FanFic - Other
Part 22
by Kath7
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the story. The characters and concept belong to Jason Katims and Melinda Metz. Tarsus of Dernia and all Illyrian characters belong to me. Lyrics by Sarah McLachlan, Phil Collins, Amanda Marshall, Dave Matthews.
Summary: Sequel to "Out of the Woods." I highly recommend reading it before trying this one. It is archived at the Crashdown. Basically, Max is gone, and the others have no idea whether they will ever see him again.
Category: Other
Rating: PG-13
Roswell, New Mexico

"Alex." Kyle spoke to his friend softly as he entered Maria's hospital room. Mrs. Deluca was asleep on the couch near the bed and he didn't want to wake her up. Alex's head had been lowered, his eyes closed, but it snapped up when Kyle said his name. "Is there any change?"

Alex shook his head sadly. "The doctors keep giving each other those know, those LOOKS?" When Kyle nodded, he continued, "They can't figure out what's wrong with her Kyle. I can tell they think the longer she's like this," Alex indicated Maria's still form, "The less hope there is."

"Well, don't give up hope buddy. I have some good news!" Alex frowned slightly, waited for Kyle to finish. "I just got off the phone with Liz. They have him Alex. Max is back."

Alex could not stop the grin from breaking across his face. "That's great!" He glanced down at Maria again, his smile fading. "I don't know if it's going to do any good at this point though." He stood up, leaned down to kiss Maria's forehead, brushing a lock of her strawberry-blonde hair away from her face. "Hang in there cutie." He whispered to her as he motioned for Kyle to follow him out into the hallway where they could talk more comfortably.

"So, what's the scoop?"

"Well, it's not all good." Kyle amended, as they walked toward the cafeteria to get some coffee. It was about nine in the morning. Kyle had gone home for a couple of hours of shut-eye and to wait for Liz's call. They had known that Liz, Isabel and Michael had been planning to open the portal to Illyria the night before...Liz had promised that she would call as soon as there was some news. "Max doesn't remember who he is. He really thinks that he's Jason, or Jaxon, or whatever the hell he calls himself there."

Alex sighed, grabbed a container of orange juice from the cooler near the cash register. "He IS Jaxon Falconer, unfortunately. So, then he's been brainwashed somehow. I hope this doesn't mean he won't want to try and heal Maria."

"Can you ever see Max Evans refusing to help someone, whether he remembers them or not?" Kyle asked wryly as he dumped half a container of sugar into his coffee. He saw Alex grimace, ignored him. Hanging out with Tess had convinced him of the inherent rightness of a goodly portion of sugar in most meals. "I mean, he healed ME for Christ's sake."

"I guess." Alex plunked his tray down on a formica table, flopped into a chair. "How are Liz and Izzy taking it?"

"Well, Liz just sounded ecstatic. I've never heard her so happy...I didn't ask about Isabel. It was sort of a bad connection." He paused. "I didn't tell them about Maria, by the way."

Alex frowned. "Michael's going to be pissed."

"I know, but they have enough to deal with getting Mr. Memory-loss back to Roswell. It sounds like he's sort of being difficult. I heard a lot of screeching in the background."

"Oh great!" Alex smacked his hand against his forehead. "Don't tell me we're going to have to deal with the Illyrian version of the anti-Max. I don't think I'll survive another go-around on that roller-coaster of insanity."

Kyle sighed. "Who knows? Anyway, you haven't seen Tess have you? She isn't answering her phone again."

Alex took a bite of his omelette, scowled at it for a moment, then pushed it away. He eyed the bottle of tabasco sitting on the table for a moment, casually picked it up and shook a couple of drops onto his eggs. His eyes nearly popped out of his head when he took a bite. "Michael..." Kyle heard him mutter under his breath. "I haven't seen Tess since early this morning." Alex told him finally, after having taken a large swig of water. "She slept on the other chair in Maria's room, but said she had to go see someone a couple of hours ago."

"I don't like the sound of that. I forgot to tell you that I saw Tess take off in a car with a stranger yesterday." Kyle rubbed his face wearily.

"Um, I hate to be the one to inform you of this Kyle, but Tess is allowed to have other friends." Alex looked sort of sympathetic. Kyle felt a flash of annoyance. It was embarrassing that everyone else seemed to know how he felt about Tess, that they all felt sorry for him that she didn't feel the same way.

