Endless Spiral CC, Mature, Part 13 02/25/2016

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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Roswelllostcause
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Re: Endless Spiral CC, Mature, Part 10 10/05/14

Postby Roswelllostcause » Sun Oct 05, 2014 1:05 pm

OK I really want to kick that runt Nicholas's ass!
Check out my Author page for a list of my fics!


http://www.roswellfanatics.net/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=155639

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Re: Endless Spiral CC, Mature, Part 10 10/05/14

Postby keepsmiling7 » Sun Oct 05, 2014 4:10 pm

Welcome back!
To say this part is dark is an understatement.........and hard to read about my favorite characters.
The torture, and the dreams make it even more difficult.
How cruel of Nicholas to Liz......reminding her that Max's first child would not be hers.
I'm eager for more, but is there any light at the end of the tunnel......or endless spiral??
Thanks,
Carolyn

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Re: Endless Spiral CC, Mature, Part 10 10/05/14

Postby saori_1902 » Sun Oct 05, 2014 6:28 pm

Oh my, what Liz, Maria and Kyle did to deserve all that? :x
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Re: Endless Spiral CC, Mature, Part 10 10/05/14

Postby saori_1902 » Sun Nov 02, 2014 10:19 am

bump :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
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Re: Endless Spiral CC, Mature, Part 10 10/05/14

Postby ADreamerDestiny » Wed Feb 04, 2015 2:56 pm

:D Wow. This story is EXCELLENT. I love your writing style. It is very intense and captivating. I was feeling some old Roswell nostalgia and decided to check out some fanfiction. After I found your story, I read all the chapters between yesterday and today. Your approach is original. I also think you made good use of the varying timeline to get all the information out and to unravel the paths of the characters. I enjoy it and am used to it as other shows like LOST or ONCE UPON A TIME use a similar writing technique.

I am curious about the fate of our pod squad; however, the story you have unfolding for our favorite humans makes it well worth the wait. As we are taken along on their journey, we are able to feel what they feel and understand who they are becoming and why. I really like the realistic and bittersweet bond forged between Liz, Maria, and Kyle - marred by tragedy and unified by mutual understanding and experience. I definitely get the sense why they are family to each other.

So many questions. Are Liz's dreams only just dreams or was Max really trying to reach her through them in some form? I am definitely curious about the baby situation. How is the child only 5? Do Antarians age slower in their part of the galaxy? Was the pregnancy on earth a ruse and Tess got pregnant later on Antar? I definitely want to know how and when this Vittrio entered the picture and why? Whose side are the humans really fighting for? Were they misled into kidnapping 'the target' for his safety when someone really has other plans for this little boy? Who brought this reincarnated version of Alex back and why?

The torture sessions with Nikolas are sad and disturbing but quite along the lines of what he is definitely capable of. Sick and twisted that one can be and pulling out the emotional and mental manipulation tactics is something I would expect. I do wonder how the pod squad's departure escaped the attention of the Skins? Hm.

My poor Liz. She was always my favorite and I love how you captured her in the aftermath of the departure and into the future. She always put up a front of bravado and while she is strong,.I always expected her to break somehow along the way. She is afterall - only human. There is always a breaking point even if that is what Liz becomes ten years after the departure. I am intrigued where this is going with her and the remaining humans.

I do hope you can update again soon. But I do realize and understand it takes time and effort to create the quality work for a new chapter. Good luck with it and I will be anxiously awaiting the next installment.

~ Heather
~*HEATHER*~

DREAMER (Max & Liz) ~ My #1 Shipperdom
Generally support The other CC couples (M/M; A/I)

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Re: Endless Spiral CC, Mature, Part 10 10/05/14

Postby saori_1902 » Mon Apr 13, 2015 7:27 pm

i miss this :cry:
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Re: Endless Spiral CC, Mature, Part 10 10/05/14

Postby Comet » Fri Apr 24, 2015 12:07 pm

I'm alive!!! Working on the next part, which is almost complete! Thank you to everyone who is reading and sticking with me!!

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Re: Endless Spiral CC, Mature, AN 04/24/15

Postby begonia9508 » Fri Apr 24, 2015 1:00 pm

Happy to hear you're alive! :shock: :D And waiting for more... thanks EVE :mrgreen:
- Les jouissances de l'esprit sont faites pour calmer les orages du coeur!
- On reconnaît le bonheur au bruit qu'il fait quand il s'en va!
- L'amour vous rend aveugle et le mariage vous redonne la vue!

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Re: Endless Spiral CC, Mature, Part 10 10/05/14

Postby saori_1902 » Sat Apr 25, 2015 7:54 pm

Comet wrote:I'm alive!!! Working on the next part, which is almost complete! Thank you to everyone who is reading and sticking with me!!


great news !!! :-)
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10.1. We All Fall Down (2/2)

Postby Comet » Tue Jun 02, 2015 1:26 pm

AN: HI everyone! Big big thanks for the patience... Thank you all for still following my story. As always I love hearing what you think and all the speculation, so please keep it coming! And special shout out to my beta Xilaj!

10.1. We All Fall Down (2/2)

Winter 2005- Four years after The Departure

Day 7 – Day 10

Kyle

He can’t move his leg.

He can’t bounce his foot, or wiggle his toes.

His arms might as well be dead weights on either side of him, because he can’t lift a hand, or a finger either.

For someone who had lived his whole life in a constant state of motion, training, honing his body in pursuit of physical perfection, being unable to command his limbs should have sent him spiraling into terror and not a small amount of hysteria. And the first time they had beaten him so badly that this happened, that was exactly what it did.


When the haze of pain had lifted and the knowledge that he couldn’t move anything had registered, his first irrational thought had been that Coach would be pissed off as all hell at him. He was starting the next couple of games, and how was he supposed to do that when he couldn’t move, much less run?


Then the frenzy had taken over. He had screamed, and cursed, he might’ve even cried, raging at everything and everyone. Kyle had been so overwrought that he hadn’t even noticed when they came in and jabbed him with a syringe full of more of the healing liquid. When the trauma of reliving every single blow that had broken his bones and robbed him of the ability to move was over, and strangely, he could move again, he could only curl into himself and hide the tears from the girls, ashamed at the things he had said.


So now, he keeps silent. He keeps the panic, the ugly words, the outcry and damnation caged tight behind his clenched teeth. It is the fourth time they have beaten him to the point of paralysis. He suspects it is because Nicholas has cottoned on to the fact that the helplessness it stirs in him is his Achilles heel, has stumbled upon the knowledge that for Kyle, this is worse than death, but he’ll be damned if he gives the diminutive bastard another opportunity to watch him lose it. So he sits tight, and waits to come alive once again.


Maria


Over the next few days, her heart stops beating on three separate occasions. Each time, she comes back, and while it is always relief that rushes through first when she realizes she is still alive, despair is always on its heels.

She wonders what will happen if the next time her heart stops, despair is the first thing she feels upon waking. Then she stops wondering, because somewhere inside her, she already knows what it means. She already knows that the moment her first breath begins with regret is the moment that she is absolutely spent, the point at which there is no more fight left in her.

So as painful as it is, as terrified and desperate as she has become, she still endures, and hopes fervently that the moment when life is met with dread never comes. She keeps telling herself to hold on, because something, someone, will come to help. It can’t end like this, not with her friends being slowly killed in front of her. Not when the last conversation she had with her mother had been something inane about the shop deliveries, not when the world has yet to experience what she can offer through her music, when she hasn’t even told Michael that she hates him, for leaving, for not coming back, for not being here now, not when as much as she does hate him, it can never top how much she loves him.

It’s the only thing she has left.


Liz

She honestly doesn’t know how she is still alive.

It is as if her brain has shut down in defense, or maybe she’s just so badly hurt that her neurons are no longer able to communicate the extent of injury to the appropriate receptors.

Whatever it is, she hopes it will last. Any more, and they will be taking her back to her cell, for another dose of that damnable purple liquid, for the double edged sword that is healing with a side of reliving the hell you had just gone through next to it.

Nicholas has discovered that it’s a far more effective torture to have them healed separately, so there is a (horrified, helpless) captive audience to witness it. Watching is always bad, but the instances he exposes Maria and Kyle to the gandarium at the same time, and leaves her alone to observe as they jerk, and writhe and scream like they’re dying (and they are) are definitely the worst.

She’s heard Maria cry out for Michael more times can she can count.

She’s heard Kyle beg for his father to come save him about the same amount.

She has heard her friends, her family, scream for her help, warn her, curse her, for countless hours.

When they finally quiet, she is half mad herself, and is ashamed that the relief she feels is equal parts for the fact that it means they have probably been knitted piece by painful piece back together again, and also for the fact that they are no longer (rightly) blaming her for their predicament. It’s true, she knows it’s true, but she’s weak, and although she would give anything for Kyle and Maria to not be in this prison with her, somewhere, there is a dark, selfish sliver in her that is thankful she is not alone.

