It's not what I expected. All my nightmareswell, the ones that weren't about Hankwere about thisbeing strapped down to a table like an insect waiting to be cut, waiting to die. I didn't expect to be tied to a kitchen table in some rich guy's condo. I expected white walls, surgical instruments lined up on an immaculate table just waiting to slice. There were some instruments beside me but they were lying haphazardly on a dirty tablecloth and it pissed me off that they didn't think I was worthy enough to kill with a clean knife.

Some part of my brain obviously doesn't realize how serious this is.

Maybe I think I'm dreaming - that I really did fall asleep after I left Maria. It was just another nightmare, and I would wake up soon to the sound of Maria's alarm clock through the wall...

I close my eyes tight and open them again and I'm staring up at the same beige ceiling. I turn my head and a Dali reproduction hangs there on the wall mocking me with dripping blood and bodies with holes in them.

This isn't a dream.

No one is coming for me.

Max doesn't know where I am, Izzy's been away for days and she doesn't know what the hell's been going onand Maria

Maybe she knew.

Maybe she knew they were coming for me.

No. I would have seen something. She thought they were after Max.

They had tried to kill her to get to meSomehow that bastard knew I wouldn't let her dieSomehow he knew that I would risk being found out for her, that I would risk this for her

"Mr. Guerinhow are you feeling?" I crane my neck to see the Man from Maria's memories coming towards me with a pleasant smile on his face as he pulls on a pair of rubber gloves. So smug

"Actually I'm pretty pissed off. I like my bed better than your table."

He smiles at me as his rubber glove snaps over his wrist.

"Do you know why you're here?"

"Candid Camera?" I mumble looking around the room, trying to find it, while screaming in my head for Max and Isabel, knowing they won't hear me, won't know until it's too late.

He takes a pair of scissors from the table beside me and cuts away my shirt. I shiver as the metal touches my stomach and he smiles at the little line of blood on my abdomen.

"It's red" he murmurs, smearing it onto the finger of his glove and looking at it closer. "The '47 report said it was white"

"What the fuck are you talking about?"

"Aliens Mr. Guerin. Aliens from the '47 crash that we caught and studied. A pair of them, a male and a femaleand three others not yet born" He looks into my face, looking for some sign of recognition.

"Who's "we"?" He smiles again. He does that too muchmaybe he's trying to scare me. It's working

"The Special Unit. The Special Unit that was recently shut down because of our last foray into Roswell, New Mexico. We spent a lot of time and energy and operatives on your little friend Max and came up with nothing, but I knew something had happened that day. I saw the dress, read the reportand it said there were two boys there that dayand that's when I became interested in you Mr. Guerin. Everyone was so interested in Evans that they forgot all about youstory of your life, huh kid? I decided to check up on you. Talked to your foster father. He had some interesting stories about youHe seemed to think you were possessed"

"Yeah — may I remind you the man is a raving drunk."

"He was very sober when I spoke with him."

"Whatever" I suck in my breath as he picks up a marker and draws a line down my stomach. He's really going to do ithe's really going to cut me.

Stall

What the fuck good will that do? The man is a psycho

Max where the fuck are you!

"Let's get back to the part where the Special Unit shut down."

A shadow falls upon his features and he gestures to a group of men waiting patiently by the door. Maybe Pierce isn't going to be the one slicing and dicing after all.

I'm really getting scared now

Izzy

"They thought our investigations were a waste of time. I've had to go about apprehending you without the proper resources. I had to recruit a civilianbut that worked out rather nicely didn't it?"

"How did you know Maria would ever want to waste her time with a guy like me?" I close my eyes and swallow. I'm fucked. It's that simple. This is how I'm going to dieI can put it off with my questions for a little while, but what's the point? I'd just be delaying the inevitable But he likes to talk. He Iwants/I me to know.

"She told me about you once. She was very open about it — how you made her feel, how much she missed youof course she was drunk so it wasn't too difficult to get her talk. And you want to know the most beautiful thing about all of this Guerin? This wasn't planned. I met her mother at a bar, fucked around with her for a few weeks whenever I was in town and then she happened to mention where she and her daughter were originally from. I found out Maria missed her friends — missed ILiz Parker/I and that was why she was so unhappy, why she was getting into so much trouble. Everything worked itself outIt was perfect. I was meant for this Guerin — I was meant to prove to the world once and for all that aliens exist, and once I do I'll not only get my job back, they'll reinstate the Special Unit and I will be the Ihead/I of it."

