The Quickening



Maria's stops were hurried behind me. Step, step, step, turn, step, step, step, turn, step, step, step -

"Maria," I said, staring at the electric fence, "Stop. Please."

Her steps paused. I heard her breath come out in a rush. "I can't believe we're doing this," She whispered for the fourth time. "I can't believe this -"

I stared evenly at the building. Come on, Michael. Come on -

Valenti had gone in a while ago. He'd find them. He had to.

"Liz," Maria whispered, closer to me than I expected. I stared at the fence. "It'll be okay."

I nodded, not looking at her. Valenti had argued with me for ten minutes about my coming with him.

"Miss Parker, I can't put your life at risk," He'd said, reaching for his gun. He wasn't even looking at me anymore.

"I'm going with you," I said quietly. "We all are. You're going to need all the help you can get, and we're all you've got."

"I don't have time to argue," He said, moving for the door. I stepped in front of him.

"Neither do I, sheriff."

He stared down at me. "You don't know what you're up against," He said slowly.

"I'm coming with you," I said evenly. "Or I'm going alone."

He stared at me. "I can't look out for them and you at the same time. I can't be sure you'll be safe. Go back home -"

"My home is in that building," I said, my voice low.

He blinked. His mouth opened and closed. I didn't move. I meant it.

"Alright," He said finally. "Come on."

I blinked my eyes and let my eyes swim back into focus, seeing first the building and then the enormous fence that surrounded it.

Come on, I thought, please. Please -

Maria sighed and put her hand on my shoulder. I clenched my teeth against the inside of my cheek and stared at the building. I couldn't break down. I couldn't cry.

I had to be ready.

Maria sighed behind me and stared pacing again.

Come on, Michael, come on -

{Liz?}

I could hear him. I could feel him. "They're out," I whispered.

"What?" Maria said quickly, turning around to me. "Where -"

{Liz - what are you doing here -}

"They're coming," I whispered. "Get in the car -"

"Liz, where are they?" She yelled.

"In the car," I shouted, moving for the car door and explaining to Michael at the same time. "Now."

**********

"- it's an old silver mine in Galitas off horseshoe road," Valenti was saying. "If we make it there, it will buy us some time. We should split up, make it harder for them to follow. Come on. Come on -"

{Michael - are you okay?}

{I'm fine. You shouldn't be here -}

I ignored him and turned to Max. "Max," I whispered. "Are you alright?"

"Come on!" Valenti shouted. "Let's go -"

Michael leaned into the Jetta and looked at Max. I climbed in the driver's seat.

{You shouldn't go with Max -}

{Michael, get in the Jeep.} I turned the key and gunned the engine.

{It could be dangerous, Liz -}

{Michael, get out of here, please, we're splitting up, they won't know which one to follow -}

He looked at Max. "I don't know about this," He muttered.

Max looked up at him. "I trust him," He murmured.

He thought Michael was talking about Valenti.

{Michael. Go -}

{Stay linked up with me, Liz. The whole time -}

{Yes, anything, just go -}

He bolted for the Jeep and Isabel threw a pile of something in to Max. Clothes. I slammed my foot on the accelarator, leaving a cloud of dust behind us.

*********

He was pulling the shirt over his chest. I glanced over at him. His hands were trembling.

He came looking for me -

"Max, what did they do to you?"

"It's over," He said, his voice hoarse and ragged. "Listen, Liz, if we ever get out of this -"

The sound was deafening and something ricocheted off the windshield. I screamed and looked behind us. Lights and dust poured in through the back window. They shot it out. Oh my God, they're shooting at us -

{Get away from them. Liz, get away from them -}

I pulled over quickly and threw the door open. "Let's go," I said, running to Max. "Let's go -"

He was stumbling. Leaning on me. He could barely walk. Oh, God -

I felt the connection with Michael ebb slightly and nearly panicked. But something - something in me swelled, and surged, leaping outward -

Out of my heart.

I felt light and warmth and strength coursing through my veins, my arteries, out of my heart. My vision sharpened, my muscles contracted and flexed -

He was giving me his strength. Michael was taking the energy from our connection and pouring it into my body -

"Come here," I said, pulling Max's body with borrowed force, pulling him under tree limbs and up the hill, half-dragging him at times, my ears tuned to hear a car, shouts, anything, run faster, run faster, run -

"Go," He whispered, almost pulling against me.

"Come on," I whispered fiercely, pulling him over a ridge. We were out of the trees. We were on a road - "Come on, Max -"

"Go," He repeated, actually pushing me away this time. I ignored him and reached out for him, my arms clutching him closer, pulling him with me, muscles, bones and heart screaming run, faster, run -

Oh God. They were in front of us. They were behind us -

Not forward. Not backward -

I glanced to the left.

"Come on," I whispered, climbing the guardrail first. My heart was pounding like crazy and I was pulling Max up and Michael was calling my name -

They were closer. We couldn't get around them any other way. I looked at Max -

Maybe he wouldn't make it. Maybe I wouldn't make it.

I reached out and kissed him quickly, feeling Max's lips against mine and Michael's light in my heart, thinking We can do this. We can do this -

{Liz.}

{I love you,} I whispered, threading Max's fingers through mine, staring at the darkness below. I could hear water.

And then we jumped.

