Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 62 Pg 22 - 12 / 29 [COMPLETE]

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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 29 Pg 16 - 12

Post by Misha » Tue Dec 23, 2014 8:12 pm

Ok, be honest, did anybody suspect what was going to happen in this chapter? :twisted:

August 4th, 2011 – Day 1756 and counting

I've always been fond of the saying "nothing is what it seems" for obvious reasons. What I've come to discover is that is not all that funny when the person who isn't what he seems to be is not me.

For one thing, it makes me paranoid.

Chapter Thirty
Familiar Faces

It took Max another six days before Summers relented and let him go. Summers wasn't an idiot, Max knew, but maybe they could work a silent agreement that Max would give better results if Summers wasn't jerking him around.

So far, the only reason he was let go was because Summers had so much information he couldn't have Max producing more. New tests needed to be designed, new measurements to be thought out. In that regard, Frank was the master mind, and with Frank on the equation, things were bound to get easier and more relax around.

He'd told John last night he had a fair chance to be out today, but had no idea at what time he might pull it off. He wasn't even sure if John had gotten the message, to tell the truth.

On his way out, Maggs stopped him. "Would you mind if I take that cup of coffee with you?" she asked, taking her keys out of her purse. "I can save you the driving," she smiled.

Max forced himself to smile back. "I'd love to."

In all honesty, this was the first time in his life that he was going to have coffee with Maggs. Ever since he'd taken the drug, she'd always kept him at arms' length when it came to forming personal bonds. As if she were afraid to get too attached to him, or he to her.

"Frank tells me you're developing an unhealthy coffee addiction," she said with a small smile while they drove away from the base. She was teasing him. He shrugged, willing his heart to remain steady despite the fact that there were no machines to beep his lies away.

"I like the atmosphere. Feeling normal for once."

"A bunch of strangers who don't look at you with microscopes attached to their hands?" she asked.

Max nodded. "Or a bunch a strangers who are not expecting me to kill anybody."

She frowned at that. "I don't know how you can live with that. I never thought you would go through with it, to tell you the truth."

Because is not on my psych evaluation, Max added silently. He'd gotten that much out of Maggs' flashes. Of all the people around him, she'd been the least to provoke a flash, and all had been about things he mostly already knew.

"How are you feeling?" she asked. That was probably Maggs' signature question.

"Tired," he said without thinking. "Stupid, for letting Summers take your place," he added with a humorless chuckle. She nodded at him while keeping her eyes on the road.

"Are you happy?" she asked out of the blue.

"Is anybody?" Max answered without turning to look at her. Frank had never been any good at dealing with emotions, much less talking about them. Maybe it was a women thing. Maggs always knew how to read him.

"I'm not asking anybody," she said, the Starbucks logo up ahead. Right in front of Parker's lab building. He turned his eyes to the window.

"What do you want me to tell you, Maggs? That I hate this life? That I wish I hadn't taken that deal with the drug? You and I know perfectly well they would have found something else, anything else to make me do their dirty work. I'm too valuable a commodity to be left alone."

She nodded. "They would. Frank and I… we tried to keep them away as much as we could, you know that, right?"

What was he supposed to answer? You didn't do enough? I know how much you gained from it? Even if he hadn't gained these flashes, he'd always known Maggs and Frank were not his parents, were not there to protect him from the world. They were there to understand him, and that meant testing. All the time. About everything.

So, he didn't answer. The silence stretched as she didn't push it. A couple of minutes later, she parked in the only Starbucks parking available. He closed the door with all the care in the world to not slam it, and told himself he had to change his attitude if he intended to spend the next two hours in this place, talking to her.

Parker's car was not there. So John didn't get the message…

Max hardly had any time to think about it. Instead of going into the Starbucks store, Maggs walked towards Parker's building. She didn't say a thing. She didn't even turn to look around to see if Max followed.

He froze. A thousand—million scenarios crossed his mind. Parker was dead. John was dead. Hell, Whitman had died first. It all went blank in his brain after those conclusions.

He felt his legs move. He felt himself running in the same direction where Maggs had disappeared two minutes ago. He saw in his mind the scene he was more likely going to find: The lab with three bodies shot in execution style.

Maggs was going to tell him that an unhappy life was better than no life at all. That this was what he got for trying to escape. That he would never, ever be let outside the base after this breach of security, and to please enjoy his last cup of Starbucks, one that he would drink and promptly throw up. God, Parker's dead.

He opened the glass doors at full speed, his usual stealthy techniques left in the trash. The lobby was deserted as it usually was on a Sunday, and he didn't stop to wonder why the doors were not locked up.

