Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 58 10/25/20 (WIP)
Posted: Sun Oct 25, 2020 7:12 am
It took me a long while to get this part where I felt it still covered what I wanted to set up for the upcoming parts, especially given that it's after midnight for these guys and these poor kids (especially Max) should have some rest before making important decisions about their future. In fact, I ended up making a few more changes today, so apologies for the extra delay!
I hope all of you enjoy the part and are staying safe and well.
[From The Balance]
As Max entered the Crashdown, Michael begrudgingly following, his eyes instantly went to Liz. The delight shone in her eyes, mesmerizing him as he lowered into a booth.
His attention was briefly stolen by Michael as he groused, “Hey, do we have to eat here?”
Max did not pick up on the anxious edge to Michael’s voice, too focused on sneaking glances at Liz. The kisses they had shared on her balcony were all he could think about. Briefly, his eyes lowered to Liz’s lips as he imagined kissing them again and again. But sensing Michael’s growing impatience, Max actually looked at the menu in his hand and justified his coming into the Crashdown, “I'm, uh, really in the mood for a piece of Men in Black-berry pie.” His voice took on a sardonic quality as he read the pun-filled name. Mentally, he rolled his eyes over the cheesy name, but he conceded he really did like blackberries… any berries really.
[From Into the Woods]
Despite the chilly air of the woods Kyle felt hot. Seeing his father crouched among the bushes spying on Max Evans and his sister made him seethe with rage. After what had happened with his grandparents, he thought his father would not repeat the same mistakes. This weekend was supposed to be time for him to bond with his father, continue their past traditions of winning the hotdog eating contest, and just have some time where his father’s job didn’t impose a barrier between them.
But clearly he was no longer a priority. It stung to not only lose Liz to Max, but now his father? As he stepped forward he wasn’t sure what exactly he’d say, but he was done swallowing his disappointment and pain.
“Kyle, what the hell are you doing here?” his father asked, anger masking his fear and surprise.
“Just wanted to see what was more important than me,” Kyle stated darkly.
[From Part 1]
As Max gave his speech the trepidation within him had created a rapid rhythm in his heart wondering when they would decide to end its mad cadence. As he spoke his last few words, it came. The sensation was so sudden and forceful it caused him to stagger backwards, but before he could even register what happened, another bullet drove into his chest and he fell backwards onto the stage. As his body hit with a thud, the screaming around him already seemed faded to him and darkness began to bleed along the edges of his peripheral vision. This time though he welcomed the darkness rather than fought it. When he healed Clayton, he hadn’t been ready, not with so much to still discuss with Liz. But now, she finally knew all that he wanted her to know and she not only had forgiven him for his mistakes, his indiscretions, but accepted him wholly when she whispered, “Yes” to his heartfelt proposal. He had dreamed of growing old with her, having children with her, to live in marital bliss, but it was not meant to be. So, from the moment the bullets penetrated his skin, one trained upon his beating heart, he welcomed his end—his destiny. As the blackness took over he never felt the arms that roughly grabbed his body.
He slowly became aware of a faint high-pitched sound repeating every few seconds and then a feeling of brightness in his eyes. What did this mean? He tried to slip back further into the darkness, but the pitched sounds became more insistent, occurring with greater frequency. And the brightness started to burn at his eyelids. He slowly cracked them open and suddenly his sight was flooded with blinding whiteness. White? No, it couldn’t be. He was dead… he had been shot; he should be dead. He had to be. As a wave of panic began to sweep over him, he sensed someone approach him. He tried to move, to hide and find the comforting darkness again, but he found he couldn’t. He could hardly feel his own limbs. What was happening to him? The presence came closer, still remaining a silhouette in the glaring light, but then among the incessant beeping he heard a voice laced with menace, smugly say, “Welcome back, Mr. Evans.” The high-pitched beeps peaked, running so fast and close together one could just barely discern them. That was when he realized as his eyes widened enough to take in the white walls behind the shadow—he was in hell.
[From Part 12]
“Ready for your weekly dreamwalk?” Isabel asked Liz, as she settled back onto her pillows.
