Freefall (AU,M/L, Adult) (Complete)

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Carol000
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Freefall (AU,M/L, Adult) (Complete)

Post by Carol000 » Sun Oct 03, 2004 3:29 pm

Winner - Round 11

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Max, Alex and Kyle

Winner - Round 8

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Freefall

Author: Carol000
E-mail: mschanche@aol.com
Category: M/L, but AU
Rating: The whole spectrum, ADULT
Disclaimer: It’s my humble opinion that the statute of limitations on owning characters who were abused and misused minors has run out. I’d like to claim them for myself, of course, but the accompanying legal hyperventilation would be ugly, so I’ll bow to the law and admit they aren’t mine, though everyone knows I’d take very good care of them.

Author’s Note: I have several comments to make before we begin, so please behr with me.

1. This story was born around a large table on a vast deck at the Hotel Coronado in San Diego. Several Rospals, many of them authors you know and love, were there on a sunny day by the ocean, basking in atmosphere, friendship, and Roswell memories. A fighter jet flew over, and my secret lust for them became immediately apparent. Well, you know how one thing leads to another—they laughed, then encouraged, then challenged. When we left that day, Max the fighter pilot was born, and I had promised to tell his story.
2. I’ve never written AU without aliens before, so I fear my wonderful readers may be surprised by my Max and Liz just a little. They are still the people we love, but they are older and wiser, and carry just a bit more baggage than the innocents I usually write about. So go into this with that knowledge and expectation—these are adults who have seen some of the world (sometimes too much). Love them anyway.
3. I did my research—you knew I would. So I will confess up front to some startling discoveries (to me) that I consciously decided to ignore: a)Top Gun is no longer at Miramar, it’s in Nevada somewhere. Oh well. It’s at Miramar in this story! b) The Navy doesn’t use the term “rank,” they use “rate” (don’t ask me why), but I’ve used rank because I’m afraid “rate” would just confuse everyone. c) There are limits to my research—if I have described a scene that would have been handled differently in the military, I apologize. I asked my husband (Army Corps of Engineers civilian, but constantly works with the military), the vets at work, and the Web; I’ve done the best I could.
4. The places named in San Diego are real except for the restaurant (SeaGate) and the radio/tv stations.
5. Here’s the most important one: Max is the hero of this story. I always write Liz as strong, smart, and independent. In this story, she’s smart and independent, but not as strong as my usual Liz. I love heroes. I love Max. Max is my hero, and for a change, he’s not quite so vulnerable as Max the alien. But he’s every bit as gentle, loving, and devoted to Liz, so I hope you can open your heart to him.


Part 1

A shadow fled across the tarmac like a hawk chasing unseen prey. Max squinted against the sun and watched the F14 disappear into the distance. He would never stop thrilling to the powerful vibration that rolled through his chest or the blinding flash of silver that left him blinking each time the sleek fighter jet bulleted through the sky. They were his passion, his pride, and his profession.

“Welcome to Miramar, sir.” The lieutenant snapped to attention, nearly forgetting the clipboard in his hand as he began to salute. “We weren’t expecting you until tomorrow.”

Max noted the southern drawl and remembered reading that the unit had a hotshot pilot from Alabama. “At ease, Lieutenant. I’m not officially here til tomorrow. Just wanted to take a look around, breathe a little exhaust.”

Lt. Jeremy Ames couldn’t stop the spontaneous grin. “Yes sir. Plenty of that to go around.”

Eyes to the sky, Max breathed deeply. “Anybody going up this afternoon? I wouldn’t mind taking a spin.”

Jeremy noted with approval the barely restrained excitement in his new CO’s eyes. This was no fly-by-nighter looking for the fast track to rank and a desk—though from what he’d heard, Lt. Commander Max Evans was the youngest man ever to achieve that rank. This one knew the thrill, felt his blood fire at the feel of the throttle in his hand and the eight G’s pressing him against the seat. Shit, he’d come early just to inhale the damn fumes. Looked like his rep was right on target; he was the real deal.

“Owens will be up in an hour,” he said. “He’s putting a new F/A-18 through its paces.”

Max didn’t move, but Jeremy saw the muscles tense, saw the flash light a fire that made amber eyes go gold.

“E or F?”

“F.”

Super Hornet. The two-seater. Hell, yeah, he was goin’ for a ride. He’d tested those honeys aboard the USS John C. Stennis back in 1997, one of his first assignments. But in Iraq, it had been the F-14 Tomcat that he had flown over hostile territory, that he had fought in to protect the troops below, that he’d bailed out of when the anti-aircraft fire had found its mark. No one knew that, of course, at least no one outside his own chain of command. As far as the public was concerned, there had been no fighter battles over Iraq. That didn’t matter, he knew his actions and those of his squadron had saved hundreds of American and civilian Iraqi lives, and that’s all he needed to know. He rubbed his shoulder absently. It still ached from time to time, but friends had seen worse. He wore his purple heart; others were buried with theirs.

Pushing aside the morbid thoughts that caught up with him all too often, he kept his face neutral and turned to Lt. Ames.

“Let Owens know he’s got a RIO for the test run.”

“Yessir.” Jeremy bit back a smile, recognizing feigned calm when he saw it. “Shouldn’t be long. He’s just waiting for Parker to give the okay.”

“Parker?” Max frowned, trying to place the name. He didn’t remember a Parker in the files.

“Civilian consultant, sir. Never saw anybody could tickle an engine like that before and spit on my wings if I’m lyin’.”

Amusement played on Max’s lips as he watched Jeremy trot off to find Owens and, no doubt, to share his first impressions of the new CO.

********
Thaddeus Owens, call sign Goliath, spiraled through the clouds in a series of rolls that would have made a lesser man reach for a bag to hurl his lunch into; he was gratified to hear his new CO chuckling with pleasure. As he dipped and banked like a little boy maneuvering a paper airplane, he could tell he liked the new guy already.

“Wanna take her, sir?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” Max answered, already taking the craft into a sharp incline. The two men indulged their appreciation for speed and fine machinery for almost 45 minutes before landing. When they emerged from the cockpit, they had already bonded.

“Nicely done, Lieutenant,” Max grinned as they walked toward the hangar. A huge smile split the pilot’s ebony face.

“Thank you, sir. Right back atcha.”

“Make a note about that vibration in the nose Vulcan chamber, and I want a rundown on the F414 turbo-fan engine; the thrust isn’t quite what I expected.”

“Will do, sir. Parker’ll have it worked out before we take ’er up again.”

“That’s the civilian consultant, right? Why aren’t our guys doing the work on this?”

“Oh, they do, sir, mostly. But Parker’s the best. The guys just like to watch and learn.”

Curious, Max opened his mouth to ask for more detail, but closed it again when a voice called out from the small office next to the hangar, and a slightly built officer in coveralls jogged toward them.

“Thad! Charisse called. Said you’d better not be late or she’ll burn your ass . . . Sir! Sorry, sir.”

The slim figure skidded to a stop, bolted to attention, and delivered a stiff salute. “I didn’t recognize . . . no one told me . . . Sorry, sir.”

It took several seconds before Max could confirm what the voice had told him; what the coveralls covered was a woman. Tall, slim, and sharp-featured, her blue eyes peered through a smudged face, but even with her auburn hair ruthlessly pulled back into some kind of twist, her smooth skin and fine bones were a dead giveaway.

Even as he tried to match the name on the uniform—O’Hara—with his mental staff list, Max had to chuckle, both at the sudden change in demeanor of the young ensign and at the thought that anyone, let alone a woman named Charisse, thought she could intimidate the brawny man at his side. He had muscles on top of muscles, and although he was shorter than Max, there was little mystery as to the origins of his call sign “Goliath.” On the other hand, Max thought as he saw something flicker over Owens’ face, a woman was probably the only person who could keep a man like this in line.

“At ease, Ensign. I’m only prowling around for now. Just took a spin with Lt. Owens here. And you are?”

“Ensign O’Hara, sir. Folks call me Frankie. For Francis. It was my grandmother’s . . .”

She stopped abruptly, silently cursing herself for talking too much, he was sure. She was in communications, he remembered, though that didn’t jibe with the grime-smeared face. And she was no doubt wondering what her new commander was going to be like. His rank was new, he reminded himself. Brand spanking new, in fact, and he was still learning how to balance military discipline with a rapport of trust and respect with his officers. She’d addressed a lieutenant by his first name and made some overly casual personal comments during duty hours. That didn’t reflect military protocol, yet Owens hadn’t batted an eye. The lieutenant read his thoughts with unnerving accuracy.

“Sir, Frankie is my best friend’s little sister. We practically grew up together. We tend to forget rank when we’re alone. Or think we are,” he finished with a sharp look of warning in her direction.

“I see,” Max said, feeling her tension radiate. It was a small and understandable infraction. Certainly not on his radar as a battle worth fighting. “Good to know.”

He turned his attention back to the rigid ensign. “You run into a coal truck, Ensign?”

“Oh, no sir. I was trying to change the cartridge on the copier and it . . . sort of . . . exploded. I’ve had easier times wrestling the enemy in war games, sir.”

The urge to laugh caught him off guard; he managed to suppress the sound but couldn’t contain the smile. “War is hell,” he sympathized, then turned back to his pilot, whose narrowed eyes shot daggers at the ensign. “Thanks for the ride, Lt. Owens. I’ll see you tomorrow, 0800 hours.”

“Yes sir.”

“And Owens?”

“Sir?”

“Sounds like you’d better get a move on, too.”

Thad’s amusement was thinly disguised, but he offered a serious, “Yes, sir,” and took off toward the office at a jog.

********
It was hot, in spite of the nice breeze, and Max’s t-shirt was clinging to him like a wet tissue. Disgusted, he peeled it off, tossed it into the back of the Explorer, and hefted another box. He didn’t own much, he reflected, so why was it taking forever to get it out of his car and into his apartment?

The answer was simple, he thought with a scowl. His sister had helped him pack, so every box held only half of what he could have squeezed into it. She’d wrapped every damn thing separately, even his CD cases. Weren’t CD cases already wrapped by definition? He decided to ignore his gratitude that each box was also labeled so he could at least find things until everything was unpacked and put away. Which wasn’t going to happen until the truck arrived with his few pieces of furniture. Since his was only a partial load, it could still be a day or two.

He strained under the burden of his weight set—all packed in one box, he realized with an oath. Evidently, Vicki’s criteria was simply that they all fit in the box; hadn’t it occurred to her that they would weigh too much that way? Vicki prided herself on logic, but the fact was, she was just a little ditzy sometimes. Muttering under his breath, he headed inside.

Liz Parker swung into the parking lot, slammed on the brakes, and laid on the horn. Some jerk had parked in a no parking zone and left only the barest opening for other cars to squeeze through. Seeing no one nearby, she pushed out of the car and strode toward the offending SUV, hands on hips and loaded for bear. Boxes were jammed into the car in a tight and efficient pattern, and a disgusting sweaty shirt lay in a heap on the floor. A man. It figured.

“Hey, Liz!”

Looking up, Liz saw Jesse and Spike, two neighbors, waving from the third-floor balcony. Despite their names, they were beautiful women whose obvious attributes sometimes made Liz feel . . . well, inadequate. Jesse had come from Mexico and looked the part—short but curvy, straight black hair, large brown eyes, and a natural tan Liz would have killed for. By contrast, Spike was tall, blond, and built. It took a lot of confidence to hang out with them, but they’d never been anything but friendly, so she waved back.

“So who thinks he’s above parking in a real space like the regular folk?” she called up.

“Wait til you see him!” Spike’s stage whisper and the roll of her eyes made Liz laugh. It was like being in high school.

“Oh yeah? Well, he’s blocking my way.”

“One look and you won’t care,” Jesse agreed. “He’s to die for!

“Well, if he doesn’t get out here and move this gas-guzzling hulk of a car, he just might.”

“Might what?” Max asked as he hurried back outside with what he hoped was a charming smile. She swung her head back in his direction as he shrugged. “I might as well find out if it’s worth it.”

Liz lost her power of speech. Gaping like a landed trout, she forgot to breathe. At the gym, they would have called him ripped. Every muscle stood in drool-inducing definition; the skin was tan and smooth; the eyes were deep and penetrating; the jeans damp and tight. And the smile . . . if the smile had been arrogant or even just cocky, she could have gathered her wits; after all, she spent every day with hot shot pilots and military types, and she knew how to handle the brag and swagger. But this . . . this smile was slightly sheepish, slightly apologetic, slightly gorgeous. She’d been sucker punched.

“I . . . uh, I . . .” She gestured back toward her car.

Now that Max had a closer look, he, too, was staring. She was dark, petite, with huge intelligent brown eyes that sparkled with promise; they were the beacons highlighting an enticing face with delicate features, an aristocratic nose, and framed by thick dark hair that cascaded past her shoulders like a shimmering curtain. He was glad she was stuttering. It gave him a few seconds to avoid doing the same.

“I never expected to take this long to unpack the car. I’m in your way. I’ll move.”

She watched as he closed the back of the car and hustled to the driver’s seat. In her mind, he moved in slow motion. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction—a basic premise of physics, a science that dictated her professional life. How true it was, she thought dully, since every action he took caused her to brace against the jolt of reaction. He was already parking a few spaces away before she shook herself and climbed into her own car. She didn’t even hear her friends laughing above her.

Feeling foolish and annoyed with herself, Liz parked her car, took a deep breath, and prepared to start over. It was the least she could do after coming on like a ton of bricks and then letting hormones turn her brain to slush. He hadn’t even been a jerk. He was just moving in. She could cut the guy some slack.

Summoning her dignity, she emerged from her car, grabbed her briefcase, and ambled over—at least she thought she was ambling; she wasn’t sure she had ever specifically tried to before—to make amends.

“Sorry I bit your head off just now. I’ve had a long day and was a little too eager to just hit the pool and relax.”

If she hadn’t said “pool,” and opened the door to his fertile imagination, he could have kept it together. As it was, his thinking fuzzed a bit, and he struggled to come up with an appropriate response.

“I could go for a swim.”

Dear god. He’d said it out loud. He was almost sure of it. Yeah, from the look on her face, he was positive.

“I mean, I’ve had a long day, too.” He gestured vaguely to the car. “Moving.”

“Well, then, I guess we’re neighbors.” She offered her hand. “I’m Liz.”

He wiped his hand on already damp jeans and took hers. “Max.”

“So, Max, can I help you carry something?”

That lethal smile erupted on his face again. “Thanks, but it looks like you’re already carrying something.”

She glanced down at her briefcase. “Yeah, well, maybe something light?”

He frowned at the boxes and then threw her a skeptical look. Her chin came up in challenge.

“I tell you what I’d really like is something to drink. Got anything cold at your place?”

Her eyebrow arched and her smile became a smirk. “Slickly done, ace. Let’s compromise. I’ll bring you a cold beer . . . at the pool. Half an hour?”

“You’re on.”

*****

She’d actually spent several minutes choosing her bathing suit, telling herself it was about evening out tan lines and not about making a good impression on Max. She knew better of course, since her thought process had little to do with tan lines. Besides, it was pretty late in the day to worry about a tan. She was afraid the two-piece might be too inviting; after all, she didn’t want to appear eager . . . or worse. The bikini was definitely out. The one piece was very flattering, but might come off as a bit prudish. In the end, she went with the tankini. It was slightly more revealing without giving away the farm. And it still gave her a chance to show off her new belly button ring.

Satisfied, she slipped on a cover-up and sandals, pulled her hair back, picked up a towel and the beers, and headed down to the pool. She chastised herself for feeling disappointment when he wasn’t there yet. He was moving, for heaven’s sake. He probably realized he didn’t have time to relax yet. Or maybe someone stopped in to help. A friend. A girlfriend. Of course. A man like that would have a girlfriend. Maybe she was moving in, too, in which case the whole exchange in the parking lot was pretty tacky. Figures she’d find herself attracted to . . .

“Something wrong?”

She whirled around, embarrassed, and wondered if she’d been muttering. She had a tendency to do that.

“No, I . . . I brought your beer.”

Finding her arm stuck straight out like a proud child offering a treasure, she wished fervently she’d just stayed at work.

“Thanks.” He gestured to the other beer. “Going to join me?”

She sighed, chalked it all up to experience, and relaxed. “Sure.”

San Diego weather couldn’t be beat, he thought. Blue sky, mild temperatures, constant breeze, and plenty of sunshine. Sunshine that brought people outside to relax, to exercise, and to . . . wear sexy little bathing suits. He watched Liz shed her cover up and settle onto the lounge chair next to his. She took a deep breath that expanded her chest and caused the modest top to inch up so he caught a glimpse of a tiny gold sandal dangling from her belly button. The gleaming little surprise was doing unexpected, erotic things to his system.

“To neighbors,” she said, offering her beer up for a toast.

“Neighbors,” he repeated and forced his eyes back to hers as the bottles clinked. A little thrill shot through her at the look in his eye. It’s not that she was trying to seduce him or anything, she assured herself, but hanging out with Jesse and Spike had kept her off men’s radar in a lot of situations lately, and it felt good to have a man’s attention. Especially this man. A gorgeous, personable man who was blissfully unrelated to the military.

Closing her eyes and lifting her face to the sun, Liz took another swallow and shifted comfortably. She couldn’t see Max’s appreciative gaze as she started the small talk.

“Where’re you from?”

“This move is from Florida. How about you? You a native?”

“No, I grew up in New Mexico, but I’ve been in California for a couple years. Just moved to San Diego about 18 months ago, though.”

“Job, I assume?”

Liz hesitated. She was proud of her work, and she knew how to make her way in a man’s field, but she was also aware her profession could intimidate men on occasion, and she wanted to indulge in this little fantasy a while longer. Ignoring the guilt, she chose which truths to share.

“Yeah, a promotion brought me here. It’s a great city to live in.”

“So what do you do?”

Mentally crossing her fingers and issuing a little prayer of apology, she told the truth—albeit a wildly misleading version. “I’m a designer.”

“Really? I’m impressed. I’m no good at that sort of thing. Maybe when I get unpacked, you can stop by and give me some ideas for my place. I let my sister decorate my last place. Never again. I felt like I was living in a dollhouse.”

Liz laughed and Max soaked in the pleasant sound.

“And what do you do?” Liz asked.

“Hey, Liz!”

Jesse and Spike descended in a rush of chatter and activity. These two clearly hadn’t been concerned about appearing obvious, Liz noticed with chagrin, and fought the urge to glare at them. Couldn’t they let her have one? Just this once?

“Max, these are two of your neighbors, Jesse Santo and Spike Johansson. They’re roommates, third floor.”

“Max,” Spike purred, leaning over to shake his hand and her cleavage. “A pleasure.”

Max couldn’t miss the view, but found himself wishing he’d had more time alone with Liz. Women often approached him, and he always tried to be gracious, but he’d felt something . . . more . . . with Liz.

“Nice to meet you both. Spike, is it? That’s an unusual nickname.”

“I know,” she sighed, as though it were a heavy burden. “But I can’t seem to shake it, so I’ve learned to live with it. Most people figure out pretty quickly I’m not a man,” she winked with a laugh, and bent to arrange her towel on the chair to his left, offering visible proof with another provocative view. Liz nearly growled.

“It fits,” Jesse insisted, stripping to her one-piece, though the piece was very small and barely connected in places. She put her towel on the concrete at the foot of the other three chaises and stretched out luxuriously, legs posed at their best advantage. “For one thing, nobody spikes a volleyball like her. Your team has won the rec league . . . what? 3 years running?”

“Four,” Spike corrected.

“Yeah, and she’s the only female I know who can walk around in spike heels for days at a time without her feet filing for divorce. Gives her kick-ass legs, but man, I’d die. Not to mention it makes her like 6 feet tall.”

“Over, actually, but I like being tall,” she huffed. “What do you think, Max? Is a tall woman too intimidating?” She turned to him with pouty eyes and a mouth to match.

“Don’t answer her, Max,” Jesse warned. “It’s a lose/lose proposition.”

Max took refuge in silence and swallowed more beer. He wasn’t sure how it had happened, but he was the center of poolside conversation with three beautiful women—scantily clad women at that—on his first day in residence. Although he would have preferred being alone with Liz, he figured most men would figure it was a pretty decent first day.

At least it was until Liz gathered her things, muttering something about work to do, and went inside. He watched her go, already working on how to arrange their next meeting.
Last edited by Carol000 on Mon May 02, 2005 7:05 am, edited 30 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."

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Carol000
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Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2001 4:58 pm

Post by Carol000 » Sun Oct 10, 2004 8:34 am

Part 2

As it turned out, he didn’t need a plan. Fate had stepped in and offered up a dawn’s breathtaking canvas of pinks, purples, and blues that moved and melded as if the artist just couldn’t decide when to set down his brush. It was the kind of morning that made a person believe in possibilities, Max thought with a smile, recognizing as much by instinct as vision the figure jogging toward him.

It pleased him that she was up before the sun, as was his habit after years in the military. It also pleased him that she liked to jog, that she chose the cool surf and soft sand as her track, and that she wore those tight bike shorts and that abbreviated sports bra. In fact, everything about her pleased him, and his pleasure was evident in his smile as she neared him.

“Morning,” Max called, slowing his pace.

“Morning,” Liz breathed, not slowing at all. She was still annoyed at the way things had gone at the pool the night before, although the mental replay hadn’t incriminated him as much as she’d thought it would. He hadn’t ogled anyone, hadn’t focused the conversation on any one person. He had, in fact, been perfectly cordial to everyone, all of whom were equally new acquaintances. The real problem was, she realized, that she’d wanted him to focus on one person—her. The fact that he hadn’t was more about insulting her ego than about his committing a social faux pas.

The look on his face as she started to pass him brought her up short—bewildered and a little hurt. Damn it. Guilt was a powerful influence, Liz thought as she finally pulled up.

“Nice morning,” she said, relieved to see his face brighten.

“The best.” He breathed deeply and looked out at the ocean. “I often wonder if the late risers know what they’re missing.” The colors had brightened as the light grew stronger. The sky was a sprawling rainbow now, all vivid color and unruly tendrils.

Liz risked a look at him while his attention was diverted. She couldn’t help but appreciate those taut muscles gleaming beneath a sheen of sweat. He jogged, she noticed, in a tight black muscle shirt and full-length black sweatpants. The quiet power and sleek form made her think of the panthers that stalked the wild animal park nearby. She found herself wondering what that power could do if unleashed and . . . heaven help her . . . what that body would feel like molded to hers.

“Liz?”

“Huh?”

“Is something wrong?”

“What? Oh! No, sorry. My mind was wandering.”

She cringed inwardly as the cocky smile she’d expected the day before appeared on his face. But of course it had. What else could she expect when he’d caught her staring slack-jawed at his body? He was only human, after all. But it would have made her feel a lot better if she’d been able to hold at least one intelligent conversation with the man before he quietly tucked her into the same category with every other adoring female he’d impressed.

Pulling herself together, she lifted her eyes to his and held there determinedly. His smile was already gone, replaced by a look she was tempted to interpret as interest. Very avid interest. She felt her pulse start to race, but held firmly to her poise.

“I come here to run whenever I can,” she said. “I never get tired of the ocean . . . or the dawn.”

“I can see why,” he said softly, turning their locked gaze into a connection so intense, she almost felt as if he were caressing her. His hand rose slowly, reaching for her, and she felt herself start to lean in. Then his fingers brushed her cheek as he tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear.

“Oh, a hair thing,” she breathed, caught between relief and disappointment.

“My sister says it’s murder when hair whips into your eyes when you’re running.”

“Yeah.”

The moment had passed and turned awkward. Liz turned, ready to wave a hasty goodbye and make a run for it, literally. Max saw her intention and felt a flicker of panic.

“Liz?”

“Yeah?”

“Could I take you out this weekend? You could show me San Diego.”

Her hesitation was a blow to his ego, but he was encouraged when her shoulders relaxed and a tentative smile teased her mouth.

