Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 66 7/15 (WIP)

For stories that are mostly conventional in their couplings, but might explore one UC relationship, or might explore a UC relationship to some degree. It is also for stories where to reveal the eventual pairings in an Author’s Note might spoil the story. It is also for character driven fic that focuses mostly on one specific character. Main character death fics might also be safer here. This is a "read at your own risk" forum. Please read Forum Rules for more information.

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dreamon
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Re: Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 65 2/19 (WIP)

Post by dreamon »

Hoping for an update!
I have a few dreamer challenges in mind if you are looking for ideas so pm me!
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clueless
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Re: Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 65 2/19 (WIP)

Post by clueless »

Just stopping by :wink:
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behrinthecity
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Re: Scars of White (AA, CC, MATURE) Part 66

Post by behrinthecity »

Hope everyone is having a good summer and not sweltering from the heat too much.`

Dreamon, MP, clueless thank you for all checking in Sorry it took me so long to get back.

I really jinxed myself this time. I'm so sorry for another terribly long wait.

After 3 months of dealing with major leaks in the house (me slipping on the water and hitting my head was how we discovered it), I finally started looking at the part and realized my timeline was mixed up. So the part I had before has been moved back. But I let Max's deep thoughts make this a supersized part.. I hope you enjoy. :mrgreen:

Out of curiosity, has anyone gone to any cons for any Roswell 25th anniversary related panel? Wish I could go.

Story note: For the song listed below, I chose an instrumental cover version of Black Hole Sun that I highly recommend checking out. Search for Break from Reality on Youtube. If you’d prefer, you can also play the original one by Soundgarden. I just thought the text was too much if I added the lyrics. But that song was the inspiration for Max's state of mind here.


Previously…

[From The White Room]


As the drugs took over, the room spun. The ceiling spotlights shifted and moved around him robbing him of any sense of his surroundings. He was immobilized mentally and physically.

The agents could do anything they wanted to him and he wouldn’t be able to stop them. As his hands clenched in his restraints, a sharp burn excruciatingly shot through his hazy mind.

The cuts he sustained when they strapped him down became an icy fire around his wrists. His absolute terror of living his worst nightmare further intensified the pain so that he could not focus on anything else. With the cuts taking precedent, he started to believe his arms were strung up above his head. Real or not, the position captured his main emotion: hopelessness.

“Max? Oh God, Max!”

He strained to see his sister; his hope renewed. She would lead the way to escape.

But the room only spun faster.

“Stop this! Stop this and help me.”

“I can’t… they gave me something,” he slurred helplessly.

Grunting, Isabel managed to stand before him. Her warm, steady hands held the sides of his head.

“Ok, ok. Max, look at me. Look only at me.”

Though her face was blurry, she helped dampen the pain and fear enough for him to focus on her and communicating.


[From Busted]

Max stood in the jail cell fretting over Liz being arrested.

How did the cops respond so fast?

With no gun they couldn’t charge them, he tried to assure himself. Deep down he was itching to get back to the ship. It had responded to the key. He bounced lightly on his feet needing out of this cage.

He heard the familiar sounds of his parents’ footsteps. Looking up he saw their disappointment and, surprisingly, relief. Noting the fear on his mother's face, he greeted them with a sardonic “in the neighbourhood?”

His father sighed before he embraced him. His words were quiet, rushed, and determined. His mother though was visibly besides herself.

“Look at you. What is going on? Who are you? Why are you under arrest for armed robbery?”

All valid questions, but the truth was something he couldn't share. As she cupped his face, imploring him to explain, his stomach felt like lead from the guilt over causing her so much grief.

At her expectant face, her eyes wide with shock and concern, his mind raced for a plausible explanation.

So he leaned into the idea that he did it for an adolescent thrill. It’s what teens do after all.


[From Part 35]

Isabel is there any chance of you being able to manipulate the security system from here?”

Isabel just gave Michael an incredulous look until she noticed him gesturing to something ahead. Following his hand, she noticed the metal box protruding on the closest wall of the building, and just above it a security camera. “I… from here?” she still asked with disbelief. Sure she had taken a number of computer classes in college, initially out of tribute to Alex and then continuing from a growing personal interest, but it wasn’t like they specialized in security programs, and certainly not how to disable them from far distances with alien powers. And even though her powers were stronger, from her constant practicing and guiding Liz’s training over the past few months, she didn’t think she was that good.


