Birthright *Series* Season 2 (CC, TEEN), Update, 5/26

This is the place to post all your General Roswell fanfiction. Any Canon fics, which pick up directly from any episode of the show and that focus on Max/Liz, Michael/Maria, Isabel/Alex or Isabel/Jesse, Kyle/Tess, or all the couples together! Rule of Thumb: If Max healed Liz in the Crashdown in September 1999, then your fic belongs here. If it picks up from the show in any way, it belongs here.

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Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 685
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Chapter 71

Postby Kathy W » Sun Oct 08, 2017 8:28 pm

^^^ I'm delighted this board and Roswell readers are still here!







CHAPTER SEVENTY-ONE




November 23, 2000, 7:40 a.m.

West Roswell High School









Isabel's face grew warm as she felt everyone's eyes on her, none more so than her brother's. What had just happened? First it had been Courtney in the crosshairs, and then Michael, with a side of Liz and Tess sniping. Now, all of a sudden, she was on the hot seat, with everyone looking at her with equal parts surprise and suspicion.

"I...what?" Isabel stammered.

"You heard me," Max said firmly. "You. Nicholas. In the basement. What did he say to you?"


"When I looked into your eyes, it was Vilandra who looked back. Your destiny is with us. With Khivar. He's waiting to hear that we've found you."


"I...told you what he said," Isabel said, desperately hoping Max didn't know something he shouldn't.

"No, you didn't," Max insisted. "Every time you talk about your chat with Nicholas, something else comes up, something he said that you failed to mention."

Isabel's eyes flashed. " 'Chat'? So you think we were 'chatting'? He lured me down there, and smacked me around!"

"That's true," Michael said. "She went face down on the stairs just as we got there."

"I'm not talking about when you got there," Max argued. "I'm talking about before that. A long time passed between the time Isabel left the memorial service—against my orders—and the time you pulled her out. We need to hear every single thing Nicholas said to her, and I don't think we have."

"So that's what this is really about," Isabel said coldly. "I disobeyed your 'orders'."

"I guess I'm not the only one who didn't mention every single little thing," Michael shrugged. "We did a quick run-through yesterday. I'm willing to bet none of us got it all."

"A point I already made," Liz said. "Could we just—"

"No," Max broke in firmly. "Isabel, you told us yesterday that Nicholas said the husks took 20 years to mature. We didn't hear that the first time around. What else haven't you told us?"

"Max, that is totally unfair!" Isabel protested. "This was a traumatic experience. You can't expect me to remember every single little thing right away!"

"And what about when you do remember, and you don't tell us anyway?" Max said. "Like with Whitaker?"

"How did this become about Whitaker?" Liz asked.

"Why don't you just be quiet, and let Max lead?" Tess demanded.

"Oh, you mean like you do?" Liz retorted. "Because yesterday, when you were giving Courtney the third degree, you were just 'letting Max lead'."

"Great," Maria said sourly. "Someone else drank the Kool-Aid."

"Last I checked, this was about me and Courtney's new husk," Michael said. "Can we please stick with just one round of bitching at a time?"

"Oh, we'll get to you," Tess said sourly. "Courtney probably used you to get her new husk, and now she's all suited up and long gone."

"Most likely," Maria agreed.

"You know, you're usually pretty smart, Tess," Michael said. "Didn't anyone ever tell you that when you get paranoid, you get stupid?"

"Excuse me?" Tess snapped.

"You heard me," Michael said. "You're full of it. The new husk is still in the trunk of my car."

"Prove it," Tess said stoutly.

"Gladly," Michael said, sweeping an arm toward an exit. "Follow me."

Michael headed down the hallway as Isabel watched, hesitating along with everyone else. "Well?" Michael demanded when no one moved. "What are you waiting for? Everyone but Tess, I mean. I know what she's waiting for. She doesn't want to be proven wrong."

Tess's mouth set in a thin line before she defiantly followed Michael, everyone falling in step behind her, including Isabel. They trooped through the hall, first period forgotten along with Max's tirade, and thank God for that, because he had a point—she had kept the existence of the Granolith from all of them, breaking her silence only when it worked for her. Max had every reason to suspect that she hadn't come clean about everything she'd learned.


"I'm here to take you back to him, Vilandra. The leader of the rebellion. The man who currently sits on your brother's tarnished throne. The man for whom you sacrificed a kingdom. Your lover, Khivar."


The sun beat down on them as they entered the parking lot, Michael striding ahead, Tess following, everyone else following Tess. Here she'd just convinced herself to let go of what Whitaker had said only to have Nicholas not only echo it, but expand upon it. The love affair with the enemy. The notion that she had caused their downfall. The idea that she was going to cheerfully allow herself to be flung over someone's shoulder and carried back to wherever like a child who had gone astray. Point by point, Nicholas had repeated everything Whitaker had said, and dredged up the specter of her being a horrible person all over again. And here she was, proving the point by keeping things from all of them—again. Mindful of her previous mistake, she'd tried to remove only the parts about her role in things, telling everyone that Nicholas had talked about the husks and mentioned the Granolith, but she'd forgotten the detail about the 20 years. It was so hard because it was all mixed and swirled together. Thank goodness attention had shifted to Michael, for the moment at least.

They had reached the car. Michael threw open the trunk to reveal a blanket-clad shape roughly the size of a body, and after a quick glance around to make certain they were alone, unceremoniously pulled the blanket back. There was a collective gasp.

"Oh, my God," Isabel whispered.

"Gross," Maria declared.

"Wow," Liz said softly, staring at the husk in fascination.

"For the record, I still have the husk," Michael said, looking directly at Tess.

"Good," Tess said. "I was just pointing out a possibility."

"That is so cool," Liz said, stepping forward as no one else moved. "Is it fragile? Can I touch it?"

"Always the scientist," Max said softly.

He was only barely audible, but Isabel didn't miss the small smile that passed between them, and neither did Tess. "I think so," Michael said, answering Liz. "I touched it when I nabbed it."

"Why would anyone want to?" Maria muttered.

Why indeed, Isabel thought, grimacing as Liz's hand hovered over the grotesque thing in Michael's trunk which looked like a rubber doll, but without anything in the middle. Raising the creep factor sky high was that this rubber doll looked exactly like Courtney, right down to the hair and cheek bones.

"It's like...all the bones were removed," Isabel said.

"Yeah," Tess agreed. "Like a deflated Courtney."

"On second thought, maybe I like it," Maria said.

"It feels like...skin," Liz said wonderingly, brushing a hand over a sunken arm. "Cold skin, but still skin."

"Maybe that's why they call them 'skins'," Tess suggested.

"But it has to be more than just skin," Liz said, either missing or ignoring the sarcasm in Tess's tone. "I mean, they're shorter than this, and their eyes are bigger, their hands are bigger, but they still fit in this and look human. That's...that's miraculous."

"So it's not just a skin, it's religious," Tess said sarcastically. "Hallelujah."

"Like I said—Kool-Aid," Maria sighed.

"Is this safe in the trunk?" Max asked, speaking for the first time. "Should it be...I don't know, in a fridge, or something?"

"Courtney said it would be fine for a few days without 'nourishment'," Michael answered. "After that it would need to be fed."

" 'Fed'?" Maria grimaced. "What, now it's a pet?"

"There are two ways to feed it," Michael went on, ignoring her. "Put it in a maturation chamber, or put it on."

"Pretty sure we blew up all the maturation chambers," Isabel said.

"So she has to put it on," Max said. "How does she do that?"

Michael shook his head. "Beats me."






*********************************************************






1:45 p.m.

Parker Residence








"Jeff?" Nancy called. "Jeff! Can you get that?"

The phone continued to ring. "Jeff!" Nancy called again. "I'm up to my elbows in…oh, never mind," she sighed in exasperation, running her hands under soapy water and grabbing a dish towel before leaving the kitchen, the phone still ringing.

Courtney flattened against the wall outside the kitchen as Nancy flew past her, close enough to touch. What luck! She was supposed to stay in Liz's room, but even the sandwich and apple Liz had thoughtfully provided weren't enough to make it to dinner time. Liz's mom had been in the midst of making a late lunch when the ringing phone had called her away, which meant lots of things were out on the counter: Bread, bologna, mustard, lettuce, you name it. That would make it easier to help herself, and harder for Nancy to notice anything missing. Slipping into the kitchen, she grabbed a plate and began piling, adding a banana and another apple to the heap. She was ravenously hungry, probably a result of all the fun and games yesterday and the curse of introspection. In the quiet which had followed Liz's departure for school, she had finally had the leisure to ponder what a close call they'd all had yesterday. The accompanying accomplishments were huge—everyone safe and sound, and the husks gone, meaning Nicholas and company were doomed—but they had achieved this with truly only seconds to spare. It could all have easily gone pear-shaped, so easily that she was feeling a bit uneasy, as though waiting for the other shoe to drop. Shouldn't there have been some price to pay for a win as massive as a destroyed harvest? Was the price yet to come? Had this happened in that other timeline? Future Zan hadn't said.

And it's too late to ask, Courtney added silently, and moot to boot, because what was done was done. She'd slept until a million o'clock, devoured Liz's offerings, and found herself still hungry. She needed further fortification before the gang came home from school and the interrogation began anew, likely with less sympathetic interrogators than Liz Parker. Balancing her laden plate, she was almost out of the kitchen when she spied it, tantalizingly close on the edge of the counter. Don't, the angel on her shoulder said firmly. "Shut it," Courtney muttered, stuffing it in her pocket before making a beeline up the stairs. Closing the bedroom door behind her, she went out onto the balcony, where she'd have at least a few seconds warning if anyone entered, and hunkered down in a corner, her lunch forgotten. Some things were more important.

"Dee? It's Courtney."

"Courtney!" Dee exclaimed. "You're okay! Thank goodness! Whose phone are you on now?"

"Nancy Parker's," Courtney answered. "They couldn't decide where to warehouse me last night, and Liz offered."

"Liz?" Dee said in surprise. "Wouldn't Michael's place have been the best option? He lives alone."

"That would make sense," Courtney agreed, "but nothing makes sense when you factor in Maria."

"Oh, dear," Dee sighed. "At least you get a phone out of the deal. You turned the ringer off, right?"

"How much of an amateur do you think I am?" Courtney said with mock indignation.

"None whatsoever," Dee said. "So what happened? Did they believe you?"

"Maybe," Courtney said. "They're wary, and they should be. Ava was especially suspicious. She gave me the third, fourth, and fifth degree."

"She comes by it honestly," Dee said. "But Michael must get it."

"He does," Courtney said, "and so does Vilandra and Liz. Zan is on the fence, Ava hates me, and Maria wanted me dead a long time ago. So it's three against three."

"My head-knocking offer still stands," Dee declared.

Courtney smiled faintly. "And I appreciate that. But I think the better way is to win them over. Liz and I talked about Future Zan for a long time last night. Poor kid—she's never uttered a peep about him to anyone."

"What did she say?"

"Pretty much what we knew already," Courtney answered. "Future Zan wanted her to make him fall out of love with her so he'd go to Ava instead, and then maybe Ava would be here if the invasion happened anyway. He was grasping at straws, but I can't argue with him. Seeing the Royal Four together might have made a difference."

"Image is everything," Dee said sadly.

"Unfortunately," Courtney agreed. "But I helped her retrieve a bunch of pictures of Future Zan from her camera. She'd deleted them when she got pissed at him, but now I think she wanted proof he was real."

"Maria won't like it if you make friends with Liz," Dee remarked.

"Ask me if I care," Courtney said. "Besides, there's no stopping it. Liz loves science, and husks fascinate her. We spent a lot of time talking about what it was like to wear one, and how they work, and all that."

"Maria really won't like that," Dee said. "Speaking of husks, do you have your new one yet?"

"Uh...no," Courtney said.

"Why not?" Dee said. "You have a new husk! Put it on!"

"It's not that simple," Courtney said. "I—" She stopped, hearing footsteps in the distance. "I think they're back. I have to go."

"Good luck!" Dee said. "I'm behind you one hundred percent! Call me in if you need me, you hear?"

Courtney felt a lump in her throat. It had only been a couple of days, but it was surprising how much she missed having someone to talk to or bounce things off of. That was partly why she'd felt so sorry for Liz last night. Being alone sucked.

"I'll leave the phone on," Courtney whispered. "Keep listening." She stuffed the phone in her pocket, picked up her plate, and had just taken a bite of her makeshift sandwich when Liz's bedroom door opened.

"See?" Maria's voice said. "Told you she wouldn't be here."

"She must be," Liz's voice answered. "She wouldn't leave without the new husk."

"Maybe she's downstairs grabbing it from Michael's trunk while we're up here," Ava's voice said.

And how would I have known you were coming? Courtney thought wearily. Goodness, but Ava was a buzzkill. "I'm out here!" she called before tucking back into her sandwich. Sounded like she was going to need it.

There was a brief pause before everyone scrambled to the window and stared at her for a moment before clambering outside. "What are you doing out here?" Maria said suspiciously.

"Eating," Courtney answered. "What's it look like?"

"But why out here?" Ava asked just as suspiciously.

