Burn for Me (ML / Teen) (Complete)

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Burn for Me (ML / Teen) (Complete)

Post by Kath7 » Sat Jan 17, 2004 9:32 pm

Winner - Round 7

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Winner - Round 6

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Pierce

Winner - Round 5

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Zan

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Zan sacrifices himself.

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Best Dreamer Fanfic
Most Angsty Fic
Best Post-Episode Fic
Best Canon Writer


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Author: Kath7

Rating: Teen

Disclaimer: I don’t own either the characters, or the concept of Roswell. I’m just borrowing them with thanks.

Summary: This story is taken from a challenge by Lullaby. It is set about five years post-Destiny. Liz disappeared following her and Max’s leap of faith off that bridge. This is a dreamer story at heart, but will not start that way. Why, will be obvious pretty quickly. There is exploration of an UC relationship in this fic, fairly extensively, so be forewarned. However, I feel that it is, in spirit, a dreamer fic, and, for now, belongs on this board.

Author’s Note: This will be a short story (at least for me :roll: ). I’m envisioning no more than ten parts. I’ve written through part 6. I’m hoping to update it every few days. I’m hoping for twice a week, Saturdays and Wednesdays. I’m going to try a schedule to see how that works for me. Since I’m hoping to finish writing most of the first draft tonight, I think I can do it.

Apologies in advance for not updating Born of the Stars or I Am Not Felicity first, but I couldn’t hold back on this one any longer. It has been burning a hole in my brain. Maybe that’s where the title came from!

Actually, it didn’t. It’s from the song Candleburn by Dishwalla. That song has majorly inspired this fic, along with Everything You Want by Vertical Horizon, and My Immortal by Evanescence.

Thank you to Lilac Stardust for the wonderful banner, and to Bordersinsanity and Gioia for betaing.

Part 1

She screams as the windshield explodes behind them. She struggles to maintain control of the small car, and finally manages to pull it to a stop on the gravel beside the highway.

They are in the trees moments later. She can hear him panting behind her, his physical pain bringing tears to her eyes. She tugs on his hand, willing him to move more quickly.
What did they do to you? she wails silently to herself, refusing to let him know just how panicked she is becoming. Realizing that she is the only person standing between him and them brings new determination to her step. They are not going to get their hands on him again. Not while she has breath left in her body.

They are suddenly out of the trees and on a bridge. She can hear the feet of the agents behind them, pounding closer. He is slowing down, just when he should be moving more quickly. She feels the desperation of knowing that they are about to be caught.

They both halt abruptly when a Hummer screeches to a stop in front of them. She looks around frantically; her heart is pounding so quickly, she feels like she is about to pass out.

It is then that she makes the decision. She was not kidding about them not taking him again. It will happen over her dead body. She knows that he will agree. She can feel his trust, knows that he is absolutely depending on her to get him out of this. He will do whatever she makes him do. She knows that he would rather die than return to the torture from which he was so recently liberated.

She grabs him by the hand, pulling him after her toward the edge. "Come on! Come on, Max!"

They are standing on the railing. She feels dizzy as she looks down. The water is far below, churning dangerously - it is so dark, so unknown.

Not darker than the souls of the men behind them. No more unknown than the possibility of a world without him.

They will not touch him again.

She looks up at him desperately, drinking in his beautiful face. If this is it, she wants her last memory to be of his eyes and how they stare down at her so lovingly, even now, when they are about to take such a ridiculous leap.

She reaches up, brings his mouth down to hers for one last kiss. She pulls back, meets his eyes again for a split second. Then, after taking a deep breath, she turns and jumps.

They are holding hands as they go over, but, somewhere between the bridge and the water, she loses him. He is torn away from her. She reaches for him, frantically, the instant her head comes above the water, but she cannot find him. She cannot control herself. She is whirling away from the bridge now, caught in the current.

She cannot fight any longer. He is gone. She has lost him.

Max!

It is her last thought before she strikes the rocks - hard. The water closes over her head.


***

Beth Perkins sits up, gasping for breath, the water still so real, she almost feels wet as she forces her way out of the nightmare.

It takes several seconds for her to realize that she is wet. She is drenched in perspiration, her heart still pounding crazily. She forces herself to take deep breaths in an attempt to calm down.

She hears her boyfriend stirring behind her. "Babe, are you okay?" Turning her head, she sees that he is propping himself up on his arm, reaching for her. "Did you have another dream?"

She nods mutely, unable to answer. Already it is fading, but she knows that, as always, he was in it. That he was in mortal jeopardy and she could do nothing to save him.

"Come here," he insists, taking her by the hand and pulling her gently down into his embrace. She breathes him in, wonders why, as is always the case after the nightmares, it seems wrong. He is wrong.

"I’m okay," he whispers against her ear. "Everything’s okay."

For one horrifying moment, the usual thought - the one that always comes after the nightmares - crosses her mind. Who is this?

She barely contains the urge to flinch away from him. But she cannot have him touching her. Not right now. "Can you get me some water?" she manages to ask, looking for any excuse to get him away from her.

"Of course." He kisses her lightly on the temple, slides out of their bed. "I’ll be right back."

She is up and sitting in the rocker near the window when he returns. He won’t be able to put his arms around her now. She can’t see his expression as he approaches her, because he forgot to turn the bathroom light off and now it shines behind him, shadowing his face. He does pause briefly when he realizes that she has moved.

He doesn’t say a word though. He never does. He is all that is understanding and good.

She takes the water, drains the glass in three gulps.

"Are you okay?" he asks tentatively after settling back on the edge of the bed. She can now see his eyes, can see how worried he is, even though it is only the moonlight lighting his face.

"I’m fine," she says quickly.

"It’s been a while," he says. "What brought it back, do you think?"

"I don’t know." She shrugs, turns her face away so that she won’t have to meet his eyes.

"Beth…" She can hear the concern. It angers her.

"Don’t even say it," she snaps. She already knows what he’s going to suggest. He does it every time this happens. "I’m not letting her wander around in my head, so just forget it."

"But, babe, she wants to help you."

She softens, sighs. "I know. But I need to deal with this on my own." She clenches her hands together in her lap. "I’m going to beat this myself."

There is a long moment of silence. He sounds angry when he finally says, "Why won’t you let me in?"

Her heart breaks. How can she ever explain it to him in a way that he’ll understand? How will he deal with the fact that she knows, inherently, that knowing her is going to kill him? That there will come a day when loving her will be the end of him? That she knows this because she lives it in her dreams almost every night.

"I’m sorry," she sighs.

"I know," he mutters, sounding sorry that he let his resentment show, if even for an instant.

"Go back to bed," she instructs him. "I just want to sit here for a while."

"Are you sure you’re okay?"

"Yes." She watches him lay back rigidly, his frustration obvious. She needs to reassure him, doesn’t want him to feel as confused and scared as she does. "I love you."

He doesn’t reply.

"Zan?"

"I know," he repeats.

For the first time ever, she doesn’t think he believes her.
Last edited by Kath7 on Fri Jul 01, 2005 12:28 am, edited 45 times in total.

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Post by Kath7 » Wed Jan 21, 2004 11:44 pm

Author's Note: Wow! I never expected the wonderful reception this fic has received. Thanks, guys! I would answer feedback directly, but I don't want to give too much away too soon.

I will just quickly say though, since it was asked, that All You Wanted and Starstruck are still on hiatus until Born of the Stars is finished (that story will not end...It has taken on a life of its own!) Anyway, I will likely pick up AYW when BOTS is finished, and then Starstruck when AYW if finished. AYW is actually closer to completion.

Just FYI - the parts to this story are much shorter than my norm. It's just the way it's writing itself, so sorry for that. See you again on Saturday!

Kath

Part 2

"Max."

His voice is hushed, shocked, as though he is listening to a ghost over the line. Which he very nearly is. Max Evans has called him because there is no one else. To call the others would be the same as condemning them to death. He has suffered too much over the past years to allow that to happen now.

And, yet, he is free and he has to know. He must know that they are safe, that they are happy. He must know that his captors kept their end of the bargain. He thinks they did. They never believed more existed anyway, never really threatened the others beyond their desire to control him. Once he knows, he will disappear forever; he will leave them all in peace.

But he cannot move on until he knows.

"It’s me," he confirms again curtly. "Sheriff, I wouldn’t be calling…"

"Tell me where you are," the sheriff orders, no hesitation, no games, as was always Valenti’s way. Max still remembers the terror of the days when Valenti was his enemy, when the sheriff was always just two steps behind him. It is why Max trusts him now. When the sheriff changed his mind about him, Max knew it was for good, that he could never have a better ally. He never got a chance to thank the sheriff for trying to save him. He had risked his life and his career by doing so. Max hadn’t even been sure that, when he called the sheriff’s station in Roswell, Valenti would be there.

But he is still sheriff. They have not lied about that. They told him that if he cooperated, if he gave them no more trouble, they would let the sheriff keep his job. They wouldn’t pursue him for the raid on Eagle Rock. They didn’t care about Valenti anyway. They did not understand the sheriff’s obsession, his absolute determination to know the truth. He had looked for Max for years. Max knew this because they had told him, taunted him with it. But they still left Valenti alone, always staying one step ahead of him. Max understood very quickly that it was almost a game for Pierce, an amusing little past-time, when he wasn’t engaging in his favorite hobby. When he wasn’t torturing Max.

In the end, Valenti had failed anyway. Max was never found again, partly by his own choice. He shut his mind to Isabel’s probes, determined to protect them all, obsessed with making sure that they never risked themselves again to save him.

The first attempt had killed Liz, after all. The one who mattered most to him was already lost. He would not allow any of the rest of them to suffer the same fate. Not for him.

This did not mean that he did not want to escape. But he knew that the only way he would ever be free was if he saved himself. And the only way to do that was to convince them that he would never try. It had taken five years, but, in the end, it was what he had done. Gradually…very gradually…they became sure of him, thought that he was beyond the point where any sort of escape was likely. They lessened the guard, they became careless.

Now he was free, was ready to confirm that those he cared about were safe, and he could then live out his miserable life with at least that one peaceful thought.

"I won’t tell you, sheriff," Max says now. "I just need you to tell me how they are."

"How are you?" the sheriff demands. "Max, let me come and bring you home. Please, son."

"No. Please, sheriff. Just tell me. And then forget I ever called." He should have hung up the instant the sheriff asked where he was. The sheriff is at work. He can trace this call if he wants to. Max knows this, but he cannot hang up. Not yet. He is now pleading, hates the sound of it, has not begged in five years - not since he tried to save Liz’s life - but he will do it now. He needs to know. If the sheriff bothers to trace the call, by the time he reaches here, Max will be long gone anyway.

He needs to know. He cannot survive a life alone unless they are well. He has never grown used to being lonely again. It should have been easy. His entire life he was alone. But, after Liz, there was no going back. After trusting five people, he could not remember what it had been like before. He must worry about them and, so, he must know.

"They’re all fine," the sheriff finally says gruffly. "Actually, they’re all up in New York right now. Maria’s doing a show up there."

"A show?" Max knows nothing and learning even the slightest little bit is like a man in the desert finding water. He drinks it in, sighs slightly with relief.

"You do know she’s a singer?" the sheriff asks. "She’s actually made a nice little career for herself. Alex is going to school up there, so the whole gang headed up to have a little reunion at the concert. Kyle just called me a little while ago, actually. They’re having a blast."

"Kyle’s there?" Max asks, surprised. This is unexpected.

"After your protector…" The sheriff pauses, as though uncertain how much of what happened to Nasedo Max wants to remember. Finally he continues, seeming to understand that Max needs the truth, no matter how strange or painful. "After he died, Tess had nowhere to go. I took her in. She’s like one of our family now. We had to tell Kyle the truth, Max. He needed to know, for his own protection."

There is a long pause as Max absorbs this. The sheriff seems to understand that he needs a moment, or so Max thinks. But Valenti’s next words prove him wrong. The sheriff has been building up to what he must believe is the worst news of all.

"Max, three years ago I told your sister that I found hard evidence that you were dead." The sheriff says it quickly, out of nowhere, like it is the worst thing he has ever done.

"I’m glad." Max says it firmly, because he is.

He knows they stopped looking for him a long time ago. Isabel stopped coming in his dreams and he understands that she believes he is gone. It was the only explanation for her sudden absence. It was the conclusion he had made her come to, on purpose, by shutting her out. He has gained so much control over his own mind - had to simply to survive - and, so, finally, his sister could no longer fight her way in. He could not allow it. Isabel could not be permitted to know what was happening to him. She could not suffer that. It reassures him that Isabel has not ever become strong enough to find him again. It means that she has never had to, that she is safe. At least that is what he has told himself over the past five years.

Yes, he is glad that the sheriff lied. It was right. They are better off without him.

"Max?" The sheriff’s voice is not as he remembers it. It is tentative now, slightly fearful. Max cannot blame him. He is afraid that it is all going to start again. That Max’s return will put Kyle and the others he works so hard to protect back into danger. Max is surprised that, again, he is wrong. "Tell me where you are. Come home, Max. They need you."

"No."

"Max." The sheriff is beginning to sound angry. "They are happy enough, but they have not gotten over it. They never will. Having you back will at least take away some of the pain."

