Summary: Fourteen years after Future-Max changed the past, Liz Parker's about to do it again. But when things don't go as she expected, how's she supposed to make a better future with only the help of a bitter teenage Zan?
Disclaimer: I do not own Liz Parker, Zan, or any of the other characters of the TV show (and book series) Roswell.
AN: Oh, wow. Um. Sorry I took so long, but I do have good reasons. At first I wanted to wait (even though this was already written) until I had some of the sequel perfected before I posted this, so I could post the first chapter of the sequel at the same time (which I did). Then I had a funeral to get through, as well as all the emotional havoc that implies. But it's done now, and my need for an escape helped me to remake the sequel so that I like it even better, so… yay, silver lining.
Anyway, enjoy. Well, not really, cause it's pretty sad, but you know what I mean.
Zan slammed the breaks, something in the back hitting his seat hard. He spun, pointlessly searching for Beth. He knew she was gone; he'd felt her body disappear – not 'pull away', not 'move', but just fade from where she'd been like some kind of fucked up magic trick. He looked anyway, though, and when he couldn't find her he put his head down on the steering wheel and screamed.
It was something basic and primal, the kind of sound he hadn't really known he could make. The sound flipped a switch he hadn't known was there, and instantly he found himself pushing the accelerator to the floor despite the blurriness of his vision. He held it there as he sped off, tears streaming down his face as he hissed a dozen half-formed insults at the world in general. His hands strangled the steering wheel, but the minor violence did almost nothing to ease the ache in his chest.
It was only when the tears had dried up and the exhaustion hit him that he pulled his foot up and let the car slow to the speed limit. He drove in a haze, quiet and still, his mind empty of everything but the strange heaviness of it all. He didn't think, and he didn't cry, and if anyone asked him afterwards to tell them what that drive was like, he wouldn't be able to recall.
When he pulled into the hotel, the sun was just beginning to rise and both their van and their room still stood open. It seemed strange to him that this should happen now – that the sun would be rising when the world had been ripped out from under him. He watched it for a moment, the hazy yellow and pink lighting up the horizon, coating the corners of the clouds…
Had Beth liked sunrises? Zan had never actually asked; he'd always been still sleeping at this time of day, so he didn't even know whether she got up early enough to see it. He thought she might've – it seemed like her kind of thing, somehow. But he didn't know, and couldn't ask now.
Zan's jaw squeezed. He hated how still it was. How quiet.
He stumbled out of the van, limbs dragging at him and head throbbing. He didn't get why people said that shit about crying being therapeutic. It wasn't therapeutic, it left you groggy and empty and still fuckin' sad. The only difference was that you knew crying wouldn't help, which left you one step worse off than you ever had been before, and ashamed at the weakness to boot.
He closed the door without looking – or tried to, but something got in the way. Zan glanced back and went still, not really understanding what he was looking at for a moment.
There was a hand sticking out of the door.
Zan blinked, glancing through the gap behind the front seat to see not one, but three dead bodies in the back of the van. Jenny and the two dicks she'd brought with her.
Zan stared, suddenly realizing just what it was that'd rolled into his seat before. If he handled this wrong – if he got caught on camera leaving this van, or if somebody saw him – he would be put up as a suspect for their murder. After everything he'd just gone through, after everything that'd happened to him in the past half a year, he could actually be put into the system for killing Jenny and her little stooges.
The urge to scream and cry hit him again, but it passed quickly. Instead, he snorted and started laughing, stuck on the ridiculousness of his life and how completely fucked up it had become. His sister and best friend had tried to kill him, the time-traveling widow of his clone had saved him, his sister killed Rath, tried to kill Zan again, and then the woman who'd saved his life – who'd become the only person Zan had ever really been able to trust – had literally vanished.
Zan laughed so hard his stomach hurt and his throat ached and his eyes watered. He laughed so hard he cried. And then, feeling like an idiot, he got back into the van and drove it to the end of the street, where a vacant lot sat unwatched. He drove the van into the middle of it, left the keys, and then got out and put his hand flat against the grass.
The mud shifted and rippled, and the van slowly sank into the ground until nothing of it was left visible. Another tweak of his abilities and the ground solidified again, nothing but a patch of life-less dirt in the middle of the weeds to show anything was different.
Zan, there's some things I have to tell you.
Zan looked up at the still-shadowed sky, swallowing back something poisonous. Whether it was resentment or more tears he didn't know, but he didn't think he could handle either one right now. He wasn't the crying type, and he'd done more of that in the last half-year than he had in his entire lifetime.
Either of them.
Trust your instincts, okay? You're strong, and you're smart, and so long as you remember everything I taught you, so long as you know your weaknesses and your advantages and… and you don't give up, you'll… you'll be okay
There was so much he still wanted to ask her. He wanted to know what he should do, how he should get ready… and what made her so damn sure his instincts were worth anything. If his instincts were so great, how'd he miss what was happening with Rath and Lonnie? How'd he let himself forget about how Beth had said she'd disappear – how'd he not pick up on what it meant? How'd he get caught so completely unaware?
