And the Road Shall Lead You Home (ML/ Adult) (Complete)

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And the Road Shall Lead You Home (ML/ Adult) (Complete)

Post by Deejonaise » Sat Dec 27, 2003 12:02 am

Winner - Round 5









Best Conventional Couple Fanfic
Most Suspenseful Fanfic
Fic That Kept You Bouncing in Your Seat for an Update

Author: Dee

Coupling: M/L

Disclaimer: I don't own it. Isn't that obvious?

Rating: Adult for violence

Author's Note: This is an AU story to The Chosen Path. Basically, instead of marrying David, Liz comes back home to Roswell. You do NOT have to read the aforementioned story to get this one.

Summary: Takes place after Season 2. Liz left Roswell after Tess blasted off earth. The story opens with her return.

Note: This fic will not be pretty. Max and Liz will be apart for much of it. In fact, I can tell you that Max and Liz won't even kiss until the very end. This is basically my attempt to explore Max's behavior in the latter half of Season 2. I don't happen to agree with the idea that he was just a donkey's behind for the sake of it, especially because it didn't mesh with the character we had been given. Writing the entire thing off as a mindwarp is too clean, but then painting Max as some clueless buttmunch is over the top, too. Frankly, I think he falls somewhere in the middle...

And as for Liz. Well, I don't think it was a loss of love for Max so much as a loss of respect and trust. So expect the road to reconciliation to be a long, painful one. Don't expect a readily forgiving Liz, but then don't expect a hardhearted one either.

Okay, enough talk...on with the fic.


Liz Parker February, 2002

A leaden ball of dread has settled into the pit of my stomach as I alight from the bus and glance around the barren landscape surrounding me. There was a time when I never thought I would see this place again. There was a time when I would have been content for it to be so. I left this place to change my life, to forget my past, to start anew. I’ve done that in spades and none of it in the way I’d expected. And now I’ve come full circle, back to my roots, back to where it all started…back again in Roswell, New Mexico.


“We didn’t make any changes at all,” Jeff Parker told her daughter as she swung wide the door to Liz’s bedroom, “Your mom and I were hoping you’d decide to come back.”

Liz didn’t know what to say. She was overwrought, so saturated with emotion and regret that her body felt heavy with it. She was surrounded by things that had once comforted her and made her feel safe, but now they were foreign to her, as foreign as the person she’d become in the last year. Liz only wanted to sink to her knees and forget…if only for a little while.

Though her fatigue could easily be attributed to her exhausting trip or even her newly discovered pregnancy Liz knew better. Her return home had been joyless, void. She felt defeated, as all her hopes for running away from this place came crashing down around her ears. She was right back where she started and not for the better either.

She looked up at her dad, unable to blink back the tears any longer. “I’m sorry, Dad,” she whispered, her words so strangled with sobs they were barely discernable, “I’m so sorry for disappointing you.”

Jeff hugged her close, soothing her as he always did, cradling her like the sweet, little girl she would always be to him. “Don’t worry, sweetheart,” he whispered into her hair, “We’ll figure all this out. You’re home now and that’s all that matters.”

“But Mom…” she sniffled miserably, “She…she could barely look at me.” Her fingers clenched spasmodically in the loose cotton of her father’s shirt. “I think sh-she hates me!”

“Of course she doesn’t hate you, Lizzie,” Jeff murmured lightly, “She’s just disappointed and angry. We both are. I mean…my God, you had such a future… And we barely even know this boy. We didn’t even know you were dating anyone after--,”

Liz shrugged out of his arms, scrubbing at her tear stained cheeks with the front of her wrists. “We weren’t dating, Dad,” she mumbled shamefully, “David and I…we barely know each other. It…it was just a casual thing.”

“You never struck me as a girl who would have ‘casual things,’ Lizzie,” her father uttered in displeasure, “That doesn’t even sound like who you are.”

It hurt to see the disillusionment on his face and she had to look away. At that second, Liz had no idea who that person had been. She couldn’t remember. That girl was a stranger to her now and the woman she’d become…equally strange. Liz didn’t know who the hell she was anymore. She hadn’t known for a long time. “Things change, Dad,” she whispered in reply.

“You’ve only been away in Vermont for six months, Liz,” Jeff reasoned dryly, “How much could have changed in that short period of time?”

Liz didn’t answer though the words were on the tip of her tongue. The storm was there, waiting to be unleashed but she’d kept it at bay for so long Liz feared the fury that would likely result if she let go. Instead she turned her back to her father completely and stared forlornly out her bedroom window.

“Does this change in you have anything to do with that Evans kid?” her father demanded suddenly, “Everyone knows he had a baby with that Harding girl. I’m sorry for that. I know he broke your heart, Lizzie.”

“No!” Liz cried, whipping around at his question. She was stung by the reminder of what had driven her away that past summer, stung by the mere mention of the boy who had literally torn her apart. Liz couldn’t think about him, couldn’t contemplate the sheer misery of seeing him day after day in school and about town. She balked at the humiliation she would likely feel having her pregnancy progress under a small town’s scrutinizing eye…under Max Evans’ scrutinizing eyes. She wondered how she could disdain him now when she was guilty of his same sin.

Liz cringed inwardly at the thought. “This has nothing to do with him, Dad,” she said finally, her tone having lost some of its earlier heat, “Max Evans isn’t an issue, okay. That part of my life is over now. I don’t want to think about him.”

“That’s good,” Jeff mumbled, obviously concerned by her vehement response but unwilling to comment on it, “That’s good to know.”

“And you know I’ll probably run into him at times,” Liz mused aloud dejectedly, “At school and at the Crash, but that doesn’t mean…”

“He doesn’t eat there anymore,” Jeff interrupted before she could continue her thought, “He stopped coming shortly after you left for school.” Liz looked away, suddenly conflicted over how she should feel about that piece of news. There was relief that she wouldn’t inadvertently cross paths with him in her family’s restaurant but then there was also a thin thread of sadness that a near tradition had come to an end. Liz had been seeing Max Evans in the Crashdown for as long as she could remember.

“It was for the best I think,” Jeff continued quietly, watching the indecision play over his daughter’s face, “I would have probably asked him to stop coming eventually.”

“He’s not the reason I left here, you know,” Liz denied weakly.

“The hell he’s not,” Jeff countered tersely. However, with Liz’s remorseful grimace Jeff felt guilty for his abrupt response. Despite all his enraged sensibilities he wondered if it would be kinder if he just pretended right along with her. She wanted to act as if Max Evans didn’t matter to her at all. Perhaps he should do the same.

In a gentler tone he finally added, “I know you’re probably not ready to talk about that so…we’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it.” Liz said nothing in reply, but only continued to regard him with that same vacant stare that had haunted her eyes since he picked her up from the bus station. In that moment she was unreachable, untouchable. Jeff ached just looking at her.

“I’ll just leave you to unpack then,” he said lamely.

“Uh…Dad?” Liz called out as he started for the door.

“Yeah, Lizzie?”

“Thank you,” she said, her tears starting once more, “Thank you for letting me come back home after…after everything.”

“This will always be your home, Lizzie,” he whispered solemnly, sadly, “As long as you want it.” Father and daughter regarded one another for a long, painful moment before Jeff finally turned away. “Well, goodnight then.”

“Goodnight, Dad,” Liz muttered in reply, her heart breaking a little as he left her alone with only tears and an uncertain future for comfort.
Last edited by Deejonaise on Tue Apr 06, 2004 9:03 pm, edited 45 times in total.

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Post by Deejonaise » Sun Jan 04, 2004 11:42 am

Chapter One

Max Evans awoke to the sweet, gurgling sounds of his eight-month-old son in bed next to him. He pried open one, sleepy eye to regard Zan’s gummy smile and shining blue gaze in the dim lamplight. “You give a whole new meaning to getting up with the chickens, kid,” he muttered with a jaw-popping yawn. Zan gurgled out a wet laugh over his father’s disgruntled expression. Max smiled a little despite himself. “Well at least you’re pleasant about it,” he grunted tiredly.

However, in contrast with his seemingly gruff manner Max’s touch was infinitely gentle as he ran his finger down the curve of his baby son’s downy cheek. Wide, adoring eyes blinked up at him innocently. “Are you hungry?” Max whispered, “Is that why I’m up at--,” He threw a quick glance at the digital clock alongside his bed. “—3:27 a.m.?” Zan continued to regard him with an expectant stare as if to say, “What do you think?”

“Okay, okay, zany one,” he sighed, pushing upright so that he could scoop the baby into his arms, “You win.”

After quickly changing Zan into a fresh diaper and resnapping the baby’s jumper Max tiptoed out into the hall, careful to keep quiet lest he wake the entire house. As he padded into the kitchen to retrieve a bottle from the fridge he couldn’t help but marvel over his good fortune. His son was not a crier. Surprisingly, Zan rarely put up a fuss at all, which was abnormal for babies. Their only means of communicating was by wailing and yet Zan seemed to do just fine transmitting his needs with a stare and a smile. But even if Zan did put up the occasional fuss Max would have adored him nonetheless. Already the baby had his tiny fist wrapped around his father’s heart. He had laid claim to it like no one else.

Bottle in hand and reheated with the help of his extraterrestrial powers, Max crept into the living room and eased into his dad’s easy rocker. In that moment, as he rocked gently in the chair feeding his infant son, Max felt peace. He didn’t think about Tess and her endless schemes or Liz Parker and whether or not she hated him thoroughly or even the Trigonometry test he was destined to fail in fourth period. The moment was frozen, utter tranquility…sheer perfection. He couldn’t see anything beyond his son; this small being that depended on him for everything. This extraordinary little person that he was determined not to let down.

So much had twisted and gone awry in the last year that Max hadn’t believed life would ever return to semi-normal. There had been times when he had gone to sleep and prayed not to see the next morning. After Tess had blasted off in the Granolith and Liz had left him alone standing on that rocky bluff Max had been sure he’d lost the two most important people in his life: Liz and his son.

The former definitely had been more painful than the latter. Zan he had barely known about, had been duty bound towards, but Liz… She had been his heart, his sanity…his life. Along the way that irrevocable truth had gotten muddled and perverted and tarnished nearly beyond repair but it had always maintained its veracity. He loved Liz Parker and Max clutched to that fact like a lifeline.

But he wasn’t a fool. Max knew he had broken her in that last year, though it was a realization he hadn’t come to fully understand until long after she’d vanished from his life. Shame and remorse were such bitter pills to swallow but Max took them as his well-deserved medicine. It was the price he had to pay for being such a blind, self-involved idiot. What did they say about hindsight again? It was 20/20 and regret was a bitch.

He had been close to believing he’d lost everything, spending the summer and much of the fall semester pining for Liz and praying for her return. He wanted the chance to undo the damage he’d done even knowing that the feat was next to impossible. Really Max would have settled for just looking into her beautiful eyes one more time, even if they were filled with loathing for him. Never would he have dreamed of Liz leaving Roswell for good.

Several times he had even contemplated ditching school altogether and going to Vermont in some half formed planned to coax her back home but he never did. In fact, during the languid summer months, he’d had to stifle the urge again and again. And Max was glad he had. Partly because he feared her likely rejection and partly because he realized that if he truly loved Liz he’d have to let her go.

It was true that he’d had his weak moments since then, nights when he would call her school begging to speak to her only to be put off once more. But he hadn’t done that in nearly a month now. He honestly hadn’t had the time to indulge in his misery at all. There was school and work and the nonstop care of an infant. Thankfully, he no longer had to contend with Tess since she’d gotten her own place and finally left his parents’ house so the situation at home wasn’t nearly as tense as it had once been.

And so Max’s life began to take on some recognizable routine, excruciating still but bearable. He went to school, he went to work and he cared for his child. Through it all he thought of Liz, yearned for her…but the pain was growing duller, fainter. Perhaps one day he’d forget entirely. Perhaps…

In the meantime, there were the days when he would inevitably have to deal with Tess and her blatant attempts to seduce him over to her side but Max was never stirred. Tess Harding incited nothing in him more than undying hatred and unmitigated disgust now. The very fact that he had once been attracted to her, that he’d fancied himself in love with her made him sick. He could see her for the calculated creature she was now. More than once he had entertained the notion of taking her out completely and he probably would have done so if not for one significant reason…his son.

In the cradle of Max’s arms Zan gradually fell still, his determined sucking growing progressively slack. With a small smile tugging at the corners of his lips Max watched as the nipple popped from his son’s mouth completely as Zan’s eyes began to fall shut. The baby made a valiant attempt to stay awake, snapping his eyes open again and again at the last second until finally they rolled back and he shut his lids for good.

However, instead of getting up right then and heading back to bed Max decided to remain where he was for the moment and watch his sleeping son. Max loved his warmth, his softness, the sweet smell of his baby skin. Holding Zan was one of the few times in his life when everything seemed right. He passed a hand over the downy softness of his son’s skull, wishing that he could freeze time.

“Is he asleep?” Max jerked up his head to find his mother creeping carefully into the living room. She came to lean over his shoulder, smiling down into her grandson’s sleeping countenance. “I didn’t hear him wake up,” Diane remarked quietly.

“He didn’t cry,” Max told her, “Just those little gurgle sounds he likes to make.” Max smiled at the thought, returning his eyes back to his son. “I love those little gurgle sounds.”

“Seems like you’re getting better with him,” his mother said, perching herself on the armrest of the chair, “For a little while your father and I were really worried about you.”

Worry was an understatement. His parents had been hawkishly surveying his every move and gesture at one time. For a long while after Liz left Max didn’t eat or sleep. He felt sick with himself; sick at his heart and so riddled with guilt sometimes he didn’t even want to go on. And then later the situation worsened with Tess’ return. At first it was the stress of keeping her arrival with the baby a secret from his parents and then when he finally told them the truth it became an issue of being a proper father to Zan.

In the beginning he couldn’t do it and hadn’t cared to. He had even, at a particularly low moment, denied having fathered Zan altogether. It had taken Isabel pointing out, and not too kindly either, that it was that same weak-willed, self-involved attitude he was copping that had driven Liz away to finally straighten Max out. Afterwards he had stepped up to his responsibility to Zan and to his family and friends. Max had emerged from his self-indulgent funk with the fierce determination to stay out and to never become mired down in that awful, mental place ever again. He had a whole new motivation for his life and as long as he focused on being a good father then Max knew he would be okay.

“You can go to bed,” Max told his mother, slanting up a wry grin, “I’ve got it, Mom. You don’t have to hover.”

“But it’s so late, sweetheart,” Diane protested softly, “And he’s asleep already. Why don’t you let me put him down? You’ve got school and work tomorrow.”

“Exactly why I want to have this time with him,” Max replied firmly, “By the time I get home from the Center tonight he’ll be asleep.”

“You’ll be dragging tomorrow,” his mother warned good-naturedly.

Max favored her with another ironic smile. “When don’t I drag?” he teased, nodding down at the baby, “That’s been my life story since he blew into town.”

Diane laughed a bit before sobering much too quickly. Her brow furrowed in a thoughtful frown. “Um…can we expect to see Tess sometime today then?” she asked carefully.

It was a good question and one Max and his family often wondered about. Tess came and went as she pleased. Sometimes weeks would go by without her coming to see the baby. Just when Max would breathe a sigh of relief, hoping that she’d disappeared from their lives for good Tess would pop up once again. But she’d never give more than passing attention to the baby and what she did give was all for show, all for Max’s benefit. He never bought her act though, which would send her stalking back out of their lives as abruptly as she had stalked in. Frankly, Max liked it better when she wasn’t in the picture at all. The further away she was from Zan the less likely any of her maniacal influence would rub off on him.

“I don’t know when she’ll come by,” Max answered honestly, “I don’t keep tabs on her, Mom.” But he did. After what had happened with Alex and the gross way she had manipulated them all before Max had learned to be very wary of Tess Harding. Max was very aware of Tess’ every move just like he was aware that she was hiding something…something big. He simply didn’t want to worry his mother by saying so. Max should have known she would worry either way.

“Maybe you should keep tabs on her,” Diane suggested quietly. Max skittered startled eyes in her direction. Most times his mother liked to pretend that his alien status made little impact in their lives. She was definitely uncomfortable when the subject asserted itself which was the reason Max was wholly surprised when she brought it up. “She’s proven herself a danger already, Max. She’s killed once…we can’t be sure she won’t do it again. I don’t like the idea of her being around the baby.”

“Neither do I,” Max agreed, “Which is why I asked you to make sure that either me or Isabel is always present when she visits. I don’t want to bar her from seeing him completely because who knows how she’ll react to that. Tess is most dangerous when she feels cornered.”

“Isn’t there anything we can do about her?” his mother fretted, reaching down to caress her grandson’s voluminous cheek.

