Putting things right(CC,All,Mature) Ch 25 - 6 June 2010[WIP]

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Putting things right(CC, All, Mature) Ch 19- 3 March 2010

Post by Lou » Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:58 pm

Max entered Liz and Maria’s room just in time to see her sink dejectedly into a sitting position on the edge of her bed. He took a hesitant step forward.


She looked up at him. “What do you want, Max?” she asked, exhausted by the struggle of containing her emotions.

“I… you… I wanted to…” he searched desperately for words, wanting to bring her comfort, and not sure what to do or say to achieve it. “I love you, Liz,” he said finally. “I always have, and I always will. No matter what. Whatever’s happened in the past between you and Kyle-- I don’t care. I just want to be with you.”

Liz looked at him for a long moment before she finally crumbled. Sobs shook her small frame as all the stress and emotion of the last days and weeks finally found release. Alarmed, Max rushed to her and gathered her up in his arms as if she were a child, stroking her face and hair and uttering soothing sounds. He settled them both onto the bed so that she was cuddled up in his lap, clinging to him as she cried. Eventually, her sobs subsided, and he continued rocking her gently until she was completely calm. It was a long time before either of them spoke. They were both simply relishing the feel of being in each other’s arms once again. Max was gently stroking her hair away from her face- one of his favorite occupations, and one he hadn’t been able to indulge in for longer than he cared to remember- when she finally lifted her head from his shoulder and looked up into his eyes.

“I thought I could stay away from you,” she said with wonder in her tone. He smiled down at her, and wiped away the last remnants of her tears.

“Not a chance. There’s never been anyone for me but you, Liz.” With that, he bent his head and kissed her. It began excruciatingly slow and gentle, but it wasn’t long before they were kissing each other with all the pent-up passion that had been building since the day she had walked away from him in the pod chamber. And with their passion came flashes- deeper, more intense flashes than anything either of them had previously experienced.

Max cried out as in one short instant, the whole future Max saga played out in his mind. He pulled away from the kiss suddenly, breaking their connection.

“Max, what is it?” Liz gasped, as he stopped kissing her but pulled her into hug that almost crushed the air out of her. She wound her arms around his neck as he buried his head on her shoulder, trying to comfort him.

“I saw… me. Only it wasn’t me, it was me from the future. Asking you to get me to fall out of love with you. I saw you setting it up to make it look like you’d slept with Kyle. I felt your heart breaking, as well as your loyalty and your love.” He lifted his head up and looked deeply into her eyes. “I’m so sorry, Liz. I’m so sorry that a future version of me would ever ask such a thing of you, and I’m sorry you had to go through it, and I’m sorry that I didn’t make it easy for you. I’m so sorry for all the hurt you’ve been carrying, for us. For me. You are an amazing, gutsy, courageous, beautiful woman, Liz Parker.”

“I didn’t have a choice. We’re talking about our lives, Max. Not just yours and mine, but Isabelle’s and Michael’s, Alex and Maria’s. Besides, it was you asking me. I couldn’t have said no, Max. I just couldn’t.” Liz whispered back to him. He kissed her gently.

“I don’t deserve you,” he murmured as they parted.

“Yes, you do. You’re the king of an alien race, remember?” she said playfully. “You should have the best earth can offer.”

He smiled at her, and then became more serious again. “How do you think you’ll like being my queen? We are apparently betrothed, after all. Is that- are you ok with that?” By the end of his question he was no longer able to look her in the eye, terrified she might say no to him. She placed a hand on his cheek, and waited for him to look her in the eye again.

“Max, belonging to you- truly belonging to you, as your wife, is the single highest pinnacle of happiness I think I could ever hope to aspire to achieve, were I to have fifty lifetimes. I love you, Max Evans.”

His heart soared as she kissed him again, and they stayed like that, talking and cuddling, until eventually they fell asleep in each other’s arms.
Last edited by Lou on Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Putting things right(CC, All, Mature) Ch 20- 3 March 2010

Post by Lou » Tue Mar 02, 2010 11:01 pm

As soon as the panel door slid shut behind them, Michael turned to Maria. She could see he was struggling with all the different emotions that came with the information he had been bombarded with over the last couple of hours.

“Maria…” her name was wrenched out of him, expressing in that one word his complete turmoil. Her arms were around him in an instant, seeking to bring him comfort. He brought his mouth down on hers- not gently or sweetly, but rather needing to feel close to her as possible. It wasn’t until he felt his control slipping that he finally stopped them, and rested his forehead on hers, running his hands lightly up and down her arms as they both took a moment to gain control of their breathing.

She looked up at him with concern. “How’re you doing?” she finally asked. He sighed, dropped his hands, walked over to his bed, and sat down before he replied.

“Ok, I guess. It’s funny. All my life, I’ve been wanting to find my people, somewhere where I fit. Even when I found myself here, I was hoping that maybe they brought us here to bring us home. And then they told us there isn’t a home, that Max, Isabel, and Tess are the family I’ve been waiting for all my life…” his voice trailed off as he contemplated these events.

“And you were… disappointed?” Maria asked hesitantly. He looked up at her, his brown eyes filled with emotion.

“No,” he whispered hoarsely, “I was happy.” He swallowed, searching for the right words to make her understand. “I have them now. Not just because they’re different, like me, but because we’re really family. And I have you now, for keeps. That is, if you want to go through with this betrothal thing,” he smiled his wry half-smile that she loved. She came and stood before him, and placed her hands on either side of her face, searching his eyes. His arms of their own free will circled her in a loose embrace.

“Was that a proposal?” she teased.

“Why? Do you want one?” it was an honest question.

“Michael, I’m not sure I have a choice in this. I mean, a piece of alien technology has already embedded itself in my hand.”

“I don’t want you to do anything just because you think you have to. The whole Isabelle-being-my-destiny-bride thing has taught me that.”

“Of course I want to, Michael. It just feels- a bit high handed, I guess. It would have been nice to be asked, you know?”

“Well, that’s easy to fix,” he said, and taking both her hands, he maneuvered her a step back from the bed so he could kneel before her. “Marry me, Maria De Luca?”

Tears sprang to her eyes as she looked down into his. “Are you serious? Yes, of course!” She was practically jumping up and down with excitement, always a bundle of energy. He didn’t move, however- he held her hands in a death grip. The excitement died out of her eyes. “Michael, what’s wrong?”