*******

The water was a shock to my heart, sudden and enveloping and cold and I was swimming the way I thought was up before I realized I didn't have Max, I don't have Max and I tried to focus, watching the bubbles and the way they were spinning, figuring out which way was up before I found him, weak and sinking slowly in the water and No, I thought, No, my arms cutting through water until I reached him and pulled, sharply, my legs making scissor kicks against the water, following the steady stream of bubbles up and up and up, wishing for daylight so I could tell how close we were to the surface, my lungs screaming for air and then there was a sudden end to the water and my body fell back, Max's body rising up next to me.

I gasped some air and turned him over. He was coughing.

He's alive, I thought, thank God he's alive. I looked all around us until I found the riverbank and pulled his body over my own, clawing and fighting against the current to make it to shore.

My body was exhausted, my legs and arms tight from working beyond their capacity. I focused on the shoreline until my feet touched bottom, dragging a deep groove in the silt of the riverbed.

"Come on," I gasped, standing up and choking at the water rivulets running into my mouth. He could barely stand up.

"This way," I said, my eyes focusing on something. "We've got to hide. Come on -"

We pushed through the underbrush of the trees, finally finding a pipeline of some sort that opened into a wooded field. An overturned bus rested on its side.

"I think we'll be safe in here for a while," I whispered, pulling him into the vehicle with me. "They don't know how far down river we got -"

I took a closer look at him. He looked exhausted. "Max," I whispered. Maybe he was in shock. The water was so cold, and who knew what they'd done to him -

I could barely feel Michael. I leaned down to reach Max and nearly hit the floor. I'd stretched our connection and his strength as far as it could go.

{Michael...}

His voice was a whisper. {You're alright. You're alright.}

I nodded, Max's face in my hands. We were alive. Because of him. I felt the last threads of the connection fading, gossamer threads unraveling and trailing into nonexistence -

I pulled Max toward me and felt the warmth, Michael's touch on my shoulders, neck and lips like a soft touch of goodbye, and -

Max in a white room. People snatching his arms, pulling him toward a table, strapping him down, needles going into his skin, his body thrown in ice, submerging his face, trying to drown him -

I pulled back and opened my eyes. He was shaking.

It wasn't from the cold.

"Max," I whispered.

His eyes looked up at mine, frantic and desperate at first. I repeated his name until they focused on my face and softened. He blinked, his long lashes trembling.

"You're alright," I whispered. "You're alright."

********

They were okay. I blinked and refocused on the road, remembering to breathe.

They were alive, I corrected myself, in the middle of nowhere, with no car and questionable shelter - they'd probably already run the tags on the Jetta and knew it was Maria's car, knew where she lived -

"How could you leave Nasedo there?"

I blinked and looked up at the rear view mirror. Tess was staring at me, outraged.

"Listen, he might not have made it, alright?" I said. "We heard gun shots -"

"Michael, listen to me," She interrupted, her voice urgent. "We have to turn around. We have to go to -"

The pod chamber? "What are you talking about?" I demanded.

"Nasedo told me that if anything ever happened to him, to go to the pod chamber."

"What are we supposed to do?" Isabel asked, her voice strained, twisting in her seat to look at her. "Just go there and wait? How will anyone know where we are?"

"Max will know," She said quickly. "He'll find us."

My eyes went up to the mirror again and then back out to the road. I could find her. I could find her across the world if I had to -

"Well, what about Liz and Valenti?" Maria asked. "What happens to them?"

"No, look, we said we'd meet at Galinas," Alex interrupted, shaking his head. "If we don't go now, we may never see them again."

"Alex is right," Isabel agreed. "We don't do anything without everyone."

"But without Nasedo, we have nothing," Tess insisted, her voice panicking. "Michael, I'm telling you, turn around. Our lives depend on it. Everything depends on it."

I looked up in the rear view mirror. She was staring at me.

Everyone was staring at me.

"No," I said sharply. "We're not leaving anyone behind anymore. All right? We're going to the mine."

Her eyes flickered and she sat back, defeated, worry lining her face. My eyes settled back on the road ahead of us.

**********

"Max, what - what did they -"

"It doesn't matter," He said, his voice low and hoarse.

I bit my lip. He didn't want to talk about it, and I wasn't going to pressure him. He'd had enough. More than anyone should have to take. I closed my eyes and the images flew up before me, needles and scalpels laid out before him, the sharp edges of ice cutting into his skin as they shoved him down over and over and -

My eyes flew open and I tried to focus on our surroundings. He's out. You got him out. You got him out -

He said my name quietly. I looked at him. "What," I said quickly, kneeling down next to him. "What do you need -"

"I have to tell you," He whispered, his eyes downcast.

I took a deep breath. "Tell me what?"

His eyes flickered up and locked on mine. "I have to tell you about Tess," He said evenly.

I stared at him for a second and then nodded. "Okay," I whispered.

"I don't want to upset you," He whispered.

I blinked. He'd just been through hours of torture and he didn't want me upset -

A slow, cold, sinking feeling started in my stomach. I didn't even know why.

I just knew it was going to be bad.

"Just tell me," I whispered. Fast, I pleaded silently, just say it fast.

He took a deep breath. "Tess is - one of us," He said slowly. "She was with us when we came to earth. Me, Isabel and Michael."