It sickens her, and that one thought actually hurts worse than anything Nicholas has to throw at her. If nothing else, it is defiance of that part of her that makes her want to survive this, that drags her back from the brink each time she’s tempted to just give up, to give in, to stop dragging the next cutting breath into her battered and broken body.

She has no right to die in this hell, there is no way she will leave Maria and Kyle. So while she doesn’t know how she is still alive, she does know why. She’s alive because she will do whatever she can to make sure they get out, to give them their best chance at surviving the nightmare she has dragged them all into.

So slowly, painfully, she musters the strength to leave behind the refuge her mind has provided. It is odd, but she could almost swear that the thing inside her head, the cause of her sickness, seems approving, impressed by this. She shoves the thought aside, because she’s clearly closer to dying than she thought-she’s beginning to think that the tumor or whatever it is in her head has its own consciousness. They had been particularly vicious to Maria today, and Kyle, although all healed up, wasn’t in any condition to go through this again. If the only thing she could do was infuriate Nicholas enough so that his focus was on her, granting the other two humans a bit more of a reprieve, then she would do it.


“ You know, Nicholas…I’ve been thinking.”

Her low rasp catches his attention, as it’s the first time she’s spoken to him other than to repeat, over and over that she knows nothing about the aliens’ whereabouts. His eyebrow rises slightly and a mocking smile twists his lips upward.


“ Have you? After all this time? I knew one of those knocks would make you see sense eventually.”


“ About that. I still don’t know what you want to know, neither do Kyle and Maria, and I wouldn’t hold your breath on that changing any time soon. No, I was thinking about something else. You’ve had us for…how many days now? You could have killed us a thousand times over, but you haven’t. You haven’t even tried to mind-rape us. In fact, any time we come close to dying, you heal us right up.”


Nicholas looks amused enough by their present conversation that the immediate reaction to her words isn’t more abuse, but instead, a condescending smirk.


“ You’re not taking that as indication that I’m actually not capable of killing you all, are you? I would be disappointed if you did, Liz, especially since you’re supposed to be one of the smarter members of your species.”


She swallows, ignoring the spots dancing in front of her eyes as she continues her efforts to buy more time for Maria and Kyle.


“ I wouldn’t want you to be disappointed Nicholas. I think you’re perfectly capable of killing us. In fact, I’m thinking that if you had your way, we’d already be dead. I’m thinking that you’re keeping us alive because that’s what you were ordered to do. I’m thinking that you know that we’re telling the truth about the others, but because there’s a chance we might be useful to your leader, he’s told you to keep us here until he figures out exactly what that use is. I’m thinking that makes you nothing more than a glorified warden, because the fact is, you’re not important to him anymore.”


Nicholas’s already cold expression has turned glacial. Somewhere, self-preservation instincts are screaming for her to shut up, warning her that she has said plenty to ensure that his attention will be on her, and only her, for at least a few more hours. She has to make sure though, she has to give Maria and Kyle at least that, if she can. So throwing whatever caution is left to the winds, she forces her voice to stop shaking, she tries to sound more confident than she feels.


She has no idea if she’s even succeeding.


“ You’re not valuable to him anymore. If you were, you would be there out there, by his side, helping to find the royals instead of being here, chasing down leads that are going nowhere. That’s the truth, isn’t it? I bet it is. I bet you can’t even do the mind-rape anymore, can you? You’ve been in that husk for years, it must be on its last legs. It’s dying, and so is your usefulness to your King.”


The icy mask over his face cracks for a moment, and Liz spies something ugly lurking under it, the look taking over his too-young face. Then he laughs, and he leans closer to stare her right in the eye, the light in his gaze promising many unpleasant things.


“ You are something else, Liz. Don’t think I didn’t know what you were up to, trying to make me angry enough to extend our little meeting. I’ve been alive since before even your grandparents were sparkles in their parents eyes, your attempt to manipulate me was utterly transparent.” He pauses here, and nods at the lackeys he always keeps around, and although Liz doesn’t lift her eyes from him for a second, she knows that there is no one left in the room but the two of them now. “ Still. Your lucky guess was half right. This husk is dying, and performing the mind-rape only quickens its deterioration. I was never meant to be on this little rock of yours for as long as I have been, so you can understand my…eagerness to get off. As for my ability to perform it…I guess I’ll just have to show you how wrong you are on that front, now, won’t I?”


In the scant few moments she has before Nicholas reaches for her head, Liz imagines a little box, imagines throwing in every detail about the Granolith, the alien artifacts they have hidden, anything that could help Nicholas further his goals. Throwing them inside and slamming it shut. The box has no seams, no lock, and she imagines burying it underneath the entire story of her life so far, and hopes desperately that his discovery of all her secret hopes and dreams and failures will be enough to distract him from the one, tiny part she locks away.


She feels his hand on her forehead, a touch surprisingly gentle.


What happens next is anything but.


It is as if everything in her mind has taken on the consistency of fine gossamer veils, and Nicholas has turned up with nothing less delicate than a chainsaw at his disposal. She has no defense against him, crumbling like a house of cards against a bloody hurricane and apparently, whatever levels of pain she thought she had already endured and could endure were nothing, nothing compared to this.


It hurts, and it burns and she is going to die now, she is sure of it-

Somehow, she knows Nicholas is close to finding the box, and in a last ditch effort to prevent this, she throws whatever of herself is left in her mind over it, which only serves to attract his attention more, and then his attack is intensifying, and oh God, this isn’t…she can’t…


Nicholas is one heartbeat away from smashing the box open.


Liz is one heartbeat away from letting him.


And then something else is there with them, a presence old, encompassing, all powerful, and where Nicholas seemed like a dragon before, now he is nothing but a gnat before it. In the space of one shallow breath, the Skin’s presence has been expelled from her head, as if he is but a minor annoyance. There is no time to wonder what this newest entity is, but is it even new, because it seems familiar, it feels like she has been in front of its assessment before, and then she doesn’t wonder anymore, because it has swallowed her whole, and there is no more it, or her…there is only them.


In an instant, the damage Nicholas has inflicted upon her mind is gone, and she is tempted to just sink into the infinite presence, to lose herself in it, to hide and be protected. It is approving of this plan, and Liz feels herself falling further within, but there is something else, isn’t there, someone else, things, people she shouldn’t forget…


Maria and Kyle’s faces snap into crystal clear precision in her minds eye, and she is awake and alert and pulling away from the presence as fast as she can. It is disgruntled, but it allows the separation, imparting within her the knowledge that this will be far from the last time she deals with it. When she finally opens her eyes, she is back in the room, sitting in the chair, hands…untied? The smoking remains of the restraints used to bind her are lying by her feet, and she releases a quiet gasp, because…nothing hurts anymore. She’s been healed, and without the use of the purple poison.


Something shifts before her, and Liz belatedly realizes that Nicholas is still there. For once, he is the one that looks terrible, in pain, seriously injured. He appears to be unaware of this however, or perhaps, he just does not care, because he is staring at her in a mixture of awe and what is rapidly morphing into what looks like evil glee, which can only mean bad things for her.


They both remain silent, and she stares at him warily, while he regards her like a favored toy.


“Well. I think I owe you an apology. You were telling the truth about not knowing where the royals are, after all, but I think we have far more important things to talk about now.” Nicholas reaches up to wipe at the stream of blood coming from his mouth, smirking once more. “Tell me, Liz. What do you know of the Granolith?”


Liz forces herself to remain completely still. Perhaps this way, he won’t realize her blood has turned to ice.

Day 11

Maria

Something is different, and she can’t put her finger on what it is.


Keeping time had been one of the first things she had lost the ability to do in this prison, but she knows this is the longest she has gone without being dragged from her cell. Maria wishes she could relax, but the fact that she hasn’t been hurt for an extended period of time makes the thought of bearing it all again even worse, and so, she is on edge, a bundle of tightly wound up nerves.


God, what she wouldn’t give for one of her oils right now.


She shakes herself, and nervously looks to the cell beside hers. Kyle is silent, save for his labored breathing as he continues to rhythmically do pushups, something else she has long since lost count of. It is a habit he has fallen into since the beatings have gotten worse-as if he wishes to make up for the time he lies battered and broken and unable to use his body. Maria doesn’t stop him. Of the many horrors she’s had to go through since the eternally pubescent little shit had taken them, hearing and watching Kyle be completely helpless is definitely one of the worst.


Beyond Kyle’s cell, Liz’s is silent and empty.


Maria’s heart clenches.


That is the other.


