Solar Eclipse M/L Book 1 (ch. 1-34);Book 2 (ch. 1-20) [SAVE]

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max and liz believer
Obsessed Roswellian
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Postby max and liz believer » Thu Sep 25, 2003 3:12 pm

Chapter 14


Max quietly moved into the tent and waved the guard off, who silently left. A soft smile started to form on his lips as his eyes landed on her still form on the mattress on the floor. Pausing by the end of the mattress he discarded his jacket and carefully climbed onto the mattress, molding his body against hers. A peaceful feeling fell over him and he could feel his tense muscles relax.
She stirred to life as she felt his arms fold around her. “Max?“
Max placed a tender kiss on the side of her neck. “Yes, love.“
Liz turned in his arms so that they were facing each other. A sleepy smile claimed her lips as her gaze landed on his beautiful face and that she could with her own eyes see that he was unharmed.
Max responded to her smile with one of his own. “Hi...“
“Hi,“ she mumbled back.

“You are so beautiful, have I ever told you that?“ Max whispered, his fingers tracing a heated trail down the side of her face.
“I believe you have,“ Liz said softly.
“Well, that simple word doesn’t even come close,“ Max said. Liz’s eyes drifted closed as he started raining slow and warm kisses over every millimeter of her face.
“I missed you,“ Liz whispered.
“God, I missed you,“ Max said, his voice breaking somewhat with emotion. Liz’s breath caught in her throat at the emotions she could feel from him tumbling over her. “I missed your calmness, your logic, your support, your love. I even missed your stubbornness.“
Liz opened her eyes and searched his face. “How did it go, Max?“
Max smiled faintly and pressed a light kiss on her lips before he began to talk, “It won’t be long now.“
Tears sprang up in Liz’s eyes. “What?“ she asked breathlessly, her heart slamming in her chest at the hopeful tone in his voice.
“There was this woman at the meeting – Serena.“
“Serena,“ Liz mumbled. Images of Future Max telling her about how she one day would become friends with someone named Serena flashed through her mind.

“Liz?“
“I-“ Liz searched Max’s eyes, “She was the one to modify the Granolith into a time machine so that the future version of you could pass through.
“Max stared at her. “Really?“
Liz silently nodded.
“She’s been seeing Emma every day,“ Max said, holding Liz’s gaze. The tears brimming in Liz’s eyes spilled down her cheeks and Max’s thumb gently brushed them away, his arm tightening around her waist. “She is working undercover at the palace where they are keeping Emma. She’s supposed to try to get Emma to talk.
The tears were flowing freely down Liz’s cheeks now. “Is she- is she...“
“She’s okay. Unharmed,“ Max answered her unspoken question. “But she’s lonely and she’s scared.“

Liz sobbed and nodded before putting her arms around Max and pulling him close, seeking comfort in his warm embrace.
“Who is...Is she to…to...be...“
“She is to be trusted,“ Max answered quietly, holding her trembling body close, trying to fill the void inside of him. “She will take care of her. This is really good news, sweetheart. We have someone working on the inside.“
“Can we somehow...talk to her...contact her in some way?“ Liz asked, trying to prevent her tears from falling.
“Serena will try to work with Emma to help her open up the connection she has to you again. Serena thinks it has been damaged somehow.“
An immense feeling of relief floated through Liz. She couldn’t be there for her daughter, but if someone she could trust, someone that Max trusted, was there with her, it was the next best thing.

<center>-------------------------------------------------------</center>

Serena walked down the long familiar corridors. The walls were still made of glass around her. The guards were still as suspicious as before. The people were as subdued in their appearance as they had always been. But to Serena, everything had changed. She had stood face to face with the man whom she had sworn loyalty to since Khivar’s men had invaded her home when she was just a little girl. She quickly shook the thoughts of her family away. She never let herself think about what had happened that night, when she had become an orphan in the blink of an eye. It was then that she had sworn to bring Khivar down even if she was killed in the process. She would avenge the deaths of her parents if it was the last thing she did.

Khivar had a lot of blood on his hands. Millions of people had suffered horrible deaths because of one of his callous and cold orders. He considered the peasants as inferior creatures. The people who stood above them in the social hierarchy - the soldiers and the wealthy upper class - were allowed to do about anything to those poor people. Once, Serena had been one of them. She had been one of the peasants who had suffered pain under Khivar’s reign.

After King Zan died, the world had fallen apart. War had broken out amongst the people. Neighbors who had been friends since they were old enough to speak were suddenly arguing, betraying and even killing each other. It had not been difficult for Khivar to seize power. Antar had cried out for a strong hand to rule them. They were desperate. However, if they had known what they signed up for, they probably wouldn’t have even looked at the paper. New regulations had been constructed to keep the people on a short leash. People were raped of their personal belongings, only allowed to own the basic necessities like water and bread. Everyone who tried to stand up to the new king was killed, often publicly, to make an example and teach others what would happen to law-breakers.

Serena kept her eyes straight ahead of her, her face revealing nothing of the thoughts swirling in her head. She knew how dangerous it was to be doing what she was doing. If someone found out that she was one of the loyalists, she would be executed. No questions asked. It was vital to play her cards correctly. One slip up and it could cost her her life. But last night her mission had gotten even more dangerous, if possible. She was the only one working on Zan’s side that had close contact with his heir. The heir was the purpose of Zan’s return. Because even if no one had spoken it aloud, it was pretty clear that Zan was not here to free his people, he was here to bring his little girl back. Serena was still unsure of how to feel about that. They had fought long and hard, with a strong, albeit distant, hope in the back of their minds that Zan would eventually arrive and return order to the world. It had slipped out to the Loyalists that Zan, his sister, his commander and his wife had all been sent to another planet to be reborn. They had been sent with all the information they needed, which would be programmed into them as they were grown in pods. Nothing would have changed. They would wake and it would be as if nothing had ever happened. They would still remember Antar and everything that had happened there as if it was yesterday.

But for some reason, Serena wasn’t so sure that was the case. Something must have happened. Something must have interacted with the memory retrieval, distorting it. Somehow, Ava - Zan’s bride - had turned against her own people and instead gave her loyalty to the enemy. And the man Serena had met yesterday hadn’t been Zan. He hadn’t looked like Zan, but for that Serena had been prepared. The rumors said that the DNA of the royal four had been mixed with human DNA. They looked human. That was part of the scientists’ plan because then they would not stand out as different on earth, and they would not be immediately recognized as who they were when they returned to Antar. However, it was clearly not only their outsides that had changed. Their insides were different. They were more cautious. More fearful. More insecure. Not trained soldiers with years of experience. They were just kids. Serena was about the same age as Zan, but on Antar the children had to grow up fast. And now she was entrusted with Zan’s child. Even if he weren’t working to free them, Serena would do everything in her power to keep his child safe. She walked up to the guard purposefully as he squinted cautiously. He easily recognized who she was, but it was still possible that it was someone else disguised as her. Her essence still needed to be verified. Serena stepped up to the guard without a word, waiting patiently as the guard slowly let his hands hover over her body. The guard nodded, verifying her identity and Serena waited for him to let her enter. But when he didn’t move, she frowned slightly.

*Requesting permission to enter,* she said.
*There is nothing to see in there,* the guard answered.
Serena’s frown deepened. What was he talking about? *I am here to meet with the little girl,* she clarified, taking a step closer to the entrance. The guard immediately stepped in front of her, blocking her way with his massive body.*I have clearance to meet with this girl,* Serena said, *Every day.*
*She is not there,* the guard answered.
Serena’s heart skipped a beat. *She is not there?* She forced her voice to remain calm. It would not be good to betray the panic she felt rising up within her at the guard’s words. She was not even supposed to have an emotional bond to the girl. *Has she been moved to another room?*
*No,* the guard answered shortly, as though talking to a wall.
Serena’s face turned colder as she stared at the guard. *Was she taken outside.*
*No.*
*Where have they taken her?* Serena demanded, her voice rising.
The guard stepped closer to her, his body looming over her slight frame. His face contorted in a menacing glare, and he spoke, coldly, *I am not permitted to discuss this. If you need answers, you will have to talk to the Livenders.*
The Livenders? Serena’s heart sank. This was not good. If she had to talk to the Livenders to get information, it meant that something big had been changed. She quickly turned on her heel and headed down the hall to find out what had happened to Emma.

<center>----------------------------------------------------</center>

She slowly lifted her head from the ground. It was pounding intensely, making every slight movement of her head amplify through her body, spreading all over. She could feel it most immensely behind the bone at the front of her skull. A pounding that was crying for attention just by the way it was effectively blocking out the capability to focus on anything else.

There was someone talking. By its hoarseness, she concluded that they were whispering, but when the sounds passed through her eardrum, the pounding in her skull magnified it into loud cries.
“Mommy! Mommy!“
The first thing she noticed when she pried her eyes open was the blindingly intense light. It was so compact it was like someone had pointed flashlights directly into her eyes.
“Mommy!!!“
She forced herself up in sitting position and felt dizziness take control of her senses. Blinking repeatedly against the painful light, she slowly turned her head to take in her surroundings. However, the only result was an increase in her dizzy feelings. The floor was moving, swinging back and forth, and she had to support herself from falling by digging her nails into the floor. As her nails scraped against the hard surface, she looked down, feeling the world tip around her as she did, and noticed that the ground was made out of stone. White, blinding stone.
“Mommy!!!“
She had to get up. Her little girl was here somewhere and she needed her. She wanted to answer her, but she could hardly form any coherent thoughts, let alone could she form any words intelligible enough to be spoken. Her body felt like lead, but as her daughter’s frightened voice echoed through the blinding light once again, it was as if an inhuman force was taking hold of her, and she struggled to her feet.

Windows.
Large windows were surrounding her. A long corridor stretched itself out in front of her. It was so long that she couldn’t see the end of it as she squinted her eyes against the bright light seeping through the windows.
“Mommy...“
The voice of her little child once again bounced off the bare walls, and she started to move.
“Mommy... heeelb!!“
Her heart tightened and she fought back the burning tears. She was here. Her little girl was here somewhere. She had to find her. As she walked further down the corridor, she watched with mounting panic as doors - thousands of doors - rose along the sides. They hadn’t been there before.
Her legs stumbled with fatigue and the pounding grew worse. Her hand stretched out to steady herself. As her hand touched one of the doors a strong current went through her body and she felt herself fly through the air. She landed hard, the back of her head hitting the hard floor. Nausea overwhelmed her and the light gradually began to lose its brightness.

“Mommy...“
And just as the darkness was at its darkest and was slowly eating away all the traces of consciousness, she felt something graze her forehead. Lightly. Softly.
“Mommy, wake ub...“
“Baby?“ she croaked, her voice suddenly returning to her. The dizziness and pounding that had earlier occupied her tired brain slowly dissipated.
“I’s scwared.“
She slowly pried her eyelids up and her heart stopped in her chest. Hovering over her was her beautiful daughter’s face.
“Emma?“ she croaked, hopefully.
The small child fingers continued tracing her forehead. “I don’t wanna be wif the bad men anymore.“
“Oh my God,“ Liz whispered and sat up, her eyes never leaving Emma’s face for a second. She didn’t even dare to blink. She quickly wrapped her arms around Emma’s tiny frame. Tears streamed down her face as she held on to her tightly, never intending to let go.
“Emma, honey. Are you okay?“ Liz sobbed, pulling back to search Emma’s face. She stroke the dark curls away from the girl’s face and brushed the tears away from her cheeks.
“I wanna go home now,“ Emma whispered and her bottom lip started to tremble.
“We are going home, baby,“ Liz promised, with all her heart. If it was the last thing she did, it would be to keep that promise.

“Is we going home now?“ Emma asked, a twinkle of hope in her eyes.
Liz’s throat constricted with sorrow. “Soon, baby.“
Emma’s face crumbled and she started to cry. “I want to go home now. I don’t like it here.“
Liz took her in her arms and pressed her tightly against her. “I know, honey. I know,“ she sobbed.
The silence surrounding them was suddenly broken and Liz fearfully looked up to see two men in dark blue uniforms walking towards them.
“No,“ Liz whispered. “No, no, no!“
She quickly scrambled to her feet, pulling Emma with her. Emma’s arms tightened around Liz’s neck and she buried her tear-stained face against Liz’s chest.
“Don’t let ‘em take me, don’t let ‘em take me,“ she pleaded frantically.
Liz tightened her arms around her little girl, turned and ran. She had never run as fast before. The ground was hard against her bare feet. There was no wind. No sound. Only the stomping feet of the men behind them.

The floor started to tilt and she stumbled.
“No,“ she mumbled agonizingly as she fought to regain her footing. She recovered her balance and continued running but there was no end to the corridor. No hiding places. Her hand let go off Emma’s dark hair and started the never-ending task of trying to get one of the closed doors open. But they wouldn’t open. They were all locked. And before her eyes she could see the doors further down the corridor sink into the walls. Disappearing.
“Please, don’t...“ she sobbed, both to the hopeless situation and to the men chasing them.

Her legs kept moving, but fatigue was coursing through her now, weakening her, and she knew that it was only a matter of seconds before she would fall. She shifted Emma’s weight onto her other hip.
“They’re coming, mommy. The bad men. They’re coming,“ Emma cried.
And Liz fell to her knees. Her legs couldn’t sustain their combined weight any longer. She took a strong hold of Emma and pulled her towards one of the walls. She didn’t dare to look around them. She didn’t want to know if the men were still following, or how close they were. She curled up against the wall and pulled Emma up in her lap. Wrapping her arms around her daughter she buried her face in her hair and tried to shield her as much as she possibly could from the horrors threatening them.
“I’m sorry, Em. I’m so sorry,“ she sobbed into her hair. Emma’s small hand clutched the hem of her shirt, her small body trembling with fear. “I love you. I love you so much. Daddy loves you so much. And we are going to come for you.“
“Don’t give me away. Don’t leave me here,“ Emma cried.
“We are coming to get you. We will soon be together again,“ Liz whispered.
“I’s swcared.“
“We are here, baby. We will come for y- Nooooo!!!“
Emma was ripped out of her arms. “MOMMMMYYY!!!


“Liz! Honey, wake up. Wake up.“
Liz bolted upright in the bed, looking around herself frantically. “Emma? Emma?!!“
“She’s not here, sweetheart,“ the voice beside her said softly, guiltily.
She turned her head and her eyes adjusted to the darkness and focused on the person beside her.
“Emma,“ she whispered brokenly, lost.
His warm and comforting arms surrounded her, but they couldn’t give her any comfort tonight. She felt cold and hollow. Like she had lost her little girl all over again.

<center>--------------------------------------------------</center>

Max eyes traveled over her curled up body. She was curled up against his side, her arms and hands tucked between the side of his chest and her stomach. Her hair was spread out loosely over her back, in stark contrast with the deep frown on her forehead. He lifted his hand and softly traced the crease with his finger. She had been crying all night, finally falling asleep due to exhaustion early in the morning. Even in her sleep, he could see the tension in her body. And her sleep was troubled. She was whimpering and sobbing. Crying out the name of their daughter. Even though she had been too upset to tell him what she had dreamt, he knew that it had been about Emma, and it had been something that had shaken her to the core.

His hand followed the side of her face, down her cheeks. She had lost a lot of weight since they had arrived on Antar. Since Emma had disappeared. Her spirit was tired. He could feel it. He could feel how she was struggling every day to move on, to keep her head up and not break down. He wanted to help her. He wanted to shoulder some of her burden, even if he already carried the same burden himself. He would do anything to ease that troublesome wrinkle from her face.

His finger traveled down the curve of her neck, unable to stop himself from relishing in the soft feeling of her delicate skin. Sometimes he would stop and think about how lucky he was to have her in his life. He had almost lost hope when she had disappeared. When he had thought that she had died. But now she was here, lying beside him. The love of his life, curled up next to him. He felt a sting of sadness in his heart when his thoughts fled to their beautiful daughter, the person who was missing from their life, preventing it from being perfect. He had always known that revealing himself to Liz all those years ago would be dangerous; not only to himself, Michael and Isabel, but to Liz as well. He had always watched her from afar like a dream he could never reach. And when she had accepted him, loved him, danger had crept back into his life. He had tried so hard to push her away. To make her stay away, because he knew that there were so many things she would have to give up to be with him.

A small smile grazed his lips. His hand caught one of her dark silk strands in his hand and he let them caress his fingertips. She hadn’t let him push her away. She hadn’t let him give up on them. She was a stubborn woman, but he thanked his lucky stars every day for it, because if she hadn’t been so stubborn about showing him how much she loved him and that they belonged together, he would have been miserable right now. Miserable and alone.

His eyes jerked to her face as a vulnerable whimper escaped her lips and he put his arm around her and pulled her closer. She snuggled up to him, holding on to him as she always did. Seeking strength from him, as he did from her. They were really incomplete without each other. Unable to function separately. Unrestrained, his thoughts traveled to Emma, their special little girl. So smart, happy and carefree. But only before he came into her life. Just being her father had caused her problems and now someone had taken her. He had failed to protect her. Failed to keep his little girl safe and Liz happy.