“I’d like that. How’s Saturday? Fridays we usually watch the apartment volleyball matches and then hang out. You should come.”

“Apartment volleyball? They play volleyball in one of the apartments?”

The look on his face was so disbelieving and so innocent, she had to laugh, pleased when his face broke into a smile as well. She couldn’t know how much he loved to hear that husky, sexy laugh of hers.

“No, silly. Apartment residents form teams and play each other on Friday nights. Beach volleyball.”

“Oh.” His self-deprecating roll of the eyes made her laugh again. “Yeah, okay. It’s a date. Both nights.”

They grinned foolishly at each other.

“You know, I was just about to turn around anyway. I’ll jog back with you.”

“You’re on.”

He had to shorten his stride substantially to keep them together, but he was impressed with how easy Liz’s motion was and how controlled her breathing. She was as in shape as she looked, with the added appeal of a fluid grace that left him staring. Like a dancer, he thought, surprising himself. It was feminine and sexy. And, he realized with a smile, he’d used the word “sexy” to describe almost every impression he’d had of her. There was definitely a pattern emerging here.

The apartment complex loomed, and Max found himself reluctant to let her go. He had work to do, he knew. A lot of it. And she surely had appointments or . . . decorating things . . . to do. Still, he hated to leave just yet.

“Liz?”

“Yeah, Max?” she answered without breaking her rhythm.

“I don’t have your numbers. You know, phone, apartment number, that stuff.”

“Oh, right.” She turned to look at him, opened her mouth to speak, then pitched forward, coming down hard on concrete where the sand became the sidewalk. Horrified, Max fell to his knees.

“Liz! Oh God! Are you hurt? You’re bleeding!”

Her first response was only a groan as she tried to figure out why she was face down on a sandy sidewalk spitting grit out of her mouth. As she fought to sit up, she felt two large hands supporting her and looked up into Max’s worried face.

“What the hell happened. . .?”

“It was my fault. Completely. I distracted you just as we were coming off the sand. I should’ve waited. Are you okay? You’re elbow’s bleeding and you’ve got a scrape on your chin. I bet your hands are raw, too. Look at my eyes; I want to see your pupils.”

She hadn’t been fussed over this much since she’d fallen off her new bike on her eighth birthday. “Max, I’m fine, I just . . .”

“You’re not fine! You’re bleeding. You might have sprained an ankle. Here, let me help you up.”

It was truly amazing, Liz thought with a wince, how quickly an adult body stiffens up after a fall. What happened to that wonderful resiliency of children who throw their bodies about with great abandon and never feel the effects? She realized too late that the wince was a bad move. Before she could utter a sound, Max had swept her into his arms and was marching purposefully toward their apartment building.

“Max, put me down! I’m fine!”

“You’re hurt,” he growled, “and it’s my fault. You’re going inside with me, you’re going to stay put while I tend those wounds, and then you’re going to let me take a look at that leg. You might have sprained it, or even broken it!”

She could almost hear the gears grinding as Max’s imagination went into overdrive. “My leg is fine, see?” She bent it back and forth from the knee and made circles in the air with her foot. “See?”

He didn’t answer, just kept striding toward the elevator.

“Hey, Spike,” Max muttered, so focused on getting upstairs he missed the look of amused speculation on one face and the resigned embarrassment on the other.

“Morning, Max,” Spike nodded, struggling mightily to keep her expression casual. “I took a little dip this morning. Did you two . . . you know, do some . . . dipping, too?”

Liz’s mouth fell open but Max, blissfully distracted, nodded in agreement. “Yeah, great morning for it.”

The doors opened and the threesome stepped into the elevator. Spike punched 3 and noticed with a smirk that Max had punched 4. She knew very well that Liz lived on 2.

“We were jogging,” Liz explained. “I fell. Max feels he needs to check me for injuries. Even though I’m fine,” she added with a glare.

“Let him,” Spike advised with a wink.

The doors were closing behind her before Liz could manage an appropriate comeback.

“You realize that now everyone will think . . . well, they’ll think all kinds of things, Max.”

For the first time, Max looked down at her and actually registered what she was saying. “Who? What are you talking about?”

Liz sighed heavily. “Never mind.” And let him carry her into his apartment.

******

He had to admit, the injuries were superficial. That didn’t change his gruff expression or calm his pulse, which was now racing for a different reason. He’d lifted her easily to the kitchen counter, then gone in search of his first aid supplies, grateful when he’d spotted the box sitting in the bathroom labeled “Med Suppl.” He’d have to give Vicki credit for labeling those boxes after all. Then Liz had sat quietly, watching him as he tended her. Her legs were smooth and firm as he checked for sensitive areas that might indicate a fracture or sprain. Her hands were soft and small in his as he cleansed and dried them, then applied a small bandage to the single cut. Her lips were parted and tempting as he dabbed antibiotic cream on the scrape on her chin.

It was during this last bit of first aid when he realized his hand wasn’t completely steady and his breathing was less than even. At least hers was erratic, too, though he couldn’t be sure if that was her way of bracing against the sting of antiseptic or if she, too, was affected by their proximity. They hadn’t spoken since entering his apartment, and the silence was feeding a crackling tension in the air.

Her eyes met his for only a second before they came together in a kiss so unexpected, so full of heat that Liz nearly moaned. She could feel his hands pressing her against him and thought briefly of her speculation about how his body would feel against hers. It felt wonderful. Hard and strong and yet tender, just as he’d been as he tended her minor wounds. His lips were demanding and made her want to give. His taste was indescribable and made her feel a craving she’d never known she had.

Her arms came around his neck, and he deepened the kiss in response, sending her blood rushing recklessly to every sleeping place inside her. When he sighed into her mouth, she felt a tide of warmth slide through her system. It was only when her stiff muscles protested as she wound her legs around his waist that she was jolted back into the kitchen of a man she hardly knew.

Liz pulled back abruptly and stared into clouded eyes; watched as he, too, pulled himself back. Passion ebbed and shock mixed liberally with embarrassment took over.

“Liz. I . . . I’m sorry. I don’t know what . . . I didn’t intend . . .Liz, I didn’t bring you up here for that. I swear it. I’m sorry.”

He seemed rattled enough for both of them, which she found rather endearing. Her own shock faded, though her voice remained breathless. “That makes two of us, Max. Don’t apologize. I didn’t exactly resist, did I?”

The light of relief crossed his face and his body relaxed slightly. “No. And I thank you for it.” He tried a tentative smile and relaxed further when she returned it.

“Thanks for the run and for the nursing. You’re pretty good at both.”

“You’re welcome.” He stepped back toward her and reached to help her down from the counter. When he realized it could look like he was going to try for another kiss, he jerked his hands back and looked up guiltily. Feeling easier now, Liz laughed and held out her arms.

“I could use the help. I’m stiffening up fast.”

Grateful, Max set her gently on the floor. “I could carry you back to your apartment.”

Catching the humor in his eyes, Liz played along. “I think we’ve given the neighbors enough to speculate about. I can manage.” She kissed his cheek lightly. “Besides, I’ll be late for work if I don’t hurry.”

“Work!” Max had let his first day on the job slip his mind—a feat in itself considering how intensely he’d been preparing for the new position and how important it was to him. Glancing at the clock, he swore. “Me, too. But we’re still on for the weekend, right? Tomorrow volleyball, Saturday tour guide.”

“You bet.” Liz opened the front door and turned. “And Max? Running and nursing aren’t the only things you’re really good at.”

She grinned as she left him staring at her.

******

Max was whistling as he entered the small conference room. Today he would meet the Top Gun instructors and begin preparations for their first class of hotshot pilots. He would tour the facility, meet the rest of the staff, and then go home and see if he could nudge Liz into a casual Thursday night dinner. He was no slouch in the kitchen, but he hadn’t had time to organize his apartment yet, so he’d take her out. Something informal. No pressure. Unless, of course, she invited him to her place. So much the better.

His smile had Thad Owens smiling in reaction. The dreamy expression on his CO’s face wasn’t regulation by a longshot.

“Morning, sir.” His salute was formal, though his smirk wasn’t.

“Morning, Owens,” Max saluted quickly. “Everybody here?”

“Yes, sir. Just getting coffee. Can I get you some?”

“Yeah, thanks. I’ll be set up here in a minute.”

Nine instructors filed in, coffee in one hand, a salute in the other. They were all pilots first, classroom instructors second, but they all knew their place in the ultimate goal of training combat pilots, and they all knew their new CO would shape the atmosphere around the place for years to come. He was young, they’d heard, but a damn good pilot. The question was, would he be a good CO? Someone they could respect and trust. Someone who knew people as well as he knew fighter jets. Max felt the questions as they watched him.

“Gentlemen, I’m Lt. Commander Max Evans. We’ll be working closely together for a long time, so I’d like to get to know you and I’d like you to know me. We’re a team here, with a common purpose. But it’s been my experience that military units who work closely together are also a kind of family, for better or for worse. That means we’ll help each other and we’ll argue with each other. Within certain limits, I think both of those are healthy. I know that you know I’m new to my rank and to this base. I have a lot to learn. And I will. I’ll also make mistakes. I expect you to point them out . . . respectfully,” he smiled, and welcomed the smiles he got in return. “I encourage your questions and your opinions, as long as they’re offered in a constructive manner, and I hope I can count on your support as I get acclimated.”

There were nods of agreement, but the atmosphere in the room was still stiff. Max scanned the wary faces and followed his instincts.

“Okay, the formal introductory speech is over. I practiced it in the mirror so I hope it came off well.” He saw the tentative smiles and exchanged glances he’d hoped for. “That’s all I’ve got prepared, so from here on in, we wing it. At these meetings, we’ll dispense with salutes and formalities unless it comes down to a command decision, and then I’m stuck with it. Otherwise, consider this a faculty meeting. Let’s get started. And whoever made this coffee is hereby confined to the brig; it’s terrible.”

A genuine laugh drained the tension from the room, and they got down to the business at hand.

The morning went smoothly, if you didn’t count the lack of improvement in the coffee and the fact that Max had no idea where the rest rooms were when the coffee had worked its way through his system. Otherwise, he felt they’d made a good start. He spent a quick lunch break making notes in anticipation of his tour of the maintenance facility at the other end of the base that afternoon. He was looking forward to meeting the crew who did service and maintenance on the high-tech jets, already impressed with the credentials held by several of them. He was especially curious about this Parker fellow several pilots had mentioned. He had no personnel file on him, but apparently, he was highly respected, even though he was a civilian contractor. Rockwell always sent them the best, his staff had informed him, and this time they’d outdone themselves.

“Your ride’s here, sir,” Lt. Ames told him.

“Thank you, Lieutenant. I’ll be right there.”

Grabbing his cap, sunglasses, and notebook, Max hurried down the hall and found a Jeep waiting just outside. He hopped in with the practiced ease of a man whose wheels as a teen had been a Jeep—one he’d affectionately named Bob, he remembered with a private smile.

“Somebody afraid I can’t drive myself, Seaman?”

“Oh, no sir. I . . . I was ordered to be at your disposal this afternoon and here I am.”

“Well, tell your boss I got my license at 16 like everybody else.”

“Yes sir.” He stopped the car. “Did you want to drive, sir?”

Max blinked, realizing he had no idea how to get where they were going. He’d make it a point to get a base map.

“What’s your name, Seaman?”

“Ronald Kuramoto, sir.”

“Well, Kuramoto, let’s stick to your orders. I don’t see any reason to land either of us in hot water so early in the day.”

“Yes, sir.”

He almost smiled at the relief on his driver’s face, and had to admit that being a passenger gave him the chance to familiarize himself with the layout of the base. They passed enlisted housing, a 24-hour convenience store, fitness facilities, classrooms for keeping all personnel trained in the latest technology, and the welcome center he’d encountered on his first visit.

It took almost 20 minutes to reach the large hangars and office building that comprised the primary maintenance facility. A separate web of runways arrowed outward from the hangars, and rows of sleek fighter jets awaited repair, routine maintenance, or testing. Men and women in coveralls hustled in and out of the huge yawning doorways that opened to the balmy fall day. Some drove trams stacked with portable diagnostic equipment or engine parts; others were bent into the various openings of the aircraft from atop ladders affixed to the sides. It was a sight that Max found very satisfying.

“You’ll be meeting with the crew chiefs and the private contractors in about 10 minutes, sir,” Kuramoto told him. “Shall I wait until you’re ready to return to your office?”

“No, I’ll be awhile. I’ll just find a ride back. Looks like plenty of activity here.”

“Yes, sir.”

Max hopped from the Jeep and watched the young recruit drive off. He seemed so young, Max thought, with a shake of his head. Where did the time go? He’d spent all of his career focused on his job, impressing his peers and his superiors with his ability and commitment. It had taken total commitment to achieve the rank of Lieutenant Commander at the unprecedented age of 31, and it had taken all of his ability to be rewarded with a command at Miramar. He was proud of what he’d accomplished and grateful to the people who had believed in him. Recently, though, he’d begun to think about life outside the military—home, family, something of his own. Meeting Liz had only accelerated that thinking in the last couple of days. Maybe it was time to build a personal life before another ten years had passed without his noticing.

Max headed inside the hangar, watching and listening for a moment. He was impressed with the organized sense of purpose, the ease with which people worked together, joking, exchanging tools, brainstorming over an odd diagnostic reading. His attention lingered on a group of bodies bent over a table. They were riveted as a single voice murmured and a pair of hands flew over parts scattered on its surface. Curious, he approached them, trying to hear what had so many quiet and attentive.

“Well, damn,” one of them declared enthusiastically. “I think that breaks a record!”

“Pay up, T.J. Easiest money I ever made.”

“Ten-hut!”

The group around the table jerked to attention in response and elbowed each other with their salutes. One figure, however—the one that belonged to the nimble hands—rose slowly, without salute or stiffness.

“At ease,” Max said automatically, narrowing his eyes at the back of the one person who seemed to dismiss military protocol. Then the figure turned to face him, and he felt as if the air had been sucked from the room. Liz.

His appearance had a similar effect on her. Her triumphant smile from a moment before drooped like a wilting flower as she stared at him. Max. Her Max was Lt. Commander Max Evans? It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t. Not when she’d already started to fall for him. Not when she’d let herself feel something, blithely assuming he wasn’t military. Why hadn’t she even thought to wonder if there was a connection? She’d promised herself, sworn to herself, that she would never be involved with a military man. Not after her brother . . .

“Ma’am?”

One of the flight mechanics took her elbow, and she realized she was listing to one side. She felt lightheaded, but straightened with gritted teeth. She would not lose it in front of the people whose respect she needed most.

“I’m fine, Gabe. Stood up too fast. Welcome, Lt. Commander Evans. I’m Liz Parker, Rockwell’s civilian consultant, and these are your crew chiefs. We’ve been expecting you.” She extended her hand, bracing herself against what she knew she would feel when he touched her.

“Liz . . . Parker.” He took her hand, staring at her until his muddled brain began to clear. This was the Parker everyone raved about? Never saw anybody could tickle an engine like that before and spit on my wings if I’m lyin’. It made sense now; Lt. Ames had been expressing surprise that a woman was that good with jet engines. Max wasn’t surprised at that; he’d worked with great female engineers and mechanics throughout his career. But he was nothing less than shocked that the woman was Liz. Hadn’t she said she was a designer?

He realized the crew chiefs were shifting restlessly as the two stared at each other. He grasped for the dignity that was expected of him and found his voice. “I’m a little early. Sorry to surprise you.”

“We have the east conference room ready,” she said grimly. “This way, please.”

He bore down on his shock and followed her.
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 Oct 17, 2004 8:41 am

Part 3

Thank God for instinct, he thought as the meeting drew to a close. They’d gotten through it, though they had managed it without making eye contact. A designer, she’d said. Right. She must have known how he would interpret that. He’d even asked for decorating tips when he was settled in. How could he have known she designed jet engines? For the military, no less. Why hadn’t she just told him the truth?

Then again, he hadn’t told her what he did, either, although he didn’t remember her asking. He thought about the way she’d paled when she saw him, as if some horrible secret had been revealed. He didn’t understand anything about it, but he knew one thing for sure—she’d been as distant, as cool, as detached as one person could be from another throughout the entire meeting, answering questions in a clipped, efficient tone. The whole meeting had seemed strained, and he was sure the others in attendance had noticed. Ice had practically formed on the coffee mugs.

He sat alone in the conference room brooding. The stack of papers and files in front of him blurred into the background as he played their meeting over and over again in his mind. The mystery was more than a puzzle; it had created a chasm between them and he didn’t know why. The whole situation was beginning to piss him off. He’d have answers, by god, and he’d have them tonight.

He pushed back from the desk with such force, the chair tipped over. Muttering to himself, he righted the chair, gathered the papers into his briefcase, and strode into the hallway. The eerie silence had him frowning, and a glance out the window startled him with a view of deepening dusk. How long had he been lost in thought in that conference room?

He followed the maze of hallways toward what he hoped was the hangar where he’d first come in, but the offices were dark and all the hallways looked alike. The frustration just fed his foul mood, and he pushed angrily against another door.

There she was, bent over a stack of papers larger than his had been. Diagrams were pinned to cork boards behind her, and a large desk lamp created a wide swath of light across the desk. Her face jerked toward him at the noise, and he felt the anger drain. She’d been crying.

Embarrassed, Liz swiped at her cheeks. He could almost see the frost appear around her.

“You’re lost. Go back out and take a left at the second set of doors.”

“Liz, what happened here today? Why didn’t you tell me you worked here? And why are you so upset?”

“I did tell you what I did, just not where. And I don’t recall your being real forthcoming about your work, either.”

“It didn’t come up, that’s all. I would have told you this weekend. It’s not like I’m hiding anything. And you told me you were a designer.”

She knew he was right, but her brother always used to tell her that the best defense was a good offense. “I am a designer. Of engines. Jet engines. What’s wrong with that? Too masculine for a mere woman? Too intimidating maybe? Well, I certainly don’t want to make the boy wonder Lt. Commander uncomfortable . . .” Her ire faded as she looked at him—a little hurt, plenty irritated, and understandably confused. She wasn’t being fair. “I’m sorry. I just . . . I can’t do this. Just . . . go home, Max.”

She had read him perfectly. He was angry, and more than a little confused. He didn’t choose to acknowledge the hurt at the moment. Habit had him responding with a tightly controlled calm—the voice of command. “I am neither intimidated nor disapproving. I’m only confused. You knew how I interpreted your words and you didn’t bother to correct me. Then, when I show up today, you treat me like a leper when this morning you were . . .”

He let the rest of the sentence sizzle between them. Ice could burn, too.

“I didn’t know you were military!” she all but yelled, trading ice for fire. “If I had, there never would have been a ‘this morning.’”

He took a step closer, his own voice rising. “And why not?”

“Because I . . .” Her mouth clamped shut, and she turned away, pretending to straighten the papers on her desk. “That’s none of your business. Suffice it to say, I don’t date military personnel. Which reminds me, I forgot I was going away this weekend. Sorry.”

This time he couldn’t avoid the hurt; it crashed over him so unexpectedly that he took an unsteady step back. The memory of the kiss from that morning flooded his mind; he could almost taste her again. Then he saw her watching him and felt fingers of nausea wrap around his stomach. That kiss might as well have been a lifetime ago.

He gathered his anger around him like a cloak and turned on his heel. “I have to find a ride back to my office. I’ll expect your updated schedules on my desk by Monday.”

“Max.”

He turned, and she felt the force of his anger like a physical blow. “I’m the last one here. I’ll have to take you.”

*****
The ride back to Max’s office seemed endless. The tension stretched out like a rubber band until Liz thought she might literally snap. She knew very well that none of this was Max’s fault, and yet anger was so much easier to deal with than her own bitter disappointment or her sense of helplessness against her own promises.

She could have dealt with almost anything except his being military—a fighter pilot no less. The pain still felt like a mountain pressing on her chest whenever she let herself think about Jonathan--her young, idealistic, daredevil older brother who knew from the time he could walk that one day he would pilot one of those powerful jets across the sky and make a difference in the world. She’d watched him go off to Annapolis with such confidence, it overshadowed her own sense of loss; he’d been her protector, her confidant, her hero. And when he came home in his dress whites the first time, she’d taken him everywhere, begging him not to change clothes until all her friends had seen him . . . a knight in shining armor. Then he’d been assigned to the USS Nimitz, and she and their parents had waved and cheered, crying tears of pride and patriotism as the massive aircraft carrier left port.

The tears of fear came later when they learned the carrier was in the Mediterranean off of Libya, and the tears of grief followed the visit from the two somber officers who knocked on the door late at night. Of course, they weren’t privy to the details, but the news eventually leaked through the media that the U.S. had lost 4 fighter jets and 8 crewmen over the Libyan desert. When the casket came home, it was sealed; no one had to ask why.

The day they laid Jonathan to rest, she made two solemn promises to herself: she would use her engineering degree to make those jets as fast, maneuverable, and impenetrable as humanly possible so that maybe the next pilot would make it home; and she would never again put her heart in the hands of a military man. She couldn’t live through that pain again.

A tear escaped her eye, adding to her frustration; she wiped at it surreptitiously, but she could see his hand start to reach for her, then retreat to the armrest between them. He was kind, she knew. And gentle. She had felt a stirring deep within her almost as soon as they’d met, and this morning, it had exploded into lust. But she knew herself well enough to know when a reaction was purely physical and when it was more complicated—she had definitely run into complicated with Max Evans. Incredibly—no, impossibly complicated.

Max had never felt so at sea. He’d been on the deck of massive ships when they pitched and rolled and you felt like your own legs were useless, but that was nothing compared to how he felt now. His feelings for Liz had been sudden and strong, and this morning he had been on top of the world, ready to find out if this relationship was going to be as important as he’d hoped. Then everything went to hell, and he didn’t know why or how and the only person with the answers wasn’t talking.

But she was crying, and in spite of everything, he wanted to hold her and comfort her. Except being near him suddenly seemed to be the very thing that was upsetting her. He didn’t realize he’d sighed until she looked over at him, an inexplicable combination of sadness and guilt on her face.

The car came to a stop in front of Max’s building.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“Liz.” He reached for her then, and for one brief moment, she leaned into his palm as it touched her cheek. Then she straightened, and the wall went up between them. Her eyes stared determinedly at the building in front of them.

“Goodbye, Max.”

He thought about pressing her for an explanation, pictured himself dragging her against him for a kiss that he was sure would bring down that wall, but in the end, he only opened the door and stepped out.

“I’m sorry, too.”

He watched her speed off until the car was out of sight, then dragged himself toward his office to finish the work he’d daydreamed through earlier in the day. There was no incentive to get home early now.

******
“Hey, handsome,” Spike winked as she joined Max in the fitness room. He was at the weights and there was no mystery about the flutter in her stomach when she looked at him. He was every girl’s fantasy—the eight-pack taut, biceps bulging, pecs bunched, all glistening with a sheen of sweat—the image of animal magnetism.

“Hey.”

The gruff response pulled her eyes from torso to face, and they widened at his grim expression. It was too early on a beautiful Saturday to be in a bad mood.

“Who rained on your parade?” she asked, straddling the bench next to him.

“Huh? Oh, sorry. I was thinking.”

“Of war and pestilence?”

That coaxed a smile from him. He set the bar back in its brackets and sat up.

“What’s up with Liz?” he asked abruptly.

Spike thought back to the scene the other morning when he’d carried Liz into his apartment, and made all the right assumptions.

“You two have a fight?”

“Yes. No. I don’t know.”

“Well, as long as you’re definite.”

She earned a bigger smile this time. “Damn it, I don’t know what happened. We were . . . getting along great and then we met at work—I didn’t even know she was at the base until a meeting Thursday—and she freaked. Like she was angry I was there or something. She went from friendly to ice cold to furious, then she got all emotional. I just don’t get it.”

“Did you ask her about it?”

He threw her a bland stare. “Of course I asked her. I got nothin’.”

