Liz awoke to the smell of bacon cooking, and for a handful of moments she thought she was in her old life in Roswell. She expected to hear her mother and father talking in the kitchen, and the clink of dishes as they set the table. Any moment one of them would come to call her to breakfast.
With a smile, she rolled over and opened her eyes, but was shocked to see not her childhood room, but a completely different place. For a moment she was confused, but then everything that had happened came rushing back to her; how she’d pushed Max away again and again until he finally turned to Tess, and she’d lost him forever.
For a moment, she thought she’d be sick, and leaned over the edge of the bed, taking deep breaths, trying to get herself back under control.
Suddenly a soothing hand was on her back, and the nausea was chased away. She wasn’t even surprised that Zan was there.
“It’ll be okay,” he said softly. “You’ll get through this,” he promised. “You’re strong.”
“You don’t know anything about me,” she croaked, still laying across the bed and refusing to look at him.
“I know you through him,” he said. “I know what he saw, and he thought you were the strongest person he knew.”
Liz felt tears in her eyes, but suddenly remembered what Zan had done last night and used her anger to push the tears aside.
“I’m mad at you,” she said rolling away from him and sitting up to face him. “You knocked me out and dragged me back here? What are you some kind of Neanderthal?”
He smiled slightly. “I did it for your own good,” he said.
“You did it,” she retorted, “because you’re a controlling bastard.”
His smile widened. “Come on princess,” he soothed, “I came over early and cooked you breakfast to make up for it.”
Her first instinct was to tell him again to stop calling her princess, but letting him know it bothered her would probably just make him keep doing it. If she stopped complaining maybe he would get tired of teasing her.
Then she realized he’d never called her by her name. Maybe he didn’t even know what it was having only sensed her through Max.
She glared at him. “Do you even know my name?”
He held her gaze. “Liz,” he said simply, drawing it out slightly, but his eyes flashed with such intensity that a shiver rushed through her and she almost gasped. Or maybe it was just that she didn’t expect how much his familiar voice saying her name would affect her.
She had been about to tell him to use her name, but now she wondered if that was a good idea. Did she really want to hear Max’s voice saying her name? As bad as princess was maybe it was better than her name.
“Well,” she said, “that doesn’t make up for what you did. And I’m not even hungry.” Her stomach growled, and she blushed, cursing the tantalization smell of bacon for causing it.
The situation immediately reminded her of another time when she’d been with Max and he had heard her stomach growl, and he had fed her. The sadness started to creep in with the memory, but Zan’s voice didn’t allow her to dwell on it.
“Come to the table,” he coaxed, not commenting on her obvious hunger. “I promise I’m a good cook, and you have to eat.”
Rolling her eyes, Liz grudgingly got up and followed him to her small table. It was only made for two and she realized she’d never shared it with anyone.
Zan had already set the table and he motioned for her to take a seat. He’d put out butter, syrup, whipped cream and a dish of mixed berries.
Surprised she looked up and watched him closely as he worked efficiently in her kitchen. Today he was wearing faded jeans, a dark gray t-shirt with some kind of logo that was almost worn off, and black workmen’s boots with thick tread.
After a moment, he placed a plate in front of her with eggs, waffles and of course bacon.
“Coffee, juice or milk?” he asked.
Liz stared at him. He’d prepared all of her favorites. Did he know? Or was it just a coincidence?
“Milk,” she said finally.
Getting the carton out of the fridge, he filled the glass in front of her. She watched him get his own plate, laden with food, and a cup of coffee, and sit down across from her. Immediately she noticed that his food was already sprinkled with a health dose of Tabasco, and her gaze went to the kitchen counter, spying the bottle.
She didn’t have any in her house. Even with her alien powers, she’d never developed a taste for it and refused to keep it around because of the memories it held. Zan must have brought it with him. As a matter of fact, she didn’t think she had a lot of the stuff they were eating; no waffle mix, no bacon, no berries or whipped cream, and she wasn’t even sure she had syrup.
