What is the Truth?
By Didi

Disclaimers: Do I really need to do this? I mean how many of you would believe me if I did say that I owned them all?

Note: Starts just at the end of Season 2 but I'm writing it my way cause I simply refused to except the way the writer screwed up that storyline. So, here's my take on the end of the episode and what happens afterwards. Forget everything that was on UPN, it didn't happen.

Caution: I can handle creative criticism and all but please no flames of any sort. Oh and if you are a Max/Liz fanatic, I doubt you'll like this story much.

"Spoken," *thoughts*
(The following scene is from "Departure" even if the dialogue is incomplete. I simply can't remember it word for word.)

"Nasado made the deal with Khivar," she hissed at him, her eyes devoid of any emotions. It wouldn't work if he knew the truth and this had to work, for everyone's sake. "I was to return with the baby and deliver you to him."

"So you killed Alex?" The knowledge of it shocked him to the core. *How could you!* Reaching out, he was tempted, damn tempted to kill her for it but a part of him hesitated. She was his wife, his queen. She was the one person that has always shown him nothing but absolute and unwavering support, even when the others turned their backs on him. He believed her when she said that she would be there no matter what; that she would also support him, love him.

"You kill me, you kill your son," the truth was it would kill their child, their precious son, the same one that she gave up years before to save him. And what she did before, she would gladly do again without hesitation if it became necessary. But that was not why she stopped him. That was not why her face was a mask, hiding the truth behind a pretty facade.

His features contorted in anger and disgust even as the pain exploded somewhere around his heart. Betrayal warred with something else, something he couldn't identify, and something vaguely familiar. "I don't know how I could have ever loved you!"

"You were a king, now you're just a boy." She saw the sting that exploded behind his eyes and trampled down the pain that knifed her heart. It was for the best, the only way left now. Cut the ties fast, sharp and permanently. *Forgive me.*

Jerking himself away, he swallowed the painfully bitter taste in his mouth. A part of him wanted to deny the words, shake her out of this complete apathy she was expressing, make her take back her words. A part of him could strangle her then and there but there was a child to think of, his child. "Go." He backed away from her, remembering her blank expressionless features. Even as the anger in him built, he felt something painfully sweet slip away. *How could you? Why?*

She turned away from him, her mask slipping for a moment and she had to bit her lip to keep from crying out as she reached out and touched the granilith with her fingertips. The painful cold of the machine wrapped around her even as something similar wrapped itself around her heart, her very soul. *Be strong. You know you have to be strong for him.* When she turned back to stare at him again, her emotions were once more hidden behind the camouflage of indifference. *Good bye, my love. Be well.*

As Max stood there among those that loved him the most, he felt completely alone. The scolding desert wind did not even begin to touch the deep coldness he was steeped in. He watched at the beacon of light took with it his would-be wife, son, and something else.
"Maxwell, we may have a problem," Michael announced unceremoniously and dropped into the seat across from their lackluster leader. He helped himself to the Tabasco covered fries on the table. The Crashdown was nearly empty now with the after dinner crowd on their way home.

Lifting lifeless dark eyes, Max attempted a smile for his friend but only managed to look pained. "Hello to you too."

"Hey, what's up?" Liz asked as she dropped a glass of soda in front of Michael. Her smiled slipped as she glanced at Max, who was as usual avoiding her gaze. Nearly a week since Tess left and still he kept to himself.

"Michael, this has better be a life and death situation for you to be dragging me out of my hot bubble bath like this," Maria growled dangerously as she sat down next to him and proceeded to wring the water out of her still wet hair.

"Maria!" Liz grabbed paper towels and dropped him on the ground to soak up the water.

"What's the emergency this time?" Isabel asked as she came through the door. She was more then a little irritated by the interruptions. She had been in the mist of a wonderful dream about Alex and didn't really want to leave that soft painless world.