“Hmmm, I don’t really know Liz that well. We hang out here sometimes, and she’s come clubbing with Jesse and me a couple of times, but come to think of it, she doesn’t talk about herself much. I knew she was an engineer, but even I didn’t know she was at the base. She just said Rockwell; I guess I should’ve figured. What do you do there?”

Max laughed bitterly. “I’m afraid to say. Apparently it’s not very popular.”

At her raised eyebrows, he shrugged. “Lt. Commander Max Evans, Top Gun.”

A slow smile crept over Spike’s face. “Oooooh, a military officer. Very nice. I’d love to see you in your dress whites, Lt. Commander.”

Max chuckled at her exaggerated flirting. “Yeah, well, I guess that’s not a unanimous opinion.”

“You think she hates military guys? How can that be if she works on a military base?”

“I don’t know. Maybe she’s hit on so much, she doesn’t trust us or something. But . . . I thought we’d made a connection until . . .”

“You’re hung up on her, then?” Spike put on a pout and batted her eyes. “When there are so many choices at your disposal?”

Max sighed and lay back down on the bench, his hand covering his eyes. “Yeah. Isn’t that just a pisser? Two days and she got to me. But now she treats me like I’m poison or something.”

Spike looked at him and wondered what was wrong with Liz. He was beautiful, nice, smart, and an officer. Older than she would have guessed, she assumed, given his rank, but still . . .

“Tell you what, Max. I’ll stop hitting on you and be your friend instead. But if I try to get the skinny on Liz, you have to set me up with a friend of yours. Deal?”

Max sat up again and looked closely at the statuesque blond in front of him. She seemed serious. Guys would be lined up around the block to go out with her. Why would she need any help?

“You certainly don’t have to bribe me to be a friend, but I have to tell you, I don’t have many guy friends around here yet. An old high school buddy is a DJ here, but I haven’t contacted him yet.”

“A DJ? Mmmm, no, not my style. That’s more Jesse’s thing. She likes ’em outgoing and a little zany. Me, I like . . .”

Her expression grew dreamy, and Max enjoyed watching her with her guard down.

“Smart, sweet, but with a sense of humor.” She refocused on Max, and reached to slide her hand over his bicep. “I don’t mind a little of this,” she teased, “but it’s not really the main thing. I want a man I can respect, and someone who respects me beyond the body.”

Max studied her, mildly surprised. “That’s . . .”

“Unexpected? From the blonde bimbo?”

“No! That’s not what I meant!”

“Relax, Max. I know that. But that’s how people see me. I guess people have expected that of me for so long, I just give it to them. But it’s not really me. I’m more a homebody.”

At Max’s smirk, she grinned and added, “Well, a homebody who likes to party occasionally.”

“What do you do, Spike?”

“I’m a teacher. A special ed teacher, actually. I work with special needs kids at the elementary school.”

“You’re kidding. That’s great.”

She smiled, “Yeah, it is great. Those kids are so sweet; they take such joy in what most people would see as small accomplishments. I love it.”

They sat quietly for a minute, taking in the details they’d shared.

“Okay, it’s a deal,” Max said finally. “You check into why Liz went from hot to cold, and I’ll troll for a ‘smart, sweet, witty officer’ for you. It should be easy. So many fighter pilots are sweet.”

She snorted, making them both laugh. “And tall,” she said. “I need tall.”

“Well, that lets Kyle out, anyway,” Max nodded.

“The DJ?”

“Yeah. Come to think of it, it’ll eliminate most of the pilots—we have height restrictions, you know.”

Spike stood facing him; they were eye to eye.

“You’re tall enough,” she observed. “And you’re a pilot.”

“I’m at the top end of what they allow. And," he said, looking little-boy innocent, "I used to try to slump when they measured me so I couldn’t be disqualified.”

Spike pursed her lips. “You ever work with non-pilots?”

“Sure, sometimes. I’ll keep an eye out.”

“Okay. And think about that DJ guy for Jesse. When you and Liz hook up, the three couples can go out and paint the town.”

“Spoken like a true homebody,” Max laughed. “But remember, that only works if you get me the girl.”

Spike gave him a thumbs up, then stood and took his hand, her expression sincere. “She doesn’t know what she’s missing, Max.”

Max stood blinking for a moment, then, with a flush of embarrassment, mumbled a quick, “Thanks.”

Giving his hand a squeeze, Spike headed for the Stairmaster, turning when Max called to her from the doorway.

“What’s your real name, Spike?”

She smiled. “Can you keep a secret? Pinky swear?”

Max shook his head in disbelief. “Pinky swear? Jeez, that’s a first. But yeah, I can keep a secret.”

“Svea. My dad’s Swedish.”

“Nice,” Max nodded. Feeling hopeful for the first time in two days, he headed to the shower, already wondering who he might meet that was good enough for a new friend.

******
“Alex? Man, how are you?”

Stacks of paperwork and a lonely, frustrating week wondering where Liz had disappeared to faded into the background at the sound of his old friend’s voice.

“Just docked a few hours ago, and thought I’d look you up. The Nimitz will be here for a couple of weeks, and I’ve only got standard duty hours, so I have some time. I hoped we could get together, unless Lt. Commanders with delusions of grandeur don’t hang out with plain old Lieutenants.”

Max chuckled. “I might be convinced to go slumming for an old friend. As long as you salute me every few minutes.”

“Up yours,” Alex answered good-naturedly. “I’ve promised some guys to show them San Diego tonight, so how about tomorrow? Dinner? Go for a sail?”

“Perfect,” Max said, already relaxing at the thought of some downtime with someone who really knew him. “You got wheels?”

“Nope. Why do you think I called you?”

“Ah, now I see where I stand. Okay, I’ll pick you up at the dock at 6:30.”

“I’m coming!” Alex yelled to someone in the background. “No, the blonde. Yeah, be right there. Sorry. Okay. 6:30 tomorrow. Later, Max.”

He was gone before Max could reply, but Max’s smile stayed in place for some time. He hadn’t seen Alex in months, and boy, had he missed him.

******

It had been a long drive back from Roswell, but she’d been promising to visit her parents for weeks, so taking a few days off was just fulfilling that promise. At least that’s what she told herself. She’d thrown herself into old friends and baking—which she hardly ever took the time to do anymore—and stayed determinedly cheerful and upbeat. For a while, she thought she’d gotten away with it, but she wasn’t really surprised when her mother cornered her in the kitchen with The Look—the “I know there’s something wrong and if you’re not going to bring it up, I am” look—and waited.

***The day before . . .

“What?”

“Tell me.”

“Tell you what?”

The Look.

“I’m fine. I just wanted to see you guys.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I needed a break. Work’s been insane.”

“Uh-huh.”

There was a long silence, and Liz caved to the inevitable.

“He’s military. A fighter pilot.”

The Look gave way to sympathy, and her mother’s arms enfolded her. Liz let her head rest on the comforting shoulder.

“Maybe you shouldn’t fight it so hard, honey. Maybe it’s time to let that go.”

“I can’t,” she sobbed, and tears she didn’t know were threatening suddenly streamed down her face. “Besides, we barely know each other. It’s completely ridiculous that I even care.”

Her mother began to stroke her hair.

“But you do.”

“Yeah.”

“And does he?”

“Yeah, I think so. He acts like he does, but he doesn’t really know me, either. I mean, we’ve only actually had a couple of conversations, so how can he really care, right?”

“A couple of conversations? They must have been some conversations.”

Liz sighed as the crying began to subside. “Not really. They were pretty much just small talk, but . . .”

When she didn’t continue, her mother moved her hands to Liz’s shoulders and set her back, looking at her with concern. “There’s something else.”

Liz nodded, then turned away abruptly. “I fell. It was nothing, but he insisted on carrying me back and tending my little scrapes. It was very sweet actually, a little caveman, too, but I didn’t mind for some reason. And then . . .”

She turned back to her mother, wondering if she could possibly understand the impact of one kiss.

“He kissed me, Mom. It was . . . amazing. I know that sounds ridiculous, and neither of us expected it, but it was like . . . an explosion. I couldn’t think or even react. All I could do was hang on and . . . I don’t know . . . experience it. I’ve never been kissed like that,” she finished breathlessly, and began to pace. “Does that sound crazy?”

When she didn’t get an answer, Liz looked back to find her mother—the infinitely practical and unflappable Nancy Parker—had tears in her eyes.

“No, it doesn’t.”

“What do I do?”

“You take what life gives you, Liz. What made you let him so close if you are still so determined to avoid getting involved with a military man?”

“I didn’t know!” she moaned in frustration and began to pace again. “I didn’t know until we met at work the next day. He’d just moved in. I’d only seen him in civies. I didn’t know.

She fell into a chair and threaded the fingers of both hands into her hair as her elbows thumped hard on the tabletop. She was aware of her mother pulling up a chair beside her.

“What you feel is causing you pain, Liz, when it should be filling you with joy. Your father and I have had our share of both, and I can tell you, it never pays to close yourself off from joy. You have to grab hold of it when you get the chance. We were blessed with two wonderful children. And even though one of them is gone now . . .”

When Liz started to push back from the table, her mother reached for her, and cried inside when she saw fresh tears spilling from her daughter’s anguished eyes. “No, let me finish. Even though one of them is gone now, we wouldn’t change who and what he was for anything. That would be denying him his identity and missing out on a brilliant light in our lives. You haven’t exactly chosen the common road, either, but we are every bit as proud of you, and who you are.

“Liz,” she urged, gently turning her daughter’s face to look at her, “if this man makes you feel joy, then take the time to find out who he is. If he’s a good man, and if he feels what you do, don’t turn your back on it.”

“But, Mom . . .”

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. Helen Keller.”

Liz smiled. The battle of quotes was a longstanding game between her mother and herself. She just didn’t have the energy for a battle today.

“I’ll think about it.”***

And she had done little else since. Maybe her mother was right. Maybe she should at least open herself up to the possibility that what happened to her brother shouldn’t color her decisions for a lifetime.

Take this sorrow to thy heart, and make it a part of thee, and it shall nourish thee till thou art strong again. Longfellow.

Was she strong again? Maybe. She was strong enough to take a small step, at least.
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 Oct 21, 2004 10:06 pm

Part 4

The bay was dotted with colorful sails, bobbing like toy boats in a bathtub. The sun was going down in a blaze of color, and the seals basking on the bait traps lolled lazily. Now this was downtime, Max thought as he watched Alex make a minor adjustment to the rigging. His friend’s once tall and gangly frame was now tall and toned, instead. He’d never be called muscular, but it was easy to see that military training had taken a nerd body and chiseled it into a firm, strong one. The dark shock of hair had always been short, and the eyes were still sharp, the wit quick. He wasn’t so different, Max thought, oddly reassured.

“How was this last run, Alex? I heard things got a little dicey.”

“Nothing we couldn’t handle,” he answered, grabbing two beers from the cooler. “I’ve got some newbies who think they know radar technology, but I’m whippin’ them into shape. And the Middle East is full of sonsabitches who think they know how everything’s supposed to be, and they’re ready to blow the hell out of the other sonsabitches who think they know how everything’s supposed to be. Same old, same old.”

“Yeah. Guess so. So let’s talk about important stuff. How’s your love life?”

Alex grinned. “They can’t get enough of me.”

Max grinned back. “Right.”

“I don’t know, Max,” Alex sighed, unfolding his long frame against the side of the boat.
“I’ve enjoyed my life so far; really, I have. But lately . . . I don’t know. Can men have a biological clock?”

At Max’s amused expression, he laughed. “No, I’m serious. I have this urge to find a good woman and settle down. Sort of. You know, a home, kids, the whole nine yards. Don’t you ever think about that?”

Max thought of Liz and felt a fresh stab of regret. Alex caught the look. “Uh-oh. Somebody’s got you on the line.”

“No, not really. I would’ve let her snag me, I think, but she wasn’t interested.”

Alex’s open shock made Max laugh. “I know. Unbelievable, isn’t it?”

“Are you serious? You finally fell for somebody and she blew you off?”

“I didn’t get a chance to fall . . . exactly. I mean, I thought I was . . . damn it!” If he couldn’t be honest with Alex, he couldn’t be honest with anybody. “Yes, I fell for her. In just two days, I fell. And I thought she was coming right along with me until . . . it was the weirdest thing, Alex. I kissed her, and I mean a blow-your-socks-off-where-am-I kiss. I swear, we were like kids in the eraser room at school, and then bingo! It was over. We ran into each other on the base unexpectedly, and you would’ve thought I had “Contagious Venereal Disease” tattooed on my forehead. She would barely talk to me.”

“No explanation?”

“Just a very cold, ‘I don’t date military guys.’”

“But she’s military, right? You just said . . .”

“No, she’s not. She’s a civilian consultant for Rockwell. Designs jet engines.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah.”

Alex took a long draw on his beer and contemplated the sunset. “She’s been burned, Max. Somewhere down the line, some sleazeball burned her, and you’re paying the price.”

“Yeah, I guess so. I’m not down for the count yet, though. I’m working on some inside intel.”

“Yeah? Who’s the mole?”

“A neighbor . . .” Max stopped short and stared at Alex. Smart, sweet, but with a sense of humor.

“Blondes. You like blondes, right, Alex?”

Alex pulled back slightly, wary eyes narrowed. “Female ones, yeah. Why?”

“Have I got a girl for you.”

“Oh, no you don’t. I don’t need your rejects.”

“No, I didn’t reject her. Exactly.”

“No, nyet, nein, NO, Max. . . .”

“Really, I’d already met Liz when we met, but she’s really pretty, Alex, and you’re just her type.”

“I thought you said she was really pretty. How does that make me her type?”

“She is really pretty, built, too, but she wants to be appreciated for her mind.”

“Oh brother,” Alex groaned. “She’s a dog. With a good personality, right? Does this desperate dog have a name?”

“Spike Johansson.”

“Spike.” Alex sat up and blasted Max with an accusatory glare. “You hate me, don’t you? You’re mad ‘cause I’m not saluting you, right? You’re . . .”

Max was belly laughing now, a gift of Alex’s he could always count on. “Stop! No, she really is pretty, she really is built, and you really are her type. And I quote, ‘Smart, sweet, but with a sense of humor.’ That’s you, my smart, sweet, funny friend.” Max batted his eyes, sending Alex into gales of laughter this time. He reached for two more beers.

“Does ‘built’ really mean she’s 6’ 5” and built like a tanker? In other words, could she take me?”

“I think you could hold your own,” Max teased. “She’s tall, so that’s another of her requirements, but you’re taller, so don’t worry. And no, ‘built’ means curves in all the right places. A classic Swedish beauty. Trust me, you’d be impressed. Seriously, Alex, she’s a nice girl. A special ed teacher, and under the beautiful exterior is a good heart. She’s been a friend to me this week, and I honestly think you two might hit it off. Interested?”

Lips pursed, Alex frowned. “Spike? Really?”

“Well, I’ve learned her real name, but I was sworn to secrecy.”

“It’s not Helga, is it? Or Brunhilde? Or . . .”

“Those aren’t even Swedish names, you moron. It’s Svea, but you have to promise not to tell her I spilled the beans.”

Charmed, Alex paused, a hint of a smile on his face. “Svea. It’s beautiful.”

“Like I said.”

Alex pondered his options, and shrugged. “I’m in town for three weeks. What could it hurt?”

“That’s my brave sailor.”

“Up yours, Evans,” Alex said affectionately and tossed his friend another beer.

******

There had been, perhaps, too many beers. The boat had been successfully returned to the rental dock, but with an empty cooler. Leaving the car until sobriety returned, the two friends wound down Harbor Drive, swerved onto Broadway, and were pleased to find themselves weaving along Fifth Avenue where the popular Gaslamp Quarter beckoned. Had they been inclined, they could have wandered through an art gallery, indulged in the best Cuban cigars, or treated themselves to some homemade ice cream. As it was, the color and pulsing beat spilling from The Bitter End, a fashionable bar in the historic district’s oldest building, was more to their liking.

Lacking the Black and Gold card that would have gained them entrance to the exclusive upper floor, or the stability to try their luck on the heaving dance floor of the lower level, they settled comfortably at the long mahogany bar in the swish lounge, where marble fireplaces and antiques lived in peace with purple walls and ceiling frescoes.

“You gotta try a Black Martini,” Alex insisted. “Awesome.”

“I dunno, Alex. Black? Sounds . . . suspect.”

“Trust me, my friend. They serve twenty different martinis here, and that’s the best one.”

“Hmmm. Wassin it?”

“Uh, barkeep! Tell my friend about Black Martinis.”

“Absolut, Kahlua, chilled espresso, a whisk of cream and served in an oversized chilled-stem martini glass. House specialty.”

“Sold,” Max nodded.

“Sir! I sure didn’t expect to find you here, sir.”

Max looked up and beamed at Thad Owens. “Lt. Owens, my favorite pilot. What brings you to this fine ‘stablishment this fine evening?”

Glancing at Alex with raised eyebrows, Thad grinned. “Just taking my wife out on a little date, sir. This is Charisse.”

“Ah, a pleasure, I’m sure. This is my old friend, Lt. Alex Whitley . . . no, Whitman. Whitman, right?”

“Right.” Alex rolled his eyes. Max had obviously had a few more than he had, and didn’t need another drink. He was about to suggest a tactical retreat when Max stood and swayed.

“Forgive me, madam. I have need of a piss.” With that, he steered himself toward the men’s room.

“Sorry about that,” Alex apologized, offering Charisse Max’s seat and his just-served Black Martini. “I’ve never known him to get quite this drunk. Rough week, I guess.”

“Really?” Thad took a sip of his wife’s drink and nodded his approval. “I thought things were going pretty well.”

“At the base, yeah. But he has woman troubles, and you know what that can do to a man. Oh, my apologies, Charisse.”

“No need,” she chuckled. “It’s how we keep you boys in line.”

“He’s only been around a week or so,” Thad argued. “How did he get woman problems already?”

“Amazing, isn’t it?” Alex agreed, realizing he, too, had had enough to drink as the room began to move counter to the laws of physics. “Met some woman, fell like a ton o’ bricks, and she went from hot to cold. Left him stingin’, I can tell ya.”

Alex pushed his drink toward Thad. “You take it. I need to find us a cab. We’ve been drownin’ his sorrows long ‘nuf.”

“Tell you what, Alex. Charisse will keep you company while I hail a cab, and you give me the Lieutenant Commander’s keys. I’ll drop his car off, and Charisse can follow me. That way, everybody’s happy and gets home in one piece. Okay with you, sugar?”

“Sure, if you really want to trust me with this handsome stranger.” She winked at Alex, who grinned foolishly and leaned forward, whispering conspiratorially.

“I’m not trustworthy, y’know.”

“She knows Tae Kwon Do, Whitman, so behave yourself.”

Minutes later, Alex and Max were tucked safely into a cab, and Thad was sitting at the bar sipping a free drink with his wife and two sets of keys in his pocket.

******
Max awoke Saturday morning . . . or was it afternoon . . . with a mouth full of cotton, a stomach full of slithering worms, and a head full of serious pain. It felt like someone was pounding nails up there. He wished briefly it were for his own coffin.

“Max!”

He forced his eyes to slits, but the light drove spears of pain into them, so he closed them again.

“Max! Open up!”

The pounding. It wasn’t all in his head. Wincing, he held one hand to his head and the other out in front of him, since his eyes were still closed, and stumbled to the door. He swung the door open and, showing no interest in who was there, found the nearest chair.

“Oh, brother.”

Spike took one look and knew the symptoms, the diagnosis, and the cure.

“I’ll be right back.”

Frankly, Max didn’t care if she came back or not, but he sat very still, since it was the least painful option open to him. Too soon, she did come back and began to bustle—loudly—in his kitchen.

“Take these.”

The slits reappeared and he could make out three pills and a glass of water. The worms began to tango.

“No, thanks.”

“That wasn’t a request. Take them.”

“Spike . . .”

“Max, at this moment, I’m smarter and stronger than you are. Take them.”

Resigned, he lifted the first pill to his lips, followed by the water. Once the first sip slipped by, he realized he was incredibly thirsty. He began to gulp.

“Easy now,” Spike soothed, urging a second pill into his mouth. “There you go.”

As his eyes opened further, he saw Spike outfitted for volleyball and groaned. “I’m sorry. I forgot.”

“That’s one way of putting it,” she scolded. “Or one could say you got plastered, passed out, and somebody cared enough to get you home. You alone? Or is there somebody else in the next room?”

Max paled, if that were possible given his already pasty complexion. He hoped to hell he was alone. Surely he would have noticed another body in bed with him.

Wouldn’t he?

Spike rolled her eyes and poked her head in his bedroom door. Surprisingly neat, she noticed, for a man. Even the covers were undisturbed. She guessed his caring friend from the night before was also a man, or the sheets would have at least been turned down.

“Good news. Bedroom’s empty.”

Max nodded gratefully, then grimaced as a tea kettle blasted.

“Owwwww. Stop,” he whined, pointing vaguely to the kitchen.

A minute later, a steaming liquid was placed in front of him, and he was surprised how good it smelled.

“What is it?”

“Chicken bouillon. It’ll replace the salt you’ve lost. You’ve also taken Tylenol and a B vitamin. You’ll feel better in no time. Just drink all the water you can today. And I mean lots of it.”

The hot, salty liquid felt like a miracle on his throat. “Thanks.” He sipped again. “What makes you such an expert? Reformed lush?”

“Not quite. I don’t drink much anymore, but my college days were another story.”

He straightened from his slumped position and began to realize how he must look.

“Guess I need a shower. Sorry about the volleyball.”

“It’s okay. You don’t need as much practice as the others; it’s just that the women like looking at you. A couple of the men, too, I suspect.”

“Ouch, don’t make me laugh,” he chuckled, holding his head.

“That wasn’t a joke,” she grinned.

“Speaking of men,” Max began, mentally upgrading his condition to ‘almost human,’ “my partner in crime last night might be of some interest to you.”

“Another drunk? Be still my heart.”

“No, he was only sympathy drunk, being a pal, you know? We’re old high school buddies, but now he’s a Lieutenant serving on the Nimitz, radar specialist. Nicest guy in the world. Meets all your criteria and I’d trust him with my life. Oh, and he’s tall. Whad’ya think?”

“He’s the one who put you to bed last night?”

“Yeah.” He waited a beat, trying to remember. “Most likely, anyway.”

“Okay, we’ll give it a go. Just let me know. Oh, and I don’t have anything new on Liz, but her car’s finally back.”

“It is?” His hopeful puppy eyes broke her heart.

“Yes, it is, so I’ll get to work on it. I promise. Now drink another glass of water and go down to the gym.”

Max eyed her skeptically. “The gym? I can’t move.”

“The gym. We’ve put what your body needs into it, but you’ll have to sweat the bad stuff out. Besides, you don’t want Liz seeing you like this do you?”

That got his attention. “Okay, doctor.”

He felt her kiss his head like his mother used to do when he was sick, then, with a casual “Bye, lover,” she closed the door quietly. Thank heaven.

******
Liz punched 4 on the elevator and took a deep breath. She wasn’t sure just how to start over with Max, but she knew the first step had to be hers. She just prayed something would pop into her head when she saw him because none of the 47 practiced speeches she’d come up with were any good at all. It would be worth it, she muttered to herself. She knew because every time she remembered that kiss, she could feel it all over again, tingling her body, fuzzing her brain. That feeling was worth a lot.

The elevator door slid open, and her eyes homed in on Max’s door. She felt her heart rate accelerate and lifted her chin with false confidence. Then her breath rushed out in a strangled gasp as his door opened, and out came Spike with only bike shorts and a sports bra.

“Bye, lover.”

The bitch was smiling.

Liz punched at buttons on the elevator, and felt her heart sink along with it.
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 Oct 31, 2004 8:42 am

Part 5

“I’ve had to put Jesse on the case,” Spike said, eyes closed against the late afternoon sun. “I saw Liz earlier but she blew me off big time, like she was mad. Jesse’ll get to her, though. She’s less intimidating than I am, a real gal pal sort. Other women don’t see me that way.”