"And put them in danger," Max snaps. He frowns, pauses briefly to let the words sink in, to remind the sheriff of how it used to be. Finally, he asks, because he wants to know exactly what they have suffered, "My parents…What…what do they think…" He trails off, his heart thundering. Because continuing will tell him exactly what did happen. He will finally learn the truth about Liz’s end. They told him what they did to her, but he wants the sheriff to reveal it for the lie he still feels it is, the lie that he saw in Pierce’s eyes.

By the end, he knew Pierce’s eyes, and how to read them, far better than anyone else’s. It was what he had been forced to do, to survive. It was just one more reason that Max hated Pierce. He had not only stolen Liz Parker’s young life; he had also stolen her rightful place as the person Max could read most easily.

"Your parents and the Parkers think you both died in a car crash," the sheriff explains quietly. "The Jetta was found in the river two days after you disappeared. There were no bodies. The investigation concluded that you were washed away in the deluge. The river was rough that night."

Max closes his eyes, leans his forehead against the pay-phone. He forces away his memories of the river. He makes himself forget how Liz was swept away from him the instant they plunged into the water. What happened in the river led to her death. He tortures himself with it regularly - with the thought of how she died for him. How he lived and she died and how he will never forgive himself. But, now is not the time. He will have plenty of time later. He will have all the lonely time in the world.

"What about the windshield?" Max asks, remembering the bullets that had blown it apart, a shudder running through him. The memories will not go away. "Wasn’t that suspicious?"

"No one ever knew about it," the sheriff replies bitterly. "The cover-up was complete. They never let your parents anywhere near that car. I eventually found it, of course. I looked for you both for a long time, Max."

"I know, sheriff," Max says, understanding that it is he who must comfort the older man. "Thank you for that."

"I’m sorry I never found you." Valenti is almost crying, and is trying to hide it, but Max can tell. He understands that the sheriff has tortured himself with their disappearance for years. It was, of course, not his fault. It was all Max’s fault. It always was. Who he was put them all in danger.

"You tried," Max tells him. "It’s enough."

"Max, come home."

"I can’t."

There is another long pause. Max is tempted to hang up. Because there is really nothing else to say. Yet, somehow, he knows that the sheriff is not finished. That Valenti needs closure.

"Max, if you don’t come home, then they win." It is Valenti’s last-ditch effort. It is a good effort, too. It is an argument that Max has used on himself on occasion, when the side of him that is selfish almost wins out over the side that isn’t.

"Sheriff, they’ve already won," Max says, inexpressibly weary. "Liz is dead. There’s nothing left to fight for."

With that, he gently replaces the receiver on the pay-phone.
Last edited by Kath7 on Thu Jan 22, 2004 10:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Kath7 » Sat Jan 24, 2004 6:36 pm

Author's Note: Hey guys! You are humbling me with your wonderful feedback. Thanks so much. I really appreciate it! I will eventually address some of you directly, but for the moment I'm trying to keep some things to myself so I can't answer your questions. But keep asking them! lol If I don't answer them in the story, I'll answer them directly eventually.

See you on Wednesday!

Kath

Part 3

She wakes to light streaming into her face. Her head is killing her. Putting a hand to her forehead, it comes back covered in blood. She stares at it, uncomprehending.

How did she get here?

She starts to shiver, in spite of the heat of the mid-day sun. It is only then that she realizes that she is lying in a pool of water. Sitting up, she groans, her head aching even more intensely than moments before.

She manages to look around, stares at the trees around her, frowns slightly. Where is she? She can hear running water nearby, staggers to her feet and finds herself on a river bank. No memory stirs. She does not remember the river, nor why she is next to it.

She searches her mind for an explanation. It is only then that she realizes there is nothing there. All she knows are the following things: she is wet, her stomach is growling, she can smell something burning and she can hear a bird chirping in a tree nearby. She knows for certain it is a sparrow. She remembers going on a bird-watching expedition when she was in sixth grade, that her teacher loved identifying the different calls.

How can she remember this when she cannot remember her own name?


***

Beth sighs heavily as she places the key in the lock to the apartment she shares with Zan. She knows that he is working tonight, and that she will have the place to herself for a while. She is glad. As much as she loves him, she is tired, and needs some time alone. She has deliberately waited to come home so that he will be gone. She cannot bear the concern he seems to wear permanently these days.

She is worried enough herself. She doesn’t need the pressure of constantly reassuring him right now. Before pushing the door open, she allows herself to lean her forehead very briefly against the doorframe, feels the wood scratch her skin, knows that it is real.

In the beginning, her five senses saved her. She still knew something. She remembered what pizza smelt like, was sure that she liked listening to music, was certain that the taste of Tabasco made her gag, remembered that being able to see the stars in the sky was magical, knew what it was like when someone’s fingers lovingly brushed the palm of your hand.

Even now, when she is upset, she returns to her five senses for security. She reaches out to the world around her and concentrates on what is, and not on what was.

Why? Why now? Why have the dreams started again?

She used to have them all the time. When she found Zan - when she fell in love with him - they gradually disappeared, as she began to feel safe and that there was a place for her in the world after all.

He was the first person she remembered. Although, it wasn’t a memory at all, was it? Because they had never met. Not before. She dreamed him into existence. Or so he tells her.

And, yet, she thinks that this may not be true. That her dreams are not memories at all, but premonitions of a tragedy still to come.

She needs to know. She needs to know what came before.

Before. Before and After. After.

There is no "in between."

Only before the accident. And after. Only before Zan and after.

She lives in ‘after.’ She wants to stop yearning for ‘before.’

If she cannot remember ‘before’ alone, then she will accept help. There is no choice now.

Tonight. Tonight she will finally eradicate ‘before.’ She is determined. This has to end. She can no longer allow the uncertainty; can no longer hurt Zan.

She needs to know.

She needs to know why, if she has found him, does she still dream of finding him?

She will sleep now. She will sleep and Lonnie will come and she will know.

And when Zan returns, it will be over. Lonnie will help and, finally, she will be able to live in ‘after.’

***

It is not to be.

When she enters the apartment, she cannot call Lonnie because Zan is home. He has not gone to work. Beth stares at him, uncertain. Why has he chosen tonight of all nights to call in sick? Does he not know that she needs to do this alone?

Of course, he knows nothing. How can he know? She has not told him. She has planned to call Lonnie on her own, not wanting to get his hopes up.

But not tonight. It is too late. Because he has a surprise. They are going out.

She cannot help it. She is happy. She is relieved. She does not yet have to give up on ‘before.’

"Where are we going?" she asks, teasing him, trying to get him to give in. But he will not.

"It’s a surprise," he whispers into her hair. "Go get dressed."

"Casual or dressy?" she demands, kissing him lightly.

"Casual/dressy," Zan replies, grinning. Beth smiles back. They share the private joke.

At one time, Zan and dressy would not have mixed. Zan and casual/dressy would not have mixed. In fact, he is still mostly ‘casual.’ He is no longer ‘punk,’ like he once was, but he always needs a shave, and sometimes Beth wishes he would cut his hair a little shorter. But, he is Zan, and he now knows what casual/dressy is. She has taught him this because he wanted to learn it for her. How she knew enough to teach him, she is unsure, but it is one of the things she does know. Since the moment they met, Beth knew who Zan could be.

And, yet, she knows that, though he likes who he is now, he will never change entirely. He will always be a little rough around the edges. She deals with it, although there is something that feels wrong about it. Just like last night, when she could not allow him to comfort her after her nightmare, there is always something a little off about Zan.

Beth stares into the mirror over her dresser, frowns a little.

She is a bad person for even thinking such a thing. He loves her. She knows that she loves him. He is literally the man of her dreams. It is why she has finally decided to go to Lonnie for help. She can not stand living with this wrongness any longer. She knows that when ‘before’ is gone, it will all feel right.

They are on the back of his motorcycle, and well on their way, before she begins to suspect where they are going. She realizes that she never had a chance to be alone tonight, that he has planned this for weeks. Because the concert has been sold out for that long, since the day the tickets went on sale.

He is taking her to see her favorite singer. The one whose voice speaks to her soul in a way she has never experienced before. The new star whose latest hit is at the top of the charts, but who, for Beth, sings to her alone.

It is like him to have done this. He has dedicated his entire life to making her dreams come true, since the day he saved her two years ago. Ava once told her that he was always waiting for her, that they all knew it, and it was a relief when he finally found her. That they knew she was the one from the very beginning, because Zan changed entirely, as soon as he met her.

Before Beth, he was sullen, moody, restless, but mostly he was afraid. Always afraid. Afraid that she did not exist. Now he is content, at peace. They are all happier since she came, because she has helped Zan become the man he was meant to be.

Or so Ava says. Beth sometimes wonders if Ava really believes it. She sees the way Ava looks at him, the love that shines from her blue eyes for the man she calls ‘brother.’ It is not sisterly, this love, is not like what exists between Lonnie and Zan.

But tonight is not about Ava and, so, she pushes her friend from her mind. Tonight is about Zan and what he has done for her. Not just the concert, but everything. He has given her a home; he has given her love. The least she can do is let him know how much it all means to her. She lays her head against his back, wraps her arms more tightly around his waist.

Zan manages to squeeze his bike into a parking spot near the entrance to the Garden. Excitement is in the air. Beth can feel the electricity of it come over her. It is as if the entire world is waiting. She laughs slightly to herself that she should feel so energized by a concert. Maybe it is because this feels new. She expects that she has been to concerts before, but she does not remember. In ‘after,’ this is her first time.

Zan is eager too. She can feel him trembling slightly when he takes her hand, starting to pull her through the crowd, toward the gate. Beth feels a flash of affection for him. He does not like the same kind of music as her. He is excited because she is. It is why he bought the tickets, even though they really can’t afford them. He knew how much this would mean to her. How much it does mean to her.

Their seats are good ones. They are near the front, but up off the floor. He knows her well, knows that she would not like to be among the crowded masses below. It was why he had taken her hand outside, too. She does not do well in large groups of people. She has never shared her fear that she will be confronted by her past - that in a large crowd, someone who knows her may jump out at her, bringing reality back to her life before she is ready. But he has always understood her.

He, of course, does not know that she is finally ready. That, at last, she wants to deal with ‘before,’ so that they can move on in ‘after’ without the haunting fear that this cannot last.

Zan’s arm is around her, as the lights go out in the arena. Beth nestles more closely into the security of his embrace, closes her eyes briefly, waiting for her idol to emerge, to take her away with the purity of her voice, with the deep feeling and mystification of her lyrics. Beth does not know why they speak to her so, but they do, as though they were written for her.

She is ready for one last night in the unknown. Tomorrow ‘before’ will no longer be a mystery. For now, she is happy to have Maria Deluca provide the enigmatic soundtrack to her life.

Tomorrow it will all change. There will be no more need for the songs that have sustained her. She will, finally, know.

Later, looking back, Beth knows that it was Zan who noticed them first. She doesn’t realize it at the time, but it is the reason that he tenses under her. Her eyes snap open and she looks at him curiously, but her attention is attracted back to the show. A lone searchlight is sweeping the stage, then jumps back into the crowd. It is being followed by a camera, the faces of the spectators, under the light’s glare, projecting across a giant screen at the back of the stage.

Then it happens. The spotlight is panning across the section in which they are seated. For one, brief, moment it stops directly on them. Beth closes her eyes against the glare, but she cannot help but smile. It is as if she has been sitting in the dark forever, and the spotlight is like being pulled out into the sun.

As the light moves away, Beth realizes that she is, indeed, literally being pulled to her feet. Zan has her firmly by the upper arm. He is, in fact, hurting her, as he drags her past the others in their row, and onto the stairs leading to the exit.

"Zan!" She does not understand. What has happened? The concert is only beginning. They are going to miss Maria’s entrance. In fact, she can hear the crowd cheer, as the singer they love takes to the stage, breaking immediately into her most recent hit.

As always, Beth is transported by the haunting lyrics. She fights against Zan, turns on the stairs, and takes in the superstar, Maria Deluca, who is even more ethereal and beautiful in real life than she appears on the cover of her C.D., than she seems in her videos. The singer is standing alone in the middle of the giant stage, the single spotlight now trained on her alone.

Gone, but not forgotten,
You left us alone.
You were the best of us, always.
Your loss still hurts to the bone.

We know you’re gone forever,
But we’ll see you again someday.
Even though it cannot happen in this world,
We still wish it could and pray.


Beth feels her heart crack down the middle, as it does whenever she listens to Gone. She is frozen on the steps. Zan is still tugging on her arm, but she wrenches away from him, taking two steps back toward their seats, her entire attention focused on the singer.

The song is so much more raw sung live. It is, in fact, a living thing, tearing into Beth, making her weak in the knees, so that she simply seats herself on the stairs.

She knows the story behind the song, of course. Everyone does. She has seen Maria interviewed enough times about the lyrics, knows that it is dedicated to two friends who died in a car crash in high school. One of the victims was Maria’s best friend, the other, the best friend’s boyfriend. The loss the singer reveals in the song pierced Beth’s soul from the moment she first heard it. She has known loss too, if in a different way. She has lost everything that existed before the accident, just as Maria lost her friends. The singer expresses Beth’s own innermost despair, in a way Beth has never been quite able to understand.

The song is about hope, too, though. It is about going on. It was the deaths of her friends that prompted Maria to pursue her singing career, knowing that life was short. That it had to be lived. It was this song, even before it became a hit single, which prompted Beth to take a chance with Zan. After everything that has happened to her, after being alone for so long, she was able to trust again.

She feels her heart enter her throat as the song continues.

