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

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An Imperfect Life, Part 10

Post by Breathless » Sun Sep 24, 2006 12:56 am

A little fb to the fb ...

DreamerMaxBehrian wrote
…Only to have the dark haired pedestrian that crossed in front of Brad’s car turn out not to be Max. Or was it? My uncertainty about this - because of Liz saying it wasn't - caused the coaster to take a downward dip but it quickly flattened out when the silver sedan pulling out from a parking space had me thinking maybe THAT was Max. But nope we found out later that Max had a silver Honda. So hmmmmmm. Had the pedestrian in fact been Max after all?
I thought I’d set the record straight on this. The dark haired pedestrian who stepped in front of Brad’s car was NOT Max. Max drives a silver Honda, which is in fact a sedan (a 2 to 4 door car with a front and rear seat).

One more thing… I’m heading into a really busy time at work, and consequently, I probably won’t be able to update next week. I should be back in 2 weeks. Until then, here’s the next part…

An Imperfect Life
Part 10

You could be happy, and I won’t know
But you weren’t happy the day I watched you go
And all the things that I wish I had not said
Are played in loops ‘til it’s madness in my head

Is it too late to remind you how we were
Not our last days of silent screaming blur
Most of what I remember makes me sure
I should’ve stopped you from walking out the door

You could be happy, I hope you are
You made me happier than I’d been by far
Somehow everything I own smells of you
And for the tiniest moment it’s all not true

Do the things you always wanted to
Without me there to hold you back, don’t think, just do
More than anything I want to see you, girl
Take a glorious bite out of the whole world

You Could Be Happy
Snow Patrol

Max stood behind the glass partition watching Liz as she monitored the procedure Evan was undergoing. Dressed in green scrubs, she looked just like any other doctor, perfectly at home in an operating room, as if she were born to it. He’d missed her all these years, but he was glad he hadn’t kept her from her dreams. It was the one thing he’d clung to all this time, the hope that staying out of her life would give her the chance to become what she was meant to be, without him there to bring her down.

He’d like nothing better than to go somewhere private with her, just the two of them, where they could talk, and talk, and maybe, if the universe chose to favor him, he might be able to touch her again. Hold her again. Those few moments when she’d been in his arms earlier had been a brief touch of heaven. But the timing was wrong. Right now, Evan had to come first. Would she understand?

As Max watched her, Liz patted Evan’s hand and turned away from the examination table, walking in his direction. He couldn’t help the quickening of his pulse, or the rumbling in his stomach he experienced, every time she looked at him.

“Evan’s doing fine,” Liz said, joining Max behind the partition. “The ‘hypnosis’ worked like a charm. Evan is relaxed and taking the procedure like a real trooper.”

“Good,” Max smiled, trusting her to tell him the truth. Evan couldn’t be drugged in the normal sense. His alien metabolism might not be apparent in his cells, but he was still his father’s son, and they’d proven years ago that hybrid aliens couldn’t tolerate ingesting alcohol. He’d found out later even the simplest of drugs could be just as bad.

“That was kind of ingenious,” Liz smiled up at Max, covering her nervousness. For years she had fantasized about finding him again, and now that it had actually happened, it all seemed so surreal. A multitude of questions swirled through her head, but now wasn’t the time to ask them.

“Ingenious?” Max said, staring down at her. Her scent filled the air, intoxicating him.

“Putting Evan into a light ‘sleep’ to mimic sedation,” she said. “I suppose you’ve had to learn to adjust over the years.” She paused slightly, not sure if she should even ask, but in the end she couldn’t hold it back. “Have you had to do this very often?”

“He’s always been . . . sick,” he admitted, “but usually I just heal him at night, it’s kind of a ritual we have, and then he’s okay for the next 24 hours or so. But lately . . .”

The way Max let the words hang in the air, it didn’t take Liz long to catch his meaning. Evan was getting progressively worse.

“Has it been hard?” Liz asked, keeping her voice low. Their conversation needed to remain private.

“Sometimes,” Max admitted. “I’ve almost lost him a few times, and Evan . . . Evan’s all . . . he’s all …”

Liz felt a tug on her heart, hearing the loneliness, the isolation in his voice; even though she could tell he was trying to hide it.

“What about your sister? And Michael?” she asked.

“I haven’t seen Isabel in 12 years,” Max told her. “When we left Roswell, well, Isabel and Jesse ended up going east. He had family that helped them get settled there. New names. A new life. Michael and I, we headed north, toward Canada. Evan and I got as far as Seattle.”

“Where’s Michael now?” Liz asked. “What happened to him?”

“He lives outside of Calgary,” Max said, looking down at his hands. “He wanted to go. I didn’t want to stop him.”

Liz knew that Max and Michael hadn’t always seen eye to eye, but they were brothers in every sense of the word. They loved each other. She knew they always would. “Do you ever see him?”

“No,” Max said wistfully. “The last time I saw him was over 10 years ago. He doesn’t want to cross the border. And with Evan . . . neither do I. With the heightened security and all, I’m not willing to take the risk.”

“How did you end up here?” she asked.

“That’s a long story,” Max shrugged, but he didn’t really want to talk about himself. He wanted to know about her, how her life had turned out, how she’d come to be here. “Tell me about you. Did you go to Harvard? Where did you study medicine? What brought you here?”

How did she know Brad Acker, and was it a story he wanted to hear?

“I did – go to Harvard,” Liz told him. “Not at first. I went to UNM for a year. I didn’t want to leave …”

“I thought you always wanted to get out of Roswell,” Max said, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah, well,” Liz hedged. “That was before you left. I kept . . . waiting. Hoping that . . .”

“Liz,” his voice broke, hearing the pain embedded in her words.

“I was afraid you wouldn’t know how to reach me if I left. So I didn’t. I stayed, but . . . you never . . . I didn’t hear from you. Eventually, I went east. I couldn’t stay there any longer.”

Max felt her words crushing him. “I – I thought I was doing the right thing. At first, taking care of Evan was just – exhausting. I didn’t know how to take care of a baby, and, he needed so much. One day just blended into another, with so many decisions to make, and by the time I came up for air, I’d convinced myself you were better off without me and the mess I’d made of everything. I didn’t want you to keep paying for my mistakes, so I vowed to stay out of your life.”

“I never thought that, Max,” Liz said, hearing the self-blame in his voice. “We were both under a lot of pressure. We both made mistakes.”

“No, I made mistakes,” Max said, turning away from her. “You’re the one who tried to clean up the messes afterward.”

Liz saw the way his back stood ramrod straight, how his arms hung stiffly at his sides, how his head dipped forward, weighed down by shame or guilt or sorrow. She felt the wall he was erecting, to keep from being hurt, to keep from hurting her. She walked up behind him, determined to prevent him from closing off. She might not have seen him for more than 12 years, but she still knew him well.

“Max,” she said his name softly, wishing the years between them would magically disappear. She hovered right behind him, her hand reached for his, stopping in mid air just before she touched him, hesitating for just a moment, before plunging ahead. The warmth of her fingers wrapping around his hand made his body sigh, a reaction impossible for him to hide. But still, the past stood between them.

He turned around, both of them falling into the natural closeness they’d always felt when they were together. Her face leaned into his chest, his lips pressed against the top of her head, their arms wrapped them together.

“I’m glad you went to Harvard,” Max whispered into her hair. “I would have only held you back.”

Brad came around the partition, feeling a twinge at the sight of Liz wrapped in another man’s arms. He cleared his throat to get their attention.

“Brad,” Liz startled, stepping away from Max.

“We’ve completed the test,” Brad informed them. “Evan will be ready to go back to his room in a few minutes.”

“Is he . . .?” Max asked. His hand automatically reached for Liz’s, neither of them even consciously aware of it. Their fingers touched, drawing strength from each other.

“He’s fine,” Brad smiled. “He’s awake and alert, and asking for his Game Wizard already.”

“That’s my boy,” Max smiled, relaxing a little. “He’s a level ten wizard.”

“Ten, huh?” Brad looked suitably impressed. “I just got my level six designation.”

“I’m a two,” Max admitted, mocking himself. He shrugged, adding, “I’m not much of a fighter.”

“Well your son is,” Brad praised the spirit of the boy in the other room. “He came through the test with flying colors. It’ll take a couple of days to prepare a full report, but the initial results look excellent. No evident scarring of the heart muscle. Everything looks normal for a boy of Evan’s age. Yesterday’s event was likely stress related, caused when the asthma attack failed to respond to treatment. Control the asthma, and you likely won’t see a repeat of the arrhythmia.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” Max said, holding out his hand. He knew Brad’s assessment was simplistic, he didn’t know all the facts, but one thing left Max feeling reassured. This test gave him indisputable proof that his healing powers were able to restore Evan’s health, completely, even though only temporarily. Now if they could find a way to somehow prevent the condition that caused Evan’s problems, his son might someday live a normal, healthy life.

Brad slipped his hand into Max’s and the two men shook. When their palms touched, Max’s eyes opened wider, unable to cover his initial reaction. He shot a look at Liz, and then back to Brad, before burying the image he had seen.

“Is – can I see my son now?” Max asked, stumbling to regain his composure.

“Of course,” Brad released his hand. “He’s waiting for you.”

Max hastened around the partition, leaving Brad and Liz alone. Brad watched him go, saying, “So he’s the one? The Max?”

Liz looked at Brad curiously, with one eyebrow raised. “THE Max?”

“You used to whisper a name in your sleep sometimes. His name.”

“You never told me that,” Liz said softly. The look on his face made her wonder if she’d said Max’s name at other times. More intimate times.

“Well,” Brad shrugged. “It’s not exactly something a guy likes to admit. That his girl is dreaming about someone else.”

“God, Brad, I’m sorry,” Liz said, at a loss for words.

“I always knew there was someone between us,” Brad admitted. “Now I have the face that goes with the name.”

On the other side of the partition, Max fussed over his son, with his thoughts churning over things better left unspoken.

“You ready?” Max asked, encouraging his son to sit up.

“Dad?” Evan sat half way up on the exam table and leaned back on his elbows. “What’s wrong?”

Max held out his hand to help Evan off the table and into the wheelchair that would return him to his room. “Nothing’s wrong. Your test, it turned out fine. Everything’s fine. Just fine …”

Evan stared at his father knowing everything wasn’t “just fine”. He knew when his dad was trying to deny the obvious, and this was one of those times. Putting his small hand inside his father’s only confirmed it. Mercifully, the images remained hidden, but the emotion that accompanied the flash came through loud and clear. If only his father could see what he did.

“Dad,” Evan said, but Max busied himself by helping him from the table and into the wheelchair, wrapping a blanket over his legs, adjusting the foot rests, making his son comfortable.

Anything to keep busy so he wouldn’t think about the flash he got from Brad.

“Dad,” Evan said again. When his father continued to ignore him, Evan grabbed his hand. “She loves you, Dad. I can feel it.”

Max froze, at eye level with his son. “Evan, you know – I told you – It’s not right –”

“I know. I’m not supposed to probe other people’s feeling, but this is different. When she touches me, I just know things. I don’t do it on purpose.”

“Know things?” Max shot a look toward Liz, standing on the other side of the glass partition talking to Brad. “Like what?”

“Like she cried for days after you left,” Evan said, following his father’s gaze. “Like she thought about you all the time, wondering where you were, where you went. Like she was afraid she’d never see you again. Things like that.”

“Things are different now.” Max looked away, disengaging the brakes on the wheels. His hands paused on the cold metal, reliving the flash. “There are other people she cares about. Other people she loves.”

“Not like she loves you.”

Max slowly lifted his eyes to meet his son’s. Evan’s face showed the innocence of youth, pure and honest, untainted by the years. His view of life was simple and uncomplicated, something his own life had never been.

“Evan, there are things you just don’t know.”

“I know what I feel,” Evan said. “It’s so strong I can’t block it out. She loves you.”

Max looked toward Liz once more. Her conversation with Brad looked intimate, the touch of her hand on his arm something more than just friendship, until she turned her dark eyes in his direction, making his breath catch in his throat.

“See?” Evan smiled, sensing his father’s emotions. “I told ya.”

Max rose to his feet and stepped behind the wheelchair. “Let’s get you back to your room.”

The look Liz had given him had brought back a rush of memories; of a first kiss on her balcony, of strawberries and steam, of starlight reflecting in her eyes. Emotions came with it; the nervous rumble he felt in his stomach every time he looked at her, the way his breath caught every time he was near her, how his world was always brighter with her in it.

The memory of how much she once loved him, of how much he still loved her, never left him, but a new emotion filled him now, something he hadn’t felt in a long, long time.


Hope for himself. Hope for his son. Hope for a future that didn’t have to be bleak and lonely.

Only time would tell if he was justified in believing in hope again.

tbc …
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An Imperfect Life, Part 11

Post by Breathless » Sun Oct 08, 2006 12:37 am

“I’m baaack! Did you miss me? Carol, was I ever surprised to see you pop up here! I thought you were long gone! It’s good to see you here again. I sent an email to the list.

I wanted to write some feedback to your feedback, but I haven’t had any time, and you all would probably rather I get right to the next part anyway, so here it is…

An Imperfect Life
Part 11

I'm not a perfect person
There's many things I wish I didn't do
But I continue learning
I never meant to do those things to you

I'm sorry that I hurt you
It's something I must live with everyday
And all the pain I put you through
I wish that I could take it all away

And be the one who catches all your tears

The Reason

Evan pulled his jeans up over his slim hips, eager to get out of the hospital. He grabbed his shirt and tugged it over his head, then sat down in the chair to pull on his socks and shoes.

“Almost ready?” Max asked, stuffing Evan’s dirty clothes into the bag he’d brought with him earlier.

“Almost,” Evan answered. His mind was still absorbing the things he’d felt today, the emotions from his dad, the images he’d gotten from Liz Parker. Bad things had happened between them, but underneath all the pain they harbored, their love was stronger than anything Evan had ever felt before. He didn’t understand the things that had made his father turn away from Liz and end up with his mother, but he knew it wasn’t love.

“Dad?” Evan asked when he was finished tying his shoes. “Are you gonna to go see her?”


Evan looked at him, wondering who his father thought he was kidding. He knew that as far as his dad was concerned, the sun and the moon rose with Liz Parker. It didn’t take an empathic gift to see it.

“Ask her to come over,” Evan said, finally finished getting dressed. He stared at his father, daring him to object. “Invite her to dinner. I bet she’d like your spaghetti.”

“It’s not that simple,” Max said, folding Evan’s bag closed. Liz had a different life now. She’d moved on. Just like he’d wanted her to. The pain that caused in him was his problem to deal with.

“Were you friends once?” Evan asked, going for the kill.

“Yes,” Max answered, looking at his son. He couldn’t deny what Liz meant to him. Then and now.

“Then what harm is it asking her to dinner?” Evan asked.

“You think I should?” Max asked, exposing his inner torment. What if she said no? What if she said yes?

Liz stood in the hallway outside room 427, listening to the exchange between father and son. Should she intervene? Should she let them know she’d heard every word said between them?

“Yes, you should,” Evan said, and then added in a quieter tone, “I’ll go over to Ryan’s house, so she doesn’t have to see me.”

“So she doesn’t . . .” Max felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. “What are you talking about, Evan?”

“So I’m, you know,” he shrugged his small shoulders, “not a reminder. Of you and my mother, and what she did to everyone.”

Max couldn’t hide his surprise; even through he knew he shouldn’t be. Evan was a sensitive boy, an empath with the ability to read even the deepest hidden emotions. He’d never told his son the details of his mother’s treachery, but he’d never been able to hide how he felt about her, either. Max put his hand on Evan’s shoulder and drew him close.

“Liz would never blame you for the things your mother did. Liz isn’t like that.”

“But,” Evan lowered his head. “She still remembers . . .”

Max sat back against the bed, coming eye level with his son. He lifted the boy’s chin, urging him to listen. “What happened in the past is my burden to bear. Not yours. You have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Liz leaned back against the wall behind her, with her eyes closed and her fingertips pressed to her forehead, hand partially covering her face. The tone of his voice, the poor child, feeling guilty for what his mother did? That was so wrong. Their voices drifted through the open doorway, making Liz feel even worse.

“What if she hates me? Like she hates my mother?”

“Evan, don’t think like that,” Max said softly, pulling him closer. “Liz won’t hate you. No one could ever hate you.” He smiled and ruffled Evan’s unruly mop of blond hair, trying to lighten the mood. “You’re too lovable.”

“Dad,” Evan rolled his eyes and pushed his hand away, cracking a smile.

“How ‘bout I buy you lunch?” Max rose to his feet, relieved to see his boy smiling again. “You must be starving.”

They both felt her before they saw her. Evan and Max turned in unison, both drawn to the petite figure standing in the doorway.

“Did – did someone say starving?” Liz managed to stammer, feeling their eyes on her. “Because I kind of missed lunch, and . . .”

Evan looked up at his father, silently urging him to take what she was offering.

Max’s mouth moved but no sound came out. He was dumbstruck in her presence, rendered mute by the sight of her. Evan’s well place elbow to his stomach got him talking again.

“Do you want to go with us? Evan hasn’t eaten since last night and he’s hungry, and I missed breakfast, so I’m hungry too, and, and now that the test is over, and we can go, I told him I’d take him to lunch, because it’s lunchtime. Well, it’s actually past lunchtime, because you said you missed lunch –”

“Dad,” Evan whispered through gritted teeth. “Let her answer.”

Max’s Adam’s apple bounced as he swallowed hard. His mouth opened, but the words were trapped inside. Liz saved him from further embarrassment.

“I’d love to have lunch with you. Both of you,” she finished, dropping her eyes down to Evan. His quick smile heartened her, and she silently vowed never to give him a reason to feel unloved. He was something special, just like his father. She could tell that already.

“There’s a Red Robin not far from here,” Max said, managing to form a coherent sentence. “Their burgers aren’t quite as good as the Crashdown’s, but they’re a close second.”

“Anything’s fine with me,” Liz relaxed, feeling the tension drain away.

“What’s the Crashdown?” Evan asked.

“It’s a restaurant my parents own,” Liz told him.

“In Roswell,” Max added, leading them all out into the hospital hallway. “It had a fake spaceship above the doorway –”

“Still does,” Liz cut in.

“And silly alien drawings on the walls.”

“And we gave all the food alien names –”

“– like Galaxy subs, and Martian Mudd Pie –”

“– and Alien Blasts,” Liz said, biting back a smile.

Evan watched the banter, darting his eyes back and forth between his father and Liz as they finished each other’s sentences. The cold apprehension he’d felt earlier faded away, replaced by a new warmth radiating all around him. Things were working out just fine.

* * * * *

Liz sat in the roomy booth looking over the menu, trying to decide between a Caesar Salad or the Soup and Sandwich. Evan and Max, sitting side by side across from her, didn’t look at their menus. They already knew what they wanted.

“It’s so hard to choose.” Liz looked up when their waitress arrived, delivering the drinks they’d ordered; iced tea for her, Cherry Coke for Max, and Root Beer for Evan.

“Do you need a little more time?” the waitress asked.

“We’re ready,” Max said, indicating himself and his son.

“I guess I’ll have the Caesar Salad,” Liz said, setting her menu on top of the others.

“Two 5 Alarm Burgers,” Max said, watching the waitress write it down on her order form. “Medium well. And a side order of onion rings.”

“And a bottle of Tabasco sauce,” Evan added.

“Oh, that sounds good,” Liz said, almost tasting it already. “Forget the salad, make it three burgers.”

“I’ll be back with your order in a few minutes,” she smiled and moved off toward the kitchen.

Awkward silence filled the table for a minute, none of them sure what to say. Max fiddled with his fork. Evan took a drink of his Root Beer. Liz sipped at her ice tea, looking around the restaurant at all the tables filled with happy talking people. Max reached for his Coke, but his nervous hand accidentally knocked it over.

“Damnit!” He jumped from his seat, grabbing for a napkin.

“Oh!” Liz exclaimed, seeing the cold liquid spill across the table and feeling it drip onto her lap. She scooted sideways, trying to get out of the way.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” Max stammered, grabbing for more napkins. His frantic motions tipped over Liz’s iced tea, spraying her with the amber fluid.

“Shit!” Max cried out.

Evan covered his face with his hands, embarrassed beyond words. Sometimes his dad was the biggest doofus in the world.

“Sorry,” Max apologized to Liz, and then again to the people sitting at tables around them. He shouldn’t be swearing in a public restaurant.

Liz slid out of the booth, just as Max stepped toward her, and they collided together, turning into a mass of arms and legs.

“Sorry, Sorry!” Max cried out, almost panicking now.

“It’s okay.” Liz stumbled backward, into the booth, sitting abruptly, right in the middle of a puddle of spilled tea.

“Oh!” she jumped up again, bumping heads with Max.

“Shit!” they both cried out, rubbing their foreheads.

By this time, Evan’s shoulders were shaking, trying to hold in his laughter. His hand covered his mouth, barely choking back the giggles.

“Are you okay?” Max asked, with his hands on Liz’s shoulders.

“Fine,” she looked up into his worried eyes. “I’m fine. Wet, but fine.”

“Liz,” Evan piped up from his side of the table. “Have you met my Dad, the klutz?”

“Evan!” Max scolded, feeling his cheeks turning bright red. He turned back to Liz with another apology on his lips, but stopped in mid breath, seeing her laughing too.

“It’s okay, Max,” Liz choked out, laughing so hard it brought tears to her eyes.

Evan’s giggles turned into full out belly laughs, despite his father’s shocked face. Max stood there, staring back and forth between the two of them, slowly giving in to a grin of his own. He supposed they did look pretty comical.

“Oh goodness!” their waitress arrived with a damp rag to clean up the mess. “How’d this happen?”

Evan pointed at his father with one hand, while holding his aching side with the other. “My Dad, the klutz!” he cried out, hit with new wave of giggles.

Exhausted from laughing, Liz plopped down on the wet seat again, only to bounce back to her feet seconds later with another startled exclamation. Evan thrashed in the booth, laughing at Liz this time. He could hardly catch his breath, but he wasn’t scared. He felt too good to be scared.

Max pulled Liz away from the table, grinning from ear to ear, while the waitress cleaned up his mess. Liz, still laughing, cuddled into his chest. When she looked up into Max’s face, the laughter died on their lips as their eyes met, a suspended moment in time, where all that existed was the two of them. No sound was audible except the rapid beating of their hearts. Their vision narrowed to only the few inches that separated his lips from hers. His arm around her shoulders, her hand flat against his chest, felt more natural than breathing. The waitress’s voice broke them out of their rapture.

