Nineteen Years

Author: Bennie
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I own nothing Roswell.
Character Focus: Mi/Li, Mar/K, I/La. Maria POV
Spoilers: Departure
Author's Note: Futurefic; Maria tells her godson about how his parents ended up together. And listen, I know I can't really capture Maria's 'voice', but it really had to be her, so I tried anyways. I apologize right now to everyone who is talented enough to capture her in fic!

When I was nineteen, my world changed.

I think it must be a cycle, because it's nineteen years later, and my life is about to change again.

But it's not just me. Things are about to change in a lot of ways, for a lot of people.

Memories are going to surface, and relationships are going to change. Maybe they'll grow stronger, maybe not.

But it's inevitable; this cycle will end, and a new one will begin.

I wonder, when I look back on this day nineteen years from now, what will I remember?

I watched my godson graduate from high school, and I have to say I'm torn. How can you love someone so much, and yet wish they had never been born, all at once?

The funny part is that I can't resent the right people, the ones who, by any reasonable standards, are the ones who put me in this situation. Instead, I look at the 18 year old boy in front of me, smile proudly, and think about how much different my life would have been if he had never been born. Or if he had been born under different circumstances.

I look to my left, look at his beaming parents, and I smile. I can't help it; they're both so happy for him, and they look so happy with each other, and I know they both love me, and I understand.

I understand.

Two words, but they mean so much. See, I really do understand. Hell, they would never - could never - have made the choices they did if I hadn't supported them. And I went into this with eyes open; I knew, you see. I knew, in my soul, the forces that drove each of them, because I felt them too. And I made the conscious decision to help them.

I have never regretted that decision. It meant I could keep my two best friends in the world. It meant I got the chance to marry a man who can and does give me everything without reservation, without a tug of duty or obligation in another direction. It meant I got to have two beautiful daughters who have two parents to love them to distraction.

It also made me a very serious person, because it's a very serious matter to be godmother (honorary aunt, really) to a bright, painfully beautiful young man who will claim a throne on a distant planet some day soon.

I can out-Liz Liz these days. Sometimes that thought is all that can make me laugh anymore.

I look at him now, and I wave because he's looking straight at me. He's not smiling and I know what he's thinking. I made him a promise once, and tonight, after the party's over, he's going to ask me to honor it.

And I will.

"Thanks for coming."

He's so polite. Liz coached him well on matters of protocol and etiquette, knowing that she was also teaching him about diplomacy. I accepted a cup of coffee and followed him into the living room.

"Mom and Dad are still at the Crashdown, helping Grandpa clean up," he said, and I nodded. I was glad we wouldn't be disturbed; that made it easier, somehow.

"Where do you want me to start, Xan?"

They named him Alexander, after the uncle he would never know, but also because the nickname that rolled so easily off of our tongues connected him to the people he would be expected to fight for someday.

"Where else?" he smiled engagingly as he bantered with me. I wondered how he'd managed to keep the girls at bay this long. He had charisma in spades, this one, and the cynic in me thought that maybe he knew this - and used it. Just like his father. "At the beginning."

I was quiet for a moment.

"You know the story of your father and the others breaking out of the pods at six, and how they ended up where they did?" He nodded. "And how they met in high school, and ... and what happened with Tess?"

He nodded again, solemnly. "I have an older brother somewhere out there," he acknowledged, gesturing upwards. "He's with Khivar, and until we learn more about him, we have to assume that he might be an enemy. My enemy," he added quietly, and a fine line marred his smooth brow, making him looking far older than his years.

But then he smiled and was eighteen again.

I nodded. "You know, I was there the day Larek told your parents about how Khivar was going to take the Antarian throne himself as regent of the true heir."

Xan leaned forward; apparently he hadn't known I was there. I wondered just what Liz and Michael had been telling him all these years. After a moment, I answered the question I knew he was dying to ask.

"Liz was already pregnant, about a month, when he told us. They didn't have you to be a pawn in some war, Xan" I told him, and shook my head when he relaxed noticeably. Damn, why hadn't they told him this part at least? Maybe they had, and he simply hadn't believed them. After all, they were his parents, and they might have lied out of love.

"It was actually Larek's idea, for you to contest Khivar's claim when you came of age. Max fought like anything. He hated putting you in danger. But no one could come up with a better idea. So we all agreed, and Larek made arrangements to visit regularly, to keep us informed about all the things we would need to know to raise you like royalty."