"I know that. It's just that she was acting all weird...and then she started to bawl when she came in yesterday, going on about everything falling apart...I tell you, it wasn't right."

"Well, she's certainly been keeping up her part of the bargain where Maria is concerned." Alex commented, starting on his toast, seeming to have given up on his eggs entirely. "She isn't the most pleasant bodyguard around, but she has been guarding Maria's body."

"I still say something's up with her." Kyle muttered, pushing away from the table. "I'm going to find her." He paused before he left the cafeteria. "By the way, they're coming back later tonight. Liz called me from the airport."

"I don't get it." Alex looked up at him. "I thought they didn't know about Maria. What's the rush?"

"They think that getting Max into familiar surroundings might jar his memory or something like that...I don't know! I'm just passing on the info."

Kyle felt his frustration mounting. Everything was just so screwed up. They had all been holding out so much hope for Max's return. None of them had bargained on having to deal with someone who WASN'T Max...or who was Max in body, but not in spirit.

Kyle hoped that it didn't all end up being a big disapointment. He didn't think that any of them, but particularily Liz or Isabel, would be able to deal with it if the REAL Max never came back to them. Having him around, but not himself, might even make it worse. Alex was more than right. None of them wanted to deal with the anti-Max again.

Their bad-luck streak still seemed to be going strong. Weren't they ever going to catch a break?

* Dreams * Maria

She was huddled in the corner of the tent, her knees pulled up to her chest, shivering. One thing about this planet, it was never warm enough. In the approximately six months that she and Michael had been there she had gotten used to the twelve moons, the yellow sky, the serious lack of living conditions...but she would never get used to cold.

Illyria was a strange place, and not just in your typical different planet way. It was the fact that while the civilization here seemed light-years ahead of Earth in so many ways, in others they were hundreds of years behind. They had space-travel, portals from one planet to another, but they didn't even have toilets for God's sake!

Maria jumped off the cot, began to pace, kicking the skirt of her annoying gown out of the way.

Nothing was as they had expected. Not that they HAD expected to be stranded on a planet half-way across the universe, but really, she had not expected everything to be so similar - and yet different.

The Dernians LOOKED like humans. Tarsus had told her that it was a form they had taken to make Michael more comfortable during his first months on his home planet, but she didn't get THAT either. She had thought that it was Max they wanted, not Michael.

They hadn't learned much about what the Dernians wanted with them in general. No one wanted to talk to either of them. Michael was becoming seriously frustrated, barely able to sleep most nights. He spent his days wandering the camp, trying to pick up whatever information he could.

Everyone seemed to be waiting, waiting....for what exactly, neither Maria or Michael was sure.

They weren't totally clueless however. Maria had managed to get one of her guards to talk a little bit. She was a good wheedler - always had been.

The Dernians were a race of shapeshifters. They had been at war with the Illyrians for generations. It seemed that it was a war about progress versus the status quo. Her guard, Ren, had told her that the Illyrians, currently led by Queen Milena and her husband Hamor, were against the cleansing process that the Dernians had created. The cleansing was supposed to erase emotion, thus avoiding all the emotional entanglements that caused the people to not want to advance themselves to their full potential because they did not want to leave their loved ones - or their need for revenge against those they hated - behind.

Apparently the Illyrians were not shapeshifters, but were actually a race quite close to humanity. Maria had caught sight of one of them once. She had been a pretty girl before they had podded her for the cleansing. She had not survived it.

It seemed that some Illyrian physiology was too weak for the transformation, which was why they were against it. A small minority of Dernians were against it too - Nasedo was one of these.

Maria remembered when Max had been podded back on Earth. He had not seemed to undergo the same loss of emotion that Michael had. No one had understood it at the time, but Ren had explained that the process did not seem to have the same effect on all Illyrians. It either killed them or made them stronger, more in touch with their mental "gifts." No one knew why the process affected one Illyrian one way and a second another way.

Maria had come to some conclusions of her own, based on the little information she had been given.

By the monotone way he addressed her, Maria KNEW that Ren HAD undergone the cleansing. He was not unkind to her, but he certainly was not nice either. He was just weird - just like zombie-Michael had been weird.