"Because it's furthest from the door," Courtney said. "Mrs. Parker picks up and drops off lots of laundry."

"Lucky," Maria remarked to Liz.

"Why all the eyeballs?" Courtney asked. "Was I supposed to be somewhere else? I thought you wanted me to stay here."

"Which you obviously didn't," Ava said disapprovingly, "given the pile of food you have."

"No one saw me," Courtney shrugged. "I got hungry. Turns out almost getting killed does wonders for the appetite."

"Tell me about it," Vilandra said, plopping into one of Liz's rooftop chairs. "What?" she added when everyone looked at her in surprise. "I was up making a sandwich at 3 a.m. because I was famished."

"We didn't come here to argue about apples and bananas," Rath said impatiently. "We came here to talk about the husk."

"Yeah, the one you neglected to mention last night," Ava said flatly.

"Hmm," Courtney said thoughtfully. "Before, during, or after you finished your cross examination?"

"None of the above," Liz said pointedly as Ava scowled at her. "And I told you all, she admitted it when I brought it up last night."

"Thank you, Liz, but somehow I don't think that's going to make a difference," Courtney said.

"Totally bonding," Maria said sourly.

"Can we stay on the subject?" Rath said. "We need to know what to do with the husk. How long do we have before it can't just stay in the trunk?"

Courtney balled up her napkin, having managed to finish her sandwich during the kvetching. "Not long."

"So you need to put it on, right?" Liz said. "Swap the old one for the new one?"

"Maybe," Courtney answered. "It's a bit of a crap shoot."

"Why?" Ava demanded.

Courtney hesitated, feeling the phone in her pocket. Hopefully Dee could hear all of this. "Okay. A husk is a living thing, and like any other living thing, it develops—"

"We know all that," Ava interrupted impatiently.

"No, we don't," Liz argued. "We know next to nothing about husks, and that includes you."

Ava's eyes flashed. "So how are we supposed to learn about them if she just keeps going over the same ground? We already know they're living things. I don't think we need to hear that again."

"And I think the minuscule amount we know bears repeating," Liz retorted.

"I agree," Zan said, his eyes on Courtney. "Go on. We're listening."

Well...some of you are, Courtney thought as Ava stiffened at the rebuke, mild though it was. My goodness, but that one was a handful. It was disturbing to see Jaddo's famous tendency to ignore facts and jump to conclusions reborn in a hybrid. "Like I was saying, a husk develops like any other living thing, and it has a particular growth pattern," she went on. "Take a human fetus, for example. It grows pretty steadily until the last month or so before delivery, when it rapidly puts on weight. Husks are kind of like that too. They develop at a pretty steady rate until the very end, when they do a lot of developing in a short time."

"But this one wasn't finished," Rath said, seeing the point immediately.

"It was close," Maria argued. "Why else would everyone have been going on about the 'harvest'?"

"So what happens if the husk isn't fully developed?" Liz asked.

"Best case? It'll last less than 50 years," Courtney said. "Worst case? It'll fail rapidly, and I'll die. It all depends on how much longer it had to go."

"How do we tell?" Rath asked.

"We can't," Courtney said, "at least not without all that machinery I blew up yesterday. You can't tell just by looking at it."

"So now you're sorry you blew it all up," Ava said.

"Like hell I am," Courtney said. "If they'd managed to harvest those husks, we'd all be screwed because once they're mature, husks can sit on ice for decades. Nicholas has lost a lot of soldiers, but he was growing husks for everyone, meaning there would be lots of leftover husks. He would have been set for years, but now he's dead, within a year at the longest. That can't be anything but good news."

"So why didn't you all arrive here with crates of husks?" Ava said impatiently. "Seems like it's a no-brainer to stock up before traveling."

"Because it was new technology, and they take a long time to grow," Courtney said. "And they were in a big hurry to get here and kill you all over again because the first time they murdered you, you didn't stay dead."

Silenced momentarily by the mention of murder, Ava gaped at her for a moment before recovering. "I...well, we don't know that our actual murderers are here," she protested.

"Yeah, we do," Rath said. "Nicholas claimed he killed me in that other life."

"Oh, my God," Vilandra whispered.

"Something else you failed to mention," Zan noted sternly.

"Would you stop going on about what we 'failed to mention'?" Vilandra protested. "It's going to take a while for all of it to come out."

"I'd hardly take Nicholas's word for anything," Ava said.

Maria was looking at Courtney with eyes that, for once, were not shrouded in hatred. "Is that true?" she asked. "Is Nicholas the one who killed Michael?"

Courtney hesitated. "Yeah," she admitted. "He did." She paused. "Sorry."

"No, I'm sorry," Maria said darkly. "I'm sorry I wasn't in Copper Summit long enough to do in the bastard myself."

"And why should we just believe Courtney?" Ava demanded.

"I believe her," Liz said. "I've met Nicholas. I have no problem believing he killed Michael."

"Me neither," Vilandra said.

"With 'believing' being the key word there," Ava noted. "Just because she says he did doesn't mean he did."

"She says he did, he says he did...what, do you want a notarized confession?" Vilandra said wearily.

"We're off topic," Rath interrupted. "Again. What do we do about the husk?"

Everyone looked at Courtney. "I have to decide whether or not to risk putting it on," Courtney answered. "If I don't, the one I'm wearing could fail; if I do, the new one could fail, and it's a one way street—I can't put the old one back on after I take it off. Like I said, it's a crap shoot."

"How bad is the one you're wearing?" Liz asked.

"Pretty bad," Courtney admitted. "It could go at any moment."

"Then you should put on the new one," Zan said.

Courtney raised an eyebrow. "Is that an order, Your Highness?"

"Of course it's an order," Ava said. "Michael risked his life getting it for you, so you're putting it on."

"Last I checked, you're not the king," Courtney said, her eyes fixed on Zan. "I repeat: Is that an order?"

The rooftop grew very quiet as Zan watched her, unblinking, for what seemed a very long time. "I'll think about it," he said finally, "and let you know what I decide."

"What?" Ava protested. "Are you serious?"

"Of course he's serious," Liz said. "Whatever he decides could kill her."

"Exactly," Ava said. "If we lose her, we lose a valuable bargaining chip."

"Or a valuable ally," Liz said pointedly.

"Either way, she should put on the new husk," Ava said.

"And Max said he'd think about it," Rath said. "That's enough for me. Isn't it enough for you?"

"Of course it is," Ava protested. "I only meant…"

Courtney sighed inwardly as the argument continued. It was a huge letdown after the euphoria of Michael nicking her husk, but there was nothing for it; it appeared that in this timeline, the husk acquisition had occurred inconveniently early, and she was truly torn about what to do. Nevertheless, she wanted to make that decision herself. Now it looked like she might not have the chance.

"I have to pee," Courtney announced over top of the various raised voices. "Keep duking it out. I'll be right back."

Walking past startled faces, she climbed through the window and heard everyone following her. When she reached Liz's bathroom, she turned around to find Ava right behind her.

"Are you coming with? Want a urine sample, or would you rather I just spread my legs so you can watch?"

"Don't push me," Ava warned.

"Who's pushing?" Courtney said. "I'm just trying to figure out if I have to sit on your lap, and aim."

Courtney didn't budge as Ava stepped closer, her eyes flashing dangerously. "Leave her alone," Maria said suddenly.

Ava's head whipped around. "What?"

"Yeah, what?" Courtney echoed.

"Look, even I have my limits," Maria said. "Let the girl pee, for heaven's sake. You're getting weird."

Courtney took advantage of everyone's shock at having been saved by such an unexpected source, and slipped into the bathroom alone. Pulling the phone out of her pocket, she retreated to the furthest corner. "Did you get that?" she whispered.

"All of it," Dee said heavily. "And now I really think I need to knock some heads together."

"I might not be around that long," Courtney said.

"Of course you will," Dee said. "If Max tries to force you to do something you don't want to, you can always refuse. You're not Covari."

"I'm also not in a position to ignore an order from a king I say I support," Courtney said.

"You are if you think it's the wrong decision," Dee said. "If you think he's wrong, say so. He'll listen. The Max that let Brivari go is in there somewhere. We just have to find another way to pull him out that doesn't involve all-out warfare."

"Or blowing me to bits," Courtney sighed. "I think—" She paused as she heard raised voices outside.

"What's all that?" Dee asked.

"Sounds like they're arguing about where I'm spending the night," Courtney said. "Gotta go."

"So I heard," Dee quipped.

"Glad to know you can still joke," Courtney said dryly. "Wish me luck."

"You need me, you call me," Dee said firmly. "I will come any time, anywhere, at any hour."

Courtney's throat constricted. "I know. Thanks."

She rung off reluctantly, feeling the loss of a connection to a rational person who knew the score. While the toilet flushed, she erased the call from the phone's call history and slipped it back in her pocket. She'd have to drop it somewhere Nancy could find it on the way out.

"...not staying here another night," Ava was saying when she came out.

"Why not?" Liz said. "It wasn't a problem."

"What'd I miss?" Courtney said.

"Now they're arguing over where you're sleeping tonight," Vilandra informed her.

A knock came on the bedroom door. Courtney retreated into the bathroom before Liz opened it.

"Hi, everyone," Nancy Parker said. "Liz, have you seen my phone?"






*********************************************************






Valenti Residence







Dinner in the oven? Check, Valenti thought, racing around the kitchen. Table set? Check. Living room picked up? Check…

"Kyle!" Valenti exclaimed. "Get your feet off the couch! I just vacuumed that."

Eyeing him from his sprawled position on the couch, Kyle raised an eyebrow. "So?"

"So, I don't want your dirty feet all over it!" Valenti said.

"I took off my shoes," Kyle said in a wounded tone.

"Why are you watching the game, anyway?" Valenti said. "It's almost dinner time. Have you washed up? Brushed your teeth?"

" 'Washed up'?" Kyle said incredulously. "Jesus, you'd think we were having the queen for tea."

"This isn't anything exotic, just simple hygiene," Valenti argued. "Just basic courtesy. Go brush your teeth before you knock someone over at 20 paces just by opening your mouth."

"Good grief," Kyle muttered, shambling to the bathroom as Valenti grabbed the remote and turned off the TV before returning to the kitchen to check on dinner one last time. Living with someone who could actually cook had made his cooking skills progress from merely reheating frozen dinners, but not by much. Hopefully everything would be edible…

A sound outside sent him to the window. "They're here!" Valenti bellowed. "Kyle! They're here!"

"I heard you!" Kyle's exasperated voice announced, the body it was attached to appearing only seconds before Valenti threw open the front door.

"Welcome!" Valenti said.

Tess blinked. "What's this?"

"Good question," Kyle remarked.

"It's a welcome," Valenti said, "to our guest."

Standing beside Tess, a bemused Courtney Banks smiled. "Thank you, sheriff. That's very nice of you."

"Come in, come in!" Valenti said. "You know Kyle, right?"

"Probably not," Kyle said, "or at least not combed, pressed, and minty fresh."

"You do bear a passing resemblance to someone named Kyle I used to see at the Crashdown," Courtney deadpanned. "Minus the minty fresh."

Kyle's eyes twinkled the way they always did when he encountered a kindred spirit, a.k.a. another smart ass. "Let's go into the kitchen," Valenti said. "Dinner's almost ready."

"Wait—you made dinner?" Tess said incredulously.

"Well, I tried," Valenti allowed. "I know I'm not the cook you are, but—"

"Why would you make her dinner?" Tess interrupted. "She doesn't even live here!"

Valenti stared at her a moment in consternation. "But you do," he said pointedly, "which makes Courtney your guest too."

Tess's eyes flashed. "Like hell it does."

"Uh oh," Kyle murmured.

"What's gotten into you?" Valenti demanded.

"What's gotten into me?" Tess exclaimed. "What's gotten into you?"

"Courtesy," Valenti said sternly, "a virtue on any world, I'm told. You should try it some time."

"Don't lecture me," Tess warned.

"Don't give me a reason to," Valenti retorted. "Have you forgotten that we took you in when Nasedo died? You were a guest once. Lucky for you, we didn't treat you the way you're treating Courtney now."

Furious, Tess spun around and looked at Kyle, who shook his head gravely. "You may be my favorite Martian, but you're not gonna win this one," Kyle said. "Because Dad has a point."

Tess paled, then recovered. "Fine," she said shortly. "Enjoy your dinner. I won't be joining you."





~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



I'll post Chapter 72 on Sunday, October 29. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

keepsmiling7
Roswell Fanatic
Posts: 1927
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2007 9:34 pm

Re: Birthright *Series* Season 2 (CC, TEEN), Chapter 71, 10/8

Postby keepsmiling7 » Mon Oct 09, 2017 1:48 pm

First, we're really glad you are still here wiring for our pleasure.

This whole time it seemed like the beginning of the end for Max and Liz. I hated everything about this!
Loved the terms you used.......such as a "deflated Courtney"...
The comparison between the husks and a fetus were amazing.
And Tess wouldn't join them for dinner.......I'd want to try out the Sheriff's cooking if nothing else.
Thanks,
Carolyn

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 685
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Chapter 72

Postby Kathy W » Sun Oct 29, 2017 5:12 pm

^^ Thanks, Carolyn! I love writing this, and to have people enjoy reading it is unbelievable. Image

And I, too, would love to sample Jim Valenti's cooking. Even if he's making Hamburger Helper. :D







CHAPTER SEVENTY-TWO






November 23, 2000, 7:00 p.m.