Liz has been gone long enough for the uncontrollable shaking that they had quickly discovered was a side effect of healing by gandarium to subside, something they know takes many, many hours. It isn’t normal, as previous experience usually involves one or more of them being shoved back into their cells just in time for the others to watch them go through their ‘healing’ and then being dragged away for their turn with Nicholas. This extended amount of relative peace is disconcerting. Perhaps it is a new method that Nicholas has come up with to torture them. If so, Maria takes her proverbial hat off to him.


Because it is working.


She leaps to her feet, and begins the by now well-worn trek from one corner of her cell to the other. Her pacing has no order to it, it switches from a straight line back and forth, to a more aimless, wandering shuffle, before coming to a stop at random spots in the cell and then beginning all over again. She has traced random paths uncountable times before something new finally happens.


The door leading out into the hallway opens, and the light behind him casts Nicholas’s features into shadow, although one could argue that that is an improvement, Maria thinks to herself nastily. She immediately turns her attention to the space behind him, waiting to see if he has brought Liz back.


He has not.


Instead, he has brought someone else, and it is no one Maria has seen before.


She doesn’t dwell on that too much, she is far too busy staring at Kyle, and trying to communicate in the space of a few seconds, in the act of desperate gazes, her pleas for him to stay strong, to come back, all the while the guards are escorting him from his cell. Kyle is not above a rough swallow, but then he gives her the faintest hint of a smile, and then he is gone too.


Maria doesn’t have time to hide the misery in her expression before Nicholas has opened the door to her cell. He grins, and she has to curl her hands into fists to keep from striking out at him. The last time she had attempted it, he had personally broken three of her fingers. It had been satisfying as hell to hit him, but he had retaliated by delaying the gandarium injections for Liz and Kyle and making sure she knew it was because of her, and so she had not done it since. Instead, in as steady a voice as she can manage, she asks where Liz is.


“ Liz and I…have come to a breakthrough of some sort. She’s going to have her own quarters from now on.”


Instantly, every hair on her body stands up. There is no way in hell Liz would give Nicholas information on Max and the others willingly, even if she had it. Which can only mean one thing: he has finally done the mind-rape, and he knows…he knows about the Granolith. If there is ever a time to channel Michael’s great wall of apathy, this is it, and for all their sakes, Maria rises to the occasion magnificently. She allows the expected concern to show through, mixed with confusion, and she lets the perpetual fear that has choked her from the moment she woke up in her cell rise up for him to see.

“ What do…what are you talking about? She doesn’t know anything. None of us do.”


Nicholas simply stares at her, and the moment seems to last forever, until a pained cry comes from behind him. Immediately, Maria’s attention is drawn to the heap that Nicholas’s lackeys have dragged into her cell.


“ We’ll just see about that. Anyway. I don’t want you to think I’m neglecting you, Maria. I’m going to be a little busy with Liz, but there’s no reason you and Kyle should miss out on the fun, so I brought you a little playmate. Take off the collar just before you leave.”


The last part is directed at the servants, and Maria pays no attention to the Skin as he prattles on and then leaves her alone with the other person, obviously a prisoner as well. The guard follows instructions, and removes a curious looking collar from the other person’s neck and then exits quickly. She finds out why immediately after.


The other prisoner is dying.


And she can feel every single moment of it.


Maria crumples to the ground, curling up into the exact same fetal position as her new cellmate, hands frantically going to her midsection, where she knows she’s been stabbed fatally, expecting to encounter the wound and the blood, and instead finds nothing at all. It doesn’t make sense, she feels it, the pain is real, but she feels nothing except her own unbroken skin and the rough, torn fabric of her pajamas.


Her companion groans, and Maria cries out too.


As time ticks slowly on, she starts to realize what Nicholas’s newest game is. Her cellmate is a Tourist. Worse, her cellmate is a Tourist that can somehow project what they are feeling onto whoever is in their vicinity, and Maria gets to be there with them as they slowly, agonizingly, bleed to death. She doesn’t know what will happen when they eventually breathe their last, but she knows it’s coming. The ache isn’t as much anymore, and the fevered rambling, in a language she’s never heard, has died down to occasional rasping moans. Under the fading pain, there is a seeping coldness, and beyond that, Maria feels sadness, and regret that this is how life will end, in a dark dungeon light years away from home. Their last act in life will not even be an honorable death, but one that inflicts pain on a fellow prisoner.

Hopelessness.


Is this to be the last thing they will ever feel?


She can’t let it be. It would mean Nicholas has won this one too, and she refuses to let that happen. She can’t save them, she knows this, but Maria can at least try to make sure their last moments are not only focused on sadness and misery. She has to try.


She struggles to sit up, and because the alien is so weak now, Maria is steady enough to separate what feelings are hers, and which the projected ones are. She forces herself to ignore the pain, and she starts to sing. It is soft, and low, and hardly her best performance, but her vocal chords have been far too used to screaming than carrying a tune lately to help this. She isn’t even sure her cellmate can hear her, but then the hopelessness becomes infused with something akin to curiosity, and she knows that they can.


Maria’s voice strengthens as she feels the alien grow weaker and weaker.


She keeps singing.


They keep dying, but she keeps singing.


The last emotion she gets before they surrender is the brief, fleeting impression of wonder that beautiful sounds are still possible, that they could exist even in such a hellish place, and gratitude to the little human who saw them through to the end.


Nicholas would send eight more prisoners to her cell that day.


Kyle

Despite his best efforts, it seemed that Kyle had been unsuccessful in concealing just how much paralysis bothered him.

Had he done a better job, he probably wouldn’t be stuck in this pod right now, curled up and completely unable to move. If that was the only thing, he would have been able to handle it, barely, perhaps, but he could have coped.

Right now, he wasn’t coping. At all.

His head was encased in some sort of gear, which was providing him with oxygen, but also a continuous playback of his father, of Maria, of Liz and Amy screaming and begging, for mercy, for death. In some tiny corner of his mind, he was aware that it could just be something manufactured, but the overwhelming majority of his mind was insisting it was real and they were dying while he was trapped here, utterly useless.

The only thing left to do was scream.


Liz

She couldn’t take her eyes off them.

Before her there were two screens that allowed her to see and hear everything going on in the spaces they were watching. At the bottom, somehow, was a running ticker that was showing their vitals, and it indicated that somewhere along the course of their captivity, they had been tagged with some sort of monitoring device. It at least answered the question of how the Skin and company always knew when to come and give them gandarium-the ticker would flash alarming, continuous, red whenever either of the subjects was at the risk of fatal physical or mental injury.


So far, neither Maria nor Kyle had strayed into that territory yet, but she knew it was only a matter of time.


Nicholas was playing the waiting game now. He had correctly surmised that there was something powerful locked up in her head, and he had what seemed to be the frighteningly accurate suspicion that it was the Granolith. It was a possibility that had haunted her for three years, and now it seemed like it was time to face the music. Something had happened that day in the pod chamber, something had made it’s way into her brain, and it had made its presence known over the years via her collapses, the tumors, the dreams she was never quite able to recall.

The Skin hadn’t attempted to invade her mind or hurt her again, apparently reluctant to test the boundaries of the protection that had laid waste to him the last time he had, but that didn’t mean he had stopped torturing her. Why would he, when his most effective weapon was still in his grasp?


Liz swallowed as Maria sang yet another prisoner to his death, and when this one too, breathed their last, the blonde girl dissolved into anguished sobbing. It made her shift her gaze to Kyle’s screen and his wildly jumping heart rate, as he fought whatever demons Nicholas had decided to show him while he was kept completely immobile in a pod.


If he couldn’t hurt her, he would hurt her family, and he was doing a very good job indeed.


Maria was still crying, rocking the dead body of the latest prisoner in her arms.


Kyle’s heart picked up the pace, approaching near frenetic levels.


Liz raised a shaking hand to the screens and let her head fall to the table before her.


She didn’t even have enough strength left to cry.

Day 12

Liz

As soon as she was shown, politely, into the room, she knew it was going to be bad. It was one she had never seen before, sterile white, and with a very unpleasant looking metal slab in the central place of honor. Directly in front of her was another room that looked exactly like the one she was in, except this one had no metal table. Liz moved forward with cautious steps, and eventually, her questing fingers encountered an invisible barrier between the two rooms.


Force field.


So it was to be another round of show and tell, was it?


The waiting period was surprisingly short- Nicholas, it seemed, was eager to get his newest game started. A door opened in the room before her, and the Skin strutted into the room, followed by goons 1 and 2 and between them was a man with his hands bound behind him, a sack over his head.


“Hello, Liz. You’re looking lovely today. I hope you enjoyed seeing Kyle and Maria? I know you were asking for them.”


