why the girl seemed so familiar.

The other girl smiled faintly. She remained sitting, even as Isabel glanced quickly back to Liz's still sleeping body and then looked suspiciously back to her.

"My name is Aeva," she said dryly, as if somehow amused. "And no, we've never actually met."

Isabel gave her another look. Was this girl Aeva reading her thoughts, or was she trying to be funny? At that, Aeva's smile became a little more pronounced and Isabel felt her paranoia increase exponentially.

"I didn't ask you," Isabel answered a little aggressively. Was everyone deliberately going out of their way to piss her off, or was she imagining it? Unlikely. "What are you doing here?" she asked again.

Aeva could feel Isabel growing increasingly pissy, and pulled back from the barely-there connection that existed between them. She didn't want to blow this before she had begun.

"You know Rathe, I assume." Aeva stated, rather than questioning. Isabel nodded, motioned curtly for her to go on. "And therefore you would also know Lonia. Originally there was also Zan and his Queen, but they're both dead now."

Isabel was interested now, despite herself. Also confused, and she was yet to get over her just-woken-up grumpiness. So when Aeva glanced to her as if asking to continue, she just nodded again, looking faintly skeptical.

"Rathe, Lonia, Zan, his Queen and I are a similar unit to the one you are a part of. However, Zan and his Queen did not survive their childhood. Lonia hasn't got a full grip on the world, and so she obeys her mate Rathe, who happens to be a megalomaniac with a difference --he wants to take over another world." Aeva proceeded to outline their backgrounds and history, and the recent appearance of the fake "Queen".

"So( you're like us." Isabel said slowly. "Almost exactly like us. But we don't have a Queen, or a guardian. Except Nasedo, but he was( different."

Aeva nodded. "Nasedo was here for another reason. When his task was completed, he remained to protect those of us that he could."

"But why don't we have a guardian? Or a queen? If the two units were supposed to be the same, what happened? And who is this fake queen?"

"You do have a guardian. At least, you were supposed to. And she is also our fake queen. But she doesn't know who she is, and she believes your brother Max is rightfully her own."

Isabel's mouth wasn't quite hanging open, but it was close. "You're saying that Tess is your double? Tess is our guardian? Tess is this insane false queen?"

Aeva nodded once. "Yes."

"What the hell are you playing at?" Isabel asked in open shock. "Who are you really?"

Aeva sighed. "Exactly who I've said I am. Except that I'm not a great guardian, seeing as Rathe won't even listen to me. He's convinced that Tess is this Queen, and therefore so am I. And he doesn't like Tess at all."

"So, what, he believes that either you or Tess can be Queen, and he intends to set you up to be?" Isabel asked again. "But you said you're not. And both Queens are dead."

"No, they're not." Aeva corrected. "Mine was, but yours is still alive. I can sense any of the blood. I am open to all of you, at all times."

"So where is this Queen and what is she doing?" Isabel wanted to know. "And how come she didn't come out of the pods with us?"

"I can only guess half of your questions. I think that the pods malfunctioned in some ways, so that the timing was upset on some of them. Our Queen was born much earlier than the rest of us. Maybe that was why she died. And also, Lonia's pod was damaged, so she ended up( how she is. If she wasn't, Loni would be a lot like you, Isabel." Aeva said evenly.

"So maybe your Queen was born earlier than the rest of you. And I think that Tess's pod was damaged as well, considering her current delusions, and that she has never acted as your protector.

"And your Queen - she's sleeping right now. Maybe Max realised the truth before the rest of you. At any rate, your Queen is still alive. If not well." Aeva finished softly.

Isabel stared first at Aeva, then at Liz still asleep beside her. Her mind was full of thoughts, but somehow she could not put voice to a single one of them.

posted on 9-Feb-2002 4:40:49 AM
For Bennie, who is a Goddess. But hey, we all knew that.

Part Six

Rathe knelt in front of the throne, as his rank commanded he do. Second in command never counts as what it sounds if there are women involved, he had decided. He should not have to be summoned at the beginnings of dawn.

"Lady," he said respectfully. She might be insane, but she would also at least try and kill him if she knew the thoughts he had been having. Rathe wanted that fight, but only on his own terms.

"Where are my prisoners?" Tess demanded. She already knew. Ouch.

"Out of your way, and in a place they cannot escape, Lady," Rathe answered smoothly. "Was that not what you wanted?"

"No, that is not what I wanted. I wanted them locked away in a place where I could see them at my own discretion." Tess snapped back.

Discretion. Big word. The tadpole was finally growing up into a toad.

"Lady, if you want to see them, all you need do is tell me, and - "

"I know all I need do, Rathe." Tess interrupted. "Get me the human girl. Now."

"But, Lady, - "

"What happened to all I need do, Rathe?" Tess interrupted again. "Get her. Bring her to me. Now."

"Of course, Lady." He sketched a brief bow in the direction of her "throne". He left the room, and motioned to Lonia where she was standing outside.

"Loni, pet," he started. "Do you remember that game we played, where you tried to make me see the pretty pictures?"

A nod. A smile.

"Do you want to play that game again?"

A considering pause. Another nod and smile.

"But it's going to be a little different this time, all right? This time, I'll tell you what to make, and you'll show it to the Queen. Can you do that?"

A pause. A slight frown, and then Lonia shook her head.

"Why not, pet?" Rathe asked. This nursemaid talk was starting to get on his nerves.

"Queen can't play( that game. Pretty pictures different( to her." Loni explained in her stilted, painful way.

Damn. He might actually have to get the girl for Tess. But then he'd have to find some reason to hang around in the background so she couldn't hurt the girl too much. If she got injured somehow, her death might not create enough energy to activate the Granolith. Rathe gave a short, annoyed grunt.

"We'll play a different game then, okay? Come with me now." Lonia nodded and followed him as he walked down towards the part of the caves where he was keeping the girls.

* * *

Aeva sat back on her heels, perplexed. How were you supposed to wake up a human, anyway? She hadn't exactly had any experience. Whenever she had wanted one of her unit, she had called mentally. This girl, however, wasn't one of her unit, and had never been treated as anything but a human.

Aeva had tried calling her name, and then tried to shake her, being careful not to knock Isabel between them. No reaction.

Well, so what if Liz wasn't really a part of her unit? Most of hers was dead already, and the other part were mentally screwed up. That was why she had tried to help Isabel and Liz, wasn't it? Didn't that make them a part of her unit? Yes and no. Defiantly, she reached out for Liz.

The girl was dreaming. Long silver corridors, glass floors. Liz walked them in her mind, aware always that she was being followed. Turning, he disappeared, but was still present. Afraid, she started to run.

And this would be the point in time when she realised she was actually running towards him, Aeva thought dryly. Probing deeper, she realised that the figure was also her rapist. Max. If Liz was as afraid as she seemed, that could cause problems later. They also had a problem now, though, and that took precedence.

Using a power she didn't know she had, Aeva nudged Liz's sleeping mind. The girl stirred in her sleep, turning over in her bed. Aeva tried it again, this time with a little more force. She was rewarded as Liz's eyes opened sleepily, and she sat up.

The girl didn't seem surprised to find her there. Maybe her powers were only just awakening now, and she had sensed Aeva in her sleep. Or maybe Liz thought that Aeva was Tess. Whatever the case, she merely regarded Aeva with a sleepy curiosity.

"I'm Aeva." She said hurriedly. They didn't have much time.

"I know."

"What? No, forget it. This is more important. Rathe is coming for you now."

Liz scrambled out of her nest beside Isabel, still careful even as fear spread across her face. "What? Why?" she asked.

"Rathe. He's the one who kidnapped you, yesterday. He -"

"I know who he is," Liz interrupted.

"Good. He's been told to bring you by someone he thinks of as Queen. She isn't really, but he still does what she says. Don't fight with Rathe, he won't hurt you if he doesn't have to." To herself, she decided not to mention why.

"Why does this queen want me?" Liz asked. "What did I do?"

"You already know her," Aeva said hurriedly. Rathe, and following him Loni, were almost here. "We don't have much time. Just don't make Rathe angry, and he and Lonia will leave you alone. And don't, I mean do not, fight the Queen. There is nothing you can do her right now. Nothing." Aeva stressed.

"So what am I supposed to do?" Liz asked, still calm, but increasingly nervous. "Just let them do, whatever it is they want to do, and not touch them? I don't think so."

"Liz(" Rathe was just outside. "I swear, Rathe won't touch you. The Queen may try to, but Rathe will stop her if he can." I think. She added silently. "Don't fight her. If she tried to get inside your head, just block her. Form a mind shield." She finished quickly. The opposite wall was already dissolving.

* * *

Rathe strode into the cave. He glanced around, taking note of Isabel and Aeva's sleeping bodies, and scowled. He had wanted to talk with at least one of them about the possibility of Isabel returning with him.

In the middle of the cave, sitting calmly, was the human girl. Rathe looked her over briefly. Why was Tess so mindlessly furious with her? She was just a human, even if the King had bedded her. Once she and Tess were both dead, Aeva could easily take both their places.

"You." Rathe said, pointing a finger at the girl. What was her name? Elizabeth, right. "Elizabeth. Come here." When she didn't move for a moment, he stepped forward again and grabbed her wrist, pulling her up. He released her as soon as she was on her feet, and motioned towards the door.

She walked calmly to where the door had been, and he called Loni over. "Loni. This is the game we're playing, all right? This is Elizabeth, and we're going to play with her. Now make sure she stays here, all right?" Loni nodded mindlessly, smiling already at the thought of a new game.

He turned back to the human. "Stay here." he told her briefly. "Loni isn't exactly bright, but she won't hurt you if you do as you're told." Elizabeth nodded briefly. Good. He turned back to the opening of the cave, hand out in front of him. With a thought, he pushed the edges together, sealing the other two girls inside.

The girl was still standing there, staring blankly at where the opening had been moments before. "Come on." he said again. He started down the path he had so recently taken. After a moment, Liz followed him.

Aeva reached out briefly, taking the risk of her mind warp breaking. She found Liz easily.

Go with him. Aeva instructed.I know what you just saw, but don't argue. Isabel and I are coming soon.

Came back Liz's unsteady mindthought. How did you do that? Why didn't he see?

She answered briefly. Now go. We're coming, I swear. Now just stay as open as you can, and I'll help you if you need it.

With that, she let the connection fall. She turned back to wake Isabel, and then hurried forward to the now-opened door. They had to hurry. Aeva had given a promise to her Queen, and there was no way that half-breed rodent with a stolen crown would lay a finger on Aeva's Lady.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 3-Aug-2002 12:42:41 AM ]
posted on 9-Feb-2002 4:41:19 AM
Part Seven

Rathe stopped outside the door to the throne room. He motioned Lonia to mind Liz for a moment, and then disappeared inside.