Here goes my last ditch effort

"I'd like to help you - really I would, but I'm not an alien — you have no proof that I am. Hanks "stories" wouldn't hold up and you know that. I am not an alien, I'm just a guy who is going to sue your ass for kidnapping." I think I finally understand how Max feels when he's talking to me sometimeslike he's talking to a brick wall. Nothing I say to this guy will convince him to let me go, I know that I don't know why I'm even trying

Yes I do.

I don't want to die. I finally have her. She's finally mine and I don't want to let her go, not when we've just found each other

"You made a mistake with her boy. I wouldn't have known for sure if you hadn't healed her."

I blink at him. Does he really think I regret that?

He stares into my eyes, frowning.

"To tell you the truth I'm surprised you did it — I thought you'd just let her die. Which would have been fine with me — she's more trouble than she's worth, I just would have had to find another way to get to youbut you healed her." He smiles slowly as the "doctors" hover around him waiting for his word to get started. "You don't really expect me to believe you love her do you? I understand you wanting her, wanting to touch her, taste hershe's a beautiful girlbut I don't for one minute believe you know what love is. Your people don't have the heart for itOr so we'll find out" One of the doctors step forward and I can't help but try and squirm away from him even as my restraints hold me down. He stops him. "Nonot yet. I'll let you rest a little while Guerin. I want you to think about what I'm going to do to you and I want you to decide whether or not your going to make it easy or hard on yourself. I'll be back later with my questions. I hope you cooperate Mr. Guerin. You'll be sorry if you don't."

"What the fuck does it matter? Either way I'm dead."

"Yes but whether or not you die alone is up to you."

Maria

"If you touch her I swear to God I'll kill you!"

He looks at me from the door and frowns in mock sympathy.

"Now how are you going to do that? Answer my questions and I'll think about letting her go. Think about what's important to you Guerin."

And now he's gone.

I scream for Max and Isabel one last time but I know it's no use. I don't want to think about Maria, I don't want to face the fact that I have to choose between my family and my love I don't think I can do it

I won't. I'll lie through my teeth.

He won't kill Maria.

I close my eyes because I know he will. He will kill her and he won't think twice about it

But he's going to ask me about Max, about IsabelI can't let this happen to them, I can't let him hold them down and threaten them, hurt them

But Maria

I'm trapped.

*~*~*

I drive to Max's. I don't know where else to go for help. I pulled on a pair of jeans, tied my robe tight, not bothering with a shirt, and ran to the car, my heart pounding, tears streaming down my face. If anything happens to him I'll never be able to forgive myself. If he dies I'll die.

I run three stoplights without getting caught and when I'm about to turn onto his street it happens. A knife of fear stabbing through me so sharp it leaves me gasping and I ram the jetta into a tree.

It's Michael's fear. I feel him. I feel him crying out to me, to Max, to Isabel.

I get out of my mangled car and run the rest of the way cradling my arm to my chest. I stumble to his door and before I can knock it opens and I fall into Max's arms.

"Don't give me any shit about needing to pack — I need youMichael needs you"

"I felt him" His voice shakes. I don't think he's even taking to me. "That's never happened beforeI could hear him"

"Me too" I whisper, and he stares at me in shock, finally seeing me. The phone rings. "Isabel."

"I've got it Max" I see Liz behind him, her eyes wide with fear, answering the phone. I can hear Isabel frantically screaming on the other line from where I stand. He grabs my arm and I cry out, feeling bone slide against bone and he lets go immediately.

"I can heal this for you — do you want me to?" I nod meekly, thinking "sure what the hell, why not have one more alien see what a betraying bitch I am", although I'm sure Michael's already told him everything.

I feel a slow warmth sinking into my skin but I don't get any visions. I know he did by the look in his eyes as he lets me go.

"That manthe one you were helping took him"

"Yes" I whisper. He opens his mouth to speak and we both double over as the fear hits us again.

