The knock on his door jarred Michael from his tense sleep. His nerves were frayed and his lids were heavy, but he could not settle into a deeper rest. It had been twenty moons, and they have been going to the cliff every day and every night for the past four days. Michael was getting tired of waiting. And every day that Max does not arrive, Isabel got more fidgety. He was not sure about all men, but he was sure that fidgety and nervous and dreading are not what he wanted his fiancé to feel before wedding him.
Who was he to tell Isabel not to worry though, when he himself was dreading the day the advisers pronounce that the king was not returning, and that they should marry. Again that terse knock on the door. He rose to open it, rubbing his arm over his eyes.
There she stood in all her golden glory. Isabel Evans looked at him with uncertain eyes. When Isabel looked scared, you really need to worry. It meant that there's something truly serious happening. She gave him a forced smile. "Are you ready?"
No. His mind refused to accept the fact that it was turning out every day to be a reminder that they needed to plan a wedding, because the people needed a wedding. "Sure." This has become a ritual for them. Upon waking up, Isabel would drop by his room to invite him to breakfast, because she paid more attention to the time. And then together with Max's advisers, they would troop to the cliff and wait until midnight for the blazing trail that would proclaim that the king was back.
Breakfast was a curt, hurried affair. Though unwilling to be disappointed again, Michael preferred that they go to the cliff because then he could be alone in his thoughts. He would stare into the horizon and he could almost imagine that he was on earth, that he went to the desert to think and will come back to Roswell after a few hours and get a complimentary Cherry Coke from Maria.
From the corner of his eye, Michael could see Isabel staring at his own right hand man. It was the same man who seemed to watch Isabel since they arrived. "Xian, accompany Isabel to the cliff."
Isabel looked up at Michael's command. And then she turned away from the man. "Yes, sir." Xian approached Isabel and followed her out of the palace.
He drank the steaming liquid as they waited. Silently he calculated. How long would it take before the ones that the three of them used would be charged for another flight? The Antarian winter had already set in, and he knew that it would take a longer time recharging when it was this cold. Michael drew the blanket closer around himself. He refused to believe that Max would not be back, and he would have to go through with a destiny he had been fighting for years.
Isabel was beautiful. He cannot deny that as he stared at her standing at the edge of the cliff, looking at the sky with hope and stars in her eyes. Isabel was a golden child and by blood and fate—a princess. Bur she was, to him, not comparable to Maria. Because Isabel's golden beauty was meant to be adored by many, while Maria was his own princess.
He called one of the advisers over to him. The man settled on a rock in front of Michael and accepted the offer of a steaming cup of tea made from leaves that sprouted wild over the Antarian mountains. "Tell me. How long would it take for one of the capsules to recharge now that the winter has set in?"
"Sir, you're not thinking of leaving us?"
"I am, Athon. Now the capsule that Max took was recharged for five Earth years."
"And it's not even fully charged to come back," the man interrupted. "It should take around three years recharging for the capsule to have the energy for a one way flight to Earth."
"You mean the capsule…"
"Would make it to our atmosphere and freefall from there. I spoke to the king about his decision, and he seemed not to care."
Michael shook his head. So Max really didn't count on coming back. Not really. Michael would be forced to remain because there was no one else. "So six years for a flight like his?"
The man nodded. "That was charged through the summer. And a season in Antar would span ten Earth years. Zandre's queen Ava landed midsummer."
"So we're looking at a ten year Antarian winter. How long before one of the capsules are charged for a one way flight to Earth?"
"The expanse of the winter, sir."
He closed his eyes. Ten years lost. Would Maria still wait for him? For her sake he hoped she would not. But his heart cried out for her to stay free.
Within a few hours the light of the orange sun had dwindled, and dusk settled. It was the way of that world, and Michael stood to follow through with responsibilities that Max had burdened him with. "Pack up camp. We will return tomorrow."
The made their way down carrying what they had taken with them, while Isabel remained sitting there staring at the night sky. They would return for her later. She did not need to take part in lifting and carrying.
She was alone except for Xian, who was assigned to stay with her. "Do you think he will come back?" she asked her companion tentatively.
"The king has so much waiting for him here. What does he have for him there?"
"Love, I suppose."
"Then he should stay there. Of course you would disagree with me, as always."
Her eyes snapped at him, confused. "What do you mean by that? And while we're here, what is with the—"
He held up his hand to silence her. Isabel's gaze widened as the ground rumbled beneath their feet. Xian pointed to the inky dark blue sky and the moment that she looked to where he indicated, she gasped.
