On Bended Knee

Chapter Three

Fandom: Roswell

Pairing: See List

Rating: T

Warnings: Unknown

Archive: Ask Me

Author: Lily Zen

Notes: This is based on the TV series Roswell, owned by the WB and UPN and whoever else holds the rights, but is almost entirely based on original characters. It operates under the premise that Tess never returned to Earth in Season Three with the baby. In fact, let's just go so far as to say that Season Three didn't happen except for Jesse and Isabel getting together. I like them.

Pairing List:

Canon—Max/Liz, Isabel/Jesse, Michael/Maria, Past Max/Tess (all other past canon pairings apply up to the start of season three)

Non-Canon/OC—Zane/Rhia, Hadara/Kyle Valenti, Nathan/Ava (dupe)

There may be more and these are subject to change at any time. Writer's prerogative, you know.

Disclaimer: Not mine.

They hadn't intended to go on a shopping trip when they left the apartment.

After their escape from Chicago, Rhia, Zane, Nathan, and Hadara had driven for a long time, heading west because…hey, why not?

Eventually they had made it to Seattle and found a cheap two-bedroom apartment that they were all working pretty hard to maintain. Nate was working at a gym as a personal trainer and Hadara had gotten a job at a bank. They had taken a vote and it was decided that Zane and Rhia were going to finish high school in Seattle under their new identities, and while Rhia hadn't been happy about it she'd finally capitulated when Nathan took her aside and patiently explained that someone needed to keep an eye on Zane. It was blatant manipulation, using her dedication to her role as one of Zane's guardians to get her to go back to school. Besides, she had a bit of a soft spot for when Nathan got all riled up about something. It happened so seldom otherwise. Not that she'd ever tell her taciturn friend that. He might start using his passionate beliefs to sway Rhia to his way of thinking more often.

Rhia and school had never really agreed with each other, not because she wasn't smart enough but because she got bored easily and didn't see much point to filling her head with information that ultimately wouldn't be of any use to her. After all, her path in life was already set: she was Zane's guardian. Her job was to protect him and get him back to Antar safely so that the throne could be restored to the rightful king. Microeconomics didn't really come into play there.

But there she was, back in high school and hating every moment of it, and after eight hours of that special form of torment she went to the porn store that she'd been able to pick up part time hours at. Sure, it was kind of skeezey, dusting off the plastic covers of sex toys and loaning out movies to all sorts of pervs, but Rhia didn't mind as much as Nate thought she should. It got her out of the house and got some decent money in their pockets, gave her a chance to talk with people she didn't have to see every day.

Zane had gotten a part-time job at a hotel in the maintenance department. Not that he actually knew how to fix a heater. The cheating bastard just used his powers for that. He was trying to keep low-key at their new school so that if they had to disappear again rather abruptly there wouldn't be too many people asking questions. She knew it went against his people-friendly nature but she appreciated the effort. It was easier to make sure he stayed safe if she didn't have to investigate each and every person he became acquainted with and left her with more time to focus on other things. Like the solving of Jiuro's murder.

They couldn't work all the time though and with the four of them living in a cramped apartment, things tended to get a little tense. Rhia and Hadara shared a room, and argued almost constantly now about Rhia's chaotic organization, late hours, and flippant attitude.

Zane and Nathan shared a room a little easier than the women did; both of them having more easy-going personalities, but there were still certain things that caused trouble between them…like not being able to masturbate. Zane was quickly learning to be a jack-off ninja living in such close quarters with three other people, two of whom were not-unattractive females.

Aside from that, it was difficult to find any place to be alone. It seemed like the second you turned around, you were tripping over somebody. Zane knew he needed to get out of the house when he and Nathan started arguing over a chair that somebody hadn't pushed in at the kitchen table, which he'd then tripped over, and Rhia had jumped at the chance to be anywhere but there. They took the car downtown and parked it in a public lot, walking until they'd stumbled on the little shop that had caught Rhia's eye.

She liked the clothes in the window display. They had the sophisticated punk look that she seemed to lean toward, if such a thing was possible, and so after not nearly enough wheedling done on her part the two of them had drifted inside. Zane didn't examine why he could never seem to say no to Rhia, especially when she gave him that pleading look from underneath half-lowered lashes, her lips taking on a subtle pout.