Liz looked up to the rock above her. As fascinated as she was by this tunnel network inside - where ever it was they were inside - she couldn't get her attention off this queen Aeva had refused to name.

Aeva. That was another topic to ponder. Who was she, and where the hell had she come from? Liz had wakened to find her in the room and barely even contemplated the knowledge that informed her - what had it informed her? And why?

"Aeva." Liz tried out the name. Loni looked at her in vague interest, and then away. The words brought no flash of memories, words, or images. She reached further, trying to derive her sudden knowledge of this strange girl.

The only thing that emerged was a feeling of - peace. Peace, and protection. Strength, defensive strength. What was that supposed to mean, and how was it Liz had simply known? Was this a mindwarp? Suddenly afraid, she jumped as Rathe reappeared beside her.

"The Queen wants to see you." Rathe told her. Liz stiffened, but refused to show fear. She stepped boldly towards the opening he had left in the rock, but was caught by a hand at her elbow.

Rathe's hand turned her, delaying her just momentarily. She glanced back at him, in time to hear his muttered words, intended only for her. "Don't make the Queen mad." He warned softly, before pulling her with him into the throne room.

Liz sensed, rather than saw, Lonia following them both, two and a half paces behind on the left. She had just enough time to consider the implications of Lonia acting as royalty of inferior rank to Rathe, before he pushed Liz to her knees in front of the throne.

"Lady, I have brought to you your wish." Rathe announced, somewhat stiffly. Liz glanced up at him as best she could with his hand still on the back of her neck. His face was unreadable.

"You may withdraw." The Lady informed him. "Await my pleasure outside this room."

Rathe stiffened still further. Liz considered the implications of that, and then focussed on where she had heard the queen's voice before. "Lady, with all respect, is this wise?"

A pause, and then her voice cracked out. "My word is as law, Sir Rathe." She bit out the words with sarcasm. "If I say I want you out of the room, I mean precisely that. I can handle the King's slut on my own."

At that, Liz looked up in shock. The voice should have told her what she needed to know, but somehow her mind had blocked the truth from her. The Queen knew who and exactly what she was, and now Liz knew this queen.

She stood slowly, knocking Rathe's hand aside as he tried to push her back to her knees. "You." Liz said slowly to the girl sitting on the throne. "Damn you, Tess."

* * *

"Isabel, this way." Aeva called softly after the other girl. She wasn't even sure where she was going anymore. This place was a maze. Still, her strongest sense of Liz lay along the passageway in front of her.

"How do you know?" Isabel asked worriedly. She was biting anxiously at her thumb. Aeva had seen nail biters before, but this was bordering on the ridiculous. Clearly, her mind was elsewhere. "Aeva, what will Tess do to her?"

Aeva started to walk along the path she had chosen as Isabel caught up. "There's an ancient prophecy," she answered Isabel softly. "About the use of the Granolith. It mentions a sacrifice, and calls for all of the royal four. Tess believes that she is the Queen, Max the King, you or Lonia his sister, and Rathe - or Michael - as his second in command. The way she has interpreted it, a life must be given. And she wants that to be Liz."

"What?" Isabel hissed. "And you let Rathe just take Liz like that? They're going to kill her! Are you insane?!?" She grabbed Aeva's hand and all but dragged her down the passage.

"I'm not an idiot or a flake, contrary to popular belief." Aeva answered her with a slight sarcasm. "Tess doesn't have Max yet. She can't kill Liz, no matter how much she would like to. And I would rather that we all escaped this together, all right?"

Aeva shook off Isabel's hand as they came to a split in their path. She opened wider the constant mind touch she had with Liz. Already it was stronger than it had already been between them, but she needed a greater accuracy to pinpoint Liz. Aeva had never been to Tess's throne room.

"How do you know where to go?" Isabel asked. Aeva ignored her for a moment, then picked their path and continued down it.

"I'm a guardian. I have a mindtouch - mind bond, actually - with all the Royal Four." Aeva answered briefly. There wasn't much more time for questions.

"What's a mind touch?" Isabel asked. "And a mind bond."

"Literally, I can touch the minds of all the Royal Four. I can trace them to where they are, and what they're doing. A mind bond means I have a permanent connection with you all."

"Does Tess?"

Aeva blinked. "I don't know. Seeing as she never contacted any of you, it would seem not. But then, she knows about Liz and Max, so maybe. I never thought to ask." She laughed bitterly. "Not that Tess would have answered."

"If she does, she can trace me now. She can trace me and Liz and Michael and Max. She'll know we're coming for Liz."

Aeva swore a string of curses under her breath. "You're right. I should have thought of that." She slowed for a moment in her path down the corridor. "Maybe you shouldn't come - but damn it, I need you." She cursed again.

Isabel caught her arm again and pulled her along faster, as they had been before. "I am not leaving her alone again." She ground out between her teeth. "Do you know what she's been through? I promised her no one would hurt her, and already she's being dragged into the throne room of that skank Tess and threatened. I am not going anywhere without her."

"I didn't say you would have to. I can't do this without you anyway. Just come on, before she realises." Aeva loosened her arm again from Isabel's hold and started to run.

* * *

Tess smiled, for all the world like a cat playing with a small bird. "Why, yes, Lady Liz." She continued to smile as she acted like a queen welcoming a favourite subject. "I am well. My best wishes to your family." She focussed back on Liz. "Would you like to deal with realities now?"

Liz stared back at her, a new hatred burning in her eyes. "Which realities would those be, Tess?" she spat the name, intentionally denying any honorific. She knocked off Rathe's hand as he tried to force her to kneel again.

"That my lovely King Max is exactly that, mine. And you are nothing but his discarded mistress, for me to do with as I see fit." Tess elaborated, still smiling in her twisted way. "Lady Liz." She finished.

"I am not anyone's mistress. You can take Max and do whatever you want with him. You're twisted and insane and I don't really care what you have done to me."

Tess let her smile drop for a moment. "Would you like to place bets on that?" she asked. Without missing a pause, she turned to Rathe. "Leave us. Now." She ordered peremptorily.

Rathe bowed briefly and withdrew to the door. Tess's eyes followed him, and then dropped suddenly back to Liz.

"Eventually, I think you will care." She answered as though her previous words hadn't been spoken. "I think you might want to know why, before you need to die."

Liz couldn't help rolling her eyes. "Spare me the theatrics, Tess."

Tess ignored her. "I mean, aren't you even curious? Curious that I chose you in particular for our cause? That I already know who and exactly what you are?"

"Not particularly." Liz answered. She was damned if she would give Tess anything she wanted, even if it was the true answer to a question she had been asked.

Tess turned her eyes back onto Liz. "I think you lie." She pronounced slowly. "I don't really care. You've lied to me before, all of you. But nonetheless, I shall tell you." She glanced at Liz's bare and battered feet, and her worn clothes. "Be seated." She invited.

Liz sighed in a vague irritation. She looked down at her own feet, and the sand below them. Without asking permission, she walked up the double step in the floor that led to Tess's throne. After a moment, she sat there.

Tess gazed at her for a moment in an almost fond manner, then looked away. When her voice began, her eyes seemed to fog over, almost like she was in a trance, seeing what she spoke of.

"You see, Liz, a long time ago, there was a prophecy. This prophecy was about two groups of our people who would leave our planet, and journey to another solar system. They travelled away because their lives were endangered, and they would be reborn on this planet. Once it was safe, the strongest Royal Four would return to the planet. This much, the plans of our people told.

"The prophecy, however, is much older and obscure. I have interpreted parts of it, and they tell that before the strongest Four can return, a sacrifice will be made. Bonded life and new life shall end, and their energy return us to our rightful home."

posted on 26-Feb-2002 10:34:15 PM
Hey, look, Bennie. Hopeless Max is doing it again. When will he ever learn???

Part Eight

Max pushed the Jeep into another gear. He glanced in the rear view mirror at the highway behind him, then pushed his foot to the floor. The cave would be about ten minutes drive from here normally, at the speed he was going it might be a little over five, but not much. As long as he managed to keep away from anyone who would stop him before he got there, such as the local police, anyway.

He had to get to the cave, damnit. He had woken from his near-trance sleep with his bond to Liz calling him as strongly as anything he had ever felt. Mindlessly obeying, it had been several minutes before he realised the second touch on his mind was even there. Probing it gently, he had found it carried nothing more than a compulsion as strong as Liz's unconscious one to come to this cave.

What the hell was going on there? All he knew from his brief touches with Liz was that she and Isabel had been taken somehow. And now this new contact... it told him nothing, and he couldn't follow it back as Isabel had described her own talent to him. Max silently cursed the fact that he had never been able to use any of the mental powers that Tess and Isabel had told them about.

Whoever the touch belonged to, he had realised within an instant that it wasn't Isabel or Michael. It wasn't Tess, either, although the touch had a similar feeling to when she had displayed some of her powers on him earlier. Then who? Who else had a power like theirs? And if they were Isabel and Liz as the case seemed to be, was he or she on their side, or trying to lure Max into a trap?

Well, that last one hardly mattered now. Whoever the hell had tried to mind touch with him, Max was going in. And there was no possible way he was leaving without both his sister and the girl he had thought he loved more than possible.

* * *

Aeva ran on, as far and hard as she could. To her side and just behind, she could hear Isabel breathing hard, but keeping up well. Who would have thought the fashion princess would be so fit? She thought briefly, then immediately felt guilty. That wasn't what they were here for, and if Aeva was going to nominate herself as their protector, she couldn't exactly harbour that kind of sentiment. She needed to be clear minded and strong in her judgements.

To distract herself from more unfair thoughts, Aeva sent another searching mind probe ahead. Tess was still in her oh-so-glorious throne room, and Liz was with her now. Aeva could feel the barely contained hate coming off of Liz, but she couldn't extend the power now to connect with her and calm her down.

Aeva continued her probing search, leaving Liz to defend as best she could. There wasn't a choice for now. Rathe was still in the room with Liz and Tess, but standing by the door, watchful. Aeva didn't understand that, and turned her search to Loni now. She was just up ahead, waiting outside the door to the throne room as Rathe had commanded. They were close then. Very close.

She spun on the spot and grabbed Isabel's arm as she was about to run past. "Loni's up ahead," she muttered. "I can't deal with her, Rathe and Tess at the same time. We have to put her out of action somehow."

"Can't you use your power and knock her out somehow?" Isabel asked, between pauses for breath.

Aeva shook her head. "My bond to you all means I can't use my powers directly against any of the royal family. You have to do this, and as fast as possible." She smiled grimly. "Tess, however, is another matter entirely."

Isabel wasn't listening. "How do I knock her out?" she asked intently.

"It's a combination of your dreamwalking, empathy and healing talents." Aeva explained quickly. "You need to reach for her empathically, connect with her with your dreamwalking skills, and use the manipulation healing gives you." she paused, then went on, "What you need is to find a vein in the back of her head, and close it. Not permanently, just a kind of clamp that will knock her out for a while. Understand?"