[From Part 15]

Kyle was surrounded by utter darkness. Even though it seemed to stretch out in all directions, he couldn’t help the strong feeling of suffocation. Was he having the nightmare where a person wakes up in a coffin? He tried to change the dream, wake up, something, but the darkness remained, and the feeling of sheer panic took over. Though he knew this had to be a dream, the fear building within him would not stop. He tried all his methods to calm himself and finally he was able to concentrate past the overwhelming terror he felt. That’s when he heard it.

“Somebody let me out. Please, let me out!”

No, it couldn’t be. He almost called out his departed friend’s name, but muffled speaking made him stop. He strained to hear but could not discern a word.

He could hear heavy, fast gasps and the same voice continue to plead, “Please, let me out.”

Kyle automatically moved forward to help, but found he couldn’t. That’s when he realized, he was extremely cold, and felt something tight around his limbs. Then things got worse.

A sudden rush of wetness touched his body and the voice he heard began to scream, “Stop! Please, stop!” The muffled voice came back, but the sound of rushing water made it absolutely impossible to understand. Kyle struggled against whatever held him back, but nothing budged. He thought he heard choking sounds and in between, the words, “Please…let…me…out.”


[From Part 26]

Max sat in the corner looking at nothing. He hadn’t moved from the spot since he was told the news.

They were all dead.

Though the agents could have easily lied to him, manipulating the photos, the videos… but having no connection to the outside, he could only believe them. They were all dead. And it was all his fault.


[From Part 46]

On complete autopilot, she hooked her arms under Max's, struggling to stem his thrashing, and reached upward to place her palms against the sides of his jerking head. She held on firmly, but gently, her fingers making small, slow strokes in his hair, while a soft soothing sound left her in a rush, “Shhhhhhhh.”

The scream was dying, having sapped all of Max’s energy, and what little voice he still retained. In the silence, she could still hear the echo of his scream, pulsing through her body. She shifted closer to Max, holding on tighter.


[From Part 52]

He released a shaky breath. He slowly regarded his surroundings one more time. Earlier he had interpreted this seeming haven as a vivid hallucination; a consequence of a desperate imagination seeking relief. And though he had seen this backyard in his disjointed memories—the sensations of life around him strengthened the loving assurances Liz had given him through the connection. For too long he had been in a state of living death.

But now…

His eyes momentarily closed as a cool breeze caressed his skin. The harsh dryness of his climate-controlled prison had been different. He did not shiver from this breeze. Rather he faced it fully to enjoy the gentle buffets of air.

He wanted to believe what Liz had asserted and what his senses were confirming now. And as he stood in the grass he chose to believe.

He was free.


[From Part 52A ]

The general scoffed. “Your sister was found with you in the desert back in 1989. Are you saying that was a coincidence?”

Max held the general’s gaze steady, a sudden fire of determination in his amber eyes. “She doesn’t talk about how she came to be abandoned in the desert, but when she came across me she was clothed. She offered me her sweater, but I didn’t know what it was and didn’t take it. So she threw off all of her clothes to make me more comfortable. She…” Max broke off momentarily looking at his hands. “Once she held my hand she never let go.”




Unable to hold back anymore, Liz stood up and implored Max, “What did you do?”

Max had been hiding his head the last few minutes, but at that he straightened up and firmly asserted, “What I had to.” Though taking in the barely held back tears on Liz’s face his facade easily cracked, his voice trembling as he answered, “to keep you…” He paused looking at each one of them in turn. “…all of you… safe.” The emphasis on the word safe was filled with desperation.


[From Part 55]

The former agent, Fields, sat beside Max on the plane in awe at Max’s ability to forgive. He continued with his confession.

“…when you were in our custody, I couldn’t reconcile…well you... with all of the documentation. Except, that is, the hospital in Phoenix.”

Max cast his eyes down to the hands in his lap.

“Why did you do it?” Fields asked.

“How could I not?” Max replied, his voice taking on an ethereal quality.

