Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 58 10/25/20 (WIP)

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behrinthecity
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Joined: Fri Aug 20, 2004 11:14 pm

Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 58 10/25/20 (WIP)

Post by behrinthecity » Sun Feb 09, 2020 6:13 am

Yes, you read that right. I am finally back to complete this story. I profusely apologize for the incredibly long hiatus... numerous serious health issues made if very difficult to continue writing. But my health is more steady these days, and I decided at the end of last year that since I had written the majority of the remaining parts I feel confident I won't let this thread slip into the dead and buried and wanted to complete the story as promised. As I have not heard from any of the mods I contacted about unlocking the original thread, I have decided to start a new one with a link to what was posted previously.

Many, many thanks to dreamon, clueless, MP and DeDe PR for checking in with me over the years. Your continued interest and encouragement helped me write.

So without further delay, below is the link to the original thread. The following post will be Part 50. I hope you enjoy.

Scars of White Parts 1-49
Last edited by behrinthecity on Sun Oct 25, 2020 7:13 am, edited 12 times in total.

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behrinthecity
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Joined: Fri Aug 20, 2004 11:14 pm

Part 50

Post by behrinthecity » Sun Feb 09, 2020 6:20 am

Many thanks to Liz for beta-ing this part.

Previously…

[From Toy House]
Isabel implored her brothers, “Maybe it'll help us out one day to have an adult on our side.”

As always, Michael with his “us against the world” attitude was quick to point out the negative. “Here's the problem...when you tell her, she's not gonna be on your side. Maybe she loves you now, but there's no such thing as unconditional love.”

Isabel instantly defended, “Michael, maybe you really don't understand, but she does love us. It is unconditional.” Isabel refused to believe otherwise. She couldn’t doubt her mother’s love—without it meant they truly were alone. But Michael’s words cut deep, tearing down her trust. And then the knife twisted further.

“Are you sure about that?” Michael pointedly bit out.



Diane studied the Sheriff’s face. She had always trusted the man, but the tone of his questions was starting to make her doubt that trust. Why would the Sheriff be so interested in her son? What was he implying he knew about Max? A slight stab of anger flared up within her. Did a stranger, like the Sheriff, know her own son better than her? Could she have been so wrong about her son? “You seem to have some sort of interest in my son. I'd like to know why that is. I mean, if Max was involved in some sort of crime, Sheriff, I think—”

Sheriff Valenti quickly moved to reassure her, “Mrs. Evans, I didn't come here to alarm you, ok? I just wanted to make sure that you're feeling better, and I, uh...I also want to drop off this pamphlet on household emergencies. I highlighted the section on grease fires for you. It's helpful information, that's all. I'll let myself out. You have a good day.”

Diane tentatively picked up the pamphlet, glancing down at it curiously. With a brief glance back over her shoulder at the Sheriff’s retreating form, she quickly went through the pamphlet.

Do not put water on a grease fire.

Diane gasped. Max had poured an entire pot’s worth of water on the fire. So, how did he put it out? She stared blankly at the door, despite the Sheriff being long gone. What did he know about her son?
~ ~ ~

[From Viva Las Vegas]
Jim was furious. All the panic he had felt over the last 30 hours fueled his anger at the carelessness the kids standing before him had shown. With all they had to face, he knew he couldn’t always be there for them, but he would make damn sure they learned this time to at least give him the chance to be. Because despite how much their experiences had matured them, they still needed some parental guidance. “At 3:30 yesterday afternoon, Vice-principal McClure contacted me. Apparently, my son didn't show up for detention. Newsflash to me, so I called some of Kyle's friends. Nobody knew where he was. So I made a few other inquiries, and without alarming any of your parents I deduced that you were all missing. By 4:30 I was in a panic. Thought maybe it was a mass kidnapping or an invasion. I knew you guys had to be in some kind of trouble, because there was no way that you would just take off without telling me.”
~ ~ ~

[From Part 24]
Two hours later Phillip stood tensely in the kitchen. He stared intently at his cupped hand, his body shaking slightly with fury. Their bedroom, the living room and the kitchen. Many of his and Diane’s private and intimate interactions had occurred there, and to think others had been listening in the entire time.

“What do you think it means?”

Though he wished he could shield Diane from anymore uncertainty, fear and grief, the situations they had become exposed to left him utterly clueless. He hated being bereft of any knowledge for it made him feel helpless. And now… Rubbing his thumb on her cold, quivering hand he replied, “I’m afraid to know.”
~ ~ ~

[From Part 25]
As Kyle started to tap out commands and furtively stared at the screen, Jim moved towards Maria. Just as he was about to ask how she was, she spoke, not taking her eyes off of Kyle. “Are there more of those?”

Jim glanced at Kyle in confusion for a moment but quickly realized she was referring to the recording device. “Just at the Evans’ place.”

“How can you be sure?” Maria’s voice was taut, her nerves once again on edge.

“I expected as much, not at Max’s grave of course, but in our houses, maybe even the Crashdown. I’ve had a few of my buddies who owed me a couple of favors keep an eye out on our places here. And I’ve done several sweeps over the months; they couldn’t have gotten in to plant any. It’s probably why they resorted to the grave. They knew that’s the one place everyone would let their guard down.”



As Kyle had continued angrily to urge the program to work he had not realized the faint trails of green flowing from his hands. He absent-mindedly scratched at the top of his hands as he once again scoured the help options to see if he missed anything. Seeing all the same points he closed the help window and recommenced his repetitive strokes. However, a sudden burst of green shot from his fingers as he did.

Immediately the Valenti house was filled with frantic beeping from the computer as Kyle’s eyes were assaulted by rapid flashes as the locator flickered in various locations every few seconds. In a panic Kyle stabbed at the exit key while waving his hand over the machine hoping he could fix it with some power. It took a few moments of calling his name and his father actually grabbing his arm before Kyle realized his father was once again beside him.

“Kyle! What happened?” Jim shouted as he tried to shut down the program.

Slowing his movements slightly, Kyle replied, “I’m sorry dad. I don’t know how it happened but I think I broke it. The program is going hay-wire. I’m sorry… I was just trying to find out where Max—”

Kyle broke off mid-sentence as the beeping suddenly stopped.
There silently flashing in one corner of the screen was the message: trace complete.



Jim stated, “… it seems the location is Langley, Virginia.”



Kyle gasped as he focused once more on his surroundings. His father and Maria rushed over to him to see if he was all right. “It’s not Max. I saw… it was a flash.” The words rushed out of Kyle as he tried to control his breathing. “The body… it’s an agent. He argued with one of them, I think the guy was of higher rank, because he shot him. He shot him just like Max had been, and then right in the face. The agent looked enough like Max to be passed off as… they killed one of their own...”
~ ~ ~

[From Part 36]
Outside the building, Maria sat in the car, anxiously checking the time and the door every few seconds. Her chest pinched painfully as she desperately tried to calm herself. She winced at the sensation, her hand moving to hold her side, but at the sight of Liz bursting out of the warehouse door, she swung into action. Within seconds she had driven up to Liz, watching with wide eyes as she helped Michael carry in… Max.

Oh my god, she thought.

He was there. He was actually there.



“Maria!! We have to go, NOW!” Kyle’s urgent voice snapped her back into focus.

She grabbed the wheel and gunned the engine, tearing out of there. Just as she hit the end of the building’s driveway, an explosion erupted behind them.
~ ~ ~

[From Parts 43A, B & C]

Driven by the hysteria behind her sobs, she began to shake Max, her hands gripping his arms. “Wake up, Max! You have to wake up! You have to… you…” animalistic sounds of distress escaped her between her cries, “come back… just…”



Kyle collapsed onto the couch with no thought to the mud stains, allowing his exhaustion to finally claim him. The warmth emanating from the fireplace facing him gently wrapped around him, compensating for the missing throw. His slumber came quick and heavy, tuning out any noise. He never picked up on the soft snoring coming from the guestroom where Michael and Maria laid together. Nor did he hear Max’s soft breaths speed up as a white glow with a blue tinge gradually intensified throughout his body.



A gasp escaped Max, his chest convulsing momentarily, before his body settled peacefully against the sheets once more.



Max’s body had tensed, his hands gripping the soft sheets. His lips twitched before smoothing into a still line once more.



His eyes opened.
~ ~ ~

[From Part 47]

Despite herself, Isabel met Kyle’s gaze, still blinking away her tears. “He… he won’t let us help him. He… God… things are just… a mess. And I can’t do anything about it…”
~ ~ ~

[From Part 49]
Max briefly closed his eyes for a moment, while the faint sound of crunching metal and smashing glass played again around them. Confused, Isabel was about to ask, but stopped as Max spoke. “Even mom and dad?”

Isabel froze, her mouth hanging slightly open, tears wavering in her eyes, held back by her shock. “What?”

Max’s tongue darted out to wet his dry lips before clarifying, “The car crash… it wasn’t real, right?” His voice was so hopeful, as if his sanity hinged upon her answer.

Isabel darted a glance to the side, finally realizing what the breaking sounds had been. She bit her tongue, trying to rein in her emotions. After a beat, she found her voice once more. “They're fine... How about I take you to see them?”


PART FIFTY

White Lake State Park- Tamworth, New Hampshire
Five days before


Eyes closed, Diane breathed in deeply. The scent of pine filled her airways. Releasing the breath, her shoulders visibly dropped, their prior tension fading ever so slightly. Settling further into the bench, Diane's eyes fluttered open.

Sunlight danced before her eyes as it reflected upon the rippling surface of the lake. Shrieking echoes of laughter carried through the air, bringing a melancholic smile to Diane's face.

Some days she could almost convince herself that the laughter belonged to her own children splashing around in the lake. Lazy summer days where she saw phantom images of herself enveloping her smiling, soaked children in a big towel as they rushed back up the dock. Had it really been ten years since they had all been here together-- happy and carefree? she wondered to herself.

A troubled frown crept upon her face, as she thought again about her daughter's last visit.

Without fail, Isabel had entered their dreams last night, but something was different. Diane couldn't pinpoint it at the time, but as she focused on the image of her daughter now, she realized how muted everything seemed, how weak, almost shaky her daughter's voice was, and how rushed her words had been. Something significant had happened... or was going to happen-- and after everything, her daughter had still chosen to keep it a secret.

Pursing her lips, Diane glanced down at her watch.

At least another hour left before Phillip called.