Isabel took a deep breath, then nodded. As Aeva watched, she sank to her knees on the sand floor and shut her eyes for concentration.

Good, Aeva thought. Then she shut her own eyes, leaning against the cavern wall, and tried to mind-touch Liz.

* * *

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Liz asked angrily. If that skank thought she was scaring her, she had another think coming.

"It's really very simple. On our planet, when two of our kind come together for the first time, they are known as "bonded". It's an informal kind of marriage, means that they can't be with anyone else until their partner dies." Tess shrugged. "You've been bonded to Max, therefore I can't be with him until you die. Your energy, and that of the child growing inside you, would return us all to the planet."

"What child?" Liz asked through a sudden panic. She had to be lying, had to be, had to be. She repeated that thought to herself over and over. It wasn't helping.

"The one you carry. I realise you're an innocent, but surely you know where babies come from, child." Tess's patronising tone would have had Liz on her feet and choking her if the words hadn't already scared her half to death.

* * *

Aeva's essence drifted into the throne room, following the probe she had sent to Liz. All along she had felt the strong emotions coming off Liz, but what she felt now wasn't so much anger and hatred as confusion and blank terror.

Not good. Aeva centralised her probe and slid into Liz's head, where she was all but assaulted by her fear.

Liz? She quested, half shocked.

Aeva? Aeva! Liz's emotions shot at her, nearly overwhelming her with confusion and something like self-loathing.

Liz, Christ, calm down. Aeva sent mentally. What's wrong? What did she do?

Tess said, oh God, help. She's wrong, she has to be! Her thought broke off incomprehensively.

Tess said what? Aeva demanded. Christ Almighty but that girl had something coming to her.

She's wrong. No. Liz's thought was strong, but scared, more of a refusal than a belief.

Liz - Aeva broke off as the images of what Tess had set played before her. In a quieter tone, Oh, shit.

No, she's wrong. I can't be - no! Liz broke off again. Aeva - am I?

Bonded? Yes. But you already knew that, even if you didn't know what it was. Aeva hoped she wouldn't ask the other question.

I knew. I didn't want to but I did. But - the other - I'm not! I can't be! Liz's mind-voice shook.

I don't know. Later I can tell you. Isabel and I are coming. She's dealing with Loni now. Where's Rathe?

In here, by the door. I don't know why.

Hang in there. We're coming. I promise.

* * *

Aeva came back to herself quickly. Not enough time, they needed more time! Isabel had just come out of her trance, and who knew how long Loni would stay out? Isabel had obviously never done it before or she wouldn't have taken so long. And Aeva herself has just used some of the time they had gained to calm Liz.

She reached down and dragged Isabel to her feet. "Is she unconscious?" she rasped. Hell, her throat had gone dry. Must be dealing with all that semi-human emotion.

Isabel nodded, a little limply. Aeva reached for her with her bonded sense and realised how depleted her powers were already. She'd sensed the healing the day before, but not how far it must have extended Isabel's secondary healing skills.

Great. So Isabel was low on power to begin with, Liz didn't know how to use hers, and Aeva was basically alone to deal with both Tess and Rathe, and possibly Loni if she woke. She grabbed Isabel again and towed her down the tunnel. Aeva would be damned if she didn't at least try.

posted on 26-Feb-2002 10:59:07 PM
Part Nine

"Are you listening to me?" Tess demanded of the girl still sitting at her feet. Moments earlier, her body had slumped slightly and her eyes had blanked over. Tess had assumed the girl would finally be scared, but not for her to completely lose contact with the real world. There were other things she wanted to do to the slut first.

"Elizabeth, damn you, wake up!" Tess yelled finally. There was absolutely no effect. Venting her sudden fury, she reached out and slapped Liz across the face. "Damn you!" she yelled again, as the girl shook her head suddenly like she'd been dizzy.

"Wha- what?" she mumbled. Liz reached up and touched her stinging cheek. "What happened?" she asked dazedly.

"What happened?" Tess screeched, suddenly even more furious. The nerve of the girl, Gods! "What happened? You tell me, slut!"

"I'm not a slut. I swear. I never…" her voice trailed off. Her eyes were unfocussing again. "Max…" she mumbled softly under her breath.

"What did you say?" Tess asked coldly. She stepped down from her throne and yanked Liz to her feet by her hair and shirt. "What did you say?" she shrieked again.

Liz didn't answer, just looked up at her dazedly. Finally losing her final restraint, Tess hit her. Not a slap this time, a closed fist hard across her cheekbone. Liz staggered back and tripped on the stairs, falling sideways. Tess threw herself after her, intending to beat the crap out of the Earth girl once and for all.

Suddenly Rathe was there, standing beside the girl. He intercepted Tess's leap and knocked her to the ground beside the half-conscious Liz. She scrabbled to a kneeling position and faced him. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" she hissed between clenched teeth.

* * *

"What I need to." Rathe answered, as Aeva stepped into the room, shortly followed by Isabel. What she saw nearly stopped her heart. Liz on the floor, half-unconscious and with a livid red mark across her cheek. Tess leaning over her, and Rathe regathering his powers above them both.

Without thinking she reached forward and threw a shield around Liz. At the same time she let loose a small bolt of power that knocked both Rathe and Tess away from her.

"Aeva, what are you doing?" Rathe cried out as he fell. "I can take care of this myself!" Then he saw Isabel loose behind her. "You let her out?" he said in shock.

Aeva didn't have time to deal with that. She just hoped Isabel could hold off Rathe for a while, because she certainly wasn't going to entrust Tess to her. On that thought she spun to face the girl who was not only her double, but in a sense herself.

Tess wasn't fighting with her powers yet, more with her nails. Still, it was all Aeva could do to keep her off for now. She couldn't extend any more concentration to her powers than to maintain the shield over Liz, and like hell she was giving that up. Instead, she surrendered any hope of using powers and tried to hit Tess in the eye.

Her fist slid and hit her across the cheek instead, giving her a mark to match Liz's. Now there's poetic justice, Aeva thought ironically as she dodged a flying kick from Tess. She stepped back again to avoid the scratching nails that followed it through. As of yet, she was untouched, but with Tess fighting like the half-breed cat she was, that wouldn't last long.

Across the room, Rathe was slowly stalking Isabel. He had obviously worked out that Aeva had her own agenda that had very little to do with his own. Possibly she had freed the girl for a good reason, but if she had, one of them would have said something by now. So he assumed, anyway.

"Come here, Isabel," he said softly in the sing song voice he had used for Loni. She shook her head and backed away from him. "C'mere. I'm not going to hurt you."

Isabel shook her head again. "This may come as a great surprise to you, but you can't manipulate me like you did Lonia." She warned him softly.

She was still backing away from him, but Rathe realised now that Isabel had managed to turn them both around and was walking backwards towards the human girl spread out on the floor, hands held out ready in front of her. He lunged out for her, just grabbing her hand before she pulled away and kicked him in the shins.

"Feisty." Rathe muttered as he grabbed for her again. He thought he had her, when the brief mind-warp she had imposed on him faded and he saw her sprinting the rest of the way down the room to Elizabeth's side. He growled under his breath and ran after her, using his powers to throw up a wall just between her and the shielded girl.

Isabel spun just as she would have walked into it and opened her hands again. The mind-warp was flawless, but for the fact he knew it wasn't real. Rathe shut his eyes and felt his way towards where he knew she had been. He was only halfway surprised when she hit him across the head with one of the rocks he had removed earlier to put Tess's throne in. He slumped to the floor.

* * *

Aeva was having a harder time of keeping away from Tess now. She was essentially trying to fight herself, and while she knew everything that could have worked on herself, she couldn't use any of them and maintain the shield on Liz.

She had been hit several times now, in the stomach, and clawed down her arm. Tess still sported the red weal Aeva had given her at the beginning and favouring one arm now that Aeva had managed to twist for her. Equal, except that Aeva couldn't keep this up much longer without dropping Liz's shield.

She dodged away from a punch and stepped close in to Tess, elbowing her in the stomach and hitting her again on the bruise she had been given. Hell if it was unsporting, it worked. She ducked back out of Tess's reach and used her powers for the first time in their fight, sending a scattering of fire droplets at Tess.

Tess recovered from the stomach blow just in time to throw up a shield to block the fire. She dropped it again as she made her own attack, sending a power wave directly at her double.

Aeva shielded just in time, the protection she was using over Liz was slowly draining her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Isabel drop to her knees just outside the shield and put out a hand to touch it. She must have worked out it was no barrier to her, because the next time Aeva saw her she was inside it, bending over Liz and touching her face anxiously. Then she had to duck another power wave from Tess.

Rathe seemed to be unconscious on the cave floor. Go Isabel, Aeva thought briefly, hope he stays that way. I can't take on both of them, and even this is looking increasingly bad. She fell to her knees as another power surge from Tess clipped her side.

The shield had to go. She dropped it, hoping desperately that Liz and Isabel could manage, and sent the full strength of her power in a surge at Tess. She barely dodged, and Aeva had time to get up again as Tess dealt with the effects of it. Aeva sent another wave of the fire droplets, and caught movement out of the corner of her eye.

Isabel had taken up a stance just behind Aeva, having given up the hope of helping Liz, at least for now. Her hands were outstretched, and she was staring at the cave roof just above Tess.

As Tess threw up a shield to stop the fire again, rocks began to fall from just above her. Startled, Tess looked up and dropped the shield for a moment. Aeva would have taken that chance to finish her, but a voice spoke from behind her.

"All of you stop, or the girl dies here and now."

* * *

Rathe was holding Liz up, slumped against him, with one arm. The other hand he held out just in front of him, out enough to stop any of them who tried to attack, and close enough to harm Liz if he saw it necessary.

Watching Rathe handle Liz like a rag doll made Aeva feel physically sick. This was the Queen Aeva had sworn to protect lying over his arm, after they had already done Gods knew what to her.

"Now. We are going to handle things my way." Rathe said calmly. "Aeva, you can explain to me why you refused my offer in favour of helping these two pitifuls." He gestured to Liz and Isabel with his free hand.

"Because I'm not the Queen." Aeva said calmly.

"Obviously." Tess sneered before she could continue. Rathe raised his hand in her direction and she fell silent.

"You're not the Queen," Rathe repeated slowly. "Who is, then?" he motioned towards Tess. "You think she is? Not in any world where I get a say."

"No. I'm not, and Tess isn't Queen. Liz is." Aeva looked at him steadily. "Feel so sure now, Rathe? Kill the girl and you will never get back to Antar. And if you do, I have this feeling it won't be as King's second in command."