Bobbing his head slowly, Fields processed the response, but his curiosity remained unsatiated. “How did you end up in Phoenix?”

Max looked up; his eyes travelling to where Liz chatted with Maria and Kyle. “I found out my boss’ daughter was really sick. But by the time I went to her house she had already been taken to that hospital. So I went there. And after healing her, I saw the boy next to her. And after him, the girl next to him… I just kept trying to heal them until I…” Max trailed off with a slight hitch in his breath. He still regretted he hadn’t been able to get to the other kids. That he had been weak. “…couldn’t,” he completed the thought with a distraught tone.


[From Part 65]

With a deliberately patient face and tone, his father placed a hand on his shoulder and answered, “we know about Phoenix.”

“Y-y-you do?” He couldn’t help stuttering in his response.

The sympathetic gazes from both of his parents made him want to hide. He even had the nonsensical thought that he could shirk back into his sweater like a turtle does in its shell.

He wanted to laugh at himself, but years of hiding made him want to pretend that this conversation wasn’t happening.

His lower lip became bruised with how hard he was biting it. He knew he should say something, but all he could think over and over again: How do they know?

As he released his lip to take in a breath, his mind could finally think past his panic. After he was gone, Isabel and Liz must have told them everything else.

He closed his eyes momentarily. Isabel always trusted them.

But can her word be trusted?


“Honey?” Max opened his eyes upon hearing his mother’s voice and realized her hand was on his arm.

“Sorry.” He gave her a small smile to assure her he was okay. “Doing that… took a lot out of me,” he confessed.

“We can only imagine,” his father commented in support. He placed a hand on his back for comfort




PART SIXTY-SIX


Laughter permeated the air.

The silly actions of Kyle miming his clue could make the surliest among them guffaw.

As designated timekeeper, Maria gave a 10 second warning.

Isabel and Liz kept guessing what Kyle was trying to emulate. “Are you a zombie?” Isabel asked with a tinge of exasperation. Turning to Michael, she
asked, “what was the name of that film? Night of the Living Dead?”

Answering Isabel’s question with a shake of his head, Michael turned to Kyle and stated in a quiet voice. “Jurassic Park…” with the three fingers Kyle held up, Michael quickly added, “three.”

The girls collectively rolled their eyes. “That one had pterodactyls,” Maria exclaimed.

“Pteranodons,” Isabel automatically corrected before shaking her head at herself. Suraj from her computer class had actually managed to get her to remember the difference. “They’re smaller than pterodactyls,” she clarified.

Kyle shrugged.

“There were still raptors,” he defended. With a cheeky grin, he began to impersonate the infamous dream scene, “Alan… Alan… Alan.”

“Okay, Maria you’re up. Michael can keep time,” Liz instructed wanting to move the game along. But the way her lips were puckering, she was clearly stifling a laugh.

As Maria selected a piece of paper, Isabel placed a hand on Liz’s arm. “I’ll just go check on Max.”

Before they started playing Charades, Liz had told her that Max was napping. Though it seemed he was succumbing to natural sleepiness from two really good meals, they agreed prudently that one of them would check on him after an hour.

Liz gave a grateful nod in acknowledgment before turning back to Maria. She started identifying Maria’s actions: “okay… song… four words…”


Meanwhile
On the terrace

Song: Break from Reality’s cover of Black Hole Sun[ by Soundgarden

Max stood by the balcony edge; his pale arms exposed to the sunlight.

He stared out at Cal’s impressive estate, squinting through the glinting rays of the setting sun. The light illuminated the strained expression on his tired face.

For the past forty minutes he had been trapped by indecision on whether to join the others.

He could hear their carefree laughter. His patented melancholic smile would flit upon his face at the sound. He was pleased to hear them having fun and enjoying being silly—like normal teens.

His head bent with shame. He certainly didn’t count as that.

Defunct or not, the chip indicated that to the government he was a first-generation weapon they had curated, tested, and manipulated enough to be put to pasture and make way for the ‘improved’ Maxes.

Running a hand through his hair, he realized—would they even have names?

He was listed as Prisoner A5. What designation would they give his clones? Or would it just be dismissive objectification with which the Unit used.

