Ruins ~ CC ~ (MATURE) ~ Complete

Finished Canon/Conventional Couple Fics. These stories pick up from events in the show. All complete stories from the main Canon/CC board will eventually be moved here.

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Ruins ~ CC ~ (MATURE) ~ Complete

Post by Angel » Mon Nov 24, 2003 9:56 am

Title: Ruins
Author: Angel
Category: M/L with everyone else
Rating: MATURE/ADULT for language and violence
Disclaimer: I don’t own anything…no suing, please
Summary: Based on events in Graduation, although it doesn’t end the same. Sorry. You know me…I gotta have my angst. Everything up to and including 4 Aliens and a Baby is true.

The first parts of this fic can be found here http://www.roswellfanatics.net/archive/ ... 30425.html

Part 36

Later That Day…

At their first chance, Max and Liz stop to ditch the car and catch a train headed to New York City. Sure that no one is following them, Max starts to relax for the first time in a long time. He’s tired from the healing, the driving. He’s just…tired. Catching a glimpse of himself in the train window, he grimaces at the person looking back. How long has it been? Three years, four, an entire lifetime? He should be used to this…he’s always been on the run, always been hiding from the world. It was stressful enough when it was just himself, Isabel and Michael. Then Liz, Maria, Alex, Kyle, Jim…Jim.

He leans forward and drops his head in his hands at the thought of Jim, at the thought of returning and having to tell Kyle that his father is dead. He doesn’t even want to think of what they might have done to him as the memory of his strange dream returns. “You know Max, we’re never getting out of here.” Jim’s prediction reverberates in his head until he can’t hear the noise of the train wheels anymore…can’t hear the sound of Liz breathing softly next to him as she sleeps…can’t hear anything. “You know Max, we’re never getting out of here…never getting out of here…never getting out of here.”

How many people are dead because of him? Lives lost pointlessly…all because they knew him and his secrets. Are the lives he saves worth it? Do they create the balance that he fought to get at Christmas time so many years ago? It doesn’t feel like it.

Stirring next to him, Liz reaches her hand over and squeezes his arm without waking fully. He turns his head slightly to look at her and realizes she probably knows what he’s thinking about, even in her sleep. Wiping his face with his hands, he sits back up and grabs her hand. She’s been sleeping almost constantly since they left DC…he’s tried to wake her as little as possible. He looks at her face and once again notices how pale she is. Not sensing that there’s anything physically wrong with her besides fatigue, he smoothes her hair back behind her left ear and turns to look back out the window into the black night.

New York City
That same night…


Eleven. That’s how many stains adorn the carpet in their shabby room. He knows because he’s been counting them, studying them for the last two hours. His inspection of the floor is interrupted by the sudden appearance of legs…impatient legs…in front of him.

“You’re in my way.” Michael says. When the offending pair of legs don’t move out of his field of vision, he looks up to see Maria…with her I’m-irritated-with-Michael face. He sighs and looks quickly to the side, then back at her…scratching his eyebrow as he asks, “What’d I do now?”

“Nothing. Just making sure you were still alive, seeing as how you’ve barely blinked for over an hour.” She tells him as she stomps over to the other side of the room.

As he watches her walk away, he wonders how she can convey so many emotions with one sentence. Irritation, worry, anger, impatience, expectation. What did she expect him to do? They’ve been holed up in this…hole…for too long. Waiting. And hoping.

Isabel and Jesse are in sleeping on the only good bed and Kyle and Serena haven’t come back yet so it’s just the two of them.

Suddenly, he hears faint footsteps out in the hall. He turns his head toward the door and stands up when he hears them get closer. Maria looks over at him questioningly as he walks closer to the door and puts his hand on the knob.

“What is it?” She asks before she shushes her.

He looks out of the peephole and jumps back as the deadbolt turns to open on its own. He opens the door hurriedly to reveal a ragged looking Max carrying Liz in his arms. Maria jumps up with a gasp as Michael pulls them in and shuts the door.

“Liz!” Maria exclaims when she sees her friend. “What happened to her?” She rushes over as Max lays her down and kneels by Liz’s side.

“Hey buddy…we were beginning to wonder if that guy was just feeding us a line of bull.” Michael says as he puts his hand on Max’s back.

Max looks at him blankly before collapsing in a nearby chair. “Where’s everyone else?” He asks softly as he leans his head back on the chair and closes his eyes.

“Isabel and Jesse are sleeping…” Michael begins before Isabel rushes into the room. “…were sleeping.” He finishes as Isabel looks from Max to Liz.

“Max…God, where have you been?” Isabel falls on her knees and grabs one of Max’s hands. “I was so worried.”

Jesse walks in the room and when he sees Max and Liz says with relief, “He did it.”

Holding onto Liz’s hand, Maria looks over at Max, the door, then back to Max. “Where’s Jim? And what’s wrong with Liz? Why won’t she wake up? What happened? How did he get you out? Did anyone follow you?”

“Maria!” Michael says firmly. “Shut up for a second, would you?”

Maria narrows her eyes at him and looks back at Liz. “Liz, wake up.” She shakes her gently and puts a hand up to her face.

“She won’t wake up now.” Max says softly. “She won’t wake up anymore. I don’t know what’s wrong with her…tired…we’re tired.”

“Of course you’re tired.” Isabel snaps. “Come on Max, let’s get you guys in to the bed so you can get some rest. You need some rest. Then you’ll feel better.” She stands up and starts to pull on Max’s hand. “Jesse, come help. Michael, get Liz and bring her in, would you?”

Maria stands up and Michael scoops Liz up in his arms and looks toward the door again. “But, where’s Jim?” She looks over at Max’s shadowed face. “Max?”

Max look at her blankly and says, “Jim’s dead.”

No one moves as they all look at Max. Silent moments pass before Michael moves to take Liz in to the bed. Maria sits down and stares at the door, her mouth open in shock. Jesse freezes as Isabel covers her mouth with her hand…eyes wide and quickly filling with tears. “Are you sure, Max?”

Max looks at her without saying anything…the answer is in his eyes. “Where’s Kyle?” He asks.

“He…he left. A while ago. Serena went after him. They’ve been gone for hours.” Isabel says quietly.

“Wake me up when they get back. I want to be the one to tell him.” Max says before turning to follow Michael and Liz.

Down the street at an all night coffee shop, Kyle and Serena sit in a booth nibbling on a piece of pumpkin pie and sipping coffee. “So what do you think we’ll do now?” Serena asks as she plays with the whipped cream on top of the pie.

“I don’t know. Leave the country, probably.” Kyle says. “I wonder if we’ll split up again. I guess we have to wait and see what Liz says.” He shrugs as he drains the last of his coffee.

“I hope they’re ok. Maybe we should head back and see if there’s been any word.” Serena says. “Are you ready to go back?”

Kyle sighs and says, “I guess we should. They’re probably wondering where we are.” He fishes out some money from his wallet and stands up, grabbing Serena’s hand and walking out into the early morning dawn.

They slowly make their way back to the apartment hand in hand as the sun rises. They climb the stairs in their building and walk down the hall. Kyle opens the door and sees Michael, Maria, Isabel and Jesse sitting together around the table talking quietly. They look up when he and Serena enter and he sees that Maria’s been crying before she turns her head quickly and wipes her face.

“Hey guys, what’s going on? Did you hear something?” He asks, scanning the room when everyone suddenly looks away from him.

“Are they back?” Serena asks as she walk toward the bedroom. She looks in to see Max and Liz sleeping on the bed and turns as Michael stands up and walks past her into the room.

She looks over at Kyle smiling and says, “They’re back.”

Kyle breathes a sigh of relief as he runs a hand through his hair. “Finally.” He hears murmuring from the bedroom, then sees Michael walk back out with a sleepy Max behind him standing in the doorway.

“Where’s my dad?” Kyle asks Max as he looks around the small apartment.

Washington DC

Matt Gerard is sitting alone in his dining room at home drinking a beer when the phone rings. He stares at it for a moment before it registers in his brain that he should answer it.

He can see the sun coming up through the window as he reaches over and picks the handset up. “Hello.”

“Mr. Gerard? This is Dr. Fogel. Did I wake you?” The voice on the other end says.

“No. What can I do for you Jack?”

“Well,” the doctor says breathlessly, “I don’t exactly know how to tell you this, but Jennifer is awake…and from all outward appearance seems to be doing very well. I’d like you and your wife to come down to the hospital. Something incredible has happened here, and well…I…I just think you should get down here.”

Gerard doesn’t say anything as he closes his eyes. When he opens them again, he looks out the dining room window and sees the sun peeking over the house on the other side of the street.

“Matt? Did you hear me?” Dr. Fogel asks.

Shaking his head, Gerard says, “Yes, I heard. We’ll be there shortly.” before hanging up the phone. He sits back down at the dining table and stares out the window. They did it. They really did it. His baby girl is going to be ok. Overcome with emotion, he lays his head down on the table in his hands and weeps.

New York City

Serena doesn’t know what to say. She’s sitting at the table with four drawn faces looking at her. Kyle’s dad…Kyle…how could this happen? Why? After everything…everything they’d been through. This was too much.

They all sat in silence for what seemed like forever before she quietly slid her chair back and stood up, walking back to the bedroom. She shuts the door quietly and lays down on the bed next to Liz, looking at her pale, sleeping face. “What happened in there, Liz?” she whispers to her sleeping friend.

She lays there for awhile, stoking Liz’s hand and staring at the ceiling when she hears the front door slam open. Getting up quickly she rushes out into the front room to see Kyle angrily stalking the room and throwing their things on a chair.

“Kyle…” she walks toward him, tears filling her eyes.

“Get your things, we’re leaving.” He says angrily.

She stares dumbfounded at him as he continues throwing things while everyone stares at him. She looks hopelessly at the group then back to Kyle. “Kyle, wait…just…let’s just sit down for a minute and…”

“No!” He shouts as he stops and looks at her. “If you’re not coming, then get out of my way.”

Her face falls as she looks back toward Maria.

“Kyle.” Maria says as she steps toward him. “I’m so sorry.”

Just then, Max walks through the door slowly and everyone but Kyle looks at him. An angry red mark is slowly appearing around his left eye as he shuts the door. Turning to Kyle, he says, “Where are you going to go, Kyle? Think about this for a minute.”

Kyle whirls around to face Max and spits out, “You…stay away from me.” Turning back to his packing, he says, “Evans, you’ve been nothing but poison to me and my family since the day you came into our lives. You stay away from me.” He whips back to Max and says, “You stay away from me.” as he points his finger at Max.

“Kyle…” Everyone turns to see Liz standing in the doorway of the bedroom.

Kyle takes in Liz’s appearance for a moment and says, “Don’t, Liz. Look at you…he’s killing you, too. Don’t you see?”

“Kyle, no. I know that you’re upset, but please don’t make any decisions like this now. It’s not Max’s fault…it’s…” Liz says before Kyle interrupts her with a harsh laugh.

“Look at you! Still defending him…after everything he’s put you through. All these years…and now my dad is dead because of him and you’re standing there defending him. Just save it, Liz.” He throws on his backpack and grabs a bag from the bed. Turning to Serena, he says, “I’m leaving. You can come with me or you can stay here and be the next victim.”

Serena looks at Liz, tears streaming down her face, then back to Kyle. “Please, Kyle, please don’t do this. Don’t make me do this.” When he doesn’t say anything, she looks at the floor and nods her head. “Alright. I’ll go with you.” She looks over at Liz once more as they head toward the door.

“Kyle…I’m sorry…please don’t…” Max says to his back.

“Fuck you, Evans.” Kyle says as he stalks out the door with Serena. She looks back as Kyle drags her out into the hall and out of their lives.

~TBC~
Last edited by Angel on Wed Mar 03, 2004 11:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Angel » Mon Nov 24, 2003 9:56 am

Part 37

Six pairs of eyes stare at the open door Kyle left in his wake. “Max, we have to do something. We can’t just let him leave like that.” Isabel says.

Jesse moves to put an arm around Isabel. “What are we supposed to do? Chase him down and keep him here against his will?”

Everyone looks around in confusion as to what to do. Making up her mind, Liz grabs her backpack and heads to the door. She turns and says, “I’m gonna try to talk to him. Why don’t you guys figure out what we’re gonna do next and I’ll try to bring them back.”

Before she can leave, Max grabs her arm and says, “Be careful.”

“I will.” She looks at him a moment then heads down the hall after Kyle and Serena.

She catches up with them outside in front of the building where she finds Kyle sitting on the front steps with Serena standing in front of him. Sagging with the relief that she won’t have to run down the street in search of them, she drops her backpack to the ground and sits next to Kyle.

“Liz, don’t. Whatever you’re doing…just…don’t.” Kyle says, his head hanging down resting in his hands.

“Serena, do you mind if Kyle and I go get some coffee?” Liz asks.

“No. We’re leaving…not going out for coffee with you.” Kyle answers quickly.

“Just a few minutes, Kyle. I get that much. Then you can come get Serena and you guys can go.” Liz is insistent as she stands up and moves so Serena can climb back up the steps to go inside. She stops and gives Liz’s hand an encouraging squeeze before going in.

Hiking up her backpack, Liz grabs Kyle’s hand and pulls him up. “Come on, there has to be somewhere close to here we can go.”

He reluctantly gets up and says, “We saw a place earlier…around the corner.”

“Good. Then that’s where we’re going.” Liz starts walking down the street without looking back…expecting Kyle to follow her. Which he does, with a sigh and a roll of his eyes.

Twenty minutes later, Liz and Kyle are seated at a table in the corner of a deli around the corner. They’re both sipping coffee and haven’t said a word since they got there. Kyle knows what Liz is doing, but she’s right, he owes her. He’s still in shock about his dad…can’t believe that he’s gone. Gone, not coming back. What’s he gonna do without him? There are so many things that he wanted to tell him, and now because of this alien freak show of a life he’s living, his dad is dead.

Liz watches the emotions cross Kyle’s face before he drops his head in his hands. She looks out the window at the new morning. People rushing to work to begin their days just like they did yesterday and just like they’ll do tomorrow. She wonders what that kind of life would be like. A normal life, with a normal job and a normal family. Before that thought has a chance to take anchor in her head, she pushes it away. She’ll never have that life, none of them will. It’s better to just not think about it. She gave up normal a long time ago.

She turns back to Kyle and says, “I’m so sorry, Kyle.”

He looks up at her and notices how tired she looks. How run down and pale she is. Feeling bad for what she’s been through, he says, “Was it bad…as bad as last time?”

Liz looks down at the table, remembering how scared she was…for herself, for Max, for Jim. “Sometimes. I wasn’t there…long.” She looks up at Kyle and they share a look of shared remembrance of the time they spent there. It doesn’t seem that long ago.

“Did you…did you see him? My dad? While you were there?” Kyle asks, his voice catching.

Liz nods her head and says, “Just for a little while. They took him away first…after the first time…” She lets the sentence hang.

Kyle nods and looks away for a moment before Liz says, “I don’t know…exactly what happened. I…know what he was feeling…I…” She doesn’t want to continue, but his look tells her to continue. “The last thoughts I got from him were of you, Kyle. Of how much he loved you. He was worried about you but I let him know you were ok. That seemed to give him some peace.”

Kyle can’t fight the tears that fill his eyes as he angrily says, “Liz, I can’t do this anymore. I know it’s stupid to think I can just run away, but I just…can’t do this anymore.” He subconsciously scratches the side of his head and continues. “I don’t want this life. I don’t want these powers, and I don’t wanna know any aliens. I hate them, I hate this.”

“Kyle, you have to think about this. You have to think about Serena, too. And your baby. This isn’t the best time to break away on your own. The best thing to do right now is to stay together. At least until we can figure out what’s going on.” Liz grabs his hand across the table. “Look, Kyle, I totally understand not wanting to live your life like this. Believe me, sometimes I wish I could just run away from it all, too.”

“Why, Liz? Why my dad? It was Evans that they wanted…wasn’t that enough?” Kyle turns toward the window, trying to cover his face and the choked sob threatening to escape. “It’s not right.” He whispers.

Liz lets him have some time to compose himself. She knows it’s hard for him to show emotion…he uses humor most of the time to cover it, but she’s known him a long time. His dad was the closest person to him…all those years it was just the two of them.

She doesn’t know if there’s a way to make this situation work considering the tension that’s always existed between Kyle and Max. Now this. Of course Kyle would project all of this onto Max…it’s easier for Kyle to blame him.

“Kyle, you have to know that this isn’t Max’s fault.”

“Save it, Liz.” Kyle starts, but Liz interrupts him and leans forward over the table, closer.

“No, Kyle…I know how hard this is. But you have to realize that the person to blame here isn’t Max, it’s Weston. You, especially, should know that. There wasn’t anything Max could do…he can’t bring back the dead. If he could…if he could, Alex would be here.” They both look at each other at the memory and Liz says quietly, “Max didn’t kill your dad, Kyle.”

“He might as well have, Liz.” Kyle sighs and looks at the table.

“I know this life isn’t one you would have chosen, Kyle. And a lot of horrible things have happened to us because of the secret we have. But can you think about something for a minute? Things happen for a reason, I’m sure of it. If you didn’t live this life, you would have never met Serena. You wouldn’t be having a baby. You have to think about them now.” When Liz mentions them, Kyle’s head snaps up.

“What are you gonna do when it’s time for the baby to come, Kyle? You can’t go to a hospital. What if something goes wrong?”

“We’ll handle it.” Kyle says, but Liz can see the uncertainty inside of him. She’s trying not to blatantly read his thoughts, but can’t help but pick up on some things.

“Kyle…” She gives him a look that tells him she knows. “You just can’t risk it, Kyle. You know that…I know you do. We don’t know if there’s anyone still after us. This isn’t the time to be thinking about branching out on your own. I’m sorry Kyle, but you can’t protect the three of you if something happens.” She places emphasis on three, hoping that will be what it takes to get Kyle to see reason.

“We need you. We’re stronger when we’re together.” Liz delivers her last plea. “Please, don’t leave. I need you to stay, not just because you’re an asset, not just because it won’t be safe, but because you’re my friend.”

