Where the Road Goes (CC / Adult) (COMPLETE)

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Deejonaise
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Where the Road Goes (CC / Adult) (COMPLETE)

Post by Deejonaise » Sun Apr 04, 2004 2:22 pm

Winner - Round 6

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Winner - Round 5

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Author: Girl With No Willpower aka Dee

Couples: M/L, M/M, I/D, K/D

Disclaimer: Sure, I own it. Yeah right. I'm also the Queen of Sheba. :roll: Roswell belongs to Katims and Metz. Whoo...hoo.

Rating: Adult

Summary: Read Walking the Road first. It won't make much sense otherwise, lol. Basically, the podsquaders face life in the public.



Chapter 1

His world was like a fantasy, feathered with soft, surreal edges.

Max looked out at the shimmering lights of little Antar and felt as if he were trapped inside a gossamer cocoon. Pretty, delicate but slowly smothering him. Not ten feet away from where he stood lay his love, nestled in their bed and dreaming of him. She was the epicenter of his world.

At twenty-two, Max Evans literally had the entire world at his fingertips. He had rubbed elbows with world leaders, sat at the President’s dinner table and traveled to countries he’d never even heard of. Top journalists all over the world had interviewed him. Even when Lauren Davis came out with her tell all book Max had remained unfazed. If anything her lurid details of his private discussions with her had only added to his mystique and had left the press clamoring for more. Simply stated, he and his people had ushered in a new era for humankind and the world couldn’t get enough of the changes. Yet, for all his accomplishments and popularity…Max wasn’t happy.

That wasn’t to say he was dissatisfied exactly because Max literally had everything he could have ever possibly wanted: money, power, and unconditional love. No longer did he have to hide in the shadows and shield his identity. His people were finally an accepted fixture in society and even revered in most places. People traveled from all over the country, all over the world even just to “see” little Antar and its strange little, green citizens. Max himself was loved and accepted and worshiped on at least three different continents and still…something was missing. He wasn’t happy.

“Max?”

Liz’s sleepy inquiry snapped Max to attention. He quickly buried his thoughts, as deep as he could, and exited the balcony. If Liz had even a hint of the misgivings he’d been harboring she’d start worrying and never stop. He didn’t want to burden her needlessly with a depression he didn’t fully understand himself.

When he entered their bedroom she was already rolling upright in bed and pushing her disheveled hair back from her eyes. “It’s 2 a.m.,” Liz observed with a yawn as he advanced towards her, “What are you doing up?”

“I couldn’t sleep,” he answered, creeping back beneath the covers to pull her against him, “I didn’t want my tossing and turning to drive you crazy.”

“Don’t apologize,” she murmured, kissing his bare chest, “You’re the one who’s going to be drooping tomorrow night. Max, you’ve got to get some sleep. If for no other reason than the fact your sister will kill you if you show up at her rehearsal dinner with dark circles under your eyes.”

“I’ll handle Isabel,” Max replied imperiously.

Liz tweaked Max’s nipple playfully, startling a high-pitched squeak from him. “Spoken like a true king.”

He tipped his chin down to peer at her quizzically. “You think I’m full of myself, is that it, Ms. Parker?”

“I suppose it’s hard not to be when you live in a sixty-seven room castle made of marble and gold complete with an entire army of servants and you’ve got thousands of admirers falling at your feet,” Liz laughed, “I’d probably be a little full of myself, too.” She dragged her fingers down his chest, smiling to herself when he shuddered beneath her touch. “So why can’t you sleep?”

“I’m obsessing,” he said.

“About?”

“Everything,” he replied vaguely, “Honestly, Isabel’s wedding has got me completely stressed. Why does she have to do things so extravagantly?”

“She’s Isabel,” Liz said as if that were answer enough.

“Did you know that my father is actually insisting on helping me pay for the ceremony?” Max whispered incredulously. He laughed at that irony. “Hah! He wants to help me pay, Liz. He doesn’t have a friggin clue.”

Liz wisely bit back her answering smirk. “What’s the figure now?”

“3.5 million dollars and counting,” Max informed her flatly, “I swear if she changes the catering menu just one more time I’m serving all 1200 of her guests peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! So help me!”

“Stop it,” Liz soothed, calming his agitation before it could flare fully, “She’s your sister. Her wedding is in two days. Of course, she’s overexcited. But look at it this way…she’s a princess and she’s marrying into a wealthy family on top of that. Did you really expect her to do it small?”

“I guess not,” he mumbled in concession.

“Then don’t sweat it,” she advised, “If Isabel wants to spend you out of house and home then let her do it, Max. Your pockets are deep enough. Besides, I’ve seen the way she looks at David. I haven’t seen her this happy since…since Alex was alive. He’s the one for her, Max, just like you’re the one for me. And,” she added expansively, “at least you won’t have to worry about it for too much longer because Isabel and David will be married by the end of the week. And then they’re flying off to Greece for a nice, long honeymoon. See? There is a bright side, sweetheart.”

Max favored her with a wry smile. “Liz, is this your attempt at a subtle hint as to what I should expect when we decide to plan our wedding?” he queried lightly.

Liz snorted. “Um…excuse me? Who said I was going to marry you? I just want you as my boy on the side.”

“Oh you do, do you?” Max growled, flipping her over onto her back so that she was in perfect tickle position, “I believe you’ve offended the king. Now you have to pay.” And she did. He tickled her mercilessly, until tears of mirth were leaking from the corners of her eyes and she could do little more than squeak for breath. Seeing her so happy, hearing her laughter went a long way in lifting Max’s spirits and by the time they rolled away from one another in breathless joy he was grinning from ear to ear.

“I love you,” he sighed, dropping a kiss to the tip of her nose. His laughter gradually died away as he stared into her limpid brown eyes. “Sometimes I wish it was just the two of us, Liz. Nobody else.” He longed for the simpler days, when life had been uncomplicated. Back when he would adore her from afar for days on end. Where had that time gone?

“Don’t you think you’d get lonely?” she whispered teasingly.

He reached forward to brush her hair back from her face, letting his fingers slide down the graceful curve of her neck. “I could never be lonely with you.” She whispered his name, closing her eyes to savor the feel of his touch skating over her skin. “Make love to me, Liz,” he implored gently, rolling over onto his back and taking her with him, “I need to feel you around me.”

“Oh my lord,” she whispered in mock deference as she positioned herself over the tip of his rising erection, “Your wish is my command.”

******

Jim Valenti swung open his front door to admit his son and Diadne, his face wreathed in a welcoming smile. However, that smile collapsed a few seconds later when Kyle said, “We’re not alone. Mom’s parking the car right now.”

He froze in his act of shutting the door. “M…Mom?” Jim stammered in disappointment, “You didn’t bring her, did you?”

Kyle ducked his head against the crestfallen look his father was giving him. “I couldn’t just leave her alone in the apartment, now could I?”

Jim fixed Diadne with a disgruntled look. “You let him do this?”

Diadne had changed a great deal in the two years Jim had known her. Once again she had transformed herself, taking on the body of a twenty-something year old to be more compatible with her Antarian age. She had maintained her bright red hair as well as a smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose. Smiling over Jim’s censorious question, Diadne lifted her slim shoulders in an unaffected shrug. “You know Kyle,” she sighed wearily, tucking one riotous red curl behind her ear, “He does what he wants.”

Kyle tossed his girlfriend a wry grin. “Yeah, Pip, like I’m the only stubborn one in this relationship. Not.”

Under different circumstances Jim might have smiled over their light bantering but his stomach was churning so with the prospect of seeing Deborah that he could do little more than relieve them of their jackets.

Deborah Valenti had been back in his life for all of three days and already she had thrown it into complete chaos. Amy had been riding his ass on a daily basis ever since about what he planned to do about his ex-wife. What was he supposed to do, Jim wondered. Deborah was a grown woman. He couldn’t dictate her comings and goings. Though he wanted her gone just as badly as everyone else Jim didn’t see what he could do to rectify the situation and he wasn’t entirely sure it was his place to try.

He couldn’t ignore Kyle’s unmitigated joy over his mother’s return. Admittedly, Kyle had been happy enough before Deborah’s return. He and Diadne were growing closer and taking the tentative steps to move their relationship beyond the realm of friendship. In the meantime, Kyle had enrolled in the police academy and had graduated at the top of his class. Now he served under Jim as one hell of a deputy, the best in his department and that wasn’t simply nepotism speaking either. Kyle’s otherworldly powers only helped to make him a more effective cop. Jim could barely contain his swelling pride.

But Deborah was another matter altogether. Her resurfacing into Kyle’s life was just a tad too convenient for Jim’s taste. After all, their family had just gone through the same exact thing when Maria’s dad decided to jump back into the picture. Fortunately, Maria had shut Ray DeLuca down from the very start and the man had slinked back off from whence he came. But Kyle, on the other hand, his usually levelheaded son… He couldn’t open his arms to his mother wide enough.

While Jim didn’t want to be the voice of scorn and derision in this mother-son reunion he also didn’t think that Kyle opening himself up to his mother so quickly was the most prudent move either. Kyle seemed so ready to forgive her, not just for walking out but also acting as if he hadn’t existed after all these years. His eagerness to accept her seemed to preclude any real contemplation of his mother’s motives and that was what had Jim worried.

Jim had learned, via conversation with Deborah, that Kyle had actually gone to visit her once but she had turned him away. Her excuse was that she’d been high and half drunk when he came to see her but Jim wasn’t certain that was the entire truth. Her complete and sudden personality upheaval made Jim wonder if her transformation had more to do with Kyle’s newly acquired fame than her desire to form an actual relationship with him.

“This is going to be awkward,” he told Kyle as Diadne walked over to join Maria and Amy in setting the dinner table, “Tonight was supposed to be a family dinner party, remember?”

“Well, Mom’s family, isn’t she?” Kyle argued stubbornly.

Jim checked the impulse to shake him and instead dragged a hand down the length of his face. “Kyle, you know what I’m saying,” he insisted in a low tone, “This is going to be pretty awkward, especially for Amy. I just wish you had called and asked us first.”

“I…I couldn’t,” Kyle protested, “She caught Diadne and me on our way out. I didn’t know what to say, Dad.”

“Okay. Okay,” Jim hushed him, “I understand why you did it. But you might want to go explain that to Amy first. I’ll hold your mom off in the meantime.”

His father might have been sending him to the guillotine for all the trepidation Kyle felt at that second. As Jim disappeared out the front door, Kyle watched Amy bustle back and forth between the kitchen and dining room with an audible gulp. When his father shut the door behind him, however, her head snapped up.

“Where did Jim go?” she asked.

Having been apprised of the situation by Diadne, Michael and Maria realized this was the time to make themselves scarce. “Um…I’m gonna go check on the steaks,” Michael volunteered, already shuffling off for the patio deck.

“And I’m going to help him,” Maria piped brightly, following behind.

“And I’m going to…watch her help him,” Diadne added, scurrying off behind Maria.

Kyle stared after them with an irritated scowl. “Cowards.”

Amy narrowed her eyes, dusting her hands off on her apron before drawing herself up straight to regard her stepson. “What’s going on, Kyle?” she queried with deceptive calm. She well knew that Michael, Maria and Diadne would not have cleared out of there so fast if it weren’t something bad. “Well?” she prodded again when he said nothing.

“I brought my mom,” he blurted.

“What?”

“I brought my mom,” he said again, more deliberately this time, “She was alone and…I felt bad leaving her. So I invited her here.”

Amy nibbled at her bottom lip, clearly upset by the revelation. “I see,” she said quietly.

“If it’s weird for you Diadne and I can take her out to dinner someplace,” Kyle offered, “I don’t want to put you out, Amy.”

“No, don’t do that,” she protested wearily, “This was meant to be a family dinner, Kyle. You’re family. I don’t want you to feel like you have to leave.”

“I know you have issues with my mom, Amy,” he said, “It’s cool.”

“You’re right,” she agreed, “I have issues but they’re my issues.” She paused and emitted a heavy sigh. “I want you to stay.”

Kyle crossed the living room to enfold her in an awkward hug. “Thanks, Amy,” he whispered sincerely, “This means a lot to me.” She managed a jerky nod in response. “Well, I’d better go and get Dad,” he said, stepping back with a lopsided grin, “Let him know the coast is clear.”

Amy maintained her answering smile long enough for Kyle to disappear through the front door and then she uttered a string of embittered curses.
Last edited by Deejonaise on Mon May 03, 2004 11:59 pm, edited 31 times in total.

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Post by Deejonaise » Tue Apr 06, 2004 9:21 am

So everybody's wondering why Max and Liz aren't married yet...patience grasshoppers. The answers will come. :D



Chapter 2

“How the hell do you put this thing on?” Michael demanded in frustration, struggling with his tie. He glared at the scrap of shimmering material as if he meant to do battle with it.

Maria rolled her eyes and pushed from their bed with a massive grunt of annoyance, one hand curved around her rounded girth and the other planted squarely in the small of her back. “What are you, a two year old? This isn’t rocket science, Michael,” she grouched, snatching the neckpiece from his fingers. She swiveled him around and, in three seconds flat, had the tie neatly fastened under his chin in a firm, crisp knot. “Yeah, that was so hard,” she muttered caustically. As she waddled back towards the bed Michael made the sign of the cross at her back.

“If you want to be able to use those arms, Guerin, you’d better stop,” Maria warned.

Michael didn’t even want to contemplate when she’d developed eyes in the back of her head. “You’re certainly a bowl of sunshine today,” he remarked as he regarded his reflection in the mirror, smoothing a hand down the length of his tie.

Maria leveled him with an evil look, easily detecting the sarcasm in his tone. “There’s not a part on my body that’s not hideously swollen and aching to all be damned, Guerin, and it’s all your fault,” she grated moodily, “Don’t get on my bad side.” She flopped back into the mattress; seemingly unmindful of her newly styled hair. “Why did Isabel have to choose that awful gray color for her bridesmaids dresses?” she bemoaned, “I’ll look like a beached whale tomorrow. You won’t know whether to escort me down the aisle or harpoon me.”

“First of all, the color’s not gray,” Michael corrected succinctly, shrugged into his suit jacket, “It’s silver. Isabel’s wedding colors are silver, white and gold. I’ve had her drum it into my head enough times to know.”

She lifted her head to shoot him another look. “Oh well excuse me,” she snapped irritably, “It’s silver then. I’ll look like a silver beached whale. Fat, but really snazzy.”

With a disgruntled sigh, Michael dropped down beside her on the bed and fixed her with a curious stare. “Hey, what’s eating you?” he asked, “You’ve been in a mood all week.”

Maria pointed to her swollen abdomen. “Need I say more? I’m ready to have this kid already!” Because of Michael’s otherworldly status Maria didn’t have to contend with the usual forty-week gestation characteristic for human women. Her gestation was closer to 25 weeks yet even with that near four-month difference she still felt hot and confined and uncomfortable. Even knowing she was in her 22nd week and so very close to delivery didn’t help matters. She was ready to go nuts.

Michael stroked her knee, refusing to be offended by her curt tone. “You will not look like a beached whale tomorrow,” he sighed. Maria rolled a look up at him, her green eyes suddenly shimmering with tears. He stretched out beside her carefully, stroking his fingers over the ridge of her distended belly. “Next to the bride you’ll be the most stunning thing in the place.”

“You’re just saying that,” she hiccupped, “I’m fat and shiny!”

“You’re not fat and shiny. You’re pregnant and you’re glowing and you’re beautiful this way,” he whispered in throbbing insistence, “More beautiful than I’ve ever seen you, Maria. Every time I look at you…it takes my breath away.”

She dissolved into hiccupping tears with his tender avowal. “How can you be so nice to me when I’m being such a bitch?” she wailed.

“Practice,” he replied concisely, “Now tell me what has you in such a mood.”

“My mother,” she whispered.

Michael slowly pushed up onto his elbow. “What about Amy?”

Maria followed suit, shifting onto her side and dabbing her nose and watering eyes with the tissue Michael pressed into her hand. “She’s totally freaking out about this Deborah Valenti situation,” she sniffled, “She wants me to talk to Kyle and get him to rethink this whole relationship thing with his mom.”

Her husband frowned with the revelation, his displeasure evident. “What did you say?”

“I told her I’d…talk to him,” she revealed meekly.

“Maria, no! You can’t do that. I mean…I get where your mom’s coming from but,” Michael uttered sharply, “that’s not your place!”

“Don’t you think I know that?” she cried, “But she’s so upset…she’s so threatened by this woman’s return, you know. You were there last night. Anyone with eyes can see that there are still a lot of latent feelings between Deborah and Jim! And my mom sat through it all with a smile plastered on her face, but I knew that her heart was breaking!”

Michael could hardly deny the charge. The tension at last night’s dinner party had been incredibly fierce. Even a blind man could have discerned that there was unfinished business between Jim Valenti and his ex-wife. There had been surreptitious looks between them all night, looks that Amy must have been aware of. Barely any conversation had ensued at the dinner table. There had only been the sound of clinking silverware and an occasional “pass the corn” to break the monotony. Michael had ushered Maria out of there almost the second it was over. Getting a root canal would have been preferable.

“I get that you’re concerned about your mom,” he said, “But it’s none of your business. If Amy has a problem with Deborah being back in town she needs to settle that with Jim herself, not drag you into the middle.”

“She’s not dragging me into anything,” Maria protested weakly.

“Don’t give me that,” Michael insisted, “I know for a fact that your mother was the one who pushed you into giving your dad the cold shoulder, Maria. You didn’t ask him to leave because you wanted to.” Her eyes clouding over with unconcealed guilt, Maria rolled heavily from the bed and made a production of searching for her shoes. Michael sat up as well, watching her movements through speculative eyes. “Don’t you have any response to that?” he asked finally.

