Dreamer Holidays Series (ML/Adult) (Complete)

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Carol000
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Dreamer Holidays Series (ML/Adult) (Complete)

Post by Carol000 » Mon Dec 29, 2003 1:54 am

Winner Round 3

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Spring Break

Round 1 Winner

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Halloween, Thanksgiving & Christmas

Valentine's Day 2002

The Fourth of July

Labor Day

Winner - Round 4

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Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Before I post Part 1, I must take a moment to offer my most humble and heartfelt thanks for the Chameleon feedback. I asked readers to leave a little note when the story was done. What I got were 65 responses, some of them so poignant about how the story had become a staple in their lives--well, it made me cry. I printed out 35 pages of your wonderful thoughts, and I will cherish them forever. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. The whole experience will always be a treasured memory.

Also, in response to many inquiries (and complaints about broken links), I will try to make good on a promise to post my stories in one place on the authors' thread. I've never posted there, but I assume the same rules apply (10-page limits and such). I will get the Epiphanies trilogy up, all the Dreamer Holiday stories, and various bits, like Circles in a Pond and Acting Alien. Chameleon is so huge and is complete on the repost board, so I'll probably just provide a link to that one.

One final note: This time of year is crazy busy for many, myself included. I know I've fallen behind on my reading, so those who think I've abandoned your stories--not true! I'll be catching up this week!

Okay, now to the matter at hand. This story is not exactly fluff, but most of the Dreamer Holiday stories aren't, if you recall. It is however, guaranteed, so bear with me. I will post either 5 or 6 parts, with a new part every few days. The entire story is written, so you can rest assured, it won't go on hiatus!

DREAMER HOLIDAYS: New Year?s

Author: Carol000 (spacemom)

Category: AU M/L

Synopsis: Out of one?s loneliness and the other?s painful past grows a love for the ages. But is it real?

Rating: Teen

Disclaimer: Max and Liz don?t belong to me?they belong to an abusive Hollywood that doesn?t love or understand them. So I?ve borrowed them with no malice or apology, so that they live on in a world of hope and understanding.


Part 1

Something clenched inside his chest the moment he saw her. A flicker of recognition. A sense of finding something lost. His mother?s lifelong assurance that everyone had a soulmate?even a ?special? boy like him?echoed in his ears. He chuckled into his club soda. His mother had always been a romantic.

His eyes sought her out again. She was alone, but not on the prowl like so many of the other women at the conference. In fact, she didn?t look at all like one of the prepackaged professional women that lined the halls and restaurants of the convention center. She looked self-contained, removed, alone by choice.

?You?re a lucky stiff,? Alex said, sipping his Long Island iced tea. ?Two weeks in this place and you may decide never to come back to Albuquerque.?

Max smiled at his friend and colleague. ?You?re a lucky stiff, too. How many more weeks before the baby comes??

?Four, so they say, although Isabel thinks it might be sooner. She?s been having those Braxton Hicks contractions the last week or so. It?s a miracle she let me come out here. You can bet I won?t be going any further than the drug store for the next few weeks.?

Alex had the put-upon father-to-be act down pat, but everyone who knew him also knew that he was more excited than a little boy at Christmas about the daughter he was about to have. He and Isabel had met in college and married soon after graduation, but had put off children until Alex?s practice was established. Max and he had hit it off in med school, and now Drs. Evans and Whitman had a solid psychiatric practice in Albuquerque. Alex was cruising easily into the life he had always wanted. Max wanted those things, too, but, as he told himself every morning, he didn?t have the same options.

At least, he didn?t think he did. Adopted as a child back in Roswell, New Mexico, he had been raised as an only child by loving parents. After their initial shock at what Max was able to do, they were able to impress on the young boy that his gifts were not for public display . . . or even public knowledge. They had given him everything, including their trust, but they couldn?t give him what he wanted most?to be normal. With the exception of his best friend Kyle from high school and his partner Alex, no one else knew his secret.

What energy Max would have spent on a girlfriend, a wife, children, was focused on research, and it had brought him no small level of recognition, especially for one so young. There had been awards, a book, and some lucrative job offers. There had been women wanting to share his bed?and his spotlight. He?d disappointed them all. In fact, he would have traded his fame in a New York minute.

?Well, I?ll think of you while I lay on the beach and scope out the babes,? he teased his partner, wanting to keep the tone of the conversation light.

?You do and I?ll sign you on as a patient,? Alex quipped, then sobered. ?What will you do for Thanksgiving? Isabel is sure you?ll die of depression all by yourself over here.?

?Don?t worry about me,? Max assured him with a smile. ?Tell Isabel I?ll go out and eat a feast and then watch two football games, if it will make her feel better.?

?I think she?d rather you spent some time with that hottie you keep eyeing over in the corner.?

Max arched an eyebrow at his friend.

?Hottie??

Alex winced. ?I can?t really get away with talking like that, can I??

?I?d have to say, it?s not you,? Max replied with a grin. ?Besides, Isabel doesn?t understand what I?m up against. Just tell her to stop trying to set me up, okay??

?She worries about you,? Alex said quietly.

?I know, and I appreciate it . . . sort of.? He winked at Alex, who grinned in empathy. ?But I?m fine. This is what I want right now.?

The two men looked at each other, understanding flowing easily between them. Alex knew what his friend craved, and it saddened him to know he would probably never have it.

?At least enjoy some casual flirtations, my friend. You?ll have no trouble attracting the beauties on the beach, believe me.?

Max watched as the bubbles in the club soda rose determinedly to the surface of his drink, burst with an explosion of energy, and died. Just like his deepest desires, he thought.

?Will do,? he said absently.

They both knew he wouldn?t.

?I gotta git, man,? Alex said, rising. ?I?m taking the red-eye back to LA and I haven?t even packed. Enjoy your vacation, Max. You?ve earned it.?

?Give Isabel my love. Call me if anything happens.?

?I will.? With a pat on his friend?s back, Alex made his way out of the bar. As he disappeared, the loneliness slammed into Max, punching a dark hole in his mood. Suddenly the music was too loud, the atmosphere too stifling, and the glitz too brash. Until his gaze rested on her again, and that clench in his chest traveled lower to his gut. Something about her . . .

He picked up the club soda, his habit of solitude at war with his urgent need to speak with her, perhaps even to know her. She lifted her head and met his eyes.

?Dr. Evans! Here?s where you?ve been hiding. I have some people I want you to meet.?

He suppressed a grimace as the leggy redhead pulled him toward a table of dressed-for-success women, each with a drink in her hand and a speculative smile on her face. He felt their collective scrutiny of his 6-foot frame, their appraisal of his thick hair, broad shoulders, secretive eyes. Some even had the nerve to look lower, a glimmer of invitation already poised on their lips. He felt as if he were up for auction.

?Your paper on the effects of mono-directional therapy during coma was fascinating,? the redhead gushed. ?We?d love to hear more about the cases you?ve tried that with. So much more interesting than the statistics, you know.?

She beamed at him, a lioness flushed with the victory of finding and presenting the prey to the rest of the pride. With what he hoped was convincing graciousness, he turned on the professional charm and calculated how quickly he could escape. Only a few sentences into one of his standard anecdotes, a light touch on his arm pulled his attention away. The petite brunette smiled, leaned into him intimately, and with honeyed tones, rescued him.

?I do hate to interrupt, but we?re supposed to meet that publisher for drinks, aren?t we??

He gaped at her, confused and grateful all at once. Only when she looked at him directly did he see the twinkle in her eye. Clamping down on the grin that threatened to split his face, he nodded. ?Is it that time already? So sorry, ladies. I wish I had more time, but . . .?

With a tug from his angel of mercy, he gave an apologetic wave and left the room.

?I am forever in your debt,? he smiled, bowing formally. ?How did you know I needed rescuing??

?You?re not as subtle as you think.? She laughed lightly; it was musical, genuine. ?Besides, people-watching is a specialty of mine. I?m fluent in body language.?

Max could just hear Kyle jumping on that line, but he let it go. He didn?t want to do anything to put her off.

?Please let me repay you,? he offered. ?I?d love some company for dinner.?

She looked suddenly uncomfortable, glancing around . . . nervously, he thought.

?No, thank you. I have to be going.?

Spasms clawed at his gut. ?I shouldn?t be surprised that you have plans,? he said calmly, though the niggling sense of wanting to know her had expanded into a full-blown quest. ?Are you meeting your husband??

She looked up, startled. ?No. I?m not married.?

He relaxed slightly.

?I?m sorry. I don?t mean to be rude. I realize you don?t know me at all. I just . . .?

?I do know you, Dr. Evans. At least by reputation,? she said quietly. ?I work in the Conventions department at the hotel. And I?ve seen your name in the promotional materials and your picture on that poster outside Meeting Room D.?

?Really? Well, then, uh,? he stuttered, inordinately pleased, ?maybe you can trust me to be a gentleman. I promise, no groping, no lewd suggestions, just conversation.? He looked around quickly. ?We can sit in that café over there. All open and above board. My hands in plain sight the whole time.?

She laughed again. And again, it sent a little rumble through his system. She was lovely?long, dark hair; huge, expressive eyes; an elegant but understated dresser.

?I suppose I could spare a few minutes, but only a few. Thank you.?

He was almost giddy, but clamped down hard on his nerves. He?d had ?drinks? with women a hundred times. He?d never been nervous before, only resigned about the futility of it, and had eventually given it up as a depressing and hopeless exercise.

?Excellent. Consider it your good deed for the day. Or rather,? he smiled, ?your second good deed. I?ll just consider it a serendipitous gift.?

They found a table out on the sidewalk where they could feel the ocean breeze and watch the palm trees rising like studded lances toward their spiky burst of green. Max shed his suit coat and loosened his tie. A waiter wearing a lei appeared.

?Virgin?? he asked, looking at Liz.

Max opened his mouth in shock and leapt to his feet, ready to face off with the smart-mouthed waiter, but Liz?s throaty chuckle pulled him up short.

?Greg, you have to be careful with that question when I?m with someone you don?t know,? she laughed, and Max pulled his mouth closed with considerable effort, more than a little confused.

?Sorry. Do you want your strawberry daiquiri virgin today?? The guy was grinning.

?Yes, thank you.? Her whole body was alight with amusement, and Max sat back down, embarrassed.

?You, sir??

?Iced tea.?

The waiter disappeared, and Liz took pity on her new acquaintance. ?Sorry. I?m over here a lot since I work across the street. Greg knows my weakness for strawberry daiquiris, but he also knows I?m not much of a drinker.? She laughed again. ?You should have seen your face! It was priceless.?

Max chuckled now, too. She looked so relaxed and beautiful, and he began to relax as well. He bent one arm across the back of his chair and stretched the other arm forward to fiddle with the cocktail napkin in front of him ?I couldn?t believe he just asked you that. I?m pretty sure I was about to deck him.?

?My hero,? she grinned.

Max found he didn?t mind being called her hero at all, especially not when her eyes dropped to his arms and torso, making him flush with pleased embarrassment. He knew that his slim build, especially in a suit, was misleading. But he?d shed that suit coat when they?d sat down, which he also knew showed off his body in a much different way. He worked out, and it showed. He didn?t do it to attract women . . . that was pointless, he thought bitterly. But keeping fit, sticking to a challenging regimen?those were things he could control, and control was in short supply in his life. He wasn?t able to control what he was?whatever that was?so he kept tight control on whatever he could. Now, however, as he saw her eyes widen with appreciation, he knew she was telling herself that he could have taken that young waiter, and he saw her stir in silent appreciation. A shudder of pleasure ran through him.

?So have you lived here your whole life?? he asked, hoping his face hadn?t given away his thoughts.

?Half of it, at least. My parents moved here permanently after dad retired from the military. He?d been stationed at Pearl at one point and always swore he?d come back. Now they live like a couple of beach bums on the other side of the island and run a business taking the tourists out on day-trips to find whales. They absolutely love it.?

Their drinks were served and as Liz lifted hers to her lips, Max noticed a white line around the ring finger of her tanned left hand. His tea soured in his mouth and he set it down. Had she left the ring off today? Or was it gone for good? Either way, he found he was unreasonably jealous at the thought of the man who?d put a ring there. It was ridiculous, of course. Ridiculous, but very real.

?What?s wrong?? she asked, genuine concern on her face and in her voice.

?What? Oh, nothing. Tea needs sweetener.? He reached for the sugar, which seemed to satisfy her.

?Have you been to Honolulu before?? she asked.

?No, actually. This is my first time. I could use a guide,? he suggested with a smile. He watched her face warm with pleasure, then go blank.

?I?m not really available,? she said stiffly, ?but I can suggest some good tours.?

His disappointment must have shown on his face because she looked immediately contrite. ?I?m sorry, but under the circumstances, I don?t think it would be a good idea.?

?Circumstances?? He was not only disappointed but concerned as her expression closed and her eyes darted nervously.

?I, uh, I just have so much to do with the convention. I can?t really . . .? She bit her lip, and he frowned.

?Isn?t the convention over??

?Well, yes, but there?s always follow-up and another coming in after Thanksgiving. I really have to go.? She stood up, clearly all business, and he cursed himself for coming on too strong. It was out of character for him, and clearly uncomfortable for her.

?I?m sorry, that was inconsiderate of me. Sometimes a tourist forgets that people actually work in Hawaii. Please, stay and finish your drink.?

She eased back into her chair, looking slightly embarrassed at her abrupt reaction. ?No, I?m sorry. It was very flattering for you to ask, and I wish I could oblige you. How long will you be on the island??

?Two weeks. Any suggestions??

?Whale watching.? She was smiling again, and he relaxed. ?I happen to know someone who will give you a great day-trip.?

He tried to smile. ?I?d like that.?

?Is your family joining you for the holiday??

?Uh, no. I don?t have a family. Well, I do,? he amended quickly. ?My parents live in New Mexico, and they wanted me to join the big family gathering again this year, but . . .?

His voice trailed off before he could tell her what he was really feeling?loneliness, frustration, an ?is that all there is?? hopelessness. Being a . . . freak, he thought disgustedly, then pulled the anger back in. Being an anomaly, with little or no understanding of where he was from or why he could do the things he could, had led him to an emotionally solitary life. He found he wanted to tell her, felt instinctively that he could tell her, but it was too soon. Much too soon. Mentally shaking himself, he pasted on his casual smile.

?I decided I?d earned a little R&R in paradise.?

?So you?re a New Mexico boy. Still live there??

?Albuquerque. I have a practice there. So, tell me, what can I see here that I can?t see at home??

?Everything!? she laughed. ?There?s the coffee plantation, the pineapple plantation, and incredible scenery. Water sports of all kinds. And of course, the other islands. You can pick up literature on all that at the hotel.?

?Maybe you could help me weed through it over dinner.?

Shit! He hadn?t meant to push. It had just popped out, and again, her expression had shut down.

?I?d love to, Dr. Evans. But I can?t, really. I do hope you enjoy your stay in Honolulu, though.?

She stood again, and he knew he wouldn?t get her to sit down a third time. As she turned to walk away, the fluttering of panic in his chest took him by surprise. ?At least tell me your name!? he called after her as she merged into the crowd on the sidewalk.

?Elizabeth. Liz. Liz Parker.?

He watched her step into the street, almost breathless with desperation but not knowing why.

?Liz??

She turned, her smile questioning this time.

?Are you free for lunch tomorrow??

She shook her head with a wave.

?Breakfast?? he called even louder as the traffic noise escalated with the light change.

She turned again, a sadness in her expression this time. He wondered for a fraction of a second if she were changing her mind. The thought splintered before his eyes as the taxi?s tires squealed.

TBC
Last edited by Carol000 on Thu Feb 05, 2004 10:19 am, edited 12 times in total.
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

User avatar
Carol000
Addicted Roswellian
Posts: 110
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2001 4:58 pm

Post by Carol000 » Thu Jan 01, 2004 11:38 am

WOW! Was that ever a warm welcome back! Thank you SO much!

Joia: You made me laugh right out loud. As I read f/b, I was noting everyone's avatar, and thinking how lovely and unique some of them were. Then I saw yours (before I knew it was yours) and literally let out a horrified EEK! Then I realized it was you! :lol: You freak me out with that polar thing every time!

NOTE: I'm so glad you are all intrigued by our story's premise. There are a few secrets to come out, and our cherished couple has some hard times to come, but hang in there! This story only has 6 parts! There are a couple of things, though, that shouldn't be mysteries right now. In the introduction, I state Max was raised as an only child, and that Alex met Isabel in college. Max and Isabel are not related. Also, someone asked if Max is an alien or "special" in some other way. I always write Max as an alien; it's part of his charm, for me. However, in this story, Max says he doesn't know what he is, or why he can do what he can. He has no memories before the Evanses, and his own abilities are a mystery to him. So from my pov, he is an alien, but he doesn't know it. At one point in that first part, it even says, "Even if he believed in such things, he couldn’t imagine that a . . . freak? Mutant? Who knew? Maybe he was even an alien . . . ." I hope that clears up any questions.

On with the next part!

From Part 1

She stood again, and he knew he wouldn’t get her to sit down a third time. As she turned to walk away, the fluttering of panic in his chest took him by surprise. “At least tell me your name!” he called after her as she merged into the crowd on the sidewalk.

“Elizabeth. Liz. Liz Parker.”

He watched her step into the street, almost breathless with desperation but not knowing why.

“Liz?”

She turned, her smile questioning this time.

“Are you free for lunch tomorrow?”

She shook her head with a wave.

“Breakfast?” he called even louder as the traffic noise escalated with the light change.

She turned again, a sadness in her expression this time. He wondered for a fraction of a second if she were changing her mind. The thought splintered before his eyes as the taxi’s tires squealed.


Part 2

Without so much as a whisper of conscious thought, Max’s arm flew up, exerting a push that came a fraction too late. Liz’s petite frame glanced off the taxi’s fender and hurled into a parked car, her head bearing the brunt of the impact. For a fraction of a second, onlookers froze, immobilized by the horror of what they’d seen.

Max burst from his chair at the table and flung himself toward the limp body that lay on the street.

“Somebody call 911!” he screamed, oblivious to the fact that a couple of people had already reached for their cell phones.

“Liz!” He expected no answer and got none. He felt for a pulse. It was there, thready at best. In spite of the gathering crowd, he risked taking a survey of her injuries, gliding his hand just above the surface of her body: a fractured hip, a bruised kidney, a broken arm, and a serious concussion. Cuts and scrapes covered most of her exposed skin.

“Hey, you pervert! Get your hands off her!”

He looked up, blinking against the sun. “I’m not . . .”

“Step aside, sir. An ambulance is on the way.” A police officer looked down at him, still deciding if he was a good Samaritan or a lowlife. He nudged Max aside, checking for a pulse and any obvious injuries.

“I don’t think she should be moved until the ambulance arrives. You know this woman?”

It didn’t take more than a second to let the scenarios play out in his mind. He’d never get near her if he confessed they were little more than strangers.

“She’s my fiancée.”

He saw the officer’s eyes flicker to his nametag, then down to Liz’s hand where a white circle encompassed her tanned finger. The same eyes darted back up to Max, the question obvious.

“We were at the beach earlier. She never wears her ring to the beach. I guess she forgot to put it back on.”

The officer gave him a long look, then busied himself pushing back the crowd and collecting things from the spilled purse next to the prone, pale body.

“What’s her name?”

Max pictured her, remembering the slightly sad eyes as she gave him her name. “Liz. Liz Parker.”

“And you are?”

“Max Evans.”

“What happened?”

“We were . . .” Max could barely breathe, but the officer was patient, obviously chalking it up to the panic of a loved one. “We were having a drink at the café there. She was headed off to run an errand and I . . . I called to her. She looked back at me and didn’t see . . . Look, she’s badly hurt. Can we do this later?”

Sirens grew louder and traffic pushed its way to the curbs to make room for the ambulance. Within minutes, Liz was strapped to a gurney and shoved inside the high-tech vehicle. Max lifted himself into the back.”

“Whoa, mister! You’ll have to get yourself to the hospital. Let the professionals take care of your lady.”

“I’m a doctor.”

At the look of skepticism, Max whipped out his medical ID from Albuquerque, hoping they wouldn’t look closely enough to see him listed with privileges at Memorial Hospital Psychiatric Center of Albuquerque. They didn’t, and he breathed a sigh of relief as he climbed in.

There was no help for it. He was forced to just sit there, holding her hand and mumbling reassurances—for himself more than for her—while the paramedic did his best to stabilize her. He could have healed the kidney, the broken bone, and the hip, had he been alone with her. The concussion was another matter. The human brain was complex and, in many ways, a mystery. He couldn’t manipulate that with any level of certainty. He would have to wait with everyone else for that to heal.

“Where are we going?” he asked.

“Leahi Hospital,” the paramedic—Ron, according to his nametag—told him.

“Tell them to be ready for a head injury and possible internal bleeding.”