Max was pain-free but tired after following Spike’s hangover cure. Floating in the water was the best feeling of the day. He pulled their rafts a little closer, his voice low. “You’ve been a good friend to me, Svea, and I want you to know I appreciate it.”

She opened her eyes to look at him. “Svea? That’s a secret, remember?”

“I remember, though I don’t know why. It’s beautiful. I like saying it. Anyway, you’ve been great. Which brings me to my next subject. Alex would like to take you to brunch tomorrow and then give you a tour of the ship. I’ll give you his cell number so you can talk and I can get out of the middle.”

“Oh, that’s so sweet. Brunch. I like him already.”

“Good. I’ll get you the number when we go up.”

“As for Svea, it was the object of a lot of teasing when I was in school. In college, I picked up Spike because of the volleyball and decided I liked that better. But you can call me Svea when we’re alone, if you like. It sounds nice when you say it.”

“Deal.”

They floated apart and together, apart and together for a long while until Max dozed. The peace shattered, though, when a splash of cold water hit Max’s chest; he flew up with a gasp and turned, sputtering, to find Spike and Jesse gliding through the water with huge grins on their faces.

Then it got ugly.

******

Liz looked out her living room window toward the pool. There they were, cozy as two peas in a pod, floating on the water, talking. Spike was wearing a one-piece for a change. Somehow it was just as sexy as the bikini. She had that kind of body. And Max . . . he was acting so casual, his hand reaching for her float to tug them closer. It was making her sick to watch, but she couldn’t look away. The proverbial train wreck.

She’d been a fool. Or not, she thought, trying to build up some anger. If he could go from one woman to another so quickly, he wasn’t worth it. Typical male. Plenty of fish in the sea, he’d be thinking. His body, his uniform—she could just picture him in his uniform—that smile, those eyes. And that innate gentleness.

Stop! She hadn’t intended to run down his list of virtues. She was reminding herself why it was no great loss. If she wanted a military man, she had only to smile in the right direction and they’d be lined up. She’d had more offers in a day, she was sure, than most women had in a month. Of course, she was a rare breed on base—a woman without the taboos of rank and without the limits of uniform. But none of the men who had approached her had touched her, emotionally or physically. Max had done both, and left his mark.

Shaking herself, she turned away from the window and grabbed her keys. She would go to her hair appointment, go shopping, and maybe find a good book to read. Later, when the others were out on their dates, their stupid dining or dancing or . . . whatever, she’d go down for a swim.

She was in full-brood mode when she flopped into Charisse’s chair at Chez Charisse. Her hairdresser only smiled sweetly and asked, “Work, parents, or men?”

“Men,” Liz replied firmly. “They can’t be trusted. They’re fickle, hormone-driven little boys who tell you one thing and mean another. And they’re not worth my time.”

At Charisse’s bemused smile, she revised her statement slightly. “Except my Dad.” Then, more softly, “And Jonathan. I just know Jonathan wouldn’t have been like that.” Then down to a whisper. “Or Aaron.”

She drifted, unseeing, in the past. It was only the bells on the door as another customer walked through that pulled her back to the present where Charisse was watching her curiously.

“Who?”

“What? Oh, nothing.” Unnerved, she stiffened in the chair. She never talked about that. To anyone. “And your husband, uh . . .”

“Thad.”

“Right, Thad. I’m sure he’s an exception because you wouldn’t have married a jerk.”

“They’re all jerks sometimes, sweetie, but Thad’s got his good points, too. He told me last night he was grateful for me. Can you imagine? Grateful! I thought that was the sweetest thing.”

Distracted now, Liz warmed to the story. “Awww, that is sweet. What did you do to get that reaction?”

“I didn’t do anything, but we ran into his new CO, who was snockered. According to the friend he had with him, it was over a woman. She’d just gotten her hooks in him—fast, mind you—and then she gave him the boot. He was pretty messed up. I guess Thad finally realized his idol Max Evans didn’t have it so perfect, after all.”

Liz’s head whipped around so fast, Charisse almost gouged her with the scissors.

“Whoa, girl, careful!”

“Max Evans? Max Evans was drunk last night pining over a woman?”

“That’s the story. You know him?”

“Apparently not.”

Liz straightened in the chair, facing forward again. “Let’s get this done, Charisse. I have things to do.”

******

There were two possibilities. Either Max hadn’t been a total jerk, and she’d misinterpreted what she’d seen. Or he was the prince of jerks and had gotten drunk and bedded the first woman available—their own temptress Spike. The latter was more likely, she imagined. After all, hadn’t she seen Spike leaving his room this morning? With the words “bye, lover” on her lips? And hadn’t they been cozied up by the pool that very afternoon? Not much to misinterpret there.

On the other hand, what if he was still upset about her change of attitude toward him? Wouldn’t it be foolish not to find out for sure? But if that were the case, she realized, then she’d better know what she wanted before confronting his feelings. And that was the hard part; her own feelings were like a perpetual revolving door. She was wildly attracted to him—that much she could admit, at least to herself. But was it enough? Did she even want it to be?

“Hey, Liz.”

Jesse caught up to Liz as she got out of her car. “You been on vacation? We’ve missed you around here.”

“I took a few days to go home, see my parents. I needed a break.”

“Work been rough lately, huh?”

“No, it’s been okay. It was just . . . I hadn’t visited in a while.”

“Yeah, I hear that. I always dread going home, though. My parents always want to know who I’m dating and when I might get married and give them grandchildren. You’d think I’d failed them still being single.”

Liz relaxed. Jesse had always been easy to talk to.

“Yeah, I get some of that. Not too bad, though. So, um, anything new with you? Or Spike?”

“Naw, not really. Spike’s got a date tomorrow she’s looking forward to. New guy.”

Liz kept her voice even with great difficulty. “Anyone I know?”

“I don’t think so. He’s been out on a carrier. Max is introducing them.”

She stopped short, so Jesse stopped, too, and watched Liz carefully.

“Max is introducing them? I thought . . .”

“What?”

“Well, earlier I saw Max and Spike at the pool and . . .”

“Yeah, they’ve gotten to be pretty good friends. I guess that’s why he set her up with an old pal of his.”

“Oh.”

Turning without a word, brows knit over a thoughtfully confused expression, Liz walked into the building. A slow smile began to curve the corners of Jesse’s mouth as she looked up. She gave Spike the thumbs up and headed upstairs to give her report.

******
Spike couldn’t believe her good fortune. Alex was a sweetheart, along with everything else she’d told Max she wanted. He made her laugh, he listened, he was obviously very smart, and, secretly, she loved how she had to look up to meet his eyes.

They had driven up the coast to La Jolla to have brunch in a charming old house-turned-restaurant where they ate omelets and fresh fruit and drank freshly squeezed orange juice and rich coffee. Afterwards, they had strolled to the beach where seals gathered in what the locals called the “baby pool.” While they watched the sleek bodies lurch and play, Alex had twined his fingers in hers, and she knew she hadn’t felt this happy in a long time.

Now they were streaking down the highway in a convertible that Alex had openly admitted was rented, soaking in sun and wind and mutual attraction.

“Have you ever visited the Midway down at the harbor?”

“The aircraft carrier? No, I haven’t. I went once, but they were just closing. Is that where we’re going?”

“Us? No, that’s for tourists. I’m going to show you the real thing. On weekend afternoons when we’re in port, we can bring guests aboard. I’ll give you the master tour.”

They had to park a few blocks away, but it was a perfect afternoon, and as far as Spike was concerned, it just prolonged the time she could spend with Alex. As they approached the mammoth ship, Spike stopped and stared.

“You don’t really get how absolutely huge aircraft carriers are until you’re right next to one.”

She looked up several stories to the broad flare of the ship that served as runway for the relatively small fighter jets. Beneath it was a gaping hole through which she could see one of the planes—obviously where it was maintained and stored when not in use. She’d seen Top Gun often enough to remember that a massive lift would take that plane to the ship’s upper surface when it was needed, and how those lifts could often break down. Of course, that was Hollywood.

“Is it true that those lifts are always breaking down?” she asked, squinting into the sun.

She didn’t need to see his face to hear the smirk in his voice. “And how many times have you actually seen Top Gun?”

Spike put on her best pout and looked indignant. “Only 10 or 12.” They both laughed, and he took hold of her hand again. God, it was a beautiful afternoon.

“They break down occasionally, yeah, but not that often, at least not as often as the movies would have you believe, and our guys are the best trained in the world; they have them up and running in minutes most of the time. A carrier is like a self-contained city, and a damned convincing testament to U. S. Naval superiority. We have to be able to back up that reputation. We make sure everything works, and that we can fix what doesn’t in a flash.”

She looked at his face as his eyes scanned the ship that was also his home most of the time. Confidence. Pride. Purpose. Somehow it made her proud and confident, too. The sweetness she’d enjoyed all morning had fled, and in its place was an almost cold focus, a man with a job to do and every expectation of succeeding. She had to admit to the private thrill that tingled up her spine. There was an undeniable appeal to just a touch of macho.

“You’re a radar specialist, right?”

The direct question pulled him from his private thoughts, and the smile returned. “Yep. I watch blips on a small screen.” He pulled himself up tall and flexed both arms. “It’s very masculine.”

She laughed, recognizing the return of the man she’d spent the morning with. It wouldn’t pay, she mused, to forget what else was there as well. “I happen to know it’s a great deal more than that, Alex. What you do is important.”

He looked at her, mildly surprised, but she only squeezed his hand and said, “So how about that tour?”

For the next hour and a half, he took her to every corner of the ship that was permitted, impressed with her genuine curiosity and her quick grasp of his explanations. He also didn’t mind the winks and thumbs up from crewmates who admired the striking blond. It was only good-natured ribbing and all the sweeter because it had been a long time since he’d enjoyed a woman’s company this much.

“What’s this?” Spike asked as they entered a hallway covered with plaques.

“The Hall of Honor,” Alex responded almost reverently. “Here’s where we remember those who have died in the line of duty. The Nimitz has a long and distinguished history.”

Spike, too, lowered her voice, feeling awed by the number of plaques, and humbled by the sacrifice they represented. Slowly, they worked their way down the hallway. Some of the engraved plates had only one name; others had lists of names—the legacy of a deadly mission.

“Look,” Spike pointed. “There’s a Jonathan Parker. Died three years ago. I don’t suppose that’s any relation to Liz. I mean, Parker’s a pretty common name. Still, he was from New Mexico. I should ask her.”

Something clicked in Alex’s mind, and he made a mental note to do some digging.

“How about some ice cream? We could stop in the Gaslamp Quarter. There’s this place that makes its own ice cream. The mint chocolate chip is awesome.”

Taking his hand in hers, she smiled. “Ice cream would be great.”

Half an hour later, they stood on a quaint corner using a towelette to wipe sticky fingers. Spike looked up at Alex with a big grin on her face, a grin that faded at his serious expression.

“What?”

“You’re quite beautiful.”

She accepted the compliment graciously, mildly disappointed that this was his only evaluation of her after their wonderful day together.

“Thank you.”

“But that’s only a side benefit. I don’t know when I’ve had a better time. I can talk to you, laugh with you—I feel . . . happy. Thank you for a wonderful day.”

Now she beamed at him, touched and every bit as happy as he was. “I feel the same way, Alex. It’s been wonderful; I hate to see it end.”

“I’d like to call you again, if that’s alright.”

“It’s absolutely alright.”

The space between them closed imperceptibly.

“But I can’t keep calling you ‘Spike.’ It doesn’t suit you . . . at least not the way I see you. You should have a softer name, something unique, maybe Swedish.”

Her eyes narrowed, her lips pursed. “He told you, didn’t he?”

Alex put up a warning finger. “Don’t blame Max, Svea. I threatened to beat him up if he didn’t tell me your real name. He may look all buff and muscular, but he’s really just a marshmallow.”

Svea threw her head back and laughed. “That would’ve been a hard sell anytime, Alex, but I’ve seen him working out in our fitness room back at the apartment complex. You’re going to have to come up with a better story.”

“Okay,” Alex said seriously. “How about this—I threatened to put the moves on Liz.”

“Nope, that doesn’t work, either. She’s as smitten with him as he is with her.”

“Smitten?”

She grinned. “I like that word. It’s sweet. Quaint. Anyway, I don’t think Max would buy it.”

“Okay, I begged. Happy now?”

“Very.”

And to prove it, she lifted her mouth to his for their first kiss.

******
“Max Evans! This is KFUN, the Sound of San Diego, with great news! You’ve won a fabulous dinner with San Diego’s sexiest radio personality! What do you have to say?”

“How about, ‘Sorry, Kyle, but I’ve got sexier fish to fry’?” Max laughed, rolling his eyes behind closed lids. “Or maybe, ‘I was asleep, asshole.’ Some of us work for a living, ya know.”

He glanced at the clock: 12:47 a.m. On a freaking Wednesday night. Scratch that. It was Thursday morning.

“Hey,” Kyle complained. “That’s pretty harsh. Besides, you should be sucking up to me. Not only are you a bum for letting me find out you’re in town from Alex, but I have a Padre ticket for this weekend with your name on it. You, me, and Alex, just like old times. Whadya say?”

“Sounds great, Kyle. And I’m sorry I haven’t called. New job, new apartment, new town. It’s kept me busy. You’re on my To Do list, honest.”

“Not in this lifetime, buddy. I tell ya what, I’ll find someone a little more up your alley for that, and then we’ll get together for baseball. Drink beer, pound our chests, you know, guy stuff.”

Now Max was fully awake and grinning like a kid. Funny how talking with Alex or Kyle always took him back to a different time . . . and level of maturity.

“I don’t trust your taste in women, but the baseball sounds good. When is it?”

“Sunday afternoon. Box seats. The station owns ‘em. But let’s not wait til then. How about a drink Saturday night? I’ve missed you, you overgrown Boy Scout.”

“Let me check with Alex. We’re supposed to get together, but no particular plans, I don’t think. How about down at the pier? There’s a nice restaurant out by the water that serves a great draft with the scenery. SeaGate, I think.”

“I know the place. Fantastic seafood, too. And I’ve already talked to Alex. He’s on board, so let’s tack on dinner and make a night of it.”

“7:30?”

“You got it. See ya then.”

Max hung up the phone and realized how great it was to have good friends nearby again. They always had a way of joking him out of his funks, and he had a way of grounding them. They were good for each other. Most of the time. Sometimes they just helped each other get into trouble. Good times, he thought fondly. The weekend was looking up. If he couldn’t be with Liz, this was the next best thing.

He sat up in the dark, unsettled as he always was these days when he thought of Liz. She’d been back for days, but he only knew that because her car came and went from the parking lot. He knew she’d be busy at work, between taking time off the week before and readying the planes for the start of the new class, but he’d counted on catching up with her at some point, and had barely stopped himself from finding an excuse to visit the maintenance hangar. After all, he had more than enough to do in his own office, and he couldn’t justify abandoning that for a personal errand. Still, if he didn’t see her soon, he knew he would do just that.

He lay back down, wide awake now, with Liz on the brain. She was smiling, the way she had that day on the beach when she’d appeared out of nowhere just when he’d been thinking of her. He imagined her on that beach in a bathing suit, lying next to him in the sun, talking about her childhood, her work, anything that helped him to know her better. Then the kiss flooded his memory and his senses; he could smell her light, natural scent, as if she’d just stepped in from outdoors; he could taste her, innocence warring with sensuality that drove him to both protect and plunder; he could hear her, those soft moans of wonder and wantonness that went right to his groin. It made no sense that she should have invaded him so quickly, so thoroughly, as if he were a virgin experiencing the act of love for the very first time. He was no child, no innocent. And yet he knew he had never known this feeling before.

He also knew from Svea that Jesse had talked to Liz, and came away thinking she was interested in him. So why hadn’t she approached him? Why had she made sure they didn’t run into each other? He couldn’t stand this limbo. If she didn’t come to him soon, he was going to her. He could only be so patient.

His sigh was deep and harsh with frustration. Apparently, he was destined to face work the next day sleep-deprived.

******
Liz tossed and turned in her bed, just as her mind tossed and turned restlessly between tantalizing thoughts of Max and her strong sense of self-preservation. She knew he had the power to hurt her; she had felt . . . something . . . for him too quickly, too intensely. And feeling was something she had, almost unconsciously, been working to live without. Three-year old pain was still sharp and searing, barely dulled since the day they’d said the last prayer over Jonathan. Sometimes he felt so close, she talked to him, and knew he was there listening to her just as he’d always been.

Most brothers and sisters, she’d learned, quarreled, backstabbed, and tattled, at least sometimes. But Liz and Jonathan had been bound in a way she never fully appreciated until he was gone. They were best friends, confidants, shields for each other against the blows of adolescence. Liz remembered, as a young child, asking her older brother to marry her when they grew up. Even then, he had understood that couldn’t be, and she had turned on him, hurt and angry. It was the only time she could remember shutting him out, but he had nudged, cajoled, and outlasted her, until she had settled for his unconditional love and friendship. Just the knowledge that he was there whenever she needed him had given her a strength and confidence she was sure she couldn’t have achieved without him.

Then he was gone, along with the one person who could have helped her survive it, and her world had caved inward, burying the future she had naively taken for granted and her faith in God, humanity, and even herself. Since then, she had stayed safely inside her shell, looking for all the world like a brilliant, successful woman instead of the frightened and lonely child who hid within. Max was the first person to crack that shell, and he’d done it so effortlessly, it terrified her.

But was she willing to live this solitary life forever? A month ago, the answer would have been an unequivocal “yes,” but now . . . a cold, hard look at her life revealed an ugly truth: her work was her life, and that was something she’d always pitied in others. How had she become that person? Maybe it was time to step out of the shell and experience life once more. If there were a high out there as intense and extreme as the low she’d already survived, that would be something, wouldn’t it? She’d felt the potential when Max had kissed her, and had almost let it carry her up. Fear had stopped her. And she was tired, so very tired, of being afraid.

Since when is Liz Parker a coward? she wondered, peering into the dark. Well, it wasn’t much of a question when the answer was so obvious—ever since she’d met Max Evans. No, that wasn’t quite right. If she were honest, she would have to admit she’d been a coward for three long, empty years; Max Evans was only the force that made her realize it. She’d come home last Friday ready to take the next step, then had plummeted off the deep end just because Spike and Max were spending time together. Jesse had called them “friends” and even mentioned Max arranging a date for Spike with another man, but had Liz approached Max? No. She’d taken refuge in a backlog of work and world-class sprints between her car and apartment. It was pathetic, really.

A deep sigh followed by a yawn reminded her how tired she was. Tomorrow was Thursday. She had two days to drum up the courage to talk to him. She would apologize to Max on Saturday when they could relax and talk. If he was cool toward her, she hadn’t lost anything but some dignity. If he wasn’t . . . well, that would just lead to another step, wouldn’t it?

Don’t get ahead of yourself, Liz. Small steps. She would take one small step and see where it led.

But her imagination wouldn’t be silenced and her vision of the future began to blur, careful plans and expectations melting into shadow around the fringes. Would there be love? Would there finally be peace?

One thing there wouldn’t be, she thought as she stared into the dark, was sleep.
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 » Sun Nov 07, 2004 12:45 am

Part 6

Why was he always wet? Perversely, it seemed to make her mouth dry up, her skin heat up, and her voice wander off in a maze somewhere. But there he stood, droplets trickling into his eyes, that bronzed, sculpted chest glistening, and a towel slung hastily around his hips. Low on his hips.

Her mouth opened. Where in god’s name was her voice?

“Ah . . . Max.”

Self-conscious, he grabbed for the towel and stared back. Long, shiny hair that cascaded over beautiful bare shoulders. Mint green sundress that skimmed a figure his fingers itched to explore, especially where that side slit offered a glimpse of thigh. Small feet outlined in narrow sandals of the same color. Miles of smooth, tanned skin. This was definitely not Alex.

Struggling to pull himself back, Max blinked, and pasted on the face of the cordial host.

“Liz! Hi.”

She was staring, lips slightly parted, eyes sliding down him like a sheet of rain. He felt a stirring down low, arousal and panic doing battle. He recognized her reaction—one that usually embarrassed him--but found himself inordinately pleased. In spite of the awkward situation, it did him good to see her ogling him, but trying very hard not to. It put them on an even playing field, since looking at her sent his system into a tailspin.

“Come in. Sorry about the . . .” he waved his free hand vaguely. “I was expecting a friend.”

He saw her eyebrow shoot up, and added, “I mean, not a . . . Alex. I was expecting Alex. Old . . . friend. Not yet, though. I mean, I thought he was early. You’re not . . . Alex.”

Now she was the one to be reassured by his shaken reaction. They simply stared at one another for a long moment. The electricity in the air was palpable; she both reveled in it and feared it.

Her eyes left trails of liquid heat along his skin as her gaze wandered, and he feared the rest of his reaction would become embarrassingly obvious in about 20 seconds. He took a step toward the bedroom, which, unfortunately, put him one step closer to Liz as well. He watched her lick her lips and lost his train of thought.

“Could you, uh, put a shirt on?”

She hated herself for it, but she just couldn’t hold a rational conversation until she was focused on his face, and he was making that really really hard.

“Sure, let me just pull my clothes on.”

He disappeared into his bedroom and Liz heaved a sigh, concentrating on pulling herself together. Had she known that at that moment he was leaning against his own bedroom door taking deep calming breaths, she might have felt better, but as it was, she was only grateful for the space he’d given her.

Think about something else, she ordered herself. Taking a turn around the living room, she realized he’d been busy since the day he’d cared for her cuts and scrapes. Where boxes had been stacked, there was now a soft inviting sofa in a tan micro-suede and mounded with earth-tone pillows. The armchair angled next to it was done in a southwestern pattern in those same earth tones, and the footstool was needlepointed to match, perhaps the work of his sister who he’d said decorated his last apartment. A small area rug in deep green added color sitting atop the hardwood floor and showed richly through the glass-top coffee table. Books, handwritten notes, and manuals were scattered over its surface, but even those had an order of their own.

The walls were strewn with handwoven rugs that Liz recognized as Hopi. Centered among them was a hand-painted Kokopelli, properly placed, she noted with approval, on his back, just as the original petroglyphs showed him. An interesting choice, the Hopi god of fertility; she’d have to ask him about that one. Here and there, a small sculpture or green plant added interest. Otherwise, the room was uncluttered, the product of an organized mind--a tasteful organized mind, Liz decided.

Hearing the water running from behind his closed door, she continued her exploration. The large pass-through from the living room made the small kitchen seem spacious and bright. Expecting mismatched glasses and plenty of frozen entrees, Liz was pleasantly surprised by the smooth cherry spice rack filled with a large array of spices—well-used, she noted—as well as the small pots of basil and mint on the windowsill. The knife set had molded wooden handles and well-honed blades, and coffee beans were sealed next to a coffee grinder. The décor was strictly male, but the man knew his way around a kitchen.

“Hungry?”

She jolted upright at the sound of his voice, horrified at being caught snooping.

“No, I . . .” There really wasn’t any point in pretending; she’d been caught red-handed. “I was busy being impressed with evidence that you actually know how to cook.”

He looked amused. “I do. My mother considered it a basic survival skill. She even taught my father, though I think he used to mess up so he could leave it to her. Can I get you a drink? Iced tea? Wine?”

“I’d love some wine, thanks. And I have to say, you’re being awfully nice after the way we left things. I’ve come to apologize.”

“Wine and apologies. A poor combination. Let’s just have wine and start fresh, shall we?”

She smiled at his back as he took the White Zinfandel from the refrigerator and reached for two long-stemmed glasses. He looked handsome in khakis and a burgundy golf shirt, but, taking a mental inventory of their meetings so far, she realized he looked amazing in everything—from towel to running clothes to uniform.

