Title: Who's Been Duped Now?
Disclaimer: I own neither the characters presented in this story nor the show (or books) from which they originated. Unfortunately.
Pairings/Couples/Category: Max and Liz, AU
Summary: The fourth alien from New York does come to Roswell to help save Max and the others, but she's not what anyone would have been expecting had they known about the Dupes. Her presence and her revelations cause the Roswell gang to start questioning what they had previously considered to be the truth.
A/N: Pretty much, once this story starts rolling, I think it's self-explanatory. Should you have any questions, though, just ask. Hopefully, this time, it won't take me so long to respond. ;-) Thanks again to everyone who read and responded to my holiday stories. Also, even though this is yet another one shot (and I have a couple more to post eventually as well), I do have some longer fics planned. One's even started. I'm just condensing graduate school into a single year. Once I graduate at the end of this summer, hopefully, I'll have more time to write. As always, enjoy!
Who's Been Duped Now?
A Dreamers One Shot
She used to love nights off. Between school, and work, and alien adventures, she and Max... when they were still dating... sometimes had struggled to find time to be alone together. To go on dates. But, when she didn't have to work, they had made a pact early during their relationship, even when they were just in that awkward limbo between being friends and being more than friends, where they would forget about responsibilities and homework and simply spend the evening together. Sometimes, they went out. Sometimes, they stayed in. Whatever they did, though, it was always special. Now, though, nights off meant evenings that were too quiet, too empty, evenings that were too much the way they had been before Max Evans saved her life and completely turned her world upside down, inside out, and a few lightyears beyond normal... except a year ago she would have had Maria... who now had Michael... or Alex... who now had Isabel. Though it wasn't even close to being true, it sometimes felt as though she was the only person in Roswell who did not have an alien in her life anymore.
No, now, she usually spent her nights off reading. Or working ahead on her school assignments. Or organizing her CD collection. Sometimes, she cleaned, and sometimes she even stuck around the Crashdown, pretending that she had to be there, had to work, when she really should have been out, being a teenager. Her parents noticed, tried to encourage her to make some new friends, to get over Max and move on, but that was easier said than done, especially when, dating or not, they saw each other everyday, and she was still a vital member of their 'No-Humans-Without-Alien-Connections Club.' She had even tried to spend time with Kyle, but, grateful towards him for helping her with the whole Future Max situation or not, she could only handle so much Buddha advice, and Kyle usually met his quota during school.
The night off from work with no plans or not, she was sick of wallowing, and, with her parents out of town at their annual small business owners convention, she had the whole house to herself. At first, she had considered a chick-flick marathon with all her best friends – Ben, Jerry, Orville, and Dr. Pepper, but she had a better idea. Stumbling upon the turquoise bottle of nail polish Isabel had personally extraterrestrial-ized for her, Liz decided that she would grant herself a night of pampering. She'd give herself a facial, paint her finger and toe nails, and soak in a luxuriously decadent bubble bath until she more closely resembled a UFO than her merry martian friends did.
She lit candles. She put on music from a freshly burnt CD that would in no way whatsoever remind her of Max, opened her bedroom windows to allow the fresh, desert air to billow in, and felt exceedingly risque when she did not close the bathroom door behind her when she entered. For some reason, that was one of her favorite things about having the house to herself – she could break all the normal, polite household rules and no one would ever know. Her preparations finally complete, Liz reached in to turn on the water while, at the same time, she opened the shower curtain...
… and then fainted.
? ! ?
"Oh my god. I'm dead."
"Uh... no, you're not."
Liz gasped, further shocked. At least, she thought that she was still Liz...? "You can talk?"
"And dance. And whistle. And sing, too... though I don't do that last thing very well."
"At least, we have one thing in common."
"Yeah... besides the whole alien thing."
Instinctively, she motioned for the both of them to lower their voices. "You know about... the Czechoslovakians?"
Whispering, Liz repeated, "the aliens. You know about the aliens?"
Her counterpart, her delusion, nodded, eyes wide and mock serious, the expression made even more glaringly comic by her bright, garish makeup. "I am one... just like you."
"I am not an alien!"
"Hey, I'm sorry. I didn't realize you'd be so sensitive about the term, but I guess being from Roswell and all... What? Is it taboo or something to call an alien, well, an alien around here?"