Tucking her hair nervously behind her ear, Liz nodded.
“I just wish you could come back, honey,” Jeff lamented.
“I know dad. But maybe someday you guys can come to live with me when it’s safe enough. And I really hope that day will come. However, there’s something I need to tell you.”
“I thought you already told us everything, what else could there be?” Her mother asked before she could continue.
“I did, sort of. I told you the basics, what you needed to know so that these visits wouldn’t scare you, but you don’t know the details—the full story. All the reasons why I would sneak out at night, would leave in the middle of my shifts, why I seemed upset and secretive, why Max and I landed in jail… yet still loved each other more than anyone could even imagine. I kept a journal of everything that happened to me over the last three years. It starts with the Crashdown shooting and ends right before graduation. I had originally planned to take it with me, but after what happened I decided it best it remained hidden… just in case. Now that the agents seem to be out of Roswell, I think it’s safe that you guys read it. And though it may not make sense at first, you’ll find a diamond ring with it too. Please don’t get upset. I, Max, all of us… have been through so much. We’ve endured things most people never have to in their entire lives. The only constant thing was love and friendship among us. I warn you, a lot of misunderstandings happened between me and Max, but we worked through it. No matter how bad it sounds, just know I was safe when I was with him, I really was. Don’t hate him. If it wasn’t for him, I would have died four years ago. If it wasn’t for him, I would never have known true love. And if it wasn’t for him, graduation would have been a worse tragedy than it was.” Once she had started, it all came tumbling out, but at the thought of Max, she started to falter and finally had to stop, before she broke down and possibly lost the connection.
Both her parents were shocked in to silence for a few moments. Then her dad sputtering broke out of it, “D-d-diamond ring??”
A slight smile lit her face at the magical memory of his proposal. He had been so earnest, so sweet, so wonderful…so Max. He had been the Max she had missed for much of the previous year. “You’ll read about it in the journal. Please just promise you’ll save your judgments till after you’re done reading?” She pleadingly looked at them.
They regarded her for a moment, seeing how important this was to her. “Of course,” they agreed.
“Thank you.” She hugged them both, smiling. “You’ll find it in the wall between my room and the balcony, there’s a loose brick. Be careful. I love you both. I’ll see you next week.” With that she kissed them both goodbye and faded away as she closed the connection.
[From Part 39]
Kyle mournfully smiled, thinking even though Max was out of there, he still wasn’t with them.
His head hung low, he turned to the girls. Maria huddled by Liz, whose back was stiff and eyes blank as she stared at the TV. Maria turned to face him, a helpless look on her face conveying, I don’t know what to do. With an inaudible sigh, he moved in front of them, blocking much of the flashing light from the TV. His face remained shadowed until he squatted down to Liz’s eye level.
The flickering light danced along his cheeks as he softly spoke to her, “Liz,” he paused waiting for some response to appear on her face. When nothing changed, he continued, “Liz… Come on Parker, talk to me... or at least look at me.”
Her eyes seemed to refocus, meeting his gaze and he offered her a smile. “All right, that’s a start.” Briefly, he turned to where the bathroom was, “Why don’t you shower first? We’ll have to leave in a few hours anyway, and it’s a long drive back.”
She nodded, her lips pursed. Mutely, she stood up and slowly entered the bathroom.
Kyle heavily sat in the spot Liz had just vacated, clamping a hand against his face. God, he was tired.
[From Part 50]
“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!”
“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 into 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 levelled 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.
[From Part 52]
In a more serene and coaxing tone, Maria nudged Max’s hand that was holding the mug and said, “Drink.”
The bemused smile that was beginning to stretch across Max’s face froze. A shiver stole down his spine and his sides appeared to spasm. The pastoral surroundings of the backyard had given way to an icy and hazy white. His grip seemed loose on the cup of warmth held within his hands. Daring a glance upward, a blurry shadowy form crouched before him, which to his surprise bore a resemblance to Michael.
Before he could comprehend what he was seeing, he heard an apprehensive voice call his name, “Max?”