He caught a glimpse of a door closing down the corridor, and went for it. He braced himself for the horrible truth of it all before slowly opening the door. He didn't want to see, but he was unable to blink as he saw Magg's back to him, along with his older double in the room.

"You look well, John," she said, reaching a hand to touch his cheek, a gesture she'd stopped doing for Max since the moment he'd gotten his first dose.

"You looked like a proper old lady," John said with a small smile, letting her touch him. That got a chuckle out of her.

Max blinked. His worst fear had just been confirmed: John had been working for them all this time. If Parker was not dead already, she would be before the week was over.

John's eyes locked with Max's then.

"Liz is waiting for you at her lab. She thinks she has replicated the drug and found an antidote, but you'll need to be guinea pig for her for the next few days."

The antidote. She found the antidote. How could the exact words he'd been waiting to hear for years be said in the same situation where everything was lost? No matter how resourceful his mind, or how fast he could put a plan together, nothing made sense.

"Wh-what?" he managed to ask, his hand fused to the doorknob. Maggs sighed.

"John contacted me last month," she explained, turning around. "With quite a tale. But the short version is that he's coming with me. It's the only way Dr. Parker can run the trials on you."

"Coming—you're not working for them?"

"I'm going to be your double for the next few days, so they don't know you're not there. To pull that off, I do need an insider."


"Don't look so surprise!" she said in a dry tone. "I do care for you. I cared for John, too."

"You helped him escape?"

"No. I had no idea he wanted to disappear, but in retrospect, it all made sense. Samuel and I understood it, though he took it rather personal."

Summers. John had been under him all his life in captivity? Max shuddered. No wonder John had told him how to get on his good graces two weeks ago.

"You're not working for them," Max said, finally letting the doorknob go and sagging against the doorframe.

"I'm working on getting you out, little brother."

Brother. The idea was so alien it was almost laughable. He had a brother who could very well be walking into his death with arms wide open.

"You can't go," he said, while John came closer. In front of Max's eyes, his features were getting younger: The expression lines disappeared, and his tan deepened to match Max's own skin color. John didn't even blink.

"Pity you don't get to decide," John said, now a perfect replica of himself. "I couldn't pull this particular trick with anyone but you. Let me have my fun!"


"You think I didn't try to dissuade him?" Maggs answered looking between the two, her clinical eyes appraising a job well done. "You've got new tricks," she said approvingly.

"The same ones that will keep me alive. You'll stay here with Liz, run the tests. We'll have to switch back in three days for your next fix, unfortunately, but it'll be easy. Plus, I need to settle some things down for my own peace of mind."


"Has anyone ever told you that you worry too much?" John said. Taking Maggs's hand, he added with a smile, "You and I have years to catch up to. See ya' in three days, Max. Don't break anything, okay?"

It wasn't until Max was walking down the hall to Parker's lab that it occurred to him that, in a rather twisted and limited way, he was actually free.
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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 30 Pg 16 - 12

Post by Misha » Wed Dec 24, 2014 3:42 pm

Well, I'm glad no one saw it coming! :twisted:

Happy Holidays!

August 5th, 2011 – Day 1757 and counting

It's hard to admit this, but I'm scared. And for the first time, it doesn’t have to do with myself.

I'm scared John has traded off places with me in a misguided attempt to be a hero. Maybe he's feeling guilty about leaving me there for so many years. Maybe he wants to see for himself if there are others like us. Maybe he just wants to settle his own scores. Whatever the reason he's there pretending to be me, chances are he won't be coming out of there alive.

I'm worried about Maggs. When did she contact John, anyway? For how long has she known about Parker and Plan B and all of this? What if she's just going to sell me out to Summers?

And what about Parker? And Whitman? Do they even realize how deep they are in this thing? Even if I were to disappear out of their lives right this minute, it's too late for them now.

I never meant to get so many people so deep into my world. I want freedom, I really do, I'm just not sure if this is too high a price to pay for that.

Chapter Thirty-One
Early Coffee

Freedom came in strange packages. It came in the form of a hastily made bed on a couch at Parker's apartment, the digital clock displaying 4:56 a.m. by a corner. It came with the sound of Whitman's light snoring in the guest room, and some neighboring dogs barking from time to time. It came with Scientific America magazines on the coffee table and magnets from exotic locations on the fridge, places he couldn't picture himself having fun in.

It came without a routine of getting up, getting his biometrics in, and jumping through hoops all day long.

It came without orders, without lies, with the constant realization that he was nothing more than a tool.

He could get used to this, he really could, if only everyone around him could also be safe.

The sound of a door quietly being open got his attention immediately.

"Are you awake?" Parker whispered from her bedroom.