Nodding, the paramedic turned to the shortwave radio, and Max took his chance. With his back blocking the other man’s view, he healed the hip, leaving a minor hairline fracture, and reduced the damage to the kidney so that it was no longer serious. He had to force himself to leave the rest; there were too many witnesses and she’d already undergone some examination from Ron and the driver. She couldn’t very well show up in the ER with only a concussion.

“We’ll be there in under a minute,” Ron said.

The ambulance weaved expertly through the heavy downtown traffic, skimming past the high rises on Kilauea Avenue.

“Hang on!” the driver yelled, maneuvering a sharp left turn onto 12th street and then again into the ER entrance.

Max knew the protocols. He wouldn’t be allowed to stay with her the whole time, but they were going to have to work to shake him. The doctors and nurses shouted her stats and other pertinent details to each other as they rolled her toward an exam room. He was asked a few questions peripherally, but was mostly ignored, which was fine with him. The less they noticed him, the more likely he could stay nearby.

Once it was established that the most serious of Liz’s injuries were neurological, a specialist was called and the other injuries duly treated. As the number of people attending to her dwindled, Max spoke up.

“Can I sit with her?”

The young nurse smiled at him. “This your girl?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, but there’ll be someone in soon to take her upstairs. Don’t touch anything.”

Alone with her again, Max watched the pale face, wishing he could remove the deep abrasion on her forehead. Don’t touch anything, the nurse had said. Well, that was one directive he couldn’t follow. Peeking discretely under Liz’s thin gown, he saw two telltale handprints just beginning to emerge. He’d learned to deal with that a long time ago when he’d unwittingly healed a burn his mother suffered in a kitchen fire. His hand hovered over each one in turn, and as he concentrated, the silver faded. Satisfied, he wrapped his fingers around Liz’s small, limp hand, and began to ramble, spilling his private thoughts to her as he could never have done had she been awake.

“Liz, I’m so sorry.” Unexpected tears sprang to his eyes. “I should never have called to you. I just didn’t want to risk not finding you again. I know it sounds crazy, but I feel something about you, like we’re connected somehow. I would never hurt you . . . but God, I did, didn’t I? I did.”

His voice disappeared into a harsh hiccough, and he felt his energy drain away. Whatever it was about this girl, it spoke to him. He felt something strong and important between them, something he’d never felt with anyone before. She couldn’t slip through his fingers now, especially not as a result of his own actions. He knew he couldn’t live with that.

He willed her to wake, to open her eyes and see him. Recognize him. But as she lay there unmoving, pale as the sheets beneath her, he fought the dark foreboding.

********

Dr. Jill Oshiro checked her list of patients at the desk. Two new admittances to neurology since she’d left after the night shift the day before. One was an elderly man with a brain aneurysm; the other was a young woman injured in a car accident. Looking down the hall, she saw a man slumped in a chair that he’d pulled into the hallway from a patient’s room, his face hidden behind his hands. His suit was rumpled, his hair tousled, and his lean form an image of exhaustion and despair. The room he seemed to be guarding belonged to one of the new patients, she was sure, because that room had been empty yesterday. Checking her chart, she saw the patient was Elizabeth Parker, a local. She headed toward the visitor.

“There’s a waiting room down the hall,” she said gently. “Coffee, if you need it.”

The face that rose from behind the hand was handsome in the extreme, familiar looking, too, but the red eyes and dark stubble reflected lack of sleep and deep sadness. Her heart went out to him.

“No, thanks. I’m fine. I’m just waiting for the nurse to finish; then I’m going back in.”

It was the voice that finally helped her make the connection.

“Dr. Evans?”

The surprise was only a mild flicker in his otherwise dull eyes. “Yes. Have we met?”

“No, but I attended your lecture yesterday. I’m a resident in neurology right now, but I haven’t ruled out psychiatry as a specialty, either. I’m very impressed with your work with coma patients. And curious. You have some rather unconventional theories. Is your interest in Ms. Parker personal or professional?”

He winced against the medical implication. “There’s no record of any movement? No signs of VS?”

Jill frowned down at her clipboard. ““No, not according to her records. I’ll check with the nursing staff to be sure. All I can tell you right now is she’s being treated as a coma patient.”

Anguish. That was the only word she could think of to describe the look that came over his face. “I take it Ms. Parker is a . . . friend?”

In for a penny, in for a pound, he thought. “My fiancée.”

“Oh my god, Dr. Evans, I’m so sorry.”

A nurse breezed out the door with only a glance at either of them and moved on down the hall. Jill allowed him to follow her into the room. Monitors beeped, a fresh cast kept one arm at right angles across the patient’s abdomen, and there was a bandage covering much of her forehead. Jill checked the chart again, ran a careful eye over the monitors, and turned back to the haggard man. He looked ashen and weak; he could easily have been a patient rather than a prominent doctor.

“Are you thinking of trying it on her?”

He looked vaguely startled as he answered her. “I . . . I hadn’t thought about it. I’d have to get clearance as a visiting physician.”

“I might be able to ease the way for that. After all, you have an excellent reputation and you are her fiancé. I’m sure no one would object.”

She saw the doubt flit across his features, but his voice was confident when he said, “I can’t see why they would.”

********
He wasn’t sure how long he’d been sitting there staring. Her face reminded him of a porcelain statue he’d seen at the Louvre—smooth white alabaster planes, soft lips full of promise, yet no eyes to offer a glimpse into the soul. He’d known her for less than an hour when he’d inadvertently caused a tragedy that could end her life. Now, 24 hours later, he was still here, contemplating a blatant and aggressive intrusion.

Shifting in his chair with a frustrated sigh, he warred with himself. Was what he was about to do safe? Yes, that much he felt sure of. He could confidently say it would do no harm. Was it going to help? That wasn’t so clear. Was it ethical? There was the pisser, because he was pretty sure it wasn’t.

And how could he possibly explain these feelings he already had for her? Love at first sight? A silly myth. Guilt? Possibly, though he didn’t think so. After all, he didn’t just want to find an answer; he wanted to find an answer that included him. Fate? Unlikely. Even if he believed in such things, he couldn’t imagine that a . . . freak? Mutant? Who knew? Maybe he was even an alien . . . had been preordained to find his destiny—or soulmate, as his mother might have insisted—in the arms of this extraordinary girl. Rational or not, though, he saw his future when he looked at her, felt his heart beat with purpose for the first time.

He took her hand—warm, in spite of her terrifying stillness. A tingling spread from his fingertips, up his arm, and into his chest. Then, with unsettling speed, vague shadows of images that he couldn’t place or understand filled his mind. It was frightening, confusing, and strangely exhilarating. Maybe there was a name for what was happening: miracle.

He bent forward, kissing her hand as it rested in his against the sheets, then pressed his forehead to it. He was going to try this. He’d known he would, in spite of the raging debate in his head. It had only been a matter of justifying it to himself before he began. But he also knew he couldn’t try it just now. It would drain him, and he was already drained, astonishingly so. He had to be more rested, if only for her sake. As much as he hated to leave her . . .

“Who the hell are you?”

Max jerked his head back from the bed—and Liz’s hand—and faced the couple standing in the doorway. The man was slightly built, average height, dark hair and eyes that were boring holes into Max at the moment. The woman, also slim, had red hair, delicate skin, and startling green eyes that seemed to take in everything. Right now, they were taking him in with a great deal of interest.

“I’m Max Evans. Doctor Max Evans.” Hell, it might be impressive enough to make them back off a little.

“The nurse said Liz’s fiancée was in here with her.”

“Uh, yes, well, that’s true . . .” he began, wondering which way to play this.

“You’re not Paulie,” the woman said quietly, then breathed a whispered addendum. “Thank God.”

Max processed the information the woman had given him—whether intentionally or unintentionally, he couldn’t tell—and made his decision.

“You’re Liz’s parents?”

“Yes,” her father answered stiffly. “We were off the island last night. Only got the message a couple hours ago.” He allowed himself a frightened look at his daughter, but forced his attention back to the stranger in his daughter’s room. Protecting her had to come before worrying helplessly about her. “Now answer my question. Who the hell are you and why are you here? The nurse said you hadn’t left since she was brought in yesterday.”

“I told the paramedics I was her fiancée on the spur of the moment,” Max confessed. “I didn’t mean to cause a problem; I only wanted her to have someone with her when she woke up.”

He bit back the overwhelming knowledge that she hadn’t awakened as he’d hoped and prayed she would. “We only met yesterday. We’d just finished a drink at the café when the accident . . . listen, I knew they wouldn’t let me stay with her if I told them we’d only just met. So I lied.”

“Why?” The woman’s green eyes looked straight through him, he was sure, and it unsettled him more than a little. They seemed to demand nothing less than the truth.

“I . . . I didn’t want her to be alone.”

“Well, she’s not alone now,” Jeff almost growled. “You can go.”

“Jeff!” the woman admonished. She turned back to Max, the penetrating eyes engaging him in a meaningful but silent exchange. She seemed to settle something in her mind. “I’m Nancy Parker. This is my husband, Jeff. It was kind of you to stay. Has she . . . shown any signs of waking?”

The question was only a whisper pushed through a constricted throat. Now those unsettling eyes were trained on her daughter. She left her husband’s side and went to the bed as Jeff continued to glare. A mother’s fingers pushed Liz’s hair back from her forehead, and she pressed a sweet, comforting kiss in its place.

“My poor baby.” Tears glistened in her eyes.

“What kind of doctor?” Jeff asked, his gruffness replaced by a father’s concern as he moved to stand behind his wife and stared desolately at his unresponsive daughter.

“I’m a psychiatrist, actually.”

Jeff frowned. “How’s that supposed to help Liz?”

Should he tell them what he planned? It would ease his conscience to have official permission to proceed. He couldn’t explain the full extent of what he wanted to try, but he could tell them enough to get permission to stay with her. No one would know the difference between what he said he was going to do and what he would really do. But what if they said no?

He sought Nancy’s eyes and directed his comments to her. She was his best shot, he was sure.

“I can’t promise that what I’d like to try will help,” he explained, “but the reason I’m here in Honolulu is to lecture on a new theory about helping coma patients. It’s actually a form of hypnosis, and . . .”

Hypnosis?” Jeff snorted. “You want to hypnotize my daughter? How? Why?”

Max could see the internal debate Jeff was waging. He would do anything to help his daughter, but he didn’t want to subject her to experimentation. And he certainly didn’t know Max Evans from a hole in the ground.

“The hypnosis works the same way as it does with a conscious patient, except the subject isn’t responsive, so you never really know if you’ve reached the subconscious mind or not. I would plant familiar memories, pleasant emotional triggers that she should recognize, then gradually try to draw her to the surface.”

“Have you ever actually done this?” Nancy asked softly, her expression guarded, as if she were afraid to hope.

“Yes.”

“And it worked?”

“Only occasionally, I’m afraid. At least I think it worked in those cases. We’re still trying to document whether this process caused the patient to awaken or if it would have happened anyway. The data is still inconclusive.”

“But it didn’t hurt anyone.”

“No, to my knowledge, it’s never done any harm.”

The Parkers looked at each other, communicating silently, the way people do when their relationship has been long and close. Jeff turned back to Max, wary but hopeful.

“We don’t have much money. I don’t know what Liz’s insurance would pay . . .”

“I don’t want money, Mr. Parker.”

The two men stood watching each other, each afraid to show too much.

“Why?”

Max could feel his heart squeeze. How could he tell them this was his fault? How could he explain his illogical and sudden feelings for their daughter? Wasn’t he likely to jeopardize their consent? And yet he knew they would be suspicious of a doctor willing to work free of charge to help a woman he barely knew.

“Liz did me a favor this afternoon,” he began, “I owe her one . . . and besides, I want to.” His gaze had returned to the sleeping beauty between them, and a small smile played at his mouth. “I asked her to have a drink with me. It was only for a few minutes, but I could tell she was a special woman.”

He realized with a start that he had taken her hand again, and was smiling. Straightening, he turned back to her parents.

“When she left, I realized she’d never told me her name. I . . . I . . .couldn’t just let her leave.”

He squeezed his eyes shut, the horrible image of her body hurtling against the parked car flashing through his mind all over again; it was almost as painful as the first time. Maybe more so, since the first time he’d at least been spurred to action, releasing the spurt of adrenalin into a constructive response. Now it was just images of blood and limp limbs . . . and responsibility.

“I called out to her. I . . . I didn’t want to risk not finding her again.” He took a shaky breath and ran his fingers through his hair. “She turned to answer me. She was already in the street. She didn’t see the taxi . . .”

His hands trembled and he clamped them fiercely on the bedrail.

“I want to help her. I have to help her. Please.”


Continued in next post
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

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Carol000
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Post by Carol000 » Thu Jan 01, 2004 11:42 am

Part 2 Continued

********
With Liz safely in her parents’ care, and their written permission for him to treat their daughter, Max went back to the hotel room for a shower and a nap. It was critical that he be rested and emotionally strong when he attempted the connection. If he got in, he knew he would be in a tug of war, and his own state of mind had to be stable.

He planned to sleep for a few hours and return to the hospital that night for his first attempt. His body knew better. Dawn was breaking when he finally opened his eyes, and he sat up straight in bed, cursing himself and the streaks of light that painted the morning sky in hues of purple and pink. Scrambling into his clothes, he grabbed a pastry from the vendor in the hotel lobby and hailed a cab. He felt the energy flowing through him and realized there had been a reason for his long rest. What felt like wasted time had, in fact, been necessary. He was ready.

Donning a white coat with a guest pass clipped to the lapel, Max entered Liz’s darkened room. Only one monitor was left, he noticed. Apparently, it had been determined that physically, Liz was going to be fine. But if he didn’t bring her back, she might just be fine in a bed for the next 60 years.

He settled into a chair at Liz’s bedside, and took her soft hand in his. Running his thumb over her tanned fingers, he stared grimly at the fingers that emerged from the cast on her left arm. The faint white circle was still a mystery, but Liz’s mother had given him clues. Paulie. And “thank God.” Her mother, at least, had not liked the man, and Max found some small measure of satisfaction in that.

“I know I have no right to ask,” Jill said, slipping into the darkened room like a ghost. Max jumped, then relaxed with a sheepish smile.

“I’m sorry, Dr. Evans. I didn’t mean to startle you, but do you think you could keep me apprised of any progress? It might have an impact on her other treatment and, to be honest, I’m fascinated. If that’s too private, though, I understand. I realize this is your fiancée.”

A pang of guilt swept through him, but he pushed it aside. If he could help Liz by turning her into one of his subjects, he would do it. If she chose to sue when and if she came out of her coma, well, he would cross that bridge then.

“I won’t really know if I’m making progress right away,” he said guardedly, “but if there’s anything to report, you’ll be the first to know.”

She nodded, leaving him to it.

Normally, Max’s practices were completely human, meaning he didn’t use any of his special powers to intrude on people’s thoughts and memories. Once in a while, a hypnosis session would be remarkably successful, as if his own ability to connect with people had been openly invited, at least on a subconscious level. But he never sought it out, never planned to find out anything more than what he could using humanly reproducible methods . . . until now.

His theories were based on work with long-term coma patients who, with a constant diet of conversation from familiar voices, music, event audio- or videotapes, memory prompting, and suggestion had surfaced from their comas after most had abandoned hope. None of this was groundbreaking in and of itself, except Max had added an element—hypnosis. No one had ever thought to hypnotize a comatose patient—it seemed nothing if not useless, or at least redundant. But Max had theorized that if a patient were susceptible to other aural stimuli, mightn’t it be possible to “reset” the human brain through hypnosis, another aural technique? After substantial initial skepticism from the medical community, he’d had enough success to get noticed.

Looking at Liz now, he spent a few minutes justifying his position. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to use the technique as he usually did. For one thing, Liz hadn’t been in a coma for very long at all, not nearly the months or years of his other coma patients. She might come out of it on her own, as the doctors hoped. But she might not, and Max knew the longer she was there, cut off from the world, the harder it would be to bring her back. He realized, too, that in other cases, he had spent considerable effort to interview family and friends, and to collect tapes and facts that might trigger a response. Nancy and Jeff had promised to collect such things, but Max was driven to begin as quickly as possible. Something inside him was pushing him to get to Liz immediately, and he’d learned to listen to those instincts. So, here he was, about to delve into another person’s mind with none of his usual preparation or props.

Then there was the other obvious problem. On the few occasions he had permitted himself this exercise in “connecting,” the subject had been willing—and awake. He’d always relied on eye contact to provide the conduit into the other person’s mind. When he’d tried it with an eager Alex, it had been an easy slide into memories and thoughts. Alex was an open book. He’d had a harder time talking Kyle into it, but eventually won out, finding more rampant emotion and energy than he’d found in Alex, but also reinforcing what he’d always known—his friend had a good heart . . . and an active libido; in the process, Max had glimpsed a few memories he could have lived without seeing, but he came out trusting and caring for his friend more than ever. Forming a connection was a private thing, he knew, and something he wouldn’t take lightly.

Scooting his chair closer to the edge of the bed, Max enfolded her hand in both of his. Then, on impulse, he raised it to his lips. His voice crooned softly, hypnotic and comforting, as he sought to begin their connection.

“Liz, it’s Max. Max Evans. We met at the conference a couple of days ago and had a drink together. I want to help pull you out of this coma, and I’m going to try some rather . . . unorthodox techniques. I won’t hurt you, and anything I might learn while sharing your mind will be kept in strictest confidence. I hope you’ll trust me, and let me in.”

With his hopeful eyes on her closed ones, he reached for her other hand, touching it gingerly so as not to aggravate the break in her arm. Concentrating with everything he had, he imagined her as she had been two days before, laughing softly and fascinating him with her large brown eyes. It was those eyes he concentrated on while looking for a way in. It was hard. This was no easy slide into another consciousness; here there was only mist and shadow, a moving wall that his vision could neither manipulate nor penetrate.

Beginning to tremble now, he pressed on, absorbing the sense of isolation, even desolation that seemed to tumble aimlessly in her mind. Here the mists were roiling, restless; a surreal fog seemed to penetrate his own mind as well as confound his senses. She was here; he could feel her. But he had no idea how to begin looking. He forced down the niggling panic when he felt his fragile sense of orientation slip away.

“Liz!”

Sound became one with silence.

Then he saw it, nothing more than a thinning in the dense mists that swirled aimlessly. A diffuse light seemed to glow from behind the curtain of gray, like dim headlights just appearing in the distance on a dangerous and foggy night. Instantly, he focused all his energy and concentration on that narrow promise. An idle comparison to the “go into the light” cliché flew through his mind, but this was the only opening available to him, and nothing could keep him from taking it. He gathered himself with grim determination, then flung his energy toward it, flying through what seemed an endless tunnel toward his goal.

He was in. But in where? It was brighter here, the mists less dense and threatening, and yet he still peered with frustration to see what lay ahead. His sense of her was stronger now.

“Liz? It’s Max. Liz, are you here? I’ve come to take you home.”

There was no answer. He began to move through the floating wisps of gray, feeling another glimmer of panic ripple through him. He didn’t know where he was or how to get out.

“Liz! Where are you? It’s Max. I need to find you.”

He felt her flash of recognition, but still saw and heard nothing. He looked behind him, perhaps expecting to see the opening through which he’d found this strange and ethereal place, but there was no trace of a path or tunnel. He was lost. Then an idea flickered. Perhaps she didn’t want to be helped, but could she refuse to help him?

“Liz, I’m lost. I don’t know where you are. I need you. Help me, Liz!”

“Max?” It was a breath, a whisper. “I can’t help you, Max. Go home.”

“Liz? Is that you, Liz? I can’t go home. I don’t know how. You have to help me.”

A stronger light appeared in front of him, parting the misty curtains that kept her hidden. There she was, standing alone in the sand, sunlight streaming through a cloudless sky, the surf teasing at her ankles. Spellbound, he watched her until she turned toward him.

“What are you doing here, Max?”

Then he was running, mindless with the joy of seeing her, whole and beautiful. He could feel the sand beneath his feet and the rays of sun on his face. It made no sense, but she was there and so was he, and that’s all that mattered.

He stopped short of throwing his arms around her as he wanted to. He couldn’t afford to risk her retreating any further.

“Liz, I’ve come to take you back—to your life, your family. I want to help you come home.”

She was still for a moment, looking out to sea.

“Why?”

The simplicity of the question took him by surprise. The complexity of the answer intimidated him.

“There are people waiting for you, Liz. People who love you. Your parents are so frightened; it’s easy to see how much they love you. And what about your job, your friends.” He hesitated, then finished his thought. “And me, Liz. I want you to come back. I can’t explain why, but it’s important to me, too.”

She turned her wide eyes to him, and what he saw there made him shudder. Sadness, fear, an empty hopelessness that pierced his heart. Without thinking, he reached for her, but she stepped back.

“I don’t want to go back. I like it here.”

He wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, but this calm and confident resistance wasn’t it. Did she even realize where she was? Did she understand what had happened to her?

“Liz, there is no ‘here.’ You’re lying in a hospital bed in a coma. This place,” he held out his hands to the empty stretch of beach, “it’s not real. It’s only in your mind.”

A half-smile lifted the corners of her mouth. “It’s safe and peaceful. There’s nothing for me back there.”

“Noth . . .” He stared at her, confused. “Nothing for you? Your parents are beside themselves with worry. You have a job. Friends. Maybe even a boyfriend.”

The last phrase was selfish on his part, he knew, but that pale circle around her finger nagged at him. He had to know if her heart was spoken for. His, inexplicably, seemed to be lost already. Her flinch and another step back from him made the hairs on his neck stand up.

“What is it, Liz? Are you running from something?”

There was that sad smile again. “I thought I could, but I can’t.”

She didn’t resist when he took her hand and tugged her gently to the sand. They sat, side by side, facing out on a sparkling but imaginary sea. It was Waikiki, he realized.

“Talk to me, Liz. I want to help you.”

“I don’t need help, Max. I only need peace. I’ve found it here. Just go home.”

He struggled with what to say next. Logic wasn’t going to work; this was a purely emotional state, and all his training didn’t prepare him for an experience like this. He, too, was emotional, and that could be dangerous.

“When I was a little boy growing up in Roswell, New Mexico, I had a secret. A secret that no one but my parents knew. As I grew, it kept me from making close friends, from participating fully in the world, and from forming attachments—romantic or otherwise. Then one day, something happened that forced me to reveal my secret to another person. Instead of using my secret against me, that person became my best friend, and he helped carry the burden I’d been shouldering for so long.

“Let me be your friend, Liz. I swear to you, nothing you tell me will ever leave the privacy of our relationship, and I promise it will help ease whatever burden you’re carrying.”

She looked at him curiously now. “What was your secret?”

His mouth opened and closed in surprise. Then he risked a smile. “I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.”

She sighed and looked back out to sea. “Did you ask me to have dinner with you because you thought you could get me into bed?”

This whole conversation was following a crazy zigzag of thought, and only Liz seemed to know where they were going with it.

“Of course not! My god, Liz, is that how you took it? I asked you to dinner because I’d seen you from across the room and felt an immediate connection with you. You were beautiful, yes, but something about you spoke to me. It was like meeting a friend for the first time.”

He’d never been so completely forthcoming with anyone before, let alone a virtual stranger, but something about the isolation of being alone with Liz inside her mind made him feel safe, buffered from reality. The important thing was to keep her talking.

“Why did you come to my rescue?” he asked, remembering his surprise at her role-playing in the bar that day.

A real smile softened her face as she looked back at him. “Believe it or not, same reason. I saw you watching me, but you didn’t make me feel afraid. It was like I knew you without knowing you.”

“Then why question me about ulterior motives?”

The smile faded. “No reason.”

“Liz, I thought you were going to talk to me. Tell me what’s . . .”

His head spun as he was jerked from Liz’s internal reality and into the hospital room where his body seemed to be in flight. His back slammed painfully against a wall, and his breath rushed from his lungs. Fighting to orient himself, he looked wildly around the room. Next to Liz’s bed stood a tall, blond man with a crazed gleam in his eyes. Max couldn’t even get a word out before the man strode forward and fisted his hand in preparation for a violent blow.

Max rolled nimbly out of the way, then uncurled with the grace of a panther, poised to spring. It was all he could do not to blast this stranger out the twelfth-floor window.

“What the hell are you doing? Who are you?”

The only response was another lunge in his direction. Max sidestepped, but the man’s body still caught him, and they both tumbled to the floor, knocking over a tray table and the water pitcher on it. Max didn’t know why they were fighting, but he’d had enough. Using a distantly remembered wrestling hold, he pinned his opponent to the floor and straddled his back. His words were hissed from between clenched teeth.

“You’d better tell me what the hell this is about right now, you fucker. One twist of this arm and I’ll break it.”

Cheek to the floor, the man still managed to snarl. “Nurse said Liz had a visitor. Her fiancé. I don’t know who you are, you bastard, but I’m her fiancé. Then I come here and find you half on top o’ that bed holdin’ her hand. I should kill you!”

“Dr. Evans! What happened?”

Max looked up into Jill Oshiro’s horrified and confused eyes—much like his own, he was sure.
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

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Carol000
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Post by Carol000 » Sun Jan 04, 2004 12:49 pm

For many, including me, it's back to work and the real world tomorrow. But I say, SCREW THE REAL WORLD! Let's enjoy another dose of Max and Liz!

Kath: You said you flashed on "While You Were Sleeping" when you read the last part. Good analogy. I flashed on it, too, and meant to mention that when I introduced it, since I didn't want that analogy to go too far. Yes, he lied about being engaged. Hopefully, the comparison ends there. I loved the movie, but have no desire to reproduce it here! I'm glad you found a much different twist as you read on.

Part 3 offers a bit of hope, but we're not out of the woods yet!

From Part 2

“Liz, I thought you were going to talk to me. Tell me what’s . . .”

His head spun as he was jerked from Liz’s internal reality and into the hospital room where his body seemed to be in flight. His back slammed painfully against a wall, and his breath rushed from his lungs. Fighting to orient himself, he looked wildly around the room. Next to Liz’s bed stood a tall, blond man with a crazed gleam in his eyes. Max couldn’t even get a word out before the man strode forward and fisted his hand in preparation for a violent blow.

Max rolled nimbly out of the way, then uncurled with the grace of a panther, poised to spring. It was all he could do not to blast this stranger out the twelfth-floor window.

“What the hell are you doing? Who are you?”

The only response was another lunge in his direction. Max sidestepped, but the man’s body still caught him, and they both tumbled to the floor, knocking over a tray table and the water pitcher on it. Max didn’t know why they were fighting, but he’d had enough. Using a distantly remembered wrestling hold, he pinned his opponent to the floor and straddled his back. His words were hissed from between clenched teeth.

“You’d better tell me what the hell this is about right now, you fucker. One twist of this arm and I’ll break it.”

Cheek to the floor, the man still managed to snarl. “Nurse said Liz had a visitor. Her fiancé. I don’t know who you are, you bastard, but I’m her fiancé. Then I come here and find you half on top o’ that bed holdin’ her hand. I should kill you!”

“Dr. Evans! What happened?”

Max looked up into Jill Oshiro’s horrified and confused eyes—much like his own, he was sure.

Part 3

“Mrs. Parker . . .”

“Call me Nancy.”

“Fine. Nancy, I think you’d better tell me about this guy Paulie. He’s engaged to Liz?”

Even saying the words made his stomach turn. He gripped the arm of the metal frame chair that was stamped “Honolulu PD” and lowered his voice. The police had asked them to wait, but Max only wanted to get back to Liz. He’d left her so abruptly; he could only hope it didn’t drive her deeper—further away from help, from him.

“He said he was her fiancé,” Max whispered. Even he could hear the note of desperation and disbelief in his voice.

“Yes, he was. At least I think it’s was. Liz was always very private about her relationships, but I know she’d been unhappy, and the last time I saw her, she wasn’t wearing the ring anymore.”

“When was that?”

“Just a couple of days ago, but it had been two or three weeks since we’d seen her, so I don’t know how long ago this might have happened. We were at a social function—not exactly the ideal place for an intimate mother-daughter chat. I asked her about it briefly, but she just said she was taking some time to think about it.” Her face turned grim. “He was never right for her. I knew it as soon as I’d spent five minutes with him. And I’ll tell you right now, she never looked truly happy when she was with him.”

Max chastised himself for feeling good about that. “So who is he? How did they meet?”

Nancy sighed, and her eyes darted toward the double doors behind which they’d taken Max’s attacker. There was no sign of the officer who had asked them to wait.

“His name is Paulie Chase. His father is a huge developer on the islands, and Paulie’s been groomed as his successor since he was a child. He’s spoiled, willful, powerful, and rich.” The descriptors rolled off her tongue coated in disdain. “When the convention center added a new wing, his company handled the deal. He met Liz in an elevator one day and made it his business to wine and dine her. It was a whirlwind courtship and before I knew it, they were engaged.”

“She . . . loved him then.” It wasn’t a question, really, but an effort to wrap his brain around a fact he’d confronted from the moment he’d seen that untanned circle around her finger. But it didn’t feel right. Not then and most certainly not now.

“I’m not so sure.”

Max jerked his head up to read Nancy’s face.

“Liz is a bright, creative, energetic woman. But every time I saw her with Paulie, she was subdued, like she was walking on eggshells worrying about whether she was saying or doing the right thing. It made me sick. We raised our daughter to be independent and confident. I don’t know where that went when she was with him, but she was a different person. Someone I hardly recognized.”

The anger was rising slowly, like the water in a lock. There’d been no question in Max’s mind that this guy was a jerk; his first clue had been the sensation of being thrown across a room by a man with hate-filled eyes. But that had been directed at him, and he could handle it. This, though . . . this painted a picture of something else entirely—something directed at Liz, and somehow that seemed a lot more personal.

“I have to ask, Max, why you are so interested in my daughter. First you claim to be her fiancé, then you ask if you can try some kind of nontraditional therapy, and according to the nurses, you stay in her room almost around the clock. I checked you out. You are who you claim to be. So I can’t help wonder why you’re doing all this.”

Max took a moment to study Nancy Parker’s face. It was a nice face—soft yet strong, open but astute. From the moment they’d met, she had been the one to keep her emotions in check, to be positive and constructive without the empty platitudes or fussy hovering he might have expected. While Jeff had fumed and glared, Nancy had assessed and reasoned. Even now, she was studying him with the same honest expectation that she seemed to direct at the rest of her life. She had checked him out. Well good for her. He would have done the same.

Once again, he fought his natural inclination toward privacy. He would have no time to work with Liz without the support of this woman. And she, for some reason, seemed willing to find a reason to support him.

“I hardly know how to answer that, but I do understand your need to ask. Okay, well, if you’ve looked into my background, you know that I’ve devoted most of my adult life to my career, most recently with coma patients. But what you didn’t find on the Internet is probably what really applies here.” He sighed, determined to make her understand. “I was abandoned as a child, adopted, and raised in a small town in New Mexico. Somehow, I never quite fit in. I’m not saying I had a bad childhood. I didn’t. My parents are great. But I’ve never been one to easily get close to people—at least on a personal level. When I met Liz—even before I actually met her—I made a connection. It was like I recognized her, though I couldn’t tell you why. And in the brief time we talked, I got the feeling she felt it, too. So I guess I’m doing this because I’m not willing to give up on that connection. It’s too rare for me.”

Nancy sat watching him, as if trying to make up her mind. He was beginning to wonder if she believed him when she asked her next question.

“Did you ask Liz out?”

Max knew he looked surprised. It seemed such a trivial question in light of the current circumstances.

“Yes, to dinner.”

“And did she accept?”

So that was it. She wanted some proof that her daughter wanted him around. He could lie, but he couldn’t seem to offer that face anything but the truth.

“No.”

“Did she say why?”

“Not really.” This wasn’t going well. “She just said she was busy. I mean, one minute we’d be laughing and talking so easily, and the next minute, she seemed nervous, like I was making her uncomfortable. I guess you could say she was hard to read.”

Nancy sat quietly again, oblivious to the shouts between police officers or the constant ringing of the phones.

“Nancy, I know what you’re thinking, but please, let me continue the therapy. If I fail, you’ve lost nothing. I won’t charge for this, I swear. And if I succeed, Liz can decide if I go or stay and you get your daughter back either way.”

Now it was Nancy’s turn to look surprised. “Did you think I was testing you, Max? I’m sorry.”

He didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing. Nancy sighed, coming out of her long internal conversation.

“I asked you those questions to learn more about Liz’s state of mind, not yours. You said she would talk easily, then become nervous. If you ask me, she didn’t want to risk Paulie seeing the two of you together.”

“But . . . I thought you said she’d broken it off.”

“I did. I also said Paulie was spoiled, willful, and powerful. He doesn’t take no for an answer, Max. In fact, I would bet he took it very hard.” She seemed to gather herself to say something more; then those penetrating eyes turned on him full bore.

“I’ve wondered before, and I’ve even asked her . . .” She broke off, fighting to keep herself under control. “She always denied it, but . . . Max, I think Paulie was abusing my daughter.”

The pain sliced through him before he had a chance to brace himself. He saw his own anguished expression reflected in the sheen of tears in Nancy’s green eyes.

“Did you ever see . . . marks on her?” The raspy words struggled out over the pain.

“There are lots of ways to mark another human, Max,” she said, her stoic demeanor drawn tightly around her. “He hurt her. Or maybe ‘dominated’ is a better word. I’m sure of it now. But emotionally rather than physically. A control freak doesn’t need to abuse the body to get what he wants.”

Shock and anger rolled through him, and when the trembling started, he welcomed it. Any release for the emotions overwhelming him was a good thing. He stood and began to pace, his glare refocused on the double doors that shielded Paulie from his view. If that bastard took one step outside of those doors, it would be his last.

A gentle hand on his shoulder interrupted his seething, and he looked down at Nancy. There was anger there, too, but it was steel cold, not boiling like his own.

“Don’t, Max. I can see what you’re thinking. And so can every cop in this room. Don’t let him win by bringing you down, too. Let the law take care of him. We’ll take care of Liz. Okay?”

Her cool tone, her calm voice brought him back to himself. She was right, of course. Paulie wasn’t worth his time or attention. Liz was.

“I appreciate your waiting,” the officer said, effectively breaking off their intense gaze. “Your statements have been prepared; I just need you to read them over and sign them.”

They dispensed with the formalities quickly and headed outside. It was early evening now, and Max was anxious to return to the hospital, but he didn’t want to intrude on the Parkers’ time with their daughter. He couldn’t tell Nancy that he’d actually been talking with Liz when Paulie had attacked him, but he was afraid of how his abrupt departure might have affected her.

“Nancy, I just . . . I know you and your husband need to spend time with Liz and I don’t want to intrude, but I’d like to try another session as soon as possible. When do you think might be convenient?”

The niceties were killing him. Every cell in his body was telling him to run to the hospital to connect with Liz again. What if she was frightened or angry or confused? Any of those things might be enough to drive her deeper into her own mind and away from her waking life. But pushing too hard would only increase the risk that the Parkers would send him away entirely.

“Max.” There was that cool and controlled voice again. How did she do that? “I won’t pretend to understand exactly what it is that’s driving you to help our daughter, but I’m not one to turn down help when it’s this important. If there’s any chance you can reach her, there’s nothing I won’t do to help. I won’t lie and say Jeff doesn’t have his doubts, but I recognize what I see in your eyes, and I trust you.

“Go get something to eat, Max. Then come on by. Jeff and I will stay with her for an hour or so and then call it a night. Okay?”

Later, Max would wonder at the sudden impulse, but at that moment, the urge to hug her translated into action before he could censor himself. His arms flew around her in a blind search for comfort, and it warmed him when her arms encircled him. It was only a moment, but he felt the shift, and he knew he had an ally.

********
They were talking to her in low, tender tones when he arrived. He stood in the doorway observing the close family scene, the familiar trappings of parental love and fear evident in every move, every murmur. He watched, touched, as her father bent to place a tender kiss on her forehead.

“Come back to us Lizzie-girl,” he whispered.

“Max will be here soon, sweetheart,” Nancy told her daughter, some of her cool veneer crumbling in their private moment. “Let him in, please, honey. Follow him back to us.”

She, too, kissed her daughter, and they stood, exchanging a look of helplessness. It was then that Jeff noticed Max. His expression darkened, but his tone was civil.

“Come in, Max. We were just leaving.”

Nancy turned, visibly pulling herself together. “Hello, Max. We’ll leave you with her.” She dug in her purse. “Here’s our business card. Call the number on the back if . . . if you need anything.”

Max could have sworn she wanted to say . . . if you have anything to report, but she wouldn’t let herself acknowledge that much hope. At least not in front of Jeff.

“I will.”

Her eyes held his for a moment, then she followed her husband out the door.

The lights were dim, which suited Max just fine. He’d checked with the nurse, and there were no nursing rounds scheduled for Liz until morning. He could stay as long as he wanted, and given the nature of his work here, he had no desire for light or interruptions. Pulling up the chair Nancy had used, he took a long, selfish moment to drink in her too-still figure, ethereally beautiful, like a rare painting or a fragile sculpture. What was it that had drawn him to her? How was it possible to feel so much for someone he’d known so briefly? And yet he’d felt it even before they met. I knew I loved you before I met you. Foolish romanticism. And yet, here he was staring at a face that meant more to him than it should. A face—and more—that he was risking his professional license to salvage.

Liz’s hand lay limp and unresisting in his. He pressed it to his lips and began his work. Concentrating on her face, envisioning those large, intelligent eyes that had made such an impression on him from the first, he slipped into her mind. Roiling mists swirled around him as before, dense and uninviting.

”Liz! It’s Max. I’m sorry I left you before. It wasn’t my doing, believe me. I want to talk to you again.”

There was no response, but this time, Max knew what to look for, and he found the thinning in the curtain between them where the hint of light gave away her whereabouts. He pushed his mind toward it, and found that the long tunnel he had felt himself fly through on his last visit was shorter this time. And unlike his previous experience, he didn’t encounter the brighter buffer between the heavy mists and the beach; this time, he emerged directly onto the beach where he had left her hours before. She didn’t acknowledge him at first, but as he walked toward her, she spoke.

“You’re back.”

He fought the urge to run to her, to touch her, to promise not to abandon her again. Such a display would surely frighten her. After all, what he felt for her was something he’d built up in his own mind. She barely knew him. She had no reason to greet him with anything but wariness and perhaps curiosity.

“Of course, I’m back. I’m sorry I left you so abruptly this afternoon. I was . . . something distracted me in your hospital room and I couldn’t maintain my connection with you. I couldn’t get back until now.”

“You make it sound as if that was hours ago. It feels like you just left.”

Max mulled over that comment. It was a clue of sorts, he thought, about how her mind was functioning.

“I’ve been gone for hours, Liz. There was something that I had to take care of or I would never have left you.”

She finally turned to him and smiled. It took his breath away to see her so calm and . . . and happy. And beautiful.

“Don’t worry. Time is funny here. It means nothing. I just sit and think and enjoy the peace.”

He sat next to her, realizing suddenly that he could smell the salt air. He didn’t remember noticing that before.

“What do you think about?”

She sighed and turned back to the ocean. “When I was a little girl and my father was stationed at Pearl Harbor, my parents used to take me out on a friend’s boat every weekend. They taught me to swim and dive and, eventually, to operate the boat. It was the most amazing feeling of freedom. Do you dive, Max?”

“I had lessons once, on a trip to the Florida Keys, but I haven’t been since.”

Her eyes turned dreamy. “It’s the most peaceful feeling. Like floating in a beautiful dream where nothing can hurt you.”

“Would you take me sometime?”

“Absolutely,” she agreed readily.

Max watched her carefully. What was she saying? Was she ready to go back with him that easily? He offered his hand. “Can we go now?”

Liz looked around, frowning slightly. “I don’t have the right equipment right now. Maybe next time.”

Did he dare suggest it? “If you came back with me now, we could get the equipment. I bet your parents would even take us out. They’d be so glad to see you.”

She sat very still, watching the little waves curl and fall, then slither toward her toes. Slowly, she seemed to unfold herself until she was standing, and she held out her hand to him.

“Walk with me.”

He took it, feeling its warmth and strength, and wondered at the sensation, given that only their minds walked along her imaginary beach. They didn’t speak, but as a gull swooped low over them, Max realized it was the first living thing he’d seen besides Liz in this protective world she’d constructed.

Sun shimmered across the sand, its heat rising in invisible waves in the distance. On an impulse, Max kicked off his shoes and let the wet sand ooze between his toes. Lifting the shoes with two fingers, he raised his face to the sun and sighed.

“Who are you, Max?”

Caught short, Max jerked around to face her. “What do you mean?”

“I mean I have friends and family who love me, and yet you, who I’ve only just met, are the one to find me here. Why are you here, Max? And how is it you were the one to find me?”

“You . . . you know where you are?”

“Of course,” she said simply.

“Then why do you stay?”

Sadness shadowed her face, then she smiled ruefully. “Oh, no you don’t. You have to answer my question first.”

“You know who I am. I’m a psychiatrist. We talked about it, remember?”

“Yes, I remember. You have theories about coma patients. So you’ve done this before? You’ve somehow entered the minds of coma patients and brought them back?”

She turned her large eyes to him and, like her mother, seemed to demand the truth. He couldn’t lie, although, he rationalized, he didn’t have to tell her the whole truth.

“No, I haven’t.”

She smiled, much to his surprise. “I thought not.”

He returned her smile, if only because she’d surprised him. “You didn’t?”