We have survived without you,
In spite of all our pain.
We would give it all up to see you,
For even one instant in the rain.

You would not have wanted tears.
You would not have wanted grief.
You would be happy that we are living,
Because your lives were all too brief.


"Babe, please. We need to go."

She feels Zan’s gentle hands under her elbows, helping her to her feet. She allows him to lead her out into the concourse, too weakened by the power of the song to resist him any longer.

Later she knows that she was mesmerized for a reason. It was fate stepping in, fate giving them a chance to make their way through the crowd, fate bringing her back to them.

She does not know this now. All she knows is that she and Zan are abruptly confronted by a small group of people, all of them staring.

Taking them in, Beth realizes there are three who should not be staring as though they have never seen them before. After all, she just spoke to Ava on the phone several hours before. She, and Lonnie, and Rath, knew that they were coming to the concert.

Why are Rath and Lonnie at a Maria Deluca concert, anyway? They hate the singer, tease Beth mercilessly about her, until Zan steps in and makes them stop.

But it is not Rath, nor Lonnie, nor Ava who speaks. Instead it is a tall, dark-haired young man. He steps forward, looking as though he has seen a ghost. It is only later that she understands that he has.

He reaches out a shaky hand, touching her face gently. She knows that she should take a step back, that he is being far too familiar, but she does not. She feels at peace, does not feel threatened. Suddenly, she understands why. Because he speaks, his voice cracking slightly. He calls her by a name that tells her all she needs to know.

This young man knows who she really is.

And, finally, so does she.

"Liz."

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Post by Kath7 » Wed Jan 28, 2004 8:45 pm

Author's Note: Ask and you shall receive. :D Seriously though, guys, you are too kind. Thanks for the feedback. It is making writing this story a very rewarding experience. Lucky me that it's coming so easily (for once. :roll: Let's not even discuss Born of the Stars.)

Part 4

Eventually she starts to walk. She still has no idea who she is, or what has happened to her. She is cold, even though the sun is still high in the sky when she comes out of the woods. She finds her way to the highway. She knows that she needs to follow it to the next town, that she should go to a police station, and that they will help her. It is basic common sense. Her lack of memory has not affected this facet of her character. She feels that she has always known exactly what to do in a bad situation, and this is what she should be doing. There must be people looking for her. Going to the police is the only way to find out what happened to her. And, first, she must hail down a car to take her there.

That she knows this is the best solution is why she finds it very odd that she keeps hiding every time she hears the approach of a vehicle. She cannot stop herself though. Some instinct of self-preservation is prompting her action, so she keeps doing it.

Finally, as the traffic picks up, when the sun goes down, she remains in the ditch beside the road, wading through the ankle deep water there. Why is her heart pounding like this? What is she afraid of? She knows that she is scared of her lack of memory, but also knows that it is not her true fear. There is something dark lurking in the back of her mind, some threat that she knows she must avoid at all costs.

She has, by now, guessed that she did not end up beside the river by accident. Someone was responsible for what happened to her. This is confirmed when, after a few hours, she comes to a bridge. There is activity and she ducks into the foliage at the side of the road, watching and listening.

There are men pushing a red car off the span across the river. She watches, somehow knows that this is where she started from. The dark vehicle belonging to the men is parked near the entrance to the bridge, where she is hidden, so, when they return to it, she hears the tail-end of their conversation.

"…why now?" one of the men asks the other.

"Pierce says the car doesn’t matter anymore," the other man replies. "He only wanted us on it in case they doubled back for it. He has what he wants."

"How is he planning to explain this?" the first man asks. "I mean, the girl…"

The second man cuts him off, sounding impatient. "Since when does Pierce explain anything? He tells the police what to do, not the other way around."

Moments later, they drive off, leaving her knowing that she must put as much distance between herself and this Pierce as she can. His name is familiar. She does not remember anything, but somehow she knows that he is not someone she ever wants to meet face to face. She cannot go to the authorities. He will find her if she does.

Since she cannot remember who to trust, she will trust no one. She will get as far away from here as possible. She knows that the most important thing, at this point, is to survive. She will follow her instincts. With no memory, it is her only choice.


***

It is half an hour later. Beth now knows that the short blonde is not Ava. The shaggy-haired young man is not Rath. And the tall, golden-haired girl is not Lonnie. She is identical to Zan’s sister and, yet, it means nothing. Her name is Isabel, and she is now crying in the brown-haired young man’s arms. Beth feels bad for her. She can understand how painful it is for Isabel to have thought that her brother was back from the dead and, then, to find out so quickly - so cruelly - that it is not true.

It did not take them long to accept that Zan is not Isabel’s brother. In fact, they do not seem at all surprised to have come face to face with him. They are not shocked that their exact doubles exist and have been living in New York for many years. But, then, three of them are also aliens. The others seem to know it, too. Very little is shocking to any of them, Beth is certain.

The room is tense. Strangely, Beth is sitting on a couch in Maria Deluca’s dressing room, beside Zan, who is entirely too calm. She is suspicious of this. For someone who was so desperate to get her out of the arena earlier, he has apparently now changed his mind. He seems resigned, as though none of this is a surprise to him either.

After the initial interrogation at the hands of the brown-haired young man called Alex, after they all understand that she has no memory of them, they are waiting in silence for the singer to finish her concert. The Rath double - his name is Michael - has gone to wait for Maria, to explain what has happened.

They have told Beth little about who they think she is; nothing beyond her name, which is Liz Parker.

Liz. Elizabeth. It is a familiar name, a comfortable name. It is the name she chose for herself, in this new life. It is obviously more than just coincidence. Apparently she has always known who she is, deep down. The truth has been hidden inside her stubborn mind, could have been unlocked long since had she allowed Lonnie to do it. She wants to know why she didn’t, why she stayed away from these people, these people who are all obviously glad to see her.

She feels a moment of panic. What if they are somehow involved with Pierce, the man she has feared for the past five years? She has no recollection of him, but she knows that he is at the root of all of this. She has always known it, but has always been too afraid to try and find out why.

Now there is no choice.

As she slowly trains her eyes over all of them, meeting their gazes because they are all staring back - even Isabel now, with tears still reflected in her dark eyes - she finds that she does not fear them. These were her friends. She knows it, just as she has instinctively understood many things over the past years. As usual, she lets intuition lead her and, so, she relaxes slightly again.

What happened to her? She begins to feel impatient, clenches and unclenches her fists on her thighs. She suddenly feels Zan’s hand on her back. She can tell that he is trying to calm her, but she flinches away from him. There is no thought behind it. It just happens, and everyone in the room notices. She sees the Ava double - Tess - exchange a look with the other dark-haired young man, Kyle, who is standing near her, and is quite obviously her boyfriend.

Instinct again. Even without Isabel’s upset over her brother, Beth would have figured out that because there are two Lonnies, two Raths, two Avas, there must also have been two Zans. And it is not hard to make the leap. There can only be one truth. It is the only thing that makes sense.

She realizes that the reason that Zan has always felt slightly wrong was because he is wrong.

He is the wrong person. He is not the one in her dreams. He is not hers.

Beth bites her lip, closing her eyes, and taking a deep breath. Zan was not surprised to see them, is not shocked that they exist. He has known the truth all along. Somehow he knew who she was, and he has never told her.

Beth considers whether she should ask to speak to Zan privately. Glancing at him out of the corner of her eye, she can see that he remains expressionless after her rejection of him, but she can read him anyway. He is hurt, but still resigned.

Oh, yes. He knew something, maybe not everything, but he knew these doubles existed. She understands abruptly that he has been waiting for this to happen the entire time they have been together. He has been dreading it.

She feels herself softening slightly. He loves her. She knows he does. But she still needs to know why. Why did he never tell her? Why did he never guess that the reason she has always felt she knew him was likely because she knew his twin?

She is about to ask him, when the door to the dressing room flies open, making Beth jump back against the sofa in surprise, her heart pounding. The famous singer, Maria Deluca, flies through it, coming to an abrupt stop in front of her. Tears are in her large blue-green eyes. Beth feels a tug of affection, a sense of familiarity, and suddenly understands why this woman’s music has been so important to her. She knew her once upon a time. They were friends.

"Lizzie?" It is a question, but not. Beth knows that Maria is sure that she is Liz Parker. They are all sure. In spite of all the doubles running around, about her they have no doubt. They know who she is.

Beth feels slightly frightened. It is all about to come out. She will finally know what happened to her, how she ended up living this life when, from the way they have all reacted, she should have been with them all along.

"Maria." This is Alex again, sounding stern, the apparent leader of the group, or at least the most able to influence the rest of them. He seems to understand Beth’s wariness, because he hurries forward and places a hand on Maria’s shoulder.

The singer seems to settle slightly. Beth can tell that Maria’s first instinct upon entering the room is to hug her. The understanding of this fact sends a tendril of warmth through her extremities, just as Maria’s music has always done.

"I can’t believe it’s really you!" Maria says, her voice low. "When Michael told me…" She swallows, reaches blindly behind her. Michael has re-entered the room, and he quickly takes her hand. He is breathing heavily, as though he has run the entire way from the stage to keep up with Maria. It almost makes Beth smile. Somehow this seems familiar too.

"She doesn’t remember anything, Maria," Alex tells the singer, sounding slightly aggrieved. He looks at Michael. "Didn’t you tell her that?"

"She didn’t exactly give me the chance," Michael growls.

Beth watches Maria’s gaze shift to Zan, who is still sitting silently beside her. Her eyes widen even further. "I can’t believe it. I just cannot believe it. I mean, he’s identical."

"They’re duplicates, Maria," Michael snaps. "Of course he’s identical."

Maria ignores him, and looks over at the other Zan’s sister. For the first time, Beth realizes that she does not know the other Zan’s name. They have not said his name. Not once. "Are you okay, Isabel?"

"Yes," Isabel replies shortly. "It was just a shock at first." Her eyes narrow, and she steps away from the wall, where Alex left her when he came to barricade Maria from jumping on Beth. "I can tell he’s not Max."

Max. Isabel’s brother. They have very carefully refrained from saying his name, but Isabel has now slipped. The name slams into Beth with the force of a run-away train.

"Max," she whispers to herself, her dream from several nights before returning in vivid detail. She remembers calling to him in her dream.

"Come on! Come on, Max!

She failed him. He died because of her. And these people thought she died with him. They do not even need to tell her. She knows it is true. They have not said so, but she knew it immediately, anyway. Maria Deluca’s song, the one that Beth loves more than any other, the one that entranced her tonight, is about her. It is about her and Max, because they thought they were both dead.

But she, Beth, is not dead.

And, finally, she understands exactly what her dreams have been trying to tell her.

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Post by Kath7 » Sat Jan 31, 2004 8:55 pm

Author's Note: Thanks, as always, for the wonderful feedback.

Just a modly reminder...don't forget that nominations for the fourth round of the Fanatics Fanfic Awards close at midnight CST tonight. So, if you haven't already done so, go check in on the Rules thread on the Nominations board, and then make sure to nominate.

Voting for your favorites will commence next weekend.

Back on Wednesday!

Kath

Part 5

She hitches a ride. She knows that it is not safe, but she cannot believe that the young couple in the Honda Civic are more dangerous than Pierce. Even his name implies what he will do to her should he find her.

The girl in the passenger seat turns her head, then shifts her whole body around so she can look at Liz over the seat. "Are you from Roswell?" the girl asks. "You look familiar."

"No," she replies curtly. She does not want to admit that she does not know where she is from. "Is that where we are?"

The girl looks at her boyfriend, frowning slightly, then answers, "Close to there."

"I’m from Albuquerque," she says quickly. She knows that Roswell is in New Mexico, and that it is famous for aliens. She also knows that Albuquerque is the closest big city, that it will be the best place to lose herself for a while. How she knows all this, when she does not even know her name, she still cannot answer.

Of course, this is the next question out of the girl’s mouth. Or at least it is implied that she should know her own name when the girl introduces herself. "I’m Lisa, this is Jake."

She swallows, frantically searching her mind. Why can’t she remember? Finally she settles on the most innocuous name she can think of. "I’m Beth."

And, from that moment on, that is who she becomes. She adds Perkins at the women’s shelter, where she spends her first night, directed there from a homeless shelter. She lies to get in, saying that she is eighteen, and that she is running from an abusive boyfriend. She does not feel that it is an untruth, exactly. She might be eighteen. She has no idea how old she is. And they believe that she was abused, based on the state in which she presents herself on their doorstep. Somewhere deep inside, she knows that, though she has not been the victim of any boyfriend, if she allows herself to be found, her fate will be even worse. She somehow understands that her life depends on staying hidden until she can figure out a way to get out of the state. She needs to put as much distance between herself and Pierce as she can.

She needs money. The shelter gets her a job at the university. She works as a file clerk in the back of the office of the Dean of Students. Her coworkers understand that they are not to give her name to anyone, not that anyone would know Beth Perkins anyway. She keeps to herself at the shelter, and at work. She does not think that they suspect that she has no idea who she is. This is important. She must remain unknown until she can find a way out of the city. A girl with no memory would not remain anonymous for long.

Within a month she has enough cash to buy a ticket to some far-off destination. She decides on New York City, because she remembers that she has always wanted to go there. She feels frustration at this. Why does she remember such things? Why can she not remember who Pierce is? Why can’t she remember what he wants with her?

She leaves for New York, on the bus, two months after she woke up on the river-bank. She does not remember who she is, suspects that she never will, and decides that it is time to start a new life.

