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 Post subject: Found (Lost/Roswell) Conclusion - Dec. 10
PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 6:57 pm 
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Joined: Fri Dec 24, 2004 7:14 pm
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Title: Found

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Author: Kath7

Rating: TEEN

Summary: Roswell/Lost Crossover. Future Fic. Post-Departure for Roswell, about five years in the future. Season 3 never happened. Lost’s canon doesn’t really signify in this, but let’s just say "Raised by Another" never happened. C/C - mostly. Claire is really Tess Harding. Pretend the plane crash in Lost happened in mid-2001.

Disclaimer: I own nothing from Roswell or Lost. They belong to their respective creators. Some dialogue taken from the Roswell episode "Departure," written by Jason Katims. Thanks to Tasyfa for my wonderful banner.

Author’s Note: I know I’m not the first person to realize that Roswell and Lost are ripe for crossing over due to Emilie de Ravin’s presence on the latter. Here’s my little take on what the connections are. There will be four parts: one each for Tess, Alex, Liz, and Max (all done - I’m hoping to post a part a week, dependent on when I’m in town). I may write a sequel someday, but for now, this is just a little story about a homecoming five years in the making. I’m posting it now because I have far too many stories lurking on my hard-drive, and if I wait until Born of the Stars is finished, as I have planned to, they will never see the light of day.

Thank you also to everyone who voted for this fic for the following two awards, which I was just thrilled about.

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Part 1 - Los Angeles, California - April 2006

~Tess~

"Are you nervous?"

Charlie reaches out and gently pushes a stray hair that has fallen out of my ponytail back behind my ear. Normally I love when he does that, but right now it makes me flinch. I remember once seeing Max do that to Liz. It was right after Nasedo and I had first come to Roswell, and I was still watching them secretly. Nasedo told me he wanted me to "get to know them" before I made contact.

I got to know them all right. Particularly Max. It was watching him do that to her - touch her so intimately, so innocently, so without even thinking about it - that made me know right from the beginning that I was never going to separate them. He wasn’t waiting for me, not like I was waiting for him. It was that one small gesture, done almost unthinkingly that told me he would never leave her for me. Not unless I played dirty. And, so, I did. I learned everything there was to know about both of them and I played dirty.

I close my eyes briefly, taking a deep breath, a pang of guilt overtaking me.

"Claire?"

I open my eyes, then glance at him. He’s sitting beside me in the booth. His expression is all concern. He doesn’t judge me. He never has. He has demons of his own, after all. He knows everything there is to know about me, and he doesn’t care. He loves me anyway.

"Yeah, I’m nervous," I admit.

He reaches under the table and takes my hand. "It’ll be okay," he soothes. "He’s just going to be happy to finally know."

"He’s not going to be happy to know this," I mutter, sighing. "He wanted the baby."

"You don’t know what he really wanted," Charlie reminds me. "You said he loved her."

"He did," I reply. "And I ruined it."

"Maybe, maybe not," Charlie says. "That’s why we’re here."

"I guess."

We sit there in silence for a few moments longer. The deli is loud, buzzing around us. It’s making me even more tense. I’m not used to crowds anymore. Not after almost five years on that island. The solitude there was sometimes stifling, especially before Charlie, but right now I’m almost wishing myself back there. Back to the place where I finally found myself. Back to the place where I finally realized that the ends did not justify the means. That whatever had happened to me, I didn’t have a right to take it out on Max, just because he wasn’t able to fix everything. Just because he never wanted me like he wanted Liz.

Nasedo was wrong. I was never meant for some greater destiny. I was meant for a very simple one. And he’s sitting right beside me. I found my destiny on the island.

I found almost everything there. I have almost found peace.

But I know that I don’t deserve my happily ever after until I make sure that someone else has his.

As I stare at the door, willing him to arrive, and also willing him not to arrive, I wonder how he has changed. I don’t mean physically. I mean, inside. Has he found himself at last?

Because, before he sent me off in the granolith, carrying the baby he was sure was his son, he was lost. There is no doubt about that. And I was the one who had made him lose himself. Because, before me, Max Evans knew exactly who he was. He knew exactly what he wanted - who he wanted - and I messed with his head to the point where he didn’t know if he was coming or going.

If he is still lost, will this visit help him to find himself again? Can I fix what I broke? Can I fix Max? There are so many things I did back then that I can’t fix, but maybe I can help him. Maybe I can finally put my past completely to rest, if I repair what I still can.

Charlie glances at his watch. "He’s late."

"Not very," I say, twisting my hands in my lap. "Langley says he’s here every…" I trail off as the bells above the door jangle.

"Is that him?" Charlie whispers.

"No," I reply, a lump in my throat.

"Claire, what’s wrong?"

"It’s not Max," I say, feeling tears fill my eyes.

"Claire…" Charlie sounds really worried now. I can’t blame him. I feel like I’m about to pass out. "What is it?"

I bring my hands up to my mouth, and continue to stare. Finally, when I can tell that Charlie is not going to wait much longer, and that he might actually make a scene to get me to talk, I explain. The reason I have been unable to speak before now is because I have been overwhelmed by the suddenness of a new truth.

I was wrong before. Even if I Max forgave me, none of it would have been over.

I would have always been lost. Until this moment, there was no way out for me - ever. But the person who just walked through the diner door has changed my future, irrevocably, just as he has changed my past.

"Charlie, that’s Alex Whitman."

***
Five years ago…

"Did you kill Alex?" Max demands. He is staring at me, his eyes narrowed with anger. He seems like he still wants me to deny it, but I know that I can’t.

I can’t lie to him about this. Not when he’s about to take me back to Antar. I can’t do this alone, but I need him to understand. I can’t have him hate me. Not when I need him so much. "I didn't want to. I wish I hadn't, but I did."

It’s the truth. I didn’t want to kill Alex. It was an accident. No one ever told me that mindwarping could so damage someone. I never knew. After it happened, I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t ever do it again. After Kyle helped me move Alex’s body, I promised myself I wouldn’t.

Deep down, I know I am lying. I’ll never be able to stop. It is like a drug, the power of it. To control someone like that makes me feel in command of my life in a way nothing else does.

Plus I have to protect my child. I will do anything for my baby.

But I am not a killer. Not on purpose anyway. I want Max to understand. I
need him to understand.

"Why?" He sounds disgusted. He thinks I’m horrible. He hates me.

I have to get him out of here. If this conversation goes on much longer we’re going to miss our chance. If we stay here, he will go back to her, I will lose him, and my baby will be threatened. I can’t go back without him. I need to get him into the granolith.

"Look, Max, the-the clock's ticking, we don't really have time..."

"Tell me why!" He yells it and it makes me jump. I have never seen him so angry. It sends a shiver of fear down my spine. His eyes…They are terrifying. A vision, not of Max, but of
him, tries to assert itself. The fear I have been living with for months tries to take over, but I can’t allow it. Not now. I shake my head firmly, forcing it away.

"He would have told you what I did and I couldn't let that happen," I explain, amazed at how calm I sound.

"So you just, you just killed him?" Max sounds mortified, angry, and despairing all at once. He is looking at me like he barely knows me.

Which, of course, he doesn’t. He doesn’t really know anything about me. If he had turned out to be what I had hoped, what Nasedo had told me he would be, I wouldn’t have ever had to lie to him. But it was too late when I got here. He was already in love with
her. For a time, I thought I could accept it. But after what happened in New York…

I need him more than she does. I can’t regret anything that I’ve done.

"I didn't mean to." It’s the truth. I didn’t. I’m not a killer. I didn’t know. I just didn’t know. I didn’t particularly like Alex Whitman, but I didn’t mean to kill him.

"His brain was just so weakened by the mindwarp, and..." I can see from the expression on Max’s face that he is not bending. He isn’t buying it. He really thinks that I killed Alex on purpose. There’s no point. I just need to get him into the granolith. We can deal with this later. "Look, none of this matters now."

"Life matters, Tess. My life, your life, his!" He is outraged. He is not coming with me. I can see it in his eyes, which are no longer scary. Instead, they are exhausted. But I can also see the relief. This has given him the excuse he wants not to return to our home.