She brushed off his question and asked another. “How have you helped the other patients you’ve treated?”

“Well, I spend a lot of time talking to them through what I believe is a subliminal hypnosis, introducing familiar voices and events that will pull them back from wherever it is they’re hiding. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I can never tell for sure if I’ve reached them.”

She pondered that, stopping to examine an opalescent shell that produced a mini-rainbow as she turned it in the sunlight.

“You did, I think. Some just chose to stay where they were. Like me.”

She might have struck him for the impact her words had. He couldn’t answer her right away, but she seemed unfazed, continuing her hypothesis with an almost scientific detachment.

“I suspect you help them reevaluate what they want, and some choose to return to their lives. Some don’t. You can’t berate yourself for their decisions.”

Incredulous, he gaped at her. “Liz, what are you saying? You never want to come back?”

Again, she ignored his question. “So what’s different this time? Why are you here with me?”

This called for too much truth. If she thought he was crazy, she wouldn’t let him come back again. And yet, her steady gaze seemed to draw the truth from him like a magnet—not quite against his will, but most certainly against his better judgment.

“I . . . I’m trying something different.”

She continued to stare. He continued to talk, though he was somewhat unnerved as he listened to himself. “Liz, the moment I saw you, I felt a connection with you. I can’t explain it. I don’t usually feel a connection with anyone, except maybe a couple of close friends. But nothing like this. You . . . you opened something inside me and I was drawn to you in a way I can’t even explain to myself. When you started to leave that day in the cafe, I realized I didn’t even know your name and I panicked. I called to you and you turned; then I saw the taxi . . . I tried to help . . . but . . .”

He was babbling now, sounding like a lunatic when he was supposed to be the sane one, the voice of reason. Somewhere, in the midst of his internal dialogue and his own runaway tongue, the look on her face registered with him, and all talking stopped—inside and outside of his head. She was beaming at him, the aloofness shed like snakeskin.

“It’s true then.”

He was losing track of this conversation quickly.

“Uh . . . what is?”

“I saw your hand go up in that last second before I was hit. I felt the force of being moved through the air without anything touching me. You did something, Max. Something . . . impossible. And if you hadn’t, I’d be dead now.”

Simply put. Totally accurate. And completely unacceptable for her to know.

“Liz . . .”

She touched her fingers to his lips. “You’re different. I don’t know how, yet. Maybe you’re psychic or empathic or . . .” she chuckled, “genetically enhanced. But whatever it is, Max, it’s amazing.”

“Liz, I can’t . . .”

“I felt something else, too, Max.”

He stared at her, afraid of what she might say next. “I felt that . . . connection, as you put it. It’s like I recognized you. How in the world do you think I found the courage to approach you when you were talking to all those women? It was completely out of character. But you weren’t a stranger to me, Max. You were already a part of me.”

And that quickly, Max knew what it had felt like for her to be moved by an unseen force, because without conscious thought, he felt compelled to reach for her, registering only mild surprise when she came into his arms. His lips hovered over hers, every cell in his body urging him to press on, every strand of rational thought preparing himself for her to bolt.

She took the decision away from him, straining up on her toes to touch her lips to his, and then he was lost. There had never been other kisses if this was what it truly felt like to kiss. There had never been other arms to hold him or other tastes so sweet as this. His head swam, all arguments about what was wrong here lost in the flood of what was right.

His arms slid further around her, crushing her to him possessively, and she gave herself eagerly. Tongues tangled, bodies melded, thought ceased in the onslaught of sensation. He had no idea how long they had stood on that beach, devouring each other in an almost desperate embrace, but it was the sudden appearance of a small dog that brought them out of it. With a yelp of protest and some insistent wriggling, the puppy managed to wedge some space between them.

Breathing heavily, Max looked down, dazed and confused. A dog? Where had a dog come from? Laughing, Liz reached down and picked him up.

“Meet Brandy,” she laughed, as the eager pup’s long tongue took a swipe at Max. “Officially, it’s Lady Brandywine of Kauai, but she never quite lives up to her title. She’s not nearly arrogant enough . . . or proud enough,” she laughed again when the puppy almost leapt from her arms to Max. He barely caught her, but that didn’t stop her from snaking out her tongue and licking every inch of exposed flesh she could find.

Laughing, he set the wriggling mass down on the sand and watched her bound down the beach in a tornado of sand and water, stopping to sniff one minute and tearing down the shore the next.

“Where did she come from?” Max asked, more than a little aware of the blurring between reality and Liz’s imaginary world.

“I got her a few months ago,” she answered, apparently either unwilling to acknowledge the illogic of what she was saying or just oblivious to it. “She makes me laugh.”

He turned her back into his arms, pulled between his desire to kiss her again and his obligation to coax her back to her life.

“Liz, I can’t leave you here.”

“Then don’t,” she smiled, placing a quick kiss on his willing lips.

She began to run down the beach toward Brandy, and he was just about to follow her when he heard the voice. Pushing it away, he started into a slow jog, but the voice grew louder, and a protest rose to his lips as Liz blurred and faded from view.
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

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Carol000
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Post by Carol000 » Wed Jan 07, 2004 11:27 pm

Thanks, everyone, for such wonderful feedback! I just loving reading your comments and speculations. I know there were posts I wanted to respond to, but the week got away from me and I don't want to delay this post by going back to see. The one I remember I specifically wanted to address was why Jeff is so hostile. There is no secret reason; I'm trying to portray him as very skeptical about Max's theories--understandably--and very suspicious of Max's motives, and yet he's not willing to dismiss them if there is any chance Max could really help Liz. Since the arrangement seems to be putting Nancy's mind at ease (somewhat), he's tolerating the whole thing, but you can just tell he's ready to put a stop to it if anything at all seems suspect. Perhaps I've made him too snarly for my goal, and if so, I apologize.

More bumps in the road--fasten your seatbelts.

From Part 3

He turned her back into his arms, pulled between his desire to kiss her again and his obligation to coax her back to her life.

“Liz, I can’t leave you here.”

“Then don’t,” she smiled, placing a quick kiss on his willing lips.

She began to run down the beach toward Brandy, and he was just about to follow her when he heard the voice. Pushing it away, he started into a slow jog, but the voice grew louder, and a protest rose to his lips as Liz blurred and faded from view.

Part 4

“Dr. Evans? Dr. EVANS!”

He raised his head and tried to focus on the room around him. Dr. Oshiro was frowning down at him, obviously concerned.

“What is it? I thought I asked not to be disturbed.” He was angry, but he dared not give the doctor or anyone else any more reason to question his work with Liz, including late night visits in her room.

“I’m sorry, Doctor, but I heard laughing in here, and I thought perhaps you’d already had some success with Ms. Parker. When I looked in, you were laughing and then breathing heavily and . . .” She held up one shoe. His shoe. “This was in the doorway. I thought I’d better see if you were all right.”

It took Max a minute to absorb what she’d said. Apparently, he was reacting outwardly to the stimuli from Liz’s brain. That was dangerous, if only because of the speculation that it might trigger.

“I was . . . trying to re-create an event in her life that her parents mentioned was important to her. It’s part of the therapy. What time is it?”

“Almost 3 a.m.”

His eyes widened in surprise. He would have sworn he’d only been with Liz for a half hour. That would explain why she wasn’t aware of how long he’d been gone earlier. He wanted to go back, but the doctor was standing there staring at him—with his shoe in her hand—so he bowed to the inevitable.

“When do you get off?”

“6:00 a.m. Why?”

“Please keep an eye on her, and call me if there’s any change.” He began to jot his contact information on a business card. “I’ll come back later today.”

She took the card, handed him his shoe, and left. If she would be gone by 6 a.m., he’d plan to be back at 7 a.m. He had his work cut out for him.

********
The next morning, he waited impatiently as the nurses took Liz through her paces. Her sheets were changed, her vitals taken, liquid nutrition hung for the IV, and a brief sponge bath administered. Pacing in the hall, he watched the parade of staff tending to her and wondered how long it would be before she awoke. Or would she?

“You can go in now, Dr. Evans,” a nurse told him as she breezed by.

In the daylight, she looked even paler. Her hair had been brushed to a lovely sheen, and her covers were neatly tucked around her, but there was no bloom in her cheeks, no hint of that beautiful smile on her lips. She wasn’t here. But at least now, he knew where she was.

It was fast this time, and he wasted only a moment in the deep mists that greeted him. Within seconds he had emerged onto the beach to find her waiting.

“There you are,” she said gaily. “I have a surprise for you.”

Laid out neatly behind her was all the gear they would need for snorkeling, and just off shore was a small cabin cruiser bouncing invitingly in the waves. Brandy ran circles around him in excitement, and Max could feel the tension drain away. It couldn’t hurt to indulge her, could it? The more comfortable she became with him, the more likely she would trust him to lead her home.

“What’s all this?” he said, opening his arms to her as she stepped into him for a kiss. He forgot all about snorkeling; her taste intoxicated him, and he was supremely conscious of her curves molding into him. He deepened the kiss, content to lose himself in her, but with a happy sigh, she stepped away.

“We’re going snorkeling; it’s a good first step before we try diving.”

“Where did you get this stuff?” Max asked, immediately realizing the absurdity of the question. But Liz seemed to find nothing odd about it. She only shrugged and said, “I told you I’d take care of it.”

She unzipped her shorts and let them slide to her ankles, laughing at Max’s wide-eyed stare. When she reached for her top, he snapped out of it.

“Liz! Wait. I . . . uh . . . I don’t think we should . . .”

“I’m wearing my bathing suit, Max.” Which she was, he noticed—all 6 square inches of it. The term “string bikini” had never been so appropriate; scraps of orange material covered the bare minimum of her smooth, tanned skin, and were held in place by the most tentative of knots at each hip, her back, and the nape of her neck. Her limbs were lithe and toned, and when she moved, he found himself praying that one of the strings would come untied. Like some kind of horny adolescent! he scolded himself. He could feel the fire racing through his veins, and was more than a little worried that other more obvious reactions would grab her attention.

She was grinning at him, and he found himself blushing for the first time in years.

“Lighten up, haole. This is standard beach wear on Waikiki.”

“I . . . I . . .” Words. He needed to string some words together here. “I . . . don’t have a suit.”

“I thought of that,” she smiled, stepping forward with a pair of swim trunks in a wild print. She was inches away, closer than she needed to be, closer than he could stand her to be without reaching, touching, having.

She pressed the suit to his chest and turned away. “I won’t peek,” she promised.

Her mood was impairing his judgment; he knew it, and yet he couldn’t seem to care. He undressed slowly, watching her the entire time. He almost hoped she would grow impatient and turn to see him, so ready physically for something his mind must have known they weren’t ready for emotionally. But she was true to her word . . . in the most technical sense, at least. For as he changed, she bent to examine the equipment they would be using, giving little thought to what that view might do to him.

Great, he thought to himself as he hardened. I now have a permanent compass needle pointing toward Liz.

“I’m ready,” he croaked, and when she turned, her profile slammed him again. Small round breasts pushed against their respective triangles of cloth, making his palms ache to cup them; a flat brown abdomen skimmed the top of the largest triangle, which disappeared between her legs, making his fingers itch to slide into the wet heat he imagined there. The tenting in his swimsuit was obvious and inevitable. She gave it a long look, then gave him a long look, throwing him a speculative glance as she turned away.

“Grab your gear and follow me!” she called. He did as she asked and caught up with her at the water’s edge. She showed him how to put on the simple gear and told him they would swim to the boat. Following her instructions, he allowed himself to enjoy the teeming life that was already visible in the shallow waters, then pulled himself up the ladder into the boat.

Wet. Now her tiny suit was wet. She could have been naked in front of him, for there was no detail of her body hidden now except the colors and textures that he could only imagine lay beneath. The calming effect of the cool water on his anatomy was immediately undone. He was about to say something responsible, he was sure, but whatever it was flew from his mind when she stepped into him and raised her face to his. He looked into those mesmerizing eyes and fell in, covering her mouth with his as he went under.

His hands traced her body everywhere, and he wondered idly if they were leaving the same trail of fire that hers were leaving on him. She was giving and eager, and all he wanted in the world was to take.

His fingers rubbed back and forth over the loose bow centered beneath her shoulder blades, and he ached to untie it. The tips of his fingers tugged gently, then stopped, tugged again, stopped. What was he doing? But it felt so good. So right. He knew he was about to lose it; she had already driven him to the edge, and somehow, even that seemed all right.

Her mouth left his and, with eyes still closed, she breathed her desire into his mouth. “Do it, Max. There’s no one here to see us.”

It was like a slap across the face, though he knew she didn’t intend that result. There was no one around. And that was because this wasn’t real. They were deep inside Liz’s mind where fantasy was reality, where actions had no consequences, and where she would one day find these memories and judge him by them.

He set her away from him with a wrenching reluctance, averting his eyes from the hurt in hers. A painful hypothesis emerged from the part of his mind that still functioned.

“No.”

Her expression turned cold. “You know you want it.”

“Yes.”

“Well?”

“I won’t be used, Liz.”

“Used? Oh, please, Max. Since when does a man consider scoring being used?”

The question hurt almost as much as pushing her away had.

“I won’t be the man you control the way you were controlled, Liz. You’re too important to me. When . . . if we make love, it will be because we do love, not because it gives you back the power you think you lost.”

She did slap him then, and as he left her, he was sure he saw tears in her eyes.

********

He’d been brooding in the corner of the room, analyzing—more like agonizing over—the details of his encounters with Liz so far, when Nancy appeared at his side. He hadn’t even heard her enter the room.

“I take it it’s not going well,” she said softly, her voice tense under a veil of concern.

“I can’t tell,” he said honestly. He’d told Nancy going in that this was an inexact science and that his results were difficult to document. The effect of using his unique powers was proving almost as difficult to quantify.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, her hand on his arm in a comforting gesture, and he realized she meant that for him as well as for herself.

He finally looked up at her. “I know. So am I.”

When she sat down across from him, he let his desperation decide his next move. “I think she’s hiding, Nancy. I think she’s feeling safe and secure in there, and she doesn’t feel like she has much of a reason to come out.”

He flinched when he realized how his words must have hurt her, but she nodded, accepting his hypothesis.

“She’s always been strong, independent. Growing up, you just couldn’t tell her anything. She had to find everything out for herself. To her credit, she handled every challenge—school, boyfriends, jobs—she was kind of an overachiever. She knew Paulie’s reputation when they started dating, but I’m sure she thought she could handle him. He was good-looking, fun, charming when he wanted to be. It was a seductive package.”

Max nodded, but his stomach was clenched in a knot and his mouth settled into a grim line. It was hard enough to think of Liz with someone else—hard, but inevitable—but to think of her being emotionally battered was something else entirely.

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot,” he said, wiping a frustrated hand over his face, “and while it makes sense that she would feel somehow defeated by him—maybe even ashamed, like she failed somehow, or wasn’t strong enough—it doesn’t seem enough to force her into retreating like this. I mean, I understand what you’re saying about her independent nature, but . . .” He sighed, trying to make sense of it. “She must feel under tremendous pressure not to make a mistake, and yet I didn’t get that Type A feel from her when we talked. What touched me about her was her gentleness, a deep compassion that seemed to just . . . reach out to me. She cares for people. You can see it in the way she interacts with you, that warm smile that just makes you feel you can trust her, believe in her. Just a few words and you notice her charm and grace; you can tell she wants you to be comfortable, to feel welcome in that special circle she creates . . .”

He stopped talking abruptly, realizing too late that he’d started thinking out loud, forgetting he had an audience. She was staring at him speculatively, but she said nothing.

“I’m sorry. I was . . . I got carried away. I’m sorry.”

To his surprise, she reached across and took his hand. “Find her, Max. If anyone can, I have a feeling it’s you.”

With that, she walked to her daughter’s bedside, smoothed her hair back, kissed her forehead, and left.

********
When they came to tend to Liz’s evening regimen, Max wandered down into the bowels of the hospital to the cafeteria. He didn’t know what he was eating; he only knew he had to keep up his strength for Liz. He would go back, he would talk to her, give her the therapy she needed at a subconscious level, since her conscious mind was unavailable to him . . . for now. And he would find a way to bring her back.

“Dr. Evans?”

“Yes.” He looked up, distracted.

“I’m Owen Takamora, the hospital administrator. I’ve been meaning to track you down. Do you have a minute?”

Max tried to clear his mind. He couldn’t afford to come across as anything less than professional with the man who held his temporary status at the hospital in the palm of his hand.

“Glad to meet you,” Max smiled, extending a hand. “Join me.”

Owen sat, and Max had to fend off the urge to squirm under his scrutiny.

“I understand you’re treating the Parker woman.”

“I’m trying.”

“Your credentials are excellent, I must say. I also understand her parents have signed off on your involvement with the case.”

“Yes.” There was something else on his mind, Max knew. He was leading up to something.

“The floor staff says you are in that room almost full time. That seems a rather excessive amount of therapy, especially for a coma patient. Would you mind telling me your plans for Ms. Parker? Is she a personal friend?”

Liz’s parents were the only ones who knew he wasn’t her fiancé, as he’d claimed, and they had chosen not to give him away. Paulie was safely behind bars for the time being, thanks to a rather colorful history with the Honolulu PD who were quickly losing patience with ineffective slaps on the wrist, so Max's cover story would hold. It would also explain a lot to this man, whose concerns were legitimate, Max had to admit.

“Liz is my fiancée,” he said, hoping he sounded more confident than he felt. “I’ve been hoping to have some success with my mono-directional therapy theory. She’s a good candidate for it.”

“I see.” Owen sat quietly for a moment. “I understand you’re from Albuquerque. I was at your presentation the other day, as a matter of fact. How is it you came to be engaged to a local?”

Max smiled, stalling for time. He hadn’t been prepared to answer that question. “Our parents are friends,” he lied. “We’ve actually known each other for years, but recently, it became something . . . more.”

Again, the man seemed to consider Max’s words. “Dr. Evans, I’d like to propose a change in Ms. Parker’s status here at the hospital.”

“What do you mean?”

“Physically, she’s stable. She requires no treatment except basic monitoring. Her nutritional and catheterization needs are all that require attention from the nursing staff. I’d like to put her in the psych wing.”

Max’s protest hadn’t even cleared his lips when Owen hurried to forestall his objections.

“She’ll have a private room and the best of care, I assure you, but the atmosphere will be more comfortable, less hospital-like, and definitely quieter. You’ll be granted full privileges, and we’ll see to it that she is situated far from the primary treatment center. It will allow privacy, fewer interruptions, and, if you choose, access to other psychiatrists on staff.”

“I do see some advantages,” Max began, “but I don’t know what her insurance will cover. That’s bound to be expensive.”

“I can check on that. And I’ll contact her parents. They’re the ones with the decision-making authority, of course, but I wanted to run that by you as her doctor first.”

Max nodded. “I appreciate it.” He stood, suddenly anxious to get back to Liz. “Just keep me apprised. You know where to find me.”

Back in Liz’s room, he breathed a deep sigh. He had to talk to her, hold her, make things right between them again. And then bring her home.

Pulling up a chair, he slipped into her mind easily. The mists had deepened, now a dark, almost impenetrable curtain, and Max frowned; she had pulled away, distanced herself even further from her life, from him. Just how much damage had he done?

He wandered at random, searching determinedly for the telltale hint of light, squinting as if that would somehow force the fog to part. Nothing. Fingers of doubt squeezed his heart, but he pressed forward, calling to her.

“Liz! It’s Max. I’m sorry I upset you. Please, let me talk to you.”

Silence, cold and definitive, lay heavy in the air. For one desperate moment, he thought he heard the surf beating against her private shore, but it was only the blood pulsing in frantic bursts through his head.

“Liz! Please!” When his voice broke, he stopped, trying to clear his throat and his mind. He couldn’t fall apart. This was too important. He licked his lips nervously and tasted the salt. God, he was crying. He hadn’t cried in years. Standing in place, he turned a full circle, letting the tears fall and blend into the blur that surrounded him.

“Liz!”

It was the slight shake of his shoulder that brought him back to the room. He lifted his head but saw only more of the same mists. Confused, he swiped at his eyes and the room came into focus. Tears. He’d been crying in his own reality as well.

“Max? What’s wrong?”

Nancy and Jeff stood before him, and he stood, trembling, to face them. “I can’t find her.”

“What does that mean?” Jeff asked in a tone that reflected both irritation and fear.

He hadn’t meant to say that, at least not that way. They weren’t expecting him to find her, not in any literal sense. “I can’t tell if I’m getting anywhere,” he revised. “She’s so . . .” There was no explaining it. A coma patient never reacted outwardly, so he couldn’t make them understand why this seemed so hopeless to him. It looked like every other coma case he’d worked on.

He’d seen Nancy only hours before, but now she was here with Jeff. His emotional mind flew into a new panic. “Is something happening? Is something wrong?”