When the bus crosses the state line, she does not look back at New Mexico.


***

"Max." Beth says it without thinking, stands up, the truth of it so obvious, she can’t believe that it took her so long to realize it. He is the one. He is the one she needs. She has lost her memory, but she knows this to be true. He is the only one who can help her. He is the only one she wants.

She needs to find him.

"Do you remember him, Liz?"

"No," Beth says quietly. She sees Isabel wilt slightly, as though this is a disappointment she cannot bear. It is as if the thought that Beth does not remember Max has killed him all over again. But Beth knows that none of it matters. Isabel will understand soon enough. She continues urgently, "I don’t remember him, but I don’t have to." She glances at Zan, knows that if she pursues this, she will be irrevocably changing everything between them.

This seems to upset Isabel even more. "Because you’ve replaced him?" she snaps, moving forward slightly, almost threatening. Beth does not move, just stares at her. "He’s dead, so you just replace him with another model?"

"Isabel," Alex says, moving to hold her back, but Michael has beaten her. Max’s sister collapses again, this time into the Rath look-alike’s arms.

"I…" Beth is overwhelmed by the taller woman’s grief. She can no longer understand it. Not after what she realizes her dreams have been telling her. She has not known that she has been grieving Isabel’s brother for five years, but now she understands that she doesn’t need to. She also knows that she doesn’t need to remember him because she never forgot him. Not really. Finally, she simply blurts, "He’s alive."

She turns her head, meeting Zan’s eyes. He is staring at her dully, the light that she has always seen in his gaze when he looks at her, extinguished. "He’s alive," she whispers. "He is alive and he is not you."

***

Maria insists that Beth spend the night with her at her hotel, and Beth gratefully accepts. She feels safe with this woman, is sad to realize that she no longer feels that way with Zan. She knows that, by not going home with him, she is running from her problems again, but before she can decide about him, she needs to know exactly who she is. She needs to know what happened to her.

She also wants to know the truth about the doubles. It seems clear that the Roswell aliens have known about the New York foursome for years, although no one says this, nor explains how. Beth does not quite understand any of it. She knows how lonely Zan, and Ava, and Lonnie, and Rath have always been. It would have been good for them to know others like them.

But, then she remembers that she suspects Zan knew about Michael, and Isabel, and Tess, all along, too. That Zan has kept this knowledge quiet because, perhaps, he knew that she belonged in Roswell, and not with him.

Michael, their general, seems to suspect this as well, because he demands to accompany Zan back to meet the others. Tess will go with him. Zan accepts this without argument, although Beth can tell that he knows that they are suspicious of him, that they want more information about how long he has known her. Kyle decides to go, too, but Isabel and Alex will stay with Maria and Beth. Max’s sister wants to know more about Beth’s gut feeling that her brother is alive. Beth senses that, for Alex, the reason for staying behind is much more simple. He doesn’t want to leave her. Not when they have just found her again. It makes her feel warm inside.

Before he leaves the hotel, Zan asks to speak with Beth alone. In spite of the fact that she now knows she has been wrong to trust him, something in his face makes it so that she cannot refuse him. She accompanies him into the hallway.

"I never knew for sure, you know," he says quietly. "I swear I didn’t."

"But you knew about them? You saw them on the big screen at the concert, and you knew they’d recognize me, too." Which is almost as bad. Because she has always told him that she feels like she has known him forever. She has told him that the first time she laid eyes on him, she almost recognized him. He has to have known, somewhere inside, aware of the duplicates’ existence - aware of Max’s existence - that it wasn’t him she knew. That he was not the right person. "You tried to hide me from them."

He does not answer the last, because it is obvious. Instead, he says, "Our protector told us about them." He sounds bitter. "Before he left."

"Do you think they knew about you?"

"Since he deserted us for them, I’m thinking they probably knew," Zan replies. "Their protector was killed somehow. Looking after them was a promotion for him. He couldn’t get out of here fast enough."

"A promotion?" Beth is confused. Both by the existence of the doubles, and by the idea that one set might be more important than the other.

"He told us that if anything ever happens to them, we will take their place. But that it was his job to make sure that was never necessary, because we were such failures." Zan’s jaw is clenched. She can tell that their protector’s disdain hurts him still. Because, after all, whatever they lacked before had been entirely because their protector had not ‘protected’ them at all, but had left them largely to their own devices. She feels a tremor, remembering the first time she met Ava…and Zan. She pushes it aside, because now is not the time for sympathy.

For once, it has to be about her.

She returns to her questions. "Take their place?" she asks. "Take his place, with me? Why?"

"No, not with you." He looks at the ground. "I didn’t…I mean, I hoped that it wasn’t like that." He swallows visibly, and Beth feels her heart go out to him in spite of herself. She knows that he loves her. She has always known it. And, she does love him too. Of course, she does. She has lived with him for two years.

But she still cannot go home with him tonight. Nor can she say anything to reassure him.

"They have the granolith," he adds, seeming to want to change the subject. Somehow they are both aware of the fact that, until she knows the absolute truth about who his double, Max, was to her, they cannot discuss anything about their relationship.

"What does that even mean?" Beth asks. She has overheard Zan, and Lonnie, and Rath discussing the granolith, but they have never explained it to her.

"It means that he was the real king," Zan snaps. "It means that I’m just the sub waiting on the side-line, in case something happens to him. That’s why Langley left. He wanted the real deal, not the copy."

Beth decides to ignore the implication that he thinks that she must feel the same way, now that she knows that there is another. She refuses to allow him to make her feel guilty. She can not feel guilty - not for being who she is. She does not know anything about Liz Parker, but she does know that she wants to find out. And she has every right to.

"Did you know that they thought he was dead?" Beth demands. "Isn’t there some way you should have known? I mean, if you are to replace him, shouldn’t there be some kind of signal between all of you? Or at least between you and him?"

"You’d think," Zan mutters flatly. He then looks up. "How are you so sure he isn’t? Dead, I mean," Zan demands.

"He’s not," Beth replies. "You know he isn’t. You’ve known it all along, and you didn’t do anything to help me find him." The words escape her lips before she can stop herself. She sees them pierce him, like the daggers she somehow knows she has meant them to be. She feels instant remorse, but it cannot be taken back.

She cannot change that she has always felt that he was wrong. She cannot change that he has always known it. She cannot change that they both now think they know why.

She cannot change that what has happened has changed everything.

"I didn’t know for sure," Zan replies, his voice even. He is not angry. He is good. He knows that she did not mean it. He also knows that there is no going back. Not now. So he goes forward and says what they have both been trying to avoid having to say. "I swear I did not know that you and he were…" He trails off, as though, suddenly, he loses his nerve, and cannot acknowledge what must have been.

"I don’t know either," Beth reminds him. She gestures behind her. "That’s what I’m here to find out."

For a long moment, their eyes meet. Finally, he says, "You know."

With that, he turns on his heel, and walks away.

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Post by Kath7 » Wed Feb 04, 2004 5:58 pm

Author's Note: Thanks, as always, for the feedback. :D

Part 6

It is the middle of the night when she arrives in New York and, because of it, the worst happens. She is barely off the bus and out on the street, looking for a hotel, when she is mugged. Her assailant is short, and blonde, with a pierced lip - and a knife.

For a moment, she considers fighting. This is not Pierce, after all, and she survived him. Even if she is unsure what this means, she knows that it means more than a girl with a knife. Beth needs her money more than this person needs it. But, when she meets the short blonde’s eyes, she senses that this is untrue. She cannot be any older than Beth, but there is a hunger in the other girl’s blue-eyed gaze that she knows she has never felt. She knows this, even though she has no memory of who she really is. Crazily, she suddenly feels sorry for the other girl. Without another thought, she hands over her money, and the blonde disappears down a nearby subway staircase, not looking back.

She is unhurt, but everything she expected to use to support herself, until she finds a job, is gone. She returns to the bus station, and spends the night on a bench, trying not to close her eyes, because she is now frightened. What has that other girl seen, what has she lived, that has made her desperate enough to do what she did? What has Beth gotten herself into by coming here? She has not expected to find fear in New York. She was sure that she left fear behind in New Mexico; that by getting as far away from Pierce as she could, the cold hand, which has wrapped itself around her heart since she awoke beside the river, would finally unclench. She is disappointed.

She has another fright, close to dawn. Her eyes have finally drifted shut, but she jerks out of her half-sleep state when she senses that she is being watched. She is not wrong. He has spiky dark hair, side-burns, a pierced eye-brow, and a goatee, and is sitting on a bench across from her. She feels her heart start to thump in dismay. But, when she meets his gaze, it is kind.

For one, heart-stopping moment, as their eyes lock, she feels a sense of recognition. She literally feels the urge to throw herself into his arms.

But, when he opens his mouth, the feeling goes away. The voice she, strangely, expected to know does not come.

"You okay?" he asks, his New York twang heavy, even in those two words.

"Yes, thank you," she replies, getting quickly to her feet. "I’m just waiting for my ride."

"All night?" he asks, making her heart jump again. He has obviously been watching her for a while.

"Yes," Beth snaps, looking around nervously. She knows that there is a security guard in the bus station. Where is he?

"Need this?"

She looks back at the strange young man, sees him holding out a wad of bills. Her eyes widen. "What is that? I can’t take that!"

"It’s yours."

"Thanks, but I can’t," Beth replies, moving away. She is surprised that she does not wrench away when she feels a hand on her shoulder. Instead she stops and looks back at him.

"I ain’t kidding. It’s really yours. That girl, who took it… She’s my sister."

Beth cannot believe it. The guy is associated with her mugger. She reaches out, and takes the money, counting it. It is all there. "But, why…?"

He replies seriously. "I don’t hold with taking money from girls."

"Well, thank you." She does not know what else to say. Because his comment implies that he doesn’t mind taking money from others.

He grins slightly. "Welcome to New York." With that, he turns on his heel and walks away.

She does not see him again for three years. At least not in the flesh. Because he starts appearing in her dreams - and sometimes in her nightmares - that very night.


***

"So, you’ve been in New York this whole time?" Maria asks, sounding amazed. "God, Liz, I just can’t believe it."

"Yes. For five years," Beth replies. She does not contest them calling her Liz. It is, after all, her name. She will adjust to it, will hopefully start to think of herself as the mystery that is Liz. She quickly tells them the story about waking up beside the river, and all that led to her arrival in the city.

She is sitting on a couch in Maria’s hotel suite, alone. Maria, Alex, and Isabel are lined up on another sofa, across from her. Maria’s stiff posture indicates that she is over there under duress; that Alex has somehow convinced her that she should keep a distance from Beth, until everything is cleared up. Beth is not sure how she knows that this must be Alex’s idea, but somehow she does. She feels bad that they do not think that they can be natural around her. She senses that Maria’s place is beside her; that, before, it was where she would have been.

There is a long moment of silence. They do not seem to want to pressure her for answers. She is certain that the ones she has to give them will prove disappointing anyway. Her life has not been particularly interesting, or exciting, or dangerous. She has not been unhappy, since arriving in New York. Sometimes, yes, but not all the time. She wonders if this will hurt them. She wonders if they have expected her to pine for them, as they have clearly done for her.

"Can…" she pauses, then forges ahead. "Can you tell me about myself?"

"What do you want to know?" Maria asks. "I’ve known you for your whole life. I can tell you anything!" This is not the calm, collected, famous singer that Beth has seen interviewed on television. This woman is nervous, afraid of making a mistake, desperate to do the right thing.

It makes Beth feel warm again. She relaxes, which seems to signal to the other three that they can do so as well, because the tension in the room eases noticeably.

"I want to know everything," she admits. "But, start with the night I…" She glances at Isabel. "We," she amends meaningfully, "disappeared."

Alex and Isabel exchange a glance. "Okay," Alex finally agrees. "But, first, we need to know what you know." He grimaces slightly, obviously still a little uncertain. "I mean, it’s pretty clear that you know the truth about…" He trails off, looking frustrated.

Beth smiles slightly. She then raises her index finger and points upwards. "You mean, how do I know about this?"

A strange look crosses Alex’s face. Beth’s smile falters. "Is something wrong?" she asks, wondering what has gone amiss. If there was one thing she was certain they have all acknowledged, it is the fact that there is a reason that there are two Zans, and two Lonnies, and two Raths, and two Avas.

"Sorry," Alex says quickly. "It’s just…You did that exact thing when you first told me about Max." He quirks a wry grin. "We were in jail at the time."

Beth’s eyes widen. Her heart starts to thump. "Because of Pierce?" she demands.

The trio across the table all tense, in unison. But all Alex says is, "No."

Beth frowns. "Who is Pierce?"

"How do you know that name?" Isabel demands. "He…I mean, he didn’t hurt you, did he?" She sounds horrified.

"No," Beth replies quickly. "Not that I remember. But you know who he is?" She feels amazed that, after all this time, she will finally understand why she fears this name so much.

"Yes," Isabel whispers. "He’s the head of something called the Special Unit. They’re alien hunters. They…" Her voice cracks slightly. She continues, after Alex takes her hand. "They kidnapped Max. They tortured him. I dream-walked him, though, and we found him. We managed to get him out, because you told Kyle’s father, Sheriff Valenti, what had happened. He helped us. Anyway, after we rescued him, we split up. You took Max with you…" Her voice hitches again. It is clear that she cannot go on.