Michael was a Dernian. There was no other explanation for the way he had been able to completely lose all emotion through the transformation he had undergone on Earth. Tarsus seemed annoyed that Michael's emotions seemed to have returned when they had made the journey through the portal. He guessed that something in there had messed with the cleansing, erasing it somehow.

Up until now Tarsus had not managed to convince Michael to be recleansed. Michael no longer seemed in any great rush to return to that state of stasis in which he had been trapped for months. He didn't talk much about it, but Maria guessed that he had missed his humanity more than he admitted. She remembered the couple of times back on Earth when a glimmer of the REAL Michael had seemed to be hovering just below the surface...he had not totally forgotten who he really was, and he didn't seem to want to again. Yet.

Max and Isabel were clearly Illyrian in their make-up. Max had undergone the transformation and had not been emotionally affected. Isabel was his sister, maybe even his twin if some of the rumours she heard were true. She had to be the same.

Maria didn't know about Tess. She hadn't heard much about the one they called Sabrya. The Dernians talked about Jaxon and Tristandor and Mirana all the time...but Sabrya was an enigma.

Maria gently pushed the flap leading outdoors aside, stared out at the camp scene in front of her.

She had not been outdoors in days. The Dernian hostility to her presence was becoming more and more pronounced daily and Michael was scared enough for her that he insisted she stay in their tent.

Ren told her it was her emotional humanity that made the others hate her. No one was allowed to stay in the camp without having undergone the cleansing. There was fear that if she was allowed to mingle with the Dernians, she might cause trouble. The Dernians could not afford dissension in their ranks. They were losing people every day as it was.

Maria was not really sure HOW they were losing people. If they were emotionless, why would they want to rebel? It was just another question to add to her long list. Not for the first time Maria wished that Liz was with her. Her friend's logical mind would come in handy right about now.

There was no explanation as to why it was okay that Michael still had his emotions. More confusion.

Maria suddenly stumbled backwards as Michael came barreling into the tent. He stared down at her as she fell to the floor. "Jeez Michael! Ever heard of making a dignified entrance?" She asked sarcastically as she climbed to her feet.

"Maria, there's no time. We need to get out of here!" Michael had begun to pack the meagre belongings they had managed to collect over the two months they had been there.

"What's wrong?" She demanded.

"They're coming to take you to be podded." He informed her, pushing her to start packing the food supplies they had in the corner of the tent. "Tarsus can't convince them to wait for Max any longer. They don't think he's coming."

Maria felt her heart stop. "I hope he's not. We don't need anymore of us stuck here."

Michael paused, glared at her. "Will you please get moving?"

Maria didn't budge. "I hate to inform you spaceboy, but we still have the little problem of the guards. Don't you think I would have been half-way to the Illyrian border by now if I thought we had any way of making it? Max and Isabel's family HAVE to be better than these freaks."

Michael frowned at her. "Just get packing. I'll deal with how we're going to get out of here."

Maria eyed him for a moment, realized that she could hear an increasing din erupting outside their tent. "I think we're too late." She whispered. Michael's eyes widened. She threw herself into his arms as the first Dernian came into their tent.

She breathed a little easier when she saw that it was Tarsus. He looked frazzled. He scowled when he noticed Michael standing there with a sack in the hand that wasn't holding Maria, clearly in the middle of packing. "Were you eavesdropping again Tristandor?"

"You're damn right I was!" Michael snapped back. "You never tell us anything. We're not just going to sit on our butts and wait for you guys to exterminate us."

Tarsus sighed. "I've told you a thousand times, no one is going to hurt you Tristandor."

"It's not ME I'm worried about." Michael replied. Maria could hear the tremor in his voice, felt him tighten his arms around her.

"It's HER fault we're in this mess!" Tarsus said in a monotone. "She's the one who forced us into the portal without Jaxon. If he was here, she would be perfectly safe."

Maria stepped away from Michael, stared at the shapeshifter. "Tarsus, you need to tell us what's going on. Why do they want Max so much? He's not even one of you."

"How did you know that?" Tarsus demanded, sounding annoyed.