She had come to the lake to take her mind off the unsettling visit. Unfortunately, she had tired out, and now, sitting on the bench distanced from the populated dock, it was all she could think about. When they had woken from the dreamwalk, it had still been dark out. Phillip had quickly reassured her that she was reading too much into the shortness of the visit, and that she should go to sleep. Once their alarm went off, Phillip quickly got ready and told her that he had few business matters to see to and would call her around 12:30.

She nervously ran her thumb around the cell phone in her pocket. Phillip had insisted she get one once they had left Roswell for their summer home. In the aftermath of that fateful graduation, he needed the extra assurance that he could always reach her. For her, it was yet another reminder of how different and dangerous her world had become.

It was a reminder of how she had lost her family.

She gently wiped the moisture on her left cheek. Refocusing on the golden water before her, a distant memory came to mind.

It was Max's first time in the water. For the past week, he had watched from the dock as Isabel joined the other water-winged children jumping into the lake. After a few moments, he had adjusted to the openness, and chlorine-free water the lake provided. Goaded by a splash from Isabel, he soon partook in a splashing war filled with Isabel's happy shrieks, and his own soft laughter. Suddenly, one of Isabel's shrieks turned into one of pain and surprise, and Diane would have sworn she saw an angry red cut on Isabel's arm. Quickly wading out to her children, she was momentarily blinded by the golden glow of the sunlight reflecting off the lake. It didn't occur to her until much later that the sun was angled differently than that golden light had been.

So many similar instances had occurred over the years... birds being given new life, incredibly vivid dreams of playing tea party with Isabel, seeing clothes on Isabel she hadn't remembered buying her, surviving a grease fire...

Her own words echoed in her head: Some things you never forget about.

When she had spoken those words to Max, he had looked so betrayed, so.... panicked. And Isabel... there had been a slight desperation in her eyes that not even her most dazzling smile could hide.

Isabel had held a similar desperation in her eyes last night.

Subconsciously gripping her phone, Diane wondered what Phillip could be working on. Did he know more than she did about what Isabel was involved in? Had he figured out something about those electronic bugs they had found four months ago?

Was he contacting Jim right now?

Before she had disappeared from their joined dream, Isabel had reminded them of the long standing emergency plan: if she missed a weekly visit, contact Jim. It’s true that being in law enforcement, Jim had resources to help them if they needed to find their daughter… but it was their government that had turned on her children… had… murdered her son, and sent her daughter into hiding.

Her stomach clenched, Diane fervently hoped those would not be the last words she heard from Isabel.

A muffled ring cut through her thoughts.

Pulling out her cell phone, her hand shaking slightly, she answered.

"Phillip?" she whispered.

He wanted to know if she was at the lake. Automatically nodding, she affirmed in a louder voice, "Yes."

After a beat, she commented in surprise, "You're almost here? How did you kno—"

Of course. Ever since they had found the hidden surveillance equipment, she had been coming out here more and more.

With a sigh, she started to ask, "Should I head over to the parkin--"

"No need to."

She turned around in surprise, dropping her phone as she stood. "How many traffic laws did you break to get here?"

"I was already pretty close to the park," he answered with a cryptic smile.

After a brief embrace, Diane looked up at Phillip expectantly.

Clearing his throat, Phillip responded, "I met with Stacy." He reached into his jacket, pulling out two tickets. "We're confirmed for tomorrow night."

Her concerns at full force, she searched Phillip's eyes for reassurance that he knew what he was doing. "Do you mean...?"

"We're going home tomorrow."

~ ~ ~ ~
The next day
On US-285


A dejected sigh flowed out of Diane, deflating her entire being. Her body sunk even further against the soft passenger seat of the rental car.

She had seen the sign in the distance, its large size and familiar greeting unmistakable. The route was familiar from countless of trips in the past, that her eyes needn’t be open for her to behold the image of the large white rectangle welcoming all to the Dairy capital of the Southwest. Countless times before she had smiled at its sight—an official signifier of her returning home.

But Roswell was no longer home.

Those times she had smiled, she felt light with excitement, knowing she would soon be reunited with her family—to see the ebullient faces of her children.

But they no longer were there.

On Murray lane existed a lifeless, dusty house, filled with memories, increasingly more bitter than sweet.

She shifted tensely in her seat, roughly pushing at the seatbelt in a miniscule show of anger. The anger had been building, festering, ever since the military had invaded their house. It wasn’t in Diane though to truly unleash it. Instead, she would retreat to her memories. Unfortunately, when brought out of her reminiscences, her reality would feel that much bleaker, tainting the happy moments of her past. Not even trying to distract herself with a new, complex recipe could help her to forget the aching loss. The eager and nervous smile that had anticipated her family’s reaction to her latest experiment no longer made an appearance. Her lips remained in a taut line—a dam holding back the emotions coursing through her veins. The same emotions that made each breath an effort.

She spied yet another tacky sign for the UFO Center. Before she had learned the truth of her children’s origins, she had taken the town’s obsession in stride; bemused with the novelty items being sold to costumed tourists, and helping out at the annual ‘celebration’. Now… she looked back at those memories in sympathetic horror, trying to imagine what Max and Isabel must have thought of all those… festivities. She still didn’t understand how Max had managed to work at that two-bit museum.

A soft sniffle escaped her.

She felt a warm hand around hers. Turning slightly towards Phillip, she heard him murmur, “We can stop by the cemetery on the way.”

Diane looked down at their linked hands, blinking back the sudden tears. Had it really been six months since she had last visited her son’s grave? Her head began to nod, but a sudden twist in her gut made her stop. She had to know about Isabel first. As much as it hurt to acknowledge Max was gone, Diane held onto the hope that she would at least get to see her daughter in person once again.

And deep down she had a sense that perhaps the conspiracy her children had been caught in was more than what it seemed. It was the sense that left her constantly uneasy—unsure whether it meant something good or bad.

Right now, it seemed only Jim could help answer that. So, releasing another heavy sign, this time steeling herself, she finally responded.

“Maybe afterwards.”

Phillip cocked his head, slightly curious. A blink later, he squeezed her hand and continued along, taking the several turns until they finally reached Jim’s house. Parking across the street, they could see his SUV parked outside the garage.

“Good timing,” Phillip lightly commented.

Despite herself, a small huff of laughter escaped her. “Yeah.”

A minute later, they were knocking on the door.

It took several knocks before a bleary-eyed Jim, shirt half un-tucked, opened the door.

The sleep that filled his eyes quickly dissipated, his hands stuffing his shirt back into place as he cleared his throat. “Phillip, Diane! Why didn’t you tell me you were coming back to town? I would have picked you up.”

With an acknowledging nod, Phillip spoke for both of them, “It was a last minute decision.” After a beat, he continued, “We need to talk, Jim.”

The amicable expression on Jim’s face changed. After a flash of worry, his eyes seemed guarded. Taking a quick glance down both sides of the street, he ushered them in. “Come on in.”

Once he shut the door, he skipped any further pleasantries. “What happened? Did something happen to Isabel or the others?”

“We don’t know,” Diane muttered, her hands nervously fidgeting. “She didn’t talk to us very long this time. She was so exhausted. Do you know anything about what’s going on with her?”

Rubbing the back of his neck, Jim stammered. “Umm… well—I—Kyle didn’t give me the full details.”

“Details about what?” Phillip asked.

Looking between the two bereaved parents, Jim sighed. Diane could feel that knot in her stomach twisting again. “You better sit down. This is going to take awhile.”

~ ~ ~ ~
Valenti house
Living room
Awhile later…


Max is alive…

The thought played out in Diane’s mind repeatedly, her mind still not registering its meaning. She stared out the window blankly, feeling more drained than ever.

Her son was alive.

Jim had explained all that he had learned in the past several months about what happened at the high school graduation. He learned that Max might still be alive… and it was that uncertainty that had kept him from telling them before. But now… he had received a coded text message from Kyle confirming that her son was alive. They had no idea if he (or any of them for that matter) was hurt, but Max was alive.

What had her baby been facing for an entire year?

She blinked a few times as the prickling sensation of tears overcame her eyes.

Her fingers clenched suddenly at a realization. Turning around, she marched up to Jim and Phillip who had gone into the kitchen to fetch some coffee. “Who did we bury?” Who’s bloodied face was permanently burned into her memory?

“I don’t know his name. We were able to figure out that he was an FBI agent.”

“My god… everyone is expendable to them,” Phillip breathed out in pained disbelief.

Jim gravely nodded in agreement. “The next two days are critical for the kids. Once they’re back in Canada, they should be safe. And we can figure out how to meet them—”

Someone knocked on the door.

Throwing an apologetic glance at them, Jim left to answer the door. Diane and Phillip sat at the kitchen table, busying themselves with their freshly poured coffee in an attempt to not eavesdrop. But in the relative silence of the house, Jim and his visitor’s voices carried over easily.

“Amy!”

“Hi,” Amy tautly greeted.

The door clicked closed.

“Amy—”

“All right, here’s how things are going to go. You…” Diane heard the coffee table move slightly. “…sit. I’m going to ask you a series of questions, and you are going to come clean. No more half truths, no more justifications that it’s not your secret. How am I supposed to trust you, Jim, if you hide something as big as this from me? And before you say anything about Maria keeping this secret from me, don’t worry—when I see her, she’s going to fear me more than any FBI agent!”

Phillip murmured to Diane, “Maybe we should tell her we’re here…”

Diane, however, was curious to know whatever questions Amy had. She suspected those questions were probably similar to her own. She held a finger to her pursed lips, and shook her head slightly.

“Amy, I—”

“Shush! First, so we’re on the same page: you’re telling me that Max, Isabel, Michael and Tess were… are aliens. And that you and Maria have known this for four years? And now… my baby girl is breaking in to some army base to break out Max, who is miraculously alive?”

Diane couldn’t fault Amy for the palpable anger in her voice. She had felt the same way when she first discovered her children’s secret. How could she protect them when she had no idea what they were facing?

“Well..uh… it was a warehouse, but yeah that—”

“Where is she now, Jim? I need to know she’s okay. She may have survived the last number of years, but she’s lost two friends in the process…”

Diane bit her lip at the crack in Amy’s voice. Even knowing Max was alive… that loss she had felt after graduation had been real. Her son had been taken from her that day. And until she held him in her arms, she would not be able to truly believe she had him back.

After a heavy sigh, Amy muttered, “Don’t know if I should be happy how much she takes after me.”

Voice no longer tentative, Jim responded, “I am. It’s how I know she and Kyle will be okay. And Kyle contacted me late last night—they were successful.” After a beat Jim continued, “I may have known their secret longer, but believe me, there’s plenty they’ve left me out of the loop on. Now was there more, or can I say something?”