She bit her tongue to quell her response, and waited for him to get on with it. Was she to be locked up with a dying prisoner as well? It seemed unlikely-the new prisoner appeared uninjured. Nicholas’s smile was mocking as he came right up to the barrier.


“ Not in a very chatty mood today? You know, I have to say, I can’t blame you. Your friends aren’t exactly happy campers lately. But don’t worry, I have a surprise for you.” He tracked the flicker of her gaze to the unknown man and he nodded. “I see you’ve noticed my newest guest. We’ll get to him in a little bit. Right now, I have a story to tell you. It’s very long and boring, but I’ll skip to the good parts.”


“Eons ago, when even the five planets were young, there was chaos everywhere. The planets were unstable, and it wasn’t unusual for entire settlements to disappear into nothingness, never to appear again. Antar was special though. I’m no expert on the lore, but suffice to say, there was something about Antar that made it far more stable than any of the other planets, and that something was the Granolith. Or however the primitives of the time referred to it then. Whatever. Suffice to say, it’s been the cause of almost every war the five planets have seen, and at the heart of it, this current one? It’s no different.”


“ Now everyone knows that the Royal House of Antar was the last to have contact with the Granolith before it went missing. The boy king has partial contact with it now, the seal wouldn’t have manifested otherwise, and he is widely believed to know where it actually is, and most believe that he controls it. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret, Liz. A long time ago, some wimp decided that it was too much power for one individual to handle, something about being consumed or some sop like that. So a system was put in place so that since then the Granolith has always needed two wielders in order to work properly. There’s a dominant, and I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that your ex and Khivar are duking it out for that honor. The other is the dormant wielder- and their identity has been a mystery the five planets have pondered for decades.”

Their eyes locked, and his implication couldn’t be clearer. He thought he had solved the mystery, and with everything that had happened…she couldn’t even deny it, at least, not well enough to convince him.


“It’s difficult to be sure of course. That’s the thing that makes a dormant wielder so hard to identify. Their connection with the Granolith is so well hidden, it’s almost impossible to detect. In fact, it’s said that a dormant wielder only handles the Granolith’s power twice- the rest of the time, they’re like an unused pipe, a dam, if you will, simply there to make sure the dominant isn’t overwhelmed. They appear completely normal, and if untrained, then they are completely unaware of the Granolith altogether. The good news though, is that there are tests that can be performed to check.”


Nicholas glanced behind him and motioned for the prisoner to be brought forward, and Liz spared a moment to glance at the stranger once more before refocusing her attention on the Skin.


“You see, there are certain fail safes that protect the dormant wielder. Not just anyone is up to the job, you know? They are very hard to come by, and when a suitable candidate is found…well. The Granolith is very protective about its second vessel. You could say the dormant wielder is the baby of the family, so in certain situations, the Granolith can be forced to show its favor. Let me show you what I mean,”


Liz’s throat grew tight as the prisoner was shoved to his knees right in front of Nicholas, directly in front of the barrier. If it hadn’t been there, there would be less than five feet, if that, between them, but that was the least of her worries when the sack was finally removed from his head.


After the lengths Nicholas had gone to in an effort to break them, she wasn’t sure why she could still feel surprise at every fresh hell he came up with, but it was apparently possible. She was frozen, barely breathing, as she stared at the now revealed captive. Her mind had locked down into an unending chorus of denial, and she didn’t know why, because this method certainly hadn’t changed anything before, but she still expected it to, she still thought it would somehow make the image of Jack Taylor, bound and gagged on his knees, disappear from her sight.


It didn’t.


She tuned Nicholas out as he explained how hard it had been for him to choose a new guest from the people he had encountered when he’d briefly ‘visited’ her head. She ignored him as he shared how he had finally settled on Jack, because he thought it would be fun for the “human to finally find out who she really was.” Jack was blinking furiously, trying to get used to the flood of light, and then his gaze fell upon her. The green eyes widened, and she saw shock, and fear and then concern flash through in quick succession. A muffled cry sprang from his lips, and she knew that he had called out her name.


This couldn’t be happening.


It couldn’t be him. It was a trick, it had to be, it was a shapeshifter, it wasn’t Jack. She had tried so hard to keep him from this life, she had done everything she could to keep him safe-


“ HEY!”


There was a thump, and waves of disturbance rippled through the shield from where Nicholas had punched it to gain her attention. Her stunned gaze snapped back to him once more, and he scowled nastily at her.


“That’s not very nice, Liz, no one ever told you its rude to ignore someone when they’re speaking to you?” Satisfied he had her notice again, Nicholas moved back, and began to circle Jack like a vulture.


“I have to say, I’m impressed. I wouldn’t have thought you had it in you to try again, especially with how his highness utterly demolished your heart.” Liz tracked his progress, fighting the urge to wince each time he moved too close to Jack.


“But I guess this one didn’t really give you much of a choice, huh? He just kept on coming back, no matter what you said, no matter what you did, and before you knew it, you were halfway in love with him, and the other half was falling just as fast. I can’t wait to tell the boy king about this. He might not want you, Liz, but you can be damned sure he won’t want anyone else to have you either. He never did like to share. Anyway. Story time over. Let’s get this show on the road.”


Nicholas halted, positioned right behind Jack. There was one, last, moment of peace before everything went to hell. There was time for the Skin to send a cold smirk her way. There was a second for her to register the sudden appearance of a silver dagger with a wicked edge. There was a beat for Jack’s eyes to crinkle up at the corners like they always did when he was smiling at her, and it was incomprehensible- how could he be still trying to reassure her when he was the one bound and gagged before her-and then Nicholas had wrapped an elbow around Jack’s neck, and plunged the dagger into his side.


“ No!”


Liz didn’t even know she had moved until she had smacked into the force field, sending countless rings of energy vibrating from the impact. Her fists were pounding on the barrier, she was screaming endlessly, the horror spreading through her as quickly as Jack’s blood colored the white floor red around him. Liz didn’t notice when Nicholas and his lackeys left the room, she didn’t even hear the command to remove the barrier issue from somewhere above her. Suddenly she was falling, the force field was gone, and she barely managed to catch herself before she was crawling to him.


“Jack! Nonono, oh my God, hold on, I’ve got you, I’ve got you.”


She made quick work of the ropes that bound him, easing the gag off, and turning him to lie on his back as gently as she could. His eyes were huge and dark in his face, and when he finally saw her, unthinkably, his first reaction was to smile.


“Parker. Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes.”


Liz let out a laugh that was half a sob and set about trying to staunch the flow of blood from his side. It was bad, that much was obvious from the amount that kept spilling out, Nicholas had definitely nicked a major vessel along the way, and if she couldn’t stop it…she shook her head, not letting herself finish the thought. Her hands seemed to move of their own accord, her own clothes were too filthy, they wouldn’t do, so she ripped sections of Jack’s shirt instead, balling them up against the stab wound. It didn’t help that much. Jack hissed in pain, and grew steadily paler.


“W-who was that kid? Is t-this some episode of extreme babysitting? Got to tell you…I…I’m not a fan.”


Already his breathing was labored and patchy, and Liz felt hysteria welling up inside her even as she tried to be reassuring. “Jack, don’t move, okay? I need to stop the bleeding. You’re going to be fine.”


His eyes caught and held hers and he shook his head minutely.


“Oh, Parker. Y-you’ve never lied to me. D-don’t start now, okay?” There was nothing to say to that, and Liz flinched while Jack smiled at her weakly. “W-when you said it was dangerous to be around you, you weren’t kidding.”


The reminder, painfully true, about what association with her had brought about felt like a punch to the stomach, but this wasn’t the time, she told herself. There would be time to…to think about all that when the people she loved weren’t constantly on the verge of death around her. Jack’s eyes fluttered as he struggled to maintain consciousness, and Liz glanced at the material she was holding to his side and swallowed hard when she saw it was already soaked through with blood.


God.

This was a nightmare.


“Jack, don’t talk, okay, you have to stay still, you have to save your strength. We’re going to get you some help. Nicholas! Get in here, God damn it, give him the gandarium!”


Suddenly, Jack’s hand was covering hers, and Liz stilled, the sight of her hands and now his, covered with blood, stunning her into inaction. She tore her gaze away and focused on his face instead, because he wasn’t laying still, and he was hurting himself more, but whatever it was he wanted to say seemed to be of paramount importance.


“It was worth it. E-every second Liz. Each one.”


Tears she didn’t know she still had sprang to her eyes at the confession. With a shuddering gasp, she blinked them furiously away and shook her head.


“How can you say that? How can you still…” Words seemed so insufficient now, but they were all she had, so she went on anyway. “ I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry you’re here, I’m so sorry you’re hurt. I should have stopped myself, I should have kept you safe. I never should have…”

“Should have what? Come on, Parker.” A shudder wracked his body, and he seemed to be having a difficult time concentrating. “ Talk to me. Tell m-me.”