Pathetic… the agent would sneer. you may have managed to fool those traitors but we know what you are.

Addressing the other agents, the head agent made Max’s status as a lab rat abundantly clear.

Collect those tears. Let’s see if it really is crying.

His eyes shut tight as he remembered the sample extractions. He had lost count of how many times they did it. Accepting this—being at Cal’s place—was all a dream, he assumed his mind had clearly jumped to the only logical explanation for their continuous sampling: to clone him.

He hoped they wouldn’t do the same extractions to his clones.

With a grimace, he dejectedly realized doing so would give them a super soldier army in perpetuity.

His hands involuntarily clenched but merely skidded along the smooth polished railing.

He tried to flatten his hands but feeling the cool, slippery texture underneath, he was mentally transported to the white room.

His limbs couldn’t stop quaking.

Breaths shaky, he attempted to curl into himself to warm up. But an agent grasped at his hand.

He flopped the hand behind him in an uncoordinated manner; fingers blindly grappling for purchase.

But there was nothing to hold onto.

Within moments the agent was on him and quickly trapped his hands in heavy cuffs.


His eyes stung as the anguished memories played out in his mind.

His face became shadowed as the sun sank behind the trees. The sun’s dying golden rays reached for the branches like a drowning soul blindly grasping for a last chance to be saved.

But the darkening trees were silent witnesses as dusk snuffed out the last embers of the day’s sun.

The trees were just like the faceless agents had been, as Max’s head tormenters subjected him to yet another punishment.

In his mind’s eye, he was thrashing against the many gloved hands as they plunged him into a tub of frigid water. No matter how many times it happened, he couldn’t stop his fear and panic. His flailing limbs only made them shove him harder against the metal tub. His sides cramping, numbness would slowly take over. Only his shortening gasps showed that he hadn’t lost consciousness.

Just when it seemed he could no longer feel and that perhaps the unending cycle of pain would stop, they brought him back.

Each time he thought he had drawn his last breath succumbing to oblivion, awareness would creep back in.

Seeing the harsh white light crushed his waning soul. Tears of despair would trail down his cheeks.

Blinking back to the present, he released a laborious breath. you’re not there, he told himself.

“Please let this be real,” he whispered into the air. He gazed forlornly at the impassive trees. “Please,” he pleaded as he desperately pushed against the railing.

He screwed his eyes shut as he continued to plead. Holding his breath, he leaned his body against the railing to brace himself against the caustic taunts of the agents.

You’re holding out on us, Mr. Evans. Is it mind control? Why else would a likely valedictorian ruin her plans with the likes of you? Armed robbery and unlawful possession of a weapon… tsk tsk. Seems like getting healed by you isn’t as miraculous as you would think.



How could you make her hold the gun?

I want to date normal boys. I may love you… but I don’t want to die for you.

Do you want to kill her!?”


As the voices of Maria, Liz, and Kyle took over the agent’s smarmy one, Max withdrew into himself. His eyes hooded, he whispered, “I’m sorry.”

The awful truth washed over him like a tidal wave: the agents had killed them all.

Because he had failed to protect them.

Everything around him was a fanciful dream— delusion really—as his cracked mind refused to accept his failure.

A slight tremor went through his body as he realized where he must be— the tank.

At that realization, he tilted his head back in despair. Though he could not feel the metal band holding his head down, he knew tilting his head back was the only move he could do.

He felt a chilled breeze circle around him carrying more sounds of joviality. But instead of being comforted at knowing his loved ones were safe and enjoying themselves, he surmised dejectedly that the laughter must be from the agents not his loved ones. A tear snaked down his cheek. His mind replayed the times such laughter mocked his pleas, especially to be let out of the tank.

The complete darkness of the tank terrified him. It reminded him of when he was in Clay’s body. Much like the enclosed space in which he was imprisoned, the cold selfishness of Clay had been oppressive. In Clay’s mind, Max had been in an invisible cage unable to control his body. Seeing the blonde hair of the wife fuelled enough panic in Max to break through and protest that he had to find Liz.

But she was only in his dreams now.

The awful image of her lifeless body followed by Isabel and Michael’s bodies played in his mind’s eye.

The guttural noise that escaped him was one of pure agony.