Liz cocked her head to the side, confused. "Huh?"
"Look," her discussion partner stood up in the bathtub. "While this has been fun and all, I need your help. I need you to take me to Zan, introduce us."
"I'm sorry, but I have no idea what you're talking about. Are you sick," she questioned, suddenly becoming less concerned for her own mental welfare and more for the... thing's... positioned across from her.
"Heartsick, maybe, but otherwise healthy as a horse. You know, I've never understood that saying. I mean, horses aren't that healthy, are they? I mean, they die eventually, too – and sooner than humans, and they can get sick. Aliens don't. It should be I'm as healthy as an alien. That would be more like it."
"So, you're sticking with the whole 'I'm an alien, you're an alien, we're all aliens' story, huh? That's just perfect."
Apparently fed up, her counterpart exploded, "just tell me where I can find Zan! If you won't help me, I'll go to him myself."
Liz tossed up her arms. "I have no idea who Zan is!"
"He's your lover, your future husband. The king."
"The alien king," she questioned tentatively.
"I thought you Roswell... Czechoslovakians didn't call yourselves aliens?"
"Ugh," Liz squealed in frustration, in protestation. "Why does everything have to be about Max?"
Her annoyance rapidly disappeared, though, when she watched her punk-rock doppelganger visibly sag in relief. "Oh, thank god. He's alive then? I'm not too late?"
"Too late for what?"
"To warn him... about Rath and Lonnie." Suddenly, the other teen broke down. "Zan... my Zan sent me here to Roswell to warn all of you. You see, I had these premonitions that Rath and Lonnie were up to something, that they wanted to hurt both Zan and... Max – that's what you called him, right?, but I couldn't tell exactly what they were planning on doing, because their ideas were not definite. There were too many possibilities. Halfway here, though, I woke up out of a dead sleep on the bus, and I just knew that Zan was dead."
"I'm sorry." And she was. Whoever this... self-proclaimed alien was, no one should have to suffer the loss of losing something they loved.
"So, now do you see why it's so important that we go to your Zan... to Max. We have to warn him."
"Who... who are you?"
"I'm Ava," her counterpart answered. "I am... or at least I was Zan's lover, just as you are Max's. One of us – it's looking more and more like it'll be you, though – will someday be the queen of Antar, our home planet."
Gritting her teeth, she bit out, "for the last time, I'm not an alien. I'm a living, breathing, seventeen year old human girl."
"Oh, this is so not good."
"You're telling me!"
"We should get to Za... Max immediately, before anything else can go wrong."
"Right," Liz agreed. Though she had no idea what was going on, she knew that it was yet another alien adventure, so it only made sense to round up the otherworldly calvary and their trusty human sidekicks. So, turning, she moved to leave the bathroom.
"Uh... don't you think that you should change out of your robe first?"
Spinning around, she agreed, "yes. Clothes. Good idea." Before getting dressed, though, she paused, wrinkled her brow, and asked her look-alike, "why were you sleeping in my bathtub?"
"Hey, I might have grown up in an abandoned subway tunnel, but I'm not completely without class, and I've heard of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I don't sleep in other people's beds... not unless I'm asked or told to."
Pivoting around, Liz murmured, "good to know."
Suddenly, she missed her lonely, boring, empty nights off. Stifling a yawn, she cursed her luck. It was going to be a very, very long night.
? ! ?
It wasn't her personal taste, but she did look good... like that. Like Ava. Liz had never considered herself a very flashy girl. When she wanted to raise brows, she would wear her hair a little fuller, wear a shirt that revealed her midriff. It had never occurred to her that she could wear thigh-high boots, a leather mini, and a leather bustier. But she could... or, at least, Ava could, and Ava could also pull such a look off. It was bewildering... and also, in a way, very tempting, too.
As everyone else reacted and talked around her, Liz stared. She stared at her lime green and hot pinked streaked hair... on someone else. She stared at her pierced nose as the diamond stud winked coyly whenever the light flashed upon it. She stared at her tongue whenever its piercing slithered into view. And she stared at the tattoo representation of the four pods on her shoulder, wondering if she had any other tattoos hidden somewhere beneath her less than decent clothing. And Ava stared right back, obviously horrified by her human counterpart.