“I never should have loved you.” Green eyes were burning into hers, and she couldn’t stop, not now that she had started. “This…he wouldn’t have taken you if I didn’t love you, and this is…I never wanted you to be part of this. I never wanted you to get hurt,”


“So you do love me.”


It occurred to Liz that she had never actually told him that to his face, because of a multitude of reasons that seemed so stupid now: there would be time to tell him later, she’d thought, did it really even need to be said, because she could just show him instead, did she really love him at all, or was she just so starved for someone to look at her in that way again that she was making things up in her head? Watching him here now, dying on the floor for the crime of daring to know her, to love her…she had her answer.


“Yes.”


“Then it’s all right now.”


As if an invisible string had been cut, Jack’s body went slack and his breathing became even shallower. It was as if the confirmation had been all he was holding on for, and now that he had it, he was ready to let go. Liz swore vehemently, and this made him release a weak chuckle, and murmur admonishments for her language, and in response, Liz began screaming for Nicholas again, demanding the gandarium, threatening him with the most creative methods of death she could come up with.


The only thing that resulted from her efforts was Jack’s absent comment on her well-hidden viciousness. Leaving one hand in position to apply pressure, Liz reached up to feel his pulse, and at the feeble evidence she found, the next swear word died on her lips. He was fading, he was dying, and why could she never seem to stop this? Her anger dissolved into tears, and the death threats turned into outright begging.


“Nicholas, please! Please don’t do this. Don’t let him die, he has nothing to do with this. Please! Help him!”


It seemed her requests would go unanswered, it seemed like once again, she would see someone she loved slip right through her fingers, when Nicholas’s voice came from hidden speakers above her.


“ I AM helping him Liz. Everything he needs to survive is right there in the room with him.”


She froze. What did that mean? She stared around frantically, seeing nothing that could help, nothing of use. There was nothing in the room with Jack, except…her. So simple, it was a mark of how frenzied she was that it hadn’t occurred to her until that moment: he wanted her to use her powers. She was the solution, the only thing standing between Jack and certain death. All she had to do was somehow muster up enough power and control to heal a fatal stab wound when on her best days, she could barely change the color of her shirt. Fighting the urge to scream in frustration, she took a deep breath, desperation spurring her on. There was no other choice.

Liz dropped the wadded up fabric she had been using, instead applying her hand to the wound, ignoring the insistent voices in her head screaming about infection and sterilization, and how there was so much, too much, blood around them now. Her other hand went to Jack’s cheek and she swallowed as she tried to coax him awake.

“Jack? Hey. Honey, wake up. Wake up.”

“Parker? It’s....f-freezing. C’mere. Let me w-warm you up.”


“Just a minute. C-can you…I need you to do something for me, okay?” She adjusted her hand on his wound, making him hiss out in pain and try to shift away from her, but she persisted. “ Jack. Don’t. I’m trying to help you. Will you look at me? Please look at me.”


“I’m cold.”


“I know you are, honey. But I need you to listen to me now. I know you’re very cold, and you’re very tired, but when I say to, I need you to look at me, okay? You need to open your eyes, and look at me. Okay? Jack? Please?”

“…for you.”

It was enough. Liz shut her eyes against the sight of his too pale face, the too shallow breaths, and focused instead on the stirrings of ability that had been left behind on one September afternoon so long ago. It was faint, laughably small in comparison to what she had felt all the times she had connected to one of the aliens, but it was there. All she had to do was focus on it, call to it, ask it to bend to her will. Seconds seemed like hours as she waited for some sign that it was working, but there, that had been a slight jump, hadn’t it? Liz imagined there was an ebb of power snaking along her veins, making its way to her hands, the tips of her fingers, where she needed it to go. She almost snarled in frustration, because it was far too slow, and asking wasn’t doing any good, so she mustered up her will, and demanded it go faster.

It heeded her command, and all of a sudden, the power turned to fire, the trickle turned to a flood. It burned, the pain building until it was so much that she was in very real danger of passing out. When she could hold it no further, when it felt like she would break apart if she didn’t let go, she managed to throw her eyes open, and sharply ordered Jack to do the same. He obeyed, eyes fluttering weakly, and there was only a moment where green met brown, but a moment was all she needed, because suddenly, she was in.

There was barely time to catch a breath before the connection began, the assault of the countless memories that made up his life overwhelming her. It was too much, the combination of pain from forcing her power to keep up with the strain, the unexpected rush of an entire person’s being flowing into her mind- for a terrifying moment she felt control start to slip from her grasp. And then the memory of their first meeting flashed before her, and instinctively, she latched on, and traced it back to the source, to the very essence of what made Jack who he was. She had become him, and the struggle to remain in control and simultaneously aware of his hurts, and what she needed to do to fix them, began.

Seconds, minutes, hours, days-there was no way to know how much time was passing now. Her whole world had narrowed to the wound in Jack’s body, on finding each strand of muscle and skin that was injured, on accelerating his body’s natural healing process so the blood would clot, so the cells would knit back together. The first signs that she was having any effect came from the growing awareness she was sensing from Jack, in the way his essence, too focused before on simply maintaining itself, was strengthening, brushing against her in curiosity and then brightening in apparent recognition. The connection seemed to tell him everything he needed to know, and the flow of memories, previously unchecked, slowed in an effort to keep from distracting her, and when she flagged, exhaustion clawing at her like a persistent wolf at the door, he was there, sometimes bolstering her with a particularly good memory, other times simply showing her the depths of what he felt for her.

When at last he was whole once more, the jagged cut nothing but an angry red patch of raw skin, Liz let out a shaky breath, fighting the rapidly growing black splotches blooming over her vision. Eyelashes fluttered and when she could focus, she found him watching her, a thousand emotions she couldn’t decipher flickering through his eyes.

“ Jack?” Her tongue felt too thick, clumsy as she formed the word for his name. “Are you-”

He nodded automatically, halting her question before she could complete it. “ I’m okay. I’m okay now.”

Relief overpowered her and Liz simply nodded, slumping into a heap beside him as he struggled to sit up, wincing a little as the movement strained his so recently healed injury. He was there to pull her into him as she teetered backward, teeth chattering from the sudden cold that enveloped her. She heard him swear softly in concern, indistinct words of worry, and she wanted to sleep, for hours, forever, if she could manage it. Regretfully, she pushed away the desire, because she had to stay awake, she had to explain, there was so much to be said, so much he had to know. There was precious little time, for who knew how long Nicholas would let them have together?

“I-I know you must...there’s so much I-”

“Ssh, Parker, you don’t have to-I saw it. I saw...everything.”

The confirmation that her life had indeed been laid bare before him, just as his had for her, made her shake a little more, and she closed her eyes in reaction.

“ Everything?” The word was quiet, and tremulous, and Liz readied herself for his arms to leave her, prepared herself to muster the strength to sit alone when he recoiled. The warmth of his embrace continued and she opened her eyes to see him staring at her in...understanding, and was that...awe mixed in there? She couldn’t stop her small huff of surprised laughter, because here he was again, always there when she didn’t expect him, utterly predictable in his unpredictability. “ You...you’re not screaming. You’re not...afraid of me?”

Jack merely gathered her closer to him, and shook his head in response. “ Afraid? Why? I’ve just finally figured you out and you are more...you are more than I ever thought you would be.” His eyes crinkled as he smiled softly and tenderly brushed her hair away from her face. “ You…are amazing. You saved me. I am anything but afraid of you. And if you think I’m ever going to let you go now, I just...you’re wrong. I won’t,”

Her heart swelled in response, and whether it was from exhaustion or the strength of the relief coursing through her, she wasn’t sure, but she found herself swallowing back a ragged sob of relief. But she was practical now, too scarred by a past where beautiful words and soft eyes had led to ruin, and Liz worried her lip and pulled back a little to stare at him.

“ Jack, you may have...I know you’ve seen things, but there’s so much more to tell, and-”

“ And you’re right. I do...I have questions, okay, there are things I still don’t understand, but...you love me. You love me. You can’t take it back, Parker, I saw it, I felt it, you love me.” Jack’s eyes were shining brightly, so much like the stars she was afraid she’d forgotten, and it was breathtaking, unbelievable, that even now, when he had so narrowly escaped death, he was marveling not over how she had healed him, not over the fact that he was alive, but at how she had finally admitted to him that which he had been waiting so long to hear. “ So right now, I’m willing to settle for that, until we get out of here. Then we can talk all you like. Okay?”