"She's lying," Tess spat. Rathe turned to her, allowed her to continue. Encouraged, she went on. "Yeah, their King bedded her. That means nothing. She's a common slut, sleeping around with anyone as all humans do. Last week she was keeping company with a human she had left last year. At most she'd be a royal concubine. She is nothing to us more than the energy her death will cause!"

"What?" Isabel exploded. "What the hell are you talking about? Liz would never sleep around! You're crazy!"

Aeva held up a hand to silence her, and Isabel stopped, shaking her head in disbelief. Uneasily, Aeva noted that she was having to hang onto the cave wall now to stay on her feet. She brushed that thought from her mind.

"Do you really want to take the risk, Rathe?" Aeva asked him. She shrugged. "Trust the skank and kill the Queen. I promise you nothing more will happen than that you'll get stuck on this planet even longer. How bad do you want to get out of here?"

"And what's it to you, Aeva?" Rathe asked. "Why does it matter to you?"

Aeva stared at him in disbelief. "Have you truly never listened to a single thing I said, Rathe?" she asked. "I always told you the truth, that I was sent as a protector to the Royal Four. Not as the Queen, not as a liege to you four. To protect you all, as I swore to. And now the last Queen of this generation, you are calmly suggesting we kill for the sake of her energy, which won't return you home in any case." With a struggle, she brought herself under control. "That is what it matters to me."

"And what if I don't believe you?" Rathe asked.

"Then you're twice as stupid as her or Loni." Aeva snapped, gesturing to Tess.

"I see." Rathe said, and smiled. Before he continued, Aeva knew it was over. He had only ever smiled that way when he was in control and about to do exactly what he wanted to. She had seen it far too many times, right before he backhanded Lonia across the face.

With what remained of her strength, Aeva threw herself at him, in the hopes of wresting away Liz from him. She found herself on her back, on the floor, before Rathe should have had a chance to move. She started to sit up, but froze as a male voice, not Rathe, spoke behind her.

"All of you stay precisely where you are, or I will not be held responsible for the consequences."

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 27-Feb-2002 12:33:28 AM ]
posted on 26-Feb-2002 11:01:12 PM
Part Ten

Liz woke up to find herself on the floor inside a cave. She pushed herself up to a sitting position and looked around. Aeva lying on the floor beside her, Isabel leaning against a wall, Tess on her back across the room, Rathe sprawled a few metres from Liz herself. What the hell? She asked mentally.

"Stay where you are, Liz." A soft voice from behind her. Liz recognised it instantly, and her back slowly stiffened. A glance back over her shoulder was enough to both confirm her suspicions and reorientate her.

She had spoken to Aeva, Liz remembered that clearly. Then things got fuzzier. When she had tried to pull back to her own body, she had felt something else. Then she was outside, with Max. Maybe not physically, but in some sense she had been with him, and guided him to this cave. He had seen her, Liz knew that, but somehow she couldn't remember any more than being comforted by his presence. This was just crazy.

"Can I check Aeva?" she asked, not facing him, concentrating firmly on the rock wall opposite her. She heard him move, to where she wasn't sure.

"Which one's Aeva?" Max asked. For whatever reason, that ignorance infuriated Liz.

"The girl just by me. Right here." Liz gestured vaguely to her, keeping a tight grip on her sudden irrational anger.

Go ahead, he answered. Liz had already turned to the other girl before she realised he hadn't spoken aloud. Biting her lip, she helped Aeva sit up.

"I'm fine," the other girl muttered. "Just keep an eye on those two. Max doesn't entirely know what he's dealing with." Liz nodded in silent agreement, she wasn't even sure that she knew what they were dealing with any more.

* * *

"Tess," Max snapped out. "Get up, and get over to that wall." He gestured strongly to the wall closest to her, not far from where Isabel was still shakily standing. He stepped over to the tall boy who had been holding onto Liz when he came in. "You too." He said, motioning for him to go over to the wall as well.

The boy sullenly got to his feet. God, he reminds me of Michael, Max realised with a start. He watched closely as Rathe made his way towards Tess.

Isabel was still standing against the wall. As he looked over to her, she pushed away from the wall and made her way over to where Liz and Aeva were still huddled together on the sand. "Are you okay, Is?" Max asked.

"I'll be fine." She answered quickly, not looking at him. He knew why, no matter how painful it was. Sooner rather than later, he would have to deal with what he had done to Liz.

Liz? Max asked silently, unintentionally. He saw her start, then realise.

What? Her thought was clipped and to the point. In for a sheep, in for a lamb, he thought dryly.

Is she okay? I'm guessing Aeva is one of the good guys.

Yes, Aeva's one of the good guys. As far as I know with alien physiology, she's fine. She's been the one fighting, and I'm still in worse shape
, Liz answered.

What? Max turned to look at her, and for the first time noticed the bruise on her face. Who did that? Did I? He asked himself blindly. No. No, I would never have hurt her that way.

Tess... hit me. I think. Simple words, but for whatever reason, they shocked Max.

"These staring games are all very sweet, but can we get to the point here?" Tess unknowingly interrupted. Her voice dripped with poisoned honey. "What do you intend to do with us?"

"That really depends," Max answered. He took a few steps forward, so that he was well and truly in front of the girls. "Somehow I don't think you kidnapped my sister and "Queen" for no reason. Why don't you explain it to me, and then I'll decide?"

"Why don't I kill the slut and then show you?" Tess spat at him. She took a threatening step towards Liz, who stood up slowly. Max calmly stepped between them again, though his mind blazed with fury.

"Liz is not a slut, and if you call her one again, I will personally make you wish you were never born." It wasn't Max speaking, and that was probably a good thing. He realised the voice had to be Aeva's.

"Thank you, Aeva." Max cut in. "Can we get back to the point now?" he asked both Tess and Rathe. Tess didn't acknowledge the question, but Rathe stepped forward.

"Tess kidnapped her as bait," he answered, nodding his head towards Liz to indicate whom he meant. "The Granolith requires energy to transmit matter from place to place. It is currently programmed to transmit the Royal Four, and according to Aeva their protector, to our planet. Without the Four and the energy, it won't work." he drew a deep breath, and continued. "The energy required is exactly equal to the life force of one human, which is what we believed your girl to be. Tess said that if we brought her, you would come after her, and we would have both the Four and the energy we needed."

"You were going to kill her." Max rephrased what he hadn't said. When neither Rathe nor Tess answered, he realised his assumption was correct. "Then there's only one fair choice for all of this." He spun on his heel to face his sister, his Protector, and his Queen. He knelt in front of Liz.

Liz? He asked her silently. What do you want to do?

Max, look out!
Liz lunged for him, knocking him onto his side. Max stared longingly up at her face. Her eyes were drawn helplessly down, straight into his. Something connected in that look, her powers, latent until now, drawn with his to form the shield that would protect them all.

He felt the shock wave Tess had thrown and Liz had tried to warn him of rebound from the shield. Instinctively he looked up, following its progress across the cave.

Instead of falling away from the shield and dispersing as he had expected, the power seemed to be regrouping above it. It gathered itself into a single ball of what looked like multicoloured flame, and shot towards Tess.

"Nooooo!" she howled as it encircled her body and outlined her in flame. It didn't seem to burn her, but still they all stared in abject horror. The flame wrapped her entirely, then suddenly flared. The others cried out in pain as it hurt their eyes, then faded.

* * *

When Isabel uncovered her eyes, Tess was still standing there. Somehow, though, she looked different how Isabel had always seen her.

"It's because she's lost her powers," Aeva murmured, as though she had heard Isabel's thought.

Isabel didn't understand that, but she thought that maybe she should wait for a more opportune moment to ask for an explanation. Aeva was already getting to her feet.

"What are you doing?" Isabel asked through a dry mouth. Personally, she didn't want to move.

"The only thing that's left to do." Aeva answered. She took a few steps forward, to where Liz had just pushed herself off from lying on Max. Aeva offered a hand to get her up, and motioned to Max to follow. "I need all of you for this."

"What are we doing?" Liz asked. She rubbed her hand across her eyes again, trying to clear the blazes of light to the fire had left in them.

"We're giving them what they wanted all along." Aeva answered. All eyes focussed on her as she clarified; "We're sending them home."

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 18-Mar-2002 6:00:55 AM ]
posted on 26-Feb-2002 11:02:32 PM

“Will you be okay for tonight?” Isabel asked as she put down the last of Liz’s bags. She glanced around the room quickly before commenting. “You’ve done a lot of work here.”

Liz nodded, not commenting. Max had done most of the work, not her. And when Liz had tried to move things around, Aeva had an irritating tendency to come running in and pull them out of her hands, before reminding Liz she was a Queen now and shouldn’t be moving furniture.

“We’ll be fine. Aeva will be next door. She doesn’t mind sleeping on the floor just to be near me.” Liz answered her, grinning.

“Well, that’s fine for her, but you and I are royalty, Liz my sweet. And Aeva can sleep on the floor all she wants but I’m not going to.” Iz laughed, then looked back to Liz more seriously. “You’re sure?”

“I’m sure.” Liz stated, flipping her hair out of her face with one hand.

Isabel looked uneasy, then shrugged it away. She reached out and enfolded Liz in a hug.

Liz accepted briefly, then stepped away. She looked Isabel in the eye as she pointed at the door.

“Yes, Lady Liz.” Isabel flourished a courtier’s bow, and left the room still laughing.

Liz looked around her new room. It was more than twice the size of her old one, Aeva had been insistent on that when they bought the house. Nor was there any discussion over who would be taking the small room beside the door. Aeva had claimed it the moment they walked in, and Liz had learned in the last year that there was little arguing with Aeva when it was about Liz’s safety.

The room has been painted a pale yellow, trimmed in a dreamy green. Queen’s colours, Aeva had informed Liz when they had chosen them together. Cedar furniture and her own bags lined the walls, Liz had only just moved in here. In the centre stood a double bed, including frame and hangings surrounding it. The covers were folded back meaningfully. Undoubtably a message from Max.

Right on queue, he entered the room behind her. She heard him put down whatever he had been carrying and approach her.

“Liz, it’s late. You should rest.”

She turned to face him. As ever, his eyes were downcast when he spoke to her, his bearing humble. Her eyes flickered to the band on his wrist. It corresponded to one around her ankle, where it had been placed a year before.

* * *

They had barely left the caves when Aeva pulled the Jeep over to the side of the road. To Liz’s questioning look, she answered only “It’s time to set some things straight.”

Shrugging, Liz followed her away from the Jeep. Isabel immediately caught up with her, and Max followed two steps behind, as he had since he’d found Liz again.

When they gathered around her, Aeva stood for a moment and then turned to Max.

“You know what you have done.” A statement, not a question. Max nodded, silent.

“It is the worst thing that can ever be done to a female. Even your death could not atone for it. And among our people, this is far, far worse. Not only have you destroyed all trust, shamed your Queen, but also you have permanently bonded her, firmly and irrevocably, to yourself. Do you deny any of this?”

