Mind Game

Author: Bennie
Character Focus: Liz/Nicholas and Liz/Max Ė but maybe not the way you think
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I own nothing Roswell. I leave that joy to Jason Katims, Melinda Metz, and anyone else who, you know, legally does.
Spoilers: Up to Wipeout. Itís a futurefic, though; pretty much AU.
Author's Note: Debbie, thanks for the title and, well, I donít now how you did it, but you actually managed to get through this when I got to the point where *I* couldnít. Now thatís beta-reading!


I thought she´d be older.

That was the thought that ran idly through my mind as I watched the prisoner revive.

I looked over her small figure as she curled protectively into a ball. *Too late,* I thought, indifferently noting the evidence of a severe beating or two. It was clearly visible through and around the prison-issue that slaves were given as clothing.

I had nowhere to go, nothing on my calendar this fine Earth day except this one, tiny discipline problem, and I could wait all day if need be. But I get bored easily.

With a nod I dismissed the guards. I had nothing to fear from a mere human, they knew, and all left without argument. Only one looked back, his helm hiding his expression if not his hesitation, but that was all. Not that anything he could have said would have done any good; I killed the last guard who was brave enough to voice a dissenting opinion, and the rest of prison staff had been extraordinarily obedient since. I liked that.

Alone with my prisoner, I crouched beside her, waiting for her to lift her head, to look me in the eyes. I wanted to look into them and see fear, see a spirit broken. It´s what I do best. It´s why Khivar keeps me on, despite my failure to bring him the royal four early on, when we could have avoided war altogether. Because I make it up to him every day.

Growing impatient, I swept aside the curtain of brown hair that covered her face and tucked it behind one small ear. Still she faced away and I reached out to grasp her chin, to pull her roughly towards me.

And for the first time in two life spans of service to a dark lord, I felt something new.

As I looked into her eyes I knew ... her. It was a recognition of the oldest kind, a feeling that I knew this person´s soul, that it called out to me.

I studied her features intently, mentally reconstructing what she would look like without the disfiguring bruises and blood, but still it eluded me; I could not place her, could not pinpoint where – or when – she had touched my existence.

Frustrated, I dropped her back to the floor and watched her fragile body huddle against its institutional chill.

Walking back to my work area I picked up the documents that described her various crimes. This – this slip of a girl, barely an adult – was a rebel, suspected of leading several insurrections in daring places. The last one had upset operations for the past week in this, the first and largest of occupational penitentiaries on the planet, from which it was boasted (rightly) that no prisoner had ever escaped.

Because of her, I had been called in from the war councils and the strategic meetings with my liege and forced to return to this godforsaken corner of the galaxy. Because she had somehow become a figure of hope to the masses, somehow inspired a planet to rise up against us, one enslaved population at a time.

And the next time, they might be organized. Then they could do some real damage. It might even interfere with the war itself, and Khivar had already decided this waste of intelligent space wasn´t worth dividing his forces unnecessarily.

I put down the report and considered my prisoner. There were things I could learn from her that no collection of papers could tell me, but in her condition, my rather brutal methods could kill her.

Instead I rejoined her in the centre of the room. Crouching beside her again. I grabbed her arm, tightening my grip when she pulled away – in disgust, I knew, not out of fear.

I was very careful not to connect with her mind as I healed her body; it wasn´t time yet.

Then she turned now perfect features to me, and decades of training could not prevent me from gasping at the sight.

She was magnificent; she was defiant; she glared at me with the hatred and determination of a thousand of her kind. I could actually feel fierce emotions emanating from her, as striking as a physical blow.

But more importantly, I realized why I knew her.

She probably didn´t remember me; as far as I knew, she had only seen me once, and only for a second or two when her mind was elsewhere. I doubted she had any knowledge of my identity, true or assumed.

But I knew her. I knew her with a purity achieved through the eyes of pure love, a kindness imposed by true selflessness, and a devotion undeterred by pain.

