By Light of Day

Author: Bennie
Rating: PG
Owner: Not Bennie.
Spoilers: Post-BIY
Character Focus: Tess POV
Author's Note/Summary: Sometimes the line between fantasy and reality gets blurred.

She stood at the mirror, transfixed by the sight of a small glowing patch on her belly.

Isabel had told her how Max gave Liz life and left a shiny silver handprint as proof. Well, now he had given *her* life, and here was the mark to prove it. She ran her hand along the soft flatness of her belly, and wondered what it would look like as it rounded out.

She gasped, as suddenly she realized that her belly had indeed curved, if infinitesimally, and cupped her hand over it protectively. *So soon?* Of course, it only made sense. It was an alien baby, and she was sure, yes, she was certain she could recall Nasedo telling her that alien babies had an accelerated gestation period. It all made sense.

She´d been so excited to tell Max. She just knew that once it sank in, once he truly understood what a miracle their child was, he´d be so happy. And they´d be together, without doubts and lingering fears, and he´d love her like he had in a previous life … at least, as she was sure he did. Her memories weren´t really that specific, but she did remember feeling very loved, and who else could it be? Who else could have loved her so, if not her husband?

She hummed happily as she meandered about the Valenti residence, fluffing cushions and kicking Kyle´s boxers under the couch. She just knew she would make an excellent mother; look at how well she´d cared for Jim and Kyle.

Oh, Kyle … he really was sweet. It was true, she´d started to feel … something for him, and at one point she had wondered if he felt something for her too. And to complicate everything, she´d realized that what she felt for him was something she´d never felt for Max … except then Kyle explained that their relationship was that of siblings, not lovers, and she had laughed to have it all straightened out like that. *That´s* what she was feeling? Well, it was nice to put a name to it. She´d never had a brother before, and obviously had simply misunderstood some new and unfamiliar emotions. Whew! That could´ve been embarrassing.

Well, now her ‘brother´ had a nephew, and her de facto ‘father´ a grandson – sort of. And soon she´d have a husband; because of course Max wouldn´t let her have the baby before they were married. Not that they weren´t already, she reminded herself hastily, but she thought vaguely that it might make Jim feel better.

She wasn´t sure why, but images of a shotgun wedding straight out of an old Western flashed through her mind, and she giggled to think of Jim marching Max down the aisle at gunpoint, Max pretending (of course) to be reluctant, even though she could see the twinkle in his eye all the way from the other end of the church. Or … judge´s chambers? She tried both concepts out in her mind, and then decided it didn´t matter where they got married. Maybe they could go back to Vegas – there was some tacky chapel in the hotel where they´d stayed before, right? What was it called … The Elvis Chapel, or something? That might be amusing, and maybe Max would finally relax. He could stop looking so anxious all the time, and just – just *go* with it. Enjoy himself. Enjoy *them*.

Still, she had to chuckle. Of course her groom was a little nervous! It was only to be expected. Hey, she was nervous too, she thought righteously, recalling how he´d panicked, as if their child was a mistake or something. For a second she really had, as she said, been this close to flipping out, until she thought about it and realized that he was just blowing off steam. He was feeling the weight of his new responsibilities, that´s all.

Now she smiled fondly. The love she had felt emanating from his soul had allowed her to look past the less than encouraging body language. He could protest all he wanted; she knew his soul. She knew what would make him happy, and she knew that she was just the person to make it happen.

Humming, she sat down on the worn couch, waiting. She rather thought that Max would visit her soon. In fact, she could just about see him in his mind´s eye. Walking … yes, walking down the street. Closing her eyes tightly, she pictured him, long easy stride, on his way to … the Crashdown.

She frowned. This wasn´t right. In her mind, she saw him hesitate, cocking his head as if listening to a voice only he could hear, then change direction. She began to relax as the Max in her mind turned down a familiar street. It was – yes, it *was* her street.

Opening her eyes, she beamed with anticipation. She just knew it: he was coming to her, and he was going to ask her to marry him, and she would tease him ever-so-slightly by pausing, as if to consider the idea, but then she wouldn´t be able to stop herself and she´d throw her arms around him and kiss him and he´d kiss her back, and he´d ask her what her answer was, and they´d both laugh because they both *knew* what her answer was, and…

The sound of knuckles rapping against wood brought her out of her reverie.

Rising gracefully, she opened the door to admit the man she was going to marry. “Hello, Max,” she greeted him. He nodded and gestured to the couch, where they sat for a minute in silence.

Smiling inwardly, she realized that he must be nervous again. Just a little. And who could blame him? So she decided to help him out. To relax him a little, make him feel a little less pressured.