“No.” Max’s voice was low but steady. His eyes were full of pain.

“I hereby judge you, King, and find your actions abhorrent. Your death cannot atone for an offence of this magnitude, so you shall spend your life seeking to do so. I hereby bind you to service to my Queen, assumed lifelong but at her discretion to choose. As your position is unique, she may choose to negotiate the terms of your service. Such is her choice, and none may interfere.” She glanced briefly at Liz and Isabel’s shocked faces, then looked back to Max. “Your hand, my King.”

Max held it out to her unflinchingly. Without hesitation, she placed her hands around his wrist and concentrated. When she pulled her hands away, a thcnk silver band surrounded his wrist.

* * *

Liz looked up at his face. He refused to meet her eyes, having been reprimanded for it by Aeva. Still, his eyes rested on her face, an act of an inferior, but one not greatly so.

“I don’t want to sleep yet.” She answered finally, turning away from him. Another step took her to her set of drawers, where she knelt and began to unpack things from one of a series of bags.

“Let me do that.” He stepped to her again and offered her his hand. Liz took it reluctantly and let him pull her to her feet.

As he did so, she glanced up at his face and caught a brief glimpse of his eyes. A second, and it was gone. Liz might have identified the emotion there had Aeva not walked in right then.

“It’s been done.” She announced flatly. “The traitor is dead. They say she died well, considering.” She looked up briefly, saw the look on Liz’s face, and immediately returned to her usual self. “Let go, Max. Release her. Now.” She ordered crisply, and with a harsh emphasis on the last word.

His hands immediately dropped away from hers, and he murmured an apology. Liz stopped him absently, it hadn’t been his hands that had put the look on her face. It was a remembered pain, one brought back strongly by Aeva’s words.

* * *

Aeva looked up, surprised at Isabel’s question. “Yes, the prophecy was real. What was completely wrong was Tess’s interpretation of it.”

“Well, obviously. She was deluded. But then what did the part about lives mean, if it wasn't Liz and –” Isabel cut herself off, too late.

“You mean, if it wasn’t that Tess was supposed to kill me and our – my child.” Liz completed Isabel’s question smoothly. Her voice was harsh, but her brief stumble and the hand resting on her flat stomach gave the lie to her tone.

“Yes, that.” Isabel answered weakly, suddenly thrown by this darker side of Liz.

“Well.” Aeva thought briefly. “It’s a little difficult to explain. See, it’s not talking about actual lives, or life energy, as Tess thought. It’s more complicated than that.”

“Am I right in thinking that Tess losing her powers had something to do with it?” Isabel questioned.

Aeva nodded to that. “In all truth, it’s almost directly related to Tess. Her bonded life – that’s talking about her bond to the four of you – it was nullified, ended, when she tried to turn her powers against you.

“As for the new life…. I’m not sure I understand. Tess couldn’t have been with child…. I think it’s a reference to the life she sought to take as Queen. In the same moment she lost her powers, she would have known she’d lost all chance to become Queen, too. So that ended.

“I think it was the potentiality-energy in each of those two things that the Granolith needed. It has enough energy-energy to destroy a star, life force couldn’t hardly touch the balance. That’s all that I understand, and I’m not tempting fate to try to understand more.” Aeva shrugged her shoulders uncomfortably, then visibly calmed herself.

“What will happen to Tess? Max asked softly from his position beside and behind Liz. Aeva stiffened, but answered the question as though Liz had asked it.

“Technically, her actions are treasonous. On the other hand… I’m under the impression that she’s distinctly unstable. Her pod could have suffered the same damage as Rathe’s and Loni’s. With that, her charge may be taken into consideration, but I have no doubts what it will eventually be.”

“And that is….” Isabel prompted.

Aeva met her eyes, held them. “Death.”

* * *

“Liz? Liz, say something. Please, my Queen. Please.” Aeva’s plea was bordering on the incoherent now. She was getting desperate.

Abruptly, she found herself shouldered aside by Max. He scooped Liz up from where she had dropped to her knees on the carpet, dead white. He turned towards the bed and found himself stopped by Aeva.

“Max, what are you doing?! You know you’re not supposed to do this, after everything –”

“Liz is my bonded.” He interrupted calmly, clearly. “And my Queen. In this, as all else, I am bound to her service. I can best render that if she is not sprawled on the floor.”

Aeva dropped her protests unwillingly and followed him to the bed. He placed Liz down carefully, then sat down on the edge of the bed, and placed a hand on either side of her face.

After a moment, he pulled his hands away. “She’s fine, Aeva. Just upset.” Moving as carefully as before, he resettled himself at the end of the bed, by Liz’s feet.

Seeing him there suddenly took Aeva back several months. Liz’s room above the Crashdown. Liz in the bed, Max at her feet. Isabel, ushering Aeva through the door.

* * *

Isabel met her at the door. Her anxiety showed clearly as she chewed on her bottom lip, the only outward sign of emotion Aeva had ever seen her indulge in. “Liz needs you. She’s… sick.”

Aeva could read serious worry in Isabel’s eyes. This wasn’t just any ‘sick’, something was clearly very wrong. She took the stairs up to Liz’s room two at a time, Isabel close behind her.

As soon as she opened the bedroom door, Aeva concurred with Isabel’s unspoken thought. This was serious.

Liz lay on the bed, her eyes shut. Her face with creased with pain, and the hand Aeva could see above the bed covers was clenched, nails digging deeply into her skin. She lay curled on her side, her blankets tossed, but covering her completely to the shoulders. To complete the tableau, Max was on the floor at the foot of the bed, his eyes full of desperate pain.

Aeva took it all in at a glance, then hastened towards the head of the bed. As she laid a cool hand on Liz’s forehead, Liz’s eyes opened.

“Aeva.” She managed to say, before she spasmed with another pain, trying to keep from screaming.

Aeva had never heard so much gladness in a single word, had never heard her name invoked as a prayer. Some part of her marvelled at it, while the rest of focussed fully on her Queen.

She stripped the covers back from Liz, looked her over critically. Her thin pyjamas were soaked, stuck to her body with her sweat, and she shivered constantly. Aeva touched fingers to each side of her neck, felt like her hands were being scalded. She couldn’t understand how Liz could have stood the covers piled over her.

She asked Liz quickly, and receiving her permission, helped roll her gently onto her stomach. Aeva raised the back of her shirt, ran gentle fingers over several muscles in her lower back. Liz moaned deep in her throat.

Aeva tried not to hear it as she sat back on her heels and contemplated. There were only two things she could think of that might possibly cause this reaction, and she shuddered to think of either of them.

“Isabel.” she said crisply. “Help Liz into the bathroom, try to cool her down somehow. Give her a shower, an ice bath, anything. Just get her temperature down.”

Isabel nodded and moved back to the bed. Rather than help Liz walk, as Aeva had expected, she slipped her arms under an unresponsive Liz and lifted her bodily.

Before Isabel could move, Max was in front of her. Ignoring her protest, he simply took Liz’s lax body into his arms and carried her into the bathroom. Aeva saw him set Liz down gently, before he used his powers to shut the door.

Aeva turned solidly to face Isabel. “That wasn’t a good idea.” She said flatly.

Isabel shrugged. “I didn’t have a choice. You think it’s a miscarriage, don’t you.” She changed topic abruptly.

Aeva knew the answer she expected, nodded slowly. “Yes. Either that, or… Liz is more human than any of us. It’s entirely possible that this is her human and alien sides in conflict. If we leave her now, she could die.” Aeva answered, trying to remain calm. It wasn’t easy.

“Whatever it is though, Max could help, right?” Isabel asked anxiously.

Aeva shook her head. “His healing powers could do as much harm as help right now. On the other hand… you have the healing stones, don’t you.”

Isabel had given up asking questions where Aeva was “just knowing”. Resigned, she nodded shortly. “In my bag. We wanted to wait for you before using them.”

“Good.” Aeva turned away, moved back to the bed. She pulled back Liz’s sheets entirely, inspecting them meticulously.

“What are you doing?” Isabel asked. Her hands gave her away this time, as she bit anxiously at one knuckle.

Aeva didn’t pause for thought, her words needed no explanation. “Looking for blood.”

When Aeva opened the bathroom door, she wasn’t sure what she expected to see. She found Max tenderly wiping an unprotesting Liz’s skin with a damp towel.

He was trailing the towel gently around her shoulders as Aeva stepped into the bathroom. He glanced up at her, but didn’t for a moment stop his careful ministrations to Liz.

Past his arm, Aeva could see the ruins of Liz’s pyjamas on the bathroom floor. Rather than putting her through the difficulties of shedding each item, he’d simply used his powers to split the fabric and pull them away from her. Aeva mentally thanked her Gods’ that Isabel hadn’t finished undressing Liz before getting her into her pyjamas. As it was, Liz stood shakily in a pale pink bra and underwear set.

“Now what?” Max asked. Aeva considered her options and stepped up to Liz. Tilting the smaller girl’s face to look at her, she told the truth.

“Liz, it’s not a miscarriage. I don’t think you’re even pregnant, I’d have known by now. This is just… we think your human side and alien sides in contention. You’re out of balance.”

At the word balance, Max had turned to stare incredulously at Aeva. He shook his head, turned back to Liz, but was obviously still surprised by something in her choice of words. Liz too had reacted oddly to that word, but Aeva wasn’t sure if that was her or the illness sweeping her body.

Liz drew in an obviously painful breath. “Just?” she asked with more than a trace of sarcasm.

Aeva winced. “We can help, Liz. You’ll be much better very soon. I promise.”

Liz managed a nod before another convulsion racked her slight body. Unasked, Max held her upright til it passed, then picked her up once more. Without direction, he carried her back to her bed and laid her gently down.

Aeva followed them into the room. Taking a deep breath, she took the healing stones one at a time from Isabel and placed them in the five star pattern around Liz.

After a moment’s thought, she moved Max’s stone and Aeva’s own to touch Liz’s skin. Liz’s relief was obvious, her breathing slowed almost to normal, her shivering stopped. She was asleep in the time it took Aeva to pull a sheet up and over her.

Without a word, Max took up his position on the foot of the bed again. His figure, standing sentinel over the sleeping Liz, was the last thing Aeva saw as she drew Isabel gently from the room, and shut the door carefully behind them.

* * *

“I didn’t want her to die.” Liz’s eyes were still closed, but she spoke the words with clarity, conviction. “Despite everything, I didn’t.”

“I know.” Aeva affirmed, and Max rumbled an agreement in his low voice.

“She died because of me.” Liz’s tones left no room for argument. “Because she wanted what I have now.” And want not, remained unspoken, but they all understood.