She gets up from the table and walks over to his chair. Leaning down, she puts one hand on his left cheek and gives him a light kiss on his right. “Whatever you decide, I’ll understand. You know how to get a hold of me.” She stands up. “Thank you…for hearing me out. I’ll go tell Serena where she can find you.” Kyle watches as she walks out of the deli without turning back.

Back at the apartment, Liz walks in to see Serena and Maria huddled together talking while Isabel, Jesse, Michael and Max seemed to be talking strategy. When the door opens, everyone turns to look at Liz and she looks at Max, slightly shrugging her shoulders.

She sits down next to Maria and Serena and says, “I’m sorry Serena, you know how stubborn he is…I just don’t know what he’s gonna do.”

Serena gives her a slight smile and says, “Well, I better go.” She stands up and gives Liz a hug. “Thanks for trying. If he’d listen to anyone, it’s you.” They look at each other sadly as Serena moves to hug Maria.

As everyone moves to say goodbye to Serena, the door suddenly slams open and Kyle walks in. Startled, no one can do anything but stare. Serena turns to see Kyle and smiles expectantly, hoping he’s here because they’re staying, not because he came to get her.

Kyle looks at everyone in the room, noticing their looks of surprise, sadness, weariness, and hopefulness. He looks at Max for several long moments, both staring the other down. Finally, he looks over at Serena and walks toward her, shutting the door and dropping his bag. “We’ll stay. For now.” He looks down at her stomach, indicating that the baby is his primary concern.

Serena grabs his hand and whispers, “Thank you.” before sitting him down at the table and smoothing his hair with her hand and kissing him lightly.

Kyle glances at Liz to see relief wash over her face as she gives him a grateful smile.

She looks at the rest of the group and says, “I really want to take a bath. After that, I think we need to have a discussion about what’s happened and what we’re doing after this.”

She sees everyone nod in agreement and looks at Max quickly before heading to the bathroom. She can’t think about Max right now. So much has happened…too much. Her argument with Max, being captured and tortured…again. Being rescued by Gerard of all people, finding out Jim is dead. She just wants to escape in a hot bath for a few minutes. She almost makes it before the tears start falling.

“Max, she doesn’t look so good.” Isabel whispers to Max as she watches Liz disappear into the bathroom.

Max’s eyes fall from Liz to the floor as he turns back around in his chair.

“Maybe she’s just tired. She’s been through a lot, so have you. You guys should try to get some sleep.” Jesse sees the look on Max’s face, the dark circles beneath his eyes as well as the darkening bruise around his eye that he hasn’t healed.

“We need a plan. Then I’ll get some sleep.” Max says quietly. The truth is, he couldn’t sleep now if he wanted to. He’s only heard bits and pieces of what happened, but from what he can gather, they kidnapped this guy Gerard and made a deal with him. Get him, Liz and Jim out in exchange for healing his daughter. What he doesn’t know, is how active they’ll be now in pursuing them. How far will they have to run?

“Liz will know what’s happening more than anyone. We just need to wait for her to finish her bath.” Max looks toward Michael and says, “Maybe you and Maria could go get some supplies?

Michael looks mildly irritated but stands up anyway and says, “Sure. Any requests?”

“Soap.” Isabel says quickly.

“Toothpaste.” Serena calls out.

“Food.”

“Batteries.”

Michael throws his hands up in the air, rolls his eyes and says, “Make a list.”

After an hour has gone by, Max makes his way back to the bathroom and knocks on the door. “Liz, are you alright?”

A pause, then, “I’m fine, Max.”

He places his hand on the door and says, “Can I come in?”

He doesn’t hear anything for a minute and starts to turn away when Liz says, “Ok.”

He unlocks the door and enters quickly, shutting the door behind him. The bathroom is warm from the hot water and he turns around expecting to see Liz still in the tub. But she’s wrapped in a towel, sitting on the edge of the tub, her hair wet.

“I thought we should talk…first.” Max says, looking at her drawn face. He moves to sit on the toilet, facing her.

She chews on her lip and nods as he sits. “Max…I…Jim. Why? Why did they kill him?” She buries her face in her hands.

Max moves forward and says, “I don’t know. But…Liz, are you sure? Are you absolutely sure he’s dead?” Max is still holding onto the hope that they can get Jim back…that somehow this is a mistake and Gerard lied to them.

“Yes.” She whispers. “I felt him…I knew when it happened.” A painful sob escapes as she looks up. “He was so scared, Max. And there was nothing I could do.”

“Was there anything we could have done? I didn’t believe Gerard when he told us, but you were so determined not to go back.” Max wipes the tears from her cheek.

Liz shakes her head. “No. I could see it…I saw in my mind what Gerard saw. There was no way you could have brought him back. He was dead, Max…had been for a while.”

They sit in silence for a moment before Max says, “I dreamt about him, the other night.”

Liz wipes at her eyes and looks at Max. “Really? Maybe he was trying to tell you something. You know, subconsciously?”

“He said we were never getting out of there.” Max looks down at the fading linoleum on the floor. “Liz, I thought we were gonna die…I thought they were going to kill you. I dreamt that, too. When they were…cutting into you…Jim and I watched. They put us in those cells so we would have to watch. It was awful.”

Liz drops to the floor and wraps her arms around Max and holds him. “It’s over, Max.” She rubs her hands down his back and can feel that there are incision marks that he hasn’t healed. “It’s over.”

Just outside the bathroom, Kyle turns around and walks back into the front room.

“Kyle…you ok?” Serena asks him. She notices that he looks a little shaken.

He looks at her and says, “Yah, I’m fine.” He gives her a reassuring smile and kisses her hand as he sits down. “I’m a little antsy, though. I’d like to know what we’re doing next.”

Just then, Michael and Maria walk in loaded down with bags. “Ugh! Michael, you could have at least carried the heavy ones.” Maria is telling him as they walk in.

“Mine are just as heavy as yours.” Michael says as he puts his bags on the table.

Serena looks up at Michael with accusing eyes when she sees that his bags contain bread and toilet paper.

“Whatever.” Maria dumps her bags on the floor as soon as she steps inside. “Next time someone else can go with you.”

“Where’s Max?” Michael asks.

“In the bathroom.” Isabel tells him as she sorts through the bags. “I forgot to tell you…oh good! You got some anyway.” She pulls out a bottle of Tabasco sauce in relief.

Liz walks out of the bathroom first. She glances at the bags and asks, “Anything in there I can eat quick? I’m starving.”

Maria grabs a bar and hands it to Liz. “I got some protein bars…here.”

Liz smiles and says, “Thanks.”

A few minutes later, Max walks out…his hair wet from a quick shower. He looks around to make sure everyone is there and says, “Is everyone ready to discuss the situation?”

Liz grabs Maria’s hand as they sit down. She can see that everyone feels uncomfortable around Kyle so she makes sure to sit next to him and gives him an encouraging smile.

“Liz, how are you feeling?” Isabel says with concern. “We were so worried.”

Liz looks up at Isabel and says, “I’m ok…just tired…I guess.”

Max doesn’t believer her, but isn’t going to press her about it in front of everyone. Isabel doesn’t really believe her either, but she lets it go…for now.

“I guess I’ll tell you what I know, which isn’t much.” Liz starts. “First, you’ll be relieved to know,” she looks at Isabel and Kyle. “that Weston is dead. Gerard killed him.”

“Good.” Isabel is visibly shaken by her memories of Weston and she looks at Kyle…tears in her eyes, and whispers, “Good.”

“So what does this mean?” Jesse asks. “If Gerard and Weston were the ones in charge there…what’s that mean now?”

“That’s the bad news. I have no idea.” Liz tells him. “I read the basics of your deal with him from his thoughts. And I think…from what I could tell…that he’s giving up his life in the government. He was going to try to destroy what he could between the time he helped us escape until they discovered us missing. What I don’t know is if he did, or whether or not his superiors will continue with their investigations.”

“So we’re basically in the dark.” Michael laments. “What’d they do to you? Did they get anything more than what they had before?”

Maria swats him on the arm and scowls at him. “Michael…God! Show a little sensitivity.”

“What?” Michael looks completely baffled.

Max and Liz look at each other before Liz explains. “They um…they didn’t find out about my new abilities. But they did do…things…to me. Not as much as last time, but they did a little exploring. But I think they just did it because they wanted to see Max heal me.”

“Did you do it in front of them?” Michael asks, incredulous.

“Michael, they already knew I could heal. What’s the difference?” Max says.

“The difference is now they have proof.” Michael doesn’t see how they can be so casual about this.

“Michael, shut up. They know all about our powers. You seem to forget they’ve already had an alien in their custody. For a lot longer than a few days.” Isabel puts Michael in his place, irritated that he’s getting upset over this. “Liz, go on.”

Liz smiles gratefully at Isabel and says, “They got samples from Max, though,…so they have pathology from 2 out of 3 of you…as well as me, Kyle, and…Jim.” She glances at Kyle briefly before saying, “I’m assuming that whatever they…did…to him is what killed him. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have on purpose…Jim’s powers had started to manifest themselves so they would have wanted to study them. Something must have happened that they didn’t expect.”

Maria suddenly bursts into tears and covers her mouth with her hand. She jumps up and says, “I’m sorry…I…I just…” as she flees the room and runs in the bedroom.

Michael looks from Maria’s departing figure to Liz, then gets up and follows Maria. Silence descends on the room as everyone glances over at Kyle. He wipes his face and composes himself before saying, “Geez…I thought I was the one who was supposed to run from the room crying.”

Serena rubs his arm affectionately and gives him a small smile. “So, what do you think we should do now?” She asks Liz.

Max notices how everyone looks to Liz and he’s once again reminded of why she’s a much better leader than he is. She looks at him and he knows she’s worried about it.

“Max, what do you think we should do?” Liz asks him. He knows she’s asking him so everyone will think she looks to him for advice. But he knows she’s much more capable than he is in keeping the group organized and together.

“I think we should play it safe and leave the country for a while…as soon as possible. At some point, I’d like to explore the possibility of contacting Gerard to see if he’ll tell us anything regarding the operation.” Max sees everyone nodding in agreement.

“When do we leave?” Serena asks.

“Tomorrow at the latest. Does that sound good?” Max looks to Kyle…knowing it’ll be hard for him to leave the country…to leave his father.

Kyle just looks up quickly and says, “Yah. That sounds fine.” He stands up then and heads to the door. “I’m going for a walk.” He sees everyone looking at him worriedly, especially Serena. “I’ll be back…and I won’t go far.” then walks out.

“Well, we’ll get everything ready to go.” Isabel breaks the silence. She looks at Max. “I think you and Liz should get some rest. You look like hell.” She stands up with Jesse to go pack supplies.

Liz laughs sarcastically and rolls her eyes as she stands up. “Thanks Isabel.”

She feels dizzy as she stands up and Max grabs her arm, steadying her. She feels his concern and looks up at him. “I’m ok. I just need to sleep.”

He nods disbelievingly and leads her to the bedroom. Just as he’s about to knock on the door, it opens and Maria walks out…Michael close behind.

“Sorry about that.” Maria says to Liz. “It just hit me, all of a sudden, that he’s gone…you know? And I just…”

“It’s ok, Maria.” Liz smiles at her. “We’re gonna get some sleep.” She moves further into the bedroom but not too far to hear Maria say to Michael, “That’s good…she looks like hell.”

~TBC~

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Angel
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Post by Angel » Mon Nov 24, 2003 9:57 am

Part 38

“Liz.” She hears a whisper in the darkness as she lies on her back on the only decent bed in this apartment. She doesn’t reply, hoping he’ll think she’s asleep.

“I know you’re awake.” She hears a couple minutes later and she rolls her eyes.

“I’m fine, Max.” Liz answers the questions she knows he’s about to ask.

“That ability of yours is extremely irritating. Has anyone ever told you that?”

“Yes. Frequently.” She answers him with the shortest answers possible. There aren’t any more questions after that and she feels bad for giving him the cold shoulder, but there are just too many things swirling around in her head right now to have the discussion with Max that she wants to have.

Liz drifts off the sleep shortly after that, but Max can’t sleep. He turns on his side and watches Liz as she sleeps…watches the stray rays of sunshine slipping through the curtain as they fall over her hair. How is she so strong? Through everything, she’s the glue keeping their fragile group…and sanity…together. As he watches her chest rise and fall, he looks back up to her pale face. He knows there’s something wrong. Is it physical? Something they did to her that he couldn’t fix? Maybe her powers are finally getting to be too much for her body. Sighing, he closes his eyes as the questions swim around in his head. She keeps insisting she’s ok, but he knows she’s not. And it scares him to death.

Meanwhile, in Central Park, Kyle sits on a bench overlooking a small pond. Staring, unseeing, at the ducks happily splashing in the sunshine as a group of kids stand at the edge throwing in chunks of bread. Instead, he’s thinking about the past…about the paths that he and his dad had chosen.

Does this have anything to do with that Max kid?
What...the entire country knows?
Kyle, listen to me. I don't want you getting mixed up with that kid.
What are you talking about? What do you care about Max Evans?
Kyle, I don't want you around him. Do you hear me?
~~~~~~~

Kyle...do you remember what you did the night after your mom left?
I lent you Mr. Squishels.
You were worried about me, and you didn't want me sleeping alone, so you did instead. That was a brave thing for a 6-year-old to do, and I was...and I was proud of you.
I remember the first time you tied your own shoes...and when we, uh...we took the training wheels off of your bike.
I'm in awe of you every day, son. And I apologize for not recognizing the man that you're becoming...because you're a darn...you're a darn good one.

~~~~~~~

He saved my life, Kyle. And now he’s dead.

What are you talking about?

I…I was shot and he…he saved me. He saved me like he saved you.


Closing his eyes, he leans his head back and feels the sun warm his face. He remembers high school and finding himself involved all of a sudden in this new life, this crazy alien crap and how easy it seemed.

So is this the sixth or seventh hole we’ve dug today?
Hey, hey. I was kinda wondering what the hell you people were doing sophomore year.
Ah, well, a lot of secret meetings, a lot of lying to authorities. Sometimes narrowly escaping gunfire…although generally that was pretty rare.
So what do we lowly human folk get out of all this?
I’m not sure.
See, I guess what I have a problem with is that suddenly I’m a member of this club I never wanted to join.
Yeah.
And it turns out this club bears a striking resemblance to a chain gang.

~~~~~~~

In the Honda, Jim looks over to see Kyle staring out at the passing landscape through the window next to him. “You alright, son?”

Kyle nods and says, “Yah…you know…just thinking.”

Jim doesn’t want to push him so he nods and continues driving…hoping Kyle will open up.

“I just…” Kyle begins, looking over at his Dad to see if he’s listening. “I’ve tried…really hard…to make myself at peace with this whole alien situation. It’s just totally not fair the way our lives have been completely changed because of them. But then I think about something Alex and I talked about…a couple of years ago.” He sees his Dad look over at the mention of Alex’s name.

“We were stuck in that cave with the blue crystals…” Kyle laughs sarcastically. “I mean, listen to me! Killer crystals. Anyway, we were running out of air and really thought we’d die in there and Alex was talking about how amazing it was that we were a part of this…that we had this knowledge. He said he’d rather die now, knowing that, than to go back to his normal life.” He’s silent for a few moments before looking over at his Dad. “Do you think he’d still think that now? Do you think that?”

Jim looks at Kyle and thinks for a moment before saying, “Yah, son…I do think that. And I think Alex would still believe it, too. Granted, we’ve been through some terrible things because we know this secret. But I’d rather know, than live the rest of my life in ignorance.”

Kyle goes back to looking out the window and after a couple of minutes, Jim nudges him and grins while wiggling his fingers. “And hey…soon, we’ll be able to pop our own popcorn without sticking it in the microwave.”

Kyle thinks back to how funny they thought that was…on their drive from Kentucky to Dallas right after they rescued Liz and Isabel from the FBI. They actually had to pull over because they were laughing so hard. As he hears the children laughing and feels the sun on his face, his thoughts turn back to their junior year in high school, before he ever became aware of how truly evil evil could get.

~~~~~~~


So this is how it ends...
Somehow this is not how I pictured it.
It was hell of a ride though.
I guess.
I mean, think about it. We not only met aliens, but they killed us. How many people can say that?
You’re getting delirious, is that it?
Nah, take...take a step away from your life, Kyle. You know, I mean, you’re part of this...this amazing thing. This...amazing knowledge that you have that 6 billion people on this planet don’t. You really want to step out of this cave if it meant that you were gonna be another dumb jock?
You know what, I wouldn’t.

Sighing, he sits up, finding himself humming the strains of American Pie as he pushes up from the bench. He leaves the kids behind as he walks back toward the sounds of the city…back to the life he’s chosen.

When he gets back, he overhears Serena and Maria talking.

“I don’t know. She just doesn’t look very good…and she never has to sleep this much.” Maria says.

“Maybe it’s just what she says…that she’s tired. She’s been through a lot. I’m sure she’ll look better when she gets up.”

“I hope you’re right.” Maria sees Kyle walk in. “Kyle…you’re back.”

Serena turns and gives him an appraising look.

“Yup, all in one piece.” He offers before reaching down to stroke Serena’s hair. “What’d I miss?”

“Nothing, we were just worried about Liz.” Serena offers.

He looks toward the closed bedroom door and asks, “Sleeping?”

“Yah, they need it.” Maria says and looks him over. He has an odd look on his face. Worried that he’s still ready to bolt, she asks, “You ok?”

Kyle knows they’re all on edge, and his outburst earlier didn’t help anything. “Ummm…yah. Just thinking about some stuff, that’s all.” He still hears the echoes of his dad and Alex in his head. Looking over, he sees Isabel and Michael huddled together talking. He was hoping Max would be awake when he got back…he needed to talk to him.

Several hours later, it’s late afternoon and everyone’s getting antsy. Especially because Liz and Max are still asleep. Michael’s tapping his fingers on the table to a rhythm only he knows as Maria throws him an annoyed look every few minutes. Isabel has been pacing for what seems like hours as Jesse tries to read an old worn out paperback that he’s already read a dozen times.