“You mean like putting her in jail?” Max prompted in a sardonic snort, “For what? Alex’s death was ruled a suicide. In the eyes of the law Tess has done nothing wrong.” When the cloud of worry on his mother’s face continued to darken Max sighed out the reassurance free of contempt, “I’m keeping an eye on her, okay. I’m not going to let her hurt the baby…or you guys. I’d kill her first.”

“Max,” his mother gasped plaintively, “don’t say things like that!”

“Why?” he queried harshly, “It’s the truth. I think the only reason I don’t do it now is because of the baby.” Almost as if he’d heard his father’s avowal, Zan grimaced in his sleep and snuffled before shifting to bury his face deeper into the crook of Max’s arms. Max played at the downy soft edges of the baby’s ear. “I’m not going to let anyone hurt him, Mom.”

“What about you?” Diane whispered, “What about someone hurting you, Max?”

“I don’t matter,” he mumbled in response. He continued to stare down at his son but even then he could feel the heat of his mother’s gaze. “All that matters is Zan.”

“Max, I know we talked about…about…”

“Isabel and me being aliens?” he provided with a repressed grin.

“Yes,” Diane confirmed uncomfortably, “And your father and I are still adjusting to that bit of news but… Even knowing something so monumental as that I still can’t help but feel that we barely know you. Isabel…she’s opened like a flower to us since then, but you… You’ve become even more introverted before. I’m trying to get to know who you are, Max, but you won’t let me.”

Max flashed her a guilty look, struggling unsuccessfully to keep his features impassive. “I don’t have any secrets from you, Mom,” he declared honestly, “You know everything…I swear.”

“But you still haven’t told us about the Parker girl,” Diane pressed on gently. She laid a tentative hand against Max’s shoulder. “I know you were in love with her…even if you never said so outright.”

Again Max looked away, feeling heat suffuse his neck and face. “I told you all there was to know,” he replied vaguely, “Liz Parker was shot two years ago in the Crashdown and I healed her. End of story.”

“You fell in love with her, Max,” Diane insisted gently.

“Yes,” Max croaked in agreement.

“And she fell in love with you?” his mother prodded further.

“Mom, please.”

“I simply don’t understand it,” Diane went on, “You’re obviously miserable without her. I’ve told you a hundred times that if you wanted to take a weekend to fly out to Vermont to see her that I’d watch the baby. I’ll even buy the plane ticket for you.”

“It’s not that simple, Mom,” Max sighed painfully, “She doesn’t want to see me.” He swallowed against the lump of emotion suddenly clogging his throat. “I…I have to leave her alone.”

“Oh, Max,” his mother murmured, leaning over to press a kiss to his temple.

“You really just don’t understand,” he continued woodenly, “I betrayed Liz. I betrayed our relationship and I broke her heart. She lost faith in me and the funny thing is I lost faith in myself as well. I can’t think about being in a relationship right now, Mom, especially with Liz. It’s taking all I have just to be a decent father.”

Diane hugged him closer, her heart aching for the pain he was in, the pain she couldn’t alleviate. “You’ve had to grow up much too fast, sweetheart,” she whispered regretfully.

Max forced a teasing smile to his lips, hoping to lighten the mood. “Not surprising since I was born six years old.” His mother chuckled into his hair.

“Go on back to bed now,” she admonished him lightly, “You’ve got to get up for school in another hour.”

Max returned to bed as his mother instructed but he found that once he had Zan settled back into bed and had stretched out himself he could not fall asleep. His mind was invariably saturated with thoughts of Liz Parker. He wondered what time it was in Vermont, wondered if Liz was passing a sleepless, tortured night just as he was.

Most likely not, Max reasoned in his heart. When Liz had left Roswell she had done so with the anxious need to leave her past behind as well. Max seriously doubted that she was out there pining for him; especially considering the emotional retard he’d been when she left. She was probably glad to be rid of him.

He could still remember how she tore out of his arms at the bluff, staring up at him with a mixture of betrayal and hatred. And then she had walked away, after screaming and ranting pure venom that he hadn’t thought her capable of, Liz Parker had walked out of his life forever. Only a month later had the depth of his betrayal dawned on him. It was then that he was seized with the incredible panic that he’d likely lost her for good. Max wished he could forget the look of freezing hatred she’d given him right before she turned away, but it was burned into his brain. He would never forget it.

Two sleepless hours later Max was dragging himself from the house and, after feeding Zan a messy breakfast of applesauce and rice cereal, was headed for school in his newly purchased 1988 Cadillac.

“You look like hell, Max,” Isabel remarked sullenly, breaking the usual silence of their morning drive.

Max quirked his lips in a travesty of a smile. “Good. Nothing’s changed since yesterday.”

“Max, I’m serious,” Isabel whispered, “You didn’t sleep again last night, did you?”

“Three hours,” he said with a shrug, “It’s better than usual.”

“Maybe you should see someone,” Isabel reasoned quietly.

“What? You mean like a shrink?” Max laughed, “Um…no. Been there and done that. I’m not crazy, Isabel…I’m just tired. Babies tend to have that affect on people.”

“You’re depressed,” Isabel clarified.

There was no use denying that so Max didn’t bother. “I brought it on myself,” he countered tersely, “And,” he added when she opened her mouth to argue, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Fine,” Isabel huffed, folding her arms across her chest, “Whatever.”

Max knew she was annoyed with him but he really didn’t have the strength to try and soothe her. Since his ass-like behavior towards her after Alex’s death Max had tried especially hard to atone, accommodating his sister whenever he could particularly when it came to discussing his feelings. But he couldn’t do so that morning, not when his emotions were so raw, so close to the surface.

Once they breeched the school doors Max and Isabel parted ways without a word. She was swallowed into her usual crowd of friends as Max went off towards his locker alone. It was just as it had been before Liz Parker’s healing only regretfully different as well. Now Max felt lonelier than before.

On his way to his locker he passed Kyle and Maria alternately in the hallway, each without speaking a word to him. Their silence saddened him nearly as much as Liz’s absence. Max realized that he hadn’t merely counted them as humans keeping his secret. He had counted them as friends as well and he had lost them…just like he’d lost Liz.

His morose thoughts playing over in his head, Max was dully working the combination to his locker when Michael approached. “So you still coming over to my place after school or what?” he asked.

“I’ve got to be at work at five,” Max told him.

“That’s plenty of time,” Michael insisted dismissively, “We need to talk about what to do about Tess.”

“I told you…I’m waiting to hear from Larek, Michael,” Max replied firmly, “That way I can have a general idea of what’s going on back on Antar and the real reason Tess came back to earth.”

“You don’t buy her story about Khivar wanting to kill her?” Michael’s tone was approving and relieved.

Max leveled him with a woeful look. “Somehow I doubt it.”

“We should just make her disappear, Maxwell,” Michael whispered, “It wouldn’t be murder…more like self defense and you know it. She’s a threat to us otherwise and she knows it, which is probably why she claimed that connection crap to Zan in the first place. She’s hardly around him as it is and he does just fine.”

Michael didn’t need to make any further arguments. He wasn’t voicing anything Max hadn’t already considered himself. “I’ll think about it, okay,” Max promised as he finished stuffing his backpack full of books.

He closed his locker then slung his bookbag over his shoulder. “I’ll come by for a little while after school,” he said, “We’ll talk then.” Max started down the hall towards his first class, his thoughts jumbled up with Michael’s parting suggestion. He wondered if, even with all the discussion and planning, he would have the courage to go through with such a thing. But when faced with his flagging will Max had only to think of Alex’s rapidly cooling body beneath his fingers to reinforce his convictions. Michael was right. Tess was a danger and she could not remain.

Max was so busy giving himself a mental pep talk that he almost cleared the office entrance without glimpsing her at all. Almost… It was the flash of her shining brown hair that caught his attention, but the vision of her face is what held it.

She was exiting the office with her parents and the principal as he passed, but she was in the middle of a conversation so she didn’t notice his presence. But he sure as hell noticed hers. His heart literally bounced in his chest before dipping low into his stomach as he came up short, inadvertently causing a minor traffic jam resulting in several hapless students to bumping into his back. At the sight of her beautiful, unsmiling face Max felt weak, dizzy, inundated with fear but undeniably elated as well. He couldn’t believe she was standing there…so close and yet unreachably far.

His dreamgirl. His angel. His once and only soulmate.

Liz Parker.

Hybrid-Angel, I'll check out your story later this week. And for those of you looking for an update to Misdirection that's later this week, too.
Last edited by Deejonaise on Tue Apr 06, 2004 9:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Deejonaise » Thu Jan 08, 2004 12:07 am

Chapter Two

Liz kept her head lowered as her parents and the principal carried on conversation in hushed tones. “…We’re thrilled to have her back,” Principal Green espoused, “…so disappointed when she transferred out…” She felt conspicuous standing there in the bustling halls of West Roswell High School. Even though it was highly improbable she felt as if every eye in the school was trained on her, watching her, silently snickering over her return. The prodigal daughter… And she had left so dramatically and with the determination that she would never come back. Yet she had come back and everything seemed remarkably unchanged. The realization should have comforted her but it didn’t.

She watched from beneath her lashes as the students hustled to class laughing about this and lamenting that and remembered a time when she was one of them. She had been free-spirited and optimistic, on the fast track to certain success. Only two years ago she had floated through these very halls, gossiping girlishly with Maria, her future brilliant and tangible ahead of her. And now that time seemed like a distant memory, a fanciful figment of her imagination. Liz felt like an outsider, a stranger in her own skin. She didn’t belong with those laughing bunch of students any longer. She didn’t belong anywhere.

Liz had hoped that returning home to Roswell would give her some renewed sense of direction. After all, nothing had worked out as she’d hoped and home seemed her last alternative. But Roswell seemed just as alien of a place as Vermont had seemed. Liz felt disconnected from it all, as if she were hovering somewhere above watching the melodrama her life had suddenly become. And the longer she listened to her parents converse with Principal Green the more surreal everything seemed.

In a futile effort to distract herself, Liz let her eyes roam in detached interest about the busy hallway, surreptitiously surveying the people she had known before. She looked past the lockers, past the “Home of the Comets” banner, past the dark-haired boy watching her with intense green-gold eyes. And then she froze, slowly swinging her gaze back, her heart doing a slow thump in her chest. The moment their eyes connected it was like a jolt of sensation, a physical ache for Liz.

He hadn’t changed so much from the last time she had seen him, dressed in his usual attire of blue jeans and t-shirt, except for a noticeable loss of weight. He appeared gaunt, weary and world worn. Liz was secretly glad to see the changes, even as she squelched her worry because of them. The weight loss meant that he had suffered just as she had. It meant that he hadn’t known any peace in the last nine months either. Good, she thought spitefully.

But even with Liz staring him down so coldly the look Max gave her in return was like a fleeting caress. His eyes begged to touch her, pleaded to be near. Liz yearned for immunity to that look but still it overcame her, a brief draught of air in the mist of her drowning circumstances. Liz might have drifted across the densely packed hall and into his arms if she weren’t so acutely aware of just how thoroughly she hated him.

Whatever glimpse of softness or yearning he had evoked within her was vanquished then and he saw it. He knew it. His gaze darkened, begging her to reconsider but Liz hardened her heart. She took supreme satisfaction in looking away, doing so deliberately, cuttingly, as if she didn’t know him at all. In a sense…she didn’t. For a long time afterward she could still feel the heat of his gaze upon her but she steadfastly refused to meet his eyes.

However, when she did glance back again a few seconds later, because she was too weak to resist another look, he had vanished from the hallway almost as if she had conjured him in her mind. She didn’t look after him, however. Liz wouldn’t allow herself to feel the sorrow over the fact he had gone but only the crushing relief that he was no longer standing in the middle of the hallway, staring at her. Her return home was stressful enough without having to agonize about Max Evans hounding her.

“Will you be okay?” her father asked gently, breaking into her thoughts.

Liz surveyed him with a woeful stare. “Do I have to do this today,” she implored in a painful whisper, “I haven’t even settled in yet.”

“There’s little point in waiting, Liz,” her mother cut in decisively, “The sooner you get back into routine the easier things will be.”

Liz made no reply, but the freezing look of contempt she gave her mother said it all.

Principal Green placed a supporting hand onto Liz’s shoulder. “Liz, you don’t have to worry,” he assured softly, “No one needs to know about your pregnancy if you don’t want. It’s still early enough that you can make it through graduation without anyone suspecting a thing. I promised your parents and now I’m promising you my absolute discretion.”

“I’m not worried about that,” Liz mumbled in denial, but her cheeks glowed a brilliant red with his reassurance. Frankly, she would have liked to keep that knowledge private, between her and her parents only. Though she knew it was only a matter of time before the entire town was aware of her…situation Liz wanted to put off the revelation as long as possible. But her mother seemed adamant that all the “appropriate parties” should know. Liz was inclined to believe it was Nancy’s way of punishing her.

“There’s no need to be ashamed, Liz,” Principal Green continued, “We’ve all made mistakes from time to time.”

“Yeah, mistakes,” Liz muttered, inwardly balking that her baby should be considered that way. She tried not to think of the tiny being thriving beneath her heart too often and yet the idea that her child was thought a “mistake” just seemed so wrong.

“And we all have to live with those mistakes,” her mother finished succinctly. But it escaped no one’s notice that her eyes were trained on directly on her daughter as she made the statement, especially Liz. Mother and daughter exchanged an extended stare thick with tension. “Well, thank you, Principal Green,” Nancy said graciously when she and Liz finally broke their silent showdown, “Your offer to let Liz attend summer school so that she could graduate with the rest of her class was very generous. She won’t disappoint you. I’ll personally make sure she gets her grades back up to her usual standard.”

“I have complete confidence that she will,” Principal Green replied. Liz thought she heard a mild rebuke for her mother in his tone and the thought made her smile a bit. “You should get to class,” he told her, “Third period has already started.”

Liz nodded and turned to her father. “Well, I guess I should be going,” she murmured reluctantly.

“Come straight home after school,” Jeff admonished gently, “Do you need me to pick you up?”

“I’ll probably just catch a ride with Maria.”

“What if she’s not here today,” her father considered.

“Then I’ll just call you,” Liz countered, smiling a little over his fretful tone, “Don’t worry about me, Dad.”

Jeff smoothed away her bangs and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I’ll always worry about you,” he whispered, “Haven’t you figured that out by now?”

Acutely aware of the aching lump of tears forming in her throat Liz shrugged out of her father’s loose embrace to regard her mother. “Bye, Mom,” she said thickly.

“Go on to class,” Nancy Parker told her, “And Liz?” she added when her daughter had turned away to start down the hall. Liz paused and glanced back over her shoulder. “Keep your chin up,” her mother said. When Liz walked away she was doing just that, holding her head high in spite of the misgivings churning away in her belly.

Liz’s trek to her third period economics class was a slow one, which actually worked to her advantage because had she been any faster she would have completely missed Maria coming out of the bathroom. Maria’s mouth fell open in stunned surprise the second she set eyes on her friend. She uttered her name in an incredulous whisper and then she squealed it right before throwing herself upon Liz in an enthusiastic hug.

“Oh my God! I can’t believe it’s really you,” Maria gushed, “What are you doing here? When did you get in? Why didn’t you tell me you were coming? Are you just visiting or are you here for good?” She fired the questions at such rapid speed Liz didn’t have a chance of answering them so she wisely held back and waited for Maria to exhaust herself. “Well?” Maria prodded impatiently, pulling back to shake Liz slightly, “Why aren’t you saying anything?”

Liz only smiled laughingly in response before answering Maria’s questions one by one. “I’m here because I transferred. I got in yesterday afternoon but I didn’t call because I wanted to surprise you. And I’m definitely here for good.” Liz made that last remark with a note of sadness, a fact that did not escape Maria’s listening ears.

“But what about Vermont?” she sputtered in confusion, “I thought you loved being at that school. You said you were never coming back.”

Maria’s innocent query brought to the foreground all the regret and sorrow Liz had so valiantly kept at bay. For that brief moment when Maria hugged her all had seemed normal again. She had become Liz Parker once again, smallest of small town girls. She had felt exhilarated, emancipated…alive. But the moment had been a misleading one and Liz should have known that sooner or later reality would venture forth and make known its presence. Liz simply would have opted for later.

“Some things have happened, Maria,” Liz began in slow explanation, “I had to come home.”

Green eyes narrowed at Liz’s sullen overtone. “What do you mean ‘you had to come home’, Liz?” she demanded anxiously, “What happened?”

Liz shied away from the suddenly overwhelming need to spill all. “I…I can’t get into it right now,” she evaded, “I’m already late for class.”