Valenti Residence








"More?"

"Yes, please!" Courtney said enthusiastically. "This is all really good, sheriff. I didn't know you cooked."

"Neither did I," Valenti admitted. "A lot of this is a first try."

"Dad's an overachiever," Kyle remarked, tucking into the food fast enough that he apparently agreed with her.

"Guess I wanted to make a better impression this time," Valenti said.

" 'This time'?" Kyle echoed. "Have you two met before this? As human and alien, I mean."

"Once," Valenti allowed. "Sorry about the gun."

"Gun?" Kyle sputtered. "Dad! What the hell?"

"In his defense, I'd let myself into his house, and was helping myself to his fridge," Courtney said.

"Hmpf," Kyle snorted. "I do that all the time."

"You live here," Valenti protested. "I called your name, and she answered."

"And your voice doesn't sound like mine," Courtney noted. "At least not unless you're squeezing something. But seriously, sheriff, if this is your first try, I can't wait to taste your second," she went on as Kyle pinked and Valenti suppressed a smile. "It's all delicious."

And I'm starving, she added silently, her mouth watering at the dinner the sheriff had prepared. Chicken and rice was a midwestern staple, and it was tough to kill a baked potato, but still...food was food. Even her extra snack at Liz's house hadn't killed her appetite, rejuvenated once more by the afternoon's debriefing and subsequent squabbles. Nothing like conflict to make one hungry.

"So what's up with Tess?" Valenti asked.

Courtney glanced at the empty chair which was casting a pall over the dinner table. "Oh. That. Yeah, she doesn't like me."

"We heard you saved everyone's life," Valenti said. "What's not to like?"

"I think you just answered your own question, Dad," Kyle chuckled. "Tess didn't save them; another hot blonde did."

Courtney smiled faintly. "You think I'm hot?"

Kyle looked startled, then mortified. "I...uh..."

"Didn't mean to say that out loud?" Valenti suggested.

"Yeah," Kyle said, his face flaming. "Something like that."

"Doesn't Buddha advocate thinking before you speak?" Valenti asked pointedly.

"Doesn't matter," Courtney said. "He's right. Turns out I saved the day, not her, and that's not sitting well."

"According to Max, you rode to the rescue at the last possible second," Valenti said.

"Well, yeah, but we didn't know it was the last possible second until it was all over," Courtney said.

"No one ever does," Valenti said. "And now their enemies are dead?"

"No, their enemies will be dead when their husks fail," Courtney said. "I managed to destroy the replacement husks, and they don't have time to grow new ones, but the husks they're wearing now will last for at least a little while longer.

"What about your husk?" Kyle asked, eager to move on from his unintended revelation.

"I'm in the same boat," Courtney said. "Mine will last only a little while longer too."

"And then what?" Kyle said.

Courtney shrugged. "And then I die."

The Valenti's exchanged startled glances. Not exactly true, that, what with Brivari's safe house and the option of the new husk, which she was still ruminating over, but she wasn't getting into that unless she had to.

"Uh...I'm gonna go check on Tess," Valenti said, tossing his napkin on the table. "Maybe she's hungry now."

Courtney helped herself to more beans as Kyle, alone with her at the table, fiddled with his chicken. "I just wanted to apologize for that...for a moment ago," he amended uncomfortably. "I didn't mean to say that."

"So you don't think I'm hot?" Courtney teased.

Kyle turned pink. "No! I mean, yes! I mean...that's not what I meant."

"So you don't think Tess is hot," Courtney suggested.

Kyle blinked, only just now processing that he'd actually said that too. "Relax," Courtney advised. "It's a compliment. I don't pass up compliments. Most people don't."

"Not most humans, anyway," Kyle muttered.

"Not most anyone," Courtney corrected. "When it comes to compliments, species doesn't mean jack."

"She swears," Kyle said dryly.

"Like a sailor," Courtney agreed. "In the right company, that is, with your dad not being the right company. Better get all our swearing in before Tess blows him off and he comes back."

"So if Tess hates your guts, how did you wind up here?" Kyle asked.

"Ah, yes," Courtney said. "Conflict. A guy's favorite subject."

"Lots of people's favorite subject," Kyle corrected. "I know some girls who are downright nasty."

"Only 'some'?" Courtney sighed. "I stayed with Liz last night, and apparently everyone thought we got a bit too chummy. This was voted the next best place because you're all 'in the know'."

"What about Guerin?" Kyle said. "He's got his own place."

"He does," Courtney agreed, "but Michael's place is out because I'm a hot blonde."

"But his place would be perfect...oh!" Kyle finished. "Maria. Of course."

"Of course," Courtney agreed. "So the blindingly obvious place is out."

"Did you really get 'chummy' with Liz?" Kyle asked. "Doesn't sound like something she'd do."

"I'd say so," Courtney said. "She told me a lot about you."

"Like what?" Kyle said.

"Like how you pretended to sleep with her to make Max mad."

Courtney's eyes snapped shut as bits of baked potato sprayed around the table. Apparently this information was not meant to be shared, which explained why Kyle was spitting out his dinner. "She did what?" Kyle demanded, wiping potato off his face as she picked some out of her hair. "No, don't say it again," he added hastily before she could answer. "I can't believe she told you that!"

"It's not like she has a lot of people to share with," Courtney said, stopping herself just in time before adding "I was safe to talk to because I knew why she did it." But of course she couldn't say that because no one else knew about Future Zan. It was bloody awful trying to keep who knew what straight.

Kyle, for his part, had already jumped to that conclusion. "Did she tell you what he did?" he asked eagerly. "What did Max do that pissed her off so much that she felt like she had to go through that to get her point across?"

"No idea," Courtney said. "Didn't she tell you?"

Kyle shook his head. "Nope. Wouldn't say. Said she couldn't talk about it." He paused. "So why could she talk to you?"

"Maybe I'm considered 'safe' because I'm outside the fold," Courtney suggested. "So all that fretting in the storeroom, all that yack about being a 'vessel', and you didn't even know why you were doing it?"

Kyle looked blank for a moment, then blushed furiously for the third time in the past few minutes. "Oh, God, that...that was you, wasn't it? I mean, I didn't put two and two together, that you're...you know...the same you who…"

"Yanked your chain?" Courtney suggested. "Yep, that's me. I'm still the me you know. You just didn't know my species. And to be fair, I haven't verified yours."

Kyle grew redder, if that was possible. "Kidding," Courtney added. "Just kidding. My goodness. I had no idea a guy with a mouth like yours could be so sensitive."

Valenti appeared and resumed his seat. "Tess says she's not hungry."

"Blew you off, huh?" Courtney said.

Valenti shrugged helplessly before noticing his son. "Kyle? Why is your face so red?"

Kyle abruptly stood up. "I'm gonna go check on Tess."

"For what it's worth, I told Liz she's lucky," Courtney said, feeling a little guilty for yanking his chain once again. "You're a real friend."

Kyle stared at her awkwardly for a moment before nodding and leaving the room looking somewhat better. "What was all that about?" Valenti asked.

"Teenagers," Courtney said lightly. "So jumpy. So how pissed is she?"

"Pretty pissed," Valenti answered. "You sure she doesn't have some other axe to grind?"

"None that I know of," Courtney said. "That would be Maria, because I like Michael, and Michael likes me."

"Making friends all over, aren't you?" Valenti said dryly.

"Tell me about it," Courtney said ruefully. "But I can't blame them. I belong to the enemy's race, and they're right to be suspicious."

"And what does Dee have to say about this?"

"She offered to blow her cover, and come knock some heads together," Courtney said.

"Good," Valenti said. "With Nasedo gone, it only makes sense for Max and Isabel to know their grandmother is in on things."

"Not good," Courtney corrected. "Max will figure out that he can command his Warder, and that will be bad. Very bad."

"Oh, yes," Valenti said heavily. "That. What braniac came up with that stupid idea?"

"I guess it made sense at the time," Courtney said. "A lot of stupid ideas do."

"I suppose," Valenti said doubtfully. "Go call Dee. I can reheat your food later."

"Can't," Courtney said. "Tess will be watching me like a hawk, and she can't find out Dee and I know each other. I already took a risk calling her before—I had to swipe phones, first from Michael, then Nancy Parker. And no, they won't find out," she added when Valenti's eyebrows rose. "I lead a rebellion, remember? I know how to delete a call history."

"Fair enough," Valenti allowed, "but that just underscores how much you need an ally. Maybe Dee could come over here? Or you could go meet her?"

"Too risky," Courtney said.

"Correct me if I'm wrong," Valenti said, "but given the amount of hostility I just witnessed, I think you could use a friend."

Courtney managed a smile. "This won't last forever, sheriff. Don't worry. I'll deal."






********************************************************






Evans Residence






"You can't do it, Max," Isabel announced. "You just can't!"

Max turned a corner, his hands gripping the steering wheel more tightly. "You know, I'm more than little tired of everyone telling me what I can or can't do."

"Welcome to my world," Isabel said tartly. "And you still can't."

Max held his tongue as his sister lapsed into silence, a rare thing on this ride home. She'd started on him the moment they'd left the Crashdown after a contentious debate over where Courtney would be spending the night, one only settled by a command decision whose sole redeeming virtue was that everyone hated it.

"You shouldn't have sent her with Tess," Isabel went on, as if reading his thoughts. "Tess hates her."

"And Maria doesn't?" Max said dryly.

"Maria's grounded, remember?" Isabel said. "Courtney couldn't have stayed there. Why didn't you just let her stay with Liz? Don't tell me you bought that argument about Liz being brainwashed."

"Of course not," Max said.

"Then why send her home with Tess?" Isabel demanded. "If you didn't want her with Liz, she could have come here!"

"Right, because Mom won't notice another girl in your bedroom."

"We could pull it off for one night," Isabel argued. "God knows we've pulled off harder things."

"Valenti was perfect," Max said. "He already knows about us."

"Michael was perfect," Isabel countered. "He's one of us, and no one's going to blunder in on them, or hack them to death in their sleep."

"You think Tess is going to hack Courtney to death in her sleep?"

"Wouldn't put it past her," Isabel muttered.

"Hmm," Max said thoughtfully. "I would've thought it'd be more likely to be the other way around."

Isabel stared at him in astonishment. "Is that some lame attempt at a joke? Are you actually trying to joke about this?"

"Is that so bad?" Max asked.

"Yes!" Isabel exclaimed. "You sent Courtney home with someone who hates her, and you sound like you're going to make her put that new husk on! That's just cold."

"I said I'd think about it," Max corrected testily. "Why does everyone want to decide for me?"

"Maybe because you're so comfortable deciding things for everyone else," Isabel retorted. "Like when you sent Courtney home with Tess."

"She had to go somewhere, and we weren't going to agree on it," Max argued. "Maybe you wanted to just stay there all night and argue? Somebody had to decide."

Isabel gave him a withering look. "And that somebody is you because you're the 'king', right?"

Right, Max thought silently, declining to add fuel to the already roaring fire by saying that out loud. The buck had to stop somewhere, and that somewhere was him. Liz had wanted Courtney to stay put, Michael had wanted her with him, and Maria had strenuously objected. Tess had been furious when he'd handed babysitting duties to her for the night, and so had everyone else, with the possible exception of Maria, who was merely angry that Courtney existed at all. Lacking a solution which made everyone happy, he'd settled instead on one which made everyone mad—at him. Whoever had said 'it's lonely at the top' had no idea how right they were.

"I just wish I knew what you were thinking," Isabel fretted, "or even if you're thinking. I—"

"Wait," Max ordered. "You think I'm not thinking? That I'm playing eeny meeny miny moe, or something?"

"Prove to me you're not," Isabel said stoutly.

They had reached their house. Furious, Max pulled into the driveway and screeched to a halt, which sent Isabel jolting forward. "Okay, here's what I'm thinking," he snapped as she righted herself. "I'm thinking that Tess is challenging me a bit too much, so sending Courtney home with her made it clear that I make the decisions. Which she claims to believe, but only if I make the decisions she wants me to make."

Isabel suddenly looked uncertain. "Really?"

"Really. I also think Michael's a little too eager to believe Courtney, whether that's because he's hot for her or because she knows about our planet, something he's a sucker for. And Liz might be extra sympathetic not because she's brainwashed, but because she's fascinated with the whole husk thing. She's a scientist, and we need that, but it might cloud her judgment."

"Maybe," Isabel said doubtfully.

"And most of all, I'm thinking that we have no good way of knowing if Courtney is a friend or an enemy," Max went on, "so if she stays with each one of us in turn, we might be able to find out because each of us will have different experiences with her, and she'll react to each of us differently. So she'll stay with each of us, just not tonight."

"Even Michael?" Isabel asked.

"Even Michael," Max confirmed. "Maria won't like it, but that's too bad. I want Michael's input, but only after I have everyone else's, and our lives are more important that Maria's feelings."