Uniform. Even now, with all her talking to herself, it sent a painful jolt through her.

He poured, and turned to offer her a glass. The brush of their fingers could have been electrical current, and their eyes locked over the glass. He was, she thought with relief, as affected as she. That had to be a good sign.

He took a deep breath and gestured toward the balcony.

“Shall we sit outside?”

“Thanks, and yes. It’s a beautiful evening.”

She’d been enjoying the view . . . of him . . . but she had to admit that the view from the fourth floor was something, too—much better than her own, she decided as she settled into a cushioned lawn chair. Here, she could see a ribbon of ocean and a ship on the horizon. Between their building and the water was a grid of streets, busy with people going about their lives. She wondered if any of them were as nervous as she was.

“I was terribly rude to you the other day, Max. I’m sorry.”

“No apologies, remember? But I wouldn’t mind understanding why. Do you want to tell me what had you so upset?”

She looked out to that ribbon of ocean and knew she wasn’t ready to share her pain. Besides, it seemed a poor way to start fresh.

“No, I don’t. But I do want you to know I’m not usually like that. You just . . . took me by surprise, and I didn’t handle it well at all.”

He sipped his wine and studied her. She squirmed under his scrutiny.

“You promised a fresh start, Max. Please, leave it alone for now.”

He took another moment, another sip, and then seemed to make a decision.

“Hi, I’m Max Evans. I’m your new neighbor.”

He held out his hand, and though it took her a moment to process, she finally smiled and shook it. “Liz Parker.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m 31, single, and an officer in the Navy. I enjoy cooking, funny movies, and anything that moves fast. I have a married sister in Florida, and my parents live in Mesa, Arizona. I’ve never been married, my favorite color is green, and I still think O.J. did it.”

Her smile widened into a grin as she listened to him, more than aware of the gentle ribbing about her not liking surprises. Encouraged by her reaction, he tossed the ball to her.

“Your turn.”

“Okay, let’s see. I’m 29, raised in Roswell, New Mexico, where my parents run a café. I went to school at Stanford in Engineering, never been married, and my favorite color . . . just might be that burgundy you’re wearing.”

They shared a smile for a long moment.

“You sound perfect for me. Let’s start dating.”

She laughed out loud this time, enjoying the glint of humor in his eyes and the way the tension had dissolved between them. For the first time since they’d met, she felt completely at ease.

The doorbell rang, and Liz waited as Max went to let Alex in. When he returned, he introduced them and poured Alex some wine as well. Liz didn’t miss the evaluative look Alex was giving her.

“Liz is a neighbor of mine,” Max said with a meaningful glance at his friend. “She just stopped in to introduce herself.”

“I see,” Alex nodded, returning Max’s look with a not-so-fast-I’m-the-one-who-poured-you-into-bed-last-week look of his own. “So you just met?”

Ignoring Max’s glare, Alex turned his innocent expression on Liz.

“Well, we ran into each other the day Max moved in, but I guess we’ve both been busy, so we haven’t really had a chance to get to know each other.”

Liz wasn’t stupid or blind. The pointed looks between Max and Alex might as well have been printed on signs; Alex obviously knew at least some of what had happened between them.

“How long have you and Max been friends?” she asked, hoping to shift the focus of conversation.

“Hmmm, let’s see, eighth grade?” he asked Max. “Yeah, eighth, because we were both in love with Haley Vanderbilt but she wouldn’t go to the graduation dance with either one of us. I considered that a victory, since Max always got the girl.”

Max chuckled. “Yeah, we commiserated with each other and became fast friends. We even went to college together and entered the Navy on the buddy system, so we could go through basic together. I wonder where Haley is today.”

“You should’ve gone to the last reunion, pal. I wish I could say she was fat and married to a loser, but she’s totally hot and married to a state senator in Arizona. I guess she made the right choice in the end.”

“I guess she did,” Max laughed. “At least about you.” He laughed harder at Alex’s wounded expression. Liz admired the easy banter between close friends. It had been a long time since she’d opened herself up to anyone like that.

“No kidding, you were missed,” Alex continued. “Everyone wanted to know where you were. I told them I could tell them but then I’d have to kill them. They loved that.” His smile faded and he slumped back into his chair, studying his wine. “If I’d known you were lying unconscious in the desert with unfriendlies about to crawl up your butt, it wouldn’t have been so funny.”

“Alex.”

The calm tone brought Alex’s eyes up, and he saw Max’s plea to let it drop. He took the hint, and forced a casual smile. “Or at least that’s the story you made up to get that Purple Heart.”

It was a lame joke, and he knew it, but it didn’t account for the look of horror on Liz’s face. Stiffly, she rose.

“I’m sorry. I have to go, but it was a pleasure meeting you, Alex.”

“Hot date?” Alex joked, then wanted to swallow his tongue when Liz stuttered an awkward response.

“Oh, no, not really. I . . . uh . . .”

Max watched her fumble with her answer and clenched his jaw. She had a date. Perfectly reasonable. Perfectly normal. Perfectly expected.

Shit.
******
Alex spotted Kyle at the bar and waved.

"This way!" Kyle motioned to his two friends with his head, since his hands were busy grappling with two beer mugs and a glass filled with something dark and fizzy.

He led them out onto the deck where tables and tubs of flowers competed for space and looked over pristine beach and a shimmering ocean. Weaving expertly through the crowd, he stopped at a large round table.

"Here we are."

Max stopped, confused.

"Liz?"

Liz prayed she wouldn’t be sick on the spot. She’d all but run from Max’s apartment just a short time before, feeling a fool for thinking she could get past the dread of opening her heart to a military man, let alone a fighter pilot. One mention of the crash, the wound, the danger, and she was right back where she started. And it was all the worse because she’d let herself hope. If it had been possible to cancel her blind date, she would have, but she’d promised Kyle this night on the town, and he needed a friend since his break-up with Anna.

Sensing something odd, Kyle’s eyes flicked from one to the other. "You guys know each other? I didn't think you would have met yet. And this is Shelby Monseau, our newest on-air at the station."

"Nice to meet you," Max murmured, his eyes locked on Liz’s. Something had changed at his apartment, and anxiety had returned to Liz’s whole demeanor. Alex felt it as well, but tried to skim over it.

“I didn’t know we were going to spend the evening in the company of such beautiful women, Kyle. A little surprise?”

“Exactly. I figured since you were going to be in port for a while, Alex, and our prodigal Max would be about ready to meet some people, I’d do my old buddies a favor. I just didn’t expect you and Liz to have met so soon, Max—I figured being grand high mucky-muck at that school would take all your time for a few weeks.”

When no one answered, he began to doubt his instincts, but plowed forward.

"I have, of course, gone to a lot of trouble to find just the perfect woman for each of you. Alex, Liz is your date for the evening, since you need someone grounded and patient to put up with your quirky sense of humor, and Max, Shelby is your date, because you need someone to loosen you up."

Max finally pulled his eyes to the other woman at the table—flame red hair, sharp green eyes, porcelain skin—attractive, but there was a glint of . . . something in those eyes as they surveyed him with blatant interest.

"You didn't say anything about dates," Max said mildly. "Where's yours?"

Kyle winced. "Well, Anna is temporarily peeved with me," he began.

"Peeved!" Shelby laughed. "She poured coffee in your lap and told you to take a one-way swim to Japan!"

Alex smirked. "Still have a way with the ladies, huh, stud? Well, you're batting zero. I postponed a date tonight to spend it with you guys, and Max and Liz are already . . ."

"Max, come sit down," Shelby interrupted. "I've been dying to meet you. Kyle tells me you’re the youngest man to ever make Lieutenant Commander, and that you’re a decorated war hero." She patted the chair next to her. “I want to hear all about it.”

Seeing no polite way out, Max took the offered chair and scowled as Alex gave Liz a wink and sat. The men ordered drinks and then began the work of making benign small talk. Shelby finally subsided from her constant questioning of Max when it became obvious that he wasn’t going to make his life history the topic of conversation. He would have given anything to get Liz alone for a few minutes and find out what was going on with her. She, too, was straining to be a cordial guest.

There was no denying the appeal of the place. The seafood was fresh and prepared expertly, the setting was idyllic, and the company was wonderful. The men told stories on each other that had everyone laughing, and Max found himself enjoying Shelby's bawdy humor and tales of havoc behind the scenes in a radio station. He frowned once at Alex, who had leaned back after dinner and slung his arm over the back of Liz's chair, but his friend only taunted him with a wink and a grin.

"So, Kyle," Max asked, "how do you know Liz?"

"Our station sponsored a children's Christmas party at the base for all the kids whose mom or dad was away for the holidays. Liz was a huge help organizing and decorating and buying toys . . . I guess you had your fingers in everything, didn't you, Liz? It was a great event. I hope we do it again this year."

"We will. As a matter of fact, I was going to call you in a week or two, but since you've brought it up, we want to add something this year. We hoped you'd help us make a video of this year's party, and we could send it electronically to troops stationed just about anywhere."

"Great idea, but we're a radio station, my dear, brilliant Liz. We don't use a lot of video. You know, radio?"

Liz smiled, sincerely this time, and finally relaxed. This was familiar territory, and she certainly hoped she wasn’t so far gone that she couldn’t enjoy a casual dinner with friends.

"Yeah, I've heard of it, smart guy, but I also know you do a lot of stuff with WDGO television, and since you're sooooo persuasive, and sooooo smart, and sooooo handsome . . ."

Shelby's snort launched the round of laughter, and Kyle admitted defeat good-naturedly. "I'll call them," he promised.

"Liz, Max! Nice to see you in my place. What's the verdict?"

Jesse Santo stood smiling at the group, noticing with satisfaction that they'd enjoyed some of the restaurant's specialties.

"Jesse, hi,” Max smiled in surprise. “What do you mean 'my place'?"

"I'm the manager here. Didn't you know?"

"You’re kidding. No, I had no idea. We really haven't talked that much; you just never seemed to be around. Now I know why."

"Evening's our busiest time," Jesse agreed. "But I thought you knew. So what did you think of the food?"

There were plenty of compliments to go around, and Jesse promised to pass on the good reviews to the chefs. She even blew Kyle a kiss when he said that between the good food and the attractive staff, he’d have to recommend SeaGate for the office Christmas party. Charmed, he returned her gesture with a wink and a huge smile, holding her gaze just long enough for the others to raise their eyebrows.

“I hope you’ll join us downstairs in about a half-hour,” she urged. “Live music and half-price margaritas. You can’t beat it.”

“Will you be there?” Kyle asked.

Jesse beamed with pleasure. “I’ll be working for a couple more hours, but I’ll see if you all are still around when I’m off, okay? Oh, and Liz? Could I talk to you for just a minute?”

“Sure.” Liz threw Jesse a quizzical look, but rose to follow her inside.

“Liz, you have got to make sure you guys stay at least two more hours. That was Kyle Valenti out there! He’s so cute. And he seemed interested, didn’t he? Promise me you’ll still be here when I get off.”

“Jesse, I don’t know. I didn’t realize Max was going to be here, and things are a little weird between us right now. I was hoping to make my excuses and go home.”

“But it looked like you were with that other guy. Who’s he?”

“Alex Whitman, Max’s friend.”

“Alex? Spike’s Alex? That dog! What’s he doing with you?”

“Nothing. Nothing at all. Kyle set up these blind dates with his two oldest friends; I had no idea who they would be, and they didn’t even know he was doing it, so it’s all innocent, honest.”

“Well, who’s with Max, then?”

“Shelby somebody. She’s from Kyle’s station. She’s all starry-eyed over Max’s military career. He couldn’t get her to shut up until Alex started telling tales on their high school escapades,” she huffed. “She’s embarrassing him. It’s disgusting. But you see why it’s so awkward to stay?”

“Yes, I do see. Quite clearly, in fact.” What she saw so clearly was that Liz cared, and that was all the more reason to give the two of them more time together. “Do it anyway? Please, Liz? I’ll never ask you for another favor, but I really want the chance to convince Kyle Valenti, ‘the voice of San Diego,’” she mimicked the radio, “to use that voice to call me for a date. What do you say?”

Liz hesitated.

“First round’s on the house,” Jesse begged.

Liz couldn’t have cared less about free drinks, but the hopeful look in Jesse’s eyes was just too hard to resist.

“Okay. But you owe me one.”

“You got it!” Jesse gave Liz a quick hug. “Thank you!”

It was only Liz’s quick reactions that kept Jesse from spinning directly into the path of a waiter holding a tray of drinks over his head. Grinning sheepishly, Jesse took a deep, calming breath and wished away two hours.
Last edited by Carol000 on Tue Nov 09, 2004 12:06 am, edited 3 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."

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Carol000
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Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2001 4:58 pm

Post by Carol000 » Sat Nov 13, 2004 10:34 pm

Frustration! That was the most typed word of the week, apparently. :lol: I wasn't trying to be mean, honest. I just know how fragile and uncertain Liz is, but I think our Max is up to the task. You'll see what I mean. :wink:

And welcome to our newcomers. It's wonderful that some new readers are joining the fun!

From Part 6

“Well, who’s with Max, then?”

“Shelby somebody. She’s from Kyle’s station. She’s all starry-eyed over Max’s military career. He couldn’t get her to shut up until Alex started telling tales on their high school escapades,” she huffed. “She’s embarrassing him. It’s disgusting. But you see why it’s so awkward to stay?”

“Yes, I do see. Quite clearly, in fact.” What she saw so clearly was that Liz cared, and that was all the more reason to give the two of them more time together. “Do it anyway? Please, Liz? I’ll never ask you for another favor, but I really want the chance to convince Kyle Valenti, ‘the voice of San Diego,’” she mimicked the radio, “to use that voice to call me for a date. What do you say?”

Liz hesitated.

“First round’s on the house,” Jesse begged.

Liz couldn’t have cared less about free drinks, but the hopeful look in Jesse’s eyes was just too hard to resist.

“Okay. But you owe me one.”

“You got it!” Jesse gave Liz a quick hug. “Thank you!”

It was only Liz’s quick reactions that kept Jesse from spinning directly into the path of a waiter holding a tray of drinks over his head. Grinning sheepishly, Jesse took a deep, calming breath and wished away two hours.

Part 7

“So how long until they found you after you bailed out?”

The table was on its second pitcher of margaritas and everyone seemed to be dancing with Liz but him. It hadn’t seemed a good idea during the first pitcher—she’d been so stiff and distant—but he was warming to it now. Shelby hadn’t stopped asking him about his life and career, and she was way past polite interest. The woman was like a bull terrier. Max clenched his teeth and fought for patience.

“You know, Shelby, we’re supposed to be enjoying ourselves. I hardly think talking about war is enjoyable.”

“That depends on your point of view,” Shelby insisted, noting that Max’s eyes were once again trained on Liz. She and Kyle were laughing about something on the dance floor. “I find it fascinating. It’s not every day you get to talk to a bona fide hero.”

Max sighed and wondered if he could justify saying his goodbyes yet. On the other hand, he didn’t want to leave until Liz did; she’d been hit on a number of times, he thought grimly, and he was going to be darn sure no lowlife tried to take her home. Besides, he was one margarita away from asking her to dance.

“I’m not a hero; I was just doing my job and got unlucky. Tell me, did you grow up in San Diego?”

“Practically. Escondido is just up the road. You must have been excited when you found out you were coming to Top Gun, huh? You were in Florida before, right?”

If he didn’t move soon, he would explode. “Let’s dance.”

Without waiting for her answer, he grabbed her hand and led her to the dance floor. Shelby moved easily into his arms and turned those dramatic green eyes on him. “You dance, too. You’re practically perfect.”

“USO. It passes the time.”

She wasn’t surprised to find him searching the dance floor once again. When his eyes stopped searching, she followed them to . . . Liz. What a surprise.

“Enough.”

“What?”

“Enough, Max. I’ve tried flattery, I’ve been witty and amusing, and I’ve asked probing questions about your work. You’re supposed to be putty in my hands by now, but all I’ve gotten are monosyllabic responses. I’m out of subterfuge. Here’s the thing: I want an interview. If you promise me one, I’ll help you with Liz.”

Max looked down at his dance partner and tried to focus. “Come again?”

“Look, you want to be with Liz. Anybody with eyes can see that, and she wants to be with you—any woman could see that. All I want is an interview. I have no intention of being an on-air DJ in San Diego for the rest of my life. I want hard news, and you’re the closest thing I’ve got right now. So how about it?”

Max finally smiled at Shelby—the real one, the one that melted women without his even realizing it. Shelby felt her pulse quicken in spite of herself.

“That’s what this is about? The questions? The attentiveness? You just wanted an interview?” He threw his head back and laughed. “Good grief, Shelby, I thought . . .”

“You thought I wanted in your pants, which wouldn’t be such a bad plan,” she admitted, “but I can see you’re focused elsewhere in that regard. So, what do you say? An interview in exchange for help with Liz?”

“I don’t see how you can help, and all interviews have to be cleared through Public Relations, but you’ve invested so much time in the effort already, I’ll see what I can do.”

“Yes!” She rose to her toes and planted a big, smacking kiss on Max’s mouth, then grinned at him. “Okay, Operation Liz.”

“No,” he said quietly, “no Operation Liz. I need to work this one out myself.”

His earnest, almost whispered response touched her. He wasn’t on the make; he was falling in love. It made her smile. “Fair enough. What’s the deal with you two?”

“I wish I knew. Started out great, but when she realized I was military, it went cold. I thought maybe she was bending a little, but now we’re right back where we started. I don’t get it.”

“She wants to be with you, Max.”

He took his eyes from Liz and looked down. “You said that before. How can you know that?”

“It’s in her eyes, and in her body language. She’s trying too hard to ignore you, and she’s working too hard at having a good time. She’s thrown half a dozen death glares at me, including a doozy when I kissed you just now.”

She laughed at his look of amazement. “Reporter, remember?”

“But she acts as if there’s no way. Why would she be fighting it?”

“What a woman wants with her head and what she wants with her heart aren’t always the same thing. I’d say she’s having a battle in there, and what she needs is a war hero to make sure the good guys win.”

Max studied his partner as the music ended. “You’re very wise for such a young person.”

“It’s easy to be wise with someone else’s life,” she told him. “It’s your own that poses a challenge. Jesse just came downstairs, so I imagine Liz is about to lose her dance partner. You’d better get over there before Alex beats your time. I’ll call you about the interview.”

She leaned up again and kissed his cheek. “A little kindling for the fire,” she whispered in his ear. “Bye, Max.”

******
Liz was miserable. Kyle had looked out for her, rescuing her when she looked uncomfortable dancing with a too-interested stranger, but he was biding his time waiting for Jesse, who had clearly captured his interest. On the other hand, her dances with Alex had been subtle third degrees. She had to forgive him for that, she supposed; he was Max’s best friend and wanted to protect him from the crazy woman who was sending mixed signals. To top it all off, she’d had too many margaritas in an effort to relax and enjoy herself while watching Lois Fucking Lane wrap herself around Max. Now she just wanted to go home.

“Dance?” Max appeared beside her, and she fought the urge to just melt into his chest.

“I’m sorry, Max. I can’t. I . . . I need some air.”

“Sounds good. Let’s go up this way.”

Swept along with him, she almost rolled her eyes at the romantically idyllic setting that awaited them when they’d wound their way upstairs and into the balmy night. The moon was almost full, with only a small wedge cut from one side, and it lit the night with a shimmering glow that shot sparks off of every breaker and made the beach look as if it were lit from within. The music, distant now, wafted toward them, and the moist air slid like silk over her skin. It seemed the most natural thing in the world when Max took her hand.

“Did you arrange for this?” Liz asked, sweeping an arm toward the shadowy landscape.

“Of course. One of my many talents. Besides, I get a kickback from jewelers and florists when I provide a setting that builds demand.”

He made her smile—no small feat in her current mood—and she turned to answer him, but before she could speak, his arms came around her, and suddenly they were swaying to the music in a private place where words just seemed superfluous. Aware of what she was doing, and yet uncaring, she let herself merge into the fluid notes with him, and sank into the sensations of his arms holding her against him, his breath flowing warm on her neck, his heart beating strong and soothingly with hers.

Perhaps one song had come and gone, perhaps several, when she felt his lips brush her neck and she pulled away slightly to look at him.

“I always seem to be apologizing to you,” she began, placing two fingers on his lips when he began to speak. “I’ve been unfair to you, and yet I don’t know how to stop. I can’t seem to decide what I want, and I have to wonder what kind of man pursues a woman as fickle as I must seem to be.”

He traced a finger down her cheek and pondered his answer.

“I’ll admit, I don’t understand what’s behind the changes in your attitude toward me, but I can tell you this: When I kissed you that morning, I felt something . . . something strong, even staggering. And what’s more important, I would swear you felt it, too. At that moment, I was really with you—Liz Parker—and nothing stood between us but the time to find out what that something was. When you push me away, it’s like something’s driving you or frightening you—something you’re not ready to share yet because I haven’t earned your trust. So, I guess you could say that the kind of man who would pursue you is a selfish man—one who knows what lies behind that wall you’ve built and wants it for himself.”

She could only stare. In one brief moment, he had—indirectly at least—exposed her, laid her open, stared into her vulnerability and told her it didn’t matter. Staggering, he’d said. Yes, it was staggering. She was staggering now, tumbling even, right into love that she didn’t want. No, that wasn’t true. She did want it. But she also feared it, and that fear was the mountain she couldn’t seem to climb.

A single tear slid down her cheek, but she didn’t try to hide it. He’d seen inside her already, and he was still here. She realized his hands were stroking her back, and they were still swaying to music that wasn’t even playing.

“Why do I resist you?” she sighed to herself, or so she thought until he answered her.

“I can’t imagine.” Then he bent his head and touched her lips, and in that moment, the mountain of fear didn’t seem quite so high.

******

Three days. It had only been three days since moonlight and margaritas had led to another electrifying kiss and another fresh start, but Max felt like Liz had been a part of his life forever. He still saw the split-second hesitation when he touched her, but it always melted away just as fast, and when she kissed him, he forgot all about it until the next time. Of course, spending every possible moment with her had put some pressure on his work deadlines. A new class would be arriving in less than three weeks, and he was going through the preparation for the first time. He should have been living and breathing texts, procedures, instructors’ assignments.

Well, he sighed, looking around his office stacked with manuals and paperwork, he’d better get to it. Liz was off with Kyle tonight, anyway, planning the Christmas party in earnest, so he might as well take advantage of the unexpected free evening. He started through the stack his aide had put front and center on his desk. On top was the list of ten pilots and their RIOs that comprised the incoming class, and he thought back to the thrill he’d felt when his CO told him he was headed to Pensacola for jet training. It was years ago, but it might have been yesterday for the clarity of that moment. A defining moment, he thought it was called, when your dreams and your reality merge. He knew that feeling was flying through the bloodstreams of these 20 young men tonight, as well. And he owed them his best. Focused now, he dug in.

******
“Sir.”

Max looked up, surprised to see it was dark outside; his mind had been completely absorbed by the work inside the circle of light from his desk lamp. Thaddeus Owens stood in the doorway holding his helmet with “Goliath” stenciled on the side and sporting a big smile. Max rose, smiling back. He had liked this man from the first, even though he still felt a twinge of embarrassment about that night in the Gaslamp Quarter. It wasn’t something a superior officer aspired to—having his car driven home for him by a subordinate because he was too inebriated to do it himself. Neither man had mentioned it aloud since Max’s one mumbled thank you and a handshake, but it had cemented their young friendship, in spite of the difference in rank.

“Lt. Owens. Good to see you. What are you doing here?”

“Night maneuvers. Your lady has a whole list of things she wants checked out on the Hornets over the next two weeks, and a lot of them have to be done at night.”

“Thad,” Max urged, his voice an intense whisper, “don’t call her ‘my lady’ in front of anyone. We’re keeping that quiet, okay?”

“Yes sir. I’m the soul of discretion, sir.”

“I’ll bet. So what are you doing over here?”

