An Imperfect Life, M&L, Mature, AN, 8/01/07 p 20 [WIP]

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Breathless
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An Imperfect Life, M&L, Mature, AN, 8/01/07 p 20 [WIP]

Postby Breathless » Sun Jul 23, 2006 1:47 am

Title: An Imperfect Life
Author: Debbi, aka Breathless
Disclaimer: The characters of “Roswell” belong to Jason Katims, Melinda Metz, the defunct WB and UPN. They are not mine. No infringement is intended.
Category: CC, M&L, plus supporting characters.
Rating: Mature
Each part will have a musical introduction to set the “tone”. Credit will be given to the musical artist(s).


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Summary: This is a future fic – the year 2014 - with first few parts flashing back to 2001/2002. The prologue begins with the closing scene from “Control”, season 3. Max returns from California, determined to make things right with Liz, just as she’s come to an entirely different conclusion as to where their relationship is headed. Will the very forces that drove Max and Liz apart ultimately bring them back together? I’ll be posting both the prologue and the first part together, so that readers have a clearer idea of the storyline.

Max’s son is a major feature of this story. It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of season 3. I hated the “search for the son” storyline and felt like it pretty much ruined everything that had been good about the show. For the longest time I couldn’t abide any story that featured Max’s son, until I saw a story by Pathos, called To Have and To Hold. She created such a wonderful character in little Xan, how could you not love him? I decided then that the best way to confront my feelings about Max’s son was to write about it. This story is the result.

What if Tess wasn’t lying when she said baby Zan was sick? Should a child be held responsible for his parent’s sins?


An Imperfect Life


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Banner art by LongTimeFan


Looking back at me I see
That I never really got it right
I never stopped to think of you
I’m always wrapped up in
Things I cannot win

I’m sorry about all the lies
Maybe in a different light
You could see me stand on my own again

What I really meant to say
Is I’m sorry for the way I am
I never meant to be so cold
Never meant to be so cold

Cold
Crossfade



Prologue


New Mexico
November, 2001



The miles fell away as he drove, cloaked in the darkness of night, with only the stars to keep him company. Each town he passed, each state line he crossed, brought him closer to her, but still he had no clear idea of what to say to her, how to explain where he’d been, what he’d seen, what he’d done. His mind walked down a thousand paths while he drove, but they all led to the same question.

How had he let his life get so out of control?

Then again, maybe it’d always been this way, from the moment his cells first multiplied in a Petri dish. How ‘normal’ could a life be when you were created in a lab, when you were nurtured in an artificial womb, when your moment of ‘birth’ was clawing your way out of an alien pod?

Max Evans drove through the desert night contemplating the failures of his life, and holding on to the one right thing he had ever done. Liz Parker was waiting for him in Roswell, and he wouldn’t stop until he reached her. She was all that he had, all that he ever hoped for, all that he could ever dream of, and it was time to let her know that.

Time to give up this impossible quest that kept him from her. Time to put the wants and needs of someone else above his own. Time to heed the words that echoed through his mind. Words recently spoken to him with justified loathing.


“I destroyed my life for you tonight, all for nothing. Because of you, everything I’ve worked for is gone. It’s how you’ve always been, your Majesty. Selfish and ungrateful. Being your protector might be encoded in my genes, but after tonight, I’ll never stop hating you.”


Shaking off the bitter words, Max knew it was time to face who he was, and who he was becoming. Did he want to keep on the path he was heading; becoming Zan of Antar, the selfish and ungrateful king Kal Langley accused him of being? Or did he want to be Max Evans, the half human – half alien hybrid, whose only goal in life was to be accepted, and to love Liz Parker?

As dawn broke on the horizon, he drove toward Roswell, knowing the answer to that question. But the question he dared not ask hovered in his mind, a question best left unspoken, for to hear the words aloud might somehow seal his fate.

Would Liz still be waiting for him, or was he already too late?

* * * * *

Liz Parker stepped down from the stairs and wandered through the back room of the Crashdown with no clear direction in mind. She picked up a discarded box, the one she’d left sitting on a chair the night before, and dropped it in the garbage. She didn’t want the contents that were inside it anymore. The reminders of her life with him were just too painful to look at.

In an effort to remain busy, she picked up a broom and began to sweep the already clean floor. She needed something to keep her mind off of where it wanted to go, of the person she couldn’t stop thinking about. Where was he now? What was he doing? Was he thinking of her, or was she only an afterthought in his mind?

Liz gripped the broom harder, telling herself it was time to face the facts. She wasn’t the girl she used to be, the innocent high school teenager who thought the biggest disaster in the world was getting a B on a Calculus test. She’d seen too many things, done too many things, to ever feel innocent again.

The reality of her life hit her full force, like a slap in the face, opening her eyes to the awful truth. The Max Evans that existed today wasn’t the boy who’d fallen in love with her so many years ago. That Max Evans didn’t exist anymore. She’d destroyed him on a night last fall when he came to her balcony and she hadn’t been alone. It didn’t matter that the scene had been staged, or that every fiber of her body didn’t want to go through with it. She’d set a goal of making Max Evans fall out of love with her, and she was finally willing to admit that it had worked. The Max Evans that existed today wasn’t in love with her, and what they were holding on to was only memories of the past.

Liz pushed through the door into the café knowing there was only one thing left to do. It was time to make a clean break before she drowned in the suffocating silence. She couldn’t live this way anymore, waiting for him to come back to her, looking for that sparkle in his eye, knowing she’d never see it again. That sparkle had died on a night last fall, and she now knew it was never coming back.

* * * * *

Max brought his Chevelle to a stop in an open space near the Crashdown Café. He turned the key to shut off the engine, but in the silence that followed he sat rigidly in place, staring at the morning light reflecting on the restaurant windows. Time to face his demons. He’d made so many mistakes over the last few months, where did he start to try to make amends?

He climbed out of the car with the memory of his own words filling his mind, a harsh reminder of the mess he’d made of everything.


“I slept with the enemy, then sent my own child back with her. It was the biggest mistake of my life, and I have to live with it every single day.”


If the power existed in him, he would take it all back, he would turn back the clock and set the world right again. But hadn’t that caused this mess to begin with? His future self, mental giant that he was, thinking that falling out of love with Liz was possible, or that a life without her was even worth living. No, he couldn’t turn back the clock, he couldn’t take back the things he had done, but he could start making things up to her. There was nothing he could do to help his son, but the most important person in his life was here, and it was time for him to put her first.

Movement inside the restaurant caught his eye. He stared at Liz through the window, watching her sweep the immaculate floor, noticing how her small figure looked tense and withdrawn. She looked tired, like she hadn’t slept well in days, and guilt filled him, knowing that he should have called, should have told her what he was doing so she wouldn’t worry.

His hand touched the doorknob just as she lifted her head and looked his way.

* * * * *

Liz felt the world stop as soon as her eyes locked onto his. Her hands tightened around the handle of the broom, stilling its movements, frozen in time. Her heart crashed wildly inside her chest, thumping an exaggerated assault against her ribs, while her lungs refused to breathe.

Max entered the restaurant, closing the door silently behind him. The air between them felt so thick he couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t swallow. He stood on shaky legs, the long drive from California had done him in, and the haunted look on her face was finishing him off.

Liz found her voice and broke the strained silence.

“Hi.”

“Hi,” Max responded, taking a step closer.

She set the broom aside, restless movement to give her purpose, and asked, “When did you get back?”

“Just now,” Max waved a hand toward the door, as if that could explain things. He struggled with what to tell her, but she stopped him short when she said her next words.

“You didn’t call.”

Max felt the accusation hit him like a blow to the chest. The hurt in her voice was palpable. “I was driving all night. I,” he struggled with the words. “I just had to get back to see you. I – I’m sorry.”

“You can’t do this, Max. I love you, but . . .”

Max felt the weight of that ‘but’ hit him like a freight train. His chest tightened, his stomach churned, his already wavering control started to crumble.

“You know,” Liz steeled herself for what she had to say. “Lately, I just haven’t been feeling it back.”

“I didn’t mean to . . .” Max let the words trail off, not knowing what to say. He’d been so focused on finding his son, wrapped up in his own inner torment; he never noticed her slipping away.

“But you did.”

“Liz,” Max held his hand out, “I know you’ve been here, alone, waiting for me, and . . . and I’ve . . . It was wrong.” He took a step toward her, a long stride to cut the distance. “I–”

“No!” Liz stepped back to maintain the space. She watched him slump onto a stool, with defeat written all over his face. He sagged under the weight of some unseen presence, making her resolve crack, dissolving in a sea of sympathy. She stepped closer, asking, “What, Max? What happened?”

“I failed,” his voice cracked. “And my son,” he looked upward, “he’s up there somewhere.”

Liz moved closer, surrounding him with her arms, unable and unwilling to follow her own better judgment. How could she walk away from him when he was in a state like this? Feeling so much pain.

“I’ve just messed everything up,” he said, body and voice trembling. “Langley’s life. Yours. I’m so sorry, Liz.” He lowered his head and cried against her throat, “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Liz soothed him. “It’s okay.” She closed her eyes and held him close, pushing her own feelings aside once again. He needed her, and she was going to be here for him. She owed him that.

“I’ll never leave you, Liz.”

A tear slid down the side of his nose and landed against her throat. The connection it forged gave Liz a series of quick flashes.


Max forcing Kal to shapeshift so he could pilot the ship.

Looking at his ringing cell phone, seeing that it was her calling, closing it without answering.

The ship falling back to the ground, stranding Max on earth.



Liz stiffened and pulled back. She looked up into his familiar face, seeing a man she didn’t recognize anymore. “You were gonna leave?”

Max felt her withdrawal before she ever left his arms. He watched her take a step back, separating herself from him, as if his touch had turned her cold.

“Liz –”

The impact of the flash hit her full force. “You were gonna leave, without telling me?”

“Liz,” Max tried to explain. “It was my only chance to find my son. There was no time –”

“No time?” Liz accused. “No time to tell me you were leaving the planet and I might never see you again?”

“I told you I’d come back,” Max defended.

“You’d come back?” her voice rose in pitch, growing louder with each subsequent sentence. “And you expected me to just wait? Not knowing where you were? Where you’d gone? When you’d be back?”

“Liz, there was no time –”

“You couldn’t even answer the phone for two seconds to let me know what was happening?”

“I’m sorry. Everything was happening so fast –”

Liz turned away, covering her ears with her hands. She couldn’t look at him. “I don’t want to hear this anymore.”

Her earlier resolve came back full force, everything about him reminded her it was time to end things. Now. Before he hurt her any more.

“Liz, please listen. Let me explain –”

“No!” Liz whirled around to face him. “You listen! I’ve done everything for you. I’ve lied for you. I’ve stolen. I’ve covered up. All to keep you safe. All to help you. I’ve gone to jail for you. I even carried a GUN for you! And for what? So you could leave me? To fly off to another planet – in another galaxy – without even telling me goodbye? Is that how little I mean to you?”

“You mean everything to me, Liz,” Max said, begging her to believe him. “You always have.”

“Except when you were screwing Tess!” Liz shouted out in anger.

Max stumbled backwards, absorbing the words like a physical blow. Liz covered her mouth with her hand but she couldn’t take the words back. They were out there now, a solid object between them.

“I thought we’d gotten past that,” Max said in almost a whisper. “We weren’t together then, and you said –”

Liz turned her back to him, one hand on her hip, the other covering her face. She moved away from him, feeling the past sweeping over her like a tidal wave, immersing her in the memories.

“Liz,” his voice broke, more afraid now than when he’d come to inside a burning film vault in LA. This wake up call was hitting him where he lived. “You told me –”

“I told you all about why I pushed you to be with Tess!” Liz angrily spun around to face him once again. The dam was broken now, and months worth of pent up emotion spilled from her mouth. “That other version of you knew you so well. A little black top was all it took.”

“What black top?” Confusion filled his face. He didn’t understand what she was saying.

“I thought you loved me.” Her voice started to crack and her vision blurred with unshed tears. She’d lived with the pain for too long, and the weight of it was crushing her.

“I do love you –”

“ – but you made love to her instead.”

Max stared at Liz, unable to respond to that. He had no answer for why he’d done the things he had. He thought they’d moved beyond this, but they’d only swept it under the carpet, hiding from it, never coming to terms with it.

“I can’t take back what happened, but my son –”

“Your son,” she echoed his words with bitter resentment. “Every time you mention ‘your son’, I’m reminded of what you did. How you were unfaithful to us. How can you not know that?” Her hands fisted at her sides, hiding the green energy that sparkled over her palms.

“I . . . I thought . . . you told me you understood. When you said you wanted to help me find him…”

Liz turned her back to him, unwilling to let him see her cry.

“Liz,” Max moved closer to her. “I’ve always loved you. I never stopped. Even when –”

As soon as his hand touched her shoulder she stiffened and bolted away from him.

“I can’t do this anymore,” her voice quivered, trying not to cry.

Max listened to the sound of her pain, dying inside, knowing he was the cause of it. She was the one person in the world that he never wanted to hurt, yet that’s all he ever seemed to do. He’d once held everything he wanted in the palm of his hand, and now it was slipping through his fingers.

“I felt guilty,” Liz said, dragging her hand though her hair. “For the lie with Kyle, for pushing you away, for almost getting you killed. I felt responsible for pushing you to be with Tess . . . for the outcome.”

“But you know Tess didn’t mean anything to me,” Max said, moving closer, trying to explain actions that even he couldn’t understand. This last year had been the darkest time of his life, and only now could he see the light.

“You created a child with her. A son. He’s your first priority now. I’m just an afterthought.”

“That’s not true,” Max denied it. “You always come first.”

Liz looked at him finally, shaking her head slowly. “You’ve changed, Max, and you don’t even know it. I haven’t been your ‘first’ anything, not in a long time.”

Max swallowed hard, feeling her words eating at his soul. She was breaking his heart with the finality in her tone, but he realized she was right. He’d told her that he loved her, but he never showed it with his actions. Only now could he see the distance that had grown between them. She was pulling away, and he didn’t know what he could do to stop it.

“Liz . . .”

If she would only give him one more chance. He could prove to her how much he loved her. He could show her that she hadn’t been wrong to believe in him. He could make up for all the pain he had caused her –

If only she would give him one more chance.

Liz stood with her back to him, looking downward, fiddling with the pocket of her silver apron. “I told you I’d help you find your son, and I will. I owe you that. But,” she turned to face him, lifting her haunted eyes up to meet his, “that’s all I have to give right now. Don’t ask for anything more.”

Max drew in a sharp breath. “Wh – what are saying?”

Looking at his devastated face was more painful than anything she’d ever experienced, even worse than after the lie with Kyle. This time it was really over. This time she knew there was no hope of working it out.

“Go home, Max. There’s no reason for you to be here.”

Max stood in the middle of the Crashdown watching Liz walk away, devastated by what she’d said. His mistakes had cost him all his dreams, a lifetime worth of hope now stripped away, leaving nothing but a gaping hole behind. His deepest fear had just been realized.

He’d lost her, this time for good, with no one to blame but himself.



I never really wanted you to see
The screwed up side of me that I keep
Locked inside of me so deep
It always seems to get to me

I never really wanted you to go
So many things you should have known
I guess for me there’s just no hope
I never meant to be so cold

Cold
Crossfade




Author note: For those who might be interested, I’ll be having an author chat at DAS on Thursday, July 27th, at 10 pm est. Please join me there!

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Last edited by Breathless on Thu Aug 02, 2007 12:19 am, edited 44 times in total.
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An Imperfect Life, Part 1

Postby Breathless » Sun Jul 23, 2006 1:49 am

An Imperfect Life
Part 1



And now my bitter hands
cradle broken glass
of what was everything

All the pictures have
all been washed in black,
tattooed everything...

All the love gone bad
turned my world to black
Tattooed all I see,
all that I am,
all I'll ever be...


Black
Pearl Jam




Kings Island, Washington
November, 2014



The soft glow of a table lamp lit the neat and tidy living room of a small home on a quiet residential street. The room had a comfortable appearance; a couch with overstuffed cushions in a shade somewhere between beige and brown, two matching chairs that faced the couch, and a warm oak coffee table that separated the furniture. Only one occupant sat in the room.

To look at him, no one would ever guess the secrets the man sitting on the couch kept hidden from the world.

Maxwell Philips, commonly called Max by his closer acquaintances, was considered a hard working man. His quiet demeanor and dedication to his job earned the respect of his peers at the local school where he worked, though no one felt they really knew him well. He kept his distance and didn’t talk about himself much.

Everyone speculated about the tragedies that must have befallen him in the past, the things he never talked about but obviously still mourned for. No one knew where he came from originally, or what had brought him to this small secluded island in a corner of the northwest.

They didn’t know about the life he left behind.


Roswell, New Mexico
May 2002


Max paused with his hand on the door, steeling himself before pushing his way into the bustling restaurant. The sounds and smells assaulted his heightened senses as soon as he walked inside, but the familiarity also soothed his soul, like coming home, which only served to remind him he had no home anymore.

He adjusted the backpack on his shoulder, knowing that he wouldn’t be staying long. His usual booth was filled with a new group of teenagers, munching on an after school snack, mocking him with their laughter. The booth wasn’t his anymore. This restaurant wasn’t a part of his life anymore. And neither was the girl in the alien waitress uniform, smiling indulgently at her customers.

Liz turned with a laugh on her lips, which quickly disappeared when her eyes met his. Max covered the raw anguish he felt by hiding behind the mask he showed the world. He’d been hiding his whole life, but never more than now. He kept his feelings locked behind the mask, so she wouldn’t know how he died inside every time he saw her.

“Max.” Liz couldn’t maintain the eye contact. Her gaze wandered around the restaurant inspecting the tiles on the floor, the water glasses on the tables, darting back to look at the dark circles under his eyes.

“Um,” Max fidgeted with the strap of his backpack. Why was it always so hard to talk to her? Oh yeah, because it killed him inside just to be near her.

“Did you,” she nibbled on her lower lip, exposing her inner turmoil, “want something? A burger . . . or something?”

“No,” Max dipped his head, hiding the pain that flashed through his eyes. There was no teasing between them anymore. No joking over outlandish names like Venus Vegiburgers or Pluto Patty Melts. He shrugged the backpack off his shoulder and unzipped the front pocket. “I came to bring you this.”

“Oh,” Liz said, feeling her stomach sink like a stone. She watched him pull a CD out of his backpack, knowing what it contained.

“It has all my notes, and I pulled a few pictures off the internet,” he explained, handing her the disc. “You can use ‘em . . . if you want . . . you know . . . for the report.”

“Okay,” Liz took the disc. She toyed with it in her hands, looking at the handwritten label. Cultural Anthropology. Their final report for the last class they would ever take together. Graduation was less than a month away. It hadn’t been their choice to be paired up as partners in this class, but fate kept putting them together, whether they wanted it or not.

Liz looked up at him, still holding the disc. “You could have just . . . emailed it.”

“Yeah, well,” he looked like an animal caught in a trap. He hitched his thumb over his shoulder, pointing toward the UFO Center across the street. “I was using the computer at work anyway, so I thought I’d just drop it by.”

“Right,” Liz nodded. He didn’t have a computer at home. He and Michael couldn’t afford the luxury.

The bell rang as the Crashdown door opened and Isabel entered the restaurant. She headed straight toward Max, interrupting the awkward tension between them. Liz stepped back to give them room to talk. She had no valid reason to listen. She wasn’t part of the alien abyss anymore.

“Max,” Isabel glanced around the restaurant before focusing on her brother. “I just got a call from Mom. She wants us to come over for dinner.”

“Dinner?” Max crinkled a brow. He shot a look toward Liz, upset to see how she moved away from him, reminding him that his world wasn’t her world anymore.

“You, me, and Jesse,” Isabel continued, registering his look. “I tried to say we were busy, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. She said there’s something we need to talk about.”

“Talk about?” Max felt his stomach drop. “Like what?”

“I don’t know.”