"Yeah," he answered, unwilling to add that he had never fallen asleep to begin with. Too much to think about. Too much to worry about.

She tiptoed her way out, an empty glass on her hand. "I usually get really thirsty at night, but I didn't want to disturb you, so…" she said as she passed him by on her way to the kitchen. "I can't believe Alex wouldn't give you the guest room," she said a little harsher.

"We flip for it and I lost," he said, getting on his elbows. It was strange to be on the couch while she stood, a plain pink t-shirt and pants serving as her pajamas.

"Yeah, that's what I'm talking about! Anyway, since it's 5:00 a.m. already I'm just gonna go put some coffee. We can be at the lab around 6 and start on the trial. With any luck, my boss won't be around today. How does he expect me to do anything when I have to spend half my day explaining to him what I'm doing? Oh, John didn't warn me on time, so I'm not very prepare, but would you like some cereal? I think I still have some Captain Crunch, which I know it's totally unhealthy, but what can you do about childhood habits, right?"

"Are you sure you didn't have your coffee already?" Max asked with amusement. Who would think Parker was such a babbler this early in the morning?

"I just feel really, really weird having you on my living room," she said, placing the pot of coffee on its place and hitting start. She didn't look like she'd had any sleep either, and the responsible for that was no one but Max himself.



"Thank you. For everything."

"Oh… Well, thanks for trusting me in the first place. We'll get that drug, you know?"

"I've never doubted it. I just wish having me around didn't entitle so much… danger."

She looked at him for a moment, and then shrugged. She couldn't say that it was okay because it wasn't, and they both knew it. So she went for the next best thing: changing subjects.

"Have you thought what happens next? I mean, once everything is behind you and you're out on your own?"

"Not much… It still feels like an ocean is between now and then. Maybe if I think about it, I'll just jinx it or something stupid like that."

She smiled at his poor attempt at humor. "I'm sure you'll think of something. Maybe you'll send me a postcard from there. To let me know you're okay." She walked back to her room, glass of water in her hand, and closed the door so she could get ready for the day.

The enticing smell of coffee reached him then. He would never smell that again without thinking of Parker, up there at her lab, looking for his answer. Or right here on her apartment, being his friend.
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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 31 Pg 17 - 12

Post by Misha » Thu Dec 25, 2014 12:31 pm

Hey! I cracked up laughing at how you guys go escalating each other :lol:

Thank you begonia! Happy Holidays for you and yours, too!

Now, I only have this and another chapter finished, so I might take a while to come back after tomorrow. So, enjoy!!!

Journal entry #16, August 6th, 2011

It's amazing what two little words can do for your self-esteem. I don't know why, but I never thought Max would thank me— for anything. Not for the lab work, not for keeping it together with John. Hell, not even for crashing at my place.

It's not like he doesn't appreciate what I do, or that he doesn't have his whole life in my hands, because he does. It's just that with Max, you can never have anything for granted. Not even a thank you.

Chapter Thirty-Two

Max's dark blood remained a mystery for her. He looked human, and so did his blood when it was filling up a vial. Everything looked as it should up until the point she looked at it under a microscope. Then it was always that moment where she would nod to herself in acceptance that this was happening, that she was part of something so monumentally big she would never again feel like a small town girl again.

She guessed Alex was still going through the adjustment process, and for once Max didn't look as if he wanted to disappear into his doorframe.

"Woa, you could—you could make a fortune at Las Vegas. Have you thought about that?" Alex asked as his eyes followed a coin in midair. Max was building a rather complex coin tower with his mind alone, putting a show of his powers and actually enjoying it.

"I'm not sure what I could be good at, but scamming casinos doesn't feel like it."

"Who's talking about scamming?" Alex said with all honesty. "I was thinking about a magic show. A huge magic show. You can do things no magician in the entire world could ever do!"

"I think Max wants to lie low," Liz said from her work station, anxiously waiting for the latest test result. The baseline wouldn't be ready for a couple of hours, but she still looked at it as if it would come alive any second now.

"She has a point," Max said, inspecting his tower and where would he place the next coin.

"Okay, lie low professions. What about bar tender?"

"I have no tolerance for alcohol."

"Well, that's something we both have in common," Alex said, saluting with his Coke. Max chuckled.

"I think that's the first time ever someone's happy I can't drink."

"What about you, Max?" Liz asked, coming to the table where Max's ever growing tower was reaching impossible physics. "What have you thought so far?"

"I don't know… Sometimes I think I'd like to teach something, I just don't think I know things that should be taught…" he whispered.

"Self-defense classes could be a good beginning," Alex chimed in, unaware of Max's own dark cloud. "Didn't you say you're good at getting into places? I bet with your knowledge and my skills, we could have a security company running in no time."

