Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 60 9/4/21 (WIP)

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behrinthecity
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Part 60

Post by behrinthecity » Sat Sep 04, 2021 11:22 am

Thank you everyone for your patience and support. I bring you FINALLY Part 60. Response to your feedback in the following post.


Previously…

[From Max in the City]

Blinding blue light danced before Max’s eyes.

There was an uncomfortable tingling in the back of his head as the emissary used him as a projector. But he was unable to protest—to even utter a word— as the light took definitive shape: five stars in an asymmetrical ‘v’.

Internally, he thought, this was inside of him? What did it mean?

Before he could order his thoughts, the emissary spoke and shoved a paper in front of him to sign.

“Sign here… your highness.”

Max paused and pointedly regarded this “emissary”. Deciding not to say anything, he scribbled his name and received a receipt in return.

Still in a daze over what just happened, he watched in confusion as the man closed his briefcase and walked away.

What just happened? He looked down at the paper in his hands. A time card??

What did this mean?


Rath seemed joyous—crowing how Max had passed and was the king.

Deep down he wondered if that was a good thing.



The whole room looked at the little smug imp at the head of the table as he spoke. Max knew there was nothing good about the deal Nicholas offered—more for the fact that Nicholas was offering it, but as he heard the conditions, he did not see what the difference would be to the current contentious stalemate among all the worlds. And then he listed the third condition: “Most importantly... Max returns the Granolith to us.”



“…Max comes home with the Granolith. All is forgiven. Do we have a deal?”

Max’s gut reaction was screaming to say no. But he chose the diplomatic answer by asking for more time. He thought it was daunting enough to have an entire planet waiting for him to rescue them, but now it was the fate of five planets that rested on his shoulders?

And what was this Granolith? Why was it so important?



“There was something Liz said...just before we left. She told me the Granolith could be dangerous if it fell into the wrong hands,” Max confided to Tess.

Tess was expectedly skeptical, “how does she know that?”

Frustratedly, Max commented, “she wouldn't say.”

Tess reasoned, “but she's never even seen the Granolith.”

Having had the same mental debate, Max responded, “I know. I know. But I just keep thinking about it...the way she said it...she seemed so sure. I just don't know what to do.”

Silently, he pondered, do I intertwine our lives with this… Granolith?

[From Part 4]

Isabel realized the house was still dark. She quickly flipped on the lights and quietly moved around the house to check for any possible intruder. She listened carefully for any noise, finally hearing something as she neared Liz’s room. Not wanting to surprise her, she called out to her, “Li—Stephanie?” almost forgetting to call her by her alias. After all, in this town they were sisters—Stephanie and Hillary Carter, with matching blonde hair and hazel eyes.

[From Part 13]

Michael hadn’t realized he had been staring off into space for so long that he was startled by a voice. “Excuse me, but are you Ray Harris?”

Regarding the couple in front of him, he guardedly replied, “Yeah.”

They glanced at each other with broad smiles. Then the female gushed on, “We love your paintings. Every one of them is beautiful. Whatever inspired you…it’s just, amazing. Anyway, we were wondering if you would mind giving us an autograph?”

[From Part 27]

in the distance Max saw something flash.

The occurrence was so brief that he could not process what had happened, but then it appeared again… and this time it stayed.

It was a light, building upon itself, its glow intensifying with every moment passed.

Blue began to reach out towards him, ridding him of the darkness but not his fear.

Caught between two hells of blinding light, he remained captive within his mind. He was unable to speak, to move, to awake from this nightmare.

And then a low voice spoke, filled with a lust for power, for vengeance.

Kill them.

“No!” he managed to cry out into the dark blue haze, averting his gaze from the still building light.

Destroy them. Live once more.

“I can’t. I won’t,” he continued to protest, attempting to shun the monster that strengthened every day.

Unleash the power you once wielded— the power you still hold.

“I’m not like that. I’m not like you!” he screamed back, his desperation and fear evident.

[From Part 30]

Opening her necklace, Liz slipped the ring on, allowing the symbol of love to touch her heart. Placing her hand over where it lay, she breathed slowly, concentrating on her memories of Max. Still upon her knees, she whispered with absolute determination, “Hold on Max. We’ll find you. I promise—we’ll find you.”