“I thought you just did,” Amy gently retorted.

Diane and Phillip shared amused smiles at the couple’s indirect way of making up.

With a slight scoff, Jim finally alerted Amy to their presence. “Phillip and Diane are here. They had a lot of the same questions as you. Think I can answer yours at the same time?”

Diane’s eyebrows knitted in slight confusion as she tried to identify the dull smacking sound she heard.

Moments later Amy entered the kitchen, Jim trailing behind her. “Diane! Phillip! I am so sorry you had to witness that... I’m just...” Amy collapsed into a chair, her anger seemingly drained from her.

Diane patted her hand in understanding. “That’s why we decided to come back.”

“How did you find out?” Amy asked after a beat.

“After Max and Liz were arrested in Utah, Phillip started to pay closer attention… ultimately we confronted Max and Isabel. Hardly a month later… we lost them.” Diane sniffed.

“But Isabel’s gift allowed us to at least keep in touch with her,” Phillip added.

“What’s her gift?”

“She can visit our dreams—she talks to us that way. The last one… well it scared us. And Jim is the only other way to contact her,” Diane explained.

Amy nodded and then turned to Jim. “What about the Parkers? Do they know?”

“Yes. Liz let them know after graduation.”

Diane noticed the flash of hurt in Amy’s eyes. But as Diane had done herself in the past, the vivacious single mother seemed to swallow the pain. Amy leveled a steady gaze at Jim once more.

“Well, I think we should call them over. If we want to help our kids we all need to be on the same page. It’s time us parents got to look after our children.”

A light began to return to Diane’s eyes at Amy’s words. Amy was right. It’s time they stopped standing on the sidelines, wringing their hands over their children’s fates.

It was time they brought their children home.

~ ~ ~ ~
An hour later


“How is it possible?” Jeff shook his head in wonderment as he paced behind the couch.

Having tired of watching the man move back and forth, Diane stared at her hand linked with Phillip’s as she answered, “Max is special. However he was able to save your daughter… probably explains how he survived his own…” She trailed off unwilling to relive the devastating moment. Phillip’s other hand lightly squeezed her shoulder in support.

“Right,” Jeff softly agreed. Halting his steps, he regarded the other parents seated around the living room. “So the Army or FBI have had him…” He shook his head again, marveling at their children’s abilities to overcome such formidable foes. The young rebel in him felt a surge of pride, but the tired father in him was paralyzed in fear. “How—how do we help prevent them from all being caught?”

“By trusting them,” Jim firmly stated.

Amy turned to Jim in surprise. “Jim, there’s a point where even they need outside help. Wasn’t that why they brought you in to their secret in the first place?”

With a heavy sigh, Jim responded, “It’s more complicated than that.” Just as everything involving those kids seemed to be, he thought. “Whoever had Max works outside the law… above the law. They won’t honor citizen’s rights, jurisdictional codes…” He ran a hand tiredly down the side of his face. “Still, the more distance the kids can put between them, the better. I already set up a system with Kyle, so that we’ll know when they make it back to Canada. Once there, we can help them go completely off the grid… I still have a few connections I can lean on—it’ll take some time… and we’ll have to coordinate how to all get there without drawing attention to ourselves. It could be easily a month before we meet up with them.”

Diane looked questioningly up at Phillip, silently asking, Are we really this helpless?

Nancy quietly bemoaned, “Is there really nothing we can do?”

“I’m sorry, but I have to consider your safety as well as theirs. There’s two ways to go about it—we all get involved… deep and dirty, or we sit tight and wait for the right time,” Jim asserted, emphasizing each point, respectively, with a raised finger.

Withdrawing her hand from Phillip’s and straightening her back, Diane asked in all seriousness, “How dirty?” Her naïve days were far behind her. She would do anything to get her family back.

A fearful look flashed upon Jim’s face. “Diane, no, you—“

The phone rang, interrupting Jim’s protest. After a beat, Jim grabbed his cell phone off the coffee table and mumbled, “I’ll be right back.” He walked down the hallway.

Diane and the others stared after Jim’s retreating form, straining to hear his conversation. Could it be Kyle with the latest update?

Unfortunately, they could not make out any of his words. His voice was a low murmur.

They all moved to their feet ready to run down the hallway at Jim’s raised voice: “You what?!”

An extended period of soft murmuring followed, leaving them all uneasy. More words carried down, but many still remained unintelligible. “Look….how you … numb--…. tell me—”

Two minutes later Jim returned to the living room. They all stood with their arms crossed over their chests, their faces concerned and expectant. Jim couldn’t seem to stop fidgeting with the edge of his shirt, which had untucked itself.

Phillip prodded, “Who was on the phone?”

Looking up, his gaze somewhat bewildered, Jim uttered, “Uh…” he cleared his throat, while moving a hand through his flattened hair. Finally he spoke, “Someone who can take us to our kids.”

~ ~ ~ ~
Four days later


Sunlight filtered through the trees as Diane meandered down the dusty path surrounding the various playground equipment of their town's park. Everything appeared muted in color, as if they existed in a distant memory. Her steps slowed as she spied the merry-go-round, her mind drifting into nostalgic thoughts of a young Isabel giggling as she spun faster and faster, while a somber Max vigilantly watched her, ever concerned of her falling off and getting hurt. Lost to her thoughts, she had stopped walking now standing by the fateful blue bench Max had implored her to stop asking about his secret. Turning away from the merry-go-round, she reached out to the top edge of the blue bench, her fingers trailing against the blue metal, cooled by the shelter the oak tree behind it offered.

... you wanted to go home.

Her voice, filled with understanding, compassion and concern, echoed around her. She could still see her son sitting tensely on this very bench. Immersed in the memory, she lowered herself upon the bench, gazing at where Max had sat, a faraway, wistful expression upon her face. He had been so scared of her that day... as if she would shun him if she knew his secret. She was ashamed to admit that when she had finally learned the truth, she hadn't taken it that well. Seeing her daughter create a mini whirlwind had been incomprehensible to her. And deep down, it had hurt her that all that time Isabel had kept such a significant secret from her. At that time she had already felt the special bond with her daughter had been tenuous at best, having become a different person after she had gone to college, and that tape seemed to be proof that that bond didn't really exist. She wondered sometimes if the catalyst had been the death of the Whitmans' son-- Alex. A loss that had led Isabel to jump into a relationship, to grow up faster than her age warranted. It was ironic that only after Isabel had gone on the run had Diane finally accepted her relationship to Jesse as genuine.

And Max... going on random trips without a word, holding up a convenience store, being arrested, having a child... being shot... Max had been wrong about many things on the day he had returned his toy house. He doubted the love that she held for him and Isabel-- a love that would never diminish, no matter how confused or scared she became in regards to her children. He was wrong when he said his secret wasn't dangerous. That secret led her children to be in constant danger that she nor Phillip could protect them from. Now, even knowing their true origins, she still felt helpless. She had become dependent on Isabel's visits-- each one helping her breathe a little easier-- where for one day more she knew that her daughter was still alive… that her family was still partially intact.

And now, there was a chance that her family would become whole again.

"Diane."

She started at her husband's voice, her head jerking to face him.

"Are you all right?"

She offered him a small smile, nodding her head in response. "Was just thinking," she murmured. Casually regarding her husband, she realized that this wasn't just a wistful dream of hers. Turning her head, she searched for any sign of their daughter.

"You haven't seen Isabel either?" Phillip asked.

"No. I didn't even realize this was another one of her visits until I saw you. I'm not sure I'll ever get used to this," she commented with a wry smile.

The corners of Phillip's mouth quirked upward, when he suddenly turned to look behind the bench, distracted.

"What is it?" Diane asked.

"I.... I think I hear something," he whispered back.

After an extended beat of only hearing herself and her husband breathe, she decided to find out what was going on. "Isabel? Is that you?"

"Over here Mom."

Diane shifted in place, surprised to find her daughter walking up the same path she had just come down moments before. As Isabel approached them, Diane carefully studied her. She looked exhausted, her skin paler than usual, hair somewhat frazzled. Though she had become more used to seeing her daughter in a less than perfect state, she couldn't help the clench of worry within her gut at the sight. Had Jim been wrong? Had the kids been too late?

Fueled by her concern, Diane stood up to meet her daughter, embracing her immediately. "Are you all right, sweetie?" she murmured into her ear.

Her eyes shining, Isabel nodded jerkily, releasing a deep breath. "Yeah, I'm... I'm fine, mom. We all are." Flashing a tired smile at both her and Phillip, Isabel went on nervously, "We... I know I didn't tell you guys much about where we were going, but--"

Sharing a knowing glance with Phillip, Diane reached out for Isabel's arm rubbing it gently. "Shh... honey, we know where you really went. Jim told us the truth."

Guilt flashed in Isabel's eyes. "Oh... I'm sorry that I didn't tell you myself..."

Dismissing her apology, Phillip assured her, "We understand why. After what you went through those first three months... I see why you didn't want to raise any false hopes."

Diane felt the warm comfort of Phillip's hand around her own. Squeezing his hand tightly, she mustered the courage to find out the truth. "What happened when you got there? Is he..." she faltered, still unsure if she could face the same dreary reality twice.

Futilely trying to clear her throat, Isabel responded in a voice weighed down by tears. "He's alive, mom. We got there in time. He was unconscious for a few days... I thought we might have been too late... but... his body was just healing itself. He's..." A haunted look briefly stole upon Isabel's face. "...okay."

Despite the reassuring smile Isabel continually offered them, Diane knew that it was a facade. She just couldn't tell what Isabel was hiding from them. But before she could ask her, Isabel had gestured behind them, a nervous, but giddy whisper escaping her with a rush. "He's h-here."

Her mouth slightly open, tears easily springing to her eyes, Diane turned back towards the tree. She heard the soft shuffle of steps against the grass. Blinking her eyes furiously to clear her vision, Diane continued to stare, unable to process the ghostly sight before her. He was even paler than Isabel, his dark hair now a stark contrast to his skin. His cheeks seemed slightly sunken, and the almost deep purple circles under his eyes made him appear haggard.

But it was the look in his eyes that broke her heart.

His eyes were wide, disbelieving, and fearful. Gazing into his eyes, Diane almost believed she was back on that road, seeing her children naked and shivering in the car's headlights. She could feel tears rolling down her cheeks, but she made no move to wipe them away. In fact, she was still frozen in place.

"Mo--m? D--ad?"