When the blond haired woman stood up from behind the sales counter and called him 'Zan,' Zane dismissed it as a figment of his imagination. Nobody called him that anymore. Zan wasn't a name that fit into human culture easily, so he'd adopted the name Zane as his moniker and over time made it his own. It felt more natural to his ear than 'Zan' ever had. Zan was his father's name, Zan was his grandfather's name; it wasn't his. Then she'd touched Rhia and stumbled back like she'd been burned, whispering Rhia's full name like it was natural to her.

Rhia cocked her head to the side, studying the woman with her intense gaze. "Do I know you?" she finally responded.

The blonde shopkeeper gasped and pressed her hand to her heart like she was trying to convince her pulse to slow down. "It's…it's me, it's Ava."

With narrowed eyes and a skeptical voice, Rhia replied, "That's not possible." She was taking carefully measured sidesteps, putting her body between Zane and the shopkeeper, quiet despite her knee-high combat boots. Her arms were loose at her sides and Zane recognized her deceptively casual stance as being the calm before the storm. Literally. "That bitch is back on Antar, marking the days in Khivar's prison." The air began to feel heavy with the charging of particles and Zane watched Rhia's hands with careful eyes. Once those graceful hands started to rise, Ava could kiss her own ass goodbye.

"What?" Ava's eyebrows drew downward as she shook her head in confusion. "What are you talking about? Are you sure you're not talking about Tess?"

At that, Zane's face cleared with recognition and he called to Rhia, "Rhia, it's okay. She's right. Remember, my mother called herself Tess? This must be her twin." He placed a cautious hand on the girl's arm over her short leather riding jacket, and Rhia froze in place, processing his words. Her posture relaxed when she realized he must be right. Spine drooping slightly, she shoved a hand in her back jean pocket and smiled at the tiny blond woman. "Sorry about that," she shrugged, "Can't be too careful." The heaviness in the air dissipated.

Ava waved her hands in dismissal. "Don't worry about it. I understand," she demurred and offered the kids a small smile of understanding. Then she looked them both up and down slowly. "You're Rhialla, I know that, but I don't quite know how I know you. Who's he?" Her eyes flicked over to Zane with a question in them.

Rhia swallowed and hesitated to say anything. Before she could make a decision Zane stepped out from behind her and offered his hand to Ava. "I'm Zane," he said with a smile like melted butter, "Tess' son."

Ava's eyebrows disappeared into her large, loopy curls and side-swept bangs as she examined Zane anew, picking out all the features she could identify as her own. "And Max's?" she found herself asking, though she already had a feeling she knew what she'd hear.

The young man smiled slightly and nodded. "So they tell me," he chuckled.

"Wow," Ava breathed and leaned back against the jewelry display case, "So you're the crown prince, hey?" Zane's cheeks took on the slightest hint of a flush as he nodded his head in acknowledgment. "That's crazy. So, uh, how is Max? We met once, you know. He seemed like a real good guy."

Sensing that the danger had passed and that she wasn't really necessary for this conversation, Rhia wandered off and started browsing through the women's clothing racks again, though she kept a surreptitious eye on Zane and Ava. Neither of them was any wiser to her subtle espionage. To them she appeared completely intent on what she was doing.

"Really?" Zane replied to Ava, "You met my father?"

Ava shook her head and smiled a little bemusedly. "Yes. You mean to say that you haven't?"

"No," the prince admitted with a soft laugh. He ran his hand through his hair in a nervous gesture.

"Well, why not? How long have you been planetside?"

Rhialla let the cadence of their voices wash over her, their words becoming indistinct, a pattern of sounds and pauses, music in its most primitive form. If she needed to, she'd be able to recall what they said, but she wasn't an eavesdropper, not when it came to innocuous subjects. Not when it came to such personal matters, such a tender ache in Zane's soul. It bothered him that he'd never known his father, that even though he'd been on the same planet as him for pretty much his entire life, he'd never laid eyes on the man who sired him.

Jiuro had never taken them to the reborn king. She'd never questioned why to his face, affecting blind loyalty and obedience in that one thing as though it would make up for all her other deviances. Rhia knew he was supposed to. That had been the plan anyway when he'd launched a ship towards the earth full of infant hybrids. Though to be honest, the girl who most resembled chiaroscuro wasn't all that disappointed. Jiuro had told her tales from the time she had breached her false womb about his one encounter with the hybrid ex-queen, Tess, and her deviousness, how she had betrayed the rest of the royals for a chance to grovel at Khivar's feet. Rhia had thought that if Tess was so weakened by her human side then she didn't particularly wish to see what had become of her own brother and not to mention their beloved king. (Frankly, she wasn't eager at all to see Vilondra. Rhialla still held a grudge for that whole 'betraying your entire planet, not to mention family just for a little nookie' thing.)