“Class?” Maria echoed blankly, “Oh my God…class! I completely forgot,” she babbled on, “When I saw you every thought just flew from my head. Of course you’ve got to get to class. Let me see your schedule first.” She had no sooner issued her demand than she began ferreting around in Liz’s backpack for it. When she finally located the small slip of paper Maria did a quick scan. “We only have one class together,” she noted with a pout, “And that’s last period. That completely blows.” Maria glanced at Liz then back at the schedule and then Liz once more. “Well at least we can have lunch together,” she managed, “I expect you to tell me everything then, starting with why you came back in the first place…not that I’m upset about that or anything.”

“I’ll definitely tell you everything,” Liz promised before Maria could launch into another garrulous monologue. She plucked her schedule from Maria’s fingers and stuffed it back into her pack. “I just really gotta go now.”

Maria caught hold of her arm as she tried to sidle around. “Liz, wait!”

“Maria, I promise I’ll tell you,” Liz told her mournfully, “But I really need to get to class.” Liz dreaded the moment when she would likely be introduced to the class. She just wanted to get it over with and then run to the farthest desk and hide until the class was over.

“I need to tell you something,” Maria hedged.


“Michael’s in your econ class,” she informed Liz succinctly. Liz’s answering groan expressed perfectly just how she felt about that piece of news. “It’s not a big deal or anything. He probably won’t even be there,” Maria reassured her lamely, “He cuts class like every other day.”

“Are you sure?” Liz prodded anxiously, “Because I’m really not in the mood for any confrontations today.”

“He probably won’t be there,” Maria said again, this time with a great deal more conviction, “Michael spends more time out of school than in it so the odds are definitely in your favor.” When Liz still looked unconvinced she added, “Liz, don’t sweat it, okay. This is me, remember. I know Michael Guerin and he definitely won’t be in class.”

Apparently, Maria didn’t know Michael nearly as well as she thought because he was, indeed, in class, sitting near the very back in the very seat Liz had coveted for herself. She wasn’t even surprised to find it so. It was in the cosmos. Her day had been predetermined to go from bad to worse. She couldn’t just deal with the humiliating knowledge that she was unwed and pregnant and back in the town she vowed never to return to, she also had the prospect for high drama as well. Fan-friggin-tastic! And it wasn’t even his presence that Liz found most unnerving, but the intense almost relieved way he stared up at her as the teacher introduced her to the class, as if he’d been waiting for her.

Once the painful introduction was over Liz swiftly made her way to the back of the class, careful to avoid the scrutinizing stares of her peers. She deliberately chose the chair furthest from Michael Guerin, hoping that the distance would deter him from striking up any conversation with her. Liz should have known better.

He determinedly passed notes to her, via their classmates for the remainder of class. Liz staunchly ignored and sometimes outright refused every single one. But none of that deterred Michael, even when he was sentenced to an afternoon of detention for his efforts. When the bell for fourth period finally rang Liz gratefully sprang from her seat and bolted from the door but her attempt at a hasty exit wasn’t nearly hasty enough.

“So when did you get back?” Michael demanded, blocking her escape out in the hallway.

“Yesterday,” Liz answered, trying and failing to sidestep him. She threw him a cantankerous glare. “What?”

“We thought you weren’t coming back,” he observed carefully, “Maria never said anything to me about it.”

“Maria didn’t know.”

“Does that mean she knows now?” Michael inquired tersely.

“Is there a point to all this, Michael, or are you just in the mood for twenty questions?” Liz snapped, impatience literally crackling off her person.

“I’m just wondering if you’re here to stay or what.”

“Does it matter?”

Michael answered her question with one of his own. “Does Max know you’re back?”

“Does it matter?” Liz asked again, her tone deliberately cold.

Dark brown eyes narrowed with angry disapproval. “He’s been worried about you,” Michael replied, deliberately ignoring Liz’s sardonic reply, “He hasn’t heard from you in nearly a year…not even a letter, Liz, not in all that time.”

“I don’t owe him anything,” Liz argued stubbornly.

“He saved your life,” Michael hammered mercilessly.

“But he doesn’t run it,” she returned.

“It wasn’t cool, Liz,” Michael uttered tautly, “You could have, at least, let him know you were okay…that you were safe. It wasn’t cool the way you just took off.”

“Like he really cared either way!” Liz scoffed tersely, “God! It doesn’t even matter. I am, as you can see, perfectly fine. I’ve been away at school as I’m sure Maria probably told you. And, if you must know, the reason Max didn’t ‘hear’ from me is because I didn’t want to talk to him.”

“Maria said you weren’t coming back,” Michael considered gruffly.

Liz heaved a long-suffering sigh, which belied the palsied trembling of her body. “Again is there a point to all this, Michael?”

“Yeah, there is. I’m wondering whether you’re going to try to straighten things out with Max or if you just came back to rip his heart out some more,” he queried boldly, “And if that’s so…you just need to stay away, Liz.”

I ripped his heart out?” Liz threw back scornfully, “That’s a laugh. And don’t worry I’ll stay away from Max. You just make sure he stays away from me.”

“You owe him the chance to explain,” Michael intoned, “He deserves that much.”

Liz shook her head. “I don’t think so. I said everything to Max before I left,” she told Michael and then she added in a flash of irritation, “And why do you even care? Since when did you make fixing Max’s love life or lack thereof your personal mission?” The bell for the next period sounded through the hallway but neither Michael nor Liz noticed. They were squaring off, circling each other like two wary combatants.

“Since I had to watch him sleepwalk through the last nine months pining for you,” Michael pointed out harshly, “He suffered when you left.”

Liz hugged her books tighter to her chest in an effort to quell her visible shaking. “He brought that all on himself,” she informed Michael quietly, “I didn’t walk away, Michael, Max drove me away. We’re over now. What he feels doesn’t concern me anymore. I don’t care.”

Her brutal reply stunned Michael so much that he fell back a step. “I thought you loved him,” he replied in an accusing whisper, “I thought you meant all that stuff that you wrote in your journal about him.”

“I did…once,” Liz conceded softly.

“No, not once,” Michael denied ruthlessly, “Love like that doesn’t just die, Liz…unless it was never real in the first place.”

“God, Michael!” Liz cried, pushed to the limits of her endurance and patience, “Don’t you know what he did to me? Am I supposed to just forget that? You talk about whether or not I really loved Max but maybe the real question is whether or not he really loved me.” She shouldered around him with the intention of leaving him standing there, but Michael caught hold of her forearm.

“Tess screwed everybody around okay, especially Max,” he hissed angrily, “We all fell victim to her games but it was Max she targeted. He didn’t know which way was up. He did the best he could…we all did.”

“Are you telling me that Tess mindwarped him into acting the way he did?” Liz demanded and she hated the hopeful note in her voice as she asked. But Michael’s skittish glance caused that hope to die a quick death. She jerked her arm from his grasp, her eyes narrowed in a frosty glare of contempt. “I didn’t think so,” she whispered brutally, “So he slept with her because he wanted to…now he can live with the consequences.” Just like I am, Liz added silently. “Max and I are done,” she said in frigid conclusion.

“When did you become such a bitch?” Michael wondered stonily.

“Ask Max.”

“Why the hell did you come back then?” he fired tightly, “You should have just stayed gone. It would have been better for everyone.”

“For everyone, Michael?” Liz queried sharply, “Or just Max?” She jabbed her index finger squarely in the middle of his chest. “You can tell this to your once and future king. I don’t need to explain myself to him or you or anyone else for that matter. Roswell is my home,” she declared quietly, “I’m not going to let Max Evans or anyone else drive me away from it.” Liz gave him a hard shove as she pushed past him. “Not ever again.”
Last edited by Deejonaise on Thu Jan 08, 2004 7:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Deejonaise » Wed Jan 14, 2004 12:29 am

Chapter Three

“Whoa, Liz! What in hell did you say to Guerin,” Maria wondered laughingly as she slid into the empty space next to Liz on the cafeteria bench, “He practically had steam coming out of his ears when I spoke to him just now.”

“Please tell me you two didn’t fight about me,” Liz groaned in mortification. She was beginning to regret her earlier harshness to Michael. At the time, all her rage and frustration towards Max and the entire Tess situation had just bubbled over and she’d been helpless to staunch it, especially with Michael attacking her as if she had done something wrong. Now she wished she hadn’t said anything at all. Not because she feared she’d hurt his feelings but because she dreaded putting Maria in the middle. She said as much.

“Don’t mind him,” Maria replied with dismissive wave, “Ever since you left he and Max have got this whole two musketeer deal going. Now, he thinks he’s Max’s keeper or something.”

“I thought he and Max didn’t get along,” Liz murmured.

“That was the case at first,” Maria babbled, “But then when T--,” She caught herself at the last minute and snapped her mouth shut, her eyes growing round. “Um…forget it,” Maria finished dismissively, knowing instinctively that this was not the time to inform Liz about Tess’ return. She was already teetering on the edge of control as it was.

“What?” Liz prodded.

“Nothing,” Maria said, “They just found something to bond over, okay. It doesn’t matter. Tell me what you said to piss Michael off so bad.”

“What did he tell you I said?” Liz countered carefully.

“Not much beyond a series of monosyllabic grunts,” Maria replied dryly, “All I know is that he thinks you’ve changed. He’s talking about you like you’ve turned into some kind of pod person.” She laughed a bit over Liz’s beleaguered expression. “Don’t take anything he says personally, Liz,” she said, “Where Max is concerned Spaceboy has a definite blind spot. We’ve agreed to disagree when it concerns him. Maybe that can work for you, too.”

“I don’t know,” Liz mumbled, “I don’t think I’m Michael’s favorite person right now.” She chewed at the inside of her cheek thoughtfully. “And I suppose that’s okay because the feeling is entirely mutual at the moment. He’s definitely on my list, right beneath Max.”

“I’m not surprised,” Maria countered dryly with a roll of her eyes, “He’s on my list like every other day.”

“So how are you really doing?” Liz asked sullenly. She hated to think that Maria’s on again off again romance with Michael Guerin was further strained by her breakup with Max. One broken couple was enough. “Are you and Michael okay?”

“Most of the time,” Maria answered with a shrug, “We’re not on the road to splitsville, if that’s what you’re asking. We’re like we’ve always been…oil and vinegar.”

“You don’t mix,” Liz concluded sadly.

“But we are pretty damned tasty when you put us together,” Maria finished in saucy comeback, “We just…click. Despite all his quirks and his multitude of annoying habits, beneath it all, Michael gets me, you know. So don’t worry about us, Liz, we’re fine. It’s your love life we ought to be obsessing over right now, not mine.”

“I have no love life,” Liz replied, pushing away the remains of her half-eaten sandwich. She didn’t know whether it was the pungent smells that wafted through the cafeteria or the turn of the conversation but suddenly she felt too ill to finish eating. Liz took a sip of her 7up, hoping to calm her stomach, but she nearly choked on it when Maria asked, “Isn’t that what you want, Liz? To have no love life? Or maybe you just want the one you left behind here,” she concluded in speculation.

“Do we have to talk about this?” Liz whined petulantly.

“It’s either that or you can tell me exactly what you said to make Michael blow his top,” Maria offered gamely.

“Michael it is,” Liz replied without a beat, but with some irritation.

“Spill everything,” Maria instructed, “Don’t leave out a single detail.”

Liz heaved a little sigh in response to Maria’s avid prodding. It was chick gossip, just as they’d always had and yet, Liz didn’t garner the same pleasure from it that she once had. “I guess he wants me to forgive Max,” she whispered dully, “And I won’t.”

“Yeah…well, he wasn’t too happy with the way you cut out after Tess blasted off,” Maria revealed hesitantly, “And then…with everything that’s happened while you were away… He just thinks you should have ‘stood by your man’ and all that crap.” Maria rolled her eyes. “Whatever.”

“No, Maria, you think?” Liz volleyed back acerbically, “I pretty much figured that when he practically cornered me after class today. He’s totally out of control. You could have warned me.”

“I didn’t know he’d show,” Maria cried defensively.

“And still…”

“Look Liz, a lot of things have happened since you went away,” Maria began tentatively.

“If this is the part where you tell me what a hard time Max had while I was gone I swear I’m going to start screaming right here,” Liz warned sharply. It annoyed her completely that even after all the crap he’d pulled everyone still seemed to side with Max.

Maria threw her hands up in surrender. “Not even close, girlfriend. Max Evans has earned nothing but my undying scorn after he screwed his murderous, lying skank of a so-called wife!” Maria sniffed disdainfully. “I totally can’t respect him anymore. We barely even speak or see each other except for the times he’s hanging at Michael’s and then I usually leave soon after. After what he did to you, Liz, I couldn’t keep being his friend.”

“Thank you for being on my side,” Liz sighed, offering her a light hug, “Finally. Someone who gets it.”

“Not completely,” Maria interjected slowly, “I might not respect him but I can understand why Michael’s so protective of him. He was pretty bad off after you left, Liz.” She leveled Maria with a quelling look that her best friend turned a recalcitrant blind eye towards. “Liz, you’d have to have a heart made of stone not to have pitied him…at least a little,” Maria cried out in her own defense.

“God, don’t tell me things like that,” Liz groaned, “I don’t want to hear how he suffered. I don’t want to hear about him at all.”

“Okay,” Maria agreed, “So why don’t we talk about why you came back. Liz, I thought you left Roswell to get away from Max and all the alien chaos and yet here you are…back again. What happened to starting over? What happened to forgetting about this place and moving on with your life? You were even seeing that guy…what’s his name?”

“David McKee,” Liz provided glumly.

“Yeah, David McKee,” Maria said, “What the hell happened with him?”

“We went out,” Liz replied.


“And I got pregnant,” she announced, quite matter-of-fact.

Maria stared at her for a full ten seconds without uttering a single sound. That was a monumental feat for someone so widely known for her linguistic skills as Maria DeLuca. In fact, Maria’s silence actually made Liz feel guilty. Maria must have truly been blindsided by the news to be left so speechless. But then that was a little of what Liz felt as well. Every time she had to declare the news of her impending motherhood aloud to someone Liz felt shocked anew. The idea seemed surreal to Liz. She could hardly believe that something like this was happening to someone like her.

Good girls were not supposed to become unwed mothers. Valedictorian hopefuls did not squander their futures by having irresponsible sex. Levelheaded young misses did not give away their virginity in a moment of thoughtless passion. And yet Liz was all those things and she had done all those things. Now she was brimming over with anguished regret.

“How did it happen?” Maria croaked out in a thready whisper.

Liz almost smiled at the question. “He took me to a party,” she responded flatly, “We had a couple of beers. He told me I was pretty and exciting. He kissed me. We had sex. End of story.”

“No way,” Maria denied softly, “That’s not even like you, Liz…to get drunk and have a rebound sex with some random guy...”

“I wasn’t drunk,” Liz interrupted tartly, “And he wasn’t some random guy I had rebound sex with. I really liked him. I still do. The sex was incredible and I definitely wanted it.” She said that with a measure of defiance, almost as if she refused to be ashamed about it.

“Then what happened?” Maria asked, a little shocked by Liz’s admission.

“When I woke up beside him the next morning and looked at him I felt this sorrow deep inside me because…because…”

“Because he wasn’t Max,” Maria finished quietly.

Liz looked away, not denying the conclusion but unwilling to confirm it verbally either. “I knew I was being an idiot. David is a great guy. He was really into me and everything and…even after I ran out on him he still wanted to go out afterwards. I just avoided him like the plague.”

“Still you knew the guy less than a month,” Maria mused aloud, “It’s not like you.”

“Why does everyone keep saying that?” Liz fired out in a hushed tone, “No one really knows if it’s ‘like me or not’ least of all me!” Her voice lowered to a grating whisper as she bit out, “No one knows, Maria!”

“Okay. Okay,” Maria surrendered softly, “So what are you saying? Do you love this guy or something?” Shamefully, Liz lowered her eyes and slowly shook her head. “Then why?” Maria pressed worried exasperation, “Why would you have sex with someone you barely know? And why am I just now hearing about it?”

“I don’t know…” Liz muttered, looking away, “I don’t know anything anymore.”

“Well, let’s try a simpler question then,” Maria amended softly, “Do you have any real feelings for him?”

At that Liz looked up, her gaze dejected and conflicted and hopeful all at once. “I think maybe I could fall in love with him, Maria,” Liz whispered tremulously, “if I let myself.” She turned her gaze away completely, fiddling idly with the plastic wrap from her sandwich. “He asked me to marry him, you know,” she revealed in an unhappy murmur.

For the second time in a five-minute span Maria’s mouth fell open. “Oh…oh…oh my God,” she sputtered in disbelief, “What did you say, Liz? What did you do?”