Max's voice was hoarse and shaky with uncertainty. Completely focused on Max, Diane was barely aware of Phillip's soft, heartfelt response, "Son." Max's eyes seemed to dart between her and Phillip, as if Max shared the same inability to believe that they were all really there... that they too were alive. Then it hit her... the reason the FBI had bugged their house. They had used them against him. Her breath hitched at the thought, but she quickly pursed her lips to stem her sobs. Squaring her shoulders, she slipped her hand from Phillip's slackened one, and embraced her son. She kept her arms firm and gentle around his body trying to not let him know how much his gaunt form affected her. Her entire focus was on reassuring him— on letting him know that he was safe and that there was always a home with them.

"We're here, honey. I promise, we'll come and bring you home soon."

He seemed to grip her tighter at her words. His sharp jaw dug into her shoulder as he bent down further to hold her closer. She rubbed her hands up and down his back, while intoning soothingly in his ear. So intent in her comforting, she was unaware of Phillip moving closer to them, until he had enveloped them both in his arms. Shifting slightly, she allowed for Isabel to be pulled into the hug. Silently, the family held on to each other, their tears of joy and relief mingling together. For Diane, only one other moment rivaled the happiness of this moment.

The papers had been signed, the interviews complete-- she was officially a mother. But only when they had been brought to the room and she had held her two angels in her arms, had she truly felt like one. That fateful day in 1989 had given her the family she had always wished for.

And now, though it all occurred within a dream, she had been given back her family.

keepsmiling7
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Re: Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 50 2/9/20 (WIP)

Post by keepsmiling7 » Sun Feb 09, 2020 4:18 pm

I'm more than thrilled to see you have returned to finish this story. I alway enjoyed the different twist it took on things.
Thank you!

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Flamehair
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Location: up in the mountains in switzerland
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Re: Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 50 2/9/20 (WIP)

Post by Flamehair » Mon Feb 10, 2020 7:53 am

First of all - I'm so sorry that you had so serious health issues :( But so glad that you are back - I really missed this story. I think I have to reread all the other parts too, but this one - again - was so great and spirited and - I don't know how to write it correct (you know english isn't my mother language) - has me hooked :-) Thank you for texting me that you're back :-)
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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dreamon
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Re: Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 50 2/9/20 (WIP)

Post by dreamon » Fri Feb 14, 2020 8:51 am

I finally finished re-reading this epic story and I’m so glad to have you back! Can’t wait to see how this unfolds!!!
I have a few dreamer challenges in mind if you are looking for ideas so pm me!

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behrinthecity
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Part 51

Post by behrinthecity » Sat Feb 15, 2020 8:04 am

Hi all, taking a little breather from RL and decided to post the next part. :)

But first...

keepsmiling7-- Thank YOU for your wonderful comments. I hope I continue to thrill with upcoming 'twists'. :twisted: :D

Flamehair Thank you for your kind wishes and comments on the story. I understood what you meant and I am so glad it conveyed that for you. When I wrote that part I wanted there to be some healing balm to our characters, and hopefully buoy readers' spirits too. I may have warned about angst with this story, but there is a light in the darkness.

dreamon- Wow! Thank you for those kind words. *blush*

I am overjoyed by all three of your comments and for any silent readers I've had this past week! On with the story...

Previously…

[From Blind Date]

Max stared at the garish paint marring Liz’s brick wall.

Anxiety and guilt left him feeling sick as he desperately searched his hazy memories for what transpired tonight. Before him was a clear sign of his delinquency—defacing her house some time after drinking from Kyle’s flask.

He uncertainly reached out towards it with his left hand. As his fingers brushed the rough edges, memories of the night quickly flashed in his mind. Removing his hand in awe he saw that the heart with his and Liz’s initials burned brightly before him. A bittersweet smile crept upon his face at the sight. Maybe he hadn’t messed things up with Liz for good. Maybe there was still a chance. Just maybe there was hope.

[From Part Four]

Shakily, Liz removed a few items within the drawer and touched a lever towards the back causing the base to lift up and reveal a hidden space. Now in full view she picked the hidden contents up her hands trembling even more than before. Though not much in volume or number, the few sheets of paper she held in her hands were everything to her. She replaced the drawer as she found it and returned to her bed to peruse through her most prized possessions.

She gently wiped at the drops on the clipping and placed it down to lessen the damage she seemed to wreck upon it each time she read it. Trying to stop the tears, she closed her eyes tightly but the flashes of memory that came to mind held the opposite effect.

At this point she was sobbing into her hands, so lost in her grief that she didn’t hear Isabel come in.
...
Isabel 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, though Liz’s seemed to have a blue tint to them as well at times. Knocking lightly, she eased Liz’s door opened and saw a now familiar sight.

She strode to the bed, moved the clippings and photos onto the bedside table and pulled her sister into a tight embrace. She slowly smoothed Liz’s hair down as she had done many times before, over the weeks they had been there, repeating the same comforting words, “It’s all right to let it out Liz, let it out…”

[From Part 16]
The soft sound of splashing water was heard as the prisoner’s fingers drummed out a random beat. The agents peered curiously at this, unsure if its agitation was returning or if it was something else entirely—perhaps something extra-terrestrial.

[From Part 36]
He stared at her with panicked eyes, his harsh breaths preventing him from continuing his cries. She bit her lip at the sight, but unable to see Max in pain, she moved forward. As soon as she was by his side, though, his protests started again.

“No! You’re not Liz! You’re not Liz!”

[From Part 47]
Kyle was given no moment to dwell on the scene or even confirm that Max was all right through the connection. A searing heat flowed into him, causing him to scream out in pain. He sensed his eyes were squeezed shut in pain. As he tried to physically pull away, he found himself catapulted through the air—the chair breaking against the door, and his own back crashing flat against the wall.

[From Part 49]

“Are you all right?” she softly asked.

Nodding absently, Max spied Kyle gingerly rubbing the back of his head out of the corner of his eye. Though Kyle had responded dismissively to Liz’s question, he suspected he had hurt himself. And somehow, he knew he had caused that pain in his friend.


PART FIFTY-ONE

"We're really here, honey. I promise, we'll come and bring you home soon."

At the familiar soothing tone of his mother’s voice Max held onto her tighter. The need to know he had not led to the deaths of his parents fueled his fierce grip around her. Beneath his shaking arms he found her usually sturdy frame appeared frailer than he remembered. Yet she supported his weight fully pulling him closer to her. He could almost convince himself she really stood before him.

A moment later he felt his father and sister join the embrace. He closed his eyes wishing that the sensation was not a fleeting wisp of a desperate dream, but that he would wake to the tangible warmth of them enveloping him.

We’re really here…

His mother’s words echoed around him again—a tantalizing promise that his suffering was at an end.

But he should have known better.

With a small murmur he could not catch they disappeared.

He jerkily moved his head in all directions terrified that the peaceful setting of the Roswell playground would be replaced by his barren reality— be it a blinding white or suffocating darkness. The trees around him began to fade into a grey fog when he registered his sister’s insistent voice.

“Max! Listen to me! Can you hear me?”

With a blink he became aware of her hands grasping his arms and her eyes anxiously scrutinizing him. Her form wavered briefly. “I…I’m sorry…” he softly uttered in a daze.

After a beat she assured him, “They really were here. They must have woken up...”

As Isabel spoke, Max continued to observe his surroundings apprehensively. The dim haze had settled thickly around him. An uneasy feeling built within him that any moment his sister’s form would turn into a faceless tormentor. Beyond Isabel’s imploring words he believed he heard the faded echoes of crunching metal and squealing tires. His chest tightened at the muted din. He knew that this dream was quickly slipping away. With what little strength he still had he shook his head to willfully cast aside the fear and panic.

Isabel’s image strengthened before him and he focused on her nonstop assurances, “I promise you they were here and… somehow they’re going to meet us. They must have been flying somewhere because Dad said something about landing.” A bright smile flashed upon her face, only belied by the shiny film of tears in her eyes.

Flying? he silently questioned, his doubts growing once more.

But Isabel caught up in her excitement did not immediately notice Max’s body stiffening as she pulled him into a hug. His arms slowly lifted to encircle her, weighed down by dread that this happy delusion would soon dissipate.

Pulling apart, Isabel asked tentatively, “You believe me… right?”

He wanted to say yes. He so desperately wanted this all to be true. That everyone who he loved was alive and safe. That in a moment he would not wake up to the harsh, decisive steps of the two agents eager to recommence his torture. Spying the slight quiver of her lip at his silence, he could not deny her. So he answered with a small nod, not trusting his voice.

Her face softened into a natural smile, her eyes losing the earlier tension. With a soft exhalation she too nodded. But she had to ask one more time, “Is there anything else I can say or show you—”

“No.” Max cut her off uncertain he could take anymore.

Isabel was slightly taken aback but quickly recovered. “Oh…kay. Um… well I’ll let you get some actual sleep.” Her eyes narrowed briefly studying him, but thankfully she did not say anything.

He nodded again, his stomach clenching as he anticipated the return of his bleak existence. His eyes closed shut unwilling to watch as she and the playground setting receded into a void. The all too familiar pressure of being restrained began to encircle his arms. Squeezing his eyes even tighter, he begged silently for it all to stop.

Gradually, he became aware of the phantom grips lessening their hold. The sensation was not of cold metal, but rather something soft and almost warm.

After an extended moment he mustered the courage to open his eyes. The dawning light filtered into the room daintily illuminating his surroundings. He was in the bed that he had woken up in that morning—Liz’s bed.

Shaking his arms loose of the crumpled sheets, he slowly stood up and gazed around the room. He was alone.

“Liz?” he murmured.

Only silence met his meek call.

Ignoring the sense of disquiet growing in his gut he stepped out into the hallway. Hearing indiscernible chatter, he curiously followed the sounds down the stairs. As he reached the bottom he was suddenly face to face with Kyle.

“Whoa—” he started. Gathering his bearings he spoke again with forced nonchalance. “What’s going on?”

“Uh, nothing man,” Kyle tiredly shrugged him off moving past Max to ascend the stairs.

Kyle’s movements seemed a bit off-kilter to Max, and once again he was filled with guilt at causing pain in his friend.

Eyeing the sizable contusion on the back of Kyle’s head, he lamely offered again, “I… I can heal that for you.”

Piercing him with a sharp glare, Kyle bit out “Don’t you think you’ve done enough, Evans?”

His cheeks burning with shame, Max looked fixedly at the floor unable to respond.

A harsh laugh escaped Kyle. “What would be the point, anyway?” Kyle retorted. “We’re not here anymore… remember?” The last word was punctuated with a vicious snarl.

Max’s head shot back up as he gaped at Kyle in confusion. “What…?”

Several gunshots rang out in quick succession.