It was the most surreal experience of Liz's life... up to that point... and that said a whole hell of a lot considering everything she had been through during the past year and a half.
"I guess this means that I'll be going to New York."
"What," she snapped to attention, finally tearing her gaze away from her AD Self (Alien Doppelganger Self) and bolting it upon Max who had just spoken. "You can't. They want to kill you."
"Have you not been listening to anything the hot version of you has been saying, Pollyanna," Michael demanded to know.
Maria snorted. "Since when do you know who Pollyanna is, Spaceboy?"
He ignored her, spoke over her. "There's going to be a summit... for our kind. Max is the king of our kind. He has to go. It might be our last way of finding out who we are, where we come from, how we get home."
Under her breath, Maria quipped snidely, "I'll lend you a quarter. Try phoning home, moron."
"And don't forget the granolith," Ava reminded them, making Liz instantaneously pale in concern. She started to shiver, and her hands started to tremble. "Rath and Lonnie think that you guys know where it's at. It'll be important to the meeting's discussions... I think... at least, that's what my visions told me."
"What will Rath and Lonnie do if you return to New York and they find out that you warned me," Max wanted to know, asking Ava.
"They'll kill me."
"And if you don't return?"
"They'll realize that I know that they killed Zan and, eventually, they'll come after me anyway."
Yes, she was concerned about Ava, and, no, she didn't want her to die, but, at the same time, Liz couldn't move past the mentioning of the granolith. Though it had been weeks since her visit from Future Max, she could recall everything he had said to her down to the very last word. She knew exactly what the device was used for, and she knew it had the potential to cause all of them great pain and suffering. With that in mind, she decided to approach Max.
"Can we talk... in private," she asked him.
Before answering, he looked around at the various faces gathered together with them at the UFO museum. "Yeah. Sure."
As she walked away, Max followed. Once they were out of earshot, Liz said, "whatever you do, you cannot tell anyone in New York about the granolith. It's dangerous."
He narrowed his eyes at her. "You've never even seen it. How do you know anything about it?"
"I can't tell you that," she responded shakily, glancing away from his piercing gaze. "Would you please just trust me on this? No matter what has happened between us, Max, you know that I would never want anything bad to happen to you, Michael, and Isabel, right? Please tell me that you at least believe that much?"
Instead of replying, though, he just watched her for several seconds, almost in an appraising manner, before nodding once and walking back off to the join the others. She dutifully followed, feeling as though she had failed. Once they returned, Liz waited quietly for someone to speak, for the conversation to evolve into its next stage, for some decision to finally be made. The whole time she waited, she felt an intense, hostile gaze upon her neck. Without having to look, she knew the sensation was caused by Tess. She had never seen the fourth alien look so vulnerable and unsure of herself. For a brief second, she felt satisfaction from Tess' discomfort and fear until she remembered that she felt just as fearful but for a completely different reason.
"You'll stay here, Ava," Max finally announced. No one responded; no on interrupted. "I'll go to New York, and I'll go to the summit. We'll say that I left you here as collateral to ensure that they don't try anything against me, implying that we had believed Zan to still be alive and in charge of your group. While I'm gone, the others will guard you. Afterwards, we'll figure out how to keep you safe... whether you stay here or go on the run." Just when she thought he was done, Max said one last thing that sent her world spinning off its axis and into another galaxy, no pun intended. "And Liz will go with me to New York."
Everyone exploded. Tess insisted that she should be the one to travel with him because she possessed the most knowledge of their home, and of their race, and because she had the most control over her powers; Michael insisted that he should go because he was Max's second in command; and Isabel wanted to accompany him because, since the moment they had left the pod chamber, they had always confronted everything together. Maria was adamant that Liz stay in Roswell where she was relatively safe... or, at least, safer than she would be walking into 'The Lonnie the Viper and Her Mook of an Alien Goon's Nest,' while Alex, predictably, backed their best friend up. And then there was Ava's reaction.
Ava laughed – hold your belly, cry a flood of tears, give yourself a migraine laughed.
"They'll never buy it; they'll never believe that she's an alien."
For some reason insulted, Liz defended herself, "but you did!"
"Yeah, I jumped to conclusions because you look like me... well a watered down, boring version of me, not to mention the fact that I'm grieving for the love of my life here. Cut me some slack. I made a mistake... an obvious one but, still, a mistake. A girl's entitled to one bad judgment call every now and again, but you won't full Rath and Lonnie."