*~*~*

One of the doctors came back. He was curious about me. He wanted to know how high my threshold for pain was. He cut my arm in three different places, each one deeper than the last, checking my face for a reaction, raising his eyebrows when my breath quickened and I sucked in my stomach to keep from screaming. I wouldn't give the bastard the satisfaction

They are going to take me apart piece by piece and there isn't anything I can do about it.

I don't want to be afraid but I can't help it. What happens to people like me when we die? I'm pretty sure I don't get a heavenI don't even think I get a helljust emptiness

Shitshit, shit, shit

Another one comes in and stands beside the one who keeps tracing suicide slits on my wrist and presses down on my forearm. He picks up a scalpel and drags it down the marked line on my chest and I do scream then. I scream until my throat is raw.

*~*~*

"They're hurting him!" I sob and Max lets me go. I get a glimpse of his ashen face before he turns away and grabs the phone out of Liz's hand.

"Isabel, try to connect with him! Get in his mind get him to tell you where he is!"

Max's frantic instructions fade to the background as Liz comes to me and I bury my face in her chest. Her hands shake as she runs them through my hair.

"He'll be okay Maria" She whispers, and I lift my tearstained face to meet her eyes.

"Do you really believe that?" I whisper.

She doesn't answer.

*~*~*

"Isabel was able to get some images from himhe can't think straight — they aren't drugging him they're just"

"Hurting him," I whisper as he turns back to the phone.

"I'll ask her" Max puts his hand over the mouthpiece and tells me she saw a painting. "Michael said it was by Dalihe's in a kitchen with a green marble counter?" I frown at him.

"That sounds like Daniel's placebut why wouldn't he take himofficial?"

"Do you know where he lives?"

"Yeah he-"

"Isabel, I'll call you on the cell — we know where he is, we're going." He hangs up and Liz tosses him the keys to the jeep and the three of us bound out the door.

When we get to the jeep sitting in the driveway, Max hands the keys to me. "Get us there" is all he says and I nod as I climb in and start the engine.

"He's an hour away."

"Floor it." I answer him by peeling out of the driveway, leaving thick black marks on the concrete.

I can feel his eyes on me as we drive down the highway. Liz is sitting in the backseat. I look at her in the mirror and she looks away.

"I didn't mean for this to happen."

"To Michael you mean." Max says sharply. "You meant for it to happen to me."

"Max"

"How could you Maria?" Liz says softly from the back and I feel my heart clench with guilt.

"It's not what you think, even if I had found out anything I wouldn't have told himI care about you guys too much" I glance at Max. "You saw into my head didn't you? You Isaw/I"

"I saw Michael. You care about him. I know that's real."

"Do it again." I say. "Connect with me — do the Samantha-genie-alien-thing where you read my mind and find out the truth. You guys have to know this was all a mistakeLiz?" I look into the mirror again. She looks like she wants to believe me. She looks at Max and he stares out the windshield.

"I don't have to." He says. "Michael loves you. That's good enough for mefor now. But if this is a trick-"

"Let's put it this way Max — Pierce tried to kill me tonight. I would be dead if it wasn't for Michael. If I see him again I'm not exactly going to give him a big hug and ask where I sign up to join the FBI, okay? Anything you want to do to him I am all for. He's going to pay for Michaelfor my momfor everything."

*~*~*

"Krickland get away from him! Not yet." Pierce takes the scalpel away from my flesh and makes an annoyed clucking noise at the back of his throat as he observes the river of blood sliding down and off the sides of my chest. I guess he doesn't want me dead yet.

I can't think straightI think I'm losing itI thought I saw Isabel here, hovering over me with tears in her eyes telling me I'm going to be okaythat Max is coming

Pierce barks at the two "doctors" to "clean me up" and to not perform any medical procedures until he comes back. He says he has some phone calls to make. Probably calling the President to see if he wants to watch.

I suck in my breath as the doctor roughly wipes away the blood.

Throw up the wall Guerinrebuild it stone by stonekeep everything outyou can get through this

And If I die, I die.

I'm not telling him shit about Max and IsabelAnd they'll protect Maria. They'll make sure Daniel won't touch her, I know they will. She won't be aloneand she'll be safe

That's all that matters.

I wish I could fight back. I should have before but I was too fuzzy from being hit over the head andI wanted to hear what he had to say. Call it morbid curiosity, but now maybe I'd lost my chance. I'mI feelweak.

But that doesn't mean I'm not going to try.