[From Part 45]

Having received no response from any of them, Max softly implored Liz, “I did... right?” There was such vulnerability in his wavering voice, and in the way he briefly glanced at her hidden hands, searching for any glinting trace of the ring.

Her mind thrown back into gear by his words, she rushed to reassure him. Her arms flinched as she fought the instinct to reach out to him, to show she remembered that amazing night, and that she still had the ring. Instead she nodded vigorously, offering him an affirming smile, “Yeah...” A blush crept upon her cheeks as she remembered that night... and how close they had come to finally cementing.

[From Part 47]

Curled up in the corner of the bathtub, Max continuously shook, his hands covered, once more, by jagged green light, struggling to still his jerking head.

All three of them called out to him but only Michael’s voice was strong enough for Max to hear. With great difficulty, Max lifted his head, his hands lowering to hug his knees.

His eyes were completely black.

Michael gasped along with Isabel and Liz, soon following it with a barely audible curse. Having somewhat expected this, he recovered faster than the girls. Stepping forward, he never registered the slight physical change in Max—the regal lifting of his chin, the narrowing of his eyes and the raising of his left hand.

Michael flew back, accosted by a shimmering green shield. He landed heavily against the bed, quickly helped to his feet by Isabel and Liz.

“What the hell was that?” Maria cried out, having just joined the others in the room with Kyle.

All three turned to her, their eyes filled with fear. Only Michael’s was devoid of confusion. With another glance at the energy shield flickering in intensity, its shade turning increasingly blue, he answered, “That’s not Max.

[From Part 53]

Max was standing his arm outstretched to hold Cal in place. His eyes were black, and head tilted to the side. “You. I should have known. It wasn’t enough you ruined my coronation, but this… the torture and humiliation? Max Evans may have refused to fight back, but you’re dealing with me now.”

Cal futilely pushed at the shield, gasping for air, a spark of recognition, fear and resentment glittering in his eyes. He heard faded voices shouting in the background as his vision began to cloud.

“Max, you’re not a killer! Stop!!” Liz pounded against the shield that blocked them all from entering the living room.

“No, he isn’t,” Max’s voice was a low threatening rumble.

[From Part 59]
The Granolith is no place for a child, an unborn one no less.

With a sigh, Max peered through the darkness expecting the blue light to appear.

Darkness remained.

Pressure built in Max’s chest as he anxiously wondered what the voice meant. “What do you mean? What happened to my son? I thought it was just a way home,” Max cried out.

It’s much more powerful than that.

Confused, Max began to ask what that meant, but then the darkness lifted to reveal the swirling energy of the granolith.

It embodies great potential and power but should only be wielded by its guardian. Used right it can bring prosperity, abused it can lead to disaster.

Max stared in awe as the granolith shifted into various scenarios showing a flourishing kingdom with bountiful food, miraculous healing, and impressive structures. Throughout he noticed a single figure standing in the center of it all—his past self, he surmised.

As the coloured energy receded into darkness, he called out, “You’re the guardian?”

As are you.

His stomach sank in realization. If he had gone with Tess, his son might have survived.

He never should have entered the Granolith.

The interjection stopped his usual downward spiral of guilt. Though he was still wary of his alien side, he appreciated being privy to some memories of his past life. Perhaps it would help him prepare for the coming war Cal warned him about.

Protect the Granolith.

It was a phrase Max had heard multiple times before. Not masking the irritation and bitterness in his tone, Max retorted, “What good will it actually do? All it’s done is brought betrayal and pain.”

Used wisely, it will bring success to you all.

Frustratedly, Max stated, “I followed the book… the manual Alex translated—”

The voice interrupted, You don’t need the book. It doesn’t reveal everything. Only the guardi—

Max asked hotly, “And how do I figure out how to use it?”

In response, Max was suddenly blinded by blue light. Lifting his hand to shade his eyes, Max stared at his seal. He could feel it drawing him closer compelling him to reach his hand out to it.



Kivar seeks to destroy all that you love before he finishes you. The first time he had them betray me. This time… it will be their lives.

Max bowed his head, resigned.