He missed her. He missed Emma terribly. He hadn’t gotten the chance to really get to know her, but in the short time period he had been with her he had fallen in love with that innocence, that happiness. Emma was so much like he remembered Liz to be when she was younger. When he had watched her playing on the playground with Maria. She had been so happy then. She had been happy all the time. She had been happy on that fateful day in the CrashDown. But after that she hadn’t been happy. Not like she was before. She was weighed down by his secret. And he had never wanted to burden her with it.

“Max...“
Her soft voice broke him out of his self-blame and his attention immediately focused on her beautiful, albeit tired, face.
“Hey,“ he said softly and lightly moved some errand strands away from her forehead, “How are you feeling?“
“Please don’t blame yourself,“ Liz said slowly, her dark eyes meeting his.
“I wasn’t,“ Max said lightly. But he was already kicking himself for letting his feelings get the upper hand. Sometimes he forget how closely connected he was with Liz. She had enough to deal with with her own feelings right now, she really didn’t need his too.
“Max,“ Liz said, the warning clear in her voice.
“I’m sorry, love,“ Max said, placing a lingering kiss on her forehead.
Her eyes were closed as he pulled back and directed his eyes back to her face.
“Do you want to talk about it?“ he asked gently.

Without opening her eyes, she slowly shook her head and emitted a tired sigh.
“You should get some more sleep,“ Max said.
She nodded and her body relaxed some, sagging into him. Her breathing evened out and Max laid back, intending to close his eyes when her voice reached his ears.
“Just five more minutes,“ she said, her voice sounding so defeated he felt his heart crush under the weight of her feelings of anguish ripping through the connection. “We don’t have time to sleep...“
“Five more minutes,“ Max said, fighting against the tears burning behind his eyelids, and his arm tightened around her, pulling her even closer.

<center>----------------------------------------------------</center>

*I need to talk to His Majesty,* Serena insisted.
*His Majesty is still asleep,* the soldier replied, standing his ground.
*This is urgent. If I cannot speak to His Majesty, at least let me speak to Rath,* she persisted.
“What’s going on?“ a voice interrupted, just as the soldier was about to answer Serena.
Both Serena and the soldier turned their heads to see Michael moving up to them. Serena visibly relaxed.
“Rath,“ she said and slightly bowed her head.
Michael raised his eyebrows at her manners. “Michael,“ he corrected. “It’s Michael.“
“Michael,“ Serena said, her stoic stance softening some.
“So, Serena was it?“ Michael asked, stepping closer.
“Yes, sir,“ Serena nodded.
Michael dismissed her courtesy with a wave of his hand. “What do you want?“
“I need to see His Majesty,“ Serena said.
“He’s asleep,“ Michael said.

Serena restrained a frustrated sigh. It was of high importance that she got to speak with Zan.
“But you can tell me and I’ll inform Max,“ Michael said when he saw the disappointment flash over her face.
“I apologize, but I can not do that,“ Serena said.
Michael frowned.
“I’m Max’s second in command. If he is not available, you speak through me.“
“I need to speak to His Majesty directly,“ Serena said.
“Look,“ Michael’s irritation was increasing by the second, “Liz had a rough night and Max has been up all night worrying about her. They both need to sleep to regain their strength.“
“I understand that,“ Serena said, her voice softening at the fierce protectiveness she could trace in Michael’s voice. “But this is about the princess.“
“The princess?“ Michael’s confusion was apparent. But only a fraction after he had asked the question, it struck him what she meant. “You mean Emma? What about Emma? Has something happened?“
Serena nodded. “Yes, sir. This is what I need to discuss with His Majesty.“
Serena yelped in surprise as Michael took a hold of her elbow and pulled her with him. “Come here.“

<center>---------------------------------------------------</center>

Serena was patiently waiting where Michael had left her, a couple of feet outside Max and Liz’s tent. Even though it was still early morning, the area was already buzzing with life. Soldiers were up, either standing guard on the fringes of the camp, or eating and talking amongst themselves. It was clear that His Majesty and his friends were safe here. At least, as safe as they could be in the precarious situation they were in. Kira had trained his men well and they all seemed focused on what they were doing.

“Serena.“
Serena snapped out of her thoughts and saw Max stepping out from the tent. He looked tired. She hadn’t been able to really see him when they had first met. It had been too dark. But here, at the dawn of a newborn day, she was able to see all the signs of fatigue on his face. Some she was sure had been there for a long time. She had a feeling he was someone who took a lot on his own shoulders, someone who felt responsible for everyone around him. And it seemed as if it was slowly wearing him down.

Serena’s eyes traveled to the small figure standing next to Max. She was immediately taken aback by the similarity between that woman and the little girl she had been observing over the last week. The woman looked tired and she wore the same signs of worry as Max did. But it was her eyes that instantly won Serena’s respect. It wasn’t the strong similarity to Emma’s eyes, but the strength and determination in them. The woman’s body looked weak, small and worn out, but it was only a facade. The woman had a strong soul and it was shining clearly in her eyes. Serena’s gaze fell on their entwined hands and she had no problem at all understanding why Max would choose her as his mate. She was strong. She held her head high, even though she had every cause to break down.
Serena bowed her head. One time for Max and one for the woman standing so close to him that they almost looked like one.

“His Majesty,“ she said. “My Lady.“
“Please,“ Max said. Serena raised her head to see his reassuring smile. “You don’t have to do that.“
Serena nodded in compliance. She could feel the curious and interested glances the woman was giving her.
“Honey, this is Serena,“ Max said, “Serena, this is Liz.“
“It’s nice to meet you,“ Liz said and stepped forward, holding out her hand for Serena. Serena looked at it, wondering what she wanted her to do with it.
Liz smiled warmly at her confusion and then stepped up to the woman and gave her a hug. Serena was so surprised she completely lost her tongue. She just stood there, feeling the woman hug her.
Liz pulled back and Serena noticed that she had not let go off Max’s hand, not even when she hugged her.

“Nice to meet you too, milady,“ Serena said slowly, still taken aback.
Liz looked up at Max and Serena saw mutual understanding flashing in their faces. As if they had just agreed upon something.
“Let’s sit,“ Max said, gesturing towards some trunks of trees positioned on the ground.
“Thank you, sir,“ Serena said and sat down.
Max and Liz shared an amused expression and sat down across from Serena.
“Max told me...“ Liz started, but choked on her words. Max squeezed her hand and Serena watched her lean close to him, as if drawing strength from him. “Max told me that you have contact with Emma.“
Serena nodded and Liz took a shaky breath. “How...how is she? Is she okay?“
Serena dropped her eyes. She couldn’t handle this. Liz’s feelings were so strong, she could sense them rippling through the air. The anguish, the sorrow, the fear, it was all coursing through her in violent waves.
“Serena,“ she heard Max say and she looked up into his apprehensive face. “Has something happened?“
Serena took a deep breath. They seemed like such wonderful people. They really didn’t need to hear this. But she had to tell them.

“Serena?“ Liz whispered, fearing the worst.
“There has been a development since our last meeting,“ Serena said slowly.
“What is it?“ Max asked with a fearful note in his voice.
Serena looked up into Liz’s eyes and saw the tears of fear roll down her cheeks.
“Please, Serena,“ Liz said. “What have they done?“
“Khivar wants the royal seal,“ Serena said, not sure of how much they knew.
“Yes, we know that,“ Max said, remembering one of the many things Kira had taught them during the voyage to Antar.
“Your seal is shared with the one you mate with,“ Serena continued, “which means that Liz has the royal seal too.“
Max nodded. He knew this already. He could feel Liz tensing beside him, as if preparing for the worst.
“Your seal is transferred to your heir, your first born. Emma,“ Serena said slowly, “And Khivar wants the seal. He has Emma.“

Serena knew the exact second it dawned on Liz what she was trying to say. The fear Serena saw on Liz’s face was enough to make her want to break down and cry.
“I was to visit Emma yesterday, but she wasn’t there.“
“Where was she?“ Liz whispered, although she already suspected. “Where was she?“ she sobbed.
“They had taken her to... I guess you would call it a laboratory.“
“No,“ Max whispered, and as he felt Liz sag against him, his voice took on another strength. “No!“
“They are trying to find a way to remove the seal from Emma and transfer it to Khivar. And if they succeed... They will have no use for Emma any longer, except for maybe a way to make you comply to their wishes.“
“The seal is incorporated into her DNA,“ Liz whispered, her voice cracking with restrained tears. “How are they going to be able to remove it?“

But they all knew the answer to that question. By taking her apart. By going through each and every one of her cells and removing that part of her DNA.
Serena looked at the devastated and fearful faces of that little child’s parents and said, “If we don’t do something quickly they might kill her.“

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max and liz believer
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Postby max and liz believer » Sat Oct 04, 2003 3:41 pm

Chapter 15

Two days later

“Liz, are you okay?“ Isabel asked for the seventh time.
Liz swallowed back the nausea rising in her throat and forced herself to nod. “Yes,“ she said hoarsely. “I’m just fine.“
She could feel Isabel’s eyes regarding her with disbelief. Isabel didn’t believe her and truth be told, she didn’t believe it herself either. She had tried to not acknowledge the nausea and the dizzy spells, but they were becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. Fear was building inside of her that her previous condition had returned. When she had been so sick that she had barely been able to get through the day. Before Max and she made love and the connection opened again.

She forcefully forced the overwhelming nausea down. She couldn’t get sick. Not now.
“Liz,“ Isabel said, the warning note to her tone making Liz look up at her, “I promised Max to make sure you were safe. And you getting sick isn’t going to make him any happier. Don’t try to fool me. I can see that something is wrong.“
Liz met Isabel’s gaze head on. “It’s nothing. I’m just worried about Max.“ Her eyes dropped and she added quietly, “And Emma.“

“Liz, I’m sorry,“ Isabel said regretfully, “I didn’t mean to...You just look so pale. Maybe you should sit down for a second.“
“Isabel,“ Liz said firmly, “Stop it, okay? I appreciate that you are trying to look out for me and all, but fussing over me is not your highest priority-“
“According to Max it is,“ Isabel interrupted.
“Well, Max isn’t here right now, is he? Besides, we both know that even though Max would never admit it, he needs help. I cannot leave him to fight for himself.“
Isabel shook her head, the determination in Liz’s eyes scaring her. “Liz... You aren’t thinking about-“
Liz turned away from looking through the bushes and met Isabel’s anxious eyes. “Max wants me to stay away because that’s the only way he can keep me safe. And I would comply with his wishes, if it weren’t for the fact that he is risking his life out there! How can I just sit here and wait to see if he makes it back alive or not, when he wouldn’t be able to do the same thing if it were me out there? And you... You have valuable powers, Isabel. We can help him. He needs all the help he can get.“
Isabel looked at her with a mixture of fear and trepidation. “Liz, we can’t do this! I know that Max probably needs more help than he admits, but we are not prepared to get out there-“
“We aren’t just going to run out in the middle of everything,“ Liz said, “We are going to stay in the shadows and if they need our help, we will be there. If they are handling it on their own, we just stay away...“

Isabel shook her head slowly. “I think this is a really bad idea, Liz.“
Liz surprised her by stepping up to her and taking both her hands in hers. “Iz, please,“ she pleaded, her voice cracking with emotion. “I have this feeling that something bad is going to happen.“
“How do you...?“ Isabel stuttered.
“I just know,“ Liz said, her teary and fearful eyes hitting something deep within Isabel. There was something about Liz in that moment that told Isabel that it was in fact a question of life and death if she listened to Liz or not.
“Did you have a premonition?“ Isabel asked, thinking back to the time when Liz had ended up almost dying in the bathroom of that warehouse because she’d had a vision of the future.

A future filled with death.

“No, I can’t explain it. It’s a… feeling,“ Liz said slowly.
Isabel regarded her closely before answering her with a whisper, “Okay.“ She desperately hoped that she wasn’t going to regret her decision.
“Thank you,“ Liz whispered.
Isabel nodded and pushed some errant wisps of her blonde hair behind her ears. “Okay, we need a plan.“

<center>----------------------------------------------------------</center>

*You okay?*
*Yes. How many are there?*
*Twenty, thirty.*
Pause.
*That’s a lot.*
*Serena, we can make this. We have been preparing for this all our lives.*
*This is really it, isn’t it?*
*Yes.*
*Then why does it feel like something is about to go terribly wrong?*
*Nothing’s going to go wrong. We are prepared for this. We have trained for every possible scenario. Just stay levelheaded and calm.*
*Right.*
*And no telepathic communication from now on.*
*Got it.*
*Serena...*
*What is it, Aldonis?*
*Be careful.*
Pause.
*I will. Besides, we still have that house to build, remember?*
She could hear the smile on his voice as he answered, *Nothing could make me forget.*
*I can see His Highness now.*
*All right. This is it. Rena, see you later.*
*Yes...*


Serena turned around to see Max walking towards her, his steps cautious and as silent as they could be against the stone ground.
“Ready?“ she asked somewhat breathlessly.
“Where’s Emma?“ Max asked in a hushed tone as he came closer.
Serena pointed towards one of the windows in the large building towering up in front of them. “In there. At least, that’s where she was the last time I met her.“
“What if they’ve moved her,“ Max asked.
“Then we have a problem,“ Serena watched Max’s face fall slightly, even if he was trying very hard to hide the fear, and she hurried to reassure him, “But, not too big of a problem. We just have to change the plans slightly. It will take some more time. We would have to find her new location. But we’ll manage. According to the schedule I was informed of, she should be in her room tonight.“
A shadow fell over Max’s face. “Have you met her since they took her to the laboratory?“
Serena shook her head in negative. “There has been no time.“
She didn’t want to tell Max her suspicions about Emma’s condition. She hadn’t told Max how Emma had been before she had been taken for “examination“ and she was truly afraid of what had happened to Emma’s fragile mental state after that visit.

She didn’t want to upset Max any further. He needed to remain focused on what they were doing. In any other case, she and Aldonis would never let anyone as close emotionally tied to a victim as Max was be the main decision-maker, because it was risky. There were too many emotions in play to keep a clear and focused head. But Max had made it impossible for them to deny his involvement. Also, he had shown that he had the capability to bury his emotions and focus solely on the task at hand. However, even though he seemed stable enough, on the outside, there wasn’t room to take the risk of saying anything that could ruin that balance. Everything hung on a thin thread now. Every small detail had to be followed to the letter, or else everything could collapse. There were too many ears listening. Too many eyes looking. Not even their thoughts were secret, if they stood too close to people who were able to read brainwaves. Max, Liz, Michael and Isabel had all been trained to block their thoughts, but if they got close to someone who used their interpretation of brainwaves professionally, they would be in danger because Langolists, as they were called, were very efficient at spotting Antarians who were disloyal in their thoughts to their King. Disloyal to Khivar’s reign.

“Twenty minutes?“ Max asked.
Serena nodded. “Twenty minutes.“
Max took a deep breath as he let his eyes momentarily drift close. Soon.
Soon he might be able to hold Emma in his arms again. Soon he might be able to take her home. To Liz.
“Your High- Max,“ Serena corrected herself, “Are you all right?“
Max opened his eyes as he nodded and answered with fierce determination, “Yes.“
His fists clenched as he looked up on the large building. He was so close, yet so far away from his daughter.
“Let’s go over the plan again,“ he said, pushing his emotions back to the back of his head and with a snap he shut the low simmering connection to Liz.

<center>--------------------------------------------------------</center>

Liz stumbled as she felt the connection with Max die. It wasn’t gradually. It was like a door was slammed shut in her mind.
“Liz?“
Isabel had stopped beside her and her hand was resting on Liz’s arm.
“Max...“ Liz whispered.
“What?“ Isabel asked, her voice filling with dread at Liz’s pained whisper.
“He’s...he shut me out,“ Liz said.
“What?“
“The connection. He’s blocking me.“
“You sure?“ Isabel asked. Somehow she had trouble believing that. “Why would he do that?“
Liz stood still, barely breathing as she tried to find Max. Tried to push through his block.
“Has something happened to him?“ Isabel voiced her fears when Liz didn’t say anything.
“He’s... “ Liz stuttered. He wouldn’t shut her out like this. Why had he shut her out?
“Has he told you that he would do that?“ Isabel asked, even though she already knew the answer, because otherwise Liz’s reaction would make no sense.
Liz took a hold of Isabel’s arm and started to pull at her. “Let’s go.“
“No, let’s stay calm,“ Isabel said.
Liz looked at her firmly. “I am calm, but I need to know what’s going on. We need to find Kira.“
“Liz...“
“Isabel,“ Liz said seriously, “If something happened to Max I would know. But I don’t want to feel that. Ever. I have to know that everything’s okay.“
“You cannot see Max,“ Isabel said.
“I understand that. That’s why I need to see Kira. He has the information I need.“
“Okay,“ Isabel agreed, somewhat reluctantly. She had a suspicion why Max would block his connection to Liz. Because if something did happen to him, he didn’t want her to feel it. He didn’t want her to live through his death if it came to that. Isabel was pretty sure that Liz knew this too and that Liz wasn’t going to allow it.