It took him a moment to answer. “Are you sure?” he finally asked her. “I’m still an alien, Maria. An alien prince, now, apparently, which is only going to add to our responsibilities. And we still have some very real enemies out there, trying to find us. They might even find you, and try to use you to get to me. God knows I’d do anything to protect you, but there might come a day when that might not be enough. I might not be enough. On top of everything, I don’t know what kind of husband I’ll make. It’s not like I’ve ever really had a shining example to follow. So I understand if you want to rethink this. If you want to go back to being a normal teenager…” his voice trailed off when she knelt in front of him, looking him strait in the eye, with tears flowing down her face.

“Michael, do you love me?” she asked him. He nodded, by now unable to form words. “Then quit trying to talk me out of this! I can be just as stubborn as you, you know. I’ve already said yes, Michael, and I meant it. I love you.”

He kissed her then, and for only the second time, she saw flashes. She felt his fear of her rejecting him, and his joy and love for her. Pulling apart, she smiled into his eyes. “I could get used to that,” she said.

“At risk of sounding cheesy, you’ve got a lifetime to try,” he replied.
Last edited by Lou on Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Putting things right(CC, All, Mature) Ch 21- 3 March 2010

Post by Lou » Tue Mar 02, 2010 11:02 pm

Isabelle lead Alex to her bed, and they curled up comfortably, side by side, leaning back against the wall. It wasn’t until they were both settled that Alex took her hand he’d been holding, and began gently rubbing it between both of his.

“So, Majesty, how are you doing?” he asked, his cheeky smile a cover for the serious look in his eyes. She freed her hand just long enough to give him a playful slap on the shoulder, before returning it to his ministrations.

“I’m good, I think. Really overwhelmed, mostly. I mean, it’s so good to get answers. It’s such a relief that I’m not the betrayer- that once again our enemies were messing with us. I’m so happy to find out about Tess and Michael. And I’m so happy I can’t even put it into words that I’m not his destiny bride.” She looked at him with meaning. He smiled at her.

“Me, too.”

“How about you? How’re you doing?” she asked him.

“Good, I think. It’s so good to finally hear some solid answers- and that must be times a thousand for you. I love the way he speaks to you all- he really, genuinely loves and respects each of you.”

“I know! And he’s all ‘yes, your majesty. No, my lord.’ It feels so beautifully medieval, you know? Courtly, in the best sense of the word. Noble, or chivalrous, or something. You know what I mean?”

“He treats you as the princess you are,” he smiled at her.

“An ice princess, maybe?” she asked, unsure if he was teasing her. He shook his head.

“No, as in a real princess. There’s always been something about you, Isabelle, which sets you apart from the crowd. It goes beyond the way you walk or speak, it’s something about your very essence that makes you radiate beauty. It makes me want to be noble and chivalrous to you, to protect you, if I can- or at least to let me put my coat on the ground so you don’t need to walk through a puddle. I know that in a real royal court, I’d be little more than the jester, but you are so obviously fitted to the role of princess.”

“Thanks, Alex. Although you ought to know that this princess is quite smitten with her jester.”

“The princess and the pauper, perhaps?” he gave a self-depreciating laugh.

“No. My knight in shining armour, ever faithful, and willing to fight for my honour- and win,” she looked him squarely in the eye. “You’re no jester to me, Alex. That whole thing with Grant proved that. You saved me. You cared about me enough to fight for me, for my honour. I love that… and I love that somehow we’re betrothed now, not just having a high school boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. I love the idea of being intended for you.”

“Me, too. Isabel, are you sure I’m what you want? You could do a lot better—” he was silenced by her firmly planting a finger on his lips.

“You see me, Alex. You see the real me, and you still love me. I feel it every time you look at me. You treat me like a princess, when I’ve only ever treated you like a pauper- even though you really are a knight, and deserve to be treated as such. And I want you to know…” she took a deep breath and looked into his eyes for a moment before finally speaking again, “I love you.”

His eyes lit up as if she had just given him the best present in the world- which, to him, she had.

“You do? Really?” he asked. She nodded.

“I really do. I’ve known it for a while, only I didn’t want to admit it- that’s why I went out with Grant, because he was so different from you. More different than I realized. But that whole saga opened my eyes. I love you, Alex Whitman.”

“I love you, too, Isabelle Evans” he said. Then a thought struck him. “If we really do this betrothal wedding thing, you’ll be Isabelle Whitman,” he said the name like it was something sacred, “But only if you want to change your name, of course,” he said in the voice of someone covering up his deepest desire. She smiled at him.

“I’ll be honoured to be your Mrs. Whitman. Only… what about our parents?” she asked. He looked away, unsure of how much she knew about his family situation.

“I don’t know what to do about that.”
Last edited by Lou on Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Putting things right(CC, All, Mature) Ch 22- 3 March 2010

Post by Lou » Tue Mar 02, 2010 11:03 pm

Tess and Kyle were left awkwardly facing each other on the couch. He looked at her, knowing that she had been through an awful lot in a short space of time.

“Doing ok there?” he asked casually. She looked at him, her blue eyes filled turmoil.

“I think so. It’s just so hard to understand. I mean, I’ve been lied to my whole life. I nearly convinced them to believe the lie. And the second nearest thing I’ve ever had to a father, it turns out, is one of our enemies, deceiving us. And I believed it all. What kind of person does that make me?”

Kyle placed a comforting hand on her arm. “Tess, when you are told something every day of your life, you start to believe it. Dad once told me about a case where a man kidnapped a girl and held her for three months, and did awful things to her. He said that the kidnapper had told her to go by a different name, and after only three months, when they found her, she couldn’t remember her real name, because he’d brainwashed her. It’s the same kind of thing with you, Tess. Nascedo deliberately abused you. Deliberately. You are innocent of all this. I think that nightmare you had not long ago was maybe your subconscious trying to communicate to you the truth. It’s not your fault, Tess.”

She nodded, willing herself to believe him. “You know, after that nightmare, I’m really glad I’m not Max’s bride. I don’t think I could have enjoyed the experience after all that.”

He smiled at her. “I’m glad, too.”

“You are?”

“Yeah. It doesn’t seem right that Evans should get the best ones. I don’t mind about Liz anymore, but you… that was starting to bug me.”

“It was?”


There was silence for a moment.

“Kyle? How are you doing with all this?”