Max warred with himself, wanting to say no, but knowing that he shouldn’t. His relationship with his parents was strained, like all the other relationships in his life, and ignoring the problem wasn’t going to make it go away. He turned to Liz, wanting to tell her goodbye, that he’d see her at school tomorrow, or in class, or on the quad, but she was already back to work, as if she wasn’t even aware he was there anymore. With a heavy heart he lowered his head and followed Isabel out of the café.

Liz watched him go with a leaden heart of her own.

* * * * *

“Max,” Diane Evans fought the motherly urge to pull him into her arms. Seeing him standing in her doorway, hesitant like a stranger, was enough to break her heart. How had they let things get so strained between them?

“Hi, Mom,” Max slid his hands into the front pockets of his jeans, uncomfortable under the scrutiny of her gaze. He hadn’t been ‘home’ since Isabel’s impulsive wedding.

“Isabel. Jesse,” Diane acknowledged them both with a smile, and ushered them all inside. Philip joined them seconds later, adding to the strained atmosphere.

“Hi Dad,” Max met his father’s gaze but couldn’t hold it long. Neither could Philip.

“Hi kids,” Philip stiffly addressed them all, even Jesse. “We’re glad you could come.”

“Something smells good!” Jesse smiled, trying to cut through the icy atmosphere.

“I made everyone’s favorites,” Diane said, slipping her arm inside Max’s, leading them into the dining room and to the overflowing table. The visitors gaped at it, seeing a smorgasbord of sweet and spicy foods.

“Mom,” Isabel said in surprise, grasping Jesse’s hand. “What’s this all about?”

“It’s been so long since we’ve had a family dinner,” Diane said wistfully. “Max is almost out of school, and we don’t even know what his plans are –”

“Mom,” Max sighed, feeling guilty for the rift between them. He’d never been overly close to his parents, not like Isabel, and he knew it was his fault. He loved his parents, but he’d always kept part of himself in reserve, always afraid they’d never accept him for what he really was. With the events of the last year, the gulf between them had widened, and he didn’t know how to change that.

“Sit down, honey,” Diane urged her son. He’d grown so thin, like he was wasting away. She filled his plate as if he were an invalid, stopping just short of feeding him by hand.

“Are you still working at the UFO Center?” Philip asked, scooping up a helping of Kung Pao Chicken. Max shrugged vaguely and picked at a helping of Szechwan Chicken with his fork. Jesse went for the Frittatas. Isabel and Diane waited, watching their men.

“So have you made any plans, Max?” Philip asked. “For after graduation?”

“Not really,” Max mumbled. College was out, he didn’t have the funds. But spending the rest of his life at the UFO Center wasn’t an option either.

Diane and Philip exchanged a look, Diane urging him to speak up, Philip hesitant to comply. Finally, he put his fork down, ready to start.

“Max, we’ve had our disagreements, but your mother and I just want what’s best for you. You started out the year badly, but you’ve buckled down and worked hard at keeping your grades up. We started a college fund for you years ago –”

“No, Dad,” Max pushed his plate away. He’d made his bed, and now he had to live with the consequences of it. He wouldn’t take his parents money.

“Max, just listen to your father,” Diane urged, covering his hand with her own.

Max pulled his hand away and rose from the table, taking his plate into the kitchen. He scraped the barely touched food into the garbage, then set the plate in the sink. Voices rose and fell in the other room, arguing about him. He closed his eyes, feeling his failures pressing in on him. Failure as a son. Failure to the girl he loved. Failure to the son he’d never know. Failure to a dead past that still haunted him.

A sound at the back of the kitchen pulled him out of his thoughts, a plaintive noise, like the sound of a whimper.

“Who’s there?” Max called out, taking a step in that direction.

Silence followed, but the heaviness of the air told Max he wasn’t alone. Someone was there, hiding in the shadows. But who? And why? A part of him wanted to grab Isabel and run; escaping whatever alien nightmare was ready to suck him in. The other part of him knew he had to face the unknown, no matter what was waiting for him.

As he neared the pantry the silence was broken by a name, spoken like a whisper on the wind.

“Max . . .”

Max froze in place, recognizing the voice. A voice he’d never wanted to hear again. The hackles rose on the back of his neck, seeing her distinctive features rise out of the shadows. Her blue eyes, her blonde hair, the deceptively helpless look on her face.

The sudden surge of revulsion that filled him disappeared as she limped into the light, showing him what she brought with her. His eyes locked on to what she held in her arms, a sight he’d given up hope of ever seeing. A sight that numbed his emotions, the flood of feelings were simply too overwhelming.

“Take him . . . please,” Tess stumbled forward.

Max suddenly found himself with a child in his arms. Fuzzy blond hair. Crystal blue eyes. Skin like alabaster. He swallowed hard, knowing who he was holding, who was looking up at him with innocence personified.

Tess collapsed on the floor, whether from exhaustion or injury, Max didn’t know, nor did he particularly care. His only concern at that moment was looking at the child he’d abandoned but never forgotten. The child he’d searched for to the exclusion of everything and everyone else in his life. The child that was the symbol of his worst mistake, and the only possible hope for his salvation.

The child raised his chubby hand and touched his father on the cheek. Max gasped at the contact, like a jolt of familiarity shooting through his entire body.

“Max, you have to come ba – oh my god!”

Max turned to see Isabel standing in the kitchen doorway with her mouth hanging open in shock. Philip rushed in behind her, with Diane on his heels.

“What’s going on here?” Philip demanded, seeing a baby in Max’s arms, and an unconscious girl on the floor at his feet.

“Who is that?” Diane blurted out, staring at the child.

“He’s . . .” Max looked at the baby, finally letting it sink in. He turned back to the others and said, “He’s my son.”

* * * * *

“Why didn’t he ever tell us?” Diane sat on the couch wringing her hands together. Her stomach churned with anxiety, trying to absorb the fact that her son was a teenage father, by a girl they barely knew. The food on the kitchen table had long since turned cold and forgotten.

Isabel tried to explain the unexplainable. “Tess left Roswell before the baby was born. Max tried to find her, but . . .”

“Is that what this last year has been about?” Philip asked, putting the pieces together. “He got a girl pregnant?”

“Yes,” Isabel hedged, looking at Jesse for help.

“But I thought Max and Liz . . .” Diane said, showing her confusion. She knew her son had pined over Liz for months now, ever since their breakup last fall. But, this child was several months old; the girl must have gotten pregnant the year before.

“It’s complicated, Mom,” Isabel said, wishing Max would come back and explain this himself.

In the bedroom, Max stood near the window keeping his distance from Tess. He didn’t trust himself to be anywhere near her. The urge to tear her apart was too strong . . . and frightening. He didn’t want to be a monster that murdered at will – like her. Her eyelids fluttered and slowly opened, growing wide with fear.

“Zan!” Tess sat up on the bed. “Where’s Zan!”

“You named him Zan?” Max looked toward the baby sleeping in a bassinette he’d converted from a dresser drawer. Tess scrambled from the bed, nearly falling when she put her weight on her injured leg.

“Don’t touch him!” Max growled, holding out his hand in warning.

“He’s my son!” Tess shot back. “The one you abandoned so you could stay here on Earth!”

“You mean, instead of going back to Antar so you could turn me over to Kivar and have me killed?” Max spit back, shaking with pent up rage.

“It didn’t have to be that way,” Tess held her head up defiantly. “If you had accepted your Destiny, we could have ruled the world –”

“I didn’t want to rule anything! I just wanted my life!” Max cried out, hitting his chest with the palm of his hand. “My life. This life. Here, not on some planet I don’t remember and didn’t want to go back to!”

The baby whimpered, startled by the loud voices. Tess hobbled over to him, lifting him to soothe his cries. A wheezing sound came from the small body, turning Max’s anger to sudden concern.

“What’s the matter?”

“You shouldn’t have woken him,” Tess accused.

Max felt the chill of something wrong. “Why’s he sound like that?”

“Because he’s sick! You knew that when you sent us away!”

“Then why did you bring him back here?” Max hurled the accusation at her. He crossed the room and took the baby out of her arms, rubbing his hand over the child’s back to try to sense the problem, feeling how the baby’s lungs struggled to pull enough oxygen out of the air.

“Because . . .” Tess watched Max’s hand glow, trying to heal the impossible.

Max gritted his teeth to keep from shouting. “You’re the one who told me he couldn’t breathe the air here! Why did you bring him back?”

“Because Kivar wanted him dead!” Tess cried. “He had no use for a weak half-breed. He wanted a royal with strong bloodlines, and Zan wasn’t it!”

“So you brought him here? Where the air is poison to him?”

“It’s not just the air, Max, it’s him. His lungs. They don’t work right.” Sarcasm etched her voice as she added, “Apparently, human clones don’t make the best gene pool.”

“So just heal him,” Max said, holding his son tighter. What was wrong with her? She had healing powers.

Tess touched the baby’s back, gently caressing him. “It only works for a few hours. I can’t cure him. I brought him here . . . hoping you could.”

Max looked down at the baby in his arms – his son – his beautiful innocent son – who struggled just to breathe. Max’s hand glowed, sending healing power through the baby’s chest, repairing the bronchi and alveoli, opening the airways, slowly easing Zan’s wheezing. When he was done, the baby looked up at him smiling a toothless grin, stealing Max’s own ability to breathe.

Just then, a light flashed across the window, accompanied by the distinctive thumping concussion of helicopter blades cutting through the air.

“What the hell was that?” Max pulled the baby closer, subconsciously trying to protect him.

“They’re here!” Tess looked around wild eyed. She limped across the room and tore the bedroom door open.

“Who’s here!” Max moved away from the window, following her out into the kitchen.

“The army. The military. The government.” She looked around frantically, like an army was about to jump out of the woodwork.

“You brought them here?”

“No!” she shot back. “I didn’t bring them. They followed me!”

“Why?” Max stood frozen in place. “What did you do?”

“What I had to, to save my son!”

Max balked, sensing the horrible truth of what she’d done. “No matter WHO you hurt? How many?” When she didn’t answer, he raised his voice, shouting, “HOW MANY?”

“Fifteen! Maybe twenty! I didn’t stop to count!”

“My GOD, Tess! What kind of monster are you?”

“Max?”

The sudden appearance of his parents in the kitchen doorway interrupted the argument, driving Max and Tess to silence. Only the baby, upset by all the shouting, fussed in Max’s arms.

Diane stared at her son, certain she’d never seen him so upset before. “What’s going on here?”

A loud knocking at the front door made the blood rush out of Max’s face.

“I’ll get that,” Philip spoke up, turning toward the door.

“NO!” Max shouted, eyes widening in fear.

“What?” Philip stared at him like he’d gone mad.

“Don’t answer it!” He turned to his sister, his eyes silently telling her just how much trouble they were in. The sound of a helicopter hovering overhead drove the message home.

“Oh God,” Isabel covered her mouth with her hand.

“What?” Diane’s fear deepened.

“We have to get out of here,” Max told Isabel.

“How?” Isabel asked.

“Tess will have to hide us.” He turned to the short blonde and asked, “Can you do it? For all four of us?” He held Zan awkwardly, trying to stifle his crying.

“Max, what are you talking about?” Diane cried out.

“What about me?” Jesse asked, raising his hands questioningly.

“You’re hu –” Max stopped just short of saying it, but for Jesse the meaning was clear. He was human. He was safe. His wife wasn’t.

“You’re what?” Diane looked from Jesse back to her son. “What aren’t you telling us!”

The pounding came at the front door again, along with a muffled voice. “Open up! In the name of the United States Air Force, you are ordered to open this door!”

“Mom,” Max’s voice cracked, scared shitless over his worst nightmare coming true. Isabel took the baby out of his arms, quieting his fretful crying.

“I’m sorry,” Max said, looking at his parents with years worth of regret on his face. “We can’t stay. Jesse knows. He can tell you. We should have told you a long time ago –”

“Max,” Tess interrupted, tugging on his arm and limping toward the back door. “We have to go now, before they set up a perimeter that we can’t get through!”

Max looked at his parents again, this time with moisture clouding his eyes. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t want it to be like this.”

“Max?” Diane reached for Philip’s hand, needing his support. What was happening here? Where were their children running to? And what were they running from?

Max bent quickly, touching Tess’s ankle with his hand. They couldn’t run with her limping like that, and there was no way he was going to let any of them be captured and put through what he’d been through. He’d die before he let the military lock another living soul inside the White Room. Not even Tess.

His hand glowed on her ankle, healing the torn and bruised tendons. When he rose to his feet, he turned back long enough to see the shocked looks on his parents’ faces. Their eyes darted between his hand and his face, too stunned to comprehend what they’d just witnessed.

The final look on Max’s face, somewhere between desperation and terror, left tears streaming down Diane’s face. Philip held her to keep her from collapsing as they watched their children disappear from the kitchen into the darkness of night.


Kings Island
November, 2014


Max sat on the overstuffed couch rubbing his hands over his face, closing his tired eyes. Enough homework for tonight. The career assessments of the seventh grade class of Kings Middle school could wait another day. He closed the file on his lap and added it to the stack on the coffee table in front of him, each one labeled in his neat handwriting.

He rose from the couch and turned off the living room lights, ready to call it a night. Ambling down the hallway, he stopped when he reached the first bedroom door. He eased it open, and then quietly entered, not making a sound as he crossed the room. On the bed, highlighted by a beam of moonlight from the window, was the sleeping face of a blond haired boy. Max sat down on the side of the bed, looking at his son with a mixture of love and sadness on his face, listening intently to the sound of the boy’s labored breathing. It was a ritual he went through every night.

The child stirred in his sleep, sensing the benevolent presence watching over him, wrapping him in a cocoon of love and protection. He slowly opened one eye, focusing on the dark shadow that watched over him.

“Dad?” his sleepy voice wheezed.

“Didn’t mean to wake you, buddy,” Max said, rubbing his hand over the boy’s chest.

Neither one of them commented on the yellow glow that emitted from the father’s palm. The glow that sent healing warmth into a pair of deteriorating lungs. The constant battle Max waged to keep his son alive.

“How’re you feeling?” Max asked.

“Good,” the boy smiled up at his father.

Max couldn’t tell him that he thought his son’s lungs were getting worse every day, or that his biggest fear was that someday even his healing powers wouldn’t be enough to keep him alive. The world around them thought young Evan Alexander suffered from a bad case of asthma. What no one knew was that his half alien lungs couldn’t filter out the poisons in the atmosphere, and the cumulative effect was slowly killing him. That knowledge was a burden only Max carried.

The wheezing lessened, the healing doing its job for another night, staving off the inevitable. But each day Max had with his son was a precious gift, and each new morning gave him hope that the boy’s lungs might somehow be miraculously cured. And without that hope, without his son, Max had nothing to live for.

“Dad?” Evan looked up at his father with his crystal blue eyes.

“Yeah?” Max smiled down at him.

“I think I’m getting better.”

“I think so, too,” Max lied, smiling for his son’s benefit.

“And . . .” Evan hesitated, knowing he was asking for the world. “Baseball signups start in a few weeks. Maybe this year . . .”

“Maybe,” Max brushed the blond hair back from his son’s forehead. “We’ll talk about it in a couple of weeks, okay Sport?”

“Okay, Dad,” Evan smiled, breathing easily now.

Max contemplated kissing Evan on the forehead, but he sensed the boy thought he was too old for kisses from dear old Dad. He ruffled Evan’s hair instead, telling him as he rose from the bed, “Get some sleep.”

Evan reached out and caught his father’s hand. “You get some sleep, too.”

“Aye aye, Captain,” Max teased, squeezing his hand. He knew his son worried about him, almost as much as he worried about his son. He tucked the covers up around the boy’s chin, and turned to leave the room.

Evan watched his father go, leaving the door open a few inches, just in case. A rainstorm had rolled through earlier in the day, freshening the air, making a re-occurrence of last night’s attack doubtful, but he knew his dad still worried. It was why he didn’t sleep well, always listening for a change in Evan’s breathing. It’s what kept his father awake at night, that and the dreams that haunted him.

Maybe, Evan turned over on his side and tucked his hand under his cheek, maybe if he prayed real hard, his dad could find the dark haired girl that walked his dreams, the one he never talked about, but who filled his thoughts and his memories.

Maybe, Evan thought, if he could find a way to bring them back together, then his father wouldn’t have to be alone after he was gone.



I know someday you'll have a beautiful life,
I know you'll be a star
In somebody else's sky,
but why
why,
why can't it be,
why can't it be
Mine?


Black
Pearl Jam





I’ll be having an author chat at DAS on Thursday, July 27th, at 10 pm est. Please join me there!

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Behr's Bitch

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Breathless
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An Imperfect Life, Part 2

Postby Breathless » Sun Jul 30, 2006 12:13 am

Author Note: Goodness, I NEVER expected this kind of response to this story! This is amazing! Thank you all so much! An Imperfect Life was started a long time ago, and then I set it on the back burner while I was writing something else. I have several parts completed, but my intention is to post an update every weekend (Saturday). I could post a part everyday (Scottie!), but then I’d run out of completed parts VERY quickly, and then you might have to wait 6 months or more for an update! So I think its better (at least for me) to stick to a regular posting schedule. I’ll try not to disappoint.

Additional summary: The beginning of this story deals with events from season 3, notably “Control” (prologue) and “4AAAB” (parts 1 and 2). As such, some of the dialogue is echoed from the show. In this story, “Changes” never happened, at least not the way it did in the show. There was no fire at Meta-Chem, and Max didn’t die in it. Liz did not go away to boarding school in Vermont.



An Imperfect Life
Part 2



This is my December
This is my time of the year
This is my December
This is all so clear

This is my December
This is my snow covered home
This is my December
This is me alone


My December
Linkin Park




Boston, Massachusetts
November, 2014



Liz Parker walked through the cold streets of Boston feeling the nip of winter in the air. Snowflakes drifted down from a darkening sky, a harbinger of the first snowstorm of the year. By morning, the cars lining the streets would be blanketed in white. She raised the hood of her winter coat, long since accustomed to the chill.

The streets were empty, with only an occasional car passing by to break her thoughts, the musing of memories of a life caught in limbo. A life on the outside looking in.

She reached the front door of her apartment building and pushed inside, feeling the warm air wrap around her like a blanket. The walk up to her third floor apartment wasn’t particularly strenuous, but after a 12 hour shift at the hospital she didn’t have a lot of energy left. By the time she made it to her door, all she wanted was a hot bath and a nice soft bed.

Once inside, Liz hung her coat in the closet and dropped her purse and keys on the table, creating the only disorder in a compulsively neat apartment. It was the way it had to be; everything in its place, and a place for everything.

Except tonight the past was crowding her thoughts, throwing her ordered little world into turmoil …


Roswell, New Mexico
May, 2002



“Why the long face?”

Liz looked up, startled by the familiar voice. Maria stood inside Liz’s bedroom, framed by the window, wearing a concerned frown.

“Maria.” Liz closed her journal and put it on the small table next to her patio chair. “I thought you were working.”

“I was,” Maria grumbled as she climbed out onto the balcony, still wearing her Crashdown uniform. “I might even go back and finish my shift. That is, if Michael quits talking about lights in the sky and spaceships crashing and the military on the prowl. He’s freaking me out.”

“Is he still going on about that fighter jet that crashed in the desert the other night? I thought they said that was a training mission accident.”

“Well you know that and I know that, but Michael thinks he saw two sets of lights in the sky that night, a jet and a UFO, and there’s no talking him out of it. He wants to break into the base and investigate, but Max won’t let him.”

“Why not?” Liz asked, unable to hide her curiosity. It felt so strange to be out of the loop. How ironic that Maria now knew more than she did. Maria’s tumultuous relationship with Michael was still as volatile as ever, but at least they were together.

“Max says it’s too dangerous,” Maria said, taking a seat next to Liz. “Besides, you know how he feels about all that.”

No. No she didn’t, Liz wanted to tell Maria. She didn’t know how Max felt about anything anymore. “How he feels about what?”

“The whole alien abyss,” Maria said, waving her hand around in the air, as if it was floating there, obvious for everyone to see.

“What do you mean?” Liz asked, sitting up straighter.

“Max doesn’t want anything to do with anything alien.”

“What are you talking about?” Liz blurted out.