<center>--------------------------------------------------</center>

Max coughed as he staggered through the thick mist of raspy smoke. His arm bumped into someone and he immediately raised his hand to defend himself.
“Michael?“ He let out a sigh of relief when he found the person he had just bumped into to be his life long friend.
“Maxwell, are you okay?“
“Yeah,“ Max coughed again. Michael rubbed some of the black soot from his face and eyes.
“Where’s Serena?“
“I lost her,“ Max said. “You have any other men here?“
Michael shook his head.
Max looked around him with hasty movements, trying to see anything through the smoke.
“I would try to make the smoke disappear, but that would only exhaust my powers even more,“ Michael said, voicing Max’s exact thoughts. Max wasn’t sure when his healing powers might be needed. He had already healed two small wounds on two of their men and healing took a lot of energy. Four hours had passed since the fight had started. The building where Emma was being held was filled with smoke and Max feared that the source of the smoke would be a fire somewhere. He had to get Emma out of here. He could feel the situation quickly slipping out of his control.

“Have you seen any of Khivar’s men?“ Max asked.
“No,“ Michael answered, “It’s like they’ve vanished.“
This is not good, was Max’s immediate thought.
“What do you think they’re up to?“ Michael asked, voicing Max’s concerns.
“I don’t know,“ Max answered, constantly scanning the area around him in a almost fruitless attempt to see through the curtain of smoke surrounding them on all sides. “But Khivar’s men are well-trained and many more in numbers than we are. We couldn’t possibly have defeated them already.“
“Exactly,“ Michael murmured.
“We have to get Emma,“ Max said.
“You know where she is?“ Michael asked.
“Serena was going to show me the way, but she showed me which window belonged to her from the outside. I think maybe I can find my way.“
“In this smoke?“ Michael asked. He didn’t want to shatter Max’s hopes, but from where he was standing, the situation seemed hopeless.

“Are you with me or not?“ Max asked, almost sternly. Michael immediately recognized the look on Max’s face and nodded mutely.
“Let’s get your girl back,“ he said.
Max felt his heart constrict at the protectiveness he heard in Michael’s voice and the need to reopen the connection to Liz and again feel her calmness and reassurance overwhelmed him for a second. But he refused to give in to it. It was safer for Liz if he didn’t have the connection open. If someone would be able to plug in on their connection, they would not only discover Max’s identity, but also Liz’s and what she meant to him. And that would put her in immense danger.

Together, Max and Michael blindly headed down the smoke-filled corridor. Max’s hands flew over doors on the sides, trying to feel something. An energy and essence belonging to Emma. If he had the connection to Liz, he might’ve been able to use the connection she had to Emma to find Emma. But the risk of opening the connection was too great. He would only consider opening it if there were an emergency. That’s when he felt it. A soft tickling in his fingertips as his fingers brushed over one of the closed doors.

“Michael!“ he cried.
In an instant, Michael was by his side.
“Here,“ Max said, and without any further communication, Max and Michael fused their powers together to work on opening the highly secured door. It proved to be more difficult than they thought, but suddenly the door slide to the side and blinding white light hit their eyes.
They both squinted in the sudden brightness, Michael putting up a hand to shield his eyes from the light.
“Emma?“ Max asked, not even stopping when the light had tried to immobilize him. It took some time for his eyes to become accustomed to the different light, but he didn’t let the temporary blindness hamper his search.
“Emma?!“ He pushed the bed to the side and his heart lurched up into his throat.

On the floor lay a ball of fragile limbs. Her dark hair was shielding her face, but because of the stark light, it was not difficult to see her trembling from where he was standing. Max’s inhaled sharply and then quickly walked up to her, sliding to his knees beside her small frame.
“Emma?“ he whispered.
She didn’t answer. Didn’t even acknowledge his presence. The relief and joy of finally finding her again was quickly being replaced with fear over what had happened to her.
“Baby, it’s daddy,“ Max said softly. He vaguely registered that Michael had knelt beside him. Max reached out with his hand to brush her hair away from her face so that he could see her. His hand quickly recoiled when she jerked back from his touch.
“Max,“ Michael said impatiently.
Max’s hand was hovering above his daughter’s body and he was already on the verge of trying to form a connection with her to see if she had been hurt. Michael seemed to have sensed his intentions before Max was even aware of them.
“Max, we don’t have time. We have to get out of here. There might be a fire.“

Michael’s voice broke through the mental bubble Max had formed around him and his daughter. It was words of reason and Max knew that they had to keep going. Taking a deep breath he brought his hand back to Emma’s white face. This time her reaction was not as strong, but still it cut through Max’s heart to see her recoil from his touch the way she did. Like he was a monster.
“Baby, it’s going to be all right now. We are going home. To mommy.“
Not even the mention of her mother stirred a reaction in Emma and Max could feel the dread expand in his heart.
“Max,“ Michael said and there was a desperate urgency in his voice, which snapped Max back into focus.
He tucked his hands under Emma’s thin body and lifted her up. She was stiff in her arms, but she didn’t struggle. It was as if she didn’t even care what happened to her. He cradled her close to his chest, feeling tears burning in his eyes as her familiar scent flared around him.
“Blanket,“ Michael said, and Max automatically accepted the blanket Michael handed him and wrapped it around Emma’s stiff body.
“Let’s get out of here,“ Max said. With Emma safely tucked under his chin, her legs hanging loosely against his hips, he and Michael hurried out of the white prison that had been Emma’s hell for two weeks.

<center>-----------------------------------------------------------</center>

“Let me take her,“ Serena said as Max came running through the darkness. It was pitch dark outside. Not even the light from the planet Xerios could be seen.
“I’ve got her,“ Max said. His breathing was strained and he really needed to sit down for a second, but he wasn’t ready to let Emma go. She had been unresponsive ever since he found her and that frightened him. He didn’t think handing her over to someone else was going to help the situation. Besides, it felt safer if he knew where she was. In his arms.
“Where have you been?“ Max demanded as he got closer to Serena.
“There were some of Khivar’s men,“ Serena said shortly, her focus still on the stiff bundle in Max’s arms, “Let me take her.“
Even in the dark darkness, she could see his arms reflexively spasms as he tightened his hold on the little girl.

“There are some men coming up on the east side. We need to get you out of here.“ Serena looked at Max and reached out with her arms, hoping that he might understand that it would be for the best if she took Emma.
“You are tired and you need to recuperate all you can,“ Serena added, “If something unexpected were to happen...“
Max quickly thought over the situation. Emma was like a dead-weight in his arms, but still she weighed hardly anything, so it would be no difference in that way if he carried her or not. The difference would be that he had his hands free if something did happen. But then, if he handed Emma over to someone else he wouldn’t be able to keep track of where she was.
Serena could see the hesitation flicker over Max’s face and she worriedly glanced over her shoulder. The air was filled with agonized screams and the dull sound of energy hitting bodies. Other than that, the wind was holding its breath. It was as if the wind and the light from the Xerios had abandoned them in their fight. Pulling away to a safe place.

“Give her to someone you would trust with your life,“ Max said as he made his decision and reluctantly handed the little girl over to Serena. Emma didn’t say a word during the transfer. She didn’t even move.
“Of course,“ Serena said, and drew a sigh of relief.
She turned around and said something in Antarian to the person standing next to her. In no time another person appeared and Serena handed Emma over, marking the transfer with more unintelligible words. The recipient nodded and then they were gone. Max had to take a deep breath to will his emotions down over not being able to see Emma more. She was going to some place safe. She was going to some place safe.
“What’s going on?“ Max asked Serena, his role shifting from protective father to focused warrior in the fraction of a second.
“Khivar’s men are advancing. They were hiding, but some have been spotted. I think they are planning an attack.“
Max nodded and Serena stepped closer to him, her eyes catching his. “Max, this is it.“
Max clenched his jaw and nodded. This was finally it.

<center>-----------------------------------------------------------------</center>

“They have her,“ Kira said to her left.
Liz felt her knees go out under her and she sagged against Isabel who caught her.
“Liz?“
Liz tried to take deep breath. They had found her. Her baby girl was back in the right hands. The world started to slowly spin, the nausea doubling.
“I’m fine, I’m fine,“ Liz reassured breathlessly.
She felt Kira take a hold of her other arm and trying to get her back up on the feet which were very reluctant in sustaining her weight. She rather felt than saw the concerned looks between Kira and Isabel over her head.
“Where are they?“ Liz asked.
“Emma has been taken towards one of the emergency camps. Max is out there.“
Liz raised her head and followed the line to where Kira was pointing. Out there in the middle of the battle field. She closed her eyes and tried to draw strength from taking deep and slow breaths. She could feel the dizziness simmer down and the nausea calming. With some effort she straightened her spine and lifted her head.

“How much closer can we safely get?“ she asked.
Kira frowned and cast a worried glance in Isabel’s direction.
“It is better if we stay he-“
“How much closer can we get?“ Liz interrupted, her tone forceful.
“Liz, we shouldn’t get any closer,“ Isabel said behind Liz. But Liz wasn’t listening. The voice of cold foreboding which had settled in every part of her body was still whispering of death. She had to get to Max. That was all she knew. Somehow she had to get to Max.
“How close?“ she asked again, through gritted teeth.
“Pretty close,“ Kira answered. “You would be able to see him.“
Liz nodded. “Take me there.“
“Liz, if Max finds out he’s going to kill me,“ Isabel said.
“If I don’t go there, Max is going to die,“ Liz said and felt a shiver pass through her body as she finally spoke the words aloud.
Kira nodded and turned towards his communicator, speaking through it in Antarian.
“What did you say?“ Isabel asked as he stopped.
“I called for reinforcement. If we are going to move Max’s mate closer to a war zone, we need higher security.“
Isabel relaxed some. She was afraid that Liz was going to get hurt due to her stubbornness. But it had always been like that when it came to Max and Liz. They couldn’t stand to be apart and they wouldn’t be able to survive if the other died.

<center>------------------------------------------------------------</center>

The air was filled with death. The malice and coldness of death reeked through the bodies that had caught fire, where the smell of burning flesh filled the air. It reeked through the screams of death and the deadly stares of the people crawling over the cold ground with death rattles whispering over their parched lips.

It was like she was suddenly in the middle of a nightmare. Her eyes still tried to accustom themselves to the darkness, as she fervently searched the battered bodies after Max. Her focus was on the living people, fighting further away, but her eyes couldn’t stop from wandering over the masses of dead people she had to walk over to get forward. Instinctively, she knew that she would be able to feel if something happened to Max, but still she couldn’t stop herself from looking everywhere for him.

She came to a sudden halt as a hand snaked around her arm and pulled at her to stop. With a look of bewilderment on her face she turned to see what was going on. Kira had his hand tightened around her upper arm, his fingers digging into her flesh. When she met his eyes she knew that something was wrong. Her heart slowed down in her chest until it almost came to a halt as she waited for Kira to say something. He brought up the small communication device, a round apparatus similar to a stone, to his mouth and some Antarian words were transmitted through the device.
“What?“ Liz asked fearfully, even though Kira was still talking in the communicator.
Kira lowered the communicator and held her eyes. “Khivar has been spotted. He’s headed right towards Max and Serena.“

And her heart came back to life with a violent slam. It sped up and started beating erratically in her chest. Khivar. She had heard so much of Khivar in the last couple of days, none of it good. What had scared her the most were the stories about his immense skills. He was a powerful person who could do almost everything. She also quite vividly remember how Kira had informed Max to stay away from Khivar for as long as possible and let the others who were more secure in their abilities take care of Khivar. She also remembered that Kira had said that if Max would stand face to face with Khivar, Max would probably not survive.

And now Khivar was heading towards Max.

Liz watched the battle playing out in front of her, black coldness seeping into her every cell. Something was about to happen. She knew so with an ice-cold certainty. Just as another dizzy spell hit her and she had to struggle not to pass out by the intensity of it, she felt something shift in the air. Like something pulled energy from around her. Sucked the magnetism out of the air. Her eyes automatically traveled to the black figure that she without the shadow of a doubt knew was Khivar. She didn’t know how she knew. Maybe it was the way he moved or the way he dressed. Or maybe it was the almost unnatural great power surrounding him like a force field.

It wasn’t difficult to figure out that Khivar’s power was directed at Max and Serena.
“Max,“ Liz whisper. Because she could see that Max and Serena had yet to turn their heads and discover the threat. Khivar had moved up from behind them and Liz couldn’t see any of their men close by. Some had discovered Khivar and reported it to Kira, but it appeared as if everyone was at least at the same distance as Liz was, or they were involved in their own fight with Khivar’s men. Liz knew, at the pit of her stomach, that by the time Max and Serena would be warned it would be too late.

Isabel cried out Liz’s name in a loud hiss when Liz suddenly left the hiding place, stepping out on the battlefield. Kira thrust out with his hand to grab a hold of Liz’s arm, but his hand groped in the air.
“Stop her!“ Kira commanded in both English and Antarian to his men. But Liz was too quick and the men stopped on the border between the hiding place and the open battlefield, unsure if they should draw more attention to themselves by running out on the battlefield. With sinking heart they all watched the small woman run over the dead bodes, zigzagging between the fighting men, towards something that would be her definite death.

Liz wasn’t thinking. She knew that Khivar had set his aim on Max and that he would be releasing the energy he had been summoning any second now. It was just pure instinct to get to Khivar and push him out of balance. She would have moved towards Max and tried to warn him in time, but he was too far away. Her feet carried her lightly over dead bodies and small ankle-high bushes. She was transported by air. Her heart was pounding wildly in her chest and then her body impacted with Khivar’s hard and muscular body.

<center>----------------------------------------------------------</center>

“Max!“
His heart stopped in his chest, because he knew that voice. And she wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near him right now. He didn’t have a chance to think another thought before he was thrown to the side. A figure loomed over him as he blinked repeatedly. He felt weird.
“Max... Max, are you okay?“ Serena asked.
“Liz...“ he croaked. “Where’s Liz?“
Serena jerked her head away from his and looked at something. Max tried to get up to see what had happened. But he couldn’t move.
“No,“ he heard Serena whisper. Then he heard Liz crying. But he could still not see her.
“Ah, Your Highness, delivering your wife to me I see?“
The voice was loud and cold. He had never heard it before, but still he knew. He knew. Khivar was here and Liz was with him.

Serena slowly stood up, her gaze fixed on Khivar, Max presumed. The only thing he could see was the black sky.
“Max?“ It was Liz and she sounded so frightened.
“Shut up, bitch. Now, Max,“ Khivar said and Max could hear the smirk on his face, “How much do you want this woman of yours back? I was planning on just killing you, but it seems I’ve only succeeded half way in that, since you are still breathing. But this is actually much more fun. Let’s make a deal.“
Serena looked down and met his eyes, inconspicuously shaking her head. The feeling was beginning to return to his body. It was tingling all over, like when a limb has been in the wrong position for too long. And he could feel how he was getting hot. Too hot. He summoned all the power he could and turned on his side.

Khivar was standing about twenty feet away. He was everything Max had anticipated him to be. Big, dark and cold. And now he had Liz. He was holding her close to his body, one hand firmly around her waist and one around her neck. Tears were running down her cheeks. A look of relief flashed briefly over her face when he met her eyes before a mixture of guilt and fear replaced it.
“So, what do you say?“
“What do you want?“ Max croaked, his voice sounding strange to his own ears. He could see Liz jerk at his voice and her eyes move to some point on his body. Where the heat was the most prominent. He briefly wondered what had happened to his body.
Khivar eyed him with a pair of stone eyes as he answered, “I want to have the kid back. And I must say that it’s a good deal. I’m being extremely generous. One person in exchange for two.“
Both Max and Liz’s eyes widened in confusion until realization dawned over Liz’s face.
Khivar smiled smugly. “What? You didn’t think I would know?“ His hand slowly snaked down Liz’s abdomen, her body freezing at his touch. Max desperately fought to regain control over his body.

“Don’t touch her!“ he growled out.
“She hasn’t told you yet?“ Khivar said, his hand coming to a place right over Liz’s stomach.
Max’s eyes locked with Liz and still crying she whispered, “I’m sorry.“ But he could hear it as clearly as if she had been standing next to him.
“So, what do you say, Your Majesty?“ He snarled the title out with a condescending hiss.
Max was looking at Liz and even though he could see that she was afraid, he could see that she was pleading with him not to give Emma back to Khivar. She was willing to give her own life to save her daughter from that torturous fate. But Max was as unwilling to sacrifice Emma as he was to sacrifice Liz. The decision was impossible to make, yet he had to make it.
“Can’t decide?“ Khivar asked with a malicious grin. “I’ll make it easier for you.“
The hand that was painfully gripping around Liz’s throat moved up to her forehead. And to his horror, Max saw white light starting to surround Khivar’s hand. Liz cried out in pain as the power exploded through her head and Max’s roar mingle with hers as he tried to get up on his feet to get to her.
Noo!!

Somehow he managed to get to his feet, but stumbled when his legs were refusing to keep him upright. Serena caught him before he fell and he leaned on her heavily. Tears of fear, rage and guilt spilled down his cheeks as he watched Liz’s head fall forward, shielding her face from him as her body slumped together. Max’s hateful eyes were directed at Khivar’s emotionless ones.
Khivar raised a speculative eyebrow and asked with the easiness of a businessman merely proposing the prospect of building a new apartment complex, “What’s your decision?“
“Don’t hurt her,“ Max whispered. It wasn’t only a desperate plea, but also a forceful warning. If Khivar did, Max wouldn’t be responsible for his actions.
“If you don’t take me up on my offer, I could always just keep your mate,“ Khivar continued as if Max hadn’t said a word. He slowly moved his hand to Liz’s head and took a hold of the hair close to her scalp and pulled her head upwards. “I could always find some use of this one.“
Liz’s eyes were closed and she seemed only partly conscious as her face came back into view. Khivar slowly moved his hand down Liz’s throat towards her breasts.