“I’ll get you fresh drinks.” She swiped the rag over the seat, cleaning up the last of the spill. “I’ll be right back.”

“Thanks,” Max said, clearing his throat. His arm dropped away from Liz as she took an awkward step back.

Evan’s giggles tapered off, watching the interaction between his father and Liz. He could feel the depth of their attraction, but they were both fighting it. It was going to take some work to get them back together.

Liz sat down on her side of the booth, sucking in a breath of air as her pants squished beneath her. The seat might be clean and dry again, but she wasn’t.

Max leaned over her, placing his hand flat against her thigh. His voice dropped to a low whisper. “Don’t say anything. Just pretend nothing’s happening.”

Liz felt heat spread out from his palm, expanding in a widening circle, like a ripple on the surface of a pond. The heat spread up her thigh, over her crotch, down her left leg and then around to the back of her thigh, sweeping up over her backside. When he pulled his hand away her pants were dry again, except for one small area, but that dampness wasn’t caused by spilled Cherry Coke or iced tea.

“Th-thanks,” she said, taking in a shaky breath. She lowered her eyes, still feeling the tingling in her thigh where his hand had rested moments before.

“You’re welcome.” Max swallowed hard, willing his racing heart to return to normal. If there was a normal anymore. He sat down across from Liz, barely able to tear his eyes away from her.

Evan picked up his drink trying to cover his embarrassment. At moments like this, his empathic skills were a curse.

Max turned to his son, seeing the flushed color of Evan’s face. “Are you okay?”

Evan sat his glass down, concentrating on blocking out the emotions he felt swamping the table. “I’m fine.”

Liz sipped at her tea, watching father and son interact across the table. The gentle way Max touched the boy’s face, the adoration Evan showed looking up into his father’s eyes. It made the choices she’d made 12 years ago all worthwhile. She’d sacrificed her future with Max so he could escape safely with his son. After all these years of second guessing her decision, the proof she’d made the right choice sat right across the table from her.

Finally, she could let the past rest, and maybe learn to start living again.

tbc …
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An Imperfect Life, Part 12

Post by Breathless » Sun Oct 15, 2006 1:35 am

Wow, it feels like reunion time around here!! First my old friend Carol ventures back into ficland, then Jacki does too!!! How exciting!! I’m so glad to see everyone. And based on the feedback, you all appear to have enjoyed the humor in the last part. A little levity is always fun, don’t you think?

An Imperfect Life
Part 12

Loving you so
I was too blind to see
You letting me go
But now that you've set me free
It's gonna take a miracle
Yes, it's gonna take a miracle
To make me love someone new
'Cause I'm crazy for you

Oh, didn't you know
It wouldn't be so easy
You letting me go
You can be sure that now
It's gonna take a miracle
Yes, it's gonna take a miracle
To make me love someone new
'Cause I'm crazy for you

It’s Gonna Take A Miracle
Laura Nyro

They drove along the tree lined streets, Max behind the wheel of his silver Honda, Liz sitting in the passenger seat beside him, and Evan in the back seat. Taking Liz home after a rather bizarre, but thoroughly enjoyable lunch, Max played tour guide, pointing out all the important landmarks along the way.

“There’s a Safeway right over there,” he pointed toward the left. “It’s open 24 hours. Two blocks down there’s a Fred Meyer on the right. It’s one of those superstores; groceries, kitchen stuff, clothes, automotive, sporting goods.”

“Music CD’s, video games,” Evan added, without tearing his eyes away from his Game Wizard.

“Toys,” Max smiled over his shoulder before turning back to Liz. “Everything a kid needs. I spent a small fortune on Legos and now he doesn’t even touch ‘em anymore.”

“They’re on display, Dad,” Evan shot back, pretending to be engrossed in his video game, when in reality he was really more interested in what was happening in the front seat between his father and Liz.

“Right – ‘on display’,” Max humored him, then mouthed to Liz, ‘in the garage’.

“What?” Evan looked up from his game when he heard Liz chuckle. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” Max winked at Liz, and then went back to being tour guide. “If you go right on Maple for about a mile,” he pointed out the cross street up ahead, “you’ll run into a pretty little park. It’s got jogging and bicycle trails. That’s where I taught Evan how to ride a bike. It’s only a block from our house.”

“Your house? Can I see it?” Liz blurted out.

“Oh, um, sure,” Max sat up straighter and flipped up his turn signal, mind whirling a mile a minute. Were there any dirty dishes in the sink? Had he left any underwear on the floor?

In the back seat Evan smiled at his father’s turbulent emotions.

A few minutes later Max parked his car in the driveway of a pleasant little cape cod, white with black shutters. Rose bushes, dormant for the winter, lined the flower beds in front of the windows. Lush green grass stretched to the sidewalk, a beautiful sight for a girl who grew up living in an apartment above a restaurant.

“Max,” Liz sighed. “You have a beautiful home.”

“C’mon inside.” He reached for his door handle, glad it wasn’t raining today. They wouldn’t have to run for their lives.

Evan followed Liz along the path to the front door while Max walked ahead, fumbling with his key ring. As they passed the rose bushes, Evan tugged on Liz’s sleeve and said, “They’re called Elizabeth.”

Liz slowed to a stop, looking at the boy. “Elizabeth?”

“The roses,” Evan said. “Lady Elizabeth. He planted them for you, even though he didn’t expect you to ever see them.”

“For me?” Liz felt her heart skip, something that had been happening a lot today.

“Did you two get lost?” Max asked, stepping down from the porch.

“We’re coming,” Evan said, leading Liz to the front door. As she walked by, Max didn’t have a clue what she was smiling about.

Liz stepped into the house, impressed by the warm feel of it. Neat and tidy, but lived in. An oversized pillow lay on the floor in front of the TV, perfect for a kid to get comfortable on while watching his favorite show. A bookcase lined one wall; the titles along the spines belonging to a well read man. She remembered how fond Max had always been of the classics. It was nice to know some things never changed.

“This is the living room,” Evan said, dropping his Game Wizard on the couch. “The kitchen’s through there,” he pointed toward an archway that led to the back of the house. “C’mon, I’ll show you my bedroom.”

Liz flashed a quick smile at Max and then followed behind Evan. Max scratched his hand through his hair, not sure what to make of this. He was tempted to pinch himself, to see if all this was real, or just one of the best damn dreams he’d ever had.

Liz walked slowly down the hallway, studying the pictures hanging proudly on display. Moments from Evan’s life stared at her in vivid color; his first steps assisted by a pair of strong male hands, hamming it up in front of the camera with a missing front tooth, waving from a bicycle at the afore mentioned park, wearing a helmet and elbow and knee pads.

Each picture gave Liz a deeper understanding of how much love existed between Max and his son. She paused, almost moved to tears by a small candid snapshot of an exhausted Max, lying flat on his back on an old couch, sleeping like the dead, with an equally exhausted looking baby asleep on his chest.

“Michael took that one,” Max said from behind her. Liz startled at his presence, but recovered quickly.

“You look dead to the world.”

“I was.” Max shook his head, able to smile at the memory now. “When we left Roswell, we didn’t know Evan was teething. I didn’t know much of anything back then. I couldn’t figure out why he was crying all the time. I pictured all kinds of things wrong with him because, you know, him being sick and all, but it never dawned on me that it was something as simple as a new tooth. After that, I went out and bought all the baby books I could find.”

“You’ve done a wonderful job with him,” Liz said, looking up into his expressive eyes. “He’s a very special little boy.”

“I think so,” Max said, dropping his gaze to her lips. Her full, luscious lips.

“Liz? Are you coming?” Evan’s voice drifted from his bedroom out into the hallway.

“Y–yes,” Liz stuttered. “I’ll be right there.”

“I’ll, uh,” Max hitched his thumb over his shoulder, backing up a step. “I’ll just – get us something to drink.”

“Sure,” Liz said, watching him hurry away. She tore her eyes away from Max and turned down the hallway. She passed a bathroom decorated in rich green tones with lighter green painted walls. No flowery wallpaper in this male dominated house. She noticed the toilet seat was up, another sign that a woman didn’t run this household. For some reason, that made her smile.

She moved past the bathroom, then a linen closet, nearing Evan’s bedroom. A door on her right caught her attention first, though, and she poked her head inside, knowing it was wrong to snoop, but unable to resist.

She knew it was Max’s room before she ever crossed over the threshold. His scent lingered in the air, rich and masculine, a smell she’d always been attracted to, even before she really knew him.

Blues and grays dominated his room, a navy comforter covered the bed, and gray carpeting spread wall to wall, thick enough to sink your toes into. A dress shirt and a pair of dark pants lay haphazardly across the end of the bed, like they’d been tossed there in a hurry.

Liz turned to leave; feeling like her presence here was violating Max’s privacy, until a framed photograph on his dresser caught her attention. The image looked grainy and blurred around the edges, like an enlargement from a smaller picture, the size someone on the run might carry in his wallet. Her own face stared back at her, her features softer, younger, from a time of innocence. Her long hair framed her face, causing Liz to absently lift her hand to touch her own short locks. So much time had passed between then and now, between the girl in the picture and the woman standing in the room. That he’d kept her picture all these years brought tears to her eyes.

“Liz?” Evan’s voice drifted to her from a distance.

“Coming,” Liz said, pulling herself back together. She tore her eyes from the photograph and left the room.

Evan finished tossing his dirty clothes in his hamper just as Liz entered. He slammed the lid down quickly.

“My goodness!” Liz exclaimed, looking around the well lived in room. A computer on the desk. A bookcase against a wall. Trophies on a shelf. She lifted one, then turned to Evan and said, “First place in the Science Fair?”

“Yeah,” Evan shrugged, turning red.

“I won first place in my school Science Fair, too. Four times,” Liz admitted proudly.

“Really?” Evan brightened.

“Being smart is nothing to be ashamed of,” Liz said with conviction. “Look what it got me. I’m a doctor now, helping people get well. There’s no telling what you’ll turn out to be.”

“Yeah,” Evan looked down, biting at his lower lip. Some people actually had a future to look forward to.

Liz saw a dark cloud pass over Evan’s face, but she couldn’t fathom what caused it. They were having a nice conversation, and then suddenly, the mood had shifted, like she’d said something wrong.

Evan shook his dark thoughts off and reached for the yearbook on his bookcase. “Look at this,” he said, sitting on the edge of his bed, leaving room for Liz to join him.

She sat down beside him, asking, “What have you got?”

Evan opened the Kings Middle School Class of 2013 yearbook. “This is last year’s. My Dad’s in here. Don’t laugh at his short hair. He’s been growing it out a little.”

Without her realizing it, Liz reached for her hair once more, tugging on the short strands.

“Look,” Evan thumbed through the book until he found the right page. “Dad’s the advisor for the Science Club. The school newspaper, too. He volunteers a lot at the school. That’s ‘cause he doesn’t do anything else.” Evan flipped to another page, showing a smiling Max underneath a Sadie Hawkins Dance sign. “Dad chaperones all the dances. His Fridays and Saturdays are always free. Always.”

Liz looked at Evan wondering if he was actually saying what she thought he was saying. Max didn’t date? Max never dated?

“Hey, are you guys having a party in here?” Max asked, standing in the doorway. He couldn’t hold back the grin on his face, seeing Evan and Liz sitting side by side, getting along so well.

“Evan was showing me his yearbook.” Liz pointed at Max’s picture and said, “Your hair’s so short here. I half expected it to be long by now.”

Evan turned to look at Liz, wondering what she meant by that. Long hair? His dad had never had long hair. Sometimes Evan got the impression his dad was almost afraid to let it get too long, like something bad might happen if he did. The silent exchange going on right now between his father and Liz was making Evan’s curiosity grow even deeper.

“I like to keep it short,” Max shrugged, and then gave Liz a crooked smile. “I have an image to uphold. You know, being a school counselor and all.”

“Did you ever have long hair, Dad?” Evan asked.

Max didn’t take his eyes off of Liz as he answered. “Not in this life.”

Evan cocked his head, looking confused. “What?”

“No,” Max said, facing his son now. “I’ve never had long hair.”

Evan looked from his dad to Liz, wondering why she had memories of his dad with long hair. And scars on his arms. And wrinkles around his eyes. And gray hairs at his temples. He’d seen those things in the flashes when he touched her, but he didn’t understand them.

The phone on Evan’s nightstand rang, breaking each of them out of their private thoughts. Evan dove for it, grinning from ear to ear when he saw the name on the Caller ID. He hunched secretively over the phone, with his cheeks turning red. “Lacey?”

Max motioned for Liz to follow him. Evan was going to be occupied for awhile. They heard his voice fading away as they left the room and walked into the hall.

“Oh, I’m fine . . . A few dumb tests . . . You got my homework assignments? Thanks . . .”

“I poured you a drink,” Max said, leading Liz toward the kitchen.

“I should probably go,” she hedged. He seemed to have made such a good life here with his son; she didn’t want to intrude on it, or force herself back into a world where she didn’t belong.

Max shot her a hesitant look. “I - I was hoping you might . . . stay for dinner?”


“Evan says I make a mean spaghetti.”

“Spaghetti, huh?” She’d eaten enough calories at lunch to last the whole week. But how could she turn down a royal helping of spaghetti? “I’ll only stay if you let me help.”

“Deal,” Max smiled, reaching for the iced tea he’d poured for her and left sitting on the kitchen countertop. He handed it to her, feeling a spark of energy ripple through him when their fingertips touched. No matter how many years had come between them, she still had the ability to captivate his entire world.

* * * * *

“So I was standing there with this stupid fake exploding volcano my dad helped me make,” Max laughed, relaxing back into his seat. Dinner was over, and it was time to just enjoy the company. “Just like half the other eight year olds,” he continued. “Liz, on the other hand, had this elaborate display on solar energy, and storage of electricity. She earned a blue ribbon for that one. The first of many.”

“I was a geek,” Liz said, smiling at Evan.

“No,” Max shook his head, unable to take his eyes off of her. “No, you weren’t.”

He wanted to reach for her hand, to touch her, to feel her warmth, but it wasn’t the time, or the place. Maybe someday he’d earn the right to be close to her again.

“So you guys became science partners?” Evan asked, picking up on clues from their conversation.

“Yeah,” Max said wistfully, watching Liz rise to her feet, picking up the plates from the table. “Liz, you don’t have to do that!”

Max jumped up, taking them out of her hands. They stood beside the table, Max holding the plates and looking down at her, Liz looking up, unable to take her eyes off of him. Finally, she forced herself to take a step back.

“I, ah,” she stammered. “I should probably call Brad. It’s getting late. I should go home.”

“Brad?” Suddenly, the spaghetti in his stomach wasn’t sitting too well. She wanted to call Brad? To take her home?

“I’m staying with Brad.” Liz realized how that sounded only after the words were already out of her mouth.

“Oh,” Max said, trying hard to act like it didn’t matter that she was living with another man.

“Until I get my own place,” she hastily added, a little on the panicky side. “He’s got a big apartment. Two bedrooms.” She didn’t want Max to get the wrong impression. Even though she and Brad had once been, well, more than just friends. But that was in the past. Not now.

“I can drive you,” Max offered. “I don’t mind.”

“If you’re sure . . .”

“Let me just put these in the sink,” Max said when he remembered he was still holding the dishes. His long legs took him quickly across the kitchen, throwing a hasty look over his shoulder. “Evan? Can you –”

“I’ll load the dishwasher, Dad,” Evan said, rolling his eyes at his father’s lameness.

“Unless you want to come?” Max asked, lowering the dishes in the sink. Silverware clinked against the plates.

“Lacey gave Ryan my homework. He’s bringing it over,” Evan said, clearing off the rest of the table. “I don’t want to get behind.” He’d missed a day and a half of school being in the hospital.

“Math homework?” Max asked, with a teasing glint in his eyes.

“Dad!” Evan blushed red.

“I’ll have my cell phone on if you need me,” Max grinned, ruffling his son’s blond hair. “I won’t be gone long.”

“It was nice to meet you again,” Liz said, touching Evan gently on his shoulder. “I’ve thought about you a lot over the years.”

Evan’s mouth dropped open. “Me?”

“Sure. You,” Liz smiled. “You were only a baby the last time I saw you, but you made a lasting impression.”

Evan looked at his father, unable to hide his happy grin. Liz made him feel good inside, like he was special. No wonder his dad was in love with her. He better not screw it up this time.

* * * * *

Max drove slowly along the dark streets, taking his time, stretching out every moment he could be with her. Her smell filled his car, the sweet scent of her, even better than he remembered.

“It’s just up here on the right,” Liz pointed at a tall building rising above the tree tops.

Max pulled to a stop in front of the Evergreen Towers, impressed by the place despite himself. What if Liz really liked it here? Living with Brad. The acid burned in his stomach.

Liz sat unmoving on the passenger seat. “Thanks. For dinner. And lunch. And . . .”

Max sat with his hands resting on his thighs, feeling like an awkward teenager. “Thank you. For helping out with Evan today.” For going to lunch with me. For staying for dinner. For coming back into my life.

“If you need anything . . .” Liz offered, looking into his shadowed face. “Just . . . let me know . . .”

He reached for her hand just as she turned, lifting up the handle to open the car door.

“Wait!” Max blurted out. “Let me help you.”

He scrambled out of the car and hurried around to her side, opening her door to help her out, offering her his hand. Her palm slid against his, filling him with the purest joy, at least for the few seconds that they touched. When she pulled her hand away, they stood facing each other on the sidewalk, both feeling an ache at the loss of contact.

“Um,” Liz tugged on her jacket. The night was growing cold. “You probably want to get back to Evan. You don’t have to walk me up.”

“I want to,” Max blurted out. “I mean,” he swallowed hard, and then repeated lamely, “I want to.”

A smile spread across her face. “Okay.”

They turned, walking side by side, up the stairs to the front door. By the time they exited the elevator on the 5th floor, the awkwardness had lessened.

“Remember that leather phase I went through?” Max laughed, sliding his hands into the back pockets of his jeans. “That biker jacket? What was I thinking?”

“I don’t know,” she smiled up at him. “I always liked you in leather.”

“You did?” he looked down at her, feeling his stomach rumble. His smile wavered, not sure how to take what she meant.

“But the biker jacket just wasn’t you,” Liz added quickly.

“No,” Max agreed. “Not my style. Evan says I’m a Gap type of guy.”

“Exactly,” Liz nodded, slowing as she neared the door to apartment 512. “This is it.”

“Oh. Okay,” Max said, pulling his hands out of his pockets. Should he ask if he could see her again? Would she say yes if he did? Or would she say that part of her life was over, and they were better off as just friends? Could he live another minute if she did?

“Um,” he looked down at his feet, fumbling to find the words. Liz saved him.

“You know, Max, we used to be partners – pretty good partners – and, I’m gonna have to get my license, so I was thinking that maybe you wouldn’t mind helping me, you know, to pass the test –”

“Sure,” Max nodded enthusiastically. “Sure! The DMV is open on Saturday. I could take you there to get the booklet –”

“The DMV?” Liz frowned. Booklet? What booklet?

“The Department of Motor Vehicles,” Max said. “To get your driver’s license.”

“No,” Liz let out a laugh. “I meant my medical license. So I can practice medicine here. I have to pass the state board.”

“Oh,” Max blushed, feeling like an idiot. But his next thought made his stomach rumble again. She wanted him to help her study for the boards? Instead of Brad, who must have passed the state board not too long ago, and probably knew the material backwards and forwards? If there was a God in Heaven, he was ready to bow down and kiss his toes.

Max stood tall, eagerly offering his assistance. “I’d be happy to help you study.”

Poking her finger lightly against his chest, she grinned, “And I think I’ll hold you to that trip to the DMV. I have to get a driver’s license sometime. Better sooner than later.”

“Great,” Max wrapped his hand around hers, holding it to his chest. “That’s great! What time?”

“Nine o’clock?”

“Nine it is!”

Impulsively, Max leaned down and kissed Liz on the cheek. As soon as his lips touched her warm skin, they both froze, neither one knowing how to react. His panicked mind wondered if he’d just crossed a line, recklessly damaging what might have been the rekindling of their friendship. Liz held her breath, wondering if he was regretting his actions.

They bolted apart when the door to apartment 512 opened, revealing Brad on the other side.

“Oh. Liz,” Brad startled. His hand tightened on the garbage bag he was holding.

“Brad.” Liz ran her hand through her short hair, a nervous gesture Max recognized from way back.

“Sorry,” Brad looked back and forth between them. “I was just taking out the trash.”

Max and Liz stepped back from the doorway and Brad joined them in the hall, making it an awkward threesome. Brad covered by asking, “How’s your son feeling tonight, Mr. Philips?”

“Max. Just call me Max. And Evan’s doing fine.” He glanced at his watch, surprised at how late it was. Turning his attention back to Liz, he said, “I should be getting back. To check on Evan’s homework.” To heal Evan’s deteriorating lungs, just like he did every night.

“So,” Liz said, touching Max’s hand. “Nine o’clock on Saturday?”

“I’ll be here,” his hand squeezed hers softly, before moving down the hallway.

Neither Max nor Liz noticed the resigned look on Brad’s face. It looked like he wouldn’t be taking Liz car shopping after all.

* * * * *

Max turned the key in his front door and entered the house, calling out, “Evan, I’m home.” When he got no answer, he went searching for his son.

“Evan?” Max headed down the short hallway, relaxing when he heard the shower running. He poked his head inside the bathroom door, immediately hit by the humid air. “Evan, I’m back.”

Evan’s muffled voice drifted from the other side of the shower curtain. “I’ll be done in a minute.”

Max wandered into his bedroom, tired after a long and eventful day. He hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, but he was too keyed up to go to sleep now. Seeing Liz again, after all these years, sent his mind into overdrive.

He made his way over to the dresser and picked up the framed photograph, the picture of Liz he looked at every night before he went to bed. His hand touched her long hair, for so many years he’d thought of her still looking just like this, getting used to her with shorter hair was going to be an adjustment. But it was an adjustment he was happy to make.


Max looked up from the photograph to see Evan standing in his bedroom doorway, buttoning up the front of his pajama top. His damp blond hair, slicked back from his face, gave just a hint of the handsome man he might someday grow to be.

“Hey, Sport,” Max said, putting the photograph back on the dresser. “Did you get your homework done?”

“Yeah.” He watched his father for a minute, trying to decide how to ask him about the things he wanted to know.