I stared at him. "And you - you didn't remember?"

"No," He said. "But I do now."

I blinked. My legs were beginning to cramp. I didn't move. "Okay," I said. "And -"

"The book we saw her take from the library," He said slowly, his eyes locked on mine, "It had pictures in it. Of us. The four of us."

I blinked. "What -"

"It's why I was having the visions of her," He said.

Everything stopped. I couldn't move. I just stared at him.

It's why I was having the visions -

It isn't his fault. She's not who he wants -

Stop, I thought, staring at Max, unable to move, unable to speak. I already knew what he was going to say.

Don't say it. Don't say it -

"We're paired together," He said, his eyes locked on mine, unyielding, unwavering.

"Michael and Isabel. Me and Tess."

Michael and Isabel.

"She keeps saying it's part of a plan," He whispered quickly, as if he had to say it all at once. "She says we're all destined to be together, that there's nothing we can do about it."

She isn't what he wants -

How do you know. How do you know she's not what he wants?

I tried to stand and my knees nearly buckled. His arm reached out to catch me and I backed away from him quickly. Nothing will ever come between us, Liz. Nothing.

Nasedo wasn't talking about me and Max.

He was talking about Max and Tess.

And if that was true for Max, then it had to be true for Michael.

******

We were turning into the canyon when I felt it. Something was wrong.

With Liz.

I blinked and took a deep breath, trying to focus on the road and reach out to Liz at the same time.

"Michael," Isabel asked.

I looked over at her. "What?"

She blinked. "Nothing. I - are you alright?"

"Yeah," I muttered, staring at her. "I'm fine. Why?"

She shook her head, looking confused. "I - nothing," She whispered. "Forget it."

I stared at her for a second before turning back to the road and reaching out to Liz. She was upset. She was crying. I panicked for a second, thinking the agents had found them -

Then I realized he was talking to her. Telling her about the book.

About Tess. About Isabel. Before I could tell her -

Damnit, Maxwell.

********

"So everything Nasedo told me was true," I whispered, standing up, trying to finish the sentence. "You and -"

I couldn't say it. Not about Michael and Isabel.

" - you and Tess were meant to be together," I said quickly, turning away from him. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. Damnit. Damnit -

He said my name, trying to calm me. I barely heard him. "I mean, it's your -" My voice broke. "It's your destiny," I whispered, turning around and looking at him. "Right?"

"I wish I could go back, Liz," He whispered. "Back to when things were normal."

My heart was hurting again, closing in upon itself, turning cold and hot at the same time, burning a hole in my body. I felt like everything was falling apart, crumbling under my fingertips -

I can't do this, I thought, backing up, my hands in my hair, my breath coming in shallow, empty movements. I can't do this -

{Liz.}

I blinked, staring at Max, listening to Michael.

{He's telling me the truth.} My voice sounded strange to me. Calm. Accepting.

Michael didn't answer.

{Michael -}

{Yes.}

My mouth opened. No protestations. No explanation. No excuses. Just yes -

I hated the word.

I blinked, my vision clearing and focusing on Max. He was still staring at me. I wish I could go back to when things were normal -

I thought about Michael's hands moving over my body, the liquid light taste of him on my lips, the way I felt complete, absolute, perfect when I was with him -

Maybe there was a price to pay for that, for all the light and the warmth and the times when things were perfect.

Normal. When had this ever been normal?

My heart hurt. God, my heart hurt. I wanted the earth to swallow me. I wanted to lay down and cry for weeks.

"I wish that I could have stopped you from saving my life that day in the Crashdown," I whispered, my voice choked in my throat.

"Don't say that," Max whispered.

"Max, the day that you saved my life, your life just ended," I interrupted.

"No," He insisted. "That was the day my life began."

I stopped and stared at him.

"Liz, when I was in that room, and they did what they did to me - you're what kept me alive," He whispered. "The thought of you. The way your eyes look into mine. Your smile. The touch of your skin, your lips."

I couldn't move. I just stared at him. I couldn't believe what he was saying -

"Knowing you has made me... human," He said, tears glinting at his eyes.

I took a breath and closed my eyes. Max was human long before he met me.

He just loved me.

I didn't know why. I never would. Love works in unpredictable ways...

Like me falling in love with Michael, I thought.

Michael said my name. I didn't answer him. I didn't know what to say. I just stood there, trembling and swaying slightly, my eyes closed, a hole the size of my heart burning into my chest, leaving a black, empty void in its wake -

{They can't have known everything, Liz. The people who wrote that book.}

I bit my lip as my surroundings swam out of focus.

{Michael. You can't -}

{They didn't know I'd love you this much.}

My heart woke up.

There's no other way to describe it. I felt a wave of warmth and light flooding through my body, pooling in the darkness in my chest, leaving goosebumps and silver light where it trailed and my heart surged back, stronger, all the energy and emotion Michael was giving me filling the hole in my chest and I could feel my breath coming back to me and his arms around me, his hands on my face, soothing, his lips breathing against my skin and he was so strong, I thought, refusing to leave, refusing to give up -

I loved him so much. I love him so much -

Maybe they were wrong. Maybe the book was wrong. Maybe they didn't have to be together -

Maybe I got to Michael first, and now there was no turning back.

"...I want to be with you, Liz," Max said, interrupting my thoughts.