I wait until the doctors leave me alone and I concentrate on the cuffs around my wrists. I push with my mind trying to stretch the molecules out, trying to widen the cuffs enough to slip my hands out. I crane my neck, careful not to disturb my wounds, to see if my meager attempt at using my powers has done any good. They are a little looser but not enough to help me get out of here. But it's either keep trying until I get somewhere or wait until they come back with their questions and their "medical procedures".

I close my eyes and focus again, trying to block out everything except the metal. I jerk myself out of my concentration as the memory of what that metal looks like around my wrists tangles with the memory of that same metal cutting into me.

I look down. No difference.

All right maybe I shouldn't think about metal

I need to think about something elsesomething that calms me down and clears my head. Something I can hide from the pain in

Out of the darkness of my mind comes two arms, two warm arms that wrap themselves around me and suddenly Maria's body is pressed against mine, kissing the hurt away. I feel the stinging on my chest and arms recede beneath her lips, and I give into the fantasy because it's better than being afraid. I want my last thoughts to be of her

Her small hands are clamped around my wrists, pinning me down, but her kisses are still gentle and when she looks into my eyes I can see her love for me, I can see her sadness and her worry and her fear. She whispers an "I'm coming Michael" before her fingers unwrap themselves from around my wrists and slide down my armsand away

I open my eyes as the cuffs fall to the floor. I sit up. I untie the rope around my ankles and slip off the table with a wince. All is quiet. No one had heard. I'm free.

*~*~*

The road is a blur, the desert a dirty gold stretch that goes on forever. I can hear Isabel crying on the phone Max holds in his lap as he stares straight ahead into the night that is slowly fading into day. Liz is silent in the back, and I feel her hand lightly touch my shoulder and give it a tentative squeeze. A tear falls from my cheek and lands on the back of her hand as I turn my head to look at her.

"We'll get there in time." She says.

I shakily smile a thank you at her and press my foot down even harder on the gas petal. I picture him in my head as he was in my arms that night before we made love. We had paused from our kisses long enough to look into each other's eyes. He had touched my face, so carefully tracing the line of my jaw. He had looked at me like I waslike he couldn't believe I was letting him touch meLike he had no right tolike he was doing something dangerous, forbidden. I'm going to make sure he never feels that way again. I'm going to save his ass and kick Pierce's, and then I'm going to make sure he knows that he is worthy of my love. I just don't know if I'm worthy of his.

*~*~*

I don't know where the fuck I'm going. I can barely walk, so trekking back to Roswell is out of the questionI don't even know if I'm still in New Mexico

I can't find any doors to the outside world its all walls. Walls and walls with disturbing paintings hanging on them like scabs. I shuffle slowly, my arm wrapped around my torso, trying to hold myself together. The cut's deep. It keeps opening up and I can't heal myself. I don't know how. I'm still surprised it worked with Maria.

I hear a noise coming from around the corner and I fling myself into a closet biting my lip until I taste blood to keep from crying out at the jarring impact of my back against the wall. I hold my breath hoping to God whoever it was hasn't heard, and reach out quickly to pull the door shut.

Through the slats I can see him. Pierce. He pauses for a moment just outside the door, looking through a pile of photos. I lean forward as close to the door as I dare and peer through the slats. He's looking at the picture of the corpse from '59 with the silver handprint. Behind it is a surveillance photo of Maria taken from outside her bedroom window. She has her shirt off, and a man's hand is against her back, the rest of his body hidden behind hers. It's my hand. It's us the night we were together.

One of the doctors comes up beside him and looks at the photo.

"We should examine her." He says, and Pierce nods.

"That's our next project."

I have to restrain myself from barreling out of the closet and killing them with my bare hands.

I eye the gun sitting comfortably at Pierce's hip. If he didn't have that I'd kill him without my powers. I'd do it right now. I feel my muscles bunching in readiness and force myself to relax as a fresh rivulet of blood makes it's way down to my stomach. I'm starting to get dizzy.

"Should we go back and get her, sir?"

"Yes." He makes a disgusted noise. " I told you to grab her before we left with Guerin."

"Sheshe almost broke my nose sirand she locked the door" I jump back from the door as Pierce grabs the man by the neck and slams him up against it, closing the slats with a violent Ithwack/I.