“What should I say?” she brazened as she sat down to snatch on one high-heeled shoe, “You’re totally wrong about that. My mom didn’t push me into anything! My dad walked out on me when I was seven years old! Why do you think I would want anything to do with him, Michael?”

“I’ve walked out on you more times than that,” Michael pointed out quietly, “And you’ve taken me back. Hell, you married me!”

Maria avoided eye contact with him by feigning concentration in buckling the strap on her shoe. “That’s different,” she argued shortly, “I love you.”

“And you loved him, too.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Maria denied faintly.

“Of course I do,” Michael pressed on with gentle caution, “I’m your husband and I know you better than anyone, Maria. That’s why you’ve been in such a mood this last week. Deborah Valenti coming back to town just brought back all the resentment you’ve been repressing this last year. Now you’re regretting sending your dad away. You’ve probably been regretting it for a long time.”

His assumption was so dead on that she had no defense whatsoever. Maria’s weeping began anew, soft and contained this time. “She…she said he would hurt me if I let him close again,” she recounted with a sob, “She said I couldn’t trust him, you know?” Maria speared Michael with wet, pleading eyes. “I was just trying to protect myself, Michael. I didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment. That’s why I sent him away…but I didn’t want to…not really…”

Michael came to kneel before her, gathering her hands into his. “Is that how you feel now, too?” he asked her gently.

“I’m having his grandchild,” Maria considered thickly, “I want him to know her. I want him to be in our lives.” She licked at the salty tears gathering in the grooves of her mouth. “Michael, seeing Kyle with his mom just made me realize how badly I do want that. I want that more than anything.”

“Then let me find him for you,” Michael suggested on the spur, “I can get my crew together and we’ll track him down. I can leave right after the wedding. I’ll find him…three days tops.” For the last year Michael had served as the country’s foremost bounty hunter. Criminals all over the United States knew that if they ran, if they hid, no matter where they went…Michael Guerin would find them.

His offer was an incredible gift and, consequently, left Maria torn between hesitation and joy. Finally, after a visible internal struggle she shook her head. “I can’t let you do that,” she choked in refusal, “I have to think of my mom. If he came back to town she would literally freak out. I can’t do that to her.”

“This isn’t about your mother, Maria,” Michael replied softly, “It’s about you and your relationship with your dad. Amy has nothing to do with that.”

He wasn’t telling her anything she hadn’t already told herself a hundred times over. Over a year had gone by since her father had dropped so abruptly into her life and not a day had passed without Maria asking herself, “what if?” When she’d made the decision to send him away she had done so more for her mother’s sake than for her own. Maria could admit that now and, apparently, Michael had always known it. But he’d never said a word. Instead he had lovingly let Maria figure out her feelings on her own and she was grateful for his patient understanding. Now that she had finally sorted her feelings, he was offering to rectify the situation, to serve as her very own knight in shining armor. Maria didn’t want to refuse him.

“Okay,” she whispered at long last, jerking her head in agreement, “Find him for me.”

******

“Can we talk a minute?”

Liz jerked upright with a start with Isabel’s timid query, inadvertently tipping over the saltshaker she’d been filling. As a favor to her Mom and Dad, Liz had dropped by the Crashdown to help them close up early so that they could attend Isabel’s rehearsal dinner. Liz was also well aware of all the details that dinner entailed, which was the reason she was so surprised to see Isabel standing there. She was certain Isabel would be up to her elbows in plans right now. And because she wasn’t, Liz’s heart began to hammer with a slow dread, fearing that something terrible had happened.

“Don’t panic. No one’s hurt,” Isabel reassured her, glimpsing the look in Liz’s eyes, “I just needed to see you alone before everyone met tonight.”

“Why? Is something wrong with the bridesmaid dresses?” Liz had picked them up from the dress shop earlier that afternoon and they had looked fine to her. Of course, she had only given them a cursory glance and, knowing Isabel’s predilection for perfection, it was possible her sharply trained eye had caught a flaw. Liz groaned inwardly at the prospect.

“It’s not the dresses either,” Isabel reassured her, “They’re perfect, Liz.” She inhaled a massive sigh and braced her hands against the counter, as if she were preparing for something exceptionally difficult. “I need to talk to you about David,” she confessed expansively.

A mild series of prickles ran down Liz’s spine, but she schooled her features to remain neutral. “What about David?”

Isabel hung her head for a moment and Liz had the dubious suspicion that the Ice Princess was actually trying to gather together her nerve. Isabel’s features were trained completely of color and she was visibly shaking. Liz felt her heart quicken with alarm once more.

“I’ve just spent the last hour at Alex’s grave asking for his blessing to marry David tomorrow,” Isabel whispered thickly, “And then it hit me that…I’ve never asked for yours.”

Liz was dumbfounded. If Isabel had suddenly started doing the “funky chicken” she couldn’t have been more stunned. In that second, Liz didn’t know whether she should laugh or nod her head in agreement. Honestly, she had never lost any sleep over the fact, but she had to admit that it had bothered her…just a little. Of course, she had never let it become a big deal and, after learning that David and Isabel were truly committed to their new relationship, Liz had let her resentment go. However, the awkwardness remained. She and David managed to get along great all things considered but Liz always felt uneasy around Isabel. As for Max, he had a difficult time around David and vice versa. Both Isabel and Liz had given up any hope that the two men would ever become great friends. At least, they respected each other.

Isabel knew something altogether different, however. She was privy to the most secret part of Liz’s psyche and she knew that Liz had not “let go” of her resentment. It was there, buried deep with her mad desire for a child, just bubbling beneath the surface. But Liz wasn’t jealous, Isabel realized, she was hurt. She was hurt because Isabel had never seen fit to ask for her blessing before pursuing a relationship with David. Isabel had known that truth for a while now.

Sometimes her gift for reading people could be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it had served her well in her recent, part-time profession as a criminal consultant. When she wasn’t studying for mid-terms or writing fifteen page papers Isabel was flying all over the country, profiling murderers and leading police to where their victims were buried. With Isabel’s help authorities were able to determine a suspect’s guilt long before he went to trial. Of course, trial by jury still existed but Isabel’s findings were frequently entered into evidence. Consequently, she spent much of her free time on the road, testifying in some very high profile murder cases. Prosecutors and defense lawyers were still battling through the courts over the admissibility of Isabel's findings as evidence, but she was in demand nonetheless.

But as gratifying as she found her job Isabel’s gift also served as a bane as well. She knew things about her friends and family that she should not, things she wished she didn’t know. She was aware of Max’s depression and massive guilt over William Pierce’s suicide. She knew about his nightmares, which had resulted in chronic insomnia.

Isabel also knew about Maria’s secret yearning for her father as well as her deep seeded worry that her baby would be a freak. They were unspoken, unrealized desires and fears that Isabel sensed, things a person would never tell another living soul. And she knew the secrets…knew them all.

According to Diadne, Isabel’s ability was unlike any other Antarians because it was deeper and stronger. Without really trying Isabel could know a person’s motivations and fears and all within a few seconds of meeting them. Isabel found the knowledge extremely disconcerting.

Which was the very reason she’d waited so long to confront Liz about her feelings. Even Liz wasn’t aware of how she felt! Isabel didn’t feel right broaching the subject knowing Liz hadn’t yet worked through the problem on her own. But now she could no longer put it off. She and David were getting married tomorrow and Isabel wanted the start of their life together to be as smooth as possible. That meant settling all the old resentments that continued to fester between her and Liz.

Presently, Liz laughed off Isabel’s comment as if it were a trifling consideration. “Isabel, please,” she said, “David and I were never seriously involved with each other. You never had any reason to ask for my blessing.”

“You were going to have his baby,” Isabel reminded her softly, “He asked you to marry him, Liz.”

“Out of duty,” Liz returned, “He wanted to do the right thing. That’s all.” She and David had already discussed that subject at length. It had been months before he was able to admit that his proposal had more to do with responsibility and less to do with actual love. He had barely known Liz back then and, while he had been intrigued, enthralled and even infatuated with her, he hadn’t been in love with her. “Isabel, you really don’t have to concern yourself with this.”

“But I do,” Isabel insisted, “Even if you and David weren’t serious I could have, at least, given you the courtesy of warning you about our relationship before hand.”

“That was a wild time,” Liz replied in understanding, “There really hadn’t been any opportunity to sit down and have a heart to heart. And afterwards…well, it was a moot point by then.”

“I didn’t want you to think I was disregarding you.”

“I didn’t think that,” Liz protested, but when Isabel leveled her with a penetrating look of disbelief she amended meekly, “Well…maybe a little. But you know it’s all behind us now. I can see how much you love David and how much he loves you. You’re beautiful together, Isabel.”

Isabel smiled at that. “We are, aren’t we?” She sobered then, all traces of laughter fading from her features. “Thank you, Liz.”

“For what?”

“For dumping him flat on his ass,” Isabel blurted in a teary chuckle, “Next to Alex…he’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“Then everything worked out the way it should have, right?” Liz whispered emotionally.

“Yeah,” Isabel agreed with a vigorous nod. And then she surprised them both by rounding the counter and enveloping Liz in a tight, unprecedented hug. “I think you’re the best non sister-in-law I’ve ever had, Liz,” she told Liz thickly.

“That’s not so hard,” Liz joked, “My only competition was a stalking psychopath. Of course I’d win hands down.”

“No, I’m serious,” Isabel insisted and leaned back so that she could meet Liz’s eyes with her own earnest stare, “When Max healed you that day in the Crashdown he didn’t just save your life, Liz…he saved us all.”
Last edited by Deejonaise on Tue Apr 06, 2004 10:12 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Deejonaise » Wed Apr 07, 2004 8:35 am

Chapter 3

“You realize that this might turn out to be an extremely bad idea,” David remarked to his fiancée as he watched their perspective families gather together in the front of the restaurant.

Isabel smiled over his worry and reached forward to straighten and smooth his tie. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re a worrier?” she teased.

“Little wonder,” he grumbled, leaning forward for a kiss, “I’m marrying a half-human, half-alien princess. Paranoia is a given.” He walked her back into a darkened corner, far away from the prying eyes of their family and deepened his kiss, angling his mouth across hers hungrily. “I’ve missed you so much,” he murmured thickly. They had been separated for a mere two days while he flew to Vermont to pick up his parents before hopping the next plane to Roswell, but it had felt like forever.

Isabel giggled a bit under his amorous assault. “I can tell,” she laughed, kissing him one last time before giving him a definitive shove backwards, “Down boy. Our mothers are standing less than six feet away. The last thing we need is to create another wave of drama the night before our wedding.”

Though she was teasing him Isabel’s declaration was no laughing matter. Their courtship hadn’t been an easy one. In the beginning there had been the near unending scrutiny from Isabel’s family and friends. It had taken David months before he finally convinced them that he was with Isabel for all the right reasons. Even then her parents continued to withhold their judgment, having received an earful from the Parkers on their daughter’s latest boyfriend. David was certain the Evanses had spent much of their time worrying that he would impregnate their precious daughter.

However, David had learned a valuable lesson about sex and responsibility from his fling with Liz Parker. He and Isabel were always careful. David made the issue paramount between them. No longer did he treat sex as a mere pleasant diversion but something sacred and valued and fraught with responsibility. Isabel had changed his outlook completely. Relationships weren’t about winning and pursuit, but a deep respect and commitment and that was exactly what David had for Isabel. Of course, he realized it would take some time before he managed to convince her parents of that.

And then they had his parents to contend with as well. Susan McKee hadn’t made being together any easier. By the time David was able to finally take Isabel home to meet his parents her face had already been splashed all across the television. His parents were more than aware of who and what she was…and they hadn’t been thrilled. David supposed it would be difficult for any parent to learn their child was dating an alien. His mother had reacted in typical fashion. She’d threatened to disown him.

Though the development wasn’t a surprising one the very fact that it came hot on the heels of his scandalous foray into fatherhood made David more inclined to take his mother seriously. Susan McKee had ranted and raved and, when that served no purpose, she had cajoled and cried. But David remained firm, even under threat of having his trust fund yanked.

The drama had escalated with each passing month but, fortunately for David, his girlfriend was a natural born charmer and eventually she had managed to thaw the icy wall his mother had built up around herself. He suspected much of the reason Susan McKee had warmed to Isabel was because she saw traces of herself in the younger girl. Apart from her alien status, Isabel Evans was everything Susan McKee could want in a daughter-in-law. And her position as an intergalactic princess didn’t hurt matters either.

“So how many people do we have coming to this dinner anyway?” David wondered, sneaking a peek around the corner, “Looks like an army.”

“Well, let’s see…” Isabel considered laughingly, “There’s my parents, your parents, the Parkers, the Valentis, Max and Liz, Michael and Maria, Kyle and Diadne, Kadon, Razba and of course your army of cousins, friends and acquaintances. We had to call a month ahead for a reservation, David, why do you think that was?”

David appeared pained over the prospect. “Is it too late to run?”

“Now, David, you know me better than that,” Isabel chided, “I do not back out of planned affairs, sweetheart.” She paused to smile at him, momentarily melting into his twinkling gaze. “Though the offer is tempting.” Serene smile in place, Isabel looped her arm through David’s and began leading him out from their hiding place. “It will be fine,” she whispered when she noted his faltering step, “Just stick with me.”

“So you’ll stay by my side?”

“Like glue,” she promised.

He snorted at that. His social butterfly couldn’t stay in one place even if she was nailed down. Isabel Evans was born to mingle. As they strode out into the throng of their relatives her first opportunity to do so came striding their way, in the form of her brother. Max met them halfway, his face wreathed in a genuine smile. “Mom’s looking for you,” he told his sister, “Apparently, all the women folk are gathering to take pictures. They need the bride.”

“Goody, pictures,” Isabel said with a mock tremor of joy, “She’ll have us tied up for the next hour.” She bestowed a light kiss to her fiancé’s lips, unmindful of her brother’s uneasy reaction. “Will you excuse me?”

David snagged hold of her wrist as she started to walk away. “What happened to sticking to me like glue?” he teased, his eyes dancing with mischief.

“Duty calls,” she quipped with a smile and then, with one final wink, she disappeared into the crowd.

“If you hurt her,” Max warned softly once Isabel was safely out of earshot, “I’ll kill you and make sure they never find your body.” He stabbed David with a threatening look. “I’m an alien with serious political connections, remember. I can make it happen.”

Slowly, David’s contented smile faded from his lips and he tore his gaze from Isabel’s wake to flick Max with a tired look. “There’s no need for threats, okay,” he replied dryly, “The last thing I want to do is hurt Isabel. She’s everything to me.”

“You sound like you actually mean that,” Max murmured in approval.

“I don’t know what it’s going to take to make you believe it,” David remarked, shoving his hands deep into his pockets. He emitted a small cluck of laughter. “I don’t think I’ve ever had to work so hard to win over a family before.”

“Well…Isabel’s pretty precious to us,” Max said by way of explanation.

“She’s pretty precious to me, too,” David countered softly.

There was something about the way he said it that made Max believe him completely. He nodded thoughtfully in response, staring off to where his mother was giddily snapping off pictures of Isabel, Liz, Maria and Diadne. He smiled at the scene; feeling for one brief instant like his life was normal. He was just a guy, sharing stilted conversation with his future brother-in-law.

“You’re alright, McKee,” Max muttered in contented observance, “Definitely alright.”

“McKee?” David queried, “Since we’re going to be brothers-in-law in another twenty-eight hours don’t you think you should start calling me David?”

“I guess I can do that,” Max conceded, “David.”

“So Max,” David drawled after an amiable moment of silence, “Since you’ve taken the time to defend Isabel’s virtue and all, I think it’s time I returned the favor.”

Max cut him with a sharp look. “Meaning?”

“Well, I’m just saying I don’t remember getting an invite to the King’s nuptials, if you take my meaning,” David ribbed pointedly, “So I gotta ask…when are you going to ask Liz to marry you?”

Max colored at the question. Though it hadn’t been completely unexpected he’d still be caught off guard by David’s forthrightness. He had been asked the same question hundreds of times before this moment and by all of his family and friends and now, apparently, his future brother-in-law had decided to jump on the bandwagon as well.

“I’m going to marry Liz,” Max told him, “Of course I’m going to marry her but…we haven’t exactly had the time to discuss it, you know?”

“Two years isn’t enough time for you?” David wondered incredulously.

“I’ve got my reasons for waiting, okay,” Max told him, “But I’m not just leading her on if that’s what you’re thinking. I’d never do that. I love Liz more than air. She’s my life.”

“Then make her your wife,” David advised flatly.

Rather than being offended by David’s unspoken admonishment, Max felt his respect for the man burgeon when he recognized how fiercely David was championing Liz. Despite their numerous differences, he and David had mutual interests at heart. They cared about the same women and wanted the best for them both.

Max bit back his answering smile and said, “Duly noted.”

His future brother-in-law smirked with pleasure at that and gave him a friendly clap on the back. “Let me buy you a drink, Max,” David offered, “Nothing hard, okay. I know what alcohol does to your system. But I could buy you a soda. Think of it as a peace offering.”

“Sure…why not,” Max agreed after some thought, “They probably won’t be ready for us for a while yet anyway.”

The silence between them wasn’t nearly as awkward as usual when they slid into their respective barstools. David rapped the counter once to catch the bartender’s attention. “A cherry Coke for my friend here,” he ordered smoothly, “And a Jack and Coke for me. Make it a double.”

“You’re drinking?” Max asked with some surprise.