I stared at him. He'd just been through hours of torture no one should ever have to go through. Especially not Max.

And all he wanted was me.

"I love you," He whispered.

I got a flash of the silver instruments glinting on a table next to him, his arms strapped down, metal cold against his skin...

He'd been through enough. I didn't want to make it worse -

{Michael - }

{It's okay, Liz.}

I hesitated for a moment. {Are you sure -}

{...yeah. It's okay.}

I knelt down next to Max, my hands trembling. He looked so -

Vulnerable. Hopeful. Terrified.

I let the lie rise up to my tongue, tasting it before my lips parted and I let it take flight.

"I love you," I whispered.

I felt the connection with Michael start to fade. We'd used up all the energy we had tonight.

Max reached up for me, his lips on mine, hands on my face, touching my hair, and I leaned in to kiss him, letting Michael go so he could focus on what he needed to do...

I won't leave him, I thought. He made me promise. I won't leave him.

*********

I felt the connection with Liz fade and ebb into nothingness, feeling myself focusing on the road in front of me and the others in the car. I slumped down in the driver's seat.

I was exhausted. Helping them had taken everything out of me.

What if the agents find them, Guerin?

They wouldn't. Liz grew up here. She knew how to get to the mine. Even without the car, she'd meet us there. She'd make it. They both would.

And if they didn't, then I'd go after them.

Okay, I thought, checking the rear view mirror. Okay.

*********

"Where's Max and Liz," I called out, descending the stairs.

"They're not back yet," Valenti said.

"We took the long way," Isabel said quickly. "They should have gotten here before us -"

Damn, I thought, reaching out to find her, the sensation pulling me towards her like a magnet, like an elastic band snapping tight, over the woods, the river snaking out before me -

Found them. They were still in the truck. {Liz.}

She was dreaming. {Liz. Wake up.}

She blinked. {Michael?}

{Yeah. We're coming to get you.}

She sat up. {I - okay. You know where we -}

{Yes. We're coming to get you.} I turned to Valenti. "It'll be light in an hour," I said. "They're still out there."

"I'm going back and retrace the route," Valenti said, walking past me. I followed him immediately.

"I'm going with you," I said. "You may need me -"

"The rest of you wait here," He called back. "Don't make a move without us -"

"Michael!" Maria called out. I stopped and turned around. She was running toward me. "Michael -"

I hugged her. "I'll be back with him soon," I whispered. "Don't worry."

*****

"Go right," I said.

He looked at me. "What?"

I breathed in sharply. "Right. Go right," I said, louder.

He looked back at the road and turned the wheel. Neither of us said anything for a minute. I'd been calling out instructions ever since we left the mine, and he hadn't questioned it once.

Liz was up. Both of them were. They'd found a dirt road and were running toward us.

We were so close to them. To Liz. I could feel it -

"Why are you helping us?" I asked.

He licked his lips. "There's a right side here and a wrong side," He said. "I don't think Pierce is on the right side."

I pursed my lips and blinked at him. Maybe he really was alright.

"Besides, I like to think that if my son were in trouble somewhere and I wasn't around to help, that somebody would be there for him."

They were so close - "Turn," I said. "Turn here -"

He turned the car onto a small dirt road. Found them. They were running toward us.

"There they are," I said quickly. "Stop the car -"

{Michael. Michael -}

{I've got you. Come on. Run -}

Another engine roared out of nowhere, gunning loudly, and someone was behind them in one of those Humvehs, right behind them. Max swung around and started running faster, pulling Liz and she stumbled -

She wasn't strong enough. Not after last night. Not after everything she did -

I didn't even think about Valenti.

They were going to kill her if they got to them first.

I felt the white-hot light searing my skin, the blistering heat as the energy shot up through my hand and out, trying to control it to go through them, between their clasped hands, to the engine -

The car lurched and swung left abruptly, stalling in the road.

"Get in," I called out. They were so close. "Let's go -"

She was okay. They were both okay -

"What did you do?" Max said, running to the side of the car.

"I don't know," I snapped, not looking at him.

{Are you okay?}

{Yes, Michael, let's go -}

"What do you mean, you don't -"

Jesus, he was arguing with me - "Just go!" I said, slamming the door and looking at Valenti.

He was staring at the car. "Come on, go," I snapped. "Go!"

He looked at me with new eyes.

He knows. Of course he knows -

I glanced back at the car. They were getting out of the car. The agents -

"Go!" I shouted. "Go, or get out!"

He started the engine and swung the wheel hard, bringing us back on the road we'd just been on, the engine screaming in protest.

{Michael...}

{You're alright. You're both alright. That's all I care about.}

I felt her start to relax. Max put his arm around her, pulling her closer to him.

I felt Valenti's eyes on me.

You could cut the tension in the car with a knife.

I ground my knuckles against my lips and stared out the window.

***********

Valenti turned sharply, parking the patrol car next to the mine. He turned around, looking back at us.

"We'll be safe here for a while," He said.

"There is no safe anymore," Michael said, opening his door and climbing out, walking to the mine entrance.

I closed my eyes and reached for the door.

He'd saved us. Both of us.

"Go ahead," Max said quietly. "I'll be right in."

I nodded and walked after Michael.