“Ok, I guess. I’m the one who’s been least affected by all this alien mumbo-jumbo, so while the history lesson answered a few questions, it none of it greatly changed my life or anything.”

“None of it? What about the whole betrothal thing?”

Kyle shifted uncomfortably. “Well, there was that. And to be honest, I’m not sure what to think- but that’s really nothing new, either. I know that I like you. A lot. I know that I’m glad you and Evans aren’t supposed to be together after all. But on the other hand, my dad and I took you in to protect you and give you a family. And me making a move on you would hardly be protecting you- it’d be taking advantage, and I never want to do that. Besides, you have a family now, apparently, so I guess it won’t be long before you want to go do whatever with them…”

“Kyle, you and your dad… Your dad has been more of a father to me than Nascedo ever was. I know it’s only been a month or two, but you and your dad are my family now. I’m not saying that Max, Isabel, and Michael aren’t, but I don’t want getting them to mean I have to give you or your dad up. Specially now that he’s gone and married Maria’s mom. For almost a week I’ve been living in this happy place where I actually have parents as well as a sister.”

“But not a brother?” he looked at her carefully as she avoided his eyes, a faint blush staining her cheeks.

“Of course a brother--” she began hurriedly, but he stopped her.

“I don’t want you as my sister,” he said. She looked at him then, a flash of shock and rejection passing across her eyes, before she looked away.

“I’m sorry, Kyle. I’d thought you were ok with the arrangement. I’m pretty sure that Isabel’s mom would…”

“I didn’t mean I have a problem with our living arrangements, apart from that it’s been the best kind of hell I ever want to find myself in. I’m explaining myself badly,” he interrupted himself, and, taking her hands firmly so she couldn’t move away, he took a deep breath. “Tess, I like you. A lot. As in, more than I ever should if I’m only ever supposed to be your brother. I’m not sure what to make of the whole betrothal thing, but if it means I get you, I’m all for it. You’re beginning to mean much too much to me, Tess Harding. Being able to be a real part of your life has been the best part of being in the I-know-an-alien club. I just… like you, Tess.”

“I like you, too. I’ve been trying so hard to think of you only as a brother, Kyle, and it’s just been getting harder and harder.”

He leaned in towards her then, and hesitantly kissed her. Her eyes widened at the contact, and then fluttered shut as the kiss slowly deepened. It was a long moment before he pulled back.

“That was amazing...” he said, “I’ve never…”

“Me, either. I’m not sure how much of this has to do with the octhar, and how much it has to do with me wanting it for so long.”

“I don’t think it’s really very important, but we can spend some time figuring it out if you really want,” he said, leaning towards her again.

“I think I’d like that,” Tess replied as she closed the distance between them.
Last edited by Lou on Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Putting things right(CC, All, Mature) Ch 23 -3 March 2010

Post by Lou » Tue Mar 02, 2010 11:05 pm

The next morning the teens were discreetly woken by their valets and maids, and breakfast was served in a similar fashion to dinner the night before. They were just rising from the table when Pievryth entered the room, this time followed by a group of about half a dozen men. These all bowed with the same genuine humility Pievryth always displayed.

“Your Majesties, these men are our councilors, a board of our people who once served as your advisory committee, and the people who have been governing with me in your absence. While we had originally planned to not overwhelm you with a lot of names and faces, we felt that you should at least briefly meet these, especially as they have some minor concerns.”

“Concerns?” asked Max, shooting a worried look at the others.

Another member of the council spoke up. “It’s your parents, your majesties. They have noticed your absence, and while excuses have been made to your school, we are distressed that most of them don’t seem to be aware of the truth. For your own health, Majesties, we need to proceed with bonding each of you with your mates as soon as possible, but we need a parental representative for each of you to be there, to give their blessing. In short, we would like your Majesties permission to bring them all here.”

“All of them?” whispered Maria, looking first at Alex, then at Michael, and finally to Max. Max seemed to be in a state of shock at the question. Liz stepped closer to him and took his hand, sending a pleading look to Isabel.

“Do it,” commanded Isabel. Max turned to look at her, his fear in his eyes. “I know, Max. Me, too. But it needs to be done, and they’re probably worried about us,” she pleaded. He dropped his eyes, and, almost crushing Liz’s hand in his, gave a small nod. The councilors bowed and hurriedly left the room, leaving only Pievryth with the teens. He looked at Max.

“I know it will not be easy, Sire, but believe me, it is necessary. Now, if it pleases Your Majesties, I would like to spend some time today on Antarian history. I will try to make it as interesting as possible, but it is important for you to understand some more about our race and our people,” Pievryth said, gesturing them to the semi-circle of couches. He noticed that this time they sat in couples- Max sitting Liz so that she was cuddled right into his side, Michael with his arm casually around Maria, Alex holding one of Isabel’s hands between his, and Tess and Kyle apparently sitting casually, but touching each other just the same.

It was a long morning of history, and in the afternoon there was a class on cultural and courtly practices as well as one on the war that brought their eventual downfall. It wasn’t until after dinner that Pievryth re-entered the room.

“Your Majesties, your parents are here. They’ve been given an adjoining suite, similar to this one. They are awake and asking for you.”

The teens looked at each other, and, taking a deep breath, Max stood. The others followed automatically. “Let’s go.”
Last edited by Lou on Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Putting things right(CC, All, Mature) Ch 24 -13 March 2010

Post by Lou » Sat Mar 13, 2010 2:08 am

They were taken out of the room, across a corridor, and into a suite that was a mirror image of their own. Jim and Amy Valenti, Diane and Philip Evans, Jeff and Nancy Parker, and Charles and Susannah Whitman were all there, speaking to each other in worried tones.

“Thank God!” Diane Evans cried when she saw Max ushered into the room, followed by the others. The next few minutes became a confusing babble as each of the parents reassured themselves that their kids were ok.

Pievryth allowed them time to set their fears to rest, before calling them all to attention. “If you all wouldn’t mind taking a seat, I believe it is time to explain to you why we have gathered you here today.”

“Kidnapped, more like it,” muttered Charles Whitman rebelliously. The parents all found themselves seats in various locations, the only ones not clinging to their children were Charles Whitman and Jim Valenti. Pievryth indicated for Max to take the floor. Taking a deep breath, he disentangled himself from his mother and stood before all of them, looking at each of the parents for a long moment, casting a final glance at Isabel and then Liz for support, shoved his hands deep in his pockets, and spoke.