"I suggest this time you break it down and bring Ithis/I with you. Use any means necessary to get her here. If she resists shoot her — but don't kill herNot yet."

Calmstay calmyou can't take both of them

I wait until I hear one of them walk away. From around the corner I hear a screen door open as the doctor leaves the house. I hear Pierce's slow footsteps continue down the way he had been going. He's on his way to ask me his questions.

I open the door and creep out into the hallway. I look down the way I had come. I could follow him, sneak up behind himI think he gave the doctor his gunfor MariaI take an angry step in Pierce's direction then stop. That way will get me killed. I'm not going to pretend like I'm strong enough to take him on my own. If I try to leave here now I might at least have a chance to get to Maria before that bastard does

*~*~*

Daniel lives in a condo just outside of some stupid New Mexican town I never cared to learn the name of because when I left this fucking state all those years ago I had thought it had been for good and the knowledge would have been useless. I think we actually drove by this place then. Funny, huh?

It's desolate. High-tech and creepy. Just far enough away from everything where no one would hear you scream.

We pull off the road and speed up to the house. I can feel Liz tensing behind me but Max is still quietly sitting here with his eyes closed and a slight frown on his face. I stop the car a few yards away and Max mumbles quietly, "Closergo right up to it"

"What, are we just gonna charge in?" I murmur feeling my vengeance high fizzling as I realize we don't have a plan. I look at him.

"Trust me. Liz tell Isabel I'm hanging up now." Liz wordlessly takes the phone and tells Isabel she's going to hang up. I hear her say, "I'm ready".

I pull up closer to the house and Max tells me to stop. The front door opens suddenly and one of the men that had carried Michael from his apartment, the one I had punched in the face when he had tried to grab me steps out. He falters when he sees us and reaches for the gun tucked in his belt. He pulls it outand then falls unconscious to the ground.

"Max" Liz whispers from the back, and he says, his voice taut with concentration, "Sleeping. One of you get his gunWe might need it."

"Cool" I murmur getting out of the jeep. I cautiously trot over towards the body and the door opens again. I freeze.

It's Michael.

He stumbles out the door and falls to his knees stifling a cry of pain as he holds his hand to his chest. He looks up and meets my eyes and holds out his bloody hand to stop me from going to him.

"Run" he gasps, getting to his feet and limping towards me. "He's coming"

I go to him and he yells at me to stay where I am even as I put my arms around him and try to help him walkhe's so weak

I cry out when I see his chest and he lies to me and tells me he's fine. We are halfway to the jeep where Liz sits ready at the wheel to drive away the second we get in. Max is still sitting there, ramrod straight with his eyes closed and his mouth set in a grim line of concentration.

We don't make it all the way to the jeep.

We get about halfway there when the door opens again and I know from the look on Liz's face that it's Pierce. I turn to look at him, to see what he will doif he's going to run after usif he's going to shoot us in the backeither way we won't be able to escape him.

He's staring out into the desert, frozen by the door, his hand poised over his gun but not touching it. His mouth is open in shock and his eyes are wide with fear. I look where he's looking and see nothing. Just the desert and the jeep, Max, Lizbut he's terrifiedI look at Max who is so pale, almost shaking with the effort of what he's doing to Piercewhat he's making him see

"No" I turn back to Pierce, holding Michael tight to me, protecting him with my body. Pierce's hand clamps around the gun as he shouts the word again and again and fires wildly into the desert. The windshield of the jeep shatters, and Michael throws me to the ground covering my body with his. He's shaking on top of me and I hold on, trying to cover his back with my arms and my hands encounter a fresh trail of blood oozing down from his shoulder.

"Michael" He doesn't answer me, his body suddenly heavy on top of mine. I hardly notice that Pierce has stopped firing. I hardly notice that he is running to the body of the sleeping doctor and taking his weapon muttering over and over again in a voice stained with hysterical fear, "Noyou won't take meI won't let you take me"

I hardly notice the final gunshot.

I hardly notice the sound his body makes when it crumples to the sand.

I'm crying against Michael's heavy shoulder, I'm touching his face, I'm screaming at him to wake up. Liz and Max run to us from the jeep and we carry him to it. I sit in the back with him, my hand wrapped tightly around his, my ear near his parted lips listening to his shallow breathing, and sobbing as it slows.