I had only seen her face once, but that moment of clarity had burned itself upon my mind and memories as indelibly as any brand. The young king´s memory of her carried with it a thousand emotions, each stronger than the last, layer upon layer of love and desire and agony that was breathtaking to behold.

The power of those emotions rushing through me had been nothing short of intoxicating, and even now I could feel my alien heart rate leap.

“I know you,” I told her, relishing her reaction, the waves of confusion and that tiny but – yes, it was there, I was sure of it – that spark of fear that was anodyne to my tainted soul.

I allowed her to search my features in turn, imagining the thousands of images that must be rushing through her mind as she tried to place me.

“Who are you?” she asked finally, and I closed my eyes, pleased beyond measure to put a voice to the mental picture. I savoured this moment, storing it like a photograph to take out and study later at my leisure.

Only one answer would have any meaning for her, and I wasn´t ready to give it yet.

Instead I sat in the chair they had provided for me and watched her rise to her feet without pain. She did not acknowledge the healing.

“Who are you, and why are we talking?” she asked, and I smiled coldly at her imperious tone.

“My real name would mean nothing to you. And we are talking because I want to, and because it interests me. You interest me. I know you.”

“You already said that. What do you mean? I don´t know you.”

“That´s because we´ve never met. Not really.”

“Then how could you know me?”

“I know you through the eyes, mind and soul of one who knows you.”

She couldn´t hide the cold fury that ripped through her at this cryptic statement. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“I held his head in my hand, and I stole the thoughts he held most precious. I sought the location of the Granolith, and instead I got you.”

She looked at me as if struggling to unlock the memories my words triggered. Finally she shrugged, although her too-steady gaze suggested to me that she was hiding something. Inwardly I smiled, although outwardly I maintained my bland façade. It might be fun to find out what that could be.

“So you have me,” she scoffed. “Big deal. Your guards can say the same. What makes you so special?”

“Because I wonder if Max ever told you ...” I deliberately let my voice trail off, gratified by the flicker of movement around her eyes that betrayed her emotional response.

“Max?” she asked, casually, as if the name meant nothing to her.

“Just how much he loved you,” I said, studying her intently.

Nothing. She didn´t budge an inch.

“A lot of people have loved me. And I´ve loved them,” she said calmly. “As far as I can tell, that´s why you – any of you – will never win this war. You don´t know what it´s like to sacrifice yourself for something more important than power or a planet´s resources –”

“Oh, shut up,” I said, already bored by her self-righteousness. I don´t care for martyrs; never have. They die far too easily. It´s more of an art to break someone, to have them pleading for death but unable to achieve it on their own.

“Do you know who I am yet?” I asked. She just shrugged again.

Standing, I walked over. She wasn´t tall for an Earthling, and I could look her straight in the eyes.

“Do you know what I´m going to do with you? You´re quite a catch, you know. I bet there´s a lot they´d do to get you back alive and in one piece, more or less,” I speculated aloud, delighted to see her react to my cruel words.

“My family is dead,” she said stiffly. “And there´s no one interested in my welfare who´d have anything you´d want.”

“Oh, I beg to differ,” I forced her to look at me, to see my certainty. “I can think of at least one person who´d be very interested.”

She stopped pretending then. “It´s been a long time. I doubt he even knows I´m alive,” she said without emotion. “I´m of no value to you against him. Against any of them.” She looked at me then, and I was amazed at the cool depths of her gaze. There wasn´t much I admired about humans, but I thought that maybe I could respect this one.

Which is probably why I made a decision when she finished her thought.

“You might as well kill me now,” she said, as calmly as if we were discussing the weather.

I shook my head. “I don´t think so.”

She just looked at me then, and I didn´t need to be psychic to read her mind then. She was wondering what method of torture I´d choose first, and more importantly, how long she would last.

She was very perceptive; either I was becoming too predictable, or she was an excellent judge of character.

She continued to look at me. Speculatively. Dispassionately.