"What about Courtney's life?" Isabel said. "Are you going to order her to put on the new husk? That could kill her."

"It could still kill her if she decides to put it on herself," Max said.

"But then you wouldn't be responsible," Isabel said. "It would be her choice."

"So this isn't about Courtney dying, it's about who gets the blame?" Max demanded. "Who's being cold now?"

Isabel's mouth opened, then closed as as he climbed out of the jeep, his sister scrambling to follow. What he hadn't said was what his delay on the husk question really meant, because Isabel would have a field day with that one.


Is that an order, Your Highness?


Courtney's challenge rang in his head as he headed into the house. Everyone was challenging him—Courtney, Michael, Liz, Isabel, and most of all, Tess. Some of their squabbling was born of fear, but much of it was just a desire to be in control, and they couldn't all be in control. He was the king, so he made the decisions. Making a decision on the husk too quickly would have looked like ceding control to one person or the other, and he couldn't afford to do that. No, he would bide his time, if only to make it clear that that he could, that they would all have to wait for his decision. Isabel wouldn't like that, but it had to be done.

"Hey, Mom," Max said, spying his mother taking her coat off. "Did you just get home?"

"Yes, I'm late," Diane sighed. "Your father will be too. You're both just getting home too?"

"Yeah, we...had something after school," Isabel answered, having come up behind him.

"Well, I guess that makes dinner pot luck," Diane said, opening the refrigerator door. "Not much in here. We've pretty much eaten all the leftovers."

"Got anything frozen?" Max suggested.

"We could order in," Isabel added.

"Anyone home?" another voice called.

Everyone exchanged startled looks, then headed to the living room. "Mom!" Diane exclaimed. "What brings you here?"

"I was talking to Philip, and he said he was working late tonight," Grandma Dee said as Isabel gave her a hug, "so I thought I'd surprise you." She held up a large bag. "Dinner, anyone?"






********************************************************






"Mom, this is delicious," Diane said, helping herself to more potatoes, "and boy, did I need it tonight. The last thing I wanted was to cook dinner."

"Yeah, thanks, Grandma," Isabel added. "We were all hungry. And grumpy."

"I may be hungry, but I haven't gotten to 'grumpy' yet," Diane chuckled. "Speak for yourself."

"She is," Max said.

Max looked at his plate as Isabel flushed, and Diane blinked. "Happy to do it," Dee said, filling the awkward silence. "The Crashdown will do pretty much anything as takeout."

"Most of it fattening," Diane said ruefully.

"But all of it tasty," Dee countered.

"Why do those two have to go together?" Diane said. "The rule of thumb seems to be, if it tastes good, spit it out."

"Only if you let it be," Dee said. "I eat what I like. I may not be as thin as I could be, but I'm a damn sight happier."

"Language, Mom," Diane said disapprovingly.

"What, I can't say 'damn' any more?" Dee protested. "Good Lord, Diane. You can't get much milder than 'damn'."

"Children are affected by what they are habitually exposed to," Diane insisted.

"I'm pretty sure your children hear much worse in school," Dee said.

"Or from each other," Max said.

Diane raised an eyebrow. "Come again?"

Max looked up, startled. "I...nothing."

"And here we go again," Diane sighed, "with 'nothing' translating as 'Isabel and I are mad at each other, but we're going to pretend we're not and hope no one notices'. Except I did. Again."

"That's not what Max meant," Isabel said quickly.

"Then what did he mean?" Diane said. "Taken at face value, one might take him to mean that you're both spewing four-letter words on a regular basis."

"Of course not," Max said.

"Then what did you mean?" Diane persisted. "If I've got it wrong, please do correct me."

"Leave him alone," Isabel said testily. "Max has enough on his plate without you making it worse."

Dee held her tongue as Diane gaped at this unusual rebuke from a typically sympathetic source. "It was just a question," Diane protested. "And I didn't start this conversation."

"Yeah, you kinda did," Isabel said, "when you bitched at Grandma for swearing. Nobody thinks 'damn' is swearing any more."

"Well, I do," Diane said firmly, "and no one forced Max to respond. If he doesn't want to talk about it, he shouldn't have said anything."

"I'll remind you of that the next time you're complaining that we don't tell you everything," Isabel said tartly. "Think it'll work? I don't."

"Honestly, Izzie, what's gotten into you?" Diane demanded.

"Dessert, anyone?" Dee said cheerfully.

"Mom, don't try to smooth things over with sugar," Diane said crossly. "It won't work."

"Like hell it won't," Dee said calmly. "If our mouths are busy with the pie, we can't snipe at each other. Oops! Did I just say 'hell'?"

Max and Isabel barely suppressed smiles as Diane scowled at her. "You see what I have to put up with," she said disapprovingly, "so I'd thank you not to make it worse."

"Oh, really, Diane," Dee said. "What you have to 'put up with' looks to me like typical adolescent behavior."

"Not my adolescents," Diane said stoutly. "This is not how they used to behave when they..."

"Weren't adolescents?" Dee finished.

Diane's mouth set in a thin line. "Let's just say I'm delighted they're starting therapy soon. Dr. Johnson is still willing to see them, I hope?"

"Of course she is," Dee said.

"This year?" Diane persisted. "I understand her husband just passed away, but my kids are important too. I can't wait forever."

"Name the day," Dee said. "Would next week be soon enough?"

Mollified, Diane nodded. "Finally. And not a moment too soon."

"Oh, I agree," Dee said. "We don't want them ganging up on their mother, because what teenager does that?" She pulled a box toward her. "Now, who wants pie?"

Silence descended over the table as everyone dug into the pie, including a scowling Diane who was apparently in need of some sugar. Don't blame her, Dee reminded herself. Diane had no idea what the kids had just been through, were still going through. Thanks to Courtney's brilliance, she did; that phone-in-the-pocket had been a godsend, allowing her to hear not only what was said, but how. What she'd heard had alarmed her enough that she'd left immediately for the Crashdown, intending to put a stop to this nonsense. Anthony had strenuously disagreed.

"She told you not to," he'd argued. "You offered, and she said no. You need to respect that."

"You didn't hear Tess," Dee had answered. "She's on the warpath, and then some. And that bit about making her put the new husk on? How can they even consider that when they don't know anything about husks?"

"Courtney will handle it," Anthony had said. "She's not a child or an idiot. If she changes her mind, she'll let you know."

"She may not have the luxury," Dee had said, "and even if she does, I may not be able to get there in time."

"Don't be ridiculous," Anthony had scoffed. "She's not tied to a chair. She found a way to have you listen in, didn't she?"

"What is it with you?" Dee had demanded. "First you're mad at me for putting her in danger, and now you don't want me to get her out of danger! Would you please make up your mind?"

"What you're doing here is every bit as dangerous as when you tried to make her go to Copper Summit," Anthony had insisted. "You ignored her reasons then and pushed for what you wanted, and you're doing exactly the same thing now. What if you make things worse?"

"Then they'll be worse," Dee had declared. "Don't come if you don't want to."

He hadn't. Upon reaching the Crashdown, Dee had helped herself to Liz Parker's bedroom and found...nothing. Courtney had apparently been relocated, and the best place to start looking was the place where she had the most leverage, or so she'd thought. Given the guarded looks around the table, maybe she should've bought two pies.

"I have to use the bathroom," Dee said. "Can you all refrain from killing each other until I get back?"

"Very funny," Diane said sourly as her children kept their expressions carefully blank.

Out of sight of the kitchen, Dee crept toward the kids' rooms. Isabel's was open and unoccupied, but Max's door was closed. Please be there, Dee thought, easing the door open. She hadn't laid eyes on Courtney since their fight, and even though she'd talked to her, she still felt this primal need to see her, to hug her, to apologize in person. A breeze blew the curtains in Max's room as she entered, and quickly looked around. Courtney would have hidden when she heard someone coming, but after seeing who was there, she should have come out…

"Grandma?"

Dee whirled around. "Max! I...I thought I heard someone in here. Do you have a friend over?"

"No," Max said. "Maybe you heard the wind blowing something."

She's not here, Dee thought sadly, reading the total lack of surprise or guardedness in his response. Where was she, then? Had they let her go?

"Can I ask you something?" Max said, his eyes drifting back toward the kitchen. "Without Mom, I mean."

"If this is about the therapy, I agree you don't need it, but I'm afraid there's nothing I can do about it," Dee said. "I've already tried."

Max blinked. "What? Oh. No, it's not that. I mean, I'm not thrilled about it, but Isabel said you told her Dr. Johnson was...different."

"Certainly nothing like the last doctor you had," Dee agreed.

"I need some advice," Max said slowly, "and I know Isabel comes to you, so I thought…" He stopped, hands in his pockets, staring at the carpet.

Dee took a seat on the far end of the bed and folded her hands in her lap. "I'm listening."

Max slowly sank down on the opposite end of the bed. "What do you do," he began, "when you have to make a decision, but any decision you could make would make everyone mad?"

"Welcome to adulthood," Dee said dryly. "Or parenthood. Or anything-hood. You can't please everyone, Max."

"I know that," Max said, "but what if you can't please anyone? Forget about pleasing everyone. I can't seem to please anyone."

"Not even yourself?" Dee asked. "Because you're a 'someone' too," she went on when Max looked startled. "Do any of the decisions you're considering make you happy?"

Max was quiet for a moment. "No," he said finally. "I don't like any of them either."

"That's what we call 'being between a rock and a hard place'," Dee said. "Sometimes our only choices are something bad or something worse."

"Then what do I do?" Max said plaintively.

"I could certainly use some context here, but I won't ask," Dee said. "I know you would have told me more if you could."

"I...I'm kind of the leader of a...a club," Max said uncomfortably. "So I have to make the decision, and whatever I decide could hurt someone if I make the wrong choice."

" 'Someone'," Dee repeated. " "Someone' as in a single individual, or 'someone' as in a group of individuals?"

"One person," Max answered. "It would hurt one person the most."

"And what does this particular person have to say about the various options you're considering?" Dee asked.

Max blinked. "I...don't know."

"Haven't you spoken with them?" Dee said. "I thought you said everyone disagreed. This person must have expressed a clear opinion."

"No," Max said, sounding puzzled. "I haven't really sat down and talked to that person about it."

"Well, then, I'd get a move on," Dee advised. "Certainly you'd listen to what others have to say, but I'd start with the one who has the most to lose. Wouldn't you?"

Max looked blank for a moment, then resolute. "You're right. Thanks, Grandma."

"Any time, dear," Dee said.

"One more thing," Max said. "Michael said Grandpa Anthony was looking for that waitress who used to work at the Crashdown because you and her had become friends. Is that true?"

"You mean Courtney?" Dee said. "God, I miss her! Sharp as a tack, and with a mouth like mine. She and I got along great. I was very sad when Jeff told me she had to leave."

"So...you liked her," Max said.

"No, I loved her," Dee corrected. "We saw eye to eye on so many things. Sometimes people just click, and there's no explaining it. Maybe that sounds crazy. I'll bet it does."

But Max, who had formed some inexplicable connections of his own, shook his head. "No, it doesn't sound crazy. Not at all."

"Do you know what happened to her?" Dee asked. "I hope she's okay. Jeff made it sound like there was some kind of trouble with her family."

"She's okay," Max said quickly. "I...talked to Mr. Parker today. She's fine."

"Well, that's a relief," Dee said. "I was worried about her. I should look her up, wherever she's gone. I'd like to keep in touch with her." She patted his hand and rose from the bed. "We'd best get back to the table before your mother has a fit."

Max smiled faintly. "Or realizes that Isabel said the word 'bitch'."

Dee burst out laughing in spite of herself. "She did miss that, didn't she? I guess Isabel taking your side against her is more alarming than profanity. I won't say anything if you don't."

"My lips are sealed," Max promised.

They had reached the kitchen. "What are you two smiling about?" Diane asked suspiciously.

"So no arguing, no swearing, and now no smiling," Dee said. "Tell me, Diane, is there anything you do approve of?"

"I'm just tired of my children fighting," Diane said wearily.

"Then you'll be glad to know we're not," Max said, looking at Isabel. "I'll fix it, Iz. Right after dinner."

"Good grief," Diane sighed. "Even when they're getting along, I don't know what's going on."

I hope I do, Dee thought, digging into her pie. It had been cathartic to have the chance to openly support Courtney. With any luck, her opinion would count for something with her grandson. And if not, there was always the option of knocking heads together.






*********************************************************






10:30 p.m.,

Valenti Residence








"Is this where you sleep?" Courtney asked.

"Yep," Kyle answered. "When Tess moved in, Dad put a rollaway in his office for me. I've kind of taken it over."

"That's odd," Courtney remarked. "Why is Tess in your room and you're in here? Shouldn't it be the other way around?"

"The enduring mysteries of my family," Kyle chuckled. "Guess it just worked out that way. But it's yours tonight—I'll take the couch."

"Hey, I have no problem with the couch," Courtney said. "I was on the floor last night, so the couch is a step up."

"Sure you want to sleep that close to Tess?" Kyle asked dryly. "She might kill you in her sleep."