“Hey, you okay?” Isabel placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Yeah…” he trailed off unsure what to say.

Gesturing to his hand, Isabel asked permission to connect. Tiredly, Max nodded.

In moments, she knew all the sorrow and concerns weighing on his mind.

She blinked back tears and sniffed not wanting to draw Jeff and Amy’s attention.

In a quiet voice she assured Max, “We’re not going anywhere, Max.”

Gratitude and guilt swam in his eyes as he held her gaze.

Grasping his hand Isabel mentally sent the thought, You’ll see, Max. Give them the choice.


PART SIXTY

Cal’s home
Later that day


Ephemeral.

It was the word that captured Max’s world after Pierce. Everything that had followed only added to his sense that nothing would last and had made him even more desperate to hold on to and keep things as they were.

But that had left him alone and easily manipulated.

And then he had been consumed with the search for his son at the detriment of everyone.

When he had woken up in the white room—he accepted that that was his deserved fate.

Though his senses insisted differently. As he observed the vibrant surroundings around him, everything he felt, smelled, and tasted seemed tantalizingly real. But he still couldn’t believe it. He kept expecting to be woken up to his barren reality—the one he was told was the last thing he’d ever see… ever know.

But his hopelessly hopeful heart, beat faster and stronger as he took in the sight of his loved ones.

His desperate fantasies of everyone being alive, healthy, and happy played out around him coaxing him to believe. Every smile he received; every hug that enveloped him, beckoned him closer like a beacon guiding a ship home.

But his scarred mind would always draw him back.

Alone, his thoughts were quick to plunge into dark suffocating silence. The only sounds were the harsh whispers of his captors reminding him that there was nowhere to go; no one left to care.

He would lower his head, weighed down by the berating. His fists would begin to clench, matching the tight knot in his gut. The all too familiar sense of despair would fill his very being. He felt unmoored and that at any moment he would fall.

But then he would hear the soft call of dada.

Breath ragged, he began to search wildly for his son, momentarily forgetting it wasn’t real.

Warm fingers delicately wrapped around his hand. He started at the touch, but soon calmed down as he once more drank in the sight of Liz. She watched him carefully, asking, “You okay?”

Not trusting his voice, he nodded.

She stood trapped in his gaze for a moment, the raw pain in his eyes temporarily robbing her of any thought.

Her thumb rubbed his hand in comfort, though it felt woefully inadequate. Still holding his hand, she gently led him to their room.

Surprisingly, her parents had not mentioned any disapproval at them sharing a room. Her mother’s comment the night before had filled her with warmth knowing they were happy for her and Max to finally marry.

The question left was when.

Glancing at him, she saw him staring out the French window connecting to a sprawling patio. Idly she mused at the sheer wealth Cal had amassed as a movie producer. Studying Max, she noticed the slight slump in his shoulders and the continued tension in his back. Weariness still emanated from his every pore.

Knowing he wouldn’t agree readily to resting, she decided on a different tactic. “If you think that’s impressive, you gotta check out the jacuzzi tub in the bathroom.”

Jerking his head towards her, he gave her a confused smile.

Tugging on his arm she coaxed, “Come with me.”

Half an hour later she smiled at the sight of Max enjoying the jet massage, his eyes closed in bliss. She gently closed the door pleased her idea had worked. For a moment she had worried the tub had somehow triggered a flashback, but with a shake of his head he willingly entered the aromatherapy scented water.

Max sighed as he felt his muscles relax under the gentle pressure of the jets. His nose filled with the soothing scent of whatever oil Liz had poured into the water. The subtle woodsy scent ensured his memories of the deprivation tank stayed locked away in his mind. When he had seen the obsidian black tub in front of him, his mind kept shying away from it despite its obvious differences from the metallic, coffin-like tank.

Most importantly, there was nothing suffocating about this tub.

His mind drifted, lulled by the gentle massage.

He found himself in a lush forest. “This way Zan…” a soothing women’s voice guided. Following after her, he suddenly was filled with the knowledge that she was his mother, and she was about to pass on vital information about the Granolith. But as he stepped up the uneven trail, his hand reaching out to a tree for balance, he was suddenly left grasping at air. Looking around he saw darkness stretched out in all directions, but then a light began to shimmer. The five blue stars that made up his royal seal twinkled before him. It drew him like a moth to a flame. His hand was splayed out; fingers tantalizingly close to the center of the glittering royal seal.