{Michael. Are you alright?}

He paused, his hand on the railing. He didn't answer. I walked closer to him, putting my hand on his shoulder.

"Hi," I whispered.

He looked down at me. "Hi," He whispered back.

"Thank you for saving my life, Michael."

He blinked and a smile tugged at his lips. He sighed.

"I guess Max and I finally have something in common," He whispered.

I squeezed my hand, feeling his shoulder relax under my touch.

"What are we going to do now?" I whispered.

He looked at me. "We could leave," He suggested quietly. "The four of us."

I blinked. "Leave," I whispered. "Leave Roswell -"

He nodded. "They don't want you, Liz. But they want Max. And now they're gonna want me -"

"I'm not leaving you," I whispered quickly.

{Liz, that's not -}

{I'm. Not. Leaving you.}

He stared down at me and sighed. We could hear Max and Valenti's voices just above us.

{Come on.} He turned to move down the stairs. {They're worried about you, too.}

I watched him walk down the stairs, determined, worried, but lighter, somehow.

He moves like he was born for this, I thought. Like he's been waiting for this.

I moved down the stairs to follow him. We didn't know what to do or how to fix this.

And then Max came downstairs and told us how we were going to do it.

**********

I tapped my feet nervously against the floorboards of the Jeep. Michael and Isabel were walking across the street, in front of the agent. He turned to follow them.

I pulled Max's jacket more closely around me. He'd insisted I take it, and for the moment, I was happy to have it.

Why had he paired Isabel and Michael?

Stop it, Liz. Focus.

"It's time," Tess said.

I looked at her. "What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to make them see Pierce," She said, closing her eyes.

I stared at her, then back at the agent. He was standing still, his lips moving. He said something quietly. I couldn't tell what. Then he turned around and walked away.

Tess started, opening her eyes and breathing in quickly.

"You told them both at the same time to go to Hondo?"

"Pierce told them to go to Hondo," She corrected, looking at me.

"Can you -" I swallowed. "Can you just do that with everyone? Make them see things that aren't even there?"

"Sometimes it's easier to do that than to make someone see something that's right in front of her eyes," She said evenly, her eyes locked on mine.

My eyes flickered over her face, her hair, her eyes. She was - beautiful. Stunning. She could be on magazine covers if she wanted to.

Just like Isabel.

I turned the key in the ignition and pulled out onto the road, heading for the UFO Center.

********

We were all upstairs. All of us except for Michael, Max and Valenti.

And Pierce.

It worked. I couldn't believe it worked. They had him.

I stared over at Isabel. It was up to her now.

*******

I was holding my breath, their ammunition belts slung over my shoulder, the gun cold and seductive in my hands. The barrel was pointed at the back of Valenti's neck.

Max was staring at him. At both of us.

"I can't believe I trusted you," Max said in a low voice.

I blinked.He could say the same thing to you, Guerin-

I cut the voice off. Max's eyes flickered up to me and nodded once. I pulled Valenti to the side and led him toward the back.

He wasn't moving any more than he had to. I thought about all the times we ran from him, about breaking into his office, the look on his face when he asked me when I'd last seen Hank-

I could shoot him. He was trusting me. All of us.

"I always thought you were out to get us," I said slowly. Liz got him to come after us. And he saved our lives.

Max and I would never have gotten out of there without him.

"I'm glad I was wrong," I said, my fingers closing around the keys to the handcuffs. He rubbed his wrists, turning around. I handed him back the gun and turned back to where Pierce and Max were.

"I'll take care of Pierce as soon as Max gets what he needs," Valenti said quietly.

I turned back to look at him. Take care of Pierce -

"What are you going to do?" I said slowly.

"There's this guy I know at the Attorney General's office," He said, belting the holster back onto his hips. "I already put in the call."

My eyes narrowed. "You think the government's going to do something about Pierce? He's part of it."

"He's not the good part of it," Valenti said. "We don't tolerate secret government action in this country. At least not once the press gets a hold of it."

I pursed my lips. "I hope you're right."

"It's time for this to be over," He said slowly, looking at the door to the main room.

*******

"I've never dream-walked anyone who wasn't asleep before," Isabel said for the third time.

"But you did it to Max when he was captured," Tess reminded her.

"He was drugged," Isabel argued. She was really scared. "He didn't fight it. Pierce isn't going to do that."

"If you can just get in, even a little, you'll see his answers," Tess insisted.

Isabel stared at her for a second and then nodded. "Okay," She whispered, looking at Alex. He smiled weakly at her.

"Okay," She repeated, closing her eyes. I stared at her.

She looked at Alex.

Maybe Michael was right.

Maybe it was possible.

********

"So, this guy at the Attorney General's"

He didn't pick up on the conversation. He was staring at his gun.

"Sheriff?"

He looked up, startled. "Hm?"

"The agent. The one you called? Is he coming here, or are you taking Pierce to him?"

"Oh. Uh, I -" He shook his head, looking back at the gun. "I haven't decided yet."

I narrowed my eyes. He was anxious, pacing, not staying in one place. And he wouldn't look at me.

He just kept looking at his gun.

He was going to kill him.

"There is no guy, is there?" I asked quietly.

He looked at me and took a deep breath.

"If I turn him in, I turn all of you in. He kills people, Michael. It's what the guy does -"

He was going to kill him.