"Duh!" Maria waved her hand in the air. "Eavesdropping! Which we wouldn't have to do if you told us anything, as Michael just told you." She constantly felt like she was talking in circles whenever she spoke with Tarsus. He really was the most frustrating alien - even worse than Michael.

Tarsus sighed, sank down on the cot. "There's only one possible solution to this." He informed them. "They want her podded immediately, but they are willing to let it go for a while if you do one thing."

"Well..." Maria urged him. He grimaced, as though what he was about to tell her was distasteful to him.

"It goes against every principle I believe in," He spat out, "But it has happened once before....when you married Mirana." He told Michael. Maria flinched at the thought of Michael and Isabel married. She would NEVER get used to that. "They want you to go into the Ring. If you come out alive, they will consider you bonded and then Maria will be safe for a while longer."

"Okay, sorry to keep saying this," Maria shook her head. "But I'm confused. Haven't we already been in the Ring?" She demanded. "We're alive! Hello?"

"That was different." Tarsus told her. "The Ring has many can be used to open or receive portals, but it can also stand in judgement."

"But we didn't do anything!" Maria screeched in frustration. "We didn't ASK to be brought here. Well, okay, maybe Michael did, but really, you tricked him! Why should WE be judged? In my opinion, you're the ones holding us here against our will...we'll just go."

"It's too late for that. There have been some rumours circulating throughout the camp." Tarsus shook his head. "It's an old legend really - about a chosen one. The annals tell of the birth of a child who is half Dernian and half Illyrian...that he will bind the people's together and end the strife."

"Which is why Michael married Isabel?" Maria asked. It was suddenly all becoming clear.

Tarsus looked like he didn't want to answer, but one look at Michael's face convinced him. Although Michael had not said a word since Maria had started demanding answers, he looked like he was on the verge of losing all self-control. Maria could see him fisting his hand as though he was doing his utmost not to lift it and unleash hell.

For some reason she had the feeling that if Michael lost it this time, he might bring all twelve of those moons down on their heads. He needed answers and she was going to get them for him.

"Tarsus, the time for wishy-washiness is over." Maria lectured the shape-shifter. He no longer scared her at all. She had come to recognize that he was really just a lackey. He was trying to hold the camp together for the mysterious leader he talked about who had yet to make an appearance. "Tell us what we need to know...and maybe we'll save your job for you."

Tarsus' head jerked up. "How did you know about that?" He demanded. Michael glanced at her, impressed.

"A good guess. You've been losing a little more control around here every day." Maria replied. "Ren told me that they were thinking of replacing you. So what's going on?" She paused. "We don't trust you, but you're the only one we know around here. Maybe we'll help you - but only if you help us first."

Michael still had not spoken. He was scowling slightly. Maria was sure he was irritated at her for taking control of the situation, but she KNEW him. He would never be able to control his temper for long enough to get the answers they needed.

Tarsus finally sighed. "Very well. No one knows if the legend is true, but none of my people want to take the chance. If you are transformed then you will be Dernian, thus no half-Dernian/half-Illyrian child. Or you will be dead, which will be just as satisfactory to them." He used his arm to motion around the tent. "I told you this living arrangement was going to cause trouble. Everyone believes that you two are living in here as husband and wife."

"Okay, stop, back that truck up buddy..." Maria ordered. "You've lost me again. I'm NOT Illyrian, I'm human...who cares if we're living in sin? Which we're not, might I add." Maria amended quickly. She could see that Michael wanted to smirk despite himself.

They were not sleeping together - yet. They had come darn close a couple of times though...the stress of their situation, the close quarters on which Michael had insisted for her safety, and the fact that the chemistry between them was still explosive...well, anyone could do the math on that equation.

"Your emotions make you close enough for most of my people." Tarsus told her.

"But what about Isabel?" Michael demanded. "Why would I have married her if a child between an Illyrian and a Dernian could cause so much trouble?"

"I will tell you the whole story." Tarsus sounded resigned. "Just stop interuppting."

Michael nodded, took a seat on a camp stool nearby. He pulled Maria down on his lap. She bit her lip at the noise that was still coming from outside. "Are they planning on coming in here anytime soon?" She asked nervously.

Tarsus shook his head. "They said they would give me all the time I needed. My last chance..." He added wryly.

"I assume you've guessed that Michael is an important Dernian?" Tarsus asked.