“I must compliment you on your taste in women,“ Khivar said as his hand grabbed Liz’s breast.
Max’s body plummeted forward, but his inability to move stopped him even before Serena reached out and snapped him backwards.
“She sure is something,“ Khivar continued, his hand moving lower along Liz’s body, coming to a stop over her stomach. “So, what do you say, Max?“
Light had begun to simmer out of Khivar’s palm again, illuminating Liz’s stomach as it shone right through her clothes.
How could Max choose between Liz, their unborn child and Emma? He couldn’t.
“It’s really me you want,“ Max said. “I have the seal. Remove it from me and do whatever you want with me. Just don’t touch my family.“
Khivar looked at him with mock compassion. “Oh, that’s so touching. And you actually make a really good point. But you see, Max,“ Khivar stepped a little closer, dragging Liz with him, and spoke a little slower as if speaking to a child, “You see all these men behind me?“ Max tore his eyes away from Khivar and Liz and looked around. Through the darkness he could see men, dark men, glaring at him menacingly, and he couldn’t help but wonder with cold fear where his own men were.

“You’re a smart man, Max. Considering the absence of your own men, it wouldn’t be so hard for you to figure out that it wouldn’t be too hard for me to capture you with or without your consent. I will get my seal, Max, and I will reign over this planet. And nothing is going to stand in my way. Not you. Not your bitch and certainly not your children. So I think you can see where I’m going with this. I might be taking the long road to accomplish my motives, but this is just so much more fun.“ He grinned at Max. But he didn’t let Max see his rage over the fact that Max had not seemed affected by his speech at all. He had not reacted in the way Khivar wanted him to. Instead of shrinking together and begging him on his bare knees, he had if possible just straightened up even more, and there was a fire in his eyes that disconcerted Khivar to some degree.
“Well, it’s been fun,“ Khivar said lightly, “But I have a planet to reign, so I really don’t have the time to chat any longer. Time’s running out, Max.“
Liz had started to regain consciousness and Max desperately wanted to reopen their connection to see if she was okay. But he couldn’t risk that. Serena had explicitly warned him from having the connection open, especially close to Khivar. He could use that connection to get access into Max and Liz’s heads and change things around to suit his own needs.
Liz’s half-closed eyes met Max’s gaze and he could see that she was prepared to sacrifice herself. She was willing to give her own life up so that he and Emma would be safe.
“You have no use for them,“ Max said.
“You’re absolutely right,“ Khivar agreed, “But this is the exciting bonus. To see you suffer. Trust me, I’ve been looking forward to this, but I never thought the opportunity would present itself as well as it has. Even though your mate is easy on the eyes, she isn’t very bright, is she? Running out here in the middle of a battle? I gotta applaud her for her courage though, or is it just foolhardiness?“

Max never saw the men creep up on the sides. His attention was completely on Liz and on being prepared to protect Liz if Khivar did something. Khivar never saw the men creep up on the sides either. He was too immersed in his own vindictive satisfaction over how everything had turned out to his benefit. Besides, what could happen when he was surrounded by his well-trained and well-prepared men? But Liz saw them. She fought through the thick mist of pain in her mind to capture Max’s eyes. They were the last thing she wanted to see when she died. That was when she saw them move almost inconspicuously up through the bushes on the sides, their bodies blending almost perfectly with the darkness. And she knew what they needed to make it all work. They needed a diversion and she was the only one who could give it. She met Max’s eyes and mouthed “I love you“. She saw fear in his eyes, but before he could react on her good-bye she took advantage of the loosening of Khivar’s grip on her body. With the grace like that of a cat, she moved away from his claws and reeled forward. Max’s men reacted immediately, aiming at Khivar and his men. Commotion erupted and cries of death filled the previous eerie silence.

The battle was over quickly. Everything cooled down to a deadly stillness. In the middle of the battleground sat a young man with a young woman cradled in his arms. Half of his body was covered in blood and her body was covered in blisters, her skin burned to an almost unrecognizable crisp.
“Liz? Liz! Don’t leave me, don’t leave me!“ His voice echoed through the darkness as people started to move towards his rocking body. Death clogged the air and they all knew by the devastating sound of his heartbreaking howls that the woman in his arms was dying or already dead.

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Postby max and liz believer » Tue Nov 04, 2003 3:57 pm

Disclaimer: The text in italics at the beginning is the lyrics to ”My Love” by Lene Marlin.


Chapter 16



Please come and find me my love

”Liz, baby, please open your eyes.”

I’m ready now to come home

”Get a medical woman over here!! Max, you have to let us look at your injuries.”

Please come and find me my love

”No! Get away! Liz... Don’t do this. Please, don’t do this. I need you.”

Let’s leave this place

”Did I tell you that we have Emma, honey? Our little angel is back. You have to fight, Liz!”

Let’s leave no trace

”Open your eyes. Liz, please open your eyes, love... Liz... LIZ!”
”Max, you have to let us see your injuries.”
”Don’t worry, honey. I’ll make you okay again.”
”Max... Max?! Michael, what the hell is he doing?”

Can you hear me my love
I’m shouting in the wind
Can you hear me


”No, Max! You can’t do that. You are too weak!”
”Maxwell, you are going to end up dead!”
”Leave us! Baby, don’t let go. Liz, stay with me. Stay with me!”

Can you see me my love
I’m drawing in the sand
Can you see me


”Max?! Stop that, Maxwell!”
”No, Max...”
”He is unconscious.”
”Do something damnit! They are both dying!”
”I’m sorry...”
”What?! You’re sorry?!”

I hope that I’m still with you as you are with me
You always will be


”Isabel, get over here! You, you, you, you and you, sit down around them and form a circle.”
”Do you have the healing stones?”
”Michael, it’s too late. They are not breathing.”

Please come and find me my love
I’m ready now to come home


”Give me the damn healing stones! Max is not going to quit on me like this! Do you hear me, Max? This is not it!”
”There is no pulse.”
”Water. Michael, we need water.”
”Do someone have a bowl of water?”
”Here.”

Please come and find me my love
Let’s leave this place
Let’s leave no trace


”Take each other’s hands. You have done this before, I presume.”
”How are we going to be able to heal them if they are not breathing? They are dead.”
”Don’t you dare say that! They are not dead.”

Can you feel me my love
I’m hurting so bad
Can you feel it


”Shut up and concentrate.”

Can you tell about my thoughts
I wish that you were here

Do you know it
The time that I’ve had don’t need any more
You’re the one I wait for


<center>---------------------------------------------------</center>

It was so quiet.
Even the silence seemed hushed.
Was this death? Was this what it felt like to be dead?

There was a devoid of presence. Like being put in a big plastic bubble where no sounds were permitted entrance. The mind felt numb. Yet, as it was at a loss of feelings, something was awakening. Slowly. Gradually. Like water dripping from a tap, which had not been fully closed.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Soft dark hair. Flowing. Billowing.

Drip.

Deep brown eyes. Laughter.

Drip.

A hand. A touch. Slender fingers. Tears.

And it all came flowing back. The plastic bubble imploded and noise filled the deflating interior.

Lips. Kiss. Arms. Smile.

I love you, Liz.

Liz.

Liz.

I love you so much.

Coldness. Fear. Grief.

Don’t leave me!

Liz... Liz?!


Liiiiizz!!!
”He’s awake.”
”Max, lay down.”
”Liz!”
”Oh my God. Max! How are you feeling?”

Panic. Fear.

”His pulse is quickening.”
”What’s happening?”
”Move to the side, Isabel.”
”He’s going into shock...”

<center>------------------------------------------------------------</center>

Agonizingly slowly, he opened his eyes and began blinking repeatedly against the bright light.
”Max?”
He blinked slowly before carefully, numbly, turning his head to the side towards the source of the voice. Isabel was looking at him with red-brimmed eyes. Her hair was a mess and her face carried stains of soot. She looked like she hadn’t slept in years.
”Can you hear me?” Isabel asked teary. She was looking at him intently, like he was going to disappear if she let herself blink.
He nodded mutely.
A sob escaped her throat. ”How are you feeling?”
Max opened his mouth to answer her, but only a hoarse croak came out.
”Here, have some water,” Isabel said, handing him the glass. He emptied the glass greedily before returning it to Isabel.

”What...what happened?” His voice was barely above a whisper due to the strain it took to just formulate the words and have his dry lips and throat produce them.
Isabel dropped her eyes and Max’s eyes moved to where her fingers were fidgeting with the edge of the covers. He absently registered tears falling on her hands.
”Khivar showed up,” she whispered, ”You almost died, Max.” She looked up, ”You were dead.”
But Max had stopped listening after the first sentence.

Khivar showed up.

Khivar showed up.

Suddenly, he couldn’t breath. The air in his lungs came out in whizzing sounds as he gasped for oxygen.
”Liz?” he whimpered. Liz had been there, in the middle of the battlefield. Khivar had been holding her and...
”Where’s Liz?!” He more or less bolted up from the bed, only to have Isabel force his beaten body back down against the pillows.
”Max, I’m sorry,” she murmured.
Max stared at the tears running down her cheeks. What was she saying?
”No!” he cried out and forcefully shook his head. ”No. Where is she?”
Isabel brushed her tears away with the back of her hand and quickly laid a comforting hand on Max’s shoulder. She suddenly realized how that might’ve sounded.

”She’s... she’s in another tent,” Isabel clarified hoarsely.
”Is she... is she...” Max took a deep trembling painful breath before thickly asking, ”...dead?”
Isabel swallowed back some of the tears. ”No.” She took a hold of Max’s hand, trying to give him some warmth. But he didn’t return her squeeze. His hand was just as cold and limp as when he had been unconscious. ”But the medical woman can’t do anything more. We tried with the healing stones, but they aren’t working.”
”Take me to her,” Max ordered, dangerous determination blazing in his eyes.
”Max, you are too weak,” Isabel protested weakly. It was so painful to see him like this. She ached to help him, but she had done everything she could. She could only support him now.
”I need to see her,” Max said. He wasn’t really asking for her permission. He was already halfway out of bed and even though he’d just woken up after being in a comatose state for two days, he suddenly had an almost inhuman strength. Strength to get to Liz.

<center>----------------------------------------------------</center>

Serena looked up when she heard noise from the other side of the thin tent wall, just in time to see Max appear in the opening.
”Your High- Max?!” she cried out with surprise. Isabel was at his side and he was leaning heavily on her, letting his sister support his still weak body.
”What are you doing up?” Serena asked, glancing at Isabel who just gave her a helpless shrug. But Max’s attention wasn’t on Serena at all. It was on the still figure lying on the mattress on the floor. He suddenly moved so quickly forward that both he and Isabel stumbled with the sudden change of speed. Max tiredly fell to his knees next to the mattress. Serena shot Isabel a worried look, as Isabel moved away to give Max the privacy he needed.

He could hardly recognize her. Her whole body, even her beautiful face, was covered in white bandage.
”Honey?” he said hoarsely, his hand moving to her hair, which was about the only thing that was the same. He didn’t know he was crying until tears started to fall on the bandage of her chest, making small circular spots form on the white covering. His eyes moved down her body and moved up again to come to rest on her close eyelids.
Without tearing his eyes away from her face he whispered, ”I want all the details of her condition.”
Serena looked at Isabel questioningly and Isabel nodded. There was nothing that could stop Max now.
”She’s...” Serena croaked and had to clear her throat, ”About 94 % of her body has third degree burns. The rest is second.” She paused and took a deep breath as her eyes was fixed on Max’s hand moving tenderly through Liz’s dark hair. ”She has internal burns as well. On the lungs, on her heart...” Serena looked at Isabel again. Should she really continue this?
”What else?” Max asked quietly.

Serena took another deep breath and continued, ”On the liver, the kidneys.”
There was a pause as Max’s eyes slowly traveled down the length of Liz’s body before coming to rest on her abdomen. ”What about the baby?” Max asked throatily.
”The amazing thing is that the baby seems to be doing perfectly fine. I don’t know why, but it appears to be unharmed.”
”If we are fortunate, we can keep the mother alive long enough for the fetus to grow into an agreeable size for it to be put in a pod,” the physician on the other end of the tent said.
Max tore his eyes away from Liz’s face and glared at him. Serena, seeing the murderous look, hurried to continue, before Max could open his mouth.
”She is being kept alive by the healing crystals.” Max turned his head and noticed that a large transparent prism was hovering over Liz’s head, its creation originating from two bright crystals positioned on both sides of Liz’s head.

”What did he do to her?” Max whispered, the anguish dripping from his voice.
Serena dropped her eyes and stared at Liz’s unresponsive figure a couple of deadly silent seconds before lifting her head and giving Max an answer.
”He shot a ray of pure energy into her, turning her skin into fire and making her insides heat up.”
An anguished groan tore over Max’s lips and Serena shuddered at the sound.
”I’m so sorry, Max. We tried to stop him, but everything just happened too fast. We couldn’t predict Liz’s actions. We had no idea she would do that...that sacrifice.”
Max nodded, doomed. Slowly, he lifted his hands and let them hover along Liz’s body.
”Max... What are you doing?” Serena asked apprehensively.
”I want to be alone with her,” Max said woodenly.
Serena looked at Isabel for support. Isabel stepped forward and put a tentative hand on his shoulder, which he immediately shrugged off.

”Max, you can’t do that,” she said, her voice trembling with the weight of the sacrifice her brother had to make and the grief and fear of what her brother would do to save his loved one.
”Yes, I can. What good are my powers if I can’t save her?”
”Max, you’re too weak,” Serena warned. She couldn’t let him do this. He would get himself killed.
”Leave me,” Max ordered, raising his head to stare directly into Serena’s eyes. Serena shivered at the pure animalistic possessiveness she saw in his eyes. Unconsciously, she took a step back.
”Max, you could die,” Isabel cried. ”Think about Emma! Do you want her to lose both of her parents?”
”The Antarian people can’t lose their king again,” Serena pleaded, desperate for him to understand, desperate to prevent him from sacrificing the happiness of his people.

Max sprung to his feet, his body swaying slightly with weakness and anger. ”Damnit! Don’t you understand?! Without her I am as good as dead! Without her you have no king. She is my heart, my happiness, my soul, my everything!” His voice softened as he tiredly sank to his knees again, taking Liz’s bandaged hand carefully and added in a broken whisper, ”She is my life.”
”Max, I know that,” Isabel said gently, ”But think about Emma. You can’t put yourself at this kind of risk. She needs you. Do you want Liz’s sacrifice to be for nothing?”
Max snapped his head up to Isabel’s face. ”She wasn’t even supposed to be out there! Why didn’t you stop her, Isabel? I trusted you to keep her safe!”
Isabel actually snorted, which caused Max’s eyes to darken with building anger. ”It’s Liz, Max. When has anyone ever been able to tell her what to do? Not even you have been able to do that.”
”You weren’t even supposed to be near the battlefield,” Max accused.
”She felt something. She felt that you were in some kind of danger,” Isabel said, her voice hardening, ”Besides, she probably wouldn’t have done something as drastic if you hadn’t blocked the connection without telling her you would.”

Isabel regretted the harsh words the moment she said them. Knowing Max, he was probably already being eaten up with guilt without needing to have her beat him over the head with the harsh facts.
Max turned his face away from Isabel. Her words echoed in the empty silence.
”There is no need to assign guilt,” Serena said calmly and paused shortly before continuing. ”But Max, I really think that you should rest before you try something.”
”Will she live that long?” Max asked quietly.
Serena swallowed. Considering the damage Khivar had caused on Max’s body he needed a long time to recuperate and at best he should heal himself first before having enough strength to heal Liz. But considering the fact that Liz was more or less balancing on the border between life and death every second, time was really a survival factor. Even if she would live long enough for Max to heal her the damage would gradually deteriorate her body with each passing hour. A small legacy Khivar had left behind. But Serena couldn’t tell Max that he was racing against time in more ways than one. That would really provoke him into doing something rash.

”No,” Serena answered honestly.
Max nodded, his eyes fixed on Liz’s closed ones.
”I need to be alone with her,” he repeated.
”What about Em-” Isabel wearily protested, but Max cut her off.
”I’m not going to do anything, okay? I just want some time alone with her.”
There was a pause as both Serena and Isabel weighed Max’s request. Isabel knew from experience that there was nothing that could stand in the way of him protecting Liz and if he had to lie to his sister to do it, he would.
”Max, promise me that you won’t do anything foolish,” Isabel pleaded.
”I won’t, Iz.”
”Okay,” Isabel sighed tiredly.
She and Serena silently left the tent, leaving Max and Liz on their own.

