For our hybrids there really isn’t a question about where they belong. For some of our humans, well, it might take a little more convincing. But between all of them we know they’ll figure it out.
Alex leaned forward to rest his forearms on the seats after Isabel moved into the front, taking the seat Liz had claimed that morning. He turned his head, watching the other couple as they made their way to the front doors of the Crashdown. Liz wasn’t exactly running but she wasn’t wasting any time either. Max was easily keeping pace with her but he had a feeling the guy would be back in just a matter of minutes.
“Feel like talkin’?” he asked quietly.
“No.” Isabel glanced to the side, easily reading the frustration in her brother’s features as he stalked back to the jeep.
Her answer was disappointing but not necessarily surprising. “Alright.” He started to get up, intending to get out, but stopped when her hand landed on his arm. “I can walk from here, Isabel.” He could give her whatever space she needed, let her sort things out in her head, because he knew when she was ready she’d let him know.
“No, that’s not what I meant,” she clarified when his response indicated he had taken her abbreviated answer the wrong way. “I wasn’t finished. I’m not interested in a three-way conversation.” She could see the toll it was taking on Max as he tried to make Liz understand he wasn’t going anywhere and she didn’t want that kind of communication gap to build between Alex and her.
He barely controlled the urge to fist the air when she clarified her earlier response and he dropped back down in his seat with a nod. “My place or yours?”
“Mine first. I need to freshen up before we go anywhere else.” She knew her brother well enough to know he’d retreat to his room and wallow in depressing music until Liz decided she was ready to talk… or until he realized it wasn’t the right time to back off. Regardless of what he chose to do she wasn’t interested in having the conversation that had been rolling around in her head with him present in any capacity.
She didn’t completely understand the bits of information that had been flaring to life since they had viewed the hologram, but she suspected the images were drawing buried memories to the surface and some of them were very disturbing.
Max wandered from room to room aimlessly after Isabel and Alex took off. He was glad they hadn’t hung around, wanting the house to himself so he could contemplate his situation with Liz without interruption. He didn’t know what to do to make her understand, to make her believe him when he said he had no interest in pursuing anything related to his past, that he wasn’t leaving her. How much more upfront could a guy get than just saying it plain as day?
He retrieved a CD from his room and loaded it into the tray on the stereo in the living room, scanning through the tracks until he found one that suited his mood. He set it on repeat and threw himself on the couch, slouching down and tapping the remote against his knee in time to the melancholy tune. He didn’t know why Liz seemed so bound and determined that he had a destiny to follow. He had denounced it time after time but she was so certain that any choice in the matter had been taken out of his hands.
How could she be so scientific-minded about everything else, requiring proof before making a decision, and so close-minded about this situation? He couldn’t give her quantifiable proof, he couldn’t give her a guarantee; all he could give her was honesty and a promise to love her. That should be enough, he was sure of it. Nothing in life came with a guarantee.
“If you listen to this song one more time I may have to see about getting a prescription for anti-depressants.”
Max jerked around so fast he nearly dropped the remote. He stared at his dad in shock as he fumbled with the buttons and lowered the volume on the stereo. “Oh, hey, Dad.”
Philip rounded the couch and sat on the arm facing his son. “Girl trouble?” It hadn’t taken long to establish a pattern to his son’s musical preferences and the introduction of a girl in his life had given new meaning to his angst-filled music.
He shrugged and turned his morose expression on the remote he held, his thumb tracing over the buttons in random patterns. “Did Mom ever drive you nuts about stuff?”
“Son, your mom still drives me nuts about stuff on occasion,” he answered with a chuckle.
“Well, yeah, I mean, small stuff, but…” he sighed in frustration and shook his head.
Philip slid off of the arm of the couch and settled into the cushions. “You and Liz having problems?”
“She thinks I’m gonna take off.”
His eyebrows rose in surprise when the words shot out of his son’s mouth with all the force of an explosion riddled with hurt and anger. “Why would she think that?” He waited a couple of minutes before he broke the silence that had fallen in the wake of his question. “Max, if you two are having second thoughts about going off to college together – “
“What? No! Dad, she’s just… I don’t know. Maybe she is having second thoughts.” he dropped the remote and leaned forward to rest his head in his hands. “I don’t know how to convince her I’m not goin’ anywhere.”