Looking around he only saw white. His breaths left him in shallow puffs. With his body shivering, he almost believed his breaths were coming out in foggy clouds.
“Max!” The voice was more forceful this time though tinged with panic.
Blinking rapidly he began to make out Maria’s concerned face. His voice a little shaky, he asked, “What happened?”
Maria’s lips opened and closed a few times in an unintentional goldfish impression. Finally, she settled on the tentative response: “you sort of zoned out…” As she gesticulated, she brushed against Max’s arm and in shock remarked, “Oh my god, you’re ice cold!”
Having turned to reach for the mug that had been placed to the side of her she missed how Max uneasily shifted in place at her choice of words.
Placing the mug into Max’s hands, she supported his tenuous hold on the handle and encouraged him to drink, “Here. It’s hot. It should help to warm you up.”
As he sipped, he flashed a look of gratitude to Maria. His eyes instinctually closed as the hot liquid swirled on his tongue and spread heat through his chest. After several sips, he finally lowered the mug (Maria’s hand still guiding the movement). His stomach was still taut with disquiet at the sense of déjà vu that Maria helping him drink gave. His fingers felt stiff around the cup’s base, though there was no apparent reason for his sudden attack of cold. His eyes fluttered close with a sudden realization.
He must have had a flashback.
Disjointed images of him fighting to escape a bath of frigid water flickered in his mind. He could almost feel the ice cubes bumping into his flailing limbs.
Releasing a shuddering breath, he opened his slightly stinging eyes. He should have known it had been too good to be true. He wasn’t free— perhaps he was physically. But mentally, he was still the Special Unit’s. His eyes returned to the ground as they should.
[From Part 57]
As they entered the foyer, Cal directed Max and Isabel to wait, while he gestured for the others to head into the living room. Liz gave Max a quick peck before she followed the others.
Seeing Isabel place her arm around Max, Phillip and Diane completed the group embrace; their hands linked the whole time.
Isabel’s soothing voice entered Max’s mind. We’re here, Max. We’re really here.
At the same time
In the living room
Kyle was the first to step into the living room. His eyebrows were raised at the opulent settings of Cal’s mansion. Even his dreams of being quarterback for the Houston Astros hadn’t envisioned a place like this to live. Spying French windows to the side, he was surprised the protector hadn’t designed his home to be as secure as Fort Knox. Then again, he figured the protector could easily defend himself from any intruder or threat. Completing his survey of the room, his eyes landed on the Parkers. A smile sprang to his face as he greeted them with a wave. Before he could utter an actual word though, Jeffrey Parker looked past him with his arms outstretched to his daughter, “Lizzie!”
Kyle looked to his right with surprise not expecting Liz to already have joined them. Liz was a blur as she quickly moved forward into her father’s embrace, which her mother also soon joined.
Hearing Maria gasp, Kyle whipped his head to the other side spying her tightly wrapped in Amy’s arms. He smirked as Maria called out, “Mom! Mom, I can’t bre—too tight!”
Loosening the hug ever so slightly, Amy tearfully remarked, “Why do you have to take so much after me?”
The question was a familiar one to Kyle with the few tense conversations he’d had with his father over the years about his grandfather. But Maria’s face was full of confusion.
Maria had been expecting a verbal lashing for having lied to her all these years, not resigned but loving words from her mother. Her voice quiet, she asked uncertainly, “Mom?” After a brief pause, she began to ramble, “I’m sorry, I didn’t tell you, I j—"
“Hush now honey.” Amy interrupted. “We can talk more in the morning. I just need to know you’re here.”
Maria’s face briefly crumpled at those words, a tear escaping. She returned her mother’s embrace just as tightly.
Kyle’s smile faltered as he realized his father wasn’t there. He tried to hide his disappointment and concern at not seeing his father. Though Michael was also left standing on his own, Kyle knew the DeLucas would soon have him join their intimate reunion. To help speed it up, he nudged Michael a little closer to the two weeping women. “Oh dear boy! Come here!” Amy cried out, pulling Michael into the hug.