Feel the power…
the low voice of his alien side reverberated.

Max’s eyes snapped open.

The water was still; the jets having powered down. He lifted a hand out of the water to run it down his face. The dream left him unsettled dissipating any relaxation the bath had accomplished. Quickly rinsing off, he changed his clothes and joined Liz back in the room.

Entering the bedroom, he spied Liz putting down a pen and moving a notebook to the side. Despite the uneasiness the dream had left in him, he had to smile at Liz’s enduring journaling.

Tucking her hair behind an ear, her eyes sparkled as she met him with an expectant smile, “Feeling more rested?”

He nodded, silently conceding that his muscles were far more relaxed.

Liz crinkled her eyebrow at Max’s nonverbal response. Studying him carefully, she released a sorrowful sigh. Patting the area on the bed net to her, “Tell me about it?” she asked.

Having focused on his feet, he suddenly faced her in surprise at her request.

Captured by the sincerity, love, and concern shining from her eyes, Max found himself automatically nodding.

After settling down by her, he quietly admitted, “I think… my alien side is trying to…” He looked up at her. “…takeover again.”

Liz instantly sat up straight. “What?” she gasped out. Immediately, she placed her hands on his face and scrutinized his eyes for any hint of pitch darkness.

Tenderly holding her hands, he elaborated, “The last two times I fell asleep… I dreamed about the seal. There was some force that seemed to draw me closer to connect.”

“And if you were to do that, you think your alien side would be completely in charge,” Liz surmised.

Max jerkily nodded. “It tried to do that when… I was in there. It kept wanting me to use my powers… to kill,” he confessed.

Liz started to rub Max’s back in comfort.

“The thing is… I’m not sure I can fight it anymore.” Holding Liz’s worried gaze, Max continued, “There’s information that could help us… protect us,” there was a desperate plea for her to understand why he was tempted to let his alien side finally win. Lowering his gaze, his eyelashes touching the crest of his cheeks, he revealed the catch, “but I won’t know until I… connect.”

Liz observed Max for an extended moment. She could sense his hesitancy of giving fully into his alien alter ego, but at the same time, his palpable need to keep everyone protected. “Is there any other way to find out that information?”

“Maybe,” Max responded breathlessly. “It has to do with the Granolith.”

“But it was destroyed after Tess used it to go back.” Liz looked shrewdly at Max. “Right?”

“Maybe not,” Max answered pensively.

Releasing a silent sigh, Max continued, “The voice I hear… said it’s incredibly powerful. That what we used it for doesn’t even touch its potential.”

Liz ruminated on his words for a moment. Thinking out loud, “So you think it’s still there under the rockface? That it wasn’t just the ship Tess flew off in?”

“Apparently that’s not one of the uses of the Granolith.”

Liz looked at Max in consternation. “But we saw something shoot out—” She stopped herself in realization. “Another mindwarp?” she bit out tiredly.

Max slightly shrugged unsure and equally tired at yet another possible act of duplicitousness from Tess.

“But she crashed in a ship. That was real.”

Max slowly nodded, his mind spinning with questions on what really happened when he thought Tess went back. Finally, he offered a theory, “She may never have left Earth, which would explain Zan…” he broke off unable to say his son’s fate out loud. “I’m not sure where she found that ship, but well it is possible other ships have been hidden around the world.”

Liz slowly nodded in agreement. “Seems more plausible than her actually going to your planet and coming back within a year, especially given what Cal told us about how long it actually takes to travel by ship.” She gave Max a wry expression.

Despite the tense subject matter, Liz’s face made Max laugh.


A few hours later

After a hearty meal provided by Jeff, Nancy, and Diane, Max softly excused himself and pointedly ignored the concerned gazes from everyone. The entire meal, his mother had doted on him. Numerous times he had caught her staring at him. And so, he focused on the food with the intention of finishing quickly.

Fortunately, they did not follow him. Lost in his thoughts he wandered around the surrounding grounds, but soon enough found himself once more by the pool. He stared into the water sightlessly, the light blue tiles of the pool making him think again of the seal within his mind.