All at once he was surrounded by the bodies of his loved ones, lying stiffly in unnatural positions on a cold white floor.

“No…” he moaned in utter agony. Bringing his hands to his head he watched the carnage despondently.

“Stop this. Please stop!” he cried out as his trembling hands slid down to cover his face.

The sounds of his parents’ car crash reached a crescendo before abruptly leaving him in silence.

Releasing several ragged breaths, he finally lowered his hands.

He blinked in surprise upon seeing Liz’s balcony. The familiar red brick wall (sans his heartfelt graffiti) stood directly in front of him. He quickly turned to Liz’s window to see if she was home.

The glass had been pulled down and the room was dark.

Please don’t shut me out… he heard the anguished plea. He had to shut his eyes momentarily to not fully dredge up that memory of losing Liz after screwing up her life once again. His imprisonment was partial atonement for that—for hurting her in such a permanent way.

With a quiet sigh he turned back to the wall. In a seeming trance he lifted his left hand to touch it. A bright red heart with his and Liz’s initials momentarily flashed in front of him. Raising both hands to the spot he hurriedly trailed fingers over the rough cinder edges seeking the symbol of his innocent past. If it would only show again… just maybe… his last moments would be reliving a memory where he still had hope… still could imagine a life with Liz.

Let's just keep running, you and me, away from here, away from everything. I see everything so clearly now. We'll go someplace where no one knows us. As long as we're together, nothing else matters.

His earnest voice rang out filled with such exuberance. How naïve he had been then. Nothing else matters, he bitterly repeated. To the agents surrounding him, nothing he said mattered. To the ghosts of his departed friends and family—he didn’t matter. How could he? How could they forgive him? If the heaven his mother referenced existed, his place was not there.

He knew not to expect anyone else to show up—the sudden departure of his parents was enough to prove he was beyond forgiveness.

But he no longer wanted to exist in the cold, white hell that he had been damned to.

He began to beat against the wall demanding that the heart reveal itself again. Still no sign, he rested his forehead against the brick and whispered imploringly, “Please…”

“Max?”

He sharply turned his head at the voice, but did not see Liz.

“Max.”

He heard her call out louder to him, but as he spun around on the balcony he remained alone.

“Liz?” he softly called out.

He felt a feathery-light touch upon his cheek and his eyes closed as he savored the caress.

“Wake up, Max,” she beckoned.

He let loose a ragged breath, scared to open his eyes. “It’s okay, Max. I’m here,” he heard her promise. Warmth began to fill him up inside at the thought that maybe she was there. But his stomach held onto the doubt and tension of expecting the dream to shatter.

Another delicate touch traced his jaw line, coaxing him awake. With a hesitant flutter, he opened his eyes. Appearing as a mirage, he saw the most welcomed sight of Liz lying before him.

“You’re here…” he sighed, a small smile appearing on his wearied face. Any lingering misgivings he had began to abate.

“Yes…” Liz whispered.

There was an odd tone to Liz’s reply. Needing to see that Liz was all right Max struggled to full alertness.

The contours of her form melded into the hazy darkness of the room’s waning candlelight. Determinedly, he blinked a few times to clear the foggy remnants of sleep. With each blink, the image of Liz sharpened.

Her hair was pulled back in a messy ponytail. Propped up by her right hand, her head was perfectly positioned to look at him. Her lips were drawn in a tight line to match her worried gaze. Needing to instantly banish whatever her trouble was, he reached out to push back some stray strands from her face and asked, “What’s wrong?”

A quizzical look stole across her face and a soft disbelieving laugh escaped her. With the slightest shake of her head, she answered, “…I’m fine.”

Needing more assurance, his hand hovered over her body as he began to scan for any injuries. But just as the glow from his hand started, Liz grabbed it and placed it between them. “I’m o-kay,” Liz insisted, her tone tenderly chiding his concern. After a beat, worry once more took over any trace of mirth in her eyes. “What about you?” she asked in a hushed, slightly spooked manner.

“What about me?” he attempted to shrug off the question. Casting his gaze downward, he picked at the bedding.

Liz shifted into a sitting position. Max could feel her looking at him, but he continued with his feigned fascination of the bed sheet. “You were talking in your sleep,” she stated matter-of-factly.

His eyes flickered to her, a flash of panic in the brief glance. “What…what did I say?”

“Please.” Her voice was soft, almost pitying.

He closed his eyes in embarrassment. Had she heard him whimpering? Begging to be killed?

Liz placed a hand on his stilling his pointless niggling. “Max, talk to me,” she gently urged.

Meeting her gaze, he swallowed. What could he say? Reality was beginning to seep into his dreams if she had heard his plea. At that thought his eyes darted to the corners of the room.

Following where he had just looked, Liz asked in confusion, “What are you looking at…” she trailed off as realization dawned on her face. “You think…” her breath hitched, “…you’re still there?” Liz’s voice cracked on the last word, a sob bubbling out.

A sad smile twitched at Max’s lips. His eyes once more returned to the bed, unable to watch Liz’s response to his confession: “They won’t let me leave,” he quietly uttered. Not even in death, he morbidly thought.

The silence hung heavily over them.

Heat began to creep up Max’s cheeks—a familiar mix of humiliation and of the sweltering interrogation lamps the agents would shine directly in his face. He felt a light touch on his head. He tensed, expecting his captor’s hand to roughly grip his hair. Instead the touch remained a soothing caress. Daring to look up, he saw the delicate strokes belonged to his love.

Liz’s eyes shone with barely held back tears, the pain within their umber depths palpable. He bit his lip loathing himself for causing her distress.

When she spoke, there was a slight rasp as if her voice was choked by unshed tears. “Max… you’re not there anymore. What—What can we do to prove that to you?”

He looked a bit past Liz still expecting faceless men in hazard suits to drag him to his next torture session. “I… I don’t…” he began, his voice sounding tremulous and weak to his ears. As he was about to complete his tired refrain of not knowing there was a sudden loud bang.

Instantly, he threw himself over Liz to shelter her from what he assumed was a gun shot. His heartbeat thundering in his ears, he furtively checked on either side of them for any approaching threats. Still seeing nothing but the corners of Liz’s room, he lifted himself slightly and brought his hands to her face. Gingerly touching her cheeks he searched for any injury—any blood trailing from her mouth.

Though she seemed shaken and her face slightly pale, she seemed to be physically fine. Needing more reassurance, he urgently questioned, “Are you all right? Did they hurt you?”

Liz looked back at him with a mixture of shock, confusion and unease. Shaking her head slightly, she answered, “Who are they, Max? There’s no one, but us here.”

Max again scanned the room for any hidden threats, unsure how to reply.

“Max?” Liz called out, her fingers lightly pushing at his chin so he would face her.

Focusing on her face, he saw the strain of fear and confusion. Pulling her close he attempted to shield her body from any further attacks. But Liz pushed away; moving back into a sitting position. His face mirroring her dismay he warned, “They could still be around. It’s not safe.”

Placing her hands on his shoulders, Liz stated in a forced calm and deliberate tone, “It was a garbage truck.” She paused allowing the words to sink in, but all it did was compound Max’s internal confusion. Slowly releasing a breath, she drew his attention to the beeping sounds of the truck backing up, “Hear that? It’s backing up now.”

Max began to shake his head slightly, his eyes flitting to the window and back to the shadowy corners of the room. As his mind registered the droning beeps, he expected to see the familiar monitors beside him. In the back of his mind he fervently hoped it wasn’t for another electro-shock session. An involuntary shiver ran down his spine at the thought.

Liz’s hands slid up to his face, forcing him to focus only on her. He saw that resolve had overtaken any fear in her eyes. Unblinkingly, she spoke in measured words: “They are not here. They can’t hurt you anymore. And if there is anyone left… we’ll make sure they can’t.” Anger and an air of finality colored her last statement.

He stared in awe at the determination in Liz’s statement. So in awe he easily ignored the unbidden low voice in his mind marveling, Spoken like a true queen. Instead, his attention was fully captured by Liz as she reminded him once again of the reasons he revered her so. Her tenacity was one of the many things he loved about her. In the past he had often been emboldened by her to confront his fears of the unknown. Without her, he would not have discovered connections to his alien heritage. Without her, he never would have made any friends. Before graduation he had been ready to follow her to Northwestern trusting that he too would find a path and perhaps a normal life with her. And now he wanted to believe her resolute words asserting that his internment was finally over. He wanted to just be with her.

“Okay?” she asked uncertainly.

Overcome with emotion, he quickly nodded.

A shaky smile appeared on her face at his agreement. She began to swipe at her eyes, but he reached forward to gently wipe away any escaping tear. “I’m sorry—” he started to apologize, but Liz cut him off.

“No, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have left you alone in that auditorium. I should have known that author was going to be at graduation—if I had practiced my powers more I would have been able to tell more details to give a proper warning…” Liz impassionedly argued against him, her eyes tearing up and her voice becoming scratchy as she spoke. She trailed off suddenly, her attention seemingly stolen by her dresser drawers.

With a muted gasp, she turned back to him a glint to her eye. Yet more qualities about her that he loved: how her mind constantly worked on solutions and her excitement when she had an idea. “I have an idea that might help.”

Not waiting for any response from him, she reached into the far back of one drawer, pushing items aside. After a moment, she retrieved a stack of curled papers and photographs. He cocked his head to the side, curious to what they could be.

Liz’s tongue darted out to moisten her dry, somewhat cracked lips. Forcing out a breath, she remained looking down at the items for an extended moment. Just as he was about to speak, her head shot back up. “You wouldn’t know what happened to us right after graduation,” she stated.

He bowed his head filled with regret that in his haste to distract the army and FBI from executing them all in that auditorium, he had left them alone to fend for themselves. He had tried to convince his captors that he was all they wanted, and gave whatever he could if it ensured their protection. But it hadn’t been enough. He winced as the footage of their deaths flashed in his mind’s eye.

“No,” Liz’s insistent tone compelled him to look up again, “I mean these are proof this” she gestured around them, “isn’t just a dream.”

He regarded her longingly. If only…, he thought wistfully.

He could see the determination and hope in her eyes, and despite knowing better he found himself getting swept up by her idea; a small smile tugging at his lips.

Liz fanned out the items on the bed between them as she explained, “When I heard the news about your… death… I didn’t want to believe it. These articles are what made it real to me.” She stifled a sob. “I’m sorry that I stopped Isabel from trying to find you. I… I thought I was doing what was best for her—” He stopped her apology with a finger to her lips.