His hands scrabbled against the stone as he clenched and unclenched his hands. The rough edge he unwittingly made in the railing scraped his fingertips.

He paused in his movements as he registered the coarse grain beneath his hands.

Nothing in the white room had this texture.

A small smile of relief crept on his face.

Releasing a shuddering breath, he held back a sob.

All of this was real. His parents, his friends, Isabel, and— he sighed blissfully— Liz were alive. They were safe.

As he sighed in jubilant relief a doubt cut through the euphoric haze.

For how long?

He knew he didn’t deserve the admiration of his parents and the others. He couldn’t save all of the kids in that ward… he couldn’t save his son. He was helpless to stop the government’s plans. How could he keep everyone safe from Kivar?

Despite Cal’s assurances, he dreaded the inevitable.

“Max?” He heard his sister’s voice.

He turned in the direction of her voice. Seeing no one, his bottom lip quivered.

He knew all the agents were male. Perhaps he had conjured his sister in hopes the tank would dissolve into where she was… perhaps he would get a glimpse of heaven before it was all over.

“Max,” she called again but her voice now sounded muffled.

Concerned this fantasy was dissipating sooner than he hoped, he bent his head, closed his eyes, and fervently wished to not wake from this dream.


A blue tinged darkness surrounded him.

He averted his eyes from the royal seal shining before him. Automatically, he began to repeatedly whisper no.

Don’t you trust Liz?

He retorted immediately, “of course I do!”

What did she tell you? Show you?

Max’s doubts echoed tremulously around him, but what if it’s all a dream? How do I know what’s real?

In response the royal seal shone brilliantly; each star twinkling in turn.

You know what to do.

At Max’s hesitation, his alien side asked, is this the life you want to provide Liz?

Living in uncertainty?

Hiding in fear?

Take control.


His natural inclination for control awoke at that instruction. Selecting what he ate at a buffet was a start, but this was a way to take back what the Unit had taken from him: control, security, and self-confidence. Doing this would help ensure everyone’s safety.

It was the same reason for his surrender to the government, but the offer this time promised a fulfillment of his long-held dreams.

Ghostly images of everyone he loved smiling and laughing appeared in the light. The image shifted into a ballroom. Liz and Isabel ensconced in regal dresses came down the stairs with elegant grace. The image shifted to him sitting at the head of a table with a crown upon his head.

Signs of a prosperous kingdom flickered in quick succession revealing smiling faces, people healing out in the open, lush vegetation, and impressive buildings gleaming in the sun. He was entranced at what he saw. The people flickered so quickly between familiar human forms and what he assumed was the natural Antarian form— tall and slender beings with small jaws, broad foreheads, and luminous skin. Instead of shock at knowing what they truly looked like he was amazed to see such free use of power. Specifically, that his healing power wasn’t something to fear. That healing others was good. He wasn’t the abomination the Unit declared him to be.

And there were others like him…

They look to you to lead. Accept your duty as king.

“I’m not a king,” Max bit out tiredly.

Kivar will make sure of that.

An image of the prior gleaming buildings revealed them as crumbling and war torn. The smiling faces were replaced with pinched and pained expressions. Even the trees were threadbare.

Screams resounded around him as the blue light morphed into thick smoke. As it cleared, rubble was all he saw.

Don’t let this be your future.

You need to lead.

Embrace your destiny.


Max turned pensive.

Ever since they used the orbs and heard about their pre-planned destiny, he tried to avoid it.

His destiny was Liz.

But with the possibility of being with Liz and saving two planets… his two homes…

He couldn’t continue to avoid the responsibility. No matter how detached he was from Antar, that life was coming for him—for all of them—here on Earth.

He couldn’t let that happen to his loved ones.

His hand slowly reached towards the seal.

Max!!

His head instantly turned towards his sister’s voice.

Seeing no one, he queried uncertainly, “Isabel?”

She can wait. Duty first.

Looking back at the seal, Max was unsure what to do.

But then he felt a hand on his shoulder and heard Isabel gently prompt, open your eyes, Max.

He looked towards his shoulder where he had felt her hand but didn’t see anything.

Panic and confusion began to swell up in his chest.

Don’t let her distract you again.