“The only way to really prove it is to stick it out. Women believe things in their own time.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“You guys have a fight about it?” He bit back a smile when his son nodded. “Y’know, when your mom and I were about to get married my mother gave me some advice that didn’t make much sense at the time. She told me to argue when we needed to but to never go to bed with angry words left between us. My parents never argued so I didn’t know where that advice was coming from. See, when your mom and I were growing up, parents kept all of that behind closed doors so we were never subjected to the reality of arguments between couples. Sure, there were little spats but before long they just got put away because letting it get out of control wasn’t acceptable.”
Max frowned, not sure what his dad’s point was. “But you and Mom fight sometimes.”
Philip chuckled with a nod. “Yeah, we do, and I’ll get to that. Mom and I had been married for a few months when we had a huge fight. I mean, we’re talking knock down drag out kind of fight.”
“Something small that just blew up out of proportion because we were both so stuck on making our own point. It snowballed until neither of us even knew what the hell we were arguing about and suddenly we were throwing in other small stuff that had built up over the course of our relationship. We argued until we were exhausted but we didn’t resolve a single thing. We ended up going to bed without a single word. The next morning it was silent as a tomb in the apartment and I didn’t bother trying to say anything because as far as I was concerned the ball was in her court.”
He looked at his son, seeing the lack of comprehension in his eyes as he tried to put this information together with what he knew of his parents. “I was going out of town on business so I got my stuff together and left. Not a hug, a kiss, an I-love-you or anything else passed between us. I just walked out and got in the cab and went to the airport.”
Max couldn’t reconcile the picture his dad was painting with the parents he had known his whole life. Sure, they argued from time to time, but fights were always settled without getting out of hand and that had been a constant for as long as he could remember.
“There was an accident on the way to the airport and the cab rolled over an embankment. They say your life flashes before your eyes in a moment like that, and maybe it does for some people. I guess it’s different for everyone.” He shrugged. “All I could see was your mom and all I could think was the last thing I said to her was something stupid and I didn’t want to die with that between us. If I was gonna die that morning I didn’t want your mom to have to live with that burden. That was my last thought before the lights went out. When I came around I was in the hospital and your mom was right there.” He smiled at the memory. “Her face was a mess, her eyes were bloodshot, her mascara was running, her nose was all stopped up so when she started talking she sounded funny, and I swear, I’d never seen a more beautiful sight.”
He rested his arm along the back of the couch and studied Max as he soaked up every word. “In that moment I understood my mother’s advice. The wisdom she had shared with me was suddenly crystal clear. You’re gonna argue at times and you’re gonna fight, but that’s just a part of life. The important thing is to deal with whatever the issue is and move on. Your grandma was right, but it took that accident for me to figure out what she was telling me. There are times we’ve stayed up all night trying to work an issue out. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t, but even if we can’t resolve it, your mom and I have made it a point to never go to bed with angry words between us. Maybe we don’t agree on everything, but at least we’ve found a way to balance our differences and when we lock horns over something we don’t let it build up to unmanageable proportions.”
“So with an argument or whatever, even if you can’t get it sorted out in one night, you should still make peace before you call it a night,” he mused quietly.
“It’s sound advice, Max.”
He nodded thoughtfully and after a few minutes he got to his feet. “Thanks, Dad.”
Philip smiled when his son disappeared for a few minutes before reappearing wearing a different shirt and informing him that he was going out for a while. He had a good feeling about Max and Liz. They were both good kids, had good heads on their shoulders, and they knew what they wanted. He was certain they would figure things out.
With a sigh he leaned forward and snatched the remote up off of the couch cushion, stopping the relentlessly depressing music pouring from the speakers. Chuckling he got to his feet and headed into the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee. Diane would be home before long and they had dinner reservations at seven. Maybe he’d give his mother a call and see how she was doing while he was waiting.
Somehow Maria wasn’t surprised to find Liz sitting on her front porch when she got home after spending the day with Michael. The sun had all but disappeared over the horizon, taking daylight with it and leaving them with the stillness of twilight. She parked and got out of the car, leaning back in to grab her things before walking up to join her friend.
“I thought you’d be with Max,” she said as she unlocked the front door and pushed it open.