Is that what we were now? A bunch of murderers? Did that make us any better than him?

"- he killed Topolsky, and Stevens, and six innocent people in that hospital, and who knows how many others," Valenti said.

"And he was just about to kill all of you."

I sighed and looked at the door. There had to be a better way to do this -

There wasn't. Not one I could think of.

"We don't tell anybody," I said, my voice quiet. They didn't need to know about this. We'd hide the body. "Not even Liz."

He looked up and stared at me.

It took me a second to realize I'd said the last part out loud.

"Liz?" He asked.

********

The two of us stared at each other.

"She's a brave girl," He said slowly, staring at me. "Liz Parker."

I licked my lips, staring back. "Yeah," I said quickly. "She is."

He looked down at his gun. "You're lucky to have her," He said slowly.

I blinked, the panic skyrocketing in my body. I couldn't breathe -

"All of you, I mean, of course," He said slowly, staring at his gun.

I stared at him.

He looked up from the gun, putting it back in its holster.

"Right," I said. "'Course."

He smiled. I blinked.

We were still standing like that, me staring at the only other person in the world who knew both of my secrets, when Max opened the door and we both turned to face him.

"Let's go," He said.

**********

Isabel opened her eyes and gasped slightly. Alex reached for her immediately. "What did you see?" He asked.

Her eyes fell on Tess. "I'm sorry," She said, her voice strained. She was shaking her head. "It looks like he's dead."

Tess frowned. "He's not dead. He can't die."

I stared at her. "Tess, what do you mean, he can't die -"

"He said that if this ever happened, that we had the power to bring him back," She insisted. "He told me to find this Indian called Riverdog. He has these stones."

*********

We walked out into the main room, Max in front of me, Valenti following me. I knew he was thinking about his gun. It was all I could think about.

Pierce was tied to the chair. I glanced at him as we walked by and almost stopped.

He was smiling -

He stood up fast, his arm flying out and then I heard the gunshots, first one and then another and then another -

Valenti shoved me, hard, and I reached for Max, pulling him forward and down, out of the line of fire, looking back for Valenti and he was still wide open, his arms locked, shooting in the direction Pierce had gone -

Valenti brought his arm down. He was reloading.

He was protecting us.

He saved our lives -

I caught something moving in the darkness and focused on Pierce coming out of the shadows, his arm outstretched, the barrel aimed at Valenti's heart -

"No," I shouted, running out and toward Valenti, Max's hands slipping from me, my arm coming up and the white-hot heat screaming through my body, surging up from my bones and the marrow inside, cells and veins and arteries and breath and everything in me stopping to focus on his skin, his muscle - his heart, I could feel the energy surrounding his heart, the feel it building, intensifying -

Hank's face flashed in front of me. You're nothing. You're a waste. They probably drove you out there and left you to die -

He'd taken Max. Tortured him. He'd do the same thing to any of us. You sonofabitch, I thought, my vision blurring in a sudden burst of white light, Leave us alone. Leave us alone -

He never would.

I made the decision. I let the charge build upon itself around his heart, sensing the frequency of his heart beat speed up, focusing all of my energy on faster, faster, faster -

Pierce's eyes widened. "No," He whispered.

Yes, I thought, you sonofabitch. Yes.

I released the pulse.

His body jackknifed from it, the charge lifting him off the ground and hurtling his body back, flying up against the wall behind him -

He was dead before he hit the wall, but even over the roaring in my blood and in my ears, I heard the snap of his neck.

*******

Valenti ran over to the body. I didn't need him to tell me. I was shaking.

I killed him. I killed him -

Valenti looked up. At me. "He's dead," He said.

My legs were like water, threatening to buckle as I backed up, away from the body, from all of them staring at me, trying to plant my feet solidly on the ground -

{Michael. Michael -}

{Get out of my head, Liz -}

{No, Michael, you saved Valenti, you saved all of us -}

"It's one of mine," Valenti said slowly. I glanced back. He was looking at his gun.

What?

********

Valenti was throwing junk to the side, moving for the curtain, where he'd been shooting, I think - it was hard to tell from upstairs, it was chaos, hearing the gunshots, me reaching out for Michael -

He wasn't alright. But he was alive. And they told us we'd make it through, I thought, they said they knew we would be okay -

"No," Valenti said, pulling a curtain to the side. "Oh no. No -"

He was screaming, pulling something closer to him, clutching fabric -

There was blood, I thought, my brain not comprehending what I was seeing, a lot of blood -

I realized it over his shouting, over the pleading screams.

He'd shot his own son trying to protect us. Protecting Michael and Max.

He'd shot Kyle.

********

I stared over my shoulder, trying to breathe as Max knelt down next to Kyle's body. He placed his hand over his chest -

I made the decision.

I shut my eyes and leaned against the bookcase, the metal cold and defiant against the heat that was cooling in my hands -

I let the charge build upon itself around his heart, sensing the frequency of his heart beat speed up -

"No -"

A white light pooled around Kyle's body. I looked closer. Liz was kneeling next to him -

That was how he'd saved her. With the light. With his own energy -

The light brightened and then receded. Max stood up slowly.

He was exhausted. I knew why. I felt the same.

We just had different results.

Valenti looked at Max. "I don't care who you are, or what you are," He said. "I'll be here for you."