"Let her try," Courtney said. "I'll make sure she regrets it."

"Catfight!" Kyle crowed. "Maybe you should take the couch just so I can watch...Dad!" he added hastily, looking past her. "Joking. Just joking. I'm giving Courtney my bed."

"Very gallant of you, but there's been a change of plans," Valenti said. "Courtney's not staying here tonight."

"Wait—what?" Courtney said. "Why not?"

Max Evans appeared in the doorway next to Valenti. "Because you're coming home with me."





~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



I'll post Chapter 73 on Sunday, November 19. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
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Re: Birthright *Series* Season 2 (CC, TEEN), Chapter 72, 10/29

Postby Kathy W » Sun Nov 19, 2017 7:17 pm

I am so thankful for all of my readers, and not just at Thanksgiving! I wish everyone a wonderful holiday! Image







CHAPTER SEVENTY-THREE







November 23, 2000, 11:30 p.m.

Evans Residence










A car pulled in to the house next door, and Courtney shrank from the headlights, pressing back further into the bushes. She felt like a fool, but she knew exactly what conclusions one might jump to if they saw someone lurking outside a suburban house at this hour of the night. Hopefully she'd moved fast enough.

No dice. "Walter?" a sharp female voice called. "Did you see that?"

"See what, Mabel?" Walter answered.

"There's someone outside that Evans house again," Mabel answered disapprovingly. "You should investigate."

"Or we could just go inside," Walter's tired voice answered.

"I told you those kids have people climbing in and out of their windows at all hours," Mabel argued. "Their parents should know about it. Go see if someone's there."

Great, Courtney thought sourly as a sigh from Walter was followed by the sound of footsteps in the grass. How had she ended up here, exactly? Thirty minutes ago she'd been warming up her jammies and trading witticisms with Kyle Valenti. Now she was lurking in the shrubbery outside the King of Antar's window, clutching the few earthly possessions she'd brought with her into exile as she tried to avoid discovery. What a long, strange day this had been.

"I don't see nothin'," Walter grumbled, coming to within just a few feet of her.

"Look harder," Mabel ordered, no doubt familiar with Walter's tendency to miss anything which didn't jump out and bite him.

"I did," Walter said crossly. "Come and look yourself if you don't believe me."

Don't, Courtney prayed silently, knowing she'd never manage to avoid nosy Mabel, who would probably pry the shingles off the house if that's what it took. Holding her breath and trying hard not to move lest an errant branch alert Walter to her presence, she and Walter awaited Mabel's decision.

The front porch light snapped on, the front door opened, and a puzzled Diane Evans appeared. "Walter? Is that you? Is something wrong?"

Peering through the leaves, Courtney watched Walter look helplessly back and forth between his meddling wife and his curious neighbor. "I...I lost something," he stammered. "Just lookin' for it."

"In my front yard?" Diane said.

"It rolled," Walter mumbled. "Sorry."

"Would you like some help—"

"No need," Walter broke in. "Easier tomorrow. G'night."

"Good night," Diane answered, sounding perplexed. She went back inside, thus missing the heated argument which arose in the driveway next door, with Mabel berating Walter for not telling the truth and Walter berating Mabel for not speaking up. Courtney didn't relax until their raised voices disappeared inside their house. Sheesh. That had been close.

The window beside her opened abruptly, making her jump. "C'mon in," Vilandra whispered. "My mom's gone to bed."

"Like hell!" Courtney protested. "She was just out here arguing with the neighbors."

"She was?" Vilandra said. "Well, she's in her bedroom now. It won't get any safer."

The room was dark as Courtney hoisted herself over the windowsill. Vilandra waited until the window was closed and the curtains drawn before turning on a light, revealing a bedroom which was nowhere near as girly as Courtney had been expecting. "Are you okay?" she asked worriedly when she saw the look on Courtney's face.

"Never better," Courtney deadpanned. "Let's see...I started the day dodging Mrs. Parker, then I had dinner with the sheriff, and now I almost got caught by Mrs. Kravitz. All in a day's work."

"We don't have any neighbors named 'Kravitz'," Vilandra said.

"I meant Gladys Kravitz," Courtney said. "You know, the nosy neighbor from Bewitched?"

"You mean the old TV show?" Vilandra said. "I like old reruns too."

"I don't need reruns," Courtney said. "I saw it when it first aired."

Vilandra blinked. "Wait...wasn't that like, the 70's?"

"The 60's," Courtney corrected. "I came to Roswell in '59."

"And watched TV?"

"Sure," Courtney said. "It was the best way to learn about humans."

"Not sure I'd want anyone passing judgment on me because of a TV show," Vilandra said ruefully.

"TV was different in the '50's and '60's," Courtney said, plopping on the bed. "Very wholesome, lots of Leave it to Beaver, and The Andy Griffith Show. Besides, I liked Samantha Stevens because she had to hide who she was."

" 'Wholesome'?" Vilandra said doubtfully. "What about Dark Shadows?"

"Barnabas Collins had to hide too," Courtney said. "Thank goodness we're not vampires. Am I sleeping in here?"

"Oh. Yeah, I'm sorry, I'm being a terrible host," Vilandra said, pulling a sleeping bag out of her closet. "Look, I want to apologize for Max sending you home with Tess. He shouldn't have done that."

"Why not?" Courtney asked.

"Because she was being awful to you!" Vilandra said, handing her a pillow. "Downright nasty. Nastier than usual, that is."

"Nothing she said was any worse than what Maria's been saying about me since I got here," Courtney said, "and most of it's not as bad. Tess doesn't bother me. Do you mind if I turn in? I'm bushed."

"Not just yet," another voice said.

It was Zan, having slipped through Vilandra's door so quietly, neither had heard him. "What's this?" Vilandra asked suspiciously.

"Courtney and I need to talk," Zan said.

"Now?" Vilandra demanded. "Max, it's a million o'clock! She's tired!"

"It's okay," Courtney said quickly.

"No, it's not," Vilandra insisted. "He fixed his mistake, and now talking can wait until tomorrow."

"I didn't make a 'mistake'," Zan said with an edge to his voice, "so there was nothing to fix."

"Then why did you bring her here?" Vilandra said.

"Because we need to talk," Zan said. "Didn't I already say that?"

"You did," Courtney confirmed. "It's okay," she repeated, cutting off further protests from Vilandra. "Look at it this way—he's bound to be better than Tess."

"He'd better be," Vilandra declared darkly. "If he gives you static, you come get me. Or just knock on the wall. I'll take care of him."

"Wow," Courtney remarked. "Do I really look that much like I need rescuing? Because I'm pretty sure most people think I'm the village bitch, and I'm good with that. But, hey, I appreciate the thought," she went on when Vilandra looked nonplussed; refusing support, any kind of support, was a bad idea. "If your brother goes all Jeffrey Dahmer on me, I'll yell, okay?"

"Yell if he goes all Tess on you," Vilandra advised. "That'll be bad enough."

Zan remained silent through this exchange, which was just as well given that Vilandra's disapproval trailed them to his bedroom, palpable even after the door closed. So...a private audience with the King. This was a rare privilege on Antar. People fought over this on Antar. Keep telling yourself that, Courtney advised herself as she faced her former monarch. Whatever mingling had occurred to make this current incarnation of Zan, he'd definitely retained the broody part of his former self, and the poker face. His expression was downright inscrutable.

"So you don't mind if people call you a bitch?"

Courtney blinked. "Did not see that coming. At least not as a first question."

"Just seems like something you'd object to," Zan said. "I know Isabel would. Why don't you? Don't you care what people think of you?"

"Of course I care," Courtney said, "but caring too much is a luxury we can't afford."

Zan's eyebrows rose. " 'We'?"

"Yes, 'we'," Courtney said. "As in leaders. I lead a rebellion, remember?"

"Hard to forget," Zan said.

"Tell me about it," Courtney said. "When I took over after my father was killed, there were people who didn't like it. From day one, I made it clear that was a TS. 'Tough shit'," she translated when Zan looked blank. "They thought I couldn't do it, and I was afraid they were right, but I never let them know that. Don't ever let them see you sweat. There's always somebody ready and willing to use that against you."

"Like you?" Zan said softly.

"Not me," Courtney corrected. "I don't want your job, but you'd be smart to think I do. You'd be smart to think everyone does. It's great to be liked, but it's better to be respected. You know that."

"I do?"

"Of course you do," Courtney said. "It's why you sent me home with Tess. You're reasserting the authority too many are challenging, and you should. More than 'should', you have to. The alternative isn't pretty."

"I thought Michael was the alternative," Zan said.

And there we have it, Courtney thought, knowing full well that there was more on the agenda than just a power play. So the second item on the list was loyalty, specifically hers. No surprise there.

"Michael is your Second," Courtney said, "so he's the alternative if something happens to you."

Zan's eyes fastened on hers. "That's not what I meant, and you know it."

"We thought he'd make a good king in that other life," Courtney said carefully. "But he's not in that other life now. He's here, he's young, and he's on the knee-jerk side of things. He's got some growing up to do."

"And what about me?" Zan said. "Do I have some growing up to do?"

"Yes," Courtney admitted. "But not nearly as much as he does. And not nearly as much as you used to."

They stared each other down, king and rebel leader, his gaze unreadable until he dropped his eyes, lost in thought. She was telling the truth, and more's the pity. Much as it pained her to admit it, Rath wasn't ready. He showed flashes of readiness, even brilliance, which had the unfortunate tendency to evaporate as quickly as they appeared. Zan had the more measured approach, the less volatile personality, the steadier hand on the tiller. It hadn't always been that way. He appeared to have learned something from his reincarnation, to have matured in some way, and so had his sister. The other two had yet to catch up.

"So...do we really have something to talk about?" Courtney said.

Zan's eyes snapped up. "Of course we do. What do you think this is? Another show of authority?"

"Good bet," Courtney admitted. "And it's okay if it is."

"Well, it isn't," Zan said defensively. "You're here because…well, because of my grandmother. She was here earlier tonight. You know her, right?"

Courtney's heart skipped a beat, partly from the question and partly because she'd just missed Dee. "I...I do?"

"Grandpa said you did. When you went missing, he went to the Crashdown looking for you because you and Grandma had gotten to know each other."

"Ah," Courtney said, relieved that Dee hadn't outed herself. "So, an old lady from the Crashdown. Could be anybody."

"Grandma's not just any 'old lady'," Zan said. "I don't even think of her as old. Anyway, I was talking to her—"

"About me?" Courtney broke in. "Does she know about…"

"No," Zan said quickly. "She doesn't. But Grandma's smart, and she doesn't pry. We can talk to her without going into all the details. The most important thing is that she liked you, and her opinion means a lot to me. Something she said made me bring you here tonight. I wanted us to talk because we have a decision to make."

Courtney's eyebrows rose. " 'We'?"

"Yes, 'we'," Zan said. "As in 'leaders'."

Well, well, Courtney thought. Did hell just freeze over? The Zan she'd heard of would have never shared decision-making so quickly, grandmother or no grandmother. Perhaps this one was even further along than she'd thought.

"All right, then," she said, pulling up a chair. "Let's talk. As leaders."






*********************************************************






November 24, 2000, 6:30 a.m.

Valenti Residence









The alarm went off. Tess threw out a hand without opening her eyes, whacked the snooze button, and sighed. She wanted to hibernate under the covers, but her stomach was growling; no dinner, no snacks, no food since lunch could do that to you. She'd briefly considered hitting the kitchen in the middle of the night, but the thought of creeping past their "guest" had not been palatable, especially since she was pretty sure Courtney's hearing was every bit as good as her own. Breakfast should be mercifully brief, and then school would relieve her of babysitting duties. Someone else could take over tonight.

She found Kyle in the kitchen throwing protein bars in his backpack. "Morning," Tess yawned, pulling a milk carton out of the fridge.

"Well, look at that," Kyle deadpanned. "Snow White awakens."

"Funny. Where is she?"

"Where is who?"

Tess raised an eyebrow. "Miss America. Who do you think? There's only one other 'she' here."

"You mean 'was' one other she here," Kyle corrected. "Courtney's gone."

Tess nearly dropped the milk carton. "Gone? What do you mean, 'gone'?"

" 'Gone' as in 'not here'. As in 'left'. As in 'no longer in residence'. As in—"

"Yeah, I got that part," Tess interrupted impatiently. "You mean she left? Just up and left? I knew it!" she huffed before Kyle could answer. "She's probably flown the coup, and now I'm going to get blamed for it! I told everyone not to trust her! I told them—"

"Simmer down, princess," Kyle broke in. "Nobody's going to blame you for anything."

"Actually it's 'queen'," Tess said crossly, "and how would you know?"

"Actually it's neither," Kyle corrected, "and I know because she left last night when Max picked her up."

Tess set the milk carton down lest she drop it. "Max…what?"

"Picked her up," Kyle repeated. "He came over and got her, and took her back to his house."

"Last night?" Tess said in astonishment. "Last night? He came over last night, and didn't tell me?"

"That's between you and him," Kyle said. "Leave me out of it."

"What about you?" Tess demanded. "You didn't tell me either!"