Hearing footsteps, he turned towards whoever had joined him. Slight relief flashed on his face upon seeing it was Cal.

“Was wondering when you’d come back,” Max mumbled.

With a slight roll of his eyes, Cal responded, “Finding new identities is not the easiest task.”

“Does that mean—”

“I’ve got options for you all. With how big of a change this all will be and with so many of you, I figured I’d let you all have a choice.”

Max gave a weak smile to Cal. He appreciated how much trouble the protector had gone to, but the reminder of just how much of a change this would require the others to acclimate to once more stirred up his guilt.

Cal’s heavy hand on his arm startled Max out of guilt-ridden reverie. “Trust me, it’ll be all right. You want them safe, don’t you?” Though the protector had at first spoken quietly and sincerely, he couldn’t help adding a facetious comment to break through Max’s dour mood.

Ever the serious one, Max only gave a curt nod in acknowledgment.

Cal released a little huff of laughter and shook his head at Max’s inability to lighten up. After a moment, Cal turned towards the house.

Not wanting to lose his opportunity, Max called out. “Cou— Wha—” Max stammered to broach his question. At Cal’s quizzical look, he finally ground out, frustration with himself evident in his tone, “Tell me what you know about the Granolith.”

Though the usual regal imperiousness was absent from Max’s command, the clear direction in the words compelled Cal to immediately answer. “It’s considered a religious artifact back in our solar system. It would shift among the five planets but has been under your family’s care for some generations. I don’t know that much about the history, but you were the last rightful ruler.” Cal’s voice was monotone, but his long-held resentment couldn’t help sneaking in a little snideness in his tone.

Blackness flickered in Max’s eyes at Cal’s petulance.

Cal’s eyes flashed with panic, his throat tightening at the memory of his treatment at the hands of Zan. He spoke hastily to appease the deposed alien king before he fully took over Max again. "The actual powers and uses were shrouded in secrecy.” Cal shrugged.

Max nodded, slowly processing what Cal had said. Not wanting to reveal his cards yet, he asked, “What do you know of its current location?”

“Last I heard, it was in your possession.” Cal’s eyebrows rose knowingly.

Max stared out once more at the pool. “I thought it was gone with Tess when she left,” he began, his voice sounding faraway. “But it seems possible it’s still where it’s always been…” Max trailed off unsure how much more to say.

“I can send some scouts to check, if you’d like,” Cal suggested, his tone thick with curiosity.

Max turned to face Cal, sizing him up and his suggestion. After an extended moment he gave a curt nod in assent. Looking out at the pool again, he added, “Michael will draw a map to it.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Cal responded. Observing Max for a moment, Cal truly hoped Max would allow himself to rest once everything was settled. It was the main reason he rushed to get the alternative identities underway. Turning on his typical smarmy attitude, he asked, “Ready to hear about your new life?”


Twenty minutes later
Event room


Cal had them all convene in the room they had slept in the previous night. With the bedding gone, it became obvious this was a multipurpose room allowing for any form of event or entertainment. Currently, it was filled with stylish sofas and recliners—the latter of which Michael and Kyle quickly claimed. The rest of them settled on the remaining seats; Liz joining by Max’s side.

Liz steadfastly held on to Max’s hand— her thumb gently rubbing circles on his. While the meals and bath in the jacuzzi tub had made Max feel marginally better, Liz could feel slight tremors in his taut body. Releasing his hand, she grabbed the throw on the sofa and placed it on Max’s shoulders. But he immediately shrugged it off, sitting tensely on the edge of the seat. Max’s head remained bent as he averted meeting anyone’s gaze. Only at the sound of Cal clearing his throat did he look up.

Passing out sheets of paper Cal spoke, “This is the latest update of witsec identities. You don’t necessarily have to use these, but these identities are already prepared and verified in the system. Alternatively, I can confirm you would be able to successfully set up your own identities.” Regarding Isabel and Liz, he praised, “I must say, I’m very impressed with your work ladies. Anybody looking would be hard pressed to find anything suspicious about your identities. The question is, do you still want to be Hillary and Stephanie?”