Momentarily smirking, Kyle enjoyed the sight of his friends reunited with his parents. But the familiar pain of abandonment flared up in his chest. Spying Cal entering the room, he started to ask about his father. But turned at the consternated words coming from the hallway.
“Been here for days and I still get lost on the way back from the bathroom. Never been to a house that should have signs to navi—” Jim broke off at the sight of his son.
“Dad,” Kyle responded contentedly; his fears allayed.
In moments, the Valenti men were in their own embrace. Breaking his hold, Jim held Kyle at arm’s length. “You all right?” he asked as he scrutinized his son carefully. At Kyle’s nod, he sighed in relief. Jim regarded Kyle, his voice ladened with emotion, “I am so proud of you, son. What you did…” he took a gander over the others in the room observing their happy reunions. “This is because you didn’t give up. You…” Jim’s throat tightened under his emotions making him pause. With a forceful swallow, he continued with a gentle squeeze of Kyle’s shoulders, “…gave us all hope again.” He clapped his hand on Kyle’s right arm. “You righted a mistake I didn’t know how to fix. Thank you, son.” Jim’s last few words were thick from the tears he held back.
“Dad,” Kyle’s voice was a mixture of dismay, pride, and affection. He began shaking his head, modestly denying any credit. “I didn’t do anything you wouldn’t have done yourself.” Kyle had to glance away at seeing the overwhelming emotions bursting from his father’s face. He mumbled, “I’m just glad we all made it.” He cast his own gaze around the room then. “It’s good to see everybody.”
Hearing his comment, Jeffrey called them over to join them. After their extended hug with Liz, they were catching up with what had happened. Amy, Maria, and Michael soon joined them.
As Kyle and his father sat on the sofa facing the Parkers, Nancy addressed Kyle. “Thank you, Kyle for bringing us all back together.” Her hand held on tightly to Liz’s.
“It was a group effort,” Kyle sincerely answered.
Jim proudly patted Kyle on the back.
Amy spoke up then, “How did you find out about Max?”
“If you mean about his otherworldly origins, I found out when he saved my life.” Amy eyes widened a bit at that news, but Kyle forged on before she could ask a question. “In terms of finding out he was still alive… well” Kyle rubbed the back of his neck uncertain about telling the others he had alien powers too. “Do you know about Isabel’s dreamwalking power?”
Amy was momentarily confused before she remembered where she had heard about that power. She joined Jeff and Nancy slowly nodding in response.
Despite their agreement, Kyle decided to clarify, “Dreamwalking is making this mental link with another person where you basically enter the person’s dream and you can talk to them. Somehow I managed to connect to Max and uh… we” he gestured to his father, Maria, and himself. “…started investigating and found out Max was alive and actually a prisoner of the Special Unit—this secret alien hunting unit of the FBI.”
Amy mutely nodded, her mind reeling from Kyle’s answer. She still was wrapping her head around the fact Max, Isabel, and Michael were aliens. But Kyle had also almost died and now had powers too? What about Maria??
Maria seemed to read her mother’s mind though, meeting her mother’s gaze and assuring her with a slight shake of her head and squeeze of her hand that she was still as she always had been.
Releasing an audible sigh, Amy caught Jim’s eye, “How have you been able to handle this so calmly all these years?” Sure, he was in law enforcement, but their kids were dealing with unchartered territory. Secret government units, alien powers, and who knows what else she had been left out of the loop?
She started to chew on her nail, a nervous tic, as she fretted what else she would learn.
Kyle recognized the barely restrained panic in Amy’s expression. That had been him at football camp all summer after being healed, until one of the team members told him about Buddhism. Taking her hand, he steadily held her gaze and recited the quote his teammate had told him.
“Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves.”
Amy deeply exhaled, an appreciative smile appearing on her face. She gently commented with affection, “Now where did you hear that? Sounds like something my yoga instructor once said.” Her typical caustic wit had no bite in the face of Kyle’s sincerity.
“Friend from football camp introduced me to Buddhism. It’s really helped me wrap my mind around everything to do with” Kyle paused debating which word to go with before finally stating “…all this.” He shook his head still not quite believing this was real life instead of a crazy dream.