Max scooped up the dirty clothes he’d left on the foot of his bed that morning, and headed toward the bathroom to put them in the hamper. Evan’s questioning voice stopped him in his tracks.

“Dad? When did you know you were in love with Liz Parker?”

Max slowly turned back toward his son. “What?”

“I mean,” Evan stuttered, not knowing how to ask about the things he was feeling. “When?”

Max stood staring at his son, surprised by the question, but he shouldn’t have been. Some emotions were just too strong to shield. He weighed his options, in the end deciding that his son deserved nothing but the honest truth.

“I’ve always know,” Max told him. “The first time I saw her, I knew she was the one for me.”

“Then–” Evan faltered, looking down toward his feet.

“What is it, Evan?” Max asked. “You know you can ask me anything.”

Evan lifted his blue eyes up to meet his father’s. “If you’ve always been in love with Liz, and Liz has always been in love with you, then,” Evan paused again, chewing at his lower lip. “How did I happen? Why did you . . .?”

Max blanched at first, wanting nothing more than to avoid the question, not wanting to even think about that terrible part of his life, but he knew he couldn’t sidestep Evan’s question. He tossed his dirty clothes back onto the bed and moved across the room to his son. He waved his hand over Evan’s damp hair, drying it so he wouldn’t catch cold, before resting his arm on his son’s small shoulders.

“It’s a long story, Evan. And I think it’s time you heard it.”

Max led Evan across the hallway into the boy’s bedroom. Evan climbed under his covers while Max settled into a comfortable spot on the side of the bed. He laid his hand on Evan’s chest, putting his healing powers to work, while he told his son the story of his life.

tbc …
Last edited by Breathless on Sun Oct 15, 2006 1:41 am, edited 2 times in total.
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An Imperfect Life, Part 13

Post by Breathless » Sun Oct 22, 2006 4:04 am

Sorry I’m so late!! I was making a few adjustments, but I think it’s ready now. First, a few comments …
LairaBehr4 wrote:Stupid Brad and the stupid trash ... everything before that was going so well! :( and :twisted: I'm totally doing the squishy-head thing to Brad after that. Squishing your head! I'm squishing your head!
I’m still cracking up over that! I think Max would like to squish Brad’s head too!
BelevnDreamsToo wrote: …did Liz tell Max about FMax in this story?

On the show, supposedly Liz told Max at some point before season 3 started. (The actual scene was cut from Departure). Since this is a season 3 fic, yes, Max knows about FMax.
Lizzie_Parker17 wrote:I have to ask? Are you from the Seattle area? Because you know an awful lot about it.
Yes, I live just south of Seattle. On an island. In the Puget Sound. This is the first time I’ve used my own backyard as the setting for a story.
jbangelo wrote:I had to giggle when they reminisced about the leather, because I never liked Max's leather cycle jacket - it didn't work for him at all
I felt exactly the same way!! That motorcycle jacket was a very poor fit.
LTL wrote:BDT!!! You with your mind in certain toilets! LOL
Some things we never forget!
Carol000 wrote:You know? There was a time when I only wanted to read Max and Liz in their “pure” form—star-crossed teenagers struggling to balance the demands and dangers of two worlds.
I remember our conversations about this, Carol. Season 3 isn’t an easy starting point for a Max and Liz fic, but sometimes you just have to face that baggage and see where it takes you. It took me a long time to be able to even read a story with Max’s son in it, let alone write about him. Now I’m very glad I did.

Thanks so much everyone for your fantastic feedback! I’m especially happy about the way you’ve all taken to Evan. Let’s see what he’s up to …

An Imperfect Life
Part 13

I wanna heal
I wanna feel
What I thought was never real
I wanna let go of the pain I’ve held so long

Erase all the pain till it’s gone

I wanna heal
I wanna feel
Like I’m close to something real
I wanna find something I’ve wanted all along

Somewhere I belong

Somewhere I Belong
Linkin Park

Liz checked the wall clock for about the twentieth time, willing the minute hand to move closer to the top of the hour. She’d been up since before dawn, waiting for nine o’clock to arrive, anxious to see Max again. She was still pinching herself that, after so many years apart, fate had brought them back together.

It had to mean something, didn’t it? That an opportunity had arisen out of the blue, and brought her thousands of miles across the country, to a place she’d never even heard of before. To the very place Max lived.

And if fate had brought them back together, would it be so cruel as to tear them apart again? Did she dare to believe they could really make it work this time? Was it something Max would even want? Another chance for them to be together?

A knock on the door had Liz running, heart in her throat, stomach fluttering. She paused with her hand on the door knob, forcing herself to calm down before she opened the door. When she did, Max was standing on the other side, looking deliciously handsome in faded blue jeans and a black leather coat.

“Hi,” he smiled, letting out a deep breath.

“Hi,” she echoed. Did he feel as nervous as she did?

“Um,” he said, eyes sweeping downward for a moment and then quickly rebounding to her face. “The, ah, forecast calls for … rain. Later. This afternoon.”


His mouth quirked, twitching on one side. “It does that a lot around here.”

“I noticed,” she smiled.

He dipped his head slightly and scratched at a spot behind his right ear. “You’ll need a coat. With a hood. Or an umbrella.”

Liz looked down at herself, realizing she was halfway out of the door, dressed only in jeans and a black v-neck sweater. She stepped back. “Let me just – grab – my jacket.”

As she moved toward the nearby closet, Max followed her into the apartment. He looked around, craning his neck –

“He’s not here.”

Max snapped his attention back to Liz. “What?”

“Brad,” she said, slipping into her winter coat. “He’s not here. He got called into the hospital for an emergency triple bypass.”

“He seems nice,” Max lied.

“He is,” she agreed. But he’s not you.

“Have you known him long?” Don’t answer that. Don’t answer that.



“We went to med school together.”

Double damn.

“Well,” Max hastily changed the subject, “we should go. Evan’s waiting in the car.”

“He is?” Liz brightened.

“I hope you don’t mind,” he said quickly. “He knows I – we – that we grew up together.” Swift, Max, swift. You’re a great conversationalist. “He wants to get to know you better.”

“I want to get to know him, too." I hope he likes me. I really hope he likes me.

Max smiled. “I can tell he likes you already.” Like father, like son.

Liz’s smile lit her face. “Then let’s not keep him waiting.”

In the car, Evan watched the entrance to the apartment building. He knew his dad was nervous. He’d made a huge breakfast this morning, scrambled eggs and bacon and pancakes and toast, to keep himself busy, and then hadn’t been able to eat any of it. Evan knew how he felt. He was a little nervous, too. Liz seemed really nice, he could sense that every time she was near, but would she want some little kid around? A kid who reminded her of bad things?

He thought he understood it all a little better now, his father’s answers to his questions helped explain a lot about the past, but he also knew his dad had been holding back, not telling the worst of it. Evan thought it must have been awful for him, confronted by a past life he couldn’t remember, pressured to fill the shoes of a dead king, to accept a life that wasn’t his. And a “wife” he wasn’t in love with.

Not that his father had said so in those words. In fact, Evan had never heard his father speak a single harsh word about his mother. It was the words he didn’t say that held the deeper meaning. Like love, or devotion, or sorrow at her loss. No, those words, those emotions, were reserved for only one person. Liz. Which was fine with Evan. Liz deserved that kind of devotion. He knew his mother didn’t.

He couldn’t remember her, but Liz did, and his dad did, and their memories of her weren’t good. Through flashes, and dreams, and inner emotions his father couldn’t hide, Evan had been able to sense the kind of person that his mother had been. He’d worried about it when he was young, that he might grow up to be just like her – bad inside – but that wasn’t something he dwelled on anymore. His chances of growing up were pretty slim.

Darks thoughts closed in on him, whispers he couldn’t quite hear, but emotions he could feel. Somewhere close, a couple was arguing. A child was being scolded. Nearby he sensed an undercurrent of seething rage. He concentrated on blocking it out.

It was something that he’d learned to live with, something his father had helped him with. He knew his dad felt guilty about it, that he’d inherited a power that caused him to sense such evil in the world – hatred and fear and loathing – but he could also feel happiness and joy, and more love than most people felt in their entire lifetime. His dad thought he had cursed him, but in most ways, Evan felt blessed.

The front door to the apartment building opened and Liz stepped through, chasing all the dark emotions away and flooding Evan with love. That was the one thing about his empathic gift he could always count on. Love always conquered evil. Good emotions always drowned out the bad.

His father followed behind Liz, looking happier than Evan had ever seen him before. When they reached the car, Liz slid into the front seat and immediately turned around to face him.

“Hi, Evan,” she beamed.

A burst of happiness filled him. “Hi.”

“Your dad won’t tell me where we’re going. Do you know?”

“Don’t tell her!” Max teased as he closed Liz’s door. He hurried around to the driver’s side and slid in. “It’s a surprise.”

Liz lifted an eyebrow. “A trip to the DMV is a surprise?”

“After that,” Max responded. A trip to the DMV was only their first stop. They had the whole day to spend together, and maybe if he was lucky, one day might stretch into an entire lifetime.

In the back seat, Evan could feel Liz’s excitement. It was contagious. “Guess!”

“Where we’re going?” At his nod, Liz thought for a moment, then said, “Is it bigger than a bread box?”

“Way bigger!”

“Is it bigger than a car?”


“Is it … bigger than your house?”

“Oh yeah!”

Max put the car in gear and pulled out into the street, smiling from ear to ear. The day was off to a wonderful start.

* * * * *

Liz drew her coat tighter around her to stave off the chill. Standing on the bow of the ferry, the wind blew against her face, making her eyes water and turning her nose red. The Seattle skyline drew closer as they neared.

“We could go inside,” Max suggested, pointing toward the main cabin of the ferry. The wind whipped through his hair, giving him a rugged look. “It’s warmer.”

“It’s nice out here.” The air, though cold, smelled fresh. The wind invigorating. She was used to bitter winters in Boston. A little boat ride wasn’t going to kill her.

The ferry ploughed through the choppy waters of the Puget Sound, causing the deck to sway to and fro. An unexpected dip had Max reaching for her arm to steady her.


His hand on her arm felt so familiar. So comforting. She looked up into his eyes, no longer just a memory that haunted her. He was solid, and real, and every fiber of her body felt alive in his presence.

The door to the main cabin opened and Evan came out, holding 2 steaming cups of hot chocolate. He made his way across the deck and held one out to Liz. Max took a step back and slipped his hands into his coat pockets.

“Ummm,” Liz said, taking a sip. “It’s good. Thank you.”

The cold air turned Evan’s cheeks pink. Or maybe it wasn’t the air, but the company. “You’re welcome.”

Liz faced into the wind again. “The view is gorgeous. Is that the Space Needle over there?”

“Yep,” Evan grinned. “It’s way bigger than a bread box.”

Liz spun toward Evan, and then Max, with her mouth hanging open. “You’re taking me to the Space Needle?”

“It’s a Seattle icon,” Max beamed. “I thought you might like to see it. It has a restaurant on top that revolves, giving you a panoramic view of the city.” A sudden worried look clouded his face. “You aren’t afraid of heights, are you?”

“Me? I liked hang gliding, didn’t I?”

It was Evan’s turn to have his mouth fall open. “Dad? You went hang gliding?” His dad never did anything dangerous like that. Ever.

Max’s smile wavered. “Desperate times called for desperate measures.”

Liz looked down, taking a sip of her cocoa. Max watched her, clearly at a loss for what to say next. Evan felt the sudden change, the shift to turbulent emotions. It was confusing for him, the way they would be laughing one minute, and then suddenly, walls would go up. He anxiously tried to get them back on track.

“It has glass elevators,” Evan said, feeling the warmth of the hot drink between his hands. “If you stand up front, you can see everything.”

“Everything, huh?” Liz smiled at him. “Will you stand with me? In case I get scared?”

“Sure,” Evan grinned. He felt his father’s hand cup his shoulder.

“Let’s get you back inside before you catch pneumonia.”

“Daaad –”

“Come on,” Max insisted, turning the boy toward the interior cabin.

Evan sighed and did what he was told. He hated being reminded that he was different, but he knew his dad was right. And besides, he had too much work ahead of him to risk the chance of getting sick. He led the way inside, with Liz behind him, and Max bringing up the rear. To the casual observer, they looked like the perfect family.

* * * * *

The sun broke through the clouds, chasing away the dismal skies. On the restaurant level of the Space Needle, at 500 feet above the ground, Liz sat at a window table, shrugging out of her jacket. Sunlight sparkled off the waters of the Puget Sound.

“It’s beautiful,” she said, awed by the sight. She turned to Max, teasing, “I thought you said it was going to rain today.”

Max’s eyes gleamed. “I willed the weather to cooperate.”

Liz leaned forward, lowering her voice but unable to contain the excitement. “Did you really?”

“No,” Max laughed. He couldn’t control the weather, but it was funny seeing her reaction to the idea that he could. “The forecasts are rarely right around here. It has to do with the unpredictability of conduction zones between the ocean currents –”

“It’s ‘convection’, Dad,” Evan corrected. He turned to Liz and said, “The heat transfer between the warmer waters around Hawaii and the jet stream –”

His mouth snapped closed and his eyes narrowed as he stared at his father, feeling the heat rise in his cheeks. “What? What are you laughing at?”

“You,” Max snorted. He pointed his finger at Liz, saying, “You’re just like her. When I was your age, I foretold the weather by opening the window and looking outside. You two, you both could probably make a Doppler radar device from everyday kitchen gadgets.”

“Not hardly,” Liz quipped. “A homemade Doppler requires a wire coat hanger, not commonly found in a kitchen.”

“And a nine volt battery,” Evan added.

“And you duct tape it all together –”

“Because duct tape works on everything!”

“And you attach it to the back of a TV –”

“Which you sometimes can find in a kitchen, except ours, because you won’t let me watch TV while I’m doing my homework –”

Max threw his hands up in surrender. “Okay, okay, you win! You’re both geniuses!”

Laughing, Liz and Evan gave each other high fives.

For the next few minutes they studied their menus, deciding what to eat. Over his menu, Max watched the interaction between Evan and Liz. He’d never seen his son so giggly in his entire life. Evan had always been a happy child, although reserved when they were out in public. But around Liz he was animated, laughing and joking and talking up a storm. They pointed at each others menus, talked about their favorite foods, as comfortable with one another as if they’d known each other all their lives. Max couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.

“I’ll have a burger,” Evan announced, putting down his menu. He looked around, spotted the sign to the restrooms, and scooted back his chair. “Excuse me. I’ll be right back.”

Liz watched him go. When he turned a corner and disappeared from sight, she looked at Max and said, “He’s a great kid.”

“I think so,” Max beamed. Pushing the menus aside, he leaned forward over the table, with his hands clasped together out front of him. “So tell me about everyone. Maria, Kyle. What are they doing now?”

“Maria’s great. She’s in L.A., making the rounds of the clubs with her band.”

“Maria has a band?”

Liz toyed with her water glass, then thought better of it and pushed it to the far side of the table, out of Max’s reach. “She named it – get this – Alien Abyss!”

“Oh wow,” Max said, leaning back. “That’s … wow. Are they good?”

“I think so. They haven’t had a breakout hit yet. But they’ve cut a couple of CD’s and they’re getting some air play.”

“Are you two still close?”

“As close as we could be, with her in L.A. and me on the other side of the country. Now that we’re both on the west coast, maybe we’ll be able to see each other more often. At the least, we’ll be able to talk more, now that we’re in the same time zone.”

The smile on Max’s face faded. His eyes took on that haunted look she knew so well from years past.

“Liz, you didn’t … tell anyone, did you? You can’t –”

“No,” she hastened. “I didn’t say anything.”

“No one can know.”

She leaned forward and curled her hands over his. “Are you still worried? About the –”

“Everyday,” he said quickly. The thought of the FBI or the military finding him and taking him back, or worse – taking Evan – was a constant nagging fear.

“Max.” She lowered her voice to make sure no one else would hear. “They never rebuilt the base. They boarded up what was left and transferred everyone out. Jim said –”

“Jim? Jim Valenti?”

She nodded, smiling again. “He got re-elected Sheriff about 10 years ago. Through his contacts he found out the Special Unit was disbanded. The government had its hands full with terrorists – still does. They don’t waste money and resources on hunting little green men anymore. I wanted to let you know, but I had no way of contacting you …”

His hands tightened around hers. “I’m sorry, Liz. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.”

“You couldn’t help it, Max. You had no choice. I understood that.”

“What happened that night, after …?”

“After you left? At first the FBI and the military were fighting over who had jurisdiction over me–”

“God Liz!” his voice rose sharply. He darted a look at the nearby tables to make sure no one was looking, and then leaned forward, whispering, “What did they do to you?”

Liz squeezed his hand to try to relax him. “They couldn’t do anything. Your dad declared he was my lawyer and said he’d sue everyone from the Base Commander all the way up to the President of the United States if they touched me. And he meant it, too!”

“That’s my dad,” Max smiled shakily. Looking around again, he said, “I suppose we shouldn’t talk about this here. Maybe tomorrow? You could come over –”

“I can’t.”

The words he’d been about to say stuck in his throat. She didn’t want to talk? Or come over? Was she trying to say she didn’t want to see him again?

“I’m leaving. Tomorrow. For Boston.”

Boston? She was leaving? Walking out of his life again? His stomach began to churn.

“For two weeks.”

“Two weeks?” Max said weakly.

“I have to give my notice there,” she smiled. “And pack my things. And find a moving company.”

Max started breathing again. There was so much more he wanted to ask her, about his parents, and hers, but he couldn’t get past the idea that she was leaving tomorrow. She’d only just come back into his life.

In the hallway outside of the restrooms, Evan leaned against the wall trying to catch his breath. Pinpoints of light swirled around his head making him dizzy. His legs felt shaky.

“No,” he muttered. Not now. Not today. He placed his hand against his head, but he couldn’t heal himself. He hadn’t inherited that gift from his dad. Instead, he tried to steady his breathing, taking slow, deep breaths, like his father had taught him, to fight off the impending attack.

He tried to remember how he got here, but his head felt muddled, the way his mind got when an episode deprived his brain of oxygen. He remembered leaving the table and going into the restroom, then washing his hands, but he couldn’t remember coming back out. Another symptom of his illness. First his lungs, then his heart, and now memory lapses affecting his brain. He should tell his father about it, but not now. Not today. He didn’t want to ruin everything.

And besides, there was nothing his father could do. He couldn’t stop the inevitable. It was better not to worry him over things he couldn’t change. After a few deep breaths, the dizziness began to lessen. When his head cleared he pushed away from the wall and turned the corner – and ran right into his father.


“Are you okay?” Max asked, brushing his hand across Evan’s forehead. “You’ve been gone a long time.”

“I’m fine,” Evan said. “I had to wait. There was a line.” It surprised him how easily the lie flowed from his lips, as if the words had come out of their own volition. Normally, he was the worst liar in the world.

Max hadn’t noticed anyone coming and going from the bathroom, but then, he hadn’t been looking either. He’d been too wrapped up in his conversation with Liz. “C’mon,” he said, draping his arm over Evan’s shoulders. “Lunch is getting cold.”

Evan sighed in relief that his father hadn’t sensed anything wrong. It was good there was only one empath in the family.

* * * * *

Later that night, lying in the dark and unable to sleep, Max folded his bare arms behind his head and thought back over the last few days. He’d made a good life here with his son. He had a good job, a nice house, friends like Jenny. And Evan meant the world to him. But in all the years, there’d always been something missing. An empty place deep inside.

Now that empty place was receding, filling once more with emotions he’d kept buried for years. He cautioned himself not to get swept away by his own wants and desires. Not to overwhelm her, or push her into anything just because he wanted it. He’d learned life’s lessons the hard way, and he didn’t intend to ever make those mistakes again.

He had a chance to make things right again – if she was willing to let him. If she was willing to open up her heart to him again. And if she was, he vowed to never give her a reason to regret her decision.

A part of him panicked that her return to Boston would give her time to think, to remember his past actions and words, and come back wanting nothing more to do with him. What if she decided Brad was more her type? A doctor. A surgeon. He turned over and punched his pillow, but it didn’t make him feel any better.

The next two weeks were going to be two of the longest weeks of his life.

Across the island, Liz folded a blouse and placed it in her suitcase. She had plenty of time to pack in the morning before her flight, but she couldn’t sleep tonight, and packing gave her restless hands something to do. It couldn’t occupy her mind, though, and her turbulent thoughts kept colliding.

She dreaded returning to Boston. Hated being gone for two long and lonely weeks. She’d lived most of her adult life there, but she’d only come to life here, on King’s Island. Home was where the heart lived, and for her, her heart belonged with Max. And Evan. In just a few days, that little boy had totally captivated her.

She reached into her pocket and pulled out the slip of paper Max had given her earlier. Across it, written in his bold handwriting, was his phone number. He’d cautioned her against calling while she was gone, his fear of discovery was still strong despite her assurance that the Special Unit was no longer after him. He’d isolated himself so completely, it was going to take time to bring him out of his self imposed exile. She couldn’t blame him, after what he’d been through, but it was going to be beyond difficult for her not to call him every night.

Thankfully, between finishing out her days at the hospital, and packing her belongings, she probably wasn’t going to have much free time. Hopefully the days would fly by. And if not, she’d fill the time studying Evan’s medical records which were now tucked safely inside her briefcase.

There had to be a cure for him. She wouldn’t stop until she found it.

In the darkened bedroom of the cozy little Cape Cod, Evan turned over on his side and snuggled into his covers with a smile on his face. It’d been a great day. Showing Liz around, sensing how happy his father was, feeling like a family.

A perfect day.

Which was the opposite of what the next two weeks would be. He could already feel his father’s turbulent emotions, his anxiety over Liz leaving, his insecurity over what would happen when she got back.

Adults could be so confusing. His father should just kiss her and get it over with, and then they’d both know how each other felt. But he hadn’t, and tomorrow she was leaving, and for the next two weeks Evan was going to have his hands full keeping his father sane while she was gone.

tbc …
Last edited by Breathless on Sun Oct 22, 2006 4:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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An Imperfect Life, Part 14

Post by Breathless » Sun Oct 29, 2006 1:12 am

Welcome confusedfool, JenniferC77, AddictedtoAmberEyes, and Dream Weaver! It’s nice to see new names showing up!
trulov, the first time I heard Far Away by Nickleback I immediately wanted to include it in this fic. I haven’t found the right part to put it in yet, but I’m working on it!