A wry, self-deprecating grin tugged at the corners of Liz’s mouth as she confessed, “I called my Dad and told him I wanted to come home.”

“What about David?” Maria ground out in frustration, looking as if she wanted to strangle Liz in that moment.

“I told him no, of course,” Liz said forcefully, “I told him no.”

“But you just said you could love him, Liz,” Maria argued, “He obviously likes you well enough if he proposed marriage and you are having his baby--,”

“No,” Liz cut her off before she could go any further, “My life is a mess. It wouldn’t be fair to David to bring him into the middle of it. I like him too much to do that. That’s why I came home. I knew if I stayed in Vermont I’d eventually give into him and that was the last thing I wanted.”

“Wow…Liz…” Maria breathed, “I couldn’t be as strong as you if I tried.”

“I’m not strong at all,” she whispered glumly, “I’m just trying to do the right thing…even though I hardly have any idea what that is.” Just then she caught sight of Max just beyond Maria’s shoulder, hovering on the other side of the cafeteria and watching them intently. Liz released a miserable groan. “Max Evans is staring at me again,” she told Maria tautly.

Maria swiveled around in her seat, her shocked expression becoming one of incredulous irritation as Max advanced toward them. “I just know he’s not coming over here,” she muttered under her breath. She was already on her feet before Max was within two feet of their table, blocking his path to Liz like an outraged pixie. “She doesn’t want to see you, Max,” Maria fired caustically, folding her arms over her meager bosom, “So get lost.”

“No offense, Maria, but I want to hear her tell me that,” Max responded softly. He didn’t look at her as he spoke. His penetrating gaze was instead fixed on Liz’s bent head.

Maria rudely snapped her fingers before his face in an effort to redirect his attention. “What are you? A masochist?” she snorted disdainfully, “She hates your guts, Max. You’re the last person she wants to talk to so why don’t you buy a clue?”

Despite Maria’s antics, however, Max’s eyes remained unwavering. Ignoring Maria altogether he took a chance to address Liz directly. “Is that how you feel, Liz?” he wondered quietly, “Do you want me to leave?”

Liz stiffened slightly and then shivered. She had forgotten how beautiful her name sounded when it spilled from his lips. He didn’t just say it. He breathed her name like a reverent prayer. Maria had been right. A person would have to be stone not to be affected by Max Evans on some level.

Did she want him to leave? God, yes she wanted him to leave! Yet at the same time she wanted for him to stay. She wanted to be able to talk to him as easily as she once had. She wanted not to feel bile and disgust rise to the back of her throat every time she looked into his face. But Liz knew she could have none of those things. She recognized that everything between her and Max had been irrevocably changed.

It took monumental effort but Liz finally managed to lift her beleaguered gaze to his beseeching one. She wished in that second that she hadn’t. This morning when she had seen him he had still been a pretty far distance from her and with a throng of students between them. Now there was, perhaps, twenty feet and nothing to shield Liz from the naked longing, the blind adoration in his eyes. The impact to her heart was stunning and left her momentarily breathless.

“Max, why are you doing this here?” she moaned in a whisper, painfully aware of the curious glances from their fellow students.

“When else should I have done it?” Max countered without heat, “You won’t take my calls and if I even set foot in the Crashdown I’m sure your Dad will shoot me on sight.” Liz didn’t make any effort to deny his assumption or sugarcoat it. Max shifted uncomfortably from one foot to another. “Liz, can you please call off your terrier and talk to me?” he sighed in exasperation, nodding towards a determined Maria who continued to block his path.

“You don’t have to talk to him, Liz!” Maria cried out to her. She swung back around to face Max, punching her index finger into his shoulder. “Max, don’t make me have to get physical with you!”

“I hope you can forgive me for this later,” Max grunted right before he bracketed Maria’s waist with his hands and, with very little effort, lifted her off her feet and set her out of his path. Outraged, Maria made a lunge for him but was thwarted from her attack when Michael appeared from nowhere, hooked a forearm around her waist and dragged her, kicking and ranting, out of sight.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” Liz told Max when he sat down in front of her.

“I would have never been able to talk to you otherwise,” he answered.

“What makes you think I’ll be anymore inclined to talk to you with Maria out of the way?” Liz challenged tonelessly.

“We have unfinished business,” he said.

Liz nearly laughed outright. Her eyebrows shot up mockingly. “Oh?” she mused sardonically.

Max chose to ignore her sarcasm, instead uttering with quiet reverence, “You look good, Liz.” His words were husky, deliberate. “I’ve missed you.”

Liz looked away. “Don’t do this.”

“I just want to tell you how sorry I a--,”

“Why did you come over here, Max?” Liz interrupted tiredly.

Max sighed out his dejection. Evidently, she was no more inclined to hear his explanations and apologies than she had been nine months ago. He well knew that he couldn’t force her to listen either. In the end, he would only make matters worse so he contented himself with asking the question that had been burning in his gut for nearly a year. “Why did you let me think you had slept with Kyle last year?”

He suspected it was the last question she’d expected from him because her face suddenly blanched of all color before suffusing with a brilliant red. “I’ve gone to Kyle about it,” he continued quietly, “But he hasn’t been very cooperative.”

“I asked him not to tell you,” Liz confessed softly.

“So I gathered,” he replied with a touch of irony, “What I can’t figure out is why. What happened, Liz?”

Liz traced the edge of the tabletop with her fingertip. “It’s hard to explain,” she hedged nervously.

“Please try,” he implored. Liz still seemed reluctant to speak, however, and so Max filled the silence between them with his own theories. “So I’ve been trying to figure it out,” he recounted fervently, “Nothing made sense. I couldn’t understand why you would continue to lie to me even after all the times I asked you for the truth, even when I know you had to realize that I knew you were lying. And then it hit me. You were protecting me…that’s the only thing I can figure. I just don’t know from what.”

“Does it really matter now?” Liz asked a little desperately.

“Of course it does,” Max exploded in a low tone, “You destroyed us with that lie, Liz! I deserve to know the reason why.”

Guilt was forgotten beneath his throbbing accusation. Liz felt her cheeks burn with gathering anger. “I destroyed us,” she uttered disdainfully, “I destroyed us? It seems to me you’re the one who did that when you chose to sleep with Tess Harding or, worse still, when you turned your back on me after my best friend had died.”

“But it all began with your lie, Liz.”

Liz’s gaze narrowed into dangerous slits. “Are you blaming me for the things you did?” she demanded in a silky whisper.

Belatedly realizing that he was worsening an already tentative situation, Max massaged his temples lightly and amended quietly, “That’s not what I’m saying, okay. I just wish you had told me the truth then. I just wish I knew why you did it.”

In that second Liz made up her mind to tell him. There was little point in keeping Future Max a secret any longer. That last bit of information was the final thing tying her to Max. She really didn’t know why she had waited as long as she had. Perhaps for some underlying spite, but now keeping the truth to herself only served to sap up what little strength she had. And she was so tired. She didn’t want to fight with Max. She didn’t want to have anything to do with him. Once she rid herself of the secret she would be free. She would owe him nothing more. The realization was a relief, a weight off Liz’s shoulders and she sighed with it.

And so she said, so quietly he almost didn’t hear her, “I did it because you asked me to.”

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Post by Deejonaise » Tue Jan 20, 2004 8:41 am

Chapter Four

Max was still reeling from Liz’s revelation eight hours later as he stuffed the fake alien’s entrails back into his body for the umpteenth time. Already two hours into his shift and he had space walked through much of it, but no matter how much effort he exhorted Max found he couldn’t concentrate on anything else. Now everything made sense and conversely made no sense at all.

With nearly the entire throng of students watching them in the cafeteria Liz had taken him to the Eraser Room and then quietly spilled all. Despite the delicate nature of her reveal she had refused to leave the school with him, which left only the Eraser Room as an option for privacy. Her message had been clear: she wanted only to tell what she knew and then be done with him. And tell him she had, without flourish or apology, with a flat relief almost as if she were glad to be rid of the burden. Only when she had finished speaking did Max find his voice. During her monologue he’d been too stunned to interrupt her.

“Why?” he had asked her in a throbbing whisper.

“Because I thought I was saving the world,” Liz replied tiredly, “And you. I was only sixteen, Max. I made the best decision I could at the time.” She had sounded as if she was trying to convince herself instead of him, but Max didn’t comment on it. He was wild with the knowledge that she’d kept the secret as long as she had and so he quickly rephrased his question.

“No why, Liz?” he hissed again, “Why did you wait so long to tell me? Didn’t you think I deserved to know?”

Guilt had flickered over her features and, though she made the effort to keep her face averted, Max saw it. “I told you already. You asked me not to. I couldn’t break my promise…no matter how much I wanted to.”

“And after Tess left,” he had prodded desperately, “Why didn’t you say something then?”

“Would it have made a difference,” she’d responded grimly, “Tess was pregnant by that point and revealed for the backstabbing witch she was. Alex was dead. Telling you at that point would have only served to cause you pain and…complicate things.”

“You mean complicate your leaving,” Max accused coldly.

“Maybe,” she agreed with a weary sigh, “But now you know the truth, Max. We can’t go back and change it so… It should just end here. I don’t owe you anything else.”

And with that final statement she’d quietly left him alone in the small closet, fuming and frustrated and so full of questions that he could barely stand still. It was a long time before the weight of what she’d revealed to him began to penetrate Max’s heart and when it did he had felt too sick to stand. He cried afterwards, bitter tears that seemingly would not be staunched. Tears for the sacrifices Liz had made…tears for what they could have and should have been.

But even in the mist of his sorrow and regret none of it made sense to Max. He had come back in time to convince Liz to help him fall out of love with her and all to preserve the earth. Even stranger his future self had believed that Tess was key to this preservation when, in reality, she had been their enemy all along. It was highly likely then that the fall of the world had resulted, not from the fact Tess had been absent from the four square, but from the fact she had double-crossed them once again, just as she had in this timeline. So, in essence, everything Liz had done, every time they had all suffered, had been for nothing. Max considered that was the saddest part of all and that was the thought that made him sick.

Even later when he recounted Liz’s fabulous tale to Michael and Isabel the shock still hadn’t worn away. He’d done so by rote, almost with robotic recitation. Max couldn’t believe the words even as he spoke them. And when he thought about the horrific way he’d treated Liz in the days after he found her in bed with Kyle…how hateful and demeaning he’d been towards her…he wanted to cringe with shame and guilt. Max replayed the prior year and a half in his head, punishing and lashing himself with each remembrance. He’d mistrusted her, verbally abused her, lacerated her heart… Max had been so consumed with punishing himself for his past misdeeds that anger towards Liz and her part hadn’t even entered into his mind. Not then anyway. But Michael, his impetuous, hotheaded friend, hadn’t shared the same impediment.

“Who the hell does she think she is,” he had railed, “to keep something this important from us? Over a year, Maxwell! She’s had this information for over a year and this is the first we’ve heard of it?”

“She did what she thought was right,” Max had said without much conviction.

“What she thought?” Michael exploded, “It’s pretty clear Liz wasn’t doing any thinking at all! She played God in our friggin lives! How can you possibly be so cool about this, Maxwell?”

But Max wasn’t cool at all. In that very second his own anger and resentment began to build, continually growing beneath the surface until he thought he would come apart. But Max had been careful to check it while in Michael and Isabel’s presence. He hadn’t contributed to Michael’s tirade as Isabel had. He hadn’t breathed threat and murder against Liz nor had he allowed Michael or Isabel to say one nasty thing about her. But in truth, quite plainly, Max wanted to throttle her.

She had kept pertinent information from him, her so-called friend and soulmate. Even before all the drama with Tess, when he thought they were getting closer she could have come to him at any time and yet she hadn’t. Sure, she had said she was frightened and concerned with keeping the promise to his future self, but should not her first loyalty been with his present self and not some version that disappeared once she altered the first timeline’s events? Max was finding that particular reality a bit more difficult to accept.

He was left both appalled and furious by the notion that she had kept something so big and so important a secret for so long. Even after Tess left the planet she hadn’t said a word, despite the information that she’d received from Future Max that Tess was crucial to the four square. Future Max, he thought scornfully. The situation was so ridiculously preposterous he might have laughed himself into fits were it not for the irreversible damage that had been caused. Because of the information his future version had given Liz she had pushed him, the present Max, away and, in the process, damned them all to hell.

God…Future him…present him… If Max thought about it too long and hard his head would start to throb. And what was hardest to grasp was Liz’s reasoning behind it. Why had she waited so long to tell him the truth? He could understand in the beginning why she lied. Her fear of the future had to be bright before her eyes every single second. But Max couldn’t understand her continued silence. He couldn’t understand why she hadn’t confided in him after they’d made the mutual decision to trust each other again. But then he thought of his behavior following Alex’s death and even before and it was little wonder Liz’s confidence in him had been shaken.

“Brooding, Max?”

Max jerked up his head in surprise, his eyes narrowing with displeasure when he found Tess standing there smirking at him. He shuddered to think how long she’d been standing there watching him in his silent agony. His frown deepened.

Tess pouted a little when she saw his disgruntled expression. “Aww. You don’t look happy to see me.”

“I told you never to come to my work,” Max replied tersely. He mechanically positioned the alien back on his table before turning to regard Tess, his disgust barely concealed. “If you’re not here to talk about Zan then we have nothing to say to each other.”

“I can see that not much has changed since the last time we saw each other,” Tess said, “I’m hurt, Max, and especially after how close we got before…” She stepped closer, trailing her finger down the middle of his chest. “We can be that way again,” she purred.

Max violently slapped her hand away, looking ready to retch at her implication. “Don’t you ever touch me again,” he spat out in a hateful whisper, “I’ve told you before, Tess. You are nothing to me. I’d castrate myself before I touched you again.”

Tess lifted her slim shoulders in an unaffected shrug. “Yeah, you felt that way once before and look what happened.”

“Never again,” Max vowed.

“Keep telling yourself that,” Tess replied, seeming unruffled by his insult, “Maybe you’ll believe it someday.”

“What do you want, Tess?” Max demanded, growing weary of her newest game.

“Per your stipulation, I’m here to discuss our son,” Tess provided succinctly, her smirk widening when she noted the near imperceptible twitch of Max’s mouth. She well knew how he hated the reminder that he’d once willingly yielded his body to her. Tess took the opportunity to remind him every chance she got. “I just came from visiting him,” she said, “and your mother and sister hovered over me the entire time like I was some sort of criminal or something.” Her blue eyes flashed warningly. “I want it to stop.”

“You are a criminal, Tess,” Max replied dully, “A murderer…or did you forget?”

“Alex was an accident,” Tess defended coldly, “I never had anything against him. I was sorry he died.”

“Save it!”

“I’m not the cold blooded killer you make me out to be, Max,” Tess replied softly, “But you want to believe that so you can play the victim. You don’t want to admit that I’m just as much a victim as you are.”

“Whatever,” Max retorted dismissively, “I don’t trust you and I definitely don’t trust you with my son. As long as that’s so you’ll never be left alone with him…not if I can help it.”

“I wouldn’t hurt my own son,” Tess returned coldly, “You should try and remember that the only reason he’s living with you now is because I allow it. I should be able to see him unsupervised if I want.”

Max uttered a scornful laugh. “And we both know the only reason you allowed Zan to live with me was because he was an inconvenience to you,” he threw back caustically, “You can hardly plot the downfall of the world with a eight month old underfoot, now can you?”

“What are you talking about now, Max?” Tess sighed dismissively, turning away, “Is this another one of your tiresome conspiracy theories? Which one is it this time? The one where I’m using you to gain control of the crown?”

“I know you’re working with Khivar, Tess.”

“Where do you come up with this nonsense?” Tess cried, “He tried to kill my son for God’s sake! Why would I be in league with him?”

“Because you’re a greedy, self-serving bitch,” Max provided succinctly.

Tess laughed off the slur. “You didn’t seem to think so when you were inside me,” she reminded him laughingly, “If I recall you seemed to enjoy it thoroughly. I wasn’t so much a bitch then, was I, Max?” Max turned away, out of arguments, cowed as he usually was when she brought up that night. She knew she had only to mention it to leave him writhing like a helpless insect on the floor. Tess’ smirk widened all the more. “I wonder what your pretty little Lizzie would say if she knew how you had moaned, how you had never wanted it to stop…”

“Shut up!” Max cried.

“I can still remember how you ran your fingers over my skin,” she continued breathily, feathering her own fingers down the naked flesh of her forearms, “You told me my skin was so soft…”

Max lunged at her. “Shut up or so help me--!”