Her gaze went back to him to find him looking at her as he sipped his coffee. “I promise it’s not poisoned,” he said.
She shook her head, “I was just wondering where all this came from.”
He shrugged. “I brought it with me.”
She was incredulous. He’d had this stuff at home, or more likely went to the store and bought it just so he could cook her breakfast to make up for what he’d done last night. It was almost - thoughtful. But she didn’t want to think about him like that.
Looking down, she concentrated on putting butter, syrup, berries and a generous amount of whipped cream on her waffles. The first mouthful was like heaven and she smiled as she chewed.
It had been a long time since she’d had anything like that to eat. Not since she’d left Roswell. Usually she had a Spartan breakfast of coffee and toast when she even remembered to eat.
Before she realized, she had finished everything on her plate, and looked up to find Zan watching her again. “There’s more,” he said casually, motioning behind him, “if you’re still hungry.”
“No,” she said, shaking her head, “I’ve had enough. Ummm, thank you,” she said begrudgingly. She felt like she should thank him, although, she reminded herself, he had let himself into her apartment without asking, and when she didn’t want him there, and it was to make up for knocking her out last night.
Zan eyes skimmed over her. “You sure you’ve had enough?” he asked. “You’re too damned thin.”
Liz’s eyes widened in surprise. She knew she had lost some weight since she arrived in L.A., but she’d never known a guy to complain about a woman being too skinny. “Is that right?” she said, not even trying to keep the annoyance out of her tone. “Well, I didn’t ask you.”
He met her gaze. “The extra strength that alien constitution gives you won’t help much if you starve yourself to death.”
Looking away, she shrugged. “I just forget to eat sometimes,” she said truthfully.
“Well, it’s a good thing I found you,” he said, “so I can make sure you take care of yourself.”
She met his eyes again, unable to help her curiosity. “How did you find me anyway?” she asked. “You said you can feel me, but how does it work? How far away can you feel people? And did you know who I was the first time?”
“Lots of questions,” he said with a half smile, taking another sip of coffee. “Are you trying to figure out how far you need to get away from me so I can’t find you?”
“No,” she said sincerely. “I hadn’t even thought of that. I was just wondering.”
“As for how I found you,” he continued, “you know I can feel when you are near. I knew who you were through him, and I felt you coming to L.A.”
Liz’s eyes widened.
“Shocked the hell out of me,” he said. “This girl I only knew through him, coming here. I’ve been trying to find you since then.”
She shook her head. “You couldn’t know I was moving here. I might have just been on vacation.”
“I knew,” he said simply. ”But California is a big place, and it’s hard to tell exactly where someone is until I’m pretty close. The first time I was really close was at a club about a month ago.”
“First time,” she said. “You were close more than once?”
He nodded. “I’ve been checking clubs and felt you in the area a few times. Each time the feeling was stronger, and I was able to get a better pinpoint on your location.”
Liz didn’t want to tell him she could feel him and kept the information to herself, but she wanted to know why she hadn’t felt him at the club last night or when he’d ambushed her on her street. “So you said you didn’t want Lonni or Rath to feel you. Isn’t there a way to turn it off or something? Like cloaking yourself.”
A cocky smile lifted the corners of his mouth, and he held her gaze. “You mean why couldn’t you feel me last night at the club?”
Her eyes widened in surprise.
“That’s right, princess, I know you can feel me, and yes I can turn it off, for a while.”
“But how?” she asked.
He chuckled. “I’m not going to give away all my secrets,” he said with a wink.
He motioned to her bedroom. “Go take a shower and get dressed, and I’ll clean up breakfast.”
Liz’s brow knotted in confusion. “Why am I getting dressed?” she asked, annoyed.
Getting up, he took their plates to the sink. “Because I’m taking you somewhere.”
She shook her head. “I have work to do and besides I don’t want to go anywhere with you.”
He laughed, running water in the sink. “Well, it can be voluntary or I can carry you out of here, but you are damn well getting out of the house today.”