“The reason why you’ve all been brought here is because of us- myself, Isabel, Michael, and Tess. There’s something about us that we never told anyone until last year. We’re… well, we’re different.” By now, it seemed he was looking at the floor. Michael and Tess, without parents to look after, silently came and stood beside him, to offer him support. Diane was holding Isabel’s hand in a death grip, watching her son with compassion-filled eyes.

“What do you mean, different?” asked Nancy Parker, who wasn’t sure she liked the intense way her daughter was looking at him, or the look he sent back to her before answering the question.

“We’re not from around here. We may look like every-day, normal teenagers, but… we’re not.” Here he seemed to flounder for words. Isabel stood, gently removed her mother’s hand, and went to put her arm around her brother before she spoke.

“We’re aliens. I know it sounds far fetched and like we’re making it up, but it really is true, and we can prove it to you. Here,” she said, picking up a glass off the table and, with a wave of her hand, she molded it into a graceful glass swan. The parents gasped collectively. Isabel continued speaking. “Believe me when we say we aren’t evil or bent on world domination- all we’ve ever wanted is to be normal kids. But that’s not who we really are.”

Amy Valenti was the first to speak. “Aliens? Come on, guys, if you’ve been doing something you think we wouldn’t approve of, we can handle it. But coming up with this nonsense—Jim, you talk to them.”

“It’s true,” he responded, taking his wife by the hand. “I’d suspected ever since the shooting at the Crashdown, but over last summer there was some trouble with the FBI, and Kyle got shot, and Max healed him, and, well, I’ve been protecting them ever since.”

“You mean you really believe all of… this?” Jeff Parker demanded.

“The bird,” Diane Evans murmured to herself, looking at her son.

“Dad, he healed me, too. The day of the Crashdown shooting, last year. I really did get shot. That’s why they never found the bullet- Max healed me,” Liz said.

“Nonsense, Lizzie. You said yourself- you spilled ketchup, that’s all,” Nancy argued. Liz looked at her sadly.

“I promised Max I wouldn’t tell. He risked exposing himself by saving me, I had to keep the secret. I wanted to tell you a thousand times, and it’s broken my heart every time I had to lie to you, but you need to understand how important it was for me to not tell anyone,” she pleaded.

“Well, I think this whole thing is delightful,” Charles Whitman boomed, and looked scornfully at his son, who was standing with his mother. “My freakish son has finally found someone to be friends with who’s an even bigger freak than he is.”

“My children are not freaks!” Diane Evans began heatedly.

“Oh, yeah? There are thousands I bet would disagree. I bet we could get millions for turning them in. Only problem is, I don’t think any of you’d have the guts to do it, and no one would believe an old drunk like me. I’ll make you a deal. See, I always thought Alex was such a freak, it was best just to let him do his freaky thing on his own. Now I see that’s just lead him to more freaks. So let’s just agree that I won’t say anything, so long as none of you ever come near my kid again. Understand? Alex has to learn to put all this behind him and become a real man. I’m sending him to join the army like his brothers. Maybe then he’ll become a real man, instead of a wimp,” he turned to Pievryth next. “Now take me and my family home, or there will be trouble.”

Pievryth hesitated for just a second, and looked at Max, who looked at Alex, who nodded almost imperceptibly. Pievryth cleared his throat sadly. “Of course. This way, please,” he said, and ushered the Whitman family out into the corridor. Alex sent one last long look at Isabel before leaving. Pievryth was gone only for a few moments, and returned alone.

“Please, I want to assure you we never intended to hold you here against your will. We only wanted to bring you here because of the bonding ceremony.” In just a few words, he explained the betrothals, and the urgency they felt to go through with the bonding ceremonies.

Nancy Parker was the first to respond, and she did so heatedly. “So basically you’re saying that in order for them to go through one of your wedding rituals, so these kids can become more like your people, even though you’ve heard yourself that they just want to be normal, my daughter has to throw her life away? What about our customs, did you ever think of that?!”

“Mom, I want to do this. Please let me,” Liz pleaded. Max took an involuntary step forward, his eyes betraying the depth of his concern about this turn of events.

“No, Lizzie. I’m sorry, but I’m not letting you throw your life away out of a sense of debt. Yes, he may well have saved your life, and right now you think you’ll never feel the same about anyone else, but you are an extremely intelligent girl, with an incredibly promising future, and I am not going to sit back and watch you get yourself into something you’ll regret a few years down the track,” Nancy glanced at Jeff, and he nodded.

“Your mother’s right, Liz. I think it would be best for you to concentrate on your studies. Hopefully one day you’ll understand that this is all for your own good.” He turned to Pievryth, “Is there anything else we need to know, or can we leave now?”

Pievryth shook his head, and gestured to the door. Liz did not move.

“Elizabeth, come now please,” her mother commanded. Liz shook her head, a single tear spilling down her cheek.

“Please, you don’t understand. I love him,” she begged. Jeff and Nancy exchanged a look.

“Liz, I know that it feels that way now…” began Nancy, but Liz interrupted.

“This isn’t a passing fling, Mom.”

Jeff spoke then, using his sternest dad-voice. “Enough, Elizabeth. This has obviously gotten way out of hand, and it finishes now. I hate to say it, but Charles Whitman is probably right. From now on, I want you to have nothing to do with these people. You are not to so much as say hello to them if you pass each other at school. You may say goodbye to them now, but you are not to so much as speak to them again until graduation. I’ll be speaking to the school to make sure that this is carried out. If there is any breach of this, you will be sent to boarding school. Do I make myself clear? Good. Now, we’ll give you five minutes to say goodbye,” he said, and nodded to Pievryth to lead them out.

Liz turned to Max immediately, and he enveloped her in his arms. They clung to each other, not needing words to communicate their feelings. The others gathered round, and eventually she pulled away from Max and looked around her friends.

“I’ll miss you,” she said simply, and wiggled out of Max’s arms so she could hug Maria, then Isabel, Michael, Kyle, and finally, Tess. “Take care of each other,” she said sadly, and started for the door.

“Liz, wait!” Max called, and she stopped by the door, without turning around. He caught up to her and turned her to him. “You know I love you, right? You know I’ll wait for you, no matter how long it takes?” She nodded, a single tear running down her cheek.

“I love you, Max. I always will,” she whispered, and kissed him one last time, before finally pulling away and quietly leaving. Max stood and stared after her, his eyes filled with grief as she walked away. Maria came and put an arm around him, tears streaming down her face.