Max tenderly let his hands move through her hair. It was filled with twisted knots and one side was mixed with dry blood. He realized that it might be his own blood. He was starting to remember the numbness in his own body. He wasn’t exactly sure what Khivar had done to him, but it wasn’t really of any importance. Liz was all that mattered now.
”Baby...” he whispered gently. His eyes were fixed on her closed eyes as if expecting her to actually open them and he would be staring into those deep beautiful dark pools again. She would probably reprimand him for getting out of bed. Max smiled faintly to himself, his thumbs gently tracing her bruised eyelids.
”You are so brave, sweetie,” Max said softly, ”But do you have to be so stubborn?” He closed his eyes and fought back the tears. ”I’m just gonna check you out, okay?”
He paused for a minute, looking at her covered face, before taking a hold of the covers and gently pulling them down from her body.

Bandages.

That was all he could see. Everywhere.
Max let out an anguished sob. ”Liz...”
How could someone do this to her? To his beautiful Liz with her big heart, her warm smile, her twinkling eyes, her playfulness. Her love.

He started taking deep breaths to calm himself down and focus. As his eyes slowly drifted closed, his hands moved to hover on each side of her head.

Pain.

Pain so blinding it almost pushed him right out of the connection. But he fought against it, trying to move pass it. It was so intense that he could barely do that. His head was already throbbing, his lungs aching for oxygen. His heart was beating erratically, in sync with the unsystematic beating of her heart. And he was barely scratching the first layer of their connection.

He worked through layer and layer of pain. Piercing pain. Throbbing pain. Numbing pain. Dull, stifling pain. Then his mind gained clarity, like coming out of a thick mist, and he was able to focus. He methodically went through every millimeter of her body, registering what was wrong and what needed to be done for it to be healed. He forced his own emotions to the back of his mind. They would make it impossible for him to stand this. The damage was extensive, almost complete. There were barely any areas of her body unharmed.

Except her uterus. Miraculously, it was completely untouched. Max mentally inhaled deeply when he felt the pure life force under his fingers, in his mind, of his unborn child. It was alive and it was, as Serena had told him, unharmed. He forced himself to move on. He could feel his energy quickly draining. He lingered some in the warm presence of their baby, before he continued to scan the rest of Liz’s body.

He came out of the connection gasping for air. Remnants of Liz’s pain mixed with his own feelings of raw fear and panic. He felt completely helpless. His whole body trembled as he carefully laid his head on her stomach. It had hit him just how weak he was. Just looking through her body, which normally barely took any energy at all, had left him completely drained. His body rocked with sadness as the bandage covering her stomach became wet with tears. He could feel her slipping away from him. He now knew the extension of his own injury and with that also came the realization that there was little he could do for Liz.

Max gently stroke her bandaged abdomen, feeling the life tickling beneath his fingers. There might be little he could do for Liz, but he would do it. He would give her every amount of energy he had. Even if it killed him.

<center>----------------------------------------------------------------</center>

Max quietly moved into the tent. It was illuminated with the soft light from lucidas, randomly placed around the tent area. Lucidas were more like candles than anything else, although they did not burn. Instead they used stones that collected and reflected the light from the Xerios planet outside back in the room.

He gave the guard a short nod and he stood up and left the tent, just as silently as he had been watching over the child.

Max slowly moved towards the mattress, his eyes fixed on the small bundle curled up in the middle of the vast mattress. He felt some kind of peace settle over him as his eyes moved over his sleeping daughter. She actually was back with them, safe. He hadn’t had the chance to be informed on how Emma was doing since he had woken up. The only thing he did know about what she was feeling about everything, was what he had been hit with when he had taken her out of the palace. She had been almost catatonic then.

He slid to his knees beside the mattress. She was sound asleep, her arms and legs pulled up close to her chest, making her seem smaller than ever. His eyes fell on her chest. She was clutching something tightly to her chest. He carefully reached out with his hand to move her small hand so that he could see what it was. He barely had the chance to touch the material, though, before she whimpered. His heart froze at the helpless sound and his hand changed direction, moving to her face. She jumped at his gentle touch, but she didn’t wake up and soon she settled down under his ministrations.

Her thick black lashes rested against her cheeks, which once had been round and flushed with the red color of health. They were now sunken in, the skin stretched over the cheekbones. His hand traveled to her hair, once bright and soft, now lifeless and tangled up. She was still dirty from the escape and Max briefly wondered why they hadn’t cleaned her up. Was it because they didn’t want to disturb her, or was it because she wouldn’t let anyone near to do it?

A lonesome tear rolled down Max’s cheek as his finger began tracing the frown lines on her forehead. She was too young to look so afraid, so restless, especially in her sleep.

How would he be able to explain to Emma why her mother wasn’t visiting her? How did you explain to a four-year-old that her mother was so ill that she couldn’t walk or even open her eyes? How did you explain that she might never wake up again?

Max brushed away the flow of tears now freely streaming down his cheeks in frustration. His hand came to rest on her small hip.
”I’m here, honey,” he whispered, his voice clogged with tears, ”You’re safe now. You’re safe now.”

<center>--------------------------------------------------------</center>

Isabel walked in later to find her brother asleep on his knees besides his daughter’s mattress. His head was resting next to Emma’s pulled up legs, his hand curled into Emma’s shirt. Isabel swallowed back the tears forming in her eyes and stepped further into the tent, retrieving one of the blankets and carefully spreading it over Max’s exhausted body. With one final look she left the tent, letting Max, for the first time in a month, be in his daughter’s presence.

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Postby max and liz believer » Mon Nov 10, 2003 3:56 pm

out of this world - Thank you so much for the feedback! :D


Chapter 17


The first rays of the red sun began to spread their warm light across the green sky. Animals tentatively awoke to the new day, wondering if it would be a day of peace or a day filled with screams and death. With the first timid notes of a bird’s song, people in the small cottages started to wake up. Some woke up feeling that this was the first day of their new life, the beginning of something better. Others woke up feeling drained of energy, lost, angry and confused.

Some hadn’t even gone to sleep. They were still walking around outside, looking for their loved ones among the heaps of people coating the former battlefield. The silence was occasionally interrupted by outburst of sorrow as someone found a brother, a sister, a father, a mother among the casualties.

Some men were trying to rid the battlefield of the bodies, with heavy hearts. The ones that were completely unrecognizable were buried. Others were put in small tents where their relatives could come and bid their last goodbyes. There was a hushed silence over Antar this day. People were mourning, but those who hadn’t lost a loved one were celebrating. Still, the celebration was quiet and respectful. Because the battle had been fought, and according to the simple people on Antar, they had won. But they had lost in so many ways too.

Out in the middle of the wilderness eight tents of different sizes were arranged. Here the battle was still being fought. A battle between shock and sorrow. A battle between life and death. Inside one of the tents a little girl was sleeping as oblivious to the meaning of the new morning as she was to the outside world. Her mind had pulled back to the place where she couldn’t feel, couldn’t register. Where she merely existed.

In another tent a woman was sleeping, her sleep plagued with painful images and memories of a friend being badly hurt and a brother almost dying. A warrior occupied the tent next to her. But his warrior heart had become scorched. Insomnia had been his uninvited companion through the night. He had spent his waking hours guarding his friends and giving orders so that nothing would happen to or even disturb the ones he loved. His thoughts were constantly pulled back to another person though. A person not walking on this planet, but on another. The one person who could pull him together and give him peace. When would he see her again?

One tent was empty. Once filled with deep love and gentle caresses, it was now deathly empty. It was as if it was holding its breath in anticipation of what would return and when. The bigger tent was the medical tent. It was here the real battle was fought. It was here a woman was fighting against the eternal blackness with her every artificial breath. It was here a man was sitting, waiting, hoping, and crying. His family had been taken away from him in a matter of hours and, if it came to it, he would die with them.

The battle wasn’t over yet. One battle had ended to give place to another and everyone was waiting. Waiting for what was to happen now. Waiting for the new life to begin. Waiting for the eyes of their loved ones to open again.

<center>----------------------------------------------------------</center>

”Max...”
The voice was gentle and soft, so as not to scare him. Still, he snapped violently out of his reverie, jumping at her voice.
”It’s just me,” Isabel said with the faint resemblance of a reassuring smile.
He didn’t give her any sign that he had heard her. He just turned his head back towards the still body, keeping a firm grip on the hand tucked safely within his own.
Isabel swallowed and tried not to be disconcerted by his lack of presence in this world. ”I brought you some food.” When he didn’t answer, she continued, ”You have to eat something, Max.”
His body was tense and unresponsive. She would probably have more success talking to a wall. She took a deep breath and put the tray with food on the floor. He might want to pull away from the real world, but she wouldn’t let him. She wouldn’t let him just give up on life, even if it meant that he had to live without Liz.
”I’ll just leave it here and you can eat whenever you feel like it,” Isabel said quietly.
She paused and looked at him, when he still wasn’t acknowledging her presence.
”You need your strength, Max. If you are going to be able to help Liz...”
Her name triggered the first response in Max. His body tensed even more and he lowered his head.
Isabel bit her lower lip to prevent herself from crying and whispered hoarsely, ”We are just outside if you need anything.”
She took a deep breath as she turned away from the shell that Max had become. He was only a body now, his feelings, his soul, either buried or desperately trying to reach a mate that it had lost. The other half of a whole. Tears fell down her cheeks as she turned her back on her brother and left the tent.

Max closed his eyes as his sister left and let his own tears fall. He had heard every word, he just didn’t have the ability to answer her. It didn’t seem to matter anymore. Nothing did. He was so tired and the logical part of his brain was desperately pleading with him to lie down and sleep. But he couldn’t. What if she left him while he was asleep? He clutched her hand harder in his at the thought and had to take a deep breath to calm the sudden painful emptiness and panic that was quickly filling him. It was a familiar feeling ever since she had been hurt.

The same part of his brain that told him that the sensible thing to do was to sleep was also telling him that he should eat. He cast a chaste glance towards the tray. The food didn’t appeal to him at all. He didn’t have an appetite. But that didn’t matter. He knew that he had to eat because it would give him more energy to help Liz. Not letting go of her hand, he reached out with his free hand and took the bread from the tray and took a reluctant bite. The bread felt dry in his mouth. It tasted like a sponge, slowly swelling in his mouth, making it almost impossible to swallow. But he forced it down. Chunk after chunk, and took the glass of artificially made water to wash the bread down.

Then his focus was back on Liz.
”Baby,” he whispered, ”I’m gonna make you feel a little better, okay?”
Taking several deep breaths to calm himself down and focus, he simultaneously moved his hands to her hair, letting his fingers thread through her thick mane. Then he began feeding her body with his energy. He concentrated on the vital organs first, trying to repair them as best he could. It was more strenuous than usual, not only because of his own weakened condition, but also because he couldn’t form a two-way connection with her since she was unconscious. Fortunately, the connection they ordinarily shared helped him some now. He knew her. He knew her body, her mind, and her soul by heart. He had memorized her entire body intimately, not only the exterior but also the interior. He had healed her so many times when she had been ill because of their blocked connection, and that knowledge helped guide him through her body now.

Three minutes later he pulled out of her mind and body with a sharp intake of breath. His whole body was trembling from the physical exertion, his energy completely drained. He only remained in the conscious state of mind for a mere two seconds before his body gave up and he passed out. His body slumped forward over Liz’s abdomen, the life beneath her skin pulsating in reaction to the sudden, but comforting pressure.

<center>----------------------------------------------</center>

”He in there?” Michael asked, nodding towards the tent. The question was merely rhetorical; he already knew the answer.
”Yes, sir,” the guard answered.
Michael nodded and brushed past the guard. His steps halted, his mouth falling open in apprehension when he saw Max slumped over Liz. He was probably just asleep, Michael told himself as he sped up his pace and grasped Max’s shoulder not so very gently.
”Max?!” he hissed, shaking Max lightly.
When he didn’t respond, or even stir, Michael shook him a little harder. ”Max!”
Fear gripping him, Michael clumsily searched for Max’s pulse on the underside of his wrist. He felt cold, but there was a pulse. Michael didn’t know very much about those stuff, it was Max’s area of expertise, but he would say that the pulse was weak.
”Max?!” he said again, a little louder this time. He took a hold of Max’s shoulder and pulled him upwards. His eyes were closed and his head slumped forward so that his chin rested limply against his chest.

”Hey! Max!” Michael could feel the fear building in him.
Just then Serena stepped into the tent.
”Michael?” she asked and then she saw the state Max was in and quickly stepped inside the tent and walked up to Max. ”What’s wrong?”
”I found him like this,” Michael answered.
”Okay, let’s lie him down,” Serena said, remaining calm. It was no riddle to her what had happened her. Max had tried to heal Liz and he had depleted his energy. Her eyes quickly registered the crumbs on the tray as she helped Michael lay Max down.
”He’s eaten something,” Serena said.
Michael’s eyes drifted to the tray, his eyebrows furrowed in angry confusion. ”So?” His attention was back on Max again.

”That’s a good sign,” Serena said as she slid to her knees beside her unresponsive king, ”He had more energy to take from and that’s perhaps what stopped him from completely destroying himself.”
She jumped as Michael clapped his hands over Max’s head. She quickly took a hold of his hands to silence them.
Michael turned to her with an angry look.
”What are you doing?” Serena accused.
”Trying to wake him up,” Michael answered with the same tone of voice.
Serena pulled his hands down to his lap again, away from Max. ”Michael, you have to let him sleep. You can’t wake him up now even if you wanted to. He needs to refuel his energy.”

Michael stared at Serena for a second or two, before turning his head to stare at Max’s weary face. His voice was soft and fearful when he whispered the question that scared him the most, ”He won’t die?”
Serena didn’t know how many times these hybrids have touched her heart with their care and compassion for each other. It must be wonderful to feel such things, but of course it also must be very painful in situations like these. From the day Khivar had taken over Antar and her parents had been killed in the process, her emotions had been repressed in order that she become the best possible warrior. But even ordinary people on Antar had been forced to stop feeling, to stop thinking, or they would have died from anguish under Khivar’s reign. It had been so long that Serena didn’t know how to feel any longer, not many people did.

She took a deep breath and smiled softly at the warrior beside her who was terrified that he would lose his best friend. ”He won’t die. He just needs to rest. Let’s put him here beside Liz. I’m sure that’s where he wants to be.”
Michael nodded and together they moved Max onto the mattress. Astonished, they watched Max move his body slightly towards Liz’s. As if there were a magnetic field and their bodies had been pulled towards each other.
”Is he still unconscious?” Serena asked, perplexed.
Michael actually smiled. ”Yes, he is.” That was just one of the many things Serena would witness about Max and Liz that would surprise and awe her.

<center>---------------------------------------------------------------</center>

One week later

Michael stopped again as the muffled cries reached his ears. It wasn’t his imagination. Someone was crying. After spending weeks in the company of aliens who didn’t feel or if they had any feelings, didn’t let them show, the sound sounded foreign to his ears. There could only be one person who would be crying, since he had just left the medical tent where Max had fallen asleep after the strain of yet another healing.

He followed the sound and stopped outside her tent. It had never been his thing to comfort. Maybe he was more like his alien men in the respect that feelings scared him. Or at least, intense feelings did. He didn’t know what to say or what to do to comfort someone. But her heart-wrenching and lonely cries twisted his heart and he found himself pushing the tent fabric to the side and stepping inside the poorly lit tent.

He saw her hunched figure in the corner of the tent. Her arms tightly wrapped around her legs, her face buried in her knees, her blonde long hair, dirty and neglected, hiding her face from any outside watchers. Without a word, he closed the distance between them and sat down beside her. She hadn’t noticed his presence, so when he gently touched her arm, she gave a start, the crying hitching fearfully in her throat.
”It’s okay, it’s just me,” Michael said.
She broke apart at his words, and her crying intensified as she leaned into Michael, searching his warmth and comfort. He wrapped his arms around her and held on tight, getting just as much comfort from having a warm body close as Isabel did. They sat like that for a long time, before her crying eased into broken sobs and hiccups.
”I’m sorry,” she whispered.
”No, it’s okay,” he said gently.

She shook her head against his chest. ”No, no. It’s not okay. We are still trapped on this godforsaken planet. Liz is dying, Max is dying...with her,” her voice broke and it took a while for her to regain enough strength to continue, ”And Emma is just...she isn’t answering. She is barely meeting my eyes. She doesn’t talk. She’s just...she’s just...there. Like some kind of statue.”
Michael knew what she was talking about. He hadn’t paid too many visits to the little girl, because her condition scared him. She was like a zombie. Not talking, not seeing, not eating. Barely alive. He didn’t know what they had done to her in captivity, but one thing was for sure. She was broken inside and it was on days like these that he wondered if she could ever be mended.
”Max is with her every night, after waking up from his healings... And he...he can’t reach her either,” she whispered, ”It’s killing him, Michael. He has lost them both.”
”I know, I know,” he said, stroking her hair.

”And the worst thing is that I can’t stop thinking about home. About mom and dad. And...and Alex.”
Her voice was soaked with guilt and it caused Michael to halter in his movements.
”How can I be so selfish, Michael?” Isabel asked, her voice becoming hoarse with new never-ending tears. ”Max is losing his family, the one person that he has been in love with since he was in third grade is dying, and all I can think about is that I want to have Alex here with me. I want to spend Christmas with him. Laughing, opening presents. Why can’t it be me?” Her voice bore a twinge of resentment now, mixed with anger and injustice.