"I'll work with her," Max replied. "We'll have a few days to practice while we drive to New York."
Just as everyone was about to fight his decision once more, it was Isabel who spoke up. "Why, Max," she demanded to know. "If this is just another way for you to spend more time with Liz, then...?"
"No, it's not that," he promised his sister, and, despite herself, Liz felt the weight of disappointment well up inside of her heart. "It's just... I need someone with me that I can trust explicitly. You and Michael are needed here to keep everyone else safe, and, besides, Rath, Lonnie, and everyone else at the summit would expect me to have... my once and future queen, my wife, beside me."
"But that's me, Max," Tess reminded him pointedly, impatiently.
He sighed, obviously tired of having the same conversation with her over and over again. "I've already told you that we're not going to happen. I appreciate your knowledge and your willingness to help me remember our home, but I'm not in love with you, Tess. Destiny or no destiny, we're never going to get married."
"Well, that's a relief, considering there must have been one major screw up when they outfitted your pod," Ava mumbled under her breath. When everyone swiveled to look at her curiously, she shrugged her shoulders. "What," she defended. "I just call them the way I see them, and Zan and I were perfect for each other... just like Max and Liz are."
Ignoring the New York alien, Max continued, "besides, because of Ava, they'll expect my wife to look like Liz."
She told herself not to read into what he said, told her heart not to soar when he did not put an adjective denoting a distanced timeframe before the word wife in reference to her role in his life, but Liz couldn't help herself. Broken up or not, determined to make sure that Max did not end up with her or not, she was in love with him and always would be. Besides, now that she had seen Ava, she was starting to doubt everything she knew about Tess and her much touted and used as an excuse to manipulate destiny. What if there were still missing parts to the story, still things to come that would change everything... including what Future Max had foretold?
"Well, then, I guess this calls for a makeover," Isabel announced. "If you want Liz to act like she's someone else, like she's from another planet, then we'll have to help her feel like she's someone different."
Maria narrowed her gaze and studied the blonde alien. "Just how much have you been holding out on me? I swear, if I payed all that money for extensions that you could have given me for free..." Her threat stalled and turned into a shriek of irritation when Isabel just smiled in response.
"I guess that means I'm forging another school field trip for your parents and another doctor's excuse for the school," Alex sighed in resignation. "Who would have ever guessed that my computer game habit would someday help to save the universe?"
Although she was still flummoxed by Ava's sudden appearance in her life, although she was still thrown by everything they had learned that evening, and although she was still trying to adjust to the fact that not only was she going to New York but was traveling there as a pretend extraterrestrial, Liz couldn't deny – even to herself – the fact that she was secretly excited and overjoyed by the prospect of so much uninterrupted alone time with Max.
"Just one question, then, guys," she proposed, hiding a small grin. "Jetta or Jeep?"
? ! ?
Brody had never been abducted. Rather, he had been taken over, used like a surrogate or a conduit, but, unlike a surrogate, he wasn't willing, and, unlike a conduit, there was no electricity involved... or so she believed. Rather, more accurately, he was the host to an alien parasite. She just hoped that, unlike most parasitic relationship, Brody didn't end up dead.
Just as thoughts of the eccentric, wealthy UFO Center owner helped to keep Liz distracted, so did her observations of the submit. It was absolutely nothing like what she had been expecting, but, considering how astonished she had been when she had discovered that aliens really did exist and what they were actually like, she shouldn't have been surprised that a meeting meant to discuss intergalactic issues shocked her. Whereas she had been expecting a modern office building, pristine in its simplicity and functionality, they were in an old, abandoned, dirty warehouse, and, whereas she had been expecting formality and a plethora of traditions she neither recognized nor understood, the entire affair was rather... disappointing. Who knew aliens could be so... boring? It wasn't that she was trying to trivialize the events unfolding before her, for Liz recognized their importance, but the entire event lacked the flavor and flair that she had been prepared for.
"Most importantly, Max returns the granolith to us."