“That’s the second time she’s had to walk away from me,” he said, despair filling his tone.

“I know. But Max, this time you know it’s only for a while. You know she still loves you, and once she’s 18 she can do anything she likes.”

He nodded, turning back to his friends. The remaining six of them gathered in a huddle, and turned to the remaining parents, asking without words if the rest of them were to be separated, too. Jim Valenti they were sure of. Amy and the Evans had yet to react to anything in any concrete way.

Diane stood from the couch and took a step towards Max, her hand half-stretching towards him, as if of its own accord.

“I always knew you were special. Both of you. I’m so sorry, Max. Isabel,” she said, tears running down her face as she took another step towards her children. Isabel stepped into her mother’s embrace immediately.

“I just don’t understand why you felt you couldn’t tell us,” Diane whispered.

“We wanted to, a thousand times. We just didn’t know if it would be safe- for us or for you,” Isabel replied. She gave her mother another squeeze when they heard someone clearing their throat behind Diane. Isabel glanced up at Philip, who was standing behind his wife. Isabel released her mother to hug her father, and Diane turned to Max, who hadn’t moved.

“My poor boy,” she murmured, and drew him into her arms. The deep emotions had been building in Max over the past days finally bubbled to the surface as he felt release from his second-biggest fear, even as his biggest one was realized. His parents had found out about them and accepted them, even as Liz was taken from him. Diane cradled her quiet, reserved son in her arms as he gave way to deep sobs. Eventually he calmed himself, and Pievryth, who had returned after seeing the Parkers away, discreetly coughed. Diane and Max pulled apart, and everyone seated themselves on the couch.

“Mr. and Mrs. Valenti, it is now up to you. Will you allow these others to partake in the ceremonies?”

Amy looked at Jim, and then at Maria, who was unconsciously holding her breath. “Sweetie, is this something you really want to do? I’d just hate to see you in a relationship that might not last the distance.”

It was Michael who replied. “I know I might not look like much- just a high schooler with a part time job- but I promise you this. I will take complete care of your daughter. And I’ll do anything to prove it. Name a career- any career- and I will work to become the best in that field. Please. I need her.”

Amy was never sure whether it was Michael’s words, the look in his eye, or the way Maria came to him and put her arm around him like it was just meant to be there, that convinced her. She looked at Jim.

“Are you sure this is ok?”

He smiled. “If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about this bunch, they have the tenacity and the perseverance to pull off anything they put their minds to. They aren’t ordinary teenagers. I’m pretty sure that letting Maria go through with this is not only the wisest choice we can make for her happiness, it’s also the only way you’ll really get to keep your daughter.”

Amy nodded. “All right, then, I’m in.”

“Really?” Maria asked, eyes glowing. She left Michael to hug her mother. Michael looked like he’d just been given every Christmas present he’d ever asked for.

“And what about you two?” Jim demanded of Tess and Kyle. “I didn’t even know you were a couple!”

“Neither did we, until yesterday,” Kyle replied, throwing his arm casually around Tess. “I’m not sure how I feel about this alien voodoo thing, or even about essentially marrying my girlfriend when we’ve only been together two days, but… well… if that’s what’s got to be done, let’s do it.”

“It’s a big step, Kyle. I don’t want you doing this unless you’re sure,” his father advised.

Kyle looked at Tess, and tucked a stray blonde curl behind her ear. “Strangely enough, I am. If it was a human style wedding I’d have my doubts, but something tells me this is going to go way deeper, and I’ll never get the opportunity for this kind of relationship ever again.

Jim looked at Tess. “What about you? Think you can handle him?”

She smiled. “I’m not sure anyone can, but I’ll give it a shot. Besides, this way I get to be a part of the Valenti family for real.”

“There was never any doubt of that, Tess. Don’t feel like you have to do this just to be part of the family- as far as we’re concerned, you already are,” he smiled down at her.

“I know,” she said, and then looked up at Kyle, “It’s hard to explain, but right from the start, I’ve been drawn to Kyle. I fought it, but it’s always been there. And quite aside from the possible health side effects these guys keep worrying about, if there’s anything I’ve learnt about exploring my alien side, it’s when opportunities like this come up, often it’s wisest to take them.”

Jim nodded, satisfied. “Well, that’s the parental representatives of three of them giving permission. Michael—” his voice trailed off, not sure whether to offer to act as Michael’s guardian or not.

“I’ll stand in for Michael,” Diane Evans spoke. “I’ve always considered him to be my other son. That is- if you’ll have me?” she asked him, looking at Michael. He nodded, quickly masking the vulnerable look that flashed through his eyes. Maria whispered a “thank you” to Diane.

Amy the irrepressible spoke up then. “Just remember, kids- I don’t know where you’re at with your physical relationships, but just because you’re bonded to each other, doesn’t mean you should rush into having sex, ok? Just let it happen in it’s own time.”

An awkward silence fell over the group. Pievryth stepped forward in that moment, and cleared his throat. “Well, then, if you’d all like to come with me, I shall summon the council to act as witnesses, and we shall proceed with these two ceremonies.”

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Re: Putting things right(CC, All, Mature) Ch 24 - 13 March 2010

Post by Lou » Sun Jun 06, 2010 7:30 am

A/N: Here goes. And once again, thanks so much for the feedback, and so sorry about taking so long to update!!!


A few hours later, on a cliff over looking the camp, with thousands of stars overhead, Maria and Michael, and Tess and Kyle went through an Antarian bonding ceremony. Afterwards, a final conclave was held, at which it was agreed that all eight of them- even Liz and Alex- would be assigned bodyguards of some persuasion, mostly to keep watch for their enemies from a distance. Pievryth and Max and the other aliens had a quick consultation about ways to contact each other for emergencies, and agreed to meet regularly to discuss the needs of the rest of the Antarian people.

It wasn’t until the early hours of the morning that they were finally bundled into vehicles that bore them swiftly back to Roswell, New Mexico.

Both the Evans and the Valentis had excused their offspring from school for the remainder of the week, and the two households spent the time reacquainting themselves with each other and adjusting to their new lives with no secrets from their parents. It was agreed that Michael would give up his apartment and move in with the Valenti household- for now in his own room, but Amy was quick to say that it would be hypocritical of her to forbid them from furthering their relationships in their own time, and just to let her know when either couple felt the need to upgrade to a larger bed. She only begged them to take precautions as high school pregnancies would draw unwanted attention.