He has his excuse to stay here with
her.

I feel a flash of rage. I can’t help myself. I snap. "What matters is getting home, but you could never understand that could you?"

Because of course it’s all that matters. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be pregnant, would I? What happened to me in New York wouldn’t have happened, would it? I have to believe that this is all happening to me for a reason. That we
need to go home. That something as important as a planet at war actually needs us, needs me. That has to be more important that Max and his stupid little dream of having a life with a human.

My fury that Max can’t see how much I need to go back, and how difficult his inability to accept who we are makes everything, prompts me say things I shouldn’t. "I might have been able to teach you, but that stupid bitch had you wrapped around her..."

"Don't you ever call her that!" I have angered him even more. His eyes have darkened in a way that is again frightening, but I can’t seem to stop the words.

I hate Liz Parker. This is all her fault. If she didn’t exist, none of this would have been necessary. He would have come home with me without all this plotting. Alex would still be alive, and I wouldn’t be a killer. I could have just told him the truth about this baby, and none of this would have ever happened.

Why can’t he love me the way he loves her?

"See! Look how fast you run to her defense! Why couldn't you ever feel that about me? I'm your wife, Max! I'm carrying your child!"

Max is shaking his head, his disgust evident. "This was all some kind of plan to get pregnant and go home, wasn't it? Home to what, Tess? To Khivar? To our enemies?"

"They're not my enemies, Max."

It’s a lie. But I know he’s not coming with me. I can’t go alone. I just want to die. If I anger him enough, maybe he’ll just kill me and put me out of my misery.

"You made a deal with them, with Khivar." Suddenly he doesn’t sound surprised. Abruptly, it all makes sense to him. I know him well enough to know that deep down he is going to be happy that he was right about me all along. That I am wicked, and deviant, and nothing like his perfect, beloved Liz.

He is going to like that I tricked him. Because he will again be innocent, and he can go back to pretending that he is not who is, and that he never knew me.

"No, Nasedo made a deal, forty years ago." I say it wearily. I am going to give him this gift. I will let him think that I am completely evil. There is no point to any of it anymore. He doesn’t love me. I have lost him.

"What was the deal? Tell me!"

I make it up as I go along. "To return home with your child, and deliver the three of you to Khivar."

"And what would happen to us once you delivered us?" I don’t say anything. Let him fill in the blanks of my evilness himself. He has done it all along in his heart anyway. I can see the moment when he thinks of a suitably horrible fate for him, and Michael, and Isabel. " How did I ever fall in love with someone like you? How could I ever marry you?"

You loved me once. I remember. But I have lost you for good.

I want to die. And, so, I play my final hand.

"You were different-- you were a king! Now you're just a boy."

That just about does it. I see his pupils dilate and his rage is complete. He’s actually going to do it. He raises his hand, I close my eyes…

It is in that instant that I feel the baby move.

This isn’t just about me. How could I have forgotten? How, even for an instant, could I have forgotten my baby? The one person who will save me?

"You kill me, Max, you kill our son." I don’t know how I sound so calm.

The problem with wanting to live is that I am now too deep in my own lies. If I want to save my baby, I have to leave. I have to go back to Antar. I don’t want to, but I have to. If I don’t, he will hunt me down anyway.

He will hunt me down for possession of this child and I can’t allow it.

If Max had returned with me, as king, I might have been able to save my child. But if I go back alone, Khivar will claim my baby and I will never see him again.

But I have no choice. If I stay here, everyone will die. If I go, there is at least a chance that Khivar will be satisfied. He will leave Earth alone.

I can’t believe I care, but I do.

And, because Max is good - it is why I loved him so much in our past, shared life, and it is why he died then too - he lets me go.

"Go. This isn't over, Tess."

I enter the granolith, raise my eyes to the sky, and pray to whatever god that might be out there.

"Please. Please help me to save my baby."


***

"I thought he was dead," Charlie whispers. "He doesn’t look dead."

My mind is whirling. I don’t understand. How is Alex alive? How is this possible? And why has Langley sent me here? He told me that Max came in here every day. He didn’t say anything about Alex.

For a moment, I narrow my eyes. I wonder if this is Langley - if he has changed forms and is playing games with me. I wouldn’t put it past him. I never knew him that well, based on the few times Nasedo and I met up with him while I was growing up. And going by how messed up in the head Nasedo could be, it’s entirely possible that Langley is too and that he’s messing with me.

Why, I don’t know. But it’s possible.

"I’ll be right back," I tell Charlie. I am now so convinced that it is Langley, I am no longer shocked, no longer hopeful. Instead I’m angry. In fact, I’m furious! How dare Langley do this to me? How dare he dredge up all these memories again? What is he trying to do to me?

I climb out of the booth and march over to the counter. "Alex" is staring off into space, his hands in the pockets of his jean jacket, waiting patiently as the girl behind the counter prepares his coffee. He senses me at his elbow though, and turns his head. I watch his dark eyes widen as he takes me in.

He stares at me for several long, charged moments. I don’t say anything, just glare at him, waiting for him to tell me what he’s trying to prove. Why has he lied to me? What if Max isn’t even in Los Angeles?

"Well?" I finally demand, when it seems clear that he isn’t ever going to say anything. "What are doing here? What are you trying to prove?" I look around suspiciously. "Where’s Max? Is he hiding? Is he trying to torture me or something? To pay me back?"

"Alex’s" eyes flicker, and he glances down at my middle. I know instantly what he’s thinking. "No, I’m not pregnant anymore," I snap. "Of course I’m not pregnant. It’s been almost five years!"

"Where’s the baby?" he asks. His tone is even, but I can hear the slight tremor in his voice.

"Safe," I reply. And he is. I trust Jack and Kate with him more than I trust myself sometimes. They love him just as much as Charlie and I do. After all, they fought harder than anyone to keep him alive, after they promised me they would.

Because my son is safe, I can concentrate on the man in front of me. I feel my heart start to pound more quickly in my chest. There is something in the way he is looking at me that is making me nervous. I know that this is Langley, and, yet…I press my lips together, refusing to believe that this could be true. I know what I did. I know that I killed Alex. I watched him fall at my feet, dead. I know that this is not him. This is some kind of trick - a plan to punish me - and while I think that maybe Max and the others have a right to feel that I deserve it, I am still angry about it. I am here to mend fences, not to hurt them.

But I know it now. They are telling me through this farce. They will never forgive me. No matter what, they won’t ever let it go. Because of Alex. I can’t help Max find himself, because he doesn’t want me to. They don’t want to forget any of it.

They want to stay lost.

This has all been for nothing. I can’t help them.

I feel a presence behind me, knowing that it’s Charlie. "Alex"’s eyes lift slightly, but not much. Charlie is quite a bit shorter than a shapeshifter in the form of Alex Whitman, who was gangly as a teenager, and apparently still is, according to Langley.

"Claire? Is everything all right here?" I feel Charlie’s hand on my shoulder, and it settles me a bit. Because, for a few moments, my disappointment made me feel like I wanted to fly to pieces. It made me feel like I felt five years ago - pregnant, alone, and so, so lost.

"Claire?" "Alex" asks, sounding curious.

"That’s my name now," I tell him firmly. "Tess Harding was the name Nasedo gave me. She doesn’t exist anymore. Not that anyone misses her, I’m sure." I can’t help it. The last slips out, sounding bitter and making me even more angry, this time at myself. I don’t want Langley to know how much this little farce is upsetting me.

"You’d be surprised," the shapeshifter replies mildly.

And, then, to my absolute astonishment, "Alex" reaches out, grabs me by the shoulders, and pulls me against him.

He is hugging me. Everything has tilted on its head again, and I don’t understand any of this.

He says something. I barely hear him through the fog of shock that has taken over my brain.

But, eventually, what his words penetrate and I feel tears fill my eyes.

"Welcome home."


Last edited by Kath7 on Mon Dec 11, 2006 12:45 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 6:59 pm 
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Part 2

~Alex~

Tess finally pulls back, staring up at me, her blue eyes wide with shock.

"A..Alex?" she whispers.