“Oh, excuse me, Max, I was just in the middle of something. Do you mind? We can talk while …” and she gestured around the room. He nodded, and she began moving around the room, straightening, dusting, and thinking that all she was missing was June Cleaver´s pearls.

Suddenly she realized that he wasn´t talking at all, and turned to see him searching through a newspaper.

Sitting next to him, she asked what he was doing.

He was looking for an apartment. He thought that maybe they should get an apartment because of the baby. She smiled and let him know she appreciated that he was thinking about their future, and offered to get them some drinks.

In the kitchen she reached for some glasses out of the cupboard and set them down on the counter. Without really thinking about it, she filled them with something sweet and sugary and picked them up, ready to take them out to the living room.

Where he was sitting on the couch, looking for apartments.

Her smile slipped. He hadn´t said a thing about marriage. Just … living together.

And … on Earth. He thought they were going to be living together … on Earth.

A fine line marred her smooth brow as she thought about everything that was wrong with that idea. What if he didn´t ask her, and their baby was born out of wedlock? Maybe it was just a silly Earth custom, and maybe it didn´t really matter because they were already married anyways, but somehow, it did matter. What if something happened to the baby, and they weren´t married? Would that … change things? Would he still want to move in with her, even if she wasn´t pregnant?

Or – she gasped as something new occurred to her – if something was wrong with the baby, would it tear them apart? He wouldn´t be able to think of anything else, she knew, because that was the sort of man he was. It scared her, the thought that if something happened to her baby, it might distract him from their mission, from their path together. And they did belong together.

But in some dingy little apartment? Suddenly she felt trapped, claustrophobic, as if the very air she breathed was strangling her. She clamped her mouth shut, unwilling to take in any more toxic Earth atmosphere. Soon dark spots marred her vision but still she refused to give in, refused to poison her baby and her dreams.

A sharp cramp in her belly told her she was too late, and she collapsed on the floor, the glasses shattering, their contents splashing across the linoleum. But she ignored it all; her baby was in danger!

Then Max was by her side, and she could breathe again. Was it because she was breathing his air? It made all the difference. Less panicked now, she waited as he learned the truth for himself, searched for the acknowledgment in his face that *this* was his mission, his priority. This was his *alien* baby, that deserved better than some Earthbound apartment, inside his *alien* wife, who deserved better than … than …

But none of that mattered anymore. She allowed him to comfort her, to show how he cared for her, how he felt more than simple lust.

He couldn´t stay for very long. As her fever abated under his vigilant eye and soothing hands, she noticed him eying the clock, and told him to go home, that she would be all right, that he couldn´t worry his parents. And suddenly she really did feel a certain kinship with the man and women that were for all intents and purposes her in-laws, and not just as family.

As a parent herself.

He insisted on waiting until she was sleeping peacefully, and her last coherent thought was one of contented happiness. It would all work out now.

She tried to wake up at one point, but found it too difficult to fight the delirium entirely. Vaguely, she was aware that Max had returned, that he was next to hear, speaking to her, trying to make her understand.

And finally she did: they´d found a way home.

Incredible warmth flowed through her then, as if somehow the sun had risen for her alone.

Fuzzily, she reached up, and held his hand, and welcomed his kiss.

Oh, but it was nice to be kissed like this … she felt so drained, it was such an effort to be pregnant with an alien baby, it really was, it was such a strain on her body, on her mind. For the first time in -- well, for as long as she could remember – she felt completely and utterly relaxed. And for the first time ever, she felt herself open completely to him, revelling in the depths of his mind as he opened himself to her in turn.

She frowned slightly when she realized that he wasn´t entirely sure how he felt about her and the baby, but decided it didn´t matter. It would all come with time. There *was* a baby to think about, and Max Evans was nothing if not protective of his family.

Exhausted now, she barely noticed when he pulled away, and she drifted back to sleep with a gentle smile on her face.

She didn´t know how much later it was when they woke her.

Max, Michael and Isabel. Looking down at her. Sternly, suspiciously, like they had when she had first arrived.

If she weren´t so tired, she would be worried.

“What´s …” she moistened her lips and tried again. “What´s wrong? Max … we´re going home, right Max?” She reached out then, to grasp his hand, tacitly asking for reassurance.

But he pulled away, and she struggled to focus.

“Max?” she pleaded piteously. He didn´t answer.

Isabel did. “What is it, Tess?” she asked, no, demanded. “Is it some kind of sick joke? Manipulating us – manipulating *Max* – into thinking you were pregnant so we´d all jump at the chance to go home?”