She glared at him, knowing he meant every word and decided to take the dignified way out and do what he said. At least for now.
Without a word, she turned and headed toward her bedroom, flinching when she heard him call out to her, “And don’t even think about going out the window again.”
She had to admit it had crossed her mind, but she’d discarded the idea almost immediately, knowing it wouldn’t do any good. He’d just be waiting for her.
Going into her room, her defiant streak kicked in and she considered stalling, dragging out the time it took her to get ready. Maybe he’d get tired of waiting for her and leave. But she knew he wouldn’t. He’d probably just come in the shower and drag her out naked and sopping wet.
She took a quick shower and was dressed in jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt and Keds, and was ready to go in under fifteen minutes. Emerging from her room, she saw that Zan was looking at her few books.
When he heard her come in, his eyes skimmed over her. “That was fast.”
She shrugged, picking up her purse. “Where are we going anyway?”
“It’s a surprise,” he said mysteriously.
Maybe he thought it was funny, but she was just annoyed. “Fantastic,” she said sarcastically.
She thought she saw his lips twitch as if he was holding back a smile, and it just made her even angrier. Storming to the door, she went outside and down the stairs, not even waiting for him.
He caught up to her in just a few strides and used his powers to open the passenger door before she even got to the car. Today the top was down and she noted that even though it was the end of November, the weather was still warm enough that it wouldn’t be uncomfortable.
Getting in the passenger seat, she settled herself as Zan closed her door. She watched him as he rounded the front of the car, still wondering what the hell he wanted with her.
Neither of them spoke as they drove. Liz looked out the window, letting the warm breeze flow past her, and in just over twenty minutes they pulled into a parking lot.
Looking around curiously, Liz’s brow creased in confusion. It was some kind of old garage, and it didn’t even appear to still be in business.
“What’s this?” she asked, her uncertainty evident in her tone.
“This is where I work,” he said, turning toward her.
She looked at the building again. At one time it had been painted white, but most of the paint had darkened to a dull gray and was peeling. There were three closed metal garage doors with no windows, also in the same state of disrepair, and a glass door that led into some kind of office or waiting room.
“You work here?” she said with disbelief. “What do you do?”
Getting out of the car, he motioned for her to follow. “Well, come inside and I’ll show you.”
With a sigh, she got out of the car. She was kind of curious, and it’s not like she had much of a choice anyway.
He led her to the door, and inside. The room held some old chairs, a counter and a few empty shelves. Dust covered everything and it looked like it hadn’t been used in years. But he didn’t stop there and led her into the back, going through another door and into the first garage bay.
Inside was an old car that looked just as disreputable as the building. There were dents and dings everywhere and huge spots of rust showed through what little paint was left on it. It looked so old and uncared for, she doubted it could even start.
“You junk cars?” she guessed.
He chuckled, “Yeah, it might look like it, but no. I restore classic cars.”
“Oh,” she said as the realization dawned, “you restored that car you drive.”
He nodded with a smile.
She looked at him, and then at the car next to her. “How on earth do you restore something like that? It’s just a pile of junk.”
“How on earth, indeed,” he said with a smile, and raised his hand. “With a little hocus pocus,” he teased with a wink.
Feeling a little stupid, Liz rolled her eyes at her own shortsightedness. Of course he could just use his powers. It was just still second nature to her to do things in the human way.
She had to admit it was a smart use of his powers to make money legally and quickly.
“How long does it take you to do one?” she asked, looking at the amount of damage.
“Well,” he drawled, “I could make it like new in just a few minutes, but you have to be smart about it. If anyone examines it closely, it has to look like it was done by human means. So I can’t just turn the rust back into metal, I have to change it to reconstructive putty and blend it in. It can’t be too perfect or someone might get suspicious. I don’t want it to be brand new again, but pretty close. And I can’t tell the owner to come pick it up in a couple of hours, I have to set a timeline that it would take a human to restore a car.”