I closed my eyes against the nausea in my throat. He saved his son. I saved Valenti, and he saved Valenti's son -

My way just left someone dead.

I felt like I was gonna be sick.

"You were just trying to stop him," A voice said next to me.

Max.

I took a deep breath.

"I know you didn't mean to kill him -"

"That's just it," I snapped, looking at him. "I wanted to kill him. I mean, that's all that I could think about," I said, shaking my head. "I. Wanted. Him. Dead."

His eyes flickered.

"And knowing that, I just did it," I said, my voice dropping. "It just happened." I looked at him.

"What kind of person does that make me?"

"We would have been dead if you didn't help us," He said evenly.

{Michael, he's right -}

"No!" I yelled, letting go of the shelf. "The bottom line, Maxwell, I kill people. I kill people, you heal them. You're good, and I'm bad."

"It's not true," He said. "Michael -"

I pushed past him. It was never gonna change. He was never going to listen to me, see how things really were -

Is that what we were now? A bunch of murderers?

No, I thought blindly, walking toward the steps.

Just you, Guerin.

I bit down on the flesh in my mouth. You're nothing. You're a waste -

Someone was hurrying to catch up with me. Maria. "Just get out of here," I snapped.

"What are you talking about?"

"It's not safe."

"It's never been safe," She said. "What difference does it -"

"No, I'm not safe," I snapped, turning on her. "I mean, I can do these things that I can't control. Look at what I did to Pierce. I'm not going to take that chance with you."

She stared up at me, unbelieving.

"I don't want you to be around for what's going to happen," I finished, turning away from her.

"Wait," She said quickly, reaching for me. "Don't do this to me. Michael -" She pulled at my shirt. "Michael. Please. You need me now, more than you have before, alright?"

"No," I said, my voice stronger than it felt. "I don't need anyone." Leave me alone. Just leave me alone -

"Well, maybe I do," She said, her eyes filling with tears.

I looked down at her.

"Did you ever think of that? I mean, look at Max and Liz," She said, gesturing over to them. I didn't look.

"They can't bear to be separated," She said, shaking her head. "But you, you can just throw me away. Just like that. Why is that, Michael? Why?"

She didn't have much when she was a kid. She said that she wanted someone who'd stay with her no matter what.

I stared at Maria.

I couldn't be that guy for her.

She also told me once that she wondered if her dad left because he didn't love her enough -

I blinked. He didn't love her enough -

She just wanted someone to love her. I didn't blame her.

It seemed like a good way to say goodbye.

*********

I watched Michael climb the stairs. I almost reached out to him and then changed my mind. He needed time alone. My eyes fell on Maria. She was just - standing there. Watching him leave, immovable, unbelieving...

She looked like she'd been blindsided.

My heart went out to her. I remembered the way I felt when Michael told me it was over...

"We have to get Nasedo," Tess said.

**********

We were in the pod chamber. I couldn't believe I was inside something, inside a mountain. Each of them were holding one of the stones.

Michael wouldn't communicate with me. I was trying to respect that. He'd killed a person. Even if it was someone as cruel as Pierce -

"Are you sure this is him?" Isabel asked, nodding at the agent in front of us.

Michael's eyes flickered over the body. "This is who he was last time I saw him," He said.

They closed their eyes one by one, focusing on the body in front of them. Nothing happened for a second.

I knew they had to heal him. But part of me couldn't forget the things he'd said to me in the convertible, in the carnival...

A white light started to gather under the body, glowing brighter, flickering and coalescing around him, the light making his skin translucent, and -

I could swear I saw a body through a body. Small arms, legs -

That's Nasedo, I thought, my eyes flickering over to Michael. His eyes were closed, focused on the stone in his hand. All of the stones were glowing.

Is that what they all looked like? Really looked like?

The body flickered, moving between the two silhouettes, alien and human, before selecting a final form.

Ed Harding. The four of them opened their eyes and the stones faded back into opacity.

Tess knelt down next to him, a smile on her face. "I knew you wouldn't leave us," She said.

"You're not ready to be left alone," Nasedo said brusquely, standing up.

"You're right," Michael said. Nasedo turned to face him.

"We need you," Michael said slowly. "Show us how the orbs work."

Nasedo's eyes flickered over Michael's shoulder. At me. I fought the instinct to back up.

{Why are you here, Miss Parker?}

I took a step backward.

{Leave her alone.}

Nasedo looked back at Michael. {You want to discuss this now? Ready to have an open conversation with Max, Michael?}

{Leave. Her. Alone.}

Nasedo breathed in sharply and pointed at me. "She doesn't belong here," He said sharply.

"She's with me," Someone said.

Max.

All three of us looked at him.

{Well, this is tempting. Don't you think?}

The silence was deafening.

"We want to know," Max said. "You're the only one who can show us."

"It's not my job to show you," Nasedo said, his eyes narrowing. He stared at Michael. "My only job is to keep you alive."

"Your job?" Max repeated.

"Well if your only job is to keep us alive, then tell us," Michael snapped. "They're communicators. They communicate with who?"

Nasedo pursed his lips at him, tilting his head. A chill went through me. I remembered that gesture from the convertible -

"You're not ready to know yet," He said.

"They communicate with our home planet, don't they?" Michael demanded. "Why don't you want us to contact them?"