It was funny, how every time she thought she couldn’t cry any more, she was proven wrong. Tears sprang up in her eyes again and for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, she allowed herself to relax just a little, nodding her agreement. They were anything but safe, but she was selfish, and these stolen moments shone like patches of sunlight in dark tunnels, so she buried herself in his arms, relished the fact that his heartbeat was strong and sure, and that he was here, he was reaching for her, looking at her like she was the most precious thing in the universe. The kiss, contact that was soft and loving, devoid of harmful intent, seemed almost unreal in this hell, and after the first tentative brush, she was defenseless, falling headlong into his spell.

Like all good things, it didn’t last.

The struggle was swift, Nicholas’s lackeys were especially vicious, and Jack was dragged off and away from her, screaming her name, before she could even cry out her denial. Without his support, utterly exhausted from her recent efforts, it was all she could do to prop herself up on one palm, vainly reaching out in the direction he had been taken.

She was aware that Nicholas remained in the room with her, and wearily, she turned to face him, ready to beg and plead once more. For some reason, he looked more furious than ever, and from the tumble of words she was finding it hard to concentrate on, it appeared that he had not exactly gotten whatever it was he had been looking for. He was raging about how he’d expected more than that puny display of ability, and that he was going to get what he wanted out of her, one way or the other.

His tirade was halted by the very unusual impromptu appearance of one of his underlings, who never seemed to lift a finger unless told to, whispering some news in the Skin’s ear. Liz was too far-gone to hear what was said, and perhaps it was the exhaustion, the despair of failing yet again, but for the first time, she could swear she saw unease cross his features. Anything that distressed Nicholas was something worth noticing, but she could no longer hold herself up. She was too weak, too frightened, the memory of Jack’s face as he was stabbed and then how desperate he looked when he was dragged away playing endlessly before her. The spots were back, larger than before, and then she was on the ground, and staring numbly at the ceiling above her.


The world went black after that.

********

Day 13
Liz, Maria, Kyle

When the sack was whipped off her head, Maria let herself count to five before she opened her eyes. She knew she was tied to a chair, wrists bound tight behind her, and she took a moment to flex her fingers, to draw in a deep breath, before she looked upon whatever new ordeal Nicholas had prepared.

Many hours before, the sounds of the Skin flying into a terrifying rage had reached even their underground cells. The stepsiblings had exchanged fearful looks, wondering if Liz had finally gotten Nicholas to truly snap and was now paying the price, but then it had gone quiet. Liz wasn’t brought back, and there had been little activity in the compound, no summons for either of them until ten minutes ago when the usual goons had appeared to drop sacks over their heads and bring them to the newest location.

She was sitting in front of a blank white wall, to her right, Kyle, and to his right, Liz. Maria bit down hard on her lip to keep from blurting out a tumble of words, because this was the first time she had seen her best friend in what seemed like eternity, and it looked like Liz was feeling much the same way. Her dark brown eyes flitted back and forth between Maria and Kyle as if they were the most fascinating things she had ever seen, and with visible effort, she kept her voice calm and steady.

“ You both okay?”

Maria nodded and Kyle managed a short yes, loaded with the relief and anxiety all three were feeling. To distract himself from the inevitable, he continued the perusal he’d been making of the missing member of their trio from the moment he’d been able to see. No visible injuries. Much like them, it appeared that Nicholas had left her alone for the time being. She looked exhausted, however, and there was a new layer of misery and guilt in her eyes that hadn’t been there before. Kyle frowned, because if there was anything Liz Parker needed less, it was those two things, but there they were, swimming with what looked like ill-contained despair and the fear that had been their constant companion ever since they had arrived.

“ Where is he?” Maria’s voice was scratchy, and if it shook a little, no one commented on it. Liz shook her head and glanced towards the door at the back of the room.

“ I don’t know. I haven’t seen him in…it’s been a few hours at least. I only just woke up.”

Kyle’s jaw clenched at the words, because of course Nicholas couldn’t have left all of them alone for so long. It seemed to be an unwritten rule of this place that at least one of them needed to be suffering at all times. He took a deep breath and nudged at Liz’s foot with his own.

“ Are you all right?”

Her automatic reaction was a jerky nod, but there was a panic in her eyes that hadn’t been there since the night she’d begged him to check if Maria was still breathing. Alarm raced through him instantly, because it could only mean one thing. Someone else was here.

“ Liz. Liz, who-” Kyle could barely get the words out, let alone keep his voice steady. “-who is it?"

It would have been impossible to hide his question from Maria even if he'd thought to do so, and his step-sister went still. He knew that they shared the same fears, and the idea of his father or Amy being in this place had made it suddenly very hard to breathe.

The scant few seconds before Liz was shaking her head in the negative seemed to stretch on forever, and Kyle closed his eyes in heady relief as she confirmed that their parents weren't there. Guilt followed swiftly, and he turned his head to stare at her again, because the tremble in her voice told him that just because Jim and Amy Valenti were safe, it didn't mean everyone else was too. Maria had apparently come to the same realization and her eyes were huge and dark with fear as she asked the question Kyle couldn't manage to.

“Your parents?"

Liz shook her head again and this time, it was Maria who wilted as she exhaled a shaky,

"Thank god."

The moment was short lived, and Kyle remained tense, because it was clear that something else was wrong. Liz was sporting the same look of poorly hidden desperation she had worn just before the hybrids had left the planet, with only the thinnest veneer of calm holding her together.

" Liz?"

She released a shuddering sigh, as if she could no longer hold it in. “It’s Jack. Nicholas…he found him. He brought him, and he’s here...he's got Jack here."

Maria's gasp of dismay coincided with Kyle's own vehement curse. Now that Liz had told them, she found that she couldn’t stop herself from sharing the rest, the stabbing, and how she had had to connect to Jack to heal him, and then that he’d been dragged away. She spoke in halting fragments, and if every word of it cut painfully on its way, she felt it was only right, because each one was a reminder of her failure to protect him. When she was finished, Maria's eyes were wet with tears and Kyle's expression reflected the hopelessness she felt as well. He seemed to be trying to look for words to comfort her, as if any could, but it appeared that their time had run out.

The door behind them opened, and the three instantly froze. One of Nicholas's servants came into view, silent and stoic as always. When he was directly before them, he stopped to place a flat, pentagon shaped disk on the ground, pressed a few buttons and then retreated in the direction he had come. The atmosphere in the room became tense and expectant, and fleeting glances that served to convey the silent requests to stay alive flew fast between them. When the bright light shot out of the disk on the floor, Maria gritted her teeth and shut her eyes, waiting for the pain to come.

Except that for once...it didn't.

The room remained completely silent, save for the low humming sound that emanated from the disk. Anxiety for Liz and Kyle's well-being spurring her on, Maria opened her eyes. Her questions died on her lips at the expressions on their faces, identically astonished, shell-shocked and disbelieving, staring almost unblinkingly at whatever was before them. Swallowing, Maria forced herself to look forward as well, and when she did, it was as if all the air in the room had disappeared.

It was them.

For a moment, the gravity of their current situation fell away, and the ones who were left behind simply sat in place, taking in the resolution of a five year old mystery. They had known the hybrids were alive, it was the whole point of their abduction, but seeing actual proof the others still lived and breathed- the effect was staggering. Max occupied the center, flanked by Michael to his right, and Isabel to his left, their customary formation the only familiar thing about them now, for it was clear they were not the teenagers who had blasted off planet all those years ago. Though the materials were strange, alien, battle armor was still battle armor, and the figures before them were no longer just Max, Michael and Isabel. This was the Royal Three, dressed to impress, with their jewels and finery, and more importantly, dressed to intimidate, cruel weapons on full display and each clearly armed to the teeth. They looked like they were ready to ride off to war, regal and fierce and dangerous all at once. It mattered not if you were in their way, for then they would simply ride you down.

Kyle was the first to succeed in pulling himself together. It was easier for him, given that he didn’t have a hologram of an ex-soulmate/ex-boyfriend staring him in the face, and even more helpfully, the hybrid he had spent the most time with was conspicuously absent. The part of him curious about that detail was squashed ruthlessly, because the girls still hadn’t made a sound, and he wasn’t even sure they were breathing at this point. His step-sister’s eyes were glued to Guerin’s face, and if he thought that the taller man had had an impressive stone wall before, it was nothing compared to what he saw now. Maria’s ex-boyfriend could have been carved out of cold, hard stone itself, for all the expression, the emotion, he currently had on display. There seemed to be little left of the hotheaded teen who had defied and supported Evans by turn, and even less of the only guy who had ever truly made Maria happy. Kyle turned away from the whirlwind of emotion that was splashed all over Maria’s face, and turned to Liz, expecting to see much of the same.

He was right, and wrong, all at the same time.