"We really do have to stop doing this," Jim Valenti muttered as he and Kyle walked slowly through the glass doors. "So that is this all about?"

"And please tell me we're not being invaded again," Kyle joked quietly, hoping to lighten the mood somewhat. It's been almost seven days since any of them laughed and even his own laughter sounded hollow to him. *I miss Tess. I miss Alex. I miss the way things were before.* Rubbing his forehead, he tried to remember what Tess did. He tried to keep in him that the girl he and his father took in killed his friend.

"I wish it was something that simple," Michael slapped the newspaper down on the tabletop, careful to avoid the fries. He was hungry.

Everyone leaned over to stare. Splashed across the first page was a long article on a fire that destroyed a small town just outside of Austin Texas. After a moment of reading the story, they all looked at Michael for clarification.

"So?" Maria asked, hitting Michael on the arm when he was too busy stuffing his face to answer them. "What about it?"

"Look closer," Michael pointed to the newspaper again as he wiped his fingers on his none too clean jeans.

Max frowned; it wasn't like his friend to be so mysterious. Pulling the paper to him so that he could see more clearly, he was catch by the date on the top line. "It was the day we activated the granilith."

"So?" Isabel asked annoyed. "You dragged us all here to read about a week old story about an arson."

"Not just any arson," Michael pulled the newspaper toward him again. "I picked this up two days ago and have been doing some major thinking."

"Wow, stop the presses," Maria rolled her eyes. "Michael has been thinking."

"Will you shut up and listen to me?" Michael stared at the newspaper for a moment and then turned it to Max again. "I saw this and went to Brody to ask him if he could tell me if anything happened that day that was out of the ordinary."

"Other than that blonde bitch leaving Earth?" Liz commented with a smile.

Michael shot her a look then glanced at the expressionless Max. "That's just it. Brody did detect the granilith being activated and even tracked it. The thing went so far as to hit the maximum velocity to leave earth, only it never left orbit."

The light that came into Max's eye both gladdened Michael and worried him. *Buddy, here I thought you were just lusting after her. But those memory sessions she was giving you really gave you something from the past, didn't it? You remembered that you were once married to her, love her, had a life with her.*

"What do you mean it never left orbit?" Isabel asked, her eyes wide with shock. *No, no, this isn't happening.* But Michael was not one to jump the gun about something so important. If he went to Brody...

"Never left orbit," Michael repeated slowly and watched the various reactions with grim predictions. "The granilith looked like it was ready to leave, then so some unexplained reason, about thirty thousand feet from breaking through the ozone, it turned and headed back down again. Brody said it looked like whoever was in it had changed their minds or something."

Liz jumped up and began to pace the floor, her every stride spoke of her anger. Maria sat silent, shocked speechless for the first time in her life. Kyle dropped into an empty seat, his eyes reflecting the conflict he was feeling. Valenti was the only one that didn't show any outward sign of anything, he merely stared at Michael as if asking him to prove his claims.

"Michael?" Max asked quietly, his eyes shaded. "Why did you even..."

"Cause of this," he pointed to the grainy picture of firefighters working hard to kill the fire that threatened to consume the town.

Six men, armed with three hoses stood up front. The soot covered men looked to be stranding to keep from being pushed by the blaze that ate up the right side of the picture But that was hardly what Michael wanted him to see. Max carefully looked over the picture once more, feeling the gaze of the others on him. The picture encompassed a large fire truck that had no doubt been red in actuality but was the same black and white as the men on the paper. Behind the truck were curious onlookers that were caught by the camera in a moment of unawareness. There was nothing special about the picture at all. Why would Michael...Wait, the bystanders...

Lifting the paper closer, Max stared opened mouth at the figure off in the far left corner. Not one of the gawking audiences of Mother Nature's fury. This lone figure had looked back at the fire as if to make sure no one was watching anything else. But the camera had caught the individual nevertheless. The curling locks and fresh innocent face was unmistakable. "Tess."