“Saw the light and thought you might wanna take a ride.”

The temptation was almost irresistible, but one glance at his desk and he knew he couldn’t take the time. Not if he wanted to see Liz later. Jets. Liz. He never thought he’d see the day when a woman could win that contest.

“I wish I could, Lieutenant. But duty calls.” He waved a hand at the chaos. “Try me again next time.”

“Will do, sir.”

They exchanged a quick salute and returned to their jobs. Max had barely started reading again when his phone rang.

“Evans,” he answered curtly when he didn’t recognize the caller’s number.

“Max, hi. It’s Shelby Monseau. I saw Liz with Kyle downstairs, and I figured this would be a good time to call. I have some information for you.”

“Hey, Shelby. How are you? What kind of information?”

“I’m a woman of my word, Lt. Commander. I told you I’d help you with Liz, didn’t I?”

“Oh, that’s okay, Shelby. I think we have things worked out. You don’t have to . . .”

“Just listen, Max. You’ll want to hear this. I did some digging, and I think I know why Liz was giving you such a hard time.”

“But she’s . . .”

“I said listen, flyboy. Liz had a brother, Jonathan Parker. He was a fighter pilot, killed in action 3 years ago. From what I can tell from newspaper clippings and a couple of video clips I conned from the Roswell affiliate, she was pretty bad off for a while. I guess they were tight. It was rough, Max. Really rough.”

A cold, sick feeling settled in his stomach, and Liz’s face loomed in his mind. The change in her that first time they met on base. Of course. She’d been attracted to a civilian. His status as a Navy officer, a fighter pilot no less, had thrown her for a loop. It all made so much sense now. But why hadn’t she told him this herself? Why did it have to be a secret?

He thought again of that small battle she seemed to fight every time he came near her. He was winning that war . . . for now, but could she really put it behind her? Even the small chance that she couldn’t froze him with fear.

“Max? Did you hear me? Are you there?”

“Yeah. Thanks, Shelby. Really. Thank you. I’ll . . . wow . . . okay . . . I’ll call PR and see if I can set up that interview. I’ll . . . I’ll talk to you later.”

He clicked the phone off without waiting for her response and sat motionless. All the different ways this could play out spun in his head. He couldn’t ask her about this. He had to wait for her to come to him. It was, after all, a matter of trust. And faith. And he had to see to it she was well armed with both. Otherwise, it would never work.

And, he discovered, he desperately wanted it to work.

Distracted now, he decided to stretch his legs and take a brisk walk around his new home. He’d gotten the big picture of the base, and knew all the places he needed to be on a regular basis, but he felt it was important to know every nook and cranny. That usually came in handy, he’d found, wherever he was. Besides, he did his best thinking when he was moving.

The building was all but deserted; light shone here and there from under office doors, and only the ghostly emergency lighting glowed in the hallways. He pushed his way through doors and jogged up and down stairways, realizing after covering quite a bit of territory that he had no idea what he’d seen. His mind had been thoroughly occupied with imaginary scenarios in which he told Liz he knew about her brother or she told him. The problem was, he could never see past that initial conversation; Liz wasn’t even sure what she wanted from one day to the next, so how could he predict the outcome? All he was sure of was that he needed to do everything in his power to make sure that in the end, she wanted him.

Back in the present, Max looked around. These were the offices of the aides, adjuncts, communications staff, and clerical staff. Desks sat in rigid rows like so many soldiers lined up for inspection. Regulation phones, mail bins, and computers sat at similar angles, awaiting orders. The usual coffee supplies, a couple of vending machines, and doorways to bathrooms, a supply room, and a second exit were visible at the other end of the long room.

He caught a whiff of perfume as he stepped forward. It wasn’t like Liz’s, but that didn’t stop it from bringing her sharply into focus. He wondered what time she’d be home tonight. He took two more steps before a muffled word stopped him cold. His head whipped toward the far end of the room, and he crouched instinctively, muscles poised to react.

The next sound was higher pitched. A woman’s laugh? He straightened again, wary, but more curious now than alarmed. What was going on back there?

Off-base, Max could have ignored the sounds as none of his business, but this was a military installation, and one thing was sure—whatever was happening was not regulation. However simple it seemed to say something had to be done, though, there was nothing simple about deciding what that something should be. He took one hesitant step toward the supply room door when it opened and Lt. Ames stepped out.

“See ya later, my Irish rose. I love you.”

Then he slipped out the exit at the far end of the room before Max could move. Feeling a coward, Max spun on his heel and retreated to the safety of the hallway. He had no interest in confronting the Irish Rose tonight.

******

A week. She’d been with Max for one week, and already she had a hard time remembering what life was like without him. When he looked at her, she felt heat. When he held her, she felt weak . . . and strong; it was the oddest thing. But when he kissed her, she felt cherished, and she didn’t think she’d ever felt that way before.

“It’s almost time to go downstairs,” he mumbled against her hair. “I don’t want to leave you.”

They were spooned on the couch, not watching the UCLA/San Diego State football game. She had done the cooking for a change—pizza ordered in—and now they were feeling warm and lazy. Max shifted so that he was on top of her, pressing her intimately between the cushions and his hard, aroused body. She knew that things were progressing rapidly between them and that the time of decision was drawing closer.

He hadn’t pressured her at all; in fact, had it not been for his own body’s dramatic reaction to their closeness, she would have wondered if he were as desperate for her as she was for him. It had been Liz who first pulled him to lay with her on the couch for a hot and heavy make-out session. It had been Liz who had pressed his hand against her breast and shared his moan. It was Liz, in spite of private vows of restraint, who now pressed her hips against him and watched his eyes darken.

She wasn’t a virgin, and she couldn’t imagine that he was either, but sex had been recreational before—a normal response to lust and hormones and a healthy libido. This was different. This mattered. And she couldn’t bear the thought of investing her heart along with her body until she was truly prepared to accept who and what he was . . . completely. She was close, but not close enough, and as his hand slipped under her shirt, she knew she had to put the brakes on . . . for now.

“Spike and Alex must be waiting,” she whispered into his ear, already regretting the words as his tongue dipped into her ear. Excited little shivers began to skitter up and down her skin.

“Who?”

She reigned herself in and smiled at the ceiling. “Nobody important. Just some people who will rub the forfeit in your face if you miss this challenge match.”

That stopped him. Among his many endearing characteristics was a well-developed competitive streak.

“Oh, them.” He lifted himself off her top half, pressing all the harder on her lower half and winked. “Come cheer me on. If Kyle and I win, I might just show you how really athletic I can be.”

God, he was adorable—all tousled and tan and toned. She scolded her own shallowness as she ran seductive strokes up and down his chest, then forgave herself. After all, a beautiful human form was meant to be appreciated. Feeling impish, she lifted her torso and kissed one dark nipple, feeling empowered when he sucked in his breath and fell against her, crushing his mouth to hers.

Perhaps she’d bitten off more than she was ready to chew. He was devouring her now, and she was all too willing to let him. Pushing him gently, she looked into his face and felt a thrill at the intensity behind those blazing amber eyes. But she knew the danger, too, and she saw his eyes change at the exact instant he understood what she was thinking. He pushed himself up and smiled, a bit of sadness at the edges of it, and held out his hand.

“Come on. There are friends downstairs waiting to be humiliated.”

******

Alex and Spike . . . or Svea, as was now becoming popular with her friends . . . against Max and Kyle. The first two had height going for them; the second two had power. It would be interesting. Jesse and Liz sat in lawn chairs to one side, ready to root for Power, but Charisse, hearing about the match from Liz, had come by with Thad in tow, and they decided to cheer on Height, just to even things out.

Alex and Svea began to click in the first game, swooping low to dig out a power volley, jumping high to spike the ball. Max and Kyle, however, struggled to find their rhythm, what with Kyle clowning around and Max trying to cover the court by himself. Liz had to laugh when, at 15-11, Alex lifted Svea and kissed her soundly, yelling some sort of naval whoop of victory. In fact, winning and losing seemed irrelevant when her man—she liked the sound of that . . . her man—came to the sidelines to get a drink, sunlight dancing over slick, tanned muscles, and she found her thoughts drifting in another direction entirely. It was only when her eyes slid up to his face that she noticed the scowl.

"Think maybe you could actually participate in the next game, Valenti?"

Kyle winked at Jesse, then tried hard to look offended. "All part of the master plan, my friend," he assured Max. "We have them over-confident, relaxed. Right where we want them."

"Uh-huh," Max grunted, looking askance at his long-time friend. "Where have I heard that before?"

"You know what we need," Kyle continued thoughtfully.

"Someone else to play for you?" Max suggested.

Kyle ignored him. "Inspiration. Motivation. The kind of thing only a beautiful woman can provide." He looked at Jesse hopefully, and she laughed with delight.

"You win the next one, and we'll talk about it," she smiled coyly.

Focused on Liz now, Max's scowl turned into a smile. "I'll take mine now." He took her mouth suddenly. Liz was too surprised to object, but being conscious that this was their first public kiss, she resisted the urge to succumb to the lust that had been building as she watched him. He tasted salty, his mouth was hot, and her hands couldn't resist one run up that fabulous chest. As he pulled away, she nipped at his lip, and his eyes flew to hers in surprise.

"Win this one, flyboy, and there just might be a little something in it for you."

He stared at her for a full five seconds before Alex yelled an insulting challenge and drew his gaze away. Then, with one last bemused glance at Liz, he headed back onto the court.

"Screw this up, Valenti, and I'll rip your heart out with my bare hands," he murmured.

Kyle's laugh was the last thing he heard before he switched to combat mode.

******
The final match finished at 15-11, 7-15 (motivation being a key factor, Liz assumed with a private smile), and a grueling 19-17 as both teams got serious. Max and Kyle accepted their defeat semi-graciously, finding some satisfaction in dumping the traditional cooler of ice over the victors. Liz was sure the screams could be heard for miles.

That seemed to introduce the silly phase of the volleyball match. Kyle, feigning a concern for his honor, suggested a more inclusive rematch, claiming Jesse and Liz should be allowed to join their side to even out the height advantage.

"How does adding two mega-short—no offense—women to your team even out a height advantage?" Alex wanted to know, almost giddy with the casual way Svea had her arm around his waist.

"Like this," Kyle demonstrated, crouching low behind Jesse and lifting the yelping woman to his shoulders.

All hell broke lose. The women, sensing the game, began to run; the men followed in a determined chase. Even Charisse and Thad got into the act until four two-person towers faced each other.

"Hey," Jesse complained, "Alex shouldn't be able to hold Svea. Between them, they're like 20 feet tall!"

"A mathematical impossibility," Alex responded arrogantly, then grinned, but we can do more damage playing as two anyway, so . . ." He set Svea down and rubbed his hands together. "Let the carnage begin."

It wasn't a volleyball game so much as it was a noisy, awkward wrestling match, with the smaller women locked in mortal combat over the top of the net, laughing hysterically between shouted instructions to their lovable beasts of burden. It didn't take long until the three towers toppled, and their sand-covered bodies lay spent on the ground, still convulsing with laughter.
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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Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2001 4:58 pm

Post by Carol000 » Sun Nov 21, 2004 8:56 am

Sorry to be a little late posting! For the past two days, I've been in Indianapolis at the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English. It was wonderful--intense, invigorating, delightful, and exhausting. I drove home (2 hours) last night, arriving at midnight, completely done in. I just had to have some sleep before I came over here to post. Thanks for your patience.

A couple of comments:

Several were surprised that the information on Liz's brother came from Shelby instead of Alex (or Liz). Good! I want to surprise you from time to time! But never fear, Alex is right on her heels in this chapter with a more personal perspective.

Also, HAPPY THANSGIVING, EVERYONE! It may be about this time next week before I post the next chapter. In other words, a little late. We're returning from our family gathering late next Saturday night, so I might--again--catch some z's before posting. Have a wonderful holiday, everyone!

From Part 7

"How does adding two mega-short—no offense—women to your team even out a height advantage?" Alex wanted to know, almost giddy with the casual way Svea had her arm around his waist.

"Like this," Kyle demonstrated, crouching low behind Jesse and lifting the yelping woman to his shoulders.

All hell broke lose. The women, sensing the game, began to run; the men followed in a determined chase. Even Charisse and Thad got into the act until four two-person towers faced each other.

"Hey," Jesse complained, "Alex shouldn't be able to hold Svea. Between them, they're like 20 feet tall!"

"A mathematical impossibility," Alex responded arrogantly, then grinned, but we can do more damage playing as two anyway, so . . ." He set Svea down and rubbed his hands together. "Let the carnage begin."

It wasn't a volleyball game so much as it was a noisy, awkward wrestling match, with the smaller women locked in mortal combat over the top of the net, laughing hysterically between shouted instructions to their lovable beasts of burden. It didn't take long until the three towers toppled, and their sand-covered bodies lay spent on the ground, still convulsing with laughter.

Part 8

With the women back in their own apartments to shower and retrieve their contributions to dinner, Alex and Kyle sprawled in Max’s living room. Thad and Charisse had left for dinner at her mother’s house, but the others were looking forward to Max’s blackened salmon on the grill—a specialty that Alex and Kyle had enjoyed before.

“Help yourself to a beer,” Max offered. “I’m going to grab a shower.”

“Hold up, Max. I need to tell you something.”

Max turned, frowning at his friend’s serious tone.

“When I was showing Svea around the ship last weekend, we walked through the Hall of Honors.”

“The what?” Kyle asked.

“Hall of Honors. It commemorates every seaman from the Nimitz who’s lost his life in service. Well, we spotted a plaque with the name Jonathan Parker and . . .”

“I know.”

Alex hesitated, mouth open. “You know? How? Did Liz tell you?”

Max sighed and ran a hand through his still-sweaty hair. “No, but I wish she would. Shelby did some digging . . .”

“My Shelby?” Kyle wanted to know. “From the station?”

“Yeah. That night we met, she was comin’ on pretty strong and I wasn’t biting. She finally confessed that all she really wanted was an interview, and she tried to bribe me by offering to help me with Liz. I didn’t give a shit about the interview, and I didn’t think she could do anything about Liz, but she took the initiative anyway and dug up the stuff about Liz’s brother. Now I get why she’s hesitant about military guys, and me in particular, but I keep hoping she’ll tell me herself.”

“Why does Shelby want an interview? We didn’t assign her that.”

Max smiled. “No, but your newest on-air has ambitions—she’s wants to be a journalist, and she hopes this interview will sell and give her something to put on a resume. But you didn’t hear it from me, okay?”

Kyle scowled. “We’re not good enough for her, huh? Why that . . .”

“Kyle,” Max cautioned. “Give her a break. We all want different things; don’t give her crap for going after what she wants.”

“So you givin’ her the interview?”

“She’s put in a request. When they come to me, I’ll approve it. Probably won’t be for a few days, at least.”

“Max, let me finish before the women come down. I wasn’t on the Nimitz yet when Jonathan was, but I talked to some guys who knew him. They all remember he was really tight with his sister. He always had two pictures up on his bunk—one of the girlfriend du jour and one of Liz. He was proud of her, and took some grief for how close they were. They said he was a good guy, and a hell of a pilot. It hit everybody really hard when he died. The two guys who got leave to go to his funeral remember how torn up Liz was.”

He paused, watching Max absorb his words. “What I’m saying, Max, is this wasn’t just a brother. I think he was her best friend, too. The scars run deep, and I’m afraid you’re going to get hurt waiting for them to heal.”

There was no outward reaction from Max; he just stood quite still, staring at the floor. Then he turned and headed toward the bedroom.

Alex exchanged a troubled look with Kyle, then shuffled into the kitchen to snag two beers from the frig. When he returned, he handed one to Kyle and threw open the sliding glass doors, leaning on the doorframe to admire the view. Kyle propped his feet up on the coffee table and sipped his beer. They shared a companionable silence until Kyle spoke up.

“Looks like things are working out for you and Svea, Alex. You look happy.”

“I am. Amazingly so.”

“Then why the frown?”

“I leave in three days. It’ll be hard on both of us, but harder on her, I think, just because I’ll be too busy to even think most of the time. I just hope she doesn’t decide I’m not worth waiting for. I mean, it’s still so new. We’ve only been together a little under three weeks.”

Kyle stared into his beer. “Have you . . . you know . . .yet?”

“Huh?”

Alex looked around and saw the unmistakable meaning in Kyle’s arched eyebrows. “Oh. No, not yet. I didn’t want to push that and then leave. It has to be her call.”

“Oh, god, you are sweet,” Kyle groaned, eyes to the ceiling. “I never wanted to believe it.”

Alex grinned. “Sorry to disappoint you. How are you and Jesse?”

The impish humor disappeared from Kyle’s face, replaced by a frown of his own. “We’re good. We’re . . . good.”

“Your words and your face don’t compute, buddy. What’s up?”

Kyle was quiet for several seconds; then the silence was broken when Max entered the room with damp hair and a smirk.

“He’s toast,” Max said matter-of-factly. “It got away from him and now he’s toast. Am I right, old pal?”

“You’re full o’ shit, Evans,” Kyle objected. “It’s only been a week. One goddamn week. Nobody’s toast, okay? Unless you’re referring to you, of course, Mr. It Only Took Two Days.”

“At least I admit when I’m toast. But then, that makes me well qualified to recognize toast when I see it, and you, my friend, are toast.”

Kyle puffed out his cheeks and blew out a long whoosh of air. “Damn it,” he mumbled quietly.

“I’ll grab the next shower,” Alex chuckled as he stood, “while you cope with the fact that you’re as big a sucker as the rest of us.”

“I could walk away now!” Kyle called after him, looking almost angry. As Alex waved dismissively over his shoulder, Kyle turned back to Max, trying to make his case. “I could. And maybe I will.” He stood suddenly, quivering with frustration. Max doubted he even knew his fingers had threaded through his hair at least half a dozen times in the last minute.

“What did I read?” Max mused to the air. “The first stage is denial, then anger, . . .” He turned back to Kyle. “I hope you’re at acceptance before dinner, or the whole night’s shot.” He smiled benignly at his friend, who just flopped back down on the chair.

“Damn it.”

******
Max realized it was time to call it a night when his living room became little more than a make-out den populated by three extremely focused couples. They hadn’t planned it, had only been sitting as couples talking, when one light kiss—offered by Jesse for a teasing insult to Kyle—had sparked a more avid one, and . . . well, the mood just sort of caught on. Now Max wanted nothing more than to be alone with Liz; he wanted it with every uneven breath, every mind-spinning kiss, every suppressed erotic fantasy. And he hoped that dazed, languid look on her face meant that she wanted it, too.

He extricated himself from Liz’s arms . . . and legs . . . and hair—it was a whole new way to think of “wrapped up in each other”—and cleared his throat meaningfully. It had no effect. He glanced at Liz who stifled a giggle.

“Excuse me, but dinner’s over. Very over.”

“And your point would be?” Alex asked, looking up innocently from where he’d been attacking Svea’s lips with no innocence whatsoever.

“Get out. That’s an order.”

“Your orders carry no weight with me,” Kyle pointed out, giving Jesse a squeeze before he helped her to her feet. “But since I’ve no objection to your wishes, consider us out.” He turned to Jesse and wiggled his eyebrows. “My place or yours?”

She lifted a hand to his cheek, touched her lips to his, and murmured, “How about a lovely walk in the moonlight?”

“A . . . a walk?”

His expression was so blank, so completely blank, everyone just burst out laughing. They worked their way to the door amidst compliments to the chef and promises to see each other again soon. When Max realized he wouldn’t see Alex again for several weeks, perhaps even months, he lingered over a manly hug—complete with back slaps and brisk insults. They knew that next time they would pick up right where they left off, just as they always had.

His racing blood from moments before had cooled with melancholy. Silently, he picked up some glasses from the coffee table and carried them into the kitchen, placing them in the sink. He stared out the window, smiling as small hands slid around his waist, and a warm cheek rested between his shoulder blades.

“It must be hard, saying goodbye to friends all the time.”

“Yeah.”

It was easy to be with her—natural, as if their coming together was a piece of life’s puzzle that just slid into place. He turned within the circle of her arms and kissed her forehead.

“But I’ll see him again. The friendship is always there.”

She was still, her head nestled underneath his chin. He waited . . . and hoped.

“What if something happened to him? What if you had to wake up tomorrow knowing you’d never seem him again?”

There it was. Finally.

“He’s doing what he chooses to do, Liz. I understand what drives him, and I wouldn’t take that from him for anything. Our friendship means the world to me, but I wouldn’t change him. It’s part of why he’s so important to me.”

“You sound like my mother.”

“Your mother?”

Liz lifted her head and studied him. He knew enough not to push.

“Max, when you’re a Top Gun instructor, you can’t get called to combat duty, right?”

He knew what she wanted to hear, but he wouldn’t lie to her. She deserved to know what she was getting into. And it was unlikely, so that much at least he could emphasize with a clean conscience.

“It’s rare. Most of the time, instructors are left to train new pilots—we can have a bigger impact that way. We turn out three classes a year. That gives the Navy more bang for the buck than putting us in the air.”

“But it could happen?”

“Technically, yes. Probably not when a class was in training, but in a crisis . . . .”

She turned her head back into his chest, and he knew she wasn’t going to tell him about her brother tonight. He stroked his hand down her long hair, then massaged her back lightly.

“Max?”

“Hmm?”

“Make love to me.”

******
It wasn’t how he’d imagined it. He’d intended flowers and candles, bubble baths and champagne, satin sheets and romantic music. He’d wanted to make it perfect, so she would know how she had speared into his heart and lodged there. Quite possibly forever.

As it turned out, there were no candles, no flowers, no music or champagne. But there was romance, so breathtakingly real, it was almost a tangible thing. He carried her—not a grand gesture, but rather a tender, selfish indulgence that let him keep her close against him, let him speak to her with eyes that laid his emotions bare. He saw hers widen imperceptibly, heard her quick intake of breath as she heard what they said to her. It gripped his soul when he saw himself reflected in her tears.

“I won’t hurt you, Liz.”

“I know.”

“I don’t mean . . .”

“I know what you mean, Max.”

He laid her on the bed, lowered himself next to her, and watched her face as he touched her. Her eyes drifted closed, then opened slowly to look at him.

“I’ve been trying to keep you out, but you’re already inside me.”

His thumb wiped away one refugee tear from her cheek. “I’m glad.”

“I don’t want you there.”

“I know.”

Her arms slid around his neck and pulled him down, her words only a breath in his ear. “Be inside me.”

It shook him beyond all reason, beyond anything he had ever experienced. She was offering herself, wounded and vulnerable, into his care. A flood of emotion washed through him, and he knew what this would mean—for him, at least. This was, in its own quiet way, the biggest step he’d ever taken.

They undressed each other in silence, watching the mystery unfold in each other’s eyes. Lost in the thrill of firsts—the first time his lips brushed her breast, the first time her hand enfolded him, the first time his tongue tasted her intimately—they explored, discovered, learned. Making love, he realized, was so different than having sex. There was a bottomless well of gentleness, there was profound meaning in every touch, and the giving . . . oh, who knew the giving could be as sweet as the taking!

She’d never felt this way before. It sounded clichéd, even as the thought flitted through her mind, but that didn’t make it any less true. What she was sharing with this man was new; what she felt for him was overwhelming; what she wanted from him was terrifying.

The pressure built as his magical fingers plied her, and he breathed her name just before his mouth descended to her breast. She heard herself cry out for him as she exploded, felt the warm flood and spasm of release. She lay floating for a moment, mindlessly aware of the vibrations shooting through her system and the hot tears on her face, so out of place in this suspended cloud of languor.

“Don’t cry, my love. Shhhh.” Her tears confused her, but the whispered words touched her, and she found herself shedding more as he kissed them away.

“Max.” It was a small sob, a plea for something she couldn’t even name.