“What?” Tess cried, fighting the exhaustion, struggling to think clearly. “Isabel! What are you saying?” The hand that had reached for Max now curved instinctively over her belly, as if to shield it from her sister-in-law´s cruel words, as if they somehow had the power to stop her pregnancy.

But now Michael spoke, and his words burned coldly. “We know, Tess. When Max connected with you earlier he learned the truth.” He laughed cynically, and the sound chilled her soul. “I guess you have to be conscious to keep the illusion going, huh?”

Pulling back into a protective ball in the corner, Tess shook her head. “What are you saying? Stop it, stop it! I won´t let you take my baby away from me!” Turning to Max, she begged, “Please, Max, don´t do this, don´t let them take our baby – our future – away from us.”

When he just stood there she buried her head in her knees, sobbing and shaking and utterly worn down.

Isabel´s next words didn´t really register.

“Max, I think she believes it. She really does think she´s pregnant.”

“But … but I still don´t understand. I mean, I *saw* the hand, I *saw* it inside her, *felt* it, Isabel.”

Michael interrupted. “Mind warp.” He paused, considering his own words. “Damn, but think of the energy needed to keep it up this long …”

“I think he´s right, Max. Maybe … maybe you saw what she wanted you to see. Maybe you *both* saw what *she* wanted to see.”

“Oh, god. What are we going to do?”

Tess didn´t hear anymore. She didn´t *want* to hear anymore, and retreated the only way she knew how, into herself.

She was in the observatory, watching the sunrise, when she became aware of someone sitting next to her. “Isn´t it beautiful?” she asked, and turned, expecting to see Max.

It was Isabel. “Tess, do you know what happened?”

Tess tilted her head, puzzled, and smiled winningly. “Max and I are together now,” she told Isabel happily.

Isabel just looked at her. “Tess, what about the baby?”

The baby? Oh yes, she was pregnant. For a moment there, she´d forgotten. She reached down to cup her rounded tummy, but Isabel grabbed her hand first.

“Tess,” she said slowly, searching Tess´s face. “You´re not pregnant.”

Tess immediately felt the loss, and pulled her hand away from Isabel´s to pat a now flat stomach. Crying, she looked up at the woman she felt closer to than anyone.

“I lost the baby?” she sniffled, and broke down when Isabel nodded in affirmation.

“I lost the baby,” she repeated, in shock, and leaned into Isabel´s comforting embrace. “But – how? Why?”

“Tess,” Isabel said haltingly, as if she was searching for just the right words, just the right tone; “I think maybe … maybe he knew it wasn´t his time. Maybe it´s not your time right now, either. Or Max´s. And not … not like this.”

Tess stared at Isabel, bewildered. “Isabel, what do you mean?”

“Tess …” Isabel chewed on her lower lip nervously, trying to think of a good way to say this. “Tess, how do you really feel about Max?”

“I love him,” Tess said immediately. Isabel nodded thoughtfully.

“But, how do you love him? Tell me how you love him.” And, taking Tess´s hands in her own, she concentrated on showing Tess all the different ways she knew to love.

She showed Tess how she loved Max, as family, as part of her.

She showed Tess how she loved Michael, as a best friend.

She showed Tess how she had loved Alex, as a lover.

She showed Tess how she loved her, as a sister.

She showed Tess how she loved Liz and Maria, as friends and allies.

She showed Tess how she loved her parents, as saviours, as mentors.

Casting about in her mind, she tried to think of other kinds of love.

Inspired, she showed Tess what she had seen one fateful night when tensions were running high and she was forced to connect with someone who didn´t know how to shield her emotions.

She showed Tess how Liz loved Max, with desperate intensity.

Tess squirmed beside her, shocked, but Isabel had one more.

She had connected with Kyle to let him dreamwalk, and he was no more able to hide his emotions than Liz was. When he looked at the centrefold model, an image of blonde hair flashed through his subconscious, so fast he missed it. But Isabel didn´t. He had found his “dream girl” cold and humourless, and Isabel was well aware that whether he admitted it to himself or not, he was happy to leave the dream. She knew she was right when, in the split second between sleep and waking, he thought of the person he really wanted to visit, the one person he had figured Isabel would never take him to.

And now Isabel showed Tess how he had felt when he thought of his real dream girl, someone who could make his stomach jump just by looking at him. Someone who brightened up a room just by walking into it. Someone beautiful.

Isabel felt Tess sit up straighter.

“Isabel, what was that?”

Isabel answered unrepentantly. “I decided to make sure you really know your own feelings before you do something you´ll regret later. Now, Tess,” she urged, determined not to be sidetracked; “did any of those come even close to how you feel about Max? Not,” she emphasized, “Zan, the king and your husband in another lifetime, but Max?”