"We never saw you again," Alex finishes. There is another long pause, as Beth absorbs this. Finally, she becomes aware of Alex’s intense gaze on her face. She meets his eyes. "Lizzie, how do you know about Pierce, if you don’t remember any of this?"

"I woke up beside the river, and after I started walking, I eventually came to a bridge," Beth replies quietly. She looks at Isabel. "There were men there, pushing a red car off it. They said they didn’t need it anymore, because Pierce had found what he wanted."

When she hears Isabel gasp, Beth is prepared for it. Because she has finally understood exactly what - exactly who - Pierce had found.

"Oh my God," Isabel moans. "You said that you know that Max is alive," she says, leaning forward. Isabel’s tone suddenly implies that this might not be the miracle she is hoping for. "How? Liz, how do you know this?"

"He’s in my dreams," Beth replies, choking on her own tears now. "When I met Zan, I thought it was him, but I know now that it wasn’t. It was Max. He has always been with me. He left for a little while," - she decides not to explain that her dreams - that Max - left when she committed to Zan, knowing that Max’s sister will not understand - "But last week he came back." Maria has moved now, and is sitting beside her, her arm around Beth’s shoulders. Beth barely notices though. She touches her heart. "He’s here. I know he’s alive."

"But from what you just told us, Pierce found him again. He must have!" Isabel is beginning to sound a little hysterical. Beth understands. She is starting to feel that way herself. Even though Max is still simply a name, a figment of a dream, not really a recollection, he is already more than that.

No, not already. He always was.

She knows, quite simply, with no memory of it, that he is, was, and always will be, her heart. She has been mislead by Zan, probably not on purpose, but it was enough that, for a time, she lost her way. She lost Max. The guilt of it is almost beyond her comprehension.

How could she have forgotten him? How could she have forgotten someone who, it is now so clear to her, means everything?

And, if they are right, then Max has spent the last five years in captivity, under the control of the one person she crossed the continent to evade. She ran away. She was the one they trusted to get him to safety, and she had failed him.

She knows he is alive, and she knows that he has haunted her, and she knows why. She left him behind, but he is still depending on her to free him. He has been calling to her for help for five years, and she has ignored every cry. She has lived with his double, mostly happy; he has lived in misery, alone and forgotten.

Beth reaches out, grabs Isabel’s hand. The tall blonde meets her eyes. "Isabel, he is alive. I know he is. We’ve found each other for a reason. I know it. It’s fate. We are meant to save him. It’s not too late."

"But where do we even start?" Isabel wails.

Beth trembles slightly, finally understanding why she has never let Lonnie into her dreams. It is because Lonnie does not belong there. This woman is the one she has been waiting for. Lonnie would never have understood Beth’s dreams anyway. But this woman will.

Her dreams are the key.

And, when she tells Isabel this, the other woman simply nods, as though she has known it all along.

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Post by Kath7 » Sat Feb 07, 2004 5:37 pm

Part 7

Two years pass in the blink of an eye. With her returned money, she manages to find herself a small apartment in Greenwich Village. It is a closet, really, but it is all hers. She finds a job close by, serving tables in a large and busy café. How she knows that she will be good at this, she has no idea, but she is proven right. Soon she is well known in the neighborhood. She has a good memory for details, and the customers like that she can greet them by name, which means that her tips are excellent. She recognizes the irony that she can remember complete strangers, but cannot remember who she is.

The guy from the bus station continues to haunt her dreams. She knows it is him, although she does not remember any of the details in the morning. She simply awakens, gasping for breath, in a cold sweat, and knows that he was there, and then he wasn’t. That, in the dream, she has failed him somehow, and he has left her because of it.

She reads books on dreams and decides that he represents her lost memory. That she is mourning the loss of her life
before, and that he is a figure symbolizing her past.

And, yet, in spite of the fear and sadness that accompany the dreams, she also welcomes them. She endures the nightmares, and does not try to stop them. They are the only true thing she has. The life she has built for herself, while mostly content, is lonely. She chooses not to get close to anyone, fearing that, without her memory, she might allow her enemies to enter her life. The boy in her dreams represents her loss, but she also feels that she is found when she sees him there. In real life, for one moment, he was kind to her. With him, for an instant, she felt safe. And, so, in her dreams, simply being with him, is a comfort.

After the first few months, she stops looking for him in every crowd. Somehow she knows that there is no need. He will come to her nightly anyway. But, she also understands that the dreams are temporary. She feels that there will be a reckoning someday. She will see him again.

When the time finally comes, she finds that she is ready for him. She feels relieved that the waiting has ended. The circumstances are not even shocking to her, although most would find them to be so. None of it is unexpected.

She is in the alley, behind the café, throwing a garbage bag into the bin. She senses danger, even before she hears anything, and, so, she is half-turning when she is grabbed from behind. She stumbles into her assailant, causing him to lose his balance. For one, brief instant, she is sure it is Pierce. That he has finally found her. But, when the knife pierces her flesh, she knows it is not.

She knows that if Pierce ever found her, he would not kill her quickly. Oh, no. He would take his time, making each moment leading to her end count for all the years that she has evaded him. She does not know how she knows this, but she is certain of it.

This is not Pierce. This is an accident. Another random tragedy in a city full of them. Looking up into her attacker’s face, she can see that he is more surprised than she by what has happened. He intended to hurt her, but not like this. Later, Beth remembers that she was not surprised by any of it. She knows that what happened in the alley was fate.

Because, he leaves her lying in a pool of her own blood. As the light dims, she gasps slightly, the pain almost unbearable. She can feel a name forming on her lips - knows that she wants to cry out to someone - but her memory will not allow her to form the word. It is the worst part of the whole experience. That she cannot even remember who she wants while she is dying.

Three days later, she opens her eyes again, and she is found.

The ceiling above her is white. It sends a shiver down her spine. She senses that she is not alone, turns her head to the right, and sees a dark head resting on a pair of folded arms beside her on the bed. She slowly reaches out, touches the silky strands.

Strangely, her first thought is that he needs a haircut. Her second is that he has finally come for her.

Her movement awakens him, and he raises his head. The dark eyes that meet hers are as familiar to her as her own. It is the guy from the bus station. She drinks in his face, can see that he looks different, although she is completely certain that it is him. His hair is long now, just brushing the collar of his jacket. The goatee is gone, replaced by scruffy stubble. All the piercings are gone, too. She feels her forehead crease slightly, as she takes this in. She recognizes him, but she no longer feels the sense of familiarity that accompanies his visits in her dreams.

Something is wrong. And, yet, there can be no mistaking him, so she pushes the momentary doubt aside. Because, after all this time, he has come.

He swallows visibly. She can tell that he is nervous. She wonders at it. Does he not feel what she feels? "You’re awake."

"Where am I?" she asks, buying time, trying to understand why he is afraid of her.

"In the hospital. Do you remember what happened?"

She nods. "Did you bring me here?"

"Eventually," he says. A strange answer. "After we were sure that you were going to be okay."

"After?" Shouldn’t she have been brought here before?

"It’s a long story." He looks away, as though thinking, then back. "Do you remember me?" he finally asks.

"The bus station," she replies, earning a lopsided smile that makes her stomach rumble. The longer she looks at him, the less she feels the sense of
wrongness that first came over her when she opened her eyes.

"That’s right."

"Who are you?" she whispers. "Do you know who I am?" She does not mean Beth. She knows Beth. She means
before. Who was she before? Because, for some reason, she feels that he can tell her.

But he does not tell her. Instead he says, "I’m Zan. And you are the one I have been waiting for my entire life."


***

Zan has called ahead, and so Ava, Lonnie, and Rath are waiting for them when they arrive at the apartment he shares with Beth. The door is locked, but he can sense that they are there.

The others have barely spoken on the cab ride over. The human, Kyle, is a mystery to Zan, as are most humans. Beth has always ever been the exception. The originals are easier to read. In fact, being in their presence is like being in the company of heightened versions of his own family. He can feel the barely contained rage the Rath’s original emits. This man misses his king, and he is not at all willing to accept Zan as his brother’s replacement. In fact, he is ready to murder Zan before he will even contemplate it. The Ava double is slightly nervous, but calmer; more curious than confrontational.

"Where’s Beth?" It is Ava who asks, when Zan leads his three companions into the living room. He clenches his jaw at the sight of the woman he calls sister anxiously standing in the center of the room. Her question is too eager, as always. The act that she puts on, that she is happy for him, has always made him feel more guilty than any show of jealousy or anger would have. She is too good.

"She’s staying out tonight," Zan replies. He glances at the three Roswellians. The Rath original - Zan realizes that he will have to start thinking of him by his name, Michael - has his arms crossed. He is glaring at Zan, his expression easily readable. As far as Michael is concerned, Beth is not staying out tonight. Beth is staying out forever, if Michael has anything to say about it.

But Zan knows that it is not up to either of them. It is up to Beth, and Zan’s heart breaks anew; the ice he has frozen around it, since he left her in that hotel, cracks, as the truth that she has already chosen forces its way in.

He is alive and he is not you.

With those simple words, she has changed their idyllic world. She has destroyed his entire world. Because she is it. She is everything.

And she is not his.

Ava steps forward, forcing Zan back to reality. She takes her original’s hand. "I’m Ava. I’m so glad to finally meet you!"

The expression on Tess’s face is hard to read. She looks mildly ill, but also fascinated. "I’m Tess."

"I know," Ava replies. She smiles, releasing Tess. She gestures at Rath, near the window, and Lonnie, who is seated on the couch. "That’s Rath, and that’s Lonnie - it’s short for Vilandra."

"I know," Tess says, sounding so exactly like Ava did moments before, it erases any comfort that Ava’s friendliness has managed to bring to the room. Tess continues quickly, "I mean, Langley told us. About you. We know that Lonnie is short for Vilandra," she finishes lamely, before pressing her lips together. The human, Kyle, puts his arm around her, and she leans into him gratefully. Zan sees Ava watch this, a bemused expression on her face.

"Let’s cut to the chase here," Michael growls. "I want to know how long you’ve been lying to Liz about who she really is."

Since entering the apartment, Michael has not even looked at his dupe. It is as though, by ignoring him, Rath does not exist. It makes Zan angry, for the first time this evening. Before, he was guilty - rightfully. But Rath deserves recognition. He is standing against the wall near the window, his arms crossed in a mirror image to Michael’s. Zan recognizes his brother’s attempt to project a lack of concern. It reinforces more than anything else that Rath is afraid. He does not know what this means, the fact that they are being confronted by their originals, after so long, and it frightens him. Rath, more than any of them, is happy with their simple life in New York. He has never wanted to go back, and Zan understands that he fears that this is what the originals’ arrival in New York means.

Because why are they here? Langley went to them years ago. Why has he not taken them back to Antar? This is what Rath wonders.

But Zan knows why. It is because they have lost their king. They have lost Beth’s Max, and they have waited five years for him. They will accept no replacement, obviously. And now they will not have to. Because, they have found her. And, now that they have, they can find him.

She is the key. She is his, so completely, that she is the only one who can ever bring him back to them. Everything that has not made sense, over the years that Zan and Beth have been together, crystallizes into complete understanding. What has been wrong is so clear, he does not know how he avoided the truth of it for so long; how he managed to lie to himself - and her - for years.

She belonged to another him first, and, in her heart - in her dreams - that has never changed.

It is in that instant - with the final acceptance of what is true and what cannot be changed - that Zan starts to feel him. He can sense Max - his original - and he knows that Beth is right. He is alive somewhere. With his acknowledgment of Max’s existence, the king lives again.

Zan wonders how he could ever have forgotten what it felt like to know Max. The king has been a part of him for his entire life. How has he managed to ignore Max’s pain so completely? Because, now that he feels it again, it is almost overwhelming.

But Zan knows how. Beth. She muted everything. His love for her made him so happy, he was able to easily ignore his original’s suffering.

The guilt of it is almost unbearable.

He wonders if the others can feel each other in the same way he can feel Max. He glances at his sister, then at Michael. Is this why the general is standing so stiffly? Can he feel everything there is to know about Rath? Can he feel Rath’s fear of him, and so he is playing the part expected of him?

"Liz?" Lonnie asks leaning forward on the couch. She looks at him questioningly.

"Beth’s real name is Liz," Zan tells her, through gritted teeth, forcing himself to focus on the matter at hand. He does not appreciate Michael’s arrogance, but he thinks he now understands. It is not all about Rath. After all, the Roswellians have grown up knowing that they are the real deal. They are the Royal Four, and they are meant to rule. "She grew up in Roswell, apparently. These were her friends."

Lonnie closes her eyes for a moment, then opens them and meets his. "Zan, I told you it was a mistake, taking her to that concert."

He knew it, knows it still. But he couldn’t resist. Not when he knew how much it would mean to Beth. He tried to pretend that he did not understand why his girlfriend loved Maria Deluca’s music so much. He deliberately ignored the fact that the singer came from Roswell, New Mexico, the same place he knew the Royal Four lived. He pretended to himself that there was no connection. He tells himself now that he only wanted to help her find a little peace. He was certain that going to the concert would do that.

It is only now, after the worst has happened, that he knows what he was really doing. Going to that concert was not about Beth at all. It was about him.

He had been testing her. Once and for all, he had been making sure that it was him she wanted; that his innermost fear, the barely acknowledged paranoia that she had known his original, and that she didn’t want him at all, was unfounded.

He has gambled, and he has lost. And, because of it, he is going to lose her. Finally, the knowledge that he has held all along - that this could not last - has borne fruit.