Maria quietly snorted at that. At Kyle’s glare, she mouthed out an apology.
Liz chimed in at that point, “Kyle has been a rock for all of us.”
Kyle automatically ducked his head ready to refute Liz’s kind words.
Liz forged on, light amusement weaving into her tone, “Before Kyle’s modesty stops me, you should know—” She took a breath infusing her words with deep gratitude, “—we made it here because of him.” Though Kyle had been invaluable throughout, Liz was particularly thinking of that moment when he helped break through her stupor so that she could start to take control and feel like herself. Without his support, patience, and compassion they might not have made it this far.
Kyle caught Liz’s gaze silently offering his thanks for her words. At the same time his father gave him a tight side hug. Amy, Jeff, and Nancy each displaying various stages of being overwhelmed, expressed their thanks to him.
They all lapsed into a comfortable silence, content to just hold each other.
Though his voice was quiet, Jim’s question got everyone’s attention. “What happened when you rescued him?”
The kids looked at each other unsure where to start. Just thinking about the rescue and days after depleted what energy boost they had at reuniting with their parents. After a beat, Michael audibly sighed, begrudgingly choosing to answer. “We were careful, but there wasn’t any agent. Turns out that was Cal’s doing.”
Cocking his head, Jeffrey asked, “He didn’t tell you he was doing that?”
Liz turned to her father, “We didn’t meet up with him until we were back in Canada. The whole time we were there, we were expecting something to happen… someone to fight.”
Nancy and Jeff’s face were full of concern and worry over Liz’s statement. Michael assured them, “She can handle herself. She helped us the first time round and was indispensable this time too.”
“First time?” Nancy asked.
Liz softly uttered, “Max was taken by the Unit before… in 2000.”
Nancy and Amy both covered their mouths in shock and sympathy. Jeff though was on another wavelength as he shook his head.
“I still can’t believe you’ve been fighting the government all this time,” Jeff remarked with a tinge of pride.
Jeff’s words breaking through Amy’s woeful stupor, she playfully nudged Maria. “Well, this one definitely got it from me.”
“It’s not like I sought them out!” Maria protested, her words pointedly implying Amy’s protest stints.
Michael spoke up, his words quiet, but firm. “We only defended ourselves. I tried to keep her out of this, but…” he trailed off as the combative glint in Maria’s eyes mesmerized him. “well, they’re stubborn.” At the indignant stares from Liz, Kyle, and Maria, Michael added, “Good friends, but stubborn.”
“And you wouldn’t want it any other way,” Maria lightly commented, though there was an underlying threat to her words.
The others chuckled at Michael and Maria’s comments. They spared a glance at the clock, wondering if the Evans would come out to join them soon.
Cal came by offering to get them tea or coffee. Amy and Nancy both nodded in response. Nancy added, “Let me help you.” As Nancy followed Cal, Amy decided to also help them out in the kitchen.
Having briefly watched Amy sashay into the kitchen, Jim turned back to the teens. “How is he?” Jim asked them in a hushed voice.
For a moment they stared at each other in discomfort unsure of what to say.
Just as Liz started to stumble out a response, they heard Max’s mellifluent tone, “Better.”
As Max shuffled closer to them, his parents and Isabel close behind, Jim and Jeff stood up their faces in shock.
“While I live and breathe,” Jim breathed out. In his mind’s eye he saw Max in his red graduation robe stumble backwards as bullets hit him in the chest. He lifted a hand rubbing at his forehead as if to wipe out the memory that had haunted his thoughts and dreams for the past year.
Jeff opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, before admitting, his voice sotto, “I see it, but I don’t believe it.” The last time he had seen Max, he was up on the stage at graduation. Anxiety had filled him up with each word Max had spoken, and Jeff was certain he saw Liz’s shadow exit the auditorium. In his confusion, he had missed when Max was first hit, but had turned back to see the second bullet officially take him down. And yet here he was walking towards him alive.