David hitched a glance over his shoulder at the dense crowd of relatives behind them. “Don’t you think I’m gonna need it?” he countered wryly as the bartender delivered their drinks, “It’s blue blood meets green out there. I seriously doubt it will be pretty.” He took a gulp of his drink, noting with some amusement the queasy expression that passed over Max’s features as he stared at his beverage. “You’re thinking you’ll need something stronger than Cherry Coke, eh, Max?” David wondered mildly.

Max shook his head after brief consideration. “Isabel would kill me.”

David just laughed and took another hit of his drink. “I knew there had to be a down side to that alien thing.”

“So what are we drinking?” Michael demanded, suddenly appearing from nowhere to poke his head through the space between Max and David’s barstools, “And can I please have a glass?”

“You sound harassed, Michael,” Max remarked with a smirk, “What’s up?”

“Maria,” Michael clarified, “She’s walking, talking evil. I love her but lately I need a string of garlic around my neck just to hold a conversation with her.”

“Pregnancy hormones?” Max queried, swallowing his laughter.

“Pregnancy hormones,” Michael confirmed direly. He clapped both David and Max on their shoulders and gave each man a penetrating stare, as if he were about to impart some great and elusive piece of wisdom. “Don’t ever, ever, ever get your women pregnant!” he advised grimly, “Barkeep, get me a beer! Coors if you have it.”

“You sure you should be doing that?” Max cautioned.

“I’ve built a tolerance, okay,” Michael returned blandly, “Don’t hate, pansy boy.” When the bartender delivered his beer he said, “Keep ‘em coming.”

“I’ll second that but make mine a Bud,” Kyle chimed in, sliding into the empty seat beside Max, “After the week I’ve had I deserve a cold one.” He flicked a greeting look at Max. “Hey, Max.” He leaned over to get a closer look at the groom. “Congrats, David. So are you getting nervous yet?”

David tossed back the remainder of his Jack and Coke. “So much I can’t see straight,” he revealed honestly.

Michael leaned against the bar and, after taking a long draught from his beer, he belched and said, “Well, married life ain’t all it’s cracked up to be,” he warned David sternly, “Piece of advice…just let her be right in all things and it will go well with you.”

“Michael, quit it,” Max chided, watching as uncertainty flickered across David’s features, “You’re scaring him and if he takes it into his head to leave my sister at the altar I’ll have no choice but to hunt him down and kill him.”

“I’m not saying it’s hell,” Michael amended in a grumble, taking another swing of his beer, “Well, not all the time anyway,” he finished in a mutter.

“Don’t listen to him,” Kyle grunted dismissively, “Maria makes him happier than he’s ever been and everybody knows it. He’s just trying to shine you on.”

“It’s working,” David grumbled.

Kyle nudged him. “Don’t sweat it. Isabel’s a wonderful girl. You’re lucky to have her.”

“Yeah, you’re lucky,” Michael chimed in crisply, “Remember that.”

It was impossible to miss the warning looks David received from each of his companions so he gulped and nodded his agreement. “Duly noted.”

“Good man,” Kyle commended.

David started to order himself another drink, thinking that the one double wouldn’t be nearly enough to soothe his frazzled nerves when Isabel’s disapproving words sounded behind his back. “What do you four think you’re doing?” Cringing, both Max and David unhurriedly swiveled around on their barstools while Kyle hunched over into an inconspicuous ball and Michael whistled on in feigned ignorance. “Well?” Isabel prodded impatiently, tapping her foot for emphasis.

“Having a beer?” Max ventured cautiously.

Isabel narrowed her eyes. “Are you telling me that the four of you are getting plastered at my rehearsal dinner?” she queried with deceptive calm.

“It was his idea!” Max, Michael and Kyle chorused together, their fingers all pointed squarely at David.

“Thanks,” David mumbled dryly.

“Sorry, Dave,” Michael whispered as the three men made their scurried getaway, “It’s survival of the fittest, dude.”

Once he and Isabel were left alone, David felt his desire for a drink double and that was before he met Isabel’s critical stare. “You’re drinking?” she whispered, shaking her head.

“One drink,” David clarified, “I’m hardly drunk, Isabel. I just needed to unwind.”

“Unwind?” she echoed.

“Yes, unwind,” he reiterated, “I’m completely stressed out, okay! We’re getting married tomorrow in the presence of all our family and friends. I’m so happy that it’s…it’s…it’s making me sick.”

Isabel frowned at his admission. “I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing,” she began carefully.

“What I’m saying is…” David sighed and swept up her cool, dry hands, gripping them almost desperately. “I want so much for tomorrow to be a perfect day for you. I want you to be happy, Isabel, but things haven’t exactly gone smoothly for us these last two years. I just don’t want you to be disappointed.”

“That’s not even a possibility,” Isabel told him, smiling sweetly as she framed his face between her hands, “As long as you’re waiting at the altar when I walk down the aisle tomorrow everything will be perfect, David.”

“Are you sure about that?”

Her smile deepened as she leaned down for a kiss. “Well…I might have a bit of a problem if the caterers serve chicken instead of the salmon I ordered,” she teased mercilessly, “But other than that…all I really need is you, David.”

“That’s a good answer,” he murmured into her mouth.

“Yeah, I know,” she managed right before he smothered further words altogether.

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Post by Deejonaise » Thu Apr 08, 2004 8:59 am

Chapter 4

“I’m a fat cow,” Maria announced to her friends as she critically surveyed her reflection in the gilded full-length mirror before her. She smoothed a hand down the rounded slope of her abdomen and then swung around to regard the bride with the sourest of expressions. “Why would you ever want such a fat cow as your matron of honor, Isabel,” she demanded flatly.

Isabel resisted the impulse to roll her eyes, knowing that Maria’s hormones were on overload. Weeks of exposure had acclimated Isabel to her friend’s wild mood swings, from happy to sad to peeved and back again. “You know me, Maria,” she quipped with an irreverent grin, hoping to bring a smile to Maria’s face as well, “I’m a champion for the cows.”

“More like their mortal enemy, you mean,” Liz teased, “Cows see you, Isabel, and they go running in terror in the opposite direction.” Everyone knew Isabel’s near obsession with all things leather. And the joking accomplished its purpose. Maria finally stopped scowling long enough to enjoy a full-bodied laugh.

“God, I’m sorry, Isabel,” she said, waddling over for the nearest chair, “This is your big day and I’m ruining it with my neurosis.” She propped her swollen feet onto the ottoman, sinking back into the plush cushions with a weary sigh. “Forgive me?”

Smiling, Isabel turned back towards the vanity mirror to allow Diane Evans to finish in her task of pinning her veil into her perfectly coiffed hair. “There’s nothing to forgive,” she dismissed lightly, “I need your neurosis today. You’re actually doing me a favor by acting like a shrew.” She smirked at the face Maria made over that comment. “Seriously, it’s the only thing that distracts me from crying, which thereby keeps my eye makeup from running.”

“And we can’t have that, now can we?” her mother joked, leaning forward to kiss Isabel’s temple. She then swept Isabel’s veil back to survey her perfectly made up face. Diane couldn’t remember a time when her daughter looked so happy. She had never seen Isabel glow this way before, where her inner light actually radiated around her like a golden halo and sparkled in her eyes. “You look absolutely breathtaking, darling,” Diane breathed thickly, “David won’t know what hit him.”

“Oh, Mom,” Isabel choked, gripping her mother’s forearm hard where it was draped around her shoulders, “The point is to not make me cry, remember? I’m not even in my dress yet and you’re already emotional.”

“She’s right, Isabel,” Diadne echoed in stunned awe, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look so radiant.” She frowned in disbelief and fingered her cheeks thoughtfully. “Make-up does all this? Perhaps I should wear some.”

“It’s not make-up, Diadne,” Isabel whispered, blinking back her tears, “It’s happiness.”

Isabel could hardly believe she was in this moment. Since she’d been a small child she had been envisioning her wedding day. She had planned for it with near obsession, the ultimate girly-girl. In her fantasies a handsome young man would sweep into her life and he wouldn’t care that she was an alien. He would love her for who she was and he would see her, the real Isabel hiding beneath that Ice Princess façade. He would love her forever and they would live happily ever after. But Isabel had always believed that part to be a fantasy. She had figured that, if she ever did get married, that part of her life would have to remain secret from her husband and, if he ever did learn the truth…Isabel couldn’t believe he would love her afterwards.

But to Isabel’s surprise her fantasy had come true and with the man she’d least expected, too. For a long time Isabel had fully believed that her fantasy man had been Alex Whitman and that she had squandered her chance at happiness by treating him so abysmally before he died. Now Isabel recognized the truth. Alex had taught her how to love, not just the person in her life but, most importantly, herself. Now she could put into practice with David the lessons Alex had taught her.

Isabel couldn’t help but be amazed at how far she and David had come. Really, if anyone had told her two years ago that the man she mowed down on the sidewalk would one day become her husband Isabel would have laughed herself into a coma. Though she had been intrigued with him from the very first she had never had any intention of pursuing her feelings further. And later, when she had learned who he was, well she had quickly veered from intrigue to suspicion, mistrust and general dislike. But David had persevered, determined to be her friend whether she wanted it or not. Isabel was glad for his persistence, too. He had made all her dreams come true.

“Is this really happening, Mom?” she whispered tremulously, turning back towards her reflection, “Am I really getting married in a few hours?”

“Oh yes, my dear,” Diane crooned, cupping Isabel’s face gently, “My little girl isn’t so little anymore.” She sniffled back her sentimental tears and straightened, whisking away the tears at the corners of her eyes. “Now if only your brother could get his act together and propose to Liz.” Four pairs of eyes swung expectantly in Liz’s direction.

“You guys,” Liz groaned in long-suffering.

“I think it’s a valid concern,” Maria chimed, “Seriously, Liz, what is up with that? You two should have taken the aisle walk months ago.”

“Years ago,” Isabel corrected.

“I think you’re exaggerating,” Liz brazened weakly.

“I disagree,” Diadne threw in, “Even I’m starting to wonder what’s taking so long and you all know how I feel about the human institution of marriage.”

“Gee,” Liz muttered, “Gang up on me, why don’tcha?”

“We’re not trying to gang up on you,” Isabel soothed, swiveling around in her chair, “It’s just strange that…after all this time you and Max haven’t decided to tie the knot.”

Liz sighed and made a production of straightening the train of her elegant bridesmaids gown. But she could still feel their eyes on her, watching her speculatively. They were not going to let the matter drop, no matter how long she ignored them. “Alright!” she relented in a huff, “If you must know the reason…Max is waiting.”

“He’s waiting?” Maria echoed blankly, “Waiting for what?”

“Hell to freeze over,” Liz mumbled to herself and that comment only confused her friends all the more. She sighed and started again. “Quite simply, Max is waiting for the publicity surrounding us to die down. He wants to give me a normal life and he’s waiting to propose until he has a chance to do that.”

“That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” Isabel blurted flatly.

“Isabel, stop,” her mother chided, but it was evident she was in complete agreement with her daughter.

“I’m sorry, Liz, but…seriously,” Isabel snorted despite the admonishment, “He’s waiting for normalcy? You’re absolutely right. Hell will freeze over first.”

“Did Max tell you this?” Maria asked, “About wanting normalcy and all that?”

“He didn’t have to,” Liz whispered, “You know how it is with us. I know all of his fears without words and…that’s one of his fears. Don’t you see?” she asked, sweeping the spacious dressing room with an imploring glance, “He feels like he’s turned my life upside down. Max thinks that the least he could do after all of that is give me a much craved after normal existence and you have to admit that the way we live now is not normal.”

“And it never will be,” Isabel said, “Not as long as we’re Antarian. Max knows that already.”

“No, he doesn’t, Isabel,” Liz whispered, “He’s in super denial. I’ve never seen him this way and…I’m really afraid to say anything to him about it. He’s so depressed already and I don’t want to make it worse by badgering him. I think he’s realizing for the first time that his existence is never going to be quiet or peaceful and he’s feeling a little cornered because of it. Give him some time to sort it out.”

She didn’t need to elaborate further. Max’s family and friends were more than aware of the depression of which Liz spoke. He put on the happy face, he smiled and laughed whenever appropriate but…everyone could see that something vital was missing. Liz especially could see that Max was losing himself. And the more unrecognizable his life became, the harder Max clung to his unrealistic view of normalcy.

“I don’t want to push him about it,” she told her friends, “And you guys aren’t going to push him either.” She leveled Isabel in particular with a piercing look. “That especially means you.”

“What?” Isabel bleated innocently, “I don’t meddle in other people’s affairs.” A round of snorts and loud guffaws followed that dubious statement. “Well not a lot anyway,” she amended weakly, “Besides it’s not healthy for Max to go walking around in denial this way. He needs a wake up call.”

“Do you know exactly how much denial that is?” Liz asked carefully, her heart lurching a bit when unease flittered across Isabel’s face. “Isabel, please tell me you haven’t been delving again,” she groaned.

“Not on purpose!” Isabel rushed out in her defense, “You know it just comes to me half the time. I’m not even looking for it.” Liz leveled her with a “yeah, right” look. “Fine,” Isabel said, “I won’t tell you what I know if you feel that strongly about it.”

“Now, I didn’t say all of that,” Liz murmured swiftly.

Though she and Max were in tune to each other like never before, experiencing one another’s emotions and thoughts almost constantly Liz was aware that Max still kept certain things hidden from her. She knew he was sad, could sense it acutely but the reason for that sadness was always blurry, vague…as if Max didn’t want her to know. Yet she never pushed him for the answers. Liz wanted Max to come to her willingly with his fears. She didn’t want to have to browbeat them out of him.

Still, she couldn’t deny that her curiosity was piqued as to what Isabel had discovered. Max had been such an enigma to her lately, especially so in the last year and Liz was desperate for some insight. “So what’s going on with him?” she asked Isabel softly.

Isabel chanced a look at her mother. Diane Evans looked just as hopefully expectant as Liz did and Isabel didn’t have the heart to deny them. “It’s Pierce in part,” she whispered finally.

“Which one?” her mother asked.

“Both of them,” Isabel said, “He has nightmares about them all the time. It’s a constant yo-yo loop of emotion…from hating Daniel Pierce for what he did to him in the white room to hating himself for what he did to William Pierce.”

“He didn’t do anything to William Pierce,” Liz uttered stiffly, “The man wanted answers to questions Max could not give him.”

“Max feels responsible for his suicide, Liz,” Isabel revealed grimly, “He’s never gotten over it, despite everything he told you.”

Liz should have known. The indistinct, but impenetrable wall around Max’s heart had gone up not long after William Pierce committed suicide in prison. He had told her that he was over it. Max had said that he knew that none of it had been his fault and Liz had believed him. She had felt his sadness and remorse over the incident but there had been nothing to indicate he was torturing himself…but for the wall. He never let her “see” him, really see his soul again after that day. She’d had the vague impression that he’d been holding her at bay since then.

At the time she’d thought it was a small thing, an understandable need for some modicum of privacy. After all, she didn’t always let Max be privy to her every thought and emotion. Some things were sacred and should be known to her alone and Max had always respected her feelings about that. Yet, before Pierce’s suicide, he had been like an open book to her, hiding absolutely nothing. Liz didn’t realize how much she cherished his naked vulnerability until he took it away.

Still, she hadn’t let herself worry. She hadn’t pushed, considering the change a normal occurrence, a natural thing. But perhaps she should have pushed… Now Liz wasn’t so sure she’d done the right thing.

“So…so what exactly is he feeling right now, Isabel?” she asked cautiously, her words thick and slurred with regretful tears.

“Like he’s drowning,” Isabel whispered, “Not that he’d admit it. Even Max doesn’t realize it’s that bad, that he’s losing himself. It’s not just the suicide either, it’s Zan and Tess and you and all the changes that have happened these last two years. It’s too much for him to handle. You have to talk to him Liz.”

“All right. That’s enough maudlin talk for now,” Diane murmured as a somber mood permeated the confines of the dressing room, “We’ll have none of these sad faces today. Max is obviously having a tough time of it, but he’ll work through it. We will all help him to work through it. But now’s not the time. There can be no sad faces today, especially you, sweetheart,” she continued, tipping her head down to regard her daughter, “Today is your wedding day, Isabel. I don’t want to see anything but smiles from you.”

Isabel beamed a smile with very little effort. “I think that can be arranged.” And then she looked at Liz, adding on one last piece of advice. “Liz, if you can…when the wedding is over, get Max away from here. He needs to relax.” The two girls traded an emphatic stare as Liz nodded her agreement.

“Enough,” Diane interrupted gently, “Happy thoughts, girls, remember?”

Taking her cue from Diane, Diadne glanced around the room then, noting for the first time that the five of them were virtually alone. She had been so excited about attending another human wedding and so grateful to be included that she hadn’t noticed before. “So where are the rest of your bridesmaids,” she asked, hoping to redirect the conversation back to lighter matters, “I know it can’t just be the three of us.” In the past two years Diadne had learned many things: how to cook a meal, how to drive a car and, most significant, how Isabel Evans never, never did anything small.

“They’re in the adjacent dressing room,” Isabel explained, “They should be spilling over into here shortly though. I told them to give the five of us all a little private time first.”

“So what’s the count now?” Maria asked dryly, “I lost track after number 15.”

“Eighteen,” Isabel answered mischievously as she stood to cross over to the window overlooking the gardens below where the servants and caterers were bustling about in preparation for the ceremony, “I wanted to have twenty-five but I thought Max might have a stroke if I changed one more detail.” She expelled a dramatic sigh. “So eighteen it is, but that number includes all the junior bridesmaids and flower girls, too.”