Tess didn’t even flinch. She stared up at Max with unblinking blue eyes. “You’ll what, Max?” she challenged, goading, “You’ll kill me? We both know you won’t. You don’t have the guts. You’d never do that to Zan.”

“I hate you,” Max spat, shrinking back from her. She was right. He couldn’t kill her…not in cold blood and mainly because, no matter how galling he found the reality, she was the mother of his child. Tess might be an evil, calculating harpy but Zan was too young to know that.

“You’re a fool, Max,” Tess uttered when he fell back from her, “A spineless, little boy. It’s little wonder Vilandra betrayed you.”

“Then why do you want me then?” he wondered woodenly.

“For all the reasons I’ve told you before,” Tess said quietly, “Despite your flaws…I do love you, Max.”

Max laughed so hard he started to choke. “You’re friggin out of your mind,” he gasped hysterically, “You’ve got to be.”

“Khivar could have never taken you had you returned to Antar with me,” Tess went on, “Don’t you see? Our people are waiting for you, Max. They’re waiting for you to come back and claim your rightful place as their King. He would not have killed you. We could have survived somehow. Someone would have helped us, Max. The crown would have been ours again.”

“I don’t want it,” Max uttered, sobering. He fixed Tess with a hard stare of unyielding hatred. “I don’t want you.”

“Then you deserve whatever you get,” Tess whispered with a shrug.

“Are you threatening me?”

“No,” Tess returned lightly, “Just stating a fact. Khivar wants you dead and he’ll pick you off without a problem if you keep refusing to protect yourself.”

“And by protecting myself you mean aligning myself with you?”

“It’s a start,” Tess said, “We’d form a united front for the people. King and Queen united at last and with their heir already in place.”

Max laughed again, tired and world worn. “Is there a point to this visit, Tess?”

“Don’t try and stand between me and my son,” Tess threatened flatly, “You’ll be crushed, Max, I guarantee it.”

“We’ll see who’s crushed,” Max returned softly, “Now leave. I have work.”

“This isn’t over you know,” Tess told him.

“Yeah,” Max said, turning away from her altogether, “I think it is.”

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Post by Deejonaise » Fri Jan 23, 2004 4:41 pm

Chapter Five

“So how did he react?” Maria asked eagerly when Liz finished recounting her confrontation with Max earlier that afternoon.

Liz munched on a potato chip and fixed her gaze over Maria’s shoulder. “I don’t know.” She was momentarily distracted when her mother passed by her open door for the fifth time in a fifteen-minute span. Liz narrowed her eyes in affronted displeasure. It was quite evident that Nancy Parker was eavesdropping despite her clever attempts to mask her actions.

Holding up a lone finger to silence the beginnings of Maria’s verbal gush of confusion, Liz slipped from the bed and quietly eased her bedroom door shut. “My mother was listening to every word,” she explained at Maria’s puzzled look. She folded herself back down onto the bed. “The less my parents know about what goes on between Max and me the better. They know way too much about my life as it is.”

“So,” Maria prompted in an impatient, conspiratorial whisper, “What did he say?”

“He was shocked, of course,” Liz confided glumly, “He didn’t know how to react or what to say. I thought…it…well, it looked like he was gonna cry or something.”

“Liz?” Maria questioned, glimpsing the expression of pure anguish on Liz’s face before she had the forethought to mask it, “Are you okay?” When Liz didn’t answer her she pushed herself upright and scooted over beside her friend so that she could put her arms around her stoic companion. “Liz, don’t hate me for asking you this but…are you sure you’re over him?” Maria wondered tentatively.

Liz pulled her knees tight against her chest, staring off into space. “I don’t want to be around him anymore,” she replied in a hoarse whisper, “Isn’t that the same thing?”

Maria uttered a sad, sympathetic chuckle. “Not necessarily,” she said, “Most days I don’t want to be around Michael either, but then when we’re apart I feel like I’ll go insane waiting for the next time we’re together again.”

“I don’t feel that way about Max,” Liz denied, rolling away from Maria’s embrace, “It’s a relief when he’s not around.” She tunneled her fingers through her disheveled hair, cradling her head as if it ached. “And it’s not the whole thing with Tess anymore either,” she grumbled morosely, “I think I get that now…sorta… I just can’t get over how he turned on me.” She looked up at Maria with shimmering eyes. “It was a complete 180, Maria, and I just don’t get it. After everything he said to me about waiting for me and wanting only me…about always being there for me. I can’t trust anything he says now and I can’t love someone I don’t trust.”

“Liz? You don’t love him anymore,” Maria speculated in surprise. Somehow she had never envisioned the day when Liz Parker would stop loving Max Evans or vice versa. She was finding herself hard pressed to believe it now. “God, Liz…that’s crazy! I think this is your broken heart talking.”

“No, it’s really not,” Liz protested softly, “When I was with him today in the Eraser Room I didn’t feel…anything, Maria… I mean, at least not like what I used to feel. Instead I just…pitied him, you know. He was standing there, Maria, practically begging me with his eyes to take him back and I…couldn’t have cared less.”

“I know he hurt you really bad,” Maria considered softly.

“He was like someone I didn’t even know,” Liz countered thickly, “I’m glad it’s over.”

Maria shivered at Liz’s words. Though she had been a dutiful best friend in Liz’s absence snubbing Max whenever the occasion arose Maria had never believed the silence between them would go on indefinitely. She had witnessed firsthand just how much Liz adored Max Evans. Eventually they would make peace and find their way back to each other. Isn’t that what soulmates did, after all? But apparently, Liz didn’t think so. By all accounts she was really and truly done with Max. The realization saddened Maria for more than just the obvious reasons. After all, if Max and Liz couldn’t make it what hope was there for a relationship as volatile as the one she had with Michael?

“Don’t think like that,” Liz said softly, easily reading the anxious thoughts that chased their way across Maria’s face. “Our situations aren’t the same. Michael didn’t betray your friendship and your trust in him. Whenever you’ve really needed him he’s been there for you.”

“Max was there for you, too,” Maria reminded her, “Liz…I know you’re angry but… I never thought you guys would break up forever.”

“He let me down, Maria,” Liz replied grimly, “When Alex died. When I was a mess he left me twisting in the wind. I can never forgive him for that. I thought I could but… When he let Tess go afterwards, when he let her just leave the planet when he knew what she had done… I hate him for that,” she ground out, “I hate him for letting Alex’s killer go free. I hate him for making a baby with her.”

Maria ached to hear the raw turmoil in Liz’s tone, ached all the more because she was all too aware that Tess Harding still had yet to pay for her crimes. She lowered her eyes, fingering the loose threads of the bed comforter. “Lizzie,” she began uneasily, “I think there’s something you need to know--,”

“Liz, why is this door closed?” Nancy Parker demanded, unknowingly interrupting Maria’s would be confession as she stomped into the room, “You know the rules. I think you’ve lost the right to privacy in the house, young lady.”

“Does that mean you get to listen in on my conversations?” Liz demanded testily.

Her mother shot her a warning look and folded her arms over her breasts in a challenging stance. “Does that mean you’re ready for Maria to go home now?”

Liz set her teeth hard and swallowed the various disrespectful replies dancing at her lips. “No, Mother,” she replied dutifully. However, when her mother continued to linger she couldn’t keep herself from tacking on a snarky, “Did you want something?”

“You have a phone call,” Nancy informed her tartly, passing the phone towards her.

Frowning, Liz numbly plucked the phone from her mother’s fingers. “I don’t remember hearing it ring,” she said carefully, acutely aware of her mother’s thunderous expression. She couldn’t imagine that all Nancy’s anger was based on her one smart remark.

“That’s because I was on the other line at the time,” Nancy replied, “It’s that boy.” The disdain dripping from her tone was unmistakable. It was David calling. Liz almost dropped the phone at the realization. Her body began a perceptible trembling.

“How did you get my number here?” Liz whispered into the receiver after her mother had gone. Her tone wasn’t particularly accusing but rather filled with a weary resignation.

“It wasn’t exactly easy,” David said, seeming not to be offended by her frigid greeting, “You are not an easy woman to track down. But I was pretty determined despite this thing you have about leaving without saying good-bye.”

“David, please!” Liz groaned in long-suffering. Beside her Maria immediately perked up with interest. Aware of her scrutiny Liz lowered her voice to a bare whisper. “You really shouldn’t have called here.”

“So I gathered. You don’t sound exactly thrilled to hear from me and your mother…well, hard ass is much too mild a word to describe her,” he went on ironically, “For a minute I didn’t think she was going to give you the phone at all.”

“David, you’re complicating everything,” Liz told him, becoming increasingly conscious of Maria’s unabashed eavesdropping. She slipped from the bed and crossed the room in an effort to keep the conversation private but Maria trailed after her determinedly. She covered over the phone receiver, hissing her best friend’s name in admonishment. Maria only shrugged unrepentantly. She was evidently determined to listen in whether Liz wanted her to or not. With a shrug and an eye roll Liz gave up and returned to her phone conversation. “Why are you doing this?” she asked plaintively, “I did you a favor by disappearing in the first place. You be happy I’m gone.”

“How do you figure that?” David wondered.

“I doubt you’re anymore thrilled about this pregnancy than I am,” Liz sighed, “This has to be the last thing you want.”

“Elizabeth. Elizabeth,” he tsked quietly, “I asked you to marry me, remember? I have no intention of leaving you to handle this all on your own. That’s not even who am I.”

“Why are you being so persistent?” Liz ground out in frustration.

“Why are you?” he countered softly, “Was the damned proposal that repugnant to you, Lizbeth? And here I thought I was being noble.”

“You were being noble,” Liz conceded weakly, “And incredibly sweet. But I can’t marry you, David. I…I don’t love you.”

“Well, duh!”

Liz coughed out a giggle despite herself, little surprise that he was sentient of that fact because he certainly didn’t act like he was. “Then why did you propose in the first place?” she wondered in natural confusion.

“I thought…I think we would be good together,” he said practically, “Your mother believes I’m the scum of the earth right now. I’d like to change her opinion…if that’s even possible. I don’t want her to think I’m just some guy who goes about randomly knocking up high school girls.”

“Please tell me she doesn’t know you proposed,” Liz groaned in horror.

“Are you kidding?” he laughed, “I couldn’t get a word in edgewise with all the cursing and name calling. I guess I didn’t make as good an impression on you as I thought.”

Belatedly realizing that he was assuming she had told her mother something unflattering about him Liz quickly corrected his assumptions. “I haven’t told my parents anything about you, David,” she revealed, “Not how we met or even how I got pregnant. I don’t think either of them are really ready to know anyway.”

“And when you do tell them?” he prodded, “What will you say?”

“That we are practically strangers and I don’t know you very well,” Liz answered honestly. He didn’t say anything immediately but Liz still detected his staccato sigh of disapproval. “David, you know that’s true.”

“You could change that,” he countered softly, “If you wanted.” Sensing she was about to launch into yet another argument about how getting married would be a colossal mistake David wisely changed his tactics. “So the marriage proposal was a bit impulsive of me,” he admitted magnanimously.

“That’s a very mild interpretation,” Liz replied dryly.

“Okay, it was over the top,” David agreed, “But what about friendship, huh? I thought we got along pretty well. We made a baby together so…”

“David, I haven’t even decided what I want to do about this pregnancy,” Liz hedged uncomfortably, “I’m…I’m not ready to be a mom…or…or anything. I can’t make a decision to save my life right now.”

“Then don’t decide anything just yet,” he coaxed imploringly, “Let me come to see you. Please, Elizabeth. I’ll come during Spring Break and then we’ll sit down and talk out our next move. Please…let me do this with you.”

Liz held the phone away from her ear for a moment, silently agonizing. She flashed a helpless glance at Maria who could offer her nothing more than a shrug. When she spoke again her tone had lost much of its conviction but remained as conflicted as before. “You know I’m giving you the free and clear to walk away now, David. I seriously wouldn’t blame you.”

“I’m not taking it,” he said flatly, “If you…if we decide to have this baby then I want to be a father to it. That’s the deal.”

“Okay, Pushy,” Liz groused, “You win. You can come up Spring Break, but no more marriage talk. Is that clear?”

“As a bell,” David said, “I’ll call you back tomorrow. We’ll talk more then.”

“W-Wait!” Liz cried when he would have hung up, “You never told me how you found me in the first place.”

“Private Investigator,” David answered glibly, “How else?”

For several minutes after he hung up Liz held the phone in stunned silence. In fact, it was Maria who, having realized that the conversation was over, picked the phone from Liz’s stiff fingers and clicked the off button. “So that was the infamous David McKee,” she remarked slowly when Liz continued to stare off blindly into space, her eyes glimmering with unshed tears. “I assume the conversation went well?” she prompted further.

Liz zigzagged a frantic look to Maria’s face. “He wants to come down here and see me for Spring Break,” she revealed frenetically.

“Yeah, I already heard that part for myself,” Maria returned glibly, “How do you feel about it?”

Without warning, Liz grabbed hold of Maria’s shoulders and gave her a frantic shake. “Oh my God, Maria! My life’s a friggin mess!”

“Liz, get a grip!” Maria cried, unsuccessfully trying to shake off Liz’s hold.

“Don’t you realize how incredibly bad this is?” Liz ranted on obliviously, “I’ve screwed up my entire life!” Abruptly, she released Maria and doubled over, clutching at her middle. “God, what have I done,” she sobbed, “I don’t even know who the hell I am anymore.” She sank down to her knees, weeping brokenly.

“Liz, I don’t get it,” Maria whispered, crouching down beside Liz to stroke her hair tenderly, “I thought David wanting to help you with the baby was a good thing, babe.”

“God, Maria, don’t you see!” Liz wept hysterically, “He’s the rebound guy, all right! It doesn’t matter how perfect he is or how good-looking or how smooth! I used him to get over Max…plain and simple and now…now I’m having his child. A perfect stranger’s child! I don’t want to be connected to him this way! I don’t want to have his baby! I’ve just made this terrible mistake and I can’t take it back. I’m so messed up, Maria,” she cried, sobbing anew, gratefully turning into Maria’s waiting arms, “God, I’m so messed up.”

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Post by Deejonaise » Mon Jan 26, 2004 2:11 am

Chapter Six

“You’re a real bitch, you know that?”

Liz didn’t immediately glance up from her task of scrubbing the counter though she did falter a bit. Her body trembled all over as adrenaline pounded through her veins. She wasn’t ready to face Isabel Evans’ understandable wrath but Liz saw no way of putting it off either.

After several tension filled moments Liz sighed resolutely and lifted her eyes to meet Isabel’s fierce glare. “Isabel, I’m really busy,” she said by way of dismissal, “Can we please do this some other time?” Her tone was weary, pleading but Liz wasn’t naïve enough to believe that would incur much sympathy with Isabel. In fact, she didn’t delude herself into thinking that Isabel would let her off the hook at all so Liz stood there and mentally prepared herself for battle.

“No, we can’t do this some other time,” Isabel answered curtly, “You’d better start explaining yourself right now.”

“This is hardly the time,” Liz interjected weakly in a last ditch effort to quell the coming confrontation.

“I don’t give a damn,” Isabel responded with succinct accuracy, snagging hold of Liz’s arm when she would have turned away, “You’re not walking away from this, Liz. Not again.”

Liz jerked from her grasp. “Isabel, look around you,” she commanded in a low hiss, “This place is totally packed. Do you really want to discuss this right here, right now?” Isabel’s belligerent expression didn’t waver one iota. “God, Isabel,” Liz uttered in frustration, “I didn’t realize you had such a flare for melodrama.”

“That’s laughable coming from you,” Isabel responded tartly, “Especially since any all the drama that’s taken place in my life the last year has centered around you.”

“I know you’re angry--,”

“If it wasn’t for my brother I’d seriously toast your ass.”

“Okay,” Liz huffed, affronted, “So you’re more than angry, but surely you can see my side of things--,”

“No…no I can’t.”

“Isabel, stop being so unreasonable,” Liz whispered with a degree of sadness, “You know I would have never set out to deliberately hurt you…any of you.” But Isabel’s gaze remained hardened, cold and unmoved. “Isabel, come on,” Liz pleaded, “We were friends once…can’t you give me the benefit of the doubt?”

“You lost that privilege when you stabbed my brothers and me in the back.” She lowered her tone further, her pretty features crumpling into a mask of hurt, anger and disbelief. “How could you do it, Liz? How could you keep something so important from us for so long…manipulate Max that way?”

“I didn’t manipulate him,” Liz denied hotly.

“Oh you can tie it up with all your noble intentions but it all boils down to the same thing,” Isabel spat out scornfully, “You played around with his head. You played around with us all.”

“I’m sure Max has already explained all this to you,” Liz replied faintly, “Most particularly the reasons I did what I did and none of those reasons included manipulation.”