This part I’m dedicating to my good friend BelevnDreamsToo. I’m thinking of you.

An Imperfect Life
Part 14

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go
I'm standing here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye

But the dawn is breakin', it's early morn
The taxi's waiting, he's blowin' his horn
Already I'm so lonesome I could cry.

So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you'll wait for me
Hold me like you'll never let me go.
I'm leavin' on a jet plane
I don't know when I'll be back again
Oh, babe, I hate to go.

Leaving on a Jet Plane
Peter, Paul and Mary


Max moved into the departure lane at the airport, jockeying for a position close to the main doors of the terminal. While he pulled to the curb and climbed out of the car, Liz gathered together her purse and briefcase, checking one last time for her ID.

“Don’t forget this,” Evan said, holding out the ticket confirmation.

She reached over the seat and took it from his outstretched hand. “Thanks. Do you have a copy of my itinerary? For my return flight?”

He held up a second slip of paper. “Yep.”

They heard the trunk of the car open and felt the jostle of Max lifting her suitcase out.

Opening her purse, Liz reached inside and withdrew a small, silver object. She stared at it for a moment, and then passed it back to Evan. “Will this work?”

As soon as Evan’s fingers touched the pocket knife he was engulfed by a swirl of emotions. The engraving read ‘Max&Liz4Ever’. The emotions told the opposite story.

“You said you wanted to be friends, and I thought about it, and I realized that – that I can’t be friends with you because, I’m still hanging on. To you. To what we had together. So, I decided to make a clean break.”

“Max, this is yours. I gave it to you last Christmas.”

“I’m giving it back.”

“You want me to have this?” Evan asked, shocked by the flash.

The look on his face made her hesitate. “You said, you need something personal. The stronger the attachment to it, the stronger the connection. Is that right?”

“Right,” Evan said, recovering. “That’s right.”

“Your Aunt Isabel always needed a picture.”

Evan looked down at the knife again; the link he would need in order to dreamwalk her.

“Do you think Boston’s too far?”

“I don’t know,” Evan answered, still disturbed by the flash.

“Well, don’t strain yourself,” Liz cautioned. “I just want you to have a way of reaching me if you need to.”

Max opened the front passenger door, bringing the conversation in the car to an end. Evan slipped the pocket knife into the pocket of his coat. Liz looped the strap of her purse over her shoulder and hefted the briefcase off her lap.

Max stood awkwardly by the side of the car, offering a hand to help her out, then slipping them into the pockets of his leather coat as Liz step up onto the curb. He had so many things he wanted to say to her, and no time to say them, or even to get them straight in his head. Don’t go. Don’t leave me. Promise me you’ll come back.

Liz glanced into the terminal, noticing the long lines at the check-in counters. “It looks crowded. It’ll probably take forever to get through security.” Screw the lines. Screw the flight. Screw Boston! Take me home with you.

“Do you have everything?” Max asked. Lame. Lame. Lame.

“Yes,” she nodded, checking her purse and briefcase for about the 100th time. Why was this so hard? Oh, that’s right, it’s because she was leaving!

An airport security officer walked by, eyeing Max, and then the curbside sign that read ‘Unloading Zone. No Waiting.’

Liz noticed the officer, too. “I better go.”

Max pulled his hands out of his pockets and stepped forward, just as Liz stepped down from the curb and wrapped Evan in a hug.

“Goodbye,” she said, and kissed him on the cheek. “I’ll miss you.” Lowering her voice, she whispered into his ear. “Take care of your dad while I’m gone.”

Evan nodded, unable to speak. Emotions were crashing all around him.

And then it was Max’s turn to have her in his arms. Feeling her warmth. Breathing her scent. Holding her close. His eyes drifted closed, and then all too soon the moment was over. She stepped back, moving out of his embrace. Only their fingers still touched.

She stared up into his face. He stared down into hers. The uniformed officer walked by, making his presence known again.

Liz rose up on her toes and kissed Max on the cheek. “I’ll see you in 2 weeks.”

Max squeezed her hands and let her go. “Have a safe flight.”

And then she was gathering her things and heading toward the terminal. He watched her until she disappeared into the crowd, and then he still stood there, with his hand touching his cheek, until Evan broke him out of Liz’s spell.

“C’mon, Dad,” Evan tugged on his arm to get his attention. “Let’s go.”

Max turned back toward the car. Evan climbed into the front seat, feeling the weight of the Liz’s knife in his coat pocket. As Max started the car, Evan turned to him with a stern announcement.

“We have a new family rule, Dad.”

Surprised, Max said, “We do?”

Evan nodded, and declared, “When a girl gives you a present, you keep it!”

Kings Island

Evan sat at the kitchen table working on his algebra homework. It normally came pretty easily to him, but at the moment, his father kept distracting him. Putting down his pencil, he said, “Dad, you’re burning the chicken again.”

When his father just stood there, staring at the wall with the spatula hovering 6 inches above the smoking pan, Evan was forced to raise his voice.


“What?” Max said quickly, snapping out of his haze.

“The chicken?” Evan pointed at the pan. “It’s burning.”

“Damn!” Max hissed and pulled the pan off the burner.

Evan chuckled and shook his head while his dad tried to use his powers to fix the burnt meal. It’d been this way for a week, with his dad too distracted to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time.

“Why don’t you call her?” Evan suggested. Then maybe he might stop bouncing off the walls.

“I can’t,” Max said, sending a sideways look at his son.

To Evan, the conviction in his voice seemed to be wavering. “Why not?”

“Because,” Max said, giving up on the chicken and dumping it in the garbage. He opened the freezer, looking for something else to make.

“’Because’ why?” Evan pressed. He wasn’t going to let his father off the hook with a lame answer like that. He knew his dad was paranoid about being found out by the wrong people, which was understandable, but according to Liz that threat was over now. It was time to move on.

Max closed the freezer door and sighed. He turned to Evan and said, “Because I told her I’d only call if something was wrong. I don’t want to worry her.”

Evan knew that “something” was him. It added to his sense of guilt, that he was the reason why his dad and Liz were apart.

“Dad,” Evan said, toying with his pencil and avoiding looking him in the eye. “What if I could help you talk to Liz?”

Max sat at the table across from his son. “What are you talking about?”

“In a few hours she’ll be asleep …”

As the implication sank in, Max shook his head. “Evan, no. It’s not right, you can’t –”

Evan finally looked up, meeting his father’s gaze. “It’s not like that. I told her, before she left, that I could dreamwalk like Aunt Isabel. She didn’t seem upset. She even wondered why Aunt Isabel never dreamwalked her all those years.”

“I told her not to,” Max said. “I made your Aunt promise never to bother Liz. And I’m telling you the same thing,” he said sternly. “Dreamwalking is an invasion of privacy –”

“But –”

“No ‘buts’, Evan. Promise me you won’t dreamwalk Liz.”

“But, Dad, she –”


“O-kay!” he said, wilting under his father’s stare. “I promise.”

“Good.” Max leaned back, softening his stance. He didn’t like to speak harshly to his son, but there were rules that needed to be followed. He rose to his feet and closed Evan’s Math book. “Dinner’s ruined. How ‘bout we go out?”

“Can I choose where we go?” Evan asked, shaking off the reprimand.

Max smiled. “Don’t you usually?”


Liz finished wrapping the last of the crystal stemware and sealed the carton, labeling it fragile, hoping the movers wouldn’t break everything on the long trip across the country. She’d bought the set years ago, and over time she’d used the glasses to celebrate the major milestones in her life. Graduation from Harvard. Post Grad work at Johns Hopkins. Surviving an internship and residency at Boston General. What other celebrations might be in store?

An engagement?

A wedding?

A cure?

She looked at the phone, wishing she could hear his voice. She knew she was getting ahead of herself, dreaming of things that might not happen, but hoping for them just the same.

“Why don’t you call him?”

Startled out of her revelry, Liz picked the box up and took it in the living room, adding to the growing pile. Mabel followed her from the kitchen, wrapping a bud vase in bubble wrap.

Liz feigned ignorance. “Call who?”

“The young man you’re thinking about.”

“Brad?” Liz said. He was a safe topic. Mabel knew all about him.

“Not Doctor Brad,” Mabel said.

Liz met Mabel’s stare. “No?”

“Honey,” Mabel smiled, setting the vase in one of the open boxes. “Doctor Brad’s a great guy. Handsome. Smart. Rich. A fantastic body –”

“Mabel!” Liz chuckled. One thing she could always count on was her friend saying her mind.

Coming closer, Mabel took Liz’s hand. “But you never, ever, stared at the phone like that, waiting for his call.”

“Like what?” Liz asked softly.

“Like you’re just going to die if you don’t hear his voice.”

Liz sighed. Mabel could always read her so well.

“What’s his name? How’d you meet him? Damn, girl, you move fast! You were there barely more than a week!”

Liz dropped down onto the couch. Mabel sat beside her.

“Remember that friend I told you about? The one who had the sick baby, and had to go away?”

“Sure, I remember.” Mabel patted her hand, encouraging her to continue.

After a short pause, Liz blurted out, “I found him. Him and his son. They’ve been living there for years.”

“Oh honey,” Mabel gave her a hug. “I’m so happy for you.” Holding Liz out at arms length, she added, “Tell me all about it. I take it he feels the same?”

Liz wiped at a tear spilling from her eye. “I think so. I hope so. It was like something out of a dream. I was walking down the hospital corridor, and there he was. Just standing there. I ran into his arms.”

It was Mabel’s turn to sigh. “It reminds me of my Joe. We’d been going together for about a year when he got drafted and sent to Viet Nam. I thought about him everyday, worried about him getting hurt, or killed. Then one day his parents called. They’d gotten a telegram. He was missing in action and presumed dead. Everyone told me I should move on, but I couldn’t. I could still feel him, in my heart. Months later, I was working in my dad’s store and I turned around and there he was. In his uniform. Looking mighty studly! I never gave up on him. That was the day he asked me to marry him.”

“Oh, Mabel,” Liz sighed. “You never told me that.”

Mabel caressed Liz’s cheek. “Honey, soul mates always find their way back to each other.”

Struck by the words, Liz threw her arms around Mabel’s generous proportions, crying, “I’m going to miss you so much.”

“I’m going to miss you too, sweetheart,” Mabel said, choking on her own tears. “But I’m so glad you found your fellow again. You were miserable without him.”

Kings Island

Max sat on the bed beside his son, resting his right hand on the boy’s chest, putting his healing powers to work. Evan’s breathing sounded good tonight, with only a slight rasping in his lungs. He hoped it was an encouraging sign.

“How are you feeling?”

“Good,” Evan answered. The lone lamp on the nightstand by his bed cast long shadows on the walls.

“No problems?” Max asked.

Evan brooded about the question for a moment, and then sidestepped the answer.

“Dad, can I ask you something?”


“If Liz hadn’t been shot, do you think you would have told her anyway?”

“About …?” Max said, leaving the obvious unspoken.

Evan nodded.

“Honesty? I don’t know. Before the shooting, I used to dream about telling her. I thought up a thousand different ways, and imagined how she would react. In my good dreams, she’d accept me completely, alien blood and all. In my nightmares, she’d run screaming away from me.”

“She didn’t run away screaming.”

“No,” Max smiled. “She didn’t.”

“Did you ever regret telling her?”

Max’s smile faded. “Regret? No. If I hadn’t done what I did, she would have died. And if I’d let that happen, I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself. After healing her, it was only natural to tell her the rest of it.”

“Sometimes I think about telling Lacey.”

Silence followed while Max considered an appropriate response to that.

“Don’t rush it, Evan,” he finally said, brushing the blond hair back from his son’s forehead. “Maria – that’s Liz’s friend – she used to call it “the alien abyss”. Once you’re sucked in you can never get out. If Lacey’s the one, you’ll know when it’s the right time to tell her. Just take your time.”

Swallowing past a tightening throat, Evan said, “What if I don’t have time.”

For a moment, Max couldn’t answer. His throat wouldn’t let him. He had to force out the words.

“Don’t – don’t think like that, Evan. I know it’s hard for you – the hospital, all the tests – but you can’t give up. Except for that stupid accident at school, you’ve been better lately. You said so yourself.”

Evan waged an internal battle, debating whether or not to tell his dad about the attack last week at the Space Needle, but in the end decided not to. He could sense his father clinging to hope, and he didn’t want to be the one to take that away from him.

“We’ll get through this,” Max continued, squeezing Evan’s hand. “We have to believe that.”

“Okay, Dad,” Evan said, not sure which one of them his father was trying to convince.


Max wandered through the baggage claim area of SeaTac International Airport looking for carousel # 6. He’d never been here before, and the uniformed security guards patrolling the area were a constant reminder of the reason why. Just being here made him nervous.

“Maybe we should ask where it is,” Evan suggested. Their footsteps echoed in the cavernous space, despite the fact there were people milling around everywhere. He looked for a map, or an information booth, but the only one he saw was manned by another uniformed officer.

“Let’s try this way,” Max said, skirting around a throng of weary travelers waiting for their luggage to arrive. He scanned their tired faces, looking for one.

“Dad, look,” Evan pointed. “Over there.”

Max saw it, too. The oversized 6 on a reader board, with Liz’s flight number flashing in red. Relieved, Max headed in that direction.

As they neared the carousel, Max saw something most travelers never notice. Security cameras in the corners, recording everything and everyone. He tugged his baseball cap down to help shadow his face.

Evan felt his father’s paranoia seeping into him. “Dad, what’s wrong?”

Max looked down at his son, debating what to say to him, then opted for the truth. “The Transportation Safety Administration uses facial recognition software to hunt for known terrorists.”

“What does …” Evan started to say, and then the words trailed off as he, too, noticed the cameras.

“The FBI,” Max continued, keeping his voice low. “They took my picture.”

“Back in Roswell?”

Max nodded. “It might still be in their database.”

There were certain places Max avoided at all costs. Police stations. Federal buildings. Airports. Was someone scanning his face right now, matching it to a decade old file? Maybe coming here had been a bad idea, but he couldn’t stay away, not with Liz coming home today.

Evan felt the whisper of emotions around him. Travelers fighting fatigue after a long flight. Friends and family excited to see returning love ones. Impatience and relief. Joy and hostility. Suspicion. The latter had him looking around, feeling the hair on the back of his neck standing up.

Both Max and Evan saw him at the same time. A man in a military uniform headed straight in their direction. Max turned his back; looking for an exit, ready to bolt. Evan gripped his father’s arm.

“Wait,” Evan whispered. “Liz said they weren’t looking for us anymore.”

Max fought back the urge to flee. He wanted to believe she was right, wanted to believe that part of his life was over, but could he? Was he putting his son at risk just by being here?

The soldier shouted out a name and then was running at them, and then right past them, into the open arms of a young woman. Lovers reunited. Max breathed a sigh of relief. Evan felt the rush of their emotions wash over him, temporarily overpowering everything else.

“Max! MAX!”

The sound of the familiar voice chased all other thoughts from Max’s mind. He spun around in time to see Liz weaving through the crowd, arm in the air, waving to get his attention. She rushed right at him, and if the smile on her face was any indication, she was obviously pleased to see him. Max looked ready to sweep her into his arms, and then she suddenly stopped, 10 feet away, as if an invisible wall had popped up between them.

For a moment they just stared at each other, neither one of them moving. Max found his voice first.

“Did you have a good flight?”

“Not bad,” she said, mesmerized by his face. “Long.” Too long. Both the flight, and the separation.

“How was Boston?”

“Cold,” she smiled. “It snowed.”

They moved closer toward each other, but didn’t touch.

Max self-consciously nipped at his lower lip. “You don’t have to worry about snow around here.”

“Great,” Evan muttered under his breath, fighting the urge to roll his eyes. They’d been apart for 2 weeks, pining for each other everyday, and now all they could do was talk about the weather?

Boy, did he have his work cut out for him.

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An Imperfect Life, Part 15

Post by Breathless » Sun Nov 05, 2006 2:24 am

I’m going to post this real quick and then I’m off to pack. I’m leaving for a business trip on Monday and will be gone most of the week. Because of that, I won’t have any time to work on the next part, so the next update will probably be in 2 weeks. Enjoy this one ‘til I get back!

An Imperfect Life
Part 15

Meet me in outer space
We could spend the night,
watch the earth come up
I've grown tired of that place,
Won’t you come with me
We could start again

Meet me in outerspace
I will hold you close,
if you’re afraid of heights
I need you to see this place,
it might be the only way
That I can show you how,
it feels to be inside of you


Liz stood in the middle of her new apartment directing traffic. Friends offered assistance while four brawny moving men filled the living room with cartons and boxes, newly arrived from Boston. Leaving Max, even if only to finish her obligations in Boston, had been one of the hardest things she’d ever had to do. They’d barely had a chance to reacquaint with each other when she left, and the weeks away from him had felt more like years. She was so glad to be home again.

“What next?” Evan asked, skittering to a stop in front of her.

Liz pointed at a carton labeled ‘Dishes’. “Why don’t you put that box in the kitchen?”

“Okay,” he dashed off with the box, eager to help.

“In the cupboard to the left of the sink!” she called after him, smiling.

Grunting noises came from the direction of the front door, drawing her attention. Max and Brad struggled with an oversized couch, turning it sideways trying to get it through the door. Max felt his end slipping, but he refused to admit it was heavy. He shot a look at Brad, inwardly pleased to see the strain on the other man’s face.

“Careful!” Liz called out. “Don’t drop it!”

“Where do you want it?” Brad groaned, thanking God this building had elevators. They never would have gotten it up four flights of stairs.

“Against that wall,” Liz pointed toward the right side of the living room. With her hands firmly planted on her hips, she scolded, “You should let the movers do that!”

Max and Brad shot each other a look, neither one willing to admit that their motives were rooted in caveman mentality, each wanting to prove their strength and manly vigor. Max felt the burn in his arm muscles. Brad felt the ache in his lower back. Both of them refused to show it.

They set the couch down on the floor, faces red from the effort, trying hard not to drop it, even though they both secretly wanted to. As Brad straightened, he fought the urge to press his hands against the small of his back. Max held in a groan, he wasn’t going to be the first one to cave.

Brad faced Max. “You ready to tackle that table?”

Max stood tall, up for the challenge. “Let’s do it.”

Liz followed them to the door. “You guys. Let the movers get the heavy stuff!”

Evan poked his head out of the kitchen, secretly laughing at them. He felt a little bad for Brad, his senses told him the poor guy didn’t have a chance, but it was funny seeing his quiet and reserved dad acting all macho.

“Men!” Liz fussed in the hallway outside of the apartment, watching the elevator doors slide closed at the end of the hall.

“Moving day?”

Liz turned to see Jenny Payne standing behind her, with a wry smile on her face.

“Finally!” Liz sighed.

In the days since returning from Boston she’d had the chance to get to know Jenny better, as a fellow doctor, as a possible future colleague in the PCC Unit, and as a friend to Max and Evan. She wasn’t sure of the full extent of their relationship, but she knew Jenny had been there when Max needed someone the most. Despite the twinge of jealousy that caused, she was glad Max had had someone he could count on.

“I can’t thank you enough for telling me about this place,” Liz said, moving back into her apartment, with Jenny following beside her. “I think Brad’s happy to get his own place back to himself.”

Jenny wasn’t too sure about that, but she left her doubts unspoken. In the short time she’d known Liz, she’d quickly come to understand why Max had never gotten over her. Liz was nice. And friendly. And, if her feminine intuition was right, she was still madly in love with Max.

“It was just good timing,” Jenny shrugged. “You mentioned you needed to find an apartment, I knew one was vacant in my building.”

In the elevator, Max and Brad stood on opposite sides of a large oak table, with its ornately carved pedestal style leg between them. Max stared at the floor indicator display, watching the lighted numbers change. Brad drummed his fingers on the table’s polished oak. When the elevator reached the fourth floor, they silently began the arduous task of manhandling the heavy piece of furniture out through the doors.

“Careful. Don’t scratch the top,” Brad warned.

“I’m not gonna scratch it,” Max grumbled.

“Liz found this in an antique shop outside of Boston. It’s old. Very old. She wouldn’t like it scratched.”

“I’m not gonna scratch it,” Max said again, doing a lousy job of hiding his irritation. Had Brad been with Liz when she picked it out? Did he help her bring it home? Had they eaten dinner at this table together? Or breakfast?

“Watch the doors!” Brad barked.

Max slammed his hand against the closing elevator doors, dropping his end of the table. This definitely wasn’t the start of a beautiful friendship.

In the apartment, Evan opened a box labeled ‘Towels’ and began the task of loading them onto the shelves in the hallway linen closet. Half way through the box he picked up a towel with something hard inside, something placed there to keep it protected. He unfolded the towel and found a picture frame inside, with a picture of his father. It looked old, from when his father was young, probably taken when he was still in high school.

Evan rose to his feet and took it out into the living room searching for Liz. When he found her, he asked, “Where do you want me to put this?”

“Oh,” Liz sighed when she saw the photograph, taking it from his hands like she’d found an old and cherished possession. “I’m so glad it didn’t break.”

Jenny peered over Liz’s shoulder, seeing the smiling face of Max Philips. Of course, his name hadn’t been Philips then, not when this photograph was taken. She wasn’t surprised Liz had kept it.

“Evan,” Jenny said. “You look so much like your Dad did when he was young.”

“I do?” Evan said, scrunching up his face. “I thought I looked like my–”

He stopped himself, but too late. The damage was already done. He watched Liz’s features change, seeing her soft, even wistful smile fading away. She recovered quickly, but he still felt her inner turmoil.

“You do look like your Dad,” Liz said, studying his face. He had the same nose, the same chin, the same lips. Only his eyes and his hair color reminded her of someone else. Luckily, she wasn’t given time to dwell on that. A sudden commotion in the hallway drew their attention.

“Lift that end.”

“Just swing it around.”

“We’re gonna have to turn it sideways,” Brad insisted. “You don’t want to–”

“–scratch the top!” Max finished, growling inside.

Liz clutched the old photograph protectively to her chest.

“Do – do you want me to put it somewhere?” Evan asked, pointing at the picture.

“Um, sure.” Liz gave it up grudgingly. She handed it to Evan, saying, “Just put it in the bedroom, last door on the right.”

Evan hurried off, smiling to himself again. He set the photograph on Liz’s dresser, in the same place his father kept the picture of her.