"Maybe…" Max said, unsure.

"Or, you know, ask John," Liz said. That got Max's attention.


"Think about it. He can do far more things than you know. And he's been out there for a long time. I'm pretty sure he can tell you how it's done."

Max placed the last coin without looking at it but at a random point on the table. He blinked, and the tower came crashing down a moment later. They all winced.

"Whitman, can you track down our friend John?"

"Track down as in?"

"Who is he? Parker's right, he's been out there for a long time. Maybe you can fill in the blanks."

"Sure… yeah, I mean, that's not hard… but… Why do we want to check his background? I thought he was our ally?"

"Because all we know about Mr. Herschel has come from him, and I'd feel so much better having you checking him out."

Alex shrugged, going for his laptop. "I already did a background check on his capital, you know. The company on his name has some serious interests in biological research, mostly small companies like this one."

"Research? What was he looking for?"

"Him? I don't think it had anything to do with him. His wife, on the other hand—let's just say Mrs. Herschel has some serious brains behind the whole thing."

"Told you she was real," Liz said in a teasing tone. The idea that John could be telling them lies had never crossed her mind. Maybe she needed some of Max's paranoia to rub in.

"She's real, rah-rah," he deadpanned.

Maybe not.

"You don't have to be so untrusting, you know? What John has giving me? The samples, the notes, not mentioning switching places with you, has got me where we are."

"It's not like I want to be proven right, Doctor," Max said, a bit offended. "I just don't have the luxury of trusting people because they say so."

Alex cleared his throat, his fingers already flying on the keyboard. "If you two are finished on the merits of who to trust… Good. Okay, here we are: Anne S. Herschel, graduated at eighteen from MIT on a physics major—oh wow, she did have some strange ideas about quantum physics. Several papers on… a bunch of stuff I can't even pronounce."

"Wait, physics?" Max asked, "I thought she was into biology."

"She is. I mean, she went for a second major on biology. Graduated at twenty-one. There doesn't seem to be too much of anything until three years later. She started publishing papers like crazy."

"What year was this?"

"Let me see… um, 1993. Her research made astronomical leaps in how cells heal themselves, particularly neurons." Alex whistled then. "She made a ton of money with that."

"Three guesses when she met John," Liz said.

"Why would John allow her to publish those findings?" Max asked, puzzled.

"Maybe he didn't and she did it anyway," Liz said, shrugging. She was not going to admit out loud she'd been kinda, sorta, maybe doing the same with bits and pieces of her research on him. Uh-uh. No way.

"So much for trust…"

"They married in New York State on September 1999—oh, that's interesting. He took her last name, which actually sounds better than John Smith, if you ask me. Everything else checks with what I already found before. Research, records, investments…"

"Except for the part where he's an actual human-alien hybrid," Max muttered. "I just wish I knew what's going on with him right now."

"He was very confident he could pull it off," Liz reminded him.

"Plus, maybe we can see what's he's doing," Alex said. "I mean, I make no promises, but maybe I can hack into the system. It's just going to take some time…"

"Do it. If nothing else, we'll know if he's in trouble."
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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 32 Pg 17 - 12

Post by Misha » Fri Dec 26, 2014 4:05 pm

Okay, this is the last one I have for a while :) Hope to see you next month!

August 7th, 2011 – Day 1759 and counting

I've never spent so much time with anyone who wasn't Frank or Maggs before. Getting used to friends is not easy, especially when we all share the same living space.

Parker doesn't seem as jumpy, at least, and she's far more worried about tomorrow's first trial with her drug than being the perfect hostess.

Whitman puzzles me out, with his strange mix of optimism and worry. I like knowing Parker grew up with him as a friend; I like the stories he tells me about them being kids best.

I think what I like the most is that they know the truth as I know it, and it doesn't seem to matter. When I'm showing off, as Parker calls it, I go all the way in. I don't think I've used my powers for fun in a long, long time.

It's going to be so hard to switch back.

Chapter Thirty-Three

"I told you I could do this," John said from Max's bed. The usually tidy room was nowhere to be found. In this dream, everything was white to the point it hurt.

"You're okay?" Max asked, anxious about Summers. About Frank. About the whole thing, really.

"I'm gonna be honest here. Samuel does push you far more than he ever did me, but then again, I was twenty-one when I left this place."

"So he doesn't suspect?"

"He suspects that Starbucks coffee did wonders on your attitude and your aim. How long have you been having flashes?"

"A couple of months… They terrify me," he whispered, pacing on a never ending loop.