“No, Max. Nothing new, anyway. Dr. Takamora called and asked us to consider having Liz moved to the psychiatric wing. He said he’d talked to you about it.”

“Yes, he did. I was against it at first, but when he described the atmosphere as quieter and less sterile, I thought maybe we should consider it. You should consider it,” he amended when he saw Jeff’s expression.

“We have another option to suggest,” Nancy said, throwing her husband a warning glance. “We want to bring her home, with us.”

Max sat down again, hard, and reached for Liz’s hand. He missed Jeff’s narrowed eyes; his full attention was on Nancy’s face. They wanted to take her away from him. He’d never get a chance to fix what he’d done, and worse, he’d never be able to find her and bring her back.

“Why? I haven’t given up yet.”

“Neither have we,” Nancy said, leaning over to take both Max’s and Liz’s hands in hers. “We want you to come, too, if you’re willing. I know you have a practice to get back to, and this is your vacation, so I understand if . . .”

“Mr. Parker? Does that go for you, too?”

Jeff’s gaze fell on his daughter, and it was she he was looking at when he said, “I’m willing to do anything to bring her back. If Nancy thinks you might help, then so be it.”

“We can have a nurse in twice a day to check on her and keep the doctors here informed,” Nancy continued, as if the matter were settled, “and this way we’ll be able to spend more time with her, and you can continue your work as you see fit.”

Max took her last comment to mean that Dr. Takamora had expressed some concern over the amount of time he spent in Liz’s room. He couldn’t really blame him. It was Nancy Parker’s attitude that surprised him. She seemed unusually willing to accept his theory and him, and he wasn’t sure why.

“It’s a good idea,” Max said. “When can we move her?”

“Thanksgiving is in two days. I want her home for that, even though . . . I just want her home. We’ll arrange for transport tomorrow.”

“That’s family time,” Max said, “even under these circumstances. I’ll join you the day after, if that’s okay.”

Nancy stole a glance at her husband, took a deep breath, and said, “You’re welcome to join us, Max. No one should be alone on Thanksgiving.”

“Thank you, but no. I think I could use some time to myself just now.” The look of relief on Jeff’s face didn’t go unnoticed, but it wasn’t Jeff Parker Max was trying to please. He was doing this for himself; he needed to get some perspective.

********
He found the stretch of beach that Liz had so carefully reconstructed in her mind; it was easy to see why it appealed to her. The water was as blue as a postcard, and the sand a gleaming white. In spite of the crowds, it was possible to feel entirely alone as he gazed upon a sea that stretched endlessly to the horizon, or at the palm trees that stretched tirelessly to the sky. He felt himself stretching, too, toward . . . something. He could feel it just beyond his reach, but it eluded him. What was it that called to him with the seduction of a siren and yet left him alone and yearning?

His last encounter with Liz had shaken him. He knew in his gut that her obvious seduction wasn’t really her; she was hurting, as her creation of a “safe” world in her mind had told him all along. She had built a faux-reality where she was in control and where nothing could hurt her. But he had hurt her, in spite of vowing never to do so. And yet how could he have let himself succumb to her advances when he knew it wouldn’t restore her as she so desperately wanted. Besides, she would have hated him for it eventually. That, he knew in his heart, would hurt both of them.

He also knew that what he felt for her, as sudden and as illogical as it might seem, was something he’d been unable to feel for anyone else . . . ever. It was strong, demanding, almost overwhelming, and although he didn’t understand it, he was damn well unwilling to let it go. Maybe it was self-delusion, but he was also willing to swear that she felt something for him, too, in spite of her meaningless moves on him. If there was even a chance that they had something, he couldn’t turn his back on it. Right now, she was scared, vulnerable, and acting out of self-preservation. In truth, so was he. But his grasp on reality was firmer than hers, and the bottom line was, he was the only one with a chance of bringing her back.

Salt air ruffled his hair and tweaked his nose. He stood just at the edge of the damp sand and watched each spent wave curl around his feet, then pull away, taking a layer of sand from beneath him. Rhythmically and persistently, the gentle tugs forced him deeper into the shore, and after three or four little waves, he was ankle deep. Staring down at where his feet lay hidden, the decision was made—if there’d ever really been one to make. Liz was being pulled deeper, too. Each day that washed over her was tugging her further away from her life, seducing her into a lifeless cocoon of safety from which she would never emerge if he didn’t reach her. Soon.

Cold spray on his legs jerked him from his thoughts. He smiled as a young couple raced by, splashing in the shallow water and swinging their little boy by the arms between them. Laughter trailed behind them like so many streamers, gay and colorful, and his heart squeezed with the familiar pain of loneliness and, worse, hopelessness. But things weren’t hopeless. Not anymore. He knew that maybe—just maybe—he’d found what he wanted now, and he planned to go after it. He wouldn’t worry about what Liz wanted until she was able to tell him herself—in this reality.

“Do you have the time?”

He turned at the voice from just behind him, his eyes dropping instinctively from the face to the full breasts spilling from a token strip of day-glow green fabric that looked as though it might give under the strain any minute. Below them, tanned abdomen and hips were interrupted by another inadequate slash of green. He raised his guarded eyes to her blue ones, which looked up at him from under light lashes and even lighter hair.

“It’s around one.”

“That’s what I thought. I’m just starved.”

It took him a moment—and a light, admiring touch to his bicep—to realize she was offering him the opportunity to invite her to lunch.

“Uh, yeah, I’ll bet. Sun and water can really work up an appetite.”

Her pout was practice-perfect. So was the bold brush of her sun-warmed chest against his arm.

“There are some food stands down the beach toward my hotel. Care to join me?” She wet her lips and let her hand slide forward to his chest. Her damp, blond waves dripped a startling cold on his arm. “Because no matter what you’re hungry for, I’m sure I can help you find it.”

There was no misinterpreting the suggestion in her voice, her eyes, her body language. She wanted sex. And Max knew 3 out of 4 guys in his position would pounce on the offer in a blink. And yet when he looked at her, he felt only disgust and a slight curiosity about someone who was willing to offer herself so easily. When he’d found himself in almost this exact position with Liz, he’d been beside himself with desire, and had fought to keep from taking her. But with this woman, there were no stirrings, no temptations.

“Sorry, I appreciate the invitation, but I can’t. I have to meet someone.”

Her hand drifted slightly lower, and she rubbed subtly against his arm. He could actually feel the hard nipple beneath the thin fabric. His mouth dropped open in surprise, which she took as an encouraging sign.

“Surely your friend will understand a short delay,” she purred. “I can promise you a dessert you won’t soon forget.” Before he could register her intent, she faced him directly to hide herself from other sunbathers and pulled on her top just enough to let one breast pop free of her bathing suit while her hips pressed against his.

Normally, he was meticulously polite to the women who approached him, but this was intolerable. For one thing, he wasn’t some hormone-crazed college kid on spring break, and even when he had been, he’d never risked another person by sharing physical intimacy. But more important than any of that, he realized with a start, was that he was horrified at the thought of “cheating” on Liz. That was, of course, ridiculous. But there it was.

He looked down at the eager face of the short blond, and he could feel his anger build. She’d started gently grinding on him, and was attempting to guide his hand to the plump white flesh she’d exposed to him. He wouldn’t have bet against her fucking him right here on the beach, if he’d suggested it. In contrast with the intelligent elegance of his one and only encounter with Liz—at least in this reality—this woman was an insult.

“I suggest you pull yourself together,” he said icily. “I have another engagement, and even if I didn’t, I don’t think I would find much satisfaction in free samples from a woman who demonstrates such an embarrassing lack of discretion.”

Shocking even himself, he hooked a finger in her suit, pulled the material up as far as he could to cover her, noted her wide-eyed expression of disbelief, and set off down the beach.

“Tess! Come on!” a voice called. “Let’s go get some lunch.”

The stunned silence from behind him brought a grim smile to his face. How long would it take to drive to the other side of the island, he wondered.
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

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Carol000
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Post by Carol000 » Mon Jan 12, 2004 11:55 pm

I think I have some 'splainin' to do!

I apologize for missing my posting date yesterday. It's not that the story's giving me trouble--it's all written. :roll: It's just that RL took me by surprise this weekend--moving kid back to college, taking down the Christmas stuff, an unexpected ticket available to a sporting event--so I was exhausted by the time I could get to the computer last night. Sorry. :oops:

In addition, I wanted to explain a couple of things. First, this is a little shorter part than I usually post, but that's just where the good dividing line was in the story as a whole. I think there are two parts after this (I keep changing my mind) which will be a little longer.

Also, there have been numerous requests for nookie. Go figure. I mean, who among us enjoys a little M/L nookie? :multi: ME! :multi: ME! :multi: ME! But the nature of this story seems to call for a gentleness I don't often find necessary in my stories. These are fragile people with wounds that run deep. The loving--if and when it comes--must be in that spirit.

Thank you for all the great feedback and the enthused votes of confidence. I can't even begin to tell you how much it means. I don't have more stories planned for Roswell right now, but never say never, right? Today, I ordered books to begin my background work on a non-Roswell story. However, there are aliens . . . and Anasazi . . . and romance . . . and intrigue. Hmmm, sound familiar? LOL! But for a change, my characters won't belong to someone else!

On with the story--

Part 5

The next few days were strained, to say the least. As a guest in Liz’s parents’ home, Max felt bound to acquiesce to their wishes—or rather, to her father’s wishes—which meant submitting to repeated questions about his background and describing his proposed method of treatment in excruciating detail. Not that he blamed them. In fact, he appreciated their conscientious determination to be informed about the people they let close to their daughter. In addition, the background they gave him about Liz, her relationship with the still-incarcerated Paulie—what little they knew—and her favorite childhood memories gave him a lot to work with in preparing to talk with her again. Of course, he couldn’t tell them that he was actually talking to her on a subconscious level, but he did manage to convince Jeff of what Nancy had sensed instinctively—he was there to help Liz, and he would do nothing to hurt her.

It frustrated him that he couldn’t talk with her the way he wanted; her parents were always in the room. They played her favorite music—an eclectic mix that ranged from Tchaikovsky to the Beatles to Dido—and talked with him about family vacations and proud moments in Liz’s past. All of this was part of the mono-directional coma therapy he had developed, but it wasn’t what he so desperately wanted to do: get inside her head and talk with her again.

After almost a week had gone by, Jeff, driven by business and financial needs, agreed to leave Max alone with her. Nancy and he needed to get back to their business; it was peak season, after all. As they prepared to leave that morning, Nancy came into Liz’s room to find Max reviewing some family videotapes. He looked up as she approached.

“Morning,” he said, anxious to appear as if today would be business as usual. “I think there’s enough identifiable audio on this Disneyland video that I can use it.”

She reached for his hand and held it until his eyes met hers. “Several times, when I came to see Liz in the hospital, I watched you with her before you knew I was there. I haven’t seen you do anything this week that resembles the kind of hypnosis or connection or whatever it was that you were attempting before. I have a strong suspicion that’s because of Jeff.”

She acknowledged his meaningful silence with a nod. “Jeff loves Liz more than anything in the world. So do I, but we have different ways of dealing with that. We’ll be gone until almost dark, Max. Do whatever you think best. We just want our daughter back.”

The surprise on his face made her smile. She squeezed his hand. “Whatever it takes. Do we understand each other?”

He squeezed back. “We do.”

“See you tonight,” she said. Then, with a kiss on Liz’s cheek, she left.

********
Nancy’s tacit permission gave Max new motivation. Today, he would find her again. A thrill of excitement skittered through his body as he pulled a chair up close to the bed. Taking Liz’s hand tenderly in his own, he pressed her palm to his cheek.

“I know you think that I’m just going to forget about you or let you go, Liz, but I’m not. What I feel between us . . . it’s . . . it’s too important to give up on. So be warned, Liz Parker: I’m coming for you. Please don’t fight me.”

With that, he kissed her hand and closed his eyes.

The mists swirled dark and thick around him, and he pushed hard to ward off the niggling of doubt that slithered through his mind. There was no room for doubt; her defenses may have strengthened in his absence, but he was stubborn enough for both of them.

“Liz!” Of course there was no answer. She clearly didn’t want to be found, and he knew it. Striding confidently, he moved forward, refusing to acknowledge that he had no idea if it really was forward . . . or backward . . . or sideways. But he had to start somewhere. He could detect no thinning in the fog, no hint of light or sound. He beat at the mists, trying to part them, but they closed around him like a shroud.

“Liz! I’m not leaving! I will find you.” He hoped his voice sounded more confident than he felt. He’d expected this to be hard, but her will was stronger than he’d imagined. Wandering aimlessly, he called her name, flailing at the mist. The doubts grew in spite of his efforts to ignore them. Was she truly lost to him? Had he waited too long?

Persistence. That was the key, he told himself. A part of her wanted to be found; he had to believe that. He stilled, closing his eyes against the visual blockade she had erected, and he reached for her with his mind. God, she was everywhere. How could he have missed it? She was aware of him, calling to him with her heart as her mind fought against it. He pressed toward her with all his concentration, using her emotions like a beacon. With one quick burst, he was in the light, her startled expression only a snapshot before he found himself once again in darkness. Encouraged, he tried it again, this time with more control. Feeling the sun on his face, his opened his eyes once more.

And there she was.

It was a terrible battle that raged across her features—hurt, fear, want, anger, hope, supplication. And one more thing—something he’d dared not hope for: desire. Could it be so simple? Was it possible that he had complicated this far more than necessary? Did she only need to understand that she could be loved by a man? Was worthy to be loved?

Her eyes were on him, warming him so quickly that he distractedly swiped a hand across his face, as if there were sweat to wipe away. He felt himself open to her—emotionally, spiritually, and God help him, physically. Doors that he had kept tightly shut his whole life swung open in joyful abandon, flooding his soul with light, and welcoming an intimacy he’d locked away forever—or so he thought. She was what he’d been looking for all this time. He knew it now, without a doubt in his heart.

They’d said not a word to each other, but as Max approached her, she stood her ground, offering him only questions that swam in those luminous windows to her soul—the fear of getting the answers at war with the hope that they might save her. As he drew near, his body wrote the script, barely letting his mind know what it had planned, so the kiss took him by surprise as much as it did her. And yet her body answered back, in tune with his as if it had always been so.

Their lips were only the beginning. Every point of contact burned, sending a shared flame through them to ignite each touch like the driest kindling. Helpless sounds, desperate demands, unbridled exploration melted their control and their questions. There was only heat . . . and need.

This time what she offered him was not contrived or planned; it was borne of a passion he had never experienced before; in truth, he’d never allowed himself to accept or give it before. But without thought or reason, he took what she gave, reveled in it, and offered the same to her. They fell to the sand, where a plump comforter miraculously cradled them. The abrupt change in texture brought the shreds of Max’s control into focus, and he slowed his rabid attack, drawing back to search her face.

Yes, there it was, glowing from within the brilliant points of light that lit her breathtaking eyes: she wanted this, as much as he did, and the questions that had lingered earlier had fled along with her control. They both knew this wasn’t the reality in which they’d met, but it was where they were, together. And it was where they would forge the bond that would save them both.

This time his kiss was tender, and she responded in kind, sweeping her tongue over his lips before snaking inside, adding a whole new sensation to the mix. Max could feel his heart pounding, as if it were desperate to break free of the confines of his chest and soar toward hers. He could feel her answering rhythm and flung wide the connection between them, helpless to keep his secrets from her.

Their minds and hearts were one, images and feelings seeking, retreating, and coming together again in unprecedented urgency. The truths of his existence were reflected in the mirror of her reactions, and for the first time, things he had always suspected about himself crystallized into certainty. They shared the shock of it, each reassuring the other, drawing together to ward off the fear and awe.

The urgency spread until their bodies responded in the only way they knew how. Their clothes dropped away with a sweep of the hand, and Max shook as he buried himself in her, reeling with the physical welcome and the emotional acceptance he had hoped existed, but never expected to feel. This was Heaven, Eden, Utopia—any of the names given to perfection and euphoria. This was home.

Spent and breathing heavily, Max buried his face in her neck, already wondering if what he’d done had hurt her. Not physically, of course; he had felt her desire for him through their connection and through her body’s eager response to his. But ultimately . . . had he violated a sacred oath to “do no harm” by crumbling under the onslaught of their combined need for each other. How would she see him now? How would she see herself? Her motives were honest this time, but this was still not the real world.

“Who are you, Max?”

The question should have been tinged with fear and disgust, but it wasn’t; it was more like wonder that he heard in her voice. He raised his head to look at her, and found the wonder on her face as well. She pushed tenderly at the fringe of bangs that tumbled across his forehead, then slid her fingers down his cheek and across his lips, where he kissed them automatically. He’d never been completely himself with another living soul, and yet he found he could be nothing else with her.

“I don’t know.”

And so they talked: he about his uncertain origins and his unending sense of isolation; she about the confident and capable person she used to be before Paulie Chase came into her life and deviously whittled away that woman. She cried; he cried. And through it all, they held each other, drawing strength where none had existed before. When he made love to her again, it was slow and poignant—the first healing step for each of them.

********
Max left her with regret, but the vague awareness that his sense of time was not to be trusted in this place finally won out. He kissed her, deeply and thoroughly, and then reluctantly returned to the Oahu of the real world. His hand trembled as it swiped at his eyes, and he sat up, surprised to find that he was lying alongside Liz in her bed. He swung his legs over the side, jolted when he saw the large, wet stain on his pants. He’d made love to her there, but his body had climaxed here, as well, and his hand trembled still more as he waved it dry. Oh God. What was he to do now?

By the time Nancy and Jeff returned from the day’s outings, Max was showered, outwardly calm, and reading to Liz from her childhood diary about a trip to Oregon for Christmas one year. Nancy poked her head in, smiling wistfully as she listened to her daughter’s childhood perspective on that picture-perfect holiday.

“I think it’s time we decorated for Christmas,” she said softly, and Max swung his head toward her, startled.

“Christmas?” He hadn’t given it a thought. How long had he been here? It must be almost time to go home. He’d taken time off at Thanksgiving, partly so Alex could have Christmas. But he couldn’t leave Liz. Not now. Not when the fulfillment of all his dreams seemed so close.

Nancy laughed. “Yes, Christmas. You know, the end-of-year holiday marking the most important event in Christian history?”

She was teasing him now, and he, too, laughed. “Yeah, I’ve heard of it.”

“You’re welcome to share it with us, Max. I know we’re not your family, but you’ve all but become a member of ours.”

He felt her offer was sincere, although her views were probably not shared by Jeff. No matter. Liz was what mattered, and someone would have to physically remove him from the premises before he would abandon his efforts to bring her home.

“I appreciate that, Nancy. I’ll let my family know.”

Nancy left with an understanding nod and a “Dinner in 45 minutes” tossed over her shoulder. Max stared at Liz a long time, then stood and made his way outside. Fumbling in his pocket for his phone, he took a deep breath and dialed.

“Hello?”

“Isabel, it’s Max. I gather you are still ‘with child.’ How’s it going?”

“Hi, Max. Well, fine, if you don’t count that I’m carrying around a young elephant, I can’t sleep or breathe, and everything I eat gives me indigestion. You?”

Max smiled. Isabel’s sarcasm always amused him, and she never let him get away with anything. Including an evasive answer.

“Fine. Is Alex around?”

“Fine? You’ve been in Hawaii for almost two weeks and you’re characterizing your trip as ‘fine’? Come on, Max. No women? No midnight surfing? No drunken nights of debauchery to show for it?”

He laughed. The verbal banter with Isabel was one reason he continued to go to dinner at their house once a week. She was a good friend, too.

“Well, there was that one night when the two women going at it in the next room kept me awake, so I just decided to join them. Then, of course, picking up women in bars and having my way with them on the beach under the stars kills time nicely. But I’m too much of a gentleman to give details. Now put Alex on.”

Her silence spoke volumes. Max knew that Isabel was confident that he’d not only done none of those things, but that he’d probably spent two solitary weeks brooding on the beach. He could hear the compassion underlying her flip response.

“Hearts are breaking all across Albuquerque, Max. It’s positively deafening. I’ll get Alex.”

Max realized with a jolt that he hadn’t decided what to say yet. Alex would understand the truth better than anyone . . . to a point. But Max could already hear the reasoned, brotherly advice to come home. And he couldn’t. Not yet.

“Hey, man. I thought you’d dumped me for a hot blond on the beach. Oh, wait, make that a brunette. I know how you like brunettes.”

“Actually, I did.”

This silence was golden, Max thought, his eyes crinkling with quiet laughter at the expression he knew was on Alex’s face. He loved doing that to his friend. It was immensely satisfying.

“Are you serious?”

“In a way. Remember that woman in the bar the day you left? Long, dark hair over in the corner? Eyes to die for?”

“You’re kidding! You hooked up? But Max, I mean, that’s great and all, but what about . . .?”

“No, we didn’t hook up. Not exactly, anyway. In fact, she was hit by a car a couple of hours later, and she’s in a coma.”