As soon as Max reached them, Liz quickly sidled up to him, her hand instantly gravitating to his. Max glanced at Liz in gratitude. As he looked back at the others, Jeff had come closer and clasped a supportive hand on Max’s shoulder. “It really is good to see you Max.” A sniff escaped him. “Thank you for saving my Lizzie.”
“Dad…” Liz released her hand from Max’s to cover her face; softly protesting in embarrassment at the use of her childhood nickname in front of Max.
“Thank you,” Max responded sincerely. The reverent weight to his words conveying his meaning of gratitude for bringing Liz into the world.
Patting his hand twice on Max’s shoulder, Jeff nodded in understanding.
As he stepped away, Jim walked up and gave a bear hug to Max. Kyle’s lips twitched in mirth as he saw Max widen his eyes in surprise. Though Kyle and Max had started off in an antagonistic relationship, especially with him resenting his father for focusing so much on Max, Kyle finally let the last of his deeply buried grudge go. The overwhelming relief and peace that he saw washing over his father’s face could not be denied. The weary lines of stress and guilt began to melt from his aged face as he held Max.
Holding Max for a few moments, Jim managed to speak his words of regret, “I’m so sorry, Max.”
Confusion stole over Max’s face. Anxiously, he queried, “For what?”
It wasn’t in Jim to hide from his mistakes. Squaring his shoulders, he intently looked Max in the eye. “For failing to protect you.”
Devastation flashed on Max’s face, “No… you didn’t.” Fumbling for words, Max finally added, “There was nothing that could have been done.”
Jim and Michael held matching expressions of contention; disagreeing with what Max had said. They were men of action. Protectors. It was hard to let go of the past year’s guilt over what happened at Graduation due to their inaction.
“Oh my god!” Amy gasped from across the room. Handing her cup to Nancy, she quickly strode up to Max scrutinizing him.
Max tried his best to not shirk back, his hand gripping onto Liz’s like a lifeline.
With a disbelieving shake of her head, she held Max’s shoulders and placed a light kiss on his cheek. As she stepped back her eyes shining with emotion, she spoke, “If there’s anything I can do, you let me know.”
Max instantly began to decline the kind offer, but Amy forged on, “Even if it’s pie. You liked blackberry right?”
With a shy smile he nodded. Turning his head to glance at Liz, Amy caught the slightest twitch in his lips as he appeared to share a silent joke with Liz. Amy’s chest warmed at the sight. When she first laid her eyes on Max, she had been appalled at his emaciated state. Internally, her instincts fought to first mother the beleaguered boy or go fight his captors so that this injustice never occurred again. But this moment showed that the Max they all knew was not gone. Even if it was just her pie, Amy was satisfied knowing that the thought of such a small act like her baking pies could help bring a smile to his face. She (and she was sure everyone else in the room) would do her darndest to make sure his suffering was truly over.
After Amy had handed her her cup, Nancy quietly placed the cup next to hers on the counter. Tea and coffee could wait.
As Amy greeted Max, Nancy had hesitantly walked up to them. Her own eyes were wide with disbelief that the young man receiving a kiss from Amy was indeed the same boy she had last seen on the West Roswell High stage. His words back then had filled her with apprehension. That speech was intended for someone likely not welcome at the graduation. Alongside Jeff, she had peered into the darkness to look for Liz, but Max’s words still rang in her ears They've had each other to cling to but tonight that's all coming to an end. At that time, her mind had instantly panicked over what was going to happen to her baby girl.
And then she heard a sharp crack. People instantly got up around her screaming. Her own heart had seemed to stop beating, her fearful eyes sweeping the crowd for Liz. A second crack resounded. Jeff had started to pull her down in her seat in meek protection from the gunshots. Still needing to look for Liz, her eyes looked frantically towards the stage. Though she still attempted to peer through the panicked bodies rushing from their seats, she managed to catch a glimpse of Max falling backwards; his red robe fluttering around him.
Her mind had frozen in that moment. As she approached Max now, she felt that familiar numbness and shock fill her body. But then she saw him turn to Liz and the two shared secretive bemused smiles.