Isabel and Liz shared a weighted glance. They had gotten used to the aliases, but that life had been one without Max. A life of sorrow and feeble attempts to move forward. Now they had a new chance to start afresh with all their loved ones around them. But… would it work to mesh the two lives together? Isabel had to admit she loved her classes and enjoyed spending time with her classmates. Facing Cal, she asked carefully, “What would be the alternative?”

“This.” Cal brandished a list. “It’s a list of identities prepared for those in witness protection. Take a look and see if anything suits you. You’ll notice there are families included in the list as well.” He gave a meaningful look to each parent.

Reaching into his briefcase, Cal pulled out copies of the list and handed them out to them all.

With a small snort, Kyle exclaimed, “Eric and Erika King?! And they’re not siblings? What are the odds?”

Cal smirked having had the same reaction. “That pairing does seem a bit too memorable and besides King would be too on the nose to have associated with anyone related to Max,” Cal mused out loud.

Max merely nodded, as he continued reading through the list. This whole time he had been trying to ignore the taunting whispers of the head agent—No matter what you call yourself we know what you are…

For a moment his vision blurred. Blinking he refocused on the names in front of him. It seemed presumptuous to select a married couple for Liz and himself. She may have said yes when he had proposed, but that had been a year ago. She had mourned him. And the revelations of the last few days had him wondering how she remained by his side.

Plus, he couldn’t help but notice she wasn’t wearing the ring.

He couldn’t blame her if she had second thoughts of marrying him. Why saddle her with an official obligation to be with him? Though she would have to stay connected to him and train to keep her and her family safe—why force her into a position of queen and make her an even bigger target?

She chose that exact moment to lean over him, pointing at a name. His thoughts quickly deserted him as he breathed in the delicate mixture of rose and strawberries from her freshly washed hair. Her light laugh brought him back to his senses as she repeated her question, “What do you think of being Mr. Jones?”

His arm having automatically wrapped around her pulled her closer as he refocused at where she pointed— Jake Jones. With an appreciative smile that Liz had remembered his fondness for the Counting Crows, he replied, “that could work.”

Relishing the feel of her in his arms, he murmured, “What about you?”

“Well, there is a family of three—the Bakers—which likely would suit my parents,” Liz began. “The daughter is even named Eliza.”

Max waited for her to continue before asking, “But you liked being Stephanie Carter?”

Shifting so she fully faced him, Liz pondered for a moment before answering. “I…” she had started working as a student volunteer in a microbiology lab and did love pursuing that childhood dream, but the whole year had been marred with the loss of Max. Shaking her head to cast away the memories of all the times she had broken down, she responded, “No… it was a means to an end. Isabel and I needed to start a life. But it never felt complete.” Nestling into his chest, Liz continued, “Now it can be.”

Max’s chest briefly shuddered as he was overwhelmed with his affection for Liz. Kissing the top of her head, his eyes briefly closed as he once again sniffed her hair. For the moment all of the guilt-driven arguments to keep Liz at arm’s length had deserted him. Instead, all he could think about was that he wanted to lay with Liz in ignorant bliss where there was no one coming to attack them all.

Turning to the side, he caught his parents’ bemused expressions. He blushed, but the embarrassment was short-lived as his mind wandered to what his parents would select.

His mother pointed out a name to his father—Mary Ellen Trainor. Beneath it said her spouse was Felix Trainor. He smiled at seeing his father laugh at how perfect the name seemed to be. “Not too far off from Phillip… you’re okay with Mary Ellen?” his father murmured to his mother.

“Well, with a middle name, I could go by either. I think Ellen would be easier to adjust to. Besides, we’d only have to use the names when in front of others, right? She directed her question towards Cal.

“Correct. Normally, it is suggested people use their new identities all the time so that they don’t accidentally slip up, but I think you two should be fine.”

Max’s furrowed his eyebrows at Cal’s statement. “What do you mean?”

Phillip chose to answer, “We’re already living in retirement. There’s not that much interaction with others.”

Startled by the news, Max immediately protested, “What? Dad, what about your law firm?”