"It’s me," I reply.

"But…But how?" She raises her hands to her cheeks, her gaze not leaving my face. She has to look up, so I take a step back to make it easier. Not to mention, the guy standing behind her is beginning to get upset. I can tell. He is obviously protective of her. I wonder who he is. He looks kind of familiar.

"I didn’t die," I tell her simply. There’s no point in beating around the bush, after all.

"But, I saw you!" Tess exclaims. "I was the one who did it!"

"No," I say firmly. "No, you didn’t, Tess."

"Alex, I know I did!"

"You just thought you did," I reassure her. "It’s okay." I reach out and place my hands on her shoulders. "I’m so glad you found us, Tess. We’ve been looking for you for a long time."

There is a lengthy silence as she digests this. Finally she says, "For me? I don’t understand any of this."

"It was a mistake, Tess. A mindwarp." I watch as she absorbs this.

"Ava?" she finally asks, as it all suddenly becomes clear.

"Yeah," I tell her. "It was her."

"But…but, why?"

"It’s such a long story," I reply. "Can we go into it in on the way? I know there are some people at home who really want to see you. Who really need to see you."

"Max," she says quietly.

"Max," I agree. "But everyone else too." I glance at the other guy, deciding that it makes sense at this point to introduce myself. "I’m Alex Whitman," I say, putting out my hand.

He grasps it, bemused. "I gathered," he replies, his English acutely clear.

It’s then that I recognize him. "Wait a minute…" I stare at him, hard. "Aren’t you…?" I trail off uncertainly. Because it’s weird. I can’t possibly be right. I mean, how on Earth did Tess ever hook up with the guitarist from Drive Shaft?

Not to mention, this particular guitarist is supposed to be dead. He died a long time ago, in fact. In a plane crash…

I feel my eyes widen, and I look back at Tess. She is smiling slightly now. "I have a long story too," she says.

"Clearly." I reach out and place a hand on her shoulder, to assure myself that she’s actually there and I’m not having some kind of weird hallucination. She is warm, and solid, and is really standing right in front of me. I shake me head firmly, in order to force myself to stop being ridiculous. I continue, "There’s plenty of time for your stories too. But we need to go see the others. I can tell you about me in the car, and then you can tell us about you when we get there."

She swallows visibly. "I was so ready to see Max," she says quietly. "But, now, I’m not sure. I mean, everything is different now."

"Tess, no one blames you for anything," I tell her firmly. "You have to believe me." I pause, then glance at Charlie. I don’t really want to say anymore until I know for sure how much Tess has told him.

Tess seems to see the question in my eyes, because she says, "He knows everything."

I look back at him. He is rolling his eyes. "Trust me," he says in his quick way. "None of it is that weird. If you want weird, you’re going to hear all about it when Claire tells you about where we’ve been."

"Okay." I shrug. I turn my attention back to Tess. "Whatever. My point is, you have no reason to be nervous."

She doesn’t seem convinced, but as I usher both of them out of the diner, I know I am right. I am just looking forward to having things be the way they are supposed to be. Finally.

Tess is home and, at last, we finally have a chance to take Kivar down.

***

"It’s time to wake up now. Wake up!"

My eyes pop open and I find myself staring up at Tess. I go from flat on my back to five feet across the room in seconds. I literally jump to my feet, and start backing away from her, because as consciousness returns, so does the awful truth. She is doing something to me. I know it! It’s all finally coming back to me. I’ve broken out of the mindwarp, and I have come to the Valentis to confront her.

"Stay away from me!" I am shrieking like a girl as I move away from her, but I don’t particularly care at this point. This girl has been messing with my
head - so badly that I almost can’t think straight. In fact, so badly that she doesn’t even look like herself anymore. Her blonde hair is much shorter than the last time I saw her. How long have I been out this time anyway? Because if she’s had time to do her hair, it’s been a while. And why the hell am I noticing her hair anyway? Am I mental?

Yes, Alex. Yes, you are. Because this bitch has been messing with your head.

"It’s okay," she says soothingly, but I keep backing up because I am in no mood to be soothed. She has been playing with my mind for months! I don’t remember the half of it, but I do know that. "Alex, I’m not who you think I am!"

"Oh! You’re not the Benedict Arnold who’s been conspiring behind our backs?" I demand. "My mistake. I guess I just passed out for no reason then. I guess you just basically kidnapped me for six weeks to give me a nice holiday? Maybe you could open a tourist company or something. See the world on a budget! Never leave your home, but have the slides to prove you went!"

She stares at me levelly, letting me rant. When I finally run out of steam, she says calmly, "You passed out because Tess’ mindwarps have messed up your brain. She didn’t know what she was doing. She went too far - so far that it almost killed you. It can be fixed, but not until you take a chill pill."

I look around frantically, for an escape. "You’re not coming anywhere near me, psycho!" But my voice is lowering as I gradually get my bearings. I realize with astonishment that I am no longer at the Valentis. Instead I’m in a cave. And not just that. It’s a cave I recognize. I stare at the alien markings on the wall, blinking rapidly in confusion.

"Why am I here?" I demand. "And why are you talking about yourself in the third person? Is it like the royal "we" or something? Are you practicing for when you make them all go back? I’m not bowing to you, Queen Tess. I’m an American. We don’t bow." I’m pretty close to hysterical at this point, but I can’t stop blathering. It’s like I’m standing outside myself, and all these words are just spewing everywhere.

She wrinkles her nose at me. "Jeez. You sure do blab a lot, doncha? Do you want me to help you or not?"

"Gee, why not?" I say sarcastically. "Why not blow the rest of my brain, now that you’ve started?"

But I am now just talking for the sake of it. Because I am gradually becoming more and more aware that this girl is acting very differently from how Tess did in the memories that are starting to resurface. The panic is not there. This girl is too calm. And this girl has something of an accent…

"You’re not Tess," I finally moan. I close my eyes. "Oh, God. They’ve sent the other one to finish me off."

I hear her sigh heavily. "I’m not going to finish you off, dopey. I'm going to help you. And Tess didn’t mean to hurt you. She just didn’t know what she was doing."

"Right," I mutter. "That’s not how I remember it." Not that I remember much. But I am remembering more with every second, and I know that Tess did not have my interests at heart when she made me translate that damn book for her.

"Would you have helped her?" the girl demands. My mind is still in a muddle, and I can’t quite remember her name. I know I know it. But it’s not there. It must be locked in a part of my brain that Tess made certain to keep tightly shut.

"No," I admit. Even now, my loyalty to Liz flares, white-hot. "Of course not. But that’s no excuse for what she did to me."

"It weren’t," the girl agrees. "But you gotta understand. We’re programmed. We’re programmed to protect our babies. That’s all we are. Freaking brood mares."

I stare at her, as what she has said absorbs. "What are you saying?" I whisper. "Are you saying that Tess is pregnant?"

"That’s what I’m saying," the girl says firmly.

"But, how?" I am shaking my head. "I don’t understand."

"Weren’t you listening in Sex Ed, Mr. Smarty-pants?" she asks, cracking a slight smile, although I can tell she’s doesn’t really expect me to laugh.

"I mean, whose is it?"

"The dad ain’t who she’s trying to pass it off as," Ava says…That’s her name! Ava! It’s come to me like a flash, as another part of my brain opens up.

Wait a minute! Why is this happening? Why are these memories coming back so fast now? What the hell is going on here?

I watch her face closely, and a little spasm crossing it tells me all I need to know. She is much more subtle at it then Tess, but I have already guessed from what she has said that she is much more powerful than Tess is. And if Tess has almost killed me from mindwarping, then…this girl will kill me. Can kill me. On purpose.

"Get out of my head!" I roar, so abruptly, she stumbles, and I feel her suddenly, like a whisper, as she leaves my mind.

"I’m fixing you," she says quietly, as I back into the wall, then slide to the floor, clutching at my head in terror. "Al, I’m fixing you."

"Alex!" I whimper. "My name is Alex. Alex. Alex."