“Who are all these girls anyway?” Liz wondered, “I didn’t realize you knew so many people, Isabel.”

“It’s mostly girls I know from school and a dozen of David’s cousins and acquaintances. Susan handpicked a couple of them herself as well as most of the groomsmen so I don’t even know everyone’s names yet,” she replied absently. She shrugged. “I suppose I’ll meet them before long since they didn't make dinner last night.” She started to turn away from the window altogether when something caught her eye. A procession of white news crew vans began pulling into the spacious driveway. Some were even so bold as to drive up onto the immaculately cropped lawn. Isabel hoped Max gave them hell over it, too.

With an eye-rolling smirk of disdain she turned back to regard her mother and friends, “The press is here.” Each woman present knew exactly what that meant without further elaboration. Scrutiny, scrutiny and more scrutiny. But they remained undaunted. After all, it wasn’t anything they hadn’t been dealing with already for the last two years.

Isabel inhaled a deep, fortifying sigh and looked over to the plush daybed where her wedding dress had been carefully laid out. “Let’s do this,” she whispered with quiet excitement, “Let’s get married.”

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Wasn't I just here?

Post by Deejonaise » Thu Apr 08, 2004 6:20 pm

Chapter 5

She found him out near the duck pond sitting cross-legged in the grass, unmindful of his tuxedo as he moodily skipped stones across the placid surface of the water. “Hey, you,” Liz whispered, folding down carefully beside him, “They’ve been looking for you for over an hour now. What are you doing out here all alone?”

Max appraised her with a sheepish, sideways glance, nervously transferring his fistful of stones from one hand to the other. “It’s the crowd…” he explained haltingly, “Everyone was just pressed all around me and…I don’t know…I guess I felt a little claustrophobic.” He looked so incredibly young to her right then, his features forlorn with the evening breeze ruffling the bangs that fell across his forehead.

Liz wanted to touch him then, to comfort him somehow but she could feel that same invisible wall like always, as if he were holding himself off from her. Left with little alternative she nodded her understanding at his reply; despite the fact she sensed it was much more than the crowd that had driven him out here for solitude. “Isabel and David are about to cut the cake,” she told him, “You don’t want to miss it, do you?”

“No, of course not.” But he didn’t budge and neither did Liz.

Garnering a bit of courage, she leaned her head against his shoulder and plucked one of the stones from his palm. “I think we need to talk, Max.” Her attempt at skipping failed miserably as her pebble landed in the water with a definitive plop.

Max uttered a half-hearted laugh. “There’s an art to it,” he said.

“Really?” she asked softly, playing along.

“The key is to get the stone to bounce across the water,” he explained in a teasing whisper, “Not sink.”

Liz snuggled closer, looping her arms through his and curving her body around him. “Ahh…maybe you can teach me some time,” she murmured in suggestion. A beat of silence passed between them as the sounds of night descended. “I was serious about what I said earlier,” Liz whispered after he had skipped a couple more stones across the water, “We need to talk.”

“About what?” Max brazened dully.

Liz gently grasped hold of his chin and turned his limpid gold-green gaze to hers. “We need to talk about you, Max,” she clarified, “Namely…your feelings.”

He smiled at that, but the light didn’t quite touch his eyes. Liz was painfully aware of how he shrugged off her touch before responding. “You already know all my feelings, Liz,” he replied wryly, “What’s the use in talking about them? It’s redundant.”

“I wish I did know all of your feelings, Max,” Liz sighed despondently, “I used to but lately…not so much anymore.”

“You know me better than anyone,” he insisted, pulling her close so that he could nuzzle her temple, “You’re everything to me, Liz. My heart and soul. I’d be lost without you. That’s all you need to know. That’s all that’s important.”

Liz sat up from him and stared down at her hands for a reflective moment. “Max…I think you’re unhappy.”

He expelled an incredulous half laugh, half sputter. “What?” he demanded, “Where is this coming from?”

“You know where,” Liz charged softly.

“No. I don’t,” he protested, “I don’t have any idea what you’re getting at.”

“I think you are lost, Max,” Liz replied tentatively. She lifted her head to peer at him in the rising moonlight, her eyes moving searchingly over his features. “I never know what you’re thinking anymore.”

“That’s not true,” Max denied, “You’re reading my mind right now. I can feel it.”

“But that’s just the surface, Max,” she argued, “Yes, I know you’re hungry right now and that your dress shoes pinch your toes and,” she continued, pausing to tweak the flaps of his collar, “that you’ve somehow misplaced your bowtie, but that’s not anything deep. Your thoughts, Max, your real thoughts…you keep those hidden from me.”

He rolled to his feet in affront then, sensing the gentle accusation in her tone. “You do the exact same thing, Liz,” he retorted hotly, tossing away the last of his stones, “You’re the one who’s always saying that everyone is entitled to a little privacy, even two people in love. Why are you suddenly changing your tune now?”

“I’m not ‘changing my tune,’” Liz replied mildly, rising awkwardly to face him, “I haven’t changed my mind about that but… It’s so obvious you’re struggling with something, Max, but you won’t talk to me.”

“I talk to you all the time,” he maintained, his bravado and indignation deflating from his body in a disjointed rush. “Sometimes you’re the only person I can talk to,” he finished in a trembling whisper.

“Then talk to me now, Max.”

He wanted to. Liz could tell from the stark indecision that played across his face, but something was holding him back. She could see it, feel it but she had no idea what “it” was. And then, right before her eyes, he closed off and masked his feelings. “There’s nothing wrong,” he told her, “I’ve just been stressed out lately with the wedding and stuff. I needed a breather and now I’m over it.” He started to loop his arm over her shoulder but Liz danced out of his reach.

“You’re lying to me,” she declared.

“Liz--,”

“Since when did we start lying to each other again, huh, Max!” she cried angrily, “I thought you and I had learned from our past mistakes!”

“This is hardly the same!” he yelled.

“Why? Because you say so?” she yelled right back.

Max flinched in reaction to her barely leashed fury. “Do you really want to do this now?” he hissed out, “At my sister’s wedding?”

“Why wait?” Liz volleyed, “You’d just put me off later the same way you’re putting me off now! So talk!”

“There’s nothing to say,” he muttered, turning away.

However, Liz would not let him turn his back on her. She grasped hold of his forearm and forced him back around so that he had no choice but to look at her. “There’s plenty to say, Max,” she insisted fiercely, “I know something’s going on with you. You’re moody and quiet and distant. I can feel that you’re sad but I don’t know why! The fact that you keep telling me nothing’s wrong when I know that there is just makes me worry even more. Why can’t you talk to me?”

“What do you want from me, Liz?” he demanded, jerking from her hold, “I’m trying to keep it together here.”

“Just tell me the truth,” Liz begged plaintively.

“You want to know?” Max challenged bitterly, “You really want to know? I don’t even recognize my own life anymore!” Having finally shouted out the very thing that had been eating at him for the better part of a year Max wilted, his tears flowing harsh and free. He stumbled forward and enveloped Liz in a tight embrace, needing to be held by her just as desperately as he’d needed to escape her a few seconds before. “It just suddenly snowballed on me. I don’t know who I am or what I’m doing, Liz,” he moaned into her neck, “I don’t know…”

Together they sank to their knees back into the turf. Liz gently sponged away Max’s tears with the tips of her fingers, leaving butterfly kisses in the wake of her touch. “Tell me why,” she urged him, “Tell me why you feel that way.” But she didn’t need a verbal utterance. In that instant Max finally lifted the wall he had been holding between them and the onslaught of his dammed emotions washed over Liz in a violent torrent. In those few, stunning seconds she knew exactly how he had come to be so lost and she berated herself for having not seen it before, for having not known.

“You…you don’t want this life,” she surmised, dazed by the realization even though it made absolute sense.

“I keep waiting and waiting for things to go back to normal or at least the way they were before the landing,” Max croaked, “I mean…this isn’t who I am. I’m not a king or a politician…not in here.” He tapped his chest emphatically. “I’m just Max Evans and I’m in love with you. Those are the only two things I’m sure of anymore. God…I want my life back. I just want to be Max Evans again, Liz.”

“Oh Max,” she whispered mournfully, “I don’t know if you can.”

“Everything just spun out of control so fast,” he muttered against her shoulder, “It’s just all hitting me now and it’s too much. I never let myself deal with Zan’s death before and now with Maria’s pregnancy I think about him every day and it’s killing me. He’d be three years old now…if I had made different choices… And Claudia…we would be raising them together, Liz. God…” he whispered again, “I don’t even know how to get back to where I started.”

“I didn’t know you were in this much pain,” Liz uttered.

“I didn’t want you to know,” he replied gruffly, “It’s my mess. I made it. I have to sort through it on my own.”

“No,” Liz protested fiercely, “You don’t ever have to go through anything alone, Max, not as long as I draw breath. How many times do I have to say it before it penetrates your thick skull, huh? We face everything together!”

“You’re yelling,” he pointed out with a small smile.

“Well, you make me do it,” Liz replied in a softer tone.

“Okay…you win. I hate this life,” he confessed in a shuddering breath, “I hate it.”

Liz lovingly cradled his face in her hands and, gradually, his darting eyes fell still and locked with hers. “Max…is it really so bad?” she queried softly, “Is it really so bad to be an alien king, to be adored?”

“It is when…” He closed his eyes and swallowed hard. “This isn’t what I wanted for myself, Liz. This isn’t the life I wanted for us.”

Anyone who believed that power and riches were the key to one’s happiness was dead wrong. Max had all those things and at such a tender, young age that it was enviable. Yet, the price had been steep. He recognized nothing of the boy he’d once been in himself now. Exposure hadn’t broken him, Tess hadn’t broken him, and his son’s death hadn’t broken him but this…all this unexpected and unwanted life change had left him reeling.

“Do you know where I have to be first thing tomorrow morning?” he asked Liz laconically, curling down into her lap and laying his head there.

Liz stroked her fingers through the soft hair at his temples, marveling at how the tendrils curled adorably at the ends. “Hmm…I believe you have a flight to D.C. tomorrow morning at eight o’clock sharp. If I recall,” Liz added, leaning down to nip at the rim of his ear, “I’m going on that trip with you so then it won’t be so bad then, will it? We can tour the city if you want…make love until noon…whatever, Max.”

He flopped over onto his back and reached up to brush his fingers across the soft skin of her cheek. “Hmm…I like those ideas but you should know that no place you are can ever be bad, Liz,” he murmured sweetly, “You’re the reason I make it through. But that’s not the point. My problem is the reason I’m going to D.C. in the first place.”

For the last year or so Max had served as a personal consultant to the President. He had been privy to the President’s most highly confidential matters and with the world’s most highly respected and powerful leaders and all for one reason. He could read their minds. Simply stated, Max advised the government about which world leaders they could trust and which ones they couldn’t. His abilities had landed him a respected position and lucrative income yet Max felt no satisfaction in doing what he did.

“It’s like destiny all over again,” Max whispered, “I feel like I’m stuck in this place I don’t want to be just because that’s what’s expected of me.”

“So quit your job,” Liz suggested without hesitation, “If you’re not happy then you can find something else. It’s not like you need the money, Max.”

“It’s not just the job, Liz,” he explained in a whisper, “It’s…it’s everything. The palace, the servants, the constant barrage from the paparazzi, the ‘yes, my lords’ and the ‘no, my lords,’ and the bowing every friggin where I go… I can’t get a break. It’s like living under a microscope or enduring some bad dream that never ends.”

Liz couldn’t help but smile at Max’s grim depiction of his life. “You make it sound like torture, Max,” she teased him.

“It’s not…terrible, I guess,” Max conceded hesitantly, “But it’s not what I want either.”

“Well, what is it that you want then?” Liz queried.

“What I’ve always wanted,” he whispered.

Liz nodded because it was unnecessary for him to explain further. The truth was in his eyes and in her head. She bent down to brush his lips in a tender kiss, her heart aching for him. “You want to be normal,” she concluded quietly.

“I don’t just want it for me,” he whispered against her lips, “I want it for you, too. How can we ever make a future together when our lives are a three-ring circus? You deserve to have a normal life after the hell I’ve put you through, Liz. We both do. I don’t want to settle for anything less.”

******

“Have you seen Max anywhere?”

Michael glanced up at Isabel briefly to shake his head negative before turning his attention back to Kyle. He might not have noticed the way she flounced off in an outraged huff over his response but Kyle wasn’t so oblivious. “Evans is ground hamburger,” he muttered in a pitying tone, “Run, Max. Run fast, run hard. The Isabel monster is coming for you.”

“What are you talking about?” Michael grunted, missing the point.

“Nothing,” Kyle dismissed with an exasperated sigh, “What were you saying about us going on another job together?”

“Do you think you can get the time off for it?” Michael asked.

“I’ve got a week of vacation stored up so it’s doable,” Kyle said, “How much money are we talking about this time?”

“None actually,” Michael clarified bluntly, “I’m kinda doing a favor for Maria. She wants me to find her dad.”

“No kidding?” Kyle guffawed.

“Well, she’s getting sentimental now that she’s so close to having the baby,” Michael explained vaguely, “I think it would mean a lot to her if he was here for the birth.”

Kyle nibbled at his cheek for a thoughtful moment. “Amy know what you’re doing?”

“Eh…not exactly,” Michael hedged.

“When she finds out she’s gonna shit a brick,” Kyle blurted, “I wouldn’t want to be you.”

Michael shuddered inwardly despite his all appearances of indifference and nonchalance. “Doesn’t matter,” he replied shortly, “This is about Maria. She wants her dad and…I’m going to bring him to her. So are you in or what?”

“I’m in,” Kyle replied, not missing a beat.

“What about Diadne? Will she do it even though there’s no money involved?”

“Are you kidding me? She loves Maria…she’ll be ready to go,” Kyle said, “Besides…what are we talking about…just a two/three day job? No sweat. We’ll be back before we can blink so when do we leave?”

“I’m gonna have Razba pack some gear tonight and then we can head out first thing tomorrow morning.”

“Cool. I’ll tell Pip.” Kyle pushed to his feet, only to swivel back around at the last minute when another thought occurred to him. “Hey, Guerin?”

“What?”

“Since I’m helping you track down Maria’s dad does that mean I can be exempt from the whole baby shower gift thing and try to save a little cash?” Michael shot him a withering glance, more than answer enough, but Kyle merely chuckled in response. “Guess that answers that…just checking, dude.”

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Post by Deejonaise » Fri Apr 09, 2004 1:17 pm

Chapter 6

Liz shoved the two plane tickets directly beneath Max’s nose, her sudden appearance making him jump. “What are those?” he demanded as she skipped round to face him.

“What do they look like?”

“Plane tickets?” he ventured.

“Very good,” she commended, rewarding him with a sound kiss on the mouth, “You get a smiley face sticker.”

“Cut it out,” Max laughed, giving her a playful shove, “Why are you giving me plane tickets when we’re about to board a plane for D.C. in the next five minutes?”

“These tickets are for after we leave D.C.” Liz clarified.

“After?”

“Yes, after.”

“For what?” Max queried with an intrigued smile, “Where are we going?”

“Cancun, Mexico,” Liz told him with a happy giggle, “I’ve decided that you, Max Evans, are in serious need of a very long, very relaxing vacation and I won’t take no for an answer.”

While Liz recognized that the gesture was truly a small thing compared to the deep-rooted problems Max was struggling to overcome but she thought it was needed nonetheless. Some time in the sun sipping virgin pina coladas could only improve the situation. As things stood presently Max was caught in a vicious cycle of resentment and misery, growing progressively unhappier as the days wore on. He needed to get out.

And he wanted to go. He became a virtual glow bug right there in the middle of the lobby he was so excited. His happiness was infectious and Liz found herself grinning like a fool right along with him. “Kadon’s going to have a fit,” Max gushed, “You know what a stickler he is for doing things according to schedule.”

The only reason Max had been able to induce the stubborn alien into staying behind in Roswell was by convincing Kadon that his attending to palace matters took precedence over accompanying him on a boring business meeting. Thankfully, it had worked, but Max was pretty sure Kadon would blow a gasket when he learned of Max’s plans for Cancun.

“We’ll call him from the plane,” Liz suggested, reading Max’s thoughts.

“How long are we going to stay?” he asked eagerly.

“As long as you want,” she offered.

“Then we’ll never leave,” Max laughed and then he snagged hold of Liz’s wrist and yanked her into a grateful embrace. “Thank you for doing this,” he whispered into her neck, “God, I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Liz murmured in return.

She felt so content and overjoyed holding and kissing him right there in the middle of everything that when the flash assailed her the force of the vision almost sent her to her knees. Liz was vaguely aware of Max rocking with her as she was swept up, the pictures tumbling through her mind at a dizzying rate.

Liz saw a darkened room, musty…dirty, almost like some kind of cellar. There were cobwebs and rats and all sorts of fetid filth. It wasn’t fit for human inhabitance yet it served as a prison. Liz felt awash with fear and terror and loneliness and then she saw the person, just a brief glimpse of the eyes behind a shank of grimy, lank blond hair but enough to feel stabbed all over with the anguish lurking in their depths.

When Liz veered back from Max they were both wheezing, their hearts racing in mutual agitation as if they’d just run a 50-yard dash. “Did you see that?” Liz asked breathlessly.

“Oh God…that was Isabel,” Max gasped in a panic, “Is she hurt? Has she been kidnapped? Liz, what was that?”