Liz watched Max and Brad struggle to get the heavy table through the door, but she wasn’t too worried about it getting scratched. After all, Max could always fix it for her. He could fix just about anything. Maybe even a broken heart.

“This way,” Liz led her macho table carrying men into the dining alcove off the kitchen. They heaved and strained and finally muscled it into position in the cozy little space. After Max set his end down, he straightened up, ready to throw down another challenge.

“How about that roll top desk?”

Brad stared back at Max. Was the guy Superman or something? That massive desk looked like it weighed 500 pounds! If he said ‘no’ it would show weakness, but if he said ‘yes’, that desk was sure to break his back. Liz saved him from making an impossible choice.

“How about we all take a break? I made a pitcher of cold lemonade.”

Brad stared at Max.

Max stared at Brad.

They both cracked at the same time.

“Sure!” Max nodded enthusiastically.

“Sounds great!” Brad said in unison.

“Anyone hungry?” Liz turned back toward the kitchen to search for some glasses. “Should we order in pizza?”

Brad followed on her heels. “I could go for pepperoni.”

Max crowded in. “With spicy sausage and black olives.”

Evan’s voice shouted from somewhere deep in the apartment. “And anchovies!”

Jenny and Liz looked at each other aghast, while Brad and Max groaned. It took a real man to eat anchovies.

* * * * *

Four adults and one child relaxed around the oak table, finishing off the last of the pizza, stomachs full and satisfied. The sound of the moving men, cursing and struggling through the apartment doorway with the heavy desk left Brad and Max relieved as well.

“Well, that was good.” Liz rose from the table, reaching for the empty pizza box.

Max jumped up to help her. “I’ll get that.”

He crumpled the box up and took it into the kitchen. Liz followed, carrying their empty lemonade glasses.

Max looked around, trying to find a place to put the garbage. “Where should I – I don’t see any…”

“Just put it on the counter,” Liz said, setting the glasses in the sink. “I’ll put it in a trash bag, just as soon as I find one.”

“Moving is a big job,” Max said, smiling at her, not paying attention to what he was doing. He set the pizza box down, knocking over her purse in the process. The contents spilled out on the floor. He bent over quickly to pick it up, chastising himself for his clumsiness.

“Sorry! I didn’t mean to–”

“That’s okay.” Liz joined him on the floor, scooping the contents back into her purse. Their hands touched, sparking a flash of déjà vu, from another time and another place. Their eyes met and held, Liz holding her breath, Max too mesmerized to move. Another minute and they might have kissed, but the kitchen suddenly became Grand Central Station, with Brad, Jenny and Evan joining them from the right, and four big strong burly moving men crowding into the kitchen from the left.

“Ms. Parker,” one of the movers spoke up. “We’re done unloading everything. I just need your signature.” He held out a clipboard.

“Oh. Sure. Okay,” Liz stammered. She rose to her feet, dusting her hands off on her thighs. Max finished picking up her things and set her purse back on the counter, leaning into the hard surface to calm his racing heart.

Evan picked up a piece of paper that had skidded across the floor, reading the bold words printed across the top.

Kings Memorial Annual Benefit Ball

“What’s this?” Evan asked, holding it out.

Jenny took the paper out of his hand. “The Benefit Ball. It’s a fundraiser for the hospital.” Her gaze shifted from the announcement to Max.

Max turned around, landing his eyes on Jenny first, and then quickly moving on to Liz. In everything that had happened lately, he’d forgotten all about the ball scheduled for tomorrow night, and his commitment to it. Panic started to set in.

“Are you going?” Liz asked as she signed her name to the moving contract. When she looked up, she saw the silent exchange going on between Max and Jenny. The pizza in her stomach suddenly felt very heavy.

“I – I don’t think so,” Jenny stammered.

“I thought you were being recognized,” Brad said, taking the flyer out of Jenny’s hand. “For your fundraising efforts in the children’s wing. Your name’s even listed on the program.”

Max felt a growing sense of dismay, like the world was closing in on him. If he backed out on Jenny, what kind of message would that send to Liz? That he was a man who broke his promises? That he let down the people who counted on him? That he’d learned nothing from the past? But if he honored his commitment, and took Jenny to the ball, would Liz understand?

In crystal clarity, Evan sensed what was going to happen next. His dad would admit his ‘date’ with Jenny, made before he knew Liz had come to town. Liz would feel hurt, already suspecting there was something more between his dad and Jenny, and this would only confirm it. Liz would take a step back. Brad would be there, more than willing to comfort Liz. If he didn’t act fast, everything was going to fall apart, right in front of his eyes.

“You should all go together!” Evan suddenly blurted out.

Four sets of eyes focused on him, Liz and Brad surprised by his outburst, Jenny relieved that maybe she could back out of this date gracefully, and Max ready to worship at his son’s feet.

* * * * *

“Which one looks better?” Max asked, holding first a black suit jacket up to his throat, and then a dark green one.

“When did you change your name?” Evan asked, relaxing at the foot of his father’s bed.

“Change my . . .” Max frowned. Why was he asking that? Evan knew the story. “Twelve years ago, when we left–”

“Not that name,” Evan cut him off, holding in a laugh. “Your new name. Maxine. ‘Cause your acting like such a girl!”

“Evan!” Max reddened, though he knew his son was right. He’d never fretted about what to wear on a date before. Except back in high school. He’d tried on every sweater in his closet before going on his first date with Liz. Maybe he was nervous because it’d been over 14 years since he’d actually been on a date. A real date. With someone he cared about. Someone who was more than just a friend.

“I’m just teasing you, Dad!” Evan laughed.

“Well, don’t!” Max threw a rolled up pair of socks at Evan’s head.

“Why are you so nervous?” Evan challenged, batting the socks away. “You’ve seen Liz every day since she got back.”

“I’ve been helping her study for the Boards,” Max answered defensively. “You know that.”

“Dad!” Evan rolled his eyes. “I’m not blind, you know.”

Max turned serious. He crossed the room and sat on the edge of the bed beside his son. “Are you okay with this?”

“With what?” Evan said, feigning innocence.

“Me and Liz,” Max answered. “Like you said, I’ve been spending a lot of time with her.”

Evan had to keep himself from laughing out loud. If his father only knew how much he’d gone through trying to get them together.

“Dad,” Evan teased, “Liz has eaten your cooking, and she didn’t run away. You should keep her.”

Max picked up a pillow and bashed his son on the head. “I don’t see you starving.”

Evan’s resulting chorus of laughter warmed his father’s heart. Despite everything – all the mistakes in his life, all the wrong turns that he’d made – Evan’s presence was something Max gave thanks for everyday.

Trying to regain parental control, he picked up the two suits again, refusing to let his son get the better of him. “Now which one!”

“The green one,” Evan said with conviction. “With the green shirt and the matching silk tie. And black slacks. She’s gonna wear red –”

Max quirked an eyebrow. “You think she’s gonna wear red?”

Evan stared at his father. Was there any doubt?

* * * * *

Liz pawed through the clothes in her closet, or at least the ones she’d unpacked so far. She had a couple of nice dresses, ones suitable for special occasions, but her eyes kept coming back to the red one. She knew it would still fit, even though she hadn’t worn it in years. She thought back to the last time, on a promising night in Las Vegas, when for a brief moment she thought they might actually have a chance, but their destiny hadn’t turned out that way. She wondered if things might have ended differently if she’d told him the truth that night.

Not that it mattered now. The past was the past and there was no changing it. She’d tried that once, with disastrous results.

Turning away from the closet, she stood in front of a full length mirror holding the red dress in front of her. It draped across her body while her mind thought back to that night so many years ago. The tentative way they danced, how he looked at her with so many unspoken questions reflected on his pensive face. How his hand wrapped around hers and urged her closer, for at least that night putting aside everything that had come between them.

She wondered if tonight would end any better. Or would fate once again conspire to keep them apart?

Back in two weeks
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Post by Breathless » Sun Nov 19, 2006 1:56 am

I'm baaaack! Just a quick comment and then on to the next part ...
wherly wrote:I was wondering if you ever completed Aftershock? I loved Aftermath and Afterburn and would truly love to read the last story in your trilogy.
I plan on posting Aftershock after this story is finished. I started An Imperfect Life a long time ago, and then put it on the back burner, but it kept screaming at me to post it! Sometimes these stories have a life of their own.

An Imperfect Life
Part 16

On my knees, I'll ask
Last chance for one last dance
'Cause with you, I'd withstand
All of hell to hold your hand
I'd give it all
I'd give for us
Give anything but I won't give up
'Cause you know,
you know, you know

That I love you
I have loved you all along
And I miss you
Been far away for far too long
I keep dreaming you'll be with me
and you'll never go
Stop breathing if
I don't see you anymore

Far Away

Max stood outside Liz’s apartment nervously brushing non-existent lint from his immaculate suit. He checked the polish on his shoes, then rubbed the toe of his right foot against the back of his left leg, trying to heighten the shine. He straightened his tie once more, and ran a hand over his hair to smooth it down, before finally deciding he was ready to knock.

Just as he lifted his hand to the door, a female voice made him stop.

“My, don’t you look handsome!”

Max turned to see Jenny striding down the hallway toward him. He cocked an eyebrow, appreciating her sophisticated look with her blonde hair piled high on her head. Her black crepe dress hugged her hourglass curves revealing enough to be quite enticing, but the look was wasted on Max. His dream girl was short, and dark, and petite, and waiting for him on the other side of the door.

“You look great!” Max told Jenny. “You’re gonna knock ‘em dead tonight.”

“Thank you,” Jenny beamed. “Speaking of tonight, I was watching out the window of my apartment and I just saw Brad drive up. I’m on my way down to meet him.”

“I’ll get Liz.” Max lifted his hand to knock on her door again, but Jenny stopped him once more, this time with a touch of her hand to his arm.

“No. You’re not coming with us. Brad’s taking me to the Ball, and you’re taking Liz.”

“But – I thought we were all going together.”

“We were. And now we’re not. I think you and Liz should have a little alone time together.” Turning toward the elevator, she waved, “We’ll save a table for you!”

“But what about Brad?” Max asked her retreating figure.

“I know how to handle Brad,” Jenny winked, and then disappeared behind the closing elevator doors.

Alone again, Max felt his good mood getting even better. If Jenny hadn’t run off so soon, he might have had to kiss her. To thank her for running interference. For distracting the competition. For understanding how much Liz meant to him. With confidence soaring, he knocked firmly on the apartment door. When it opened seconds later, the woman who greeted him knocked the breath from his lungs. His throat became incapable of making a single intelligent sound. He stood staring at her with his mouth hanging open.

Liz stood just inside her apartment looking resplendent in red. He remembered the dress; he’d never forgotten that night they danced together. Even with all the tension between them, their attraction had been so strong, like a physical force drawing them together. He felt the same way now. After all the years, and all the miles, his love for her had never diminished.

“Hi.” His voice came out as soft as silk.

Liz leaned against the door, needing the support to keep her weak knees from collapsing. “Hi.”

Max took in a ragged breath and said with a shaky smile, “You look beautiful.”

“Thank you.” Liz looked down. Heat spread out from her stomach, rising up to color her cheeks, and causing a blaze of desire to burn a little lower. Her eyes raked up his body, making a fire ignite in Max as well.

“You look pretty handsome yourself.”

Max swallowed hard, reminding himself to breathe again before he passed out and missed possibly the best night of his life. For once, it felt like fate wasn’t conspiring against them, that their long separation was finally over and they might start anew, both wanting the same thing. To recapture something special they’d both feared was lost to them.

“Let me get my coat.” Liz tore herself away, trying to will the butterflies in her stomach to settle down.

Max stayed in the doorway not daring to move. He wanted to savor this moment, and all the moments yet to come. The way she moved. The way she smelled. The way she smiled at him. He’d never known anyone else like her. When he saw her reach into her closet for her coat, he broke out of his trance and hurried to her side.

“Let me help you.”

Max took the coat out of her hands and held it for her, standing close enough to breathe her in, but far enough away not to crowd her. He didn’t want to give her the wrong impression. And what exactly was the wrong impression? That he wanted to touch her hair? That he wanted to glide his fingers over her cheek? That he longed to once more kiss the sweetest lips he had ever tasted?

All those things were true, but that didn’t mean she wanted the same things. Fear of rejection, or of ruining the growing friendship between them, had kept him from following his impulses. Maybe what had once existed between them was just that – something from the past – that needed to stay that way.

Liz slipped her arms into her black overcoat. She turned around to look at Max, unable to tear her eyes away from his full lips. So close. Just inches away. If she just leaned forward –

With difficulty, Max found his voice. “We should probably go.”

“Go?” Liz let out the breath she was holding and pulled herself back together. “Right,” she said, drawing her coat around her. “As soon as Brad and Jenny get here.”

“They went ahead,” Max told her, hoping she wouldn’t mind. “Jenny said they’d save us a table.”

“Well, then I guess we should go join them.”

* * * * *

“Yes!” Evan cried out and pumped his fist in the air. “I am the Master!”

“Man!” Ryan threw his controller down on the floor. “No one can beat you.”

“You almost had me at the entrance to Mordred’s Cave,” Evan said, disconnecting the game cartridge from the TV. “That was a slick move you made. You’ll be a level 10 Wizard before you know it.”

“I suck,” Ryan grumbled, grabbing for his backpack. He tore the zipper open, with a leering grin spreading over his face. His brown eyes locked onto Evan’s baby blues, asking, “You wanna watch a movie?”

“What movie?” Evan asked his best friend. When Ryan pulled the DVD out of his backpack, Evan’s eyes grew wide.

“Where did you get that?” Evan asked, staring at the title on the cover. After Dark.

“I stole it from my brother. I heard him say it’s scarier than shit and Katie Clarke gets naked!”

Evan grabbed the DVD out of Ryan’s hand. “It’s rated R.”

“I know!” Ryan grinned.

Evan scrambled to his feet. “I’ll go make popcorn!”

* * * * *

The low rumble of voices led Max and Liz to their destination, the Grand Ballroom of the Monarch Regency Hotel, one of the oldest, and finest, on the island.

“Wow.” Liz stared through the double doors at the crystal chandeliers hanging from the ornate ceiling, and the opulent décor throughout the room.

“It’s ‘The Event of the Year’,” Max said, standing close to Liz, pretending not to notice the looks they were getting, but secretly pleased to be seen with the most gorgeous woman in the room.

“Where do you think Brad and Jenny are?” Liz asked, looking out over the multitude of tables.


Max let his voice trail off, none too eager to share this night with Brad, but knowing it would be rude to try to ditch him. Besides, Jenny deserved better than to be stuck with him all night.

“Let’s mingle,” Max suggested, placing his hand on the small of Liz’s back. “I’m sure we’ll find them.”

Liz felt a rush of heat explode through her as Max’s hand settled into place near her hip, a sensation so new, and yet so old and familiar, from a time when the world was just the two of them. She ventured a look up at Max, a glance so quick it was barely noticeable, but it was long enough to see the slight curve to his lips that told her he felt it too. The connection they’d both lived so many years without, once more rising to the surface.

* * * * *

The flickering television screen cast hues of blue and orange across the boys’ faces, highlighting the fear in their eyes. Evan sat on the couch in the dark living room, hiding his face behind an oversized pillow, peeking over the blue fringed edge. Ryan sat on the floor with his hands covering his eyes, squinting at the screen through the slits between his fingers. When a door on the screen banged open revealing the monster standing behind it, both boys screamed.

“You wuss!” Ryan threw a handful of popcorn at Evan.

“Me?!” Evan tossed the pillow at his friend, nailing Ryan in the head. “What about you? You screamed like a girl!”

“Did not!”

“Did too!”

“Did not!”

“Oh! Oh! Oh!” Evan pointed at the TV screen with his eyes bulging out. “Look!”

Skin. Yards and yards of skin. Katie Clarke’s female anatomy in all its glory. Both boys sat there with their mouths hanging open, forgetting all about scary monster lurking in the dark.

* * * * *


The familiar voice cut through the crowd, drawing Liz’s attention. She looked over her shoulder, spotting Brad right away. It was impossible to miss him, waving his arm around in the air like that. Jenny sat at the table beside him, looking less than enthusiastic at his attention grabbing display.

“It looks like we should go save her,” Max commented, not above getting a dig in at Brad’s expense whenever the opportunity presented itself.

“She does look a little miserable,” Liz noted. She looked up at Max and apologized, “I’m sorry. I should have backed out, and let you two come tonight. I ruined all your plans –”

Max silenced her with a fingertip to her lips. He pulled it away reluctantly. “Jenny didn’t mind. She’s a friend, like a sister, really, and she knows how much I wanted . . .”

“Wanted?” Liz looked up at him expectantly.

For a fleeting moment Max wondered if his big mouth was going to get him in trouble, but the door was open. No sense holding back. His head lowered, speaking softly, so only she could hear. His gaze swept from her eyes to her lips and back again as he said, “She knows how much I wanted to be with you tonight.”

Liz drew in a quick breath, feeling her stomach turning somersaults. In a breathy whisper she said, “Oh.”

Max felt his stomach twist. Oh? Just oh? What did she mean by ‘Oh’?

‘Oh. I wish you hadn’t said that’?

‘Oh. We’re better off as friends. How do I let him down gently’?

‘Oh. Been there. Done that. Not walking down that alien road again’?

Liz leaned forward, dropping her gaze to the level of his tie. In a voice low and husky, she said, “I wanted to be with you, too.”

She looked up quickly to see his reaction.

A broad smile broke over his face, feeling almost giddy inside with happiness. Now he knew what she meant by ‘Oh’!

* * * * *

“That was extreme!” Ryan declared as soon as the credits began to roll.

“Did you see when the alien guy’s head exploded?” Evan threw his pillow aside, acting like he hadn’t spent half the movie hiding behind it. “And when that other guy stabbed that other guy all the way through his chest–”

“And then when that car ran over those two–”

“That was so gross!”

“That wasn’t gross. That was awesome!” Ryan crawled over to the TV and ejected the DVD, carefully putting it back in the case. He stuffed it back in his backpack and then slung it over his shoulder as he rose to his feet.

Evan picked up the popcorn bowls and glasses and wandered into the kitchen. “Do you want to watch another movie?”

“Can’t.” Ryan picked up his coat. “I’ve gotta get back before Pete gets home. If he finds out I took his movie he’ll kick my butt. I’ll see ya tomorrow.”

“Okay.” Evan walked back into the living room with his hands stuffed in his front pockets. He saw Ryan to the door, waved as his friend ambled down the walkway to the street, and then closed the door and locked himself inside his house.

The television screen bathed the living room in shades of flickering blues and darkening shadows, eerily creepy for a boy who’d just watched two hours of the scariest monster movie ever made, according to the DVD jacket. Evan hadn’t been willing to admit it to Ryan, but the movie scared the pants off him. Maybe because murdering aliens hit a little too close to home.

He picked up the pillow he’d tossed on the floor earlier and dropped it on the couch, then stooped to pick up the errant kernels of popcorn he and Ryan had been throwing at each other all night. In the kitchen he disposed of them in the garbage, then set to work cleaning the counters and loading the dishwasher. He didn’t want his dad to come home from his first real date in over 12 years to find a sink full of dirty dishes.

He rinsed off one plate and was just reaching for another when a loud thud came from the direction of the living room. He shut the water off and listened, surprised that his dad was home so soon.

“Dad?” Evan called out, worried that something might have gone wrong. When he received no answer he dried his hands on a towel and left the kitchen.

“Dad?” He poked his head around the corner into the living room, but the room was exactly how he’d left it, empty except for furniture and shadows. A creaking floorboard made Evan whip his head toward the bedrooms, surprised that his father had gotten to that end of the house so fast without him noticing.

He headed that way, but the closer he got, the hackles began to rise on the back of his neck. It wasn’t like his dad to come home and not even say hello, especially on a night as important as this. He suddenly realized he should be feeling something, either his father’s joy if the night had gone well, or his despair if it hadn’t, but Evan was feeling … nothing. Just emptiness. As empty as his father’s bedroom.

“Dad?” Evan said again, but he knew he didn’t need to. His father wasn’t here. He checked his dad’s bathroom just to be sure, but it was as empty as the rest of the house. With a shrug of his shoulders he headed for the bedroom door, but stopped in mid step when he passed the dresser. The silver picture frame, a permanent fixture that had been in the exact same place for years, had somehow toppled over.

“That must have been it,” Evan mumbled aloud, shaking off the willies. He lifted the frame to reposition it in its rightful spot, but let out a gasp when he saw the face. When the frame toppled over it must have broken the glass. No, not broken, Evan corrected, but shattered. Into a thousand pieces or more, radiating out in a circular pattern from a spot in the middle of Liz’s face, like a bull’s-eye, right between her eyes. With a swipe of his hand he fixed it, reforming all the shattered edges to make it whole again.

“That’s better,” he said and set it back on the dresser.

Relieved to find the source of the noise, and chiding himself for letting his imagination run away with him, Evan left his father’s room.

* * * * *

Max stirred his coffee to blend the cream and sugar, wishing he had a drop or two of Tabasco handy to add to the flavor, but tonight he’d have to settle for it plain. The ballroom buzzed with conversation now; the speeches were over and the last of the dinner plates had been removed. Only the four of them remained at the table; their other dinner companions had departed, and now was the time to relax. Or it would be, if the tension at the table wasn’t so thick.

“The resection went like a dream until . . .”

Max set his spoon on the saucer and tried his best to tune Brad out. He wasn’t sure if the guy was “talking shop” intentionally to shut him out or not, but that’s what it felt like. Obviously, Liz and Brad had a long history; med school, a residency program together, years of medical training working side by side. Their conversation was technical and detailed and entirely over Max’s head.

“So I prepped for the subclavian flap using the new Parker clamp –”

“Parker clamp?” Liz looked genuinely surprised, and pleased. “You named it the Parker clamp?”

Max shifted uncomfortably at the table, feeling left out. Brad had been dominating the conservation all night, not that Max had that much to contribute. No one wanted to hear about the 7th grade WASL tests.

So now here he was, listening to Brad impress Liz with his medical prowess and adulate her by naming lifesaving medical devices after her. How was he supposed to compete with that?

‘Oh, you named a clamp after Liz? Well, I saved her life by dissolving a bullet that was lodged inside her and then I healed all the torn flesh and her damaged organs. And then I connected to her and we looked into each other’s souls and –

A small hand on his arm jerked his attention back to the table and he looked up, surprised to see Liz standing over him.