"Yes, your name is Alex," she says. I realize that she is kneeling next to me, and that her fingers are caressing my face gently. "You are Alex Whitman and as far as the world is concerned, you’ve been pushing up daisies for a month. If you don’t let me fix you, then your friends are all going to join you."

Her voice penetrates my fear. My fear for myself is overwhelmed by my fear for my friends. "What?" I manage to croak. "What do you mean?"

And, so, she tells me. And it is far, far worse than I can ever possibly imagine.


***

"I don’t understand," Tess says.

She is sitting in the front seat of her and Charlie’s rental car, twisted around to stare at me. I am sitting in the back, because Max took the car after he dropped me off at the diner. I think it’s important that I keep my eyes on Tess anyway. We can’t lose her again. And I know she is in shock. At this point, I wouldn’t blame her if she wanted to take off. She didn’t expect this - to find me alive. She prepared herself for Max, and she got a ghost instead.

But, so far, she seems to be handling it okay. She’s still here, after all. But, then, she’s also allowing me to direct her guitar playing boyfriend, who died in a plane crash several years ago, to the house in which I live with twelve aliens and seven humans. Maybe finding me alive isn’t the weirdest - or scariest - thing Tess Harding has faced lately.

Of course, when she finds out she’s walked right into the middle of an interstellar war…that’s when things should really get interesting. I’ve told her a bit - that Max, Isabel, and Michael need her to complete their four square - but that’s about it.

"What?" I ask gently, responding to her statement.

"If Ava’s still with you…" She trails off, lowering her eyes. "I mean, Alex after what I did to you…Why were you guys looking for me? Couldn’t she…I mean, can’t she…" She closes her eyes, apparently unable to continue.

"No one can replace you, Tess," I say firmly. "You, and Max, and Isabel, and Michael…you’re a unit. Ava’s not a part of it. Her four square is gone. She’s with us, but she’s not you. It’s you we need."

"But how can you ever trust me?" She opens her eyes, staring straight at me. "Alex…" Tears fill her blue eyes. "I’m so sorry. I never thought I’d get the chance to tell you this, but I am. I never meant to hurt you."

I watch Charlie take one hand off the steering wheel, to reach out and take Tess’ hand. "I know. I know that," I tell her.

There is a long pause. Eventually she smiles tremulously. "How can you be so nice? After what I did to you? After how I lied to all of you?"

"We know you had no choice," I say. "Ava’s explained it. How you were programmed to protect your child at any cost. Even your own."

And I know it cost her. I can tell by how white she is now. By how pale she has been since she first laid eyes on me. I know she didn’t want to hurt me. I know that she felt she had no choice all those years ago. I got over it a long time ago. I’m fine now. This isn’t about me. It’s about Tess, and the guilt she must have felt since it happened. Since she thought she killed me.

She came back to L.A. to tell Max the truth about her baby. She has told me that much. I haven’t yet told her that we already know, because that’s not really my story to tell. That’s between her and Max. But she’s had to face me instead. I can’t imagine it.

"Turn right up here," I tell Charlie. As he does, I pull out my cell phone and dial Michael. I know he’s on duty.

"What?" he says gruffly after two rings.

"Hello to you to," I say cheerfully. "I’m coming back with two newbies. We’re in a red Honda Civic. I’ll get the driver to honk three times, so you’ll know to open the garage."

"What?" Michael demands, in an entirely different tone.

"Just do it, Michael. Trust me."

Saying that is enough. He changes the subject. "You better have my freaking coffee, Whitman. I’m dying."

"If you hadn’t exploded the pot with your powers yesterday, you wouldn’t be dying now, would you?"

"Whatever, Mom. Do you have it?"

"Um…"

"Crap!" Michael exclaims. He hangs up on me.

I meet Tess’ eyes again. She is smiling slightly. "Michael seems as charming as ever."

"More," I reply, grinning. I roll my eyes. "The worst part is, I can’t even go home and escape him anymore. I have to live with him."

"You live with Michael?" Tess asks. "And obviously Max is here, too. So Isabel can’t be far. And I already know Ava’s around."

"We’re all here, Tess," I tell her. "You’re going to see everyone. Liz is out, but everyone else will be at home."

"You all live together?" Charlie asks, sounding surprised.

"Unfortunately." I am being facetious though. I wouldn’t want anyone anywhere else. I only feel safe knowing that we’re all together. Since the Skins kicked their campaign into overdrive after the loss of the granolith, it is rare for any of us to go around alone. It was just happenstance that I was by myself in th diner today. Max was supposed to be with me, but he had to drive Liz to school, along with her bodyguard, Tom. He was going to pick me up on the way back.

Which means he’s probably back at the diner waiting for me. Damn. I forgot.

"Turn left," I tell Charlie, before quickly dialing again. Max can’t be too freaked out, because Michael didn’t know I was missing. And, yet, I feel bad. I should have called Max long before this.

"Alex, where are you?" Max demands, answering on the first ring. "I was about to send out an APB."

"Almost home," I tell him. "Sorry. I had a change of plans."

"Alex…" Max sighs heavily. "You know that we can’t…" I cut him off before he can lecture too long. I can tell when I’m about to get one from him by now. Max is the most careful of us all. Liz told me once that he still blames himself for the loss of Tess. That because he didn’t protect her in New York, she had to do what she did. It’s not his fault - none of it is. Liz says he knows this intellectually, but in his heart, not so much. So we’re all extra careful to not freak Max out. I mean, it’s not too much to ask. It does mean that we’re safer, which means we don’t die.

I’ve already died once. I don’t intend for it to happen again anytime soon.

"Trust me, Max. When you find out why I left, you’ll be grateful," I say now.

Because, he’s Max, and of course he can’t just let it go, he says, "You broke protocol, Alex."

"Max, there was a good reason. You know I wouldn’t have otherwise." I pause, then decide I better warn him. "I’m bringing some people back with me."

Max absorbs this. Unlike Michael he doesn’t question me, though. "Okay," he says calmly. "I’ll see you in a few minutes."

I end the call. I know Tess is watching me, but I can’t quite meet her eyes. I know she is nervous about seeing Max, and I wonder if maybe I should tell her it’s going to be okay. That we all know what happened to her, and she doesn’t need to be scared.

But I don’t. Again, I just feel like it’s not my place.

"It’s the second house on the left," I tell Charlie once I direct him onto our street. He pulls into the drive. "Honk three times," I instruct him.

"What’s with all the cloak and dagger?" he asks worriedly.

I look at Tess. "I thought you told him everything."

"Well, I did," she replies. "But clearly you aren’t telling me everything, Alex. I’ve been on a deserted island for five years."

I stare at her, wondering if she’s joking. It sends a shiver down my spine that I don’t think she is.

I don’t respond to this, but direct Charlie into the garage, as the double-door starts to raise slowly.

"Blimey," Charlie says.

"Alex, what the heck?" says Tess.

"Um, we kind of live under the house," I say. "Just drive."

"Alex, what is going on here?" Tess demands, turning in her seat. She looks mad now, like she did when she thought we were messing with her back at the diner.

Good. We need her mad. We need the furious banshee Michael still talks about. The one who destroyed a bunch of Skins like she was the Phoenix from X-Men or something.

"Welcome to the headquarters of the Royal Antarian Resistance," I say simply, as we pull ahead into darkness.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 7:00 pm 
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Part 3

~Max~

Michael is waiting for me outside when I return to HQ. He is pacing, but stops when he catches sight of me.

I eye him through the windshield for a moment, before rolling down my window. I raise my eyebrows. "Well?"

Even before he speaks, I somehow know. Actually, I’ve known since I got off the phone with Alex fifteen minutes before. There are very few people Alex would just randomly bring to HQ. There are also very few reasons for which Alex would not follow protocol.

And, so, when Michael roughly says her name, I already know. "It’s Tess."

I close my eyes for a moment, running a hand through my hair, then rubbing my neck. There is a long silence. It is indicative of how much Michael has grown in the last few years that he isn’t telling me everything at once. He is waiting for me to absorb this, because even the most insensitive person on the planet would have to know how much I have been dreading this moment. And, in spite of a lot of evidence to the contrary, Michael is not at all insensitive. Especially when it really matters.