She is not his, and never has been. His heart has always told him as much, although he has tried to ignore his doubts. He has stood in her way for too long, keeping her for himself, because the happiness she brings is more than he ever imagined he deserved.

It has been a stolen season.

And, now, because of it, he is going to have to give her up.

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Post by Kath7 » Wed Feb 11, 2004 10:34 pm

Author's Note: out of this world you just missed me! lol Here I am!

I meant to also say a couple of parts ago, to Angel, that I was pleased to see you here because I have just been reading Happenstance. It is my Round 4 Nominee read (I discover a new to me writer every round while tallying - last time it was cherie)! So, I just wanted to let you know to expect feedback from me soon. For anyone not reading it, you MUST check out that story. It is amazing.

And, to everyone else, thank you so much for your wonderful feedback. This fic is quite a departure for me, and it makes it so much more reassuring to post it to such support. Although it comes with my usual dreamer insurance (I mean, c'mon, it's me!), it's going to be complicated. But, then, to paraphrase Grandma Claudia, if it isn't complicated, it wouldn't be about soulmates, would it?

Just for fun, I have a prize for the first person who figures out which novel is thematically inspiring this story. Don't tell me here though, because I don't want the ending spoiled. PM me and I'll let you know if you're right. And Gioia's not allowed to guess. Neither is Bordersinsanity, because I think I told her too. Oh, and you probably won't be able to figure it out from this part. lol But with what's coming up, I think some of you will.

And, now I will shut-up. Back on Saturday.

Part 8

Zan stays with her for another hour. There are too many questions, so she asks none of them. Instead, they stay silent, and she revels in the fullest sense of security she has felt since waking up on the river bank over two years before. Before he leaves, he squeezes her hand, and tells her that he will explain everything when she leaves the hospital. In spite of the years she has waited for him to return, she is satisfied with this explanation.

No nightmares come that night. She sleeps in true peace for the first time since she arrived in New York.

It is only in the morning that she even begins to question how it is possible that the knife has not done more damage. She stands on the edge of the bath tub in her hospital room, lifts her gown, and stares at the perfect skin on her abdomen. There is no bandage, nor is there a mark. It as though there was never a knife at all. She frowns.

When Zan returns to accompany her home, she is sitting in a chair near the window, staring out. She does not turn her head, knowing that if she meets his eyes, she will not have the courage to ask him what she must. "Why am I here?" she demands quietly. "I know it’s not because of what happened in the alley."

"No," Zan agrees. "It was because you wouldn’t wake up. We were worried that you hit your head when you fell."

"We?" She remembers that yesterday he also implied that he was not the only one who brought her to the hospital.

"My sisters and me."

She remembers one of his sisters from that day in the bus station. It reinforces to her just how much he has changed since then. She finally turns to look at him. "You sound different." She knows that it is a strange thing to say at this moment, but it is true. His accent is nowhere near as pronounced.

Zan looks down for a moment, then shrugs. "I’ve been working on it. I’m in school."

She frowns slightly. "Really?"

"Yeah," he continues. "That night…with Ava…I just didn’t want her to feel like she had to do that anymore. I want a better job, and to make more than minimum wage, I need school."

She knows that he means the night at the bus station, but she asks anyway, because she can’t quite believe it. "You decided you wanted a better job after that night?"

"Yeah."

His honesty reassures her for some reason. She decides to go with her gut instinct and will trust him. After all, in the two years since the river, instinct has not failed her yet. She feels that he will explain the mystery of the alley when they are alone.

She is right. The instant she closes the door of her small apartment behind them both, he turns to her and says, "You must have a lot of questions."

Beth simply nods, trying to decide what to ask first.
Who am I? Why am I not dead? Why have you haunted my dreams? Why do I feel this way, when I barely even know your name?

"I’ll start with the easy one," Zan says, after she continues to stare at him helplessly, incapable of choosing. "I found you in the alley. You had lost a lot of blood, so I took you back to where I live, to let you rest, and to make sure that you were okay. When you wouldn’t wake up, my sister, Lonnie, told me I should take you to the hospital."

"Why didn’t you take me right there?" she asks. "I must have been close to dead." She remembers the way the blood felt, as it oozed out. She knows that he is right. She lost a lot of it, quickly. The cut was deep.

He grimaces slightly, then says, in a rush, "You weren’t. I healed you."

She knows that this revelation should be shocking, but it is not. For some reason, she is not at all surprised. But, since he seems to expect it, she asks, "What do you mean?"

"I can heal things," he says, shrugging. "You weren’t going to make it to the hospital, so I had no choice." She can tell also that he feels that he has no choice but to tell her the truth. She wonders at it. Would it not have been easier for him to have just taken her to the hospital, and then never seen her again? She never would have known the difference at all.

And, yet, here he is, telling her that he has healed her. Nor is she surprised to hear him say it.

She asks instead, "How did you find me?"

His shifts uneasily. "I sometimes hang around that neighborhood. I saw you go into the alley, and when you didn’t come out, I went after you."

"You follow me?" She wonders why this does not frighten her. She knows that it should, but, instead, it makes her feel safe, to know that he has been like a guardian angel.

He swallows, then laughs a little, obviously embarrassed. "Only for a couple of days. I saw you on the street. I found out where you worked and I was trying to get up the nerve to come in to talk to you." He sighs. "We didn’t exactly meet under the best of circumstances last time. I was afraid that you’d…" He trails off, not uncertain exactly, but careful.

"Not want to see you?"

"I guess."

She wonders how it is possible that he can be nervous around her. She feels anything but in his company. But, then, for two years, her dreams of him have been her touchstone. He cannot know this. It is clear, from his behavior, that they do not know each other, that they never did.

And, yet, she knows him anyway.

"I wanted to," she says, hoping to put him at ease. He looks up at her, smiling in that slightly lopsided way that sets her heart racing. "I’ve never forgotten you."

They stare at each other for a long moment. Finally, he says, "Don’t you want to know how I healed you?"

It is odd that she has forgotten about this. "Do you want to tell me?" Because, she realizes, if he does not want to tell her, she does not mind. She does not understand why she is so willing to ignore what is normal where he is concerned.

"I want you to know everything," Zan replies, sounding amazed that this is true.

And, after that first night, she does.


***

"Have you done this before?" Isabel asks.

They are lying in separate beds in the bedroom of Maria’s hotel suite. Alex and Maria are waiting in the other room, not wanting to make either of them nervous by watching them. Beth feels her heart thunder in her chest, knows that Maria and Alex are the least of her worries. They have been nothing but supportive, and she feels completely comfortable in their company. The real problem is that she has no idea how to fall asleep. She is so eager to do so, she knows that it might be many hours before she actually can.

Her brain is working a mile a minute. There is too much to process, too much new information. Even though she has told them not to tell her anything more about herself until they have found Max - she does not want her mind to become any more jumbled than it already is - what she knows already is almost overwhelming. How is she ever supposed to calm down enough to sleep?

"No," Beth replies. "Lonnie never tried. I asked her not to."

There is a long moment of silence, and then Isabel asks quietly, "And you believed her? You believe that she never did?"

Beth frowns up at the darkened ceiling. "Of course I believed her. Why?"

"I just know what I would have done," Isabel replies.

"Lonnie’s not like that," Beth says, feeling a little annoyed.

"Not like me?" Isabel asks, sounding slightly amused. It is the first time Isabel has bent at all in Beth’s presence. Since the moment they have met, she has felt that Max’s sister is more pained than anything, by her return. "You’ve always been too trusting, Liz."

Beth smiles in spite of herself. She recognizes the irony. Isabel’s comment has also made her wonder, for the first time, if Lonnie has not, perhaps, taken an uninvited wander through her mind, once or twice. Because, after all, Beth’s friend and Isabel are the same.

"Is that how you knew you could trust me? You dreamwalked me?" She still does not know exactly how she first found out that Max, Isabel, Michael, and Tess are aliens. It is one secret that will be kept until Max is found, so that she can stay focused on the task at hand. But she feels that this question will not reveal too much.

"No," Isabel replies. There is a long pause, and then she continues, "Max always felt like he could trust you."

"And that was good enough for you?" This amazes Beth. She remembers how angry both Lonnie and Rath were during the first months after Zan let her in on their secret. She frowns again. They did eventually learn to like her. Is this more proof that perhaps Lonnie has dreamwalked her, after all?

"Of course not," Isabel is saying. "But he connected with you, and it confirmed it. I believed him then."

Beth is confused. "Connected?"

There is another long silence in the darkness, and then Isabel says, "You’ve never connected with Zan? Didn’t you say that he healed you, and that’s how you found out?"

"Yes." She still does not know what Isabel is getting at.

"He has to have connected with you to have done that, Liz. He saw inside you. He saw your thoughts."

She feels like an idiot, but she still has to admit, "I have no idea what you’re talking about."

"It’s the only way our gifts work. We have to connect mentally with the other person. I mean, that’s obvious with me and Tess, but it’s true of the guys, too. Like, Michael can randomly blast people, but if he wants to actually kill them, he needs to be inside their head. The same was true of Max when he healed. When he heals," she amends quickly, the past tense obviously anathema to her, now that she has hope that her brother is alive.

"As far as I know, Zan’s never done that with me," Beth replies, frowning again. Is this something else he has kept from her? Has he seen inside her head and never told her? Is this just more proof that he has known who she is all along?

"That’s not the only way to connect, Liz." Isabel sounds tentative, as though she doesn’t really want to know what she is about to ask, but she goes ahead anyway, "You guys…I mean, haven’t you…?" She cannot finish her question, but Beth knows what she means.

She swallows, feeling a flash of guilt. Because, of course, by confirming this, she will be admitting to Isabel that she has betrayed Isabel’s brother. "Yeah," she whispers.

"Then, this makes no sense at all," Isabel says, sounding brisk, as though she can dismiss Beth’s admission. "When you’re making love…it just happens. That’s just the way we’re made. There has to be a reason you haven’t connected with him."

Beth feels slightly nauseous, unable to even register what Isabel is saying. When they find Max, how is he going to react to this, if Isabel can barely acknowledge the truth of how far she has committed to Zan? She does not remember what it means to know Max - he is still only someone who exists on the dream plain for her - but, somehow she is aware that he will be devastated. She feels devastated, and she has no memory of what they meant to each other. But, then, when it comes to Max, she is already learning that memory means little. She simply knows. And it means everything. She remembers all that she has shared with Zan, and it is no longer as comforting and sweet as it was only a day ago.

"He won’t care."

Beth blinks into the darkness. "What?"

"Liz, if he’s alive, trust me. He will not care. He loves you." Isabel has recognized Beth’s tortured silence, and the other woman is kind enough to offer comfort, even though, inside, she must be angry. Because, how can she not be? Beth knows how Lonnie would react if she ever cheated on Zan.

She chooses not to reflect on the fact that, in many ways, simply by being here with Isabel, about to go in search of another man, she has already done so. It is just too complicated. At this time, Max is the one who needs her, and she cannot desert him again. Zan, and everything to do with him, including even thinking about him, will just have to wait.

So, instead, she returns to thinking about the connection in general. "So, I did connect with Max?"

Isabel snorts slightly. "All the time." Beth wonders why she sounds annoyed, although it seems to be mixed with affection. "I swear, half the time you two were having private conversations in your heads. All you had to do was look at each other, and you were goners."

Beth feels warm, a blush creeping up her cheeks. She wishes she could remember! She clears her throat, then continues her line of questioning, trying to bring the bud of understanding that has opened in her mind to full flower. "So, you connect with Alex?" The question is actually a private one, nor does Beth particularly want to know, but she needs a few full, clear facts on this "connecting’ business before she will voice her hypothesis.

"Yes, Liz," Isabel replies, sounding amused again. "I "connect" with Alex. We’ve been going out for over five years."

"Can you connect with other people?"

"Sure. Michael, Tess…" She trails off, as though realizing where Liz is headed. "Do you mean other humans?"

"Yes."

"I can dreamwalk them," Isabel replies.

"But do you "connect" with them?"

"No," Isabel whispers. "How could I have forgotten about this? Langley told us all about this. I guess it makes sense though. We’ve tried to forget we ever knew him. But no wonder Zan has never connected with you."

Beth thinks that she has already worked out what Isabel is remembering. "It’s because Max did it first, isn’t it?"

"I guess it is," Isabel replies, sounding a little amazed. "Wow. I never really believed Langley about anything, but he was obviously right about this." Beth hears Isabel shift on the bed and, moments later, the light flips on. Beth blinks against the glare, but soon can see that Isabel is crying.

Beth sits up quickly, staring at the other woman in consternation. "What’s wrong?"

"Until this moment, I didn’t quite believe you, but now I do," Isabel replies, smiling through her tears. "Langley told us that once we connect with a human, as long as that human lives, we will never be able to connect to another. And the same thing applies the other way. So, basically, you’ve just confirmed that Max is alive." She shakes her blonde head. "It still doesn’t explain how Zan was able to heal you without connecting to you, but who cares about that right now?" She meets Liz’s gaze head-on. "We need to find him. Liz, we have to find him."

"I thought that’s what we were here to do," Beth tells her, confused. She is not nearly as elated by all of this as Isabel, because she has known all along, since the moment his name was mentioned, that Max is still alive. She feels mildly upset that Isabel did not believe her.

"You were," Isabel says, sounding a little guilty. "I can’t say that I really was. I wanted into your head to see if you were really Liz, actually."