"They're no fun to get the hang of, I'll give you that. I didn't know how advanced you were, but I didn't know you were so behind. Samuel's head almost exploded when I started getting the information he wanted. I do admit, I'm having a blast playing with his head."

"Don't do that!" the idea of John having fun with Summers gave his dream self a bout of nausea.

"I knew Samuels long before you were hatched. I know how to handle him, he doesn't scare me."

"If Summers even suspects something's going on, he'll lock you up so deep—"

"He already tried. Why do you think I escaped?" They both stared at each other, trying to make the other understand. John sighed. "Listen, Max, at this point Summers is very happy, and I'm hoping Parker is happy with you around. How are the trials going?"

"She made me run some tests to make sure I wasn't allergic to the new compound. The real test starts tomorrow."

"Let's hope she has the magic touch then. When we need to switch, Maggs will be ready."

Max stopped pacing, and looked at John, really looked at him. How much John could project in this dream and how much was an accurate representation of his true self, was lost to Max. He couldn't dreamwalk. He didn't have the faintest idea what it took to do it, much less how it worked.

"John? Are you sure you're okay?" he asked again, willing John to be serious for once. He couldn't take the evasions much longer.

John chuckled at that. "You worry too much, you know that, right?"

"You're the closest thing to family I've got. If anything happens to you, not only will I lose you, your wife will, too."

John didn't lose his smile, but it did become thoughtful. Finally, John stood up and placed a comforting hand on Max's shoulder.

"Max, I don't expect you to understand, but when I left this place— I left a lot of ghosts when I ran away the day you were born. Yes, I'm doing this for you, but I'm also doing it for me, okay? Now, my wife will kill me if they kill me first, but don't worry about her. Worry about Parker."

"What? Why? Do they suspect—"

"Relax, Max. Worry about your doctor stealing your heart away. It happened to me, you know."

Max woke up to the smell of coffee and the feeling that John enjoyed this a little bit too much.
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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 33 Pg 18 - 12

Post by Misha » Sat Dec 27, 2014 10:48 pm

Hey! My next chapters aren't half as bad as I thought :mrgreen: I can't promise a daily chapter, but at least the next few updates should be fairly close!

August 8th, 2011 – Day 1760 and counting

The thing about trials is that they get your hopes up.

I don't want hope, I want answers. I want out. I want to leave all this behind, even if it means never listening to Whitman's snores, or waking up to Parker's coffee.

I just want to stop worrying about everything all the time.

And I really, really want this drug to work.

Chapter Thirty-Four

"Okay, if you feel anything at all…" Parker said for the third time, the needle half an inch above Max's arm.

"Parker. Either it works or it doesn't." He locked eyes with her, and they both nodded in unison. When the needle pierced his skin, he closed his eyes. Closed his mind to everything but the feel of the fluid entering his blood torrent.

Eight months of work were condensed in that vial. Eight months of sneaking out, of Starbucks, of nightmares and dreams of freedom.

This is only the first trial. Nobody gets it right at the first trial. He'd been telling himself that all night long so when the trail failed—and he had no doubt it would—the weight of disappointment wouldn't crush him.

Parker's substitute drug was meant to gradually ease him out of the addiction. By her calculation, he would need twelve more doses spaced out in six months for his body to be free. If it worked, Maggs would provide the rest of Parker's drug and give it to him before each of Frank's doses. A small part of him was warming up to the idea of working out his cover and disappear.

"How are you feeling?"

Max thought for a moment, his mind going over every inch of his body trying to find something off.

"Fine. I don't feel anything."

She nodded.

"Let's give it an hour before I take a sample and see how you metabolize it, okay?"

"Sure, okay…"

It was barely 6:12 a.m. and Max already felt time crawling, each second an eternity. He had to do something. Maybe run, maybe read. Maybe ask Parker if she had any intentions regarding his heart.

Where did that come from?

"Guys… guys! GUYS!" Whitman shouted from his corner. "I'm in!"

"We're barely awake and he's already hacked into the base's security?" Max asked, perplexed.

"I let it run a subroutine all night long," Whitman answered, all grins and sparkly eyes. "Anyway, we can follow John through his day and… woa!"

Max was out of the stool and in front of Whitman's screen in two seconds flat. On the screen, a dozen views of security cameras were displayed. Max's eyes scanned them in search of what could possibly be what Alex had seen. He found it on the eighth screen.

"Is he doing... I mean, is he working with sand?" Whitman asked as he zoomed into the exercise room. Behind them, Parker had joined their merry band.

"Yeah," Max answered, following John's movements with his hands. In front of John, a large amount of particles were moving. He was sculpturing something.