“What if there was something I could do for you?”

“In return for what?” I countered, genuinely curious.

“A last request.”

I thought it over.

“What are you offering?”

“I think you know.”

It was my turn to look at her with some curiosity. Did she know what I longed for? Was I that obvious? I shook my head. No matter. She was offering something that interested me, and I believed that she could deliver.

“What do you want?”

“I´ll tell you after.” I looked sceptical. “Don´t worry,” she drawled. “It´s nothing you won´t enjoy doing.”

I realized what she wanted then. And I had no intention of giving it to her, of denying myself. But I nodded anyway, and walked over to her.

She refused to close her eyes, even as I invaded her personal space.

I reached out to grasp her arms, to pull her to me, and leaned forward to kiss her. First cautiously, then with more confidence, tasting that salty softness that was so uniquely human and forging a connection on contact.

It was heady; I felt like a child in his first life span again, rapt at the images and sensations rushing through me. I watched as she played as a child, cried over petty hurts and imagined insults, giggled over something sickeningly sweet with an equally giddy blonde girl and sometimes a dark-haired boy.

Our hearts began to beat in sync, our lungs to breath rhythmically as our minds merged.

I felt her burgeoning curiosity as her body changed and others noticed. The thrill of her first tentative kiss with a boy in a small, dusty room heightened by the fear of discovery and the pleasure of touch. Her gratitude as the same boy defended and comforted her against some nameless childhood bully who had reduced her to tears outside a large brick building.

I wondered if she could see my youth, my time in training, my isolation when they discovered my strength and decided to enhance it. It didn't matter.

I struggled to understand moments of closeness with her parents, felt myself responding to the smiles of encouragement they lavished on me through her. I suffered the loss of their closeness with her, as she strove to protect them from her new and dangerous secrets, and those same secrets from them.

The maelstrom of emotions that buffeted me next nearly broke the connection but I fought it, unwilling to relinquish the sheer emotion that I found so intoxicating, so addictive, so alien to everything I had ever known.

I delved deeper, forcing her to show me the excitement and intensity of her feelings for one boy, the way her body felt alive when she saw him, or found herself in the same room. The way she could get lost in his gaze and then later, in his embrace.

Her hurt when someone came between them, when circumstances ripped them apart. Her soul-searing fear and pain when he was taken, her absolute joy when she took him back, and her heartrending grief when she lost him for good.

It was too much; it overloaded my senses, unaccustomed as they were to this extent of emotional intensity. I tried to pull back but somehow she kept the connection alive, to force every unwanted feeling on and into me, bruising me mentally, imprinting herself – her essence – on my psyche.

Even as I staggered back, they continued to wash over me. I could feel the implacable power of her will compel my eyes to stay open, to maintain contact. The images came faster, flashing almost too fast to understand, and I cried soundlessly as the numbing anguish of watching her life fall apart, her friends leave, her family die, and her world conquered struck at my very core. Underlying that pain I could feel guilt and regret, and somehow these were the hardest to assimilate into my battered mind.

Because they were my own.

Unable to take any more, my knees gave out beneath me then, and I counted upon gravity to break her hold over me because my own scientific marvel of a body would not.

I laid on the cool floor until the pounding of my heart subsided, until I could raise my exhausted form up into a sitting position. I couldn´t see her from where I had landed, blocked by the corner of the table.

Slowly I pulled my legs under me, and pushed myself against the heavy gravity of this strange planet until I stood and dared to look at one of its natives.

Now she was on her knees, barely upright, utterly drained by her assault on me. But still I felt her power, felt pinned by the weight of her gaze. I found myself wanting to express some kind of apology that my mouth and mind didn´t know the words for. And I wanted something else. I wanted more.

She tried to speak but had to lick her lips first, to generate some moisture in a mouth that must have been as dry as my own.

“Your turn,” she said hoarsely.

I stared at her dully.

“What did you do to me?” I finally found my voice, ignoring her.