Christmas. It was the 24th of December today. On Earth people were gathering, meeting old friends and eating and laughing. Here, there was no Christmas. Here, there was grief, frustration, darkness and death.

”I miss Maria,” Michael said softly, not sure what to say to convince her that she wasn’t selfish.
She sniffled and raised her head to meet his eyes that had taken on a far-away expression at the thought of Maria.
”It’s been too long,” she whispered.
He nodded. ”I miss her so much. I feel so lost without her.” She nodded, tears spilling down her already soaked cheeks.
”When do you think we’ll be going home?” she asked, weary hope in her question.
Michael swallowed and closed his eyes. Before checking up on Max earlier, he had been to a meeting with Serena and Aldonis and some other well-respected people. They wanted Max to begin act like a king and take care of the planet. Antar was in shock and it needed a firm hand to pull them out of their grief. Michael had a feeling that only Serena understood him when he had tried to convince them that Max wouldn’t be able to give hope to an entire nation right now. They needed a king and the situation was getting desperate.
”Soon, I think,” he lied. Her hopeful smile made his heart twitch painfully.
”Thank you,” she whispered before burying her face in his shirt. Gazing into the darkness, he took a tighter hold of her tired body while longing for another body to be in his arms.

<center>---------------------------------------------------------</center>

The man watched the cloth fly out of his arms and across the room. His shoulder sagged. The frustration and the meaningless of the situation smothered him. The man turned to another man who was carefully moving closer to the guarded person in the corner of the room, and spoke to him in Antarian. As he expressed his irritation, the cloth, following a forceful command from his mind, smoothly flew back into his hand. Coming to an agreement, the two men took a deep breath and once again started to move closer to the small person. The object of their attention moved her arms to cover her face and curled up even more tightly into a ball, like a hedgehog rolling up to protect itself from enemies. She whimpered as their shadow slowly fell over her body, blocking the light from her view. When the man with the washcloth reached out towards her and touched her arm, an agonized wail broke over her lips.
”What the hell are you doing?”

Both of the men jerked away from their victim at the quiet but menacing voice. They both knew who it was without even having to turn their heads towards the new arriver.
”Your Highness,” the men mumbled in unison, keeping their heads bent of fear of disrespecting His Highness by meeting his eyes.
”Get away from her.”
The order was clear and threatening, and the men obeyed immediately.
”Sir, we were only trying to-”
His explanation came to an end as their eyes met. ”Don’t ever do it again,” Max said quietly, with barely restrained anger.
”No, sir. Of course not, sir.” Stuttering apologies, the two men scurried out of the tent.

Slowly, as to not frighten her even more than the men obviously already had, he moved closer to her. He saw the bucket of water on the floor and the washcloths lying beside it. He knew what they had been trying to do. They had only been trying to clean her up. But when Max had stepped into the tent and heard her whimper and seen the men looming over her curled up body, his protective streak had kicked in full force. What infuriated him was that they wouldn’t leave her alone, even though she obviously didn’t want them doing what they were doing. She didn’t even want them touching her.

The acrid odor of excrement enveloped him and he swallowed back tears together with nausea. His little vibrant girl had gone from being independent and carefree, to someone who wasn’t functioning anymore. She didn’t know when she needed to use the toilet. She didn’t even care. Max stopped beside her body and saw her tense. She knew he was there but she didn’t know whether he was friend or foe. Her eyes were hidden behind tresses of her too long bangs and her head was bent into her knees. Still, he had a feeling she was watching him. Closely.

He slowly lifted his hand and registered how she retreated even further, before moving his hand over her body, removing all traces of her faeces.
”Emma...” he whispered gently.
She whimpered and pulled herself further up the wall which barely seemed possible, considering she was already plastered to the tent wall.
”You wanna go to bed? You wanna sleep in the warm bed instead?”
He didn’t expect an answer and wasn’t the least surprised when he didn’t receive one.
”I’m just gonna take you there. Okay, baby?”
Gently, he placed his hands on her body. She tensed, but she didn’t move away. He drew a mental sigh of relief. She was willing to cooperate with him.

”I’ll have to lift you up, honey.” He tucked his hands under her body and lifted her. Slowly. She was like dead weight in his arms. Tensing up even more, as if trying to put as much distance between her own body and his as she could. But Max wouldn’t let her. She needed to feel body contact again. She needed to learn to recognize the touch of someone who didn’t wish her harm. He pulled her closer to the warmth of his own body, the stiffness of hers cutting through his heart. He straightened up and walked the short distance to the bed. He was limping some, due to one of the many injuries that hadn’t been given the chance to heal properly because he had been feeding Liz’s body with his energy. He lingered some, careful not to stir her too much, and slid to his knees beside the mattress and laid her there. The second his arms reluctantly left her body, she curled up again, pulling her knees up to her stomach and burying her face behind her knees. Max took a deep breath to get his strength back. Then he took the blanket and pulled it over her body, before moving out of the tent.

He unceremoniously bumped into Serena, who was waiting outside.
”She okay?” she asked.
Max scrubbed his face with his hand in an attempt to remove the weariness that had become a permanent resident in his bones.
”Yes, for the moment.”
”Max, I’m sorry if those men-” Max looked up in her guilty face and shook his head, efficiently cutting off her apologies.
”They were only following orders and since aliens aren’t known for their ability to feel empathy, they didn’t know when to stop.”
Serena’s eyes clouded over with guilt. Feelings had been consuming her more and more as she spent more time in the hybrids’ presence but she knew that the other aliens, the warriors, still had a long way to go before they would be able to feel emotions.

She opened her mouth to say she was sorry, but Max beat her to it. ”From now on, I don’t want any strangers around her. Not even you,” she straightened her head and nodded, ”She didn’t know you before and she has only met you in captivity. I don’t want her to associate anything with her time in captivity any longer. I’ll take care of washing her...”
”Max, you can’t do this alone. You are giving so much of your energy to Liz-”
”Isabel will be helping. She will be with Emma when I can’t. I’m gonna ask Michael to keep watch. I don’t want any others inside that tent. I want guards outside, but no one else inside. Got it?”
”Yes, Max,” Serena nodded.
Max raked his hand through his hair, which was getting rather long from lack of attention.

”And I want diapers.”
”Excuse me?” Serena looked at him confused.
”You know what diapers are?” Max asked.
Serena thought about it for a few seconds and then she remembered a text she had read on maternal care and she nodded. ”Yes... But we don’t have any here on Antar.”
”Then make some,” Max said.
”Of course,” Serena said hesitantly.
”Thank you,” Max said and turned to go to the medical tent. Serena took a deep breath and turned in the other direction. Max calling out her name halted her in her movements.
”Yes?” she said, turning around.

”Thank you, Serena. For everything you’re doing here. Thank you.”
Serena could feel her cheeks getting hot from the heartfelt praise and she ducked her head. ”It’s an honor, Max.”

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max and liz believer
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Postby max and liz believer » Sat Nov 29, 2003 6:11 am

out of this world - You have some really great thoughts! :D Thank you so much for the fb!! :D :D


Chapter 18


A gentle brush against his hand woke him up.

Tiredly, he started to lift his head, when it fell back down again as intense blinding pain shot through him. He barely resisted the urge to cry out and began taking deep breaths to remove the agony. Through the pain that had almost paralyzed him, he felt the tingle again and his stinging eyes moved to look at his hand. What he saw made his heart stop in his chest. Not thinking about what kind of pain that sudden movement would give him, he snapped his head up to her face.

She was looking at him.

”Liz...?” he croaked.
She was crying. Her eyes were red and if he had been able to see through the bandage covering her face he would’ve seen the frown of deep pain on her forehead. The pain had started to spread throughout his body. It felt as if his skin was on fire. His breathing became shallow and strained as he tried to control the pain. A pain he knew he was getting from the connection her return to consciousness had suddenly opened wide.

He never realized that he was crying. He never felt the hot tears. His attention was on the other part of his soul, who was looking at him. He could feel how much her eyes hurt by just looking, but underneath all the pain he could feel her feelings like a dull humming in the background. The pain was muffling most of it, making her most prominent feelings about pain and fear. But he could also feel her unwavering stubbornness to not to let him out of her line of vision. Her almost lethal desperation to hold onto him.

So that she wouldn’t fall.

”Baby,” Max whispered and moved his hands to her hair. Feeling her feelings in his body again was the most relieving and beautiful thing he had felt in a long dark time, even thought it was the most painful thing he had ever felt, seeing that the connection opened up all the pain Liz was feeling. Which only made him more determined to do what he had to do.

Even though he didn’t want to let her go.

<center>--------------------------------------------------------</center>

Simultaneously in the next tent

Isabel jumped as the normally deathly quiet child screamed.

A long, prolonged cry of raw pain, that made shivers broke out on her skin. She immediately crawled closer to the child, while silently debating whether or not she should touch her. Whether it would be comfort for the child, or just adding to the fear that was suddenly boiling in the room. Her whimper stopped Isabel cold.

”Mommy...”
Isabel gasped inaudibly and tears started to flow down her cheeks.
”Emma?”
The child was as still as ever, but her eyes weren’t. She was staring directly at Isabel and something in the way she was holding Isabel captured with her eyes told Isabel that something was different. There was a certain wakefulness and consciousness in her eyes. A focus.
”Mommy...” she whimpered again.
Isabel reached her decision and slowly reached out to touch her hair. Emma tensed at the contact, but she didn’t move away like she used to.

”Your mommy is waiting for you, Emma. She loves you so much.”
It seemed as if her soft whisper had reached Emma’s ears, because the little girl started crying. Lonely, heart breaking wails of misery.
”It hurts...” Emma sobbed.
”I know, honey. But we are going to take that pain away, if you help us.” Isabel wasn’t sure what hurt. There were no outside signs of any injuries, and she was certain that Max had checked her over internally as well. If there were something wrong he would have told them. Wouldn’t he?

<center>-------------------------------------------------</center>

Max slowly and painfully sifted through the pain. It was like looking for something buried in sand. No matter how much you dug, the sand kept flowing back into the hole, making the labor even more strenuous. He was searching for the question to which he could provide her the answers.
”Emma is with us,” he whispered. He saw the strong relief in her eyes and the questioning look that followed. ”She’s fine.” It was a lie, but Liz needed all the positive information she could get. She wasn’t capable of handling the paralyzing pain while worrying about their little girl not being sane anymore.

”I love you so much, Liz,” he whispered, his voice barely holding up against the tears streaming down his cheeks, a sign betraying the fear raging inside of him.
Her eyes filled with new tears, which fell onto the bandages on her cheeks.
”Please don’t leave us,” Max’s hand was desperately clutching a bundle of her hair in his hands, as if trying to hold her there. ”We need you.”
He took a deep shuddering breath, and hastily brushed away the tears on his cheeks. ”You have to fight, Liz.”
Her eyelids were getting heavier, but he knew that she would not be able to find peace if she were conscious. The pain would not leave her alone, until it had tortured her mind into the same tarnished state her body was in.
”I love you,” he whispered again before he moved his hands from her hair and his other hand up to her face, and concentrated hard on the connection.

As if it were a twig, he broke her only thread to consciousness, and the pain ended.

<center>-------------------------------------------</center>

”What’s going on?” Michael asked as he stepped into the tent.
”Mommy...”
The anguished wail made his head snap into the direction of the curled up girl.
”She’s talking?” he asked, a hint of hope in his voice, as he shifted his eyes to Isabel.
”Yes,” Isabel said breathlessly, ”But I think she’s in pain.”
”I’m getting Max,” Michael said.
Isabel only nodded, her eyes once again glued to the little girl, who had now begun to writhe on the mattress, as if the material were burning against her skin. Isabel crept closer with the intention of pulling her into her arms, when she stilled, the whimper dying on her lips. The tent fell eerily silent as Emma’s eyes once again became blank and unseeing. As if her connection to the real world had just dissipated, vanishing into thin air.

<center>----------------------------------------------</center>

”Max, you gotta come...” Michael’s voice tailed off as his eyes landed on Max. Max looked up at him, face wet with tears and eyes red, before turning back to Liz again and reluctantly letting go of her hand.
”What is it, Michael?” he asked hoarsely.
Michael’s eyes narrowed in confusion. ”You need to see Em...” then a thought occurred to him and he frowned, ”What happened with Liz?”
Max had risen to his feet at the mention of his daughter and was already walking towards Michael. His steps were tired, but his body had another sort of lightness than usual, which only further confirmed Michael’s suspicions.
”What’s wrong with Emma?” Max asked.

”Did Liz wake up?” Michael asked.
Max stopped and glanced over his shoulder at Liz. He inhaled deeply as he turned his head back to Michael and warily rubbed his hand over his face, noticing that he had been crying.
”Yes...” he said softly.
Michael had expected that answer, but it still surprised him. ”What? How? Is that even... Is she...”
”I had to make her unconscious again,” Max whispered.
Michael looked at his tortured friend. ”Did she speak?”
”No,” Max answered quietly, ”She couldn’t. The pain was too...there was too much pain. I could feel it, but only a fraction and it was enough to almost make me pass out.” Max met Michael’s eyes. ”I had to knock her out. She couldn’t go on with that pain. It’s better that she doesn’t feel anything at all.”

Michael could see in his eyes how much that decision had torn him up. Max would probably have endured the pain through the connection, he just couldn’t bear to see Liz in so much pain.
”But isn’t this a good thing?” Michael asked.
Max closed his eyes. ”I hope so,” he whispered. ”I hope this momentary consciousness is progress...and not her...her...saying...goodbye.”
”Hey man,” Michael said gently, putting a comforting hand on Max’s shoulder. ”She wasn’t.”
Max looked up at him and Michael saw disbelief, but also hope in his eyes. Max wanted to believe him, but life had dealt him so many evil hands in the last weeks that he had difficulties believing in the good. That anything good could happen for a change.
”She isn’t,” Michael corrected himself. Max stared at him, before tiredly nodding.
Max’s eyes drifted to the opening of the tent. ”What about Emma?”
”I think she felt the pain too,” Michael said, having put it all together.
”What do you mean?” Max asked, his voice an emotional mixture of fear and guilt.
”They have a connection-”
His voice was cut off by Max’s departure from the tent.

<center>----------------------------------------------------</center>

”She was awake, Max,” Isabel said as Max entered the tent. Max strode up to Emma with determination.
”What happened?” Isabel asked worriedly as she saw the tear stains on Max’s cheeks and his haggard looks.
”Liz woke up,” Michael said from the opening.
”What?” Isabel cried out, looking between Max and Michael. ”Is she okay?”
”No...” Max whispered as his hand threaded through Emma’s hair. ”Come here, baby.”

Gently, Max turned Emma’s stiff body towards him and pulled her into his lap. Isabel stared at them in awe. She had known that Max was more successful in reaching out to Emma then she and Michael were, but she didn’t know that Emma would let herself be touched that much.
Max wrapped his arms around Emma’s body and slowly started rocking her. He placed a tender kiss on the top of her head. With new tears rolling down his cheeks, he murmured words of comfort and love in her ear. Isabel rose and pulled Michael with her. Michael had to give her an update on what had happened with Liz.

They quietly left the tent, but Max probably wouldn’t have heard them even if they had been noisy. He was lost in his own world. A world of memories. A world of happy laughter and beautiful smiles. A world of comforting hugs and gentle caresses. A world of kisses and love. A world that was slowly dying. Slipping through his hands like sand.



Chapter 19


”Max?” Serena timidly looked into the tent. She was expecting to find him there, where he had spent most of his waking, and sleeping, hours lately. Watching over Liz. She was surprised when she found Liz to be alone. Her shallow breathing echoed in the silence of the tent and Serena turned to leave when she stopped. Max hadn’t let anyone near Liz the last couple of days. He was guarding her with his simple presence. He hadn’t exactly spelled out to them that they weren’t allowed to visit Liz. It was something in his demeanor, in the way he was always with her, which made the others automatically leave him alone. It was like it was something too private, too personal, to disturb.

Finding Liz all by herself made a curiosity build within Serena and she found herself turning around towards the mattress again. She knew that she might be treading dangerous ground, but no one in the camp had been given the faintest clue about Liz’s condition. Max had forbidden the physician they’d had at the beginning to get even five feet within Liz, since one of the physicians had made the foolish mistake of hinting that Liz should be kept alive merely for the purpose of keeping the child inside of her alive.

It was simply her duty to her people to find out how Liz was doing, Serena told herself as she approached the mattress. Liz’s health was directly correlated to Max’s strength and ability to start focusing his attention on his people and rebuilding Antar, something that he had completely ignored. He hadn’t attended any meetings, Michael had attended them in his place instead. Max had not shown any interest at all that he wanted to help the people who were now hopefully waiting for him to help them to their feet.

Referring to the facts she had heard from Michael and Isabel about Max, and also due to the person she had judged him to be from her own observations, she had really tried to justify Max’s lack of interest in his people, but still it infuriated her. How a mate could mean more to him than a whole race of people was beyond her. She had tried to understand. She had tried to put herself in the same situation, if something like that would have happened to Aldonis, but she couldn’t. She wouldn’t have dropped her responsibility, ignored her duty, like that, even if she cared a lot for Aldonis.