"I do this exercise from time to time. It's supposed to improve your tactile telekinesis." Whitman turned to look at him with a confused look. "It means a very fine-tuned telekinesis. Think of it like writing. When you start, your handwriting is rough. Child-like. But with time, you get better at it. It's the same with telekinesis. Rough telekinesis will get you to move a car. But this... This will get you to do stuff like dismantling weapons or open complex safeguard boxes.

"He's doing a dog," Parker said, getting closer to the screen.

"I can only do geometrical structures. You have to account for each grand of sand, which is not fun to do. The more sand, the more chances something will slip through your grasp."

"Your imaginary hands," Whitman said with appreciation.

"John is light years ahead of what I can do. It's amazing."

"But, wouldn't this be problematic once you're back at the lab?" Parker asked. Max winced.

"Probably... We never really discussed how advanced he was versus where I am. He must be assuming I'm closer to his level than I actually am. Summers must be in heaven."

"That's the guy who makes your life hell, right?" Parker said, still looking at the screen. John's dog was transforming itself into a snake.

How appropriate, Max thought, imagining Summers and his merry band.

"So I guess you'll need to practice more," Whitman said, turning to look at Max with a wicked grin.

An hour later, Max's shirt was soaked in sweat while Parker and Whitman sat in front of him, debating the merits of his latest sculpture.

"I think it's a bunny," Parker stated, while Max's concentration reached its limit. Keeping the sand stuck together was getting mighty impossible. He shook his head. "Like the one I had when I was a kid," she said with a fond smile. Max shook his head.

"What about a raccoon?" Whitman asked. Max glared at him.

"An elephant?" Whitman corrected. The entire sand sculpture crashed into the table.

"An elephant?" Max asked, bewildered.

"You know, from The Little Prince."


"It's a book," Parker said, writing something on her clipboard, reminding him of Frank. "A children's book which has a lot of meaning if you read it as an adult as well." She was thoughtful for a moment, and then started to blush.


"It's about an aviator who finds a kid in the desert," Whitman said, his bright eyes suddenly becoming brighter. "And the kid is actually an alien!"

"You're making this up," Max deadpanned, while Whitman passed him a towel.

"No, you can Wiki it. The thing is, the aviator makes a drawing of a snake eating an elephant, but everyone on his childhood thought it was a hat."

"So... you thought I was aiming for that?"

"I thought it was worth a try." Whitman grinned.

"I wasn't. It was supposed to be... something else."

"What?" Parker asked.

"What John was doing. Which I obviously failed at miserably. How am I supposed to switch back and keep Summers happy?"

The three of them fell silent, looking at the pile of sand. "Want to go at it again?" Parker asked.

"Okay, but this time, don't be so creative with your answers."
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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 34 Pg 18 - 12

Post by Misha » Sun Dec 28, 2014 9:28 pm

I gotta be honest here: your encouragement makes me re-write and edit much, much faster! 8)

Journal Entry #17, August 8th, 2011

The thing about having max around is that it gives me time to see him without him being so guarded. Before, when his visits were just a few minutes every other week, it was all business as usual, and he was always talking with this tone. And being so secretive. And, you know, being Max.

But now that I have him for myself for a few days, he just can't hide who he is anymore.

And frankly, I'm liking his true self a whole lot more than his doorframe self.

Chapter Thirty-Five
Card Game

"Okay, so, I found out about these cards," Alex said with all the enthusiasm in the world, while Thai food take-out disappeared between the three of them. Max looked tired but happy, since he'd finally managed to do the dog and the raccoon by the end of the afternoon.

"What cards?" he asked while opening his third Cherry Coke.

"These psychic cards? They have lines and stars and circles—"

"God, not those cards!" Max said with dismay.

"What? Why?" Liz asked, her fork midway to her mouth. "What's so special about them?"

"They're supposed to demonstrate you're capable of mind-reading," Alex explained. "On one end, I have the cards, and I randomly pick one. On the other, you have the cards, and you have to pick the one I'm seeing."

"Or just tell the base what he's seeing. You don't need a second deck," Max added.

Liz turned to look at Max, suddenly remembering some very inappropriate thoughts she'd had about his biceps, his leader jacket, and his body in general. Granted, he usually wasn't around when she had those thoughts, but still.

"I can't read minds," Max said, stabbing his food. "I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not, but I just can't."

"Are you sure?" Alex asked innocently. Both Max and Liz glared at him. "I'm just saying. John has all these powers you're not aware of."

"John is fifteen years older than me. Surely he's had a lot of practice."

"I'm just saying, maybe you should try harder. Or, you know, maybe it just needs—"

"It won't work," Max stated. "Summers has me tried this before, all the time. I always end up with a murderous headache and feeling stupid."