"What?" Beth exclaims.

Isabel sighs. "I’m sorry, Liz. You have to understand, though. We’ve thought you were dead for five years. We know for a fact that shapeshifters are running around on this planet. After what happened…" Isabel’s eyes fill with tears again. "It’s really hard to trust anything anymore."

Beth feels her heart go out to the other woman. Again she is filled with remorse that these people have spent five years mourning her death, while she still cannot even remember why they should have done so. "It’s all right," she says, hoping to comfort Isabel. "Are you really ready to do this now?"

Isabel reaches out and clasps Beth’s hand. "I am. I’m absolutely ready to bring my brother home. Thank you."

Beth stares at her. "For what? I haven’t done anything yet!"

"Yes, you have. You’ve reminded me what hope really feels like. I’d forgotten how you always did that. Some things don’t change, I guess."

Beth glances down, guilt weighing down upon her again. "But a lot has, Isabel." She thinks about how she is soon going to be forced to make a choice, about how this moment of closeness with Isabel might not last. Because, what if Max comes back and wants nothing to do with her? And, if that happens, can she just turn back to Zan, as though nothing has happened? She doubts that either of them will be able to do that. She doubts that Zan will want to be second best, and she does not think that she can settle for it any longer either.

Everything has changed. Everything will change. And, finally, Beth understands why she has feared finding out about "before." The past is a frightening proposition. Pursuing it makes the future even more of one.

"Liz." Beth raises her eyes to meet Isabel’s. "Some things don’t change. My brother’s feelings for you…They won’t have. I promise."

"Isabel, how can you know that?"

"Because you’re Liz," Isabel replies simply. "Everything has changed, you’ve changed, but you’re still Liz. You are all he has ever wanted - ever."

"But…" Beth feels tears fill her eyes, reflecting Isabel’s. "After everything…I mean, I’ve been living with Zan!"

"No, Liz, you haven’t," Isabel tells her. "It is so obvious. Every single one of us sees it, including Zan. He knows it, Liz. He’s known it since the moment he set eyes on us and realized that we knew you. You haven’t been living with Zan. You’ve been living with Max. In your heart, he has always been Max. You might not have called him that, but that’s who he was. To you."

The worst part of it all is that Beth does not feel reassured by Isabel’s words, even though she knows that Max’s sister means them to be comforting. They only make her feel worse. Because she knows that Isabel is right. And, she also knows that the truth of it means that she there is only one road open to her. She has no choice now, and she dreads what has to be.

Because, whether her heart thought that Zan was Max or not, her head chose to ignore this fact. Her mind, feeling safe and secure for the first time since the river, allowed herself to have a relationship with him, even though her heart told her in every way - through her dreams, through her doubts - that it was wrong.

And, even if her heart knew the truth, Zan’s did not. Zan loves her, and his heart has nothing to do with Max, or with Beth. She cannot control the way he feels and she knows how he feels. It has not changed. And, so, the worst thing of all is that, whether she ends up with Max or not, she is going to break Zan’s heart - and there is absolutely nothing she can do to stop it.

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Post by Kath7 » Sun Feb 15, 2004 1:04 am

Author's Note: Well, I'm fifteen minutes late for my Saturday update! At least by my watch. Sorry! :oops: Here I am though. I didn't even have it betaed, which may show. :roll:

Part 9

When he is allowed to sleep, he dreams of her.

He has always dreamt of her, since the first day he laid eyes on her when they were children. Those dreams - of touching her soft hair; of meeting her eyes across a room and knowing that she is feeling for him everything that he feels for her; of kissing her, not once, but whenever he wants to; of falling asleep with her delicate body wrapped in his arms, feeling her heart beating steadily in time with his own; of letting her see exactly who he is, and her accepting it, and loving him anyway - came true. For several shining weeks, he lived a dream, until the day it all became a nightmare.

Until Pierce.

He would give almost anything to have those dreams back. He can not regret leaving the dreams behind when he did, can not deny that the living of them was much sweeter than the dreaming, but he would love to lose himself again in their comfort and hope.

His dreams of her now are not comforting. He cannot believe it - that any dream of her could make him more miserable - but it is what is. He can no longer live in fantasy, in "what-if." Because "what-if" has been, and it destroyed her. He is faced with this cold, hard truth every day. Because, when he is allowed to sleep, she haunts him.

He knows that he deserves it. That living the dream was what killed her. But he hates that dreams of her now force him awake in a cold sweat, his heart thudding, the harsh reality of the torture he will face in the day more welcome than a night on the dream plain with her.

Now, in the dreams, he is forced to witness every horrible way he has imagined her death. Pierce’s version of it - the car accident that goes unexplained - is a common nightmare, but it is not the most terrible. His own mind comes up with far worse scenarios on its own. As though unsatisfied with the punishment that Pierce and his minions inflict on his body, his mind tortures him every night. No matter what they do, they can not torment him more than he torments himself.

In the two years since disaster befell them, he has refused to forgive himself. He could have ended his own life many months ago, but he will not allow himself that solace. He will not allow himself the joy of being with her again, even if only in death.

He continues to live because he deserves to suffer. And, so, suffer he does.

In the dreams, always, he is on the verge of saving her, but, always, he fails. And, always, she blames him for it.

Tonight is no different.

He is on the dream plain, with Liz. She is standing on the ledge, gazing at the tumultuous river below. He is standing below her, on the bridge, staring down, unable to climb up to join her.

She glances at him. "What? Are you afraid?" She sounds disdainful. "Don’t you love me enough?"

"I love you," he tells her desperately. "Please come down." He reaches up to grab her, but his arms go right through her, as though she is already a ghost.

Her dark eyes meet his. A flame flickers in their depths, something new, something he does not recognize. "Will you burn for me when I’m gone?" she asks, her tone suddenly kind.

"Liz, please!" He does not understand, does not know what to say to make her stay. Because, somehow, he knows that tonight is good-bye. That if he lets her slip away this time, he will never see her again.

"Burn for me, Max."

With those final words, she turns and jumps off the bridge. He tries to climb up, tries to follow her, but he is held back by something unseen, by some fear that he cannot name.

All he can do is stare down at the river - at the raging river - and know that she is gone.

When he wakes, he knows that the haunting is over. That, after two years, she has finally, truly left him all alone.

Because, in the end, he would rather that she hate him in his dreams, than leave him altogether.

He does not dream of her again. At night, she is gone.

But, in the day, he burns for her.


***

"Why did you bring her tonight?"

Zan focuses on Tess. Ava’s original has become curious because of Lonnie’s lament that he never should have taken Beth to the concert.

He shrugs. "She loves her music. She hasn’t been feeling well lately. I hoped it would cheer her up." He cannot admit that it was a test, that he hoped to lay his fears to rest once and for all. Because saying it aloud would mean admitting it to them - that he suspected that he was not the one she dreamed of, that she did not belong with him.

"It was more than that," Michael snaps. "You were trying to get her out of there when we found you. You knew somehow that, when we saw her on that screen, we’d recognize her."

"I didn’t even know you were there," Zan replies lamely. He does not dispute that he was trying to leave with her though. Because what is the point? It is obvious.

"I’m even more curious as to why you told him not to take her," Michael continues, ignoring Zan altogether. He addresses this to Lonnie. "You knew, too, didn’t you?"

Zan starts, stares at his sister. He did not think about Lonnie’s warning, but now that Michael says it, he realizes that her concern might have indeed been about more than Beth’s strange mood lately. His sister does not meet his eyes.

"She’s been sick," Lonnie replies evenly. "I was worried."

Zan eyes her, a bad feeling taking hold in his gut. "Lonnie…"

Michael interrupts again. "You’ve dreamwalked her, haven’t you? You’ve known who she was all along."

There is a long moment of silence. Zan watches his sister’s face whiten. She backs up, her eyes wide. "No."

"No, you haven’t dreamwalked her, or, no, you didn’t know who she was?" Michael demands. He advances on Lonnie threateningly.

"Hey, buddy! Back off!" Rath finally steps forward, shoves Michael roughly. Zan is frozen, cannot move to help his sister, who is caught between them.

"Stop it!" Tess shrieks, thrusting her way into the group. "This isn’t helping anything!" She grabs her Rath by the shirt and shakes him, not hard, because she is small, but enough to fight her way through the general’s rage.

Kyle has grabbed Rath, and is trying to hold him back, but Rath is having none of it. He is still yelling. "You ass! Why’s the hell are you even here? Go back to that shit-hole planet we come from and leave us alone! Beth belongs with us!"

"She doesn’t," Zan says quietly, but Rath hears him. He freezes in his tracks, gapes at Zan. Zan feels the usual affection for his loyal, hot-headed brother. He continues gently, "She belongs with him." He glances at Lonnie for a long moment. She starts to tremble under his accusing gaze. "And you’ve known it all along, haven’t you? She trusted you."

"Lonnie!" Ava gasps.

"I didn’t see anything!" Lonnie exclaims defensively. "All I saw was you, Zan. That’s all. All I ever saw was you!"

"You saw him," Zan replies. "And you knew it, didn’t you? That’s why you told me not to go."

Lonnie presses her lips together, swallows convulsively. "I don’t know what the hell I saw! I thought it was you!" she repeats mutinously.

"Lonnie…" He is losing patience with her. He does not know what he will do to make her admit the truth, but he knows that they must have it.

She senses his resolve, and wilts. "She called you Max in the dreams," she whispers. She steps forward, her hands outstretched, pleading. "Zan, I was trying to protect you."

Because he knows it, now that she has admitted it, he can no longer feel angry. All he feels is empty, to have it confirmed.

She has never dreamt of him.

"I know," he says, willing to comfort his sister, even though he will never find solace himself.

It has all been a lie, every last bit of it, but he cannot blame Beth. She is innocent, could not know that she was allowing herself to love the wrong person. She has no memory of before. Yet, all along, they have both known that something was wrong.

Her connection to him - to the other - is deep. So deep that, even living with his double, she knew something was amiss. When she was distant, when she pulled away, her heart was trying to warn her that she was making a mistake.

His poor, loving Beth.

Silence has fallen, as the others absorb what has been revealed. But the quiet is broken by the ringing of a cell phone. Zan blinks, glances at his sister. Lonnie is the only one who owns one. He wonders if it is Beth. But she would call the land-line, not his sister’s cellular phone. If she wanted to talk to him. Which he is sure she does not.

Everyone else is looking at Kyle, who fumbles in his pocket, pulling out a small phone. He glances at the call display, then frowns. "It’s my dad," he tells Tess and Michael. "What do I tell him?"

Zan looks at Michael, who grimaces. "Crap. I don’t know! Just see what he wants, then decide."

Kyle rolls his eyes, aggrieved, but he answers the phone, trying to sound casual. Trying to sound like all of their worlds have not completely changed in one evening. "Hey, Dad."
The two originals wait tensely.

Zan looks at Tess, not understanding why this is a big deal. "Kyle’s dad is the sheriff in Roswell. He was really involved in the investigation into Max and Liz’s deaths," she explains quietly.

Zan feels his heart start to beat more quickly. He wonders at it. It is just a phone call. There is no way for this sheriff to know that Beth has been found. And, even if he does, no one here has committed a crime. He and Lonnie have suspected the truth, but they did not know. They have not kept Beth with them against her will.

The silence is tense. Kyle has not spoken since his original greeting. Zan watches his eyes widen as he listens. Finally, Kyle speaks, but all he says is, "Holy shit. She was right."

His father obviously asks, "Who was right," because after a pause Kyle says, "Liz. Dad, she’s alive, too."

"Too?" Michael demands. "Too?"

"Dad, Michael’s right here. Talk to him," Kyle says, when it seems that Michael might just rip the phone out of Kyle’s hands anyway.

"Sheriff, what’s going on?" Michael barks impatiently. Zan frowns, beginning to recognize Michael’s ferocity as the same defense Rath uses. Michael is frightened. Zan watches him tense even more as he listens. He then glances at Zan, and turns away, starting to speak in a low tone, urgently.

But Zan does not need to listen any longer. Kyle’s blue eyes are looking at him strangely, and Zan suspects that the other man is eager to tell him what is going on. That this phone call affects Zan, and Kyle is not trying to hide his satisfaction. Zan senses that Kyle is not a vengeful person, but that he does not like Zan, nor does he trust him. Zan can not blame him for any of it.

"What is it?" Zan asks patiently, ready for the bomb that he knows is about to drop.

"My dad got a phone call last night. It’s taken him a day to figure out what to do about it, but he finally decided tonight that he only has one choice, and he needs all of us in on it."

Zan does not speak, just continues to wait, knowing that Kyle is nowhere near finished.

"Liz was right. Max Evans is alive. And my father needs us to help him find him to convince him to come home."

"Why doesn’t he want to come home?" Ava asks, sounding scared. Zan does not look at her though. Instead, he closes his eyes, and continues to wait.

"Because he has spent the last five years being tortured by the Special Unit of the FBI," Kyle replies grimly. "But now he’s escaped, and he thinks if he comes home, then those bastards will come after us."

"Is he right?" Ava’s voice is trembling. Because, after all, this is their worst nightmare. Before he left, Langley’s most strident command was that they must stay away from the FBI at all costs. Because Langley knew exactly what the FBI would do to them, if they were caught. Langley had lived it.

"He’s right," Michael answers for Kyle. He has now finished talking to the sheriff, and has hung up. "But I don’t give a shit. My brother has been alone for five years. That ends - now."