Something had changed, and I wanted to know what. I wanted desperately to understand why the sharp whiteness of the walls seemed to close in on me now, why I felt stifled by my own skin, why the very quality of light in this room suddenly hurt my eyes.

“I gave you a gift,” she said, and I wondered at her tone of bittersweet triumph.

“Why?” I had to ask, not really knowing what I was asking or what I wanted her to say. Something else was happening to me, and I was trying to process a sensation as unfamiliar as those she had gifted, no cursed, me with.

“Your turn,” she insisted, pushing herself to her feet.

“I can´t,” I replied, finally. The pain was ebbing, and there was definitely something building in its place, feeding on it. Something even more unfamiliar. It took my breath away, and it took me a moment to identify it.

Pleasure. I savoured it, revelled in it, felt my soul swim in it. Felt the pull, the desire. For more.

“I won´t.” I vowed, with more emphasis.

“Why?” she wanted to know, and for the first time I could feel despair. Her despair. I could taste it in the very air; I breathed it in, absorbing it, imagining it swirling into and around my pleasure, enriching it.

“I want more,” I said, and I wondered if she knew that she was the first person in decades that I had explained myself to. Even Khivar didn´t ask for explanations, only results.

“I can´t give you any more,” she said.

“Yes, you can.”

“Why me? Why not just start pulling prisoners in and -- and *whoring* their memories? There are a lot of people who´d let you rape their minds in exchange for better treatment or instead of a death sentence,” she exploded suddenly, as fury fought to overtake fear and exhaustion and self-loathing.

“But not you. You were going to ask for one, weren´t you?” My words cut through her tirade like a knife.

She didn´t respond, but I could tell she was trying to find some leverage, some advantage in our little negotiation.

“Would it be so hard? Just ‘poof´ me like you did the others that we´ve all heard about, and we both win,” she said, unable to disguise the contempt in her voice.

“How so?” I inquired, as if it would make any difference.

“You get rid of a rebel, an insurrectionist, and I ... get release, from ... this,” she said, and I felt some of my pleasure diminish slightly as something in her plea reminded me of the other side of the coin, the nasty, illogical but unavoidable guilt that accompanied the gratification.

It´s heaviness weighed upon me, but it only served to make the pleasure more appealing by contrast.

“No.”

She just looked at me, unbelievingly, and for a second, I saw it: the crack in her demeanour. A flicker in her eye that suggested that for the first time, something surprised her. Something wasn´t going according to plan.

Plan? She had a plan? My mind argued, rationally, that surely I would have seen it, surely she had no secrets from me now. But ... I remembered the way she threw her mind at mine. No doubts, no hesitation. And I never bothered to search her memories because I didn't have to. She'd deluged me with them.

What if she´d had some control over the ones she sent my way? What if she´d been able to keep some back?

I studied her, and then reached out. She recoiled immediately. She recovered, but not before I saw it. Apprehension. Fear that if I initiated another connection, something unintended might happen.

I closed my eyes. Damn it, she´d forced my hand. If I used any more power on her, she would probably die. Part of me thought about giving her a day to recover and then trying again. But what if that were too late? No, I had to find out.

Something caught my eye even as I reached out and established contact. It was a guard, and in one fluid motion he stepped inside and discharged his weapon at her. It must have been at full strength, for even as I heard her mind call out I saw her corporeal form shimmer and then disappear from sight.

I stood there, shaking, her final thought ringing in my head. It was one of gratitude, of anticipation; she had wanted this. Wanted release.

I wanted her back.

My gaze fell upon the guard. He faced me bravely, but I saw something in his stance as he spouted some obviously rehearsed lines.

“Sir, are you all right? Did I get here in time?”

My fury grew. “In time for what?” I asked, my voice deceptively calm. “To prevent me from learning something important from an Earthling rebel who knew too much?” He froze as he realized that I saw right through his pathetic attempt to deceive me.