He smiled again, somewhat ruefully. "You'd think that'd get me off dish duty, wouldn't you?" he joked, and I grinned.

"Like your mother says, it's important not to lose sight of the everyday things that everyday people have to deal with -"

"-Because they're who you work for, they're who you owe loyalty to, not just the other way around," he finished, and we shared a wry look, one that reminded me of every time he'd come to me, complaining that his mother was taking this whole training thing too seriously.

But I didn't want to get too far off-topic. He knew what was coming, and I knew he dreaded it, that part of him wanted to hide behind the jokes and the soft, sanitized truths of childhood.

"The next five months were probably the happiest of your parent's lives." He was perfectly still, except for the muscles I could see clenching about his jaw. He knew what was coming. He knew what had happened when Liz was six months pregnant.

I took a deep breath. There was no easy way to say it, so I'd just say what I said to Liz in the hospital all those years ago, minutes after she had delivered a perfect, seven pound baby boy, as we were waiting for Michael to bring everyone else in to see her son.

"I'm so sorry Max didn't live to see this day. He would've been so proud, honey."
I opened my arms, and I held my godson as he cried for the father he would never know.

"So, how did Mom and Dad get together?" he asked finally, sitting up and wiping his eyes unabashedly.

I felt a glimmer of something, happy that we had raised him to be strong but not to deny himself emotionally. It was something I don't think his father ever had a chance to figure out.

"They'll tell me about him, about Max Evans, and they'll tell me that they all knew each when they were kids. And they'll tell me about this legacy I inherited, and I think I'm getting a handle on the whole alien thing. But they won't tell me, Aunt Maria." I wanted to smile at his aggrieved expression, but then he rubbed the skin at the nape of his neck and I felt overwhelmed by memories of Max. "They won't tell me about all the things in between, what connected everything together."

This worried him, obviously. And suddenly I realized why this had been blown all out of porportion for him. Oh, it's an important story. It changed me, changed all of us, forced us to change our lives. But for Xan, a key point in his own story was missing, and there were probably a hundred different scenarios running through his head, each one more alarming than the first. I was starting to understand why he said he needed to know about this before making the transition from 'Earthling high school student with secrets' to 'Antarian heir-apparent with none'.

I think about what happened all the time, because I think people need to know where they came from to understand where they're going. I can see that Xan is a lot more like me than I thought.

And if that's the case, then I'm going to approach this the way I'd want to hear it. "Tell you what, exactly? You asked about what happened when you were born, why you're father wasn't your dad, and I promised to tell you the truth. But there's a lot to that story, Xan, and it would help if I knew what you know, and we'll go from there."

"Okay," and I smiled to see him mentally organizing his thoughts. In that moment, he was all Max. "Mom and Dad - Michael - told me that you were all friends most of your lives." He looked up expectantly, waiting for me to continue the story from there.

I smiled. Even knowing how he was going to react to my answer, they were good memories. "Well, in a way that's true. Max, Michael and Isabel were inseparable, and Liz, Alex and I had been best friends for years. Liz and Kyle were close, even dated for a few months. Liz and Michael, though ... well, they didn't really become friends until just after high school, when she was married to his best friend, and he was engaged to hers."

I waited for it.

"But -" his eyes were huge. "But, Aunt Maria, you mean -" he couldn't find the words to express his shock. "You …?"

"That's right, honey. Michael and I had been dating for a couple years. We were even going to get married."

He just looked at me, searching my features for some clue as to how to respond.

"It's all right. It's ancient history."

"But, I don't understand. Do you mean Mom … Mom st-stole your boyfriend after my father died?" He stuttered slightly as he forced out the words, and I tried to think of what to say, how to respond.

"No, Xan, she didn't." I spoke firmly, trying to get the strength to answer the question that was coming. "She didn't love him yet, not that way, and he didn't leave me for her."

"But I don't understand," he said, and stopped. He knew that Liz and Michael had married in that crucial time before he was born. I understood his confusion and ached to comfort him, to make it all better, but I knew that I owed him the truth. I had never lied to my godson, and I wouldn't start now.

"Liz didn't take Michael from me, Xan," I told him gently, trying to project as much love as possible into my tone, trying to buffer my harsh words.

"You did."

I took pity on him; how could I not? He looked so guilty, taking responsibility for things that he'd had no control over whatsoever. And maybe I could've said that better.

"What do you mean?" he asked, and I could see he was working hard to rationalize my words.