Zan meets Michael’s eyes, and knows what the other man is thinking. And you are not going to do anything to keep him away from the only person he really needs.

"God, Michael! The sheriff was so sure he was dead!" Tess exclaims. Her expression is a mixture of joy and sorrow. "Five years with Pierce! If we’d known…" She trails off, tears spilling from her blue eyes. "Michael, we stopped looking!"

Zan watches as Kyle moves to comfort her, then closes his eyes again, wondering if the pain of it will ever stop, for any of them.

Because, in spite of Michael’s bravado, Zan understands his original’s fear. Now that he is aware of Max again, now that Beth is no longer blocking the bond that exists between them, Zan knows exactly what Max has survived. He also knows exactly how much Max is willing to give up to make sure that the people he loves never live through what he has.

He is willing to give up those he loves to save them. Zan senses that Max would even be willing to give up Beth, if he knew that she was alive. If Max knew that he would be putting her in danger, by allowing himself to be found, Zan knows that his original would manage to stay hidden forever.

Because, they are the same, and Zan knows that it is exactly what he would do.

And, to Zan’s eternal shame, for the first time since Beth’s nightmares returned, he feels hope.
Last edited by Kath7 on Fri Feb 04, 2005 11:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Kath7 » Thu Feb 19, 2004 2:31 am

Author's Note: Sorry for the tardiness! Busy, busy! I'm hoping to bang out a couple of parts tomorrow night though, because I'm busy this weekend, so I should be on time on Saturday.

Thanks to Gioia for betaing!

Part 10

The first meeting with Rath and Lonnie does not go well. Zan does not beat around the bush, informing them up-front that he has told Beth the truth. They are cold, and Zan is guilty - but not sorry - and Beth wonders why all of it feels so familiar. Since her memory loss, deja vu is not uncommon. But the scowl on Rath’s face as he storms out of the apartment, and the pinched expression Lonnie exhibits before retreating to her bedroom, are so unsurprising, she wonders if they have made appearances in her dreams of Zan. She does not remember Rath or Lonnie, but she does not recall clear details of all her dreams either, so it is possible that they have been there.

It is not that she does not understand their reaction. They have spent their entire lives hiding their secret, and, in one evening, by healing her, Zan has changed it all. They do not know that they can trust her. They do not know that after Zan told her the truth, all she felt was a rush of protectiveness toward him that she still can not explain. Because Zan seems like the last person on Earth who needs protecting. He is capable, and strong, and open, and she trusts him implicitly. Just as he has trusted her. She is not entirely certain why he has chosen to share himself with her, but she will not betray him. She will not betray any of them. Because, to her, the alien factor is a mere detail.

But, they do not know this. Not yet. She does not blame them for not understanding. She knows that, to anyone else, the truth about Zan would be frightening, would change the way they look at the universe. But, to her, it is truly no more strange than the fact that she once lived a life of which she has no recollection.

"Maybe I should go," Beth suggests. Ava is still curled up on the couch, and she is watching Zan anxiously, as though she wants to follow either Lonnie or Rath, but feels like she needs Zan’s permission first. She does not seem angry, but is resigned.

"No," Zan says firmly. "It will be all right. They’ll come around."

And, eventually, they do.

With Lonnie, it is sudden. One day she accompanies Zan to Beth’s apartment, and she is talkative and friendly. Beth glances at Zan in bemusement. He just rolls his eyes and grins.

Rath takes more time. He barely seems to notice Beth’s presence when he is in her company, as though ignoring her will make her disappear. But, slowly, she starts to notice small things. First, he turns up the radio when a song she likes comes on the air. Then she finds an empty notebook in her bag, after she has told Zan that she needs a new journal. She thanks first Zan, and then Ava, and then Lonnie, and they all deny surprising her. She does not mention it to Rath, but returns the favour by starting to leave CDs or books she thinks he will like on his bed. For most of the first year, their entire relationship is covert, unacknowledged, until he starts to speak to her as he speaks to the others, as though she has always been there.

Ava is accepting from the first. She is a cheerful girl, much different from the waif Beth first encountered in the bus station. Beth understands from the beginning that Ava does not consider Zan to be her brother, but she never seems to mind Beth’s place in his life. She truly seems content that he is happy.

And he
is happy. They both are. Things move quickly between them. Beth understands why. They have both been lonely. Beth does not know who she is, and Zan has not been able to let others see who he really is, until her. But she does not allow things to truly progress until his family accepts her. Because, even though she knows he will not let Lonnie, or Rath, or Ava stop them, she refuses to come between him and his family.

One night he reveals to Beth that, although he has Lonnie, and Rath, and Ava, he has always felt like he was waiting for someone else - that his life was not yet complete. She tells him that she understands, because she has been waiting for him, too. That her dreams have been preparing her for his arrival in her life. That, with him, for the first time since she lost her memory, she feels perfectly safe.

Later that same evening, they make love for the first time. She does not know if she has done this before, but whether or not she has, in every way that counts, she is untouched. She does not remember. She knows that he is not inexperienced, and she finds that she is nervous, but he is all that is gentle and loving.

After, at first, she feels close to him. But, as she lays with her head on his chest, her eyes closed, she feels tears well. She opens her eyes, and instinctively, runs her finger-tips down his bare arm.

A vision momentarily blinds her. It is of the two of them, and she is trailing her fingers down his bare chest, her heart pounding as a pathway of light burnishes where she has touched.

She blinks, then frowns. She wonders if the illusion is a dream she has forgotten. But, she senses that it is more than that. Something is wrong. Something that was supposed to exist between them is not there. She fears hurting him, but she knows that she is tensing, and, so, she shifts onto her side, pulling the sheet more tightly around her body.

He is stroking her hair lightly, but does not resist when she pulls away. She cannot look at him, does not want him to see her confusion, so she buries her face in her pillow. She cries herself silently to sleep.

When she awakens, she is still empty inside. She knows he is gone. Pulling on her robe, she shuffles to the window, feeling as though she has aged fifty years over night. She is surprised to find him sitting on the fire escape, smoking a cigarette, which he has never before done in her presence. For the first time since they’ve met again, she does not know what to say to him. He, as always, seems to understand, so he shoulders the burden.

"It was your first time," he says gently.

"I guess it was," she replies.

"It’s okay to be emotional."

She feels angry, instead of comforted. She knows that it is irrational, but she snaps, "Well, I’m glad you think it’s okay."

He gazes at her steadily, until she closes her eyes to evade his penetrating stare. For the first time, she does not like that it sometimes seems that he can see right through her. Because, this time, she is absolutely certain that he is seeing the wrong thing.

It is not the first time that she feels the wrongness of Zan. But it is the first time that she remembers it later.


***

She awakens to sunlight streaming in her face. Sitting up, Beth shades her eyes, gazing around the strange hotel room in confusion. Where is she? Where is Max?

The thought of Max brings everything rushing back. Because, already, the first thought of the morning has gone from "Where is Zan?" to "Where is Max?" She still does not remember him, but her heart has already made the change. She wonders if her poor, scarred mind is rejoicing at the release of the burden of hiding Max for so long.

She feels guilty. She knows it is wrong to love two people at the same time, particularly when she cannot even remember one of them, but she cannot fight what is. All she can do is accept and hope that, once Max is found, her heart will lead her to the right decision.

Finding Max is the first priority. She wonders why Isabel did not wake her after the dreamwalk, because Beth has clearly been allowed to sleep through the night. It is strange. She feels her heart start to pound. What if Max’s sister saw something in her mind that made her so angry, she could not bear to face Beth again?

Looking around, Beth takes in the state of the room. The bed beside her is rumpled. Frowning, she picks up the pillow and recognizes the scent of Maria’s perfume. She shakes her head in wonder that her best friend from "before" spent the night next to her, and she slept right through it. Isabel’s bed is still made, although the impression of the blonde woman’s body is visible.

Moments later, Beth is out in the sitting room area of Maria’s suite. They are all there, waiting, although they are trying to mask that this is what they are doing. Michael is watching the sports highlights; Maria, Alex, and Isabel are eating bagels and croissants at the table near the window; Tess is at the mirror near the door, braiding her hair; and Kyle is on the phone.

"Liz, you’re up!" Maria exclaims, after catching sight of her. She jumps to her feet, hurrying over and giving Beth a hug.

"What time is it?" Beth demands, pulling away.

"It’s ten," Maria replies.

"What! Why didn’t you wake me up?"

She watches Maria glance over her shoulder at Isabel. Max’s sister takes her cue. She is not looking at Beth. "The dreamwalk didn’t work, Liz. I tried to wake you, but you were totally gone. We decided to just let you sleep. You had a tough day yesterday."

Beth ignores the last part, stares at her. "What do you mean, ‘it didn’t work?’" she asks, her heart falling.

"Nothing happened," Isabel explains. "I saw you" She swallows visibly, keeping her eyes averted. "But I couldn’t find Max."

Beth wonders what Max’s sister saw that was so horrible, she cannot meet her eyes. "Tell me, please! What did you see?"

Isabel finally raises her gaze. "Liz, he is alive. But he’s completely shut himself off. I couldn’t get in, even through you, and with the connection that exists between you, I should have been able to." Her dark eyes are shining with tears. "He’s obviously been shutting us all out for years. I don’t know how he became so strong, but it’s why…it’s…" She drops her face into her hands. Alex moves to comfort her.

"It’s why we finally accepted that Max was dead," Michael finishes roughly. "Iz couldn’t find him on the dream plain anymore. But now we know that he just made sure we couldn’t."

"Why?" Beth demands. "Why would he do that?"

"To protect us," Michael replies simply.

"He knew we’d never stop looking if we thought there was even a chance that he was still alive," Tess explains quietly.

"Well, we have to keep trying," Beth insists. "Now that we know what he’s doing, there’s got to be some way around it." She bites her lip, thinking hard. "I know! I’ll ask Zan!"

She says it without thinking, and a stony silence falls over the group. She sighs. "Listen, I know you’re all not his biggest fans, but in some ways, he and Max are the same. He’s got to know what Max is doing, and he’s got to know a way through it."

"You’d really ask him to do that?" Tess asks, incredulous.

"He’ll help," Beth replies. "What’s between us…I can’t explain it. It’s all so complicated now. But he won’t take what’s going on between us out on Max. I know he won’t. He’s not like that."

"I don’t buy it," Michael tells her firmly. "That guy knew deep down who you were. We know for a fact that his sister definitely did…"

"What?" Beth interrupts. "What do you mean?"

Isabel, having mostly regained her composure, shoots Michael an exasperated look, and then says, "You just explained it to yourself, Liz, when you said that Zan and Max are the same. I told you last night what I did when Max first brought you into our secret."

Beth stares at her. "Lonnie?" She feels slightly ill, but she realizes that she cannot fault Lonnie for the betrayal. She did what she thought she had to do. And, in the end, wasn’t Beth proving Zan’s sister right? She was, in many ways, betraying Zan simply by being in this room.

"Lonnie," Isabel confirms. "She admitted it last night."

"What time did you get back?" Beth asks Michael, realizing that she does not know what happened between Zan, his siblings, and the Roswell group who accompanied them back to their apartment.

"Around one," Michael replies. "After Kyle got the phone call from his dad. That’s how we found out that Maxwell is definitely alive."

Beth stares at him, perplexed. "What do you mean?"

Kyle explains, "Max called my dad. Two days ago now."

"Why did he do that?" Beth asks, realizing that the relationships existing between these people are far more complicated than she ever imagined. She decides that it is time to find out exactly what they all meant to each other, because it doesn’t seem that it will interfere with finding Max any longer. He will not allow them to locate him on the dream plain anyway.

"It’s a long story," Kyle replies, sighing. "You better sit down."

Beth allows Maria to push her into the sofa nearby. The entire group looks at Alex, who does not seem surprised that they expect him to tell the story. He looks momentarily taken aback, but eventually begins readily enough. He pulls his chair forward, taking Beth’s hand in his own.

"Isabel told me that you and she had a conversation about connecting last night," Alex starts. His cheeks are turning slightly red. "She also told me that she explained to you how that comes about between a human and a Czech."

"A what?" Beth interjects, staring at him, completely bewildered by why he is talking about sex, when he should be telling her about the past. And, so, she addresses the most inane thing of all.

"Oh, Czech! It’s a joke now," Maria explains quickly. "But we still say it all the time without thinking. It was the code word you and I came up with a long time ago, so that we could talk about aliens in public."

Beth just nods her head, as though she understands. Now that she is about to find out exactly who she is, she wonders if she is truly ready. Glancing around the group, she realizes that they all know more about her than she does. She had relationships with them all. They shared jokes. They are not strangers exactly, have never felt that way to her, but in so many ways they are. Being told everything will not change that. She will be informed, but she will not remember any of it. It saddens her.

She wants to know. She needs to know.

"Okay," Beth says. She looks back at Alex. "You were talking about the connection? About how you have to be committed to a Czech," she glances at Maria, smiling slightly, "for it to happen?"

"Yeah." He grimaces. "The reason I’m mentioning it at all, Liz, is that you have to understand that things have always been different with you and Max. That’s not how you two first became connected…through that kind of commitment. I just thought I should clear that up before I got started."

The truth, when he tells it, is more difficult than she imagined. It is not surprising, it is not horrible, but it is not comforting either.

Because, with every word, the suspicion that she has betrayed her own soul for the last three years, becomes a certainty.

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