*~*~*

I sit on our rock, my legs hanging over the side as I stare down at the jeep below, its windshield shattered, a spider web of glass.

Max had taken us here and we had carried Michael's limp body up the rock. Max touched a handprintlike the one still decorating the skin on my stomach, and the rockit had opened.

He called the place the "pod chamber". It was where they had been born. Him, IsabelMichael.

We laid him down on the ground and I numbly took the rock that Max pressed into my hands and I fell to the ground with them. I put the last of my energy into it. I put everything I had ever felt for Michael into it, trying to make it stronger

I had opened my eyes in a desert, so bright, so full of the sun On the ground was a terra cotta colored line leading to Michael who stood shakily in the middle of a circle. Max was across from me and Liz was to my right. To my left there were two other lines, and at the end of them were the shadows of Isabel and Alex fading in and out of view. I could see Max straining to keep them connected. Alex came forward and clasped hands with him, then Isabel, who kissed his cheek, Liz who hugged him gently. Max came forward and held out his hand. Michael took it and they stood there, Max giving him all his strength. Michael let go first and I went to him then. I touched his face and I brought my lips to his. I wrapped my arms around him, refusing to let go until he was safe again.

I opened my eyes and we were back in the cave with the stones glowing in our hands with a blue fire that softly faded into their original amber color. I had looked at Michael lying there, his bloody chest rising and falling with renewed breath, his wounds healed. He had opened his eyes and immediately found mine. He had smiled.

I hear him come up behind me and I don't turn around. I don't realize I'm shaking until he sits down beside me, wraps his arms around me and pulls me back to rest against his chest.

"Are you cold?" he whispers.

"I almost lost youyou were almost killed because of me" I pull away and stand. I can't look at him. If I look at him I'll change my mind. I stare at the edge of the rock instead. I stare at a green splatter of paint there. "What did Max do to himto make him kill himself?"

He doesn't move from where I've left him but traces the paint splatter with his finger. When he takes his finger away it's gone.

"He made him see aliens. Hundreds of very unhappy aliens. Isabel helped himshe gave him her strength so he could hold it and knock out the doctors"

"What."

"You're not leaving."

"I should."

"No."

"You were almost killed because of me!"

"I would die for you." I shake my head, trying not to cry because he's safe, he's aliveand I want him to stay that way.

"I don't want to hurt you"

"Then don't leave." He gets to his feet and turns towards me, the sun outlining his body in red fire just like the last time we were here together. "Stay with mestay here with all of us"

"But Max"

"He's not mad at you Maria. He knows you wouldn't have turned him in even if you had known. Liz wants you stay tooShe'd miss you too much and you know you'd miss her. Maria this is all overPierce is gone — the Special Unit was closed. He was AWOL. No one's going to be coming after me or Max or Isabel ever again. It's over" I look up at him, finally meeting his eyes. He really believes that everything is going to be all right.

He takes a step forward and I reach out to trace the silver line down his chest where Max has healed him.

"Are you okay now?" He closes his eyes at my touch and exhales a shaky breath.

"Noand I won't be until you kiss me" he opens his eyes and comes a little closer, catching my hand and holding it to his heart. "Don't think it's gonna be easy to get rid of me. I have no qualms about making a fool of myself and following you across the country, standing outside of windows in the rain calling for yousending flowers for every day we're not togetherI'd become Alex for you, Maria — do you really want to put me through all that"

I laugh and touch his lips. "I don't want you to be Alex, I want you to be you."

"Then stay" he whispers against my fingers, "I can't be me without youI need you. I love you Maria, I always have. Youmake me happy" he laughs softly and brushes my hair away from my eyes. "Even when you bug me you make me happy. Besides I missed out on six years of torturing you — you Iowe/I me Delu-"

I put my hand over his mouth, and whisper, "I love you toonow will you please shut up so I can kiss you?" He nods and I take my hand away, replacing it with my lips, knowing that I will stay. I will stay with him foreverand whatever happensI'll protect him and he'll protect me. I'll love himand he'll love me. This is what I was looking for, what I wanted and couldn't find for all those years. It was Michael. It has always been Michael. Home is his arms, his eyes, his lips. Home is his voice whispering another "I love you" between breathless kisses as we stand on our rock warmed by the sun, warmed by our love.