Nancy never had a chance to get to know Max personally. Her first introduction to him was at the hospital after Claudia had had a stroke, but she had been too mentally drained to do more than politely smile at what she thought was a good friend checking up on Liz. The next time had been at the Principal’s office where she was more concerned of Liz becoming one of those pregnant teens on that horridly depressing reality show. He had seemed polite, sweet, and smart enough, but the things he had encouraged Liz to do pointed to him being a bad influence. But now Nancy saw all those moments in a new light—though fraught with danger her daughter had described it as a journey of discovery and love. Liz’s written words from her journal echoed in her mind as Nancy studied Max. In his eyes I was beautiful. … The thing is when you follow your heart you leave normal. … Tonight he asked me what’s so great about normal? And all I could think was nothing. …Being with Max makes me feel ready to take on the world. It’s a strange mix of exhilaration and a sense that I’m home. Because despite the danger we’ve faced, I still feel safe with him. He saved my life that day in the Crashdown, and has revitalized it in ways I could never imagine.
Dipping her head momentarily, Nancy pulled her emotions back under control. Now was not the time to get into Liz’s and Max’s incredibly intense romance. Now was a time for rest and healing. And so she embraced Max, softly stating, “Welcome back, Max.”
An involuntary shudder ran down Max’s spine at her words. The last time he had been greeted as such, it had been by a cruel agent ready to commence his torture. But not wanting his thoughts to get lost in that memory, he replayed Nancy’s words focusing on her honeyed tone.
Feeling Max shiver, Nancy rubbed his back and softly shushed in his ear. It was a technique she used on Liz as a baby when she fussed. It had even worked when she was sick with the flu at the age of eight. But contrarily, Max seemed to tense further and started to push himself away from the hug.
When Nancy had made shushing sounds in his ear, Max’s mind instantly transported to his personal hell. In his mind’s eye he was surrounded by faceless white clad men who held him down as they restrained him, injected drugs into him, and suppressed his cries. Interspersed were images of his head captors and even Pierce from the first time, wearing their dark suits and feral grins as they shushed from the side in mocking comfort.
Max blinked into awareness. He turned towards the voice that had addressed him. Meeting Liz’s understanding gaze, he noticed her hand on his arm and realized it had been her who called him. His mother stood on the other side of him observing with barely hidden alarm. Liz’s mother had already stepped back from him, her face pinched in confusion and worry.
Max opened his mouth, but no sound came out. Searching his memories of what had happened, he only recalled Nancy lifting her arms to hug him. After that… he had no idea what happened.
Perturbed, he looked around the room for the explanation. Seeing only his family and friends, their faces a mixture of worry and pity, he realized it must have been a flashback. He felt heat creep up from his neck, the tips of his ears turning red.
Though everyone hovered relatively close by so they could help quickly, they stood far enough so as not to crowd Max. Noticing he was looking flushed, they watched him carefully, worried he was going to pass out.
Max cringed inwardly at having a flashback again, especially in front of everyone. His eyes cast to the floor as he mumbled an apology, “Sorry… I guess I’m still tired.”
Kyle bit his inner cheek to hold back a derisive snort at the understatement of the year. His eyes flashed to Isabel, Michael, and then Maria in turn hoping to share his incredulity. They all, however, were far too worried, their expressions drawn tight.
Phillip spoke up then, his voice attempting to hide his deep concern, “Why don’t you all get some sleep? We can talk more tomorrow.” Though he addressed everyone, he mainly looked at Max.
Max lifted his head and regarded everyone. “Before you go, I just want to say… thank you.” His lips pressed into a taut line as he once more looked around the room. “It’s good to see all of you.” His lips briefly twitched into a relieved smile.
“I believe I speak for everybody when I say the feeling is mutual, son.” Jim responded, a thin sheen of tears in his eyes.
Cal strode into the room with a tray of drinks. “Chamomile tea. I hear it’s the best for getting a good night’s sleep.” He caught Max’s eye as he spoke his last line in not so subtle encouragement to sleep.
Max dipped his head slightly in acknowledgment, though he doubted his thoughts would let him achieve proper rest.