She was all he had, now. His only family.
How'd he let himself believe it could last?
They'll love you – I know it. They'll see all the courage and the conviction and that pain-in-the-ass temper of yours and they'll know what I know. They'll know you're a great guy, and an amazing friend, and that there's nobody else in the world they'd rather have at their back.
Zan shook his head. He didn't give a shit what those idiots in Roswell thought. He didn't know them, he didn't care about them, and he wouldn't be doing shit to help them if he hadn't promised Beth. He didn't care if they liked him or loved him or hated his fucking guts. They weren't family.
They weren't Beth.
Not even the one that was.
But I'll tell you one thing, Zan. If I could go back and stop myself from doing any of this, from saving you and changing the timeline…. There's not a damn thing I'd change.
Against his will, Zan's eyes teared up again. He wasn't stupid. He'd seen the fear on Beth's face before she disappeared; he'd seen the wild, desperate look in her eyes. She hadn't wanted to disappear. She'd been afraid – fuck, she'd been terrified.
And she'd still told him there was nothing she would change. That she wouldn't have let him rot on the asphalt in Chinatown if it meant she wouldn't have to disappear. That she'd rather be erased from existence than go back and let him die.
He didn't know if he could believe it. If he could let himself believe it. He'd been through so much shit already, how much more would it hurt to actually accept that she cared about his life more than her own, and then to find out it wasn't true again? To find out the way he'd found out with Lonnie and Rath?
Except, really… there was no room for doubting this. Beth hadn't just said she'd die for him.
She'd actually done it.
Zan turned back towards the hotel and immediately stumbled backwards in shock, heel hitting a rut in the ground and sending him sprawling on his ass.
She smirked down at him from the entrance to the lot, and then crouched down until she was eye-to-eye with him, pink-streaks bobbing with the motion. "Expecting someone else?"
Mind blank and mouth gaping, Zan didn't respond. Beth snorted, then laughed and sat down cross-legged on the dirt in front of him, sending him the tilted, skeptical look she'd given him every time he'd had a problem learning something new.
Zan reached out and ran his fingers down her cheek, not really paying attention to the way her eyes widened in surprise. He could feel her; warm, smooth, and solid. She leaned back, looking at him like he'd lost his mind, and he launched himself at her, wrapping her up in his arms and shaking.
"You… you disappeared."
She went still and, after a moment, wrapped her own arms around him. "Yeah, I did."
Zan shook his head, leaning back and grabbing her shoulders, holding her still so he could look her straight in the eye. She didn't fight him – she just stared back, wide eyes darkly solemn. "Then how – how are you not, y'know… gone?"
"Oh, Zan…" She stared at him a second, then smiled sadly. Her hands came up and cupped his face. "I am gone."
Zan blinked, then shook his head a little frantically. "No. No – I can feel you –"
"Zan." She cut him off, sad smile touching on sardonic. "You're a telepathic alien who can move things with his mind. You can feel me because you want to feel me. That's all."
"You're not…" Zan started, voice losing strength as the stupid, painful hope bled away. "Real."
She smiled, gently pulling away and pushing herself up onto her feet. She offered him her hand, but he ignored it, looking at the ground for a moment before standing up rigidly. She frowned at him, but followed just behind as he headed for the hotel. "Depends on your definition, I guess."
Zan snarled. "Beth disappeared, and you're just a hallucination – my brain messing with me to make this whole fucking experience complete. You know another definition?"
Beth took a few quick steps to get in front of him, then turned and walked backwards so she could look him in the face. He ignored her – or tried to, anyway. Pissed off as this… this whole thing made him, he had a hard time looking at her and not falling apart. "I told you I'd be with you, didn't I? Maybe this is just my way of doing that."
Zan scoffed and cast her a disbelieving glance. "So, what? Your haunting me now? That's just fucking perfect."
"Cut it out." She snapped.
Zan stumbled, frozen by the familiar reprimand in that voice even under these conditions. He turned a glare on the figure beside him, and she glared right back at him, the look so nostalgic and unexpected that it made him blanch. He turned away, unwilling to deal with it, and she sighed.
"You want me here, Zan." She said quietly, leaning so that she could see his face again. Zan tried to look away, but she caught his face and pulled him back. When he met her eyes, she smiled. "It's okay to need people sometimes, you know. Even if they aren't there. Maybe especially if they aren't."
Zan stared down at her, remembering her last moments. Remembering everything else. Before Beth, nobody had ever even tried to take care of him. Nobody helped him, or cleaned up after him, or tried to protect him. He'd done that for other people, and then those people had thrown it in his face and left him to die.
Beth… Beth was the kind of family he hadn't had since Antar.
He sighed and let his eyes drift closed. He ignored his anger, his bitterness and his logic, and just let himself feel her hand on his cheek and believe it was real.