“I think we should wake them up.” Serena offers in the silence. “I mean…Liz never sleeps this long. It’s been over nine hours and the most she’s ever needed before was four or five.”

Everyone looks over at her with looks of trepidation. But Michael jumps up and says, “I’ll do it.” before striding over to the bedroom door. Maria rolls her eyes, knowing he was just waiting for an excuse to wake them up for the last few hours. He just didn’t want it to be his idea…now if Max or Liz gets mad, he can blame it on Serena.

Michael knocks on the door once before opening it and walking in. Silence falls over the living room again as everyone waits and they’re startled by Michael yelling, “Oh shit! Isabel…get in here!”

Of course, everyone, including Isabel, runs into the room and stops…looking at the bed in horror and shock. Max and Liz are lying on the bed, curled up on their sides, Max’s arm draped over Liz in what looks like a peaceful sleep. And they’re both covered in white webbing.

“Oh my god!” Maria exclaims. Everyone looks around at matching looks of shock, not knowing what to do. “What’s going on?” she asks, knowing no one has any answers. “It’s just like what happened to Michael.”

Isabel rushes to the side of the bed and bends over her brother and friend. “They’re breathing…they’re alive.” She looks around frantically…thinking…and says, “What are we gonna do? We don’t have the healing stones like last time.”

“Can’t one of you do something? Like heal them, or whatever you do?” Serena asks, frantic.

“You’re looking at the only two people we have that can heal.” Michael says.

“Well this is just great.” Kyle says. “Now what?”

Serena slumps to the floor next to Liz and tears fill her eyes. “So what…what does this mean? Are they dying?”

“No…they just…something’s off. What did River Dog tell us last time? They need balance or something. I don’t have any idea how to do that without the healing stones.” Isabel says. “They’re not dying.” She says with a conviction that not even she believes. “We need help. I wish we knew more about this…about us.”

“Isn’t there anyone…anyone you could ask, or call?” Serena asks.

“No…it’s just us.” Isabel says defeatedly.

“What about that guy…the other shapeshifter?” Kyle asks, trying to think of anything.

“He won’t help.” Michael says. “From what Max said, he wants nothing to do with us.”

Maria thinks of something. “But doesn’t he have to do what you tell him to…like it’s programmed into him or something?”

“Just Max…he only has to do what Max tells him.” Isabel says as they all look down at the bed again.

Falling silent again, they all wrack their brains trying to come up with something that could help. “Aren’t there others, though? Liz told me there was another set of you made.” Serena asks.

Michael runs his hands through his hair in frustration and says, “Even if we knew where they were, they weren’t exactly fans. They tried to kill Max last time he saw them. I don’t think they’d be first in line to offer help.”

On the other side of New York City…

“You feel it?” She asks him as they walk down the street.

“Yah. The king’s here. What you pickin’ up?” Her companion says.

“I feel the othahs…Isabel and the othah one.” She says.

He nods, keeping his gaze forward as they walk. He doesn’t need this shit…them comin’ here and stirin’ up trouble. “A’ight, let’s motor. Might as well get this ova with.” He crosses the street, heading downtown, expecting Ava to follow him.

~TBC~

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Angel
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Post by Angel » Mon Nov 24, 2003 9:57 am

Part 39

Chaos. The small apartment had erupted in utter chaos. Half the group had moved into the living room, Kyle, Michael and Serena…debating about what they do next. While Jesse was stuck in the bedroom watching Maria and Isabel fuss over Max and Liz, arguing about what to do with them.

How the hell did this group ever function together? As Jesse looked around, listening to the arguing, the confusion, the hostility. Kyle and Michael were getting ready to come to blows…Serena’s presence, the only reason it hadn’t escalated to that point yet. Maria and Isabel were close to meeting half way across the bed, their faces were so close as they shouted. Frankly, he decided it was a wonder they ever lived past high school with the way they were acting. Clearly, the loss of Max and Liz caused the others to find themselves adrift with no compass.

He had had enough. “Shut up!” He yells suddenly. Yelling it again, louder, he finally gets everyone’s attention. “Look at yourselves! Get a grip.” He looks at every face and the mood in the room changes as if they just realize how they’ve been behaving.

Before anyone can say anything, though, there’s a knock on the door. No one moves to answer it, so Jesse walks into the living room toward the door, wearily, “Probably a neighbor complaining about the yelling.”

When he opens the door, though, he realizes it isn’t any neighbor. Staring, his mouth opens slightly as he looks the two…strangers…up and down.

“Yo. You wanna let us in or what?”

Jesse moves aside slowly as Michael rushes to the door, defenses up. “What are you doing here?”

“Hey…chill. We ain’t here ta mess with ya.” Ava says, amazed at the number of people in the room. Her eyes finally find Isabel as she steps forward.

Isabel looks at both of them, then says to Ava, “But you…you said he was dead.” as she looks over at the person who looks just like her brother.

“Yah, turns out he ain’t as dead as I thought.” Ava smirks.

“Ya wanna put that down?” Zan looks at Michael and his outstretched arm…which is aimed directly at him.

Michael hesitantly puts his arm down as he eyes Max’s dupe. “You didn’t answer my question.”

“We felt ya’s. Thought we’d pop in and say HOWDY.” Zan says this as he hooks his thumbs in his jean pockets and adopts a southern drawl.

“What’s with all the peeps?” Ava asks, looking around. “You tell the whole state of New Mexico about us?”

Isabel rolls her eyes and ignores her question. “Actually, maybe you can help. We have a little…problem.”

Zan studies everyone in the room. “Yah? Where’s your king? You follow my sistah and Rath’s lead and kill him?”

Serena is watching this unfold, astonished. She heard Liz tell her about them, but to see them here…it was just weird. “He’s in there.” She says, nodding her head toward the bedroom.

Zan and Ava make their way through the living room, through everyone and walk to the doorway to the bedroom. When they see what’s in there, Ava says, “Holy shit…what’d ya do to ‘em?”

Isabel follows with Michael close behind and says, “We didn’t do anything to them.” defensively. “We just found them like that…and we don’t know what to do.”

Zan walks toward the bed, studying Max and says, “What kind of fucked up shit is this?” He touches the webbing and looks over at Liz…feeling a vibe coming off of her…like a pull. “Who’s that?”

“Liz. She’s his.” Ava answers him. She told him about Liz before and how nice she was to her when she was in Roswell.

“She ain’t doin’ too good. It’s comin’ from her.” Zan says, feeling the sickness radiating off of Liz.

“Liz did this?” Maria asks.

“Yah, she’s like, suckin’ the energy from everything in here…from your boy here.” Zan answers. “She has a lotta power.”

Isabel walks further into the room and looks down at Max and Liz. “Is there anything we can do? Do you know?”

Zan looks up at her, cautious. She looks just like his sister…only softer. “Dunno. You got the stones?”

Isabel’s shoulders slump and she says, “No. They were destroyed.”

Zan nods and looks back down at the bed…thinking.

Ava looks around and asks, “Your fourth ain’t here?”

Michael looks at her, the hatred on his face evident. “She’s dead.”

Ava nods and picks up that no one’s sorry about that fact.

Zan looks up and says, “We got us a four square here. Guess we can try ta juice her up…give her what she needs so she lets go.”

Isabel nods her head. “Ok…lets do it…anything that might help.” She looks at Michael and sees his hesitation.

“I…uh…I don’t have that kind of control over it.” Michael looks at Zan.

“Don’t mattah. We just need your energy…I’ll do the rest.”

Kyle’s confused and asks, “So, what…you’re gonna send your energy to Liz? What if you kill her?”

Zan smirks and says, “I don’t think we could kill her if we tried. She got more power than I evah seen. Your boy did a number on her…musta healed her or somethin’”

Kyle’s eyes open wider and he says, “Because he healed her? He healed her more than once.”

Zan looks impressed. “More than once, huh? She’s probably so juiced up, she got electricity shootin’ outta her fingertips.” He looks at Ava and they snort with laughter.

Isabel doesn’t appreciate their amusement at the situation and says, “This isn’t funny.”

Zan sobers up and says, “Yah, ok…whatevah…I hope he hasn’t been goin’ around healin’ everyone. Or we gonna have a whole planet o’ freaky humans more powerful than we are walkin’ around.”

Kyle pales visibly and backs away slightly. Ava sees him and asks, “What’s your deal?”

Maria sees him and says, “Kyle, it’s alright. He only healed you once. You’ve never been as powerful as Liz.”

“Yah, well, she healed me too. That’s gotta do something.”

Zan turns his head when hears this. “Damn…she can heal?” He and Ava share a look and he shakes his head. “What…this guy can’t keep his hands to himself?” He turns to Michael. “Who else he heal?”

Michael scratches his eyebrow and says, “Kyle’s dad…a bunch of kids with cancer…oh, and he tried to heal this other kid, but it didn’t work.” Michael looks at Isabel. “Is that it? I can’t remember.”

“Jesus…what the fuck’s he thinkin’?” Zan exclaims…horrified that his double has been going around healing everyone is sight.

Exasperated, Isabel says, “Can we talk about this later? And maybe deal with our current problem?”

“Right.” Zan turns back to the bed. “A’ight. We gotta concentrate on her…just…send your energy. Keep contact with Ava…she’ll filter it to me.” He turns to Ava and grabs her hand, placing his other hand on Liz.

Turning to Liz, Zan kneels on the floor and mutters, “How do I get myself in this shit?”

Ava kneels down next to him, then Isabel and Michael. They’re all holding hands and before long, light shoots out of their joined hands…traveling from Michael to Isabel to Ava and finally to Zan, whose back arches like he’s just been hit with something powerful.

His hand is gripping Liz’s arm…glowing so bright everyone can see his bones and tendons. Less than a minute goes by and Max wakes up with a start, sitting up and clawing at the webbing that’s covering him. Panicking, he sees Kyle, Serena, Jesse and Maria staring at him before looking next to him. He reacts instantly to what he sees and makes a grab for Zan’s arm. Zan’s eyes open suddenly and look straight into Max’s. An instant later, without Zan even moving, Max is thrown off the bed and across the room.

Maria rushes to him and helps him sit up. “Max, are you ok?”

Max rubs his head and looks at the spectacle in front of him. “What the hell is going on?” He finally sees Liz covered in white webbing and he cries out, “What are they doing to her?” He tries to stand up, but his knees buckle and he slides down the wall.

Jesse puts a hand on his shoulder and says, “It’s ok…they’re trying to help.” Jesse can’t keep his gaze away for long, though, and looks back at the four of them. Isabel is practically glowing, sweat beading on her forehead.

Serena kneels down on the floor close to Max. “They just showed up, said they could feel you here. You and Liz…you were unconscious and covered in that stuff.” She nods toward Liz and the webbing still covering her. “We didn’t know what to do.”

“How long?” Max asks, feeling how dry his throat is.

“About nine hours. We don’t know when that…stuff…started, though.” Serena tells him, picking off some webbing from Max’s shirt. “Zan…says it’s coming from Liz. He said she’s sick and was pulling your energy from you…from the room. I think they’re trying heal her.”

Max feels a sudden surge of energy and sees the light that’s coming from them get brighter. He looks at Liz, who hasn’t moved at all, then at Zan. He’s draining, fast…they all are. All Max can think of is all that energy being poured into Liz.

Suddenly, the room goes dark and Zan breaks away, falling back. Isabel and Michael look completely drained as they fall back, sitting on the floor with their backs against the wall.

Looking at Liz, Maria says, “It didn’t work. She looks the same.”

Zan whispers from the corner, “Rip that shit off her. She’ll be up soon.” He’s breathing heavily and doesn’t have enough energy to move his head.

Maria does as he says, Serena stepping forward to help. Max slowly slides up the wall and makes his way to Liz. He sits next to her on the bed and strokes her hair back from her face.

Jesse moves next to Isabel and helps her up as Zan says, “You’s got any juice, or somethin’ with some fuckin’ sugar in it?”

Max looks over at him, startled to her his own voice talking like…that. Maria looks from Michael to Zan and says, “Yah, does that help?”

Zan just looks at her and she leaves the room to get them all some of Liz’s power bars and some orange juice. She returns and gives it to them, watching Zan drink the whole glass in two seconds before ripping into the bar. He nudges Ava, who had drifted off and says, “Hey peaches…drink this.”

Max watches them, slightly disconcerted before he turns his attention back to Liz. “What did you do to her?”

Zan looks at him, not appreciating his tone, and says, “Juiced her up. She’ll be a’ight…someone did a number on her though.”

Max doesn’t know what to say to that as he feels her forehead. She feels ok…he can feel their connection at least.

“Hey sweet cheeks, you got more?” Zan says to Maria, holding up his empty glass.

She rolls her eyes and gets his glass. “Yah, the name’s Maria.” She takes it into the next room and comes back with a full glass.

“Thanks. We gonna need to crash…you’s got room?” Zan asks Max.

He looks over and says, “Not exactly, you can sleep where you find room, though.”

“Cool.” Zan slowly stands up, pulling Ava with him. They walk into the living room and look around. “What a dump. Looks like we get the floor.” He lays down on the floor next to the ratty couch and pulls Ava close to him before they both fall asleep.

Max turns to see everyone looking at him expectantly. “I guess we need to schedule some guard duty. Go in pairs, I don’t want anyone alone.”

Jesse nods and says, “Kyle? You wanna go with me? We’ll take first shift.”

“Sure. It’s starting to get a little crowded in here.” Kyle tells him and gives Serena a kiss before putting his coat on. Kyle throws Jesse a gun and walkie talkie and they both head out the front door.

Max throws a pillow on the floor for Michael and helps Maria get Isabel up and into the bed next to Liz. “They just need to rest for a while.” He tells her as she grabs a blanket and lays it over Michael’s sleeping form.

She nods and looks over at Liz. “He said she’d be awake soon. Why isn’t she awake?”

“I don’t know.” Max says as he sits on the floor next to Liz’s side of the bed, holding her hand.

He stays next to her for the next few hours, picking webbing off of her and throwing it away. He still has no idea what happened and hopes someone will fill him in later. Right now, he just wants Liz to wake up. He stares at her, willing her to do so.

When Liz wakes up, she sees that it’s dark outside and she’s disoriented. Looking down, she sees Max sitting on the floor, holding her hand with his head resting on the side of the bed…asleep. Furrowing her brow and wondering what he’s doing down there, she turns her head and sees Isabel in the bed sleeping next to her. Turning back to Max, she sees Michael and Maria on the floor just behind Max…sleeping, too. What’s going on here?

Her throat feels like sandpaper and her mouth is pasty and she tries to sit up, gently pulling her hand from Max’s. Oddly, she feels very awake and…her body almost seems to be humming. She slips out of bed quietly and walks into the living room to see Serena asleep on the couch and her eyes are drawn to the floor. Taking a step back, her eyes widening, she sees Tess of all people on the floor. Just as she’s about to wake everyone up screaming, she sees who’s next to her and stops in her tracks.

Moving forward slowly, she realizes that it’s not Tess…it’s Ava…and Zan? But…he’s supposed to be dead…isn’t he? She looks around at all the sleeping bodies and starts to panic. What’s going on? She’s obviously been asleep for a very long time. She doesn’t see Jesse or Kyle anywhere and she spins around, confused and disoriented.

Taking a deep breath, she tries to calm down and place the pieces in the puzzle. She’s missing too many, though, and can feel the panic start up again. She looks down at Ava and Zan…then back in the bedroom. Yup, Max is in there. “Ok…ok…don’t freak out.” She whispers to herself.

Max wakes up with a start, panic rolling through him in waves. He looks up and sees that Liz is gone and he jumps up, looking around the room. He sees her and rushes into the living room. “Liz.” He whispers and spins her around, seeing the panic in her eyes. “It’s ok.”

She grabs onto him tightly and says, “What’s happened, Max. What’s going on here? Where are Jesse and Kyle? Why are they here?” She points to the two figures sleeping on the floor. “I thought he was dead.”

“Shhh…it’s ok. Calm down. They came to help…I think. I’m not too sure because I kind of came in in the middle.” He strokes her hair and says, “Jesse and Kyle are on patrol.”

She visibly relaxes when she hears that and she looks around. “What time is it? How long did I sleep?”

He looks at his watch and says, “It’s midnight. You…we were asleep for a long time…all day.”

Liz rubs her face and looks down at herself. She’s a mess. Sighing, she says, “Ok, I need a shower and I don’t wanna wake everyone up. Come with me to the bathroom?” When she sees the look on his face, she says, “You can come in after I get in the shower.”

He nods. “Ok.” He watches as she takes one last look around and heads to the bathroom, grabbing her bag on the way. Giving her a few minutes, he goes back and knocks on the door softly before hearing her tell him to come in.

Shutting the door behind him, he sits down on the toilet and tries not to think about her being naked right next to him. She’s probably picking up his thoughts and that makes him think about it more…uncontrollably.

Liz laughs to herself when she hears what he’s thinking and says, “So…you wanna fill me in?”

No, I wanna join you. “I’m not sure.” He says instead. “I woke up and everyone was in the bedroom, surrounding the bed and we…we were covered in that webbing. Remember…like Michael back in high school?”

“So that’s what this stuff is.” Liz says. “Ok, go ahead.”

“When I woke up, I saw Zan…touching you…and Ava, Isabel and Michael. They were…I don’t know…Zan called it “juicing you up”. Whatever that means.” He rolls his eyes and continues. “I tried to get him off of you and he threw me across the room. After a few minutes, they let go and pretty much all went to sleep. Serena told me Zan and Ava just showed up…that they felt us here. He also said you were sick.” He thinks back and shrugs to himself. “That’s about all I know at this point. That was about seven hours ago.”

When Liz doesn’t say anything for a while, Max asks, “How do you feel? Do you remember anything?”

“Actually, I feel really good. Like…my body is thrumming with energy…it’s…it’s strange. I’m not sure if I remember anything. I think I was dreaming, or maybe not. I remember you…but not you.” She’s silent for a moment. “I guess that’s Zan. I thought I was dreaming about you, but it wasn’t you…he was…different.”