Liz got to her feet and followed her inside, closing and locking the door out of habit before continuing to the kitchen behind Maria. “I needed some time to think. Where’s your mom tonight?”
“She and Gabriel went down to Carlsbad for a convention showcasing artists of the Southwest.”
“Do you believe in destiny?”
Maria’s eyebrows shot up and she turned to look at Liz. “Where’d that come from?”
“It just seems like they have a path they’re expected to follow.”
She watched Liz pace in the confined space, her behavior agitated and so at odds with her normal demeanor. “Whether they’re expected to or not, they’ve made their decision.”
“But what if it’s not their decision to make?” She pushed her hair back behind her ears as she made another turn, bringing her back in Maria’s direction. “The code talker Alex and Isabel found confirmed they were destined to – “
Maria moved to intercept her, taking her arms and forcing her to stand still. “Liz, what are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about a predetermined path that nullifies everything we’re doing by having relationships with them.”
She bit back the smile, familiar with Liz’s habit of slipping into describing things clinically in an effort to control emotional fallout in certain situations. “If I believed in destiny I’d have to believe that we essentially have no control over our future, that the journey is already mapped out for us, and I don’t believe that.” She shook her head. “I don’t believe it for them either. You can’t base the potential future on a book we can’t read, a psycho alien stalker, and a letter written years ago.”
“There just seems to be a lot of evidence suggesting that they’re destined for something beyond what Earth has to offer.”
“When we were in the cave earlier and we saw the hologram, did you listen to everything that was said?”
“Then you heard him say that nothing in life is predetermined but without learning from the past those mistakes are destined to be repeated. Maybe originally they were supposed to be together, but he made it a point to say that life isn’t predetermined. I think maybe that was the plan before they were killed on Antar, before they were engineered with human DNA, and somewhere along the way they figured out that plan sucked. And okay, originally they ruled a planet and commanded large armies, but that was then and this is now.” She shrugged and released Liz to lean back against the counter, curling her hands around the edge as she watched her friend.
“Who they were will always be a part of their DNA.”
“Is that a problem?”
Liz gnawed on her bottom lip for a few seconds while she considered Maria’s question. “When something’s so ingrained you’re hardwired to behave in certain ways.” She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose tiredly.
“Max seemed just as adamant as the others that he has no interest in leaving Earth or being the leader he was on Antar. He doesn’t believe he has no choice but to follow a set path. He wants to stay here with you, go off to college, and marry you one day.”
“Maria.” The brunette rolled her eyes and smiled slightly.
“Please,” she scoffed. “Tell me you don’t dream about that.”
“I’m just saying I don’t want him to look back on this down the road and regret the choices he’s made.” She dropped down into one of the chairs at the table. “He was a king, Maria. He ruled an entire planet.”
“So what? You think he should be with someone from the royal family instead of you?” She sat down across from Liz and reached over to cover her hands. “Liz, he doesn’t want someone else. The guy could be in the middle of a beauty pageant and he still wouldn’t see anyone but you.”
She laughed. “That’s such an exaggeration! He’s not blind, Maria!”
“No, but he doesn’t pay any attention to other girls either. Look, Liz, we’re definitely in a unique position with our significant others here, and there are no guarantees, but the truth is, even if they were a hundred percent human there wouldn’t be any guarantees. Yeah, Max is descended from a royal line or whatever, but he’s said over and over that he has no interest in that other life.”
“He has enough interest in it that he wanted to find the cave.”
“The only reason we started searching for the cave was because Max wanted to know where it was.”
“Did you ever ask him why?”
No, she hadn’t asked him why. Part of her was afraid of the answer. No matter how many times he’d said he wasn’t interested in returning to Antar she couldn’t shake the feeling that finding the cave would somehow awaken something inside of him, that one day he would leave her behind to go back there, and the thought that she could lose him to something she couldn’t fight scared her.
“I think you need to sit down and talk to him, Liz, and then you need to listen to him. Don’t try to weigh and measure his words by running equations in your head in an effort to make everything fit perfectly because life is so far from perfect it’s not even funny. I know the way your mind works so I know you have to run through scenarios and potential outcomes and all that, but there’s only one way to weigh and measure this situation and you’re not gonna do it with equations.” She reached up and tapped Liz’s chest over her heart. “This right here is all you need to determine if he’s telling the truth.”