She remembered Queen Ava as she had been of the past. Her memories of life on Antar were sharper than most: Hadara remembered only vivid snapshots, nothing chronologically ordered; Nate only had the vaguest impression of things; scents, tastes, texture, emotions. However, Jiuro had used to sit with them all and tell them stories of the things they had survived. Somewhere along the way those had begun to trigger a flood of information from some vault in Rhia's mind, though sometimes she felt that half of those were images she'd created from the stories their caretaker recited.

Queen Ava had always held mixed feelings for Rhialla. She was not privy to the knowledge of Rhia's true status within the court, her significant station as the King's Spymaster. The beautiful queen only knew Rhialla as one of her courtiers and Rath's younger sister. She found Rhia to be amusing despite her somewhat roguish behaviors and often when the Queen organized entertainments the young courtier was always among the first to be invited.

However, Queen Ava grew suspicious of Rhialla's relationship with her husband. It was noted that they were seen together often. Usually Rath accompanied them on pleasant little outings that the queen was never invited to. Granted, they never met in private—always public places, though isolated from the rest of the crowd among them—that would have been like waving a red flag. As it was, people talked. There were rumors that Zan was having a dalliance with the young courtier and that his trusted second, Rath, was covering for them. Odd since Rhialla was Rath's sister: the instinctive protectiveness of brother over sister should have made the task a deplorable one, if not impossible. Rath wasn't the kind of man who would step aside easily to offer up his sibling, not even to his king and closest friend, not without generating some serious friction between them. Except everything between Rath and Zan remained completely normal, making Queen Ava shelve the rumors to the back of her mind for the time being.

With Rath acting as chaperone with the king and the courtier, there was technically nothing at all wrong with what they were doing. Perhaps their friendship was a little inappropriate as the queen was not often present for these friendly activities and the king was most definitely a married man. When Ava had approached Zan about it, he said that they did not ask her along because they were often participating in hobbies that the Queen found distasteful: men's sports, such as coursing game and going to the races, not to mention gaming competitions down at the gentlemen's club (Rhialla was one of three noblewomen whose expertise at the strategy game, Blade's Edge [similar to a combination of Earth's chess and pai sho], had earned her an invitation to the male-only club). Only slightly mollified by this answer, the Queen had settled in with a watchful eye. Never had Rhialla shown any sign of inappropriate interest in the King, not in her presence or any other's, but she could not disregard the secret meetings.

Sometimes Rhialla would accidentally bump into Zan in the palace corridors and, being a proper gentleman, he would escort her to her intended destination, speaking in hushed tones. She made him laugh, her oh-so-serious husband, with whatever words they exchanged, and the knowledge made Ava's stomach turn with jealousy.

Queen Ava hadn't known what it all meant, but she'd had her suspicions that an affair was skillfully being conducted right under her own nose. It made her hate and love the younger woman in equal amounts. Hate because Ava had never shared well; love because, well, if she was going to have an opponent, it had best be one with considerable skill. Beside, she could not shake the feeling that she was missing a significant piece of the puzzle and Rhialla was still wonderfully charming, still one of Queen Ava's favorites despite the fact that the younger woman might be fucking her husband. Mistresses were not uncommon among the upper class—they weren't uncommon among the lower classes either, but for the fact that most craftsmen couldn't afford to keep one—and affairs tended to be rather commonplace in a world where arranged marriages were the norm.

Then the revolution had occurred and the unraveling of the mystery had been cut short by Ava's untimely death. Sad because Rhialla remembered enjoying the game she'd played with the queen. The woman would have been a hell of a Blade player had she taken the time to learn the game. She had the patience for it and an analytical mind to boot.