"Okay, okay. Forget I brought them up. How about that dreamwalk thing?"

"What about it?"

"Have you been practicing that?"

"I don't know how it works. John hasn't sat down with me and explained the wonders of our alien heritage, you know."

"I think we should try it," Liz said, getting the last of her food into a corner of the Thai box.

"Dreamwalking seems light years to where I am."

"I was talking about the cards, actually."

Max and Alex stopped eating.

"I mean, what's the harm in trying? Maybe you're just missing something." She shrugged. She'd never seen anything like what Max could do, and her scientific mind had been buzzing all day long about how Max could do what he could do. Of course, if someone like this Frank person had been studying him for years and years and still had not advanced much, she was hopeless in getting those answers in the space of twelve hours.

She also wanted to encourage Max. He looked rather gloomy every time something reminded him of his limitations. Seeing John do those sand sculptures seemingly effortlessly had to hurt his ego.

Maybe nothing will come out of this, but then again...

Twenty minutes later, an eager Alex had printed and cut the cards, and was shuffling them in an awkward manner. They were too thin, but that didn't stop their computer genius.

"Okay, here goes nothing," Alex said with a grin, picking one card and staring at it. Max stared at Alex. Between them, Liz started her watch to see how long it would take for Max to see something— or give up.

Two minutes into the exercise, Max finally lowered his sight. "I can't see a thing."

"That's okay. Want to try again?" Alex asked.

"It won't work."

"How about if we try it with fewer cards?" Liz asked.

"It would skew the answer. Chance alone will always play a part."

"I know, I know, but maybe if you only have three cards to narrow it down..."

Three minutes later, Max's shoulder slumped. "It's useless. If John can actually read minds, I'll kill him."

"Liz, you try it. Maybe the problem all this time is that he's been trying to pick a guy's brain," Alex joked. Max frowned.

"I've done this with other women," he said while Liz took Alex's place.

Picking one card, Liz got the star. In her mind, she concentrated on that. Five points, a star, night. Five points, star, night. Five points, star, night. With that chanting on her mind, she stopped looking at the card and looked directly at Max. The intensity in his eyes was devastating. Forget about the star, all she wanted was to sigh.

Blinking a moment later, she tried to recall what she was supposed to be thinking. A star. Right... keep it clear, Parker, or he´ll see a bunch of little hearts instead.

Thirty seconds later, Max gave up. "I can't see anything. It'll be easier for me to want to change the figure on the card than actually reading your mind." He yawned then, all his intensity gone. "I think I better call it a day. Thank you for trying, though."

"Hey, it's not every day someone is trying to read my mind," Alex said with two thumbs up. He looked exactly as he had back in High School, all wonder and optimism. She loved Alex to pieces.

And what do you know, I think saying 'thank you' is becoming an everyday occurrence fromr Mr. Dark and Edgier.

They picked up the cards, cleaned up the lab, and closed the door. And the best part was that she wasn't going home alone.
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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 35 Pg 19 - 12

Post by Misha » Mon Dec 29, 2014 10:53 pm

Sorry for the late hour!

kyoko2499, oh my goodness! This is your first post! I remember my first post: it was for the sequel to Innocent, and the author had stopped posting it... ::sighs:: At least I'm bringing you joy :mrgreen:

August 9th, 2011 – Day 1761 and counting

Parker and Whitman are the most cheerful people in the world. And that's a bit creepy.

I've done these things a million times, but it's always routine. It's always pushing myself to my limits, getting myself out of my comfort zone. With them, everything is a wonder. All of my powers are a source of awe. They look at me not with fear but with a sense of the impossible becoming possible. Even when I fail, they both have starry eyes.

In truth, I kinda feel like a celebrity around them. All they want is to help me improve. But more than that, I think they also want me to have fun. And I find myself liking this idea more and more.

Chapter Thirty-Six

It was the third and last day for Max before the switch back, and he was getting nervous as hell. On the screen, John was doing another one of his incredibly complex tasks: a house card. Or rather, a nine stories tall house card.

"Why, oh why, does he have to show off?" Max said, all his energy gone. There was no way in hell he could replicate that. By his side, Parker watched with interest.

"He's cheating," she said simply, leaning back on her seat.

"I highly doubt it."

"No, I mean. He's building the house with his mind, obviously, but he's also holding the cards together with telekinesis. He's not placing the cards and letting them go, sort of speak."

Max frowned. "Just like the sand."

Liz nodded. "I think it's the same principle. If you can work with the sand, this should be a piece of cake."

"Okay... Okay, that makes sense." Max said, nodding to himself. "Is there any chance you have a deck of cards around?"