Max doesn’t know what to think about that. Obviously Zan connected with her. What does that mean? Did he see her…did she see him? A stab of jealousy hits him and he feels his blood pressure go up a notch.

Coming out of her thoughts about what she saw, Liz says, “I don’t know what I saw or if it was real. At this point, there are so many of you it’s hard to keep track.” She laughs a little at that, then sobers quickly. How ridiculous is this? She’s got three different Max’s floating around in her psyche now. Like the one wasn’t enough. “How are Isabel and Michael?” She asks, wanting to get off the topic of multiple Max’s.

“Drained…tired. I think they’ll be ok, though.” Max answers her…still thinking about what she said before. “Did you know you were sick?”

She doesn’t say anything for a while and he thinks she’s not going to answer him. “Yes.” She finally says. “I knew. I just thought that if I could get some sleep it would get better, though. I’m sorry, Max.”

“Was it something they did to you? Do you know?” He asks, wondering if he didn’t heal her all the way after they operated on her.

Again, she doesn’t answer him right away. He hears her turn off the water and she reaches out for a towel before saying, “Yah…something they did to me…something they took, I think.”

Before he can ask her anything else, there’s a loud banging on the bathroom door. “Yo! I gotta piss!”

Max cringes and looks from the door to Liz. “God, can you believe we’re genetically identical?”

She smiles at him, curious to see Zan-The Live Version. “Let me get dressed, tell him I’ll be out in a minute.”

Max nods and opens the door a crack, squeezing through before Zan can see in. “She’ll be out in a minute.” He tells him.

Max walks into the kitchen and watches as a few minutes later Liz opens the bathroom door and steps out…meeting Zan for the first time. She looks at the floor, then up at him. “Sorry…the bathroom’s all yours.”

Zan touches her arm and smirks. “No prob babe.” He raises his eyebrows suggestively and says, “You get what you need from me? You feel bettah?” His voice is low…smooth.

Liz looks nervously over to Max and knows he’s ready to explode with anger before turning back to Zan. “Um…yah…thanks. I feel much better.” She steps away from him and walks toward Max…who doesn’t miss her flushed face.

As Liz walks away, Zan appreciates the view from behind…an appreciation that doesn’t go unnoticed by Max. Zan smirks at him before walking into the bathroom. “Man, that guy is uptight.” he thinks as he shuts the door.

Max watches as Liz makes herself two sandwiches loaded with meat and cheese and eats them in less time than it took her to make them.

She leans back in the chair and says, “I so needed that. I think I’m still hungry.” She smiles and gets up, pulling a bag of potato chips out of the pantry. Sitting back down at the table with Max, she says, “I feel like I haven’t eaten for days.”

Max watches her, amused, and says, “You haven’t.” She seems so full of energy…like she can’t sit still. He watches as she squirms around in the chair, bouncing both legs up and down as she digs into the chips.

“I guess I did sleep for 18 hours.” Liz rationalizes her jitteriness. “Maybe I should go for a run.”

“Liz…you can’t go for a run. You just had to be healed by not just one…but FOUR aliens because you were so sick. Maybe you should take it easy.” Max shakes his head at her, hoping she’s not serious.

She looks up in thought. “Then a walk. You can come with me. We need to talk anyway.” She looks at him and shoves another handful of chips in her mouth.

“Alright. But only a walk…a short walk.” He concedes. “And put the chips down…we’ll stop and get you something to eat with a little more nutrition in it.”

Liz jumps up out of the chair and grabs her coat, gun and walkie talkie. She throws Max his and practically runs to the door as Max tries to tie his shoelaces before she bolts on him.

He finally catches up with her…having to run because she’s half way down the street when he finally makes it outside.

“You finally decided to join me?” She jokes with him as he runs up next to her.

They walk in silence for a while. Both caught up in their thoughts. The night is clear but chilly and they can hear the sounds of the city around them. “It’s kind of like Paris…the city is up all night.” Liz finally breaks the silence.

“Yah. I like Paris better, though.” Max says.

“Yah.” She agrees…thinking about the sunset, and their little courtyard. “I’d like to go back there.”

The walk for a few blocks before Max says, “Liz, we haven’t had a chance to talk…about before. I just…I wanted to…” He’s trying to find the words to apologize for what he said in Mexico City…for everything he did…for pushing her. After everything they’ve been through in the last week…has it only been a week? Or has it been longer?…it put it all in a different perspective for him.

“Max,” Liz interrupts. “I need to tell you…at least, I think…I don’t know how to tell you this. I’m not even sure myself.” She shakes her head at her stuttering.

He looks at her and says, “What? You can tell me…you can tell me anything.”

Liz takes a deep breath, shoving her hands in her coat pocket. “I think…I think I was pregnant…when they took us.” Holding her breath, she waits for his response.

Max walks a few steps and stops…replaying her words in his mind. “Wha…you…you’re pre…wait…was?” He’s looking at her, looking her up and down, confused.

“I think…I think they took it…when they operated on me.” She watches him as he’s thinking back, processing what she’s saying. “I didn’t know…not really. Until after, and I felt like something was missing…something that had been there before. I don’t know how to explain it.”

Max is speechless so she continues, “Now that I think about it, the signs were there…before…in Mexico. I just didn’t know what it was. Not until we were out of there and I started to feel…like part of me was missing…and it threw me off balance. I’m thinking that that’s why I was sick.” She looks up at him, all the color has drained from his face and she hears the wheels turning in his mind.

“I…I didn’t know…I…” Max stutters.

“Max, how could you? I didn’t even know.” She starts puzzling the pieces together again and says, “I have a theory…that maybe that’s why I sucked you in, too…with the web thing. Maybe it was my body reacting to what was missing. Like it was trying to take from you what was missing from me and get it back again. I don’t know…that’s just a feeling I get.”

He’s flabbergasted. How can her mind just…keep working like that. He still can’t get past the first thing she said to him. “Liz…I…I think I need to sit down.” He swallows and jerks his head around, looking for somewhere to sit.

Liz sees a bench across the street and leads him over there. “I’m sorry…for just springing it on you like that. I guess I’ve had a little more time to think about it.”

Max sits down and says, “Are you sure? Or…is there any way you could be wrong?”

“I’m pretty sure. I feel it…I don’t really know how to explain it other than I just feel that that’s right.” She says.

He wipes his face with his hand. “But…I healed you…and I didn’t see anything. I didn’t see it.”

Liz looks down and says, “Maybe because there was nothing to see. I didn’t even know then…I hadn’t even thought about it at that point.”

“Oh my god.” Max whispers before a choked sob escapes his throat and he buries his face in his hands.

Liz looks away, down the street, tears filling her eyes. She watches a car drive past them, filled with laughing people…out having a good time. People…normal people…living their normal lives. With no idea of the horrors that happen in the world. How she envies them right now…how she wishes she could just hop in the car with them and escape. As the car disappears around the next corner, she wipes at her tears. If wishes were candy and nuts…isn’t that how the saying goes?

“Liz…” She’s broken out of her revere when Max grabs her hand. “I’m so…sorry.” God, sorry…what kind of word is that. It’s not even appropriate, but he has no idea what to say. He looks down at her tiny hand in his. He looks up and meets her gaze…seeing in her eyes that she knows…that she knows there’s nothing really to say.

“I know, Max.” A tear slips down her cheek and he reaches up to brush it away with his thumb. If only he could take their pain away with such a simple gesture.

Liz leans her head into his hand and says softly, “I’m sorry, Max. If I’d known, I would have…”

“No.” He grabs her face with both of his hands. “There’s nothing you could have done. If you would have fought them, it wouldn’t have mattered. You know that. It’s not your fault. Don’t you dare say you’re sorry.”

Her face crumples and he pulls her into his arms…the flood finally breaking. She hasn’t had time to even think about what had been taken from her…from them. It’s taken all of her energy just to survive…just to get here. She doesn’t even know how to mourn for something that she didn’t even know existed until it was gone.

Time passes as they both sit on that bench. Traffic and people pass by as they hold each other, comfort each other…neither saying a word. Hours pass, but they don’t notice. They listen to each other’s heartbeat, the sound of their breath as they watch the world pass them by…unnoticed.

~TBC~

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Angel
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Post by Angel » Mon Nov 24, 2003 9:59 am

Part 40

By 5am, Maria is ready to pull her hair out. Max and Liz are gone and everyone is getting on her nerves. This place is too small to hold all these people.

Michael and Isabel woke up around 3am, refreshed and feeling better. Michael was trying to get some answers out of Zan but Zan wasn’t up for playing 20 questions. “We need to book. Where’s your boy?” Zan is irritated, he just wants to get out of there. This visit isn’t what he was expecting…these people are way too much work.

“I’m sure they’ll be back soon.” Serena says. “They probably needed to get away to talk.”

Zan laughs and says, “Boy, do they got shit to talk about. But I ain’t watin’ around forevah.”

Michael doesn’t know how much more of this guy he can take. Just when he thinks he can’t take anymore, the door opens and Max and Liz walk in.

“Finally!” Zan says, agitated.

Max and Liz see everyone looking at them expectantly. “Sorry…we just needed to…talk.” Max says.

“See.” Serena says with satisfaction.

Maria rushes up to Liz. “Liz, are you ok? You scared us to death earlier.” She hugs Liz and looks back at her face, seeing a sadness there. She gives Liz a questioning look before looking at Max.

“I’m fine Maria. I’m sorry for making you worry, but I’m ok now.”

“Hey Liz, glad to see you’re feeling better.” Ava offers from the couch.

Liz takes her coat off and moves a chair closer into the living room. “I’m glad to see you, Ava. Thank you…thank you both…for what you did.” She looks at Zan and smiles.

“No prob, princess.” Zan replies.

“So…what happened? Where did you go when you left Roswell? And…I thought you said Zan was dead.” Liz asks Ava.

“I thought so, too. I traveled around after I left you…ya know, saw the sights. I came back here to get my shit and guess who I found…just hangin’ out in our crib.” Ava looks at Zan. “Scared the shit outta me.”

Zan smirks and says, “Yah, takes more than a truck to kill me. That bastard Rath and his bitch. I’ll kill ‘em when I find ‘em. Can’t believe my bitch sistah’d pull that shit on me.” Zan looks over at Isabel, then at Max. “Ya know, she killed us on our home planet, too. Can’t trust that fuckin’ whore.”

Isabel looks at him in shock as Jesse puts his arm around her. “They’re not the same.” Jesse says. “Don’t talk about Isabel like she’s not here…like she’s anything like your sister. She’s not.”

“I don’t know what happened with your Isa…Lonny…but Isabel would never do anything to betray me…to betray us.” Max says.

Zan throws his hands up. “Whatevah. I’m just sayin’.”

“Well just say it somewhere else.” Max says angrily. “I have questions.” He says, changing the subject.

Zan quirks up an eyebrow. “Do ya? Ask away, then.”

“Have you heard anything from anyone from our planet? Or from the other planets in our system?” Max wants to find out how much he knows…if they have enemies still after them besides the government.

“Nah. Not since the summit few years back. Lonny and Rath was all hot an’ bothered to get me to go. I didn’t, they tried to kill me. Haven’t heard anything since.” Zan looks at Max. “You?”

“We ran into some skins…we think they’re dead. But I saw Nicholas at the summit.” Max tells him.

“That little shit. Husk’s probably rotted by now.” Zan says.

“We’re hoping so. We also had a visit from Khivar.” Max says carefully, not revealing that Khivar came to get Isabel.

“Ah. Khivar. He the one that killed your mate?” Zan asks.

Both Liz and Max cringe at Tess being called Max’s mate. “No. She died before he came…she blew herself and an airforce base up several months before.”

“How noble.” Zan says, looking at Ava. “You do that for me?”

“In your dreams.” Ava rolls her eyes.

Maria can’t stand it anymore and says, “There was nothing noble about it. She killed our friend trying to get them off the planet only to deliver them all to Khivar to be killed. When she was the only one who went back, Khivar sent her sorry ass back here. We were gonna turn her over to the feds, but she did it herself instead. If I’d had my way, I’d have killed her.”

“Oooh. You a feisty one.” Zan grins at Maria. “So, she wasn’t all sweetness and honey like my Ava here, huh?” Max actually feels his skin crawl as he watches Zan turn and lick the side of Ava’s face.

Liz watches, fascinated by their relationship. They’re so completely different that her mind is having a hard time processing the fact that they look exactly like Max and Tess. Max and Tess, sitting in front of her practically making out. She shudders in revulsion and keeps telling herself it’s not them.

“Hello?” Michael says impatiently. “We were talking about Khivar.”

“Right. Nah, haven’t heard a peep.” Zan answers. “Haven’t heard from anyone. It’s just me an’ Ava.” He shrugs.

When no one says anything, Zan asks Max, “So, ah, where’s your kid?”

Max looks at him in shock, then to Liz.

“Wha…what kid?” Liz asks. Does he know? Did he see when he was connected to her?

“What kid? The one you had with your mate. You stupid or somethin’?” Zan says, confused.

“How do you know about him?” Max asks, suspicious.

“You forget. We’re the same, you an’ me…made from the same stuff. I knew when he was born…I felt it. I feel him now…so I know he’s alive.” Zan doesn’t understand how these people have stayed alive as long as they have being this dense.

“He’s human. He was adopted by human parents and he’s going to have a normal, human life.” Max says defensively. There’s no way he’s gonna let this guy get anywhere near his son.

“Human. Huh.” Zan sits back, thinking. “That’s wacked. How do two hybrids…such as ourselves…have a human kid?”

“I don’t know. Maybe that’s how we were engineered.” Max says.

“Maybe.” Zan says as he looks at Liz. “So how is it that a hybrid and a human can have an alien kid?”

Liz’s eyes widen and she looks at Max in panic before looking at Zan. Zan realizes his mistake when Liz looks at him and he sees Max shooting daggers in his direction. Good thing they can’t shoot laser bolts from their eyes.

“We wouldn’t know, since as far as we know a hybrid and human haven’t had children.” Max says evenly.

“Gotcha. Guess you’s’ll find out someday, though, the way you’s all paired up with humans an’ all.” Zan stands up, pulling Ava with him. “Well, as much as I love the family reunion an’ all, we gotta jet.”

“Wait. How do we get a hold of you if we need to?” Michael asks.

Zan looks surprised. “You don’t.”

Michael glares at him as Ava walks over to Liz. “Here,” she says, writing on a piece of paper. “here’s my pager number. Call me if you wanna get in touch.”

Liz takes the paper from her and says, “Thanks. Take care of yourself, Ava.” and gives her quick hug.

Ava blushes and pulls away. “You still cornball.” She smiles at Liz and grabs her coat, following Zan to the door.

Before he opens the door, Zan turns to Max and says, “Lemme give you a piece of advice. You need to lighten up. We got this second chance at a decent life, you an’ me, so don’t blow it. Somethin’ tells me we won’t be gettin’ anothah shot. Our planet? Forget about it. We ain’t a part o’ that no more. We was sent here for a reason, got mixed up with human DNA for a reason. I figure, I got myself killed up there…what the hell I wanna go back for? Just lay low…stay outta the way. You’s practically wearin’ homin’ signals on your heads tellin’ the government where you are.”

Zan looks at Liz before looking back at Max. “An’ for christ’s sake, stop healin’ everyone ya run into. No wonder you’s havin’ trouble.” He hooks his thumb in Liz’s direction. “Princess there got more power than all you combined. I wouldn’t piss her off if I was you.”

And with a wink to Liz, he walks out the door, calling out behind him, “Later.”

Ava hastily follows him, looking back at Liz and waving.

When the door closes, Kyle sits down and says, “Well, isn’t he a font of wisdom.”

No one moves until Maria sits next to Kyle. “God, I feel like we live in Bizzaro world or something. Did that just happen?”

Isabel is still fuming about what he said about her and she stiffly moves toward the kitchen. Max looks toward her and joins her, putting his hand on her arm. “Isabel, don’t listen to what he said. I know you…you’re not Vilondra. You proved that when Khivar came. You’re nothing like Lonny and I know you wouldn’t ever do anything like that.”

“I know…I just…I hate thinking that part of me used to be her. That part of me used to be someone who would kill her own brother.”

“It’s ok, Is. It’s no worse than having part of you responsible for the fall of an entire planet, right?” Isabel looks up at Max to see him grinning at her. She laughs and hugs him.

“You’re a dork.” She says.

“I know.” He answers, releasing her. “No more thinking about Vilondra.” He raises his chin in mock seriousness. “I forbid it.”

She grins and says, “Yes, your highness.”

“Hey, what was he talking about…a hybrid and a human will have an alien baby?” Max hears Maria say.

Max turns around and glances at Liz before looking at Maria and shrugging. “I don’t know.”

“Because, I mean, he wasn’t serious, was he?” Maria looks at Michael. “I’m not having alien babies.”

Michael looks appalled and says, “Ok.” shrugging his shoulders and walking to the refrigerator.

Maria gets up and follows him. “What’s that supposed to mean? You don’t want kids?”

Michael rolls his eyes and says, “What do you want from me? You’re the one who just said you don’t want alien babies.”

Maria throws her hands up in the air and turns around. “You know what? Fine.”

Watching in confusion, Michael doesn’t know how that conversation got turned into something he’s supposed to feel bad about now. “Women.” He mutters as he grabs a bottle of water from the fridge.

While Maria and Michael were fighting, Max slipped into the bedroom to start packing some things up. As he’s stuffing his bag, Liz walks in and shuts the door.

Looking up, he asks, “You ok?”

She nods and sits on the bed. “Yah. I just…thank you for not telling anyone. I don’t want anyone to know…I don’t want…I don’t want their pity. And I think it should just be something between us, you know?”

Max puts his bag down and sits next to her. “I know. I didn’t want anyone to know, either.”

They both sit for a moment before Liz says, “So, that was weird…wasn’t it? I mean, he looks just like you…and she…it was strange.”

“It was revolting.” Max says, his face scrunching in distaste. “Did you see him lick her face?”