"Rhialla?" The sound of her name, her proper name, drew the young woman out of her self-imposed state of deafness. Her gray eyes flicked up and landed on the shopkeeper's blue ones. There was a question in them and maybe a hint of amusement. It took a moment longer, following Ava's gaze with her own to see her focused on Rhia's hands which clutched absently at the sleeve of a pinstripe jacket, rubbing the material between her thumb and index finger. Strangely embarrassed, she dropped the jacket like it was a hot poker and took a deliberate step back. Rhia didn't need to see the price tag to know that she couldn't afford it—it was there in the texture of the fabric, the quality of the construction, and in the single digit dollar amount that had printed out on her last ATM receipt.

"Yes?" she replied coolly in order to distract herself.

Ava smiled at her and Rhia couldn't help but smile back. There was something about the look on her face, that kicked-puppy look in her eyes mingling with the confident posture that made her want to put forth the effort to be a little nicer. Maybe it was just the novelty of meeting someone like herself, someone who hadn't lived with her during the course of that lifetime. "I was just wondering how it is we, um, knew each other," Ava began hesitantly, stepping forwards and seeming to absentmindedly pluck the jacket that Rhia had been eyeing from the padded hanger.

She undid the button as Rhia shrugged and told the blonde haired woman, "I was a member of the court and Rath's younger sister. We were casual friends, not particularly close, but there was affection between us."

"Wow," Ava said and looked up in surprise, turning the jacket and holding it out in her hands, "Your memory recall is excellent." Rhia shrugged and looked at the older woman curiously. She grinned widely and shook the fabric gently. "Try it on," Ava told her, "You'd look great in it, I bet."

"No, I couldn't," Rhia demurred and held her hands up in front of her, palms out, as if to ward off the attention. She already knew she couldn't buy it, so why tempt herself further? Granted, she could have used her ability to obtain it. She wasn't a mind-warper like Ava—her gifts tended to lie toward more physical aspects—but she had the basic ability to manipulate molecular structures. Rhia could have taken a plain piece of paper and turned it into a hundred dollar bill if she'd wanted to, and maybe she would have if the shop owner had been anyone except one of her own kind. That made it feel wrong somehow.

Zane was watching the exchange curiously, his eyes bouncing back and forth between them, until he piped up with a small smile, "Come on, Rhia. It won't hurt to try it on."

"Exactly," Ava smiled winningly, "Won't hurt a bit. Slip your coat off."

Looking between the two of them, Rhia exhaled soundlessly and shrugged off her leather jacket. Zane held out his hand obligingly and took it from her, leaving her in nothing but a black stretch cami with her red bra straps showing. They'd left the apartment in such a hurry that she hadn't even stopped to find a shirt. Hadara was in a foul mood, holed up in their shared room, and Rhia hadn't felt like taking her life in her hands just to grab a t-shirt. She turned and slipped her toned arms through the full length sleeves, and Ava gracefully settled the jacket up on her shoulders.

"There we go," the blonde woman said almost to herself, "Turn around." The designer gave Rhia a long look of appraisal and laughed delightedly. "God, you've got a great figure. You're almost more perfect than my dress mannequin. Take a look." She stepped aside in those five inch heels and waved at one of the interesting gilt-framed mirrors that dotted the small shop.

Rhia glanced in the mirror, saw a young woman whose artistically put together visage contrasted with the cold, aged look in her eyes, but she knew that wasn't what she was supposed to be focusing on. Her eyes drifted to the corner of the mirror where she could see Zane looking at her. Something about his blue eyes trained on her with laser focus made her breath catch in her throat, the shrewd understanding that lingered there warming the cockles of her carefully guarded heart. He knew she couldn't afford the jacket and though her expression was being carefully controlled to not give anything away, he clearly realized just how badly she wanted it. Only after she watched him inspecting her did she turn her focus in the mirror to the pinstripe jacket. It fit like a glove, the solitary white button fitting snug under her breasts, making her meager offering look more plentiful than it actually was. Her body was too lithe, too fit to support anything larger than her b-cup.

Logically, she knew that wasn't all that small—there were plenty of women flatter than she—but the human mind was funny like that. Every time she stood next to the lush, pneumatic Hadara a strange feeling of insecurity overtook her.

The bold, white trim, mimicked on the bottom of the cuffs and the button plackets, on the pinstriped collar drew attention to the deep vee of the jacket, drawing further attention to her breasts, offered up and on display like some sort of power-suited board room shark, and nipping in at her waist. The jacket required a white fedora, she decided, and could easily see herself with a hat jauntily perched on her head. It had been a long time since she'd indulged herself so frivolously. Her money went almost entirely to the collective pot they used to pay the rent and utilities, and what little didn't was often spent on food.