“I know you. You do what you know to be right. Thank you for looking out for Isabel,” he declared with sincerity.

With a small tilt of her head, Liz offered him a shy smile in response. Self-consciously, she tucked a stand of hair behind her ear. Glancing down at the items she had placed on the bed, she picked up one of the newspaper clippings. She stilled for a moment, seemingly lost in thought. Suddenly, she forced out a breath and moved to hand it to him, “This was the one that made it all sink in…” Her voice was low and her tongue again darted out to wet her drying lips.

Looking at the clipping in her hand, he spied his photo also printed there. It was odd for him to see how he once looked. A part of him cringed at how much his ears stuck out, but primarily he was struck by the slight hope in his eyes despite his melancholic expression. Surreptitiously, he looked at Liz musing if he could regain such optimism. If for whatever moments he still breathed in his prison he could allow himself to believe everything he saw and felt, perhaps then he could live out at least one of those twelve lifetimes he had promised to Liz.

His fingers hovered close to Liz’s offering when he saw bold text splayed above his own black and white image disclosing, “Roswell graduate shot by terrorists.”

Blood rushed to his head, seemingly roaring in his ears. His breaths were shallow. He felt lightheaded. The doleful headline repeated in his mind in a dizzying loop. Each echo of the words was punctuated by the two gun shots that had driven through his chest. His upper chest burned at the memory and dredged up the fears he had been attempting to squash. Faceless tormentors, the buzzing of electricity and his pathetic whimpers soon took over his senses.

“Max?”

Max blinked. The frightening and pain-filled whirlwind retreated back into the recesses of his mind. He registered Liz sitting before him, the hand holding the cut article resting at her side. “We can try something else, if you’d like.” The fretful look was once more on Liz’s face. Her expression made him feel simultaneously fragile and guilty. Why couldn’t he just enjoy this reprieve from his constant agony? He berated himself for burdening this dream with his horrific reality. Once more he resolved himself to fully accept this delusion. And so he firmly shook his head in response to Liz’s cautious suggestion, and reached for the clipping.

As soon as his fingers brushed against the coarse paper there was a bright flash of white. His body automatically tensed, but the setting before him was not of his desolate cell.

The blinding light had given way to an unfamiliar bedroom shrouded in the darkness of evening. Through the dim glow cast by a street lamp he saw a small huddled figure crying before him.

He approached tentatively. He could see a few scraps of paper clenched in the tearful girl’s hands. Her grief was overwhelming, compelling him to reach out towards her in comfort. Though he could not make her features out in the ineffectual lighting from the street, something inside him insisted he knew this girl. His hand just inches away from her shoulder, he breathed out, “Liz…?”

She did not react to his presence. Now beside her, he could see instead of Liz’s chocolate locks the girl’s hair was a straw-like blonde. He pulled back his hand in confusion. Her face covered by her hands, he wasn’t sure who this girl could be but the familiar hair color made his gut twist in apprehension. Silently, he reminded himself that Tess was dead and besides she was not the only one to have that shade of hair. The girl’s continuous cries though distracted his thoughts and once again he was drawn forward to comfort her. Just as he moved to place an arm on her shaking shoulders, Isabel suddenly barged in scooping the girl into a hug, “It’s all right to let it out Liz, let it out…”


With a soundless gasp he once more took in the same bedroom he had woken up in. His breathing was labored under the sheer grief he had just witnessed in that flash. Without another thought, he enveloped Liz in his arms. Feeling the slight shivers running through her body, he hugged tighter; his mind briefly remembering the time he had comforted her after her grandmother's death. The soft cries of that memory mixed with the gasping sobs of the flash compelled him to murmur in her ear, "I'm sorry."

To him the utterance was woefully inadequate. Not even his hellish confinement was enough penance. Not when he had failed to protect her. Afraid she would disappear, he tightened his hold around her, but she resisted.

Pushing against his chest, she met his dejected gaze. She stared at him in disbelief. Her eyes gleamed from barely held back tears. Regarding him for a moment her lips gradually curved up in a small, melancholic smile. She lightly shook her head. A soft huff escaped her, half laugh and half sob.

Roughly swiping at her eyes, she declared, "I missed you."

Her voice was husky, drawing him closer to her yet again. She was his alluring siren, calling out to his soul to be with her. His hands cupped her face, gently stroking her cheek. His own eyes stung as he confessed, "I miss you."

Not wanting to waste one more moment, he brushed his lips against hers. The kiss was initially hesitant, but quickly became urgent and hungry with desire. Liz responded readily, accepting each kiss.

His hands slid under her top to pull her even closer. He felt her shift her legs so that their chests were fully touching. Eyes still closed, he lowered one hand to caress her bare thigh. His lips twitched in satisfaction at the little gasp she released. Lifting that same hand he gently cupped her head. Her ponytail was loosening; a tendril of her hair tickling his palm. The steady pressure of his hands cradling her lifted her bodily and removed any gap existing between them. For the moment they were one entity. Hardly taking a second to breathe, his kisses reached a desperate frenzy.

Even as his senses were taken over by carnal desire, he was aware of the thought that this fantasy would end. The warmth of her embrace would be replaced with the unrelenting coldness of his cell. Her form would fade from view-- dissipating into the monochromatic world of his bare existence. In these precious seconds he had with her he would live one of the twelve life times he had promised her.

Hearing her ragged breaths, he broke away from her now bruised lips. Drinking in her tousled hair and hooded eyes a wave of heat spread through his body. She was ravishing. His tongue briefly darting out to wet his lips, he began to trail kisses down her neck. Hearing her soft moans, he smirked and continued his lust-filled path. Through his lips and tongue he relished her supple skin. Her head tipped back granting him more access to her neck. A faint mixture of vanilla, berries and sweat filled his nose. His mind drifted to the first literal and figurative steamy moment between him and Liz in the Crashdown’s back room. Just as he was back then, his inhibitions were gone replaced with his basest instinct: be with Liz.

Her arms rested against his lower back, hands seeking purchase on the waistband of his pants. The unspoken request of their placement set his heart racing and his chest began to heave in anticipation. Still feeling heavily intoxicated, he struggled to confirm that Liz was also ready. “Ah—Ar—Are you sure?”

“Are you?” She asked in a sultry tone.

He chose to answer with another lascivious kiss. Tugging slightly on her lower lip, he moved back to start removing his clothes. As his shirt covered his face, he momentarily paused with trepidation on what she would see— his muscles had long atrophied away behind the scars and burns marring his chest. Yet, no pitying gasp came.

Instead, Liz’s soft hands glided up his chest to push off the shirt. His eyes closed savoring the amorous touches. Memories of intimacy sprang to mind at her explorative movements. For a brief moment he almost believed he smelled the greasy Crashdown’s burgers and onion rings as he recalled the numerous stolen moments in the store room and break-room. But as Liz’s delicate fingers continued to travel upwards the Crashdown setting faded into several others: the secludedness of Michael’s apartment; the vinyl seating of his “new” used car; the cool night breeze as he treated Liz to a striptease at the pier; kneeling on a felt blanket in the cold and empty observatory. He stiffened at that last thought. He and Liz were never at the observatory together. But his mind insisted on recalling disjointed shots of him and Liz there—kneeling, undressing and exploring each other’s bodies. Perturbed at what the images suggested, he attempted to distance himself from Liz.

"--s-omething wrong?" Still in a passionate haze, Liz's question came out as a mere breath.

About to answer, the words died on Max's lips as Liz's silky brown hair flickered to blonde curls. "I--"

He visibly swallowed, his fears mounting. He turned his head to each side, only seeing the smooth walls of the observatory, a staircase to his right and the telescope in the distance. Looking once more at Liz, he saw alertness entering her eyes before he saw her image flicker once more into the porcelain skin and pale golden curls of Tess. He silently mouthed out the word, how but a sudden rush of images interspersing Liz and him entangled on that soft blanket with that of him and Tess provided the devastating answer. Feeling as if he had been punched in the gut, he began to hyperventilate. It wasn't only that he had been tired of fighting. She had made him think— she had mind—

His mind stuttered as the truth became clear.

He was going to be sick.

In his haste to extricate himself from his current position, he abruptly pushed Liz aside and ran to the bathroom. He paid no heed to Liz’s calls or the door slamming behind him. Kneeling in front of the toilet he quickly emptied the meager contents of his stomach. Despite Isabel’s many attempts in this dreamscape, he hadn’t consumed much. As for his captors, who knew what they had managed to force feed him, be it through tube or IV. He shuddered briefly at that reminder, but his mind quickly returned to the disturbing revelation of the biggest regret of his life. Once more he coughed bile into the toilet. His body increasingly shook under the force of his expulsions.

Still reliving that night’s events, he felt the phantom touches on his arms and chest leading him to shut his eyes tightly in revulsion. The back of one hand roughly brushed any dribble from his mouth, his whole being filling with self-loathing. He had been weak. He had been so desperate to believe it, even when it didn't make sense. Tiredly, he pressed the flush and fell back from his kneeling position. Holding his head in his hands he continued to mentally berate himself. His own mind dredged up the fights with Liz at that time to remind him how despicable he was.

Those memories among others reiterated why he deserved his fate in the white room.

At that thought he pulled his knees closer to his chest. It was a familiar position of futility for comfort and safety. This haven was falling apart. He no longer took in the cool tiled surroundings of Liz’s bathroom. Rather, he believed he was once more surrounded by blinding white panels. Realizing his hands were currently unencumbered by restraints, he soon buried his head in his arms atop his knees. It was a meek attempt to block out the perpetual light and warm himself up.

Though he was alone for the moment, he knew that wouldn’t last long. Soon, the pain he felt would intensify to the point he begged for death. But he would always be brought back from the brink.

Any existence beyond his cell’s walls was a mere illusion—an illusion that was bound to break no matter how much he wished otherwise.

There was no one to return to. Being with Liz was only a dream that would never be realized.

He should have known better.
Last edited by behrinthecity on Sat Feb 22, 2020 11:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

keepsmiling7
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Re: Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 51 2/15/20 (WIP)

Post by keepsmiling7 » Sat Feb 15, 2020 3:42 pm

Yes, Max should have known better.
Glad he finally realized that Tess mind warped him.
In the recap, I did love Liz's hiding place. Also appreciate the recap.
Thanks for this long awaited part!

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Flamehair
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Re: Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 51 2/15/20 (WIP)

Post by Flamehair » Wed Feb 19, 2020 11:58 am

:-( poor Max. Still a long way for him to heal and to realize that he really is with his friends :?
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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dreamon
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Re: Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 51 2/15/20 (WIP)

Post by dreamon » Wed Feb 19, 2020 11:27 pm

You really have a talent or pulling at my heart strings. So just to reiterate I love having you back and posting and as always I can’t wait to read more!
I have a few dreamer challenges in mind if you are looking for ideas so pm me!