“Oh my god, Max! How do you know? Were you there? Are you treating her?”

“I was there. If I hadn’t been, she’d be fine right now.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“We’d had a drink together and just after she left, she was hit . . . because she looked back at me when I yelled out a question as she stepped onto the street. In a way, it was all my fault. And yes, I’m treating her.”

“Aw, come on, man. Don’t go on a guilt trip about an accident. It doesn’t work like that, you of all people know that. Don’t you tell patients that every day? So, any progress? How is she?”

“A little. I’m using some of my . . . special therapy. It’s helping, I think.”

“Special . . .? Max! You’re not . . . I mean, you didn’t . . .”

“Yeah.”

“God, Max! You know how dangerous that could be . . . for you, I mean! It’s too risky. You gotta get out of there now. Arrange for another doctor and get your ass home. This isn’t a game, you know. What if it works and she wakes up . . . knowing . . .”

“She does know, at some level. And if I have anything to say about it, she will wake up. And when she does, well . . . I’ll deal with it.”

“Do you hear yourself, Max? You’ve spent a lifetime not letting this happen. Why now?”

Max couldn’t even begin to answer him. It was all too new, too uncertain, too overwhelming. But his lack of an answer did the answering for him. Alex could hear it as clearly as if Max were shouting.

“You’ve fallen in love with her.”

His voice was deadpan, certain, pronounced with the same drone of inevitability as an execution sentence. More silence only confirmed his words.

“Max?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll get someone to cover. Keep me posted.”

“Yeah.”

“And Max?”

“Yeah.”

“Be careful.”

“I’ll try. Love to Isabel, Alex. Call me when the baby comes.”

“I will.”

“And thanks. I owe you.”

“Damn straight.”

Max clicked “end” on his phone and looked out at the water. How the hell was he supposed to be careful?

********

It was Sunday—the one day Nancy and Jeff gave themselves off to be landlubbers, and Max dreaded it. Their presence guaranteed no visits with Liz, only the same regimen of treatment he would have given any other coma patient, which was damned unsatisfying, given how much more he could accomplish using his unique abilities. Still, he did believe in his theories, and consoled himself with the hope that what he was doing was still valuable.

There was no specific discussion about Max staying or leaving. Nancy seemed content to accept Max’s help for as long as he was willing to give it, and Jeff seemed willing to accept whatever made her happy. He even allowed Max to help put up Christmas lights outside, along with a somewhat Hawaiian-looking nativity. Nancy was busy inside setting out an eclectic collection of decorations as well.

“We don’t put up a tree,” Jeff explained. “Evergreens are too expensive since they have to be shipped in from the mainland, and besides, it would look ridiculously out of place.”

“Lots of people in the southwest would agree,” Max said, handing up another string of lights. “There’s quite a mix of alternatives when you drive down the streets of Roswell. Not so much in Albuquerque, though.”

“Roswell? That’s where you’re from?”

“Yeah. My parents still live there.”

“You have brothers and sisters there, too?”

“No, I’m an only child. Adopted, actually.”

“Aren’t they expecting you for the holidays?”

Max frowned. He knew they were, but he hadn’t called them yet. “They know my work makes that impossible sometimes. They’ll understand.”

Jeff looked down at him, his voice low. “It’s not impossible, Max. You can leave whenever you want. I know Nancy is still holding out hope that your . . . therapy . . . can help Liz, but I know that she could be like this for years. We’re not expecting you to give up your practice to tend to one patient. We haven’t even paid you anything.”

Max got the message loud and clear: He was welcome as long as it kept Nancy’s spirits up, but Jeff didn’t expect Max’s treatment to make a difference.

“I’m not giving up my practice, Jeff. And I’m not giving up on Liz.”

They held each other’s eyes for several intense seconds before Jeff looked away.

“You can help me put up the tree down at the pier.”

“I thought you said there was no tree,” Max said, glancing down the beach.

Jeff threw him a rare smile. “Not a real tree, but Lizzie always thought there should be some kind of tree, so we started putting up one of those tree-shapes made out of strings of lights. The first year, we put it on the beach, but then Lizzie got the idea of putting it out on the pier where more people and boats could see it. She always helped me put it up. If we get our Christmas miracle, I’d like her to be able to see that.”

Max accepted the peace offering with a nod. “Sounds good.”

Hours later, they returned from the pier; Nancy had accomplished much of the inside decorating. Santas and wreaths and wall hangings highlighted by glowing lights and fragrant candles added an unexpected winter ambience to the tropical beach house. Anxious to check on Liz, Max went down the hall to find her room draped in garland and a teddy bear in a Santa hat waiting patiently in the chair. He smiled. The bear was well loved from the look of it. It made him long to be with Liz again, but he didn’t dare risk it until her parents were gone the next day—especially knowing how what was happening in her mind could spill into this reality. No pun intended, he grimaced. The memory both thrilled and alarmed him, but he couldn’t wait to go to her again.

Plucking the threadbare teddy from its perch, Max sat on the edge of Liz’s bed and tucked it into the crook of her arm. She looked so waif-like lying there, still and pale with her teddy bear, and yet he knew so well how vibrant she could be. He tucked her hair behind her ear with gentle fingers and pressed a kiss to her lips. He could almost hear the ocean’s roar.

“I love you,” he whispered.
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

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Carol000
Addicted Roswellian
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Post by Carol000 » Sat Jan 17, 2004 5:34 pm

Here goes nothin'!

With the help of Liz (oh, the irony), aka LongTimeFan, I got enough reaction out of my mouse to copy the story to a disk. Now I'll see if it'll crank through this creaky old computer well enough to post.

I know several folks have asked for the Spring Break story. I will try to get started on my "by author" thread next week, and I'll start with the Holidays Series, okay? This, of course, if I have a working computer!

Hang, on, gang. This is about to get tough.

Part 6

He found her easily this time; she was sitting on the beach watching the sunset over the ocean, Brandy nestled sleepily in her lap. Her brilliant smile took his breath away, and he realized with a start how desperately he had needed her to be waiting for him, how critical it was that she welcome him after what they'd shared. She hadn't cooled toward him, thank God—quite the opposite. Nudging Brandy gently from her lap, she rose to face him, holding her arms outstretched so that he could do nothing more than walk into them and gather her close. She melted into his arms and slowly seduced him without a word. Only their hearts and minds spoke, mingling as freely as their bodies, and when their lovemaking left them liquid and helpless, finding words took a very long time.

"I missed you," he murmured finally, her limp body molded tightly to his.

"I can tell," she teased, squirming to get imperceptibly closer. "Maybe I can convince you to miss me again . . . soon."

Surprised, Max felt a renewed stirring in his groin and bent to kiss her. "I'd happily spend a lifetime missing you . . . like this, I mean." Looking into her eyes this time was a whole different experience from their first meeting. They were no longer haunted; the body language no longer stilted; and most important, the heart no longer defensive. She wanted to be here with him, and she held nothing back.

"I have . . . a surprise for you," she told him between kisses. "Something . . . I want . . . to show you."

"What?" he mumbled into her mouth, already hungry to have her again. His self-imposed celibacy now broken, he couldn't get enough. This woman—this confusing, troubled, beautiful, perfect woman—had a power over him he couldn't understand or control. And he'd already accepted that he didn't want to. All he wanted was to share everything with her. The thought jarred him. Everything? Did he mean that?

Yes, he did. Everything. Which was just as well since he wasn’t sure he had any secrets left.

”We’ll actually have to get up, you know. It’s beyond that bend in the shore. We can . . .” She abandoned conversation when his hand cupped her breast and his mouth descended on hers once again. Immediately, their bodies began to weave the magic, and their hearts committed to it in a flash. Max’s fuzzy mind was aware only of how open she was to him like this—for every kiss there was tender whisper, for every erotic touch there was a burst of pure emotion from her heart, and for every thrust of his body into hers there was a welcoming acceptance of who he was . . . what he was. This was heaven. It had to be, because there could be no place or person or experience as heavenly as this. Anywhere.

Panting with exertion and overwhelming emotion, Max trailed light kisses down her trembling body, and a lone tear escaped at the sight of her gradual descent from a turbulent climax. He had never shared this euphoric connection with anyone, and, he knew, he never would again. He understood now why she had seemed familiar to him at first sight. She was his own heart.

Brandy, who had been mysteriously absent during their lovemaking, reappeared with a bound, bouncing high to attract attention and sniffing enthusiastically at the altered scents of sex-sated bodies. Max helped a laughing Liz to her feet, impossibly aroused again at the sight of her graceful body running naked through the sand. He clamped down on his long-suppressed libido, gathered their clothes, and ran after her. Once he’d caught up, she took his hand and headed down the beach, an impish smile on her face.

“Are we headed toward my surprise?” he asked, more than willing to fuel her pleasure at his curiosity.

“We are. But it’s not just for you. It’s for us.”

“Even better.”

Partway around the bend in the shore, Liz squealed in delight and let go of his hand. He watched as she scampered through the shallow water, a spray of sun-sparkled drops flying behind her. Then she bent from the waist, picked up a dripping treasure, and examined it. What was in her hand was of no interest to him. All he could see was the smooth slope of her hip, the seductive curve of her cheeks, the long taut muscle of her thigh, and in spite of his determination not to hound her with the need she effortlessly provoked, his mind enjoyed a fantasy where he came from behind her and took her, right there at the edge of the ocean where everything shone with excitement and promise.

Even the clothes that he carried carefully in front of him couldn’t hide the expression on his face, an expression that was almost as obvious as the erection he hid from her. She turned, holding the rare conch shell toward him, when a slow smile spread across her face.

“Really?” she asked, a sultry humor in her voice. “Because at this rate, we’ll never make it to my surprise.”

“I . . . I’m sorry. I want to see your surprise. Absolutely. I’m just . . . this whole thing is . . . God, Liz, every time I look at you, I just want you again . . . . I can’t seem to help myself.”

But his stilted words fell worthlessly to the sand because she had turned away from him again, first stretching like a proud cat, then bending again, this time with a slight wiggle and a grin from between her knees. Lust swept through him, sending his blood racing and the air rushing out from his lungs. A flicker of caution tugged at his mind, but it was batted away with a single impatient thought—this was their time, their special retreat, and he would get around to coaxing her back to her life just as soon as he was sure she trusted him . . . even loved him? . . . and would return with him. In the meantime, building that relationship was the primary goal, and sex was just one indication of their closeness, one more way to build that bond . . .

Bullshit, he muttered to himself. He just wanted her . . . so much he could barely breathe.

Dropping the clothes where he stood, he homed in on her invitation, no longer apologizing for or hiding his intent. His sun-warmed thighs met her shadowed ones, and the contrast only accentuated their other differences: smooth skin against rough muscle; soft moisture yielding to hard probing; malleable breasts under firm hands. They dropped to their knees in one fluid motion, and as the sun began to disappear into the watery horizon, they found release . . . and each other . . . yet again.

********
“What in the world? Where did this come from?”

Max stood flabbergasted as the house came into view. It was a long, sprawling ranch nestled almost magically into the craggy variations of the cliff side. The front was all window, offering an uninterrupted view of the ocean, and the porch that spanned the entire length was rustic enough to blend with the landscape.

“This is my home. Our home,” she said almost shyly. “It has everything we need.”

He let her lead him into the house, wide-eyed at the vaulted ceilings, the warm but contemporary furnishings, the gleaming kitchen, and the vast bedroom suite, complete with a massive king-size bed and an atrium-type bathroom. Both the bedroom and the living room opened up to both the front and back of the house, creating a stark contrast between the harsh lava rock and the soothing sea, both beautiful in such different ways.

“Like us,” she said.

“What?”

“Beautiful in such different ways.”

He gaped at her. “You read my mind?”

She laughed, obviously enjoying his confusion. “No, but it’s exactly what I thought when I . . . found it. And I knew you’d think that, too. I almost do feel like I could read your mind.”

He reached to touch her hair, her face, then bent for a tender kiss. The lust was sated . . . for now. But the love that was growing by leaps and bounds was still building at an astonishing rate.

“I don’t think I would mind that at all.”

Her brown eyes were wide and moist as she drew a hand down his jaw. “It seems only fair that I have some special powers, too, doesn’t it?”

Max tensed, knowing it was time to have the talk.

“You must have questions about what you’ve seen . . . in me, I mean.”

She held him close when he went to pull away. “Don’t. Don’t put distance between us now. Not after what we’ve found. No, I don’t have questions. I mean, I do, of course, but they’re the same ones you have. I already know what you know, so there’s no need to explain anything.”

“And it doesn’t frighten you?”

She smiled, tugged him to sit with her on the wide couch, and turned to face him.

“No. Because I’ve seen who you are, and it’s beautiful, just like I said. You are an open book, Max, and I love what’s inside.”

She was kissing him again, so it startled them both when he reared back suddenly. “Then why don’t I know everything about you?”

Her eyes lowered, but not before he saw the emotional curtain being drawn as well. He tipped her chin up in an effort to make her meet his eyes, but she wouldn’t.

“What’s inside me is not all beautiful, Max. I’m hoping you can love me even knowing there’s a dark side to me. You don’t need to see it. It will never touch you, I promise.”

The first flash of anger Max had ever felt in her presence seized him. She must have felt it because her eyes did find his then, large and fearful. She waited for him to say something more. Finally, he did.

“Liz, everyone has a dark side. Everyone. Including me. If you haven’t seen that, then you haven’t seen all of me, either. You’ve been hurt; I know that. And you’ve escaped into this fantasy in your mind. But you are real, and so am I, and so are your problems. And hiding in here is not solving them. Come back with me, please. We’ll work through them together, I promise. We’ll make a new beginning for both of us, anywhere you like, but we can’t stay here. Paulie will get what he deserves, I swear.”

She had been listening, almost willing to believe, he was sure, until he said Paulie’s name, and then everything shut down like a slamming door. There was no more fear or tenderness or understanding in her eyes. There was only a dense, impenetrable wall of self-preservation.

“Men like Paulie never get what they deserve. They only get what they want. Always.” A smug smile, cold and frightening, crossed her face. “Almost always, anyway,” she sneered. The transformation in her was astounding. Where there had been softness and gentleness there was now hard bitterness, and Max felt shut out more surely than he had been even at the first.

With no warning, he awoke in her room, a telltale stain on his pants and chill in his heart. For the first time, he had serious doubts about whether he could bring Liz back.

********
As Christmas approached, Nancy and Jeff were busy with a bustling tourist season. Aside from dinner each night where they awaited some news of progress from Max, they were rarely home and seemed resigned to Liz’s recovery being a long-term process. Jeff would come into Liz’s room each night while Max read to her and listen, holding her hand, sagging under the burden of wondering if he would ever talk with her again. Nancy bathed her, made sure the nurse continued to stop in, and watched Max with unnerving clarity, but if she had misgivings about his treatment of her daughter, she kept them to herself.

Max was finding it increasingly difficult to return from Liz’s world each day. When he had come to her the day after their uncomfortable conversation, she had acted as if it had never taken place—she was happy, laughing, enthused, and always open to their sexual play. They talked about books, art, psychiatry, and the Islands. They planned trips they didn’t admit they would never take, and they talked of a future they wouldn’t acknowledge could never happen. Not in this world.

In an odd way, they fell into a sort of an inverted married life. Each morning, Max would arrive. They would sun on the beach, make love anywhere and everywhere, then nap before returning to the house to prepare a wonderful meal—the ingredients for which were always in the refrigerator when he reached for them. Life was idyllic. Then, at the end of the day, they would say goodbye as Max returned to a reality that held no interest, no promise, no purpose. He simply bided his time until he could return to her again. Here he exercised his muscles, nourished his body, and closed his mind to what was really happening. At least until Nancy finally had her say.

It was Christmas Eve and the business was closed for the next two days. Jeff was sleeping in, and Max had thought Nancy was, too, so he jumped slightly when Nancy’s quiet voice interrupted his thoughts. He had been sitting on the edge of Liz’s bed, stroking her hair and murmuring a one-sided conversation.

“How do you fall in love with a woman in a coma?”

Max jerked around, retracting his hand as if he’d been burned.

“Excuse me?”

Nancy closed Liz’s bedroom door and took a seat in the chair beside her bed.

“I’m not blind, Max. You’re in love with Liz. It’s written all over you. That leaves two possibilities: You are either living a fantasy that is both dangerous and more than a little creepy, or you’ve made progress you haven’t chosen to share with Jeff and me. If it’s the former, I want you out of here immediately. If it’s the latter, you’d better start talking.”

Every heartbeat drove a new blade of fear into his heart. He couldn’t leave Liz. Not now. It would be the end of both of them. And yet what could he tell Nancy that would satisfy her? She was right to question this. In fact, Max was surprised it had taken this long.

He sighed and looked her straight in the eye. “I’m going to tell you something very few people in this world know, and no matter what your reaction, I must ask for your word that you’ll never tell anyone else.”

Nancy’s eye’s narrowed as she considered the implications of such a promise. “Is it illegal?”

“No.”

“Immoral?”

“No.”

“Then you have my word. What is it?”

“I’m psychic.”

Arched eyebrows peaked over skeptical eyes.

“I know what you’re thinking. And that’s exactly why I don’t tell people. A psychiatrist who is psychic makes for good Oprah but not for a reputable practice. I don’t use my abilities with my patients—at least not until Liz. I was telling you the truth when I said I felt an immediate—and rare—connection with her when we first met. It’s what kept me close on a case that I could easily have turned over to local doctors. But I couldn’t abandon that connection.”

He hesitated, waiting for the first round of questions, accusations, anger. But Nancy just watched him with that “I’ll know if you’re lying” expression of hers, and he stumbled forward.

“Yes, I have made progress you don’t know about. Liz is in there, Nancy. She’s hiding from some kind of trauma, and I know it has to do with Paulie Chase, but I can’t get her to talk about it. And yes,” he sighed again, knowing he was taking a terrible risk, yet seeing no alternative, “I have fallen in love with her. When I connect with her, we actually talk, take walks . . . it’s almost like a normal dating relationship. And I think I speak the truth when I say Liz loves me, too. I’ve just been waiting until I feel she’s ready to come back to this reality. In the meantime, our . . . relationship . . . is . . .”

“Dishonest.” Nancy finished his sentence with a clipped tone that had his heart pounding again.

“How do I know you are connecting with her, Max? If you were just indulging a sick fantasy, this story would certainly allow you to continue it, wouldn’t it?

“How can I answer you?” he asked, trying to quell the panic. “What can I say to convince you?”

“What’s it like in this . . . place she’s created?”

“It’s on Waikiki, only it’s just pristine beach. She has created a home there, a long rambling ranch house with window walls that open onto the ocean.”

Nancy looked startled, but pressed on. “Anything else?” Her tone had softened, but there was still plenty of skepticism.

“Well, she has a dog named Brandy and she likes to cook.”

“What’s her favorite food?”

“I . . . I don’t know,” Max groped. “We cook all kinds of things—seafood, poultry. Always with wine,” he smiled, remembering now. “But never with garlic. She says garlic stays with her for at least three days.”

He was beginning to relax, calmed by the memories of Liz in the kitchen, that ridiculous little apron around her waist that she made in 7th-grade Home-Ec. One glance at Nancy brought him up short. She was absolutely pale.

“Yes,” she breathed, almost to herself. “Never garlic.”

A spark of hope skittered through him. “She cooks in an old yellow apron with patch pockets she made in middle school. And she pours the wine for the recipe right from her glass instead of from the bottle. And she collects shells and she has a birthmark on her right hip and she always stretches like a cat when she first wakes up.”

Shit.

There was no misunderstanding the look on Nancy’s face. He’d said too much—like he needed her expression to tell him that.

“You’ve been making love to my daughter in her little fantasy world, Max. I have to believe that violates some kind of law, not to mention that it demonstrates a deplorable breach of ethics. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than thinking you were jerking off in here while fantasizing about my daughter.”

“What?” Max felt insulted, embarrassed, and almost speechless.

“Max, I have never knowingly invaded your privacy, but when I was vacuuming last night in your room, a pair of pants got caught in the vacuum when I was running it under the bed. I’m not stupid, Max. I can recognize a stain of dried semen on the front of a pair of pants. That’s why I’m here. I will not have my daughter’s wellbeing endangered in any way. However, I can usually trust my instincts, so I’ve come to you before saying anything to Jeff. He’d string you up by your balls before you had time to blink.”

Max was incredulous—at her suspicions, her language, and her boldness. And at his own carelessness. Had he really failed to take care of one of those stains? No wonder he was losing Nancy’s trust. It was a miracle he wasn’t behind bars. His face must have betrayed his horror, but Nancy paid no attention. What he felt right now was only important to her if it affected Liz.