Both couples had a tough time adjusting to having another person inside their head all the time, especially when they were in close proximity. Particularly with Michael and Maria, it was very nearly explosive on occasion, but they also discovered it worked to their advantages, as they both showed up with trepidation to their Friday night shift at the Crashdown. Jeff pulled them aside briefly before they started, and reminded them that if their shift coincided with Liz’s, they were only to communicate on a work related level. However, she wasn’t scheduled to work that evening, and the usual Friday night dinner rush wouldn’t have allowed much chatter even if she had been there.

Jeff was impressed that evening at how fast the orders were getting out. It took Maria a little while to figure out that Michael being inside her head meant that he could hear what her customers were ordering, and he was able to start cooking before she had even brought the order to the kitchen. It also meant that she understood for the first time what affect her legs had on Michael, especially when covered only by a short Crashdown uniform. He smirked when she blushed, and deliberately spent the rest of their shift together thinking about it, in an attempt to distract her.

Tess and Kyle also had a lot of adjusting to do, at one point freaking Amy out by having what would have been a very loud argument over what TV channel to watch, with the only outward expression being that they were glaring at each other, and the occasional hand gesture from Tess.

Max and Isabel spent time with their parents, opening up to them fully about what they knew of their history, the extent of their powers, and what had really been going on in their lives, particularly since the shooting at the Crashdown. Philip and Diane were both amazed at just how much they had managed to keep hidden. A lot of tears were shed, and yet the Evan’s household had never felt so united, or so much at peace.

Liz had spent the weekend in her room or working at the Crashdown, too hurt by the total ban imposed on her by her parents to be able to spend any more time with them than absolutely necessary.

Monday was the real test, particularly for Isabel, Max, and Liz. Liz’s parents had contacted the school and asked them to advise the teachers that she was to be kept separate from her friends as much as was possible for the school to enforce. It was a strange feeling for Liz to pass Maria, Max, or any of the others in the hallways and not even so much as say hello. What was even stranger for all of them was that Alex’s father had apparently followed through on his threat, so Alex was not at school anymore.

There were two really awful moments at school that day. The first happened in Biology, where Max and Liz were quietly called forward and told they both had to find new lab partners. Their new teacher, Mr. Bradley, was apparently sympathetic- he knew how well they worked together- but the edict had come, and he had to follow orders.

The second happened at lunch. Max, Isabel, Michael, Tess, Maria, and Kyle all gathered in their usual spot under the tree- neither Kyle nor Isabel felt like sitting with their more popular friends today- and when Liz appeared she automatically headed for them, until she got about half way, when she stopped, looked at them for a long moment, then went and sat at an empty table, some distance away. Throughout lunch, all six of them felt their eyes drifting back to her lone figure. She was clearly trying to read, but she felt them watching her, and she kept glancing back at them.

She had history as her last class that day, which she shared with Maria. She arrived first, and settled herself in a different desk to usual. When Maria arrived, she walked down the aisle next to Liz’s chair, and seemingly accidentally dropped one of her books just as she was passing Liz’s desk. Liz watched her friend drop to her knees to pick it up, and slip a note into the outside pocket of Liz’s book bag. She looked up at Liz significantly as she stood, and made her way to a spare seat in the back of the class. Liz forced herself to wait exactly seven minutes, to avoid suspicion, before she casually took the note out, and, when the teacher next turned to the board, opened it and swiftly read the familiar scrawl.

They might be able to stop you from talking to us, or even passing notes back, but they can’t stop us from passing notes to you, so long as you’re careful about where they end up. I have so much to tell you! It’s totally the wrong time to be forcibly separated from my best friend. Michael and I, and Tess and Kyle, all went through with that thing we were talking about. I wish I could tell you what it’s like. You probably know some of it, at least, but it’s so much more…
Michael’s giving up his apartment and moving in- there’s one bedroom left. So there are now three couples in our household. Isabel spent lunch time chattering on about how good it is to have told her parents, I’m pretty sure to avoid any mention of Alex. Max… well… he misses you. We all do. How weird is it that Alex isn’t here? I stopped Isabel at the end of lunch and asked her about it directly, and she said she’d DW him tonight. Times like this, I wish I had that kind of Czechoslovakian ability. I just want to find out if he’s ok.
Any how, the purpose of this note is mostly to cheer you up, and let you know we love you, we miss you, and we’re thinking of you constantly. Even though the “Three Musketeers” might have been separated, remember, we’re still united in spirit.
Love from Me.”

Liz carefully folded the note up and slipped it into her pocket. Taking advantage of the fact that the teacher was taking her time with what she was writing on the board, she glanced back at Maria, and mouthed “Thank you!” and flashed her a smile. Maria grinned back, in total understanding.

“Good afternoon, Lizzie. How was school?” Nancy greeted her daughter as if it was any other normal school day. Liz simply looked at her mother, allowing the awful, aching loneliness and misery that had been haunting her all day to flash through her eyes for one brief moment, before deliberately masking it, and silently walking to her room. Shutting the door behind herself firmly, she carefully removed the loose brick where her journal lived, and slipped Maria’s note into the front cover. She then pulled out a text book, using homework as her excuse to stay in her room until it was time for her shift at the Crashdown. Her parents could force her not speak to her friends, but they couldn’t make her speak to them. Liz had to blink back tears that forced the equations on the page in front of her swim. Her world had become a silent one.

Isabel had been feeling herself getting more and more worried all day, as evidence stacked up that Alex truly had been pulled out of school. After her short conversation with Maria at the end of lunch, she determined to dreamwalk him that night, something she had been avoiding since his father had taken him away. She wasn’t sure if it was shyness or a wish to avoid invading his privacy that had kept her, but she couldn’t take it any more.

She settled herself on her bed, and as she traced a photo of him with her finger and felt herself slipping into the dream, she promised herself she would only slip into the back ground and observe, basking in just being there with him, at least initially. Through years of practice, she was able to slip in and out of even Max and Michael’s dreams without them being any wiser.

Thus she was surprised when Alex’s dream melted away around her as she entered, and he turned and looked right at her.

“You came! I was worried you weren’t going to. I’ve been to sleep early every night, but I was worried you wouldn’t come!” he greeted her, coming forward to embrace her.

“How did you know I was here?” she asked as she settled herself into his arms. He kissed the top of her head before he replied.