"You may not believe me, Zan," Beth whispered, and Zan opened his eyes to see her smiling again. She brushed her thumb over his cheekbone and dropped her hand with a grin. "I came here to save you, and I'm not leaving until I know the job is done."
Zan stared at her for a second, and then, reluctantly, smiled. "I am out of my friggin' mind."
Beth snorted, grabbing his arm and pulling him back towards the hotel.
"Yeah, well. That's nothing new, is it?"
"So, finally, I left. He was losing it! I mean, you could totally see it in his eyes – he was on the way out of this life." Jerry was recounting to a big group of fascinated people, eyes glittering and a little smile on his face. It made her furious how excited he was, getting so much attention for telling people such… such lies.
"Is that a fact." She snapped, watching as a circle of heads all swiveled in her direction. Jerry's smile dropped, his eyes went wide, and his skin even paled a little. He stared at her like she was a ghost, or a serial killer, or his mother having just walked in on him watching porn.
"Uh –" he grunts, glancing at his audience nervously.
Liz looked around at all the people, now looking down at the ground, shame faced. They should feel ashamed; sitting here, listening to this guy talk about her friend – her dead friend – like his last minutes were some kind of tabloid story they could pick apart and spread around. They turned and left, one by one, leaving her and Jerry in the middle of the football field.
"I'd like to ask you some questions. If you have the time." Liz sneered, leaving the obvious dig at his pathetic gossiping unsaid, but not unacknowledged. She didn't wait for him to answer before continuing, either. "You talked to Alex after we left the day that he died."
Jerry bobbed his head, not looking at her. "Yeah."
"What happened when you got to the door?" She said, making sure to keep her voice even and clear. It was hard, because she wanted to scream – she wanted to hit him, to beat the crap out him right here where everybody could see, but she wouldn't get her answers like that. And the answers meant more than this asshole ever could.
Alex, and the truth about what happened to him, meant more.
"Like… the usual stuff, I guess." He muttered, turning away from her and glancing around – presumably to see who was watching.
"What usual stuff?" She snapped.
"Like, he nodded and took his food. Seemed pretty normal at first. Said the food was cold." Jerry started pacing in a semi circle, walking to one side of her then looping back around. Liz turned, keeping him fixed in her sight. She didn't bother to blink or try and soften her expression. A little discomfort might push him to say more than he would otherwise.
"And then what did he say?"
"I don't know. I mean, life isn't right, or… life is wrong. Something like that."
Liz stares at the ground, taking this in. What could it mean? Why would he say that, in specific? It sounded like something was going on – something was bothering him, or hurting him. Something big, that none of them had seen.
Something he'd let Jerry get a glimpse of.
Liz glared at him. "Yeah, and then what did you say?"
"Well, I said –" he started, voice sharp and annoyed. But then he looked at her face, and something about it stopped him from saying the first thing that came to mind. He looked away, shrugged. "Whatever, dude!" He finishes, sounding defensively sharp.
"Whatever, dude?" Liz imagined that – imagined seeing a guy like Alex, so obviously troubled, so obviously in pain. And instead of asking what's going on, if he's okay or if there's any way he could help, Jerry had said that? "That's your reaction to a man who is devastated and 'on his way out of this life'?"
Jerry flinched and turned a weak glare in her direction.
"Isn't that how you described him to your little fan club?" She snarled.
"Look, I wasn't –" Jerry cut himself off, glanced away again. Then he forced himself to look back at her, face seeming –for the moment, at least – genuinely apologetic. "I mean, I… I'm sorry it sounded like that."
"Yeah." Liz spits. I bet you are, you son of a bitch.
There was more she wanted to say to him, but there were other things to look into, other people to ask about Alex, so she cut herself off and finished with, "If you remember anything else – anything… my parents own the Crashdown. You can usually find me there."
She walked away, pulling the picture out of her pocket as she went. Already the edges were bending, already there was a little watermark on the bottom corner from where it had caught one of her tears. But somebody had cut Alex out of this picture; somebody had cut off the corner with his face, then put the picture in the car. And that meant something – it had to mean something… and she was going to find out what.
She would do it, even if it killed her.
Liz woke slowly, neck pulsing from having slept on it wrong. She brought a hand up to her face and found it wet with tears. She groaned and sat up, bringing both hands up to rub her face.
After taking a moment to let the grief and fury fade with the dream, Liz pulled herself out of bed and got ready for the day. She and Maria were going to go hang out with Alex for a while, then go out for lunch together. Everybody had plans to head over to the Crashdown later to discuss their plans for prom; she already knew everybody was planning to take little disposable cameras so that they could put a bunch of little scrap books together afterwards. It had been Isabel and Maria's idea, but Liz and Tess had loved it and the guys hadn't minded an excuse to relax and eat free food.
The memory of the dream receded to the back of her mind.
AN: Okay! So. Should have posted the first chapter of the sequel after this: working title is Time and Again: Variable Z. Also, I have some plans to edit the chapter with Tess - I'll tell you in the sequel when I've done it.