The capsule ripped through the air and hung suspended for endless seconds. "It's going to fall," he whispered. She caught her breath. He snatched her hand and pulled her towards his glider. "Come on!" She allowed him to seat her behind him and she gripped his waist tightly as he zoomed close.
The small capsule went on free fall, and Isabel screamed. "No! Do something!"
"We're too far!" he yelled back at her. His voice carried through the ripping force of the wind.
"No. Please. No…"
They watched in horror as the capsule plummeted to the ground. "It's crashing on the lake." Isabel remembered Larek's stories of a lake where Max swam the day he saw Tess for the first time.
"No, it's all right now," he assured her. Mustering all his energy, Xian threw a bolt of the most intense power he could towards the frozen lake. The ice cracked and turned a crimson red the exact moment the capsule hit.
The viscous fluid swallowed the capsule, eating away the flames that had begun to lick at the exterior. Xian lowered the glider to the bank. "Max!" Isabel screamed. She started running to the water, but he held her back.
"Wait," he told her. "Antar's water is very dense. The capsule will surface very soon." And there it was, bobbing at the center.
"It's not opening. I need to get there," she whispered.
"Not to worry, princess. I will." He started taking off the heavy metallic clothes that stuck to him like gloves. And his jaw dropped when she dove into the icy lake herself. Xian muttered a curse and waded in after her.
Isabel reached the capsule first. She pressed the button to open it, and the door yawned to allow the passenger exit. The figure inside didn't move. "Max," she called. "Max, wake up." She pulled herself inside, and the capsule wavered on the water. Isabel pulled off the mask. "Oh my God," she whispered.
At the bank, Michael and the rest have arrived after seeing the blazing light. Isabel peeled off the blanket and grabbed the woman's pulse. She exhaled in relief and met Xian's puzzled eyes. She did not explain anything to him. He pulled a copper belt from his pants and tied it to the capsule, and then swam to shore and tied it to one of the gliders to be pulled.
"Isabel, what is it?" Michael demanded. "Is Max all right?"
She approached him, soaking in the crimson liquid that easily sluiced off her body. Her lips curved at her discovery. "Destinies, Michael," she said affectionately, and he froze, because she said the same words in his dream once upon a time. "Yours is unfolding now."
Puzzled, he made his way to the capsule, pushing away the men who had gathered staring dumbstruck inside. "Maria," he breathed. He knelt before the capsule, and lifted her in his arms, inhaling the scent of her, allowing his eyes to drown in the sight of his wife. She still had not opened her eyes, and he knew by experience that she would need to undergo days of recovery from the physically draining flight.
Dimply he heard Isabel speaking to the advisers, and he realized the extent of the mess they were entangled in. The people expected him to marry Isabel now, because he needed to take the throne, and she was the only blood royalty remaining. He held Maria closer in his arms. He was not letting her go again. No one can dictate anything. He would not allow anyone to take her when they've gone against all laws of time and space to be together.
"What do you mean?" Xian demanded of her.
"Just what I said," Isabel answered. "We need to wed them soon. The woman inside the capsule is Vilandra, not me. I was just a girl that King Zandre took with him when they could not find Vilandra before they left."
The advisers seemed satisfied. They gathered around Michael and Maria, preparing her for transport and asking Michael questions he could not answer while his mind was still numb with joy and gratitude.
Her lashes fluttered open at the bright sunlight on her face. Her first thought was that it was so cold. It had been warmer in Roswell already, and New York was freezing. But the cold now was different. Somehow it did not penetrate her bones. And even though she grew up in desert heat, it felt so right.
"Hey. Took you a long time you got me worried."
She turned to see him grinning at her. And tears rose to flood in her eyes. She opened her mouth to speak, but her throat had closed up with the emotion choking her. When she figured that there was no way she could come up with words to tell him that she missed him, she grabbed the lapels of his shirt and pulled him down to drive her lips into his. His hands rose and his fingers threaded into her hair as he softened her desperate kiss. Michael pressed her head into his as he bit at her lower lip and dropped butterfly kisses at the edge of her mouth, and searing a blazing trail at her jaw line, her ear, down her neck.
"Maria," he gasped. "Spacegirl."
She smiled up at him and started to speak, but shut up again. There were no words at the moment. No words at all. Maybe later tonight she could think of some. For the meantime, she drew him back down into her embrace.