In testament to just how much Liz had changed since that day in the pod chamber, the girl had made it a point of honor to control her emotions until she could alternately stonewall with the best of them, or wear whatever mask was appropriate at the moment. She could mimic happiness in a blink, with a bright smile meant to dazzle and distract from the fact that her eyes remained ever wary and unmoved, and fear and worry could easily disappear like fog under the unruffled visage that she preferred as a default. This prison had robbed Liz of her carefully practiced skill, and now, the sight of Max Evans as he currently was, hair brushing his chin and a diamond hard look in his eyes, had apparently destroyed whatever shreds of it remained. The girl had never looked more fragile than she did at present, all the pain and fear of not just the past days, but the last few years bared for all to see. Kyle felt hopelessly inadequate, unable to help either girl, and then he didn’t have to, because the silence was broken, and the King of Antar began to speak.

Antarian was strange to the ear, a contrasting tumble of sibilant tones and guttural enunciation, often ending sharply, as if their words were cut in half before they were truly complete. All of a sudden, the unfamiliar tongue was replaced by Max Evans’ voice instead, filling the room as clearly as if he was right there with them, the disk obviously translating the speech for their benefit. Liz flinched as if a whip had been cracked, the expression on her face taking on a pained quality that was difficult to look at. Maria barely moved, concentrating with all her might on the image of Michael, as if that alone would make him materialize before her. Kyle swallowed, and going with the lesser of two evils, chose to focus on what his once upon a time rival was saying rather than watch the girls fall apart.

“Citizens of the Whirlwind Galaxy, for too long we have borne Khivar’s tyranny. Countless lives have been lost, cities destroyed-the suffering has been unending. Outside the pursuit of war, our galaxy has made no meaningful progress for decades. Instances where our five great planets have come together in peace and cooperation have fallen into myth. There are too few alive today who remember life without war, and too many of our children know nothing but. It is a situation that can no longer continue. Our galaxy can no longer bear it. Our homes can no longer bear it. We can no longer bear it.”

“Many years ago, our family failed you, the people who had put their faith in us, the ones we were sworn by blood and oath to serve and defend. We do not ask forgiveness, for we have no right to it-some sins are simply beyond that. But still…we mean to try. We mean to earn the chance to ask for grace, by righting the wrongs that came from our actions, by freeing those who have fallen prey to Khivar’s cruelty because we did not do as we should have. If we succeed, it will in no way diminish or erase the suffering that has run rampant since the House of Antar fell, but it will at least give our children a chance at a future without war.”

“At 320 clicks past first moon, an explosion occurred in the southeast sector of Cato. Khivar would have you believe that the factories in this area are used to create uniforms for his army, but that is only half true. Underneath these facilities are one of his main weapons-making silos, where the loved ones who go missing, where those who speak out against him are taken and enslaved. At 328 clicks past first moon, these silos were destroyed, his prisoners set free. We intend to do the same to each of his secret prisons, to each of his strongholds, until he realizes there is nowhere else to go, and no other recourse but surrender. We are assuming control of the outer borders of the Five planets, and blocking all transmissions extending beyond them, as this missive is being relayed. Soon, we will control transmissions within the galaxy as well, and this is only the beginning. We have no right to ask you to fight for us, so instead we beg for you to fight with us, to help us help our world, to work together to ensure that this will never happen again.”

“We are the Royal Three. Together, with your help, we will take back our home, we will free our people, we will see peace amongst the five planets once more. To our past, and future allies-actions speak louder than proclamations, but be assured that the concerns of the whirlwind galaxy are our foremost priority-nothing else matters. Finally, we know that even should we succeed, it by no means erases the sins of the past, but it is a start towards our future. We are the Royal Three, and we will fulfill the oath of our forefathers. We will win, because there can be no other outcome. There is no other choice. End transmission. "

The ringing silence that followed became absolute when the image before them flickered and then died away completely. Maria was the first to react, releasing a small cry of distress as Michael vanished before her once again. Kyle was next, shaking his head to clear the rushing sound in his ears as he processed what he had just heard. Liz didn’t move at all, belying the fact that her heart was beating too quickly, her mind racing just as fast. They were alive and well, and clearly mounting an offensive against Khivar-why then, did the cage around her heart feel like it had just gotten much smaller?

Maria turned towards Kyle and Liz, blue eyes bright for the first time since the nightmare had begun.

“They’re alive. Did you hear-they’re safe,”

Kyle managed to nod jerkily at her whispered words, but Liz was unmoving, still staring silently at the spot where the Royal Three had been.

“Do you think they know we’re here?” Ignoring the ties at her wrists, Maria leaned closer, the most animated she had been in what seemed like eternity. “They have to, right? Nicholas only took us because Khivar told him to, and if they control the communications now, they must-they should know. They know,”

It came upon him steadily, like a monstrous wave that you could see, even from the shoreline, you had no hope of escaping. Maria was right, if the Royal Three were now in charge of transmissions, even if they hadn’t caught Khivar’s original message to Nicholas, they would have for sure received some of the ones Nicholas had sent back. It should have made him euphoric, the idea that someone out there knew what had happened to them, but the fact that the Skin had showed them that transmission grated at him. Nicholas liked to see them suffer physically, yes, but it seemed that he loved his mind games best of all, and this could simply be another trick. He glanced to his other side, and knew immediately from the expression on Liz’s face that she had come to similar unsettling conclusions as well.

“Maria, we can’t…we can’t jump to conclusions. We shouldn’t. There’s no way to tell how old that transmission is, things could have changed since then, they might not control the broadcasts any more, they might not know.”

Kyle tried to keep his tone light and steady, as if that would somehow lessen the effect of his words. It didn’t, and Maria recoiled accordingly. He could see the anger lighting up her blue eyes, as surely as he could see the diatribe forming on her tongue, and he even knew the reason behind it. There was so little hope in this place, each time they survived was like a miracle that was in danger of never happening again, was it so much to ask for to believe in the possibility of rescue, even for just a short time?

“How can you say that? You heard it. They’re fighting back. They mean to take back their home. They’ve already managed to land a punch-”

“And did you hear that part, about the Whirlwind Galaxy being their priority, and how nothing else mattered?

Maria's jaw clenched and she almost spat out her next words, no longer bothering to keep her voice pitched low. “They just-they need allies, I would give the same damn speech too! They have to know we’re here. They have to come, otherwise…" It seemed like what lay beyond 'otherwise' was too difficult to bear, for she shifted her focus from Kyle and looked to her best friend instead. "Liz? Say something. Tell him he’s wrong, tell him they're coming for us, tell him...tell me he's coming for me,”

Maria’s voice broke at that point, and there was no need to clarify who she was asking for. Whatever barriers Liz had retreated behind wavered in the face of Maria’s plea, and she took a deep breath, all the turmoil and fear contained once more as she shifted to face them both.

“I-It’s going to be okay.” She licked her lips, and willed her voice to sound stronger, more sure. “We’re getting out. I won’t...I’m not letting either of you die in here.”

“Wow. Those are big words, Liz. I wonder, though, how you’re going to back them up? Because for once Kyle is actually right about something,”

In unison, Kyle and Maria's heads whipped around just in time to see Nicholas strut into the room. Despite the smug look on his face, the Skin looked significantly worse for wear, with large patches of his husk peeling off unflatteringly. He stopped before them, taking in the impact that seeing the Royal Three had had on his prisoners, and began to pace up and down, regarding each in turn. It didn’t escape their attention that his gaze kept going back to Liz, and in return, she slammed her walls back up again, refusing to show him even a hint of emotion.

“ This planet? You three? It doesn’t matter to them. The missive is almost two weeks old, it was one of the last transmissions that went out of the Five Planet sector before the communications block. The rebels, led by these little upstarts, succeeded in taking control and I doubt my message to Khivar about having you even made it to him. Which means that they know you’re here...and if they haven’t come by now...then they won’t be coming ever.”

Maria’s vehement denials were summarily ignored, and Nicholas continued his progress until he made an abrupt stop, and quick as a snake, his hand flashed out and grasped Liz’s chin, forcing her gaze to meet his.

“But then again...that’s because they don’t know what I know, isn’t that right, little human? If they knew, half the Whirlwind Galaxy would be here before sun-up tomorrow,” Liz glared in reaction and Nicholas sneered and let her go, wiping his hand off on his shirt as if he had touched something unclean. “ Time’s a-wasting. If you have anything you have to say to each other, I’d do so now. I’m afraid this is probably the last time you all will be together,”

Maria went pale at the same time Kyle unleashed the filthiest curses he knew at the Skin. Nicholas paid them no attention, his focus back on Liz, whose impervious facade had crumbled in the face of his threats.

“Nicholas-”

“Or maybe I’ll reunite you all one last time, but with a few extra guests. What do you think? A family reunion for Kyle and Maria here, and maybe your parents too, Liz, just so it’s fair? I already have your new love. Who else should we invite, hm? Don’t be shy. I could have anyone who you’ve had even the slightest hint of a fond thought for in here with the rest of you before you wake up tomorrow.”