"You needed him more than I did. There was no choice in the matter, Xan. With Max gone, he and Isabel were all that kept you safe."

He nodded, grasping that much, and waited for me to continue.

"But then this weird Antarian thing kicked in," I remembered, and smiled wryly to hear the tortured slang of my youth. I'm not the same person now, I know. I think differently, express myself differently, make decisions differently. I 'grew up' a long time ago. But every now and then, it's nice to remember that I wasn't always this serious. "When Michael and I agreed to be your godparents, we didn't realize how literal that is in Antarian terms. We thought the bonding ritual Larek told us to perform was a ceremonial thing. We didn't know that without Max, Michael became your de facto father in all the ways that counted." Liz's words, not mine. But true. "His bond with you became the most important thing in the world to him, and your safety his biggest priority."

I took a sip of coffee. "And since Liz was still pregnant with you, she was part of that bond. He couldn't separate them. He had to accept it, and accept her, as your mother, as the other half of what made him your father." I shrugged. "After that bond kicked in, there wasn't much point in pretending the two of us had a chance, not after Liz accepted that she'd inherited the three of you from Max."

"Wait, what?"

I tried again. "After coming so close to losing Max, Michael and Isabel as children, and after what happened with Nasedo and Tess, your people got paranoid about protecting you, kid. Basically, When Max died, everything that was his shifted to Liz. Everything."

Leaning forward, I put my coffee down on one of Liz's many coasters, and took his hands in mine. He needed the contact, needed to feel what I was saying as much as he needed to hear it.

"I remember talking with Isabel after Max's funeral. She told me, and later she showed me, how all of a sudden she felt this incredible loyalty and protectiveness for Liz. She literally felt as though she had gained a sister, one whose safety and well-being was the single most important thing in the world to her. And even after you were born and that devotion transferred to you -" my godson blushed, but didn't deny that his Aunt Isabel was extremely protective of him, "- it carried over, and to this day, you and your mother are her reasons for living.

"It was even stronger for Michael, Xan, because he also had the bond created during the godparent ceremony. He … he let me see it. See him," I emphasized, and even now, all these years later, I couldn't keep the wistfulness from showing. Michael letting me in that last time had been of the most exquisitely painful experiences of my life, and a pivotal one.

"That was when I knew that things had changed. It wasn't a matter of - of betrayal, or choice. When Michael connected with me, I felt his love for me, and I will always cherish that because I know he did. He would have given up anything for me, Xan. Anything except you, his king, his nephew, his godson, and then, his son."

Xan concentrated on the waves of emotion I knew were leaking out of me. "But," he protested, pausing only because he saw my stern expression. His face settled into a deep frown, and he found the will to defy me, to persist regardless.

"But that's no excuse for leaving you," he said, and it was all I could do not to sweep him up in my arms and hug my dear, possessive, protective godson, who never could bear to see his Aunt Maria upset. He had been the ring-bearer at my wedding, had grown up with my children, and on the rare occasion that his adolescence got the better of him, showed up on my doorstep after some silly fight with one or both of his parents.

"I can't believe Mom married him like that," he said, utterly shocked. I wondered if this was the first time it ever occurred to Xan that his mother wasn't perfect, that she made mistakes like everyone else. But as I listened to him rant, I knew I couldn't let him think that marrying Michael was one of them. "She's your best friend, for Pete's sake!"

I shook my head emphatically. "Your mother was terrified, grieving and very young -- not much older than you are now, if you think about it. Do you really think she had any more choice in the matter than Michael did? Xan, they came together out of duty, but it wasn't cold duty. It was … it was right. I know this, because I was part of it, remember? I'm your godmother, Xan. I felt the same obligation they did, and here's the thing, Xan. I was the one who told them they needed to be together, because everyone was miserable when they tried to fight it."

Remembering, I looked away, but I managed to continue.

"Think about it this way. If something had happened to Liz after you were born, it would have been Michael telling me I needed to be with Max. And he would have been sad, but he wouldn't have resented either of us for it, because it was right. Some things are worth changing your entire life for, you know. I might've been your mother."

I leaned forward to kiss my godson on the forehead, and he let me, because I knew he was still carrying a child's guilt. It reminded me of how I used to feel, how I used to blame myself for my parent's divorce, and I knew I was the only one who could explain this to him, to make him understand that it wasn't like that.