“I’ll be right back,” she said with a small smile, adding a little pressure to his biceps. He watched Liz and Jenny maneuver around the other tables, crossing a path to the far side of the ballroom before it sank in where they were going. Safety in numbers in the women’s room. Unfortunately, that left him alone with Brad. The silence hung heavy at the table.

“Good dinner,” Max finally said, fidgeting with the edge of the dinner napkin still spread across his lap. His forced smile looked more like a grimace.

“Very good,” Brad agreed. He sucked a breath in through his teeth, then let it out in a sigh. He looked around in the direction Liz and Jenny had gone, but there was no sign of them. Women took forever in the can.

Max took a sip of his coffee.

Brad pulled back his left sleeve and looked at his watch.

Band members took center stage, tuning up their instruments for the dance to begin.

“School teacher, huh?” Brad said, breaking the long strained silence.

“Counselor,” Max corrected, idly stirring his coffee and then sipping the bland liquid.

“Right,” Brad nodded. “High school.”

“Middle school.”

Max set his cup down. Silence fell again, seconds turning into minutes, punctuated by a cleared throat, a scratched ear, arms folding and refolding.

“Did you miss us?” Liz teased, suddenly appearing behind Max. He jumped, startled as much by her presence as by the feel of her hand on his shoulder. How had he lived so many years without feeling her touch?

“Hey,” Max sighed. His smile was quick, open, a book for her to read. A lifetime of adoring her played across his face.

“We thought maybe you got swallowed up in there,” Brad joked.

Jenny returned to her seat beside him. “Just a long line.”

Liz let her hand linger on Max’s shoulder, relishing the feel of his warmth and his strength. She squeezed between her chair and his, brushing her hip against his arm. It wasn’t intentional, but she didn’t exactly jump away when it happened. She sat down just as the band began their first song.

Max watched the next scene play out in slow motion, like a wreck you know is going to happen that you can’t stop. Brad leaned toward Liz, wrapping his right arm around the back of her chair, using his left hand to point at the stage. The music, the dance floor, the intimate space. The other man’s intensions were so obvious.

When Brad opened his mouth, Max blurted out, “Liz, do you want to dance?”

A flash of surprise crossed Liz’s face but she covered it quickly. The old Max was never quite this – spontaneous. Except maybe once. In the Crashdown. When the scent of strawberries and steam filled the air.

“Sure,” she beamed. “Yes. Yes, I’d love to dance.” She had no idea what song was even playing, not that it mattered.

Max didn’t miss the steamed look on Brad’s face. Inside he did a happy dance.

Liz watched Max push out his chair and rise to his feet. For a moment she stared at his offered hand, and then she eagerly accepted it, pressing her palm to his.

Brad leaned back in his chair, watching Max lead Liz onto the dance floor with his hand against the small of her back. Resigned to the obvious, he said, “I’m toast, aren’t I?”

“Oh,” Jenny said, rubbing it in, “you crashed and burned a long time ago.”

* * * * *

Max faced Liz in the middle of the dance floor, feeling awkward as the soft melody of the music drifted over them. He wasn’t unpracticed, Friday night dances at Evan’s school had kept him from being a complete klutz, but suddenly he felt like seventeen again, nervous and unsure, and all thumbs. He reached for Liz’s hand, swallowing hard as her palm slid against his. His right arm circled around her waist, drawing her closer, willing his trembling knees to hold him up. When her eyes looked up to meet his, he couldn’t help the way his stomach rumbled.

“This reminds me of old times,” he said, giving her a shaky smile. “Remember that time we went to Vegas?”

“I remember,” Liz answered, wanting to melt right into him.

“You were wearing this dress.” Max flicked his gaze downward. Pale shoulders. Spaghetti straps. Cleavage. Oh god. He jerked his eyes up to her face again.

“You remember my dress?” Liz asked, surprised.

“I remember everything.”

His head dipped forward, his eyes falling away from hers, reminding her of how he’d looked that night, seventeen and in love, but with so many questions he didn’t know where to start. For a moment her heart hurt; things might have been so different if only she’d told him the truth that night.

As their eyes met again a flash hit Max, the memory of a life he never had. A life taken away from him so that the world could keep on living. The image had never left him, of how beautiful she’d looked in white, with a gold wedding band around her finger.

“What?” Liz asked, struck by the intensity of his gaze.

“Nothing,” Max shook his head, trying to pull himself back together. “It’s just . . . seeing you like this. It takes me back. To when you were seven–”

Liz quickly covered his lips with her fingertips. “Don’t say it.”

Max wrapped his hand around hers and gently pulled it down to his chest. “Say what?”

“How I looked at seventeen.” Self-consciously, she touched her hair, fingering the short ends. “I don’t look anything like that anymore.”

“You mean your hair?” Max said, moving them slowly over the dance floor. He brushed his fingers through the strands, smiling at the sensation. Just as silky as he remembered. “I like your hair this way.”

She looked at him in surprise. “You do?”

“It suits you.” He shrugged, struggling to put his thoughts into words. His voice turned wistful as he said, “You’re not a girl anymore.”

The music played on in the background, but neither Max nor Liz noticed it. Too many memories crowded out the sound.

Back at the table, watching Liz dance with Max, Brad let out a defeated sigh.

Jenny picked up a half empty glass of Chardonnay and took a sip.

Brad toyed with a dessert fork, pressing the tines down and causing the handle to drum repeatedly against the table. Jenny snatched it away from him and set it down out of his reach.

“You know,” Brad said, turning to look at her. “We should go into practice together.”

Jenny arched an eyebrow. He was a heart surgeon, she was a pediatrician. How would that make good partners?

“We should?” she said, bringing her wine glass to her lips.

“Sure,” he grinned. “We’d have the perfect marketing slogan. ‘For all your aches and pains, come to Payne and Acker’.”

Jenny choked on her drink, spitting the white wine across the tablecloth. Brad thumped her on the back.

“Are you okay?”

It took several seconds for her to get her breath back. “Yeah, I’m fine. You can stop hitting me now.”

He pulled his hand away, but his eyes remained on her. For the first time really seeing her.

“What?” she said, growing uncomfortable under the scrutiny of his gaze.

“Would you like to dance?” he asked.

Jenny stared at him for a moment. Brad was handsome, and successful and, as doctors, they had a lot in common.

And, she was surprised to admit, when he wasn’t pining over Liz, Brad could be a lot of fun to be around.

She set down her drink and said, “Sure, why not?”

On the dance floor, the atmosphere between Max and Liz had shifted.

“Max . . .?”

He sensed the sudden change in her, though he couldn’t pinpoint what it was. Maybe the way she couldn’t quite meet his gaze, or how she held her body a little stiffer. He urged her to continue, to say whatever she needed to, even though a part of him was almost afraid to hear.

“What?” he prompted.

“I wanted to tell you . . . I’m sorry . . .”

Max looked down at the top of her head feeling his chest constrict and his stomach tighten. Sorry? She was sorry? What was she sorry about?

‘I’m sorry, Max, but I can’t be with you.’

‘I’m sorry, Max, but we can’t go back to the way things used to be.’

‘I’m sorry, Max, but I don’t love you anymore.’

A part of him was already bracing for the impact of losing her all over again. But how could it be otherwise? He never did deserve her, even from the start. Those few months back in high school, when he thought she could be his, had only been a fool’s dream.

Liz finally looked up, meeting his eyes. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you the truth that night in Vegas. I wanted to. I almost did. But . . . I was so afraid. The end of the world was a heavy weight to bear. I shouldn’t have kept so much from you. It was your life, too.”

Max shook his head, hating to see her blame herself. It wasn’t her fault. “I never should have asked that of you. I must have been a fool, Liz. A blind and stupid fool. It’s the only explanation I can think of for what that future version of me wanted you to do.”

“Don’t forget, Max, you didn’t dream up the idea on your own. I’m the one who sent you back.”

Put in those terms, Max felt some of the weight of responsibility lift from his shoulders. The decision to change the past hadn’t been one-sided, but a mutual decision, based on the information their future selves had available to them. And ultimately, no matter how much hurt they’d caused each other, their goal had worked. The world was still alive. Had it been worth it? A hand full of people might say no, but over seven billion people would say yes.

“We made a lot of mistakes, didn’t we?” Max said softly.

Liz acknowledged the understatement with a regretful smile. “We did.”

Max lowered his head again, staring at some neutral point in the air between them. “I don’t know why I acted the way I did back then. I’ve had 12 years to think about it, and it still makes no sense to me. I never meant – I didn’t want –”

“I know.”

His eyes snapped up to meet hers, surprised when he didn’t see the expected condemnation on her face. They’d been on such bad terms before he left Roswell, and he’d carried that with him for all these years. Her disappointment in him, the hurt he had caused her, her loss of faith in him. All justified. He hadn’t been the man he should have been.

“Can – can we put it behind us?” he asked, holding back the questions he really wanted to ask.

Can we start over?

Can you forgive me?

Can you ever learn to love me again?

Looking up into his open face, Liz answered him the only way she could, putting the past exactly where it belonged.

“I already have.”

tbc …
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An Imperfect Life, Part 17

Post by Breathless » Sun Dec 03, 2006 2:15 am

Just a quick note because I know you all have been waiting patiently for the next part.

With Christmas just around the corner, there may be some posting delays. I'll try my best, but I'm sure you all know how the holidays are.

On with the story...

An Imperfect Life
Part 17

The look of love
Is in your eyes
A look your smile can’t disguise

The look of love
Is saying so much more than just words could ever say
And what my heart has heard, well, it takes my breath away

I can hardly wait to hold you, feel my arms around you
How long I have waited
Waited just to love you, now that I have found you

Don’t ever go…

The Look of Love
Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66

Max walked slowly along the pier with Liz by his side, their silhouettes blocking out the lights of Seattle’s high-rises on the far shoreline. A ferry cut across the water like a lumbering beast, its glowing lights reflecting on the dark waters. Max lifted his arm to point at it.

“That’s the Royal Pacific, making its final run back to the mainland. If you don’t make the 10 pm outbound, you’re stuck here until 5 am.”

“It feels pretty isolated here,” Liz said, watching the ferry’s slow progress through the dark waters, “but still close to civilization.”

Max slowed to a stop. “I suppose that’s why I like it here.” He leaned his arms against the railing, looking out over the water. “I wanted to hide someplace where Evan and I could feel safe.”

“It’s a little ironic, isn’t it?” Liz asked, studying his profile. The soft glow of the harbor lights illuminated his face. A light breeze coming in off the water lifted his bangs, giving him a boyish air.

He looked sideways at her with a half smile playing across his lips. “Ironic?”

Liz shrugged inside her heavy coat. “You live on Kings Island. You ride a ferry called the Royal Pacific.” She crinkled her nose a little as she asked, “Are there any Queens around I should know about?”

The color suddenly drained from Max’s face. He turned his gaze away from her, concentrating on the black waters lapping at the pier beneath them. Even in the darkness she could clearly see the haunted look in his eyes.

“No, no quee –” Max couldn’t get the word out. It wanted to stick in his throat.

Looking at his slumped shoulders, Liz silently berated herself. She hadn’t meant it to come out that way, or to ruin what, up until now, had been a wonderful night. But they couldn’t walk around on eggshells for the rest of their lives, or pretend the past never happened.

“Max, I didn’t–”

“No, you’re right,” he said, putting on a brave face. He’d always fantasized about the two of them finding each other again, but fantasies were always better than reality. She had every reason to still hate him for the things he’d done in the past. Hell, he’d never forgiven himself for it, why should she?

“I didn’t mean it to sound that way,” Liz said gently. Her hand reached for his, sliding her fingers over the back of his hand and threading her fingers between his. He stared down to where she was touching him, unable to say a single word. It seemed fantasies weren’t always better than reality after all.

She leaned close to him, leaning her cheek against his shoulder. Their eyes locked on each other, just inches apart. “The past is the past, Max, and we can’t change it. You and I, we learned that the hard way. We can’t go back, but we can go forward from here.”

“Forward . . .” Max said, breathing in the scent he’d held in his heart for the last 12 years. His thumb rubbed against her index finger, still as soft as he remembered. “I want that too.”

“You know,” Liz said, letting a teasing quality enter her tone. “There is a Queen I’m interested in.”

Max felt his stomach twist but he held on to the sparkle in her eyes, forcing himself not to retreat back into his shell. Her warm hand still resting on his definitely helped.

She smiled. “We passed it on the way here. Two blocks over, on Jackson.”

“You mean – the Dairy Queen?” Max grinned.

“Do you think they have a Royal Parfait?”

“Let’s go find out.” With his smile once again firmly in place, Max turned abruptly, leading her toward the parking lot and his waiting car.

He held Liz’s hand the whole way there.

* * * * *

Sitting in a vinyl booth, Max in his suit and Liz in her red gown, they looked almost like teenagers again, out on a prom date. Liz took a bite of strawberry sundae, relishing the taste. Max’s parfait was melting, he was too busy watching Liz.

“So,” Liz licked ice cream off her spoon. “How’d you become a middle school guidance counselor?”

Max idly stirred his melting dessert. “At first, when we decided to stay in Seattle, Michael got a day job working on the docks, and I got hired as a night watchman at a security firm.”

“Security work?” she said, surprised. “How did you pass a background check?”

Max laughed. “Their security wasn’t very good!”

Liz snorted, almost choking on the dessert. Max picked up a napkin and wiped a drop of ice cream off her chin.

Liz’s cheeks turned pink with embarrassment. Max thought she’d never looked more beautiful.

Taking the napkin from him, she continued to rub it across her chin long after it was clean. “Did you wear a uniform?”

“Yep,” he said. “Blue wool. Itched like heck.”

The color in Liz’s cheeks deepened, thinking about him dressed in a blue uniform, with a stripe down his pant leg, and a badge on his chest. The image was very striking. “I bet you were very handsome.”

It was Max’s turn to blush now.

“When did you sleep?” she asked. “I mean, if you worked at night, and Michael worked during the day, and Evan was just a baby?”

“I didn’t sleep much,” Max shrugged. “Those first few months were pretty rough. Luckily for Michael, Evan usually slept through the night. I’d catch catnaps whenever I could, and then sleep for a couple of hours when Michael got home.”

Her fingers reached out and brushed against Max’s. “It must have been hard on you.”

Max looked at their joined hands, feeling the connection deep inside.

“How long did Michael stay?”

“You know him, always restless. He wanted to go to Canada. I didn’t. He left a few months after we got here. I haven’t seen him since.”

The look on his face told her it hadn’t been easy, raising a child on his own, without family or friends around to help. She wondered how much Jenny had to do with his decision to stay, but that was a question she’s wasn’t yet ready to ask.

* * * * *

Back on the fourth floor of her new apartment building, Liz came to a stop by her door. Max’s eyes darted up and down the empty hallway. It was still early for a Saturday night, but nobody else was around. He looked down at Liz, feeling like a teenager again, out on his first date. He’d danced with her tonight, held her hand, even whispered in her ear, but now the night was over and he wasn’t sure what to say or do.

Goodnight, Liz. I had a good time. I hope you did too.

Goodnight, Liz. Can I call you tomorrow?

Goodnight, Liz. Can I kiss you goodnight?

Would she freak if he kissed her? Would she be mad if he didn’t try? Would she be mad if he did? He hadn’t been out on a real date since he was 17. He sucked at it then, and he still sucked at it now.

“Would you like to come in?” Liz asked, hoping her voice didn’t give away her eagerness. She wasn’t ready for the night to end.


She fished her key out of her handbag and inserted it in the lock. Her apartment was familiar to him now, he’d helped move half the furnishings in, but this felt different. They were alone now, just the two of them.

“Would you like some coffee?” Liz asked as she slid out of her heavy coat and hung it in the hall closet.

“No, I’m fine.” Max closed the door behind him.

“Something else?” Liz offered. “Cherry Coke, maybe?”

“Sure,” he answered this time, suddenly flooded with memories of all the times she served him in the Crashdown, bringing him Cherry Cokes, Alien Smoothies, slices of Men in Blackberry Pie. His mouth quirked upwards at the corners, not all memories of his youth were painful.

“I’ll be right back.”

Liz went into the kitchen and Max wandered into the living room, sweeping his eyes over the couch, and the end tables, and that heavy ass desk. Thank god he hadn’t lugged that thing up here. He’d probably still be in traction come Christmas. Of course, it might have smooshed the hell out of Brad, and that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

He drew in a breath, just about to raise his voice to ask Liz if he could help with anything, when he noticed a framed photograph on the wall, one he’d never seen before. The picture showed six laughing teenagers crowded around a restaurant booth: a sister he saw only in his dreams now, a brother he didn’t see at all anymore, a spitfire ‘girlfriend’ he hadn’t spoken to in years, a friend who died because of him, and himself, looking starry eyed at a young, laughing Liz. He couldn’t hide the sad smile that crossed his face, full of regret for what might have been.

“My dad took that picture.”

Max turned quickly to see Liz standing just a few feet behind him, with an ice filled glass in each hand. Her eyes were riveted to the photograph.

“It’s one of my favorites.” Tearing her gaze away from it, Liz walked toward Max offering him the soda. He took it.

“Thanks.” Glancing at the photograph again, he said, “We ended up all over the place, didn’t we? Isabel in D.C., Michael in Canada, Maria in L.A.. You in Boston. Me here.”

He left Alex’s fate unvoiced: a grave in a Roswell cemetery. They’d once been a tight knit group, before everything fell apart.

Liz took his untouched drink and set it next to hers on the table. They’d spent time together every day, lunches at the hospital, or dinners at his house, helping her study for the Boards, but there was always someone around. No privacy to talk about very private matters.

“Come here.” She slipped her hand into his, leading him across the living room to one of the moving boxes lining the wall. “I want to show you something . . .”

Max blossomed inside, feeling the silken skin of her hand in his, her small fingers, the delicate bones he had to be careful not to crush. He was rapidly coming to the conclusion that when he walked over the threshold into her apartment, he’d actually walked into heaven. Seconds later she released his hand and he fell back to earth.

“It’s in one of these boxes,” she said, rooting around, looking for something. “Ah ha!” she exclaimed when she found it. She pulled out a thick photo album, stuffed to overflowing with pictures.

When she opened the front cover Max couldn’t help letting out a surprised gasp. Amongst the photographs of her friends and family, he saw his own face there as well, pictures from when he was young, and others when he was a teenager, and even a few of Isabel, too.

“Where did you get these?” Max stared at them in astonishment. She turned the page, revealing a 12 year old Max jumping a ramp on his skateboard, at 15 shooting hoops in his driveway, at 8 on a beach in Daytona making castles in the sand.

“Your mother gave them to me.”

“My mother?” Max said softly, feeling a pang in his heart. It’d been so many years.

“After you left, I told them,” she said, turning serious. “I mean, your parents already knew about – you – but there were other things I thought they should know.”

“What things?” Max asked cautiously.

“Like how you healed me,” Liz told him. “And the bird when you were 6. It was such a relief to your mother to finally know the truth. I told them what it was like for you, growing up without knowing who you were. I told them everything I knew about you, so they could understand why you had to go away. We’ve stayed close.”

“You’ve –” Max stuttered. “You’ve stayed close to my parents?”

Liz nodded, silently apologizing if he felt she’d betrayed his confidence. “There was no one for your parents to talk to. They had all these questions, and I was the only one who could answer them.”

“Thank you,” Max said, absorbing everything she’d said. “For being there when I couldn’t.” He looked at the photograph again, soaking up his parents faces. “So . . . how are they?”

“They’re good,” Liz said, hearing the emotion in his voice. His eyes showed it too, just a glimpse of how lonely these years had been for him, with no roots, no family, always hiding. “You mom had a cancer scare –”

“WHAT?” Max’s mouth dropped open. His mom had cancer? Why hadn’t Isabel told him? She dreamwalked his parents at night. She should have said something. He could have done something to help her.

Liz saw the guilt etched across his face, blaming himself for not being there when his mother needed him. “Max, she’s fine. She found a lump. They did a biopsy. It came back benign.”

“When?” he asked, still sounding shaky. For all of his gifts, he never seemed to be good enough. He always let down the ones he loved.

Liz tried to reassure him. “A couple of years ago. She’s fine. Really.” She flipped a few pages in the photo album, stopping when she came to a photograph of Philip and Diane Evans celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary. “See?”

Max swallowed past the sudden lump forming in his throat. He hadn’t seen his parents in so many years. They looked older, his dad with silver hair, his mom with wrinkles on her face. He looked at Liz, like a starving man hoping for another taste. “Do you have more?”

“I have lots more,” Liz smiled. She picked up the photo album and took his hand, taking them both over to the couch. They settled onto the comfortable cushions, side by side, with the album spread across their laps.

Liz showed Max faces he hadn’t seen in years. Jim Valenti, once more the Sheriff of Chaves County. Amy DeLuca, whose last name wasn’t DeLuca anymore; she’d married Jim five years ago. Kyle, who was married as well, with two boys of his own. Jeff and Nancy Parker, a little older, a little grayer, but not so different. And more pictures of his parents, at the Crashdown, in the park, Christmas dinner in their home. Max soaked up each and every photograph, committing them to memory. A record of all the years he’d missed.

“Do you ever think you’ll go home again?” Liz asked.

Max looked into her earnest face, his connection to all that was good in his life. Sitting beside her like this felt so right. The warmth of her shoulder touching his arm. Her thigh touching his thigh under the weight of the photo album. Her hand resting atop the photographs, so close to his.

He shook his head sadly. “I don’t think so. I want to, but I can’t take the risk.”

Her heart broke for him, sensing his loneliness again, his isolation from the world, knowing it wasn’t so different from what she’d felt herself over the years. Even with the cocoon of family and friends, it hadn’t been the same. Not without him to share it with.

Somewhere in the apartment, a clock chimed 11. Max shifted his eyes away from hers. “I should probably go. It’s getting late.”

He closed the photo album and Liz put it on the coffee table, beside their untouched drinks. Max rose to his feet, feeling awkward now that it was time to say goodnight. He turned toward the door, but her hand caught his, stopping him in his tracks.

“Not yet,” she said as he turned around to face her.

His heart did a funny dance as her warm hand drew him back to her. The expression on her face made his knees weak, revealing what he’d spent years praying for; that the love between them wasn’t just one sided.

“You haven’t said goodnight,” she said softly, focusing on his face, quivering from the way his eyes looked at her lips.

“No,” he leaned down, just a little, inching closer to her. “I haven’t.”