Liz’s head was spinning again, and how was her heart still beating when it had lodged itself in her throat? She didn’t dare look at Maria and Kyle, as if by that small act he would somehow forget they were there, no matter how futile it was. She could feel their fear and horror pouring off in waves. It was like she was trapped in the room with Jack again, useless, unable to do anything but beg as he bled out all over the floor…so she begged.

“Nicholas, please. Don’t...don’t do that,”

“I will do whatever I want!” Instead of placating him, her plea did the opposite, sending fury racing across the Skin’s deceptively youthful face like lightning. “You can’t stop me, do you understand, Liz? This doesn’t stop until you give me what I want. Take her,”

The command was for the two dead-eyed servants who had entered after him, and immediately, Liz was free, secured in their grasp and being marched away.

“Liz! Let her go!”

“You bastard, what are you going to do to her?”

Liz could hear Maria and Kyle’s protests and recriminations against the Skin and she released a shaky exhale, managed to catch one more glimpse of them, prayed to God that they believed her, and willed them to not break. They had to hold on, just until she could figure out a way for them to escape or…or until help came. They just had to.

****

…help never came.

****

Day 14

Kyle, Maria, Liz, Vittorio

He wakes up gasping for breath, fighting against invisible captors, begging for the gandarium and dreading it all at the same time. The pain had been too much at the end, he had been unable to move for so long, on the very edge of losing his grip on sanity and-Kyle forces himself to hold a breath. It momentarily stops the heaving, the crippling feeling that there just isn’t enough air, long enough for him to realize that the ceiling above is no longer wet, roughhewn rock, and the floor he is laying on feels like smooth, cold linoleum. He exhales with a shudder, eyes wildly tracking this way and that as he tries to figure out where the hell he is now, and more importantly where his family is.

The second question is answered almost immediately. Maria, in the torn and filthy clothes that were once her beloved Scooby Doo pajamas, is lying not three feet from him, her arm outstretched towards where he now sits. She is unconscious, but seemingly unharmed, and considering that the last time he had seen her, she had been screaming endlessly, pleading for the hurt to stop, he will take her in peaceful sleep any day. Kyle moves to her in an instant, noting absently that he has been healed completely, and clearly without the gandarium, for shakes that follow the substance for hours afterward are noticeably absent. Unerringly, his fingers go for the pulse at her neck, and the steady beat calms him like nothing else has so far.

Kyle is relieved enough to pay more attention to their surroundings. It’s quiet-the cabinetry, the hum of appliances, the steady drip of a loose faucet all seem to indicate that they are in a kitchen of all things, clean and normal, the antithesis of where they just were. It’s like opening a floodgate- he swallows hard as memories from their last moments at the prison assail him-

-it is getting darker now, or maybe it is simply because his eyes are failing. They have given more gandarium, but it has done nothing except make things worse, there is no more healing with a side of pain, there is only pain, pain and even more pain. Dimly, he is aware that Maria still sobs, but even that is fainter now. He himself lost the ability to scream a while ago.

Perhaps it’s best.

The sound picks up again, a loud, metallic clang, and there is shouting that is for once not his own, or from his family, something that has become as familiar to him as breathing. Then it all goes quiet, and Kyle wants to look over at Maria, to check if she’s all right, but he can’t move any more. It’s almost all dark now.

And then there is light.

It’s bright, too bright, green and glowing, pulsing steadily as it approaches, the warmth and power radiating from it should be more intimidating, except he can’t find it in him to be scared anymore. Not for himself at least. It’s so close now, there is no more darkness, and as it gets even closer, he wishes he had been stronger, been enough to protect his family, to protect himself, and now-

The light makes contact, and Kyle finds that he can see again. He is watching a slideshow of his life, bits and pieces of each day he has been alive flickering past in rapid succession, from his father throwing him into the air, his mother smiling at him over grilled cheese, his first football throw, to his first kiss-warmth is spreading through him, along with relief-something different from the pain, and he can feel again, the coldness of the rock beneath him, the hardness of the wall he’d been tossed against. By the time he is fully healed, the green glow has dimmed into the form of a girl he has known his whole life. Liz Parker has her hands on his temples, she looks whole, safe, completely familiar…except that her eyes are nothing but pools of bright green light, and not a shred of humanity remains behind them. He can take a guess at what has happened to bring the change about.

This is not Liz, but he cannot help but call for her anyway.

“Liz,”

She says nothing in response, merely gets to her feet and walks right up to the bars that separate his cell from Maria’s. The barrier barely stops her, she makes a small, graceful, gesture and the entire thing melts away, pooling into a sizzling puddle that immediately cools as she steps over it. She has reached Maria by the time Kyle realizes his legs are working again, and he arrives in the neighboring cell in time to watch her delicately place one hand on either side of Maria’s head.

Her hands glow green, and Maria jerks, body stretched out taut like a bow. Her head snaps back, and when her eyes and mouth open wide, beams of green light stream out. Kyle doesn’t even have time to protest before the light show dissipates and Maria relaxes into the ground, her cuts and scrapes and bruises disappearing rapidly as he watches. In another moment, Maria’s eyes have snapped open, and she and…not-Liz appear to be having a silent conversation before Maria nods, and not-Liz disappears. She literally blinks out of existence, and Kyle has to reach for the closest support to stay upright.

“What-”

Maria is on her feet now, and he is discomfited to see that her eyes glow green too. It’s not the same as not-Liz’s, the intensity is much less, and he can even see a hint of the familiar blue of his step-sister’s eyes, tinged with...magenta, strangely enough. She stretches her hand out for his.

“Kyle, we have to go,”

“What? How? And-no. What about Jack? And, and whoever else he might have in here? What about Liz?”

“There’s no one else-Liz will be following us shortly. Please. Take my hand, we’ve got to go, I-I don’t know how long I can hold this,”

“Hold what? I don’t understand.”

“You will, Kyle. Trust me. Take my hand.”

He takes it, and then screams as the world around them dissolves in a roar of sound and blinding light-

Maria’s gasping as she wakes up brings him back to the present. Her eyes are wide, and back to their normal blue. He helps her sit, but it backfires terribly. The last two weeks have hardwired her, hardwired them both, if he’s honest, to associate any type of contact with pain, and she’s struggling to get free, incoherent as she thrashes, but he doesn’t let go, holding her gently, firmly, rocking them both until she quiets into small sobs.

“It’s okay. It’s okay now. We’re out, we’re out…we’re safe, I’ve got you. We’re safe, we’re out,” He repeats the litany like a prayer and doesn’t dwell too much on whether it’s for her sake or his. Eventually, the tremble of her shoulders subsides, and she relaxes in his arms. When she speaks, her voice is rough and ragged from all the screaming, but Kyle ignores this and continues to rub soothing circles into her skin.

“Where are we? Where’s Liz?”

“In a house of some kind. She might be here too, I hadn’t…I was waiting for you to wake up-”

He stops speaking, because the air changes, becoming thick, charged and heavy, like the still before the first crack of lightning. There is a beat before the next thing happens, silently, with a simple flash of light they would have missed had they not been facing in that direction. Maria has gone tense once more, but then she sags against him.

“Liz is here.”

Kyle doesn’t ask how she knows. He gets to his feet and pulls her up as well. Together, side-by-side, hand in hand, they move to the dining room of the empty house, almost at a run. Maria’s already calling Liz’s name, and Kyle doesn’t have the heart to tell her they may not even find Liz in the next room.

Except they do, and he instantly wishes they hadn’t.

Liz, and it is Liz now, her eyes no longer glowing, sits in the middle of the empty room. She looks tiny and fragile, far too small to handle the weight of the world, the fate of an entire galaxy, and especially the implications that come with Jack Taylor lying in her arms, looking peacefully asleep and unharmed, but for the fact that he no longer breathes, will no longer laugh, or talk or smile ever again. Maria claps a hand over her mouth in horror, while Kyle…well. There isn’t anything left to say. Liz stares numbly into the distance, and doesn’t even twitch when an unfamiliar voice cuts through the silence.

“I see you survived.”

The stranger has hair the color of silver specked steel, and Kyle’s first impressions of him center on the words, cold and dangerous and definitely not of this earth. He and Maria immediately close ranks around Liz, who remains in her own little bubble.

“Who are you? What do you want?”

“My name is Vittorio, and I want…many things. For right now, however, I’ll settle for you all getting cleaned up. The stench is…appalling.” He stares at them, eyebrow rising at their inaction. “ Well? I did save your lives. It’s the least you could do,”

At a loss, the step siblings look at each other, and then behind them.

Liz never makes a sound.

FIN.
Last edited by Comet on Sun Jan 31, 2016 3:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.


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