“Ew. I know.” Liz’s eyes go wide as she grimaces. “I just can’t help but wonder how you could be genetically identical and he ended up…like that. I mean, if you hadn’t have grown up in Roswell, or if you hadn’t have been adopted by the Evans’…you could have turned out like that.” She looks over and sees a look of horror on Max’s face.

“I find that hard to believe.” He says, denying there’s any possibility he could ever be like Zan.

Liz smiles slightly at his denial. “I also wonder how Ava turned out to be so…nice. When Tess turned out to be so…not.”

Max shakes his head. “Who knows. It lends support to the whole nature versus nurture theory, though.”

After a few moments, Liz asks, “So…what are we doing?” She looks at the bag Max was packing.

“Leaving. As soon as we can get everyone together.”

Liz nods her head. “Good idea. Where to?”

“I was thinking London for a few days. I want to call Gerard, find out what he knows. And if we have an all clear…I guess we’ll leave it up to everyone else where we go.” Max looks at Liz. “What do you think?”

Liz looks at the floor for a moment, nodding her head, and looks up at Max. “I think that’s a good idea.”

He sees the pain in her eyes, knowing it mirrors his own and they both look away…toward the door. “I’ll go try to round everyone up.” Liz says as she stands up and moves to the door.

Max watches her go and says, “Liz.”

She turns around expectantly but he just shakes his head and says, “Nevermind.”

She nods and looks at him for a moment, then opens the door and walks out in the living room.

Two days later, they find themselves spread between four rooms in a London hotel…exhausted. They quickly make out a duty schedule and scatter, leaving Isabel to the first guard duty. Maria and Serena decide to go shopping and Michael, Jesse and Liz decide to go to a café down the street.

As everyone’s going his or her separate ways, Kyle pulls Max aside and says, “You have a few minutes?”

Max looks at Kyle uneasily, wondering what he wants to talk to him about. They haven’t spoken much since Max told him about his dad and frankly Max isn’t ready to be the brunt of Kyle’s blame for something else.

Max sighs and looks around. “Sure. I think everyone’s leaving, so we can stay here if you want.” He looks around one of the empty, adjoining room…forgetting whom it actually belongs to.

Kyle sits on the corner of the bed and Max sits in a chair by the window, bracing himself for whatever Kyle’s going to say to him. After several moments of silence, Max looks up questioningly to Kyle. “Was there an actual conversation you wanted to have, or did you just want the pleasure of my company?”

Ouch. Kyle looks at the floor…he guesses he deserved that. “Yah, um…I wanted to apologize.” He looks up to see Max raise his eyebrows. “For a lot of things, I guess.”

Max thinks he knows where this is going and says, “Kyle, it’s ok. You were upset…I understand.”

“No. Not about that…well, yah, that…and other things. I’m sorry I hit you. It was a pretty stand up thing for you to take the responsibility to tell me about my dad. You could have let Liz tell me. You probably knew I was gonna blame you, and you still decided to tell me yourself. I admire that.”

Max shrugs and says, “It was the least I could do.”

Kyle takes a deep breath and says, “I’ve been thinking…a lot. I’ve been an ass. That whole thing when I found out Serena was pregnant…that was just…wrong. I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions like that. I knew you’d never sleep with Serena…I was scared and I lashed out at the closest person, you. But it’s not just that…I’ve been blaming a lot of stuff in my life on you for the last few years and I shouldn’t have. I should be thanking you instead, and I don’t know why that’s so hard for me.”

Before Max has a chance to say anything, Kyle forges ahead. “I mean, I guess I do know why it’s so hard. At first I was jealous…that you had Liz, then you had Tess…and you had my dad. His attention, and respect anyway. He would have done anything for you guys.” He glances up at Max before looking down at the floor again and continuing.

“Then I saw the way you treated Liz…and Isabel. There was always this part of me that just…hated you. Hated you for what you are and for what you’ve done to people I care about. Hated that everyone had this blind loyalty to you. Hated you for making me be a part of it.” Kyle clears his throat for a second. “But when I think about it, my dad and Alex were right…I wouldn’t go back to not knowing if I could. And blaming you for that is just…me hanging onto the past. And Buddah says that for a clear journey forward, you must first cleanse your past.” Kyle looks up to see Max quirk up the corner of his mouth.

“Buddah, huh?” Max asks.

“Well, it could have been from a song I heard…but you know what I mean.” Kyle smiles. “Anyway, I’m telling you that I’m sorry, and that I’d like to move forward from here. And I know I kinda said that back in Paris, but I really mean it. I don’t want to be your enemy, Max. I’d like it if we could…you know…be friends.”

Max looks at Kyle, taking in everything he’s said. Jealous of him? What the hell is he talking about? “Kyle, first of all, I have no earthly idea, no pun intended, why you would be jealous of me. You’re the one with the life I always wanted…your normal, human life. You’re the normal, human guy Liz should have been with. But I screwed that up by taking your normal life away from you. Second, you’re an important part of this group. Both you and Serena. I guess we’re kind of like this strange family. We need each other and depend on each other, but we’re not always gonna get along. You’re part of this family, Kyle…and so was your dad…and so was Alex.”

Kyle glances away from Max briefly before looking back at him when he laughs briefly. “I mean, look at me and Michael. I consider Michael like a brother…have my whole life. But we hardly ever get along…even tried to kill each other a couple times, I think.” Kyle grins at that and Max says, “Hopefully our friendship won’t be that hard…but I’d really like that…to be friends.”

They sit in silence a moment and Kyle slowly nods his head. “Yah…I’d like that, too.” He stands up and so does Max. Kyle holds out his hand, Max taking it as they shake. “Just so you know, though, my loyalty will always be with Liz…in the end…that’s where it’ll be.”

Max shakes his hand and claps him on the back with his other hand. “Me too, Kyle…me too.” They both grin at each other before Kyle breaks away and says, “Well, before we start declaring our love for each other, let’s go down to the café and join the others.”

Max laughs and says, “Sounds good.”

A few minutes later, Liz looks up from their table at the window to see Kyle and Max walking down the street toward them…laughing and talking. She smiles, hoping this means they’re on the road to being friends. When they walk in, Michael clears some room for them to join them at the table.

“Thought you two were killing each other.” Michael says.

“Nah, we decided to hold off on that for another day.” Kyle smirks at him as he sits down.

Max meets Liz’s gaze from across the table and sees something he can’t quite pinpoint in her eyes before Jesse asks, “So, when are you calling Gerard, Max?”

Max looks over at Jesse and thinks for a minute. “Today…there’s no reason to wait. He might not even be able tell us anything. But it’ll be good to know one way or another.”

“Yah, it will. ” Jesse asks.

“Yah.” Is all Max says as he orders a coffee from the waitress. He looks over at Liz and sees her jiggling her legs.

Liz stands up quickly and says, “I’m gonna go for a run…I just have too much energy right now to sit still.”

“Be careful.” Max tells her with concern as she says goodbye and darts from the café.

“What’s up with her?” Kyle asks. “Ever since…you know…Zan did that…thing, she’s been bouncing off the walls.”

“Maybe he over-healed her or something. It makes me tired just looking at her.” Michael offers as he watches her jog down the street to their hotel.

Max watches her, too, and says absently, “I don’t know. But she’s healthy now…I guess that’s the important thing.” He continues to watch her with concern as she turns up the front steps of their hotel.

~TBC~

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Post by Angel » Mon Nov 24, 2003 10:00 am

Part 41

After leaving the café, Max heads down to a shopping area and picks up a prepaid cell phone to call Gerard with. As he’s walking back to the hotel, he goes over in his head the questions he wants to ask. He’s almost to the hotel when he sees Liz jogging back toward him.

“Hey…enjoy your run?” He asks her.

“Yah, I needed that.” She tells him, barely breathing heavy. “I could have run longer, but I don’t wanna over do it.”

He studies her for a moment, noting that she’s barely broken a sweat. “I’m worried…about all this excess energy you have. Do you feel ok besides that?”

Liz brushes him off. “Yah, I feel great.”

“Ok.” He takes her word for it. “I’m a little concerned, though, about what this will do to you.”

“Well, like I said, I’m not gonna over do it.” Liz reassures him as they climb the stairs into the hotel. “You getting ready to call Gerard?”

“Yah, just thinking about what I’m gonna ask him.” He tells her, pushing the button for the elevator.

When the doors open, they both step in and watch the doors close behind them. Liz turns to face Max. “Max, I’ve been thinking about something…something Zan said.”

Max waits for her to continue as he watches the number start climbing to their floor.

“Remember when he said he thought it was strange that two hybrids would have a human child, when a hybrid and a human would have an alien child?” She whispers the word alien out of habit…even though they’re the only ones in the elevator. When he nods, she continues. “He was obviously talking about us…about what he saw when he healed me. I guess I’m just wondering if that will be true all the time…in case Michael and Maria or Isabel and Jesse or…you know…in case they ever want to have children.”

Max notices she was about to say, “us” when she hesitated. “I wish I knew, Liz. I don’t know what the dominant and recessive genes are or what the odds are with those combinations. Zan seemed surprised about it, too.”

Liz is silent for a moment before the doors open on their floor. “I was thinking about it on the plane and I think maybe the human genes are dominant. For you and…and Tess…the odds of having a human baby had to be pretty slim if the alien genes were dominant, don’t you think? But then that theory gets thrown off if a child we would have had was alien because I’m human. But then maybe that got thrown off because you healed me and now I have powers…maybe giving me some kind of alien encoding on my DNA.”

They stop at the door to their room and Max turns to her. “You’ve thought a lot about this.” He can almost see the little wheels in her mind spinning and loves her more for it. He always loved how she got so excited about anything scientific…how she could get so caught up in it. But he’s worried at how clinical she’s being about this.

She suddenly becomes aware of him looking at her and she blushes, looking at the floor. “Ummm…yah…I guess. I’m such a dork.” She smiles up at him. “It’s just…what he said…kind of blew my theory and I’ve been trying to come up with one that makes sense.”

“I wish I could help you. But you’ve always been better at me with this stuff. I wish I had more information about it.” He looks at her, then down to the key in his hand. “We don’t even know if Zan was telling the truth. When I talk to Gerard, I’d planned on asking him if he has any information about…us…about whatever they took from us…from you.”

Still looking at the floor, she nods and looks up at him…small tears in her eyes. “Yah…that’s…that’s a good idea.”

He reaches up to brush a stray piece of hair off her forehead before turning to unlock the door. They walk in to find Michael, Jesse and Kyle watching sports…soccer, Max thinks…on TV.

“Are Maria and Serena still shopping?” Liz asks, but no one looks up so she walks in front of the TV and asks again. Instead, three heads move to the side to try and see behind her. She rolls her eyes and walks toward the adjoining room, saying to Max, “I’m taking a shower, but I’d like to be there when you talk to Gerard.”

Max nods and says, “I’ll wait.” before sitting down next to Michael and watching TV.

Liz laughs to herself and shakes her head. Men.

A half hour later, Liz goes into the next room to find the four of them still on the couch…unmoving. “Good game?” She asks.

Max looks over and stands up. “Yah…um…you ready?”

She nods and Max walk into the next room with her, shutting the door. He fishes the phone number out of his pocket that Michael had given him and sits down at a small table near the windows…Liz sitting across from him. “Ok, here goes.” He takes a deep breath and dials.

Max dials what Michael told him was the home number Gerard gave him and holds his breath until a woman answers. “Hello?”

“Um, can I speak to Matt Gerard, please?” He asks.

“Can I tell him who’s calling?” She asks.

“Max…tell him it’s Max.”

She says, “Ok, hold on.” before he hears her put the phone down.

Max hears another extension pick up and Gerard say, “Ok, I got it…you can hang up now.” Then Max hears the other extension hang up. “Hello?” Gerard says, sounding out of breath.

“Mr. Gerard, is this line safe to talk on?”

“Yes, it is.”

“This is Max Evans.” Max says evenly.

“I’ve been expecting your call, Max. I trust you and your friends are safe?”

“Yes, thanks to you.”

Gerard takes a deep breath. “My daughter…you…she’s better now. I don’t know how to thank you…for what you did.”

“We had a deal. There are things you should know, but first I’m hoping you can give us some answers.” Max says.

“Of course. I’ll do my best.” Gerard says.

“Is the unit still active?” Max asks his first, and most important question.

“Technically, yes. I destroyed what I could before you were discovered missing, but there are people…higher up than I was…people who will still try to continue the work.”

“Do you think there was enough evidence left to lead anyone to us?” Max asks him.

“I can’t say for sure. But I do know that field ops on the case were called in and they don’t have any current orders. As far as any evidence, I destroyed the reports I found on you, Miss Parker and Isabel Evans. They were quite extensive, and I can’t guarantee that copies weren’t made somewhere along the way.”

“What about Kyle and Jim Valenti? Did you find anything about them?” Max is surprised he didn’t mention their reports.

“Kyle Valenti’s report had nothing to say other than he was completely human, so I left it. I confiscated some handwritten notes from Weston’s office on Jim Valenti, but couldn’t find any official reports on him.”

“What can you tell me about samples they took from us…do they still exist?”

Gerard is silent for a moment, then says, “I went to the lab, intending to destroy what I could find, but there were simply too many samples to take with me. Then there’s the body…Jim Valenti’s…I couldn’t get him out without someone seeing. So as far as physical evidence, yes, they have all of that. There was nothing I could do at that point.”

Max nods and looks at Liz quickly before looking down at the table. “Can you tell me anything…anything about what they found from their research?”

This catches Gerard off guard, he wasn’t expecting him to ask that. “You mean…what they found out about you?”

“Yes.” Max answers simply.

Gerard wipes his face with his hand. Do they not know anything about themselves? Why would he ask him what they found out about them? He always assumed they knew all there was to know. “Well, Max…you do know that you’re not…not human, don’t you?”

“Yes, we know that. What else can you tell me?”

“Ok, well…I’ve read through your report the most…only because we’ve had it for years. Your physiology is completely human. Bone structure, muscle formation, things like that…all completely human. But your blood, bodily fluids…they look human to the eye, but are microscopically different…very unhuman.” Gerard tells him what he’s memorized over the years.

“I knew that. What about the others?”

“Well, Isabel Evans…she’s um…very similar to you physically. Her brain patterns are slightly off…different from yours, though. Both of you have very active EKG readings…off the charts, really. Hers more so than yours. Liz Parker…she’s the enigma.”

Max looks up at Liz at the mention of her name. She looks back at him…concentrating…and he realizes that she’s reading his thoughts as he’s listening to Gerard.

Gerard continues, “Liz Parker, for all appearances, seems to be completely human. Her EKG is the only abnormal thing about her. It’s different from yours and Isabel’s…all over the place, really. We could never figure it out. When she displayed her…abilities, I’ll call them…her readings spiked all over the place. They were completely different from yours or Ms. Evans’. Frankly, we were at a loss as to how she could survive with readings like that.”

Max tries to keep his anger under control as he listens.

“Max, are you there?” Gerard asks when he doesn’t here anything.

“Yes.” He says, clenching his jaw.

“I’m sorry…but you…you did ask.” Gerard says sadly. “One other thing. According to our tests, you…the four that displayed abilities, anyway…your cell regeneration is…different.”

“Four?” Max asks.

“Yes. You, Liz Parker, Isabel Evans, and Jim Valenti.”

“Valenti…what were his abilities?”

“Very similar to Liz Parker’s.”

“What about cell regeneration?” Max asks.

“Normal cell regeneration and degeneration is the basis for human aging. We can look at the cell structure of a human and easily tell how old they are and predict how long they will live…barring any unforeseen disease or accident…based on the rate of degeneration and regeneration. You…it seems to be different for you. Your cells don’t degenerate.”

“What does that mean?” Max looks to Liz to see if she’s getting any of this. She seems to be processing what she’s reading from him.

“It means you don’t have cellular break down. They regenerate if you’re injured, but other than that…we can’t predict the rate of degeneration…or aging. Basically, we don’t know your lifespan because in essence, you’re not aging like we do…or you’re not aging at all.”

Max is thrown for a loop at that and says, “But…we were kids. I used to be a child…of course I’m aging. We’ve aged right along with humans our age.”

“No…you were growing…maturing. Humans reach their peak in their early 20s…then cells start to degenerate faster than they regenerate. We get wrinkles, our muscles are weaker, our bones become more brittle. It’s more complicated than that, but you get the idea. You’ve reached maturity, but we can’t find any sign of body degeneration.” Gerard tries to explain.

“Are you saying we’re gonna live forever?” Max asks…horrified at the prospect.

“No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m just saying we don’t know your lifespan…it’s not predictable the way ours is.”

After a moment, Max asks, “They performed surgery on Liz…when we were first brought in the last time. We think…she thinks they took…something. That they took something from her. Do you have any information about that?”

Gerard takes his glasses off and massages the bridge of his nose. “They discovered from a blood test they took right after you arrived that Miss Parker was…that she was pregnant. A developing embryo was taken from her for…study. I’m…I’m sorry.”

When Liz’s suspicions are confirmed, Max runs a hand through his hair and looks over at Liz. She’s looking absently out the window and he reaches over to grab her hand across the table…which she accepts without turning her head away from the view outside.

Max hears Gerard clear his throat and continue. “Tests determined that there were abnormalities…nonhuman. There wasn’t sufficient development to determine how extensive those abnormalities might have been, though.” He leaves out what he read of Weston’s plan to get Liz impregnated again so he could get a further developed fetus.

There’s silence for several moments as Gerard waits and Max stares at Liz’s hand in his. So small, so fragile. Finally, Max asks, “You’re no longer working for them?”

“No. I retired yesterday…officially. Unofficially, I retired the day you escaped.”

“In your opinion, should we be preparing for more surveillance…for more investigation?” Max asks.

“If you’re asking me if I think you’re safe…no. I don’t think you’ll ever be completely safe. But I don’t believe you’re in any immediate danger. If you’re smart, you’ll stay out of the news, out of trouble, and off the radar.”

“Right.” Max was expecting as much.

“You said earlier that you had something to tell me? Is it about my daughter?” Gerard asks.

“Umm…yah. There’s a price to pay for having us heal her…you’ll need to be prepared, and able to prepare her.” Max says.