Liz flinched. It was an accident. No matter what was said, she had intended upon remaining completely passive; no matter what was done unless Max was somehow threatened or, worse, hurt, she had planned to not move until it was time to leave, but then she heard Nicholas mention the granolith, and, reflexively, she just responded. The granolith terrified her almost as much as Tess did. Immediately, though, she regretted the action, not because it told the others that she recognized the word – they already knew that the granolith would be an issue, that the others already suspected that Max, if he didn't personally possess the important object, knew of its location – but because the movement drew unwanted attention towards her. Now, everybody, including Max, was staring at her.
"Ah, so, pardon the pun, but the sex kitten is part human, huh," Nicholas asked rhetorically. "And here I thought you had brought a robot with you, Max."
Nicholas had been an unexpected and unpleasant surprise when they walked into the summit. It had taken all the fortitude they had and some quick thinking to convince the enemy alien that she really was extraterrestrial in nature. He had questioned where she had been during their little showdown at the school. Even after she and Max had explained that she had been taking care of the skins' energy source, it had still taken Lonnie and Rath to confirm that she was in fact an alien and the destined queen of Antar. They had explained Tess by claiming she was the second shape shifter.
And Nicholas wasn't wrong in his description of her attire and appearance either. Add a tail and some ears, and she really could have passed as a sex kitten. Wearing a dyed, adapted version of her crash festival costume with a utility belt compiled of weapons she could use to defend herself, dramatic makeup, and harsh, slicked back and exotically pinned up hair, Liz barely recognized herself. Isabel had been right to insist upon a new look for a new attitude. Unfortunately, though, as she exposed herself to Nicholas' scrutiny with her gaffe, the untraditional outfit did not translate into a completely new Liz. Her fear could not be cloaked by a suit of cheap leather.
"Well, that answers that question. Say what you will about the human form, but it's much easier to read." Turning away from her, Nicholas refocused upon Max. "So, your royal highness, come home with the granolith, and all will be forgiven. Do we have a deal?"
"No," Max replied succinctly, standing up from his chair. Moving forward, Liz came to his side as a sign of both support and devotion. "I will not give up the granolith to you. Not to you, not to Kivar, not to anyone. It was entrusted to me."
Without hesitation or waiting for a response, Max turned, took her by the hand, and walked the two of them out of the room, never once looking back to see who would follow or if anyone even would. Once they were clear of the room, he whispered, "we need to talk. Alone. Now." To Lonnie and Rath, he said, "give us a moment, please."
Despite the fact that they were in a private and secure location, they still whispered. "Liz, I know that something happened to you a few weeks ago to make you change your mind about me, and I think it has something to do with the granolith. I don't know what or how, but your reactions to questions about both have been too similar to ignore. Now, you need to tell me exactly what happened, because I just trusted you enough in there to turn Nicholas' offer down, but it's not over. He won't give up, so, if I'm going to fight him and protect not only you but everyone else and the granolith, then I need to know everything. Please."
Frantically, she searched her mind for how she could explain the object without revealing Future Max and his impact upon their lives. After several moments of searching through her own thoughts, Liz decided on a track of concentration and glanced up, meeting Max's gaze. She would tell him the truth... just an abridged version, for now. "I had a vision."
Though his brow furrowed, he didn't show any signs of doubting her. "Like the visions you received last year when we... kissed?"
"No, it wasn't like that." Shaking her head, she continued, "most of the vision was personal, so it isn't relative, but it did help me realize that what I was seeing wasn't just a dream; it was real."
"You've never been wrong before," he acknowledged, smiling wryly. "Besides, how can an alien argue with the idea of psychics? Just tell me about the granolith."
"Well, in the vision, I saw you... operate it. It, the granolith, takes some type of key or energy source, I'm not sure which, to work. I have no idea what this key is made of or where to find it. What I do know is that the granolith is a means of transportation. It has the capability of taking you back to your planet."
Though Max didn't say it, she could see the realization dawn in his eyes as he came to understand her reasons for not telling him immediately what she knew about the device. Instead, he simply reached for her hand once more. "Thank you," he whispered.
As they walked away, going back to rejoin Rath and Lonnie, Liz asked, "now what?"
"Now, we figure out a way to deal with Zan's murderers and fast... before they deal with us."
? ! ?