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behrinthecity
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Part 51A

Post by behrinthecity » Sat Feb 22, 2020 11:04 am

Hey everyone!

A little note first: Originally, Part 51 was going to include both Max and Liz’s perspectives, but then it always ended with them being quite taciturn. So I separated their perspectives, and since Max’s was already so long, I decided to split it. So here is Liz’s perspective in the continuation of Part 51. The ending scene was an image I knew I had to include in the story pretty early on in my writing of this fanfic. As I believe the part itself has enough description of the references to the episodes and earlier parts of the story, there are no previouslys for this part so as not to spoil what happens within it.

Thank you again to keepsmiling7, Flamehair and dreamon for your lovely replies. It makes me so happy to read your thoughts.

keepsmiling7- Thank you for your fast replies! What were you meaning when you said Max should have known better? In his morose thinking, he falsely believes he’s still in the white room. Out of all the characters, Max is the least reliable narrator due to his distressed and at this point slightly warped mind.

Flamehair-Yes, the healing process will take time, but perhaps he may start soon... :mrgreen:

dreamon- This part may continue tugging on those strings, but hopefully a little less heartbreaking…
And I am so grateful again for all of your encouragement. Thank you!

On with the story...

PART FIFTY-ONE A

Liz gazed at her shut bathroom door with longing and concern. Internally, she cringed at herself for letting her desires take precedent and clearly pushing Max faster than he was ready. Now that he remembered all that the government had done to him... that trauma... she had no idea how he even withstood any physical touch. Glancing down at her state of undress, her cheeks flushed in embarrassment. As she hurriedly put her top back on and readjusted her shorts, she told herself Max's reaction was not a rejection of her but rather a consequence of whatever he had faced in that depraved place. Still, the recent tactile memory of Max ripping his lips away and abruptly pushing her aside made it hard to focus on the logic. She took a deep breath.

And another.

The heat in her body started to recede a bit, bringing some needed clarity to her mind.

Faint retching had her once more looking at her bathroom door. She bit her lip wincing in sympathy. Her mind began to imagine horrific scenarios of how the agents violated Max. If that vision of Max clones had any truth to it— they would have had to extract samples from him. She involuntarily shuddered at that thought, frowning deeply at the door as the retching continued. Gradually, the sounds quieted into isolated coughs. Liz keenly listened, her stomach becoming a huge knot from concern. She thought she heard the flush, but the subsequent silence urged her forward to check on Max. Once at the door she gently pushed it open, while softly calling out Max's name.

With the bathroom light already on, she instantly spotted him. Her stomach dropped seeing Max curled up tightly in a ball; the sight eerily similar to how they found him in the white room. The continuous shivers from before had returned probably spurred on by Max’s lack of clothing. She considered retrieving his shirt, but became distracted by a change in Max’s movements. His arms had shifted until his hands were placed on his head in a gesture of complete submission. As he shakily began to roll forward onto his knees, Liz rushed forward to stop him, the needless question of “what are you doing” escaping her.

Still bowed Max’s head pivoted to each side seemingly regarding her hands that held him back in a seated position. His body was taut under her touch as if bracing for an attack. Max lifted his head slowly, his hands falling limply to his sides. His face was a mixture of confusion and utter misery. Dragging his eyes from the floor he faced her. His eyes were wide and bloodshot. But joy and yearning instantly took over his expression as his hands shakily reached out to her.

Liz felt the familiar urge to cry at his hoarse reply. “Li—Liz? What are you doing here?” Fear began to creep on his face as he quickly darted glances around the room yet again searching the corners for hidden threats.

She bit her tongue to quell the sobs building in her chest. Releasing a soft sigh to alleviate the pressure of the unburdened cries, she lifted her hands and lightly placed them on his cheeks. The faint acidic tang of bile hit her nose, but it was the glazed look in his eyes that concerned her most. Her voice slightly trembling, she attempted to once more be his anchor to reality. “This is my and Isabel’s home. You’re safe now, Max.” She paused from the crack in her voice on the word safe. “They can’t hurt you anymore.” A part of her realized the lie in the last statement. Even if Cal had truly removed their physical threat, Max would still be—was currently being—tortured by the memories of what they had done.

She tried to hold his gaze, but the unfocused quality of his eyes made it clear that he wasn’t present. “Max…” she called out to him desperation tingeing her tone.

After an extended moment, her panic building all the while, his eyes seemed to focus on her. “Liz?” His voice was soft and uncertain.

“Yes, I’m here.” Her hands had lowered from his face to grasp his hand. She lifted his hand to her cheek, “See? I’m here.” She spoke in a rushed, urgent tone.

He released a shuddering breath, his eyes blinking away tears. Lifting his other hand he softly stroked her hair; the touch delicate. His breath caught at the contact as if surprised by the sensation.

For a moment Liz felt his hand tilt in preparation to cup her cheek, but instead he pulled back. Her forlorn gaze followed his retracted hand lamenting the aborted comforting touch.

In a gravelly voice, he confessed, “I’m so sorry, Liz. I—” He broke off as his face began to crumple.

“S-sorry for what?” Her voice hitched as she sought clarification for what Max was talking about.

Max bit his lip, the pained expression now permanently etched in his face. Finally, in a low voice he answered, “I couldn’t protect you.” He lowered his gaze to the floor, seemingly ashamed to face her. “I tried… but…” He trailed off with a dejected shrug.

Liz was at a loss on what to say or do to break this dissociative state Max was in. Had he been this detached from reality after his first capture? Maria would have told her if he had been this bad, she would have— Liz cut off the train of thought with a visible regretful shake of her head as she remembered that whenever Maria had tried to steer their conversations to Max she would quickly change the subject and cut the call short.

She had thought she had done the right thing— not only for Max, as he had a destiny to fulfill, but for herself and her broken heart. Witnessing the effects of his captivity now she could only conclude one thing: she had been callous and selfish to avoid him all summer.

Placing a hand on his arm, she breathed out his name. She repeated his name two more times in a louder voice until he finally looked up at her. Awareness was beginning to creep back into his expression, but he still looked completely weighed down by self-loathing and guilt.

“We. Are. Safe.” She emphatically told him. Her eyes stung from the burning sheen of tears welling up in her eyes, but she forged on, “They never found us. You did protect us. You kept us safe.” The memory of Max’s sacrifice at graduation came to mind making her pause in her affirmations.

Max released a shuddering breath. His eyes still darted towards the corners of the room, but those furtive searches became shorter each time until he was completely focused on Liz. Max carefully studied her face as if determining what she said, and perhaps even her presence, was real.

“It’s all I wished for…” Max whispered. The corners of his lips twitched into his familiar melancholic smile. He forced out a breath, perhaps pushing aside his fears. His tongue darted out to wet his cracked lips. His eyes roamed her face still searching for absolution. For a moment they seemed to look past her, and then they widened all of a sudden, flashing with panic.

Feeling fear and panic fill her as well, she asked in a hushed voice, “What is it? Wha-t do you s-ee?” Her voice was once more shaky as she attempted to reach him.

Max’s mouth opened and closed a few times unable to respond. His gaze was now fixed past her shoulder full of confusion.

Craning her head to meet his eyes she questioned, her voice tinged with despair, “Where do you think you are?”

He chewed his bottom lip, as he cast his gaze downward. Unwilling to face her, he answered morosely, “Where I belong.”

She almost believed her heart stopped beating for a moment.

In dismay she whispered, “Oh Max.” Unable to hold herself any longer, she pulled him close, talking directly into his ear. “Your place is here with us. You don’t belong—” she broke off, disheartened at the thought that Max believed his fate was to be in a torture chamber. Her voice thick with tears, she affirmed, “You didn’t deserve what they did to you.” She almost added nobody does, but after what they had done to Max the agents certainly deserved such maltreatment. Instead she focused on the reassurances from before, “We are safe. You are not there anymore. You’re not there.” She continued to reiterate that last statement as if the repetition alone would convince Max of the truth.

Small tremors shook Max’s frame within her arms, but lessened with each utterance of the statement.

Finally, he began to unspool from his bent form forcing her to release him from her hold.

The dullness of his eyes had fallen away and been replaced with a wary exhaustion. Liz observed Max slowly take in his surroundings. When he finally turned to her, she saw him do a muted gasp and push his hair back. “You’re here…” His voice was raspy and tinged with awe.

Perturbed at the familiar refrain, Liz held her breath waiting for what Max would say next.

His right hand reached out towards her stopping shy of touching her hair. “It’s really you?” He murmured in disbelief.

Gently pulling his hand to cup her cheek, she tearfully responded, “Yes.”

For a brief moment, Max’s expression darkened with doubt. “Why… why are you here?” he ground out.

The question stupefied Liz, but observing Max once more surveying the room, she realized he still did not trust what he saw was real.

Bringing his hand over her heart, she silently urged him to feel her heartbeat. “We’re in my room Max. This is our home.” She paused to let the sentiment sink in. “I’m not going anywhere, Max,” she declared.

His expression warred between confusion, apprehension and elation. He surreptitiously glanced around the bathroom searching for anything to contradict her statement. Releasing a tremulous sigh, he pulled her into an embrace. He buried his head in her hair, breathing in her scent. Overwhelmed, Max seemed unable to form a coherent thought, only unintelligible utterances reaching Liz’s ears.

Liz rubbed small circles on Max’s back in an attempt to soothe him. After awhile he quieted down. Hearing the slight wheeze in his breathing, Liz focused on taking care of Max’s physical needs. “Can you stand up?” she gently asked.

At his nod, Liz helped him up and guided him towards the sink. “Rinse your mouth?” she suggested.

He complied, splashing his face as well. As he did, a few meek coughs escaped him.

Once done, Liz helped him to the bed. Absentmindedly, she noticed his steps were stilted, as if restricted. He sat heavily on the bed; gaze cast downward. Noticing the shivers running through his body, Liz quickly helped Max place his shirt back on, and wrapped him in the blanket. After placing the blanket on him, she rubbed his arms through the material.

As she rubbed his arms to provide warmth, Max’s head stayed bent. Damp strands of hair were plastered to his forehead. For a brief moment Liz was transported back to when she and Max were in that abandoned van by the river where they had taken shelter in all those years ago. But this time adrenalin was no longer running through her system fueling racing thoughts of government goons and alien destinies. Instead, the disquiet of witnessing Max having a flashback firsthand had her carefully observing him. She tilted her head for a better view, her cautious smile immediately dropping at the sight of the haggard appearance to Max’s face.