“You honestly don’t know?” Maria cocked her head, surprised by Liz’s reaction. When Liz shook her head, Maria had no choice but to tell her. “Max told me the alien abyss took away everything that was important to him. He doesn’t want to have any part of it anymore.”

“Maria, he can’t just turn off what he is. He’s alien. He will always be alien.”

“Half alien,” Maria reminded her. “And half human.” Maria took her friend’s hands and squeezed them between hers. “Open your eyes, Liz. Don’t you see what’s happening to him? Everything good in his life came from being human. You. His parents. His friends. His future, when he thought his future was with you. Everything bad in his life was related to his alien side. The Special Unit. Nasedo. Tess. Losing his son. Losing you.”

“But Maria,” Liz felt the prickle of tears forming in her eyes. “He’s . . . he’s . . . it takes both sides of him to make him whole. He can’t survive if he shuns one side in favor of the other. He has to find peace within himself, or he’ll never be happy.”

Maria held on to Liz’s hands, saying what was so blatantly obvious. “You sound like you’re still in love with him.”

Liz opened her mouth to protest, but no words came out. How could she deny the truth? Max Evans would always be the love of her life. Nothing would ever change that.

“Go to him, Liz,” Maria urged. “You two are miserable without each other.”

“I can’t,” Liz whispered.

“You can.”

Neither one of them noticed the military helicopter flying overhead, or paid any attention to the sound of its whirling rotors, filling the evening air with a portent of things to come.

* * * * *

Liz stood outside the door to Michael’s apartment, fidgeting with the strands of her hair, and chewing on her lower lip. If she knocked on that door, and Max was on the other side, there’d be no going back. The chasm that stood between them would either have to be crossed over, or acknowledged as too great a rift to ever mend. There would be no middle ground this time. No more pretending in her mind that time healed all wounds.

Was she ready to admit aloud, that no matter what they’d been through, she still loved him and wanted to make it work?

Would he even want to try?

Liz turned away, shaking her head, wondering why she ever listened to Maria. She might be her best friend, but the girl was crazy. Liz knew perfectly well she and Max were never meant to be. Hadn’t Max said so himself? More than once? So it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that he was right.

But then, why were they so miserable without each other?

According to Maria, everyone could see it, and if Liz was honest with herself for one minute, she could see it too. The long looks they tried to deny. The heavy hearts they suffered from being apart. But they’d hurt each other so much, how were they ever supposed to get beyond it?

‘Talk to him,” Maria’s voice rang in her head. ‘Tell him how you feel. Ask him how he feels. How he really feels.’

Steeling her resolve, Liz knocked on the door. When no one answered, she knocked again. When there was still no answer, she felt a mixture of disappointment and relief as she turned to leave. She wouldn’t have to face this after all – and then Michael opened the door.

“And the hits just keep on rolling,” Michael jeered, sweeping his arm through the air, inviting her in.

“Is Ma –” Liz started to say, until she saw him, standing on the far side of the room, with a baby in his arms.

“Max?”

She took an involuntary step toward him, just as he took a step toward her.

“Liz . . .”

Movement to the left caught her attention, a silhouette that rose out of the shadows, quickly taking on substance and form, into the all too familiar image of Tess Harding. Instinctively, Liz shot out her hand, aiming her palm at the blonde alien, lifting the mindwarping murderer off her feet and slamming her back against the wall.

“Holy shit!” Michael gasped, shocked by the violence of it. When the hell had Liz learned to do THAT? And how?

Tess slid down the wall, struggling to shake off the darkness that closed in on her, threatening to send her into unconscious oblivion.

“Liz?” Max stepped forward, staring at her hands sparkling with green energy. “How did you do that?”

“Get up, bitch!” Liz glared at Tess with deadly resolve.

“Liz!” Max cried out, with the baby fussing in his arms. “Liz, stop!”

“Are you defending her?” Liz turned her deadly glare toward Max. The energy in her hands built up, preparing for another blast. “She’s back, so you’re together now?”

“NO!” Max shouted, trying to break through her rage so she’d listen to him. For a moment he wasn’t sure if she was going to blast Tess again, or him. “Tess and I are NOT together. And we never will be. Never.”

“Are you sure about that lover boy?” Tess smirked, slowly pushing back to her feet.

“SHUT UP!” Max whirled on Tess. “Or I’ll blast you myself and get it over with.”

“And kill the mother of your child?” she said haughtily, holding her head high.

“Yes,” Max said with deadly clarity.

Isabel made her presence known, taking the baby away from Max to get him out of the line of fire.

“Not in my apartment,” Michael slammed the door closed, folding his arms over his chest.

When the reverberations quieted down, five of the six occupants of Michael’s apartment stood silently staring at each other. The baby ignored them all, choosing to play with Isabel’s necklace instead. His chubby little fingers tugged on the chain, trying to pull it into his mouth.

“What is she doing here?” Liz demanded, standing stiffly with her burning gaze locked on Tess.

“I think the bigger question is, what did you just do?” Michael asked, staring at the green ribbons of energy still sparkling along Liz’s fingertips.

“Liz?” Max stepped toward her. He couldn’t take his eyes off her hands either. “When did you . . .”

“Why is she here?!” Liz raised her hand again. Tess cringed back against the wall, waiting for another blast to hit.

Max rushed forward, reaching for her hand, but afraid to touch her. He half expected her to turn a blast on him. “She brought Zan back. He . . . he’s sick.”

Liz darted a glance toward Isabel, and the blond haired baby she was holding in her arms. The child chewed on his knuckle, oblivious to what was happening in the room.

“What’s wrong with him?” she finally asked. The green energy slowly dissipated from her hands.

“We don’t know yet,” Max touched her, closing his hand around hers. “When did you start . . . how long have you . . .?”

“A few months.” Liz looked down to where their hands were joined. “A side effect of your healing maybe? It happens when I get . . . upset.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Max asked softly.

When she looked up and their eyes met, for that brief moment in time, no one else existed in the room. It was back to the way it used to be, the way it always should have been.

“I wanted to tell you –”

“Max!” Tess said his name harshly. “We need to get our son out of Roswell.”

Liz pulled her hand away from Max. He dropped his to his side, knowing that the moment between them was lost. With just one sentence, Tess had undermined what had taken months for him and Liz to achieve.

“What are we gonna do, Max?” Isabel asked, lightly bouncing the baby in her arms. Tess crossed the room and grabbed Zan away from her.

Max felt everyone staring at him, waiting for him to decide their future. It was a responsibility he was ill-prepared for, and loath to make. Unfortunately, time wasn’t his friend. The phone rang, just as the sound of helicopters buzzed by overhead.

“We have to go!” Tess cried out, looking up at the ceiling. “Now!”

Michael answered the phone, darting his eyes immediately to Isabel. After listening for a minute, he said, “I’ll tell her.”

“Tell me what?” Isabel pounced when he hung up the phone.

“That was Jesse. The Air Force brought in a forensics team to go over your parents house. By morning, they’ll know something not quite human lived there.”

“Oh God!” Isabel felt like collapsing.

“Let’s get the hell out of here.” Michael grabbed his jacket off the back of a chair.

“Wait! We can’t just run!” Max pointed toward his son. “He’s sick . . .”

“I’m willing to listen to a viable alternative,” Michael offered, “but at the moment, I don’t happen to see one!”

“We could break into the base and steal the evidence,” Tess spoke up, earning everyone’s attention. “Look, the only thing I care about is saving my son. I came across a galaxy to do it, and no backwater military force is going to stop me! Destroying that evidence means no investigation. No investigation means no one breathing down our throats.” She handed the baby off to Max as she made her final announcement. “I’ll take Isabel and Michael with me.”

“No way –” Max objected, trying to hand Zan back. Tess refused to take him.

“I’m the one who knows the way into the base, remember?” she said pointedly to Max. “Besides, Zan has to stay with you. You’re the only one who can heal him.”

“Let’s go,” Michael reached for the door, done talking. He ushered Isabel and Tess out ahead of him and then turned back to Max. “We’ll get the evidence. We’ll fix this mess, Max. But . . . if we’re not back by sunrise, don’t wait for us. Get out of Roswell and save your kid.”

* * * * *

Max stood by the living room window watching military helicopters cut intermittent swaths across the night sky. Zan slept peacefully on the couch, with a blanket tucked around him to keep him safe and secure. Liz stood at the table sorting through grocery bags from her late night visit to the store, things Max couldn’t just materialize out of thin air, like diapers, and formula, and jars of baby food.

“Thanks.”

Liz startled, surprised to find Max standing right behind her. She hadn’t heard him move away from the window.

“For going to the store,” he said, darting a look at the table. “For thinking of it in the first place.” He gave her a self-conscious smile before turning serious again. “For being here.”

“Sure,” she took a deep breath and looked away.

“Look, Liz,” Max reached for her hands, holding them gently in his. “I know we haven’t talked much lately –”

“Max –”

“No. Wait. Please?” he begged when he felt her pull away. “Listen? I need to say this.” When he felt her hesitate he silently thanked the heavens for giving him one more chance. “I know I’ve said things, and done things that are unforgivable, and I don’t blame you for leaving me.” Her body stiffened, but he hurried on. “I just want you to know how much you being here now, under these circumstances, means to me. I know how much it hurts you seeing Tess –”

“Promise me she’ll pay for what she did to Alex!”

“She will. You have my word,” he vowed. “The only reason she’s still alive is because of Zan.”

“Zan.” Liz shot a look over to the baby sleeping on the couch. She stepped back, pulling her hands away from Max, putting space between them.

“Liz, I know what this must be doing to you . . . seeing . . . my son.” He ached inside, knowing how much he had hurt her. When he spoke next, it was almost in a whisper. “I wish … I wish he was … yours.”

“But he’s not,” Liz said, lowering her head. His son was living proof of everything that had gone wrong between them.

“No, he’s not. And I’ve lived with that everyday, knowing that what should be my greatest joy is also my greatest regret. I can’t hate Zan. He’s my son. But I hate knowing that his mother isn’t you.”

Liz looked up at him, wishing that were true as well. But she couldn’t just forget about the things that had happened between them. The things that had torn them apart. They needed time.

But time was one thing they didn’t have.

“Max!” Michael burst into the apartment looking half dead. Soot streaked his face, like he’d been through a firestorm.

“Michael!” Max cried out, shocked by the state of his appearance. “What happened?”

“It was Tess,” Michael said, collapsing to his knees. “She took the base out. There’s nothing left!”

“WHAT?”

Michael shook his head back and forth, trying to clear his jumbled thoughts. “She kept saying no one was going to touch Zan. That she’d die before she let anyone hurt him. I didn’t know what she planned to do!”

“Tell me what happened!” Max demanded.

“She blew up the whole fuckin’ base, Max! Isabel and I barely got out alive! She’s waiting in the car. We have to go. Now. They’ve got dogs on our trail!”

“Jesus!” Max raked his hand through his hair, not knowing what to do. The overriding thought in his mind was to run. To save his son.

“Hurry!” Liz grabbed the diaper bag she’d bought at the store earlier and began stuffing things into it, while Max lifted Zan from the couch, awkwardly propping the baby against his chest. When Liz was done, she hooked the strap over Max’s shoulder and ushered him to the door.

“Come with me, Liz,” Max begged, grabbing her hand with his free one. “You can’t stay here either.”

“There’s nothing they can do to me,” Liz told him.

“But your hands . . .”

“You might have given me a boost on the evolutionary scale, but under a microscope I still look human. They can’t do anything to me.”

“Max! Come on!” Michael cried. The sound of sirens rose in the distance, growing louder.

“Take my keys,” Liz pressed them into Max’s hands. “They won’t be looking for a 1990 Escort. I’ll take your car and draw them away from you.”

“Liz, no –”

“Save your son, Max,” Liz begged him. “Make everything we’ve gone though worthwhile.”

“Liz,” Max pleaded. The baby fussed from all the commotion, heightening the stress of the situation.

“I can’t come with you, Max.”

She’d jumped off bridges for him. She’d lied, stolen, and cheated for him. She’d given him everything she had, and now she had nothing left. They didn’t have a life together anymore. They hadn’t for a long time. Her home was here. Her family. A future that didn’t include living on the run.

“But what if I never see you again?” Max’s voice cracked, exposing raw emotions.

Liz looked down at the innocent baby Max was holding in his arms. She wasn’t about to let him pay for their sins. His only chance for escape was if she played the rabbit, drawing the dogs after her.

“Then make it count, Max. Make what we sacrificed worthwhile. Give your son the chance we never had. Give him a life worth living.”


Boston, Massachusetts
2014


Liz startled out of her dream, feeling the water slosh all around her. She must have dozed off in the tub again. Not surprising, considering how tired she was. If she wasn’t careful, next time, she might sink under the water and never wake up. And then no one would find her until the rent was due, or she failed to show up for work on time, or her parents missed her monthly phone call home.

Shaking off her morbid thoughts, she opened the drain and climbed out of the tub. She dried herself with listless movements as she walked to the bedroom, her momentary refuge from the world. She pulled back the covers and climbed into the bed, naked and alone, drifting into the land of dreams again.

The only place where she really lived.



This is my December
These are my snow covered trees
This is me pretending
This is all I need


My December
Linkin Park
Behr's Bitch

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Breathless
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An Imperfect Life, M&L, Mature, Pt 3, p. 8, 8/05/06

Postby Breathless » Sun Aug 06, 2006 12:38 am

An Imperfect Life
Part 3



When you try your best, but you don't succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse

When the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try -
to fix you

Fix You
Coldplay



“Take a deep breath and hold it.”

Evan did as the doctor instructed, breathing air in through his nose and puffing out his chest. The cold bell of the stethoscope moved around his back, pausing here and there as she listened.

“Again,” she told him, moving the instrument to the front.

Evan let out the breath and pulled another one in.

Max sat on a bench in the corner of the hospital examining room, watching the familiar scene. His idle hands remained clasped between his knees, knowing there was nothing at the moment he could do to help.

Doctor Jennifer Payne removed the stethoscope and looped it around her neck. She ruffled the boy’s blond hair and said, “You can put your shirt back on now.”

“How did I sound?” Evan looked up at her, hope filling his big blue eyes. Max rose from the bench, taking Evan his shirt.

“Good,” Jenny smiled at the boy. He was small for his age, barely over 4’, but he was going to be a stunner when he grew up. A real heartbreaker. If he lived that long. “Can you do me a favor?” Jenny asked, opening one of the cabinets in the room and removing a small canister. “Can you go out and feed the fish in the aquarium for me?”

“Sure.” Evan scrambled off the exam table and shrugged into his shirt. When he pulled it over his head, he looked up at Jenny and said, “Dad’s chaperoning the school dance on Friday night. Do you want to go with him?”

“Evan!” Max scolded, feeling a blush rise up in his cheeks.

“A dance, huh?” Jenny laughed. “I’ll have to check my calendar.”

“See Dad?” Evan looked at his father with an impish grin. “All you have to do is ask.” He skated out of the room with the fish food before he could be scolded again.

“I’m sorry about that,” Max smiled in embarrassment. “For some reason he’s been playing matchmaker lately. Last week he tried to hook me up with the cashier at the FoodMart.”

“Well you are considered the most eligible bachelor around.”

“Don’t remind me,” Max snorted, trying to laugh it off. She knew why he was single. And why he would always remain that way. The brief moment of joviality between them evaporated when he saw her slip her doctor’s mask back on. He took in a deep breath, waiting to hear her pronouncement.

Jenny took a step back to lean against the counter. It was never easy giving this kind of news, and in this case it was even harder than normal. She’d been friends with the boy and his father for years.

Max stood beside the exam table, feeling his stomach twisting. She was the only doctor he trusted, the only person he could be totally honest with.

“His heart rhythm has developed a bit of an anomaly.”

“What kind of anomaly?” Max asked.

“A normal sinus rhythm looks like this.”

Jenny open Evan’s chart, showing Max a strip of paper with squiggly lines on it. Max recognized the sharp peaks of a healthy functioning heart.

“This was Evan last year,” Jenny continued. “This,” she put another slip of paper beside it. “This is Evan now.”

Max saw the difference immediately. The sharp peaks weren’t always sharp, and they came at varying intervals, not steady and true like they should be.

“What are you saying?” Max asked. He sat down on the nearby doctor’s stool; his legs suddenly too unsteady to support him.

“Evan’s body works so hard to keep his lungs functioning; it’s having an adverse effect on his other organs. Like a domino effect. First the lungs, then the heart, then the kidneys or liver or some other organ until his body just shuts down.”

“But . . .” Max looked down at his hands, feeling helpless. What good were healing powers, if he couldn’t help his own son?

“I’d like to try a new drug therapy on him,” Jenny tried to offer a ray of hope. “It’s experimental, but in clinical trials it’s shown some success in combating COPD.”

“You mean, in human clinical trials.”

“Yes,” Jenny admitted. She closed the file and put it on the counter beside her, giving Max a moment to absorb everything.

“But we don’t know how Evan’s system will react to human drugs.”

“No. We don’t.” Jenny didn’t miss the slight tremble in Max’s voice.

“You know what happened before.”

She nodded. “That’s not something I’ll ever forget.”

“This drug …it could do more harm than good.”

“It could,” Jenny nodded.

After a long pause, Max swallowed hard and asked, “And if we do nothing? If I just . . .”

He turned up his hands showing Jenny what he left unsaid.

Jenny reached out and took his hands in hers. “At the current rate of deterioration? He has maybe a year. Maybe less.”

Max’s hands convulsively tightened around hers as he hung his head, hiding the sudden tears in his eyes.

* * * * *

Evan moved around the lobby aquarium, pinching in a few flakes of the food, smiling as the exotic fish darted after them. He was so absorbed with the activity, when he ran around to the front he didn’t notice the doctor walking down the corridor making notes in a patient chart. Evan ran right into him.

“Oh!” Evan gasped and stumbled backward, dropping the canister of fish food on the floor. “I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay, kid,” the doctor ruffled Evan’s mop of blond hair. “But you should watch where you’re going.”

“Sorry,” Evan said again, stepping aside. The doctor tucked the chart under his muscular arm and continued on his way. Evan stooped over to pick up the fish food, still watching the doctor, thinking about the empathic flash he’d just received and the image that accompanied it.

“Are you ready to go, Sport?” Max asked, joining Evan in the patient waiting area. He’d pulled himself back together, putting on the brave face he always wore in the presence of his son.

“Who’s that?” Evan pointed at the doctor’s retreating back.

“Him?” Jenny glanced appreciatively at the new doctor on staff, looking relaxed and mighty comfortable in a set of green scrubs. “That’s Doctor Acker. He’s been here about six months. Why?”

“No reason,” Evan answered.

Behind them, the receptionist spoke politely to the mother of a new patient. “Doctor Payne will be with you shortly.”

“Doctor Pain?” a young child’s voice cried.

Jenny shook her head, chuckling inside. “I’ve got to get myself a husband so I can have a new name!”

Max smiled as Jenny went back to work, half expecting Evan to offer his services once again, but the boy appeared lost in his own thoughts. He patted Evan on the shoulder to get his attention.

“Are you as hungry as I am?”

Evan tore his eyes away from Doctor Acker and smiled up at his father. “I’m starving!”

“Burgers or pizza?” Max asked, leading his son to the hospital’s main entrance.

“Pizza! With the works!”

“Not anchovies,” Max countered.

“You’re a wimp, Dad. Anchovies are the best!”

As they walked through the hospital, Evan spotted Dr. Acker again, at the nurse’s station, handing over the chart he’d been carrying under his arm. The doctor set his pen down on the countertop and after a moment walked away.

Evan came to a sudden stop and looked up at his dad, saying, “I’m thirsty. I’m gonna go get a drink.” He pointed at a water fountain against the far wall. “I’ll meet you at the car.”

“Okay,” Max agreed, hunching up his collar to ward of the perpetual rain. “I’ll swing around and pick you up.”

Evan made a beeline for the water fountain, but once his dad was out of sight he hurried over to the nurse’s station. When the nurse turned away he looked skyward and uttered under his breath, “I’m sorry, God. I know I shouldn’t steal. But this is for a good cause. I promise.”