She stretched upwards, rising onto her toes, lifting up to meet him half way. They came together in the middle, Max just as hesitant as the first time he kissed her, slowly touching her lips with his, holding his breath as a part of him waited for her reaction. And just like that first time, the breath left his body at her open response. The connection they’d once had roared back to life, flooding them both with emotions they’d held in check for so many years. Their auras blended into one as the kiss deepened, melting all the years away.

His hands threaded into her hair to cup the sides of her head, hers curled around the lapel of his jacket to pull him close, neither one able to stop the spiraling intensity of the kiss. If there had been bells ringing, sirens screaming, or stars exploding, neither one would have heard it. They were in their own world now, where nothing else existed.

Max broke off the kiss just long enough to draw in a ragged breath, and then he went back for more, angling his mouth to better cover hers, unable to get enough of her. Her lips, like the taste of sweet ambrosia, filled all the empty places in him, in his heart and his mind and his soul.

Liz moaned into his mouth, intoxicated by his taste. For the first time in over 12 years, everything felt right to her. The lips kissing hers were the right lips. The hands in her hair were the right hands. The voice saying her name was the right voice. The body, pressing against her body, felt oh so incredibly right. Only Max Evans could do this to her, make her heart flutter, and her knees weak, and her stomach tremble. In all the years without him, no one else had ever come close to making her feel this way.

A rush of images hit Liz, a connection she’d been missing all the long years they’d been apart. Scenes from his life flashed through her mind, of how it killed him when he left Roswell without her, of how he held on to her memory through all the years they were apart, of how he never stopped loving her. She broke off the kiss to stare up into the eyes she’d loved for so long.

“Max . . .”

“Did you get a flash?” he asked, breathing heavily. He’d heard that tone in her voice before, the wonder, the awe that their connection inspired. He’d gotten a flash too, of how she’d felt when she saw him in the hospital corridor, the first time they’d seen each other in over 12 years. It amazed him that she could still feel that way about him after all this time.

“I’ve missed you so much,” Liz breathed out, threading her hand into his hair and pulling him back down to her. Their lips met again sending Max the full intensity of her emotions; showing him how much she wanted him, and needed him, and loved him. He sent back an answering call of his own through their deepening connection, telling her without words the things only his heart could say. His lips ravaged hers, one minute pressing hard against her mouth, the next tugging on her lower lip, then parting them with his tongue, nearly smothering her with the escalating intensity of the kiss. The flood gates were opened, releasing over a decade’s worth of pent up emotions. Nothing could hold them back.

Her hands slid up his chest, under the lapels of his jacket. Into his ear, she whispered, “Take off your coat.”

“You want …?”

He stared at her, swallowing hard. His heart was pounding furiously in his chest. Based on the pulse point in her throat, so was hers. He nearly stopped breathing when he felt her hands pushing his jacket off his shoulders.

“Liz?” Max gasped. “Do you know what you’re doing? Because –” he swallowed hard, looking at her red, swollen lips, then into her eyes again. “Because, I definitely – definitely – don’t.”

Liz struggled hard to catch her breath. She’d felt his desire in the flash, sensed how much he still loved her, knew he wanted this as much as she did, or was she reading him wrong?

“You don’t . . .?”

“No – YES! I mean, yes, I do, but . . .”

“But what?” she asked, seeing the uncertainty behind the longing in his eyes.

“Is this, are we,” Max stumbled over his words, finding it hard to form a coherent thought.

“Are we what?” she said, urging him to say what he was feeling.

“I don’t want you to do something you might later regret. Are we – is this – moving too fast?”

The concern on her face melted away; transforming into a smile of such beauty it stole his breath away. She lifted her hand to touch his cheek, stroking her thumb over his warm flesh.

“I’ve been dreaming about this for more than 12 years, Max. I thought about you everyday. Thought about all that we missed. In that other timeline, we would have made love that night you came to my balcony. We should have had that night, Max. I promised myself that if I ever found you again, and if I knew you felt the same, I wouldn’t let anything stand between us this time. So answer me Max, do you feel the same?”

“Yes,” he said, taking in a shaky breath.

Her fingers loosened the knot of his tie. “Do you think this is moving too fast?”

A thousand images raced through his head: of kissing Liz on her balcony, in the back seat of his jeep, on the couch in Michael’s apartment, under the stars in the desert. Waking up to the feel of her head resting on his arm, her warm body tucked close to his. Memories he’d never been able to forget. Did he think they were moving to fast? Hell no! Not considering it’d taken them nearly half a lifetime to get here. Unable to resist, Max dove at her again, covering her mouth with his, his right hand cupping her throat, his left arm circling around her back to hold her close. When she moaned, he felt it clear to his toes.

His lips savaged her mouth and then the column of her throat, kissing his way down to her shoulder and then back up again. His jacket fell to the floor at his feet. Her fingers deftly unfastened the top button of his shirt.

“Liz,” he breathed heavily into her ear, sending shivers down her spine. He felt her fingers move to the second button, the third. “There’s something I need to tell you. Something you should know . . .”

“What?” she mumbled, nuzzling against his cheek, his chin, seeking out his mouth again.

He kissed her hard, dragging out his confession. “I – it’s been – I haven’t…”

Liz broke her lips away from his, feeling his hand caressing her throat, his lips moving to kiss her forehead, then her temple. “What are you trying to say?”

He closed his eyes, forcing the words out. “I haven’t been with – I haven’t touched… anyone…”

Liz pulled back, her wide eyes staring up at Max’s glowing face, flushed with the heat of desire, or was it from confession?

“You mean?”

He let out a trapped breath of air and slowly nodded his head, relieved to get it out in the open.

“You haven’t?” She let the sentence hang.

He shook his head, looking seventeen again.

“What about?” She didn’t say the name, but they both knew who she meant. Jenny knew all his secrets. Liz had just assumed there was something more to their relationship.

Max’s voice came out soft and tender. “How could I? She wasn’t you.”

Liz melted all over again. She never thought this day would actually come, that their paths would ever cross again, that they’d be given this second chance. She’d all but given up, but he made her believe again, in the magic of star-crossed lovers.

“Are you telling me…I’ll be your first human?”

Max nodded, too overwhelmed to speak. What she was suggesting was something he’d dreamt about for years, but never thought would happen.

Liz cupped his hot cheek with her hand. She looked deeply into his eyes, giving him her own admission. “You’ll be my first alien.”

She watched his face, not sure what she was looking for. Disappointment that she hadn’t waited for him? Hurt that she’d been with another? Disillusioned by her admission? But looking into his eyes she saw none of those things, only the depth and the breadth of his love shining back. It didn’t matter what had transpired during the years they were apart.

Like magnets, their lips were drawn back together, twelve years worth of longing exploding in a kiss. His mouth covered hers, their eyes closed, lips open to each other, tongues touching, breaths mingling, heating the air around them. His hands caressed her throat, her shoulders, skimming feathery touches along her silken skin, briefly brushing the sides of her breasts before circling around to the exposed skin of her back.

“Ma –” she tried to say his name but his mouth covered hers, swallowing up the sound. He tugged at her lower lip causing a thrill to course right through her.

Max lost himself in the kiss, an act so much more than just the merging of their lips. Her body so close to his, made him feel things he’d kept buried for so long he’d thought they were dead. Want. Desire. Need. Love. It wasn’t just his body coming back to life, but his entire soul. His lips devoured hers, crushing her against him, alive for the first time in years.

“Max,” Liz pushed against his chest, breaking off the kiss.

He pulled in a lungful of air, struggling just to breathe. “What?”

“There’s no rush,” Liz soothed, looking up into his flushed face.

“Right.” Max’s cheeks burned a little hotter. “No rush. Sorry,” he flashed a quick, embarrassed smile.

“Don’t be.” Liz stroked her fingertips along his chin and down the length of his throat, her face giving in to a smile when she felt him swallow hard, his Adam’s apple bobbing beneath her touch. She slowly lowered the zipper on the side of her dress, making him swallow hard again.

Max felt her nimble fingers against his chest now, unfastening the buttons of his shirt, reminding him of another time and another place, when all his dreams had almost been realized. Would tonight give him back all that he’d lost? They’d lost?

“I want to touch you,” Liz said, pushing the shirt from his shoulders, exposing the rich color of his skin. “I want to feel you.”

Her hands moved across his shoulders, broader now than she remembered. He’d grown into a man over the years they’d been apart. His muscles quivered everywhere she touched him, his chest, his sides, his stomach, all reacting to the magic in her fingertips.

“I want to touch you, too,” Max said, brushing his thumb along her swollen lips. He leaned in to kiss her forehead and her eyebrows, reveling in the feel of her warmth, even better than he remembered.

Liz kissed the center of his muscular chest. “You’re so beautiful.”

“No,” Max breathed into her ear. His trembling fingers hooked under the spaghetti strap of her dress, slowly pulling it off her shoulder, exposing her breast to him for the first time. The sight made his heart race. “It’s you who’s beautiful.”

Liz took his hand, stepping backwards, in the direction of her bedroom. Max left his shirt and jacket on the living room floor, following her without hesitation, willing to go anywhere she wanted to take him.

They stopped when they reached the side of her bed, facing each other, both drinking in the moment. They’d come a long way to finally get here. Liz gently stroked her fingers over his face, touching his brow and his temples, his cheeks and his nose and his mouth. Max cupped her throat, caressed her shoulder, hesitantly fulfilled one of his deepest fantasies when he dropped his hand to touch her breast. Her skin felt warm against his palm, and supple, molding to fit in his hand.

“Liz,” he whispered with his eyes sliding closed. Could there be any better feeling than this?

“I love you, Max,” Liz whispered against his throat.

His hand reflexively tightened around Liz’s breast. He opened his eyes to see her looking up at him, the dark pools of her eyes revealing the depth of the love she felt for him, filling his empty shell and making him whole again.

“I love you.” His hand lifted from her breast to caress her face. “I always have.”

She kissed his palm and another flash hit him, of the first time he told her he loved her, shivering and wet in the rusted out shell of an old van. He shivered anew, but this time it wasn’t caused by the cold. He lifted her chin, bringing her lips up to meet his. His head descended slowly, savoring the sensation as they came together, his eyes closing as their connection opened to wrap them in a loving cocoon. Their lips merged in an extended kiss.

Max slid his fingers under the one remaining spaghetti strap, dragging it across her shoulder and down her arm. The sheer fabric of the dress floated down to pool on the floor around their feet. Max watched in fascination as her fingers slipped between her hips and her panties, sending them to the floor to join her dress. Their bodies instinctively moved closer together, bare chest coming into contact with bare chest.

“Liz,” he groaned against her mouth, feeling her breasts pressing into his heated skin.

“I’m here,” she said around another kiss, using her mouth and her hands and their connection to tell him this was where she wanted to be. Now. Tomorrow. Always. Her hands skimmed down his back, stopping at the waistband of his slacks, moving around his sides to unfasten the button at the front. She lowered the zipper, brushing against the hardness on the other side.

“God,” Max grabbed for her hand, certain that just a touch would do him in. His fears of inadequacy broadcast loud and clear through their connection.

“It’s okay,” Liz murmured, cupping him through his shorts. When his lips pulled away from hers she chased after him, showing him in no uncertain terms just how much she wanted him.

Max threaded his fingers through her silky hair, holding the back of her head to keep her close to him. His nose nuzzled her cheek; his lips kissed her eyes, her forehead. “I want it to be good for you. I don’t want to disappoint you.”

“You can’t. You won’t.” Just being with him was more than she ever dreamed.

Max swallowed hard, feeling Liz’s hands tug at his pants, his shorts, gliding the material down his legs. He stepped out of his clothes and stood before her with nothing separating them, both stripped of the past and the baggage that came with it. They came together, wrapping their arms around each other, souls laid as bare as their skin.

Their lips fused together as he lowered her to the bed, his hand cradling her head as she touched the pillow. His body settled over hers, feeling her soft warmth beneath him, the ambrosia of her aroused sex offering him a feast for a starving man. Her lips fed his hunger, her touch nourished his soul, her all abiding love filled his heart.

“I knew it would be like this,” Liz sighed, looking up into his face. Her hand caressed the back of his neck, touching the silky strands of hair that curled there.

“Like what?” Max asked, hovering above her. His arms held the brunt of his weight so he wouldn’t crush her, though he didn’t need to worry about that. She welcomed the feel of his stomach pressing against hers, his hips in the space between her legs, his sex proud and ready.

“Perfect,” she said, pulling him down to her.

Max let Liz guide the pace of their lovemaking, kisses and touches at first while they learned what felt good and what felt even better. She liked the feel of his lips in the tender spot right behind her ear. He’d never known his throat was an erogenous zone until her tongue touched him there. He became fascinated by the way her nipples puckered when he touched them. She found the moans he made when she nibbled on his navel highly arousing.

When she took his sex in her hand and led him to her center he held his breath in erotic anticipation, but reality was even better than his fantasies and his dreams. She was all he had ever wanted, and after spending years without her, his wishes were finally granted. He slid into her depths shouting from the joy of it, or maybe that was only in his head, a cacophony of angels singing a blessing to their union.

Their bodies moved together in ageless rhythm, yet unique unto themselves, each stroke, each touch, each brush of skin against skin only for each other. His concentration became centered on the place of their joining, sensations of such intense pleasure flowing between them he didn’t know which were hers and which were his. Nor did it matter. He lived only in this moment, and then the next, and the next, each one better than the last, building and building toward that ultimate experience.

When it came it hit with the intensity of a supernova sweeping across the universe, an explosion of such joy their voices echoed off the walls around them. Their hands, bodies, minds, all joined, interwoven, connected on the deepest level, no longer two separate beings, but one, united in their hearts and souls.

A bond, years in the making, finally cemented.

You’ve got the look of love,
It’s on your face
A look that time can’t eraser

Be mine tonight
Let this be just the start of so many nights like this
Let’s take a lovers vow and then seal it with a kiss

I can hardly wait to hold you, feel my arms around you
How long I have waited
Waited just to love you, now that I have found you

Don’t ever go
Don’t ever go

The Look of Love
Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66
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An Imperfect Life, Part 18

Post by Breathless » Sun Dec 10, 2006 2:03 am

I'm so pleased about the responses to the last chapter. It was a long time coming, but hopfully worth the wait. I'm running really late, so I'll post this part without further delay...

An Imperfect Life
Part 18

I don’t quite know
How to say
How I feel

Those three words
Are said too much
They’re not enough

If I lay here, if I just lay here
Would you lie with me
And just forget the world
Forget what we’re told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden
That’s bursting into life

All that I am,
All that I ever was
Is here in your perfect eyes
They’re all I can see

If I lay here, if I just lay here
Would you lie with me
And just forget the world

Chasing Cars
Snow Patrol

The dark curtain of sleep slowly lifted from Max’s mind, rousing him from sweet dreams. He held on to the remnants, wishing sleep to remain, to preserve the cherished images his mind conjured.

The soft feel of sweet lips. The warm touch of a tender hand. The intoxicating smell of her rich scent. The unaccustomed presence of her warm body curled up next to his.

Max’s eyes popped open, sudden awareness chasing all the cobwebs of sleep from his mind. Her soft breaths rhythmically kissed the bare skin of his chest, bringing everything rushing back in crystal clarity.

Her lips. Her skin. The way she sighed his name.

His body had never been more tired. Or more satisfied.

Liz shifted slightly, moaning as she moved. Max lay on his back aware of every inch of her; the way her head currently rested on his chest, her breasts pressed into his side, her warm hand resting on his stomach, her leg draped over his thigh. He studied her as she slept, letting his eyes roam from her angelic face to her shoulders, down her beautiful and arousing chest to her belly and below. They’d fallen asleep together without even a sheet to cover them, and her nakedness was beyond description. So beautiful. So innocent in sleep, so sensual when awake. She stirred again, her bare thigh tightening around his thigh, her hand rising up the expanse of his muscular chest.

Was she waking up, too, he wondered? And if she was, would she want to resume where they left off? Because, if she did, he could definitely – definitely – go for that. A smile graced his lips, remembering how it felt to kiss her, to touch her, to be inside her.

Max lifted his hand to brush a few errant strands of dark hair back from her face so he could study her more closely. Her face looked mature now, not a girl’s face, but a woman’s. For so many years her image in his mind had remained seventeen; it was an adjustment now to see the woman she’d grown into.

In sleep her face looked smooth, relaxed, so very peaceful. During the day lines of worry creased her brow, evidence of a life that hadn’t gone exactly according to plan. And now he knew another Face of Liz. Her passion face, sensual and beautiful. The image of her above him, riding him with such fervor, back arched, eyes closed, breasts high, was now forever burned into his memory. He stroked her cheek, content just to touch her for now, though her body so close to his made him stir with renewed desire.

His lips brushed her forehead, pleased to coerce another moan from her. If she wasn’t going to wake up on her own then he’d just have to help her. And then he would make love with her again, and again, until he couldn’t move anymore.

“Hey,” Liz stretched, pressing her body even closer than before. She smiled up at Max with a sleepy grin.

“Hey,” Max echoed her greeting. He nuzzled against her cheek and ear before seeking out her mouth again.

“Have I unleashed a monster?” Liz teased, feeling his growing hardness on her thigh.

“Hummm.” Max nudged her over onto her back. His hand cupped her breast while his mouth placed small kisses along one shoulder. “A sex beast.”

“My sex beast,” Liz giggled, feeling his nose tickle her throat. Before she could get another word out, his mouth covered hers, kissing her with the kind of passion she hadn’t felt since long ago days in the eraser room, or nights on Michael’s couch. They’d never made love back then, something had always come between them, but the past was over now. And if his state of arousal was any indication, Max definitely – definitely – appeared ready to make up for lost time.

His kiss deepened, his mind flooded with only one thought; loving Liz Parker. He shifted his weight, moving his naked body more fully onto hers, feeling her welcoming response. Her legs parted, letting him settle comfortably between her thighs. Her hand skimmed along the muscles of his back, up the elegant length of his neck into the dark, thick hair at the back of his head.

“Liz.” His voice came out deep and husky, his warm breath against her throat making her tremble. His hand cupped her breast, his aroused manhood pressed into her center, his lips kissed a trail to her ear where he whispered, “I could live inside you forever.”


He raised his head, smiling down at her with such a boyish grin, some witty comeback poised on his lips, when an insistent noise interrupted the moment. The smile on his face faded, turning to a frown, then deepened to concern as he pushed away from her.

Liz felt the sudden loss of his body heat. “What’s wrong?”

“What time is it?” Max swept his eyes around her bedroom. When he saw the glowing numbers on her bedside clock, the concern in his voice took on an edge of panic. “Two o’clock? It’s two o’clock?”

“Max?” Liz startled, watching him bolt from the bed.

“Where’s my phone?” Panic raised his strained voice. “Where’s my phone!”

Liz watched him scramble through the discarded clothes on her bedroom floor, recognizing the muffled sounds of a ringing cell phone. When he pulled it from his pants pocket, the strident tone filled the air, like an ominous trumpeter heralding doom.

Max flipped the phone open, blanching at the name in the display window. He slammed the phone against his ear.

“Evan? Evan, are you okay?” Max rushed out the words. The world came to a stop while he waited to hear an answer, any answer, but only silence greeted him. “Evan, are you there?”

Liz gathered the sheet around her and scooted to the edge of the bed, watching fear creep into Max’s face. She reached for his hand to offer comfort and support, the reality of what was wrong only now soaking in, but his mind was miles away, in a little white house on a quiet cul-de-sac.

“Evan? Answer me! Are you okay?”

A raspy voice came through the connection, distant and strained, no more than a whisper.

“Dad . . .”

“Evan!” Max let out a trapped breath, relieved to hear his son’s voice, but fear gripped him even tighter. He’d never heard Evan sound this bad before. “Are you all right? Talk to me. Talk to me!”

The raspy sounds of a boy struggling for breath came through the phone line, coloring Max’s world in shades of fear.

“Dad . . . help . . .”

“Evan!” Max fumbled for his pants, shaking so hard he could barely pick them up. Liz scrambled to his side, helping him dress while he concentrated on his son. “Evan, hold on. Hold on! Try to calm down, and breathe slowly like I taught you, son. Can you do that Evan? Can you concentrate real hard?”

“It . . . not . . . working . . .”

“Oh God.” Max shoved his bare feet in his shoes. The hell with his socks. He didn’t know where they were, and he didn’t care. All he could think about was Evan, alone on the other side of the island. Dying.

“I’m sorry Dad.” As he spoke, Evan’s voice grew progressively weaker.

“Don’t you say that Evan!” Max shouted into the phone. “You’re going to be fine, do you hear me? Fine! I’m NOT going to let anything happen to you.”

Liz scrambled into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, not bothering with any underwear. From the tone of Max’s voice, there wasn’t time. She slipped on a pair of shoes and followed him out into the living room of her apartment.

“Evan,” Max said into the phone as he jerked his shirt off the floor and tugged it on. “Can you hear me? Are you still there? Evan! Talk to me!”

“Max,” Liz squeezed his arm, trying to calm him. Panicking wasn’t going to help his son.

Max pulled the phone slightly away from his ear. “I can’t hear him.”

His eyes looked wild, scared, more frightened than she’d ever seen him before. His voice trembled as he put the phone back to his ear. “Evan, hold on. I’m coming. I’m coming!”

Max raced for the door with Liz fast on his heels.

“I’m coming with you.” She grabbed a jacket and followed him out into the night.

At the car Max fumbled with his key, but his hand trembled too much to line it up with the lock. Frustration and fear drove him to use his powers without bothering to check if anyone was close enough to see what he was doing. When he wrenched open the door, Liz grabbed his arm.

“Let me drive.”

Max stared at her for a moment, breathing heavily, feeling his whole world turning upside down.

“Max, you’re in no shape to drive,” Liz said, taking the keys out of his hand. “You keep talking to Evan; I’ll get us there in one piece.”

Max hurried around to the passenger side without argument while Liz climbed behind the wheel of the car. She jammed the keys in the ignition, forcing herself not to peel rubber when she pulled out into the street. Getting a ticket now wouldn’t help matters.

“DAMNIT!” Max growled into the phone.

Liz shot a look at him as she sped down the road. “What is it?”

“I lost the signal.” Max jammed his fingers against the buttons, redialing his home number. He brought the phone up to his ear again, only to cry out once more in frustration. “Damnit!”

“What?” Liz felt helpless in the face of his panic. She slowed at a stop light just long enough to check for cross traffic, then sped through the red light.