“She’s going to develop…powers. Isn’t she. That’s what happened to Liz Parker.” Gerard guesses, having thought that might be a possibility.

“Yes. I don’t know what they’ll be. It’s different for everyone. But you should start looking for them in a year or two.”

“Can you tell me…what…what they might possibly be?” Gerard asks.

Max thinks about it for a moment. He doesn’t know if he should be telling Gerard about all the possible powers his daughter might end up with. Then he’d be telling him everything he knows about their powers. He looks up at Liz and she nods slightly at him.

Gerard interrupts his thoughts before he can say anything. “Please…Max. I give you my word that what you tell me won’t go any further. Please, I need to know…my daughter…she won’t have anyone else to help her.”

Taking a deep breath, Max says, “We can’t all do the same things…but I can tell you what we know about. We can change molecular structure, that’s the most common. Healing, obviously. We can go into other people’s dreams…watching or participating. Mind reading. Power bursts…we can direct energy at something to destroy it…or to create a protective shield. Memory replacement. Mindwarping…making people see things or events that aren’t happening.” Max takes a deep breath and continues. “That’s about it. She won’t be able to do everything, and may not be able to do any of it.”

Gerard is in shock. He didn’t know about half of those things. “If…if you can do all of that…you could have easily escaped yourselves.”

“Like I said, our abilities are limited…especially when we’re being cut into on a routine basis.” Max spits out at him.

“Right. I…thank you…for telling me. I know you have no reason to believe me, but you can trust me.”

“You’re right. I don’t trust you. Thank you for the information, Mr. Gerard.” Max says…wanting to end this call as soon as possible.

“Good luck, Max. You’re welcome to contact me…if you…if you need anything.”

“Right…good bye then.” Max says.

“Good bye, Max.” Gerard hangs up the phone and Max turns his off, setting it down on the table. He looks at it for a minute before turning it to dust.

Max turns to Liz and says, “You heard?”

She nods her head. “Most of it…filtered through you, though. So it might not be exactly what he said. I got the gist. That’s weird about the aging thing, isn’t it?”

Max nods his head and looks out the window. The last thing he expected was that. He’s known they were different his entire life, but at least they looked human…they appeared as human in every way…even grew up just like a human. Now…what…they’re gonna look 21 forever? Like they need something else that makes them stick out. There goes the hope that one day they’ll be able to settle down somewhere and stay. Of course, Isabel will probably love the idea.

Liz listens to the thoughts shoot through Max’s head at lightening speed and a small smile comes to her face when he thinks about Isabel liking the idea of looking 21 for the rest of her life. “Max…” She reaches over for his hand to get his attention. “It’ll be ok. We don’t even know if that’s what will happen. Besides, I saw you…at 31. Remember? You had aged…you didn’t look like you do now. You even had some gray hair.”

“Gray hair? Really?” He unconsciously reaches up to touch his own hair.

Liz grins, remembering that Max’s same reaction.

“You’re right. I’m just…jumping to conclusions.” Max squeezes her hand. “We should probably be concentrating on what we’re doing next.”

Liz nods and lets go of his hand quickly, much to his disappointment. “We need to wait for Maria and Serena to get back, then we’ll all talk.” She stands up and starts to leave the room but pauses before she can turn the knob on the door. “Max…I think…maybe we should tell them. They need to know for themselves…about our…about the baby. They should know the risks…that if they want children, they might not be human.”

Max stands up and looks over at Liz. She’s staring at the doorknob, her hand still gripping it…waiting for him to answer. He knows she wanted to keep it private, but as usual, she’s thinking of everyone else. “Do you want me to tell them?” He asks her softly.

“We’ll both do it. Ok?” She glances back at him briefly, sees the grief in his eyes and a slight nod of his head before she opens the door and walks out.

Max sits down on the bed behind him and covers his face with his hands. He wishes he could make it better for her…that he knew what to say…that she would talk to him about what she’s feeling. Hell, he’d be happy if he knew how he was feeling.

A child…with Liz. It’s a dream come true. He didn’t even know it would be possible. To find out they’d lost it before he even knew it existed…he doesn’t know how to feel about it. Sad, angry, empty, disappointed…would it have even been something she wanted? Does she feel a little relieved? They’re so young…not ready to be parents. Especially now. They don’t even really have a relationship beyond friendship. He loves her beyond anything in the universe…and he wants nothing more than to have future with her. But does she? Does she want children with him? God, what is he even thinking?

Exhausted, he falls back on the bed and drifts off to sleep…imagining a life with Liz.

Maria and Serena get back an hour later, loaded down with bags. They walk in and see the three guys sitting on the couch watching TV…not even looking to see who walked in.

“Wow. You guys are great guards.” Maria says as she rolls her eyes and carries her bags across the room.

“Isabel and Liz are on duty.” Michael responds, not looking away from the TV.

Maria grabs Serena’s bags and starts unloading things they bought. “Don’t strain yourselves you guys…we can handle this.” She doesn’t get a response and rolls her eyes at Serena, who grins at her in sympathy.

Maria winks at Serena with a look that says, “Watch this.” She clears her throat and says, “Hey Serena, take a look at this. Do you think this boob is bigger than the other?”

Following Maria’s lead, Serena says, “Hmmm. I’m not sure, you’ll have to take off your shirt and bra I think.”

After a second, Maria says, “Ok. Now what do you think? Maybe you should feel them…see if you can tell a difference.”

All at once, three heads whip around from the couch and Maria and Serena burst out laughing.

Realizing what’s going on, Michael turns to Jesse and Kyle and says, offended, “Hey! Those are my girlfriend’s boobs!”

“Well, my girlfriend was gonna be doing the fondling!” Kyle argues.

Then both Kyle and Michael turn to Jesse, who throws his hands up in the air. “I’m a guy…what do you expect?”

Maria and Serena laugh even harder and Maria says, “I think I’m gonna pee my pants! You guys should have seen your faces!”

Just then, Liz and Isabel walk in and Liz asks, “What’s so funny?”

Serena calms down and says, “Nothing…these three are just a bunch of perverts…that’s all.”

Isabel sees the guilty look on Jesse’s face and rolls her eyes. “What’s new?”

Liz looks around and, not seeing Max, she walks into the next room to see him asleep in bed. She moves to sit next to him and watches his chest rise and fall as she sweeps some hair off his forehead. He looks so peaceful and she hates to wake him up. She lays her head down on his chest, just to hear his heartbeat for a second. She closes her eyes to the rhythmic thump thump as she breathes him in. She always loved the way he smells.

Enjoying this stolen moment, she where they’ll go from here. Right now, she doesn’t really know how she feels. Disappointment…in herself is way up the list. That she let this happen, that she did nothing to protect her child. And she keeps replaying the conversation she and Max had in Mexico City that night.

“No…I…it’s not just that I want everyone to be safe, or that I think I won’t be able to protect everyone. I know that if I get…close…to you again, that I’ll let you take over my life. I’ll let you consume me until there’s nothing left…and it scares me. How is that love, Max? How can I be scared of the power you have over me and…and love you at the same time?”

Max visibly flinches…feeling as though he’s been slapped. “Is that really what you think?” He asks, horrified. “You make me sound like some kind of…monster.” He takes a step away from her. “I left you alone, Liz…I did what you wanted because you said you wanted to be friends. But you’ve been shutting yourself off from me, from your friends, and now you’re trying to blame me for that, too. I love you, and I know I’ve made mistakes in the past, but you either forgive me or you don’t. Make up your mind, Liz, because this…I can’t do this anymore.”


“Liz?”

She bolts up and smoothes her hair. “Max. I…I’m sorry…um…everyone’s here now. If you wanna meet.” She stands up and takes a step back. She sees him lying there with a confused look on his face, his hand hovering over his chest…as if he was about to put it on her head. God, how embarrassing. He caught her smelling him.

Max watches her face flush with embarrassment as she tucks her hair behind her ear. He sits up and rubs the sleep from his eyes. He could have sworn she was smelling him. What’s that about? “Ok. Give me a minute.”

She nods and turns to leave the room…mentally kicking herself for acting so weird. She walks over to the TV and turns it off, receiving groans of protest from the couch potato crowd. “We have things to discuss. Sorry guys, but TV will have to wait for later.”

“Where’s Max?” Michael looks around, suddenly realizing he hasn’t seen him for a while.

“He’ll be out in a minute.” Liz tells him as she grabs a bottle of water from the mini fridge.

Max walks out and catches Liz’s eye across the room. Maria watches them, wondering what the heck is going on with those two. Liz has been tight lipped lately and Maria senses some kind of overwhelming sadness when they’re together. She wonders if it has to do with that whole web thing. They never got a great explanation for that other than Liz was sick. Sick from what? Something happened in Mexico, she just wishes Liz would talk to her.

Everyone knows this meeting is about Max’s conversation with Gerard. They brace themselves to hear the worst, but can’t help but hope for some kind of good news…they could use it.

~TBC~

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Angel
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Post by Angel » Mon Nov 24, 2003 10:01 am

Part 42

Max drags a chair over from in front of the windows and waits until he has everyone’s attention. “I talked to Gerard. And for what it’s worth…I believe everything he told me.” He looks around and continues. “I know you guys are waiting for good news or bad news…but it’s not really either. It’s…complicated.”

“Just tell us, Maxwell, and stop trying to soften the blow.” Michael says, impatient.

“He destroyed a lot of the files they had on us and he said that all of their field ops assigned to us were called in…that they don’t have any current orders.”

“Well, that’s good news, right?” Kyle asks. “So what’s the bad?”

“The bad news is he couldn’t get rid of all the evidence. The unit is still functioning, just not at the level they were. They still know about us…still have evidence of our existence.” Max explains.

Everyone becomes silent, knowing that some of that evidence includes Jim Valenti’s body. Serena walks up to the back of the couch and puts her hand on Kyle’s shoulder. He grabs her hand and waits for Max to continue.

“He said we weren’t in immediate danger, but that we shouldn’t ever consider ourselves completely safe.” Max sees all the crestfallen faces, knowing this wasn’t what they were hoping to hear. “I asked them how much they knew about us, and there wasn’t really anything we didn’t know already…just one thing we didn’t…about our cells or something. It’s not clear what it means…something about our cell regeneration and not being able to tell how we’ll age.”

“What does that mean?” Isabel asks.

“He said they couldn’t get a prediction of our lifespan…that we age differently than humans. Apparently, our cells don’t break down like human cells.”

“Meaning what? We’re not gonna get old? Or that we’ll get older faster?” Michael asks.

“Our cells don’t break down at all as far as they can tell. He made it sound like once we reach maturity…our early 20s…we won’t age like humans.” He looks at Liz, then back at the others. “But I…we…don’t think that means we won’t age. We probably just age differently…I don’t know. When I…came back…to Liz from the future, she said that he…I…had aged. That I looked older.”

“Is that just you guys, or does that apply to us, too?” Kyle asks him.

“He said that it applied to us and…humans that I had healed.” Max tells him. “Your powers hadn’t begun to show themselves yet when they had you, so they didn’t have any information on you other than you were completely human. I have to assume that that’s changed because he said your dad and Liz’s cells did the same thing as ours.”

Serena looks over at Max and asks, “Did Jim have powers when they brought him in?”

“Yes…apparently, similar to Liz’s.” Max says.

“So what’s this mean, Max? We spend the rest of our lives like we have been? On the run?” Isabel sounds defeated.

Max shakes his head. “It means we don’t draw attention to ourselves. Gerard said we should be ok if we stay out of the news and out of trouble. I don’t think we should ever let our guard down, though. We need to always be aware of what’s going on around us.”

“That’s good, right? Am I the only one thinking that this is good news?” Maria asks.

“No, it is good.” Liz tells her.

“So why do you two look like you have more to tell us that’s not so good?” Maria wonders…looking between Max and Liz.

Liz looks over at Max and starts before he has a chance to. “There is something else. It kind of has to do with genetics and compatibility between hybrids and humans.” Liz rubs her forehead before continuing. “I um…when they took me and Max…they um…” She looks up at Max, at a sudden loss as to what to say.

“Liz was pregnant.” Max says. “They took it from her…before either of us knew. Gerard said the tests they performed showed that it was alien…the cell structure wasn’t human.”

“We thought you should know…you know, because this could affect anyone here thinking of having children some day.” Liz says…avoiding everyone’s gaze.

No one says anything for several moments until Serena says…almost whispers, “I’m so sorry, Liz.” Her hand over her own stomach in subconscious protection.

No one knows what to say. Isabel grabs Jesse’s hand as she looks from Max to Liz…she can’t even imagine how they’re feeling right now. “I don’t understand.” Jesse says, squeezing Isabel’s hand. “Are you saying we won’t be able to have children?”

“I don’t know.” Max tells him honestly. “The…uh, embryo was only 2-3 weeks developed. Who knows what would have happened. Maybe it would have looked human and hand alien traits…like us. But it wasn’t completely human…that’s all we know.”

“There’s also the possibility that because Max healed me, my DNA was altered in such a way that I pass along those traits to any children I would have.” Liz adds. “We have to remember that Max and Tess had a completely human child…I think that means something…that you guys…” she looks from Isabel to Michael. “were…engineered to have human children.” She shakes her head and shrugs, “We just thought you should know.”

Kyle looks up at Serena and down to her stomach. If Liz is right, he’s passed along his alien traits to their child. That’s the only thing that explains why Serena is showing powers. Will the baby even look human? How ironic that the alien who healed him is engineered to have human children, while he…the human…might have alien children. Kyle gives a half laugh, then leans forward with his hands on his knees and runs his hands through his hair.

“Is that what caused the webbing stuff to appear? Is that why Zan said she was sick?” Maria asks with such sorrow that Liz can’t look up from the floor.

“We think so.” Max answers for her. He stands up and rubs the back of his neck. “I think the best thing to do right now is to get out of London within the next day or so. We need to decide on our next location…and we need to decide if we’re going to all stay together.”

“What do you mean, Max? Of course we’ll all stay together.” Isabel says looking around at everyone.

“I think what he’s saying is now that we’re not really in serious danger anymore that we’re not tied together anymore. Right Max?” Jesse offers.

“Right. I trust you all to stay low…to not draw attention to yourselves. If you wanna go on your own, I don’t see any reason to make anyone stay.”

“So you’re saying you don’t wanna be tied to us anymore.” Michael sneers.

“That’s not what I’m saying at all. But the reality is, you all have a right to live your own lives. That’s all.” Max says. “All I ask is that we have a system in place to contact each other in case of emergencies.”

Liz looks up at Max along with everyone else. She hadn’t discussed this with him, and she didn’t know he had been thinking about splitting up. She just assumed everyone would stick together…she hadn’t even considered the possibility of anyone wanting to go off on their own. Does this mean he wants to break away from the group? From her?

Jesse breaks the silence by saying, “Maybe we should all think about it and get back together tomorrow morning.”

As everyone stands up, Maria turns to Liz and puts an arm around her. “Oh Liz…I’m so sorry.” She pulls her into a hug and asks, “Can we go talk somewhere for a minute?”

Liz looks over to see Max watching her and nods her head. “Sure, Maria.” The two girls make their way out of the room and down the hall to another room for some privacy.

Kyle pulls Serena around the couch to sit next to him. He gives her a small smile and looks down toward her still flat stomach. “So. How do you feel?”

Serena’s face crumples and she says, “Incredibly sad. For you…for Liz. What are we gonna do, Kyle? I’m scared. How are we gonna deliver this baby? What if something goes wrong? What if it’s not…human?”

Kyle pulls her close and whispers in her ear, “Shhh. It’ll be ok. We’re gonna be fine.” He runs his hand down her back…hoping he’s right.

Max watches them from across the room as Michael, Isabel and Jesse corner him by the bed. “Max, I’m not leaving you.” Isabel tells him defiantly. “And I don’t think Michael should be going off on his own, either. We need to stick together.”

“Who said I was going off on my own? And even if I did, you can’t tell me no.” Michael looks over at her.

“Michael, I’m not telling you no. I just…I think the three of us shouldn’t be too far apart. You know? What if something happens?” Isabel tells him.

“Aren’t you gonna say anything?” Michael glares at Max. “You’re the one who brought this whole thing up.” But Max isn’t paying attention. He’s still watching Kyle and Serena on the couch…Kyle comforting Serena…Serena letting him. He can see that they love each other…it shows in every move they make.

He looks at Isabel and Michael and says, “I’m going for a walk. You two work this out on your own.” And he walks out of the room, grabbing his coat as he goes.

Isabel throws her hands in the air in exasperation and walks away.

Meanwhile, Maria and Liz are still talking in another room. “I don’t know Maria…there’s just been so much…pain.” Liz looks up at her friend sadly. “Maybe Max sees that and that’s why he wants to separate.”

“I so don’t think his motivation for suggesting a split was because he wants to get away from you. If anyone can work through it, you two can. I really don’t think running away from him is gonna solve your problems. It didn’t last time, remember?” Maria tells her.

“I just keep pushing him away…and I think…I think I’ve finally pushed too hard. I don’t even know why. I mean, I do know why, but…God, we just keep hurting each other.” Liz looks out the window at the gray, overcast day. “It’s like this cycle that we can’t break out of…and I don’t know if we ever can.”

“Yes you can. You love each other. I know you love him. And I also know that you can’t keep doing this to him…or yourself.” Maria takes Liz’s hand and says, “You know what I see in his eyes lately? I see acceptance. I see him accepting that you two won’t be together. I’ve never seen that before…he’s always had this…hope…this fire in his eyes. I would bet you everything I have that if you walked in there right now and told him you were leaving without him, he would just say, “Ok”. Like he’d just accept it, no questions. Just like that.” She snaps her fingers for effect.

“Don’t you think that that might be what he wants, Maria? Maybe the best thing to do would be to set him free…to set us both free. Before the past, and all our pain, and all our grief kills us both.” Liz swipes at her eyes, clearing away the unwanted tears.

“I think it’s a mistake, Liz. But I won’t argue with you anymore.” Maria brushes Liz’s hair behind her ear and softens her tone. “I wanted to let you know that I’m going with Michael…wherever he decides to go.”