She came to a halt beside the mattress, staring down in the face of the person Max would sacrifice everything for, even his own life, and she gasped. Because it was really Liz’s face she was looking at. Not only her closed and bruised eyelids and her parched dry lips, but her whole face. The band aids were gone and her skin had none of the awful blisters she had tried to take care of just after she and Max had been brought to the medical tent after Khivar’s attack existed. It was like they had never been there. Her skin was flawless. With her mouth gaping in a mixture of awe and surprise, Serena took a hold of the comforter and started to pull it downwards to take a look at the rest of Liz’s body.

”Serena.”
She visibly jumped and jerked her head into the direction of the voice, her hand guiltily moving away from Liz. She already knew who it would be before her eyes landed on his hard facial expression.
”Max,” she said, trying to appear calm, but his appearance had been too sudden and she had been too attentive to what she would find when she pulled down the comforter, that her voice was just a notch to high.
”What are you doing?” Max asked. His voice betrayed nothing. It was as cool as everything about him lately. Serena quickly pulled herself together and took a step away from Liz.
”I didn’t know that she had healed so much,” Serena said, deciding to confront him with it, ”Why haven’t you told us? She must be doing better. She looks better.”
”The superficial wounds are easy to heal,” Max answered. He hadn’t moved since she had turned her eyes to him and now he was just calmly observing her. Serena couldn’t put her finger on what that meant. Was he angry with her? Did he want her to leave? Narrowing her eyes she decided that he was resigned, even a little relieved that she had forced him to tell her this.
”What about the internal wounds?” Serena asked slowly.
Max met her gaze straight on, trying to appear collected, but one thing Serena had learnt about Max was that he had very expressive eyes, which always betrayed the truth. Especially when it came to Liz. Max was very bad at keeping his feelings for Liz secret.
”She is much better,” he answered.

Serena wondered why he hadn’t answered her question directly, but instead given her an answer to another question, but she bit her lip to stop herself from asking him about that. She had a feeling that Max’s trust in her was already on shaky ground, and she really shouldn’t do anything further to jeopardize that.
”How about the baby?”
A flicker of hope passed in Max’s eyes before he answered, ”They are perfect.”
Serena started nodding in relief, when the meaning of his words hit her. ”Wait... Why did you say? ‘They’?”
”Twins,” Max answered, a soft smile playing in the corners of his mouth.
”Twins?” Serena repeated dumfounded. Her brain was working overload trying to find out just what twins were. Somehow, Liz was going to give birth to several babies at the same time. She was carrying several babies at the same time.
”How is that possible? Is it two babies?” Serena asked.
Max’s facial expression softened some at her stunned expression. ”I found it out this morning. I was just with Emma, telling her that she would be having two baby brothers.”

”But that’s not even possible,” Serena said, shaking her head.
”How’s that?” Max asked. He started to move towards Liz, as if the mere mention of the babies resting inside the warmth of her protective uterus made him want to be near her and touch her.
Serena watched him take Liz’s hand, a hand that now had no bandage, and lovingly pushing a strand of her dark hair away from her forehead. The gesture made Serena forget what she was talking about. She had never seen anything like it. And he had only brushed away her hair. It had been so tender and on one level so very intimate it made her throat clog up and she had to swallow to clear her throat to be able to speak again.
”We...we can’t have two babies at the same time,” Serena said absently, her eyes fixed on the tender caresses Max’s hand made on the healed skin of Liz’s cheek.
”You can’t?” Max asked, looking up at Serena. He only seemed mildly surprised, like details like that didn’t matter to him since he was certain that he and Liz were having twins.
”No...”

”Humans can,” Max said, his eyes moving to Liz, and unbothered by Serena’s presence he bent forward and placed a gentle kiss on Liz’s forehead. Serena had to turn away. The picture it made was just as heartbreaking as it was achingly beautiful.
Just like that it hit her and she looked back at Max. Her eyes moved over his relaxed face and his warm eyes, lingering on the soft private smile playing on his lips, made it all more clear to her. There was something he wasn’t telling her. There was a hidden happiness in him and she didn’t think that it only had to do with the news of his babies.
”But when I examined her and found out about the pregnancy, I only felt one presence. There was only one.”
Max met her eyes again and nodded thoughtfully. ”I thought about that too and I think that it was too early in the pregnancy for you to be able to pick up two energies. And one of them is smaller than the other. His energy can have been so weak you didn’t register it or just assumed it was something different.”
”But... are you sure you can have two babies in the same pregnancy?”
Max actually smiled at this and Serena could feel a weird feeling of happiness in the center of her heart. During the short, albeit intense, time period she had known Max she had never seen him smile. Not like this.

”Feel,” Max said simply.
”Pardon me?” Serena looked at him in a mixture of confusion and curiosity.
Max reached out with his hand across Liz’s body and took Serena’s hand in his. Too stunned to speak, Serena wordlessly let Max move her hand towards Liz’s body while his other hand moved away the comforter and revealed the skin of Liz’s stomach. As on her face, there was no trace of the blisters and wounds on her stomach. Her stomach had grown, stretching out around the fetus it was shielding. Max put her hand down on Liz’s stomach and repeated, ”Feel.”

So Serena did. She let her energy pour into Liz and let her mind melt with the functions of Liz’s body. She allowed Liz’s bloodstream to appear in front of her and she watched the nerve impulses skitter from one nerve cell to another. Her energy was not the same as Max’s. She couldn’t surge energy into someone’s body with the purpose of sharing that energy with the other person. She couldn’t heal. She could only pour her energy into someone to be able to read its bodily functions and, after she was done, pull the energy back to her own body.

She expertly moved through the organs in Liz’s body, but their condition was barely registered, in order to reach the main point of interest for this examination. Two life energies came to her with full force, so strong and so pure that she had to take a mental deep intake of breath to calm the awe. She was filled with the warmest feeling she had ever felt. It filled every corner, every cavern of her heart, mind and body. The feeling was so great it didn’t take her long to figure out what it was. Love.

Next she encountered something like a great stonewall, its appearance so sudden that she abruptly lost the connection. Max was watching her when she opened her eyes and was catapulted back to reality. She took a shaky breath, trying to get the intense feelings she had experienced down to a more Antarian level. That is, almost non-existent.
”Did you feel them?” Max asked.
She nodded, being too shaken to talk. Max nodded and looked at Liz. Serena followed his tender look and having the emotions still raging inside of her she suddenly had no difficulty at all understanding why Max would sacrifice everything for Liz and his family. That feeling - love - had been the greatest feeling she had ever felt. She realized that it was something like that she felt for Aldonis, but that was only a faint whisper in comparison to what she had felt from the unborn babies Liz was carrying. Love children. They had been filled with the love Liz and Max felt for each other. They were pulsating with pure love. Serena felt the urgency to embrace these new feelings, but she knew that the years of repressing those same emotions couldn’t be undone that easily.

”I...” she cleared her throat, ”I was stopped by some kind of wall...”
”It was a block,” Max answered.
Serena frowned. ”A block?” Then it hit her. ”Did Khivar put it there? Is that why she is still unconscious?”
”I put it there,” Max said quietly.
”You?” Serena looked at him confused. ”Why would you put a block on her mind?”
Max took a deep breath and Serena saw him tighten his grip on Liz’s hand. ”She was in so much pain.”
”When she woke up?” Serena had heard about Liz’s brief moment of consciousness.
Max nodded. ”I put a block on her mind to keep her from waking up. Until I have her completely healed.” He looked up at Serena, his eyes shimmering with pain. ”She was in so much pain...”
”Have you been able to heal her completely?” Serena wondered. She vaguely registered the haggard looks of Max. He looked like a living dead. He was pale, with dark circles under his eyes, and he still limped, something that should have healed on its own a long time ago. Liz looked healthier than he did and Serena silently wondered how much of his energy Max had been feeding Liz every day. Probably everything he could give her before he passed out.
”Almost,” Max whispered. There was guilt in his voice, expressing his feeling of helplessness over not being able to do more than he was already doing.

Serena really hated to bring this up, but the others were wondering and time was quickly slipping away. ”Max, we have to talk about Antar. What are you planning on doing?”
Max looked up at her, his whole body going tense. ”I haven’t planned anything.”
”The people are counting on you to help them.”
”I don’t want to be a king. I want nothing more to do with this planet. As soon as Liz is completely healed, we will be going home. To Earth.”
Serena stared at him. ”You can’t mean that. You cannot abandon your people like that! They have been waiting for this for too long. You will be leaving them without someone to lead them.”
”I helped them the best I could, with Khivar,” his voice hardened at the mention of his enemy’s name, ”My family almost died because of it! It’s more than I ever wanted. I never wanted to come to this planet anyway. The only reason I came here was because Khivar took Emma and we had to get her back.”
Serena’s mouth was hanging open in frightened surprise. She had known that Max’s interest for Antar and its people was mild, but not that it wasn’t there at all.
”Don’t you feel any obligations at all towards your people?” Serena accused.

Max looked her firmly in the eyes and said slowly, ”Leadership shouldn’t be about obligations. I cannot rule Antar only because it’s my duty to do so. Antar needs someone who is willing to fight for the people. Someone who is willing to rebuild the planet. Serena, I don’t know the Antarian people and I hate to say it, but I don’t feel enough for the Antarians to lead them. Earth is my home. I belong with humans. I cannot speak for Isabel and Michael, but I doubt that they want to stay here. They have lives back on Earth,” he looked at Liz and added softly, ”We all do.”
”You can’t do this, Max! It’s your destiny-”
Max jerked his head up at her choice of words, ”This is not my destiny. Antar is not my destiny. It might’ve been Zan’s destiny, but my destiny is on Earth. My destiny is Liz and my family.”
Serena clenched her fists as a strong urge of some feeling built inside of her. It might have been anger. It might have been hurt. She didn’t know for sure because she had never felt it before.
”This is why you shouldn’t let your emotions rule you,” she said through gritted teeth.
Max stared at her like she had grown a second head. ”Things like duty and obligation really don’t mean anything, Serena. It is forced. Do you want your people to be ruled by someone who feels forced to rule them? Who feels obligated to rule them?”

”You are the right man to do it. You have the right abilities for it. I’ve seen them.”
”It’s the heritage from Zan,” Max whispered, ”It’s not who I am. It’s a part of who I am, but I’m not only a leader. I never chose to be.”
”Faith chose you.”
Max shook his head, and said firmly, ”No. Faith gave me the qualities, but it’s up to me what I do with them. Just because someone can sing doesn’t mean that person will become a singer.”
Serena could feel something bubbling inside of her, wanting to erupt. To explode. She wanted to yell at him, shake him. Make him understand that he had to guide his people or they would perish.
”This isn’t about some singing career-”
”No,” Max interrupted. ”This is my life. This is my family’s life. I don’t want my children to grow up here. I want them to be able to see blue sky, see fields of sunflowers, bathe in the ocean. I want them to feel safe and not be followed around by bodyguards because a follower of Khivar will seize any opportunity it can to kill them. I want them to meet their grandparents. I want to see them grow up, go to school, graduate, get married...”

”Those are just wishes, Max. We all have them, but sometimes dreams don’t come true-”
”Is it too much to ask that I want my children to be safe?” She could hear that he was getting angry.
”No,” she answered.
”I haven’t decided on what to do about Antar yet, Serena. But I will not just leave it to its mercy. If I cannot lead your people, I will find someone who will.”
Serena knew that she should probably feel a little relieved by his promise, but they had been waiting for him to rule Antar for so long. Who should rule Antar if he wouldn’t?
”Who?”
Max looked her directly in the eyes when he answered, ”I have someone in mind.”
”Someone?”
Max took a deep breath, his gaze drifting to Liz. ”Serena, are we finished? I will concentrate on that later. Just not right now.”
Serena had so much more she needed to talk to him about, but was frustrated when she realized that she had to leave Max alone now.

”Is it... Is Liz’s present condition a secret, or may I inform the men?” she asked, as she stood up.
Max eyes traced Liz’s facial features as he contemplated her question. ”It is a secret for now,” he answered after some seconds had passed. ”I want to talk to Michael and Isabel first.”
Serena nodded and then halted when something struck her. Max hadn’t told Michael and Isabel about the babies. He had only had the chance to tell Emma. The fact that he had told her before he had told Michael and Isabel made a warm feeling settle over her heart.
”Okay,” she whispered.
With a last look at Max and his soul mate, she quietly left the tent.

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max and liz believer
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Postby max and liz believer » Sun Jan 18, 2004 1:44 pm

Chapter 20


”Mommy?”
”Darling, you have to stay here. Stay quiet. It’s like that game we taught you. You remember that game?”
”Yes.”
”Good girl.”
The room vibrated with the ominous sound of the thick wooden door being forced open. The young mother quickly scrambled to her feet, so that she wouldn’t reveal her daughter’s hiding place. Her mate put up his hands in front of him in an act of surrender and apprehensively, albeit calmly, started talking, ”Just tell us what you want and we will-”
There was a loud deathly sound and the little girl could hear her mother scream -- a scream ending in a death rattle as her soul was being torn from her body. The little girl put her hands over her ears, the tears streaming down her cheeks, as she tried to block out all the sounds that followed. How her mother was beaten to the ground and how the men forced themselves on her until she was begging for mercy.

And then they had her killed.



She bolted up from the painful sleep, her hand automatically moving to her left in the search of the person who could comfort her. Her hand met nothing but the cool material of the sheets. No one else had slept beside her tonight. She brought the comforter closer around her body, trying to reduce the trembles. Her body started rocking to still the fear surging through her and the endless stream of tears running down her cheeks. Painfully, she tried to block out the emotions. Think of something else. But tonight it wasn’t working. Maybe it was because Max had looked at Liz so tenderly that it had reminded her of how her own mother used to be. Or maybe it was because Max had announced that he would be abandoning the Antarians, shredding their last piece of hope.

With a strangled sob, she crawled out of bed. She needed some air. She couldn’t go back to sleep, or the nightmares would continue to haunt her. Pulling another shirt over her head, she stepped out into the cool night. Her eyes drifted to the sky, which had taken on a tint of dark green, almost black. The soft and warm red Xerios, the dying sun, always provided her with comfort. But not tonight. Tonight she couldn’t stop thinking about how beautiful Antar used to be. How free and friendly. She had only been a little girl when her parents had been killed and Khivar had taken power. But she could still remember the time before her life was drastically altered, before she was forced to go underground and change her identity. The tears stilled on her cheeks, making her feel cheeks dry in the night air. The camp was silent. Almost everyone was asleep. She noticed some guards in the fringes of the camp, but they knew better than to leave their posts and come and ask her how she was doing. Not that Antarians did that anyway. They didn’t know how. They barely showed any feelings, and didn’t feel any either. Thus, they had no clue to how to deal with them if someone lost their control.

Absently observing the sun spots on Xerios, she wondered if Antar had ever been anything like Earth. If Antarians had been like Earthlings. Some days, the longing to be able to feel real emotions and not be restrained to show them, made her ache. On other days, she was grateful that she didn’t have to deal with any of the turbulent emotions she had seen the hybrids harboring. Once, Antarians had been able to feel. They had committed to each other because they loved each other, not because it was convenient or the genes were right for copulation. Once, people had been free and happy. They had been laughing, crying, hugging, and smiling. They had been alive.

She shivered. Not because of the coldness of the still night. The memories haunted her.
”Serena?”
She jumped at the sound, spinning around. She visibly relaxed when she saw who it was, but mentally admonished herself for letting her guard down.
”Isabel.”
”I couldn’t sleep, and I thought I heard someone-” Isabel started, walking out of the shadows towards Serena. As Serena turned her face more fully towards Isabel and the dim red light from the sun fell over her face, Isabel’s voice trailed off.
”Are you okay?” she asked worriedly, watching the tears on Serena’s cheeks.
Serena quickly turned her head away. She had forgotten the physical signs of her turbulent inner state. ”Yes,” she answered quickly. She bent her head and rubbed the lingering tears off her cheeks.
There was a pause and she could feel Isabel’s eyes on her.
”Are you sure?” Isabel finally asked.
”Yes,” Serena answered, the professional and emotionless nuance of the voice she usually used slowly reinstating itself as she fought to recompose herself.

They stood next to each other as the silence fell over them.
“You miss home, don’t you?” Serena asked.
Isabel turned her head and observed Serena’s profile. “Yeah,” she answered quietly.
“Do you… do you have someone there waiting for you?” Serena asked tentatively.
Isabel couldn’t hide the surprise on her face as she looked at Serena. That was a question she had never anticipated Serena would ask.
“Yeah,” Isabel answered, turning her head to look off into the distance, her thoughts lingering on that particular person waiting for her on Earth. “At least I hope so.”
Now it was Serena’s time to be surprised. “You’re not sure?”
Isabel shifted her eyes down to her feet, an insecure smile grazing her lips. “Well, we were… Alex and I were never really together…”
“Alex?”