It had been some months since Liz had received a premonitory flash, not since she’d been able to prevent Michael from taking a job that would have led to his death. But another team of bounty hunters had taken his place and, unfortunately, they had been killed in Michael’s place. No one doubted that Liz’s visions lacked validity they were just tricky to maneuver around. Sometimes it was difficult to determine whether taking action to change the sequence of events would help or hinder them.

Liz felt winded in the aftermath. The flashes always left her shaking and feeling ill to her stomach. What was worse than the physical sickness was the terrifying knowledge that her second sight wasn’t always effective in stopping the bad thing from happening. Sometimes she could prevent the bad thing from happening, but others…the result would occur whether she intervened or not. Liz didn’t even fully understand the circumstances concerning this last one either. She only knew that Isabel was in potential danger.

“Liz, was that real?” Max demanded in a throbbing whisper.

Liz answered with a grave nod. “I think you should call Isabel,” she told him quietly, “Just in case.” In the vision Liz couldn’t determine where Isabel was or even how long she’d been there, but she had felt her friend’s despair. In the vision, Isabel had been ready to give up. She had been praying for death. The sorrow Isabel had felt rolled through Liz’s body even now in a long, languid wave.

She watched as Max fumbled around in his pocket for his cell phone and flipped it open, hitting the speed dial button for his sister. “Where are you right now?” Max demanded when Isabel answered on the second ring.

Isabel frowned at the phone, rendered instantly on the defensive with Max’s brusque tone. “Who is this?” she sniffed disdainfully, feigning ignorance. She ducked her head low, knowing that if the flight attendants caught her using her phone there would be hell to pay.

“Isabel, this isn’t the time for games!” Max snapped, “Where are you?”

“On a plane headed for the Greek Islands,” she hissed. Isabel curled down in her seat, close against the window so that her conversation wouldn’t disturb her dozing husband, “I’m on my honeymoon, remember? Why the hell are you calling me?”

“You have to come home now.”

“What?” She snorted as if the suggestion was the most ridiculous thing she’d ever heard. “Yeah, that’ll happen.”

“Liz had a vision about you,” Max informed her breathlessly, “You were in some kind of…cellar or basement or something. We think you’d been kidnapped. You were dirty and hungry and frightened. Liz says it’s real. I don’t think you should go to Greece.”

Isabel closed her eyes, mentally counting to ten as she struggled to maintain her patience. Max always got like this whenever Liz had one of her future flashes. It wasn’t that Isabel disregarded them, per se, but that she knew from past experiences that trying to prevent Liz’s dreams from coming to fruition only seemed to guarantee that they would. True, there were times when the group had avoided great disasters as a result of Liz’s warnings, but her method wasn’t fool proof. Someone always ended up getting kicked in the ass and Isabel didn’t want to forgo her honeymoon trip based on that probability.

“Max, I’m not coming home,” she replied calmly, “David and I have been planning this trip for the better part of a year. We’re mid-air, okay. It’s not like I can turn around and come right back.”

“It’s dangerous, Isabel,” Max insisted.

“There’s danger everywhere, Max,” she brazened, “How do you know my coming home right now isn’t going to lead to the very thing you fear?”

“I don’t want to take the chance,” Max said.

“Whatever,” Isabel dismissed, “I’m not coming home.”

“Dammit, Isabel, listen to me--,”

“No, you listen to me,” Isabel interrupted in a sharp whisper, “This is my honeymoon we’re talking about. My honeymoon. I am not going to let the alien abyss take this from me, Max!”

“This is not the time to bury your head in the sand,” Max ground out.

“I’m not burying my head,” she denied furiously, “I’m hardly helpless, Max! I have powers the same as you, remember? I can take care of myself.”

“Isabel--,”

“Please, listen to me,” she soothed quickly, aware of an approaching flight attendant, “I promise to be extra careful and alert of my surroundings, okay…but I’m not coming home. Don’t ask me to.”

“Well…maybe I should come there,” Max considered.

“If you do that I will never forgive you, Max,” she warned harshly, “Please…please just let me have this time with David. Let us be newlyweds! Please. I’ll call you every day with an update if that will help to ease your worry.”

“You promise?” he prompted worriedly, “Every day?”

“Every day,” Isabel confirmed with a sigh, “Trust me, Max. Everything will be fine, you’ll see. Now I’ve got to go…the stewardess is glaring at me.”

But when Max hung up with her a few minutes later he couldn’t shake the unassailable feeling that things would not be fine as Isabel supposed…not by a long shot.

******

Max rubbed his sweating palms against the legs of his slacks, waiting for his debriefing with the President and obsessing over his earlier conversation with Isabel. Good God, could she be stubborn sometimes! Max didn’t know whether to protect her or strangle her. Liz had advised him not to worry unnecessarily. After all, Isabel was a grown woman. She was aware of the danger so Max had to trust her to take the necessary precautions. Still Max felt uneasy. He had never been one to take Liz’s premonitions lightly because not a single one of her predictions had failed to come true in some form.

Isabel was simply being her usual selfish self, thinking of no one else’s happiness but her own. It would serve her right if--. Max caught himself mid-thought, berating himself for the mental tirade. Isabel wasn’t being selfish at all. She was a new bride on her honeymoon. Of course she wouldn’t want to forgo spending a few weeks in the Greek Islands with her new husband to hide out in fear back in Roswell. Max felt the same. He didn’t want to forgo his trip to Cancun with Liz either. Max supposed his only option was to reserve his judgment and exercise the same caution he’d advised his sister to use.

Despite his resolve, however, flutters of apprehension and worry continued to beat in the pit of his belly. Max shoved up from his chair, preparing to pace the length of the surveillance room when the door finally cracked open. As the President entered with his secret service escort Max drew himself up straight and tall. The two men clasped hands briefly in greeting.

“It’s good to see you again, Max,” the Commander and Chief remarked, tossing a frowning, curious glance about Max, “Where’s Kadon?”

“I left him at home this time,” Max explained, “Since the trip was going to be so short I didn’t see the point of dragging him along.”

“You shouldn’t walk about unescorted,” the President advised gravely, “That’s a dangerous thing to do for men in positions like ours. At least allow me to assign you an escort while you’re here.”

“Really, I’m fine,” Max insisted, “I won’t even be here the entire day. I don’t need a bodyguard.”

“Okay,” the President relented, “If you insist… Let’s get down to business, shall we?” As if on cue, one of his service men stepped forward to flip a switch, which revealed the large two-way mirror that separated the room and the office next door. They could see into the office but no one could see them.

“That is Shaheed Ali Elahi,” the President said, indicating the Middle Eastern garbed man sitting in the center of the room along with his entourage, “He is Prime Minister to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. We have reason to suspect he has ties to terrorist activity, specifically that he’s funding the Pakistani cell of Al Kaida and it’s leader Amid Musharraf Shabaz, but we have no proof.”

“I assume that’s where I come in,” Max replied.

“He’s proposing a treaty with the U.S.” the President explained, “But I can’t be certain that we can trust him. If he is guilty of what we suspect the U.S. can’t take the chance of inadvertently funding terrorist activity.”

Max nodded, already closing his eyes to open the connection without waiting for the President’s request to do so. His body felt weightless as Max easily slipped into the Prime Minister’s thoughts. The man kept his emotions dangerously close to the surface so Max didn’t have to travel far. The Prime Minister was nervous, mistrustful and very unimpressed with what he’d seen of America thus far. But he had a healthy respect for the President and was willing to overlook his own disdain to form an alliance. After all, he needed the U.S. more than they needed him.

“What?” the President pressed impatiently when Max snapped open his eyes.

“He’s not a threat to you,” Max assured him, “He wants this alliance as much as you do…perhaps more.”

“What about the Al-Kaida ties?”

“He’s not funding them,” Max told him, “But…but he knows who is. It’s someone close to him, someone he cares a great deal for. He won’t give this person up. I couldn’t get a clear indication of this person’s identity but if I had to guess I’d say it was a sibling.”

“He does have two older brothers,” the President considered, “And one is, as of yet, unaccounted for.”

“Do you want to arrest this brother?” Max asked.

“I’m more interested in finding Amid Shabaz,” the President said, “The man is responsible for a multitude of terrorist attacks and bombings. And there are rumors that he plans to orchestrate some right here in the United States.”

Max was well aware of the situation. He had been following the news coverage over from the Middle East concerning the suicide bombers who walked into crowded cafes with intentions of blowing away the infidel. Many had lost their lives. The American people witnessed these horrors from afar and cried out for justice.

“We need to find this man,” the President said, “before he manages to bring his terrorist plans to U.S. soil. Unfortunately, our only lead seems to be whoever Prime Minister Elahi is covering for.”

“You don’t need that person,” Max told him, “I know a man who would be perfect for the job. He’d find this Amid Musharraf Shabaz for you and with very little trouble.”

“Are you serious?”

“He’s the best tracker I know,” Max said and then he tacked on when the President appeared confused, “You already know him, Mr. President…it’s Michael. He’s been doing bounty hunter work for nearly a year now. They don’t call him ‘the bloodhound’ for nothing.”

“Really?” the President considered with a pensive frown, “And you really believe Michael would have no trouble finding him?”

Max didn’t even blink. “I guarantee it.”
Last edited by Deejonaise on Fri Apr 09, 2004 11:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Deejonaise » Sat Apr 10, 2004 10:14 am

Chapter 7

Michael Guerin balanced a hot dog with the works in one hand and his cell phone in the other. “…yeah, we’re taking a lunch break now,” he told his wife, “I think we’re maybe an hour outside of Austin, Texas. We’ll probably bunk down for the night there and then start out again at first light. I think your dad might be in Houston.” He took a massive bite of his hot dog, chewing noisily. “We’ll probably have him in a few days,” he added around the mouthful.

Maria rolled her eyes at the obnoxious sounds he made, grinning faintly. “Damn, I do miss you, Spaceboy,” she murmured softly, “Come back home soon. I need to hold you and feel you next to me. I need to touch your body and have you touch mine.”

He nearly choked on his hotdog. Her sultry tone put him on immediate alert. Michael chanced a glance over at his brother, who was napping in the passenger’s seat. He didn’t have to worry about Kyle and Diadne at the moment. They had decided to stretch their legs by taking a short walk along the highway but Razba’s close proximity was making him nervous.

“Maria,” Michael groaned when he was sure Razba was dead to the world, “Don’t say things like that to me when I’m on the road, okay.”

“What?” she whispered in feign innocence, “Since when is it a crime for a wife to tell her husband she wants to fu--,”

“Don’t even think about finishing that sentence,” Michael interrupted in warning. Maria emitted a deep, throaty chuckle in response. “So how are things going with you?” he asked after taking another bite of his hot dog, “Any discomfort…pain…shortness of breath?”

“Michael, relax,” Maria soothed, “I am not going to have this baby while you’re gone so would you please stop freaking out about it?”

“We’re so friggin close…” he muttered, “I get a lump in my throat every time I have to leave you.”

“Three weeks is hardly close, Guerin,” Maria argued, “That’s nearly a month! You’ll find my dad long before then.”

“And you’re sure that you want to do this?” Michael prodded carefully, “You definitely want to bring Raymond DeLuca back into your life?”

“I…I definitely do,” she stammered after a moment, “The first time he was here I never gave him the chance to tell his side of the story. I just sorta flew off the handle and I really regret that now.”

“What if he doesn’t have a valid reason for walking out on you all those years ago?” Michael challenged.

“He couldn’t possibly have a valid reason anyway,” Maria countered, “There’s no excuse for walking out on your six-year old kid, I don’t care what sob story he tells, but… I’m tired of being angry about it. And he did come back after all…that’s got to mean something, right?”

“He might have wanted money,” Michael said, playing devil’s advocate.

“I don’t think so,” Maria returned, “If that were true he would have hit me up the first chance he had. Besides…we didn’t really have a lot of money back then, at least none that he would have known about anyway.” She huffed an exasperated sigh when she was done. “Why are you suddenly grilling me about all this anyway, Michael?”

“I just wanted to make sure that you’d thought it through,” he told her as he polished off the rest of his lunch, “This can’t be some knee-jerk reaction or the result of your pregnancy hormones, Maria. This isn’t going to be smooth going, babe. You need to be prepared for the fallout.”

He could imagine her nibbling on her lower lip in thoughtful consideration of that statement. “You mean my mother, don’t you?” Maria whispered.

“Have you told her your intentions yet?”

“I…I was going to,” she hedged, “I really was, but… She’s been so worked up about this whole Deborah situation that I didn’t want to make things worse.”

“How much better do you think it’s going to get when I show up with your father unannounced?” Michael charged tartly, “You need to say something to her.”

“Okay, I will, you big bully,” she relented with great reluctance, “I’ll talk to her.”

Michael started to praise her for her maturity and courage when someone rapped on his car window abruptly. Frowning quizzically, he asked Maria to hold on while he rolled down the window to regard the stranger. “Can I help you?” he asked.

“Michael Guerin?”

Flicking a condescending look down the length of the stranger’s expensive dark suit, Michael demanded, “Who wants to know?”

However, his bravado collapsed a few seconds later when a very shiny, very official FBI badge was being flashed in his face.

******

“So are you not talking to me or what?” Kyle inquired bluntly.

Nine simple words, seemingly innocent but fraught with uncertainty and tension. They were the first words that had transpired between Kyle and Diadne since they’d begun their walk. That fact wasn’t entirely surprising. Kyle knew very well Diadne was peeved with him. She wasn’t overt about her displeasure though but remained cool and unaffected. In all the time he’d known her Kyle had never seen Diadne throw a tantrum. There had been that one time she’d blasted him across the room for insulting her but even her retaliation had been executed with the utmost calm.

She was calm now as well, her lips rolled inward in contemplative silence as she surveyed the heat-blurred horizon before them. Looking at her right then, Kyle could almost believe she was in a fine mood…that is if he didn’t know her so damned well. Diadne was clearly hot with anger. She didn’t even badger him with her usual barrage of questions, which was unusual for Diadne because she always seemed to be questioning everything. Presently, however, all Kyle could coax from her was a few monosyllabic grunts.

“How long are you going to pretend I’m not here,” he sighed. She rolled her eyes. “Pip, come on,” he implored but it was no use. Diadne had been spending way too much time with Isabel, Liz and Maria and now she had developed their same flare for drama.

Kyle was both amazed and dumbfounded by the changes that had taken place in her. None of them had been incredibly drastic, but the subtle differences were more than enough. His little Pippi Longstockings was slowly, but surely learning exactly what it meant to be a human female.

However, the learning hadn’t been easy. Diadne’s transition into life on earth had been laden with emotional complications. For many months after she had resigned her position as Max’s advisor Diadne had struggled to find her identity. All her life she had followed orders and did the expected, yet once she had the opportunity to make decisions for herself Diadne had been much like a lost little girl.

For a short while she had fallen into a funk as she struggled to find the Diadne she really wanted to be. In the meantime, Kyle had kept her busy with life lessons, systematically teaching her practical living skills. As with everything else she had adapted quickly, becoming even more accomplished in her tasks than Kyle. Yet, even with her rapid progress, Diadne had remained lost. And she stayed that way until Michael approached both her and Kyle with the idea of starting a bounty hunting business. The four of them, Michael, Diadne, Kyle and Razba had served as a team ever since.

But even with a new career and direction in her life the road to humanity continued to be bumpy for Diadne, especially where her relationship with Kyle was concerned. It had taken Diadne a great deal of time to adjust to the human aspect of a relationship and she was still adjusting. Kyle quickly learned that Antarians and humans had very different ideas about what made a relationship and those different ideas continued to be a sore spot between him and Diadne time and time again.

“Okay, I can’t take this silent treatment anymore,” Kyle grunted, throwing up his hands in surrender, “If you’ve got a problem, Pip, I really wish you would just spit it out.”

She flicked him briefly with blue eyes that were liked shards of ice, her first time recognizing him since they’d gone off alone together. “Your mother is staying at our apartment, Kyle,” she whispered in explanation, “I don’t like her being there when we’re not present. I don’t trust her.”

“So you’ve told me about a million times already,” he mumbled acerbically.

“I feel what I feel,” Diadne replied and she made no apology for it either, “You don’t seem to be taking my concerns under consideration.”

“She didn’t have any place else to go!” Kyle protested, exasperated, “Was I supposed to just let her live out of her car while we were gone?”

Diadne pierced him with narrowed eyes. “You may want to rethink the sarcasm, Kyle. I did nothing wrong. You were the one who didn’t even bother to discuss it with me first,” she sniffed, “I’m sure there would have been other options but you never bothered to explore those with me. Isn’t that what humans are supposed to do in a relationship? Isn’t that what you’re always telling me. I can recall no discussion, Kyle.”

“Maybe because I already knew how you would react,” Kyle muttered.

“So now you can read my mind?” Diadne flung back, “Since when?”

“God!” Kyle roared, throwing up his hands in annoyance, “I just don’t get you, Diadne!”

“What is there not to ‘get?’” she asked calmly, “I know your mother’s motivations, Kyle, and they are not as innocent and selfless as you would like to think. She should not be here. Her presence will only cause trouble and pain.”

“Weren’t you the one who told me that she’s not after money? That’s the important thing, right?” Kyle asked dryly.

Back when Deborah Valenti had first arrived into town Diadne had been itching to tap into the woman’s thoughts, wanting to discover her motives for returning. In the beginning, Kyle had felt uneasy with the idea and he had forbidden her to do it. But after only a day self-doubt and fear were plaguing him. He didn’t want to let his mother back into his life just so she could break his heart all over again.

Consequently, he gave into Diadne’s prodding with the stipulation that she find out only one thing. Did his mother come back for money? If money had been Deborah Valenti’s motivation then Kyle knew that it would never work. However, once Diadne had informed him that money wasn’t Deborah Valenti’s motivation at all Kyle didn’t feel he needed to know anything else and he steadfastly refused to let Diadne tell him what she’d learned.