"Of course I didn't," Kyle said. "You didn't want to talk to anyone."

"I didn't want to talk to Courtney," Tess said in exasperation. "That didn't mean I didn't want to be told she was leaving!"

"Yeah, well, you didn't make that clear in the fine print," Kyle retorted. "All I know is that Dad knocked on your door, and I knocked on your door, and Dad knocked on your door again, and every single time you told us to get lost."

"That's not what I said," Tess objected.

"But it is what you meant," Kyle said pointedly. "So we did what you wanted and left you alone, and of course you're mad about that now. Somehow I just never saw you acting like a typical girl. I bet Courtney wouldn't have done that."

Don't, Tess told herself severely, resisting the urge to throw something. Why, oh why, did everyone fall under Courtney's spell? First Michael, then Isabel, then Liz, now Kyle. And what was up with Max?

"I'm the best judge of what I meant, but never mind that," Tess said. "Why did Max take her home with him?"

"How should I know?" Kyle said. "It's not like he confides in me. Or you," he added sagely as she scowled at him. "Which is really what this is about, isn't it?"

"He must have said something about why he was doing it," Tess persisted, not taking the bait.

"Hmm, let me think," Kyle said with mock gravity, rubbing his chin as though pondering the mysteries of the universe. "No. Nope. Didn't. Just marched into Dad's study as she was going to bed, and—"

"Wait," Tess broke in. "You sleep in your father's study. Wasn't she on the couch?"

"I offered her my bed," Kyle shrugged. "Offering my bed to visiting alien females is what I do. Everyone needs a hobby."

"So I actually went hungry, and it didn't even matter?" Tess demanded.

Kyle looked blank. " 'Went hungry'? Why would you...oh! I get it! You thought she was on the couch, and you didn't want her to see you, so you starved in my room. I mean your room."

"I didn't starve," Tess said crossly. "I just...never mind. You don't get it."

"Oh, I get it," Kyle said. "That's why you're pissed."

"I'm not 'pissed'," Tess insisted. "I'm just…"

"Pissed," Kyle finished.

"You know, after all that yak about football being a metaphor for life, I would think you'd understand," Tess said furiously.

"I understand perfectly," Kyle said. "Like I already told you, I had trouble accepting the new guy. The part you're forgetting is that when I finally did, we were a stronger team. You need a team to win a football game, and apparently to save your collective asses, so the sooner you move through this phase and get back to the 'team' part, the better off you'll be."

Sheriff Valenti came into the kitchen. "Mornin'. Lotta chatter in here for this early."

"Tess wants to know why Max picked up Courtney last night," Kyle announced.

Valenti raised an eyebrow as Tess fumed in silence. "He didn't say. I assumed you'd called him to come get her."

"Me?" Tess said. "Why would I do that?"

"Oh, I don't know, maybe because you holed up in your room and left her for us to take care of?" Valenti said.

Tess felt her face growing warm. It was one thing to spar with Kyle, but rebukes from the sheriff were quite another. "I gather Max didn't fill you in," Valenti went on when Tess remained silent. "And I'm guessing that was because he didn't want to listen to it. You see, when you act the way you did last night, people don't want to be around you. They leave you out of the loop."

"Thanks for the advice," Tess said coldly. "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get to school."

"Take it from a long-time law man," Valenti called after her. "If you're really concerned about her being an enemy, your best bet would be to get as close to her as possible, not the other way around. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."







*********************************************************







West Roswell High School







The clock ticked with maddening slowness as Isabel watched it impatiently, having waited all day for the final bell. Two rows away, Max tucked into the details on the latest war they were studying, since history always seemed to be about wars and little else. Why is that? she thought disconsolately, staring at her textbook, but not processing the words. Why wasn't history about clothes, gardens, weddings, and all the other mundane stuff of life? That's what really interested her, the part about what brides wore to their weddings in the year 1580, not who killed whom and when.

Tick. Two minutes to go, and boy, was she a hypocrite, because the reason she was so eager for the school day to end was that she wanted to run home and talk about a war she'd supposedly started. She'd been secretly excited when Max had told her about his plan to have Courtney spend the night with all of them in turn because it gave her the chance to ask her more about that other life where she had supposedly been a traitor. How ironic, then, that when her turn had come sooner than expected, Max had swept Courtney away to discuss God knows what. She'd lain awake for what seemed like hours, drifted in and out of sleep for what seemed like more, then finally conked out, finding Courtney on the floor beside her bed when she'd awakened. Then it was all about hiding her from Mom and Dad, so chitchat was out of the question. They were all supposed to convene at her house after school so they could discuss their next move before her parents got home from work, but it would take everyone a while to get there. She planned to sprint and produce a few precious minutes to ask some very pointed questions of the only person she knew who could answer them.

Tick.

"Heads down, everyone," the teacher warned. "Class isn't over yet."

Like hell it isn't, Isabel smiled as bodies shifted, books closed, and eyes fasted on the clock as though waiting for the Lotto numbers. She wasn't the only one watching the time, or the only one who leapt up a minute later when the bell rang. She was, however, the first who made it to the door, and one of the few not stopping at a locker or for a friend. She was unlocking her front door a record 9 minutes later when she suddenly paused.

Overcome by a sudden wave of panic, Isabel turned around and pressed her back against the door. Across the street, Mr. Rothman ran his mower over the yard he would walk on only in bedroom slippers, the mail truck trundled past, and moms were gathering at the far corner awaiting the school bus, all part of a world she hadn't betrayed. Did she really want to know what Courtney could tell her? Did she really want all the gory details? Courtney had already insisted she hadn't meant to hurt anyone, that she'd been lied to, that the likes of Nicholas and Whitaker could not be trusted. Wasn't that enough?

No. Her keys jangled as she scrambled to unlock the door before she lost her nerve. "Courtney?" she called as she rushed inside. "I'm home!"

No answer. Arriving in her bedroom, she found it empty. Courtney had probably heard the noise and interpreted it as her mother coming home from work early. "Courtney?" she called as she moved through the house. "It's Isabel. You can come out. Mom's not home yet."

Five frustrating minutes later, after checking the basement, the garage, even the attic, she returned to the kitchen, nonplussed. Courtney was gone. Here she'd waited all day to talk to her and dithered at the front door, but no one was here. Where the hell was she? If she didn't find her soon, she may never get a chance to ask her a single thing again.

"Isabel?"

Yes! Isabel whirled around joyfully, only to deflate a moment later. "Tess? What are you doing here?"

"I...thought we were supposed to meet here after school," Tess said.

"Oh. Yeah, yeah, we...we were," Isabel said. "I just meant, what are you doing here so soon? Where's everybody else?"

"They're coming in the jeep," Tess said. "I took my car. How did you get here so soon? I thought you were going to be a little late."

"I was," Isabel said, mentally damning the need for all the lies in their lives. "But then I decided this was more important, so I had my friend drop me off here."

"Oh. So where's Courtney?" Tess said, apparently accepting that explanation without difficulty.

"That's what I'm trying to figure out," Isabel said. "I can't find her. She probably hid when she thought my mom was coming home, but I've been calling and searching for a several minutes now."

"What about her stuff?" Tess asked. "Is her stuff still here?"

Isabel blinked, then scurried to her room. "No," she said indignantly, "it isn't! I didn't even notice that!"

"So she ran," Tess said.

"That doesn't seem right," Isabel frowned. "Maybe she left a note. I'll look."

Tess peered out the window. "The rest of them just pulled in."

A moment later, Liz, Maria, and Michael came in. "Courtney's gone," Tess announced.

"Didn't we do this yesterday?" Michael said. "She's here somewhere."

"She's not," Isabel insisted. "I've looked everywhere."

"No, you haven't looked wherever she is," Michael corrected. "She wouldn't run."

"Looks like she did," Tess said. "Her stuff is gone."

"She's had lots of opportunities to run," Liz pointed out. "Why now?"

"Who knows?" Tess said. "Who cares? She's not here."

"Well, maybe she had a reason to leave, like the meter reader showed up, or something," Maria said.

Everyone turned to stare at her. "What?" Maria said defensively. "I still don't like her. I just don't think she'd up and run. It's not her style."

"Great," Tess sighed. "Someone else drank the Kool-Aid."

"Sweetheart, I haven't ingested a single drop of Kool-Aid," Maria said severely. "I'm just calling it like I see it."

"Yeah, well, what I see is what I don't see," Tess retorted, "and I don't see Courtney."

Isabel shook her head. "Something's not right here...wait. Where's Max?"

"Right here."

He was, leaning against the doorframe, having come in so quietly that no one had heard him. "What are you doing lurking back there?" Isabel said.

"Watching," Max answered. "And listening."

"To what?" Tess asked warily.

"To everyone's reactions about why Courtney isn't here," Max said.

"Great," Michael said sourly. "So what's your impression, Fearless Leader? Do you think she split?"

"No," Max answered. "I'm the one who told her to leave."

There was a moment of total silence while everyone digested that. "You...why?" Isabel demanded. "Where is she?"

"At the library," Max answered.

"The library?" Michael said.

"But what if someone recognizes her?" Maria said.

"She's less likely to be discovered at the library," Liz noted.

"But why didn't you say something?" Isabel said in exasperation. "You never mentioned it this morning!"

"Sure I did," Max said. "To Courtney. She's the only one who needed to know."

Isabel's lips set in a thin line. "So you kept it from us on purpose, to see what we'd say."

"Lot of that going around," Tess muttered.

"Actually, I made my decision right before we left for school, and there wasn't a safe place to discuss it," Max said, "or any reason to discuss it before now. But go with the paranoid version if you want."

"Okay, the important thing is why," Tess said as Isabel smoldered. "What's she doing at the library?"

"She had some research to do," Max said, "and she'll need our help. Specifically, Liz's help."

"Her?" Tess said.

"Me?" Liz echoed.

"You're the one who would know the most about this," Max said. "Will you help?"

Liz didn't hesitate. "Of course. What do you need?"






**********************************************************








11:30 p.m.

West Roswell High School









The stench of chlorine was overwhelming long before she hit the gym. Courtney shivered even though she wasn't cold and willed her feet down the deserted hallway, through the locker rooms and detestable showers, and up the steps. Why up? Shouldn't it be down? And shouldn't she be using precious brain power on more important questions than building layout?

Liz was waiting for her, a tightly wound bundle of concern. "Hi. Sorry it's so dark. I don't want any light showing out the windows."

"No problem," Courtney answered. "School is weird when it's empty."

"Tell me about it," Liz agreed. "It's downright creepy. But we couldn't exactly do this with an audience."

"Yeah, that would suck," Courtney agreed. "So...shall we—"

"Are you sure about this?" Liz broke in. "I mean, absolutely sure? Because if you're not, we can wait. And if Max pressured you in any way, he had no right to, and we should stop."

"Yes, no, and he didn't," Courtney said calmly. "This was my decision, we can't wait because the new husk won't hold up much longer, and...well, I'm as sure as I'll ever be. This could be one of the best things that's ever happened to me."

Liz looked at the swimming pool, its water dark and foreboding in the low light. "Or it could be the worst mistake of your life."

Courtney shrugged. "Only one way to find out."






~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



I'll be back with Chapter 74 on Sunday, December 17. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 685
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Chapter 74

Postby Kathy W » Sun Dec 17, 2017 5:32 pm

Hello and thank you to everyone reading!










CHAPTER SEVENTY-FOUR






November 25, 2000, 12:05 a.m.

West Roswell High School









One of the constants in any soldier's life was the question of their own death. A distant event for most people, death was a distinct reality for the career soldier, especially as they watched the body count of comrades and enemies alike rise with each passing day. Given the choice, it was the rare soldier who would not choose to go out in a blaze of glory while striking a blow for their cause; if one couldn't manage both, either/or would do. Third place would go to dying in battle in defense of their cause with no attendant glory or blow. Honorable mentions would be awarded for dying as a result of war, basically points for showing up. Trailing far behind would be mere accidents which could happen to anyone, like traffic accidents, falling off a ladder, a stray virus, and the like. No one who went to war wanted to die of something mundane. So where does that leave me? Courtney thought as she gazed into the water. After decades of worrying about being offed by Nicholas, a Royal Warder, a hybrid, or an enemy human, she now faced a prospect more demoralizing than stepping in front of a bus, that of drowning in the deep end of West Roswell High's swimming pool.

"Penny for your thoughts?"

It was Vilandra, as perfectly dressed, coiffed, and made-up as she'd been in that other life, kneeling primly beside her. The Princess was one of those people who could climb out of a dumpster looking fabulous, and that trait had not deserted her in this second incarnation. "I was just thinking," Courtney answered, "that it would be some kind of weird poetic justice to have an alien die in a Roswell swimming pool."

"So you don't think this is going to work?" Vilandra said in alarm.

"No," Courtney said quickly, "no, I think it will work. I wouldn't do if I didn't think it would work. I'm just noting the irony."

"Oh," Vilandra said, visibly relieved. She was quiet for a moment. "So, what did you and Max talk about for so long last night?"

Courtney smiled faintly. "Not you."

Vilandra blinked. "What?"