He grabbed the pen Dr. Acker had so recently held in his hand and stuffed it into his pocket.

* * * * *

Later that night, Evan lay on his back in the dark, staring up at his bedroom ceiling. The wind outside made the tree branches sway, causing changing patterns to dance across the walls. It used to scare him when he was little, and he’d cry out, and his dad would always come and protect him. Maybe tonight, he could finally do something good for his dad.

He didn’t do this often, he knew it wasn’t right to invade the privacy of others, but tonight he thought he could be forgiven for the indiscretion. After all, it wasn’t for his own benefit. He reached over and snatched the pen off the nightstand, the one he’d stolen from the hospital earlier.

Holding it in his hand, he closed his eyes and let his mind blank out. His Aunt Isabel had shown him how to do this. He didn’t remember ever meeting her in person, he’d only been a baby then, but she came and visited him in his dreams sometimes. She lived with her husband on the other side of the country, in that other Washington.

Evan let his mind drift, the way he’d been taught, using the pen to reach out to the last person who touched it. He hoped when he found Dr. Acker that he wouldn’t be seeing more than he bargained for. It was dangerous to walk into a man’s dreams. They were usually either fighting or having sex. Both could be traumatic for the psyche of a 13 year old, but the latter was giving him a good education.

Not that he was ever going to have a girl, or have a chance to fall in love. He was too young. And he knew time wasn’t on his side.

Evan quieted his thoughts, feeling for the familiar pull. It took a few minutes, and some taxing effort, but he was rewarded in the end. He felt himself sucked into Brad Acker’s dream, and an interesting dream it was . . .


“Scalpel!”

The nurse slapped the instrument into his hand and Dr. Brad Acker went to work. The rapt faces in the packed observation room above the O.R. stared down through the window, amazed by his technique, awed by his medical prowess, his audience riveted to every stroke of his blade.

“Retractor!”

Evan walked around the operating room peering at all the faces behind the surgical masks, hoping to find one in particular. He’d seen her in the flash this afternoon when Dr. Acker touched him on the head. The girl from his dad’s dreams. She looked different in the flash. Older. Sadder. But he recognized her right away. Her deep brown eyes were unforgettable. Just ask his dad.

Obviously, Dr. Acker couldn’t forget her either. Because there she was, in his dream, looking down from the observation window, smiling at his surgical skill. Evan waved his hand to get her attention, but she didn’t notice him. This wasn’t her dream.

Changing tactics, he walked up behind the doctor and tapped him on the back.

Dr. Brad swung around with a bloody scalpel in his hand. “Go away kid. I’m operating here!”

Evan pointed toward the observation window. “Do you know that lady up there?”

“Which one?”

“The one in the white lab coat with the red stethoscope around her neck.”

“You mean Parker?”

“Parker?” Evan frowned. “I thought her name was Liz.”

“Yeah, that’s right.” Brad tugged the surgical mask away from his mouth. “Liz Parker.”

“Oh,” Evan brightened. His dad only called her Liz in his dreams. Now he knew her last name, too. “My dad knew her when she had long hair.”

Dream Brad looked up at Dream Liz, scrutinizing her short hairdo. “I was there when she cut it. She cried like a baby for the rest of the day. I liked it better long, but she said she needed a change. Something about ‘moving on’.”

“Is she married?”

“No,” Brad shook his head. “I could never get her to say yes.”

Evan cocked his head to the side, curious about the look in Dr. Brad’s eyes. “Were you in love with her?”

“Yeah,” Brad answered, letting out a small sigh. “I was. But she was hung up on some other guy.”

“Can you convince her to come here?”

“I don’t know. Liz is pretty set in her ways.”

“Will you try?” Evan asked.

“Sure, kid. If it means that much to you.”

Evan looked up at Liz’s idolized face. “It means everything to me.”



“Evan?”

Evan came out of his dreamwalk with a start, realizing what had jolted him out of it, or rather who. “Dad!”

“Are you okay?” Max held one glowing hand over the boy’s chest, the other against his brow.

“I’m fine.”

“You were talking in your sleep.”

“Just dreaming.”

“You sure?” Max couldn’t stop his worrying.

“Dad?” Evan said, looking up into his father’s eyes. “If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?”

“You,” Max answered without hesitation.

“Besides me,” Evan smiled. He knew he was luckier than most. He’d never once doubted his father’s love.

Max shrugged, smiling at his son. “World peace?”

“Besides that,” Evan pressed. Everyone wanted world peace. When his father didn’t say anything more, he asked, “Why didn’t you ever get married?”

Max was taken back by the question, but he really shouldn’t have been. It tied right in with Evan’s recent matchmaking efforts.

They both knew the question didn’t have anything to do with Evan’s mother. His father hadn’t told him much, just that she had died when he was a baby, but the boy had no fantasies about his parent’s relationship, or the circumstances of his conception. There were some things just too personal to talk about, but as an empath, Evan had always known. The girl his father grieved for wasn’t Evan’s mother.

Max’s face turned wistful with remembrance. “There was someone, once . . . but . . . I kinda screwed it up.”

“And if you had the chance to do it over?” Evan asked.

“That’s kind of what put us in this position in the first place.”

“What?” Evan asked, confused.

“Nothing,” Max smiled indulgently. “If I was given a chance to do things over again, I wouldn’t do it. You’ve been a gift to me, Evan. I wouldn’t give up a single minute of the life we’ve had together. I love you, son.”

“I love you too, Dad,” Evan said, feeling his father’s emotions loud and clear. Sometimes, being an empath could be a curse, but right now it warmed his heart.

“Go to sleep,” Max said, kissing Evan on the forehead. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Goodnight, Dad.”

Evan burrowed down into the covers. As he fell asleep in the warm cocoon of his blankets, Evan hoped his contact with Dr. Acker had set something in motion. A chance for his father to find the peace that he deserved, and the happiness that had long eluded him.



Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you


Fix You
Coldplay
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Postby Breathless » Sun Aug 13, 2006 12:24 am

Smac wrote:...I really like Dr Acker and I am glad to know Liz wasn't completely alone all this time while Max had Evan with him ... I do hope she is still close friends enough with Brad that she will visit him when he calls her.

I'm glad you like Dr. Brad. This part will answer your question.

And just why does Dr Jenny know about Max and Evan's little secret? ... Somethign big had to happen because Max wouldn't go around telling his secret to just anyone.

You're going to have to wait awhile to learn the answer to this question!


I hope everyone is enjoying this! On with the next part...


An Imperfect Life
Part 4



A hundred days have made me older
Since the last time that I saw your pretty face
A thousand lies have made me colder
And I don't think I can look at this the same
But all the miles that separate
Disappear now when I'm dreaming of your face

I'm here without you baby
But you're still on my lonely mind
I think about you baby
And I dream about you all the time
I'm here without you baby
But you're still with me in my dreams
And tonight it's only you and me


Here Without You
Three Doors Down



Boston, Massachusetts


Liz wrestled with the grocery bag, moving it from her right arm to her left so she could insert her key into the lock of her apartment door. She braced the bag against her hip, but the contents were heavy, especially after walking up three flights of stairs. When the groceries shifted, her reaction was too slow. The bag tore, sending the contents to the floor.

“SHIT!”

Frustration drove Liz to kick a melon half way down the hall. The satisfaction of it was fleeting, though. Her toe hurt almost as much as her pride when her neighbor opened the door and saw the booted cantaloupe on her doorstep.

“There’s a cure for that, you know,” Mabel Zeller said, picking up the melon and waddling down the hall to give it back to Liz. At 68 and 100 pounds overweight, Mabel knew what kind of killer those stairs could be.

“Cure?” Liz said, taking the bait. She’d known Mabel for years, since the night Joe Zeller went into cardiac arrest, and Liz performed CPR until the ambulance arrived. Sadly, Joe passed a few years later, and now Mabel was alone. But Mabel was grateful to Liz for those extra few years, and they’d grown close.

“Liz, honey,” Mabel handed her the cantaloupe. “You need to get laid.”

“Mabel! I do not!” Liz cried out, shocked by her neighbor’s audacity, but she couldn’t help laughing either.

“Look at you,” Mabel pinched her cheek. “You’re tense. Prone to violent outbursts.” She held up the cantaloupe to make her point. “You’re irritable. Not sleeping at night. You need someone to rock your world. An orgasm can do wonders for your mood.”

“Have you been watching those cable shows again?” Liz scolded, dropping down to her knees to stuff the groceries back into the tattered bag.

“What happened to that nice young man you were seeing? I bet he was good in the sack!”

“Mabel!”

“I haven’t seen him around here in months.”

“He moved,” Liz admitted, with a tinge of regret in her voice. Sometimes she wondered if she drove him away. She couldn’t commit, and he finally got tired of asking.

“Pity,” Mabel lamented. “He was a stud.”

“Have you made any plans for dinner tonight?” Liz asked, smiling for the first time in days. A couple of old maids made good company.



Kings Island, Washington

Brad Acker smiled as he scrubbed his hands at a deep sink, preparing for his next surgery. He was having a good day. In fact, it was a great day. He’d already successfully completed a complicated quadruple bypass, with the Chief of Thoracic Surgery in attendance no less, and now he was about to start a career maker, assisting on a Truncus arteriosus repair in a nine month old infant.

A scrub nurse joined him, holding up a sterilized gown.

“Hi Molly.”

“Did you hear about Thoreson?” she said. “The whole hospital’s buzzing about it.”

“What about him?” Brad asked, curious despite the fact that he never paid much attention to hospital gossip.

“He tendered his resignation this morning.”

“No shit?” Brad shut off the faucet with his elbows and let Molly assist him into the surgical gown.

“Apparently he took a position over at Children’s Hospital in Seattle.”

“That leaves a big hole in Pediatrics,” Brad mused. He prided himself on his ability to focus, to exclude everything except the upcoming procedure, but at the moment his mind was drifting.

“No kidding,” the nurse agreed. “I wonder who they’ll get to replace him.”

A face suddenly blossomed in Brad’s mind. She’d been on his mind a lot lately, and he’d awakened that morning with the urge to call her. Smiling, he said, “I think I know someone who’d be perfect for the job.”


Boston, Massachusetts

Liz puttered around in the kitchen, cleaning up after a scintillating “girls night”, even if said girls night amounted to nothing more than waxing medical war stories with the resident widow in apartment 316.

But Mabel knew what it felt like to be alone, and to Liz, that made them sisters, no matter how many years spanned between them.

The phone interrupted her thoughts, its angry blaring both irritating, and compelling. Who was calling?

With a quick look at the Caller ID, she debated with herself whether to answer, but of course, in the end she had too. She couldn’t let the ringing drone on indefinitely. And Maria deserved better than a quick brush-off. She was Liz’s rock. Her anchor. The only one she could tell her deepest, darkest secrets to.

“Hi Maria,” Liz said into the phone. “How’s California?”

“Hot.” The familiar voice on the other end cut right through the small talk, going straight to the heart of the matter. “So how did your date go? Did you hit one out of the ballpark?”

“Maria. It was dinner. Not a baseball game. And in case you forgot, baseball season is over.”

“So how was dinner?”

“Fine,” Liz answered. Her date was fine. Okay, truthfully, the date wasn’t fine, because the date never happened. She’d cancelled it before it ever got started. Mrs. Zeller became her new date instead.

“Are you going out with him again?” Maria asked.

“No. I don’t think so.” Mrs. Zeller, on the other hand, could very well become her new steady.

“Not your soul mate, huh?” Maria taunted.

“So not funny,” Liz smarted. Maria knew how to go right to the jugular.

“One of these times you’ll find the right guy.”

Liz didn’t bother to remind her best friend that she already found ‘the right guy’ but lost him along the way. Everyone else was second best.

“So Brad still holds the record, huh? How long were you two a couple?”

“Six months,” Liz answered in a wistful tone. Longer than any other man she’d dated in the last twelve years.

“Was he that bad?”

“No,” Liz rolled her eyes. “He wasn’t ‘bad’. He was very nice, actually,” Liz added with a begrudging smile.

But he wasn’t Max.

“Where did he go? Oregon?”

“Washington,” Liz answered. “To an island in the Puget Sound. He says it’s beautiful there.”

“So he’s still calling?”

“We’re friends,” Liz defended, then cringed at Maria’s next words.

“Just friends?”

“Just friends,” Liz confirmed. Why did those words cause such a rush of memories? Of a dark haired boy, a room full of steam, and strawberries. She shifted uncomfortably, not wanting to remember the past.

The phone beeped in her ear.

“Hold on a second, I’ve got another call coming in,” Liz said and hit the button. Static filled her ear. “Hello?”

“Liz! You’re nev . . . believe this! I found the . . . fect job . . . you. Pediatrics, just like you wanted –”

“Brad? Brad, is that you? I can barely hear you.”

“My cell gets bad reception on the island,” Brad shouted over the static. “Hold on . . .”

Liz listened closely, trying to make out his words.

“Can you hear me better now?” Brad asked.

“Much,” she said, picturing his green eyes and easy smile. “What were you saying?”

“Remember in med school, when you told me about your dream job?”

Head of Molecular Biology at Harvard flashed through her mind, but she dismissed that quickly. She’d let that dream go a long time ago, just like so many of her other dreams.

“Which one?” Her tone was light, hiding what was under the surface. “Plastic surgeon to the stars? Oh wait. That was your dream.”

“Very funny!” Brad bantered back. “Are you ever going to let me forget that phase?”

“No,” Liz laughed. She missed Brad. They’d been through a lot together, in med school and later, when they were both interns at Boston General. He wasn’t ‘the one’, but in another lifetime, he might have been.

“Look, Liz,” Brad’s tone turned serious. “There’s an opening in Pediatrics here. They’re looking for someone to develop a Pediatric Critical Care Unit. It’s right up your alley. You’d love it here, and with your skills, it’d be perfect for you.”

“A PCC?” Liz echoed. She’d studied hard, throwing herself into something important, to keep her mind focused. She’d been given a second chance at life once. She wanted to use it to help the innocent who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance at all.

“I told them all about you,” Brad’s voice faded in and out. “They’re impressed with your credentials. They want to talk to you.”

“Are you serious?” Liz gripped the phone tightly. She enjoyed her work here in Boston, but it didn’t feel like home here. At heart she was still a small town girl. She never wanted to go back to Roswell, but could she find her place in a small corner of the Northwest, as different from Roswell as night and day?

Brad’s warm voice came through the phone loud and clear. “Have I ever lied to you?”

“Never.” Liz felt a sense of heaviness lifting from her. Maybe this was just what she needed.

“Call me when you’ve made your reservations. I’ll pick you up at the airport!”

“I haven’t said I’m coming yet!” Liz reminded him.

“I never had any doubt.”

Liz ended the call with a surge of new hope filling her. She’d lived under a cloud for so many years, was it really possible to leave the past behind and start a new life? Was she really ready to move on?

“Liz? Liz? Liz, are you there?”

“Maria?” Liz said into the phone, startled out of her thoughts. “I’m sorry I took so long! Speak of the devil, that was Brad on the other line.” She hadn’t talked to him in weeks. How strange that he would call tonight, right when they were talking about him.

“What’s going on?” Maria asked, sounding concerned.

A slow smile spread over Liz’s face, allowing herself the first sense of hope she’d had in years. “It looks like I’m going to Washington State.”



tbc ...
Last edited by Breathless on Sun Aug 13, 2006 2:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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An Imperfect Life, Part 5

Postby Breathless » Sun Aug 20, 2006 12:28 am

Several of you have commented about the musical selections I’ve chosen to accompany this story. I’ve always found inspiration in music, and I often see Max and Liz in the lyrics. I’ll be in the car listening to the radio and I’ll hear a tone, or a verse, and I’ll be reminded of Max and Liz at some point on their relationship. In this upcoming part, I’ve chosen a song that has stuck with me for years, by a group many of you probably don’t even know. The first stanza is Liz. The second is Max.



An Imperfect Life
Part 5



I step off the train
I'm walking down your street again
And pass your door
But you don't live there anymore
It's years since you've been there
Now you've disappeared somewhere
Like outer space
You've found some better place

Could you be dead?
You always were two steps ahead
Of everyone
We'd walk behind
While you would run
I look up at your house
And I can almost hear you
Shout down to me
Where I always used to be

And I miss you
Like the deserts miss the rain

And I miss you …

Missing
Everything But The Girl




Kings Island, Washington

“Dad. I think this is a really bad idea.”

Max turned away from the bedroom mirror with his hands still on his tie, giving Evan a disgruntled look. “As I remember, you’re the one who got me into this. You asked her to be my date.”

“I know.” Evan’s shoulders slumped, sitting on the corner of his father’s bed. At the time it made perfect sense. Dr. Jenny and his father had known each other for years. She knew all about their secret so his dad didn’t have to lie, or hide anything. She was pretty, and smart too, and a week ago Evan would have been ecstatic about his dad going on a date with her, even if it was just to a school dance. Now …

Max finished with his tie and moved across the room, resting his hand on Evan’s shoulder. “Is something wrong, son?”

Evan looked up at his father, trying to shake off the dark cloud that had been hovering over him all day. He sensed something was wrong, he just didn’t know what. Maybe it was just his time running out.

“No,” Evan told his father. “Everything’s fine.”

“Come on, then,” Max urged him to his feet. “We have a dinner reservation and a dance to go to.”


Seattle, Washington

Liz listened to the monotonous sound of windshield wipers arcing back and forth across the glass in a constant struggle to remove the never ending drops of rain that marred her vision. She should have known Brad wouldn’t be at the airport to meet her. He was big on talk, but lacked a little in the follow-through department. She’d been forced to rent a car at the airport, and was now trying to make her way through what was commonly called one of the country’s top five traffic nightmares. Interstate 5 at rush hour. Were these people insane?

“Hey!” Liz cried out when a car whipped in front of her, cutting her off. “Asshole!”

She hadn’t even been on the ground for an hour, and already she was thinking this was a really, really bad mistake. She would have been better off staying in Boston.

But Boston was cold, and she didn’t mean the weather. She’d lived there for years, but she’d never called it home.

The luminous letters on a green highway sign caught her eye, telling her the exit to Kings Island Ferry Terminal was one mile ahead. She switched lanes quickly, this time her turn to cut someone off. Maybe she fit in here after all. She was a pro at lifting her middle finger.


Kings Island

“Why are we at the hospital?” Evan asked as his dad pulled into Kings Memorial parking lot.

“Jenny called earlier and said she was running late. She asked me to pick her up here.” As Max pulled to a stop, he looked through the window at the driving sheets of rain pouring from the sky. Another wet winter in the Northwest. “We better make a run for it.”

On the count of three, they bolted from the car with their jacket collars turned up to keep the rain from going down their necks. They were half way across the parking lot when a car came out of nowhere, whizzing right by and spraying them with a stream of water.

“Damn!” Max scowled down at his dripping pants. He shot a harsh glare at the disappearing taillights, then started running again toward the hospital’s main entrance, getting wetter by the minute. Evan stayed rooted to the spot, staring off in the direction the car went.

“Evan! Come on,” Max called out when he realized his son wasn’t with him. Rain pelted his face and his lashes, making him blink.

Evan stared after the car, sensing something but not sure what. A whisper filled his head, an empathic flash from a distant past, though he had no idea what the words meant, or who they were referring to. ‘Give him a life worth living.’

“Evan!” Max shouted again, bringing the boy back to the present. Evan raced across the parking lot to join his dad and they hurried inside where it was dry and warm.

* * * * *

Liz slammed the car into park and stared through the windshield, calling herself crazy, mad, insane. Why had she let Brad talk her into this? She was glad she’d just used her accumulated vacation time to come here, instead of outright quitting her job. She could easily go back. When was the next return flight to Boston?

Her introduction to the fine state of Washington so far consisted of getting stood up at the airport, getting stuck in nightmare traffic, getting flipped the bird, feeling seasick on the ferry ride across the Puget Sound, and now, to top it all off, she’d almost run over some poor innocent schmuck in the parking lot. Could things get any worse than this? She hoped the guy hadn’t gotten her license plate number and wouldn’t try to sue her.