The irony is, I’m not dreading it for the reason Michael thinks. He thinks I’m not looking forward to seeing Tess again, whose lies almost tore us all apart. But that’s not it at all.

Eventually, Michael climbs into the passenger seat of the SUV, and I pull it into the garage. We have driven down the long ramp into HQ’s parking block before he speaks again.

"Isabel’s debriefing her," he says.

I glance at him before pulling into the parking stall closest to the door, which everyone insists is mine. I don’t play the king card, but that doesn’t stop others from playing it for me, unfortunately. It’s not worth the energy to fight the newest members of our group over it. I do fight Michael, Isabel, and even Liz, about it constantly, though. Little things, like parking stalls, I let go. The big things…like wanting me to stay in HQ full-time, because I’m the only one Khivar really wants (which I don’t buy anyway, by the way)…I can’t. I refuse. I won’t let Khivar dictate how I run my life. Nor will he dictate the others into the line of fire, because they want to protect me.

He has already dictated far too much, for far too long. The line has to be drawn somewhere, and, eventually, if all goes according to plan, the line will be pushed back in his direction.

Tess’ reappearance, after more than five years, indicates that the line has just been redrawn slightly, in our favour.

Which doesn’t mean I’m not still unhappy about it.

Okay, let me rephrase that. It sounds bad, and it’s not what I mean. I am not at all displeased that Tess has returned, and that Ava’s assurances that she was still alive were correct. I am happy about this for several reasons. Firstly, because what happened five years ago was not Tess’ fault, we’ve known it for a long time, and she deserves to know we know it. Secondly, we are stronger now that she is back. Thirdly, she belongs with us.

The one reason I’m not thrilled?

It means that I’m going to finally have to face what I’ve been avoiding since she left in the granolith. I am going to have to face the fact that I sent her away, when she was innocent. And, not only that, I’m going to have to face the fact that she preferred to leave, because she didn’t trust that I would help her if I knew the truth.

I’ve known it for five years, and now everyone else is going to know it, too.

This entire operation - I glance around the garage, seeing nothing, faces of people I care about filtering through my mind instead - is being led by a sham. When the chips were really down, I failed one of the people I was supposed to protect. And I can’t ever forgive myself for it.

***

"God, he looks exactly like you." Liz says this softly as she comes up next to me, taking my hand. I glance down at her, to see that she is staring through the one-way glass, her expression of disbelief matching the one I wore a few minutes ago.

"It’s kind of scary, huh?" I ask dully, turning my gaze back to the man on the other side of the glass. He is pacing, smoking a cigarette. He stops once, his eyes meeting mine through the glass. Or at least it feels like they’re meeting mine. I know they’re not. I know he’s only seeing his own reflection, that he’s not seeing me at all, but it still sends a shiver down my spine.

"No, it’s not," Liz replies firmly, squeezing my hand, then laying her head against my arm. I bring it up around her shoulders, drawing comfort from her presence. I don’t know who went to get her, but I feel grateful to whoever it was. They knew I needed her. "He looks like you," she continues, "But you are not the same. Just like Ava and Tess aren’t the same, you are not
him."

I don’t answer. I mean, intellectually I know she’s right. But how can I explain how this makes me feel? How can I explain that knowing that my clone - someone who came from the exact same human DNA and alien essence as I did - is a liar and a traitor has forced me to acknowledge my own flaws?

His weaknesses are my weaknesses. We are the same. The only difference between us is that I have the person standing next to me to stay sane for. It scares me to know that, if it wasn’t for Liz, I could so easily be exactly like him.

Like Zan. Because that is who we are both watching through a thin barrier of glass.

"Where was he found?" Liz asks me after several long minutes of silence.

"He wasn’t," I tell her, sighing. "He turned himself in."

Liz starts slightly at this. "He did? Why would he do that? We didn’t even know he was alive!"

"I’m not entirely sure," I shrug. "Ava got out of him that he’s been with Khivar’s people. She’s guessing that they’ve turfed him out for some reason."

"How is he even alive?" Liz demands. "Did Ava know that he was?"

"She says no." I don’t elaborate. I know that Liz and Ava are friends. While I trust Ava to a certain degree, she still creeps me out a bit. I can’t help it.

I know my dislike for Ava is irrational. But I also know that Zan and I have more in common than I’d like to admit, and, so, doesn’t that mean that Ava and Tess must be pretty much the same too? And the thought of Tess still sets my blood boiling.

I force myself to take a deep breath to calm myself down. Liz has no idea how often I still think about Tess - how often I still think about the fact that she’s out there, somewhere, with my son. I gave up searching for them a long time ago. I had to. I was driving myself crazy over it - and driving Liz away. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still think about what happened three years ago. How Tess lied to me about killing Alex in order to escape with my son. And how I let her. Because, in spite of knowing exactly what she was, I believed her. I knew she was a liar - that her entire gift was based on lying - and, yet, I still let her leave with my child.

My only consolation is knowing that they are not with Khivar. Our spies in his camp have confirmed that. But that doesn’t change the fact that she had no right to take my son.

"What about Lonnie and Rath?"

I shake my head, refocusing on the matter at hand.

"No sign of them." I stare through the window. "We haven’t fully interrogated him yet. Ava says he’ll be more cooperative if we let him stew for a while."

"Who’s doing the questioning?"

"We haven’t decided yet," I reply.

There is a short pause. The silence is pregnant with expectation. I know exactly what she’s thinking, but I am not going to even dignify it with an acknowledgment. It is so
not happening.

"I want to," she finally says.

"No," I say immediately.

"Max…" she trails off warningly.

"Liz," I reply automatically, making her huff in annoyance.

"Not
alone," she insists. "I’d go with Serena. She is who you were going to ask, isn’t she? This is what she’s been training me to do."

"No," I say again.

"Max, you can’t tell me what I can or can’t do. How many times do we have to have this fight?" she demands. "I’m your wife. I am not your subject, and I’m not your servant. I’m doing this. I need to do it."

"Why?" I pull her around so that she’s meeting my eyes. "Why do you need to do this?"

"Because I think I can," she replies with certainty, raising her chin. "I think he’ll talk to me. Ava told me once that the reason why he didn’t love her was because…" She stops abruptly, as though she has suddenly thought better of what she was about to say.

I frown slightly, now suspicious. "Because why?"

She swallows, her face white. "Never mind. It’s nothing. Forget I said anything."

Right.

"Liz, please don’t do that. You can’t just say something like that and then leave it."

There is another long pause as she considers. Then she says, "Max, do you trust me?"

The big guns. Early. Typical. "Liz…"

The argument lasts a while longer, but I have, of course, already lost. Fifteen minutes later Liz is following Serena into the interrogation room. Michael has joined me by this time. Isabel arrives eventually, as does Larek. I barely notice. I am too busy listening to what is happening in the room right in front of me, but which feels a million miles away.


***

What Zan had told Liz and Serena in the interrogation room that day changed everything. What he admitted he had done to Tess. He was a complete traitor, and, on top of that, a complete bastard.

It all made me know how unfair I had been to Tess. And it also made me realize how little I had allowed her to trust me. That if I had only let her in - even a little bit - over the time that we had known each other, she might have told me the truth about Zan, and she would be with us, and so would the child she had borne - no longer mine, but still my responsibility.

I am watching her now. Tess. She is on the couch in Isabel’s private rooms, still unaware of my presence because the entrance is behind her. She isn’t alone. A guy is sitting with his arm around her, but she is stiff, clearly uncomfortable.

"…so they came for us a few weeks ago," Tess is saying. "And as soon as we were off the island, Charlie and I came here."

I frown slightly. She’s speaking with an accent, which is weird. Where the hell has she been for the last five years?

Isabel is sitting across from Tess, a slight frown appearing on her face when she notices me. She shakes her head, almost imperceptibly, but I see it. We’ve been training, my sister and I - and Michael too, of course. We have always been close, the three of us, but we have reached the point now of almost being able to communicate without words or gestures.

We have been training, but until today, I always knew it had really been for nothing. Until Tess’s return, we were as good as wasting our time. The four square was incomplete.