“Well, I’m afraid I don’t understand your reasons any better than Max does,” Isabel muttered scornfully, “God! Do you have any idea what you did to him, Liz? Do you even care?”

“I did all this to protect him, Isabel,” Liz whispered in her defense, “I did it to protect you, too. I…I never meant for anyone to be hurt by it.”

“I don’t want to hear it,” Isabel barked out coldly, “I don’t want to hear anymore of your pathetic excuses. Don’t you know what you did? It’s your fault, Liz! I’m holding you completely responsible.”

Liz shrank back a little with the force of Isabel’s barely contained rage. “Wha…What’s my fault?” she wondered in dull confusion.

“Alex,” she provided with a flash of tears, “You’re the reason he’s dead.” She angrily swiped at the tears slipping down her flawless cheeks but they were quickly replaced with more. “God, when I think about how you were after he died…standing there and accusing us…accusing Max… But if you had never messed around with the timeline in the first place none of it would have happened! Tess would have been long gone by then. But instead you were the one who kept a killer in our mist! You are the reason Alex is dead and I will never, never forgive you for it. And I’ll never let you forget it!” When Isabel stalked away from the counter she was weeping openly, emotionally undone, but then again, so was Liz.

She stood at there, forgotten towel in her hand, sobbing uncontrollably. Liz was blind to the customers’ curious and concerned stares, blind to the spectacle she was making. A few seconds later she felt Maria encircle her shoulders gently. “Chica, what’s wrong,” Maria murmured, “What the hell did she say to you?” Liz didn’t answer, but she cried and cried leaving Maria with little recourse but to take her back to the storeroom where Liz could break down in private.

Liz was aware of Maria leading her back to the storeroom but she barely registered the trip. Her mind was echoing with Isabel’s parting words. You are the reason Alex is dead and I will never, never let you forget it! It wasn’t anything Liz hadn’t already tortured herself with internally but to hear the accusation aloud, to know that someone else felt the same… Then it must be true, Liz considered as she sank down onto the sofa. Not just her guilt at all. Liz wept almost uncontrollably at the thought, muffling her sobs behind the tissues that Maria pressed into her hands.

“You can’t listen to anything Isabel says, Liz,” Maria soothed helplessly, “She’s gonna think Max walks on water no matter what he does.” But again Liz didn’t answer her, didn’t even acknowledge that she’d spoken at all. It was as if she was trapped in her own private hell. Maria stooped down before Liz, reaching forward to wipe the tears from her friend’s face with a Kleenex. “Liz, I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s wrong,” she whispered.

“She’s right, Maria,” Liz sobbed brokenly, “She’s right…”

Maria brushed back damp tendrils of hair from Liz’s cheek. “Right about what, babe?” she prodded in gentle tones.

“Liz?” Both Liz and Maria jerked upright at Nancy Parker’s intruding voice. Liz made a hasty attempt to collect herself and swipe at her streaming eyes but she was well aware that her mother had already seen all. “Maria, your tables need you,” Nancy interjected softly. As Maria nodded and rose to leave she added, “Can you cover Liz’s tables as well?” There was an extended whispered exchange between them before Maria finally left the storeroom to attend to her tables.

When mother and daughter were alone an awkward silence fell between them. Nancy Parker took a tentative seat beside a distraught Liz. “So,” she began with false casualness, “Do you want to talk about it?”

Liz licked away the salty tears at the corner of her mouth. “Mom, I’m really fine,” she protested weakly, “I just had a moment. Blame it on the hormones.”

“I don’t think that’s it at all,” Nancy replied knowingly, “I saw Max’s sister outside at her usual booth. Did she say something to upset you?”

“She didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know,” Liz whispered miserably.

“Is this about Max?”

“No, Mom,” Liz croaked with a fierce shake of her head, “This isn’t about Max. This is about everything else in my life. I’ve screwed up so bad that I…I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore.”

“I’ve been too hard on you, haven’t I?” Nancy surmised with a jerky nod.

“No, that’s not--,” But Liz caught herself in mid-protest, too weary and too broken to pretend any longer that her mother’s attitude wasn’t lacerating her emotionally. Fresh tears welled in her eyes as she regarded Nancy. “Mom, what did I do?” she wept, “Why are you treating me like…like you can’t stand the sight of me or something?”

Liz’s naked anguish proved to be Nancy’s undoing and, for the first time in days, her icy façade slipped. “Oh, Lizzie--,”

“I…I know you’re disappointed in me and I’m…I’m trying to do the right thing…but I don’t know…”

“Shh…Shh,” Nancy crooned, shushing Liz’s emotional tirade as it became increasingly garbled with wracking sobs. Nancy tugged Liz’s shaking body into her arms, cradling Liz against her heart and stroking her hair much the way she did when Liz was younger. “You’ve got this all wrong, Lizzie,” she whispered when most of Liz’s sobs had died down to hiccups.

“It’s like you hate me,” Liz mumbled desolately into her mother’s shirtfront.

“I don’t hate you,” Nancy contradicted with a small smile against Liz’s temple, “I’m disappointed though…very disappointed.”

Liz sniffled a bit and lifted her head from Nancy’s shoulder. “But…but you seem so angry,” she considered meekly.

“I am angry,” was her mother’s admission, “You were supposed to get out of here, Lizzie. You had the brains and the drive. Baby, you were destined to go so far. When you decided to go to Vermont to attend school I thought it was just the start.”

“The start of what?” Liz queried with a frown.

Her mother cupped her cheek, smiling sadly. “Of your brilliant future,” Nancy supplied somberly, “You were supposed to leave Roswell, New Mexico in the dust, sweetheart. This life,” she continued, gesturing around the dusty confines of the Crashdown storeroom, “This isn’t what I wanted for you. My baby deserved so much more than to spend her life serving greasy food to tourists in some town known only for a fabled UFO crash.”

Liz nibbled at her lip in guilty surprise. “But…but this is your life, Mom,” she protested lamely, “Aren’t you happy with it?”

Nancy cradled Liz’s face in her hands, meeting her daughter’s anxious gaze directly. “This is my life, sweetheart,” Nancy whispered regretfully, “It’s not yours.”

“Mom, I’m still going to go to school,” Liz promised, lifting Nancy’s hands from her cheeks to squeeze her fingers tightly, “I’m still going to realize my dream of becoming a molecular biologist.”

“It won’t be easy with a baby, Liz,” Nancy warned.

Liz responded with a crooked grin. “I know it,” she acknowledged with a touch of irony, “But you know…I don’t think I do easy very well at all.” Her mother laughed a bit at Liz’s self-deprecating joke and, surprisingly, Liz joined in. It was her first heartfelt laugh in ages and it felt good.

“Are you feeling better now?” Nancy asked softly when the moment between them grew quiet.

“I think I’m ready for round two,” Liz replied. But her reluctance to face Isabel Evans again was evident in her tone.

“You don’t have to deal with her, Liz,” her mother said, “Before Maria left I asked her if you could run Brody’s order over to the UFO Center in her place. I think you could use the air.”

Liz inwardly and outwardly balked at the suggestion. “No, Mom…I can’t,” she burst out quickly. She couldn’t deal with the thought of seeing Max right then much less the reality. Even the prospect of escaping Isabel and her accusations wasn’t worth a confrontation with Max.

Evidently, Liz’s feelings were plain on her face because her mother’s next words were, “He won’t be there.”

A little aggravated that her mother had read her so easily Liz attempted to feign ignorance. “I don’t know who you’re talking about,” she brazened casually.

Nancy was not fooled. “Liz,” her mother scolded in a long-suffering huff, “I know you’re worried about running into Max Evans but…Maria assures me that he does not work on Tuesdays so you won’t have to worry about any awkward confrontations. I think getting out in the fresh air for a bit will do you good. You can take your break right after.”

“Hmm…okay,” Liz agreed, needing no further convincing once the likelihood of seeing Max had been neutralized, “I could definitely use some think time.”

Ten minutes later Liz was on her way to the UFO Center with one Galaxy Sub with pepperjack cheese and no mayo. Her mother had been right about the fresh air. With each step outside Liz felt infinitely better. Suddenly her world didn’t seem as dismal as it had that morning. Liz was sure that a good deal of her good humor had to do with learning that her mother didn’t hate her after all. Knowing the reasons behind her mother’s offending behavior definitely eased much of Liz’s bleak outlook for the future. Liz still didn’t know what the hell she was going to do but she could look on the bright side. At least both her parents were on her side…

Brody was more than a little disappointed that Maria hadn’t been the one to deliver his order but he was polite enough to pretend otherwise. In an attempt to smooth things over, he rewarded Liz with a significantly large tip but only after making Liz promise that she’d give a portion of the money to Maria. Liz did indeed promise and, after chatting Brody up a bit more about school and such, Liz left him to his lunch.

She was just clearing the entrance to the center when she spotted Max out on the curb, hoisting something from his car. In an instant her good mood was ground into dust. Liz’s first instinct was to whirl on her heel and go running back into the UFO Center to hide but because it was likely that was the very place Max was headed she promptly abandoned that plan. But even with the demise of that plan Liz still felt the fierce need to run away.

Fight and flight were still warring within Liz when Max turned around and the two came face to face. That was the moment Liz recognized exactly what Max had been tugging from the back seat of his car. A baby carrier…

The air whooshed from Liz’s lungs in a painful exhalation as her eyes fell upon the sleeping infant nestled so lovingly in a downy blue blanket covered with yellow ducks. She didn’t have a moment’s doubt about the baby’s identity, not for a second. Liz didn’t need to look at Max and note the rapidly draining color from his cheeks to grasp the situation fully. This was the child that had torn them all apart. This was the child Alex had died for. This was the child Max had been bound and determined to find. This was the child whose existence had broken her heart.

“L-Liz?” Max stammered, growing increasingly alarmed by her broken expression as she stared down at his sleeping son, “I can explain--,”

“Is she dead?” Liz demanded in a throbbing whisper. She lifted brown eyes devoid of feeling to Max’s scattered gaze. “Just tell me she’s dead.”

“Liz, I can’t--,”

“Please tell me she paid for it, Max!” Liz cried hysterically, pacing around in little circles, “Tell me she paid for killing Alex! Tell me she’s dead!”

“She’s not,” Max answered quietly. He was completely unprepared for the ringing slap Liz dealt across his cheek. It rocked his whole body, momentarily upsetting the baby so that he cried out in his sleep. He slowly brought himself back around to face Liz, his demeanor humbled and accepting. “I suppose I understand why you felt you had to do that, but--,”

I don’t understand, Max,” Liz seethed tearfully, “What is wrong with you? When are you going to make her pay for what she did? Why are you still letting her get away with it? Why? Why?” She fisted her hands at her sides, bunching them so tightly that thin rivulets of blood began to leak from her palms where her nails bit into her flesh, so tightly that fiery crackles of green energy sparkled over her knuckles. “If you can’t kill her,” Liz ground out fiercely, “If you aren’t man enough…then I’ll do what you can’t.”

But Max barely registered her angry slur. He was transfixed by the display of energy racing over her hands, her wrists, traveling quickly up the length of her forearms. “Oh my God,” he breathed huskily, both horrified and amazed by the spectacle, “Liz?” Only when he reached out a trembling hand to touch her did Liz become aware of the manifestation she was creating. She quickly danced out of his reach; reflexively folding her arms into her chest to conceal the energy sparks. “Liz,” Max said again, his tone low with urgency, “What the hell is that?”

“You have to stay away from me, Max,” she muttered wildly, backing away from him with small, frenetic steps, “Don’t you see what you’re doing? I can’t go through this again…not on top of everything else.”

“Through what?” Max demanded anxiously, “Liz, I don’t understand.”

“I don’t want this,” she retorted harshly, “I just want to live my life! I want to have a normal life, damn you! Please,” she begged when he began unconsciously advancing, “Please Max…just stay away from me.”

Max responded to her plea with an anguished grimace. “I…can’t.”

“I’m not letting you do this to me again,” she whispered fiercely, “Just stay away from me.” And this time she didn’t give him a chance to respond but instead turned on her heel and took off for the Crashdown in a dead run.
Last edited by Deejonaise on Mon Jan 26, 2004 9:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Deejonaise » Tue Jan 27, 2004 1:41 pm

Chapter Seven

Max’s every instinct screamed for him to run after her and it took Herculean effort not to do so. His need to know what was going on with her practically grated at his insides, twisting them painfully and still he didn’t budge. There would be little point anyway. He absently fingered the tingly patch right below his cheekbone where she had walloped him. She had been barely holding it together during those few moments they had spoken. Liz wasn’t ready to deal with him, Max recognized. But then…he wasn’t ready to deal with her either.

She had told him that she wanted to live her life, a normal life as if he were complicating that goal somehow. Max almost wanted to laugh. And what did he want? Friggin chaos? He wondered acerbically if she had given a thought to the numerous complications she had caused in his life lately. Max certainly didn’t need the never-ending angst that seemed to billow behind Liz Parker like a voluminous cloak. He had school, a job and a baby to contend with, not to mention a psycho ex…whatever the hell Tess was, and tiptoeing around Liz’s delicate feelings was an added stress he did not need. But Max found that he couldn’t ignore them. He couldn’t ignore her. Period.

That moment when she leaned about Tess and she had looked at him with such scathing disappointment was lanced into Max’s brain. If he had been unsure of her feelings at that point the look of pure loathing she had given him then would have cleared up all confusion. He had let her down…again. And this time because he hadn’t made Tess pay for killing Alex.

But then what the hell did she expect? He wasn’t a machine or some cold-blooded killer. Was he supposed to just walk up to Tess, snap her neck and be done with it? Much as he hated Tess, much as he regretted ever having laid a finger on her…he couldn’t just kill her. Max had only to look into his son’s sweet, innocent face to remember all the reasons why he couldn’t.

He sighed despondently, trading uncertain glances between the Crashdown and his sleeping child. On the one hand he was inclined to be pragmatic. Liz was obviously manifesting alien powers. That alone demanded his immediate attention and provoked a myriad of questions and theories. His natural and understandable need to know was burning a hole in his gut. However, on the other hand, it was unlikely Liz would be anymore forthcoming about her changes than she had been a few minutes prior. He’d received a slap for his trouble the first time. Max was pretty sure she’d kick him to death if he went after her again. But even with that violent prospect ahead of him Max couldn’t easily shake off the inclination.

He stared down at the lolling head of his sleeping son once more before making the spontaneous decision to simply let it go. If Liz didn’t want to talk about what was going on with her, if she wanted him to leave her alone then he had no choice but to respect her wishes. For now anyway… But Max recognized that their avoidance dance couldn’t go on forever. Eventually Liz would have to swallow her pride and anger and talk to him. In the meantime, he’d have to bide his times and consider the various other pressing matters in his life, namely why he’d made a trip to the UFO Center on his day off in the first place.

For the sixth night in a row he’d had the same terrifying dream: a red giant, pulsing brilliantly before exploding into a million tiny pinpoints of light. Only in his dreams, the dying planet wasn’t some obscure orb in some unknown galaxy, but his very own home planet. With his waking from each nightmare Max felt a curious sense of urgency, an instinctual knowledge that something was deeply wrong. He’d gone to Isabel with his dream, hoping she might be able to decipher what was going on in his subconscious but Max had left her as equally perplexed as he was.

His sister was inclined to believe that his dream was just that…a dream, brought on by all the recent stress crowding his life. Michael had hazarded the same diagnosis when Max had taken the problem to him. Max might have been inclined to agree with them both were it not for the nagging sense of doom that continued with him long after the dream had dissipated.

In a last desperate attempt to make sense of it all Max thought he would try and reach Larek. If something were going on with their planet then surely his old friend would know. Perhaps Larek could provide an altogether different perspective on his dream. He could also give Max some insight on whether or not Tess’ claims against Khivar were grounded in fact. Ever since Liz’s revelation about Future Max and Tess being integral to their group Max had been unsure. Was Tess friend or foe? Was she their salvation or their downfall? Max didn’t know anymore, but he hoped to God that Larek did.

Max found Brody in the control station, scanning over the inventory files and gulping down the remains of his galaxy sub. When he saw Max, however, a smile of genuine pleasure lit Brody’s face. “Max!” he exclaimed, rising to greet his employee, “I wasn’t expecting you!” He stooped down low to stroke the baby’s cheek before throwing a glance up at Max. “What brings you by?”

“My check,” Max improvised smoothly, “I was hoping I could get it.”

“You’re scheduled tomorrow, Max,” Brody reasoned blandly as he straightened, “You didn’t have to bring the baby out all this way…unless…” His eyes unconsciously slid in the direction of the Crashdown. Brody regarded his young employee speculatively. “Liz Parker is back in town,” he announced carefully, “Did you know that?”

