After breakfast Tess, Ava and Kyle arrived and Michael and Isabel filled them in about the progress, or lack of, in finding Rath and Lonnie.
Tess looked at Liz, silently furious that her powers might actually help find the others. She wanted to be the one to tell Max their location. She had stayed up half the night trying to find them, but she’d had a lot less luck than Liz and Isabel.
Her powers were not really that useful in locating people. They worked better up close.
Her gaze slid to where Max was standing and she smiled. She would keep doing anything she could to be his friend and show him how helpful she could be.
Looking across the room, she focused on Zan. Now if only she could get him to work on Liz. He met her eyes and she subtly raised her eyebrows and nodded toward Liz. With a smile he nodded back, crossing to Liz and touching her arm to gain her attention.
Tess rolled her eyes. Zan looked like Max, if not a bit more disreputable but he was certainly no king. She had to tell him what to do. She just hoped he was better at seduction than Max was, but she was pretty sure he was. Zan seemed a lot more aware of his sexuality than Max. If she thought Max would never find out, she might have tried Zan out herself.
She watched as Zan leaned close to Liz, talking softly so only she could hear. Liz smiled, blushing and Zan touched her again.
Silently, Tess nodded approval. He was good, she thought. He would have Liz eating out of his hand in no time. It was too bad she hadn’t remembered to suggest it to him sooner and she might have been with Max now.
Looking to where Max was standing she saw him notice Zan with Liz.
He watched them for a moment, his brow creasing. It was obvious he was disturbed by them being together.
He started to walk toward them but Tess moved quickly and intercepted him.
“Hey, Max,” she purred, stepping between him and Liz and Zan.
Max glanced at her, “Hey, Tess,” he said, his eyes going back to where Liz and Zan were talking.
Tess glanced to her side, noting that Zan was standing very close to Liz, touching her arm. Tess touched Max’s arm, turning him so he couldn’t see the couple.
Max’s head turned to look over his shoulder, as if he could see Zan and Liz behind him. He was completely focused on Tess but he had to pretend as if seeing Zan and Liz together bothered him. He didn’t like leading her on, but he felt he had to give her some hope to get her to cooperate with him quickly and not drag their sessions out hoping to seduce him.
Tess spoke up, “I wanted to talk to you about something,” she said, trying to get his attention.
He nodded, but his head was still cocked to the side. “Right,” he said, distracted.
“Max,” Tess purred, touching his arm again and this time putting some of her power into him. “I have something important you need to know, my King.”
He felt her power and a visible shiver went through him as he met her eyes. “Tess,” he said as if seeing her for the first time, “I wanted to talk to you too.”
She beamed a smile at him. Maybe her powers were finally getting through to him. “Of course, Max,” she said, her voice dropping seductively. “I’m ready to help you with anything,” she said, as she let her eyes roam over him lingeringly before she met his gaze again, making it perfectly clear that she was his for the taking. “I’m always here for you for anything you need or desire.”
“Thanks, Tess,” he said, focusing on her. “You’ve always been there for me, even when I didn’t really deserve it.”
“I would do anything for you Max, you know that,” she assured him. “You are my leader, my King.”
“I don’t feel like a leader,” he said. “I feel like a stupid kid who doesn’t know what is going on.”
“I know you were a great leader,” Tess said fiercely, “a great man and a great King, and you will be again.”
“Thank for believing in me,” he said. “That is kind of what I wanted to talk to you about.” He looked around quickly and cocked his head, leading her over to the side of the room. When he spoke he lowered his voice so only she could hear. “I’ve been having these flashes of my other life, of my other self.”
“You have?” she said excitedly. “What did you see?”
“Not much,” he admitted. “I just remember being in my room, and how it felt to be him.”
“That’s incredible,” Tess said. “And you weren’t even trying?”
“No,” he said. “It was so weird, but kind of familiar. And it a complete surprise, and that is part of the problem.”
Tess crinkled her brow, encouraging him to go on.
“The flashes,” he told her, “have been happening just out of the blue. I never know when it is going to take over.”