And as I walked over to him, I raised my hand.

“If I couldn´t find out from her, perhaps I could find out a detail or two from a traitor. Like ...” I savoured the possibilities. “A name.”

But before I could form a connection, he turned his weapon upon himself. “Liz,” he said, and the air rushed in to fill the vacuum as he vanished.

I almost lost it then, almost, but I saw her in my mind. Her image flashed before my eyes, her knowing brown eyes and flowing hair. Immediately, I was calm. Carefully, afraid of the contamination of time, I concentrated on perfecting my recall, on permanently etching every memory, every thought, every emotion she had given me, into my own mind. I knew I´d spend a great deal of time poring over them, recalling the sound of her voice that even now seemed to echo throughout this sterile chamber.

And that name. “Liz,” the traitor had said, reverently, before taking his life.

Liz. It suited her. Compact, business-like but personable. Yes, I could see my mental image of her nod in agreement. She was very much a Liz.

But Liz what? I´d have to go through some records, see if I could find her full name; these useless prison sheets only identified her by number. I wanted something else to call her by, needed to put a name to my obsession.

Later. Right now, I had some guards to interrogate and a schedule to keep. Tomorrow I was booked to execute a number of prisoners as an example to those who had followed ... her. Maybe I should move that ahead, get it out of the way.

But something kept my hand from straying to the intercom, kept me from relaying the orders that instinctively I knew I should give.

As I stared at the place on the floor, her place, I realized something about myself.

I didn´t want to.

I just couldn´t bring myself to do it, to face more humans today, to look into their eyes and think of hers, and then just ... ‘poof´.

I smiled as I remembered her say that. "Poof." What a word.

In fact, I was beginning to wonder just why I was so angry with the guard. Was it because he had interrupted an interrogation, or because he had destroyed my hope ... I mean, my possession? Why did I want to know her innermost thoughts anyways? They were poison. They made me think too much, feel too much. They infected me. They made me sick.

I *was* sick, I was sick at the person I´d become, sick about the people I let shape me. Sick because suddenly I saw my hero and saviour without the filter of training and years of indoctrinated devotion. Sick because suddenly I wanted nothing more than to seek out Khivar and eliminate his existence from a universe that deserved so much more.

The nausea eased as I found clarity. Was that all I needed to do to attain happiness again? No problem. I had a meeting with the disease in mere hours. I figured a well-timed energy blast should do it, and found myself humming as I dreamed of Liz´s look of pride as Khivar´s evilness dissolved forever.

At my touch.

A fitting tribute, I thought.

<><><><><><><>

Slowly, painfully, she opened her eyes.

“Liz, you have to look at me,” he whispered urgently, and she did.

She sighed as she felt the last of the burns fade from her body, and felt the tingling that meant she hadn´t lost any extremities in the highly experimental spot-to-spot matter transfer.

“Thank you, I feel much better,” she murmured, and he allowed her to sit up.

They all crowded around her then, and she nodded to indicate victory. “It worked,” she said. “I planted the thought. It´s just a matter of time now.” And all around her aliens and humans alike began cheering, and she found herself engulfed in a dozen enthusiastic hugs.

She excused herself then, claiming exhaustion. And it was true; she was wiped. But there was something else on her mind.

He found her some minutes later, looking out a window.

“What is it?” he asked, absently removing the trappings that had allowed him to pass as a guard in the prison, to smuggle in the ‘weapon´ that saved their lives.

She turned to him and smiled at the way the guard´s helm had mussed his hair.

“Something unexpected happened,” she said, serious now. “It turns out that he had a reason of his own to want access to my mind.”

“Tell me,” he said, and held his breath.

She looked into his eyes, searching their mysterious depths.

“Did you know that Nicholas once saw me through your eyes?”

He just stood there.

“He told me. And he told me what he saw, and how he felt when he did,” she revealed.

He couldn´t move.

But then she threw herself into his arms, and he found that he could.

(The End)


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