Aeva was shocked speechless momentarily, then her temper finally overpowered her. It wasn’t fair that Liz could assume the blame for this, after everything Tess had done. It was not fair! “Lady, that is not true. Tess, what she did, it constitutes high treason. She tried to murder the rightful Queen and the heir to the throne. That she was utterly incompetent and failed in her task does not excuse her crime.” She contested hotly.

“Because of me.” Liz repeated dully. It sparked Aeva’s fears, made her speak what she had not intended to tell.

“Liz, perhaps that is true. But it is not your fault. Any blame starts and ends solely with Tess.” Aeva shook her head slowly, sighed. “Sweet, at the end, she was even more deluded, utterly mad. That was what precipitated the decision in the end. She was raving, promising to kill you. Not just you, but your child. Isabel and Michael, if she could. Can you honestly say you’d have preferred that?”

At some point in Aeva’s speech, Liz had opened her eyes. Now she shook her head slowly, tears glimmering behind her lashes.

Aeva’s relief was immeasurable, knowing Liz had seen sense in this, agreed. “I’m sorry, Liz.” She said in a softer tone. “But it was the only thing to do. She didn’t suffer, I promise you.” Liz nodded, though her eyes still showed a deep sorrow.

After a moment, Liz started to push herself to a sitting position. Without thinking, Aeva moved forward to help settle her against the pile of pillows around the head of the bed. She stepped back, glanced at Max. Of a sudden, she realised she couldn’t help here any more.

Liz needed to sort this out for herself, that people would die, willing or otherwise, to keep her on a throne she’d never wanted. If Max could help her, it was more than Aeva could do right then.

With that in mind, she made her obeisance to the bed, asked permission to withdraw. Before she could complete the request, Liz held her arms out to her.

Aeva stepped forward and embraced her Queen. She was grateful in this, that she had come to serve a Queen who would be not just fair and respected, but that she could love.

When Aeva had withdrawn, Max waited silently for his next command. That Liz owned him now, he had no complaint. That he would disobey her in an instant to spare her hurt, he had long known. But until now, he’s not realised how deeply that instinct was rooted.

Liz lay back among the cushions still, lost in thought. When she noticed Max, she shook off her reverie, requested he fetch her night clothes. Despite everything he’d done, she had never ordered him to do anything, simply asked gently whatever she wished him to do.

Max fumbled through her drawers briefly, then returned to the bed with her nightshirt in hand. She’d still not moved. Shrugging, he matter-of-factly leaned over and began unbuttoning her shirt for her.

Immediately, Liz’s hand came down on top of his, halting his progress, “What are you doing?” she asked evenly, her eyes and tone flat.

Max met her eyes cleanly for the first time that night. “Forgive me, Lady mine, but you’re not leaving this bed again tonight. I merely sought to assist.”

Liz looked into his eyes a moment longer, then dropped her hand, allowing him to finish unbuttoning her shirt. She assisted him in sitting up so that he could pull the shirt away, and then draw her loose nightshirt over her head. Her pants he unbuttoned quickly, drew off and then dropped to the floor. For the sake of her modesty, he drew the shirt further over her legs.

Liz watched him the whole time. When she spoke, her voice was free of an inflection. “And what do you, my Lord, think of the sentence imposed upon Tess?”

Reaching under her body, Max drew the sheets out from under her, then covered her with them. As he folded them back from her face, he answered simply, ignoring the honorific she had addressed him with. “I think it was the only sentence that could be fairly passed.”

Liz lay back on her pillows once more, but her eyes remained sharp. “How so?”

“Lady, she was certifiably insane. She could not be allowed to remain a threat to your safety.”

Liz sighed. “So they keep telling me. But how many more will die, that you and I remain the celebrated monarchs?”

Max had no answer for her, and they both knew it. Still, he tried to think as he moved around the bed to drop the screens surrounding it.

“I can’t answer that, Lady.” He said eventually. “But for some, it is worth the price.” Like me. He added silently. Worth the price a thousand times over. Liz didn’t answer.

Moving to the lights, he moved around slowly, switching off lamps one by one. As he reached for the last one, Liz spoke again.

“Leave that one, please.”

Max bowed deeply. “As you wish, Lady.” His eyes travelled briefly around the room. “Do you require anything else tonight?”

“No… no, I think that’s all. Thank you, Max.”

“Goodnight, my Queen.”

Max moved towards the door, but had not stepped through it when Liz suddenly spoke again.

“Wait. Max, just…” her voice drifted off. She added silently - I don’t want to be alone tonight.

Max was caught by surprise. It had been nearly a year since they’d spoken silently like this. Not since the caves had they used their method of private talking.

As you wish, my Lady. He turned towards the pallet set out on the floor for his occasional use.

Max… not there. Her silent words conveyed a gentle longing.

He looked blankly for a moment, then crossed the room towards the bed. He slid cautiously through the bed hangings and lay down across the bed from Liz, still facing her.

She made a silent noise of exasperation. Max felt the urge to laugh, he hadn’t known that was possible, but stifled it when she spoke again. Max, come here. Liz patted the bed right beside her.

Max slid over beside her, almost touching now. Yes, my Lady.

Max, if you call me Lady once more, I’m going to scream.
Liz sent to him, with her rare humour. That will bring Aeva running, and I don’t want to think about what will happen to you after that.

Max smiled in the darkness. Yes, my Queen.

He amended swiftly as she turned to glare at him.

Better. Liz turned onto her side again, facing away from him. Without thinking, Max slid up behind her, spooned against her back. More tentatively, he slid his arm over her waist, holding her gently against him. When she didn’t protest, he relaxed.

Goodnight, Liz.

Night, Max.

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 2-Jun-2002 8:13:42 AM ]
posted on 19-Mar-2002 4:29:52 AM
double post... or... so.

posted on 2-Jun-2002 8:14:31 AM

Dark hair against a pillow.

A single deep colored lock curls and forms a loop before continuing a waving path against a white background.

You’d hate it if you saw it, I know. You prefer your hair straight and uncomplicated. You prefer your everything straight and uncomplicated. You always have, Liz.

You complained all through the heat wave last year, I remember. You’d pull out the damp curls that would form at the back of your neck and framing your face, and give this deep, long suffering sighs. Then you’d find your comb yet again in a vain attempt to straighten.

I don’t know why you kept trying, really. It wasn’t a big thing. But even as I think this I can see you frowning and reminding me that big things are made up of small things, so we should pay attention to all of them. You’re right, and I can understand if it upset your structure, your sense of balance. Something did.

But I do understand, and in a way, that’s what makes this even harder. I do understand.

That doesn’t mean I won’t try to stop you.


I remember the few times you lost that structuring, Liz. Lost your focus, your intensity, your control. It hasn’t happened often, but my God we knew about it when it did. You’ve scared me more than once, you know – you’ve scared us all.

Like the time you screamed at Tess in Vegas. You’d finally told me about the whole Future Max scenario, while drunk out of your mind and off your face. You obviously had no idea what you were saying or who you were saying it to. But I believed you, and the next morning, after I’d helped you with a killer hangover, you remembered. And then we told the others.

Maria knew. I could tell by the look on her face as you told the story, and you confirmed it for me later. Alex muttered that nothing Czechoslovakian surprised him any more and Kyle was just grateful I wasn’t still trying to kill him.

Isabel believed you. I think at the time, she believed in our love more than we did, because she didn’t hesitate to believe you would do something like that if I asked you to. And she was right.

I think it took Michael a while longer, but he believed you, too. He either couldn’t or didn’t want to understand what you’d given up for him – for all of us – but he believed you.

Tess, though – she scorched the air with her swearing. I learned about things I didn’t know were possible in that thirty second string of obscenity. Then she jumped up, starting stalking around and getting in your face, calling you a liar, a tramp, twisting circumstances to make her a villain and you a victim.

Both Alex and I had to be physically restrained to stop us from killing her for that. And in any case, she wasted her time.

You sat up from where you’d been leaning on the couch, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so angry, before or since. You threw destiny back in her face, and you told her about fate. You asked if you were a liar, what that made her. Willing to turn us over to the skins. Betraying you all, getting us all killed. Mind warping me, so many times. Forcing me into that kiss in the rain and those delusions in Biology. For every shit story she’d ever spun about herself or Nasedo.

You told exactly what you thought of her – what we all secretly thought of her – and I was impressed. You were honest, you were methodic, you went right back to the beginning and reminded Tess of every dishonest, sneaky unpleasant thing she’d done since coming to Roswell.

I have never been so proud of you in my life.

And then you turned to me and asked me to do something about your hangover because “All the shouting” was bringing it back.

We all laughed ourselves sick at that one. It even helped heal a little of the rift that existed between you and Tess, I think. Crazy, but true. The truth helped her, and it set us all free.

But what’s the truth now, Liz? And why are you the only one trying to be free?


6am, day after Christmas,
I throw some clothes on in the dark
The smell of cold
Car seat is freezing
The world is sleeping
I am numb


I remember you telling me more than once that lies were the roots of all evil, and that to get the truth you had to start with an all new equation. You were right, I think – I can’t imagine believing you about Future Max under any other circumstances. Well, I can, but that you were too drunk to make up stories helped.

Part of what convinced me, though – you were babbling. You kept talking about truth and honesty and how the two aren’t necessarily related. You babble a lot when you’re drunk, you know. You can be an angry drunk, but mostly you babble. Like all of us, really.

But the thing is, most people babble about purely superficial things. You babble about deep and meaningfuls – what truth is, what honesty really means, whether there is a God. How much you loved me. I’ll admit that those were my favorites.

You’d cross over, too – I remember one time you’d had a few drinks, not enough that you didn’t know what you were saying, but enough that you felt pretty free, and you started singing.

You don’t sing normally – I think because you’re embarrassed to be shown up by Maria, but sometimes you’re not that bad. Sometimes, of course, you’re awful. But you know that.

Thing was, though, that that was one of the nights you were thinking about God. And so you demonstrated a large repertoire of Christian Camp songs you knew. I had no idea where you learned them, and no idea why you were singing them, and I decided it was time to take you home.

Apparently, you weren’t as drunk as I thought, because when we got home you started singing one that seemed to apply to us – or it did, after you interpreted it to me.

Somewhere in outer space
God has prepared a place
For those who love him and obey…

And you started suggesting that I was God, since I came from outer space (I didn’t really follow that logic – maybe you really were that drunk), and created a “special place” to take you to…

Yes, you seduced me, Liz. And as you know it worked very well. I still think it was that night that we conceived our daughter.


Up the stairs to her apartment
She is balled up on the couch
Her mom and dad went down to Charlotte
they're not home to find us out


I remember when you first told me, Liz. I mean when you told me you were pregnant. That inside you, that tiny body of yours was a child. My child. Our child.

Our daughter, to be absolutely one hundred percent accurate.