“She isn’t after your money,” Diadne agreed, “But she is after something.”

“All right, that’s enough,” Kyle warned her softly, “I don’t want to hear anymore.”

“It isn’t like you to be this obtuse,” she observed in a huff.

“How the hell am I being obtuse?” he demanded shortly, “My mother’s come back into my life and not because she wants a piece of me. I happen to think that’s a good thing. Why can’t you just let me be happy about it?”

Diadne raked him with a betrayed look of contempt. “You think I’m trying to prevent your happiness,” she gasped in outrage, “Your happiness is the only reason I’m saying anything in the first place, Kyle! I don’t want to see you hurt!”

“No, the reason you’re beating this dead horse has nothing to do with my happiness,” Kyle countered angrily, “You’re using my mother as a distraction so we don’t have to talk about what’s really wrong with our relationship!”

At his hissed accusation, Diadne jerked self-consciously and regarded him with wary blue eyes. “What do you mean?”

“Your fear,” Kyle clarified, “Your fear of giving yourself over to me. This is all an excuse to hold me at arm’s length just like always.”

“Is this about us being…being intimate?” Diadne cried, “I explained to you that my people are not physical in that manner! It makes me uncomfortable. But we kiss and I find that enjoyable, as do you, so why can’t it be enough?”

“It’s not just about the sex, Diadne, or lack thereof as the case would be,” Kyle muttered in a defeated sigh, “God…you can’t even tell me you love me. You can’t bring yourself to even say the words.”

“You know that I do!” she flung back, “You’re well aware of how I feel about you!”

“Am I?” he snarled, “You barely let me touch you, you’re reserved in your feelings…I don’t know what’s going on in your head half the time! How the hell am I supposed to be aware?”

“I show you in Antarian ways,” she rejoined weakly.

“I’m fucking human!” he yelled impatiently.

“And I’m fucking not!” she yelled right back, “Stop trying to make me into something I’m not, Kyle!”

The outburst left them spent and trembling, with tears of anger, hurt and frustration sparkling in both their eyes. They’d had this argument so many times before but never as loud or as violent. It made Kyle realize that the problem was not going to correct itself. The differences between them weren’t just going to suddenly disappear. The longer they went on, the wider the chasm became between them and Kyle hated that. Diadne had been his friend before anything else and he didn’t want to lose that friendship. Yet, it was evident that they couldn’t go on the way they had been either.

“Fuck, Diadne… Maybe we should…just take a break, you know,” he whispered after a pregnant pause passed between them, “This obviously isn’t working out.”

Diadne went absolutely still at his implication, her lower lip trembling. “What are you saying to me?” she whispered shakily.

“I love you,” Kyle declared fervently, “More than I ever thought I could love anyone but…you and I are just too different, Diadne. You’re like the sun and I’m the moon. We work well together but we keep missing each other and I can’t keep living like this.”

“Are you breaking up with me?”

He didn’t answer her question directly. “Look, the apartment is in both our names,” he replied gruffly, “We’re little more than roommates anyway so… Neither of us has to hurry to find another place…unless that’s the way you want it.”

Diadne stared at him in blank shock, feeling as if someone had put a fist through her chest. Never had she felt emotion so strongly, never had she hurt more than she did at that moment. “Are you doing this because I won’t support your decision to let your mother back into your life?” she asked, incredulous.

He shook his head definitively. “I’m doing this because you won’t be honest with me about your feelings,” Kyle clarified, “And I’m sick and tired of playing the detective in this relationship. I can’t keep digging for things you should readily share with me. Either you’re ready to commit to me for real or…we don’t commit at all.”

“You’re not being fair to me,” she accused him thickly, “You expect me to strip myself of everything Antarian, to forget my heritage and I cannot do that.”

“That’s not what I’m asking you to do at all,” Kyle denied, “I’m asking you to love me, Pip. I’m asking you to show it.”

“I don’t understand what you want from me!” she cried.

“Well, why don’t you look me up when you figure it out,” he replied, his words hoarse and garbled with unshed tears. Kyle purposely averted his eyes then, unable to bear her naked stare of anguish. When he did he spotted the several dark sedans that were suddenly surrounding Michael’s jalopy. But it was when Michael and Razba exited the car that Kyle really began to panic. Noting his rising expression of alarm, Diadne momentarily forgot her heartbreak and followed Kyle’s line of sight, her own eyes flaring wide with apprehension.

“Oh great,” he muttered, “What’s happened now?”

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Post by Deejonaise » Mon Apr 12, 2004 4:01 pm

Chapter 8

In a flurry of uncontained excitement, Isabel rushed over to the sliding patio doors and shoved them open, stepping out onto the roomy balcony with a happy sigh.

David had procured one of the most prized studio suites in all the Shivas Village Resort. The spacious room was equipped with a kitchenette, a fully stocked bar and a luxurious marble bathroom. Isabel felt like she had died and gone to heaven.

But even those spectacular accommodations hadn’t prepared Isabel for the magnificent view from their balcony. Four stories up, their suite overlooked southern Crete’s breathtaking terrain. From her terrace Isabel had an excellent vantage of the tossing aquamarine sea, the craggy cliffs and sprawling greenery below. She watched as the sea foam crested majestically over the rocks below, sending up a cooling spray of sea salt.

Isabel sighed again, hugging herself around the waist in contented delight. “I’m in Paradise,” she murmured to herself, “I can’t wait to explore every nook and cranny of this place.”

A moment later she felt her husband’s strong arms band around her and pull her back into the solid wall of his body. Isabel’s smile deepened as she felt him nuzzle at the base of her neck. “I suppose the enthusiastic way you ran through the suite a moment ago means you approve of my choice,” he teased lightly as she melted back into him.

Isabel tipped her head back against his shoulder for a languid kiss. “I approve of the suite. I approve of the island…but especially I approve of you,” she whispered, turning in his arms, “How did I get a man so perfect in every way?”

“Oh, now I’m perfect, am I?” David teased, “Any other time I’m a conceited ass and an arrogant bastard but today I’m perfect? When did I suddenly get the upgrade?”

“When you put this rock on my finger,” Isabel tossed back, flashing her princess cut, full carat diamond engagement ring between them and making him laugh outright. She then wrapped her arms around his neck, threading her fingers through his hair as she pulled him down for another kiss and David forgot his laughter altogether. “So when do we get to go exploring,” she asked breathlessly when the kiss ended, “I want to see everything so you’ll have to promise me that we’ll go to Athens. They’re having a Hellenic Festival that I’m just dying to check out.”

“Well, we could do that but first I thought we could tour the Dodecanese Islands on my father’s yacht,” David told her, “We’ll do a little snorkeling off the coast and tour some of the beaches…even the nude ones.” He gave Isabel a lecherous wink but she merely rolled her eyes. “We can leave first thing in the morning.”

“First thing in the morning?” Isabel echoed with a disappointed pout, “What’s wrong with today?”

“Well, because I have other plans for you, Mrs. McKee,” he murmured, gathering her against his body in the most suggestive fashion.

“Do you now?” Isabel whispered laughingly against his mouth, “I wonder what those plans might be.”

He nudged her a step closer towards the bed. “Can’t you guess?”

“Hmm…I might need a little hint.” She started to dance out of his hold but David resolutely yanked her back against him. Isabel’s beginning giggle became a gurgling groan when he ground up against her.

“I think playtime’s over,” he murmured seductively, his mouth already drifting across her cheek to find the sweet, fragrant crook of her neck. He continued in his gentle assault even as his fingers drifted down between their bodies and came to rest at the hem of Isabel’s form fitting tee. David swept her mouth in another suctioning kiss, his hands cradling her hips and rocking her into vibrant contact with his arousal.

“Can I take this off?” he murmured when the kiss broke, plucking impatiently at the edge of her shirt. Isabel barely nodded before he was peeling the tee up her midriff and whipping it over her head. Her bra quickly followed and their groans of desire coincided when there was nothing but her warm, soft flesh cradled in his hands. “I want you now,” he told her fiercely, sweeping her into his arms and bearing her towards the bed, “We can explore the island later.”

Hours later Isabel watched David as he dozed quietly beside her. She threaded her fingers through his tousled blond hair, curling the silky tendrils around them, a pensive frown marring the smooth perfection of her forehead. Despite her perfect surroundings, her perfect husband and their equally perfect lovemaking Isabel felt troubled. She was beginning to have second thoughts about brushing Max off that morning, not because she sensed any real danger but because she knew Max wouldn’t have been so pushy about it were he not genuinely worried.

However, Isabel didn’t want to make a big deal out of something that might potentially be nothing or, at the very least, something they didn’t have to worry about for weeks to come. That was yet another problem with Liz’s predictions: they could come true tomorrow or three months from then. There simply wasn’t any guarantee and that factor kept Isabel from worrying like she probably should have. She just couldn’t feel the same sense of urgency that Max and Liz seemed to feel. She was an alien after all, one of the most powerful life forms on this planet. Who could hurt her?

Consequently, it wasn’t worry that kept Isabel from snuggling with her husband and following him into contented oblivion. It was guilt. Guilt was eating her alive from the inside because she knew she was keeping something vital from David. He deserved to know about her phone conversation with Max that morning. More than once she had considered telling him the truth but, by the time she would work up her courage to do so, Isabel talked herself out of it every time.

Isabel flopped back into the pillows with an exasperated grunt. She was making this into too big a deal. After all, she was aware of the danger. She couldn’t very well be taken off guard if she knew it was a possibility, right? There should be no reason that she couldn’t enjoy her honeymoon and keep a vigil all at the same time.

And what was the point of ruining David’s good time? If he knew they were in danger, no matter how miniscule, he would insist that they leave immediately. Their honeymoon would be ruined and all because of her. Isabel wouldn’t let him make another sacrifice on her behalf. She wouldn’t let him forgo this special time with her based on something that wasn’t even guaranteed to happen. No, Isabel decided, he didn’t need to know about Liz’s vision. Not right then anyway. She’d tell him later…when they returned to the States.

Having made her decision, Isabel shifted back onto her side and leaned over to kiss her husband’s mouth, smiling to herself when he hummed blissfully in his sleep at her fleeting caress. “We’re going to have the best time ever,” Isabel vowed to her sleeping husband, “You’ll see.”

******

Maria found her mother in her bedroom, seated in the middle of her bed and surrounded by a sea of unfolded laundry. Amy stared off into space, as if she were lost in thought. The forlorn expression on her face made Maria’s heart ache.

“Can I help?” she asked, rapping lightly on the doorsill.

Amy’s head snapped up in surprise, a happy smile spreading across her lips as her only daughter advanced closer. “You wanna help me fold Jim’s underwear, is that it?” she asked Maria wryly when she found a relatively uncluttered place to sit, “Can’t think of any other way to spend your afternoon?”

“I missed my mommy,” Maria replied with a shrug, “Is that a crime.” She passed an absent hand over the mound of her belly. “Besides it can’t be any worse than folding Michael’s underwear,” she quipped with a shudder.

“Somehow I doubt Jim would appreciate it,” Amy returned dryly.

“Okay…okay,” Maria relented, “If it will make you feel better I’ll just stick with the socks and t-shirts then.”

“Shouldn’t you be at home resting?” Amy asked when Maria plucked up a random t-shirt and began making good on her offer.

“Mom, I’m pregnant,” Maria replied with an eye roll, “My arms didn’t just suddenly fall off. I’m not helpless so there’s absolutely no problem with me helping out with your laundry, okay?” She fell silent to study her mother for a moment, noting the fine lines of fatigue around Amy’s mouth. “Or maybe this isn’t about me at all,” she considered, “Maybe you want to be alone right now.”

“Not at all,” Amy protested, “I’d much rather have your company right now.”

There it was again, the trembling sorrow vibrating in her words as if she were struggling to hold back her tears. Maria reached across the distance to cover her mother’s hand in a comforting caress. “What’s happened, Mom?”

“You mean besides my husband’s first love dropping back into his life?” Amy queried acerbically. And then she waved her hand dismissively, instantly regretting that she had revealed so much. “Just forget it. You don’t need to hear all about my problems.”

Maria ignored her mother’s weak protests. “What’s happening with Deborah?” she asked carefully, “Did she say something, do something?”

“You know she was Jim’s first love, don’t you?” Amy asked with a bittersweet smile, “When she walked out on him…it nearly killed him. He had a very hard time getting over her.”

“But he did get over her,” Maria insisted.

“Did he?” Amy countered, “You saw the way he was looking at her over dinner the other night. Did he strike you as a man who was ‘over’ her?”

“They’ve just got history, you know,” Maria replied lamely, “Kinda like you and dad. That’s all it is.”

“Me and your dad?” Amy scoffed, “Um…I don’t think so. There’s nothing between Ray DeLuca and me anymore.”

“Mom,” Maria whispered in exasperation, “I saw how you acted when he came back. Are you going to tell me that none of that was residual feeling?”

“None of it was residual feeling,” Amy declared flatly, “What you saw, if you saw anything, was anger and disgust for a man who walked out on me for his girlfriend and left me to raise our six-year old daughter alone. That’s what you saw.”

“But…but didn’t you ever wonder why he decided to come back?” Maria hedged.

“No,” her mother replied, leveling Maria with a quizzical stare, “Ray DeLuca could get hit by a school bus tomorrow and I wouldn’t care less.” Maria glanced away at that, making a dramatic production of folding Jim’s undershirts with unnatural precision. But there was no denying the regretful hurt that flickered across her features. Amy lifted a hand to stroke the shining length of Maria’s hair. “You are better off without him, you know?”

“Mom,” Maria protested weakly, shrugging off her touch.

“Ahh…see now you’re looking at Kyle and Deborah and wondering if you should have given your father a chance, aren’t you?” Maria didn’t have to answer. The truth was plainly stamped on her face. “Damn that woman,” Amy muttered, “Damn her. Damn her.”

“It isn’t her fault,” Maria denied, “I had been thinking about it for a long time now…since I found out I was pregnant.”

“Letting him back into your life would have been a horrible mistake,” Amy warned, “Be glad you didn’t, sweetie. Trust me.”

Maria leveled her mother with earnest green eyes. “What if I want to find that out for myself?” she whispered.

Amy froze in the act of reaching for a pair of socks, a chill of apprehension running down her spine. “Find out what, Maria?”

“Michael didn’t go on a job,” she blurted, “He went to go find Dad for me. They’ve tracked him to Houston.” Maria thought she was prepared for her mother’s possible volatile reaction but when Amy DeLuca groaned, buried her face in her hands and burst into tears she was pushed dangerously close to weeping as well. “Mom? Mom, please,” she implored thickly, “Don’t take it like this?”

“How am I supposed to take it?” Amy sniffled, lifting her head to reveal her tear-streaked features, “God! Why in hell would you want to bring that man back into our lives, Maria!”

“He won’t be in our lives,” Maria clarified, “He’ll be in mine. I want to get to know him. I want him to know his grandchild.”

“He’ll just disappoint her the same way he disappointed you.”

“I don’t know that,” Maria returned quietly, “And neither do you.” Her tone softened considerably when she added, “I need to find out for myself.”

Amy rolled from the bed and loped over to the window, presenting her daughter with her back. “How long have you been planning this?” she asked gruffly.

Maria swiveled around to stare after her. “I told you…since I found out I was pregnant,” she said, “I wasn’t going to pursue it but then Kyle’s mother came back and I just couldn’t pretend anymore. When Michael offered to find him for me…well…I couldn’t say no.”

“Michael!” Amy spat, “I should have known he was up to his neck in this.”

“Michael knows what it’s like to not have a dad around,” Maria told her softly, “He didn’t want me to pass up this opportunity with him just because of past mistakes. And he came back to see me so that’s got to mean something.”

“Yeah,” Amy agreed dryly, “That he’s flat broke and looking for the next gravy train.”

“That’s how you feel,” Maria said, “But I think I’ll reserve my judgment.” She sighed heavily. “Mom, can you please look at me?” Amy took her sweet time pivoting around to face Maria. “I didn’t want you to be in the dark about this,” she told her, “That’s why I came here today. I didn’t want Michael to just show up with Ray and blindside you.”

“You mean like I was blindsided when I found out Michael was an alien?” Amy retorted, her tone acerbic.

Maria ducked her head, her mother’s saucy rejoinder hitting its mark. “I’m sorry about that,” she mumbled remorsefully, “I should have told you the truth about him. You shouldn’t have had to learn about it on national television.”

“And yet I did,” her mother reminded her dryly, “When did you stop being able to talk to me, Maria? I hardly know what’s going on in your life anymore.”

“I didn’t want to freak you out,” was Maria’s faint reply.

“Well, it can’t get any freakier than this!” Amy muttered sardonically, “Aliens exist and my baby girl is all set to give birth to one. I think, considering the circumstances, I’ve handled all this stuff remarkably well.”

“You have,” Maria confirmed.

“Then why do you continually keep me in the dark,” Amy cried, “Why do I find out two days before Michael’s supposed to come home that you sent him to find your father?” Maria had no defense and she knew it. She hung her head shamefully. “Well, I guess it could have been worse,” Amy laughed to herself, “I could have found out about your father the hard way…just like I found out about Michael.”

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Post by Deejonaise » Tue Apr 13, 2004 7:52 am

Chapter 9

“Hey? Do you have anymore of the Danishes with the apple filling? I really like those.”