Maria nodded, but she could feel Michael tensing under her. "I thought you told Max that me, Isabel and Tess were insignificant." He demanded. Maria could hear a slight tremor in his voice. Even in his emotionless state at the time, that news had had an affect on Michael it seemed.

Tarsus rolled his eyes. "Well, you WERE insignificant to my plan." He told Michael. "I never said you were totally insignificant."

"Whatever." Michael sounded irritated.

"You are a member of the leading family in Dernia. If you haven't guessed, the Illyrians have always been in control of the planet. No one is really sure why, since we are more powerful..." That's right, puff yourself up a little more their alien-man, Maria thought to herself. "You have two sisters: Sabrya, or your Tess, and Danala."

"Danala? How does she fit into the four-square? Where is she?" Michael demanded.

"Stop interuppting!" Maria pinched his leg. He muttered ow, but shut up.

"Thank you. Danala, she's not here at the moment." Tarsus hemmed and hawed a little bit, before continuing. "Anyway, in your past life, and apparently things haven't changed much Tristandor..." Tarsus scolded quickly, "You were a troublemaker. Our people have always undergone the cleansing on their sixteenth birthday...wait, I should amend that. It is really the second transformation. Babies are born, then podded for a few months until they mature to about the equivalent of seven years on your planet." He motioned at Maria.

"Why?" Maria wrinkled her nose. The whole podding process was gross to her. She still remembered seeing Max in that had not been pleasant.

"Babies are too easy to kill." Tarsus told her. "Older children can better protect themselves. Our people, both Illyrian AND Dernian, have always been podded. It just makes good sense."

"Okay." Maria was not convinced.

"At sixteen, Dernians undergo the cleansing. Or at least they're supposed to..." Tarsus frowned at Michael. "You chose not to." Maria felt an overwhelming sense of pride in her boyfriend. Always the rebel.

"You'd been reading a bunch of rot put out by the Illyrians, most of it written by their weak king, Jaxon Falconer. You were convinced that the transformation was wrong and when you happened to meet Mirana by accident one day, you told Danala that you would not do it."

"So Danala is my older sister?" Michael asked.

"Danala is your leader - and mine." Tarsus told him. Maria was still trying to get past the introduction of Mirana into this story.

"You're not saying that Tristandor..." She couldn't bring herself to say Michael..."Was in love with Mirana?"

Tarsus smirked at her. "Why yes, he was."

Maria felt Michael begin to stroke her hair reassuringly. "I'm not now." He whispered into her hair. "You know that." She felt minutely better.

Tarsus rolled his eyes again. "You ran away to Illyria. Jaxon Falconer welcomed you into his family with open arms. He thought that your marriage to his sister would result in the legendary child that was supposed to unite the two factions. But we managed to kill you before that happened." Maria felt her eyes widen. Tarsus spoke of murder so matter-of-factly. Everytime she began to forget that the shapeshifter was not like her, he said or did something to remind her of his emotionless state.

It was disturbing. She could understand why Michael had run away from these people.

"You had regretted leaving your younger sister Sabrya behind and tried to get her to come to join you. She was torn, but your secret letters about your life in Illyria convinced her to flee. She had developed an attachment to Jaxon through your letters about him as well and hoped that he would marry her to give the Illyrians an even greater chance of producing the chosen one."

"So Max married Tess?" Maria asked. Tarsus nodded.

"She was his bride, but never his wife." The shapeshifter amended. "We killed them both on their wedding night. No mating, no child. He didn't love her, by the way." Tarsus added. "It was a political marriage for Jaxon, not a love match like Tristandor and Mirana." Maria glared at him. She knew that he had said that just to annoy her.

She felt a momentary pang for Tess. She was not the girl's biggest fan, actually Maria quite despised her, but no one deserved to be a pawn in the great game of chosen ones. No wonder she was so desperate to have Max for herself.

It was ironic that Jaxon Falconer had had to journey half-way across the universe to find his real soulmate. Max would never love, and would never have loved, anyone the way he loved Liz.