He held her until she calmed, kissed her eyes, her cheeks as she steadied, then he sighed as she took the initiative. There was an edge of urgency now, as if she were desperate to give him what he had given her. She rolled him to his back, stroking his chest as she straddled him. The sensation was dizzying. Max didn’t often relinquish control—it was both a personal and professional habit to be in control—so he closed his eyes and consciously relaxed, letting her take it from him. Expecting to feel her surround him, he opened his eyes in surprise when she bent forward and kissed each nipple, then worked her way toward his mouth, all the while coating him with her gentle rocking.

It was incredibly erotic, the way her breasts brushed his stomach, the way she laved his chest so lightly, the way she stroked him with her moist heat. It was his turn to feel the almost painful pressure, and he struggled not to grab her and take her then and there. But when he looked into her eyes and saw what she could not say out loud, he, too, felt the sting of tears.

“Liz, please.”

She ran her tongue across his lips, then straightened with a smile, rising to take him in. He watched himself disappear inside her, and knew that it was more than this physical part of him she had taken in. He had lost his heart in her, and he prayed she was ready for it, because he had taken her in as well, right to his soul.

She rode him gently at first, enjoying the play of sensation and emotion on his face. Her own climax had left a trail of still-firing sparks, and she was content to share Max’s pleasure. As his breathing accelerated, though, she felt the seeds of need begin to grow again, and soon she was letting the need lead her—speed and power now in urgent control.

It was shattering. That was all he could come up with to describe what happened to him when he erupted—eyes locked with hers until a second climax had hers falling shut and her body melting, limp and pliant, to his heaving chest. There was no strength, no will, and he wondered if this feeling had simply dissolved the bones of his body. If World War III had been declared at that moment, they would have had to fight it without him—he had nothing left to give. It was only when his arms, of their own volition, wrapped around her that he felt the pieces of himself slide back into place. Hearts beating wildly, they clung to each other.

It was impossible to guess how long they lay there or how profoundly the experience had affected them, but when Liz finally stirred, Max slid from her and nestled her against him. She pushed away weakly.

“I should go.”

He kissed her slowly. “Stay with me.”

“Max, I . . .”

“Stay with me.”

She hesitated for several seconds, then curled into him with a long sigh. Neither knew how very long the other lay awake pondering how their lives had changed.

******

He could see it in her eyes. Somewhere inside her, she was sifting through the rubble of the wall they had obliterated the night before, searching for pieces to begin building it again. He couldn’t let that happen. They had achieved a closeness last night that he had hardly dared hope for, and he would fight to keep it.

He watched her from the bed as she gathered her clothes, covering herself in a sudden bout of shyness.

“Liz?”

She glanced in his direction and continued to look for her right sandal. “Yeah?”

“Let’s take a shower.”

That had her standing straight up and peering at him as if afraid she hadn’t understood him. “A shower?”

“Yes, a shower.” He rose, watched as she reflexively scanned his body then looked away. He put his hands on her shoulders and felt her shrink back ever so slightly. “Liz, don’t.”

She raised her eyes to meet his. “Don’t what?” There was desire there, hidden behind the wariness. He spoke softly.

“Don’t pull away. We’ve come too far down that road, and I don’t want to go back.”

A battle raged; he could see it cloud her eyes, felt it in her trembling arms.

“I can’t . . .”

We can do anything, Liz. You felt the power last night; I still feel it. Look at me and tell me you don’t feel it.”

When she only stared at him, his voice grew louder, more commanding. “Tell me.”

“I feel it,” she said so softly, he wondered if he imagined it. “I feel it.” Stronger this time. She dropped her crumpled clothes and threw her arms around his neck. “My God, Max, of course I feel it! I’ve never felt anything like it in my life.”

He wrapped her in a vice grip and buried his face in her hair. They held there, almost afraid to break the spell. Then they began to move against each other until they had no choice but to surrender to the inevitable. Ravaging now, they fell to the bed, wild as a beast set free, both eager to share again what they had forged the night before. Gone was gentleness and patience; in its place was greed and lust and abandon. When he plunged home, her arms and legs locked around him, and the wall that struggled to exist between them took another substantial blow.

Later, they had taken that shower, finding new ways to arouse and please each other. Afterwards, Max had fixed Denver omelets, and the two had eaten ravenously. Now, sitting on the shaded balcony gazing west, they sat with fingers linked casually and sipped ice tea with fresh mint.

“You know Lt. Ames?”

“Sure. Nice kid.”

“Kid?” Max laughed. “You’re barely 4 years older.”

“Yeah, well, it’s more a state of mind than chronology, isn’t it? He’s an innocent—so young in terms of ideals, life experience. He’s one of those cute southern boys who’s just so open, as if life has never hurt him.”

Max looked over, studied her. “Has life hurt you, Liz?”

She looked away. She knows I’ll see the truth in her eyes, he thought. “Enough, I guess. Like most people.” She turned to him then. “How about you, Max? What curves has life thrown you?”

He smiled. She was smart. “Fair enough. We’ll swap stories later.”

“Okay.”

“But about Lt. Ames. Do you know if he has a girlfriend?”

Liz laughed, and Max realized again what a wonderful sound it was. He was going to make sure he heard it more often.

“Why? You want the job?”

He never batted an eye. “Well, as you pointed out, he’s cute and open. Very appealing, don’t you think?”

Now she laughed harder, and Max felt warm clear through. “Well, then, I’ll step aside; I don’t want to stand in your way. I hope you’ll be very happy.”

Max nodded his gratitude. “Very noble.” He squeezed her fingers. “Seriously, do you know who he’s seeing?”

The guilty hesitation on her face was all he needed to confirm his suspicions.

“Damn.”

“What?”

He threw her a bland stare. “Your face says it all.”

“I didn’t say anything!”

“It’s Ensign O’Hara, isn’t it? I thought as much, and you just confirmed it.”

“I did no such thing!”

“Are you denying it?”

Another hesitation. “How would I know who he’s seeing?”

“You’re at the center of everything, and you’re not bound by military regs. You know a thousand little secrets, I’ll wager. Don’t worry. I won’t make you say it out loud. I just have to figure out what to do about it.”

Liz turned to face him fully, concerned. “Must you do anything, Max?”

He heard the plea in her voice, but his training was thorough, and he’d believed in it always. If he hadn’t, he probably wouldn’t have gotten the chance to regret it.

“You know as well as I do, Liz. It’s against military regulations for a Lieutenant to fraternize with an Ensign in his own chain of command.”

“I’ve always thought ‘fraternize’ was a really strange word for it,” Liz frowned. “Look I know you’re right, but it isn’t hurting anyone, is it? What purpose does it serve to make an issue of it?”

“You know the answer to that, too. In a military situation, orders have to be decided based on the achievement of a goal and the safety of those involved. You can’t have someone in a position of authority over another making potentially life-and-death decisions when there are emotions involved.”

“You said yourself, Max, that it’s unlikely this staff would be in a dangerous situation. What could happen here that would prompt a decision like that?”

“That’s not the point. You never know what situation will arise, and you have to have confidence that no matter what does happen, the chain of command isn’t compromised.”

Liz huffed. “Normally I’d agree, but at Top Gun, you’re not fighting an enemy. You’re training; everybody’s on the same side. Nobody’s going to have to decide who to send into a dangerous situation, who to save and who to leave.”

“Training simulates actual conditions, Liz. You may well have to make those calls.”

“Among the pilots, yes. A base communications officer, no.”

She shifted in her chair and touched one hand to his face. He smiled at her and the flutter it set off in her stomach felt new and wonderful.

“There are some who would think we shouldn’t see each other, either. It may not be strictly against regulations, but you know it would be frowned upon. I haven’t told anyone—well, except inadvertently Charisse and so Thad found out. Have you?”

He had to admit, he’d tried to be careful not to let that get out on base for the exact reason Liz had mentioned. He enfolded her hand in his. “No.”

“So how is that different?”

“In theory, maybe not much, but in the military, it makes all the difference. I’m his CO, and I’m aware of an improper relationship. It’s my job to . . .”

“To what, Max? You can’t make them fall out of love.”

What would he do if the base commander, Captain Schmidt, forbade him to see Liz? He already knew he could never give her up, but he couldn’t give up his career, either. It would be an impossible situation.

“If it affects his work at all . . .”

“Has it?”

“Not as far as I know, but I don’t know much yet.”

“It’s much ado about nothing. Leave them alone, Max.”

He wanted to give her what she asked, but this wasn’t about her.

“I want to, Liz. I do. I just don’t know if I can.”

The sadness in her eyes was his undoing.

“I’ll promise to hold off. That’s the best I can do.”

A slight nod was her only response. When she sat back and looked out at that sliver of ocean in the distance, he followed suit. They sat for a long while, hand in hand, lost in their own thoughts.
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 Nov 28, 2004 12:30 am

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. We had a couple of travel problems, but still enjoyed family and feast.

I'm glad you're enjoying some angst-free M/L time. We know their road is never easy, but it's always worth the trip!

From Part 8

He had to admit, he’d tried to be careful not to let that get out on base for the exact reason Liz had mentioned. He enfolded her hand in his. “No.”

“So how is that different?”

“In theory, maybe not much, but in the military, it makes all the difference. I’m his CO, and I’m aware of an improper relationship. It’s my job to . . .”

“To what, Max? You can’t make them fall out of love.”

What would he do if the base commander, Captain Schmidt, forbade him to see Liz? He already knew he could never give her up, but he couldn’t give up his career, either. It would be an impossible situation.

“If it affects his work at all . . .”

“Has it?”

“Not as far as I know, but I don’t know much yet.”

“It’s much ado about nothing. Leave them alone, Max.”

He wanted to give her what she asked, but this wasn’t about her.

“I want to, Liz. I do. I just don’t know if I can.”

The sadness in her eyes was his undoing.

“I’ll promise to hold off. That’s the best I can do.”

A slight nod was her only response. When she sat back and looked out at that sliver of ocean in the distance, he followed suit. They sat for a long while, hand in hand, lost in their own thoughts.


Part 9

They had managed to postpone all of the weekend’s responsibilities—work brought home as a matter of routine sat untouched in briefcases, errands for groceries and birthday cards and to pick up dry cleaning were nothing more than items on a list—and still they lingered, reluctant to part and face the routine of the coming week. Max’s doorway was only inches away, but they just couldn’t seem to make it through.

“I really really have to go, Max,” Liz sighed as his mouth took hers again.

“I know.” Just one more taste.

“I’ve got so much to do.” His hands felt so good.

“Me, too.” He could smell himself on her now, and desire coiled within him . . . again.

The kiss began to heat, igniting so easily. They both knew where this was headed, and they couldn’t seem to care.

Until the knock on the door.

Muttering an oath, Max worked to calm his breathing while Liz smoothed her hair and tried to smooth Max’s. After a second knock, he opened the door. Svea’s tear-stained face brought them both around quickly.

“Svea, what’s wrong?”

She walked directly into Max’s arms and began to cry again. Max looked at Liz helplessly.

“Svea, what happened? Come sit down.” Emotions tumbled through Liz as she watched Max grope for a helpful response—concern for her friend, amusement at Max’s desperate expression, amazement that she could already feel so secure with Max that watching him with his arms wrapped around another woman . . . at least this woman . . . caused her no pangs of jealousy or insecurity. Max had made his feelings clear, and a person only needed one look at Alex and Svea the day before to see how they felt. It was a nice feeling. A new feeling. And it took some willpower to move past it and focus on Svea.

“I’ll get her some water,” Liz offered as Max maneuvered Svea toward a couch. When she returned, Max was sitting with his arm around his distraught neighbor, whose head leaned heavily in the crook of his neck. He was murmuring soothingly and rubbing her arm. Svea smiled weakly as she accepted the glass.

“Thanks. I feel like an idiot, and I obviously interrupted something. I’m sorry.”

Her voice was raspy from crying, and she sipped the water gratefully. Liz sat on the coffee table opposite them and took Svea’s hand.

“You didn’t interrupt anything. Tell us what happened.”

Svea’s smile was stronger this time, though her voice hitched with an unfinished sob. “You’re kidding, right? Even in my condition I could tell what you two were up to.” As Max and Liz exchanged a guilty glance, Svea managed a chuckle. “You’re flushed, mussed, and your lips are swollen. Hmmm, let’s see, what causes that?”

Max smiled, not at all displeased with the description of Liz. “I do good work,” he said, hoping to cheer Svea up, and earned a smack on the leg from Liz.

Svea gave him a sidelong glance. “I meant both of you.”

Both women laughed at Max’s expression, and Svea looked much better for the distraction. Her voice trembled, though, as she returned to the point of her visit.

“Alex just left. The Nimitz has been called out early. Some trouble somewhere he can’t talk about. He’s leaving tonight. He barely had time to say goodbye.”

Fresh tears leaked out in spite of her obvious effort to control them, and Max tightened his grip, locking eyes with Liz as the implications flew through his mind.

“It’s not that uncommon, Svea. Things change by the hour in the military; you need to know that if you’re going to be with Alex.”

“Am I? Going to be with Alex, I mean? What if I’m just one girl in one port?”

Anger might have felt good, had she been able to muster any. At least it would have been less painful than the hollowness that consumed her.

“We were together 3 weeks. That’s hardly a long-term relationship. What if . . .?”

“Svea.” The command was back in Max’s voice, and Liz couldn’t help but marvel at how easily he made that switch. It was a tone that brooked no argument and instilled confidence. “If you know Alex at all, you know that’s not how he operates. At the risk of leaking top secret information, I can tell you he’s head over heels for you, and is just as worried that you won’t wait for him.”

That got a sniff and large, watery eyes cast in his direction. “Really?”

“Really.”

Svea looked over at Liz and tried for another tremulous smile. “That can’t be bad, right?”

Liz wanted to reassure her friend, wanted to make confident promises and encouraging predictions, but she was being carried away in a flood of frightening possibilities, and the clash between the two immobilized her. Max recognized it immediately, cursing the timing. She wasn’t ready to face this, and he knew it.

An angel in the form of Jesse flew through the door.

“Svea, I’m so sorry. I saw Alex in the parking lot. When you weren’t in the apartment, I knew you’d be here.”

She hurried to Svea’s side and swept her into her arms. “He’ll be fine, and when he comes back, I promise to make myself scarce for a couple of days, okay? So you can have a proper reunion.”

Svea sniffed again, her voice muffled against Jesse’s sweatshirt. “We never even . . . I mean, I was holding back on . . . you know, making love because things were so special with him, and I . . . I wanted it to really mean something when . . .” She sat up, wondering if this was too personal to be talking about, but her friends’ relationships were running on an uncanny parallel, and she hoped they could understand.

“I just wanted it to be . . . special.”

“I know,” Jesse soothed. “I know, hon. I’m doing the very same thing. Don’t regret that.”

Liz and Max were so quiet that Svea began to apologize. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be talking about this here.”

“Nonsense,” Max told her as he took Liz’s hand. “No one understands that more than we do, right, Liz?”

Desperate to get Liz’s mind off of imaginary military disasters, he met her eyes and willed her back to his living room.

“Right,” Liz answered, still distracted. “Right.” She looked back toward Svea. “I felt the same way.”

Svea seized on the tiny slip. Even as unsettled as she was, she was a woman with finely honed instincts. “Felt?”

Damn. Liz glanced in Max’s direction, annoyed to see his surprised smirk. Men. They didn’t care who knew.

She didn’t have to say a word because Svea had managed to gather all three friends into a damp group hug. “That’s so great! I love you guys!”

Laughing, Jesse untangled Svea from the group and pulled her to her feet. “Come on. Let’s go up and binge on ice cream. I just happened to buy a half-gallon of Chocolate Chocolate Chunk. Then we’ll order pizza and watch chick flicks, okay?”

Svea sniffed again, then took a deep breath. “Okay. Sorry to barge in, but I feel better. Thanks.”

“Anytime,” Max assured her. Liz said nothing, but rose to offer a one-on-one hug, one Svea had to bend down to return. As the roommates left, Liz grabbed her clean salad bowl from the night before and turned to leave as well.

“Liz.” Max took the bowl from her hands and set it down. She wouldn’t meet his eyes, and he was worried. “Liz, I’m here. Right here, and likely to stay that way. And one more thing.” He waited until she looked up at him.

I love you. The words stood on the tip of his tongue, poised to soar into the space between them. He wanted to tell her. He needed to tell her. But, he realized, what he needed would have to wait. She didn’t need or want it right now; what she needed was patience and what she wanted was time. He would give those to her—if it killed him.

“I don’t know if I’ll make it down to your end of the base tomorrow, but I’ll try, if only to look at you.” He cupped her cheek. “After this weekend, I don’t think I can get through a whole day without looking at you.”

He was rewarded with a real smile this time, and she lifted her face for one more kiss. This one was long and tender, reassuring both of them that there would be more to come.

“You’re not too hard on the eyes, either,” she teased. “I’ve got a lot to do this week, too, but if you get down there, I just might . . . look back.”

******

It was Wednesday before he saw her again. Meetings ruled his life as the preparations accelerated, not to mention that Captain Schmidt, the base commander, had insisted on two consecutive evening meetings—one a dinner to introduce Max to both military and civilian department heads, and the other to review preparation for the new class of pilots in excruciating detail. The first night would have been a loss anyway, he reminded himself; Liz, Charisse, and Jesse had treated Svea to a girls’ night out. On Tuesday, though, he had risked a late-night phone call, hoping to talk her into at least a few minutes together, but her sleepy “Hello?” had forced him to settle for a long, mumbled conversation that served only to leave him aroused and frustrated as he pictured her nestled in her bed where he longed to be.

Late Wednesday afternoon, he finished the syllabus for the class’s first week and glanced at the clock. He had time to get down to Liz’s office before she left, and he didn’t intend to leave until she had agreed to spend the evening with him.

“Sir?”

“Owens, what can I do for you?”

“I was wondering if you’d heard from Alex . . . uh, Lt. Whitman.”

“No. Why?”

“Well, neither has Svea, and Charisse says she’s somewhere between worried and hurt. I guess he promised to email every day, but she’s only heard from him once—right after they left port.” He shrugged. “I’m supposed to ask.”

“Well, I haven’t heard anything, but they keep him pretty busy. I’ll check around and let you know.”

“I appreciate it, sir. Listen, I’ve got those thrust figures on the F414 you wanted. Want me to go get ‘em?”

“Uh, no, that can wait til tomorrow. I’ve got to . . . uh . . .” He gestured vaguely, narrowing his eyes when Thad only grinned.

“Got an errand down at the hangars, sir?”

Max sat back and shook his head philosophically. It was a fine line he walked with Thad—friend and subordinate. Right now, he needed the friend.

“It’s been three days. Damn straight I’ve got an errand down there. Now . . .help me come up with one.”

Thad laughed and sat across the desk from his CO. “You got good taste, I’ll give you that. How long you think you can keep this a secret, though?”

“I don’t know. I just don’t want to complicate things. Why?”

“Well, I’m not quite sure how to say this, but you kinda get this . . . look on your face when you see her . . . or even think about her, really . . .”

Max tensed and sat up straight. “What look?”

Thad squinted in concentration. “Well, goofy, I guess you’d say . . . sir.”

Max looked stunned. “Goofy?”

Thad refocused on Max and winced. “Oh, no sir, not goofy really. Wrong word. More like . . . um . . .” He groped frantically for an alternative, but the look on his face only made Max smile through his embarrassment. “At ease, Lieutenant. I’ll work on it. Meanwhile, I’ve gotta run. See you tomorrow.”

With that, he grabbed his hat and went in search of Liz.

******

She’d been missing him terribly, in spite of Alex’s abrupt departure pushing her uncertainties about military life to the forefront of her mind. She’d meant to put some distance between them after that, but as soon as she’d crawled into bed that night, her arms ached to reach for him and she swore she could smell him on her skin. She’d even decided to wait until morning to shower just so the smell wouldn’t fade.

“Gabe, hand me that gauge and let T. J. know we need to schedule another test on this.”

Her hands moved with confidence over the intricate workings of the equipment, reached with the ease of long practice the myriad tools at hand, leapt easily to the computer to call up specs and 3-D images. All the while, Max’s face loomed like a backdrop.

He’d called last night. The moment his deep, sexy voice had filtered through her drowsy brain, her whole body had responded, and she’d felt his grip on her heart tighten just a little. It didn’t matter that the night before she had held Svea as her friend cried into her drink. It didn’t matter that the Nimitz’s early departure held implications for the flight school staff. And the fact that those things didn’t matter scared her to death.

A sensation akin to static electricity flickered across her skin. She lifted her head, then turned. Her heart fluttered briefly when she saw him, and the smile was automatic. Their eyes locked as he walked toward her.

“Lt. Commander.”

“Dr. Parker. I’ve reviewed the schedules you submitted and would like to suggest a few changes. Could we step into your office?”

“Of course.”

He followed her from the room, unaware of the dozen or more pairs of eyes that followed them.

“Who do they think they’re foolin’?” Gabe asked the others with an incredulous shake of his head.

“Foolin’ themselves, I’d say,” T. J. joked. “Hey, Tony! You owe me ten bucks.”

******
She watched as he closed the door behind them and pinned her with an intense look that made her feel feminine and erotic. When his eyes darkened from amber to the tawny gold of aged whiskey, as they did now, she got the feeling that if she looked hard enough, she could just peek inside him as she might through window. His thoughts, his passion lay behind that window, on display—hers for the taking. Could everyone read him the way she could? Or did he consciously challenge her, making her choose between her caution and the world he offered? He was wise, she mused. He understood the effect he had on that tenuous barrier she used to shield that part of herself she’d hidden away for safekeeping. The effect was devastating.

It was impossible to tell who made the first move; in the space of a breath, they were fused together, hungrily taking what they’d missed over the last two days. Pulses raced, hands plundered, bodies responded. It was only the grace of God and an eager ensign that prevented a truly spectacular breakdown of military protocol.

When the sharp knock penetrated their haze, they flew apart like kids caught stealing candy. Liz all but fell into her desk chair and fussed blindly with her hair. Max turned toward the window, grateful that he wasn’t the one who had to hold a coherent conversation and that something—anything—had forced him to remember where he was.

“Come in.”

Amazing. She sounded perfectly in control. He was impressed . . . and mildly insulted.

“Dr. Parker, Captain Schmidt has approved your request to use the Officer’s Club for the children’s Christmas party. He said his aide has emailed you the list of families, but he asked me to deliver these sketches his wife drew of suggestions for decorations and favors.”

Liz barely avoided rolling her eyes. “Thank you, Ensign. Please convey my thanks to the Captain.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The Ensign began to salute, realized his mistake, turned and spotted Max, and almost tripped over himself. “Sir. Thank you, sir.” The salute came after.

Max returned the salute, holding in his laughter until the young man had left the room. “I wonder what he was thanking me for?” Max laughed.

Liz grinned back, then approached Max slowly, even seductively, he thought. “I can think of a few things I could thank you for.”

And that fast, his blood began to race again. “Oh, no you don’t. I almost found a way to lose my command before it’s even started. You’re dangerous.”

“Am I?” Liz liked the sound of that. “Good.”

Max held an arm straight out and narrowed his eyes. “Get away from me.”

“Okay,” she sighed with dramatic exaggeration. “If that’s what you want.”

She turned away from him, only to find herself spun back around. “Tonight.”

She stared at the change in those eyes. “Tonight.”

******
The Jeep flew across Mirimar’s concrete length as Max mentally prepared for the evening. He hadn’t given her the trappings of seduction the first time, but by god he would give them to her this time. He needed flowers—damn, he didn’t even know a florist in town yet. Maybe he’d call Svea. Music. Check. He had a great soft jazz collection. Champagne. Check. That was already chilling, just in case. And satin sheets. They probably needed washing since they were still in the package—a half-joking gift from his sister when he moved. He wondered if he had time for a load of laundry.

He squealed to a halt in front of his building and jogged up the steps and down the hall. He just needed to close down the computer and grab his flight jacket and he could get home to prepare. It was early yet, but he’d put in a full day, and he refused to feel guilty about a few minutes. Best tell somebody, though, in case he was needed.