She caught on immediately. “You mean they’re distracting you.”
He nodded. “Not just distracting me, but making me kind of black out while they’re happening. That’s why I wanted to talk to you, to see if you knew how I could control them and maybe we can learn more about what happened.”
Tess was thrilled he’d come to her, but annoyed at the same time. She’d suggested working on their memories a while ago and he wasn’t interested. But he was interested now and it would be a great way to get close to him. “Of course, Max,” she purred, clutching him arm. “Do you want to go somewhere now and try?”
“Yeah,” he replied aloud, but he was kind of stunned. It always surprised him how fast Tess worked. He reached out to Zan and Liz in his mind, speaking to them silently. “She doesn’t waste any time.”
Liz answered him. “You are so sexy she can’t resist,” she teased. “But she better keep her hands to herself.”
Max smiled. “My hero.”
Tess’ voice interrupted their conversation. “What about in that little office over there?” she said, motioning to a small door in the back corner of the building. “It’s private but not far in case the others need us.”
Nodding, Max agreed.
Tess started leading him to the door and when they were almost there, she turned and called out over her shoulder. “If anyone needs us, Max and I will be in here for a while,” she said smugly, focusing on Liz, “working on our,” she paused for effect, “. . . powers.”
Liz rolled her eyes, wishing Max didn’t have to ‘take one for the team.’ She was so sick of treating Tess with kid gloves.
“Yeah,” Max agreed in her head. “I’m just glad you two are here with me.” He held the door open for Tess letting her go in ahead of him, and closed it behind them, the sound making him think of the solid clunk of being locked behind a prison door.
Looking quickly around, he noticed there was only one chair and a desk, and used his powers to alter the desk into a second chair before Tess could attempt to make a couch or bench where they would have to sit next to each other. It would be a lot easier to keep things platonic if he didn’t have to worry about her clinging to him while they were sitting together.
They each took a seat and he asked, “So how do we start?”
Reaching up, Tess used her powers to dim the lights. “It will make it easier to concentrate,” she said.
Max thought it would definitely make it harder to concentrate to be in a dark room with Tess, but he tried to relax.
He practically jumped when she spoke. “Tell me about the memory you had.”
“It really wasn’t much,” he said, “just a glimpse. All I remember is being in my room, laying on my bed.” He shook his head, “And I just felt like I wasn’t me.”
Tess nodded, “Close your eyes and concentrate on that memory. Try and make it as clear in your mind as you can.”
Reluctantly Max did as she said, closing his eyes and trying to push everything else out of his mind. He thought about what he had seen and felt, allowing the details to come to life.
He’d never tried to bring the memory back, afraid of what it might reveal, but when he concentrated it slid easily into place.
He could see the decorative trim were the wall met the ceiling, he could see the color and pattern that covered the walls, he could see the edge of a window even though his position on the bed didn’t allow him to see out.
When he thought about the bed, he could feel the soft texture under him, cushioning his body. And once again the feelings of loneliness and hopelessness filled him. He was constantly surrounded by people, but he had no one to trust with his heart, and he was afraid he never would.
After a few moments, Tess’ soft voice broke the silence. “Try to remember not only what it looked like but what you felt and heard and smelled.”
Max nodded. “I can’t hear or smell anything, but I can feel the bed beneath me.”
“Who’s with you?” Tess asked, her voice sounding closer and slightly breathless. She was so excited that he might be remembering her, she couldn’t help herself leaning nearer.
“No one,” Max said. “I’m alone in my room.”
”What do you see?” she asked, her voice stronger with disappointment. “Describe what’s around you.”
Max went through the details, telling Tess about the colors and textures of the room and furnishings he could see.
“I remember,” Tess breathed. “That was your room before we got married.”
Max’s eyes snapped open and he stared at her from the few feet that separated them. She had her own eyes closed, concentrating.
“You remember?” he asked softly, almost horrified that she shared such intimate knowledge of his life. And then he relaxed. It didn’t mean anything. She knew what his room looked like now and that didn’t signify anything between them.
He realized she was talking and he’d missed some of it.