"That was when Queen Milena had her wizard Lucianus clone you." Tarsus continued. "They sent you to Earth for protection while you were growing up. Illyria was placed under interdict by Lucianus, meaning that time basically stood still while you were gone. Time kept going in Dernia - which is why I am recounting this story from what I have heard, not from memory." Maria glanced back at Michael. He just shrugged, apparently as perplexed by that last statement as she was. "Nasedo, or Laren as he is known here - the traitor - accompanied you. There was also an Illyrian sent...I think her name was doesn't matter anyway since she died in that infernal crash...the one that made us all lose track of you."

"But Nasedo told us about ANOTHER alien who was captured by the Special Unit..." Michael said. "Who was that?"

"That was Salisa's husband, I think. He went but was not an official part of the mission, so I discount him." Tarsus waved his hand dismissively.

"Why can't I shapeshift?" Michael demanded suddenly. "If I'm Dernian, shouldn't I be able to shapeshift?"

"You're human you numbskull." Tarsus replied. "Your Dernian DNA was combined with that of the cannot shapeshift for that reason."

"But I was transformed for the journey through the portal." Michael sounded like he was trying to bring all the pieces together in his mind. Too much information at once, Maria figured. SHE had become lost about five revelations ago.

"I erased your emotions...all that hooey about changing your internal structure was just that...hooey. I had to make the stupid pod work. We brought them with us when we went to Earth in search of you all. They were damaged during the trip. You're still human." Tarsus frowned. "I still haven't figured out why your cleansing was deactivated with the trip through the portal...very odd."

"Maybe because it didn't really work on his human body?" Maria suggested.


"So, now why this judgement thing?" Maria continued, wanting to return to the matter at hand. "And why don't you want me to be killed anyway? You hate me."

"I don't hate you Maria. I don't hate anyone." Tarsus told her crisply. "You are a nuisance, but you are a card I want to have to play when Jaxon finally gets his irritating self through that portal. I have no idea what's taking him so long. He is so bloody noble, I expected him weeks ago."

"Well? The judgement?" Michael demanded.

"When you and Mirana were first married, Danala insisted that you be judged. You were, and you survived. She relented and let you stay in Illyria. It was only AFTER Sabrya ran away that she insisted on killing you all. She did not relish killing her siblings, but you had to be stopped."

"Who's doing the judging?" Maria asked, feeling her head whirling. It was going to take her several days to process all the information Tarsus was throwing at them.

"We have no idea." Tarsus replied. "But clearly a greater power. Many have been destroyed who have gone into the Ring for judgement... murderers, is the only court on our planet and both actions subscribe to it."

Maria swallowed. The thought of potentially being destroyed did not appeal to her, but she realized that POTENTIAL destruction was preferable to CERTAIN destruction at the hands of the Dernian mob outside their tent.

She stood up, turned around to face Michael. "We have to do it Michael. We have no choice." He just stared at her sadly, finally nodded.

Tarsus looked relieved. "I will go tell them. Be ready in fifteen minutes."

They were the longest fifteen minutes of Maria's life.

She spent them lying on the cot, wrapped in Michael's arms, her face pressed against his neck. Neither of them spoke. It was only as Tarsus was pulling back the flap into the tent that Maria finally said what she had been willing herself to say the entire time.

"I love you Michael." He had stared down at her, his gaze unwavering.

"I love you too." It was not rushed like it had been the last time he had said it to her. That had been when he had pushed her away after he had killed Pierce, telling her that he loved her too much to risk having her around him.

Then it had seemed like a convenient excuse.

This time it sounded like he really meant it.

Michael took her hand in his, led her outside. A troop of guards was waiting for them. Maria kept her head down, refused to look at the faces of the assembled Dernians, all who hoped that she would be destroyed in the next few minutes...

She hated them.

The trip to the Ring was over too fast. Before she knew it, they were there, standing on the Illyrian/Dernian frontier.

Ren had told her once that the Ring was the only part of the border that was unfortified. Maria could see several Illyrians peering into the Ring from the other side, staring at them.

It amazed her that this one place should be so safe for both sides. As long as they were in the Ring, they were secure...

At least as long as they were not being judged, she amended in her mind, feeling herself beginning to panic.

She felt Michael squeeze her hand. "It'll be alright Maria. I promise."

Maria could see Tarsus standing nearby, a slight frown on his face. If Maria didn't know better, she would have said that he looked worried about them.

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