There was an edge of bitter regret and resentment to Zan’s voice.

Though Zan's tone gave Max pause his instinct to defend Isabel led him to definitively respond, “she is not and has never been a distraction for me.”
Memories of each time she helped him, protected him, and comforted him appeared around him. Seeing images of his sister holding his hand gave his voice strength as he asserted, “she has always supported me.”

But his alter ego insisted, A leader needs a clear mind.

“And she has always helped me with that.” Max recalled the impromptu snowfall Isabel made to calm him down.

The darkness became the cul-de-sac of his childhood home. He felt light cold drops on his face as the snow flurries flew around him.

As his mind relived that memory, he sniffed.

He felt the warmth of a blanket and embrace around his shoulders.

“It’s okay, honey.”

He felt hands rub his upper arms. He’s so cold.

Let me.

“Honey?” He felt the blanket wrap tighter around his upper body. He felt caresses on his arms, the firm pressure making his shivers subside. “You don’t have to hide anymore. Express whatever you’re feeling. It’s okay to not be okay, Max.”

He felt a slight squeeze on his shoulders.

“You’re safe.

Open your eyes, sweetheart.”

Comforted by the honeyed tone of his mother, Max’s eyes fluttered open.

His mother’s face was the first thing he saw.

The wrinkles on her face created a deeply etched frame around her lips and eyes as she observed him with concern.

“Mom? Is everything okay? What happened,” he asked in a lost, confused voice.

Isabel answered, “you weren’t responding…” She trailed off, naked fear0 showing on her face.

In a soothing voice, his mother spoke.
“Are you all right?”

Instinctually, he looked down to avoid her gaze; his cheeks flaming with embarrassment. how much had they observed of his break from reality?

Tugging on the blanket draped across his shoulders, he realized he was no longer by the railing.

Following his gaze, Isabel offered, “I’ll fix it—don't worry. Just…” Isabel grasped his hands as she implored him, “…talk to one of us. Let us in. We’re all here for you.”

Max looked at their linked hands. He regarded the comfort and protection her hands offered; a relieved smile lifting the corners of his lips.

Not ready to speak though, he meekly nodded.

With a sigh, Isabel stood up from her stooped position. “I’ll be back,” she promised her mother and Max. As her hand released Max, he grasped it suddenly.

Through their connection, Max conveyed what was wrong with the railing. But his thoughts were a jumbled mess ultimately showing Isabel chaotic images of the white room accompanied by his overwhelming fear as he skidded on the smooth panels. Once shared, Max let go of Isabel’s hand as he cast his eyes downward.

Isabel gently took his hand once more and gave it a reassuring squeeze. He met her gaze and received a supportive smile. Isabel them strode to the railing with purpose. When she was done, Max wouldn't be reminded of that white hell.

Max watched Isabel walk to the railing noticing that there were wet spots littered upon the terrace. Touching his cheek, he realized he had actually felt rain drops from what he assumed was a short cloud burst earlier.

Turning his head side to side, he realized he was sitting near the entrance to his room.

His mother rubbed circular motions gently on his back.

She murmured soothingly, “it’s okay, Max. Take your time. I’m here.”

Her words were a comforting balm for his wounded soul. They reminded him of what she used to say to him as a child, especially in the months after being adopted. At the time, he couldn’t shake his fears and the feeling his home was somewhere else. Isabel did her best to convince him they were safe, but it was a moment at the lake when he finally accepted it.

He was dripping wet from swimming. His mother dried him with a towel while expecting an answer for what had happened in the lake to make Isabel cry out.

Isabel was dancing around singing about him being a hero and that she was fine.

But their mother kept her focus on him. He kept his eyes downcast as she gently rubbed the towel against his body. Though he said nothing, his expression and pose was filled with fear and shame.

With a disheartened sigh she assured him, “you’re not in trouble. I was just worried one of you got hurt. Did you get hurt?” She scrutinized his small body for any cuts.

He answered in the negative with a mournful shake of his head.

“hmmm,” she intoned as she checked his arms.

Pulling his arms back, he finally faced her and spoke his first full sentence since he had been adopted. “Swim-min’ was fun. I like it.”

In happy surprise, Diane hugged Max.