She reached for the umbrella on the seat next to her, a timely purchase at one of the duty free shops at the airport, perhaps the only smart move she’d made since this whole fiasco started. She looked at the sharp metal tip of the umbrella, picturing herself jabbing Brad repeatedly with it for making her come here. It brought the first smile to her face she’d had all day.

* * * * *

“Look at you two,” Jenny frowned at the puddle of water forming around Max’s and Evan’s feet. “Don’t you own an umbrella?”

Max wiped a drop of rainwater from his nose. “I grew up in New Mexico. I never needed one.”

“Go into my office and dry yourselves off,” Jenny scolded, ushering them ahead of her.

Moments later Brad walked by, checking the time on his wristwatch. Liz should have been here an hour ago, but maybe she got stuck in traffic. He felt bad about not meeting her at the airport, but Mr. Carpenter’s angioplasty took longer than expected. When he looked up, it was just in time to see a familiar face entering through the main hospital doors.

“Liz!” Brad called out, waving his arm to get her attention, smiling from ear to ear. She was a sight for sore eyes; her petite little frame, her soft and delicate features, her smoldering dark eyes. He opened up his arms to sweep her into an embrace –

“Owww!” Brad rubbed his chest, staring at the tip of her umbrella. “What was that for!”

* * * * *

Checking his watch, Max called out, “We better get going if we want to make our dinner reservation.”

He looked up just as Jenny stepped out of the office bathroom where she’d gone to change out of her work clothes. He admired her appreciatively; her dress fit her hourglass figure like a glove. In a way, she reminded him of Isabel, tall, blonde, and statuesque. Maybe it was why he always felt so comfortable with her, a pseudo sister in the absence of any other family.

“I’m ready,” Jenny lifted her coat off the rack by the door. Max took it and helped her into it. She ruffled Evan’s dry hair, noting that the rest of him was dry now, too. So was Max. Those alien powers were amazing. She smiled at Evan and said, “My, aren’t you handsome tonight.”

Evan blushed to the tips of his ears.

“Let’s go,” Max held the door open for them. Dinner was waiting and he was starving.

* * * * *

Liz crossed her arms over her chest in a pout. “I hate it here already. I almost drowned just running from the car! I’ve never seen so much rain in all my life!”

“But if you were in Boston, you’d be buried under a foot of snow,” Brad reminded her. He set a cup of hot coffee on the cafeteria table in front of her, then took a seat directly across from her.

“I like the snow,” Liz countered. “It’s pretty when it snows.” She looked down at the steaming cup and asked, “This isn’t one of those frappy cappuccino things, is it?”

“No,” Brad snickered at her petulant look. “It’s just coffee. The way you like it. One sugar, one cream, and one dash of Tabasco sauce.”

“You remembered.” Liz let a small smile replace her dour frown. She pulled the coffee toward her, letting it warm her cold hands.

“Of course I remember,” he smiled back. “You’re probably the only person in the world with that kind of dietary quirk.”

A shadow fell over her face and his smile wavered, reading her sudden change the wrong way. “Look, I’m sorry about today. I wanted to meet you at the airport, but I couldn’t get away. I bet you’re tired.”

“A little,” Liz admitted, brushing a strand of short hair behind her ear. It was better not to think of other things, like Tabasco sauce, and amber colored eyes.

“How about we leave the hospital tour for tomorrow?” Brad suggested. “Tonight, let’s go to my place and talk about old times over beer and pizza.”

Liz let out a little laugh, reminded of why she liked him so much. “How can a girl resist an offer like that?”

* * * * *

“Anything look good?” Max asked, eyeing his son over the menu. Evan was being uncharacteristically quiet tonight.

“I’ll have a hamburger,” Evan said, putting down the menu.

“I think I’ll have the salmon.” Jenny closed her menu and placed it on top of Evan’s.

“Me, too,” Max smiled at her, adding his to the stack.

Evan fiddled with his fork, looking around the restaurant, for what, he didn’t know. Something out of place, maybe. His empathic gift was talking to him, but he was having a hard time hearing what it was saying.

“So,” Max said, sipping from his water glass. He sliced a glance toward his son and asked, “Is Lacey going to be at the dance tonight?”

“Daaad!” Evan exclaimed, turning red from ear to ear. All other thoughts flew out of his head.

“Just asking,” Max chuckled. He knew who turned his son’s eye.

* * * * *

Liz sat crossed legged on the floor with a beer in her hand, leaning backwards and laughing her head off. Brad had always been a hell of a storyteller, and tonight was no exception. She hadn’t laughed this hard since he left Boston.

“So there I am,” Brad swept his arms through the air, “taking a whiz with nature, when what comes lumbering out from behind the tree? A bear! A real, live motherloving black bear! I nearly crapped my pants!”

“Are you serious?” Liz’s mouth dropped open. “What did you do?”

“I screamed like a girl, pissed all over my leg, and ran like hell! I scared the bear so bad; it went running the other way!”

Liz laughed again, completely immersed in his story. She’d never had to worry about encountering a bear in the woods before. Her campouts had involved a different kind of species. The extraterrestrial kind.

* * * * *

Max sipped at his punch, keeping a watchful eye on the room full of young teens. The music blared from the speakers like some god-awful racket, but the kids seemed to like it. Most of them were good kids, but there were a few he had to keep his eye on, like Justin Daley and his twin brother Jerrod, who tried to spike the punch bowl earlier. Their thin metal flask still resided in Max’s pocket where it was safe and sound. He certainly wouldn’t be drinking from it tonight, or any other night for that matter.

The incident raised a memory of a night from his own youth, when just one sip was all it took to loosen his inhibitions, and give him the courage to voice what he really felt. What would have happened that night if he and Liz had really run away? She’d looked so pretty, with glitter on her face, and her hair piled high on her head. Their kiss up on that stage had made him sober up, but those few moments when her lips were on his were forever seared into his brain.

“Well, I now officially know that Jimmy is hot, Aaron somebody has a body to die for, and some boy named Riley has big hands and feet, so you know what that means.”

“Girl talk in the bathroom?” Max chuckled, pouring Jenny a glass of punch.

She took it, smiling. “And all the girls think Evan has the dreamiest eyes!”

“That’s my boy!” Max laughed.

“Well, it’s hard to believe,” Jenny looked toward the dance floor, “but they’re actually playing a song I know.”

Max listened for a second and recognized it too. A slow song, made for lovers. He set his punch glass down and held out his hand. “Would you care to dance?”

“Why, yes, I think I would,” Jenny smiled, setting her own glass down. She slipped her hand into his and he led her out onto the dance floor. They danced together slowly, talking over the sound of the music.

“I can’t believe that a beautiful woman like you didn’t have anything better to do on a Friday night than to chaperone a school dance for a bunch of 12 and 13 year olds.”

“If I didn’t know better,” Jenny looked into his hauntingly dreamy eyes, “I’d think that was a pick-up line.”

Max shrugged apologetically. “I’m not too familiar with those.”

Jenny smiled at him, enjoying their easy friendship. Under different circumstances, she thought they might have made a beautiful couple, but his heart was already taken. She couldn’t compete with the memory from his past.

“You know, your name came up in the bathroom, too.”

“Mine?” Max gaped at her.

“Oh yeah,” Jenny nodded. “It seems you’re the hottest teacher at school.”

“Counselor,” Max corrected her.

“Okay, the hottest Counselor at school. Haven’t you ever noticed that most of your visitors are female?”

“Well . . . no,” Max answered, like a true male without a clue.

“Believe me; the female student body of Kings Middle School worships the ground you walk on.”

“Stop,” Max snorted, feeling his cheeks begin to burn. This conversation was becoming embarrassing.

Jenny changed the subject to let him off the hook. “Look at that.”

Max followed her gaze to a pair of dancers in the middle of the floor, seeing Evan valiantly trying not to step on the toes of a pretty, dark haired young girl.

“I take it that’s Lacey?” Jenny asked.

“Yep,” Max smiled. His son had had a thing for Lacey Greenly since the second grade, when Lacey and her family moved to the island. Max was glad to see that he’d ‘come out from behind the tree’ and asked the girl to dance. He knew Evan was a lot like him, reserved and cautious of the world around him. Which wasn’t surprising. Like father, like son.

Watching his boy, Max couldn’t help thinking back to the first time he danced with a girl in his arms.


“It says, ‘Ask a girl to dance with you’.”

“Is that really what it says?”

“It depends or your answer.”

“Yes.”

“Then that’s really what it says.”



The memory of the easy way he and Liz moved together that night was still etched in his brain. Their lives had been so full of possibilities, but in the end, the alien abyss had swallowed them once again. It’d been that way the whole time, reeling from one alien disaster to another, never being able to stay afloat. He was surprised Liz stayed with him for as long as she did before she finally had enough and walked away. No matter what, he always seemed to hurt the ones he loved. It was why he always kept his distance. That, and the memory of Liz.

“Hey,” Jenny squeezed his hand. “Where’d you go?”

“Sorry,” Max pulled himself back to the present. They danced together until the song ended, then Max led Jenny off the floor.

Evan, on the other hand, continued to dance the night away.

* * * * *

Liz yawned, just this side of exhaustion. “I can’t keep my eyes open another minute.”

“Let’s go to bed, then.” Brad pushed himself off the couch, feeling just a little unsteady. He shouldn’t have had that last beer.

Liz looked up at him, losing the slight buzz she’d been feeling. “I’m not going to bed with you.”

“That’s not what I –”

“Let’s get this straight, Brad. I didn’t fly all the way across the country just to hop in the sack with you.”

“Liz,” Brad knelt down in front of her, placing his hands on her shoulders. “That’s not what I meant. I won’t lie to you, I’ve missed you, and a part of me wants to see us pick up where we left off, but the reason I called you to come out here was because I think the job is perfect for you, and . . .”

“And what?” Liz cocked her head, wondering why his face blanked out for a moment.

Brad tried to think but the memory was fleeting. He thought maybe he’d had a dream, where someone asked him to call Liz, but that was kind of . . . crazy. Probably just his own subconscious trying to tell him that he missed her.

“When I said let’s go to bed, you didn’t let me finish. I didn’t mean my bed. I made the spare bedroom up for you.”

“Oh,” Liz said, embarrassed now. “So you didn’t . . .”

“Parker,” Brad smirked. “I’d love to jump your bones, but I’ll be the pillar of virtue while you’re here. You have my word on that. Unless,” Brad pointed his finger at her, “you make the first move. Then all bets are off.”

“I’m not making the first move,” Liz said, trying to be perfectly clear.

Brad tweaked her cheek. “Then you’re safe with me.”

* * * * *

“Home safe and sound,” Max said, pulling to a stop in front of Jenny’s apartment building. “I’ll walk you up.”

“You don’t have to do that,” Jenny said, reaching for the door handle.

“A gentleman doesn’t leave his date on the street.” He turned toward the back seat and added, “You got that Evan? When you take a girl to a dance, you take her home when it’s over, and make sure she gets there safe.”

“I know, Dad.” Evan fought the urge to roll his eyes.

“Good,” Max nodded and climbed from the car. He was determined that Evan wouldn’t make the same mistakes he made. He’d screwed up so much in his lifetime, he could write a book about it. He offered Jenny his hand to help her from the car and they walked side by side to her apartment.

“You’re being awfully sweet,” Jenny said, “but I’m a big girl. I can make it to my apartment alone.”

“I know that,” Max said, reaching for the entry door to the building and holding it open for her.

When they reached her apartment, Jenny paused, with her key in her hand. “I had a really good time tonight. I’m glad Evan asked me to be your date.”

“I had a good time, too,” Max smiled, something he didn’t do nearly often enough. “Look,” he turned more serious, “I know this . . . date . . .” Max said, fumbling for the right words and doing it badly.

“Was just two friends enjoying each others company,” Jenny finished for him.

Max smiled again, relieved that she knew what he was trying to say. With a crooked grin, he added, “I’ll let you know when the next chaperone event comes up.”

“You do that,” Jenny grinned and stepped inside her apartment. “Actually,” she turned to face him again, “there is this thing next month . . .”

“Thing?”

“The hospital’s Annual Benefit Ball. It’s a fundraiser. I have to go, but . . .” she faltered, fidgeting with the strap of her purse. “I’m sure it’d be more enjoyable if I had a handsome man to accompany me.”

“Do you want me to help you find one?” Max asked in all seriousness, and then laughed when she hit him on the arm.

“I meant you!” Jenny cried, laughing with him. “You know, friends helping friends.” Her smile faded as she added, “I really don’t want to go alone.”

Max lifted her hand and kissed the back of it, saying like a true gentleman, “I’d be honored to take you to the Annual Benefit Ball.”

“Thank you,” she said, squeezing his hand back.

A fleeting look crossed his face, the one he always got when he shied away from her getting too close, reminding her that friendship was all he was willing to give. She covered the awkward moment by poking her finger against his chest, saying, “But if my Mister Right comes along between now and then, I’m gonna have to cut you loose.”

“I can live with that,” Max grinned at her.

He knew she’d find her Mr. Right some day, but they both knew it wasn’t him. His heart was already taken.


Back on the train
I ask
Why did I come again?
Can I confess
I've been hanging 'round
Your old address?
And the years have proved
To offer nothing
Since you moved
You're long gone
But I can't move on

And I miss you …

Missing
Everything But The Girl
Behr's Bitch

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Breathless
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An Imperfect Life, Part 6

Postby Breathless » Sun Aug 27, 2006 12:41 am

So everyone seems to think Max taking Jenny to the benefit ball is a bad idea. Only time will tell!

roswck, you commented that you thought Jenny was married. No, she’s single. Her comment in part 3 was: “I’ve got to get myself a husband so I can have a new name!” Because of Evan’s matchmaking efforts, Max half expected Evan to offer his father’s services to Jenny.

Scottie, your story about your 18 month old son using the “A” word was hilarious.

Smac, you commented that maybe Liz’s road manners was a little bit of me? Guilty! I can raise my middle finger with the best of ‘em! And cut people off and call them stupid for driving like idiots!

Smac, Natz, you and a few others have commented on liking Brad. I’m glad he’s coming across as a likable character. Hopefully that will continue. Do you all remember his 1 minute dream sequence in Season 2 – To Serve and Protect? He was buff, and appealing, but he couldn’t make rose petals float from the sky like Max could.

DreamerMaxBehrian, I just have to tell you how much I look forward to your feedback each week! You put so much thought into it, and your take on the story is great! I can’t give any hints as to what’s to come, but it’s fun reading what you think might happen.

Mica, I noticed Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol in your sig line. I’ll be using that song later in this story, as well as another one. Aren’t they great! They were supposed to play in Seattle a couple of weeks ago, but they got held up because of airport security and had to cancel when they couldn’t get here in time.

And I’m glad so many of you were familiar with the song from part 5. It’s one of my all time favorites. Some of the words seem tailor written for Max and Liz. In this part I’ve chosen a song every one of you will know. I think many of us bought the CD after we heard it on Roswell. The words ‘sing’ Max and Liz, as if it were tailor made for them. It can also apply to a devout person’s feelings toward God.

In the context of this story, the song symbolizes a certain father’s love for his son …


An Imperfect Life
Part 6



Find me here
Speak to me
I want to feel you
I need to hear you
You are the light
That is leading me
To the place
Where I find peace
again

You are the strength
That keeps me walking
You are the hope
That keeps me trusting
You are the life
To my soul
You are my purpose

You are everything…

Everything
Lifehouse



Liz woke up early, biologically still on east coast time. She hadn’t settled in yet, she’d only been here a few days, and for some reason she hadn’t shaken the jet lag yet. At least, that’s what she credited her sense of distraction to. She couldn’t keep her mind off Roswell, even though this place was nothing like it, nothing here to stir up old memories.

Still, her dreams the last few nights had been vivid.


It says ask a girl to dance . . .

Right this minute . . . I can’t . . . not . . . touch you . . .

I only know the part I’m hoping for . . .



Liz ran her hand through her short hair, determined to put all that behind her, to stop dwelling on the past. She had a future waiting for her, if she’d just let herself live it. Would it be so bad, to let Brad in? Would it be fair to him, knowing a part of her heart would always belong to another? She thought this trip would give her answers, but it was turning out to make her more confused than ever. With a sigh, she pulled back the covers on her borrowed bed and padded out into the kitchen to get the coffee started.

When the rich brew was ready she poured herself a steaming cup and moved into the living room to stand in front of the picture window, taking in the view. The old saying ‘When it rains, it pours,’ must have been written for the northwest, but when the sun came out, she’d never seen a more beautiful place. Mount Rainier in the distance, majestic in its beauty, its snow covered peak rising over 14,000 feet in the air. And the waters of the Puget Sound all around them, with the setting sun beautiful enough to take her breath away.

And when the night was clear, with the moon shining on the water, and the stars filling the sky . . .


That’s what’s really there all the time. If we could only see it.


Brad came up behind Liz, yawning and scratching his hand through his bed hair. “You’re up early again.”

Liz startled at his presence. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.” She took a sip of her coffee and tried to bury her memories, even though they seemed to be cropping up all the time, lately.

“That’s okay. I’m used to it.” His hand reached out to touch Liz’s hair, but he stopped short and went into the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee instead. “What time’s your interview?”

“Ten,” Liz answered, following him. She sat at the oak table, watching Brad putter around the kitchen. His sandy colored hair still looked a little ruffled, which made her smile. His muscular arms and broad shoulders looked very appealing, exposed by the sleeveless undershirt he wore. His pajama bottoms clung just enough to remind her of what was underneath, and how long it’d been since she’d had any kind of physical companionship. Not that she was ready to walk down that path with him again, not yet, but the possibility was there, or should be, if she could just let go.

“You’re gonna knock ‘em dead,” Brad encouraged her, setting a bagel topped with strawberry cream cheese in front of her.

Liz took it, smiling at his thoughtfulness. He really was the sweetest guy.

* * * * *

“Can you tell me what started it?” Max asked the young girl sitting in the chair on the other side of his desk. He jotted an occasional note on a yellow legal pad as she spoke, a record that would later be added to her school file. It always surprised him when physical confrontations at school involved warring girls, but then he’d remember the time Liz blasted Tess across Michael’s living room, and it became more understandable. He hadn’t blamed Liz one bit for what she did. When it came to some things, actions spoke louder than words.

“Megan started it,” Heather complained. “She’s jealous because Tommy was with me at the dance last Friday. That’s why she wrote those things on my locker. I was just getting back at her.”

The phone rang on his desk, but Max let it go to voice mail. When he had a student in his office, he gave that student his full attention.

“Don’t you think there might have been a better way to handle it? One that didn’t involve getting into a shoving match in the girl’s bathroom?”

“She deserved it!” Heather complained. “She –”

The office secretary, short and a little on the plump side, poked her head inside the door. “Mr. Philips?”

“Connie,” Max frowned at the interruption. “Can it wait –”

“I’m sorry,” she interrupted, “but I just took a call from the gym. Evan’s been hurt.”

Max’s grip on his pen convulsively tightened, almost snapping it in two. The blood rushed out of his face, leaving his color a stark shade of white. He shot to his feet, forgetting all about Heather and her problems. “Hurt? How hurt?”

“I don’t know,” Connie apologized. “They didn’t say. Just that you should come quickly.”

Max left the office trying not to panic. It was probably nothing. A sprained wrist, maybe, or a bump, or a bruise. All things he could easily fix. It wouldn’t be anything worse than that. Please, God, don’t let it be worse than that.

His long strides turned into a quickening gait, which soon turned into a full out run through the school hallways. He raced around the final corner and came to a near stop, stunned by the size of the crowd milling around the gym doors. The distant sound of a siren got him moving again.

“Evan?” Max pushed his way through the crowd, searching for his son. When they realized he was there the crowd parted, like the Red Sea parting for Moses, revealing Max’s worst nightmare.

Evan lay on his back on the hard polished floor of the gymnasium, struggling to breathe. His legs writhed back and forth in agony, while one hand clutched at his chest and the other clawed at his own throat. The ashen color of his face, and the blue tinge to his lips told Max everything. This time it was bad. Very bad. He rushed to his son’s side.