Kyle swallowed back his snort of impatient disgust. Only Michael Guerin could be nonchalantly stuffing his face at a time like this. Here they had been commandeered by the Feds for reasons as yet unknown and Michael was worried about Danishes. Now they were waiting for the Director of Central Intelligence to make his entrance. Kyle’s stomach was in knots while Michael was busy filling his. Typical.

“Can you tell us what’s going on?” Kyle asked the Danish girl as she refilled their Styrofoam cups with coffee.

“The Director should be with you shortly,” she answered Kyle vaguely. And then she flashed a flirtatious smile at Michael, batting her eyelashes coyly. “I’ll see what I can do about those Danishes.”

“Thanks, doll,” Michael replied with a charming smile. He started to reach for yet another pastry when he caught Kyle’s death glare. “What? I’m just being friendly.”

“Has our situation not dawned on you, Guerin?” Kyle asked in irritation, “In case you hadn’t noticed the Feds just kidnapped us and handed us over to the CIA.”

“They didn’t kidnap us,” Michael replied mildly, “Max recommended us for a job.”

Kyle’s mouth fell open. “He did what?”

“He dropped our names to the President about a job,” Michael reiterated, “And before you ask me…no, I don’t know what it’s about. We’ll get the details when the Director of Central Intelligence arrives.”

“But what about Maria’s dad,” Diadne asked, “I thought we were supposed to be finding him for her.”

“Well, we know where he is,” Michael told her, unworried, “I doubt he’ll be leaving Houston anytime soon.”

“You’re actually considering going through with whatever cockamamie idea they’ve got planned for us?” Kyle burst out incredulously, “I think the sugar from those Danishes has saturated your brain, Guerin!”

Michael shrugged in unconcern and looked towards his brother. “Razba, are you getting a bad vibe from this?”

“Not me,” Razba replied.

Michael swung his gaze around to Diadne. “How about you?”

“I don’t sense anything underhanded,” she told him, “I sense they’re being guarded about the reason we’re all here but I’m not worried.”

Having been validated by two different sources, Michael fixed Kyle with a triumphant stare. “That’s three to one, Valenti,” he said, “So just chill, okay.”

“Fine. Whatever,” Kyle grumbled, “But if our loved ones never hear from us again let it be known that I was the sole voice of opposition.”

The four fell into a tension filled silence afterward. Diadne periodically shot Kyle daggered glances while Kyle, in turn, gave Michael the silent treatment. Michael munched happily on his supply of Danishes and coffee while Razba simply didn’t care enough about the dispute to raise an objection. The atmosphere was downright chilly and it was a relief when the Director finally arrived twenty minutes later, along with a handful of his CIA agents.

Michael pushed to his feet to greet the Director as he entered. “Michael Guerin,” Martin Handover greeted as he pumped Michael’s hand, “Your reputation as a bounty hunter precedes you.”

There was no stopping the prideful grin that slashed across Michael’s features. “You’ve heard of me?” Michael asked with pleased surprise.

“You and your team are renowned for your skills across the country,” Director Handover clarified, nodding around the table to Diadne, Kyle and Razba, “We’re told that you’re called ‘the bloodhound’.”

Michael’s grin widened and off to his left Kyle rolled his eyes, not that Michael noticed. “I guess some people might call me that.”

“They also say that you always find your man,” Handover prodded.

“I haven’t lost one yet,” Michael said.

“Let’s hope your record holds,” Handover said, motioning for one of his agents to step forward. A few seconds later a manila folder was slapped onto the surface of the table containing half a dozen glossy black and white photos of a man. He was holding a gun in nearly every photo. “This is Amid Musharraf Shabaz,” Handover clarified, “He is a known terrorist. For the last eight years the CIA has been tracking his movements but we’ve never been able to corner him. Our intel is always a few hours old so we can never pinpoint him until long after he’s moved on. That’s where you come in.” Handover eyed Michael with a penetrating stare. “We have reason to believe he’s hiding out in Afghanistan at this time…we want you to find him for us.”

“Afghanistan!” Kyle sputtered in disbelief, “You wanna send us over to the Middle East? Are you nuts? People are getting killed over there!”

“You’ll be paid well for your services,” Handover assured them.

“How much are we talking about here?” Michael asked.

“Twenty million dollars.” Even Diadne and Razba reeled over the figure. “You’ll receive the first ten when you leave and the second when you deliver Shabaz into our custody.”

Michael tapped his chin in thoughtful consideration and, seeing it, Kyle exploded with angry incredulity. “You’re not actually thinking about doing this, are you?” Michael continued to appear pensive. “Michael, you can’t do this,” Kyle fired, “Think of your friggin wife, man! She’s due to have a baby any day now!”

“Should I leave you alone to discuss it?” Handover asked tactfully.

“Please,” Michael told him.

Once the group was alone, however, Kyle hit Michael with both barrels. “What are you thinking with? Your ass? We can’t do this! It’s fucking crazy!”

“It’s twenty million dollars,” Michael considered.

“It’s suicide,” Kyle threw back.

“It’s twenty million dollars,” Michael replied again.

“He’s right, Kyle,” Diadne tacked in hesitantly, “We’re talking about a great deal of money here for a job that could prove relatively easy.”

“Relatively easy?” Kyle gaped at her. “We’re talking about the Middle fucking East, people! The Middle East! I may not be too up to speed on the world news circuit but I’m thinking that Americans aren’t their most favorite people if you catch my drift. We might as well attach targets to our asses with signs that say, ‘Fire here!’ This is ludicrous!”

“I must agree with Kyle on this,” Razba spoke quietly, “Though the money is a great incentive…we do not need it.”

“What about the fact we’d be helping to bring a known terrorist to justice?” Diadne considered, “Isn’t it our patriotic duty to see this through?”

“Patriotic?” Kyle scoffed, “You…a defected alien from another planet are sitting here talking about being patriotic? I’d laugh if this situation wasn’t so damned unbelievable.”

“Just because I was not hatched in this country or even on this world doesn’t mean I can’t care what happens here,” Diadne clipped, “Many good things have happened to me in America and for my people as well.”

“Many bad things, too,” Kyle reminded her in a whisper, “I don’t care about Max’s ties to the President…the U.S. government didn’t suddenly become our friends. They’re using us just like always. They can’t get this Shabaz guy on their own so they’re sending us in like lambs to the slaughter. I’m not gonna be anybody’s sacrifice.”

“Do you know what this guy did?” Michael asked, tapping one of the photos spread across the table, “He orchestrated that suicide bombing last month in Israel where several small children were killed. Two of them were under that age of three!”

“Don’t tell me you care, Guerin!” Kyle snorted.

“I do care,” Michael replied softly, “That could have easily been my baby or Maria.” His comment accomplished what nothing else had. It shut Kyle up. “Think about it, Valenti. We’re in the public eye and we’re aliens, thereby the perfect target for every nutjob and crackpot on the planet. If we go after Shabaz we’ll be sending out the message that we won’t tolerate it, that people who engage in terrorists acts against us, against Americans, against anybody whether big or small will have to answer for it. Let’s make an example out of this guy.”

“It’s not that I doubt we can catch him,” Kyle sighed, “I know we can but… I’m just afraid we’ll all get killed trying. To be perfectly frank…it’s fucked up over there.”

“We’ll handle it,” Michael said with a shrug, “Nothing’s going to happen to us.” He wouldn’t even entertain the possibility.

“There are other things to consider as well,” Kyle insisted, sliding a surreptitious glance over in Diadne’s direction. “We’re not together anymore,” he explained awkwardly, “Working together might prove a problem.”

“I can do my job if you can,” Diadne replied stiffly, “This is about business. I know how to keep that separate from what’s personal.”

“See there?” Michael said, satisfied, “Problem solved.”

“Not quite,” Kyle persevered, “You’re still forgetting the problem of your pregnant wife. How do you think Maria’s going to take it when you tell her you’re flying over to Afghanistan to do a job?”

“She should not be alone, Michael,” Razba spoke up, “Not when her delivery is so close.”

They weren’t voicing any concerns that Michael hadn’t previously considered himself. He wanted to take this job, so badly he could taste it. Not simply for the money or the potential adventure involved but for the principal. He wanted to have a sense of purpose, of doing something great and what could be greater than bringing a known threat to justice. That was his job. That was his livelihood. He couldn’t simply look the other way, not when he knew that the CIA had to be in bad shape if they were forced to come to a civilian for help.

“Damn, you’ve got a point!” Michael hissed in agreement with Razba, “We’re talking about a twenty something hour flight to get there… If something happened to Maria on the way, then what?” He was furiously racking his brain for an answer when he glimpsed the telltale gleam of an idea in Diadne’s eyes. “What? Did you just think of something?”

“We may be able to cut our travel down a bit,” she said.

“How are you proposing that exactly?” Michael wondered, “Are we gonna beam over there?”

“Do you want to know or are you just going to give me lip about it?” she asked dryly.

“I just don’t see how it’s possible,” Michael said, “Even if we somehow got our hands on a military fighter the trip would still take about twelve hours or so. That's still too long.”

“Well, I was thinking more like two hours,” Diadne clarified calmly.

“Hah,” Kyle snorted, “In what fucking universe?”

“Actually in mine,” Diadne replied tartly.

Razba eyes widened as her implication finally dawned on him. “You’re thinking about the shuttles, aren’t you?”

“They belong to us,” Diadne reasoned, “So why shouldn’t we use them?”

“Will they even be allowed in the sky?” Razba queried.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Michael interrupted in confusion, “What the hell are we talking about right now?”

“Our spaceships were all equipped with small shuttles,” Razba explained, “We used to use them to collect information and explore this planet’s terrain before we came to earth. They are small and fast and very difficult to pinpoint.”

“UFOs,” Kyle murmured, “So all those sightings of little flying crafts…people’s stories about being abducted…”

“—They were real,” Diadne finished quietly.

“I don’t get it,” Michael muttered, “Why didn’t Max and I know about these shuttles?”

“You never asked,” Diadne replied with a shrug, “Besides we haven’t had any use for them since arriving on earth. Honestly, I had forgotten about their existence until this second.”

“Okay…so can we access these shuttles?” Michael asked, “I shouldn’t have a problem getting permission to fly them.”

“They actually don’t fly, Michael,” Diadne said, “They just…go. It’s a ‘blink and you miss it’ kind of thing. Really awesome power.”

“What the hell does that mean?” Kyle demanded, “How are we supposed to get to Afghanistan if the damned things don’t fly?”

“At the speeds I'm talking about earth’s atmosphere is too dense so our scientists found a way to go around it. We sort of, for lack of a better word, well…jump from here to there,” Diadne explained haltingly.

“Great,” Kyle muttered, “From the alien abyss to a bad pulp fiction novel. Somebody please kill me now.”

“I can arrange that,” Diadne offered tightly.

“Enough,” Michael interrupted sharply.

“Okay,” Diadne continued, “So we’ll use the shuttles but we’re still going to need clearance to fly them. We wouldn’t want to scare anyone with unexplained blimps on their radar screens, now would we?”

“Just leave that to me,” Michael said, unconcerned, “Razba, I’ll need you to stay behind with Maria. If she does deliver while I’m away I don’t want her to be completely alone.” Razba nodded his compliance. “You can take the first flight out once this meeting is done.”

“So we’re going to do this?” Kyle concluded softly.

“My conscience would bother me if we didn’t,” Michael answered, “We have to do this, Kyle. You know we do.”

“Rah. Rah,” Kyle muttered, “Afghanistan here we come.”

“So I’m just gonna call them back in,” Michael declared tentatively, “Is everyone in agreement with the plan?”

Razba and Diadne murmured their concord while Kyle continued to hesitate. After a few moments he mumbled, “I still think Maria’s going to toast your ass over this but… Yeah…I’m in.”

Grinning with relief, Michael sprinted over to the door to let Handover and his agents know that they’d made a decision. Afterwards the impromptu meeting progressed rather quickly. “You’ll be undercover…posing as tourists,” Handover explained, “But with a full military escort at your disposal. Once you’re inside the country we’re giving you four days to complete the mission. If Shabaz hasn’t been found in that time you must abort. It would be dangerous were you to stay longer than that.”

“That’s plenty of time,” Michael said, glancing briefly at Kyle and Diadne as he answered, “It never takes us that long to find our man.”

“But you’ll be in a foreign country,” Handover reminded him, “A fact which will make your mission difficult.”

“That’s if you’re using conventional human methods,” Michael told him, “Which I won’t be. All you need to do is get us something personal of Shabaz’s and take us to the last place you suspect he was. We’ll find him from there.”

“We’ll get on it,” Handover replied, “In the meantime we’ve taken the liberty of booking you all in suites at the Hilton. You’ll leave first thing in the morning.”

“Okay then,” Michael said, “I guess I’d better call my wife and break the news.”

While Michael did that and Handover and his agents busied themselves answering Kyle and Diadne’s questions no one really noticed as a dark haired agent slipped from the room and out into the hall. Agent Jon Canner walked briskly through the building in long, purposeful strides, heading for the elevators and the first floor.

Once on the main level he cast a furtive glance about him and made his way outside to the nearest payphone. After pressing several coins into the slot he made his phone call. “We’ve got a problem,” he said, “They’ve hired someone to find him…a civilian. No…this is different… It’s one of those aliens. He’ll find him, I don’t doubt that. Tell Amid he needs to move. Look, I can’t do anything about it without compromising myself. Hey…cousin or not…you pay me to inform and that’s it so I’m informing you… Get him out of the country as soon as you can…”

******

“Was this really a good idea?”

Liz repressed an indulgent smile. Max had asked her that same question several times already, at the airport, on the plane, as they went through customs and now in the shuttle as they made their way to the resort. She couldn’t be annoyed with him, however, not when she understood the reason behind his agitation. Max was a proverbial worrier. He couldn’t help himself.

“Will you relax?” she laughed, “This trip is supposed to be about fun, remember?”

“How am I supposed to relax when Isabel might be in danger?” Max hissed out through his teeth, “I can’t get that flash out of my head.”

“Of course you can’t,” Liz agreed softly, “Neither can I. But there’s really nothing we can do. Besides…is Isabel worried?”

“No.”

“Then follow her example,” she advised, “If Isabel’s isn’t freaking out over it then why are you?”

“Because I trust your premonitions, Liz,” he told her, “If you saw Isabel in danger then she’s definitely in danger.”

“Well there’s nothing we can do about it,” Liz reiterated sagely, “Short of flying out to the Greek Islands and dragging Isabel home by her hair, our hands are tied. And you know Isabel…she’d never forgive you for interfering no matter how good your intentions were. It would probably only make the situation worse. Much as I hate to say it…the only thing we can do is sit back and wait.”

“We could have waited in Roswell,” he pointed out dryly.

“Why? So you could agonize yourself into having a stroke while we did? Nuh-uh. You needed this time away. I won’t let you be sorry for it.”

“But Isabel--,”

“—is fine,” Liz finished for him, “We can’t worry ourselves sick over what might or might not happen. In the meantime, if something does go down our parents know where to reach us and Isabel agreed to call you every day.” She placed a calming hand on his forearm. “Everything will be fine.”

“If you say so,” he sighed glumly, turning his morose stare out the window. He’d try for Liz’s sake but Max found it really difficult to muster up the enthusiasm. Cancun, Mexico wasn’t near what he’d imagined it would be. All he saw was miles and miles of barren wasteland with a sporadic cropping of trees. Desert land. He could have seen the exact same thing in New Mexico. “This is it?” he wondered aloud, unimpressed, “Somehow I expected something more…tropical.”

“It’s better along the strip,” their driver answered in a heavy accent, unsolicited, “But the drive getting there isn’t so hot, I know.” Max and Liz traded glances, wondering if they should be wary of their driver’s uninhibited friendliness. “Is this your first time to Cancun?” he asked, regarding the two young people in his rear view mirror. Both Max and Liz nodded mutely, still locked in mental debate. “Honeymooning?” he inquired.

Liz uttered a self-conscious laugh at that and ducked her head. “No…no, we’re not married,” she murmured. It was impossible to miss the longing in her tone.

“Not yet,” Max tacked on quietly, surveying her with a soft look, “We’re getting there.”

“Well, there’s no rush, you know,” the driver replied sagely, “What are you two…in your early twenties? There’s plenty of time for marriage.” Max smiled at that. Not many people reacted so mildly to his obvious feet dragging. His family and friends couldn’t hustle him down the aisle fast enough. “So what brings you guys down then?” the driver asked.

“Vacation,” Max answered with a broadening smile in Liz’s direction, “My girl thinks I’m sorely in need of a vacation so…here I am.”

“Cancun’s a good spot for that,” the driver commended, “Plenty of things to do all around. You’ll like it. And it’s not so crowded like usual either. Tourism has been down a bit since…”

“Since?”

“Well, since those aliens landed across the way,” he clarified, “They’re taking all the business, you know.” He paused to offer Max a scrutinizing look via the rear view mirror. “Eh…must be hard for them though, like being on display in a zoo. They probably can’t get a moment’s peace. What do you think about that?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Max replied woodenly, unsure whether he should be put off by the driver’s words or relieved.

“I think it’s a damned shame,” the driver continued, “But I hear that city of theirs is amazing. I’m going to take my missus someday.” He flashed Max another look, this one full of twinkling mischief. “Anybody ever tell you that you look a lot like their king?”

Max flushed at the inquiry, but Liz was quick-minded enough to pick up the ball when he could do little more than stutter in response. “He gets that all the time,” she laughed deliberately, “but I don’t see it. I think my guy is way cuter.”