“The last year… I just didn’t have...” he looked sadly at Max conveying his grief over the events of Graduation “…the focus for it anymore.” After a weighted silence where everyone surreptitiously wiped at their eyes or forced down the lump in their throats, Phillip continued, “Besides, I was already winding down to retire. It just started a couple of years early.”

Max studied his father to see if he was genuinely all right being retired already. Phillip nodded at him in assurance, but his guilt wouldn’t accept it. Before he could say anything, his father added, “I still provide consulting advice to the firm, it’s just a much lighter schedule in comparison. And with you and your sister back…” he held Diane’s hand, “I’m fine starting a new chapter.”

Diane smiled as she squeezed Phillip’s hand in support.

Max still looked dubious.

Having observed Max’s expressions, Cal broached an idea to the senior Evans. “I could always use another on my legal team, especially someone with your experience.”

Phillip turned to Cal, “Thank you. I’ll think about it.”

The room lapsed into a heavy silence for several moments.

Jim cleared his throat.

“Do we need to make our decision now?” he asked quietly, his hand slightly crumpling the paper.

The weighted glance between Kyle and Jim did not escape Cal’s notice. Pretending to be busy wiping his glasses, he casually answered, “No, but once I know I can complete the necessary arrangements—whatever your decision may be.” He lifted his beady eyes to hold Jim’s pensive ones. “I will help protect all of you.”

Max and Michael’s eyebrows rose in unison. Max had only commanded that he not hurt any of their friends and family, but now he was volunteering to help them all?

Jim nodded solemnly in thanks. After a beat he asked, “Would that help extend to my father?”

“Of course.”

Clasping his hands to still a slight tremor, Jim’s eyes burned with emotion. “Thank you,” he softly uttered.

A soft smile graced Max’s face, appreciative of Cal’s willingness to help. He gave an imperceptible nod to the protector indicating his thanks. Glancing at Jim and Kyle, he saw Jim pull Kyle into a half hug.

Hearing excited whispers to his left, Max turned back to Liz spying her and Maria looking at the list together.

“You can totally pull off Maya,” Liz stage whispered.

With an overdramatic hair flip, Maria answered, “Was there any doubt?”

Flashing a wide grin, Liz shook her head in affirmation. A beat later both girls began to giggle.

Leaning over Maria, Amy noticed the name they were discussing. “Nice choice, honey. I’ll take the other Valdez then. Deborah,” she mused to herself. “Debbie…” she tried out, before nodding. “Yeah, I could get used to that.”

Max’s tension was starting to ease at everyone’s reactions to the alternate identities. Even the memory echoes of the head agent’s cutting remarks had stopped. But as he glanced around the room, he realized Isabel remained quiet.

She had gone up to Cal and was speaking in a hushed tone. He only responded with a nod. His eyes twinkled and his mouth curved slightly upward when her back was turned.

Before Max could begin to mull over what Isabel could have requested of the protector, Cal addressed the group. “Whenever you all have decided just note on the paper what you’d like.”

Michael spoke up, “Can I still use my alias?”

Cal seemed to size Michael up for a moment, before smiling at him benignly. “I’m happy to hear you’re still interested in painting.”

That statement elicited curious looks from everyone. Michael kept his face blank before offering, “I’m just used to the name.”

Everyone seemed to accept the nonchalant answer, though Maria’s expression seemed to suggest she would be grilling Michael about that later.

Cal clapped his hands together, once more garnering everyone’s attention. “Well, if there aren’t any more questions—”

Liz interrupted, “Actually, I was wondering how soon we should start training?”

Cal regarded Liz with an appraising look. “There’s more than enough time. Right now, rest is the most important thing for you all to catch up on.” As he said his last statement, he turned to look at Max.

Max only chewed on his inner cheek not ready to reveal what he saw when he closed his eyes.
You’ll never see anything beyond these four walls…

Cal sighed. Though there were distinct differences between Max and his former alien persona, he certainly displayed the same stubbornness.

Trying a different tack, the protector turned back to Liz. “I know you’re a planner. So do let me know your plans for college or even working in a lab.”

Not expecting that, Liz exclaimed, “Oh.”

Stumbling on her words a bit, she finally answered, “My focus isn’t there anymore. I don’t know if I want to continue…”

The Parkers immediately straightened up ready to talk some sense into their daughter, but Max spoke up first.