Liz nods her head, expecting that. “Good.” She gives Maria a small smile.

“Maybe Michael will agree to go with you. I’ll talk to him, but just in case, I wanted to let you know.”

“Thanks, Maria. Whatever you guys decide, I’m happy for you.” Liz hugs her friend and they hold on to each other until they hear a knock on the door.

Liz gets up to open the door and sees Michael on the other side. “Hey, Michael. I was just leaving.” She looks back at Maria and smiles. “I’m gonna go get something to eat.” She leaves, shutting the door behind her to give Michael and Maria some privacy.

When she goes back in the other room to get her coat, Kyle and Serena are waiting for her. “Hey, Liz. Do you think we could talk for a minute?” Serena asks.

Liz puts her coat on…searching the room for Max and seeing that he’s gone, and so is his coat. “Sure. I’m gonna go find something to eat. You wanna come with?”

They both agree and 20 minutes later they find themselves in a small pub a few streets over from their hotel. They sit by the front window of the cozy bar…a fireplace behind them keeping them warm. Kyle orders a beer and a huge sandwich that he shares with Serena. Liz decides to order herself a beer as well and bowl of soup with a steak sandwich.

After their food arrives, Serena speaks up. “Kyle and I are kind of in a bind here, Liz. We need to know what you plan on doing.”

“I know. You’re worried about the baby…the delivery.” Liz says, taking a sip of her beer.

“If we’re all not going to stay together, we need to make sure that we’re close to either you or Max…in case something goes wrong.” Serena agrees. “We can’t really go to a hospital…what if something starts…glowing or something…or something doesn’t look normal?”

“It’s ok, Serena. I was gonna suggest you guys come with me.” Liz says.

Kyle looks at Serena, then to Liz. “So…you’ve already decided? You’re not going with Max?”

Liz nods her head and sees Serena about to say something. “Serena, I already got the third degree from Maria and I really don’t wanna talk about it anymore. I really think this is what Max wants…it’s for the best.” Liz clamps her mouth shut and sits back in her chair, her typical way of showing that a topic of conversation is over.

Serena closes her mouth and nods at Liz…letting it go…for now. “So…where are we going?” She asks instead, hoping Liz says Paris. That’s her favorite place.

“Paris.” Liz tells her with a smile.

Serena smiles suspiciously at her and says, “You read my mind.”

“Yah…but that’s where I wanted to go anyway.” Liz smiles.

Kyle sits back and sets his beer on the table after taking a long drink. “Paris…with my two favorite girls in the world.” He puts his hands behind his head with a big grin on his face.

Liz looks up and says, “Kyle! I know what you’re thinking…and stop it!” before laughing with Serena.

Kyle laughs and puts his hands up, “What? I’m a guy.”

Just then, Max turns the corner across the street and stops…looking into the window of the cozy looking pub at the three friends laughing together. Liz’s face is bathed in firelight and at that moment…he knows. She’s leaving…leaving him. Somehow he knew she would, that’s why he didn’t talk to her before the meeting about it. He watches Liz throw a piece of food at Kyle as she rolls her eyes and smiles. He’s standing in the dark across the street, hands in his pockets trying to keep warm…50 feet away. But he might as well be on another planet. The distance between him and Liz is too great to travel now.

He turns and continues walking. There’s a wall around Liz so thick now that he can’t ever get through. They both worked together to put it there…only he ended up on the outside, instead of inside where he wanted to be. Tomorrow she’ll leave…and it’ll be the last time he sees her. He feels it at the core of his heart. He’s gonna let her go this time…let her be free of him without guilt. No scenes, no arguing, no begging. He’ll nod his head and give her the permission that she doesn’t need from him, but will ask for anyway. And then she’ll leave.

Inside the pub, Liz feels a tug inside of her and she looks out the window into the night. She searches the people on the street, but only sees a dark figure turning the corner…walking away.

Late that night as she lies in bed, Liz can’t sleep. She lays on her back staring at the ceiling, listening to the sound of Max breathing in the other bed. She takes comfort in the feeling of their connection swirling around her. The ever-present feeling of Max. It’s always there…she’s gotten used to it…feeling it most clearly when she’s in bed…still. If she concentrates enough, she can feel his heartbeat…beating in time with her own…in synchronicity. She closes her eyes and a lonely tear falls from the corner of her eye.

Max wakes up when he hears the first sniffle. He turns over just as Liz looks over at him. They look at each other a moment, then Max lifts up the side of the covers closest to Liz…inviting her over. She wipes her face and quickly switches beds…Max pulling the covers over her and spooning her.

He gently wipes the hair back from her face and puts his arm around her…entwining their fingers. Liz absently strokes his fingers as her tears subside…neither of them says a word. Neither one able to get past their pride…their guilt…their pain to just ask the other to stay. Both thinking the other will be better off without them. Max listens and waits until her breath evens out in sleep and he quickly falls off, too.

Early the next morning, Liz wakes up alone…missing the warmth of Max sleeping beside her. When she hears voices coming from the other room, she takes a quick shower. She can hear bits and pieces of the conversation they’re all having in her head. But she learned a while ago that she can’t trust what she picks up from people this way…rarely does someone say what they think. She’s also realized in the past few months that that rule applies especially to Max.

Once dressed, Liz walks into the other room and the conversation sputters to a stop. She notices that Isabel, Michael and Max aren’t there and she grabs a bottle of water before settling down next to Maria on the couch. “So what are we talking about?”

“Nothing much.” Maria says, grabbing her hand. Liz looks at her closely and notices her red, puffy eyes. She gives Maria a small smile and squeezes her hand for support. Knowing how hard of a decision this is for Maria…choosing between her and Michael, Liz feels a sharp stab of guilt for putting her in the position to have to make that choice. She’ll miss Maria terribly, but if those three years apart taught her anything it’s that Maria and Michael belong together and she’ll do anything to make sure that happens.

Liz looks up when the door opens and Michael, Isabel and Max walk in. Isabel is carrying a large bag that Liz can smell immediately is full of fresh pastries.

“Isabel, I love you! I’m starving.” Maria pops up from the couch and rushes to help Isabel with the food.

Liz looks up at Max and meets his gaze for moment…giving him a small smile, which he returns hesitantly before taking his coat off and sitting next to the TV. “So, um…we need to talk about where we go next.” He says this to the group as he looks everywhere but at Liz.

“I think we need to stay together…as a group.” Isabel says, glancing over at Liz quickly.

Liz is picking up a lot of stress from everyone in the room. They’re all worried about what will happen next…worried about their safety…worried about going into the unknown. Curiously, though, she isn’t picking anything up from Max. He’s blank. What does that mean? He didn’t once try to talk to her last night or early this morning about where to go next. She knew he wasn’t going to…she picked up at least that much from him. But then, she didn’t try talking to him about it either.

Shouldn’t they talk before she makes this decision? Or is talking pointless? She looks at Kyle for…what…for support? But she quickly looks away, not wanting to put this on him. She sees Maria out of the corner of her eye, silently pleading with her to stay…to stay with her…with him.

“Max, umm…” Liz tries to get Max to look at her. “can I talk to you for a minute.” He doesn’t move and she looks around at everyone before looking back at him. “Alone?”

He nods his head and gets up. This is it. This is where she’s gonna tell him. Just move…one foot in front of the other. He looks at the carpet as he walks and all he can think is, “Carpet…carpet…carpet…carpet…”

Liz follows him to the other room, a confused look on her face. Carpet. All he’s thinking about is carpet? She shuts the door behind them and watches Max turn around to face her, his gaze steady on the floor.

“So ummm…Max, I feel kind of like you really want the group to split. I thought we were going to make decisions together.” Liz says as she tucks her hair behind her ear.

Max looks up to see her hair fall back out. It’s much too short now to stay where she wants it. “I just think everyone should have a choice since there’s not really any reason for us to all stay together anymore.”

Not a reason to stay together? Liz furrows her brow and looks away. “Right. Well, then, I wanted to let you know that I’m going to Paris…with Kyle and Serena. They need at least one of us to help with the baby.” She looks up at him, hoping for some kind of reaction…some kind of protest.

She feels like she’s 17 again and at the junior prom…telling Max they need to let go and waiting for him to say something…anything. But he never did. Clearing her head, she brings it back to the present.

Max nods his head and says, “Ok.”

Liz looks at him for a moment…willing him to say something more than just “Ok”. She’s not picking anything up from him anymore…nothing. What is he thinking? Why doesn’t he want to go with her to Paris? Why doesn’t he ask her to go with him? She takes a step forward and reaches her hand out to him. “Max.”

But he takes a step back and shakes his head. “It’s ok, Liz.” He forces a smile on his face and says, “I’m glad you’re going to Paris. You’ll be happy there.”

Liz stops and puts her arm down. This is what he wants…she was right before. “Where…where will you go?”

“I don’t know yet. But we’ll keep a system in place for contact.”

Liz is frustrated by his apparent lack of emotion and throws her hands up in the air. “What’s wrong with you Max? Don’t you even care? It doesn’t seem like you do…it doesn’t seem like you care at all that I’m planning on leaving.”

Max clenches his teeth and takes a deep breath. “Don’t make this harder than it has to be, Liz.” His hands are in hard fists at his side and he hopes she leaves soon before he falls on his knees and begs her to stay with him. He’s determined not do that to her…or himself…again. She wants to leave, and he’s not going to stand in her way this time.

Liz raises her chin and nods, turning toward the door and turning back quickly. “Ok, Max. I just…I…” She quickly takes the couple steps it takes to reach him and she reaches around to hug him tightly…pressing her lips to his cheek and then in his neck. She takes a deep breath, taking in the scent of him, and says, “I’m sorry, Max.” Putting both hands on the sides of his face, her tear filled eyes meet ones that match hers and she kisses him softly on the lips. She hovers there for a moment, not ready to pull away and feels his hands tentatively touch her hair. Her thumbs stroke his cheeks and she whispers, “I love you, Max.”

She feels his hands tighten in her hair and hears him take in a shuddering breath before he says, “I love you, Liz.” Closing her eyes, their foreheads touch for a moment before she backs away quickly and turns…fleeing the room.

Standing in shock as he watches Liz run out of the room, Max backs up until his knees hit the bed and he drops onto it. He feels heat rise to his face and he breaks out in a sweat as he leans forward, elbows on his knees, head hanging down. There’s no sound in the room and he breathes in and out, watching tears drop from his face and silently hit the carpet.

Seven months later…

A warm breeze brushes gently across her face moments after she sees the leaves on the trees rustle with the wind. She closes her eyes and smiles at the feeling. It’s so peaceful out here…she’ll hate to leave, but the city beckons her. The simple activity of everyday life…people busy around her…the energy. She can’t live without that for very long. Her excessive energy has subsided a bit, but she still gets jittery from time to time, still only sleeps a couple hours a night.

She needs to go back to the city soon. She’ll need to contact Maria and the others and tell them the baby was born. Maria, Michael, Isabel and Jesse all moved back to Sydney but she stays in contact with them fairly often.

Max…she has no idea where Max is. She knows he didn’t go with the others and she hasn’t tried to contact him since she left. Max. She hates the way things were left between them…that she didn’t try harder…that he didn’t try harder. It’s probably for the best, though. She doesn’t know how they could have moved past everything if they’d stayed together.

The old weathered boards creaking beneath her bare feet interrupt her thoughts. “How is she?” She asks.

“Sleeping, finally.” Kyle answers. He takes a step forward to join her…both looking out at the French countryside from the front porch of a small farmhouse they’ve been renting for the last two months. “It’s great here, isn’t it?”

Liz hears the tinge of sadness in his tone. Serena loves it here, and Liz knows that Kyle does too. “You should stay.”

Kyle turns to look at her profile a moment. “But you prefer the city.”

Liz shakes her head. “Without me. You should stay here without me, Kyle.”

“But…” Kyle starts to protest, but Liz grabs his hand.

She turns to look at him with a small smile. “You don’t need me anymore. You have a family now, Kyle…your own family.” She shakes her head sadly. “I don’t belong here.”

Kyle swallows hard and looks back out at all the trees surrounding them. “Where will you go?”

Liz follows his gaze and says, “The city. I won’t be far.”

They’re both silent for a moment before Kyle says, “This will be the first time we’ve ever been apart.”

She nods and says, “I know.”

“We’re gonna miss you…I’m gonna miss you.” Kyle turns to pull her into a hug.

“I’ll miss you too, Kyle.” Liz hugs him back tightly and looks inside to see Serena sleeping in the bed, holding her and Kyle’s two-hour-old little girl in her arms.

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Angel
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Post by Angel » Mon Nov 24, 2003 10:02 am

Epilogue

Two years later…

“Come ON, Michael!” Maria is pulling Michael’s hand, dragging him through the crowd at the Metro station. “She was expecting us an hour ago!”

Michael rolls his eyes and follows, making sure Isabel and Jesse are still behind them. “You’re gonna pull my arm off, Maria. I’m going as fast as I can.”

Maria rushes the four friends through the streets of Paris and to a small, familiar, Irish pub. Pushing her way through the doors, Maria scans the room until she sees her friend.

Waving her hands frantically, Maria tries to get Liz’s attention through the crowded, Friday night room. The music is loud and it’s standing room only. Finally, Liz sees her and a huge smile lights up her face as she waves them over.

“Liz!” Maria hugs her tight. “I’m so sorry we’re late.” Maria looks her friend over and smiles in approval. Liz has softened a little, her hard edges gradually worn away. The last couple of years in Paris have been good to her. The first time Liz came to Sydney, Maria had begged her to stay with them, but Liz just smiled and said she needed some time by herself. As much as she misses her best friend, she can see that she knew what she was talking about. “You look great, Liz.” She whispers in her ear.

Liz hugs her back. “Thanks, Maria.” Maria finally accepted Liz’s decision…after one visit to Sydney and one visit by Maria alone to Paris…and Liz was so relieved when she did. Having Maria’s support and acceptance lifted a huge weight of responsibility from her. From what she can tell, Michael and Maria are doing better than ever and she couldn’t be happier for them. After all they’ve been through, the two of them have been the stable ones…as odd a thought as that is…keeping Liz sane.

Maria quickly turns to the person sitting next to Liz and says, “Hey Paul. How’ve you been?” She gives Paul a tight hug when he stands up to greet her, ruffling his hair as she does…making him laugh and push her away.

Everyone takes their turn greeting each other and when Liz gets to Isabel, she asks, “How are you?”

Isabel pulls back and says, “Good…you?” Isabel doesn’t need to ask…she can see that Liz is doing well. She looks happy and there’s something in her eyes that Isabel hasn’t seen for a very long time…peace. But there’s something missing…a spark.

Liz shrugs and smiles. “I’m great.” Isabel doesn’t miss the way Liz’s eyes briefly scan around them looking for someone…someone who isn’t there.

Isabel nods at Liz’s fake enthusiasm. She had tried to get Max to come, but he declined…as usual.

Liz moves to Michael. “Hey you.” She reaches up and hugs him, too.

“Hey.” Michael says, hugging her tightly in return. “Maria almost killed us getting here.”

Liz laughs and asks, “How long can you stay?”

Michael shrugs and looks over at Paul. “If you have room, we can stay for a couple of weeks.”

“Of course we have room…don’t you dare stay anywhere else!” Liz playfully slaps him on the arm. “Besides, Paul’s gonna stay with Brian while you guys are here.”

Isabel hears this and turns to Paul. “I thought you guys broke up!”

Paul shakes his head, smiles smugly, and says, “Nope, turns out he can’t live without me.”

Isabel smiles and says, “That’s great! You so need to fill me in on what happened last week.” She settles in next to Paul, leaving Jesse next to Liz…rolling his eyes.

“Hey Jesse. I’m glad you guys could come.” Liz laughs. When Liz first met Paul at the bar, she formed a tentative friendship with him…moving in together shortly after to make it easier for both of them financially. Her friends were skeptical and worried at first about the stranger in Liz’s life, but quickly came to like Paul…especially Isabel, who talks to him at least once a week through email. Paul has never been let in on their secret, although Liz sometimes has a hard time lying to him.

“I have a feeling I won’t see her the entire time we’re here.” Jesse smiles at Liz. “I think she likes Paul more than me.”

Liz laughs with him and says, “Nah…he’s just more fun to shop with.” She looks around at her friends and wishes Kyle and Serena could have come. Two year old Natalie is too young to come to the bar, but they’ll all meet up tomorrow.

She sees them often, taking care of Natalie during the day while Kyle and Serena work. Since she works nights at the bar and doesn’t need a lot of sleep, she’s happy to be able to spend time with Natalie and help out her friends. They love their cottage just outside the city…the place their Natalie was born. For all intents, Natalie looks like a beautiful human little girl. She has curly auburn hair that will obviously look like her mother’s some day. But until Natalie is old enough to understand, they have to be careful. Or she’ll change the color of her toys in public. Liz loves her to death, and she calls her Aunt Wiz.

She tries to get together with Michael, Maria, Isabel and Jesse at least every six months. It’s harder to get together very often with them so far away. Liz hasn’t heard from Max since that morning in London when she left hurriedly after saying goodbye to him. Maria tells her that he’s been to visit them a few times but they’ve never been to see him…they don’t even know where he’s at, although Isabel talks to him often.

Sometimes, Liz swears she can feel him…feel their connection. So she’s always thought that maybe he’s close by…maybe not in Paris, but Brussels, or London. She spent her first year in Paris trying to figure it out, but eventually gave up. She felt it flare up again about a week ago, but over the last two and a half years, she’s pushed it to the back of her mind and learned how to ignore it. She never tried to get in touch with him and she never heard from him. Maybe it’s for the best. She has a good life here and he probably has a good life wherever he’s at. Maria and Isabel tell her that he seems happy whenever they see him or talk to him, so that’s really all that’s important.

The group of friends spend the next two hours talking and laughing…none of them aware of the eyes watching them from the corner.