Now she is back. We have to make this work. We have to make Tess want to stay. I can’t screw this up again. And if Isabel thinks that seeing me right now might jeopardize Tess joining us, then I will stay where I am - for now. I back up slightly, so that I am just outside the door.

"How did they find you?" It is Serena’s voice. "After all that time, how?"

There is a long pause, then Tess speaks again, so softly, that I have to strain to hear us. "It…it was Aaron. He brought them."

"Who’s Aaron?" Isabel asks, although I can tell by the tone of her voice that she suspects. I do, too. I know exactly who Tess is talking about.

"My son," Tess replies simply.

Aaron. His name is Aaron. The child that, for three years, I missed with all my heart finally has a name. Aaron. Even though I have known for years now that he isn’t mine, it completes something within me to finally know this.

Because, even if he isn’t mine, in most ways, he really he is. He is certainly my responsibility, and, here’s the bare bones truth of it. In my heart, he will always be mine.

Which Isabel, of course knows. And is partly why she says what she says next. But only partly.

"You mean Max’s son," Isabel challenges.

My sister is testing Tess, of course. It is the moment of truth. Will she actually give it this time?

There is a long pause. All Tess eventually says is, "He’s mine, Isabel." Then, "Where is Max anyway?"

"Around," Isabel replies. I can tell that my sister plans to continue questioning Tess for a while, but I am impatient.

Why didn’t Tess just admit it? Why won’t she admit that her child is not the result of our one night together? That one mistake of a night that, while it didn’t result in a baby, still destroyed something precious to me and so it is a night I still regret with all my heart.

That night meant that I never got to have my first time with the person I was really supposed to have it with. I was supposed to wait for someone else. And because of Tess’s lies, I was robbed of that.

I suddenly feel angry. A lot of this is my fault, but a lot of it is hers too. Tess. She stole a lot from me because she didn’t trust me. How could she not have known that I was doing my best back then? How could she have betrayed me so completely? How could she have stolen something so special?

It is my anger that sends me into that room.

"I’m here," I say, causing Tess to jump to her feet in surprise. She whirls, and I meet her wide blue eyes head on. The guy sitting beside her stands too, but I barely notice him. I am too busy staring down Tess.

This is not what I was meant to do. This is not how I meant for this to happen. It was supposed to be calm, rational, forgiving. I am supposed to be welcoming Tess back. Because, after all, we need her.

But, instead, I am glaring at her. And she is shrinking into herself as I do it.

She finds her voice eventually. "Max…"

I raise my hand. "Wait." I glance around. "Everyone out." I rarely, if ever, command anyone to do anything, but this time it pays to be the king. Isabel hesitates, but when Serena doesn’t, she follows the my head of intelligence out of the room. Tess’s companion, however, doesn’t move. Isabel pauses beside him.

"Charlie, I think you should come with…"

"No," he says firmly.

Tess sighs slightly, as though reassured. I watch her spine straighten a bit, which I find interesting, in spite of everything. This Charlie person is quite obviously important to her, and I feel slightly less angry. I remember that Tess has been alone for the last five years - alone and pregnant, and then alone with a baby…and not a normal baby at that. I realize that I am glad that perhaps she has not been entirely by herself, after all.

"It’s okay," she says softly.

"Claire, I’m not leaving you with him."

This I find surprising. Why is he acting like I’m the enemy? I’m the only one who has ever blamed myself for letting Tess go. No one else has ever blamed me. But this guy quite clearly does.

"Charlie, it’s why I’m here," Tess reminds him. "You have to go. I need to talk to Max alone."

There is another long pause. I watch the guy struggle internally. He really doesn’t want to go. I realize that he is watching me - waiting for me to give him some kind of assurance that he can trust me. He is testing me.

I find that I want to pass his test.

"It’s okay," I say. "I’m sorry. I promise that you that she will be safe with me."

He eyes me a moment longer, but finally sighs heavily. He reaches out, squeezes Tess’s hand, then follows Isabel out of the room. He manages to only glance over his shoulder once before leaving.

And, then, after five years, we are finally alone. She is staring at me, her small hands clasped together in front of her, as though to hold herself together.

"Where is he?" I finally ask, to break the lengthy silence as we continue to eye each other with something approximating suspicion, but not quite there.

She, of course, knows instantly to whom I’m referring. "Safe. I promise." She lowers her eyes slightly. "I know you’ve been worried about him. But he’s fine. He’s…" She trails off, then raises her eyes. I am surprised to see that they are shining with tears. "Max, he’s not yours. I’m sorry."

And, just like that, it is finally, absolutely confirmed. I mean, we believed Zan, when he told us what he had done to Tess, but I guess, somewhere inside, there had still been a faint hope that Zan was the liar, not Tess.

I feel a lump enter my throat. Because, really, in the end, Tess is the only one who really knew how much I wanted him. How much I had needed someone to belong entirely to me. I think Liz suspects that I was more disappointed that Tess’s baby wasn’t mine than elated. But I’ve never said so to her. And she’s never asked me to.

Only Tess knew how much I wanted him.

And, so, for that reason, I can no longer be angry with her. "I know," I reply quietly.

She sobs slightly. I don’t know why I do it, but as soon as I do, I know it’s the right thing to do.

I open my arms to her.

She doesn’t hesitate. She flies into them, and I know then that it is going to be all right. She will stay, we will be strong together, and her child will be one of us.

Because, finally, he is not just Tess’s. He is not just mine. Although still, in my heart, he is.

He is the one the Antarians have been awaiting for a generation. He is the one Serena, and Larek, and all the others, have been anticipating their entire lives.

He belongs to all of us.

Aaron.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 9:12 pm 
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Oh Kath...

this was so worth the wait. And thanks for bringing this over here.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 10:08 pm 
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Oh wow...cool idea for a crossover. I love where you're taking this. Please update it again soon


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PostPosted: Thu May 04, 2006 10:25 pm 
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Very interesting crossover! And I love the play on the name: "Found" for "Lost." You cram a lot of information into every part! I don't know where to start. :wink:

I can imagine Tess' confusion in this scene! I felt it, too! :lol

Quote:
"Claire?" "Alex" asks, sounding curious.

"That’s my name now," I tell him firmly. "Tess Harding was the name Nasedo gave me. She doesn’t exist anymore. Not that anyone misses her, I’m sure." I can’t help it. The last slips out, sounding bitter and making me even more angry, this time at myself. I don’t want Langley to know how much this little farce is upsetting me.

"You’d be surprised," the shapeshifter replies mildly.

And, then, to my absolute astonishment, "Alex" reaches out, grabs me by the shoulders, and pulls me against him.

He is hugging me. Everything has tilted on its head again, and I don’t understand any of this.

He says something. I barely hear him through the fog of shock that has taken over my brain.

But, eventually, what his words penetrate and I feel tears fill my eyes.

"Welcome home."



And I liked this scene:

Quote:
She, of course, knows instantly to whom I’m referring. "Safe. I promise." She lowers her eyes slightly. "I know you’ve been worried about him. But he’s fine. He’s…" She trails off, then raises her eyes. I am surprised to see that they are shining with tears. "Max, he’s not yours. I’m sorry."

And, just like that, it is finally, absolutely confirmed. I mean, we believed Zan, when he told us what he had done to Tess, but I guess, somewhere inside, there had still been a faint hope that Zan was the liar, not Tess.

I feel a lump enter my throat. Because, really, in the end, Tess is the only one who really knew how much I wanted him. How much I had needed someone to belong entirely to me. I think Liz suspects that I was more disappointed that Tess’s baby wasn’t mine than elated. But I’ve never said so to her. And she’s never asked me to.

Only Tess knew how much I wanted him.

And, so, for that reason, I can no longer be angry with her. "I know," I reply quietly.

She sobs slightly. I don’t know why I do it, but as soon as I do, I know it’s the right thing to do.

I open my arms to her.

She doesn’t hesitate. She flies into them, and I know then that it is going to be all right. She will stay, we will be strong together, and her child will be one of us.

Because, finally, he is not just Tess’s. He is not just mine. Although still, in my heart, he is.