“I can’t get through. I can’t get through!” Max slammed his fist against the door of the car, needing a physical outlet for his fear.

“We’ll get there in time,” Liz said, reaching for his hand to reassure him. “I promise.”

She knew it was a promise she had no control over, but she refused to even think the unimaginable. Evan was just a boy. A little boy. They had to get there in time.

Max turned his head to face her, with the lights from the dashboard illuminating the tears in his eyes. “I can’t lose him, Liz,” his voice trembled. “I can’t.”

Guilt washed over him, blaming himself for his son’s fate. He’d gotten so wrapped up in his own selfish needs, he’d forgotten all about Evan. How could he forget his own son? Or the ritual they went through each night to keep him alive? What kind of man was he?

“I’m sorry, Max,” Liz gave voice to her own gnawing sense of guilt. “If I hadn’t asked you to stay . . .”

Max shook his head. “It’s not your fault.”

“It’s not yours either,” Liz countered. “You’ve always been there for him. You’ll be there this time, too.”

“I know it was hard on you, Liz,” Max said, lowering his head. “When I told you Tess was pregnant. That I – that he was mine. She was the biggest mistake I ever made. But – he’s my son, and I love him. I know when you look at him you see Tess –”

“No,” Liz said, cutting off his remorseful apology. “I don’t see Tess anywhere in him. Evan is just like his father. Sweet, and kind, and special. And we’re not going to let anything bad happen to him.”

“Liz –” Max choked on her name.

“I’ve only known him for a short time, Max, but I love him already. How could I not? He’s your son.”

A tear brimmed over Max’s eye and fell down the side of his nose. He brushed at it with a shaky hand, embarrassed for her to see him this way, though he knew she wouldn’t judge him. She had the most generous soul of anyone he had ever known.

“Try calling him again,” Liz urged, nodding toward the phone in his hand.

Max made the call, forcing his finger to press the buttons slowly so he wouldn’t hit the wrong number. It rang six times before Max heard the connection go though.

“Evan?” Max waited, praying, listening for his son’s voice on the other end. After an agonizing minute his prayers were answered.

“Dad . . .”

“We’re almost there,” Max told his son, watching the street signs flash by in the car headlights. “Just a few more minutes.”

“. . . scared . . . me . . .”

“What?” Max leaned into the phone. Evans’ voice was so low Max could barely hear him.

“. . . hate . . . Liz . . .”

“Evan, I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

“Tell him not to talk, Max,” Liz said, slipping into medical mode. “He should conserve his strength.”

“Liz says you shouldn’t talk,” Max said into the phone. Evan’s voice came back at him, as distant as the stars, only a whisper of a sound.

“I don’t wanna go . . .”

“You’re not going anywhere, do you hear me Evan!” Max shouted.

Liz whipped the car around the corner, more reckless than she should have been, but they were almost there now. Max’s house came into view looking peaceful and quiet, just like all the other houses on the block. No one would guess the kind of drama playing out behind those dark windows.

Max was out of the car before Liz pulled it to a screeching stop in the driveway. He used his powers to fling the front door open and raced inside, with Liz running behind him, hearing his agonized cries.

“Evan! I’m here! Where are you?”

His initial scan of the living room showed no indication of trouble. Oversized pillows on the floor spoke of Saturday night DVD’s, or an evening spent playing the latest video game. All normal activities for a 13 year old boy.

Max bolted past the immaculate kitchen, quickly ascertaining nothing had gone wrong there, then raced down the hallway to his son’s room. When he reached it, he froze in the doorway, facing his deepest, darkest fear. Evan’s pajama clad body lay face down on the carpet with a portable telephone clutched in his seemingly lifeless hand.

“EVAN!” Max raced into the room, falling to his knees beside his son. He turned him over, crying, “Oh Jesus. Oh God. Don’t do this. Please don’t do this!”

Liz stood in the doorway, feeling guilt weigh her down. If only she hadn’t asked Max to stay. Then Evan would be all right now. Why did her love for him always come at such a price?

Evan’s eyelids fluttered, slowly lifting up to look at his father. “Dad . . .”

“Oh God,” Max cried out in relief. He placed his hand in the middle of Evan’s chest and instructed, “Look at me. You have to look at me.”

Evan forced his eyes to stay open. He knew the ritual, the connection his father had to form to allow his healing powers to work effectively. But tonight Evan let his gaze drift over to Liz, the only person who had ever rivaled him in regard to his father’s love. If tonight was to be the last night of his life, he would die knowing his father wouldn’t be alone.

“Evan, you have to look at me!”

Liz entered the room and dropped to her knees beside the boy, using her medical training to assess Evan’s condition. Pale skin. Blue lips. Dark circles under his eyes. Respiration thready. He wasn’t getting enough oxygen into his deprived lungs.

“I’ll call an ambulance.” Liz pried the phone out of Evan’s hand. Max’s healing abilities could only do so much. The extent of Evan’s deterioration sapped Max’s power long before the healing was complete.

Max sent every ounce of energy that he had into his dying son, praying to God it would be enough.

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An Imperfect Life, Part 19

Post by Breathless » Mon Dec 25, 2006 1:17 am

Thanks to everyone for your good wishes during our recent weather woes. The power is back, company is gone for the day, and I finally have enough time to post the new part.

Also I want to thank those that nominated this fic in the current round of awards. It’s an honor to be recognized. Good luck to everyone nominated this time around.

Hope everyone is having a great holiday!

One clarification of the time frame before continuing the story. In the last part, when Max and Liz awoke after making love, the time was 2 o’clock in the morning. It was shortly after that when they reached Evan back at Max’s house. Max did get caught up in being with Liz, and he did miss his “usual” healing time with his son, but Evan wasn’t left alone for the entire night.

An Imperfect Life
Part 19

Morning smiles
Like the face of a newborn child
Innocent unknowing
Winter's end
Promises of a long lost friend
Speaks to me of comfort

But I fear
I have nothing to give
I have so much to lose

Here in this lonely place
Tangled up in our embrace
There's nothing I'd like
Better than to fall

But I fear
I have nothing to give
I have so much to lose
I have nothing to give
We have so much to lose

Sarah McLachlan

Max raced along the hospital corridor keeping pace with the gurney bearing his unconscious son. He held Evan’s hand, cautiously sending him small doses of healing power, draining himself but not caring. All that mattered was his son. Peripherally, he was aware of Jenny running in high heels, holding up the skirt of her ball gown with one hand, while feeling for Evan’s pulse with the other. Liz and Brad’s raised voices echoed down the hallway, arguing over Evan’s care. Max silently rooted for Liz to persevere, grateful beyond words that she was here.

“This is crazy!” Brad accused, still dressed in evening attire, tie askew. “He should be in the ER!”

“No,” Liz insisted, pushing the gurney at a fast clip while Brad struggled to keep up with her. “I’m taking him to the PCC.”

“The Pediatric Unit? It’s not even open yet,” Brad argued. “How can –”

“It’s got all the specialized equipment I need to handle critical cases,” Liz growled, breathing heavily from both exertion and adrenaline, not to mention frustration. She couldn’t tell Brad the real reasons why she wanted Evan isolated.

She shot a glance at Max to see how he was holding up. She knew he was in shock himself, and draining his energy to dangerous levels in order to keep Evan alive. Their eyes met for a moment in a silent exchange, Liz trying to reassure him Evan would be okay, and Max trying to believe her.

The gurney slowed as it neared the elevator. Liz reached for the button to open the doors. Brad blocked her with his body. “Liz, you’re putting the patient at risk –”

Liz turned on him like a mother bear defending her cub. “If you don’t like how I’m handling this case then go report me!”

“Liz, you’re not following –”

“I mean it Brad,” Liz cut him off again, glaring at him with fire in her eyes. “Either get out of my way, or we’re going right through you!”

“Liz.” Max said her name softly. He’d spent his entire life trying to avoid the kind of public scene she was creating. They were attracting attention from the medical night staff, and with Evan’s life hanging in the balance, they didn’t have time to waste.

She looked at Max quickly, instantly sensing his silent request. She turned back to face Brad, lowering her voice to a reasonable level.

“Look Brad, I know this might seem unorthodox to you, but I know what I’m doing. You’re a heart surgeon, not a pediatrician. You can treat one of the symptoms of Evan’s illness, but not the underlying problem. That’s my expertise. I know the patient. I know the best treatment for him. And I say what he needs is on the 6th floor, not in the ER.”

Conflicting emotions played across Brad’s face. In all the years he’d known Liz, she’d never been reckless, especially when it came to patient care. Her treatment plans had always been without reproach. She’d been top of her field in med school, and her skills had only improved since then. Against his better judgment, he stepped back, giving her room.

“For his sake,” Brad looked down at the unconscious boy on the gurney, “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

Liz stared at Brad, fervently hoping the same thing. Evan had been sick for many years, in truth, from the moment of his conception. But she was bound and determined he wouldn’t live the rest of his life this way. She was a doctor. Her job was to save lives, even if they weren’t entirely human.

The elevator doors slid open to complete their journey to the 6th floor. Liz led the gurney inside, with one goal only – to find a cure to Evan’s illness. Failure wasn’t an option.

* * * * *

Max stood off to the side of the examining room aware of every sound around him. The beeping monitors attached to Evan’s body. The ticking of the clock on the stark white antiseptic wall. The murmuring voices of the two women trying to save his son’s life.

“Pulse 110, BP stabilizing.”

“Let’s start a saline drip. Hand me that IV start kit.”

Sometime during the night, Liz and Jenny had changed from street attire into blue scrubs and white lab coats. They worked over Evan, inserting tubes in his airway, taking out vials of blood, monitoring his vitals. Max watched their skilled movements, too tired to move, too exhausted to help, too worried to sleep. They’d fought most of the night to keep his son alive and now, hours later, as the clock ticked toward dawn, Evan was finally starting to show signs of improvement.

Jenny moved the stethoscope away from Evan’s chest, taking a moment to gently brush his hair back from his forehead. “He’s breathing a little easier now.”

“Thank God.” Liz let out a sigh of relief. It’d been touch and go since they found Evan unconscious on his bedroom floor, and for a while she hadn’t been sure if they could save him. “He’s starting to get some color back.”

Max took a shaky step forward. “Is he …?”

Liz looked up, shifting her medical eye from one patient to another. Max looked dead on his feet. She suspected it was only sheer force of will that was keeping him upright. She handed two vials of blood to Jenny and then moved across the room to be with Max.

“He’s doing better,” Liz said, reaching for his hand. “He’ll probably sleep for a while. Why don’t you try to get some rest, too? You look exhausted.”

“I’m okay.” He looked over Liz’s shoulder to the small body of his son, dwarfed by the size of the large examination table.

“His vitals are looking much better.” She squeezed Max’s hand trying to reassure him. “He’s out of the woods.”

His eyes looked haunted, guilt ridden, his tortured voice despondent. “Are you sure? He’s still unconscious.”

“He’s going to be all right,” Liz promised.

“This time,” Max said, wanting to believe her. “But what about next time? Or the time after that? Each attack makes him weaker. And I, one of these times–” his voice broke, unable to finish.

“That’s why I wanted him here,” Liz spoke softly. “I want to find out what’s causing Evan’s condition. There’s specialized equipment here, and what I don’t have I can get.”

“How’s that going to help?” Max asked, despondent. “Jenny’s been trying for years to treat him, but nothing ever works.”

Liz led Max to a chair in the corner of the room and forced him to sit down. His exhaustion was clouding his judgment. The last thing she wanted Evan to overhear was his father giving in to defeat.

“Max, listen to me,” Liz said, holding his hands. “Jenny is a very good doctor. She’s helped you with Evan’s care all these years, but she doesn’t have the clinical background I have. You see, I grew up with a boy who had a very unique genetic structure. Because of that, when I went into medical school, I was fascinated with the study of genetics. I came this close to becoming a Fellow in Clinical Research at Johns Hopkins, but in the end I decided on Pediatrics. Do you know why I chose Pediatrics?”

“No,” Max said in a small voice. At barely five foot nothing, Liz could be a commanding presence.

“Because of that little boy over there,” Liz said, pointing a finger in Evan’s direction. “Genetically he’s unique. The offspring of two alien/human hybrids, but on the cellular level appearing completely human. It made me want to learn everything I could about genetics. Do you understand what I’m telling you Max?”

Max shook his head. He’d been her biology partner in high school, but he hadn’t picked up a science book in years.

Liz released Max’s hand to retrieve a fresh syringe from the cart beside Evan’s bed. She returned to Max with a swab, a rubber strap, and a determined face.

“I’m going to take a sample of your blood, Max, and compare it to Evan’s. There has to be something in his genetic structure that’s causing his lungs to stop working. And when I find it, we’re going to heal your son. Permanently.”

* * * * *

With a sigh, Liz leaned back and stretched, trying to loosen the stiffness in her shoulders. She was going on 36 hours without sleep, reminiscent of her days as an intern. Across the lab table, Jenny unsuccessfully fought back a yawn.

“Why don’t you go get some rest?” Liz suggested.

“No, I’m fine,” Jenny objected, and then was hit with another yawn.

“Sure you are,” Liz smiled. They’d moved Evan to one of the patient rooms out on the ward where he now was resting comfortably, although he hadn’t yet regained consciousness. When she checked on him an hour ago, she’d found Max sleeping soundly in a chair pulled close to the bed, holding his son’s hand, with his head resting on the blanket at Evan’s side. It was a sight that made her heart ache.

Refocusing, she placed a blood coated slide into the microscope. “We’ll set the baseline with this sample.” She studied it for a minute, then announced, “It looks normal. Completely, entirely, normal.”

Liz sat back, allowing Jenny to take a look.

“It’s always this way,” Jenny said after examining the slide. “After Max does his magic, Evan is the picture of health. Then within hours, his body starts to act like oxygen is a poison to him. Toxins build up in his system. He struggles so hard to breathe, while at the same time, his body rejects the very air he needs to live. His alveoli stop absorbing oxygen, the bronchioles constrict. Without Max, his lungs would just shut down completely.”

“And you’ve tried asthma medications?”

Jenny sighed. “That was a disaster. It took a lot of convincing on my part to sway Max to even try it. He was so hesitant, with good reason. Within seconds of administering the dosage, Evan went into anaphylactic shock. We almost lost him. I didn’t think Max was going to be able to bring him out of it. He was so exhausted afterward, for a while I was worried he might have done irreparable harm to himself.”

Liz’s stomach quaked. “How awful.”

“We doctors are so used to giving a pill for this, or a drug for that, to cure the world’s ills. But for Evan, medication is not an option.”

“Have you considered a lung transplant?”

“Considered and rejected it,” Jenny said. “Evan’s genetic makeup is unique. The chances of finding a match for him are, well, astronomical, and even if we did, the possibility of his body rejecting the organs would be extremely high.”

“Right,” Liz muttered, but her mind was off and running with something Jenny had said.

“Besides,” Jenny added, “he couldn’t tolerate the anti-rejection drugs.”

“Of course,” Liz sighed. “You know, Evan’s condition is congenital. Tess knew there was a problem even before he was born.”


“Evan’s mother.”

“Ah. Max has never mentioned her by name. Did you know her?”

Liz’s eyes hardened. “Unfortunately, yes.”

Jenny raised an eyebrow. “That bad?”

“You have no idea. She had no conscience what-so-ever. No humanity. On the outside she looked innocent, put up a great front batting those baby blue eyes of hers, but inside, she was pure evil.”

“She sounds horrible. What happened to her? All Max said was that she was dead.”

Liz shook her head at the memory. “Tess left Roswell when she was pregnant. When she came back, with Evan, it wasn’t very subtle. The spaceship she used –”

Jenny’s eyes widened. “Spaceship?”

“Spaceship,” Liz confirmed, aware of Jenny’s incredulous look. “Believe me, when you’ve seen the things I’ve seen, talking about spaceships doesn’t seem so weird. Anyway, her ship collided with an air force jet and crashed in the desert. The military recovered the ship, but Tess escaped with the baby. They tracked her back to Roswell, and they ended up acquiring evidence about Max and the others. That they weren’t exactly human. Tess’s way of dealing with it was to take the base out. Literally. She blew it up, destroyed the evidence and herself with it. A suicide mission. That was the night Max left Roswell. I never saw him again, until I came here.”

“Amazing,” Jenny said. “It’s a good thing Evan didn’t inherit his mother’s personality. He could never hurt anyone.”

Liz’s features softened. “He’s the sweetest little boy, isn’t he? So much like his father.”

“I’ve never seen a father and son closer.”

Movement on the security monitor caught their attention. Liz groaned.

As a safety precaution, cameras were positioned at all elevators and in all hospital corridors, especially on the labor and delivery, and the children’s wards. Striding out of the elevator, face set with determination, dressed in khaki slacks and a white lab coat, was none other than Brad Acker.

“Damnit,” Liz slumped. “I can’t deal with him right now.”

“Let me,” Jenny stood.

“No,” Liz said. “He means well, but he doesn’t understand. I’ll go talk to him.”

As she exited the lab and closed the door behind her, Brad’s strident footsteps were clearly audible. She hurried down the hallway to intercept him. When he came barreling around the corner, they almost collided.

Brad grabbed her shoulders to keep her from falling backwards.

“What are you doing here?” Liz demanded, shaking him off.

“I came to check on the patient.”

“He’s stabilized.”

“Liz, this is highly irregular,” he said, jaw clenching.

“Did you report me?” she asked. She could tell he was still angry. He stared at her for a minute before answering.


“Why not?” When he failed to respond, she asked, “Is it because you trust me?”

“You never gave me a reason to doubt you.”

“Until now?” she said, sensing the words he’d left unspoken.

“He’s clouding your judgment, Liz.”

“Who? Max?” Liz said. His silence confirmed it. “Brad, this isn’t about Max. Or you. Or me. It’s about Evan. And I’ll do whatever it takes to make him well, no matter how it looks to anyone else.”

“You’re risking your job –”

“I don’t give a damn about the job!” Liz growled, then forced herself to calm down. “Look Brad, you always trusted me before. I need you to trust me now.”

After a thoughtful pause, Brad sighed. “All right.”

“Can you run interference for us?” she asked. “Keep the administration away until this is over?”

“You’re asking a lot, Liz,” he said.

“I know I am,” she replied, “and I’m sorry. I wish there was another way …”

“Do I get an explanation?” he asked. “Later?”

She couldn’t answer. Her head shook almost imperceptibly.

“Secrets,” he sighed. “You always had them.” Reconciled, he said, “I’ll run interference for as long as I can. Just promise me one thing.”

“If I can,” she said cautiously.

“Promise to call me if you need me. If Evan needs me. I don’t want anything to happen to him either.”

“I will,” she promised, squeezing his hand. “Thank you.”

* * * * *

The door to the Critical Care lab opened and Liz entered, closing it behind her. Jenny tore her eyes away from the microscope and glanced toward the security monitor.

“Is he gone?”

“For now,” Liz said, sitting down across the table from Jenny. “Look, I’m sorry about before. When I called you, after we found Evan, I didn’t know that you and Brad – that you were –”

“It was nothing,” Jenny cut in. “After the dance we went for coffee. We talked for awhile. He has a lot of interesting stories.”

“That’s true,” Liz smiled.

“He seems to be a good doctor.”

“He is. Sometimes he comes over as rather full of himself, but he really does care about his patients.”

“And you,” Jenny said.

Liz stared at her, not knowing what to say. “I – I couldn’t be who he wanted me to be. Or who he deserved. Someone who could love him without reservation.”

Jenny sighed. “I can relate.”

As soon as the words escaped Jenny’s mouth Liz could tell she wished she could grab them back. Sitting up a little straighter, Liz picked at a nonexistent spot on the tabletop. Jenny had opened the door. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure. Anything.”

Liz paused, gathering her thoughts. Finally, she looked at Jenny and asked, “How did you and Max meet?”

“Oh, that’s – well – an interesting story.” Smiling slightly, she added, “I’ve never been able to tell it to anyone before. Not the real story.”

“Knowing Max does that. I’ve spent years keeping secrets.”

“I didn’t mind,” Jenny said, then stuttered, “I mean, Max – and Evan – when I found out, it was such a shock.”

Liz chuckled. “Meeting aliens kind of does that to you.”

“No kidding,” Jenny laughed too.

“So…” Liz prompted.

“It was years ago. Evan was just a baby. I was in my first year of med school. They were driving through Seattle, Max and his friend Michael. Do you know Michael?”

Liz nodded, leaning forward with her elbows on the lab table. “Oh yeah, I know Michael.”

“He can be a little … intense.”

“He’s gone through a lot in his life.”

“I never really got a chance to get to know him,” Jenny said.

Liz turned inward. “I’m not sure I ever really knew him.”

“The first time I saw them was in a McDonalds,” Jenny began, “not far from the U – the University of Washington, that’s were I went to med school. They were eating lunch at a table not far from mine, and I noticed the baby was wheezing. Max looked so young and inexperienced, and the sound of Evan’s breathing worried me. I already knew I wanted to specialize in pediatrics, so I thought I might offer my assistance. Just as I got up, Max picked up Evan and took him outside. I dumped my lunch tray in the garbage and followed.

“At first, I wasn’t sure where he went, then I saw Max hunched over in the front seat of an old Ford Escort. I raised my hand to knock on the window, ready to ask if everything was all right, and then I saw Max’s hand on the baby’s chest. Glowing. I freaked out. Michael grabbed me from behind.”

“That is so Michael,” Liz said, still absorbing the story. “Max must have been a wreck, trying to care for Evan, and keep Michael from going commando.”

“By the time Max convinced Michael to let me go, I was so wrapped up in Evan’s plight, I couldn’t have walk away even if I wanted to. And Max …”

“He’s hard to walk away from, too,” Liz said wistfully.

Jenny’s face suddenly changed, becoming flushed, strained. “Liz, Max and I, we never – we were just – we’ve always been just –”

“Friends?” Liz offered, smiling. “It’s okay, really. All those years we spent apart, I had no claim to him.”

“Liz,” Jenny said, shaking her head softly. “Don’t you know? You owned him. I never had a chance. No one did. He was willing to be true to your memory for the rest of his life.”

Liz sighed. “I never wanted that. I wanted him to be happy. To make a good life for him and his son.”

“He did,” Jenny assured her. “He and Evan have had a great life here. But that’s also what’s made me worry about him so much. His whole world revolves around Evan. If something–”

Liz cut her off. “We’re not going to let anything happen to that child. I promise. The answer is here, we just have to find it.”

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