“…but when you became King, of course you moved into a different room.”
He was amazed about how much she remembered. “What happened when I became King?” he asked.
She opened her eyes, focusing on him. “Your father died,” she said simply.
He nodded. He’d actually guessed that part. “But how did he die?”
Tess shrugged. “I don’t remember. Anyway I didn’t meet you until after.”
“But was he murdered or something?” Max asked.
“I don’t know,” Tess said.
Max tried another direction. “When I became King, what was happening?”
Tess smiled. “There were lots of parties and celebrating the new King. The people loved you.”
“Did they?” Max asked. “What about Khivar and Nicholas and their people?”
“I don’t know anything about that really,” she said.
Max was getting frustrated. “But you must remember something about the political situation.”
Tess shook her head. “I never really tried to remember any of that,” she said.
“Why did Khivar want us all dead?” he asked, his frustration growing.
“He wanted your throne,” she said with a shrug. “I really don’t remember anything else.”
Max wondered if she was being deliberately unhelpful so they could have more sessions together or if she was really this shallow and disinterested.
He took a deep breath. To be fair, he really couldn’t blame her. This was the first time he had really pursued anything about the past either.
“What about Nasedo?” he asked, trying to keep his voice calm. “He must have told you something about what happened.”
“Not really,” she said. “All he told me was that we were exiled royalty and you were my husband, and when we found you everything would be all right, like happily ever after in a fairy tale.”
Max grimaced. He couldn’t believe he’d never asked Nasedo anything useful. And Tess had lived with him for ten years. Hadn’t she been curious? Or maybe Nasedo refused to tell her.
He nodded, changing the subject. “So that memory just came to me. Is that how it happened for you?”
“No,” she said excitedly. “I really had to work to get my first memory, but after that it got easier.”
“And did the memories every make you black out?” he asked.
Tess shook her head. “No, but I bet it was just because it was your first time,” she purred. “It surprised you. The more we practice, I bet it won’t affect you as much.”
“So,” Max started, looking away from her as he wondered how to phrase his next question, “when you remember things, do you get the feeling that it isn’t you in the memory? That you are someone else?” He met her eyes, “And do you ever wonder if you will lose yourself in the other person?”
Tess looked at him thoughtfully. “I never worried about that,” she said. “I am Tess but I am Ava too. We are the same person.”
Max nodded, although her answer did nothing to comfort him.
Max stayed with Tess a while longer, trying to get a new memory, but nothing came to him.
He had wondered if the first memory he got had something to do with the circumstances he’d been in at the time. He’d been thinking about the time before he was with Liz, and how he’d been afraid that no one would ever know him or love him. Those same feelings had been echoed by his past self in the memory.
He hadn’t mentioned that to Tess of course, it just seemed too personal. But he began to think maybe working with her would be a waste of time. If his emotions triggered his memories then her techniques wouldn’t lead him anywhere.
After Tess left to go home, he explained it all to Liz and Zan.
Liz sat on his lap, her arms wrapped around him and he held her close, gaining comfort from just having her near.
He sighed. “That was a complete waste of time,” he said.
“No,” Liz assured him, stroking his neck. “At least you now know something that doesn’t work, or doesn’t work yet. Maybe you just need to practice it for a while.”
“It’s interesting you didn’t get any new memories with Tess,” Zan pointed out. “I thought for sure she would try to give you a memory of her.”
“Maybe she did,” Max admitted. “I could feel her power from time to time but I was able to keep it away.”
“And you didn’t find out anything new from the memory you already had?” Liz asked.
Max shook his head. “I remembered a few more details, but the color of the bedspread is hardly earth-shatteringly important.”
His brow creased as he remembered something. “You know, it’s weird though,” he said. “When I was thinking about the memory, trying to dig out the details, I didn’t feel like him. It was like I was just watching a scene in a movie that I’d seen before.”
Liz nodded. “Maybe that is a hopeful sign that you’ll be able to control it once you get used to it,” she suggested.