"We didn't talk about anything that led you all here," Courtney clarified. "We talked about husks, how they work, how they stop working, and what might happen if I use the new husk. That's it." She paused. "Max doesn't know what Whitaker and Nicholas told you, does he?"

It was a guess, but a good one; Vilandra promptly blanched. "I won't tell him," Courtney promised. "It's your business, not mine. And not his."

"So my betraying everyone I know isn't their business?" Vilandra said doubtfully.

"That's Nicholas talking," Courtney said firmly. "You were the one who was betrayed. Khivar neglected to mention that he planned to murder everyone you loved and take over the planet. Just kind of left that part out."

Vilandra shook her head. "And I was apparently stupid enough not to realize he was planning that."

"You were young," Courtney said gently. "And inexperienced. And in love, or so you thought. It happens all the time, to people everywhere."

"Yeah, well, it usually doesn't bring down planets," Vilandra sighed.

"It can when it involves royalty," Courtney said. "You keep forgetting that you're not an ordinary person where we come from. You're the king's sister. You're nothing but a polite cough away from the throne."

"I'd love to be an ordinary person," Vilandra said sadly.

"I wouldn't mind that myself at the moment," Courtney admitted, "but we're not. Sucks, doesn't it?"

They sat in silence for a moment before Vilandra shifted uncomfortably. "I...I wanted to talk to you more about...about what Whitaker and Nicholas said. You know, more context. Maybe something that would make me feel like less of an idiot."

"I'd be happy to," Courtney said. "Let me settle this, and then we'll talk."

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Vilandra said. "Was this your idea, or is Max making you do it?"

"Everyone keeps asking me that," Courtney said. "For the record, Max can't 'make' me do anything. He left it up to me, and I decided to go ahead with it."

" 'Left it up to you'?" Vilandra said skeptically. "Didn't sound like he was leaving it up to you."

"He was just posturing to make it clear who was boss," Courtney said. "And he kind of had to given the flack he was getting. Where is Tess, by the way? And Michael?"

"Not here," Vilandra answered. "Max wanted to keep this as small as possible."

"Mmm," Courtney murmured, reasonably sure that wasn't all of it—Zan had removed her most ardent detractor and her most ardent supporter, leveling the playing field. "Can't say I miss Tess. Keep an eye on her. I know she was raised by one of the most paranoid people I know, and in your lives, a little paranoia is a good thing, but still...she's got a selfish streak that reminds me of Nasedo."

Vilandra's eyes widened for a moment before she nodded. "Okay, I'm...going to go see how Max is doing. I think he's done removing the chlorine."

Vilandra retreated to the other side of the pool, where Zan was watching Liz Parker check to make certain the chlorine, which could damage the new husk, was gone. She'd been downplaying Ava's tantrums, but now that she might not survive the night, more candor was called for. Watching the way Ava had withdrawn last night and ignored the Valenti's pleading had been disturbing. All the talk about enemies wasn't the real reason for her pique; if she were that concerned about enemies, why barricade herself in her bedroom and leave said enemy unattended? No, Ava was just angry that she hadn't gotten her way, a fact only emphasized by her obvious unhappiness that she had not been consulted when Zan had retrieved her from the sheriff's house last night. It was a worrisome display of self-absorption, especially given that the Ava in Future Zan's world had left Roswell and not returned despite a massive invasion. Granted there could be all kinds of reasons she hadn't returned, many not her fault, but still...she had a bad feeling about that one, and not just because Jaddo had raised her.

"Hey."

It was Liz Parker, awkwardly tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "So, the chlorine's gone. Is there anything else you need?"

"Besides prayer?" Courtney said. "Kidding," she added when Liz paled. "I'm just...a bit nervous."

"If you think there's any chance this won't work, you shouldn't do it," Liz said firmly. "Better to stick with the husk that you have, even if it's old."

"I'll be okay," Courtney said. "If I go to the bottom of the deep end, that should equalize the pressure enough to allow me to change husks without killing myself. I'll just have to move fast."

"How do you move fast in water?" Liz said. "You still need air. You'll have to get the new husk on and get back up to the surface without passing out."

"I'll make sure the new husk is right next to me," Courtney said. "I won't have far to go."

"Still sounds awfully risky," Liz said doubtfully.

"I'll be fine," Courtney said. "I did the math. I spent the whole day doing the math."

And I'm not the only one, Courtney thought as Liz reluctantly retreated. She'd hit the library this morning, wearing dark glasses and hoping against hope that no one recognized her as that waitress from the Crashdown. In the midst of her first calculations on water pressure, a man had sat down across from her and fixed her with a stare which made her heart sink. Busted! She hadn't bothered concocting a story as to why the missing Courtney Banks had returned, but it had looked like she needed one now.

"So they left you unattended," the man said. "That can only be good news, if I'm not mistaken."

Courtney had gaped, then blinked back tears of relief when she'd seen those trademark black eyes. "Where the hell have you been?" she'd demanded brusquely, hoping to cover her very embarrassing near weeping. "They're passing me back and forth like a hot potato, and I'm swinging in the breeze!"

"Talk about mixed metaphors," Brivari said. "It's only been 48 hours. Surely I can have at least that long to monitor the situation with Nicholas."

Courtney opened her mouth, then closed it. 48 hours? Had it really been only 2 days since their escape? It felt more like 2 weeks. "Oh...right," she said sheepishly. "I...guess I lost track of time. So what's Nicky up to? Pouting?"

"Oh, he's way beyond pouting," Brivari answered. "He skipped pouting and went straight to tantrums, both with and without hurled objects."

"Please tell me you notified the Resistance," Courtney said. "I smashed my phone before I went to Rath because I didn't want them to find it and butt dial you."

Brivari smiled faintly. "Is that a thing?"

"It should be," Courtney said. "You called Nathaniel, right? Khivar knows the husks are toast, right?"

"Yes, and yes," Brivari said, "although I gather Khivar has been unable to reach Nicholas to discuss his most recent failing."

"Yeah, I'm sure they're having all sorts of technical difficulties that he'll conveniently blame on me," Courtney said. "Just add it to the list."

"And such a list," Brivari said with obvious satisfaction. "What you accomplished back there was nothing short of magnificent. The Crown is in your debt."

"Wow—another compliment!" Courtney said with mock enthusiasm. "Does this mean you're not going to execute me for treason?"

"I...may have been hasty with that sentence," Brivari allowed.

"Not to mention that your Ward came back from the future to kick your ass on the subject," Courtney added blandly.

"That, too. Look, you must admit that going over my head to another head of state was technically treason."

"And you must admit that you know perfectly well I didn't have a treasonous bone in my body when I did that," Courtney retorted. "And neither did Larak, who is mysteriously getting a pass. How does he rate? Why is it treasonous for me, but okay for him?"

Brivari looked pained. "Let's just say that I acknowledge your intentions were good, and leave it at that. So how goes it with the hybrids?"

"Nice change of subject," Courtney said dryly. "Very smooth."

"I've gone weeks without an inside man," Brivari said tartly, "and you're inside like no other because they know who you are. I'd appreciate your thoughts."

"You mean the thoughts of a traitor?" Courtney teased. "Okay, okay," she went on when he looked daggers at her. "Our royals are a skittish bunch who are smarter than I expected."

"Oh?" Brivari said, perking up. "In what way?"

"They're divided as to how much to trust me," Courtney said. "Rath believes me, Vilandra pretty much believes me, but Ava is on the warpath. I know she's mad because I outrank her in terms of what I know, but she's downright sulky."

"She comes by it honestly," Brivari noted. "What about Zan?"

"He surprised me," Courtney admitted. "Especially when he left it up to me to decide what to do with the new husk."

Brivari raised an eyebrow. "New husk?"

"Rath grabbed my new husk," Courtney explained, "literally pulled it out of the fire while things were exploding around him."

Brivari sat back in his chair, his hands tented in front of him. "Go on."

"Ava was making quite the scene and insisting I was an enemy," Courtney continued. "There was a lot of arguing. Zan was making a show of power, which he kind of needed given the way everyone was acting. He said he'd decide whether or not I would try the new husk. Then he sent me home with Ava to spend the night."

"Interesting," Brivari said. "And?"

"And he showed up later that night and brought me back to his house," Courtney went on. "He poked around at the 'are you a friend or an enemy' bit, but he wanted to know what I thought we should do with the husk. He said his grandmother had convinced him to ask me. They know that Dee and I knew each other from the Crashdown, so that gave her a chance to say more than she usually can, even though they still don't know she's in on it. Zan said his grandmother liked me, and that her opinion meant a lot to him."

"Does it now?" Brivari murmured.

"Guess I should be grateful she said something nice given that she wasn't speaking to me just a couple of days ago," Courtney said. "She was really pissed that I wouldn't send Rath after Zan. She actually kicked me out of her house. I heard she dragged you into the argument."

"She tried," Brivari said. "She doesn't understand, and she never will. Continue."

"That's it?" Courtney said. "This is the biggest fight I've ever had with the biggest ally we've ever had, and you dismiss it in a mere ten words?"

"You made the right decision," Brivari said impatiently, "but you already know that. And it's not the biggest fight. Emily Proctor barred me from her house for far longer when she discovered our experimentation on human subjects. What did you tell Zan?"

"I told him I'd think about it. That's what I'm doing here, thinking about it, researching—"

"There's nothing to think about," Brivari interrupted. "You have a new husk. Of course you're going to use it."

"It's not that simple," Courtney protested. "It's not a mature husk. Nicholas still had everyone connected to the crop, so they weren't ready to harvest."

"Even an immature husk is likely to be a huge improvement over your current model," Brivari said. "Yours could fail at any moment."

"So could the new one," Courtney said. "Keep in mind they grew this crop with kluged tech."

"I don't care if they grew them with Weed-B-Gone. They were confident enough of their crop that they're gnashing their teeth over the loss of it. Put the husk on."

"And if it fails?" Courtney said.

"It won't fail like your current one," Brivari argued. "It will fail gradually, and we'll have time to react. None of us have time to react if you just explode."

"Thanks for the visual," Courtney said tartly. "I don't see how anyone can 'react' when your Resistance Mega Mall isn't built yet."

"I can keep you alive until it is," Brivari said. "It won't be five star accommodations, but it will be a damn sight better than being dead. Put the husk on."

"But how?" Courtney demanded. "That's what I'm looking for here, a safe way to do that in the absence of pressure chambers and—"

"Water."

Courtney blinked. "What?"

"Water," Brivari repeated. "If you change husks under water, you won't need a pressure chamber; the water will provide it."

"Not enough," Courtney protested, "or not for long enough. Not to mention that I can't breathe under water."

"How much time do you need?" Brivari asked. "Shouldn't it only take seconds? A minute at most?"

And so it had begun, several hours of calculation and argument which had culminated in her telling Zan she had a solution, but would need help with the details. He had suggested Liz Parker, also her first choice for technical assistance, and now here they were. The witching hour had arrived.

Vilandra returned, kneeling beside her. "Here it comes," she whispered.

Zan came toward her, his arms full. Carefully, he laid the blanket down on the tile beside her and unwrapped the new husk. It was a thing of beauty, smooth and taut and unblemished, the hair smooth and shiny, not brittle and dry like hers. She reached out a hand to stroke it the way humans touched new clothing, running her fingers through the hair…

...only to find Zan withdrawing rapidly, and Vilandra and Liz staring at her, wide-eyed. "What?" she said.

"It's just...he's just...it's just a little awkward," Liz stammered.

"What's awkward?" Courtney said. "You've all seen this before. We've talked about it."

"Well, yeah, but..." Liz stopped, flustered. "I mean, you pointed out that one of the signs that it's nearly mature is the nails growing, and the underarm hair and...other hair. It's just...well, it's a little weird to see you...touching it like that."

Ah. Courtney pulled her hand back as Vilandra blushed furiously; unfortunately, she had chosen hair that wasn't on the husk's head. "Okay, guys? To me, this is like a piece of clothing. It's not me, it's something I wear. You know how you run your fingers through the fringe on a skirt, or some fake fur? Same thing."

"Sorry, but it's never going to look like the same thing," Vilandra said, her eyes carefully elsewhere. "It looks like you're…"

"Masturbating?" Courtney said helpfully.

"Can we please just be done with this conversation?" Vilandra begged. "Let's just get you into it, and then you can play with whatever you want to."

"I'm not playing," Courtney insisted. "I'm admiring. Do you know how long it's been since I had a husk this pristine?"

"Imagine if we could do this," Liz said, squatting beside the husk. "I mean, just put on a new, younger skin, with younger hair and—"

"Liz, please!" Vilandra said crossly. "You're freaking me out!"

And not just her, Courtney thought with amusement, watching Zan dither uncomfortably on the other side of the pool, the sight of her stroking the husk's pubic hair having unhinged him completely. "Okay, let's do this," she said briskly, more to move herself along before she lost her nerve than to cover their discomfiture.

"Wait," Vilandra said suddenly. "Why are you taking your clothes off?"

"Because I have to," Courtney said. "I can't have bras floating around down there."