"Xan, there's no blame here. There wasn't then, and there isn't now. It just … it just was. If you're going to blame anyone, blame Tess for betraying him. Blame Larek for talking us into that ceremony when we didn't understand what it meant. Blame Nasedo for making a deal with Khivar decades before any of us were even born. Hell, blame Max for dying in a stupid, pointless accident. But don't blame your mother, or Michael. I don't, and neither should you."

And with that I reached out, palm up, indicating that he should connect with me now.

Slowly he met my hand with his, and the flashes flew between us so fast I barely caught the ones sent my way, the innocent secrets of youth. But I knew that he saw the ones I sent him, because his entire body tensed and then relaxed.

I thought about connecting with Michael so many years ago, and finding Liz and her baby already connected with him.

I remembered the shock, the hurt, and then the feeling, no the certainty that it would be wrong to stand between them, so wrong I could feel it in my very soul. And with that came the knowledge that I wasn't really losing either of them, although that could happen if I let it. I could lose them by holding on too tightly, by denying the bond that we shared, that protected the child and future of many planets.

That was when I realized that my bond to Xan was even stronger than my loyalty to Michael, that I could and would give up anything I had to for him, and I knew a small part of what Michael and Liz had to be feeling.

Xan pulled out of the connection then; he had been taught to respect the privacy of others, and didn't want to intrude into my mind any more than he had to.

"Aunt Maria?" he asked after a moment, a little tentatively.

"Yes, Xan?"

"Do they resent me for making them be together? Do … do you?"

I couldn't help it then; he just looked so lost. I knew he was a man, more mature than many people twice his age, but right then he was a child that needed comforting, so I pulled him next to me, and held him tightly.

"Don't ever think that!" I ordered him fiercely. "Your mom and dad love each other very much, and I know for a fact - a fact - that neither of them ever regretted anything they've ever done for you. Ever. Neither have I."

Xan looked up at me, and I could see him struggling to maintain control. "Even that horrible haircut when I was ten?" he quipped, and suddenly I was so damned proud of him I had to cry, and he was the one holding me then, comforting me.

We just sat there for a while, each lost in our own thoughts and memories.

"Mom and Dad will be home soon," he said finally.

"Do they know I'm here?" I asked belatedly. It had never occurred to me that he might want to keep it secret from them. I felt a rush of relief when he nodded.

"They said they'd hold everyone back as long as they could, but told me they could only guarantee us privacy until ten."

As if on cue, there was a knock on the door.

"Hey, where's the party?" Isabel shouted from the other side, and Xan immediately headed to the door to let her in.

"Aunt Isabel!" he yelled, delighted as always to see her.

"Xan! I'm so proud of you! We both are!" she hugged him tightly and then released him so that he could take the carefully wrapped box in her hand.

"How is Larek?" I inquired as Xan pulled at the shiny paper eagerly. After Max died, Xan and, to a lesser extent, Liz, became the sole focus of Isabel's life. It wasn't until a year ago that Larek, who conferred with her nightly through her dreams about Xan, finally convinced her to live for herself as well. She announced their union to us a week later.

We'd teased Isabel mercilessly about how much time she spent 'sleeping' during that time, because of course they'd never met physically, only in their dreams. Now that Xan was of age she was excited by the prospect of returning to Antar where she could be with her husband when awake as well, where she could build a life for herself that included but didn't revolve entirely around her nephew.

"Larek is doing fine. He can't wait to meet you all in person!"

"Aunt Isabel!" Xan yelled suddenly, and Isabel and I smiled knowingly as he pulled a key with a familiar symbol out of the box and gaped like any other eighteen-year-old boy receiving his first car.

"Well, it's no Granolith," she teased, "but why don't you go out and tell us if you like it?" With another quick hug he was out the door, and I stepped forward to hug her myself.

"Is everything functional?" I asked, relieved when she nodded. It was actually from all of us, and we'd met a few times to decide what features Xan might possibly need if he was ever to go anywhere without one of us tagging along. It had a phone that would work anywhere, with one of those new cells that maintained a charge for a year before running down. It had the ultimate in roadside kits, containing everything from maps to water to blankets to compact meal bars and a jack, although that would be mostly for show in case another motorist came by so Xan couldn't use his powers. Of course, the tires were reinforced in so many ways, they would run for fifty miles at high speed after being punctured, and the car frame and windows were all reinforced.