It still amazes me that someone so small could contain so much life. There was you, just to begin with, and I know they say that big things come in small packages, but you kept on surprising me. Just how big a person you really are. How can one person contain so much heart, so much honesty, so much love and passion? Especially someone so physically tiny as you. It didn’t make sense. It still doesn’t,

And then you were carrying our daughter, too.

I can never explain the emotions that fill me as I think that. Your daughter. Our daughter. Yours and mine, a tiny person we created entirely through our love. I feel wonder, certainly. Amazement. Incredulity, almost. And definitely love.

That’s the all-encompassing word, I think. Love.

I loved her, of course. Loved her, loved you. She was part of both me and you and we loved her with all the intensity of the connection we shared. Our connection extended to her, too, of course. That’s how you found out you were pregnant. Reached for me and found her as well.

And I loved that too, that I could tell you both without words just how much you meant to me.

How many expecting fathers can say that they have already spoken to their child? It was incredible. It still is incredible. Even if we did lose it eventually.

I remember when you carried her, your tummy took forever to grow, and I think you appreciated that. You complained once that I thought more about her than you, and you thought you weren’t sexy any more. But you were smiling as you said it, and your hand rested over the tiny swell in your belly, and so I think you were joking.

In any case, what we did next proved you were totally wrong, Liz. But you knew that.

And like I said, you were full of life. I know you still are, somewhere. I know that somewhere hidden inside you, part of you is still fighting to live.

Even if I can’t see it, and the only way I know you’re alive at times is the slow beep of your heart monitor. And it’s steady, controlled, it keeps going. It’s structured.

If you were awake, I would be laughing so hard right now, Liz.


And we drive
Now that I have found someone
I'm feeling more alone
Than I ever have before


You were right again, you know. You said that people could love too much. I, dreamer that I am, said no one could ever love too much. You laughed and told me it was a nice philosophy, but to try not to take it too far in life.

Maybe you were right, though. Maybe I did love you both too much, maybe I smothered you. Maybe that’s why you were so stubbornly independent the whole time you were pregnant. Maybe you needed space and I was in the way.

Maybe that’s why you insisted Michael and I follow the trace that time. You were barely halfway to term, so it wasn’t as big a deal as it might have been later. Maybe that was why you stopped Maria calling as soon as you knew our daughter might be in trouble. Maybe that’s why you went into labour four months early and our daughter died on our lounge room floor.

You told me and Michael to go for the weekend, that we were driving you crazy, and we might learn something. We both hovered around you, I know – me because it was our daughter, Michael because he believed he had to protect the first heir to the Royal four. Whatever the reason, you made us go.

I never should have left you.

I mean, we thought it would be okay. You hardly showed and no one else knew you were pregnant. Isabel and Maria stayed with you, just in case. Tess came with Michael and I, but it wouldn’t have mattered if she stayed – she couldn’t have helped you, Liz.

It was five o’clock when you slipped on spilled water in the kitchen and fell. You told Maria and Isabel you were fine.

It was 7 o’clock when you first had pains, but you brushed it off, said it was from the fall, wouldn’t let Maria or Isabel call us.

It was 8:30 when you gave in and called me. Your mind, your pain, reached out across the distance and reeled me back in.

But I was in the next state, Liz. There was no way I could get back to you in time.

And so it was 9:36 pm, April 23rd that you, alone in your mind and in pain, felt our daughter die.

I should have known what would come next. I should never have left you.

I won’t ever leave you again.


She's adrift and I'm drowning slowly
Off the coast and I'm headed nowhere
She's adrift and I'm drowning slowly


You had counseling, of course. We both did. I insisted. Your parents insisted, when they found out what happened. Maria and Alex and Isabel and even Tess insisted. You agreed, but I think you agreed too easily.

When did you ever give in easily to anything, Liz? You wouldn’t ever let me take a step back from our relationship, and you wouldn’t let go of me for Tess – not until the accursed word of destiny, of course. But that’s another story.

So we had therapy, separately and joint. Overall, it helped me, I guess. We lost our child before term, before she had a chance to really experience the world, and no one can ever really get over that, especially not you, the mother.

And you and I had been even closer to our daughter than was normal, and we couldn’t talk about that. It made a hard situation that much worse.

I think you started pulling away from us all, even that early. We didn’t make love much any more – we’d lie in bed just holding each other, but there were times I thought you were a million miles away from me and everything we both cared about.

And you didn’t deserve that, Liz. You deserve so much more than this. So much more than I or anyone else can give you.

So I guess you tried to find it on your own.


They call her name at 7:30
I pace around the parking lot
Then I walk down to buy her flowers
And sell some gifts that I got


I remember the first time I realized something might be – well, more wrong. We were out walking, and I took your hand. And there was a long, shallow cut down the inside of your palm.

I asked how it had happened, and you had a plausible story all ready for me. You’d been slicing food, you said, and the knife slipped and cut you.

I believed you, of course. After all the times you’d talked about truth and honesty and how much you believed in them, I didn’t have the mental set to believe anything else. Maybe that was deliberate. And of course, how open and loving we tried to make our relationship. We told each other everything, I thought. At the very least I told you.

I healed your hand for you, and that should have been it.

But somehow the image kept coming back to me, and I didn’t understand why. Finally I realized what didn’t make sense – how exactly did a knife slip so that it makes a long, even gash across the inside of your hand?

It doesn’t. But I didn’t know that yet. I didn’t know what was wrong or why.


Can't you see
It's not me you're dying for
And she's feeling more alone
Than she ever has before


That was the most obvious one, now that I sit and think about it. The only obvious one, I could say. I think it was the only time you did… that. But I could be wrong.

After that, it was bruises, scratched, odd marks on your skin. When I asked you about it, you made some comment about being naturally clumsy and let me heal it, and that was it. Well, sometimes you let me heal it, other times you looked at me and said to leave it, it didn’t matter.

Once or twice you said you didn’t have your balance back yet after the baby. That was the only time you ever mentioned her, and I should have realized that. It was more important than I knew.

And I realize now that they were deliberately vague answers. I know that now.

At the time, I was mildly suspicious. But we’d just lost our first child, and I didn’t want to lose you too – didn’t want to pressure you too much, push you away. Maybe I should have. As it was, I didn’t know how bad it was til the day I came home and found you in the bathtub, naked and bleeding.

I walked in the front door and called your name. You didn’t answer, I assumed you’d be sleeping on our bed again. You did that a lot around then, another sign I should have seen and somehow missed.

So I went into the bathroom to clean up before joining you, and I found you there instead.

You’d slit your wrists, Liz.

I remember I stood there, staring for a moment. Then I was grabbing for you, a towel to slow the bleeding, pulling you out and into my lap, desperate to heal you.

I remember you didn’t make a move and you didn’t make a sound. I was sobbing and choking and terrified, and you were totally silent.

I healed you, of course. And you told me it had been a mistake, a moment of weakness, stupidity, unintentional. And you’d never do it again.

And we never told the others, you for your own reasons, me because I just didn’t know how.

The one thing I will always remember, though, is the look on your face as I walked in. The knife was on the edge of the bath and the water was steadily turning pink. But you, you kept looking up, and you met my eyes as I came in.

When I walked in, you were smiling.


She's adrift and I'm drowning slowly
Off the coast and I'm headed nowhere
She's adrift and I'm drowning slowly


You tried again, obviously. That’s why we’re here now. The details don’t matter – what does matter is that this time you got further, and by the time you got there, I couldn’t help you.

We didn’t tell the others. And I should have, I know that now. Because they didn’t know…

It meant that Maria didn’t bother you when you took an extra long bath. It meant that you got so much further and you were unconscious by the time I got there and I couldn’t help you, and Maria was sobbing as paramedics loaded you into an ambulance.

It meant that I failed you again. And I refuse to fail you again.


As weeks went by
It showed that she was not fine
They told me son it's time to tell the truth
She broke down and I broke down
Cause I was tired of lying


It’s been about three weeks now, you know. They say you lost a heap of blood, that’s why you don’t wake up. I think I know better, Liz.

You keep leaving me, Liz, and it’s not good. It’s not helping either of us. You keep reaching for something that I don’t think either of us can get to yet, and you leave me further behind every time you make another attempt.

I’m trying to let you come back to me, Liz, but I don’t think I ever realized before just how far from me you’ve already gotten.

Like I said, Liz, I keep failing you. And you keep leaving me, so maybe that’s fair, but it doesn’t change the fact that I need you. That we all do. And I’m not sure you realize just how much.

Everyone is trying to help you, now. Michael haunts the place, blaming himself that he didn’t protect you or the baby enough. I’ve told him it isn’t his fault, but I think he needs to hear it from you. And maybe even that won’t be enough.

Isabel keeps trying to dream walk you, but I think you’re keeping her out somehow. It figures that the one time we need you to let us in, you can’t. After all the times I know Izzy has walked in and out of our heads, this really sucks.

But she comes with Alex when he visits, too. They’ve both crawled on the bed with you there, Liz, many times. Trying to share warmth, comfort, love, with you.

Part of me believes you feel it.

Tess, Kyle and Maria… well, it’s strange, but sometimes they visit separately and sometimes in one big crowd. Kyle sits and holds your hand and talks to you about the past. He tells you stories and keeps you up to date with school and friends and everything.

Tess apologizes a lot. I wish she wouldn’t. I told her you wouldn’t want her to, that you wouldn’t blame her for this. That I don’t blame her for what’s happened to you.

She started at me with those blue eyes for a long time and finally said – “The Welsh have a saying – ‘Un pechod a lusg gant ar ei ol’. You should look it up.” Then she and Kyle got up and left together.

I did look it up. It’s a proverb; “One sin draws a hundred after it”. I don’t claim to understand, but I think she believes if she hadn’t come to Roswell, you wouldn’t be trying to die now. And maybe she’s right, but the facts and the blame are entirely separate issues here.

When you wake up, you have to talk to her, Liz. She won’t listen to me.

Maria comes every day, of course. I wouldn’t have expected anything else. She tried everything. She says she’s trying to be you for a while - “Miss Science”. She tries all these experimental techniques for bringing people out of comas. She talks, sings, plays music, brings aromatherapy pots, rubs your hands, touches your face and hugs you. I think it helps her that she’s trying to do something, anything, for you.

And me – I stay here, Liz.

I try to be everything and do everything you would want me to. I’m strong when some of them need it. I let other people feel strong when they feel helpless.

I stay with you. I study you. I try and understand the contrast of your dark hair against the white pillow slip, your lips and lashes against your skin. Try to understand how it all came to this.

Maria has left one of her cds on. She wants it to keep playing for a couple hours, see if you respond at all to a more prolonged session. I think she’s going to try and get Isabel to dream walk you again while it’s playing.

It’s Ben Folds Five, and it’s that song, Drift. It’s about an abortion, you know. I didn’t always know this. I played it for most of the “destiny” summer. That is, until Maria got sick of my whiny self indulgence, sat me down and told me what it was really about.