“I think the octhar boosts our ability to feel each other. I knew the moment you arrived here. I know it’s only been a few days, and I hope this doesn’t sound pathetic- or at least, more pathetic than usual, but- I’ve missed you, Isabel.”

“I’ve missed you, too. I was back at school today, and when I realized you weren’t there…” her arms tightened a little more around him.

Alex drew back from her. “Dad’s following through on his threat, Isabel. I’m being sent away to military training tomorrow.”

“So you’re really going?” she asked him.

“I was thinking about it, and I know I could get out of it, but think about how useful some basic army training could be.”

“Alex, you don’t have to…” she began, but he cut her off.

“I know. But if these enemies of yours show up looking for trouble, I don’t want to be the geek in the computer lab. I want to be capable of taking care of you.”

“You really want to do this?” she asked him.

“At least the basic training. It’s only three months, and then we’ll see where we are. I’m not going to let them send me overseas or anything. I’ll be 18 in two months, and if I do summer school this year I can still graduate. It’s a bit backwards, but sometimes life’s like that.”

“Will you be near enough for me to dreamwalk you?”

“With the octhar boosting our connection? Maybe. I wouldn’t suggest doing it every night, because I want to be able to concentrate on training, and I think I’ll be pretty tired- but I think I’ll go nuts if I don’t hear from you regularly.”

She smiled. “I’ll try to keep it to once a week. Oh, and I’m meant to tell you, Pievryth wants to assign you a body guard. Don’t be surprised if one of your training buddies turns out to be other-worldly. Don’t worry, whoever it is under strict orders not to treat you any differently than any other person, unless your life really is in danger. You probably won’t even know who it is until they take a bullet for you, so to speak.” She tried to laugh at her own joke, but it sounded hollow even to her own ears. She bit her lip and hung her head, unwilling to show him how close she was really to crying. Alex, being Alex, knew anyway, and tilted her chin up so he could look into her eyes. Unable to maintain her defenses against the pure love radiating from his eyes, tears began to roll down her cheeks. He gathered her back into her arms, and rocked her gently.

“It’s ok, Is. It’s only for a short time, and if you can still dreamwalk me, then we won’t even really be apart.”

She nodded. “It’s just been a really hard day, what with finding out about you, and the whole thing with Liz.” She filled him in briefly on the Parker’s reaction to things, and on the two bonding ceremonies that had taken place. Alex gave a low whistle.

“I always kind of assumed that Max and Liz would be the first to go through with something like that,” he explained. She nodded.

“I know. I had hoped we would get to, too,” she sighed. He smiled down at her.

“Me, too. But there’s still time. I really think that if Dad wasn’t around, my mother would be happy to go through with the bonding ceremony. But he won’t let her, and she won’t stand up to him.”

“So, we wait?”

“For now. And when I’m back from training, we’ll both be 18 and Dad can’t legally stop me from doing anything, and we’ll talk my mom into it then. Your parents are ok with everything?”

She smiled. “I’ve wanted to tell them for so long. We spent the weekend together as a family, and I got to tell Mom about everything. It was the most amazing thing. She’s totally on our side, Alex. She really likes you, especially after the whole Grant thing.”

Alex pulled her closer. “It won’t be long, Isabel. I promise you that.”

The days that followed continued in a similar pattern. Isabel went back to sitting with her other friends at lunch, and Kyle and Tess alternated between the jocks-and-cheerleaders table and sitting with Max, Michael, and Maria, who continued to sit under their favourite tree in the corner of the courtyard. Liz, after that first awful day, no longer appeared at lunchtime, and it was several days before Max was able to discover that she had taken to going to the school library in her lunch hour, apparently to study.

Her face grew more and more pale, and dark circles appeared under her eyes. Of course, the rumour mill was buzzing with it all- that Tess and Kyle were now an item was obvious, but Alex’s sudden disappearance and Liz’s complete break with her friends were causing all kinds of wild conjectures to fly. Isabel, when asked about it by her popular friends, turned on the Ice Princess act with such a severity that they dropped the subject around her completely, although, of course, this caused them to talk about it all the more when she wasn’t there.

With all the extra study she was doing, Liz ought to have been getting ahead in class, however, while her teachers could give her full credit for her homework and even for studying ahead of the rest of her classes, they found that her attention in class wandered, that she was unprepared to answer when called on, and seemed to be drawing further and further inside of herself. In the staff room they talked about her openly, but were unable to come up with a way to help her while still respecting her parent’s instructions.

Alex, meanwhile, was throwing himself into his training with everything he had. He was by far the geekiest recruit in his squad- all the rest were built like Kyle and had clearly been jocks at school. Their drill sergeant seemingly decided from the moment Alex stepped off the bus to single him out and make his life a living hell. Alex, with the vision of Isabel before him, and being used to his father’s constant slurs his whole life, carried out his training and orders with infuriating willingness. This made the drill sergeant push him further than any of the others in a determination to break him, but Alex was not to be broken. He knew that any pain he went through here was preparation for what might be to come, and the knowledge that he had a beautiful princess waiting for him kept him strong. She dream walked him regularly, and this only encouraged him to keep his true self in a place where no drill sergeant could touch him.

Through the training he became stronger, naturally. He was mostly wiry muscle anyway, with scarcely any fat on him, but now that those muscles were being regularly used, he gradually began to fill out. He was easily ahead of his fellow recruits in the theory classes they had, and with the extra attention he was receiving from the drill sergeant, he was quickly rising to the top of his class, although of course he was unaware of this- in typical army style they only showed approval through giving him even greater challenges. Through rain and mud, as well as scorching sun, he gave his training everything he had within himself, and never let himself complain to his fellow recruits. They mostly ignored him, until one of them found a photo of Isabel. When he explained that she was his girlfriend- a fact only half of them believed- they finally started to allow him into their circle.

It was about three weeks after they had returned from the desert that the Sheriff popped into the Crashdown to pick up Maria’s keys to the jetta- they were finding they had to juggle the vehicles a lot more now that they had six drivers in the household- when he was hailed by a familiar voice.

“Jim Valenti! It’s been a while!”

Jim turned, and, seeing who was speaking to him, smiled, and shook the man’s hand. “Andy Bradley! Long time, no see! How’re you doing?”

“Have a seat! Oh, the usual. I’m kept on my toes at the school. Lisa’s started working part time at Smith and Johnson’s, now that Emma’s at school, and the twins will be starting middle school next year. How about you?”

