Author's note: I decided to name this story "Seems Like Years" because of what Kendall said the in the episode that aired December 13, 2005. Zach was telling her, "You've been in the wringer for weeks." She responded, "Seems like years." I was in the process of writing this story, and being reminded of all that she has been through the past four years. So when I heard her say those words, I thought, "Kendall, it has been years."

To understand the nuances if this story, I want you to know where I'm coming from as I write this. The AMC universe as it was in May 2003 on our television – the characters that appeared and everything that has happened to them - remains the same, up to that point. The only thing that will change is Zach Slater's appearance in the story exactly one year sooner than he appeared on the show. Because Zach is showing up early, the change needs to be justified – so I have altered a significant event in his history. Otherwise, he is still pretty much the same person.

In splitting off this alternate universe, a la Star Trek, certain things will change, and certain things will remain the same. I have reviewed transcripts, and included scenes and dialogue as they were on the show in 2003, or left them out as per my interpretation of how Zach affects the events that occur. Also, it is possible that dialogue, settings, or events from 2004 and beyond may end up appearing in 2003. Confused yet? Maybe you should just ignore this paragraph and enjoy the ride.

Additional note: I am keeping dates of major events almost precisely as they happened on the show.

Chapter 1

May 20, 2003 – Rio de Janeiro

Zach sipped his morning coffee as he logged onto his computer. He clicked onto the Wall Street Journal home page from his favorites column. He was startled to see that today's portrait sketch was of his brother's face. Michael. Zach set his coffee down as he read the accompanying article. Yesterday, Michael was arrested for corporate espionage - in a small town in Pennsylvania called Pine Valley. He allegedly tried to steal the formula for a new product developed at Enchantment Enterprises, a cosmetics company. At a press conference yesterday, he attempted to unveil the product on behalf of Cambias Industries. Their father, Alexander Cambias had been there as well. Enchantment's owner, Erica Kane, brought proof that the product was hers. In front of the press and his father, Michael was arrested and sent to jail.

Zach put his head in his hands. Why did Michael keep doing this to himself? Assuming the charges were valid, Michael had apparently used illegal means to try and impress his father. Not only did he fail, but he failed in the most humiliating way possible. If only Michael had accepted Zach's proposition when he saw him last Christmas. Zach was always trying to persuade Michael to join him in his growing casino empire. Zach wanted nothing more than for his brother to be far away from the insidious influence of their father and his soul-devouring corporate machine. But Michael refused his offers time and again. Michael wanted what Zach had rejected – to be loved and accepted by his father and to be named as head of the family business someday.

Zach knew that Michael was incredibly bitter over the fact that Alexander still preferred his older son, despite Zach's actions. The old man didn't care that Zach walked away from their mansion at the age of 17 and never came back. He didn't care that Zach had lobbed the ultimate insult - rejecting the Cambias name by changing his to Zach Slater. Alexander used every chance he got to remind Michael of the fact that Zach built a gambling empire after starting over with nothing, while Michael couldn't seem to get anything right with the billion dollar corporation that had been handed to him on a silver platter. Zach knew all this because Michael never failed to dwell on it any time Zach tried to call or visit. Zach wanted nothing more than for the old man to be out of their lives for good, and for there to be reconciliation between the two of them. As much as Michael's bitterness and vitriol hurt him, Zach couldn't give up on his little brother.

The question was, what should he do about this latest fiasco? The old man had probably left Pine Valley by now, without a backward glance. Would he even send his corporate lawyers to help Michael with his defense? Probably not. Alexander couldn't be bothered to help an employee who had fucked up, even if the employee was his flesh and blood. It was also unlikely that anyone in that little town gave a damn about Michael. Zach pulled out his cell phone and made a call to the law firm he had on retainer. He arranged for one of the lawyers to head out to Pine Valley immediately. He made another call to a private detective he also had on retainer, and asked for a quick dossier on Michael's activities since entering Pine Valley. Zach then arranged a meeting with the manager of the Seasons Rio to cut out any extraneous activities in Zach's schedule so that he could leave quicker than planned. He hated to miss out on the grand opening of his fourth casino, but he wanted to get to Pine Valley as soon as possible. Michael would probably be less than thrilled to see his older brother, especially from a jail cell, but Zach was all he had left.

May 21, 2003 - Pine Valley

Kendall sat back and sipped some hot tea. It had been quite a day at the beach, and not in a relaxing way. She should feel immense satisfaction over the success of the past couple of days, but she couldn't get to that place. She tried to recapture the surge of triumph she had felt at Michael getting what he deserved, but she just felt deflated over the fact that once again her heart had been crushed. She tried to feel warmth over the fact that she and her mother had finally teamed up together over something, but she couldn't shake the cold feeling that she was still on trial with Erica. Kendall attempted to muster some enthusiasm for the latest ad campaign that Simone had cooked up for Fusion – the Sexiest Man contest. All she could feel was cynicism over the irony that four losers in love were in charge of finding the perfect man.

Kendall stood up and paced around her living room. Not the perfect man, just the sexiest. Maybe that should be their entire focus from now on, and not just for the ad campaign. Concentrate on the superficial, and not care about what is going on inside their skull. Let it be all about looks and not care whether the man is thinking of you when you aren't around, thinking about your relationship, thinking of ways to please you, heck, thinking at all. A hottie with a lobotomy, that's what women should strive for.

Kendall looked out the window over at Michael's condo across the way. He had been the first man she opened up to since Ryan rolled out of her life in a cloud of exhaust. God, she was pathetic. It seemed like all she ever did was lay her heart out there for people to stomp on. Erica, Bianca, Ryan, and now Michael has had his turn. She couldn't help but wonder if he ever felt the same way about her that she did about him. Did Michael care about her even one little bit? Kendall's pacing became more and more furious. She needed to know. She needed to know if Michael felt even the tiniest twinge of remorse for what he had done to her. She knew it was a waste of time, but tomorrow she would visit Michael in jail. Tomorrow she would grill him and try to…to…what? Get him to say that he had loved her, too? What would that accomplish? He was a snake who betrayed her – it wasn't like she would take him back if he spoke to her in flowery prose. Kendall shook her head and poured the dregs of her tea down the sink. She needed some sleep, to escape the roller coaster that was going up and down in her head and heart.