“I’ve put a great deal of trust in you, Max. Lately, though, I’ve had reason to suspect I was wrong to do so. The pants were the last straw. Now I’m not sure what to think. You seem to know a lot about Liz that you couldn’t possibly know from your one short encounter, so for the moment, I’m going to assume you are, in fact, making this connection. You haven’t explained, though, how that’s going to bring her back to us.”

Shifting off the bed and into the other chair, Max faced Nancy, hoping to exude confidence and trustworthiness.

“I have talked to Liz about letting me help her come back to her life, but although she seems very happy most of the time, any mention of her trouble with Paulie shuts her down completely and she basically shuts me out. I can’t afford to antagonize her too much or she’ll cut off our connection and disappear for good. I just need to get to the point where she’s confident enough and healed enough to face reality.”

“And what would that mean for your relationship? Are you telling me you’re not afraid that if she comes back here, things between you two will change? That she might reject you?”

“I won’t pretend that what is happening with Liz and me is usual in any way. I’ve never used my psychic abilities with my patients, and I certainly never initiate or allow any personal involvement. Believe me, I understand your ethical concerns because I’ve been having the same discussion with myself. On the one hand, we met under purely social circumstances, and our attraction was felt on both sides. On the other hand, I’ve been treating her as a doctor, and that would normally prohibit any personal relationship. It’s a very gray area, and I can only ask that you allow me to continue. I want her back, too, Nancy.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “I love her.”

Nancy sat watching him for a long, uncomfortable moment. Her next line of questioning sent his hope plummeting.

“When is the last time you talked to Liz about coming home.”

“Two . . . maybe three weeks.”

“And when you’re with her in this place, do you eat with her?”

“Yes.”

“Talk? Laugh? Enjoy your time?”

“Yes.”

“Do you make love?”

“Uh, well . ..”

”Max?”

“Yes.”

“Since when?”

This was unbearable. But how could he not answer her? This woman held his fate . . . and Liz’s in a way . . . in her hands.

“A month, I guess.”

He was prepared for the raised eyebrow. After all, that meant their lovemaking had started shortly after Liz’s accident and the beginning of his treatments. That certainly didn’t look good.

“In all that time, has Liz had a period?”

What?

“You heard me.”

“No, I don’t think so. What does that have to do with anything?”

“And these lovely meals, Max. Where does the food come from?”

“I don’t know. It’s just . . . there.”

“And the dog, does he ever scratch to go outside when you’re eating or making love or deep in conversation?”

“Not that I recall. What are you getting at?”

“Max, it’s not real! None of that is real. I know you know that, but you’ve let her pull you into her world—where the beach is untouched, the interruptions are nonexistent, the house is perfect, the food is perfect, the man is perfect. She controls everything that exists there, everything that happens. You aren’t treating her, Max. You’re helping her stay hidden. You’re making it easy to stay away. For the love of God, why am I having to tell you this?”

She was right. Indisputably, horrifyingly right. Liz would never come back. Not if he gave her all that she needed in her own little world; not if he never made her face the very thing she was hiding from; not if he gave her no reason to return.

The truth was painfully clear. He had to stop, even though he would have much preferred to slit his wrists. To stop was to risk losing Liz permanently, forcing him back to the life he led before—resigned, hopeless, alone. The very thought sent a series of tremors through his body that gradually shook him more and more violently. Nancy stood, a shadow of sympathy on her face.

“I believe you are a good man, Max. A special man, too. And I believe you want what’s best for my daughter. But you can’t allow your love for her to push you into the easy choice, because that’s living a lie, and it’s not fair to either of you.”

He managed a nod.

“I’ll leave you alone now, but I’m telling you right now. After one more ‘connection’ with Liz, I’m putting a stop to it. If she loves you as you say she does, she’ll come looking for you, and as far as I can tell, that’s the best hope any of us has right now.”

She left quietly, leaving Max to endure the first soul-wracking cry of his life.

********

Max spent Christmas Eve brooding, debating with himself, preparing himself for the inevitable decision. At the last minute, he borrowed Jeff’s car and ran out to find Liz a present, just in case he convinced her to return with him on Christmas Day. He found what he wanted in a little shop run by Native Hawaiians—a small hand-carved figurine of Lono, the ancient Hawaiian god of sun, wisdom, and healing. Crafted from the rare and beautiful Koa wood, it stood only 5 inches high, but the value of the wood and the significance of the god it represented spoke to him of what their relationship could be. He hoped he would one day be able to give it to her.

Christmas morning was a somber affair. Nancy fixed a special breakfast, then cried when Jeff gave her a pendant that depicted the clean and simple forms of a mother and daughter embracing. He gave Max a sharkskin wallet, then sat in front of the tree scowling at Liz’s unopened gifts. Max gave his hosts a beautiful wooden salad bowl from the same shop he’d visited the day before. Then, his mind resigned to the painful task at hand, he went into Liz’s room and shut the door.

In the last few weeks, Max had become comfortable enough to just lie with Liz in the bed, quickly making the connection and flowing into her world as easily as the surf on the sand. He smiled bitterly at the analogy, since that surf moved just as quickly away from the sand, a fickle and unpredictable presence.

Already aching under the burden of his mission, he sat stiffly on the edge of the chair next to the bed, consciously establishing the distance between them that he knew he must maintain even during the connection. Fearing the outcome, he took a long moment to stroke her arm, soft and unresponsive under his hand. The cast was off now, and he distractedly took her arm through a series of exercises that the specialist had recommended. Then he watched her face, memorizing it framed with lustrous dark hair, as still and angelic as the tree topper in the next room. But this was not his Liz—this was only a beautiful shell that kept her hidden beneath layers of tissue and trauma.

Pushing her hair back from her face, he winced in response to the pressure on his heart. It was time.

She welcomed him easily now, and flashed a brilliant smile as he appeared.

“Merry Christmas!” She was placing a gift under the tree, dressed in dark green shorts, a red tank top, and sporting a Santa hat. As always, the sun shone on the beach outside the window, and Brandy lay curled on top of a pillow, sleeping in its rays. Liz crossed the room, wrapped her arms around his neck, and pulled him down into an ice-melting kiss. It was his lifeline, his sustenance, and for a moment, he let himself return the kiss with the same passion she offered him. His arms slid helplessly around her, pulling her tight, as if their bodies could somehow meld and he could tuck her protectively inside himself.

“I thought we’d start with your big present first,” she murmured into his neck. “Wanna unwrap me?”

He heard her teasing tone, felt his instantaneous reaction grow between them, raged against the bitter unfairness of what he had to do now.

“No, I can’t.”

Something in his tone alerted her. He felt her stiffen, then pull back to search his face.

“Max, what’s wrong?”

Concern for him was written all over her face, and for a few self-indulgent seconds he considered abandoning his decision and hiding here with her. But he knew that wasn’t good enough. This had to be real, because if it weren’t, they had nothing.

“I can’t stay.”

A frown appeared beneath a glimmer of suspicion. “What do you mean?”

“Liz, it’s Christmas Day. Your parents are at home, with you, agonizing over your lack of progress. They let me treat you because the only alternative is to watch you waste away in your bed. They haven’t given up on having you come back to them, but instead of drawing you out, I’ve let you draw me in. It can’t be like this, Liz. This isn’t real and it isn’t right. You need to come home.”

Dark clouds suddenly doused the sunshine outside, and Max saw them gathering in her eyes as well. Liz pulled back from him, then turned to scoop up Brandy, holding her like a protective shield.

“I’m happy here. We’re happy here. At least I thought we were.”

“We are, and that’s what’s wrong. Liz, don’t you see? Loving each other here in a fantasy doesn’t mean anything. I want to love you out in the real world. I want us to make a real home, make real love, make a real family. I want to watch you open my Christmas present and then visit our parents and stuff ourselves with turkey and pie. I want to change the oil in your car, meet you for dinner after work, balance our checkbook. I want a life with you, Liz, not a fantasy.”

“I’m not ready.”

She was pacing now, a nervous tremor in her voice. “I don’t ever want to go back there where things go wrong and people . . . hurt you.”

“I won’t hurt you, Liz. And the rest we’ll handle, together. I swear to you that if you come back, I’ll help you make sure that slimeball Paulie gets what he deserves.”

She whirled on him then, and he saw a fear and anger in her eyes unlike anything he’d seen from her before.

“He deserves to die!”

He must’ve looked startled because she sneered in triumph. “You didn’t think I could feel that way, did you? You thought I was too sweet and too fragile to ever want such a thing, didn’t you, Max. Surprised? Surprised to find out that there really is a dark side to me?”

“No,” he said quietly, his training kicking in, in spite of his urge to hold and soothe her. “No, I’m not surprised. I told you before, everyone has a dark side, Liz. It’s all about how you deal with it, that’s all. Whatever he did to you . . .”

“You want to know what he did?” Liz screamed, dropping Brandy onto the sofa. Her hands immediately began to flail as she talked. “Oh, he was sweet and solicitous at first, literally sweeping me off my feet until I agreed to marry him—in a ridiculously short time, I might add—but as soon as we made our engagement public, he started making all our decisions—where we’d eat, what I should wear, who I could see. Then he started expressing certain sexual . . . expectations. I should have seen that he was the wrong man, that he was trouble, but somehow he’d made me start to believe that I needed him to make my decisions, that somehow I wasn’t worth as much unless I was by his side. I started withdrawing from friendships and calling him whenever I needed to make plans, about anything! Then one night, he said he’d waited long enough for me—he meant to have my body, of course—and I realized I couldn’t . . . I just couldn’t.”

The tears were falling now, and her voice was raspy and desperate. She wasn’t looking at him at all; her whole focus was on the scene that played out in her mind. Max gripped the back of a chair to keep himself from going to her; he had to be the doctor he’d promised to be—for everyone’s sake.

“I told him no. That we were a mistake. I felt good about what I was doing for the first time in weeks. But he got nasty. He said I didn’t know a good thing when I saw it, and he’d have to teach me who was in charge.” She was trembling all over now, and her story began to come out in small bursts between sobs.

“He pinned me down . . . and started ripping . . . at my clothes.”

Max’s knuckles were white now, his fingers digging into the leather back of the chair. A thin line slashed across his face where his mouth used to be, and he could feel the energy building in his system. He’d never been so angry, and just outside his focus on Liz was the uneasy fear of what might happen if he couldn’t contain this energy.

“I clawed at him . . . but he . . . he grabbed both of my wrists . . . with one hand . . . and kept at me. . . . I spit in his face . . . and he went . . . kind of crazy. He . . . slapped me then put his hand . . . on my throat.”

She fell to the sofa and began to sob into her hands. “He’d never actually hurt me before.”

Max couldn’t hold still any longer. He rushed to her side and pulled her into his arms. Brandy was gone, he noticed distractedly, as if she’d disappeared. So, he realized, was the Christmas tree and other bits of furniture and decoration. As Liz’s focus turned to this painful memory, she was unable or uninterested in maintaining the current fantasy she’d built.

Liz held herself stiffly as he rocked her. Physical intimacy, even with him, was not what she needed now. He let her go, feeling the energy boiling in him now.

“He threatened me, told me what a useless bitch I was.” Her voice was cold with hatred now. “But that even a bitch was good for something. Then he started ripping at my clothes again. So I stopped fighting him . . .”

The energy had become painful and without a thought, Max held out a hand and shattered the glass wall between them and the ocean. Liz looked up in surprise, but she was no more surprised than he was. He’d never felt anything like that—such seething anger and hatred that he lost control of it. Not to mention he’d shattered a wall that didn’t even exist.

Liz was eyeing him nervously, momentarily ripped away from the memory that had seized her.

“My God, Max. Are you all right?”

She rose and closed the small space between them, reaching to touch his cheek, brow creased in concern. Max stood speechless. She should have been terrified, angry, disgusted. But she was none of those things. She was only worried for him.

He closed his hand around hers, the energy surge back to a low simmer. “I’m sorry, Liz. I’ve never done that before. Never. I think I scared myself as much as you. Are you okay?”

“Don’t leave me, Max. Stay with me, here. We can be so happy. We can have all the things you were talking about, but here . . . where it’s . . .”

“Safe,” he finished for her, and let her hand go. “But not real. You were raped, Liz. Violated and brutalized and I’d like to kill the bastard myself, but . . .”

“No, Max. I wasn’t.”

She was watching him closely as she finished her story, more detached now. “I let him think he could have his way, and when he loosened his hold to unzip his pants, I kneed him with everything I had and left him writhing on the floor. As I ran out, all I heard was him gasping ‘You’ll pay, bitch.’ That was two days before I met you. I was sitting in the bar that day because I was afraid to go home. He’d called the next day, you see, telling me I couldn’t get away from him, and to watch my back. I knew I was in danger, but even more than that, so was any man he saw me with.”

Liz leaned her head forward until her forehead was resting against Max’s chest. His arms surrounded her of their own will, and Max couldn’t fight it.

“I felt something about you the second I laid eyes on you, Max. You were already important to me, and that meant you were in danger without even knowing it. That’s why I wouldn’t meet you for lunch the next day . . . or breakfast,” she said, raising her head to reveal a tremulous smile. “But I wanted to.”

He was kissing her before he knew what was happening, and she came to him with no reservations. That she could give herself to him as she had after what had happened to her was miraculous. But, Max reminded himself, she hadn’t. Not really.

Reluctantly, he broke off the kiss. “Liz, I love you. I want to be with you for the rest of my life. I want to wake up with you and make babies with you and grow old with you. But not here. Because there is no here. Your mind is hiding, and I know you know that. If what we have is strong enough, we can make it work out there in the real world. Let me love you, Liz. I can help protect you—better than most,” he grimaced, glancing at the expanse of glass shards on the floor. “Your parents will help, your friends, too, I’m sure. Just come back to us, Liz, please. Come back to me.”

She was silent for a while, then pushed slowly away, turning her back to him. “No one can help, Max. There are no witnesses to any of this. I have no proof of any kind. Paulie’s family is rich and powerful; they’ll have the best lawyers money can buy defending their precious golden boy. I’ll lose any credibility I ever had, and I’ve already lost my friends. And my parents . . .” Liz sighed heavily. “I miss them, yes, but . . . You don’t know my mother, Max. She’s a strong woman. A no-nonsense type.”

“I do know her, and you’re right.”

He noted the slight look of surprise on Liz’s face with confusion. Surely she realized that he was getting to know her parents; he’d told her he was staying in her home. But then, time and reality were only a vague thought to Liz.

“I didn’t turn out to be the woman she thought she’d raised. I let myself be manipulated and brow beaten . . . she would never have put up with that. And my Dad—he thinks I’m this perfect . . .”

“Liz! Do you hear yourself? Your parents are sick with worry. They don’t care about anything but your getting well again. They love you . . . you . . . as you are. Don’t you get that? You’re letting that low-life’s brainwashing about your own worth skew how you think others see you. Your parents want you back. I’m sure your friends want you back. And you can sure as hell take it to the bank that I want you back!”

He was angry now, but at Liz, for not understanding that Paulie still held power over her.

“He’s keeping you from your own life, Liz. Don’t let him win.”

She was silent for a long, agonizing moment. Finally, she turned to face him, her eyes gleaming with unshed tears.

“If you loved me, Max, you’d stay and make a life with me . . . here. I can’t go back.” She swiped at the tears that began to fall now. “I just can’t.”

The battle within him was vicious, painful. And for what? This was lose-lose. If he stayed, he lost. If he left, he lost. He hadn’t been enough for her, and that was the most painful fact of all.

He cupped her face in his hands and took her lips with such tenderness. When it was over, he saw the sparkle of hope in her eyes. Then, with equal tenderness, he whispered, “I love you, but I won’t be back.”

And as he pulled himself free of her world for the last time, his name on her lips pierced him like a sword.

********

He wasn’t sure how long he’d been sitting by her bed in the dark, intermittently weeping and doubting his own decision. What he was sure of was that Liz hadn’t moved so much as a muscle or an eyelash since he’d come back, and the tattered remnants of his hope were slowly dissolving.

Finally, there was a light rap on the door and a moment later Nancy was silhouetted in the doorway. It was too dark, he knew, for her to see his face, but his body language must have been enough.

“She’s not coming.”

“No.”

Max could almost feel Nancy gather the strength that Liz had described so eloquently. When she had pulled it tightly around her like a suit of armor, she spoke, her voice tight but her tone gentle.

“You did all you could. Thank you.”

“I’ll leave tomorrow.”

“There’s no hurry, Max. You’re not expected back to your practice until after the holidays. Why not use the beach and the water to help heal you. I know it helps me.”

Max winced inwardly. The beach. Yeah, that would take his mind off her. He huffed involuntarily.

“I’m sorry,” Nancy said quickly. “I guess that wouldn’t do you much good after all.”

“I appreciate the offer, but I think I just need to get home.” Home. Where was home? That question was so much more complex for him than for others, but he’d been thinking of Liz as his home for weeks now, he realized, and now he felt lost and alone in a way he’d never felt it before.

“Whatever you say, Max. I’ll tell Jeff. Just let us know if you need a ride to the airport.”

And on that mundane note, the most meaningful episode of his life quietly ended.
Last edited by Carol000 on Sat Jan 17, 2004 6:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

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Carol000
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Post by Carol000 » Fri Jan 23, 2004 8:00 pm

And now, the last piece of the puzzle.

I'm frustrated because I know there were several feedback posts from the last two parts that I wanted to respond to. I'm also frustrated because I promised to begin posting my stories to a "by author" thread. However, my computer troubles persist, and once again, I'm hitting my head against a wall while this old OLD computer grinds through its paces. The mods have contacted me that they want to prune this thread, and I need to get this last part up so they can just move the whole story to repost next week, so I'm settling for that instead of responding to the many nice comments and several questions that have been asked. Please forgive me. I know that there have been several requests for Spring Break, so that'll be the first thing I move to "by author." I'll try to add a note to this thread (if it's still here) when that's been accomplished.

Part 7

Max could tell Alex had been surprised to see him, but their years of friendship and Alex’s good instincts had molded him into the perfect partner. He knew within minutes that Max didn’t want to talk, didn’t want to answer questions, and didn’t want sympathy. He wanted to be left alone. So, except for some catching up on a handful of patients, Alex respected those wishes. Max did stop over at Alex’s home to admire baby Nicole—a glaring reminder of the life Max had dared hope for when he and Liz were together—and he promised to try and stop by on New Year’s Eve, but that was as much interaction as he could handle at the moment.

He knew Alex was worried. After all, he’d slept until he couldn’t sleep anymore the first day back, and then he had closeted himself in his office for the next three days, seeing no patients and taking no calls. He simply stared, unseeing, at files on his desk or gazed out over greater Albuquerque and the great mountain that loomed over it, looking as if his mind were a million miles away.

His secretary tiptoed in, uncomfortable with this man who had returned from vacation so changed.

“It’s noon, Dr. Evans. I’m closing the office now. Can I get you anything before I go?”

“No, Courtney, thank you. Have a good time tonight. Your boyfriend taking you out?”

“Yeah,” she smiled, relieved to see some of the old Dr. Evans surfacing. “Michael’s taking me down to Roswell on his Harley. Some big blowout down there that you have to follow clues to find. He says he’s only found it twice before, but we’re gonna give it a try.”

“Sounds like fun,” Max smiled, remembering his days of looking for Enigma. He’d forgotten that Courtney was dating a guy who’d been behind him in school by a couple of years—more because of grades than age. A loner, if he remembered correctly. It was nice to know he was doing okay. “Make him take you for a burger at the Crashdown. Best in the business.”

“Will do.” She turned to leave, then stopped for one last glance over her shoulder. “Will you be all right, Dr. Evans?”

He couldn’t answer that question, but he also knew there was only one answer he could give her.

“I’m fine. I’ll be out of here in a few minutes myself.”

“Okay. Happy New Year.”

“Happy New Year, Courtney.”

A new year. Another year of biding his time, doing his research, and wishing he had a life. Only this year would be more painful than the others. Because this year, he would wake up every day knowing what he was missing, and he just wasn’t sure he could do it. For the first time, he felt what so many of his patients had tried to describe—that feeling of deep and endless hopelessness that made you think ending your life was preferable to living it.

He stood, sighing, and stretched. Time to go. Maybe he’d drive down to Roswell, too. See his folks. Have one of those great Crashdown hamburgers he’d recommended to Courtney. And try to find a reason to start again.

The thought gave him a sense of purpose, at least for the moment, and he pulled the sharkskin wallet Jeff Parker had given him from his pocket to see if he had enough cash. There was still a hefty wad of twenties and fifties in his wallet from his trip. He hadn’t needed to spend much under the circumstances. Then he grabbed his cell phone and called Alex to make his apologies, and his mother to give her some warning. Finally, he stepped into his private bathroom, anticipating the long drive.

It only took a minute to turn out the lights, close the blinds, slip on his jacket, and grab his briefcase, but as his hand reached for the case, his eyes became riveted on an object sitting atop it. There, despite the impossibility of it, sat a 5-inch tall figurine of the Hawaiian god Lono. He stared at it, his heart pounding, his hand trembling as he reached to touch it, so afraid that it was a figment of his imagination.