And despite the obvious difference here, Liz, that you would never choose to abort a pregnancy, a child, I think it’s relevant. And it’s in a way that hurts, because you are drifting, and I’m watching you as I myself drown slowly. And I can’t help you, and you’re too far away to realize how bad I’m hurting.

I am hurting, Liz. I hurt more every time you try and leave me. But I’m not sure you know that.

And I know you hurt, too. But the difference is, you don’t let it out. You suppress it, Liz, and it’s not helping you.

Maybe that’s why you started hurting yourself. Take the pain on the inside, purge it and farewell. I don’t know, Liz. But that isn’t helping, either, and it has to stop.

I hope you understand that, Liz. That I can’t let you hurt yourself any more because it’s hurting me and the rest of us too badly. I hope you understand that and don’t take it as a reason to finally walk away.

Right now you’re pulling away, Liz, but I know part of you is still here. And that part of you has never left.

But it could. And that’s your choice. You could die now, Liz, and leave me as a fraction of a person. You’re inside me, a vital part of me. If you die now, you’re going to kill us both. I just hope you understand that, too.

But still, some small part of me refuses to believe that you want to die.

And until the day you prove me wrong, Liz, the rest of me will continue to hope that it’s right.

Let me be right, Liz. Give in gracefully to me, just this once. And I swear, I’ll never argue with you about anything, ever again. And if I do, you can hit me until I stop.

Please be all right, Liz.

Please be all right.

Driving back to her apartment
For the moment we're alone
She's alone
And I'm alone
Now I know it


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 2-Jun-2002 8:15:46 AM ]
posted on 10-Oct-2002 12:58:00 AM
Everything After

Author: gij

Email: Roswellbabette⊕

Rating: R

Summary: Max left in Departure. Liz and Michael fail to cope.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

He rolls over in bed, and before he’s even part conscious he can feel her there. It’s just the type of night she’ll come. It’s cold outside, one of the few cold days of the year, and she is huddled up against him in the bed. She’s naked, but it feels normal now.

He waits for a while, and he can feel it as she wakes up. She shifts in the bed, sighs, and her eyelids start to flutter open. It’s not even starting to be light outside, so he can assume it’s his own movements that have woken her up. Either that or she just knows he’s awake, like he knows she’s come.

She smiles, as her eyes open and she finds him watching her, but it’s curiously misdirected. He ignores it, glad enough for now simply to have her in his room, his bed, his arms.

“You came late.” He points out, and she shrugs, doesn’t seem to really care.

“Ava was sleeping in the lounge room, and my parents hear me sometimes when I use the ladder – my father is a light sleeper.” She tells him, smiling lightly.

He smiles back gently, understanding but not entirely caring. He rolls her under him and she complies easily, a practiced maneuver. He presses his hips against her and knows she can feel him hard against her.

She lies straight under him, calm, patient, ready for whatever he chooses to do. He could roll away now, put on shoes and go jogging in the nude and she wouldn’t blink. Somewhere along the line, she’s entered into a state of mind where she simply doesn’t care.

He doesn’t understand how she does it, and it scares him sometimes. Stonewall might be his trademark, but this is something unreal. It’s not even unearthly, he knows what that feels like.

He pushes inside her, and her arms surround him, and for a while he can forget the emptiness in both their eyes.

Later, she’s wearing his shirt and her own pants and is leaning on the kitchen bench. He sets up a maze for her, uses his powers to manipulate the structure of the bench for her, and sneaks glances at her as he does so. She is staring out of the window over Roswell… her body is here but she is a million miles away. He clears his throat, and she starts and pays attention.

The aim, he says, is to go through the entire course without damaging or disturbing an obstacle.

“Including the water?” she asks.

“Including the water.” He confirms.

“It would be some much easier if…” she trails off. He gives her a long look, and she takes the marble from him and sighs. “Fine.”

With a practiced flick of a finger, it floats in the air, and he watches as she starts to direct it through the course he has made for her.

He’s allowed to watch her when she practices, or maybe she just hasn’t noticed. A lot of the time he looks at her and it makes her nervous or uncomfortable. She has an audience, then she has to put on an act. And she does that more than enough of the time.

He stares now, given this chance - her hair, uncombed, hanging loosely around her face, drifting forward every now and then. His shirt huge on her, making her look smaller, younger… vulnerable? She doesn’t know the meaning of the word. Her mouth is just open, lips soft and pliable, and her eyes focussed entirely on her game.

She looks at him unexpectedly, and he is caught off-guard. “What do I do with the ladder?” she queries.

He blinks, feeling her intense gaze sweep over him. “Lift it. Touch each rung, and then roll along the top.” He instructs. She smiles, satisfied, and is immediately lost once more inside her game.

He watches her a moment longer, smiles and shakes his head. Then he gets up and starts scavenging through the rest of the kitchen.

She’s sitting on the kitchen bench now, she’s bored with her game and so he’s returned the bench to normal.

She swings her legs and eats a bowl of cornflakes, and he lies back on the couch and stares up at the ceiling.

He wants to ask and knows he shouldn’t, but he wants to understand. Curiosity wins out.

“Why are we doing this?” He asks.

She shrugs, runs her spoon around the edge of her bowl, then sets it down on the bench. She lies down across the bench, and her long hair hangs over the side. “Because Alex is dead.” She offers.

“And so…?”

“Alex is dead, so I am indulging in a destructive relationship that will release my feelings of neglect and depression, and express to myself that I have no self worth.” She says. He can tell it’s something she has been thinking for a while.

“Did someone say that to you?” he asks.

She glances at him, with her head falling back off the bench, and shrugs her shoulders. “No. No one knows, so they can’t. But that’s what they would say – or something similar.” She says, establishing a fact between them.

“Is that what you think?” he asks. He doesn’t think so, but he wants to understand.

She sits up abruptly from where she’s lolling back. She stares at him, and it’s not pleasant… he can read both fire and ice in her glare. If looks could kill, only alien powers could save him now.

But strangely, he feels it is not directed at him, knows whatever she’s thinking, it is not directed at him. He’s right, and after a minute her eyes soften.

“So what do you think?” he asks her, rephrasing the question this time. “Why are we doing this?”

She looks at him with blank, unseeing eyes. “Because Max is dead.”

She answers flatly, and jumps down from the bench to put her bowl beside the sink.

Later, she is relaxed again, and he feels more able to ask her. “What do you mean, Max is dead?”

She doesn’t seem to mind the question now. She is tucked up in a blanket on his balcony, and he is only hoping his neighbors don’t see her. If they do, scandal will be all over Roswell before he can fry them with his death ray eyes… of course, it would help if he had death ray eyes.

He’d never understood all of his alien powers, unlike Max. Max had been able to control it all – been able to connect with her.

He’s seized by a sudden panic, now. What if their connection - ?

“Wait – you don’t mean? You would have told me!” he’s suddenly angry, and he grabs her up, yanks her to her feet so she looks up at him. Even so her eyes are blank.

“He’s not dead… He’s gone, Michael.” She says simply, and he feels it for the simple truth just because she isn’t putting enough effort into it to be lying.

He’s been scared, badly, and he’s angry now to cover it up.

“What do you mean then, saying he’s dead like that?” he snarls.

Her face still holds that eerily blank quality.

“He left.” She says simply.

He looks at her with incredulity, amazement even. He can’t understand her insane, persistent indifference – it’s not even studied. It’s perfected. He wants to shake her out of it, but right now, he’s scared she’ll break.

“He’s not dead, Liz!” He yells it instead, trying to make her feel something, anything.

Her face doesn’t change.

“He is to me.”

He’s asked her about Ava, and she’s talking, but somehow it doesn’t seem real. He’s getting used to it in a way, the fact that she’s here, but some indefinable part of her is not.

“She doesn’t seem dangerous. She went through my stuffed toys the other day and picked out a friend. What kind of psychopath does that?” she asks, smiling.

He grunts agreement, and she keeps talking. He’s only halfway listening, but she doesn’t seem to care – she’s only halfway here.

“It was actually kind of cute. Who knew that street rats actually really want those things?” she continues. “I mean, she’s sixteen – I think. It’s hard to tell sometimes. Anyway, she’s sixteen, and she picks out a fluffy kitten to sleep with. What’s that about? Do you aliens age differently?” she asks.

He shrugs. “We came out of our pods looking like six year olds. I don’t know what that means.”

“It means she’s had ten years to grow up to be sixteen. That’s weird.” She muses. “Maybe some part of her is really just ten in human terms… I mean, in a sort of weird way she actually is, but she’s not. That is weird.”

He’ not listening, but she doesn’t seem to care. It’s his turn to be surreal now.

There seems to be a pattern to it all, he has just never noticed before.

She’s sitting on his table now, and she’s actually looking at him for once. It feels strange after so long with her staring into the middle distance or over his shoulder.

“What is it?” he asks.

She looks away now, and he almost wishes he hadn’t spoke, just so she would keep looking at him like that.

“What happens if I… I mean,” she gathers herself. “What do we do if I get pregnant?”

He feels his interest grow. “You’re not, are you?” he asks casually.

“No. But could I be?”

He shrugs. “I don’t know. You’re the science geek.”

“I don’t know any more than you do.” She says. “It seems unlikely that you would be able to procreate with humans, when your sole purpose is to go home to your planet.” There’s a bitter edge in her voice.

“Well I don’t plan to.” He says firmly.

“That doesn’t answer the question, Michael.”

“I know.”

She’s lying face down on his bed now, and he’s rereading Ulysses. He alternately skims through a few pages and watches her. It’s strangely enjoyable.

She doesn’t react to his glances at all, simply lies limply on the bed. Possibly asleep, possibly somewhere else entirely.

Her legs are bare and the sheets around her are rumpled. Her face is buried in a fold of sheet, her body lying slantwise across the bed.

He realizes he’s spent too long watching her and looks back down to the book in his hands. With a sigh, he drops it on the floor beside his seat and gets up, heads for the bed.

He crawls over the top of the covers until he’s leaning right above her. He waits for a reaction, and when she doesn’t move, he rolls her over onto her back.

She’s asleep, and she seems to be dreaming. When her fists clench, he hears the softest of sounds – a whimper. Lying on her face as she has been. He has no way of knowing how long she has been dreaming.

He sits on the bed beside her and shakes her gently. She moans softly and he shakes harder. Her eyes open, and for a moment he can see her really awake before the perpetual fog comes back to cloud her gaze.

“You were having a nightmare.” He says brusquely.

“Thank you.” She rolls away from him and lies on her side, staring blankly out in front of her. As he watches, she rubs her face with one hand.

He gets off the bed and goes into the bathroom. When he returns, he sits her up on the bed and begins to matter-of-factly wipe her face, clearing away unmentioned tear tracks with a damp cloth.