Max’s mouth thinned into a grim smirk. “I saw her at school and,” he rushed on before Brody could offer his commiseration, “I am fine. She asked me to stay away from her and I’m trying to respect her wishes. I didn’t come out here to see her if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“I know you two didn’t part on the best of terms,” Brody offered sympathetically.

“I’m fine,” Max insisted again.

“But I imagine it must be very hard for you,” Brody considered, nibbling on the inside of his jaw, “Did you know that she only left here not ten minutes before you arrived? If you had come just two minutes earlier--,”

“Yeah, Brody…I know,” Max replied unanswerably and then he added because he was perfectly uneasy with the personal direction of their conversation, “Do you think I could get my check now?”

“Just give me a minute,” Brody said, “I have to get it from the safe.”

A few minutes later Brody reappeared, check in hand. For a moment Max hesitated, aware of the dangers of connecting with Larek this way but he had too many unanswered questions. Max had no choice but to rely on his own healing skills if the situation came to that.

Inhaling a shuddering breath, Max reached out and deliberately grasped hold of Brody’s hand to form a connection. Immediately there was a quick, kindling flare as Max entered Brody’s psyche and mentally called out to Larek. The connection lasted only the briefest of seconds and when it was over Brody was left with only a mild feeling of vertigo.

He eyed his eccentric employee expectantly, noting that Max had yet to accept his paycheck. After several moments Brody merely shoved it into Max’s limp fingers. “I thought you wanted it,” he said when Max appeared stunned by the gesture.

“I…I did,” Max stammered, crushed that he had failed in his attempt. He crumpled the check in his hand and stuffed it into his pants pocket. “Well…I guess I’ll see you tomorrow night then,” he told Brody despondently.

“Tomorrow night,” Brody agreed, watching as Max scooped up his son, “Go home and play with your boy. Enjoy your day off.”

“I will,” Max replied quietly, shoulders slumped as he loped for the exit.

Max had only just finished strapping an awake and slightly fussy Zan back into his car seat when he heard his name being called…his Antarian name. With a shuddering breath of relief Max reflexively placed a nearby teething ring into Zan’s chubby fingers and then whirled to face Larek. “I didn’t think you’d heard me,” he sighed when his friend had closed the distance.

“I was not in a position to answer you straight away,” Larek explained apologetically, “But then I thought we had the understanding that I would be the one contacting you. It is dangerous for the human host otherwise.”

“I need your help,” Max told him, “Otherwise I would never have risked it.”

“What can I do?” Larek asked with immediate concern.

Max cut right to the chase. “Tess,” he provided in an emphatic whisper, “I need to know if she’s a threat to me.”

Larek shook his head, evidently perplexed by the question. “I do not understand,” he said, “Are you now having second thoughts about trusting Ava?”

“Yes…no…I don’t know,” Max replied indecisively, “I still don’t trust her, but what I need to know is if I need her.”

“Need her?” Larek echoed in confusion.

“Recently I’ve come across some information that has lead me to believe Tess may be integral to our group and our survival on this planet,” he sighed, “I wanted to know if there was any truth to that. Do Michael, Isabel and I need Tess?”

“Your queen completes the four square, my lord,” Larek answered, “It is how you were engineered…to work together. You were not made to exist apart from each other.” When Max seemed displeased with the answer Larek cautiously added, “This does not mean, however, that I think it wise to trust her, Zan.”

“Then what? She says Khivar means to kill her,” Max considered tautly, “She keeps telling me that we need to band together in order to defeat him, but she’s already attempted to double cross us once before. I’m not willing to give her a second opportunity.”

“A wise choice,” Larek commended.

“But that still doesn’t answer my question,” Max thought aloud, “Do we really need Tess to defeat Khivar or is this just another one of her tricks? Have you found there to be any substance to her claims that Khivar wants her dead?”

“She is considered a fugitive here,” Larek told him, “Khivar has put a price on her head. But it could easily be a ruse. With Khivar one can never know and with the recent planetary unrest--,”

“Planetary unrest?” Max fired in interruption, his entire body on alert, “What planetary unrest? Has there been another revolt?”

“No revolts, Zan. But many, many landquakes of late.” Max felt a prickle of apprehension over that. However, before he could question him further about it Larek had already posed a question of his own. “Where exactly did you hear this information pertaining to Queen Ava? Is your source reliable?”

“As they come,” Max replied firmly, “She’s absolutely sure about this, Larek. And you’ve already confirmed that we four were designed to function as a unit so…”

“But it does not make her any less a traitor, Zan,” Larek reminded him gently, “Do not be so quick to let her back into your folds. Allow me to do some further investigating on the matter before you make a decision.”

“Thank you, Larek,” Max replied gratefully, “And there is actually another matter I need to speak to you about--,”

“Can it keep until another time, old friend?” Larek inquired somewhat impatiently as he clapped Max on the shoulder, “The human is weakening and I am sure my absence will have been noted by now. I will contact you again soon.” Brody collapsed weakly into Max’s arms the moment Larek relinquished control of his body. But Max quickly assimilated that Brody was only stunned and not in arrest.

“Wha-What happened?” Brody inquired fuzzily as he regained his balance. He glanced about him, his brow furrowed in confusion. “Did I follow you out?”

“I left my check behind,” Max lied smoothly, pulling his check from his pocket for authenticity, “I walked right out the building without taking it. I guess my brain cells are fried from all the sleep deprived nights I’ve had.”

Brody’s frown deepened, as if he was uncertain whether or not he should believe him. Max could tell from the cloudy expression in his boss’ eyes that Brody had lost track of the last few minutes. He had no recollection how he’d come to be outside at all. “Maybe you should go home and get some rest yourself,” Max told him, hoping to soothe him a bit, “You look like you might be a bit sleep deprived yourself.”

“Maybe you’re right,” Brody agreed with a crooked smile and a scratch of his head, “I think I’ll close up early tonight.”

“Good idea.”

“Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, Max,” Brody said, waving Max off as he disappeared back into the UFO Center. Only when Brody was gone did Max slump in relief. His opportunity for peace was exceedingly brief; however, because only a few seconds later Isabel came barreling toward him, her coattails flapping smartly behind her, her face twisted in an anxious grimace.

“Was that Brody?” she fired out before she’d even reached Max, “Did you get in contact with Larek?”

“I contacted him,” Max confirmed.


“He doesn’t know if Tess is lying about Khivar wanting her dead or not,” he told Isabel, “But he doesn’t think we should trust her either.”

“That was never going to happen regardless,” Isabel retorted dryly, “But I’d like to know what we’re up against.” She paused a moment to study the pensive expression on her brother’s face. “Did you ask him about the dreams?”

“There wasn’t a chance,” Max said, “Brody was in distress and Larek couldn’t risk staying longer. It will have to keep til next time.”

“I guess,” Isabel agreed.

Brother and sister fell into an awkward silence, all too aware of the mountain load of conversation that went unspoken between them. “So…uh…I’d better get Zan back home,” Max hedged finally, “He’s starting to get fussy and I didn’t bring any of his stuff.”

“Okay. Just let me give him a quick kiss good-bye.”

As Isabel crouched down to pepper her nephew with kisses and coo gibberish Max leaned close and said carefully, “Iz…there’s something else.”

The ominous edge she heard in his tone made her shiver. Isabel fixed him with an apprehensive glance over her shoulder. “What is it?”

“It’s Liz.”

Isabel’s anxiety gradually gave way to irritation. “Look, Max,” she huffed, “I get that you’re all into being supportive of Liz’s decision and all that, but I don’t feel the same. She played God with our lives and…I just can’t forgive that.”

“This isn’t about that.”

“Then what is it about now?” Isabel sighed with eye-rolling impatience.

“There’s been a development with Liz, Isabel,” Max said, staring down at his hands as he shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other, “She has powers.”

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Post by Deejonaise » Wed Jan 28, 2004 9:12 am

Chapter Eight

“Why the hell didn’t you tell me?” Liz cried as she cornered her best friend on the back stairwell, “Do you have any idea how I felt to find out like that…to see him standing there with his…his son?”

Maria shrank back from Liz in tearful regret. “I didn’t know what to tell you, Liz,” she groaned, “You were already dealing with so much. I didn’t want to add one more thing.”

Liz snorted indifferently, pacing the floor in small, frantic circles. “How long has she been back?” she demanded woodenly.

“Since late September sometime,” Maria whispered.

“Late September?” Liz burst out, “Why are you just now telling me, Maria? Why didn’t I know before?”

“You were in Vermont, okay!” Maria fired out in her defense, “I didn’t think you were coming back here at all and… You were the one to put the kybosh on all things alien, Liz. I couldn’t tell you…you wouldn’t have wanted to hear it anyway.”

With the last of Maria’s statement much of the fight went out of Liz. She couldn’t argue logic with Maria any further. It was true…what Maria said was true. She had insisted upon avoiding all things alien once she left Roswell. Her entire time in Vermont Liz had never once inquired about the goings on back home and Maria had never once volunteered. Liz had lived in a self-composed ignorance and she had preferred it that way…or so she had believed at the time.

Shaking all over with thwarted frustration, Liz wilted back against the nearest wall and slid down to the floor. She brought her knees up against her chest and hooked her forearms around the tops loosely. “Where is she now?” Liz whispered, her voice deceptively calm when she asked the question.

But Maria wasn’t deceived by Liz’s apparent serene manner. She could see quite clearly the riotous emotion going on behind her friend’s eyes. “You know that doesn’t even matter, Liz,” she sighed, sinking down on her haunches so that she and Liz could be eye level, “Just let it go.”

“I need to know where to find her.”

Maria groaned in disbelief. “Please tell me you’re not thinking about confronting her, Liz!” Brown eyes skittered guiltily in the adjacent direction. “Liz?” Maria prodded again, on the edge of panic, “Tell me that’s not what you’re thinking!”

“Either you can tell me, Maria,” Liz reasoned with soft resolution, “Or I can find her myself.” She looked at Maria, her gaze a mixture of hard conviction and tearful pleading. “Which way will it be?”

“Are you nuts?” Maria hissed irately, “You can not face her, okay! Tess Harding is a killer. You remember what she did to Alex. Is that how you want to end up? Dammit…Liz, you’re the only friend I have left!”

“Don’t you see?” Liz asked, rising up onto her knees so that she could grasp Maria’s shaking shoulders, “That’s why I have to face her, Maria. She just can’t get away with what she did to Alex. I promised him that I wouldn’t rest until he saw justice.” Her hands fell away as she dissolved into fresh tears. “I have to do this,” she wept, “I have to give Alex justice.”

“She’ll kill you,” Maria replied with low insistence, “Do you understand what I’m telling you? She will kill you.”

Liz held up a single hand, revealing the light electrical charges glancing over her fingers. “Not if I kill her first,” she countered softly.

“What the hell?” Maria cried out in horror, scrambling back a distance from Liz. Her features whitened as her terrified green gaze traveled back and forth between Liz’s face and sparkling hand. “How are you doing that, Liz?” she whispered fearfully.

“You know that Max changed me,” Liz recounted as she calmly rose to her feet and stuffed her hands into the pockets of her uniform, “Well…apparently that included me developing a few powers as well.”

“This is unbelievable,” Maria whispered.

“I’m changing, Maria…really changing,” she revealed hoarsely, “I found out about two months ago.”

Maria shook her head, obviously having been given too much to process in too short a period of time. “I don’t understand,” she said, “Why didn’t you tell me any of this? Why didn’t you mention it before now?”

“At first, I was half hoping it would go away,” Liz murmured sardonically, “But I can feel the changes inside me everyday. My vision is sharper. My hearing is crisper. My sense of touch is off the map. I can feel myself growing stronger. That’s how I know I can face Tess, Maria. That’s how I know I can kill her.”

“Liz,” Maria began cautiously, “Having powers and knowing how to control them are two totally different things. Just ask Michael if you don’t believe me.”

“All I have to do is aim and blast,” Liz said with pragmatic detachment, “I have the element of surprise on my side, remember? Tess won’t be expecting an attack like that from me. Besides I have been practicing. I’m gaining some control over them.”

“You sound like you’ve been thinking about this for a while now,” Maria murmured carefully, her tone appalled.

“When I learned about what she did to Alex,” Liz confirmed without compunction, “I knew one day she’d come back and I’ve been preparing for the day ever since. But I didn’t know how I would accomplish it… I thought about drugs and…anything that would incapacitate her. I thought fashioning a white room for her like the government did for Max. I thought about a lot of things but nothing became clear until my powers began manifesting… Then I knew and I started getting myself ready.”

“Liz, it’s too risky,” Maria reasoned desperately, edging closer towards her determined friend, “Tess is way stronger than you are, chica. She could play around with your mind…anything. And there’s your baby to think about, Liz. Have you even considered the fact you’re pregnant?” Liz turned away from the reminder, angry and conflicted. “What if something happens to you or, God forbid, your baby? How are you going to live with yourself?”

“And how am I going to live with myself if I do nothing?” Liz fired hotly, “I owe it to Alex, Maria… I owe him…”

Maria crept up behind Liz and rested her chin against the top of her shoulder. “He understands, Liz,” she whispered thickly, “Alex wouldn’t want you to go on this way. He’d want you to stop punishing yourself.”

“I can’t,” Liz replied, shaking her head, “I can’t do it.”

Maria took her by the shoulders then and whirled her firmly in an about face. “Listen to me, Liz,” she commanded urgently, “You’re proposing nonsense right now. You are not a killer, okay! I know you couldn’t just walk in and take Tess’ life because it’s just not in you. You’d hesitate and that would be the worst mistake of your life because I guarantee you that Tess won’t. She’ll kill you without blinking because she will view it as self-defense. I know this for a fact.

“And if you don’t believe me then just look at this.” Maria stepped back and ripped open the first few snaps of her uniform to reveal an ugly, puckered burn scar just beneath her collarbone. The wound had long since healed to a raised, ugly pink but Liz imagined that the pain must have been horrible when Maria received it. She gasped in reaction to her friend’s mangled scar, which stretched down to the top of Maria’s left breast.

“Oh my God,” Liz uttered, “What happened to you?”

“Tess happened,” Maria answered vaguely, “She told me that she could have killed me if she wanted but she just chose to warn me instead.” She bit out a mocking laugh at the memory. “It was one hell of a warning, too,” she recalled faintly, “But Max…he did a good job fixing it…”

“What about the scar--,” Liz protested, “Why would he leave that?”

“I wouldn’t let him heal it,” Maria said, “I needed it to remind me never to go after Tess again. It’s suicide, Liz. She’s crazy and dangerous and we are no match for her. In the meantime, I just keep telling myself that she’ll pay in the end. Somehow…someway… She will pay in the end.”

“What did Michael say about it?” Liz wondered grimly as Maria resnapped her uniform and turned away.

Maria shrugged noncommittally. “He wanted to kill her, of course,” she replied dryly, “He and Max even had a knock down, drag out with her over it but…she’s gotten really, really strong since she came back, Liz. They couldn’t beat her and they knew it…but what was worse was that Tess knew it, too. In the end, she agreed to stay away from Michael and me if we stayed away from her. So that’s the deal.”

“So once again Max lets her get away with terrorizing one of my friends,” Liz muttered bitterly, “Why am I not surprised?”

“I felt like that at first, too,” Maria said, “But then I had to admit to myself that Max was not strong enough to face her…not then anyway. It was a scary thought at the time but it was true.”

“And now?” Liz wondered.

Again Maria shrugged. “I only know what Michael tells me. He says that Max can definitely tell when Tess is walking around in his head now,” Maria said, “And some times he can stop her from doing it… I know that he, Isabel and Michael have been training with Larek whenever he can make contact with them.”

“All because of Tess?” Liz queried dubiously, “You’d think the three of them would be strong enough to defeat her training or not.”

“Liz, you just don’t get it, do you?” Maria sighed, “Their entire planet is at war. Khivar wants Michael and Max dead and Isabel at his side. If they can’t stand up to Tess and her mind games how are they supposed to defeat the very person who killed them all the first time around?”

“So I assume it’s been pretty bad since I left,” Liz concluded glumly, resolutely stamping down the flash of guilt that rose with the realization.

“Michael says they’re working it out,” Maria said, “They’ll handle Tess and everything else…when the time is right.”

“Well, maybe I can’t wait that long,” Liz replied.

“Ah, God, Liz!” Maria cried, “Did nothing I just said to you sink in?”

She was cut off from further ranting, however, with Kyle Valenti’s unexpected intrusion. “Hey, so what’s a guy got to do around here to get a slice of…Men…in…Black…berry pie?” Kyle’s jovial greeting gradually died off into an anxious mutter when he glimpsed both girls’ grim expressions. “So who died?” he asked bluntly, trading questioning glances between them.