“And how long is that?” Liz asked, walking around the other side of the car, and met his gaze over the top.
“I usually quote them a month to six weeks, depending on the amount of damage.”
She nodded. “So you lock the car in your garage, and wait until the last couple of days before you fix it, just in case someone comes looking.”
He smiled. “You’re catching on, princess.”
Ignoring his use of the hated nickname he’d given her, she concentrated on the conversation.
“And how much do you charge them?”
“Depends on the job. The worse the damage, the more they expect to pay. In a normal situation there would be replacement parts, supplies, equipment, labor costs and overhead.”
“But you don’t have any of that,” she said. “Or maybe just the overhead,” she mused with another glance around, “and that can’t be much.”
“Yeah, so I can pocket most of it,” he said with a nod.
Liz didn’t know how much it would normally cost to restore a car with that much damage, but she was betting it was thousands. Zan probably made out like a bandit. And it made her consider what she might be able to do with her powers that would take less time and effort than writing papers, and be more lucrative.
“So when are they expecting this car to be finished?” she finally asked.
“In a couple of days,” he said. “So I thought we could start on it today.”
She was genuinely surprised, and her eyes snapped to his over the car again. “Me? I don’t know anything about cars much less repairing them.” She pointed to the car. “I don’t even know what kind it is.”
“Fifty-seven Chevy Bel Air,” he said with a shrug. “But it really doesn’t matter that you know nothing about cars. I’ll start by showing you the easy stuff, and I’ll bet you’ll be a natural.”
Coming around the side of the car where she was standing, he bent down next to her. “See this area?” he said, motioning with his hand. “There’s no rust, just some dents that need to be smoothed out.”
She bent down to see, nodding.
He brushed his hand over the surface of the car. “Just use your powers to raise the dents and match the line of the car.”
“Okay,” she agreed, “that doesn’t seem hard.” Passing her hand slowly over the surface, she concentrated on making the dented area as perfect as the surroundings. She felt the power leaving her hand and passing into the car, restoring the shape.
“Excellent,” Zan said as she finished, giving her a grin.
Suddenly Liz realized how close she was to him. She could feel the heat of his body, and smell the fresh, clean scent of him, like he’d just stepped out of a shower. She’d thought he smelled like Max, and he did, but there was something unique about him too. It was nothing she could explain easily, but it was similar to the way he felt different in her mind.
She got up, moving away from him to another part of the car. She spoke quickly to hide her discomfort. “So I do the same thing over here,” she said, not even looking at him.
“Yeah,” he said, standing. “You work on the dents, and I’ll start on the harder stuff.”
They worked for half an hour, and Liz occasionally stopped to see what Zan was doing. She watched intently as he almost lovingly ran his hand over an area with a large patch of rust, smoothing and reshaping. It was easy to see that he had a real passion for the car and his work.
As they continued, she couldn’t stop thinking that she was probably slowing him down, not really helping, but finally all the dents were gone and Zan had rebuilt all of the rusted areas. It looked like a completely different car and they were only half done.
He then showed her how to fix the upholstery and interior while he worked on the motor.
It took her even longer to do the interior because she was afraid of messing it up, but finally all the rips, holes and cracks were repaired and everything was polished so it shone.
She got out of the car and stood back to look at their accomplishment with pride.
Zan emerged from underneath the car, and examined her work inside. “Nice job, princess,” he said. “Looks like you’ve been doing this for years.”
“It was fun,” she admitted.
The corner of his mouth rose in a half smile, and he put his hand on the top of the car. “Just two things left,” he said. A rich blue spread out from where his hand touched the car, extending all over the surface until it covered the exterior. The grayish stripe at the back brightened into a chalky white, and the chrome trim went from dull to a brilliant shine.
He held his hand in place a moment more and the car started, roaring to life.
“Wow,” Liz said, “when we came in here I never would have believed it could look like this.”
“It’s a good feeling, fixing something, bringing it to life again,” he said softly.