"You don't know who else you may contact in the process," Nasedo snapped back. {And easy with the accusations, Michael.}

"Who else is there?" Isabel asked.

Nasedo glared at her. "Set off those orbs, and you have no idea who you may be leading straight to us."

"You don't know," Max said suddenly.

We all looked at him. Didn't know?

"You don't, do you?" He said. "You don't know how to use the orbs. If you knew, you would've already used them. You're here to protect us, but not to lead us, you said it yourself."

Nasedo didn't say anything. Just stared at Max.

"But if you're not the leader, then who is?"

Isabel looked at him first. Then Michael. Then Tess.

Oh, God, I thought. It's him.

It's Max -

{All up to speed now, Miss Parker?}

I forced myself to stay still. Michael shot him a look.

"If you really want to know what the orbs do, you can find out for yourselves," Nasedo said. "I can't stop you. But do it at your own risk."

"If you're really here to protect us, there's something you have to do," Max said. "The only way we can ever go back is if nobody's hunting us anymore."

Michael's eyes narrowed. "Pierce is already dead -"

"He'll only be replaced," Max said, looking at Nasedo.

"Unless we replace him."

Nasedo pursed his lips, staring at Max. The corners of his mouth turned up slightly and he moved his arm out in front of him, his palm out. The light filled the room quickly, the quicksilver line moving like liquid over him, leaving Pierce where Ed Harding had just stood before...

"The other agents are at an abandoned gas station in Hondo," Max said.

"We have all their resources," Nasedo said. "You'll be safe now."

He walked past them, stopping near me on his way out. I looked up at him.

{We're not done, Miss Parker.}

I looked up at him.

{I think that was an order.}

The edges of his mouth crinkled again, a slow, cruel smile curling his lips.

And then he was gone.

*******

"I want to know," Max said, picking up one of the orbs. "Maybe if we just focus like Nasedo said."

Tess went stood next to Max, holding on to the orb with him. Michael and Isabel stood together.

I blinked. It doesn't mean anything. He doesn't want her. He doesn't -

A thin column of light shot out from both of the symbols on the orbs, pooling on the ceiling above us -

The wall in front of them began to resonate and radiate its own light, forming a pillar in front of them, blue light coalescing in the shape of a person -

I blinked and backed up, my back hitting the rock behind me. A woman.

She was beautiful, I thought, trying to focus, trying to remember everything I was seeing. The four of them were staring at her. She opened her mouth to speak.

"If you are seeing me now, it means that you are alive and well," She - it- said. "I take this form because it will be familiar to you, and it will help you to understand what I am about to say. You have lived before.

"You perished in the conflict that enslaves our planet but your essence was duplicated, cloned, and mixed with human genetic materials so that you might be recreated into human beings. My son, you were the beloved leader of our people. I have sent with you your young bride. My daughter, the man you were betrothed to, and your brother's second-in-command."

"Oh my god, Max," Isabel whispered. "Our mother."

I stared at her. She was Max's sister. The woman's daughter.

And the man she was betrothed to -

I tried to breathe.

"Our enemies have come to the Earth. You will know them only by the evil within. Learn enough to use your skills, your knowledge, your leadership to combat the enemy so that you can come back and free us. And that I may once again hold you both in my arms."

I blinked, trying to comprehend what she was saying.

"I live for that moment. Help us.

I love you."

And then she was gone.

I could hear my heartbeat pounding under my ribcage. The man you were betrothed to. Your brother's second-in-command. Our enemies have come to earth -

I stared at Michael. Combat the enemy so that you can come back -

So you can come back -

Oh, God, I thought. Michael -

"She's so beautiful," Isabel whispered.

{Michael. Say something.}

He looked down.

{Michael -}

"I always knew there was something out there," He said slowly. "But I had no idea how important it was."

I sucked in a breath. How important it was?

What was he saying?

"... whatever happens, we have to stay together," Max said, looking down at Tess. "It's the four of us now."

I couldn't stop staring at Michael. {Michael, tell him.}

He looked away.

"I knew this was meant to be," Tess said, leaning in to Max.

{Michael...}

He didn't answer. He just stood there with his hands on his hips.

I shook my head slightly and backed up, moving for the entrance. Go. Leave. Run -

Max caught me by the arm, stopping me from leaving. "Look, everything I told you before is still true."

I stared up at him. He still wanted me. After everything he'd heard -

"Max, you do have a destiny," I said, my voice catching in my throat. "You just heard it. I can't stand in the way of it."

He stared at me, confused. "But - you mean everything to me," He whispered.

Oh, God.

He loved me so much. He wouldn't ever leave me. I leaned up and kissed him softly, my hands on his face.

I looked at Michael before I turned away. {Tell him. Michael -}

His hands were on his hips, his face turned away. {Get. Out.}

I tried to breathe. {Michael -}

{Now.}

I bit down on my lip, my eyes flickering up to Max. He was staring at me.

"Goodbye, Max," I whispered.

I was running out into the open before he could stop me. I turned around when he called my name -

And then I saw Michael catch him by the arm, stopping him from coming after me, and I was running as fast as I could, my muscles and my lungs burning with the hot desert air and the burning chill in my chest, running away from them, from Michael, back to my home.

Back to Roswell.


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