“Liz wants to find Tess,” Maria provided flatly and then threw up her hands in angry exasperation, “I can’t talk to her.”

“Have you already explained to her what a colossally stupid idea that is?” Kyle fired back intensely.

“Yes!” Maria cried out in frustrated sarcasm, “But she’s so damned stubborn. Suddenly, she thinks she’s superwoman because she’s got powers now! Maybe you can reactivate her brain cells because I’m all out of advice!”

“Could you two please stop talking about me like I’m not in the room?” Liz sighed in exasperation, “Kyle, can you please come over here and give me a proper greeting?”

Kyle dutifully did as he was told, though his brow was still creased in a worried frown as he pulled her into his arms. “I’ve missed you, Valenti,” Liz told him as he squeezed her tight.

“Missed you, too, Parker,” Kyle returned gruffly as they parted, “And I love you. Which is why I gotta tell you that this plan you’ve got to face Tess is just plain crazy. Liz, she’s dangerous and--,” He paused abruptly, his blue eyes flaring wide. “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Did I just hear Maria say something about you having powers now?”

Liz threw Maria an infuriated glance. “Thanks a lot,” she grated derisively.

“Don’t mention it,” was Maria’s cheeky reply.

“Well?” Kyle prompted non-too patiently, “What’s going on?”

Liz slowly lifted her hands, revealing the faint sparks of energy flashing over her fingers before quickly pulling back before the display got out of control. Kyle blanched in reaction, much the way Maria did. “Oh God,” he gulped shakily, “I think I’m gonna pass out.” He literally swayed right then and Maria ran out to fetch him a chair.

“Now you know what to expect,” Liz whispered once he had sat down and taken some time to process her revelation.

“Great,” he muttered, “It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Does Evans know he’s turned you into a human flare?”

“He just found out today,” Liz murmured.

“And what did he say about it?”

“Nothing,” Liz replied unanswerably.

“Nothing?” both Kyle and Maria echoed in disbelief.

“I didn’t give him the opportunity to respond,” Liz explained curtly, “It’s none of his business anyway.”

“Maybe that’s how you feel,” Kyle considered ironically, “But he’s gonna hear a whole helluva lot from my end.” He shook his head, still mulling over the news. “Okay…but I don’t see what your having powers has anything to do with facing off with Tess. So do Max, Michael and Isabel and they can’t take her.”

“She knows what to expect from them,” Liz reasoned quietly, “That’s not the case with me at all.”

“Kyle, tell her what she’s planning is suicide,” Maria said sharply.

“It’s suicide,” he agreed, “She’ll chew you up, spit you out and pick her teeth with your bones when she’s done, Liz.”

“I’ll risk it,” Liz replied flatly.

“Liz!” Maria cried, “If you can’t think about yourself or us can you at least think about the baby?”

“Baby?” Kyle parroted dubiously, “What baby? Who’s having a baby?”

Liz raised her hand after slicing Maria with a scathing look. “I am,” she confirmed quietly, “I’m pregnant.”

“You’re pregnant,” Kyle coughed incredulously, “Dammit Liz! You’re just dropping one bombshell after the other today. And I wanted to do was say ‘hello’ and ‘welcome home’.”

“I know this is a lot to process,” Liz considered gently.

“Uh…yeah. Understatement,” he grunted caustically, “So I don’t suppose this baby is Senor Presidente’s, huh?”

Maria rolled her eyes at the inane question. “It’s not super sperm, Kyle,” she remarked tartly, “It doesn’t leap tall buildings in a single bound.”

“It’s not Max’s baby,” Liz told him, “We’ve never even slept together.”

“Whoa,” Kyle uttered, slumping lower in his chair, “Whoa.”

“I’d like for you not to go about openly broadcasting it if you can manage,” Liz exhorted, casting yet another grating look in Maria’s direction, “I’m not exactly ready for the world to know.”

“Sure. My lips are sealed,” Kyle agreed without hesitation, “But I do have one question…I…I just need to double-check.”


“The father…he is human, right?”

Liz’s lips twitched with laughter at Kyle’s desperately hopeful expression. “To the best of my knowledge.”

“Okay then,” Kyle replied, clapping his hands together with a hefty sigh, “Alrighty…so is there anything else I need to know about? Maria, are you pregnant, too? Is the world about to end…what?” He was actually teasing but the exchanged look that transpired between Liz and Maria made him quickly regret it. Kyle groaned deeply. “Oh God…what else?”

“Maybe we should take this upstairs,” Liz suggested quietly as she and Maria flanked Kyle and gently pulled him to his feet, “This is gonna take a while.”
Last edited by Deejonaise on Tue Apr 06, 2004 9:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Deejonaise » Thu Jan 29, 2004 4:26 pm

Chapter Nine

Liz spotted Max leaning back against her locker and did an immediate 180 in the hallway. But her retreat wasn’t quick enough. She didn’t expect Max to make her getaway easy seeing as how he’d been hovering about her locker to begin with and he didn’t disappoint her. A few seconds later she heard the pattering of his footfalls as he winded his way through the dense crowd of students in an effort to catch up with her quick strides. “Liz wait up!” he cried when she actually quickened her gait to a near run.

She came to an abrupt stop then, spinning to face him with an impatient huff. “I thought we agreed that you would stay away from me, Max,” she spat out breathlessly, “Honestly, I don’t think you’re getting it and it’s starting to piss me off.”

“Liz, it’s been three days already,” Max reasoned softly, “I think that’s been plenty of time for you to calm down enough to talk to me.”

“Well, I guess it’s a good thing I don’t rely on you to do my thinking for me, now isn’t it?” She started to walk away then and Max reached out to grab her. But Liz was too quick for him, however, jerking her arm aside so that all he did was glance her elbow. “I swear if you touch me--,” she began in warning.

Max assimilated the unspoken threat and wisely took a step back, letting his arms drop back to his sides. “I don’t want to fight,” he replied neutrally, “I really don’t want to fight with you.”

“Then stop trying to talk to me,” Liz retorted shortly, “That would help.”

“You know I can’t do that,” he whispered, eyes intense, “Not after what happened between us the other day…and what I saw… I can’t just pretend that I didn’t.”

“It’s none of your business, Max,” Liz told him.

His response was a soft, self-deprecating laugh. “As much as you probably want that to be true, Liz, you know that it’s not.”

“See, I can’t deal with this right now!” she burst out sharply, cradling her books almost protectively against her chest, “You can’t just barge your way back into my life and start telling me what I do and don’t need! We are over, Max, so stop trying to control me!”

“That’s not what I’m doing,” Max denied, “I’m trying to help you.”

“I don’t want your help, Max,” she insisted in an angry hiss, “And I don’t need it. Now for the last time…will you please leave me alone?”

“Just give me a minute,” he begged when she started to walk away again, “I only need one minute, Liz! After all we’ve been through together can’t you give me that? Please.”

She didn’t want to be affected by his naked pleading but she was, her heart contracting a little when she heard the catch in his voice. When she considered that she wouldn’t even be standing there at that moment were it not for his intervention Liz supposed the least she could do was spare him a minute of her time. But even with her wavering she didn’t turn back around to face him. However, she didn’t walk away either. Max latched onto her acquiesce with a grateful sigh.

“Can we go someplace quieter…where we can’t be overheard?”

Liz hitched her chin towards the abandoned music room. “We can talk there,” she said, “But you have one minute and that’s all.”

Alternately nervous and resentful, Max and Liz slipped stealthily into the music room for a semi-private conversation. The irony was not lost on Max. “This is where we had our first real conversation,” he remarked quietly.

“And, apparently, where we will have our last one,” Liz concluded briskly.

Her cold reply shattered much of Max’s hopeful demeanor and he felt the icy wall between them thicken considerably. Max wanted so much to batter it down but he had no idea how to go about doing so. Liz looked untouchable standing there, cool, aloof, and unaffected. Max stared down at her stony features, wishing to God he could touch her or hold her but forcing himself to be content with just being near to her.

“I have a proposal for you,” he said softly.

“What sort of proposal?” Liz sighed without much interest.

“Let us help you train your powers.”

“Us?” Liz parroted with a start.

“It doesn’t have to be me,” Max rushed out emphatically, “It can be Michael or…or Isabel…if you want. But you…you just need to train them, Liz. From what I saw the other day you don’t have very much control over them.”

She couldn’t dispute that though she wanted to…badly. In spite of the rigorous and secret practice she had been putting herself through for weeks now her control over her powers were still very limited. Still, her pride wouldn’t allow her to make such an admission to Max. In addition, despite his magnanimous offer that he would step aside and let either Michael or Isabel oversee her training Liz seriously doubted that the aforementioned would be thrilled to carry out his wishes. Even if Liz weren’t adamant about refusing strictly for the principal, the potential for disaster would have been enough to compel her.

“Did you ever think that maybe I don’t need your help to train at all,” Liz considered flatly, “Maybe I can do it on my own.”

“And then again maybe you’re just deluding yourself,” Max countered.

Liz lanced him with a quelling glare at his veiled admonishment. “Okay…well, this conversation is definitely over,” she declared, turning on her heel.

“Wait! Don’t do this,” Max pleaded in a whisper, “We all need someone, Liz. And Michael, Isabel and I know better than anyone what it’s like to have to hide our abilities. We’ve had years of practice and we’ve had each other. This isn’t something you have to do by yourself.”

“And if I want to do it by myself?” Liz challenged, “What then?”

Max’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “It’s your call either way,” he sighed, “But the offer is there…if you want to take it. I’ll do whatever you want.”

“Right now the only thing I want is for you to leave me alone, Max,” she said wearily, “Please don’t make me ask you again.”

“God! How can you be like this?” Max queried harshly, his eyes sparkling with unshed tears, “It’s like I don’t even matter to you anymore.”

Liz jerked in surprise at the accusation, simultaneously hurt and aggravated. “I can’t believe you just said that to me,” she whispered past the aching lump in her throat, “When you were the one who acted like I didn’t matter to you. You treated me like an afterthought, Max, and when I needed you most!”

“And I’ve told you again and again how sorry I am,” Max whispered adamantly, “How many times do I have to say it before you believe me?”

“And yet your being sorry doesn’t change a single, damned thing, does it?” Liz muttered tiredly, “So what’s the point, Max? What the hell is the point? You’re not the person I thought you were.”

“Well, you know something, Liz?” Max retorted with a rare blaze of anger, “Neither are you. I don’t even know who you are anymore.”

“That makes two of us,” Liz mumbled grimly, “Is that it? Are you done now?”

Max glared at her hard, the muscle in his jaw twitching fitfully. “Is this really how you want things to be between us, Liz?” he demanded tersely, “Do you want this cold distance to remain or do you want to try and push past the pain so that we can make this work again?” Liz kept deliberately silent, her entire stance unremitting. “Fine,” Max bit out in a discordant whisper, “Just remember that you were the one who wanted it this way!”

After he had shoved his way through the swinging door and back out into the hall Liz slumped to her knees in the middle of the percussion stand, her stomach rolling and dipping uncontrollably. She remained perfectly still, fearful that the slightest movement would upset the tenuous control she maintained on keeping her lunch. Liz didn’t know how long she rocked there, just trembling and fighting the urge to cry, but when she lifted her head Kyle was standing overhead.

Without a word, he fluidly lifted Liz to her feet and relieved her of her books. Hand in hand the exited the band room and went out into the now deserted hallway. Kyle thankfully didn’t press Liz about what was wrong and she didn’t provide any explanations. She desperately needed the silence to get her head on straight again. It was only when they reached the student parking lot that Kyle finally worked up the courage to ask if she was okay.

“How much did you see?” Liz queried dully as they headed in the general direction of Kyle’s cherry red Mustang.

“I just caught the tail end of your conversation,” he said, “But it looked like he was giving you a hard time.”

“Same old song,” Liz replied, curving her lips in a humorless smile, “Just a different verse. So do you mind if I catch a ride home with you?” she added when they reached his car, “Michael has detention and Maria decided to stay behind with him while he does his time.”

“Not a problem,” Kyle said, activating the alarm system on the car so that the locks popped up automatically. He opened the passenger door for Liz so that she could climb inside and then jogged around to the driver’s seat. When he slid behind the wheel, however, he hesitated a moment before cranking the ignition. Tapping his fingertips thoughtfully against the top of the steering wheel, he slowly swiveled around to face Liz fully. “He got to you, didn’t he, Liz?” he pressed softly.

“Who? Max?” Liz brazened with a forced laugh, “No…no way.” She smoothed her fingers over the face of her textbook, fiddled with the button on her jacket, even readjusted the air vents…anything to avoid Kyle’s penetrating gaze. Unfortunately, all her nervous actions did was confirm Kyle’s suspicions.

“Yeah, he did,” he contradicted, “It’s written all over your face.” He leveled her with a strange, sympathetic stare. “You’re still in love with him.”

“No,” Liz denied weakly, but she was unable to maintain eye contact with him as she did, “I’d have to be a special kind of pathetic to still have feelings for him after all that he did to me.” But inside her, in the part of her heart she rarely acknowledged anymore, she knew it was true. She was a special kind of pathetic. She was still in love with Max Evans. But even as she made the admission internally Liz vowed that not even threat of death would oblige her to say it aloud.

“I still love Tess,” Kyle revealed quietly, “Do you think I’m pathetic?” Liz glanced up at him in unmitigated horror, not bothering to mask her disgust his confession incurred. He laughed a bit at her expression. “You think I’m pretty sick, don’t you?”

“She’s a killer, Kyle,” Liz uttered, appalled, “She murdered Alex. How can you…how can you still have feelings for her after all that?”

“Because I saw a side of her that you guys didn’t,” he explained hoarsely, “When she was with my dad and me it was like it was before my mom walked out…it was like we were a family again. She made us happy…whole again and…and I think we did the same thing for her. We meant something to her, Liz. It wasn’t all an act…I don’t believe that.”

“But then she betrayed you…used you…” Liz reminded him brutally, “She doesn’t deserve your love, Kyle, or your compassion.”

“And yet I can’t hate her as thoroughly as you seem to,” he said, “I won’t ever forget how she betrayed me or…how she manipulated me into playing a part in Alex’s death. I won’t ever forget how cold his skin felt or…or how remorseless she had seemed after. I won’t ever forget how much she hurt us all but…I can’t forget the good times either. I can’t just turn off my feelings. I still care about her…despite everything. Just like you care about Max.”

“Max didn’t kill anyone,” Liz argued stubbornly.

“And if he did,” Kyle challenged, “Could you care any less? Do you think he’ll love you any less if you go through with your plan to kill the mother of his child?”

Liz flinched, as if he had physically punched her in the gut. “Why are you doing this to me?” she whispered in anguish.

She didn’t feel any guilt about the idea of killing Tess. In fact, she sort of relished the idea because Liz looked at it only as meeting out justice. She hoped that Tess’ demise would help to bring closure to Alex’s death, that perhaps her guilt would abate once his killer had been made to pay. But Liz knew she’d be deluding herself if she didn’t admit to cringing internally when she thought of that baby. She couldn’t banish his face from her mind, his sleeping, innocent face. He was as much a victim of his mother’s schemes as Alex had been. That child was already going to face enough heartache in his life with Tess Harding for a mother. Could Liz really compound that hurt by doing away with Tess entirely? Didn’t every child deserve to have a mother, even if it was one as venomous as Tess?

Watching the indecision flicker over Liz’s face, Kyle chose that moment to drive his point homeward. “If you’re having second thoughts like this then you must know that what you’re planning isn’t right, Liz.”

“Are you saying this for her benefit?” Liz spat out angrily, “Are you trying to protect her or something?”

“No. I’m trying to protect you. Let it go, Liz,” Kyle advised her, “You have family and friends that love you, a baby on the way, a bright future… Don’t let hate consume you like this. Just let it go.”

“Have you?” she demanded tearfully, “Have you let it go?”

Kyle offered her a laconic shrug. “There are some days when I don’t think of her at all,” he recounted softly, “And some days when I can’t get her out of my head. I can only take the storms as they come. And that’s what you have to do as well.”

Liz favored him with a slight, crooked smile. “Is that the Buddhist philosophy?”

“Actually it’s the Valenti philosophy,” he said wryly, “We are wise men in our on right, you know.” He reached across the expanse of the car and spread his fingers across the top of her hand. “Will you think about what I said?” he asked gently.

“Yeah,” Liz said, staring down at her hands as she answered because she couldn’t look Kyle in his eyes as she lied to him, “I’ll think about it.”

**Next update Monday**