Liz tugged his arm to sit by her. Everyone else sat in the various seating in the living room, their focus trained on him. Unsure what else to say, Max picked up a cup and sipped some tea. As the soothing liquid entered his system, he felt warmth spread in his chest relaxing his tense muscles.
Breathing a bit more easily, he slowly placed the tea cup down. “Thanks, Cal.”
The protector nodded pleased Max had drunk most of the cup.
“The rooms are all prepared, but just in case, I also had the next room set up if you would all prefer to sleep by each other.”
Adrenaline officially gone from their systems, everyone nodded and followed Cal to the other room. “Damn how much money do you have?” Kyle muttered as he took in the luxurious and inviting furniture already made up with bedding.
Cal smirked before pointing out the linen closet in the corner that had more blankets and pillows, they could use.
They all shuffled inside, already feeling the heavy pull of exhaustion. Silently, they claimed their makeshift beds. Liz and Isabel made sure to take the places next to Max’s, their parents took to the side of them, respectively, while Jim and Kyle took one end of the room, and Amy, Maria, and Michael took the other. Once the others were settled in, Phillip and Diane checked up on Max, who swore he was all right. Though hesitant, ultimately the Evans bade Max goodnight with a hug and kiss. Nancy then came over to Max and offered an apology, “I’m sorry for pushing too fast.”
“No, you didn’t,” Max instantly refuted her statement. Having heard what had set off his flashback, he slowly shook his head. No one would expect the Unit to use something as simple and innocent to aid in his torture.
“Still… do not hesitate to ask any of us for help, Max.” Nancy said in a gentle but firm tone.
Max nodded, though Nancy knew he was likely not going to share as Liz noted many times in her journal.
So in a stern, but friendly voice she added, “I mean it, Max. That’s what family is for. We look out for one another. No matter what.” She then placed her fingers to her lips before lightly touching his head as a way to kiss him goodnight. Moving to where she and Jeff were going to sleep, she wished her daughter goodnight as well, “Sweet dreams, honey.”
Max was in awe at what Nancy Parker had just said. Still processing her words, all he could offer was a meek, “Thank you.”
Family…She considered him one of the family. Was that her tacit approval to him and Liz marrying each other? Max wondered.
It had always been his dream to marry Liz. And though he tried not to think of his time in the white room, he did know that fantasizing about that dream was how he survived. It was a familiar daydream he had indulged in throughout his short life. But the revelations of the last few days made him wonder if they should marry. He felt selfish holding her back and relegating her to a fugitive life where they had to worry about enemies (both human and alien) hunting them down. She should be making important scientific discoveries that would help heal the world. He was a liability—his thoughts cut off as he felt Liz’s petite hand reached for his. The wondrous imagery of stars danced in his mind, accompanied by love that took his breath away. Despite his better judgment, he embraced the waves of love she was sending. Deep down he knew he had to talk to her, but for now he revelled in her love—his soul desperate to accept it unquestioningly. All the while he was amazed at how impressive her use of powers were.
From his corner of the room, Kyle pensively observed Max. Max spacing out when Nancy hugged him had made them all on edge expecting another freak out.
It was ironic, Kyle mused. All this time he had resented his father for focusing so much on Max. And now, Kyle’s mind was occupied with how Max was first. He never was much of a people watcher, and certainly wasn’t keen on seeing Max and Liz’s PDA, but he couldn’t help watching when he saw Nancy stop by Max’s ‘bed’. Kyle smiled bittersweetly at Nancy’s tender gesture, feeling a slight pang as he remembered his mother.
His father finally joined him after ensuring with Cal that the area was secure.
“Almost like when we went camping,” Jim commented to Kyle as he yawned.
Unable to hold back his own yawn, Kyle nodded, “Almost.” Instead of dredging up his last father’s weekend, his mind focused on the good times he cherished about the annual school camping trip.
Phillip was right— now was the time to rest. They were all back together. And whatever they would face they would make it work together.
Dreaming about the bratwursts he would scarf down during those weekends, Kyle curled up and drifted off into a heavy sleep.