There were a few other bells and whistles - like the infrared HUD for driving in pitch black, and the cup/food holders that really kept their contents chilled or heated - but everything was designed and tested to provide the ultimate in comfort and safety. We'd even chosen this particular model of Mercedes not for the flashiness, but because in crash tests, this model survived just about any collision possible with less damage than every other car we looked at. If only Max ... but I finished playing the "what if" game years ago.

If I don't end up taking my daughters with me to Antar this trip, I plan to get something similar for my eldest one, who may not be a princess but will never have anything less than the best and safest while I am her mother.

"How're my nieces?" Isabel wanted to know, as if reading my mind. I smiled and retrieved the inevitable envelope of pictures from my purse.

"Kyle must go through rolls of film like Xan goes through Tabasco sauce," she laughed, and I nodded. After Tess left and his father died, Kyle lived in perpetual fear of losing another member of his family, and it showed in his obsessive devotion to me but especially our daughters, who adored him back.

"I think we single-handedly kept the Photo Stop in business during a couple rough patches," I sighed. But it was true; for almost fifteen years either Kyle or I went in to develop a roll or two of film at least once a week, and had become fast friends with the owners and a number of the employees who had watched our family grow with us. Every year they choose their favourite picture of us and have it framed for us for Christmas. We keep each new one over the mantle and the others carefully stored in the attic.

I looked at the latest batch with Isabel now, and smiled to see the look of pride on my husband's face as he watches our youngest daughter ride the bike she received for her birthday last week. We wanted to make sure she didn't feel slighted by all the attention Xan was getting, and had gone overboard by spending a ridiculous amount of money on it. But it was worth it, to see her grinning delightedly as she showed her father how everything worked.

And as I studied the pictures, I thought about different things could have been.

"You told him," Isabel said then, bringing back to the present with a shock. It took me a moment to process her question, but once I did I nodded. We had talked about this before, about whether Xan should know everything. Isabel and I had always argued that he should, but Michael and Liz were adamant that it wasn't necessary. When I told them he'd asked me, though, they finally agreed.

"Good," she said. Then, "Was he very upset?"

"Upset, yes. But he isn't angry, and he knows none of us resent him."

She nodded in relief, and then looked away. I caught her hand, because I knew what she was thinking.

Part of us would always resent him a little. Not him, but the fact that his very existence had completely turned ours upside down.

But like I said, no sacrifice was too great for our king.

Which reminded me: there was something I wanted to tell Isabel.

"There's a lot of Max in him," I said, and she blinked back tears. Smiling tremulously, she reached out and took my hand, and I hugged her to me as she sobbed quietly on my shoulder.

Tonight was the anniversary of Max's death. It had been nineteen years since the last time I asked him to be a "good girlfriend" and go get his pregnant wife some ice cream and plum sauce, if she craved it so much. Nineteen years since Isabel had offered to go instead because she knew he had just gotten home from work and was tired, but he asked her to sit with Liz and see if she couldn't do anything about swollen ankles. Nineteen years since Liz had to told him to hurry back, that she and Michael had a surprise for him. Nineteen years since he pretended to scowl at Michael and growl possessively, "my wife! Mine!" as the women in the room threw cushions and made caveman jokes as he ran for the door, laughing and ducking.

Nineteen years since I teased Liz into admitting the big secret, that Michael had accidentally connected with the baby earlier that day, that the baby had communicated telepathically for the first time. Nineteen years since Isabel and I reached out simultaneously to touch her rounded belly in wonder, and Isabel gasped in delight to 'meet' her nephew.

Nineteen years since Liz suddenly asked "what on Earth is taking him so long?" and pushed past us to find Sheriff Valenti on the doorstep, hat in hand and tears running down weathered cheeks.

Nineteen long years.

Well, in a few hours this cycle will have ended.

And a new one will begin. On a different planet, no less, if things go as planned.

I wonder, when I'm fifty-seven, how I'll remember this day. Will I remember that I looked out into the clear night and saw not a boy who had just graduated from high school sitting behind the wheel of his new car, but a man who drove that extra mile in a beat-up old clunker to get his wife the gourmet ice cream he knew she loved, even though he was tired and the roads slick? Not a boy with his whole life ahead of him, but a man who had lived less in two lifetimes than many people did in one?

I don't know.

Next to me, Isabel murmured as she looked through the last of the photos, choosing one to take with her. "Time goes by so fast," she sighed.

All I could do was nod.

It does.

I wonder, when I look back on this day nineteen years from now, what will I remember?

Will I smile, will I cry?


The End