He is the one the Antarians have been awaiting for a generation. He is the one Serena, and Larek, and all the others, have been anticipating their entire lives.

He belongs to all of us.

Aaron.


:thumbsup :heart :ufo

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 Post subject: Wow!
PostPosted: Thu May 25, 2006 9:21 am 
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This is a VERY interesting story so far and I hated running out of fic to read.

Ava warped Tess into thinking she'd killed Alex? And then everybody else too, I take it. WHY? After Tess was gone, why didn't she just let everyone know he was still alive?

And how did Tess end up on the island? Did she go to Austrailia first and mindwarp that guy into thinking they were in a relationship or was THAT all a lie to tell everyone who was on the plane?

How will Tess react to learning the Resistance all thinks of her baby as an almost messianic figure? That's the idea I got from what Max was just thinking. What's up with that anyway? *very curious*

And haven't Max and Liz had any children of their own and why not if they haven't? *puzzled*

Sorry, most of my reviews are all about asking questions because what happens in the stories makes me wonder and my imagination runs off on tangents. *sigh*

I'm really liking this story, how you're weaving things together so far. LOVED how Alex recognized Charlie! *giggle* It's a sign of Charlie's maturity that he didn't say anything about the band or any of it's songs when Alex recognized him. *chuckle*

Will we get to see a "flashback" of how Michael (is Maria there too) and Isabel reacted to seeing Tess? I kinda feel cheated we didn't get to see that before, but I suppose you can't include every little bitty detail if you want to get through the story, so I'll try not to be too greedy and demand them. Trying to include every little detail in fics gets me bogged down, I shouldn't wish it on other people. *rueful laugh*

Do please post more soon? *hopeful look*


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 11, 2006 12:42 am 
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AN - Thanks for your patience on this one, folks! It's finally done.

Part 4

~Liz~

It’s the feather light kiss against my temple that rouses me. I mumble slightly, then snuggle deeper into Max’s arms, aware that a slightly goofy smile has crossed my face in my dozy state. I am on the verge of falling back asleep, when I suddenly become aware of the insistent tattoo of my husband’s heart under my ear.

Something’s wrong. I can tell. While I am aware that Max’s heart often beats more quickly in my presence (and mine does so right back), this is not that kind of rapid heartbeat. The stiffness with which he’s holding himself under me reinforces this.

I shift slightly, opening my eyes, and meeting Max’s in the dull light of the single lamp I left burning when I collapsed on the bed upon my arrival home from my appointment. I had been too tired to even tell anyone I had returned, sending Tom to let everyone know I’m back.

Tom’s the bodyguard Max insists must accompany me everywhere outside the compound. I have given in on that one, because really, I am sensible, and I’m no hero. If it gives Max one less thing to worry about, Tom following me around, I’m all for it. Plus, I don’t really want to become some kind of bargaining chip for the other side by allowing myself to be kidnapped or killed anyway.

It’s a dangerous life we all lead, and I have every intention that we will all survive this war. If bodyguards help ensure that, particularly alien-powered bodyguards, then so be it.

"What’s wrong?" I ask softly, reaching out to brush a stray lock of dark hair off Max’s forehead. He is looking serious - even then more serious than is usual for my husband - which sends a chill down my spine.

He doesn’t answer right away, instead asking a question of his own. "Are you feeling okay?" He kisses me lightly on the lips. As he leans in, I take advantage of the moment to inhale deeply, enjoying the scent of good clean soap, and something else that is inherently <I>Max</I>. I feel the fear recede slightly.

Whatever it is, as long as we have each other, we’ll survive it. Max is here, right now, and all is right with my world.

"Yeah," I reply. "Just tired." I glance away momentarily. Because "just tired" is a little misleading, and I don’t want him to read the evasivness I am sure is written all over my face. I’m a terrible liar, especially with Max. But I’m not quite sure yet how I feel about the news I learned today. And, until I am, I need to keep it to myself. Because it is going to be just one more worry to add to the lion’s share that Max is already dealing with. And before I tell him, I need to know what I want to do.

Of course, Max is not fooled. "You’ve been tired a lot lately," he says, worried. Always worried. My poor Max. I lay my head on his chest, sighing. He reaches up and strokes my hair, which was my intent. Not only do I love when he does it, but it always calms him down. I can feel his heart steadying under my ear, and smile slightly to myself.

This is the best part about being married to Max. Knowing each other so well. I just adore it. But it does make it a little difficult to keep a secret.

So I change the subject.

"What’s wrong?" I repeat.

There is a long pause. I raise my head again. "Max, what is it?"

"It’s Tess," he finally says simply. I can feel his eyes scanning my face intently, waiting for my reaction. I know I can’t hide the shock that must be reflected clearly for him to see.

Tess. I almost can’t believe it.

It really shouldn’t be this shocking. I mean, I knew somewhere in my heart that she would be back one day. She had to come back. I always knew that she would…that she was out there somewhere.

We all knew that she never made it back to Antar - our new alien allies told us that when Larek brought them to Earth. We knew she wasn’t dead, because Ava said she wasn’t when she finally rejoined us a couple of years ago. And Ava knows things. She’s always known lots of things that the rest of us don’t. She doesn’t always share. I think that she is aware that some of us still don’t entirely trust her, and so she keeps some secrets locked away to use for leverage when needed.

This lack of trust for Ava doesn’t include me - I’ve always trusted Ava, which I know is the height of irony considering she looks exactly like my biggest enemy. But some of the others…Michael, Isabel…yes, even Max, in spite of having known for a while that Tess wasn’t the completely evil person we took her for five years ago…can’t get past that she looks so much like Tess.

Of course, the confusion of this is only made even more complete by the fact that what we found out about Tess and her baby a couple of years ago made it clear that Tess never really trusted any of us either.

And now she’s back. And somehow trust has to enter the equation again. Because Tess returning is only the first step towards taking back our lives completely.

"God." It is all I can say. I have no other words. My mind is whirling in a million directions, but it’s also blank.

Finally, after another long silence, I ask quietly, "Why now?"

"Her son," Max replies softly. "Her son brought her back."

I can almost hear the pain of it in his voice. Her son. Not his. We have known that Tess’s baby was not Max’s for more then two years, and he still mourns the loss. It wounds me in a way, but it also reassures me.

Max is steadfast in his love. He cannot turn it off and on at a whim. He loved Tess’s baby for a long time, and he loves her son still. We have never discussed it, but I know that, in his heart, that child still belongs to him.

I feel a momentary pang of fear. Because I cannot imagine that Tess does not wish that it were true. Not based on what we know about how her son was really conceived. I understand perfectly why she lied five years ago, and, even if I hate her for it - for hurting Max, for almost tearing me and Max apart over it - I cannot blame her.

I cannot blame her. And I can’t say that, in those circumstances, I might not have done exactly the same thing.

Understanding doesn’t mean that forgiveness came right away. And forgiveness doesn’t mean that suspicion isn’t still there.

But, in the end, if Alex could forgive her, then who was I to say that I could not?

********

Three years ago…

"Can we talk about this?"

It’s Alex. I heard him approach, but didn’t turn my head when he came to sit on the swing next to mine. After Zan told me and Serena what he told us…and after Alex confirmed that he’d known it all along…I just needed to get away. I know it wasn’t the "Liz" thing to do. I know I should have gone to Max to comfort him - because he’s going to need it, now that Zan has told us that he fathered Tess’s son - that the baby wasn’t Max’s. But I just can’t. Not yet.

I am too angry. I am furious at my best friend, and I don’t quite know if I’ll be able to get over it.

I know that leaving the compound has no doubt just added to Max’s worries, which I feel bad about. I didn’t go far though. Just to the playground down the street from the house we all live beneath. And now Alex has joined me, probably to explain how he could have kept a secret of this magnitude for this long. When he had to know how much it would mean to Max - how much it would have meant to
me - to know the truth.

How could he do this?

How can I ever forgive him for this?