The shuttle driver grinned knowingly at that. “Hey, no offense to you,” he replied smoothly, “I think I actually feel sorry for the kid, you know. All that media attention…he can’t even live a normal life. It’s a sad, sad thing.” He looked at Max again, his dark eyes knowingly sympathetic. “But maybe he can get away from it all, you know? Even aliens need to have a vacation sometime, you dig me?”

“Yeah,” Max murmured, his smile rekindling, as he perceived that their driver wasn’t a threat to them at all, “I dig you.”
Last edited by Deejonaise on Tue Apr 13, 2004 10:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Deejonaise
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I'm back!

Post by Deejonaise » Tue Apr 13, 2004 10:36 pm

...But wasn't I just here? :?


Chapter 10

“What do you think?” David asked excitedly when Isabel took a tentative bite of the spinach and cheese pie, “Do you like it?”

“It’s better than I thought it would be,” Isabel said, setting aside her spoon on the deck table, “I’ve never really been a big fan of spinach.” She wrinkled her nose a bit for emphasis. “But really…that wasn’t half bad. What do you call it again?”

“A spanakopita,” David told her, “My mother lives for them whenever she visits the Islands, which is surprising since they’re rather inexpensive and we both know what extravagant tastes my mother has.”

They had spent a lazy morning together yachting off the coast of the Dodecanese Islands enjoying the cool, blue waters of the Aegean and sunning themselves on the patio deck. Later that evening they would set sail for Athens and enjoy a light supper at one of the beachside tavernas and, afterward, take in the sights and sounds of the Hellenic Festival. Tomorrow would be another full day in Athens because Isabel was bound and determined to visit every ancient Greek site imaginable.

“I can’t believe how beautiful it is here,” Isabel sighed, closed her eyes and lounged back in her deck chair, “Have you ever seen a more gorgeous view? The water…the land…the mountains…”

David slid his gaze down the length of his wife’s gorgeously voluptuous body, taking in her topless state as she sunbathed, and smiled. “Oh, I can think of a couple of ‘mountains’ that are far more breathtaking,” he teased.

Isabel popped open one eye to regard him. “You’re such a lecher,” she told him, but her smile belied any true annoyance.

At her laughing reply, David put aside the spanakopita and dragged his deck chair up alongside Isabel’s so that he could stretch out beside her. “So what’s going on in your pretty little head, my wife?” he whispered, lifting up onto his elbow so that he could stare down into her face.

Isabel’s smile became nervous and fidgety. “Nothing’s on my mind,” she brazened lightly, “I’m just enjoying my time here with you, my husband.”

“Then why does it seem like you’re a million miles away right now?” he asked softly.

What could she say in answer to that? Well, my brother’s girlfriend just recently predicted my violent kidnapping and it’s got me a little spooked. No, she couldn’t go there. This was only the second day of her honeymoon with twelve more enjoyable days like it to go. In all that time, Isabel had sensed nothing amiss, had found no reason for alarm yet she was unable to shake the sick feeling of dread in her belly and the knowledge that she was lying to her husband made it all the worse.

“Don’t you ever wish you could escape the alien abyss?” Isabel wondered suddenly, “Just for a while?”

He frowned down at her quizzically. “I thought we were doing that.”

“No,” Isabel whispered with a sad shake of her head, “We never escape it…not as long as I am who I am. Everywhere I go I’m Isabel Evans, Princess of Antar.”

“You like the attention and you know it.” But she didn’t laugh as she usually did over his mocking reply. She didn’t even smile. David heard alarm bells clanging in his head with her uncharacteristic reaction. “Isabel?” he murmured, reaching from to brush her hair back from her furrowed forehead, “What’s bringing all this on, sweetheart?”

“I just wish I didn’t make your life so complicated,” she sighed fervently.

David leaned forward to brush her lips gently. “I have to love those complications,” he said, “I love having you in my life. I love you.”

“Even though I’m not normal?” she prodded.

Especially because you’re not normal,” he laughed, “You make me happy, Isabel, alien complications or not. Now,” he whispered, cupping her jaw, “is there something you want to tell me? You can talk to me about anything.”

It was on the tip of her tongue, the words poised at her lips and ready to be voiced but she couldn’t do it. The truth would ruin their time together here, would ruin their time period because David would spend his every waking hour afterward worrying about her. The moment would serve as a foreshadowing of their life together, an omen of what was to come and that was the last thing Isabel wanted. And if that life were an inevitable, inescapable truth…well then she’d put it off as long as she could.

Finally, she shook her head, plastering on an affected smile. “No,” she lied brightly, “Everything is just perfect.”

******

“What crawled up your ass and died?” Kyle asked as Michael fell into his shuttle seat with a fierce scowl and muttered curse, “You still in the dog house with Maria?”

Michael expelled yet another string of curses as he buckled his safety harness across his chest. “I could deal with it if she was angry,” he said gruffly, “You know cursing and ranting…the stuff she’s good at. I’ve got a defense for that, you know? But she was crying, Kyle. Every time I call to talk to her she bursts into tears. I could barely understand what she was saying the last time. How am I supposed to respond to that, huh?”

“How did you think this trip was going to go over?” Kyle asked him sardonically, “Did you really think she would do a little jig of joy?”

“I didn’t think it would be that bad,” Michael muttered, “I feel so damned guilty.”

“Don’t look at me,” Kyle cried when Michael pinned him with woebegone eyes, “I’m the last person you should be getting interspecies relationship advice from.”

“You gotta have something, Valenti,” Michael implored, “I know you and Maria are close. Throw me a friggin bone, dude.”

“Okay…buy her a nice, fat diamond with your earnings from this job,” Kyle advised dryly, “That should smooth things over a bit. But God help you if you miss the birth. There’ll be no coming back from that one, amigo.”

Michael refused to even think about that possibility because he knew Kyle was completely right. Maria would have his ass carved like a Thanksgiving turkey if he weren’t there when she went into labor. “Hmm…a diamond you say?” he considered, sliding his gaze over to where Diadne sat in the pilot’s seat clicking on all sorts of foreign devices as they prepared for take off. “Is that how you’re planning to buy your way out of the doghouse with Diadne…with a diamond?”

Kyle followed Michael’s line of sight, his blue eyes clouding over with sorrow and frustration. “Nah, my friend,” he murmured unhappily, “I think that ship has sailed.”

“I don’t believe it,” Michael uttered, “You guys can’t be over.” He and Maria used to break up and make up every week and they were married now and expecting a kid. Michael couldn’t imagine it would be that different for Kyle and Diadne.

“Well, believe it,” Kyle retorted flatly, “We’re just too different. We go over the same argument again and again and it gets us nowhere. It can’t work.”

“Is that how you feel about it?” Michael queried, “Or is that what Diadne told you?”

“Does it matter?” Kyle replied unanswerably, “The point is we’re done.”

“You okay with that?” Michael asked him, detecting the dejection in his tone.

“No,” Kyle answered, his words hoarse with sadness, “No, I’m not. It’s taking all the strength I have not to sit here and bawl like a damned woman.”

He stared over at Diadne, noting her stoic features as she strapped into her safety harness. Kyle thought she looked beautiful, her brilliant red hair tied back for her face in an untidy bun at the base of her neck, her lush eyelashes casting alluring shadows on her cheeks. Even after their painful breakup that morning she still affected him deeply. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to have the same affect on her. She couldn’t have appeared calmer.

“She doesn’t even act like she cares that we broke up,” he muttered plaintively.

“Do you want her to?”

Kyle leaned his head back against the top of his seat and emitted a long-suffering groan. “I don’t really know what I want,” he sighed, “I…I thought that if I broke up with her she’d feel something but… She’s like stone. It’s like she totally just shrugged it off. I swear I feel like I’m dating a guy. She’s the one who’s supposed to be the broken down emotional wreck, not me.” He laughed to himself. “It’s so ironic, you know…usually girls are always so quick to throw out the ‘I love yous,’” Michael nodded his agreement. “Well, not Diadne,” Kyle revealed to him, “Not one single time has she said the words. Maybe I’m just working myself up for nothing.”

“I…I guess I can see how you’re having a hard time with that,” Michael replied, biting back his smile, “Poor widdle Kyle. Can’t get his girlfriend to say ‘I love you.’ Boo-hoo.”

Kyle shoved at him in disgust, swiveling around to glare out the tinted window shield down at the launch pad below. “I knew I shouldn’t have said anything to you about it,” he grumbled.

“Kyle, I’m sorry, okay,” Michael snickered. He paused a moment to swallow his bubbles of laughter. When he had managed some limited control he said, “Dude, I’m sorry. I…I didn’t mean to laugh at your pain.”

Kyle directed a soured glance over his shoulder at his laughing friend. “You’re an ass, Guerin,” he stated simply, “Go fuck yourself.”

“Aww…come on,” Michael cajoled, “Don’t be like that.”

“Bite me.”

“Are you two secured in your seats,” Diadne asked a moment later, unaware that their conversation of the last few minutes had centered on her, “We achieve lift-off in the next sixty seconds.” Hot on the heels of her statement a computerized voice began countdown. As the clock wound down Diadne cast a glance back at Kyle, her heart aching a little when she glimpsed his forlorn profile. She looked away quickly before he had a chance to notice her perusal.

“Hey, Pip,” Kyle called out to her a moment later, “You think you could get the lead out, please? The sooner we get there, the sooner we get back.”

“I’m working on it,” Diadne snapped back, “I have never actually flown one of these shuttles, though I watched my father many times.”

“What the hell?” Michael cried, his eyes widening with apprehension.

“There’s no reason to worry,” Diadne soothed before tacking on her favorite human slang phrase, “I got you. Besides our scientists practically have that sterility side effect licked.”

“What???” Michael and Kyle bleated simultaneously.

Diadne tossed them a cheeky smile over her shoulder. “Just kidding.”

Kyle coughed and slowly sat up in his seat. “Okay, I’m not laughing,” he replied calmly, “I’m probably being dense here but…you are telling us that you’ve never flown one of these shuttles before, right? I’m thinking this could be a very, very bad thing.”

“I’ve watched plenty of flight sessions and simulated hundreds more,” Diadne brazened, “Everything will be fine.” She finished that statement by switching on several devices and Kyle felt the aircraft shift as it began to hover mid-air with a low hum.

“This is bullshit!” he cried, grappling with his seat restraints. But his fingers barely glanced the buckle as the shuttle suddenly shot into motion, pinning him back into his seat. As every vital organ he had descended into his ass and his world flipped crazily Kyle gripped the armrests in a hold that could break bone. “Oh hell…” he muttered through clenched teeth, his insides rumbling, “I’m gonna die!”

******

“Maria?”

Maria quickly scrubbed at her wet cheeks, lurching around when she heard Razba rasp her name. “Oh God,” she sniffled, mortified that he’d caught her bawling her heart out, “I thought you were asleep.”

“Well, I was,” Razba hedged, scratching behind his ear sheepishly, “But then I…”

“You heard me crying, huh?” Maria concluded hoarsely, “I guess that’s becoming the norm with you and me. I cry a river and you mop it up.”

Razba was her official babysitter. Whenever Michael went out of town, and that was quite often, Razba would stay with her. The only exception proved to be when they had a job and then Razba would accompany his brother. Consequently, Maria had spent a great deal of time with Razba in the last two years and she knew him pretty well.

“Are you hungry,” she asked suddenly, whirling for the refrigerator in an effort to avoid his earnest blue gaze, “I can make you a sandwich.”

“He’ll be back in time for the baby,” he reassured her, “You don’t know how important it is to him to be back in time.”

“Sure,” Maria replied as she slapped a package of cold cuts unceremoniously onto the kitchen counter, “He’ll be back in time. Whatever.” She yanked out two slices of bread and began slathering them with mayonnaise. She used such force that the knife tore through the bread. Fresh tears of frustrated anger stinging her eyes, Maria uttered a blistering curse under her breath and flung away the knife. “You know what I hate, Raz,” she fired out suddenly, “I hate how I’m always the one being left behind…like I’m expendable or something!”

“Left behind?” Razba echoed carefully.

“Yeah, left behind,” Maria enunciated, “Everyone’s off on some kind of adventure now. Max and Liz are in Cancun. Isabel and David are honeymooning in the Greek Islands. Kyle, Diadne and Michael are on their way to Afghanistan in a high-speed space shuttle and where am I? Stuck at home making a turkey and cheese sandwich for you!” She promptly burst into tears at the end of her rant, sobbing harshly.

She didn’t know how long she stood there, weeping her heart out before she felt Razba wrap his arms around her tentatively and bring her shuddering body against his chest. He held her firmly despite the large mound of her belly between them, rubbing her back in long, soothing strokes.

“God, I’m so sorry, Raz!” she sniffled into his shirt, “I feel like I’m always blubbering all over you. I’m not usually this weepy.” But lately she was.

During those lonely nights when Michael would be gone often it was Razba who dried her tears. It was Razba who watched chick flicks with her into the small hours of the night. Razba who played Scrabble with her and beat her mercilessly. He had become a valued friend to her over the years, but especially in these last few weeks of her pregnancy. He was her rock. He never made her feel as if she were leaning on him too much, although she suspected she was.

The sudden thought rattling around in her brain, Maria pushed out of his arms and blew her nose on a nearby dishtowel. “What I said to you a moment ago, Raz…that was totally uncalled for. Being a bitch is just too easy these days.”

“It’s okay,” he told her with a small smile, “I know it’s your hormones.”

“Hormones,” Maria scoffed lightly, “If only that was all it was.”

“What else is it?” he asked, “Besides Michael not being here, I mean.”

“Oh, that’s just a symptom,” Maria said dryly, “Trust me.”

“Why don’t you tell me what’s really wrong then?” he invited.

“You wanna know?” Maria asked. When he nodded she actually snickered. “Well then you might want to sit down for this.” After he’d obliged her request Maria started in on a rant that had been a long time in coming. “So everyone has an important job to do but me,” she began flatly, “Consider the facts. Liz does cellular research and is on the verge of a cure for cancer. Isabel is a criminal consultant and helps to find killers. You, Michael, Kyle and Diadne track down fugitives and bring them to justice. Even David is about to take corporate America by storm. What’s my job, huh? What’s my important contribution to society? I’m a housewife. Ooh la dee dah!”

Wordlessly, Razba pointed to her distended abdomen. “As far as I’m concerned,” he declared quietly, “That…is the greatest thing you can do…utterly amazing… The idea that a child is growing inside your body is something miraculous to me, Maria.”

“Of course it’s miraculous to you seeing as how you were hatched,” she snorted capriciously, hoping to mask how deeply his fervent words had affected her, “It’s nothing special, Raz. Any female can have a kid.”

“Don’t belittle yourself. I am completely serious,” he told her, his gaze steady and emphatic, “You amaze me. Yet, when Kadon and I first arrived here I was not impressed with you. That my brother could choose a mere human and a quirky one at that--,”

“Gee, thanks--,”

“But then you blossomed…like a flower in blistering sun,” he murmured, “It didn’t matter how the elements battered you…you grew fuller and stronger and more beautiful despite everything.”

“Raz, you don’t--,”

“I am glad for this time I have had to get to know you,” he went on, “I’m glad to count you as my friend. So when you refer to yourself as useless or unimportant you don’t know how wrong you are, Maria. You have changed my life…more than you could ever realize.”

Maria became acutely aware of the sheer awkwardness of their exchange, the strange and sudden intimacy that had sprung up between them. “Raz,” she breathed, “I can’t believe… God! You…you don’t have to say those things to me.”

“I know it,” he said, his stare unwavering. And then finally he looked away, staring down at his hands. “I know you are my brother’s lifemate,” he whispered, “And I respect that, Maria but…but you are special to me.”

“Yes, you’re right” Maria agreed with an edge of desperation, uneasy with the reverential way he was staring at her, “I am your brother’s wife and I love him very much so…so whatever you’re thinking--,”

“—I’m thinking Michael is a fortunate man,” he interrupted in conclusion, “Very fortunate. But that’s all. I don’t expect anything from you, Maria.”

Maria fell back a step. “Yeah…okay…if you say so,” she replied but she sounded confused and uncertain and she was sure she looked the part as well. Yet, what frightened her even more than her confusion over his unprecedented confession was her reaction to it. There had been definite flutters. When he looked at her just then, his gaze so worshipful and enamored, she had been affected and it had felt…good.

“I want to do something special for you,” Razba said slowly, looking at her in a way that made Maria think he was aware of her thoughts. She colored brightly under his inspection.

“What?” she answered warily.

“You say that everyone is on an adventure except for you, right?”

She relaxed a bit at the question. “Pretty much.”

“Then why don’t you and I take an adventure as well,” he suggested.

“An adventure?” Maria parroted flatly, “Raz, where on earth would we go?”

“What about Houston, Texas,” he asked her, “I know it’s not as glamorous as the Greek Islands or Cancun, Mexico but--,”

“You’re taking me to see my father, aren’t you,” Maria burst out excitedly, cutting him off mid-comment, “Are you serious? You’ll really take me?”

He nodded. “I will take you…if you want.”

Maria carefully considered her options. It probably wasn’t the wisest decision she could make to be cloistered away in a car with Razba for the next two days knowing how he obviously felt about her, but the desire to see her father was strong. Besides the alternative, wasting away in the apartment pining for Michael’s return didn’t seem especially appealing either. Razba was an honorable person. She knew he wouldn’t overstep his boundaries no matter how strong his feelings. Further, he was staring at her with such hope and excitement that she didn’t want to say no.

She glanced down at her distended stomach. “Two days in a car? Doesn’t sound too comfortable,” she mumbled in consideration.

“Which is exactly the reason we’re taking your car,” was Razba’s cheeky reply.

“Okay,” Maria whispered finally after a tentative silence, “Give me an hour to pack.”

Locked