“I got married a couple of weeks ago- I suppose you might’ve heard? So Amy and her daughter Maria have moved in with us. And I’m now Tess Harding’s guardian, too, and we’ve taken in another friend of theirs, Michael Guerin, as a boarder, so my household feels like it’s been rapidly expanding. It’s been good though.”

“Ah, yes, I occasionally see one or two of that crowd of theirs in my classes. They seem close.”

“They are. Without going into details, they’ve been through a lot this last year or so. But I couldn’t ask for better friends for my Kyle.”

“Liz Parker used to be good friends with Maria, didn’t she? Perhaps you could shed some light on something for me, Jim. Do you know anything about why the school has been told to keep my top biology student from even speaking to her friends? I only ask because of the negative effect it’s having on her schoolwork.”

Jim hesitated, aware of the fact that he was discussing Jeff Parker’s affairs in his own café, not to mention knowing that anything to do with his son’s friends required words to be chosen carefully. “All I can tell you is that there was a… situation… a couple of weeks ago, and the Parkers decided that it would be better for Liz to be kept away from her friends, under threat of boarding school. Basically, they felt her friends were gaining too big an influence over her, particularly her boyfriend, and this was a knee-jerk reaction in an attempt to save her from herself. I know it’s been making Maria miserable.”

“The boyfriend is Max Evans, right? I was given orders to separate them in my class- they were lab partners. He seems like such a sensible kid- the kind most parents wouldn’t mind dating their daughters.”

Jim nodded. “Max is a great kid. He has a lot in him, and he and Liz are good for each other, in my opinion. He cares very deeply for her.”

Andy nodded. “I’ve noticed his attention slipping since I had to separate them. Not that it does much good. He now spends half my class trying not to look like he’s staring at her. They were both more attentive before they were separated.”

“I suppose you wouldn’t be able to put them back together?” Jim asked “It seems like the obvious thing to do, when both of their grades are slipping, as you say.”

“No can do. Her parents were quite firm about it. But there’s more than one way to skin a cat- or teach biology, for that matter. You really think they’d to better if they worked together?”

Jim nodded a firm yes, glancing across the room where Liz was working, pale faced and miserable. “I think they would both love you forever if you tried. And work for you as a result.”

“Well, in that case, I’ll see what I can do,” Andy smiled, and the conversation drifted on to other matters, before Jim glanced at his watch and was forced to go. Andy Bradley finished his coffee, and stopped to have a quick chat to Jeff Parker as he paid his bill, briefly gesturing to Liz. Jeff seemed to think things over for a moment, before finally nodding. Andy left a decent sized tip, and headed out the door.

The next day, Liz was summoned to Mr. Bradley’s desk at the end of the period. Biology had been right before lunch that day, so most of the students vanished early- only Max was lagging behind, taking his time putting his books away so that he could legitimately spend just a little longer in the same room as Liz.

“I was talking to your father the other day, Liz, and I have to say, I’m a little concerned about your grades lately. There are several very good scholarships you might be eligible for at the end of the year, but you need to keep working very hard. So I want to know if you’d be available for extra tutoring after school a couple of days a week? Your father has agreed to it. Of course,” he swept on, not giving Liz a chance to answer, “It would be completely inappropriate for me to give you any tutoring without anyone else around. In this day and age it violates all kinds of school policies.” His eyes drifted to Max, and apparently an idea flashed in his mind. “How about you, Mr. Evans? Are you free for an hour after school on, say, Mondays and Thursdays? Excellent! I’ll see you both after school today for our first lesson.” He nodded to them briefly, and swept out of the room. A moment later, his head popped back around the door.

“Given the current situation, I should probably advise you both to not broadcast this arrangement. But you probably know that.” He grinned and disappeared, leaving Max and Liz looking at each other across the empty biology room.

“Did Mr. Bradley just blatantly set us up?” Max asked with one of his crooked smiles. Liz smiled back, her long look telling Max what an effort it was for her to keep her parent’s command, and turned to gather her things. He came over to her, and stood behind her, so close she could feel his body heat radiating from him, yet without any physical contact. She straightened up and turned to look at him, communicating her longing to him with one look. He began to lean into her when they again heard Mr. Bradley’s voice at the door, unusually loud.

“Why, HELLO, Ms Hemming! How ARE you today?”

“I think that’s our signal. I’ll see you this afternoon. I love you,” he whispered, and moved to the door.

“I love you, too,” she breathed, shutting her eyes against the tears that threatened. He turned and looked at her for one last moment, before clenching his fist in frustration, and slipping out of the room.

The moment the final bell went that afternoon, Liz raced for her biology room. She’d been so excited all afternoon, she’d barely been able to concentrate on her other work. It had been three weeks since she had had a proper conversation with anyone she was close to, and the thought of even being in the same room as Max was enough to make her dizzy. She waited impatiently for the last of Mr. Bradley’s freshman class to file out, before slipping into the room, her eyes dancing with expectancy. He smiled a greeting, and motioned for her to sit at one of the front work benches. A moment later, Max slipped into the room. Mr. Bradley pulled out at tall, narrow poster of the human skeleton and stuck it to the window of the door, so that casual passers-by could not see into the room. He then sat down at his desk, and leaned forward.

“The deal is as follows. For exactly half an hour, I am going to give you intensive advanced coaching in biology. It is hard work, but I know you are both capable of it. In exactly half an hour, I am going to receive an urgent phone call from my wife which will require my full attention, which I will take in the corridor, directly outside of this room. I expect this phone call to last for a duration of 20 minutes. At the end of those twenty minutes, I will return to set you extra homework questions and answer any questions you might have, and then Mr. Evans will take these text books back to the library, and Miss Parker will go directly home- thus you will be seen leaving the school buildings at different times and from different directions. But I do expect you both to work- it’s the only way for this arrangement to work. Are we understood? Good. Let’s get stuck into it.”

The next half hour was hard work, as he had promised. Andy Bradley was a good teacher who knew his subject thoroughly, and he truly desired to see these two promising students excel. But he also knew how much a little incentive could mean to these two teenagers. The three of them were concentrating so hard, they all jumped when Mr. Bradley’s mobile phone rang.

“That time already! You’ve worked hard. Excuse me, I have to take this,” he said, and, picking up the phone, he left the room, shutting the door firmly behind him.