“Evan?” Max fell to his knees beside the boy. Coach Wolinski moved aside to give him room.

“The kids were playing dodge ball,” Wolinski explained. “Evan took one in the chest, and . . .” he shook his head back and forth, shaken by the incident. “Nothing like this has ever happened before.”

“Evan, try to relax.” Max cupped his son’s face with one hand, placing the other against the boy’s chest.

“Dad,” Evan choked out in a whisper.

“Don’t try to talk,” Max cautioned. He looked up at all the faces crowding around them, watching his every move. If he tried to heal his son now, there’d be over 50 witnesses to it.

“Don’t,” Evan gasped, looking at his father with frightened eyes. “Don’t . . .”

Evan tightened his hand around his father’s, feebly trying to pull it away from his chest. He wouldn’t let his dad expose himself like this, not even to save his life.

Max was spared from making that agonizing decision by the timely arrival of the ambulance. The crowd parted once again as the paramedics entered the gym.

“I called them,” the Coach said, rising to his feet to get out of the way. Everyone on staff was aware of Evan’s severe asthma.

“Hold on Evan,” Max urged, squeezing his son’s hand. Evan’s almost imperceptible nod was enough to tell Max he understood. In the ambulance, Max would have a better chance of healing him, without half the staff and student body of Kings Middle School watching.

Max watched as the paramedic crew went to work preparing his son for immediate transport. He held Evan’s hand while they moved him to a stretcher and hustled him to the ambulance for the relatively short trip to the hospital.

“214 ready to transport,” the paramedic spoke into a two way radio affixed to his shoulder. “ETA five minutes.”

“His doctor is Jennifer Payne,” Max said, settling onto a bench seat beside Evan in the back of the ambulance. “Someone should notify her.”

“Will do,” the paramedic said, turning away to make the call.

With the paramedic momentarily distracted, Max slipped his hand under Evan’s gym shirt, masking his attempt to heal the boy. He strained with the effort, but each attack was becoming harder and harder to heal. His heart lurched when he sensed the extent of Evan’s deteriorating condition.

“Try to hold on.” Max hovered over him, brushing the boy’s blond hair back from his forehead. He held himself tightly in check so Evan wouldn’t hear the tremble in his voice, or see the fear in his eyes. “You’re gonna be just fine.”

“I love you, Dad,” Evan mouthed the words. He sensed every emotion his father was feeling. There was no way for Max to hide it from him.

“I love you too, Evan,” Max choked.

A tear fell from Evan’s eye, leaving a wet trail across his temple, while Max fought to hold back his own.

* * * * *

Jenny looked at her watch again, anxiously checking the time. They should be here by now. If this attack was as bad as she suspected, time was of the essence. She needed to get Evan into an isolated room where Max could perform his magic in private. Relief filled her when 214 came into view with its siren blaring. She burst through the emergency room doors and waited on the curb for the ambulance to come to a stop.

The paramedic opened the back doors and jumped down, pulling on the stretcher. “13 year old male, suffering from acute respiratory distress, possible pneumothorax, pulse rapid and thready, BP 65 over 30 and falling.”

“Let’s get him inside.” Jenny knew exactly what Evan was suffering from. One look at Max, climbing down from the ambulance, still holding his son’s hand, told her everything she needed to know. She raced them into examining room 3.

After transferring Evan to the examination table, Jenny ushered the paramedic out and drew the curtain around the bed. Max was already at his son’s side, with his hand on his chest, giving everything he had.

“Evan, look at me. Look at me.”

Evan tried to open his eyes but he was so tired, and it felt better just to float away. To go someplace where it wasn’t hard to breathe and his chest didn’t have to hurt anymore. But a familiar voice was penetrating his fog, tying him to the living.

“Don’t leave me, Evan. Please stay with me. Open your eyes, son. Please open your eyes.”

Evan lifted his lids, feeling the pressure lessening in his chest. He looked up, like looking through a long tunnel, seeing tears glistening in his father’s eyes and coursing down his face.

“Don’t cry, Dad,” Evan whispered, or maybe he just said it inside his head. He was too tired to know for sure.

Jenny watched Max exhaust himself with the effort to save his son, amazed by the silent communication that appeared to pass between them. Max’s sheer force of will seemed to rouse Evan, forcing open his eyes so Max could form a connection with him. The glow from his hand spread across Evan’s chest while his body trembled with the strain. When he had nothing left, he collapsed against the exam table, knowing it wasn’t enough.

Max looked up at Jenny, his voice tortured. “I can’t …”

Some things just weren’t possible for him to heal. Liz’s grandmother had taught him that. The damage was just too great, and his healing only a Band-aid on the wound, temporarily staving off the inevitable.

* * * * *

“So how’d the interview go?” Brad grinned, certain she had it in the bag.

“Good, I think,” Liz smiled back. “I think they liked me.”

Brad swept her into his arms, giving her a hug. “Who wouldn’t?”

“You’re biased,” Liz laughed, hugging him back.

Brad pulled away, grabbing the vibrating pager on his belt. “Looks like they need me down in E.R. for a consult. What are your plans now?”

“The Chief of Pediatrics is going to take me on a tour of the Pediatric Critical Care Unit. He told me to wait for him here.”

“Donaldson? Good man. You’ll like working with him. Well, I’ve gotta run.” Brad kissed her on the cheek and headed for the elevators. Halfway down the hallway he turned around and yelled, “Do you want to meet for lunch later?”

“Sure!” Liz called out, just before he disappeared into the elevator.

She smiled to herself after he was gone; thinking maybe coming to Washington wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Maybe she could make a new life here, one where she didn’t have to be alone anymore.

* * * * *

Brad pulled the curtain aside in Exam Room 3. “So what have we got?”

“Dr. Acker?” Jenny lifted the stethoscope from Evan’s chest. She held her hand out and said, “Jenny Payne.” After they shook, she introduced Max. “This is Max Philips.”

“Your son?” Brad asked, picking up the patient’s chart, ready to get down to business.

“Evan,” Max nodded, fighting against the exhaustion that made him wobble on his feet. He’d done the best he could to help his son, but this time he was afraid it wasn’t good enough.

“Evan suffers from severe asthma,” Jenny filled in the doctor, using the cover story she and Max had devised years ago. “The patient presented with a collapsed lung precipitated by a blow to the chest at school. We were able to alleviate the pressure in the pleural space which resulted in spontaneous re-expansion of the lung.”

“Did you do a needle decompression?” Brad asked, looking at the boy’s chest, frowning when he failed to find the insertion point for a chest tube.

“No,” Jenny answered. “It wasn’t necessary.”

“So why am I here?” Brad asked, slipping on a pair of latex gloves to check the patient’s pulse, respiration, and other vital signs. The boy looked out of it, barely conscious.

“Take a look.” Jenny pointed at the EKG monitor showing Evan’s heart activity. The readout said it all.

“How long’s he been in tachycardia?” Brad asked, taking his stethoscope out of his pocket to listen to Evan’s chest sounds.

“Since he came in.” Jenny stepped back, letting Brad work.

“Have you administered anything? Lidocaine? Amiodarone? Procainamide?

“No,” Jenny shook her head. “Nothing,”

“Why not?” Brad looked up, frowning at her. “We need to restore normal heart rhythm ASAP.”

“I’m aware of that, Doctor,” Jenny said stiffly.

“I told her no drugs,” Max said, standing stiffly by the exam table. He didn’t trust this doctor, and had only agreed to his being here because Jenny insisted. She felt she didn’t have enough training in cardiovascular medicine to give Evan the proper care.

Brad looked from the doctor to the patient’s father, jumping to what in his mind was a logical conclusion as to what kind of man Max Philips was. One of those types, who shunned medical care. He didn’t like to bad mouth a person’s spiritual beliefs, but withholding vital medical care, in the belief that God would miraculously heal the child, was tantamount to child abuse, as far as he was concerned.

“Evan’s family has a history of severe allergic reaction to virtually all medications,” Jenny informed Dr. Acker. “With Evan’s compromised physical condition, I’ve avoided adding any stress inducers that might exacerbate the problem.”

“Well, this problem isn’t going to go away on its own,” Brad scolded.

Max sat down on a chair next to the exam table and surrounded Evan’s hand with his own, touching palm to palm. When Dr. Acker turned his back to study the EKG readout, Max sent another burst of healing power into his son, concentrating on his heart now.

“I want this boy admitted,” Brad said, watching the strip of paper scroll from the machine. “He needs a full cardio workup. An Echocardiogram and Electrophysiologic Study to . . . what the hell?”

“Doctor?” Jenny joined him at the machine, concerned about some new calamity befalling Evan.

“Normal sinus rhythm,” Brad muttered under his breath. He turned to Evan and inspected the electrodes on his chest to make sure everything was in place and functional.

“Completely normal,” Jenny smiled in relief. She turned around to look at Max, but her smile quickly disappeared. He’d exerted so much energy to help Evan; he could hardly hold his head up. To Brad, it looked like the man was praying.

“Max,” Jenny covered his hand with hers, causing him to look up unsteadily. “Evan’s out of danger,” she smiled. “He’s going to be fine.”

“I still want to admit him.” Brad looked sternly at the father, certain that this spontaneous return to normal heart rhythm would be construed by him as some kind of Divine Intervention.

“Okay,” Max said softly, unable to object. He might hate this doctor already, the pompous ass, but he didn’t have the energy to argue with him. And the tests wouldn’t put Evan in any danger. Physiologically, his son looked human, right down to the cellular level. “But I’m staying with him.”

“Fine,” Brad nodded, surprised Mr. Philips didn’t argue. His past experience with religious zealots had not been very pleasant.

Evan stirred on the exam table, slowly opening his eyes. “Dad,” he whispered as soon as their eyes met.

“You’re okay now, Evan,” Max tightened his hand around his son’s.

“Where am I?” Evan asked, looking around. He didn’t remember coming here.

Brad’s demeanor changed, showing his patient a pleasant bedside manner. “You’re in the Emergency Room. We’re going keep you here and run a few tests.”

“Dad?” Evan looked quickly at his father, suddenly concerned.

“Its okay, Evan.” Max’s gentle reassurance helped the boy relax. “I’m staying right with you.”

Now that the boy was out of imminent danger, Brad took a closer look at his face, wondering where he’d seen him before. He could feel it, right there on the tip of his tongue, the certainty that he’d met him somewhere before, but it just wouldn’t come. Something about those eyes, and an operating room … wait. That’s right. He’d run into him in the hallway last week, here at the hospital. That was where they met before.

“Just rest here, Evan,” Brad patted his shoulder. “We’ll get you moved up to the 4th floor in no time. I’ll go make the arrangements.” With a parting nod to Jenny and Max, he left the room.

“I don’t like him,” Max said after Brad was gone.

“But he’s good at what he does,” Jenny acknowledged, giving Brad his due. Doctors tended to have a God Complex anyway, and an ego to match, so Brad’s attitude wasn’t surprising.

Evan watched the doctor go, remembering who he was, and why he was important. He wondered if Dr. Acker had tried to contact Liz Parker yet. He hoped so. Time was important, now more than ever, but he wouldn’t be able to find out until later, when his dad wasn’t around.

Evan didn’t want his father to know anything about it, not until he knew if Liz was coming. He didn’t want his dad to be disappointed if she wasn’t.



tbc…
Last edited by Breathless on Sun Aug 27, 2006 12:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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An Imperfect Life, Part 7

Postby Breathless » Sun Sep 03, 2006 12:56 am

I wanted to leave some feedback to the feedback, but I’ve been so busy I didn’t have time, so I better just post this instead of leaving you waiting. Thanks for the birthday wishes!


An Imperfect Life
Part 7



It's been so long
Since I've seen her face
You say she's doin' fine

I still recall
A sad cafe
How it hurt so bad to see her cry
I didn't want to say good-bye

The same hotel,
The same old room
I'm on the road again

She needed so much more
Than I could give
We knew our love could not pretend
broken hearts can always mend.

Send Her My Love
Journey




“So that’s our Pediatric Ward,” Dr. Donaldson, a tall, pleasant man in his mid 50’s, told Liz as they came to a stop near the elevators. “We hope to have the Critical Care Unit up and operational in the next six months. We’re not a big facility, not the size of some of the hospitals in Seattle, but we have state of the art equipment here, and the will to be the best.”

“It’s a beautiful facility,” Liz gushed, very impressed by what she’d seen so far.

“We’re pretty proud of it,” Donaldson flashed a smile. He took his hand out of his lab coat pocket and touched Liz on the arm. “I’m headed up to the Cardiac Care Unit. Would you care to join me? I can show you some of the specialized equipment we’ve recently acquired. The Hollister-Bergman Scope is going to revolutionize treatment of congenital heart defects in newborns.”

“I’d love to,” Liz enthusiastically agreed.

* * * * *

“I have to stay ‘til when?” Evan whined, glaring at the hospital gown they’d made him put on. He looked like a girl in a dress.

Max helped him into bed and arranged the covers around him. “Just until tomorrow.”

Evan sat back against the pillows and crossed his arms over his chest. “It’s boring already.”

As exhausted as Max felt, he still found the energy to chuckle. He knew where Evan would rather be. 4th period was just about to start, and Evan shared 4th period with Lacey Greenly. She was considered a math whiz, and Evan was pretty damn good, too. It reminded Max of pleasanter days, lingering memories of a distant past when he’d watched his own dreamgirl from afar.

“What?” Evan asked, looking at his dad’s smile.

“You know, I was in a hospital once,” Max said, sharing a part of his life he normally kept to himself. “I wanted to get out right away, too.”

“You were?” Evan said in surprise.

“Yep,” Max nodded, taking a seat in the chair by the bed. “I begged my mom to make the doctor let me go home.”

“Why were you there?” Evan asked. “What happened?”

“I was just a little older than you. 16, actually. I cut class with . . . a friend, and we went out on Old Mill Highway. It was really pretty at that time of year . . .”

His thoughts drifted, remembering how Liz had looked that day, with the wind blowing through her hair. The world had been so full of possibilities then. He hadn’t even kissed her yet, but god how he’d wanted to. And he would have, if it hadn’t been for that damn horse –

“Dad?”

“Sorry,” Max shook off the memory. He refocused to tell Evan the story. “I was driving along and a horse ran in front of me. I swerved and went off the road and hit my head. Knocked myself unconscious. I came to in the hospital and had to beg my mom to take me home, before they could run any tests.”

“So you got out of there okay?” Evan asked. “No tests?”

“Well, they did take my blood,” Max admitted and saw Evan’s eyes grow wider. “But it turned out okay. Al –” he started to say, but quickly changed it. “A friend substituted his own blood for mine, so no one would find out about me. You’re lucky Evan, that your blood looks normal.”

“Who gave the blood?” Evan asked. His father never talked about the past. Most of what he knew he’d picked up from dreams, and empathic flashes.

After a long pause, Max finally answered. “A friend. A really . . . good friend. His name was Alex.”

“Where is he now?” Evan asked. His dad didn’t have any friends, not good friends, anyway. Dr. Jenny was the only person he ever confided in.

“He died,” Max said. “A long time ago. Before you were born.”

“Oh,” Evan said softly. He could feel his dad’s sadness. Guilt, too. A deep sense of guilt. Did his dad blame himself for Alex’s death?

“Is that who I’m named after?” Evan asked. He knew where ‘Evan’ and ‘Philips’ came from, but he’d always wondered why his middle name was Alexander.

Max gave him a hauntingly sad smile. “Partly.”

Zan.

Evan turned quickly to look at the door, expecting someone to be standing there, but it was empty. Not a soul in sight, except a few nurses at the nurse’s station who were busy with other things.

“Evan?”

“Did you hear something?” Evan asked, turning back to look at his father.

“Like what?”

“Nothing . . . just . . . nothing,” Evan shook it off. It’d been a stressful day, he must be hearing things. Voices mingled with the emotions. That’s the way it was sometimes, especially when he was tired and his normal way of filtering things out weakened.

“Why don’t you get some rest,” Max suggested. “I’ll be here, in case you need me.”

“Okay, Dad.” Evan slumped back against the pillow. He was tired; the attack had left him drained. Maybe just a few minutes rest.

* * * * *

“As you can see,” Donaldson swept his arm around the Cardiac Care Unit, “we’re small, but state of the art.”

Liz took in the array of monitoring equipment. “I can see that. Very impressive.”

“Well, I have another appointment, Dr. Parker. Let me just say,” he held out his hand, “it’s been a pleasure meeting you.”

“And me you.” Liz shook his hand firmly.

She watched him hurry off toward the elevators and took a moment to take it all in. She wandered along the hallways, taking a peek here and there, feeling better and better about coming here. She liked the place, and the people even more. They’d made her feel instantly welcome, which was something she desperately needed. A place to belong. A place to call home.

She glanced in the patient rooms as she strolled down the hallway, some with single beds, some with doubles. Monitors beeped and droned; the typical sounds of a well functioning special care unit. She walked by one room and paused in the doorway, watching a young boy asleep on the bed. She hated it when children were sick, which was probably why she went into Pediatrics. She wanted to help make every one of them become whole again.

A voice sounded in her ear, close and familiar. “Looking for me?”

“No,” Liz turned and smiled up into his rich green eyes. “But if it’ll get me lunch faster then I’ll say yes.”

Brad clutched his chest. “You wound me, Liz. How can you resist my charms?”

“Stop that,” Liz slapped at his hand, smiling at his antics. “Dr. Donaldson just showed me around.”

“And?”

“I like it,” Liz admitted with a broad smile. “I like it here very much.”

“I knew this would be perfect for you.”

Brad walked into Evan’s room, taking a moment to study the EKG readout while Liz moved closer to the bed, studying the boy. He looked relaxed and peaceful, his features soft and delicate in sleep. She brushed his blond hair back from his forehead.

“What’s his name?”

“Evan.” Brad busied himself writing notes in the patient chart, missing the look that crossed her face.

“Such a beautiful child,” she said, slipping her fingers around his wrist to check his pulse. Strong and steady.

“You think all children are beautiful.”

Brad finished with the chart and set it down. He turned to Liz and wrapped his arm around her shoulders saying, “Let’s go to lunch. I wonder what kind of poison the cafeteria’s serving today.”

Liz gave Evan one last lingering look before she let Brad escort her out of the room.

On the bed, Evan turned over in his sleep, curling a hand under his chin, with a dreamy smile on his lips.

* * * * *

Max stood in the cafeteria looking from the ham sandwich to the turkey, trying to decide which one looked more edible. He was anxious to get back to Evan, but he knew if he didn’t get something in his stomach soon he wouldn’t make it through the rest of the day.

He settled on the ham sandwich and added a bag of jalapeno flavored potato chips. After paying for his selection he headed back toward the elevators, preferring to eat his lunch in Evan’s room. Then he’d try to rest for a while before ‘Doctor Demento’ came back and took Evan for the Echocardiogram.

Thinking of Dr. Acker made Max bristle again, remembering the look Acker had given him earlier, silently accusing him of failing to adequately care for his son. The man had no idea what he’d gone through just to keep Evan alive. Who was he to judge?

He punched the number for the fourth floor, anxious to get back upstairs, knowing he was being unreasonable in his dislike for Dr. Acker. After all, the man was only trying to help his son, but there was just something about the guy that rubbed Max the wrong way.

* * * * *

“I know they’re going to call you soon,” Brad said, pushing the down button for the elevator. “I told you, they already checked your credentials. It’s in the bag!”

“You’re always such an optimist,” Liz teased.

“You should try it some time,” Brad suggested, a little more serious than he intended. He’d known her for years, but he couldn’t help wondering if, in all that time, she’d ever really been happy. This was her chance to start fresh. And maybe a chance for them to start over.

“I’m optimistic,” Liz protested, but knowing in her heart he was right. She’d kind of lost her optimism a long time ago. She knew the past was the past and it was time to get on with her life, but knowing it and feeling it were two different things.

“Sure you are,” Brad wrapped his arm around her shoulders and kissed her on the forehead, almost more like a big brother than a once and, hopefully, future lover. But unlike Liz, he was an optimist.