He turned sharply through the swinging doors to the clerical office and pulled up short. Jeremy Ames and Frankie O’Hara leapt apart, rumpled and breathing hard—about as subtle as . . . as he and Liz had been a half-hour before.

“Sir, we were just . . .”

“I’m not interested in what you were doing, Lieutenant,” Max snapped. How was he supposed to ignore something in plain sight? Ensign O’Hara fumbled uselessly with papers at the fax machine, and Lt. Ames stood rigid with fear. Max walked toward him slowly, simultaneously angry and sympathetic—at least he and Liz had waited for a private office with a door you could close. When he was nose to nose with his lieutenant, he spoke with deadly intensity. “Do not . . . ever . . . give me a reason to get interested.”

Lt. Ames risked a look at his CO and swallowed hard.

“Do we understand each other, Lieutenant?”

“Yes, sir.” Jeremy’s voice squeaked with tension.

Max stared hard at him for another 20 seconds, just long enough for the beads of perspiration to pop out on the lieutenant’s brow.

“Good.” He straightened. “Ensign?”

Frankie shot to attention, almost knocking over a vase of fresh flowers. “Yes sir.”

“I’ll be leaving a little early.”

“Yes sir.”

He hesitated. “Where did those flowers come from?”

“Uh . . . I . . . uh . . . I wouldn’t know who . . .”

“I didn’t ask who; I asked where.

“Blossom Basket, sir.”

The two had answered together, and the grimaces they fought to control were almost comical.

Max gave each of them one more threatening glare, turned on his heel, and left. If that hadn’t scared the bejesus out of them enough to make them more careful, he didn’t know what would. If they were smart, they could keep their romance and their commissions, too. He sure as hell didn’t want to be the one who brought the hammer down. Especially not now, when he was feeling rather fondly toward romance.

In his office, he powered down, grabbed his jacket, hesitated, then snatched the phone book from the drawer. Thumbing through the Yellow Pages, he read, memorized, and smiled. Next stop: Blossom Basket.

******

She was giddy with anticipation, in spite of her best intentions. She glanced up at his window as she pulled into her parking space and saw his light on. He'd beaten her home. How long should she wait to go up? She was a mess and needed to clean up, but she could hardly wait to get her hands on him again. It was an almost physical ache that made her break into a jog as she entered the building.

Impatient now, she took the steps and hurried down the hall. Even from several doors away, she saw the rose, its blood red petals lying in stark contrast to the white paper beneath them. Biting her bottom lip like an eager schoolgirl, she reached for them, breathing in the heady fragrance as she unfolded the carefully written note.


Maxwell P. Evans requests the pleasure of your company
for an evening of fine wine, elegant dining, and
. . . creative self-expression.
A.S.A.P.



She giggled at the silly take-off on R.S.V.P., but took the sentiment seriously. Slamming her door behind her, she hurried for the bathroom, clothes flying as she reached for the shower control. The hot water felt wonderful, calming. Soon she was moving more slowly, taking meticulous care with each step of her grooming regimen. She wanted to be perfect for him tonight. In fact, she wanted to knock his socks off. She felt reckless and erotic and unbelievably sexy. Just imagining his hands on her had her building toward release in her own shower, but she had no intention of taking the edge off that way. She slammed the water to cold and determinedly counted to ten.
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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Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2001 4:58 pm

Post by Carol000 » Sat Dec 04, 2004 10:18 pm

It's not quite Sunday, but at this time of year, one has to stay flexible, right? It's almost Sunday; that'll have to do!

Lone Freckle: You asked if Frankie was a man or a woman. LOL! I can see how the former might complicate things even more, but in the first chapter, we meet Frankie, who tells Max it's short for Francis. Also, Thad tells Max she's the younger sister of his best friend from back home. So at least we don't have that complication to deal with. :lol:

mareli: Yes, there's something you don't know. Tune in next week. :twisted:

Roswell Hopes and Dreams: To those of you who helped hatch this story in San Diego, I made a promise. In this chapter, I keep it. While you're laughing, just remember that the other folks reading this are thinking, "Huh?" :lol: :lol: :lol:

And without further ado . . .

From Part 9

Impatient now, she took the steps and hurried down the hall. Even from several doors away, she saw the rose, its blood red petals lying in stark contrast to the white paper beneath them. Biting her bottom lip like an eager schoolgirl, she reached for them, breathing in the heady fragrance as she unfolded the carefully written note.


Maxwell P. Evans requests the pleasure of your company
for an evening of fine wine, elegant dining, and . . .
creative self-expression.
A.S.A.P.


She giggled at the silly take-off on R.S.V.P., but took the sentiment seriously. Slamming her door behind her, she hurried for the bathroom, clothes flying as she reached for the shower control. The hot water felt wonderful, calming. Soon she was moving more slowly, taking meticulous care with each step of her grooming regimen. She wanted to be perfect for him tonight. In fact, she wanted to knock his socks off. She felt reckless and erotic and unbelievably sexy. Just imagining his hands on her had her building toward release in her own shower, but she had no intention of taking the edge off that way. She slammed the water to cold and determinedly counted to ten.

Part 10

Max ran through the plan in his head. First, champagne. Then he’d ask her to dance with him in the candlelit room, Maybe a second glass of champagne. When the butterfly pork chops he’d laced with teriyaki marinade came out of the oven, he’d dish up the tender young asparagus, the brown rice, and the mandarin salad, and they’d take their food out on the small balcony where they could watch San Diego’s shoreline light up and ships twinkle on the horizon. They’d talk quietly over dinner, finding out more about each other. Maybe she’d even tell him about her brother, and he would help her work through it, reassure her that he would stay with her. Then he’d pull her from her chair, kiss her until her head spun, and they’d move to the bedroom, where he intended to keep her busy until dawn.

Okay, they did have to work tomorrow, so maybe they’d spoon together for a few hours of sleep. But it was a solid plan, and he felt pleased with himself. He had everything under control.

The faint knock on the door sent his system into a tailspin. Pulse rate up, blood flow down. He took a deep breath and opened the door.

It was a one-two punch. Even before he could register how beautiful she looked, he was leaning in toward the fragrance that wafted his way. It put a half-smile on his face that just froze there when he looked at her. Gleaming hair left long and luxurious had his fingers itching. They fairly burned as his eyes skimmed lower to the almost bare expanse of creamy skin, interrupted only by tiny spaghetti straps. A frothy bit of turquoise material skimmed her body loosely, making him ache to find the treasure beneath. Her shapely legs were tanned down to her feet, which were slipped into the scantiest of feminine sandals. When he met her eyes again, they were dark and shining, like the water at Bottomless Lake where people said you could disappear and never be found.

Oh, god.

“Max?”

It was just the reaction she was going for. He looked like he’d been zapped with a stun gun. Wait til he discovered her surprise.

“Max?”

Taking matters into her own hands, she pushed him gently backwards and closed the door behind her. This was power, and she loved it.

Her smugness faltered as she got past the initial thrill of his reaction and plunged dizzily into her own. He was beautiful. She knew candles burned everywhere, but only because their soft light flickered over his face. She knew there were more roses, but only because their light fragrance wound through the room like mist. He stood before her, dark hair and eloquent eyes gleaming in the gold light; soft black slacks and black shirt with the sleeves rolled up and open at the collar. There was the panther again. God, she loved that panther.

Then power took a turn, and Max had her by the shoulders, his touch gentle but firm. He moved toward her, eyes locked on hers, and she felt like she was going down for the third time as his mouth neared. The kiss was like a match to kindling. The need she had tried to postpone in the shower ignited, and Max met it spark for spark.

They moved as one with no conscious thought, almost dancing as they turned, spun, and glided toward the bedroom. His hand slid over her skin like water over ice, sailed lightly over her subtle curves like a leaf riding a wave. She was heaven in his hands, and he wanted her. Wanted her so very much.

They sank to the bed, a tangle of limbs, and Max jerked in reaction as her hands skimmed his chest. He hadn’t even felt her unbutton his shirt; he’d been too busy sliding that little strap down her shoulder and shivering when he realized she wore no bra. His mouth latched on, teasing her tip hard as his hand slid up a smooth, firm thigh, eager to slip into . . .

With a gasp, his head flew back and he gaped at her. Dazed, she stared at him in confusion. Then, a long, slow smile crept across her face.

“Surprise,” she whispered, intensely aroused by the look of pure lust on his face.

Later, Liz would look back on that moment and feel the heat all over again. Attack. That seemed the best way to describe his reaction. She had stripped him of all control and paid the thrilling, glorious price. His hand homed in on her welcoming heat, bringing her almost instantaneous climax. Her long, low moan as she poured against him only seemed to drive him higher. He allowed her no recovery, no time to float on the waves of gentle ecstasy. Instead, his mouth began a torturous journey down her body, his damp fingers peeling her dress down inch by excruciating inch so he might lave, nibble, and caress his way home again. When she lay naked and open beneath him, he feasted, intoxicated. He brought her up again, held her in tantalizing limbo, then pushed her hard over the edge.

And still he demanded more. Shedding the few bits of clothing left in his way, he stood trembling, only vaguely aware of what he was doing. He must have her—that was the only clear thought in a chaotic mind. Her eyes beckoned him as her hands rose to her breasts, and he feared he would empty himself without even touching her.

“Come inside me,” she breathed, and the words rang familiar, the same plea she had made the first time they’d made love. It centered him, and allowed him to rein in the beast, at least a little.

He lowered himself to her again, this time kissing her lips gently, placing his hand over hers as it lay on her breast. I love you. He wanted to say it. He wanted to scream it, but he swallowed the words. When he told her, it would not be in the heat of lovemaking; it would be when he could prepare her, watch her, help her understand it was coming from his heart, not his loins.

He slid into her and sighed deeply—safe harbor. Home. He let her begin the rhythm and matched it, watching her face glow with love he knew she couldn’t acknowledge. Yet. All thought left him as she pushed him to go faster, deeper, sensation his only anchor. When she burst under him, the world flew apart and he poured his love into her.

******
“Is something burning?”

It was hours later. Or minutes. Time was so hard to track when he was with her. He sniffed.

“Wha . . . Crap!”

As soon as Max leapt from the bed and shot out the bedroom door, Liz stretched, catlike, and snuggled into the warm spot Max had left. She giggled as pans clanged and oaths exploded in the air like fireworks. Then guilt came knocking, as it always did with her. As comfortable as she was, she couldn’t very well lie there and let him deal with what was surely disaster in the kitchen. After all, she’d like to think she could take credit for it.

Lifting her single article of clothing over her head, she dressed and padded out to the kitchen. On the stove was a pan in which two flat, curled lumps of coal sat smoking. Beside them, long stalks—green on top and dark brown on the bottom—lay dry and cracked. The lone pot boasted a pale congealed mass that might have been potatoes . . . or overdone pasta . . . or perhaps rice. And staring dejectedly at it all was a frowning and naked Max. It was quite a picture.

“Mmmm, yum. Dinner ready?”

His head turned slowly toward her, eyes narrowed. “Why, yes. Yes, it is. Please sit down and I’ll serve it to you.”

The grin was fighting to get out, but she refused to indulge it; his attempt at dignity was too delicious not to play with. “Wonderful. Oh, and I believe my invitation said something about ‘fine wine.’ I’d like some of that as well, please. And garcon,” she crooned, playing it to the hilt, “it would be in your best interest to be extra attentive; I’m a very good tipper when my waiter is hot and naked.”

She was astonished to see him begin to harden, and he approached her with a challenge in his eyes.

“You wouldn’t believe the kind of service I can offer, especially when I’m aware that my customer is completely . . . accessible under her dress.”

Some of the humor remained, but it was slowly buckling under a new wave of erotic fantasy. Liz felt a little jolt of electricity skitter through her system. She raked her eyes up and down him, acutely aware that he wasn’t joking anymore. Neither, she decided, was she.

Turning on her heel, she moved toward the living room, that impish, sexy feeling in full control. Surprised at herself—sex had never before held this undercurrent of both playfulness and intensity—she turned her back to him and bent low at the waist under the pretense of adjusting sofa cushions. She was learning just how far she could push him before he snapped. And she truly loved it when he snapped.

The low growl was her only warning. The next thing she knew, she was straddling his lap on the sofa and he was sliding both hands up her legs. She didn’t wait for him to take the next step, but lifted her hips and sheathed him in one smooth stroke. His head fell back as she rode him, and she marveled at the dizzying freedom of being loved.

Loved? No, she didn’t mean loved. She meant desired. Yes, that was it. Desired.

Max’s head lifted when he felt the change in her. What had been unselfconscious enjoyment had cooled, become self-aware, and it changed what was happening between them. He saw the hint of tension in her face, but before he could say a word, she took his mouth and rode him harder until nothing mattered but the eruption of two young bodies.

When the haze cleared, Max felt a niggling fear in the back of his mind. Two steps forward, one step back, he reminded himself. He was a man who could keep his eye on the main objective; small skirmishes were always lost along the way to victory.

******
They were finally sipping champagne, though it was accompanying Chinese take-out instead of teriyaki pork chops. And they were finally on the small balcony enjoying the twinkling view. Liz had insisted on helping clean the mess in the kitchen while they waited for their food to be delivered, and the ghost of tension had disappeared into casual conversation and a short soapsuds fight.

“So, Kokopelli, huh? Interesting choice.”

Max grinned, amused and impressed that Liz had picked up on the symbol of the ancient Hopi god of music, joy, and fertility that hung on his wall.

“Yeah, well, that was a gift from my sister, Vicki. She loves to give me gifts, but there’s always a catch—or at least a point. In this case, she felt it would magically make me want to settle down and have children, which is, in her view, just what I need to avoid what she sees as an unnatural focus on my career.”

“She believes in family, I gather.”

“She does, indeed. She’s married with two kids, and another on the way. According to Vicki, family is all you can count on in this world, and is both a privilege and a duty. She thinks it’s time I do my duty.”

“I gather you don’t agree.”

He eyed her meaningfully. He wasn’t sure how she felt about family, given the loss of part of her own. He was sure that his thoughts had recently turned in that direction for the first time in a very long time. First time ever, in fact.

“I agree it’s a privilege, and a joy . . . if you find the right person.”

They let that sit between them for a moment.

“You know, Liz, I really would like to take you out. It seems every time we’ve been together, we just wind up . . .”

Liz smirked. “Screwing our brains out?”

“No,” Max said mildly. “Making love.”

Liz felt suddenly ashamed, making light of what was obviously important to both of them. “I’m sorry, Max. I didn’t mean . . .”

“I know. I just want you to understand that this isn’t just sex to me. This is special, and I think it’s time we spent some time getting to know each other better.” Max flashed a quick smile. “Besides physically.”

He saw her tense, even though she was fighting it, and rushed to nip it in the bud.

“I tell you what. You plan a date—anything you want—and we’ll do it. The catch is, you have to tell me why it’s something you like to do.”

The wheels were turning, he could tell, and the impish expression that crept into her eyes made him uneasy.

“Really?”

“Yeah, but why do I get the feeling I’m going to regret this?”

“How do you feel about the ballet?”

The groan caught in his throat. It was his brilliant idea, after all. “The ballet?”

“Well, in three weeks, the Joffrey Ballet is coming to San Diego, and I’d give anything to go. Have you ever been to the ballet?”

“No. Well, not exactly. Vicki was in a production of The Nutcracker when we were kids and my parents made me go. It wasn’t so bad. Mark Baumann and I snuck backstage and put tadpoles in the pitchers of water in the wings and started a minor riot. It cost me the new ball glove Dad was going to bribe me with, and a letter of apology to Mrs. Lee, their teacher, but all in all, it was a pretty cool evening.”

How he loved her laugh—the sound of it, like bells draped in velvet, and the way her face lit up, so carefree and alive. He wished he could make her feel that way all the time.

“Well, part of this deal would have to be no tadpoles,” she warned. “But they have this wonderful young star I’ve been reading about. An Amish guy . . . “

“Amish? A male Amish ballet dancer? You’re kidding.”

“No, really. They say he’s wonderful.”

“How does an Amish guy become a ballet dancer?”

“Well, the Joffrey Ballet is based in Chicago, and I guess Illinois has tons of Amish. Anyway, you know how they give their young people a year out in the world to confirm that they want to commit to the Amish way of life? Well, this guy—Samuel Shrock—went to Chicago and was working in some theater or other. When the ballet came, it just blew him away. He started studying, didn’t go back to his home after the year was up, and in just a few years, took the ballet world by storm. Now they’re coming here, and I want to go.” She beamed with challenge. “If the offer still stands.”

“Oh, boy,” Max grimaced. “A deal’s a deal, I guess. But that means you have to tell me why you want to go.”

Liz nodded, comfortable with sharing this part of herself.

“I love to dance. I’ve been dancing since I was 6, and ballet is my passion. If I could have, I would have become a dancer.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Deciding that’s what you want and actually doing it are two different things. It takes years of intense work, and after that, you still have to be the best of the best and have the right body type. I’m too short, for one thing. If you had ever seen a ballet, you would have seen these long, lithe women who look like graceful reeds when they dance. No matter how much I studied or practiced, I just wasn’t the right type physically. But I still take a class now and then, just to keep up, plus it’s great exercise.”

“Remember that day we jogged?”

“The day of the kiss,” she sighed, then looked startled, as if she hadn’t meant to say that aloud.

“Don’t be embarrassed. That’s how I remember it, too. I’m glad you said that.”

He couldn’t be sure in the candlelight, but he thought she blushed then. It warmed him.

“That day, when we were running back toward the apartments, I remember thinking you were graceful as a dancer.”

“Really?” she asked softly. “That’s very sweet.” She seemed at a loss at his compliment.

“And it really does keep you limber, apparently,” he teased, grinning at the smack he’d expected. “Okay, the ballet. You give me the information, and I’ll set it up.”

“No, this one’s on me,” she said. “Now describe your ideal date, Max. If you could do anything on a date, what would it be?”

He studied her, then told her the truth. “If the date were with you, we’ve already had it.”

******
“Hi, Max. How’s the sexiest flyboy in the Navy?”

Max couldn’t help but smile. There was something about the feisty and ambitious DJ that made him feel like he was on the verge of being run over by a train, but she made him laugh and her information had helped him understand Liz better, so he greeted her warmly.

“I don’t know, Shelby, but when I see him, I’ll ask.”

“Ooooh, modesty. I like it. You know that only makes you more appealing. You still wasting time with that little mechanic?”

“She’s an engineer, and yes. As if you didn’t know from talking to Kyle.”

“Yeah, I knew. Just wanted to pull your chain. What did she say about her brother?”

He hesitated. “Nothing yet. I haven’t asked. She’ll tell me when she’s ready.”

“Oh, god, sensitive, too. You’re too good to be true. So, about that interview—I’ve talked to the PR folks over there, and they say I can have you for an hour this afternoon, if you give the okay. How’s 4 o’clock, and can I bring a photographer?”

“A photographer? Aw, Shelby . . .”

“Come on, Max. You’re not that naïve. If I do a story on you, there’ve gotta be pictures. And it wasn’t easy to find a photographer, you know. I work at a radio station, not a newspaper. Fortunately, my mother’s cousin’s daughter’s boyfriend is a photographer . . .”

Yes, she made him laugh. “All right, all right. Bring him, but he gets 3 minutes with the camera and then he’s gone. Deal?”

“You drive a hard bargain,” she pouted. “Okay, deal, but only if he can take some candids of the planes and so forth. So 4 o’clock?”

“Yeah, I’ll call your name down to the gate. You’re quite a negotiator, Shelby.”

“And you’re my ticket to the bigtime! See you then.”

******
Tape recorder spinning, they ran through the usual questions—hometown, parents, siblings, pets, mentors, resume. All cut and dried; all easy. Then she started on the hard stuff.

“What’s your call sign, Max?”

“Rocketman.”

“Is that because you broke some speed records earlier in your career?”

“Yeah, I guess so. I also thought about being an astronaut for a while, so that figured in.”

“An astronaut? Why?”

His expression turned thoughtful, distant; Shelby cursed the fact that her photographer was long gone.

“Can you even imagine hurtling through space, exploring new worlds, unlocking mysteries that Copernicus couldn’t have imagined? What if there’s life out there? What if something on another planet holds the key to solving the problems on this one—global warming, pollution, geological instability? It’s like having a front row seat to the future. Or the past.”

He came back to Earth and shrugged. “It’s the challenge that lured me, I suppose. I love a challenge.”

“So you believe in aliens?” Shelby asked seriously.

It figured that’s what she’d pull out of all he’d said. Max hesitated, fully aware of the fallout—both casual and official—if a Navy pilot was quoted as supporting the idea of intelligent alien life.

“It never pays to rule anything out, but that wasn’t my main goal, no.”

“So why didn’t you pursue it?”

“I was actually accepted to the space program, but when my father had a heart attack and required a series of surgeries, I had to take a leave of absence, and by the time he recovered, they’d been forced to fill my slot.”

“That’s terrible. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. I’m doing what I love, and I think it worked out for the best. It brought me here, after all.”

“To Top Gun, you mean?”

And to Liz, he thought, hoping they’d be done soon. He wanted to go surprise her and take her out for dinner. “Yes.”

“So what would you say motivated you to become a naval aviator?”

“Jets are the next fastest thing to a rocket,” he deadpanned, and she stared at him blankly. When he grinned, she sat back in her chair and shook her head.

“Come on, Max. That doesn’t make good copy,” she scolded. “Are you going to take this seriously? I need this to be good. I want to sell it to . . . somebody—anybody. They’ll never let me off the music merry-go-round and into hard news if I don’t have something on my resume. Please, Max.”

It was the closest to vulnerable he ever expected to see her.

“Sorry, Shelby. I’m just not comfortable being in the limelight. I don’t think what I do is heroic or newsworthy. It’s just what I do. Our guys are out there risking their necks all over the world, trying to do what’s right, trying to protect those who can’t protect themselves. I’m out there trying to protect them. It’s teamwork. Somebody once said a hero is just an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances. That’s true. You talk to any of these people and you’ll find they have families, hobbies, bad habits. They’re just regular people. What we share is a love of this country and a belief that some things are worth the risk.”

He stopped, surprised at having said so much in one burst. Shelby was leaning in, intent on his words.

“But that risk is very real, isn’t it? Have you ever lost a friend, or someone under your command?”

The ticking of the clock seemed disproportionately loud in the heavy silence. Max took a deep breath.

“Of course.”

“Which one? A friend or a subordinate?”

“A friend. A good friend.”

“What was his name?”

“Aaron. Aaron Nathaniel Thurman. We used to call him Anteater because of his initials. He was the funniest guy I ever knew, and believe me, I know some funny guys.”

“Like Kyle?”

Max smiled. “Exactly. But Aaron was special in other ways. He was everybody’s best friend, and he was always making sure we remembered stuff, always shared the goodies his girlfriend sent. He was the one everybody confided in and went to when they didn’t want friendly razzing but somebody to really listen. He was a hundred percent good guy.”

“What happened?”

The sigh was long and melancholy. “I shouldn’t have started this. I can’t talk about it—for both military and personal reasons.”

“But . . .”

“I’m sorry, Shelby. That’s final.”

And something in his voice told her it was.

“Then just tell me what that’s like. How do you keep going after a loss like that?”

Max stared at the floor, his mind in another place and time.

“You just do. You know what’s at stake when you get in that cockpit, and you know that if you don’t do it, somebody—maybe a lot of somebodies—might die. So you strap in and you focus on your objective, and you do the job. And when a friend falls, you deal with it, because they knew what was at stake, too, and if you don’t keep going, you’re making their sacrifice less than it was.”

He looked up at her then, his eyes so intense, she held her breath. “Given the chance, they wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The slightest movement caught his eye. Liz, pale and wide-eyed, stood in the doorway, a flower dangling from her fingertips, and his heart died just a little.
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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