"Isabel, she has to take her clothes off," Liz said carefully. "She can't have anything getting in the way. She's only got a few seconds, so she can't have a zipper sticking, or—"

"Right," Isabel said quickly. "You're right, I'm...I'm sorry. Max!" she called to her brother. "Courtney has to undress. Turn around!"

"Seriously?" Courtney said. "We really don't have time to be prudish."

But Zan had dutifully turned as ordered, and Courtney decided this wasn't the time to address how societal norms could be deadly in this situation. She shed the rest of her clothing as Vilandra studiously looked elsewhere, and slipped into the pool. "Okay, hand me the husk."

Vilandra and Liz pulled the blanket to the edge of the pool and tipped the husk into the water. It was heavy, slumping against her almost like a real person, albeit one that was open all the way down the back of the head and torso. The plan was for her to swim to the bottom of the deep end with the new husk, pop the seal on her old husk, quickly slip into the new one, seal it, and return to the surface, all while holding her breath. She reached behind her, nervously fingering the seal at her lower back. Theoretically this was totally doable, so why was she so nervous?

"Scared?" Liz asked.

"Terrified," Courtney corrected.

Big mouth, Courtney thought wearily, regretting that moment of candor. But it seemed to have an effect on Vilandra, who abruptly dropped her concerns about nudity and hovered by the edge of the pool. "We'll be right here," she said firmly. "All of us. We'll be watching every minute, and if you're having trouble, we'll come help."

"You mean while you're all trying desperately not to look at my boobs?" Courtney joked. "Which, you know, aren't really my boobs."

"I'm serious," Vilandra said, sounding exactly that. "I know you told us to stay out, but if you don't come right back up, we're going down."

"Roger that," Courtney said. "Well...here I go."

Her heart beating rapidly, Courtney swam toward the middle of the deep end, where the new husk was less likely to encounter the edges of the pool and be damaged. She had to go down alone because it was likely that her vision wouldn't be working so great after she shed her old husk; more bodies in the water the same size as the skin she was going for would only confuse her, and she didn't have time to be confused. She also didn't have time to ruminate; once she started, the clock would be ticking on how long she could hold her breath. Reaching the center, the new husk bobbed beside her, secured by her right arm. She would have to let go of it just before she popped the seal lest it be carried away with the old one.

"Okay, well...if I don't see you again, it's been fun," she told the worried faces surrounding her.

"You'll see us," Zan assured her.

"We're right here if you need us," Liz added encouragingly.

"You'll be back up here baiting Tess in no time," Vilandra said.

Courtney smiled at that one, a welcome last joke. Well, hopefully not the last. Only one way to find out.

"Remember, deep breath," Liz said. "A great big, deep breath, the largest you can take."

"Yeah, I got it," Courtney said.

"Take a few big ones first before you dive," Liz advised. "You know, just to stretch out your lungs."

Do lungs stretch? Courtney wondered, dutifully inhaling and exhaling several times anyway, wondering idly what her father would think about this predicament. No contest, really—he'd tell her to go for it, for all the same reasons Brivari had. God knows he'd never had a chance like this before Nicholas had executed him, and that's how she should be viewing this, not as a problem, but a chance, a chance she hadn't had before. Did people actually meet again in an afterlife as so many human religions claimed? It would be nice to think so now, to view this as either a chance to live, or to die and see her father again...

Taking a huge gulp of air, she dove, pulling the new husk with her, fighting furiously against the weight of the water, protective though it would be. It seemed to take much too long to reach the bottom, but the moment her feet planted on the bottom, she reached behind her, felt the seal in her hand, and pulled.

Wumphf! Courtney almost forgot to keep holding her breath as she was propelled backwards, along with a roaring in her ears and an explosion of bubbles which obscured her vision. Frantic now, she searched through the mist with eyes which hadn't worked on their own in decades, and pawed through the bubbles with hands which suddenly seemed much too large for something which didn't seem to be there. It had been right here, right next to her, only inches away. Where could it have gone?

Then came a sudden shove from behind, firm and relentless, moving her forward. She bumped into a husk, definitely the new one given how it felt, and fumbled too-large feet into the legs, thrust too-big hands into the arms and reached a new, appropriately-sized hand around to find the seal. But she was feeling light-headed and everything moved in slow motion, too slowly, much too slowly...until a hand clamped on her own and guided it behind her, where she felt something smooth and hard…

The next thing she remembered was breaking the surface of the water and taking a huge gulp of air into lungs which had almost given up. Something was holding her, and she sagged against it as it pulled her toward the edge of the pool. Hands grabbed her, pulled her out, and she flopped on the tile on her back, utterly exhausted, her eyes closed. When she finally opened them, she found Liz Parker crouching over her with a worried expression which rapidly brightened.

"She moved!" Liz exclaimed. "She's alive!"

A hand reached across her. "Good work, Iz," Zan's tired voice said. "You did it."

Courtney rolled her head left, then right. On one side was a soaked king, on the other a sodden princess, panting like a dog, with dripping hair plastered to her head and mascara running down her face. The girl who always looked fabulous had finally been beaten by the most basic of elements. Even Vilandra was no match for water.

"She's trying to talk," Liz said urgently. "Courtney! Are you okay? Did it work? Say something!"

Three heads gathered over her, two dripping, one dry. Courtney moved her new lips experimentally and found they worked, albeit stiffly. "Do you mean to tell me," she said slowly, "that you died and were reborn on a distant planet, but you still don't know about waterproof mascara?"

There was a brief pause before all of them burst out laughing. "She's okay," Vilandra said in relief, flopping down beside her. "She's okay."







*********************************************************







The jeep glided down the road with the top down despite the chilly evening. Max kept his eyes on the road, studiously not wrinkling his nose at the smell. Soggy sisters, it turned out, carried a particular odor which even the wind couldn't fix.

"Aren't you cold?" Max ventured.

"No," Isabel answered.

"But you might catch cold," Max said.

"We don't get sick," Isabel said. "You know that."

"At least let me get you a blanket—"

"Max, I'm fine," Isabel said. "Really."

"You don't look fine," Max said. "And you're sogging up my seat."

"Oh, so it's the seat you're worried about? Not me?"

"Of course I'm worried about you," Max said. "I just—"

"I'll clean it up," Isabel interrupted. "Leave me alone."

Max lapsed into a frustrated silence as his sister sat beside him, her features set and aimed out the window, or where the window would have been were they not driving al fresco. She was a mess, soaked to the bone, clothes clinging to her in sodden clumps, make-up running and damp hair drying in a decidedly un-Isabel-like hairdo shaped by the wind. He'd never seen her so disheveled, or so uninterested in cleaning herself up. If not for her sass, he would have said she was in shock, and maybe she was. That had been quite a rescue she'd pulled off, especially considering he hadn't realized that rescue was needed.

"What made you go in, Iz?"

Isabel stirred beside him. "Isn't it obvious? She was in trouble."

"But you jumped in before that, before she'd even reached the bottom."

Isabel's head whipped around. "So, what, you're mad I didn't ask for your permission?"

"No, of course not!" Max said. "I'm glad you went in because she needed you, and I'm glad you went in when you did because otherwise, you wouldn't have been there in time. I'm just curious about why. How did you know?"

Taken aback, Isabel looked away. "I...I'm not sure. I guess I was just doing the math, all the things she had to do to get out of one husk and into the other, and how far away we all were if anything went wrong. And when I saw how long it took for her to get to the bottom, I wondered how we would get down there in time if she needed us, and I...I just jumped in. I made sure to stay behind her so she wouldn't see me and get confused."

"But then she got confused anyway," Max said.

Isabel shook her head. "I don't know what happened. She seemed to be having trouble finding the husk, so I pushed her toward it. And then she seemed to be having trouble getting it to close. It was like she was passing out, or something."

"Lack of oxygen," Max said.

"Probably," Isabel agreed. "She'd been reaching behind her, but then her hand fell away, and I pulled it back. And then she did...something...and then it just…closed."

"What did she do?" Max asked curiously.

"I'm not sure," Isabel said. "It all happened so fast. It's like the line down the back just disappeared somehow."

"Maybe she can tell us," Max said. "You know, when she's had some time to recover."

"Yeah," Isabel said quietly. "Maybe." She paused. "Did you see her?"

"What do you mean?"

"You know exactly what I mean."

Max's hand tightened on the steering wheel. "No. She was too far away to be much more than a blur."

"I did," Isabel said faintly. "I saw what she looks like. What we look like."

"No, Isabel," Max said gently. "We don't look like that. We don't have husks to take off."

"But we used to look like that," Isabel said, almost wistfully. "It got me thinking about what makes someone beautiful. Everyone says I'm beautiful now, but I'd be too skinny for Michelangelo's day. Supposedly I was beautiful in that other life, but—"

"Who told you that?" Max broke in. "Was it Nicholas?"

Isabel looked startled, like she'd said something she shouldn't. "Yeah," she said guardedly. "He was probably just trying to flatter me. The point is, that's what we used to look like. That's how people would remember us."

"It doesn't matter how they remember us," Max said. "What matters is how we are now."

"Of course it matters," Isabel admonished. "The past matters, Max, whether we want it to or not."

Max held his tongue, not wanting to antagonize her further. Truth be told, he found the standard alien shape, which was apparently pretty close to the truth, to be remarkably unattractive. The too big head, too big hands, and giant eyes looked cartoonish, even comical. He didn't want to think about having looked like that, didn't want to go back to looking like that. Part of him wanted to ask Courtney how she'd managed to stuff those huge hands inside smaller human hands, or that big head into a smaller human head, but he didn't want to get too chatty with her. Michael certainly had, and that might be a problem. And he certainly wasn't going to announce to his sister that he thought she must have been ugly in that other life. Best to just skip this line of conversation entirely.

"We can ask Courtney about it when she's feeling up to it," he suggested.

"There are lots of things I want to ask her," Isabel said. "If she'd stayed with us tonight, we could have asked her all sorts of things."

"Don't you think she deserves a night off after all that?" Max said.

"If she deserves a night off, why didn't you send her to Michael's? She wouldn't have to hide there."

"There'll be plenty of time for questions tomorrow," Max said. "And I sent her where she'd have the most help if there was a problem."







*********************************************************







Parker Residence







"Here you go," Liz said, kneeling beside her. "I put 6 teaspoons of sugar in it."

"Thanks," Courtney said, taking the steaming mug of tea. "I could use some energy."

"So...what's it feel like?" Liz asked eagerly. "Good? Bad? Weird?"

Careful not to spill her tea, Courtney stretched, flexing her new neck, new fingers, new toes. "Actually, it feels...wonderful!"







~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




A very Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to all! I'll be back with Chapter 75 on Sunday, February 4.
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
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Re: Birthright *Series* Season 2 (CC, TEEN), Chapter 74, 12/17

Postby Kathy W » Sun Feb 04, 2018 10:28 pm

So sorry, everyone, but I won't be back today. My dance school is extremely busy, and I'm up to my eyeballs in choreography and lessons. Good news for dancing, but bad news for writing, as I haven't had time to touch it.

I'm hoping to be back by Sunday, March 4. Sorry for the delay, and if I can make it back sooner, I will!



KathyW
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Update

Postby Kathy W » Sun Feb 25, 2018 1:17 am

Hi everyone,

I'm afraid I have some bad news. My father has died, suddenly and unexpectedly. He was 91, but he was still independent and driving his own car. I saw him only a few hours before he collapsed. To say I'm in shock is a bit of an understatement.

I am the only one of his 3 children who lives close by and the executor of his estate, so I am currently buried under an avalanche of work and grief. I won't have time for my story for a while, and I'm sorry about that. I have no intention of abandoning it, but I do need to set it aside until I finalize my father's affairs.

I will keep you posted as to when I expect to be back. Until then, hug your parents if you still have them. The day will come when you can't. :(



Kathy
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
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Re: Birthright *Series* Season 2 (CC, TEEN), Chapter 74, 12/17

Postby Kathy W » Sat May 26, 2018 10:33 pm

Hi everyone,

I wanted to give you an update and assure you I haven't disappeared completely. I've finished with my father's business, but unfortunately, 6 weeks after my dad died, my husband almost died. :shock: He survived and is recovering, but that recovery will take several months. I'm now dealing with all the things I didn't get done for my dance school for several weeks. Hopefully I'll be able to return to writing this summer, when my school is on hiatus.

Sorry this is taking so long. :( I'm thoroughly sick of crises, but eternally grateful I am not a widow. I fully intend to return, so let's hope this run of bad luck has run out.



Kathy
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

keepsmiling7
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Re: Birthright *Series* Season 2 (CC, TEEN), Update, 5/26

Postby keepsmiling7 » Sun May 27, 2018 5:33 pm

Kathy appreciate hearing from you, just sorry your news is not good. You have gone from one crisis to another, and here's hoping for a better tomorrow.
I'll look forward to the summer when your schedule permits some time for writing.
Thanks,
Carolyn

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Kathy W
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Re: Birthright *Series* Season 2 (CC, TEEN), Update, 5/26

Postby Kathy W » Sun May 27, 2018 9:08 pm

^^^ Thank you, Carolyn. It sounds like a bad movie, but it happened. Thankfully my husband is recovering, but man, that was close.....


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