* * * * *

Max opened the bag of chips and popped one in his mouth, realizing how ravenously hungry he was. Healing always took its toll, sapping his energy and his strength, but today was even worse than usual. He thought he could probably sleep for a week, but that would have to wait. He couldn’t rest until he got Evan home.

Leaning his head back against the elevator wall, he thought back to the first time he healed. Really healed. When a life hung in the balance. Michael and Isabel had been pissed at him for days, weeks, even months after, but there was no way he could have just stood by and let her die. It was the first changing point of his life, sending his world in a whole new direction. Three years later it changed again, when he lost everything that mattered, and gained responsibilities he was ill-prepared to face.

Now he felt on the brink of the next major change in his life, a change he was afraid to even think about. His life had been a lonely one, but having Evan made all the sacrifices worthwhile. Without him, Max didn’t know what he’d do.

Looking down at the wrapped sandwich in his hand, Max realized he wasn’t hungry anymore. Thinking about a future without his son had made him lose his appetite.

* * * * *

Brad pushed the button again, even though the down arrow was still glowing.

“Impatient much?” Liz teased.

“I’m hungry,” Brad said with no apologies. “And I’m having lunch with the prettiest girl on the west coast.”

Liz chuckled. “You used to say that about the east coast.”

He winked at her affectionately. “Well now you’ve got both coasts covered.”

Liz was about to make a remark about him turning up the charm when she heard someone calling out her name. She turned to see the Chief of Pediatrics rushing toward her.

“Dr. Parker! I’m glad I caught you.”

“Dr. Donaldson?” Liz said, surprised to see him again so soon.

Donaldson acknowledged Brad with a nod and then concentrated on Liz, asking, “Do you have a moment?”

“Um, sure,” she said, silently giving Brad an apologetic look.

“I’ll just find us a table in the cafeteria,” Brad suggested. “Take your time.”

“Thanks, Brad,” Donaldson said and then led Liz down the hall, saying, “I’ve just come from a meeting with the Chief of Staff …”

Brad watched them walk away, talking earnestly to each other. When Liz paused, pointed at herself, and then flashed the biggest smile he’d seen on her face in, well, in forever, Brad knew she’d just been offered the position. The handshake that followed sealed the deal.

Brad filled with pride for her, already planning a celebratory dinner, with champagne. He watched her until she disappeared around the corner with Donaldson, and then the elevator doors slid open to take him down to the first floor. He stepped forward, bumping into an exiting passenger.

“Sorry,” Brad mumbled, and then he saw who it was. “Oh. Mr. Philips.”

“Doctor,” Max said stiffly. He skirted around him, intent on returning to his son’s room. He thought he’d made a clean getaway, until the doctor called his name again. Max stopped in the middle of the hospital corridor and reluctantly turned around to face him.

“Mr. Philips, I scheduled Evan’s Echocardiogram for this afternoon and the EP Study at 8:30 tomorrow morning. He seems to be doing fine now, but you shouldn’t let that lull you into thinking his problems are over. Untreated, they’ll only get worse –”

Max spoke over him. “I’m well aware of that Doctor.”

“Faith is an important aspect of patient well-being, but it can’t replace medical care.”

“What?” Max asked, not quite getting his meaning.

“I respect your beliefs,” Brad continued, “but your son deserves the full range of care available to him.”

“You think I –”

Max stared at the doctor, shaking his head. Acker thought that he was withholding care because of God? Obviously, the man didn’t know a thing about him. His belief in God had been tested and left wanting years ago.

“Doctor Acker,” Max said formally. “God has nothing to do with this. My family history is reason enough to avoid pharmaceuticals. My son’s health has always been poor, and compromising that with drugs is not a risk I’m willing to take. Not yet.”

“I’m sorry,” Brad said. “I shouldn’t have assumed.”

“I’ll do anything for my son,” Max said, fighting against the lump in his throat. “But, I won’t allow anything that I know will cause him to suffer. He – he’s suffered enough already.”

Brad reached out and laid a comforting hand on Max’s shoulder. “We’ll work on this problem together, Mr. Philips. In fact, the hospital is hiring a Pediatric Specialist as we speak, with an outstanding background in clinical research. I’m sure if the need arises, she’ll be more than willing to assist Dr. Payne and myself in your son’s treatment.”

“Thank you,” Max finally managed to say, surprised by the man’s show of compassion. Maybe his first impression had been wrong.

“I’ll see you later.” Brad took his leave, catching the next elevator before it could depart without him.

Max wandered back to Evan’s room, absently rubbing his hand over the spot on his shoulder Brad had just touched. There was something about Acker that made his senses stand up and take notice, something that spoke to Max on a level he wasn’t even consciously aware of.

A familiarity that his soul still recognized, even after all these years.




Callin' out her name I'm dreamin'
Reflections of a face I'm seein'
It's her voice
That keeps on haunting me

Send her my love
Roses never fade
Memories remain


Send Her My Love
Journey
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An Imperfect Life, Part 8

Postby Breathless » Sun Sep 10, 2006 1:32 am

A couple of comments before getting to the story...


BelevnDreamsToo, you got a little quote happy with that last part! Your fb is always so enthusiastic.

RoswAlien_Lady, you’re a nurse? Don’t laugh at me too hard if I screw up all the medical stuff! lol

DreamerMaxBehrian wrote:
Torturer.

Sadist.

Master of cruelty.

Mica wrote:
I hate you and your evil story teasing ways.

roswellianprincess16 wrote:
You're killing me here … I can't do this much longer without feeling as though I may implode.


LOL! You all are cracking me up! Am I driving you all nuts with the near misses? When oh when will Max and Liz meet? That is the big question. Insert evil grin here!

nitpick23 wrote:
I guess everyone is still sure that the FBI is after them otherwise why would Isobel stay away from her nephew. Did Isobel ever get back together with Jessie?

… are Maria and Michael together??

Will Liz's move to the northwest put Max in danger??


All good questions! Many of you have asked about Isabel and Michael, and what happened to them after they left Roswell. This part will give you some answers.

Smac wrote:
How much longer do we have to suffer these near hit and misses with Max and Liz? Hopefully before Brad pours that bottle of champagne all over Liz's body.......


You do love teasing J, don’t you? LOL! And speaking of champagne …






An Imperfect Life
Part 8



Sometimes I remember
The darkness of my past
Bringing back these memories
I wish I didn't have
Sometimes I think of letting go
And never looking back
And never moving forward so
There’d never be a past

Just washing it aside
All of the helplessness inside
Pretending I don't feel misplaced
Is so much simpler than change

It's easier to run
Replacing this pain with something numb
It's so much easier to go
Than face all this pain here all alone

Easier to Run
Linkin Park




Kings Island
2014


It’d been a long and stressful day, and now, feeling exhausted, Max stood at the window in Evan’s hospital room staring through the ribbons of rain that pelted the glass, but not really seeing the darkening landscape stretching into the distance.

His mind was a thousand miles away, and nearly half a lifetime ago…


Fallon, Nevada
May, 2002



Three fugitive aliens occupied a rundown motel room, tired after a night and day of nonstop driving; fleeing the only home they’d ever known. Michael stood by the door with his arms folded over his chest. Isabel sat stiffly on one of the two beds. Max paced back and forth across the worn and stained carpet, feeling responsible for them all.

“We could keep going west,” Max voiced his thoughts, trying to make some kind of plan. “What about the coast? We could find an out of the way place along the west coast. Northern California, or maybe Oregon. We’ve never been to Oregon.”

“I vote north,” Michael said gruffly.

“North?” Isabel looked at him anxiously. In the last 24 hours her life had been turned upside down. It was about to happen again, a monumental change, and she didn’t know how to tell her brothers about it.

“Canada.” Michael unfolded his arms, taking over the discussion. “Away from the military. Away from the FBI. We’re not safe here. In Canada we can hide. In Canada, the government won’t be looking for us.”

“Canada?” Max questioned, not sold on the idea. Canada was . . . so far away. “Like . . . where?”

“There’s a place Hank used to talk about,” Michael told them. “A cabin outside of Golden. West of Calgary. He used to hunt and fish up there, before he turned into a drunk.”

“But . . .” Max balked, not even sure why. Except, Canada was an entire country away from Liz.

“I think we should go there,” Michael stated firmly. “We can recoup, and think things through without being on the run. I’m not saying we have to stay there, but it’s a place to start.”

Max’s attention switched away from Michael when Zan started to make noises on the bed. He walked over to his son and pulled the blanket back, seeing the baby stretch and yawn. He sat down beside him and rubbed his hand over the baby’s back, coming to the realization that Michael’s idea was probably the best. An out of the way location. No government, or military, or FBI breathing down their necks. A place to catch their breaths where Zan would be safe.

“Okay,” Max looked up at Michael. “Canada.”

Isabel stood up and walked across the room, hugging her arms around her chest. When she turned around to face her brothers, it was to tell them the hardest thing she’d ever had to say.

“I can’t go with you.”

“W-what?” Max looked at her, feeling his stomach twist in on itself.

“Jesse has family on the east coast. An aunt and uncle in New York, and cousins in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Jesse and I can stay with them until we get settled.” She looked from Michael to Max, nearly breaking down from the look of abandonment on Max’s face. “He’s my husband,” Isabel blinked back her tears. “It’s not fair to him to make him give up everything. He wants to go there. I want to go with him.”

Max collapsed in on himself. He felt like he was losing everything he ever cared about. His home. His parents. Liz. And now Isabel. He rose from the bed and turned away, not wanting her to see his face.

Isabel took a step toward him. “Max –”

“East coast, huh?” he said, trying to keep the tremor out of his voice. The east coast wouldn’t be safe for his son, but Isabel and Jesse could disappear there.

“He’s my husband, Max,” Isabel said again, looking at her brother’s back. His hunched shoulders and body language screamed defeat, loss, hopelessness.

“No, you’re right.” He turned around, putting on a brave face. “You should go with your husband.”

Isabel crossed the room and wrapped her arms around him. Max held her close trying to pretend everything was fine, but he couldn’t hide the tremors that shook his body. His life was falling apart; everything he cared about was gone.

Nothing would ever be the same again.


Kings Island
2014



Evan watched his father by the window, knowing that his mind was far away. He could feel his father’s melancholy, the way he got when his memories crowded in on him. Some nights he’d stand at the window for hours, standing watch, lost in the memories of the life he used to have.

“Dad?” Evan said. “Do you want my dessert?”

The familiar voice brought Max back to this world. He turned away from the window and asked, “What, son?”

Evan pointed at the dessert on his dinner tray. “Carrot cake. You can have it if you want. I don’t like it.”

“Thanks.”

Max sat on the edge of the hospital bed. He lifted a plastic fork from the tray and picked at the cake, not really hungry. “Eat up,” he urged his son, pointing toward the lump of chicken still on the tray. “You need to keep your strength up.”

Evan wrinkled his nose at the unappetizing meal. “I’d rather have anchovies.”

Max took a bite of the carrot cake and grimaced. “Me too.”

* * * * *

“Cheers.” Brad clinked his champagne glass against Liz’s, offering another toast to the new Head of Pediatric Critical Care at Kings Memorial.

“Thank you, thank you,” Liz humbly dipped her head, smiling from ear to ear.

“So, what’s your first course of action going to be?”

“Well, first, I have to go back to Boston and settle everything there. Give my notice. Pack my things. Then when I get back I’ll need to set up an office, and hire staff, and prepare a schedule, and –”

“When are you gonna have time for me?” Brad pouted, only half in jest.

“Let’s see,” Liz checked her watch, and then looked at him with a teasing glint. “Next spring?”

“Very funny, Parker.” Brad speared a piece of steak with his fork and chewed enthusiastically. “I had this whole agenda planned. Showing you the Space Needle, and Pike’s Place Market, and skiing up in the mountains, and a honeymoon in Hawaii –”

Liz dropped her fork. It crashed against her plate, ringing loudly throughout the apartment. The smile disappeared from her face, replaced by a look of uncertainty.

“Brad . . .”

Brad sobered. “I’m sorry. Pretend I didn’t say that.”

“I’m not . . . ready . . .”

“I know.” Brad reached out to cover her hand with his, relieved when she didn’t pull away. “It was a bad joke. I shouldn’t have said it. We’ll stick with the Space Needle and the Market. I’ll buy you roasted cashews. You like cashews.”

Liz gave him a tentative smile. “I love cashews.”

“And we’ll go by the fish market and they’ll throw a fish at you.”

Her smile broadened. “I’ve seen that on TV.”

“You haven’t experienced Seattle until you’ve had a fish thrown at your face,” Brad laughed, recovering from his blunder. “We could go on Saturday,” he suggested. “Make a day of it.”

“Saturday,” Liz agreed. One day at a time. One step at a time. A new life waiting, if she could just let go of the old one.

* * * * *

Evan slept peacefully in bed with one hand curled under his chin. Max shifted uncomfortably in a chair beside him, his sleep less than restful. His body ached with exhaustion, but his dreams wouldn’t leave him in peace.

But then, they weren’t really dreams, but the ever present memories of his past . . .


Oregon
May, 2002



“What the hell’s wrong with him?” Michael growled, hands clenching the steering wheel. The kid had been crying non-stop for an hour; he didn’t think his nerves could take anymore.

“I don’t know.” Max reached into the back seat, trying to give Zan the pacifier again. He took it for a moment and then spit it out, just like before. His lusty cries resumed, even louder now, grating on the frayed nerves of the two men in the front seat.

Jaw clenched, gripping the steering wheel nearly hard enough to snap in it two, Michael grumbled, “This is why some animals eat their young.”

“Shut up!” Max barked at him. Another comment like that and he’d blast Michael into tomorrow.

“He’s your kid! Get him to shut up!”

“Don’t you think I’m trying!”

“Well, whatever you’re doing, it isn’t working!”

“Stop the car! STOP THE CAR! JUST STOP THE FUCKING CAR!”

Michael whipped the Escort over to the side of the highway and slammed it into park. Max wrenched the car door open and bolted, storming along the shoulder of the road with one hand on his hip and the other rubbing down his face. The sound of Zan’s cries diminished the further he walked from the car.

Michael climbed from the Escort, pissed as hell, and feeling just as guilty. He kicked at the gravel and then chased after Max.

“Hey,” he called out when he got close enough. “Max, I’m sorry. It’s just . . . I’m sorry.”

Max turned around with a look of desperation on his face. “What the hell am I doing? I don’t know how to take care of a baby! I don’t know what he wants. I don’t know why he’s crying. I don’t know how to make him stop. I don’t even know how to fuckin’ hold him!”

“Max,” Michael tried his best to placate him. “You’re doing the best you can.”

“Obviously, it isn’t good enough,” Max shot back, waving his hand toward the car and the plaintive sounds of an infant crying. His voice cracked when he said, “I don’t know what to do.”

“You’ll figure it out,” Michael said to calm him. “You always figure it out.”

“I fucked up all our lives, Michael! Yours. Isabel’s. Liz’s. Jesus! Look what I’ve done to my own son! That baby suffers every day because of my lousy DNA.”

“That’s not your fault, Max.”

“It’s completely my fault. I slept with Tess. I got her pregnant. If I hadn’t done that, none of this would be happening.”

“She had an agenda. She played you –”

“And I fell for it! What’s that say about me? I turned my back on the girl I loved and slept with someone I didn’t even care about. And now – now everyone else is paying for it. We’re on the run. We’ve got no home. Liz is back in Roswell glowing like a Christmas tree with nobody to help her. And Zan . . .”

Max looked back toward the car, feeling renewed guilt wash over him. He had to be the worst father in the world, just leaving his crying son and walking away like that. He jogged back to the car, hating himself for the kind of person he was. He opened the back door and unbuckled Zan from the car seat, holding the crying baby against his chest while he got him out of the car.

“It’s okay,” Max patted Zan on the back. “You’re okay.”

He walked with him along the side of the road, bouncing him lightly in his arms, rubbing his hand in a circle over the baby’s small back. Zan’s cries began to lessen, quieting to little hiccups. As they walked, Max spoke softly to his son.

“Maybe you were just tired of the car, huh? Too much Metallica on the CD player? I didn’t like it either, but Michael’s the driver, and the driver gets to choose the music. When you’re old enough to drive, you’ll get to choose the music, too.”

Zan looked up at Max with his liquid blue eyes, so much like his mother’s, but so different, too. So human. For the first time, Max found himself seeing his son as the unique person that he was, not just the offspring of a murderous alien and a kingly reject. The child in his arms was just a little baby, too young to be saddled with that kind of baggage.

Michael came up behind Max trying to offer assistance. “Do you want me to get Zan’s–”

“Evan,” Max said, smoothing his hand over his son’s baby soft hair. “His name is Evan.”

Zan was the name of a dead king on a planet in a distant galaxy, light years away. It was where it needed to stay, dead and buried.

* * * * *

Roswell, New Mexico
May 2002



Liz sat behind the wheel of the Chevelle with her head resting on the steering wheel, trying to catch her breath. She was too numb to cry, too empty to feel, too heartbroken to care about tomorrow, let alone what was going to happen to her in the next five minutes. Maybe if they shot her it would all be over and she wouldn’t have to think anymore.

Jagged lights danced wildly across the interior of the car, the flashlights of soldiers running toward her, with M16 rifles pointed straight at her head. The driver’s side door wrenched open, hands grabbed at her, and then she found herself on the ground, with her face pressed into the pavement.

A part of her was aware of what was happening around her. The dogs smelling the car for the scent of aliens. Officers barking out orders. Soldiers following commands. But another part of her mind was back at Michael’s apartment, reliving her last moments with Max.


“Come with me, Liz. You can’t stay here either.”

“There’s nothing they can do to me.”

“But your hands . . .”

“You might have given me a boost on the evolutionary scale, but under a microscope I still look human. They can’t do anything to me. Take my keys. They won’t be looking for a 1990 Escort. I’ll take your car and draw them away from you.”

“Liz, no –”

“Save your son, Max. Make everything we’ve gone though worthwhile.”

“Liz…”

“I can’t come with you.”

“But what if I never see you again?”

“Then make it count, Max. Make what we sacrificed worthwhile. Give your son the chance we never had. Give him a life worth living.”



“What’s going on here!”

The familiar voice brought Liz back to the present. She lifted her cheek from the rough pavement to see Philip Evans striding across the road with an angry look on his face. Diane Evans struggled to keep up with him, but her face gave away her emotions, the fear she was feeling.

“Is that Liz? Philip, that’s Liz!”

“Why are you holding that girl?” Philip barked. “She’s a teenager, for God’s sake! She’s not a threat to national security!”

A soldier blocked his path. “Stand back, sir.”

Philip tore his wallet out of his back pocket and whipped out a business card. “I’m a lawyer, that’s my client,” he pointed at Liz. “You have no right to keep me from her!”

“This area is under Marshall Law,” the soldier pushed him back. “Instigators will be shot on sight!”

“Liz!” Philip called out. “Liz, don’t say anything! I’ll call the Sheriff. The Governor, if I have to! Just don’t say anything!”

* * * * *

Liz sat in a daze at an interrogation table in the Sheriff’s office, the temporary headquarters for Rogers Air Force Base. Things had changed so fast. This morning, the hardest thing in her life had been sitting beside Max in their Anthropology class. Tonight, he was gone, and she never got a chance to tell him how she really felt about him. A huge part of her life had been wrenched from her, leaving her numb in the wake of it.

A commotion in the outer hallway drew her attention, raised voices arguing some pointless debate. Didn’t they know nothing mattered now? Max was gone. She’d never see him again. There was nothing left.

The door opened, admitting the sound of Philip Evans’ voice. “Liz Parker is MY client, and NO ONE will talk to her before me! There are a hundred reporters out on the front steps just waiting for me to walk out there and give them something juicy to report.”

“Are you threatening me?” a deep voice growled.

“If that’s what it takes for me to see my client, then yes!” Philip shot back.

Liz rose to her feet, hiding her hands in the pockets of her lightweight jacket. They were lit up with ribbons of green energy.

“You have 15 minutes,” the deep voice capitulated, obviously angered by it. Philip Evans stormed into the room, a giant of a man, not just in the physical sense. Liz sank into the closest chair, relieved that he was here.