Tess just sat there for a moment, unable to think clearly. Isabel had thrown so much at her. But she trusted Isabel more than she trusted anyone, and Isabel deserved an honest answer.

So she thought about it. Hard. And finally, she made eye contact.

“When – when you thought about your parents, and when you showed me Kyle … I think it´s kind of a combination of those two …” she said, sounding amazed and disbelieving that she could even say such a thing. But she felt a little better when Isabel nodded.

“Don´t you see? You see Max as someone who can protect you, someone who can save you, who can make everything you dream of come true. As for the other,” and she couldn´t help but blush just a little. “I think you might have a little crush on him because, well, he is pretty hot. Hey,” she smirked, “he is my brother, after all.”

Tess just sat there, everything that had just happened whirling about in her mind.

“I´m not pregnant,” she said slowly. Immediately sober, Isabel shook her head.

“I´m don´t love Max. At least, I´m not ‘in love´ with him,” she continued. Isabel nodded.

They were silent while Tess worked this over in her mind.

“I´m …” her voice cracked, but when she spoke again, her voice was steady.

“I´m ready to wake up now.”


Tess squinted against the harsh light of day as she looked through the diner window.

She´d already made her peace with Max, Isabel and Michael. It wasn´t going to be easy, but she thought they´d be able to trust her again. Actually, she was sure of it. She´d offered to leave, saying that maybe things would be better if she wasn´t around, but to her shock they explained that while they were angry and disappointed, they didn´t want her to leave.

Max had surprised her the most. She wasn´t sure what she´d expected, rejection probably, and she wasn´t entirely wrong. He did say he thought they rushed into something he didn´t think either of them really wanted in the here and now. But he made it clear that he didn´t hate her, and he wanted to be friends. The rest, well, they´d figure that out.

It was a strange feeling, to feel – really feel – like a part of something. For the first time, she truly felt like a part of them, and she swore they wouldn´t be sorry they accepted her.

But there was someone else she needed to talk to, someone who was awfully difficult to track down considering that she knew where he lived. Still, she knew that sooner or later, he´d show up here. Eventually, they all did.

Finally she entered the restaurant and took a seat in an empty booth. She was looking over a menu when she heard someone call her name.

“Hey, Tess.”

She smiled as Kyle sat across from her in the booth. “Hey, Kyle.”

“So I hear you finally got smart and dumped ol´ Maxie,” he smirked, but the genuine fondness in his voice took the sting out of his words.

She nodded. “Yeah.” She hoped he´d leave it at that. She had managed to forge a precarious friendship with Max, and didn´t want to do anything to threaten it. “How did you know?”

“Ran into Isabel on the way here.”

“Oh.” Well, that was convenient. Of course, Isabel had decided to take a more active role in Tess´s life, and probably sought him out. It didn´t matter. What mattered was that he was here, and they were talking.

“Soooo …” he said, tapping his fingers on the table, and seemed to come to a decision. “Tess,” he tried again, “I think I was wrong. What I said at the prom, I mean. I was confused, and well, I´ve always wanted a sister. But then I saw you and Max together –”

“Kyle,” she interrupted gently, “you know I like you, right? Maybe … maybe more than like you.” And she smiled at the way he beamed at her, but pulled away when he reached for her hand.

“But I just lost a baby.” Oh,” she waved away any protest he might have made with one small hand, “I know I wasn´t really pregnant. I know that now. But … to me, that child was real. It – *he* – was the most real thing I´d ever been a part of, and I loved him, and I lost him. And I know it must sound kind of stupid, but I miss him.”

Kyle shook his head immediately. “Not stupid, Tess. At all.”

Encouraged, she continued gamely. “I´ve been learning a lot about myself lately. It turns out that I don´t know myself – especially the human side of me – very well at all. And I´m *really* confused. So until I understand myself better, and why I do the things I do, I think it would be best not to complicate the situation right away. Do you,” and she took a deep breath. “Can you understand that?”

He stared at her for a moment, and then nodded. “Yeah, I can understand that,” he said, and this time she let him take her hand.

“So …” he said, when she didn´t say anything else. “So how long do I have to wait?”

She blinked, stunned at how well he was taking everything, and not entirely positive what he was asking. She really must find out exactly what Isabel had told him. “For what?”

He just looked at her. “For you,” he clarified, and there was nothing flippant or casual about the way he looked at her.

Just as seriously, she told him. “I don´t know. I don´t know anything.” She hesitated before admitting, “It could be a while.”

For a moment they just sat there, the noise and the crowds and the food forgotten. And somewhere deep inside her, she thought dimly that it had never been like this with Max.

And then Kyle smiled and she couldn´t help but smile back when he spoke.


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