I know intellectually that I should be happy. My secret dream - the one I have tried to hide for years - has come true. Tess’s baby isn’t Max’s. He is Zan’s, because Zan forced himself on Tess in New York. It happened when Rath and Lonnie stole her away after they tried to murder Max. When killing Max failed, they set in motion Plan B. While he was supposed to be dead, Zan was ensuring that Max lost his place as king once and for all by impregnating Max’s queen. Zan’s death had all been a ruse, designed by Zan, Lonnie, and Rath to steal the Roswellian Four Square’s rightful places on the throne of Antar.

The Dupes never understood that being the destined rulers of Antar was about so much more then being the first to produce an heir. The Antarians had endured three generations of civil war. They were not looking for just any king. They were looking for Max, Isabel, Michael, and the close bond between them. The plan hadn’t worked anyway, because Tess had never made it back to Antar, nor had the Dupes. We had Zan in custody, after all.

But that still left Tess with a baby she did not know how to deal with, other then to lie. Tess was a victim. Raped, used, and ultimately torn away from her family, because of her own desperation to protect her child, and her inability to trust that we would help her if we knew the truth.

And Alex hid it all. He’s known since the day Ava saved him. And he never told anyone.

"There’s nothing to talk about," I say quietly.

"Can I try to explain?"

I turn my head to look at him. I know that my eyes are blazing, and Alex flinches slightly. "Do you hate her that much, Alex? Really?"

He looks at me steadily. "Yes."

"She was raped!" My hatred for Tess is already starting to dissipate, as I think about what she must have gone through. She hurt Max. She hurt me. She hurt Alex. But the desperation she must have felt…I feel a shiver descend my spine, happy that I know I have never, nor will I ever, feel that alone.

Alex sees my sympathy for his enemy, and he reaches out to grab my hand, making me look at him.

"I know what happened to her, Liz. But does that justify what she did to
me? It’s like she did the same thing to me, Liz," he continues fiercely. "Do you have any idea what it’s like to have your brain virtually destroyed? To know that you almost lost your life because of someone else? It was like she raped me! She was hurt and she turned around and did the same thing to me!"

His eyes are shining with unshed tears. "I needed you all to hate her as much as I do," he tells me. "I know it’s wrong. I know that it’s not like me. I’m happy-go-lucky Alex. I get over things. But I can’t. Not this. I cannot get over this."

Guilt hits me in a great rush. Because none of this is about Max - or me. How could I have ever thought it was? How selfish am I?

I jump to my feet, throwing my arms around my best friend. He buries his face against my stomach, great sobs heaving through his lanky frame. I stroke his head soothingly. "Oh, Alex. I am so sorry." I make soothing noises, tears streaming down my own face. I am no longer angry, but, instead, horrified.

My poor, poor friend. How could we have forgotten him so completely?

How could we not have known the rage and the hurt that still lived inside this boy - this man? Because he hid it? That was no excuse! How could we all just pretend that none of it had never happened? Because that’s what we had done. He had been returned to us, and we had all shouted with the joy of it at the time, but we had forgotten about him. Ava hadn’t mindwarped any of us to forget, like she had the town of Roswell, but we had forgotten anyway. We had forgotten about what it must have been like for him.

Because he is Alex. Alex adjusts. Alex doesn’t hold onto things. Alex doesn’t hold grudges.

Alex is
alive. Why shouldn’t he forgive Tess?

Why should he?

How unfeeling and stupid were we?

"I feel bad for what happened to her, Liz," Alex says, long moments later, when the storm has passed. "And I want to get over this. I do. But I don’t know if I can."

"You can, sweetie. I promise you, you can." I feel him tense slightly, know what he is thinking. "And if you can’t, it doesn’t matter. You are just as important as she is, Alex. You don’t have to forgive her. But you do have to get help for this. You can’t live like this, Alex. With this anger and this pain. It’s not healthy."

"It’s what has kept me sane," he tells me simply. "Hating her has kept me from going over the edge."

And I understand completely. Because I have hated Tess with every fibre of my being for years. It is what kept me from going crazy with grief through Alex’s "death," and it is what has gotten me through the years of knowing that as much as Max loves me, he loves someone else more - his son, with
her.

Now we both need to find something else to keep us sane. Because she no longer deserves to be the focus of our rage and pain. Especially not mine. And Alex needs to move on from his own fury, so that he can actually live the life that has been saved. He has been with us for the last three years, but he hasn’t really recovered from what happened. Suddenly his distance from Maria and me (which, I must admit, to my own self-disgust, I have barely noticed, because of being so wrapped up in Max), his lack of interest in Isabel (in spite of strong indications that she is ready to move forward with him, and is only waiting for him to acknowledge her), his lack of concern about going to school, or anything else, is all making perfect sense.

I collapse onto the swing next to Alex, still clutching his hand. I know that I have to help him, but I don’t even know where to start.

"Here," he says softly. I look at him, surprised. "You’re wondering what to do to fix me, aren’t you?" he asks wryly.

I redden. He must think I am so arrogant. That I can fix what he hasn’t been able to move on from himself. "I’m sorry."

"Don’t be," he says firmly. "It’s why I said ‘here.’"

"I don’t get it."

"Here’s where we start." He holds aloft our linked hands and smiles slightly.

I squeeze his hand and smile back, through my tears. "Here," I agree.


******

Max’s hand is holding mine as we walk down the street, towards the playground. Tom is several paces behind us, of course, always never far from my side, even when I’m with Max. I actually like it more when Max is with me. Because Tom’s alien presence means that Max is safer. I’m sure he doesn’t think of it that way, but I do.

Alex told us that Tess and her boyfriend, Charlie, have gone to the park to meet their friends, who have been watching Tess’s son since the morning. Charlie’s existence has reassured me that Tess has not come back for Max. Isabel told me that Tess is apparently dead gone on him, and that he quite clearly feels exactly the same way.

Maybe losing everything has been the making of Tess Harding. Maybe she was found long before she ever came back to us.

We could have waited for them to get back, but once I get over the shock of Tess’s abrupt return, I find I can’t wait any longer to see her. And I know that Max feels the same way about her son, Aaron. He hasn’t said so, but I know that he still considers the child his.

I find that I want him to. I am no longer scared of Tess’s son. He is no threat to me. The way Max feels about him is just further proof of the wonderfulness of the man I have married, and what an amazing father he will be to our child someday. Someday soon.

Because I have made my decision. I will tell Max tonight, about our child, who is already growing inside of me.

I have to believe that Tess coming back now is a sign that this is meant to be. We are growing stronger as a group, the Four Square is now complete, and I have to believe that it means that it is safe to bring a new life into this world - even the dangerous one we inhabit.

Because life goes on. If anything has been learned by Alex’s resurrection, and Tess’s return, it is that.

We cannot live in fear. Because, if we do, they win.

My husband and I pause near the entrance to the playground, agreeing silently to take stock of the scene before moving forward.

I see Tess’s son before I see her. He is on the swing-set, screeching with joy as a dark-haired woman pushes him higher and higher.

My heart starts to thump more quickly in my chest. That small boy is my child’s brother. Genetically, in every way that counts, he is.

Max told me that Tess told him that it was Aaron who had brought them back. The little boy had made it so that his lost mother was found on a deserted island of all things. He is special, and he is my baby’s brother.

Somehow, I know that he is more then that. He is my baby’s salvation.

Watching the little blond boy jump off the swing, at the highest point, and into his mother’s arms - my enemy, and, yet, someone I now think I could maybe be friends with - I know for the first time that we are going to win the war against Khivar.

For the first time, I know it absolutely. I rest my hand briefly on my still flat abdomen, then squeeze Max’s hand in anticipation.

He looks down at me, his dark eyes shining. He is excited to meet Aaron. I can tell. He doesn’t even know the half of the excitement he’s in for after today.

It is right then that Tess turns her head and sees us. She is still hugging her son tightly, although he is now struggling to get down. Even in the distance between us, I can see her still. She is like a frightened deer, ready to bolt. A frightened deer with blue eyes I remember as being icy. Somehow I know that they will never seem that way to me again.

Things are about to change. Finally, for the better.

"Ready?" Max asks quietly.

"No," I reply, smiling up at him. "But when has that ever stopped us?"

He smiles back, and then leads me into the park.

The End


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