“What? It’s always been your dream to go into microbiology. Why are you giving up on it?”

Facing Max, Liz could only think about the microbiological tests the Unit ran on Max. She could still picture the scars on his arms of track marks and what were likely tissue removal. She began to chew on her lip. She just wasn’t sure if she could look at tissue samples without thinking of Max being the source of biodata. And besides, if their enemies descended on them, she would need to be able to act quickly. She should pursue something that would be easier to drop at a moment’s notice.

Her shoulder slightly lifting in a half shrug, Liz finally spoke. “I’m not giving up on it… just my focus isn’t really on that now,” Liz confided in a soft tone.

Haven’t you messed up her life enough?

Max’s face filled with dismay. The agent was right. His dream had been so tantalizingly close, but he had just been reminded how much his existence had screwed up Liz’s life.

Pressure built up in his ears and his sight filled with white.

“Honey, you don’t have to quit college— we can help get you transferred. I’m sure it’s not unheard of for colleges to make adjustments for those in witness protection,” Nancy expressed in a slight chiding tone. She suspected her daughter was still too emotional wrought and exhausted to think clearly. That protector was right. The kids needed rest.

Cal interjected, “That shouldn’t be an issue.”

With a faint smile, Nancy nodded at Cal. Her eyes met Liz’s troubled ones and immediately followed her daughter’s gaze to find Max being oddly still.

Nancy called out, “Max?”

Without a word, Max abruptly stood up. Little tremors were visible in his arms. “I need to go.” Ignoring everyone calling out to him, and roughly brushing aside Michael who had reached out to him, Max left the room.


Author's Note: You probably noticed, Diane's chosen "new" name is actually the real name of the actress who played Diane. Went with that in slight tribute to the late Mary Ellen Trainor. ❤️ R.I.P.

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behrinthecity
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Re: Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 60 9/4/21 (WIP)

Post by behrinthecity » Sat Sep 04, 2021 11:38 am

dreamon- Sorry that this part got MAJORLY delayed. Thank you for your support, wishes, and checking in.

Flamehair- :lol: During the days the show aired, I once tried tabasco sauce on chocolate cake with my fellow classmates. We decided it was "weird, but not that bad." And then I heard the interview from the cast saying it was tomato juice when they were filming!

Thank you for your wishes and checking in.

clueless-Thank you for the support, wishes and checking in.

keepsmiling7- Thank you for the support and checking in.

Stefuh- Thank you for the wishes and kind comment. I hope you've enjoyed the parts!


I hope you all enjoy the extra long part. As you'll see there are a lot of interconnected parts I realized that I had to cover for the later parts to still make sense.

I am on another medical treatment and I seem to be responding better though my exhaustion is still quite strong. But I am working a little bit each day so that the gaps in between parts become shorter rather than longer.

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dreamon
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Re: Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 60 9/4/21 (WIP)

Post by dreamon » Sun Sep 05, 2021 9:37 am

So happy to see you back on here! I wish you a speedy recovery!!!
I have a few dreamer challenges in mind if you are looking for ideas so pm me!

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Re: Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 60 9/4/21 (WIP)

Post by keepsmiling7 » Mon Sep 06, 2021 10:15 am

Great part and welcome back. This new part along with the interconnected parts helped refresh my memory.
Of course there were more mind warps........
Nice tribute to Mary Ellen Trainor, I loved that!
Thanks for coming back!

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Re: Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 60 9/4/21 (WIP)

Post by clueless » Sat Sep 11, 2021 8:33 pm

I hope the new medication works wonders!!! And thank you for still keeping us entertained with your work even though you are not feeling 100%.

I look forward to reading more M/L parts! :wink:

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Re: Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 60 9/4/21 (WIP)

Post by Flamehair » Thu Sep 16, 2021 8:49 am

Happy to see you're back :-) and hoping that your new medications will work good and give you a quick recovery
big prince Leo Alsandair Aidyn Galahad Colin 12.08.2007
little prince Robin Faramir Gawain Diarmad Finlay 18.05.2009

little princess Eowyn Morgaine Nevialani Caitlin Valerie 15.05.2012

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