Isabel told him they were coming. He prepared himself…steeled himself to finally join them this time. He’s worked hard over the last couple of years to tamp down his connection with Liz. For two reasons. One, he couldn’t bear to feel it and not be near her. And two, he checked in on her every once in a while and didn’t want her to see him…didn’t want her to feel like he was spying on her. Although, technically he was. But he just wanted a glance, just wanted to make sure she was ok. He never stayed very long, usually slipping in the side door of the bar she worked at and sitting in the corner for a few minutes watching her work. He’s never followed her home or anywhere else, he just needs to…reassure himself. He knows it’s wrong…that if she knew about it she would be furious.

But those few minutes every once in a while are a balm to his soul…temporary pain relief that gets him through to the next time. Once he memorizes everything about her, he leaves quietly and goes back to London, where he’s stayed ever since they were all there two and a half years ago. So when he talked to Isabel a few weeks ago and she told him they were coming to see Liz, he finally thought that he might be able to meet them there. He thought enough time had passed and he might actually work up the nerve to go.

He never asked Isabel about Liz, never asked anyone about her. He knew she was ok, he saw her often enough…and they didn’t need to know that. He’s made it clear to all of them that Liz isn’t a topic he wishes to discuss. But when he arrived at the bar tonight, he wished he had asked them about Liz. Because he was shocked to see her sitting with a strange man, his arm around her as they laughed. Max quickly disappeared into the crowd as he watched them, sitting in the corner.

They looked like they’d known each other for a while by the familiar way they behaved together. He wasn’t aware of how much time passed…he was entranced watching Liz. He eventually saw Maria leading Michael, Isabel and Jesse across the crowded room and saw the joyful reunion. Liz looked so happy, hugging everyone…smiling and laughing. Then he saw how everyone crowded around the guy with Liz…like he’d been their friend for years. Had he? Was he Liz’s boyfriend?

His sister seems especially close to him, plopping herself down right next to him and hugging him before they spent the next hour gabbing like long lost best friends. Even Michael seems to be on friendly terms with him. At one point, he hears Maria laugh out loud and yell his name…Paul. Paul. Paul is Liz’s new boyfriend.

As the night wears on, Max realizes that he needs to get out of there if he doesn’t want to be seen. There’s no way he can go over there…he just can’t face her…he wasn’t expecting this. She looks so happy and the last thing he wants to do is disrupt that.

Once he reaches the door, he quickly makes his escape and races out into the summer night…only to bump right into Maria.

“Shit! Maria…you…what are you doing?” Max exclaims as he tries to keep both of them from falling.

Maria quirks up an eyebrow and says, “You’re asking me what I’m doing? I’m not the one sneaking away after spying on everyone all night.”

Max looks down at the ground, not knowing what to say.

“Why’d you come if you weren’t going to let anyone know you were here?” Maria asks.

Max glances up at her, then the door. “I…I was going to. But I couldn’t…when I saw she brought her boyfriend.”

Maria struggles not to laugh and says, “I see. You mean Paul, right?” He’s so clueless, she feels like strangling him.

“Right. Paul.” Max says. Maria rolls her eyes at how defeated and lost he sounds. This guy…always with the heartache.

“Well, you’re missing out. Paul’s a great guy…everyone loves him.” Maria says with a smile.

Max scowls and says, “Yah, I saw.”

Maria can’t help it…he’s just too easy. “Yup, he’s been really great for Liz. You know they live together.”

He clenches his teeth and stares at the cement sidewalk. “That’s…that’s good. I’m glad he makes her happy.”

Maria nods her head and says, “Look, either you go in there and say hello to everyone, or you can leave and I’ll go in there and tell them you’ve been watching us all night and left without coming over.”

Max looks up, his eyes wide. “Maria. Please…I just…I can’t. Please don’t tell them I was here.”

She shakes her head and grabs his arm. “Enough is enough. Come on buddy, it’s better to just get it all over with. Let’s go.” She pulls him inside, practically dragging him across the floor and over to their table. He notices her stagger a little and wonders how much she’s had to drink.

“Look who I found outside!” Maria exclaims as she reaches the table, shoving Max forward.

All eyes fall on Max and he feels his face heat up at the scrutiny. He avoids looking at Liz as he gets a closer look at this Paul guy.

Isabel jumps up and grabs Max, hugging him. “Max…I’m so glad you decided to come!”

Liz watches him as everyone says hello…she sees how uncomfortable he is and realizes it’s because she’s there. He’s avoiding looking at her as everyone suddenly starts talking around her. Finally, there’s no one left and he reluctantly looks at Liz and says, “Hi Liz.”

“Hi Max.” She cringes at how small her voice sounds. Looking into his eyes, she sees so much pain and she wonders if it’s ever really gone away…if Maria and Isabel have been lying to her about how he’s doing. He looks so awkward…uncomfortable…like this is the last place he wants to be. Why would he come if he so clearly didn’t want to?

There’s an uncomfortable silence as everyone watches them until she hears Paul clear his throat next to her. Shaking out of her thoughts, she says, “Oh…ummm…Max, this is Paul. Paul, this is…Max.”

Maria mutters from her side of the table, “Oh, I already told Max about Paul.”

Everyone turns to Maria and nods, thinking she’s told Max that Paul is Liz’s gay roommate.

Liz watches as Max reaches his hand out to Paul and says, “Nice to meet you, Paul.”

“Same here.” Paul answers as Max sits down next to Isabel. “So…how do you know these clowns?” Paul gestures with a grin to everyone else at the table.

Max furrows his brow in confusion. He’s never heard of him. No one has ever told Paul about him…Liz has never told Paul about him. “Umm…I…”

“Max is my brother.” Isabel tells Paul, noticing the discomfort around the table.

“Your brother?! I didn’t know you had a brother.” Paul says to Isabel before turning back to Max. “Man, that must have been something growing up in the same house as Issy here.” Paul smiles and elbows Isabel teasingly.

Max cringes when he hears Paul call her Issy and he tries to smile, sure that it looks more like a freakish scowl. “Yah, it was…something.” Max looks at Isabel and sees the guilty look on her face before she looks down at the table.

Michael feels the tension all the way around the table as silence falls over it. All eyes look nervously around, or down at the table and he clears his throat. “So, Maxwell, when did you get in town?”

Max feels his heart turn to lead and drop in his stomach. All he can think is that he shouldn’t have come here. “Just a few hours ago.” He says quietly and sends Maria a withering look as she smiles at him and looks away. Why would she do this to him?

Maria sits back and thinks that this is what he deserves. He’s the one who stayed away…he’s the one who went off on his own…he’s the one who broke Liz’s heart…again. He brought this all on himself. Yup, she’s definitely taking all kinds of pleasure in his discomfort. She picks up her fourth, or is it fifth beer and starts drinking it as she notices Max squirm in his chair. This night just gets better and better.

Paul is confused at how everyone is acting. And he finds it strange that no one has ever talked about Max before. Is he some kind of black sheep of the family? Did he and Isabel have a falling out? It seemed like she was happy to see him when he arrived. He looks over at Liz and sees that she’s extremely uncomfortable as she sneaks quick glances up at Max when he’s not looking. Something definitely is going on there. He sees Maria sitting back in her chair staring at Max with her eyebrows raised in superiority. Almost in satisfaction that he’s causing so much tension. Not one for sitting back and watching, Paul decides to say something.

Breaking the silence, he asks, “Ok, so what’s really going on here?”

Everyone looks over at him and it’s interesting to see the different looks on the faces around him. Shock, annoyance, amusement, anger. “I mean, Max here looks like he’s about ready to bolt at the first opportunity. And there’s so much tension at this table, I feel like my head’s gonna explode. So, does anyone wanna tell me what’s going on?”

Isabel slaps on a fake smile and says, “Nothing’s going on. We’re just surprised to see Max, that’s all.”

She looks at everyone and urges them to say something with her death ray look.

Maria takes a drink of her beer before leaning forward and saying, “Well, Paul. It’s like this. Max here is Liz’s ex-boyfriend.”

Liz buries her face in her hands as Paul looks over at her, confused. Liz never talks about her past and he’s intrigued.

“Ah…it’s coming together now.” Paul says to Maria.

“Yup. There was no coming between those two…they were connected.” She raises his eyebrows at him for emphasis and takes another drink of beer before continuing. “But he broke her heart. Then she broke his…then he broke hers…and she broke his again. Or was it the other way around? There was that whole thing where she slept with Kyle, but I get confused. Let’s just say they have a talent for breaking each other’s hearts and the whole pain gig.” She picks up her glass again but Michael grabs it from her.

“I think you’ve had enough.” Michael slides the beer across the table as she makes a grab for it. He looks at Paul and says, “She doesn’t hold her liquor very well.”

“What?! I don’t hold my liquor well? You guys can’t even take a sip without getting all trippy and glowy…” Maria’s cut off by Michael’s hand as he laughs.

“See what I mean.” He grabs her purse and pulls her away from the table and says to Liz, “We’ll be back at your place.”

Liz nods as they all watch Michael drag Maria from the bar.

Paul laughs and says, “Wow…you gotta love Maria when she’s drunk.”

Isabel and Jesse laugh with him and Jesse says, “Yah, remember last year when she made a bet with that huge guy at the bar about who could do more shots of tequila?”

Paul makes a disgusted face. “Remember? It was my bed she puked in.” He looks over at Liz to see her still staring at the table. He grabs her hand and waits for her to look up. Smiling, he tries to bring her back to the conversation.

She smiles weakly at him and glances over at Max. What’s he doing here? She can tell he obviously doesn’t want to be…Paul was right. He looks like he’s ready to bolt at any second.

Isabel tries her best to keep the conversation going and she turns to Paul. “So, Paul…your anniversary is tomorrow night, right?”

Paul smiles and nods his head.

“Well, tell me all about it. What do you have planned for your little love nest?” Isabel leans forward, anxious to hear what he has planned.

Hearing this, Max’s face scrunches up in horror as he looks at Isabel in disbelief. What the hell? He pushes back from the table and stands up. “Jesus, Isabel.” He sees the confused look on her face and looks to Jesse, only to see the same look there. “I’m gonna…I have to go.” He turns to Paul and clenches his teeth before saying, “It was nice to meet you.”

Glancing at Liz, he says, “Goodbye, Liz. It was good to see you again.” Then he turns abruptly and leaves the bar.

Everyone stares after him and Isabel says, “What was that all about?”

Jesse shrugs and looks at Liz who is equally confused.

What a weird night. Max shows up and Maria gets drunk, embarrassing them all. Then Max leaves without saying two sentences to any of them. Liz is left wondering once again why he came here at all tonight.

Paul looks at his watch and throws some money on the table. “Well, guys. It’s been…interesting. But I have to go meet Brian.” He leans down and kisses Liz on the cheek. “You ok?”

Liz nods at him and smiles. “Yah…you go on. Have fun.”

He winks at her and says, “Oh, I will.” He turns to Isabel and says, “Don’t you forget about our shopping excursion tomorrow.”

She hugs him and says, “Don’t worry. And I’m sorry about Max. I don’t know what’s wrong with him.”

“Don’t worry about it.” He turns to Jesse. “I’ll see you guys later.”

Jesse nods and says, “Bye Paul.” as Paul makes his way to the door.

Max is still fuming as he stands outside the bar. There’s a crowd of people around the door as he leans against the wall. He wonders for the millionth time why he let Maria drag him back inside when he sees Paul walk out in a hurry and take his cell phone out of his pocket. Max hears him say, “Hey baby, it’s me. I’m on my way over.” Paul pauses for a second and smiles as he says, “I love you, too. I’ll see you soon.” and slips his phone back in his pocket as he turns the opposite direction of Max and starts walking down the street.

Now Max is really fuming. Is this jerk cheating on Liz? As much as he hated seeing her with someone else, he just wants her to be happy. He pushes away from the wall and decides to follow Paul and see where he’s going. Keeping a discrete distance behind him, Max follows him for several blocks and hides in the shadows of some buildings when Paul makes his way up the stairs of a building across the street. How could this guy cheat on Liz?

He watches Paul ring the bell and shift back and forth on both feet waiting for someone to answer the door. Max’s mouth opens in shock…and realization…when a man answers the door and Paul…kisses him? What the…? He stares at the two men as they embrace and Paul follows the other man inside. Max sinks back against the wall thinking back over the evening…at Maria’s smugness in telling him Paul and Liz lived together…Isabel asking about his plans for his anniversary…everyone’s confusion when he bolted up from the table in anger. It’s all coming together…Paul is gay. Paul is not Liz’s boyfriend. He’s just her roommate. He rolls his eyes at himself and runs his hands through his hair. No wonder everyone was looking at him like he was crazy. Maybe he is.

Maria. She did this on purpose…just to see him squirm. He shakes his head and walks back toward the bar. God, what are they thinking about him? He barely said anything to anyone…and made them all uncomfortable with his silence. Liz…she probably thinks he can’t even stand to be around her. He could barely even look at her.

His stride gets faster as he makes his way back to the bar. When he gets there and walks inside, though, he sees that they’re gone. They must have left right after Paul did. Damn. Walking back outside, he takes a deep breath and looks at the sky. It’s late. Turning, he walks toward the old hotel he usually stays at when he comes to Paris. Tomorrow, he’ll try and find Liz and apologize.

The next day, Max realizes his problem. He doesn’t know where Liz lives. He ends up wandering around the streets of Paris with no hope of just running into them. He debates with himself about using his connection to find her but in the end, decides to just go back to London. What would apologizing do anyway? She still wouldn’t want him here. And they’d just end up having to go through the heartache of saying goodbye again.

Before he leaves, though, he wants to make a stop and watch the sunset on the Seine. He makes his way to the bridge…their bridge…where they used to go every evening and watch the sunset together. He walks slowly, hearing the voices up ahead of the gathering crowd. As he gets closer, he feels her. She’s here and he looks around…searching for her.

He sees her standing halfway across the bridge, looking out toward her garden next to Notre Dame. He can’t help but think how beautiful she looks with her hair blowing back with the wind and the sun shining on her face, turning her skin to gold. He swallows and walks toward her. As he steps up to the side next to her, she doesn’t turn to look at him but he knows she knows he’s there.

He looks out toward the garden too and lets down the shield he uses to block his thoughts from her. He sees her take in a breath and flinch slightly and he thinks, “I’m sorry, Liz.”

She shakes her head, still not looking at him and says softly, “Maria told me what she did to you. She feels really bad.”

“Good.” He smiles slightly.

Neither one of them says anything for a few moments before Liz asks, “Why haven’t you ever contacted me, Max?”

He waits a beat, then says, “Why haven’t you.”

She smiles slightly and says, “Touché.”

“I didn’t want to…disrupt your life. I want you to be happy, Liz. Are you? Happy?”

Liz closes her eyes against the wind and breathes in deeply. “Yes. No.”

Max nods, understanding. Is there a happy anymore? Is there anything beyond simple existence? Is there anything beyond standing on this bridge with Liz, feeling the breeze on your skin and the sun on your face?

For the first time since he got there, Liz turns and looks up at him and his breath leaves him when he sees the sadness in her eyes. Is it because he’s here? Should he go?

“Please don’t.” She says to him.

He blinks, then nods. They both watch the sunset until it disappears in the horizon before Liz says, “I have a story. Do you wanna hear it?”

He glances at her and nods his head. “Sure.”

She takes a deep breath and starts, “It’s a story about a boy…and a girl. They grew up together in this small town. Never knowing each other, not really. Until one fateful day when the boy…touched her…in a way she’d never been touched before. And it changed everything. They fell in love.”

Max smiles and says, “I think I’ve heard this story.”

Liz smiles too and says, “Oh. So you know how it ends.”

He shakes his head and says, “No. I never did hear the ending.”

“Well, let me tell you. After years of heartache and pain and separation, this boy and girl found themselves together again. Neither one knowing how to move past all the pain they caused each other. You see, they were both stubborn.”

“Both, huh. I heard it was just the girl who was stubborn.” Max teases.

“Well, you heard the story wrong.” Liz tells him, rolling her eyes and smiling. “They were both stubborn and afraid. Afraid to fall into old patterns. Afraid of hurting the other any more. Afraid of hurting themselves.”

“So how did they move past it? How did they get a happy ending?” Max asks her, looking into her eyes.

“How do you know it’s a happy ending?” Liz asks.

“Because any good story always has a happy ending.” Max whispers.

“They took a leap of faith…knowing their love would be strong enough to keep them from falling.”

Max just looks at her for a moment, trying to figure out what she’s saying to him. “That’s a nice story.”

“Yah, it is.” Liz takes a deep breath and reaches her hand up to his cheek. He closes his eyes and leans into her hand, furrowing his brow. “Tell me you love me, Max.”

He reaches his hand up to cover hers and he opens his eyes. “I love you.”

“Now tell me you’ll never leave me again.”

“Liz…I…” Max starts but she puts a finger over his lips.

“Shhhh. Please, Max. Just…can you just tell me that?” Liz can’t help the catch in her voice and the tears that form in her eyes.

Max grabs her hand and places a kiss in the middle of her palm. He reaches up and puts a hand on each side of her face, brushing her hair back as he looks into her eyes. Leaning down, he kisses her forehead, then each of her eyes…kissing the tears away. Then he brushes his lips softly over hers and she can taste her tears on his lips.

He pulls away and looks into her eyes once again and says, “I’ll never leave you again.”

A sob escapes her lips as she closes her eyes and puts her hands over his, still framing her face. She smiles and opens her eyes. “Tell me you love me again.”

Max smiles and says, “I love you.”

She reaches out to him and pulls his face down to hers; capturing his lips in a kiss as his hands move down to her back and her waist. He pulls her close as their kiss becomes deeper, more urgent. Liz runs one hand through his hair and the other down his back. Neither can get close enough to the other and Max breaks away, burying his face in her neck…her hair. He embraces her so hard that he lifts her up, her feet dangling in the air and they both laugh.

It’s dark when they finally break apart and walk away from the bridge hand in hand. Liz leans her head on his shoulder and Max asks her, “So…do you think the story really has a happy ending?”

Liz smiles and puts her arm around Max’s waist. “Of course. Any good story has a happy ending.”

~The End~

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