His mother’s eyes were teary as she moved back to see his face. “That makes me so happy to hear you enjoyed it. We’ll come back tomorrow.”

A small smile crept on his face, though his eyes still harboured fear over Isabel getting hurt again.

Feeling a light touch on his head, he looked up at his mother.

She smoothed his wet hair with gentle affection. As she removed seaweed from his skewed strands, she advised in a soothing voice, “remember heroes can get hurt too and asking for help does not make you any less of a hero. Do you understand?”

Max nodded solemnly.

Affectionately rubbing the towel to dry his hair, his mother stated, “your dad and I are here for you and your sister.” With a loving tap on his cheek, she added in a cheery voice, “now how about lunch? Heroes need to keep up their strength.”

With a broader smile, he answered, “okay, Mom.”

Then he launched himself into her arms.


He knew his mother meant there was no shame in asking for help, but he still found it incredibly hard to do. Liz had pointed out many times that he needed to be open to others’ ideas.

But he was responsible to keep them all safe. It was because of him they were in this mess after all. They didn’t know about all the dangers, forces against them… he cut that train of thought. They had survived fine without him. He never easily told the others what he knew, preferring to handle it by himself.

It seemed he had that in common with his alien side.

But at least he was starting to rely on the others—Kyle helped him regain his memories, Maria reminded him that he had friends and the ability to enjoy himself, Michael helped him blow off steam and check everything was safe, Isabel was a calming guide, and Liz… was his everything.

“I’m sorry.”

Diane paused at how small Max’s voice sounded.

“For what, dear?”

Max pulled his bent knees to his chest. “For making you worry.”

His mother was still for an extended moment.

Voice heavy, Diane responded, “you don’t have anything to apologize for. Worrying is just part of being a parent.” She squeezed his shoulders through the blanket. When he still hadn’t turned, she gently directed his chin, so he looked at her. Once his eyes met her own, she added, “and I prefer it that way.”

Max saw the grief of the past year in his mother’s face mixing with cautious hope.

The tentative hope suggested she too was unsure to believe their reunion was real. Sadly, he knew he couldn't assure her that it was.
About to apologize again, he cut himself off when he heard Isabel join them. “All done! Let me know if you want anything changed.”

Looking at her gratefully, he murmured, “thank you.”

She smiled at him warmly. Noticing he was clutching the blanket their mother had placed on him, she offered, “I can get you your sweater—”

“It’s okay,” he answered softly.

Looking between Isabel and his mother, he was overcome with emotion. The soft material of the blanket between his fingers was nothing like the rough sheets they draped on him in the white room. He breathed in the familiar scent of his mother's lotion, revelling in its light floral scent.

Isabel offered her hand to help him up.

Taking it, she pulled him up and ushered him to check out the railing.

He saw stone vines draped upon the railing. It was elegant and beautiful to behold. Reaching out with a trembling hand, he marvelled at the texture Isabel had created. The vines were braided with leaves appearing every so often. He could feel the natural grain of the stone as he ran his hand across the railing. Turning to his sister, he sincerely thanked her. His eyes prickled as he remarked, “it's perfect, Iz. Thank you.”

He brushed the back of his hand against his eyes to wipe at any tears.

He was overwhelmed at what his sister had done.

His mother’s words echoed in his mind as he admired what Isabel had created. …asking for help does not make you any less of a hero. Reaching for Isabel’s hand, he lightly squeezed it.

Zan was wrong. Isabel was his support and strength. Having her, his mother, Liz, and the others gave him strength.

Thankfully, no bitter statement cut through his mind to refute his conclusion.

He felt the familiar tightness in the pit of his stomach expecting the worst to happen, but at this moment he chose to ignore that feeling.

He relished being close to his sister and mother. The cool breeze flowed around them causing goosebumps to form on his arms. But he wasn't ready to go in. Instead, he crossed his arms tightly on his chest.

Feeling a tap on his back, he turned. His mother held out his sweater.

Ducking his head in acknowledgement and thanks, he quickly pulled it on.

With a satisfied smile, Diane gave Max a peck on his cheek. “How does hot chocolate sound?”

The Evans siblings looked at each other and in unison answered their mother, “perfect.”
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