Max nodded, feeling encouraged for the first time in days. “Yeah,” he said, looking at Zan. They had both been worried about disappearing into their past self and it was the first positive thing they’d uncovered.
Zan nodded, showing his reluctant hope.
Max kissed Liz’s forehead, “So,” he started, “tell me what you guys did today.”
Zan smiled. “You know what we did,” he teased. “We stayed in your mind, ready to leap into action to save your virtue from Tess.”
Liz sighed. “Isabel and I did try to contact Lonnie again, but we didn’t see anything useful.”
Max nodded. “So we didn’t really accomplish anything today. We don’t know where Lonnie and Rath are, we don’t know what Khivar and the Skins are planning, I didn’t get anywhere with my memories, and tomorrow we have to go school and act like everything is normal.”
“It wasn’t a total loss,” Zan said. “We learned that the memory didn’t make you black out this time, so maybe we will be able to control them.
Max shook his head, “But we don’t know why that happened or how to do it again.”
Zan shrugged. “One thing at a time.”
Liz hugged him tight. “And Tess didn’t get fresh with you.”
He nodded. “That was an accomplishment.” He leaned down to brush Liz’s lips with his own, “But can we stop talking about her? I would rather just concentrate on us.”
Liz smiled at him. “Anything you want, Max.”
Max and Liz made love, and then he watched Zan bring her to completion, and then both of them worked to satisfy her two more times before she fell into a deep, contented sleep.
Liz was cradled in their arms, Max on one side of her, stroking her hair, while Zan faced him from where he was on her other side.
It was wonderful and perfect and it made Max feel like he completely belonged, and that is what reminded him.
He shielded the connection with Liz’s mind and spoke directly into Zan’s. “I figured out something, or I think I did, and I’m wondering if it happened to you too.”
Zan nodded for him to continue.
“When I got the memory, I was thinking about how lucky I was to have Liz because for a long time I never believed that anyone could love me for who I really am. That is when the memory happened. I remembered how lonely the other Zan was, and he was basically thinking the same thing I was.”
“So maybe,” he continued, “that is why I had that memory, because the same thing had happened before.
Zan was nodding. “I think you’re right,” he said. “It was the same kind of thing for me. I was thinking about how Lonnie and Rath betrayed me but how Michael and Isabel always had your back, and then I just knew that the original Vilondra and Rath would never have done that. They were completely loyal.”
Max’s eyes filled with determination. “So if we tried -”
With the same idea, Zan finished his sentence, “…to remember the political situation and what Khivar was doing…”
“It might not work,” Max said.
“But it is worth a try,” Zan agreed.
They both looked at Liz and the thought rushed through their combined minds that it might be easier if the three of them connected, but neither of them wanted to wake her.
“If the two of us can’t do it,” Zan said, “we can include her next time.”
Max nodded. “So what do you think we should try to focus on? It could be helpful to know what happened around the time of our deaths, but it could be pretty traumatic.”
“Yeah,” Zan agreed. “That doesn’t seem like something we want to try on our rookie attempt. I’m not sure I really want to remember how our family died.”
“We could try something completely safe first,” Max suggested. “What about a birthday party when he was a kid.”
“Okay,” Zan said, “although we don’t even know if they celebrate birthdays.”
“True,” Max said thoughtfully. “I never even considered that, although Tess did say she remembered parties, so maybe we’ll get lucky.”
“So,” Zan wondered with a smirk, “what does an alien prince wish for on his birthday? A toy ray gun?”
Max grinned. “The alien equivalent of a pony?” he suggested.
“A fying saucer with training wheels,” Zan joked. “Or a time machine.”
“A clone army,” Max said.
“An illudium Q-36 explosive space modulator,” Zan said, mimicking Marvin Martian’s voice.
The smile faded from Max’s face. “A normal life.”
Liz shifted in their arms, unsettled by Max’s emotions even in her sleep.
Max tightened his arms around her, kissing her head. “We should let her sleep,” he said.
Zan nodded, knowing exactly how Max felt. “We can do this another time,” he said. He would love for all of the craziness to be over and just concentrate on what they wanted.
Never Underestimate Destiny|
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