Zane's eyes studied her and Rhia started as she realized they were using the mirror to lock eyes once more, and the liquid warmth in his gaze spread to her belly in a flash of heat. His look said he didn't find her inadequate at all and the top row of her teeth sank into her lower lip. She wasn't sure of the implications behind that look. Zane wasn't just some guy in a bar giving her eyes across the room. She couldn't follow her gut instinct and press him up against the display table, crowd his lips with hers.

Desire was a simple thing, but desire for Zane couldn't be indulged in. He was the prince. She was his bodyguard. There could be no attachment beyond that and she wasn't so naïve as to think that she could seduce him without ill effect to her own heart. Even Rhia wasn't impervious to that.

Thankfully, Ava spoke then, bringing Rhia crashing back down into reality with a hard thump, her mind automatically locking away her thoughts. "Amazing!" she clapped her hands together, bouncing in place twice, "You look so great in that. Oh, you've just got to have it, Rhialla. One thing though…" The other woman hesitated then touched the sleeve of the jacket with her index finger and they all watched as the sleeves shortened themselves a bit. "Cropped is cuter." Ava's smile was mischievously happy.

"Rhia," the girl corrected absently as she swiftly undid the button, though she had admired the change and that little demonstration of power, and slipped the jacket off, handing it to the seamstress, "And I can't. Love to, but can't." Her smile was genuinely regretful.

However, having anticipated such a reaction, Ava merely shook her head and shoved the young woman's hands back at her. "No, no, I insist," she smiled, "Just take it. Consider it a gift from one hybrid to another. Besides, I don't think I could handle seeing it on someone else now."

"I can't do that," Rhia shot back and offered up the jacket again.

Quickly seeing where this was going, Zane cleared his throat and stepped up, clasping Rhia on her bare shoulder. He was trying not to think about that, to process and catalog the way her skin felt under his hand, to not lose his train of thought. "Accept the gift, Rhia," he said, "Or I'll be forced to undermine your independence by purchasing it myself and sneaking it into your closet when you're at work." He shot her a wry smile, a sparkle of amusement entering his eyes when Rhia glared at him, her lips pursed as she measured his level of seriousness. Zane was good. He knew just what was going to prick Rhia's pride even more than a freebie from a near-stranger: a freebie from a friend.

She stuck her pierced tongue out at him, the silver barbell winking in the light, and he almost responded in kind before he caught himself. Then Rhia deflated and turned to Ava with a grateful smile. "Thank you," she stated, and sketched a movement that was somewhere between a curtsy and a punctilious bow thoughtlessly.

The blonde haired hybrid let loose a wide grin and delighted, loud-mouthed laugh that she tried to smother with her hand. "You're welcome," she replied when she'd sobered and tugged Rhia into a spontaneous embrace. The dark haired woman was so stunned she didn't know what to do at first, her arms caught up awkwardly against the other woman. "Just promise you'll come back. It's been a long time since I've been with my own kind," Ava admitted as she pulled away from Rhia, "I'd love it if you'd both visit again." A light flush arced across the older woman's cheeks as she admitted to her loneliness.

"Sure," Zane responded, "We'd love to. Is it okay if we bring some friends?"

"Other hybrids?" Ava cocked her head to the side.

He nodded. "Yes."

Again, the little blonde bounced in place, not hindered at all by her incredibly high shoes. "Of course!" At that, Ava snatched up the jacket she'd given Rhia and flew behind the counter, wrapping it up in one of the translucent bags she'd ordered, the nice ones with the slightly more solid scroll work on the front, and the labels Ava had designed and stuck on herself, after she placed the loosely folded jacket in white tissue paper. She handed the bundle over to Rhia, who took the ribbon handles with trepidation.

"Thanks," she said again with a smile that Ava found to be charmingly shy.

She watched the two young hybrids leave the store; proprietarily observing the way Zane held the door open for Rhia and guided her out with a hand on her leather jacket right over the small of her back. Absently, she wondered how long it was going to take them to figure out that their relationship was shifting, their feelings for one another going through a state of transformation, and how that little drama would play out. Mostly she was interested in when they'd be coming back and who they'd be bringing with them. It had been so long since she had been able to really let people in, let them know who she was. Not since Lonnie and Rath, though that was probably a terrible example of friendship and unity.