“Liz.” He wasn’t sure if he’d said it out loud or only thought it in his mind until he heard her answer.

“Yes.”

His eyes flew toward the sound. There in his doorway was a dark figure backlit by the lights from the outer office, surrounding her with an eerie corona. Still afraid to trust what his heart begged him to believe, he stood rooted to the floor. “Is it you, Liz? Oh, God, please tell me I haven’t lost my mind.”

He shook as he reached for the desk lamp and switched on the light. He bit back a cry as Liz stepped into the room, her eyes shining with uncertain hope, her lips curved in a tentative smile.

“Max.”

The single word spurred him to action, and suddenly she was in his arms—warmer, more real than she had ever felt before. As he kissed her, the connection opened and they were both flooded with a rush of feelings and images that flowed and merged between them: her agonizing decision to fight her way back through the thick mists; his depth of grief and loneliness at her loss; her awareness of his voice calling to her over and over; his desolate resolution to continue living.

He rained kisses across her face, almost brutally grabbing at her limbs, her hair, anything and everything that would convince him she was real. She endured the assault, giving herself over to his need, until he gradually calmed, almost convinced that this was truly her hair dragging across his hands, her arms clutching at his shoulders, her love for him beaming from her eyes.

“I . . . thought I’d . . . lost you,” he murmured between kisses, his breath catching every time he looked at her. “Tell me you’ve come for me, Liz. Tell me you feel what we felt before.”

The kisses stopped, all motion and thought frozen, waiting for her answer.

“If I didn’t feel it, Max, I could never have made it back. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. When you left me, even the refuge of my own mind didn’t seem safe anymore. I was hurting all over again, but for a different reason. All the things I’d built in my mind—the house, the sea life, Brandy—they all faded away, and I realized it was because I had no will to hold onto them without you there to share them. I’m still weak, still frightened, but I felt you, Max, your strength and love, and it called me home. Yes, I’ve come for you, Max. If you’ll have me.”

With a wrenching cry, he crushed her to him, a new hope and purpose coursing through his body and his mind.

“You’ll stay with me tonight,” he told her, suddenly confident and happier than he’d ever been. “And tomorrow, I’ll take you to meet my parents. I want my mother to know . . . that she was right.”

“About what?” she laughed into his shirt. The small burst of laughter filled his heart with light and music.

“That everyone really does have a soulmate.”

********

They were strangely shy with each other at first, both keenly aware that the circumstances of their union would be so much different tonight. Max helped Liz into his Tahoe and, once the city traffic was behind them, opened the sunroof so the brief warmth of the sun-kissed afternoon would filter in. They rode in silence, holding hands, each wondering how much of what they’d built had survived. Half an hour west of town, the plateau gave way to the foothills of rugged mountains, and they left the main road. Max let go of Liz’s hand with a squeeze so he could negotiate the sharp curves and ever-narrowing roads. Eventually, they entered a wooded area and emerged into a small clearing where a log home sat confidently on the edge of a sheer cliff.

“It’s beautiful,” Liz breathed, her insecurities forgotten for the moment. “It’s just how I pictured you would live, only . . .”

Her voice caught in her throat as she turned to see the breathtaking vista. The home’s eastern face was made entirely of glass and looked down over the sprawling plain, Albuquerque’s skyline shining in miniature in the late afternoon sun. Liz took the three steps up to the wide porch that offered this amazing panorama to the east, then looked behind her to see a sliver of the western sky from between two peaks behind the house.

“It’s so much like the beach house . . . our beach house,” she said softly, only then turning to see Max smiling at her from the steps. He walked toward her. “I remember thinking how much your dream home was like mine,” he said, wrapping his arms around her from behind. They looked out over the view together, listening to the birds, the breeze, and the rustle of nature going about its business undisturbed.

“I wondered if you’d seen this place in my mind and adapted it, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask. I was afraid that even bringing up my own place would drive you away.”

Liz was thoughtful, and Max began to wonder if mentioning that had made her nervous. Then she spoke.

“I would have stayed there, Max. I would have stayed there forever, with you, if I could have. I can’t tell you what I went through deciding whether to come back. I hoped you’d regret your decision and come back to me on your own, but when you didn’t, I realized that you never would. Then I was angry. Angry that you didn’t love me enough. That’s when it finally hit me.”

Max turned her in his arms until they were face to face.

“What hit you?”

“That you loved me enough not to come back.”

Her eyes filled then, and he pressed her desperately against him, suddenly trembling. He vaguely watched his own hand stroke her hair, and relief washed over him. She knew. She understood.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My God, Liz, just thinking about my life without you was almost enough to send me back to your world.”

“Then how could you do it?” she sniffed, and he felt the moist warmth spread across his chest as her tears soaked his shirt.

He let out a hoarse chuckle. “Your mother.”

“My mother?”

“She’s pretty amazing, Liz. She could tell what was happening . . . I mean, to a point at least. And she made me realize I wasn’t helping you come back at all. I was only losing myself in you—your world. I knew she was right, but it still took me over a day to come to terms with it, and after that, I had to come home. I couldn’t be where you were and not be with you.”

Liz raised her face to Max and they shared silent thoughts until thinking was not enough. Max lowered his lips to hers, touching tentatively at first, but seconds later the fire took hold, and they tasted their fill of a love they had feared would never find life. As they parted, a brisk chill rode the breeze and Liz shivered involuntarily. Max shook himself and apologized.

“It gets cold up here. I should get you inside.”

What looked to the casual observer to be a rustic hideaway became an elegant retreat on the inside. Every convenience and comfort was available, and yet those very features were couched in heavy, comfortable furnishings full of character and rich color: hand-woven wall rugs, Native American sculpture, bulky wood furniture made welcoming by thick cushions and soft blankets. An enormous stone fireplace dominated one soaring wall on the left until it met a vaulted beamed ceiling above. Up on the loft behind them, where the view was still accessible through the towering glass wall, a bedroom suite was barely visible. To the right, modern appliances crafted to look like an old-fashioned stove and icebox added to the ambience. A hallway, dark now in the gathering shadows, extended toward unknown rooms, but Liz was too spellbound to ask.

“This is . . . incredible,” she stammered, and Max couldn’t suppress his pleasure.

“I’m so glad you like it. I can’t offer an ocean, but it has its good points.”

He watched her wander, touching, exclaiming. Even a girl from Hawaii could appreciate fine works of art from the desert cultures. Finally, mesmerized by the view, Liz stopped and stared. Max could feel her uncertainty, and it was immediately contagious. What was supposed to happen now? How were they to pick up the pieces of an imaginary affair as it struggled to find form in the real world? Falling back on his well-instilled manners, he approached her, offering something to eat or drink. Instead of responding, she stiffened, and he felt a seed of panic begin to grow. Then she gathered herself and turned to face him.

“Make love to me, Max.”

He stopped mid-sentence, gaping, he was sure. It wasn’t even close to what he was expecting her to say.

“Liz, you don’t have to . . .”

“I want to, Max. Right now, we’re both feeling plenty awkward about this. But we also have this memory of incredible intimacy. We’ve made love dozens of times; we’ve seen into each other’s souls. We know things about each other that maybe we shouldn’t know. And yet here we are, like two . . . acquaintances, being all polite and careful.

“I don’t want to be careful, Max. Being careful kept me in a coma. Now I’m here, where everyone told me I should be, but I’m still scared and still hurting, and I have to know if what I came back for is real.”

And just that fast, a mantle of confidence settled over Max. He’d been right all those weeks before. All she needed was to know—to really know—that he loved her, that he would stay with her in this life, that what they meant to each other crossed the boundaries. He closed the space between them with a step and cupped her face gently in his large hands, speaking eloquently with his eyes.

“It’s real, Liz. More real than anything I’ve felt or experienced in my entire life. Yes, we’ll make love—it will be the last thing we do before midnight and the first thing we do in the new year, and when morning comes, you will know that I have pledged myself to you in every way. And if you feel the same way, we’ll get in the car and drive to Roswell where my parents will meet someone they never expected to meet—the girl of my dreams. Only she’s real. We’re real.”

Her chin and lower lip were trembling now, but as her arms flew around his neck, he glimpsed a brilliant smile and heard her gasp. They stood, a single silhouette against the dusk, for a long while. Then, with one fluid move, he bent and lifted her into his arms.

********
The New Year burst onto Albuquerque in a stunning display of orange and purple. Liz, her head resting comfortingly over Max’s steady heartbeat, stayed completely still as she stared down toward the foot of the bed and out into the glory of the dawn. Of course, if she let her eyes drop just a couple of inches—which she did . . . frequently—she had a wonderful view of two strong male legs and other impressive attributes taking a well-earned rest.

She smiled thinking of Max’s face when he realized he’d just taken her virginity. She would have laughed if he hadn’t been so unhinged about it. She had told him Paulie hadn’t succeeded in raping her, but apparently he had assumed there had been someone else before that. He would have been more careful, he assured her over and over, had he known. “And that’s why I didn’t tell you,” she had responded, feeling slightly guilty about the deception.

It was then she was introduced to a real-world example of Max’s powers because he insisted on relieving her discomfort, and it had been a warm and pleasurable healing. In return, he’d found an energized and enthused partner for the rest of their passionate night, and now she felt weak and sated and completely, euphorically in love.

She lifted her hand slightly from Max’s abdomen and stared at her ring finger. The tan was almost gone and with it, the last physical vestiges of her relationship with Paulie. Where the ring had been was only the faintest of lines now, and she planned to stay indoors until it was gone entirely. She felt sick every time she looked at it.

“Penny for your thoughts.”

She smiled against him and began to trace the ridges in his abdominal muscles. God, he was beautiful.

“I was admiring the view.”

His chest rumbled slightly beneath her cheek.

“Which one?”

“Both,” she said boldly, sitting up, unashamed and unembarrassed to be naked with him in the daylight. It felt wonderful, in fact. Especially when his eyes raked across her body, lingering over her breasts. His slow grin, though, did bring color to her cheeks, and that, in turn, made him laugh.

“Don’t tell me I can still embarrass you, not after what we did last night.”

“And this morning,” she reminded him, unwilling to let him win this verbal challenge.

“Ah, yes, well the morning’s just getting started.”

He reached for her and she fell into his arms, already eager to feel him inside her again. Somewhere during the night, he’d confirmed what she thought she already knew; he, too, had never been with a woman before, for reasons that had no longer mattered with her. It made her feel powerful and special and completely turned on.

“And when you’re done having your way with me,” he teased, “we’ll head down to Roswell. I want my parents to meet my fiancée. They’ll flip out, I’m warning you right now.”

Liz stiffened, and Max pulled back from her, frowning. “What’s wrong? Have I . . . assumed too much?”

The doubt in his eyes tore at Liz’s heart. “No! No, Max, you haven’t. Everything I felt for you in . . . Hawaii is still there. More, in fact. But I . . . I don’t want a ring. Not until you can’t see where the old one was anymore. It makes me feel dirty and I won’t let a ring from you touch that place until it’s clean. Does that make any sense?”

Max pushed them both into a sitting position and took her hands in his. Liz was relieved to see that he wasn’t angry, and the doubt she’d seen in his eyes moments before had fled.

“Yes, it does make sense. It makes perfect sense. I want everything about this to be comfortable for you, Liz. I love you. More deeply than I ever realized I could feel. The ring is the least of it. But can I tell my parents we want to marry? Is that much true, at least?”

Liz’s smile was all the answer he needed, but the kiss that followed made his heart soar.

“Let’s go meet the in-laws,” she mumbled against his lips.

“In a few minutes,” he mumbled back. The sun was high in the sky when they finally headed down the mountain.

********
“Happy New Year!” Max shouted as he pulled Liz through the laundry room of his childhood home. “I’m home!”

“In here!” called his father. “It’s almost halftime. Where’ve you been?”

“Got a late start,” Max grinned at Liz.

“Well, your mother decided at the last minute that we needed more food, so she ran to the store. The others will be here soon.”

“What others?” Max asked, finally entering the family room. His father didn’t look up, but answered with his attention firmly on the game.

“We thought you’d like to see some old friends. Kyle will be over with his wife and baby and Jim and Amy are stopping by after he gets free at the sheriff’s office.”

Max looked quickly at Liz, wondering if all the strangers would be too much for her. After all, they had big news and were expecting to share it with his parents privately. At the silence, Philip looked over to see his son had brought a guest.

“Well, for Pete’s sake, son, you didn’t say we had company. Who might this be?”

“Dad, I’d like you to meet Liz.”

“Li . . .” He stopped suddenly, his eyes wide. The question was obvious.

“Yeah, this is Liz. From Hawaii.”

“Oh my God. Well, this is wonderful. Just wonderful! You look . . . wonderful,” he stuttered, pumping Liz’s hand. “We hadn’t heard you were . . . well, we didn’t know you’d . . . you look wonderful!”

By this time, Liz was laughing, much to Max’s relief. “Dad. Dad! You’re going to take her arm off if you don’t stop.”

“But when . . .? Why didn’t you tell us that . . .?”

“Liz showed up at my office yesterday, Dad. I had no idea she’d awakened from the coma. I was as shocked as you are.”

“It’s not Max’s fault, Mr. Evans. I wouldn’t let anyone call him. I wanted to see his face when he saw me. I needed to see an unguarded reaction. I thought maybe he wouldn’t be happy to see me.”

Both men looked at her as if she’d grown another head, which made her laugh again. They didn’t get a chance to talk about it further, though, because Diane was coming from the kitchen yelling a greeting of her own.

“Max, you’re home! I’ve got some great new snack recipes you’re gonna love. Just give me a few minutes . . .”

Rounding the corner, she stopped mid-sentence, her eyes on Liz.

“Why, hello. Max didn’t tell me he was bringing company.”

“He didn’t know,” Liz smiled, glancing up at Max.

“Mom, this is Liz, the woman from Hawaii I told you about.”

“Liz?! Oh, you dear thing! What you’ve been through. Max didn’t even tell us about your recovery. Isn’t that just like a son, though, never telling his parents anything . . .”

Before Max could say a word in his own defense, Diane had steered Liz from the room toward the kitchen. He was on the verge of staging a rescue when his father settled the matter.

“Let them go, Max. You know your mother won’t be still until she’s gotten the story for herself, and if you’re there, she’ll ask twice as many questions. Liz knows where to run to, if it gets too much.”

With a doubtful glance at the empty hallway, Max sank into a chair and reached absently for the Doritos. The bottle of Tabasco was already there, unopened, so he poured some in the cup his mother had set out for just that purpose, and began to munch.

“So, you and Liz . . .?”

His father’s open-ended question left room for multiple interpretations, but Max was eager to tell the whole story.

“We’re good, I think. She remembers everything from the coma, and she’s not freaked about the powers at all. Either that or she’s still too scared about Paulie and hasn’t really analyzed it yet. I hadn’t thought of that, actually.” Max frowned as this new perspective entered his mind. His father remained quiet, letting him talk it out.

“I mean, she says she’s okay with it. She seemed a lot more worried that I’d be mad or that what we shared in her alternate reality wasn’t real. But when I healed her last night, she . . .”

“Liz got hurt?”

Max knew it was an innocent question and any number of answers would satisfy his father, but he could feel his face burning, and he berated himself for such a careless comment. He was too used to telling his father everything; that would have to stop. At least about certain things.

“Just a cut,” he lied, but his father had caught the rattled embarrassment on his son’s face and peered at him skeptically.

“A cut?”

“Let it go, Dad. It wasn’t anything life-threatening, okay?”

A beat. “Okay.”

Further discussion was cut short when Kyle poked his head in, a 10-month-old propped on one arm. “Sorry we’re late. Laurie didn’t want to wake Marissa.”

“Bring that beauty over here,” Max grinned, holding out his arms. Marissa smiled back and held her arms open wide.

“Little flirt,” Kyle laughed at her. “She only has eyes for you, Max. You’ll break her heart if you ever bring another woman around here.”

“Then perhaps I should go,” Liz said, smiling at Max and his almost-niece.

“Whoa!” Kyle’s head swiveled to look at the beautiful woman who had entered the room. His reaction had been pure instinct. Grimacing, he back-pedaled.

“I mean, hi. I didn’t know Max had brought a guest.”

“Kyle, this is Liz.”

Kyle only stared for a moment. Then, “Holy crap. The Liz? From Hawaii? Sleeping Beauty Liz?”

“Kyle!”

Max leapt to his feet, causing Marissa to giggle in delight.

“Sorry, Max. That’s just how I . . . I mean . . . wow. You’re cured!”

“I’m here, anyway,” Liz said. She seemed to be taking all the shock in stride. “And who’s this little beauty?”

Now on solid ground, Kyle introduced his daughter. “This is Marissa,” he beamed, turning as Diane walked in. “Oh, and Mrs. E? I ran into some other friends of Max’s and told them to stop by. I hope that’s okay.”

“Of course!” Diane assured him. “I’d best get back to the kitchen, then. I do love a party.”

“Who’d you see?” Max asked, just as Jim and Amy came through with Courtney and Michael in tow.

“We ran into Courtney in the driveway,” Jim told everyone. “So we just told her and her fella to come on in.”

He reached for some chips and sat down, immediately engrossed in the game on television. Amy rolled her eyes and started whispering baby talk to Marissa. Max, however, was overtly surprised to see his receptionist standing there with her tattooed boyfriend.

“Courtney! What a surprise. So, did you guys find Enigma last night?”

“No,” Courtney said with a pout aimed at Michael. “But so many people got stuck at the same clue, we just wound up partying with them! How about you? You look so much better than you did yesterday.”

“Yeah, you look great,” Laurie said as she breezed into the room and gave Max a peck on the cheek. “You get laid or something?”

The whole room went quiet when Max’s face went pale, then pink. It was only then that several of the newcomers noticed Liz, who had been edging toward Max until Laurie’s question.

Max groped for a gracious way out of the awkward moment, but although his mouth moved, no sound came out. Laurie looked like she wanted to die, and Kyle was smirking like a boy in a locker room hearing stories about prom night. It was Liz who broke the tension.

“Yes, he did. Glad to hear it agreed with him.”

The burst of laughter dispelled the awkwardness immediately, and Max turned to Liz, pulling her into his arms. When his mother came through the door to find out what was so funny, the moment was right.

“Mom, Dad—and my very nosy friends—we have an announcement to make. Liz and I are engaged.”

After a two-second interval of deep and encompassing silence, the room burst into a frenzy. Two hours later, after the questions and congratulations had finally dimmed to a dull roar, Max pulled Liz upstairs into his old bedroom.

“You okay?” he asked, smoothing her hair away from her face. “That’s not exactly how I expected to break the news.”

She was glowing as her fingers laced behind his neck, and she looked at him for a long moment. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more okay, Max. This isn’t just a new year for us; it’s a new life.”

“I know it is for me,” Max whispered, suddenly emotional. “You’ve made a life possible for me that I never thought I could have.”

Liz rose on tiptoe to kiss the man who had changed . . . no, make that saved her life. “Max, when you bought the statue of Lono, did you know what you were buying?”

“Sort of. They told me he was the ancient Hawaiian god of sun, wisdom, and healing. Somehow it seemed to symbolize everything we needed in our lives that night.”

“Exactly. I think maybe he did his job, don’t you?”

“So you think that’s who we have to thank for all this?” he chuckled into her hair. “I’m warning you, I’m not naming our first baby Lono.”

She lifted her head, staring at him wide-eyed as a smile crept slowly across her face and into her eyes.

“Baby?”

His joy bubbled to the surface as their future took shape. Right now, it was the shape of Liz Parker, who filled his arms and his heart until he felt he could hold no more. But he could, he knew, and he would. They would, in this new year and all the years ahead. For tonight, though, the future could wait. All he needed at this moment was the feel of her against him—warm and loving . . . and real.
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

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Carol000
Addicted Roswellian
Posts: 110
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2001 4:58 pm

Post by Carol000 » Thu Feb 05, 2004 10:16 am

Good news! (I think) :D :D

Kath7, in her own wonderful, generous way, has taken the bull by the horns and posted links to all of my fics at the "Work by Author" board. Almost every fanfic I've written (barring a couple of short and older exceptions) is there.

Ironically, the one I've gotten the most requests for recently--Dreamer Holidays: Spring Break--disappeared somewhere along the way. Tonight I'll post that one in its entirety on the thread.

That means that all of Epiphanies, all of Chameleon, and all the Dreamer Holiday stories are accessible from one starting point. There are also a couple of other stories there that I'm sure many have forgotten. Here's the link:

http://www.roswellfanatics.net/viewtopic.php?t=5057

Thank you, Kath, for taking so much pressure off my shoulders (and in the process, making me aware of one award I didn't even know I'd won!). I am very grateful.
Last edited by Carol000 on Thu Feb 05, 2004 11:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

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