Her eyes snapped to him as anger filled her. “Is that what you want?” she demanded. “You want to feel good because you fixed me?”
“That’s not what I meant, princess,” he said soothingly, but she was too angry to care.
“Take me home,” she demanded as she whirled and headed toward the door.
She heard the car behind her turn off and Zan’s hurried footsteps coming after her.
“Calm down and listen to me,” he said, but she didn’t even slow down.
She was out the front and next to the car by the time he caught up to her. Swinging around to face him, she stuck a finger in his chest. “I’m not some broken doll that needs fixing. You have no idea what happened, what I’ve been through.”
He leaned in so they were only inches apart, holding her gaze. “Then tell me,” he whispered.
She started shaking with rage and remembrance as tears filled her eyes. She opened her mouth to yell at him, but only a small, soft voice emerged. “Take me home.”
A single tear escaped and rolled down her cheek and a muscle in his jaw twitched as he nodded. He opened the car door and she got in, immediately turning away from him as she squeezed her eyes shut.
She heard Zan close her door and then the driver’s door open and shut as he got in, and she turned toward the window.
For a moment nothing happened. Although she couldn’t see him, somehow she knew he was watching her, and she thought he would try to talk to her. And she dreaded it. She didn’t want to talk about her past. But after a few more heart stopping moments he started the car and pulled out onto the road.
She didn’t know how it was possible, but with a few simple words he could bring back everything she was trying to forget and the pain almost overwhelmed her.
Maybe it was just because Zan was Max’s double. And because of that it really did hurt her to look at him sometimes.
She knew he wasn’t Max, and there were so many differences between them, but she couldn’t help thinking of Max when she looked at Zan.
And his constant questions. Why wouldn’t he just leave the past where it belonged instead of continually asking her about it? And now that he brought it up, she couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Memories of Max, good and bad, filled her head, making her relive each one.
The day Max had healed her, their first date, their first kiss, the night they said ‘I love you’ for the first time.
Now I will tell you what I've done for you
Screaming, deceiving and bleeding for you
50 thousand tears I've cried
Then she thought about the day she’d walked away from him at the pod chamber, the night Future Max told her she had to make Max fall out of love with her, the night she’d broken his heart by pretending to sleep with Kyle, and the night Max had broken her heart by telling her he had not only slept with Tess but gotten her pregnant.
Don't want your hand this time
I'll save myself
Maybe I'll wake up for once
Then the most wonderful but bittersweet memory pushed into her mind. She dreamt about it every night, and it was one of the things she’d most like to forget. The night she and Max had made love.
Blurring and stirring the truth and the lies
Always confusing the thoughts in my head
So I can't trust myself anymore
And no matter what had happened before or after, it had been making love. It had been so tender and so special, even though she knew it would be the only time, and she’d have to send him back to Tess and his child. It was all she’d ever wanted, and for one beautiful moment they had belonged to each other completely. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Just when I thought I'd reached the bottom
I dive again
I'm going under
Drowning in you
I'm falling forever
She loved the memory of their only time together, but it was also killing her. And no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t stop reliving it.
I won't be broken again
I've got to breathe
I can't keep going under
Her body started to shake with longing and sorrow, and tears filled her eyes as every moment of that night played in her head.
She could feel Max’s hands lovingly caressing her body, his hot breath brushing her skin. She could hear his passion-filled words of love, see his love for her glowing so brightly in his eyes, and feel him inside her body and her mind.
Max had been so careful, so tender.
They had worshiped every part of each other, unable to stop touching and tasting. And not wanting to waste a precious moment, they had come together again and again in that too-short night.
How could something so perfect and so wonderful be destroyed?
Tears ran down her cheeks and she cried silently still turned away from Zan. The pain was starting to overwhelm her.
The car stopped, and Zan’s gentle voice washed over her. “You’re home.”
A sob escaped her and she finally opened her eyes and saw the park across the street from her apartment. Wrenching the door open, she almost fell out of the car in her eagerness to get away.
And she ran.