The glazed look in his eyes was gone, but there was still a faraway look to Max’s expression. The slack of his jaw and droop in shoulders emanated shame, defeat and resignation.

She released a weary sigh as she stopped her motions and sat beside him. Casting a few concerned glances at Max, who stubbornly remained focused on the ground, she wondered if she should call Isabel or Michael to help.

But then Max’s hand slipped out from the blanket to grasp hers.

Surprised, she looked up to see him facing her. His breaths were still labored from the cold that wracked his far too thin body. “I...” His soft voice began uncertainly; tongue darting out to wet his lips. An aborted word escaped him as he looked away, slid his hand off hers and hung his head.

Her head tilted to the side, she studied Max sensing that he was mentally berating himself. She reached for his hand and squeezed it as a way to offer silent support. A small smile briefly graced his face, simultaneously wistful and heartened. He blinked a few times in quick succession. “I l…love…you.” The declaration was a plaintive plea to be believed.

Liz bit her lip to stem the tears springing to her eyes. Lifting their intertwined fingers to her lips she kissed his hand and affirmed, “I love you too.”

Max’s breath hitched at the contact; his eyes shutting in reverence. “Y-you’ll st-ay?” His voice sounded lost and desperate.

Her heart breaking once more, Liz could only nod in response. Scooting closer, Max enveloped her in the blanket and switched hands so that his arm also draped around her. His shivers subsided more and more the longer they sat together. Though the exhaustion in Liz’s body had her resting her head against his upper chest, her mind raced.

Chewing on her lip, Liz racked her brain on how to prove to Max that he had been rescued. He couldn’t truly live if he felt it would be taken away any moment. Her whole soul ached knowing the Unit had rendered him helpless over the past year. She needed to show him that he was no longer alone—no longer trapped in hell. Being immediately chased the first time forced them to act on instinct with little time to reflect. But Max stood up to the challenge like a natural born leader. It had been easy to forget he was just as scared as the rest of them and still in pain from his ordeal. Save for the time in the van, he had been composed even when facing his tormentor. She sat forward as she remembered the chase and confrontation. As she compared his last internment and subsequent rescue to now, she realized the clear difference: He had been conscious the first time.

Max had been completely aware as they broke him out, and he even fought Pierce and disbanded the Unit. Energized by the revelation, she stood up and began pacing. If only there was a way to show him this rescue…

She suddenly turned back to Max who was watching her curiously.

“What if we connected? I could show you how we rescued you.”

Max’s refusal was immediate with a panicked shake of his head.. “No.”

Inwardly frustrated, Liz lamented that there wasn’t a video of her memories of the escape. She stopped in her tracks. The surveillance footage…

“There’s something I need to show you. It’s downstairs, so I’ll be right bac—”

Max abruptly cut her off, “Lead the way.” The utterance was soft, but conveyed hope at whatever idea Liz had and showed the blind faith Max had in Liz.

Gathering her bearings, Liz offered her hand to Max to help him up. He took it, and followed her down the stairs. The trek down was quiet, each lost in their thoughts. Liz’s stomach was taut thinking about what Max’s reaction would be. Her eyes briefly flickered to Max whose head remained bent seemingly focused on their entwined hands. Glancing quickly at the guest room, she was relieved to find it closed. Max seemed anxious enough without more people witnessing his worst traumas.

She led him to the sofa, ushering him to sit in front of the computer. Just as she was about to lift the lid, she hesitated. “Do you want to drink something first?”

Though his voice betrayed a parched throat, he dismissed the offer. “Maybe later. What’s on this?” He asked, gesturing to the laptop.

As the computer woke from sleep mode, she confessed, “When we rescued you, Isabel found a computer and managed to download its files here.” Hurriedly she added, “You had been unconscious for three days.” Her prior fear of him never waking up infused her words, though she felt the justification was a weak excuse. Liz sniffed from the tears building up once again. “We thought maybe it might provide information to help us wake you up. We didn’t mean to watch, but—”

Max interrupted, “Watch what?” There was a nervous edge to his voice.

With melancholy eyes Liz non-verbally directed Max to look at the screen. “There are surveillance videos on this,” she stated in a quiet resigned voice.

A stricken look stole across Max’s face. The tips of his ears seemed to redden. His eyes quickly flitted back and forth between her and the screen. “Videos?” he asked breathlessly.

Doubting the wisdom of her plan, Liz nodded wordlessly.

“And… you’ve watched them…” Max’s voice was weighed down by shame.

Her stomach tightened at the memory of the video they had seen and over her concern of upsetting Max further. “Not intentionally.” After an extended pause she admitted in a timid voice, “It was of when they revived you.”

Max’s face contorted with pain at the memory.

Spurred by his reaction, Liz spoke in a rush, “None of us will watch any of these videos without your say so. Just—I thought—maybe there’s some footage of our rescue…” Liz stumbled over her words as Max’s distressed expression weakened her resolve.

Eyeing where her finger hovered over the touchpad, Max answered with only a brusque nod.

Bowing her head in affirmation Liz toggled to the window with the videos listed.

Once again the haunting window of dates appeared before her. Quickly scrolling down the list of dates she visibly deflated at her discovery. The last recording was from May 31st—just two days before they arrived.

She leaned back onto the couch cushions, her shoulders slumped in defeat. Mentally, she berated herself for not realizing earlier that the equipment must have already been disconnected by the time they rescued Max. She spared a sideways glance to Max noting his strained expression directed towards the screen. Following his gaze she noticed his attention was focused on the other window, which provided an interface listing the other files they had only briefly skimmed that first time. In view was a file named, “T.o.S.” Though she was surprised he was staring at a document she assumed was full of general legal jargon, she surmised he was frozen by the mere fact that all the evidence of his capture laid before him.

She struggled to find words. The evidence of how the Special Unit had violated him was utterly unspeakable. Returning to Max’s face, she saw naked fear and uncertainty.

It was the same look she saw in the mirror after discovering the truth about Max Evans.

When Max had approached her in the Crashdown, she had been a bundle of nerves unsure of trusting her own senses or instincts. But then Max showed her who he really was, and she discovered there was nothing to fear anymore. She wondered if she could do the same for him.

“Max?” she softly called out to him.

With some difficulty he tore his gaze away from the screen to meet hers.

“Remember when you… You told me…” she stumbled on how to broach the idea to him. She momentarily stopped with a sigh of frustration.

“You once reversed the connection so that you wouldn’t receive anything from me,” she finally stated.

Max nodded, unsure what she was getting at.

“And you didn’t, right? I mean, you couldn’t still see any memories from me?”

He rushed to assure her, “No. I promise you, Liz. I didn’t.”

“Ok, so how about I do it to you?”

“What?” Max asked in a stunned and hushed voice.

Reaching out to hold Max’s closest hand she asked, “Do you trust me?”

“Yes, but wha—”

She interrupted any protest he may have. “Then help me reverse the connection to you. Help me show you how we rescued you.”

For a moment they sat in silence as he carefully regarded her. She kept her gaze focused on him, her resolve steely with her patented stubbornness. His eyes closed, he languidly shook his head and released a huff of laughter.

“Can’t fault that logic,” he murmured. “Okay,” he breathed out. He looked around the room momentarily pausing at the direction of the guestroom before returning to Liz. “Okay,” he repeated.

“Okay,” Liz confirmed. She released a long breath to let out her nervous energy. Glancing around the room, she wondered where would be most comfortable for Max to do the connection, but Max shifting in his seat so that he faced her concluded the debate. With a self-deprecating smile she moved into a cross-legged position facing Max as well.

The dawning light seeped in around the curtain edges its pale light forming an eerie glow on Max that highlighted the shadows under his eyes and the sickly pallor of his skin. Without thinking she stroked his cheek—the touch instinctually comforting him and reassuring herself he was still with her. Max pressed her fingers against his cheek marveling at the touch but soon directed her hands to cradle his head.

Cognizant of where the burns on Max’s head had been she cupped her hands lower on his ears. Swallowing thickly, she asked “So how do I make sure you see what I want you to see?”

“When you’re ready to send me the images, think only about what you want to show me—what you want me to know,” Max instructed.

Liz smiled and nodded in thanks. Then the thought occurred to her: “What did you think about… when you showed me who you really were?” Her hands slid back to her lap as she asked.

With a bashful smile, his long lashes grazing the crests of his cheek, Max answered shyly, “What I always wanted to tell you.”

Her chest warmed at his response filling her with confidence that this was the right thing to do. Wordlessly, she placed her hands on either side of Max’s head. Though his breathing momentarily hitched, he gazed back at her with complete trust. Replaying the memory of Max connecting to her she repeated his words now: “Just take deep breaths and try to let your mind blank out.”

I will be the answer
At the end of the line
I will be there for you
While you take the time


A glimmer of mirth appeared in Max’s eyes, but he remained silent. Their breaths became in sync as Liz brought her memory of the rescue to the forefront of her mind. Slight warmth emanated from her hands. As she concentrated, she accompanied the thoughts with her own emotions about Max being alive. She remembered the moment in the stairwell where she had unknowingly connected to Max, the shock of finding Max alive, the fear at seeing the mysterious shocking lights up and down Max’s body, the despair that he hadn’t woken up, and the sheer relief she felt upon seeing Max’s amber eyes staring down at her in the tub. She had no idea if it was working, but still she willed the memories of them all working together, including Kyle and Isabel helping her dreamwalk Max, forward.

In the burning of uncertainty
I will be your solid ground
I will hold the balance
If you can't look down


She focused on sending reassurances of her love to Max. Her soul was inextricably tied to Max’s, and only finding out he was alive had it been able to live once more.

If it takes my whole life
I won't break, I won't bend
It will all be worth it
Worth it in the end
Cause I can only tell you what I know
That I need you in my life


Liz blinked.

Whatever energy being passed from her to Max had stopped leaving her hands cooled. Refocusing, she saw Max gazing back at her. Automatically, she began to ask, “Did it w-”

But as she registered the shimmering quality to Max’s tear-filled eyes, she knew the answer.

When the stars have all gone out
You'll still be burning so bright


Moving her hands to grasp his, she asked instead, “Do you believe now?”

Cast me gently
Into morning
For the night has been unkind


A single tear fell down his cheek as he rasped, “I’m starting to.”

Song: Answer by Sarah McLachlan
Last edited by behrinthecity on Sun Feb 23, 2020 10:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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