“Are you okay?” Philip inspected her, taking note of the scrapes and scratches on her cheek.

“I’m okay,” Liz nodded. They both knew she was lying.

Philip sat down across from her. “Do you know what’s happened?”

Liz nodded, just barely, looking around cautiously incase anyone was watching.

“They can’t listen to us,” Philip told her. “Attorney client privilege.”

“Since when do you think they care about legalities?”

“Liz,” Philip leaned forward. “Diane and I. We don’t understand what happened tonight.”

“Have you got a year? It’ll probably take that long to explain it all.”

Kings Island
2014


Liz stood at the living room window in Brad’s apartment looking out over the calm waters of the Puget Sound. It was one of those nights when she couldn’t sleep, when memories wouldn’t leave her alone. Maybe someday she’d be able to let them go, but not yet. It was still like a fresh wound, even after all this time.

That last night, the final time she ever saw him, still haunted her. The way he begged her to go with him. The way she told him no. The absurd idea that she’d ever be able to make a life for herself without him in it.

It was her fate, to love Max Evans beyond reason, until her dying day.




tbc …
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An Imperfect Life, Part 9

Postby Breathless » Sun Sep 17, 2006 12:13 am

A couple of comments…

hazz, don’t worry, Evan’s name isn’t Evan Evans. Max changed their last name to Philips after he left Roswell. You can be sure ALL of the aliens changed their names so as to keep from being found.

nitpick23, you commented on the names, too. Jesse wasn’t immune to being tracked by the FBI when they fled Roswell. Staying with Isabel meant his old life as a lawyer was over. But it was a sacrifice he was willing to make to stay with his wife. We may learn more about that later. MUCH later.

For now, on with the story …


An Imperfect Life
Part 9



There’s a pain that sleeps inside
It sleeps with just one eye
And awakens the moment that you leave

Though I try to look away
The pain it still remains
Only leaving when you’re next to me

So I stand and look around
Distracted by the sounds
Of everyone and everything I see

And I search through every face
Without a single trace, of the person
The person that I need


Disappear
Hoobastank




Max turned away from the window at the sound of movement coming from the hospital bed. He looked over in time to see Evan stretch and open his eyes.

“Morning,” Max smiled at his son.

“Morning, Dad,” Evan yawned and sat up. He searched around for the bed control, finally finding the cord and pulling it out from under the blanket. He pressed the up arrow to raise the head of the bed.

“Your breakfast should be here in a minute,” Max said, moving the rolling table into position over the bed. “I saw someone walk by with a cart full of trays.”

“I wonder if it’ll be as bad as last night’s dinner,” Evan said, scrunching up his nose.

“When you get out of here, I’ll get you anything you want. Even waffles – with anchovies,” Max joked.

“Why don’t we just go now, Dad?” Evan pleaded. “I feel fine. I don’t need any more tests.”

“Yes, you do,” Max told him.

“But Dad –”

“No ‘buts’, Evan,” Max stayed firm. “I want you to have this test. It won’t hurt, and it might . . . help.”

“O-kay,” Evan gave in, irritated but knowing he didn’t have a choice. He’d made it through the Echocardiogram yesterday. One more test and they could finally go home.

“Now that you’re awake,” Max changed the subject, “I’m going to run home and take a shower and change. I’ll be back before it’s time for your test.” He ruffled Evan’s hair and added with a teasing tone, “Don’t flirt with the nurses while I’m gone.”

“Daaaad!” he batted his father’s hand away, looking appalled. The nurses were all old.

“I’ll be back soon,” Max laughed and headed toward the door.

When he was gone, Evan climbed out of bed and padded across the cold floor to the bathroom. He hoped Dr. Acker would come by while his dad was gone, so he might have a chance to ask him about Liz Parker.

* * * * *

“I scheduled a flight out to Boston early next week,” Liz said, sitting beside Brad in the front seat of his car. The leather seats were soft, the climate control perfect for a damp November morning. “I don’t want to give my notice over the phone.”

“Of course not,” Brad agreed. Boston had been good to both of them. They’d established their careers there, embarked on adulthood together, become friends and lovers there. He knew she wasn’t the type to shirk her responsibilities. She’d give her notice, serve the required amount of time while they searched for her replacement, then she’d come back to him.

“How long do you think you’ll be gone?”

“Two weeks,” Liz replied. “I should give them more time, but I’m anxious to go and get back. Maybe they’ll release me early.”

Strange, a week ago she’d never heard of Kings Island. Now, the thought of leaving it made her chest tighten. It was a sensation she hadn’t experienced since she left Roswell, though she didn’t understand the connection. Roswell and Kings Island couldn’t be more different.

“Maybe after you get off tonight we can return my rental car,” Liz suggested, bracing her hand against the seat as Brad took a hard right into the hospital parking lot.

“Sure.” He maneuvered his way toward the staff area, dodging a car pulling out in front of him.

“Can you recommend . . .”

Her voice trailed off in mid sentence, suddenly distracted by something she couldn’t put a name to. She turned inward, trying to pinpoint it, but it proved elusive. Just a fluttering in her mind, of something familiar …

A dark haired man stepped in front of the car causing Brad to brake sharply. “Idiot,” he grumbled.

Liz’s heart rate soared, for a moment thinking the pedestrian looked like Max, but it wasn’t. It never was. She’d seen him so many times over the years, on the sidewalk, at the mall, in the frozen food aisle at the grocery store, but it was never really him. She’d told herself a million times she should stop looking, but she couldn’t.

“Recommend what?” Brad said, shooting her a sideways look. “Liz?”

She closed her eyes trying to hold on to the strange fluttering in her mind, but the feeling was fading. Behind them, a silver sedan finished backing up and pulled out of the parking lot, headed south.

“Liz?”

She startled when Brad touched her on the arm. “What?”

“You said you wanted me to recommend something?”

“Oh. Right,” she shook herself. “I should get my own car. Can you recommend a good dealership?”

“Sure,” Brad nodded, bringing his car to a stop in a parking stall. “I know a couple good places.”

“Great. I should look for my own place, too, now that I know I’m staying.”

As she gathered her things together, she didn’t see the disappointed look that flashed over Brad’s face.

* * * * *

Evan watched the nurses walking back and forth past his door, wondering when they were going to bring him breakfast. Not that he was looking forward to runny eggs, or soggy toast, but he was hungry. When a nurse finally arrived, he wondered why she didn’t bring a tray with her.

“Good morning,” she said pleasantly, carrying a little paper cup. “How are you feeling this morning?”

“Fine,” Evan answered, looking at the name badge that hung from a cord draped around her neck. Sheila Stone, RN. “Can I have breakfast now?”

“Sorry,” Sheila shook her head. “No food before the test. You’ll be able to eat afterwards.”

“Oh,” Evan slumped, feeling his stomach growling. “What’s that?” he nodded toward the cup.

“Just a light sedative, to keep you relaxed. Dr. Acker will be with you shortly, and then they’ll be taking you to the cath lab.” She held the cup out for the boy with the lone pill inside.

“My dad said not to take anything until he gets back. He should be here any minute.”

“Oh?” the nurse frowned.

“I rescinded that order,” Brad said, waltzing into the room with Evan’s chart in his hand. He set it on the table at the foot of the bed and waved the nurse away. After checking Evan’s pulse, he took his stethoscope out of his pocket. “How are you feeling this morning, Evan?”

“Fine,” he answered.

“Good. Good. Let’s have a listen. Why don’t you sit up and swing your legs over the side of the bed.”

Evan did as he was told. Brad untied the hospital gown and lowered the front, placing the bell of the stethoscope against Evan’s chest to listen to his heart tones.

* * * * *

Max pulled his silver Honda into a parking stall and grabbed a bag off the passenger seat before sprinting for the hospital doors. He’d brought a change of clothes for Evan, and his Game Wizard, so maybe he wouldn’t be so bored. Kids could play with those things for hours on end.

Afraid that he was late, he hurried across the lobby and waited impatiently for the elevator to arrive. He was so intent on watching the lighted numbers above the door; he didn’t notice Jenny until she slipped her arm inside of his.

“Just who I was looking for,” she smiled at Max. “I was coming up to see you and Evan before he goes in for his test.”

Max lifted the bag he was holding. “I went home to get him some things. It took longer than I thought it would.”

When the elevator doors slid open, Max ushered Jenny ahead of him, anxious to get back to his son.

* * * * *

Liz walked down the hallway of the CCU with a sheaf of papers in her hands, looking for Brad. He’d been working here at Kings Memorial for several months now, and she hoped to get a few recommendations from him for some of the key staff positions in the PCC Unit. He should know the deadbeats from the dedicated by now.

She started to walk past Evan’s room, but paused in front of the window, seeing Brad attending to the boy. Evan sat on the side of the bed taking deep breaths while Brad listened to his chest. She watched them for a minute, with her attention lingering on the boy. There was something almost familiar about him, but she couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was.

His eyes, maybe? His nose? The curve of his jaw? Something . . .

Shaking off the feeling, Liz silently scolded herself for losing focus. She had too much work to do, an entire unit to staff, and no time for distractions. Seeing that Brad was occupied, she turned back in the direction she’d just come. She could talk to him later, when he wasn’t so busy.

In the hospital room, Evan wasn’t sure exactly how to ask Dr. Acker about Liz Parker without raising questions, but it was now or never. His dad was due back any minute.

“Doctor Ack –”

“Almost finished,” Brad interrupted, urging Evan to hold off his questions.

Motion at the window beyond Brad’s shoulder caught Evan’s attention. He looked over just in time to see a flash of dark hair, short and familiar looking, like something he’d recently seen it in a dream.

“Liz?” Evan said, barely aware that he’d spoken aloud. Was that Liz Parker? Was she here? In the hospital? In the hallway?

Surprised, Brad turned half way to look behind him, but the window was empty. No one was there. He turned back to Evan and asked, “Did you just say ‘Liz’?”

In the hallway, Liz set off toward the elevators with her head down, reading through the personnel file of Jennifer Payne, Pediatrician.

Down the corridor, Max and Jenny exited the elevators walking side by side. He listened closely, giving Jenny his full attention as she explained the procedure Evan was about to undergo.

“They’ll make a small incision in the groin and insert a – hold on.” She removed a vibrating cell phone from the pocket of her lab coat and checked the caller ID before saying apologetically, “Sorry. I have to take this call.”

“No problem,” Max said. He knew she was a busy woman, and coming up here to hold his hand through this was probably wreaking havoc with her schedule. While she talked on the phone, he opened the bag he was carrying, checking to see if he brought the right game cartridge. Was Battleship Earth the latest craze? Or was it Holo Wars?

He was so intent on what he was doing; Max didn’t notice the doctor walking in his direction, with her head down, concentrating on a file. White lab coats were a dime a dozen around here, they all blended together and looked the same, but Liz Parker was unique, and his senses still remembered her. As she walked by her scent washed over him, like a memory from the past, making his steps faltered as he passed the window to his son’s room. He came to a hesitant stop in the open doorway and slowly turned around to look behind him, searching for . . . something . . .

Liz felt the familiar pull, just like in the car earlier, like something calling to her in a voice she couldn’t quite hear. Her heart inexplicably skipped a beat and then raced rapidly trying to right itself. In delayed reaction, she paused in mid step, then turned, drawn to something behind her. Some . . . sound. Some . . . smell. Some . . . presence? Her eyes swept the corridor, not sure what she was looking for, and then she saw him. Standing less than 20 feet away, staring right at her. She inhaled sharply.

The bag in Max’s hand slipped from his fingers and dropped to the floor. He didn’t notice. He didn’t even breathe. If he moved, the vision in front of him might disappear.

A white lab coat covered her street clothes, and her hair was short instead of long, but there was no mistaking her for someone else. He’d carried her image with him every day for more than 12 years, and her beautiful face still looked the same. Older. Wiser. Stronger. But still the same.

“Liz?” he said, certain that he had to be dreaming.

“Max?” Liz stood rooted in place, staring at the man before her. He’d changed over the years, filled out, grown from a boy into a man, but there was no doubt of who he was. The golden tone of his voice and the amber color of his eyes hadn’t changed a bit.

“Liz,” he said once more, this time in awe, like her presence here couldn’t possibly be real. He tried to move but he couldn’t, and apparently he’d become incapable of speech beyond repeating her name. His tongue didn’t want to work. His lungs had forgotten how to breathe. His heart was doing funny things in his chest.

Hearing his voice again, saying her name, was all it took to spur Liz into action. She’d waited so long, dreaming of the day she might see him again, nothing could hold her back. She dropped the papers she was holding and raced down the corridor, almost sobbing as she threw her arms around him.

Max tottered on his feet from the impact of her solid body slamming into his, for a moment too stunned to react. She was real. This was real. It wasn’t just a dream. His arms wrapped around her, pinning her to him, burying one hand in her hair, breathing in the scent he’d thought he’d never breathe again. His eyes slid closed, just holding her, just breathing her, afraid to move.

Evan sat on the bed with his mouth hanging open, watching the spectacle in front of him. He’d never seen his father act this way before. Never seen that kind of look on his father’s face. Never felt such intense emotions as he did right now, coming from the both of them.

Jenny lowered her phone and openly stared at them. Was she the one? The girl Max had pined for all these years? The girl he’d never gotten over, and by the looks of it, the girl who had never gotten over him?

Brad felt a twinge of jealously in the pit of his stomach watching the reunion play out in the hospital corridor. In all the years he had known her, he’d never seen Liz react to anyone this way before, and if he was brutally honest with himself, he knew the reason why. She’d always been waiting for this. For him.

“Is it you?” Liz half cried, half whispered into Max’s ear. She pulled back, searching his face with her eyes, cupping his cheeks with her hands. “Is it really you?”

Max nodded his head, finding himself incapable of forming more than one syllable words. His heart raced rapidly in his chest, filled to overflowing with years worth of wanting, his dreams of this moment finally realized. “I . . . You . . . Liz.”

They stood face to face for the first time in over 12 years, staring into each other’s eyes, with a lifetime’s worth of emotions welling up between them. The silent communication that passed between them was unmistakable to all who watched. Jenny took a step back, feeling like a voyeur in a scene too intimate for witnesses.

The movement caused Liz to become aware of their surroundings. She saw the way Jenny was looking at Max, and immediately jumped to the wrong conclusion.

“I - I’m sorry,” Liz took an awkward step back, darting a look between Max and the statuesque blonde.

Max remained focused on Liz, confused by her sudden withdrawal. Why was she pulling away from him? Why was she looking at him that way? Why was she looking at Jenny that way? As understanding seeped into his brain, his eyes grew wide, suddenly feeling like a deer caught in the headlights.

“No, Liz, it’s not –”

“Liz?” Brad came up behind her, not sure what was happening here, but having a strong suspicion. Was this the guy who broke her heart and left it in so many pieces she never got over it? He touched his hand to the small of her back to lend her his support. “Are you all right?”

Max noticed the intimacy of the gesture and felt his heart plummet to his shoes. Had he found her after all these years only to have her belong to someone else? But how could it be otherwise? Liz was a beautiful woman, with so much love to give; she wouldn’t have spent all these years alone. He wouldn’t have wanted her to. But he couldn’t lie to himself; it hurt so much to see her with someone else.

“Dad!” Evan called out. Their turbulent emotions were crashing all around him, more intense that anything he’d ever felt before. He knew he had to do something to avert the impending disaster. “Dad!”

“Evan?” Max turned toward the sound of his son’s voice. Why was he shouting? Was the whole world spinning out of control?

“Evan?” Liz said the name in a whisper, following Max’s gaze. Evan was his son? Max had two boys? Zan and Evan? She looked at the woman beside Max; tall and blonde and blue eyed. Blue eyes just like the boy on the bed. Was she his mother? Did Max have a wife? A family?

“Dad! Say something!”

“Evan is . . . your son?” Liz asked, leaning toward Brad for support. With undisguised dread, her eyes darted to the blonde woman’s left hand, looking for a ring.

Evan’s shouts finally penetrated Max’s overloaded brain, and combined with Liz’s question and the look on her face, the implication came into focus. Oh no, she though Evan was –

“No, Liz,” Max shook his head. It was imperative that he make her understand. “I mean, yes, Evan is my son. Evan Alex–ZAN –der.”

“Zan . . .?” she said, looking at the boy again.

Evan’s blue eyes met hers with a hesitant smile, hoping she wouldn’t hate him because of who his mother was. She turned back to Max and said, “He’s . . .?”

Max nodded with relief. “Evan Alexander Philips,” he said, unconsciously reaching out his hand to her.

“Philips,” she said, taking a step closer to him, drawn like a magnet.

Brad watched Liz slip her hand into Max’s, and in that moment, seeing that simple contact, he knew Liz would never be his. And he now knew why she had never been his before. The ghost from her past had taken solid form, a specter Brad never stood a chance against.

“This is Jenny,” Max stammered, wanting to clear up any misunderstands right away. “Jennifer Payne. Doctor Payne. Evan’s pediatrician.”

The two women acknowledged each other, Liz silently relieved the tall blonde held no claim to Max, and Jenny already accepting the obvious. It was all there for the whole world to see.

“How is – Evan?” Liz asked, stumbling a little on the name. For so many years she’d thought of him as Zan, it was hard to switch gears.

“Do you want to meet him?” Max asked her, hesitant and unsure. Evan’s very existence represented everything that had driven them apart. Everything that stood between them. All the years. All the miles. All the pain. Would she turn away again, and end the dream he’d held onto for so long?

Liz’s hand tightened around his. “I’d love to meet your son.”

Evan felt relief flood through his father, mixing with a sharper, richer emotion, buried for years but now set free. Love, the kind a man feels for a woman.

Brad moved closer to Jenny, silently watching Max lead Liz into the hospital room.

“Evan,” Max said, nearing the bed, with Liz at his side. “There’s someone here I want you to meet.”

A new emotion filled Max, a kind of nervousness he wasn’t prone to feeling. What if Evan didn’t like Liz? Or Liz didn’t like Evan?

“Hi,” Evan said to the dark haired woman standing next to his dad. She looked different than his father’s memories, older like in Doctor Brad’s dream, but inside she felt the same. He sensed she was good, down where it counted, deep inside her soul.

“Hi,” Liz reached her small hand out to his, offering her friendship. Evan stared at it in surprise, most people just ruffled his hair and treated him like a kid, but Liz was different. When he slipped his hand in hers he saw a rush of visual images, and felt the crush of the underlying emotions that went with them.


“Tess and me . . . we spent the night together. Tess is pregnant.”

“Do you love her?”

“Not like I love you.”

***

“Liz. I just want to put everything that happened behind us.”

“You slept with Tess, and got her pregnant. I don’t know how to just move past that. You hurt me, you know?”

“You’ve paid a lot to know me. Now I want to make that up to you. I want to make your dreams come true. Will you let me do that?”

***

“You didn’t call.”

“I know you’ve been here, alone, waiting for me, and . . . and I’ve . . . It was wrong.”

“You were gonna leave. Without telling me.”

“It was my only chance to save my son.”



Evan came out of the flashes, trying to catch his breath from the intensity of it. Her soul cried out with pain, but underneath the pain a stronger emotion reigned. An emotion she’d buried but never let go of, that still resonated deep inside her soul.


“Don’t you realize what you are to me? And what you’re always gonna be? You’re the love of my life. Everyone else is gonna be second best. There’ll never be another you.”


Evan looked at Liz, now certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’d done the right thing that night he walked inside Dr. Brad’s dream. He’d set in motion the events that brought his dad back together with the only girl he ever really loved. He could leave this world happy in the knowledge that his father wouldn’t be alone. It was all that he could ask for now.

It was Evan’s last wish, his final aspiration, that his father regain the life he’d sacrificed so long ago. Seeing Liz here now, reading the emotions inside her, Evan knew his efforts hadn’t been in vain. His time here was running short, he knew it, he accepted it, and now he could die at peace with the world he would leave behind.

His father was going to be all right now, and to Evan, that was all that mattered.




tbc …
Last edited by Breathless on Sun Sep 17, 2006 12:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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