Silently and separately in groups of two, Lonnie and Rath following behind them, they were on their way back to the abandoned subway tunnel. Although both she and Max were tired, she knew that there would be no rest for them anytime soon. Even if they didn't have responsibilities waiting for them back in Mexico, it wasn't safe for them to let their guards down long enough to get any decent amount of rest. As soon as they went to sleep, one or both of the New York aliens would attempt to kill them. Their fear was giving the whole 'city that never sleeps' idea an entirely new spin, one that Liz suspected the tourist board wouldn't endorse.
She was in the middle of a comical fantasy about the mayor of New York City having to sit down and share a meal with Rath when her self-provided amusement was replaced with a nightmare of Max dying. The moment was triggered by Lonnie sneaking up and placing a hand upon her shoulder, shoving her out of the way and causing her to fall. In her waking dream, she saw Lonnie snap the cables of a scaffolding platform used to wash windows. It only took seconds for the heavy structure to plummet to the ground where it landed squarely upon Max, crushing him to death instantly.
With no time to explain the phenomena she had just experienced, Liz simply reacted, realizing that she had seen the immediate future and not the dramatization of her own biggest fear. "Max," she cried out in warning. The gesture was in vain, though, because he only turned around in place to locate her suddenly missing form. A moment prior, she had been standing beside him, walking beside him, holding his hand, and, the next, she was gone and calling his name. Though she had captured his attention, his movement to find her did nothing to remove him from danger. So, still immobile on her back, she was forced to watch as the scaffolding raced towards the ground. Acting instinctively, she held out her hand, hoping the gesture would stop the falling platform.
The surprising thing was that it actually did.
As soon as Max rushed to her side, she released her grip, and the structure fell with a deafening crash and a cloud of dust as it smacked into the concrete sidewalk below it. "What happened? Are you okay? How did you...? I don't understand, Liz. You're not hurt, right?" Frantically, the man she loved ran his hands over her undamaged form, looking for an injury that wasn't there. In that moment, she realized that Max was still in love with her as well, because no guy would be so preoccupied with her safety in that situation if he wasn't, especially in light that she wasn't the target of the attack.
"It was Lonnie. She did it. I saw her... in my vision." Reacting to her own admission, Liz swallowed in unease. "Max...?
"You stopped the scaffolding. As I stood there, hearing you call out to me, realizing that I needed to move if I didn't want to die, I watched you holding it up. I saw you strain, as though whatever it was you were doing was draining you of your energy."
"Like when you heal people," she whispered in agreement. "What's happening to me?"
"I don't know," he answered apologetically. Then, pulling her to her feet and tucking her in against his side, Max kissed the top of her head before continuing, "but I know we have to get out of here. We're too exposed. And we can't go back to the tunnel."
"That's fine by me."
"But we can't leave either. We can't go home."
"Not until we make sure that Rath and Lonnie can't hurt anyone else again," she completed his thought.
"And not until we figure out what's happening to you. It's too dangerous, what with Tess...," Max admitted, his voice trailing off as he left their mutual thoughts unvoiced.
"I guess I'll have to see if Alex can turn that week long field trip into a study abroad program."
"Liz...," he started to say before startling her when he all of a sudden pulled her into a dark, covered entrance of a closed shop, pressing her against the stone exterior wall as he leaned towards her, against her, into her. Astonishing her further, Max dropped his forehead to rest against her own and sighed. "I'm so sorry."
"For dragging you into this, for bringing you here. You should be safe and at home in Roswell, spending time with Maria, going to school, waiting tables. The most trouble you should be getting into is getting caught sneaking out to go to a party."
"I really prefer one on one socialization," Liz responded, offering him a small, tentative smile. When he didn't react and return the gesture, she pressed, "Max, I'm where I want to be."
"What about everything else – your family, Tess, my destiny?"
"I've had two visions. That does not make me omnipresent and all knowing. I have no idea what's going to happen."
"Liz...," he warned her, but she could hear the hint of amusement in his voice.
"Whatever happens, we'll deal with it together," she promised him. Smiling coquettishly, Liz attempted to infuse some levity into the situation, into the moment. "So, I have this theory that touch might... inspire this newfound power of mine."
"You don't say," he drawled, already lifting his hands to cup her jaw, smoothing his thumbs back and forth against the apples of her cheeks.
"Max, just shut up and kiss me already."
He did. And the rest of the world, the world they were charged with protecting, melted away.