Isabel’s smile warmed and she met Serena’s eyes. “Yes, Alex.”
She spoke his name with gentle softness, which made a distant and bittersweet smile form on Serena’s lips. Right now at this moment, she would give anything to feel what Isabel felt whenever Alex was brought up.
“He’s always had this crush on me,” Isabel said softly, “At least that’s what Liz tells me.”
“Crush?” Serena asked, the word not sounding familiar to her.
“Oh sorry,” Isabel apologized, “He has had these, you know, romantic feelings about me for ages.” Receiving an understanding nod from Serena, Isabel continued, “And I never noticed him. He was like a fly on the wall. I was too caught up in everything going around me. In keeping my secret safe, I was too blind to see what a wonderful person he was. I guess the circumstances forced me to get to know him and I’ve never been more grateful.”
“What happened?” Serena asked.

Isabel’s eyes took on a far-away expression, as she remembered things that had happened a long time ago, in another time, because that’s what it felt like. She had been so different then, everything had been so different.
“There is this restaurant in Roswell, where we live on Earth, called the CrashDown. It is owned by Liz’s father, and Liz was helping out there as a waitress. Consequently, Max spent all his free time there.”
“Really?” Serena asked interested.
Isabel rolled her eyes at the memory playing out inside her head. “Yeah, he was always watching her every move. But he never approached her. Never talked to her, at least, not more than was necessary. You see, we had this pact, Michael, Max and I, to not get involved with humans. It was not safe. It would probably require that we revealed who we were and we didn’t trust anyone with that secret.”

“What changed?” Serena asked. She could understand the secrecy Michael, Isabel and Max had lived with. The double life they had been forced to lead. She had been forced to do the same. She had been forced to hide who she really was to keep herself from getting killed. Up to this day, not even Aldonis knew her real origin. He knew about her nightmares, but he didn’t know the cause of them. She had never told him. The fear had stopped her, even if she had wanted to. God, had she wanted to tell him everything. But something had held her back.
“Liz was shot,” Isabel said, her eyes darkening. The memory still plagued her. She hadn’t been there in the restaurant, but she still got nauseous when she thought back to the arguments she’d had with Max after he had saved Liz’s life. It sickened her when she thought about that she had yelled at Max for saving someone’s life. She had been so selfish.
“She was?” Serena asked, her eyes opening wide with fear. She had read about what effects guns could have on the human body.

“Max healed her. Right there in the middle of the restaurant,” Isabel continued, “Michael tried to stop him, but not much can get between Max and Liz.”
“I have noticed that,” Serena whispered.
Isabel smiled at her. “Max asked Liz to cover for him, to lie to the Sheriff. He trusted her to do so. She surprised us all when she did. Liz really came through. She stood up for us through everything and she opened up this whole new world to us. She really brought us to life. Max mostly, but each and every one of us were affected by what she did for us.”
“And Alex?” Serena questioned.
“Liz, Maria and Alex were this really tight-knit group. They’ve been together since fifth grade or something,” Isabel explained. “Liz wanted to keep Max’s secret to herself, but Maria was too persistent and I guess Liz really needed someone to confide in, so she told Maria.”
“Maria is…?”
“Maria is…” a chuckle escaped Isabel at the thought of the spunky blonde, “…she’s unique. She and Michael have this really weird hate-love relationship going on.”
“Aha,” Serena said, not really understanding what that meant.

“When you see them, you’ll know what I mean,” Isabel said. “Anyway, Max was in an accident and he was brought to the hospital. We had always worked really hard to stay away from hospitals, because our blood cells are different from humans’. When Max ended up in the hospital, they drew some blood. We quickly had to change the blood sample, so that no one would get their hands on Max’s real blood. Problem was, the only humans we had let in on the secret were women and we needed male blood, so Liz had to ask Alex. Alex, being the sweet and loyal friend that he is,” Isabel’s voice trailed off and she had to bit her lower lip to not give in to the tears threatening to fall, “agreed to let us take a sample of his blood, without any explanations. He just trusted Liz that much. He has this really pure and trusting heart.”
“It seems as if you’ve been through a lot,” Serena mused. Isabel swallowed and took a deep breath, trying to recompose herself. She really didn’t want to cry here. Not in front of Serena. They were getting to know each other better, but Isabel wasn’t the kind of person that could cry in front of just anyone.
“Yes, it’s been pretty rough,” Isabel replied absently.

Serena smiled faintly. Evidently, there was a lot she didn’t know about what had happened to Max, Michael, Liz and Isabel on Earth. There was a lot she didn’t know about them at all.
“I should go back to sleep,” Serena said.
Her quiet statement broke Isabel out of her reverie. She reached out with her hand and stopped Serena in the process of turning around. Serena looked at Isabel questioningly.
“Serena, do you want to talk about it?” Isabel asked, sincere concern in her voice. Something had upset Serena earlier. Even though she was back to being the very controlled Serena, she had been crying earlier.
Serena met her eyes, her gaze not faltering a bit. “Thank you, Isabel, but I’m just gonna head straight for bed. You should go back to sleep too. We need the sleep.”
Isabel looked at her closely, before letting go off her arm and giving her a resigned nod. “Yeah, you’re right. Good night, Serena.”
Serena smiled, but Isabel noticed the trembles in that smile. “Good night, Isabel.”

<center>--------------------------------------------------</center>

Movement.

It was movement that brought him back to consciousness. His head was heavy; his eyes were stinging, and his mouth dry.

There it was again. Something was trying to get his attention and slowly he opened his eyes. As they opened, he felt the material of her gown against his cheek and he instinctively knew where he was.

Right where he belonged.

Something jolted under his head and he was suddenly wide awake.

Lifting his head in agony, he blinked repeatedly to moisten his dry eyes. His eyelids were so heavy and his body cried for him to go back to sleep. But there was something there. Something that was keeping him from going back to sleep. Eyes staring into the darkness engulfing him, he tried to get his thoughts around what had happened before he had lost consciousness. The twinkling of bright light at the outer fringes of his peripheral vision put an abrupt halt to his wandering and lost thoughts. His head moved transfixed towards the light, as fast as it could without it feeling like it was going to explode.

Soft blue light was spreading out from under his hand. Quickly, he snapped it away, afraid that he had hurt her, that in his dazed condition he had lost control of his powers. But the light continued to glow even in the absence of his hand, even though it had lessened some in intensity at his withdrawal. His breathing getting shallow with apprehension and his mouth falling open in awe, he slowly moved his hand back to her stomach and, amazed, watched the light getting brighter the closer his hand got to her.

His heart started to beat faster as he watched the light pulse under his hand, in accordance to the rhythm of a heart. Two hearts. Slowly, he unbuttoned the gown just above the stomach. The light flickered as he placed his palm against her soft skin. His breath caught in his throat when he could feel the energy being emitted from underneath his hand. He could feel a presence tugging at his consciousness, bringing something that had been dormant back to life. Something that had been forced into sleep when Liz had run out on that battlefield. Everything that was truly her. Her mind, her soul, her smile, her laughter. All that remained was her tired body and the sound of forced breathing.

The light coming from her stomach was the first real sign that Liz still existed in this world and that the children she was carrying were still being nourished, were still breathing, growing and living. Now they were reaching out for him. He had never experienced this with Emma and he couldn’t help but feel a sting of sadness as his thoughts momentarily trailed to all of the other things he had missed. He closed his eyes and focused on the sensations he could feel starting to evade his mind. Somehow his sons seemed able to initiate a connection with him. He relaxed and opened his mind, trying to assist their weak, yet instinctive search for him.

A wave of something powerful washed over him, making his breath hitch in his throat, feelings, so intense, his mind was overwhelmed. Feelings, so raw, simple and true, his heart ached with emotion. He could feel their happiness at connecting with him, their simple wonder and their childish questions. He took a deep breath and let the oxygen flow down into his lungs again and he smiled. A peaceful, hopeful smile bringing forth tears in his eyes. They were not talking to him, not in words, but they were nonetheless communicating with him with feelings. They were telling him that they were fine and that their mother was fine. They were wondering about the feelings of self-doubt, guilt and grief in his heart. Feelings they could yet not understand, still pure at heart and untouched by the harsh world outside the protective womb of their mother.

His fingers, which had been resting calmly against her stomach, fluttered with emotion as another presence broke into the first connection between a father and his children. His eyes snapped open and the light illuminating her skin pulsated with renew intensity. Instinctively, he angled his head to her face, finding her looking at him.
“Liz…”
“Hey,” she whispered.
The hand resting on her stomach not leaving its position, he turned his body facing her and leaned forward to move his free hand through her hair. Concerned eyes met his and her first comment was about his wellbeing. “You look tired.” Her voice was weak, but it was the most beautiful sound he had ever heard.

A tear left unattended made a slow travel down his cheek as his eyes came to life. Softly caressing her cheek, he whispered, “Welcome back.”
She smiled and something broke inside of him. He fell forward against her chest. His hand left her stomach and moved towards her sides, clutching desperately at the piece of clothing covering her. Her weak arms slowly lifted from their position along her body and were gently placed around him, holding him as his body shook with tears being held back from days of pent up worry and grief, mixed with tears of relief, joy and love.
“I love you so much,” he sobbed against her chest, tears that couldn’t be soothed wetting her gown.
“I love you too,” she whispered, her fingers threading through his hair, tears pooling at the corners of her eyes at the misery she was getting from him through the connection. Her mind was still fuzzy. She couldn’t quite remember what had happened. There was desperation, a black fear of being abandoned, in Max, and that scared her. The feelings she was getting from him were raw and unshielded. Something she had never experienced from him before. Even with the connection, she knew that there had always been a part of him that he didn’t let her see in an attempt to protect her from feelings that he found embarrassing. Feelings that made him ashamed of himself and even at some times made him hate himself.

She could feel her energy returning to her, the more awake she became. Her arms tightened around him and she shifted slightly to the side. As if following a physical law, Max’s body shifted along with her and the mattress shifted as he crawled up beside her. She turned on her side, pulling him closer. His hand went around her body, his head coming to rest against the side of her throat, where he could feel the stable beating of her pulse against his cheek. His warm lips brushed against her skin as he whispered against her throat, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
His desperate plea for forgiveness surging through the connection emphasizing his words overwhelmed her with sadness and guilt. Her hot tears flowed down her cheeks, disappearing into her hair at the temple. “Shh, it’s okay. I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m not leaving you.”
“I’m sorry,” he sobbed.
Her words couldn’t get him out of the distressed state he was in. All she could do was be there for him, supporting him, loving him and taking in all his emotions. Feeling him. Really seeing the raw feelings of insecurity, self-doubt and fear in him for the first time, which she had only seen a weak shadow of before.
“Thank you,” she whispered. She had a feeling that Max had done more for her than she could ever begin to imagine. He always did. She just had to prove to him that he did. And she would.

As her arms rocked the man who meant more to her than life itself, memories slowly started to evade her mind. Her thoughts went to her daughter, to her parents, Maria and Alex. The world had fallen into pieces around her, but because a boy loved a girl so purely, Liz Parker had been given a second chance and she was going to take it. Placing a soft kiss on Max’s temple, she said softly, “Sleep, Max. I got you. Get some sleep.”
Fear of her not being there when he woke up again kept him awake for another ten minutes, clinging to her. But soon exhaustion overwhelmed him and he stopped fighting it. His hand tightened around her arm as his breathing evened out, hoping that it hadn’t all been a dream, but that she would be there when he woke up.

<center>-----------------------------------------------------------</center>

Liz slowly drifted out of the mists of sleep and became gradually aware of something pressing down on her. She took a couple of deep breaths before opening her eyes. The bright light of a new day hit her eyes, momentarily blinding her. Her senses were slowly coming back to life. She could hear the wind blowing outside, she could taste the foreign composition of air on her dry lips, and unfamiliar scents swirled around her, mixing up with some very familiar ones. Angling her head to her right, she could feel the beautiful love flood her at the sight. She took a shaky breath of relief and lifted her hand to sift through his hair. He was asleep. His face buried at the base of her neck, his lips resting against her skin. His arm was resting protectively over her stomach. Slowly, she became aware of the weight of something on her left side. She turned her head to see the dark head of her daughter resting on her shoulder.

Her breath hitched in her throat as a sob of surprised relief, joy and sadness erupted from her lips. Tear filled eyes traveled down her daughter’s curled up body and her maternal eye worriedly noticed the changes that had taken place in her baby’s outer appearance. She was so thin. So small.
“Baby,” Liz whispered, her other hand traveling up to the small of Emma’s back. Emma didn’t respond at her touch. She was sound asleep.
“Liz…?”
Liz turned back to him at the sound of his hopeful voice. She smiled when she met his eyes.
“Hi,” she whispered.
“Are feeling okay?” Max asked, lifting his head from her chest. She felt the loss immediately.
“Yes,” she smiled.
Max eyes shifted to his daughter and the surprise on his face brought Liz a tad of confusion.
“Emma…” Max said softly, with disbelief in his voice, like he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“Max.” Liz’s voice prompted him to look at her. “What is wrong with her?”
Max swallowed at the sadness in her eyes.
“I can’t feel her,” Liz whispered, agony seeping through her voice.
“She…” Max’s voice caught in his throat. “She’s…”
Liz could feel fear surging through her, fueling her worst preconceptions of what could’ve happened to her girl. Emma was alive, but something was very wrong.
Liz’s hand moved to Max’s face, cradling his face. “Max…”

Max eye’s dropped, but not before she could see the very familiar guilt in them, and his hand captured hers, moving it away from his face. “I failed her, Liz. I couldn’t get to her in ti-“
“No, Max,” Liz interrupted, her voice stronger now as it was being fueled with fear, boarding on panic. “What happened?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Max whispered. Tears of remorse trickled down his face and he moved himself into a sitting position. Liz hold on Emma’s body tightened as Max moved away from her. She knew what he was doing. He was closing himself off from her, to keep her from getting hurt, and that was making her even more frightened.
“When I found her, she wouldn’t talk to me. I don’t think she even recognized me.”
“No…” Liz whimpered. “What did they do to her?”
“We haven’t been able to contact her at all since we got her back,” Max continued, rising to his feet, his hands raking through his hair.
“Max… Please. What did they do to her?”
Max turned around and met her teary frightful eyes. “I don’t know, Liz. I couldn’t get there in time. Those bastards…” his fists clenched in anger and jaw tightened as he looked upwards, trying to regain his control. “Those bastards did something to her… and…”
Tears were flowing down his cheeks freely now.
“Max,” Liz begged, holding out her hand towards him.
“I wasn’t there…” Max continued. “I wasn’t there. And then he hurt you and I thought that you would die. The others were sure you were dead.”
”But you saved me.”

Her soft reply put a stop to his spoken anguish.
“You brought me back, baby.”
“I wouldn’t have had to if I had been able to protect you in the first place, if I had just fought harder to make you stay on Earth. God, Liz, I’ve ruined your life. You should be with someone normal, someone who could give you the safety you need-“
“But not the love I need,” Liz interrupted. “Max, I would’ve been dead years ago if you hadn’t been there. I would never,” Liz forced her through the connection to look at her, “never even consider trading my life or you for anything else. Normal is nothing without you, Max. I can’t live without you. Don’t you understand that? My life means nothing without you. All the things you just said. I want them. God, I want them so much. I want to be safe, and back on Earth. But I want them with you. I would rather kill myself than living without you-“
Max stepped up to the bed in two long strides. “Don’t say that.”
Liz reached out and cradled his face in her hands. “It’s what I feel, Max.”
“I want you to be happy,” Max whispered, “That’s all I ever wanted. This is killing me, to see you here and know what you have to go through just because…because of me and who I am.”
“Stop hating yourself,” Liz said softly. Her hands collected the tears falling down his cheeks. He looked at her in disbelief.

“How can you be with me, Liz? All I’ve ever done is causing you pain. Look at Emma. First, I abandon you to care for her on your own and then I failed to protect her and she was abducted to this place. Now she is barely living anymore because of what those aliens did to her-“
”Without you, there wouldn’t be an Emma,” Liz sniffed, “Without you, there wouldn’t be a Liz Parker.”
”And without a Liz Parker, there wouldn’t be a Max Evans,” Max filled in.
She smiled, her smile transforming into a sob and she wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her face in his shoulder.
“I don’t know how I will ever be able to convince you that you mean the world to me, Max,” she sniffled against his shirt, “But I have a lifetime to work on it.”
His hands tightened around her.
“I will give you a normal life, Liz. I promise.”
”I don’t want that, Max,” Liz said truthfully. “I want a life with Max Evans and somehow I don’t think it will be normal.”
She could feel him smile against the side of her throat. “Then I vow to always protect you. I want to spend my life with you, Liz Parker. I want to see our children grow up. Safe.”
”We will, baby. We will.”
He nodded against her throat, so desperately wanting to cling to that piece of hope she was handing to him.

“Did you feel them?”
He could immediately tell from the happiness in her voice who she was talking about.
“Yes,” he whispered. “They are beautiful, Liz. Just like their mother.”
Liz broke down into tears, thinking about her unresponsive daughter lying beside her. “They are. They truly are.”
She leaned back against the bed, taking Max with her. She let go off him with one hand and instead put it around Emma, pulling her petite body close. Max’s arm went around Liz’s stomach, his two sons, and his daughter.
“I love you Liz,” Max whispered, still trying to comprehend that she was talking to him again. Returning his hugs. Living. “I love you so much.”
”I love you, Max,” Liz said. “More than you’ll ever know.”


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