Liz shook her head. "No... But there is something I do have tons of."

Thirty minutes later, a bead of sweat ran down Max's cheek, but he did not dare to wipe it out. Parker's idea of working with glass test tubes had been brilliant in a perverse way. If Max let them fall, they would break. And he so not wanted to spend the next hour mending test tubes.

By now, he had built an impressive crystal palace, sort of a fortress of solitude, really, with the tubes in diagonal position. Right now, he was joggling thirty-six tubes, and Parker had another two on her hands.

"Tell me when you're ready," she said, holding them close to him.

"I think I've just reached my limit," he said through clenched teeth, his shirt soaked in sweat.

"Okay, well, thirty-six is pretty impressive for being your first time," Parker said with a smile, starting to pick the tubes at the top. Except she couldn’t unglue them. "Max, you have to let them go."

"I don't think I can let one go without losing the entire structure," he said with dismay. He was gripping all of them, so he had no sense where one began and the other separated.

"Ok-ay..." Parker said, stumped. "How about you let them down slowly?"

"Maybe... yeah, I think I can do that."

On the monitor, John had stopped doing the house as well. It had probably sixteen floors and counted somewhere around two hundred cards. He barely glimpsed at it behind Parker, before returning to the task at hand.

At the bottom, the tubes started to lower. Piling the second floor against the first was tricky. The changing structure was now unstable by any account, and his mind was having trouble keeping each tube connected.

"I'm going to lose it," Max warned, concerned.

"Don't worry. I have boxes and boxes of the things."

Frank's words would have been, No, you won't. This new carefree approach was too weird for him and his sense of never-lose, always-win. He managed the third floor without breaking them, but the forth crackled under the pressure of his mind. He was gripping them too tight, and realized it too late. In an extraordinary sequence, the upper tubes collectively broke into a million shards of glass, raining on Max and Liz as they both closed their eyes.

"Parker!" he yelled, the whole table and floor filled with shards and tubes. Parker had raised her clipboard to protect herself, while Max kept them at bay with telekinesis alone.

"I'm okay, I'm okay," she said, lowering the clipboard.

"I'm so sorry about that," he said, looking at her clipboard, her face, her neck. Her lips. "Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yeah, yeah... I don't think we thought about the glass breaking this way."

"Once I had less tubes to hold on to, the energy crushed the rest... Are you really sure you're okay?"

"Max. I am. Stop worrying. Are you okay?"

"Yes, yes. I'm always okay, I'm good." They both turned to look at the pile of debris.

"I'll get the dustpan," Parker said, getting up.

"You've seen me play with sand and these tubes and you don't think I can do a good job of cleaning up?" he asked, faking offense.

"By all means, keep practicing," she said with a smile.

He looked at the mess and went through his options. He could melt it, fused it, and trash it; make the tubes whole again, make some of the tubes whole again and trash the rest.

He extended his hand, then, choosing what he wanted to do. Out of the tiny fragments of glass, he called them and hold them together, a clear image in his mind. To his surprise, he could actually manipulate all the tiny pieces into the shape he wanted, and Parker gasped as she realized what he was doing.

"It's a bunny," she whispered with awe.

"Let me see if I can fuse it together, all right?"

An hour later, all cleaned up, Parker had a crystal bunny sitting on her lab, while the three of them had their last lunch together.
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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 36 Pg 20 - 12

Post by Misha » Fri Jan 02, 2015 8:29 pm

Well, I sure hope you enjoy some of my recommendations :)

Journal Entry #18, August 9th, 2011

Seeing Max go is one of the hardest things I've ever done. He's going back to being a lab test. Worse, he's going back to being used. And I think, for the first time, he's also realizing who he really is.

Chapter Thirty-Seven

The strangest thing about seeing John crossing that door was how un-Max he looked. He had the same features, the same clothes, but his whole body language betrayed him a mile away. How did you fool anybody at that base?

Maggs came in a moment later, her clever eyes missing nothing. The lab hours had been over for a while now, leaving its premises for Alex, Max and herself to play with.

Is ‘Maggs’ a last name or a first name? Liz wondered absently, holding the results of Max’s bloodwork in her hands.

"Liz," John said with his infectious smile, one that she hoped against hope Max could grace her with. She'd managed a few small smiles and one or two chuckles, but Max being Max, that was monumental. And here John was, grinning at the slightest provocation.

"Everything went okay?" Liz asked, while Alex and Max exchanged a handshake.

"There were a few awkward moments," Maggs said pointedly to John, "but he's fast on his feet. You were always a good liar," she said as an afterthought.

John bowed. "And it's been handy all these years, thank you."

Maggs rolled her eyes, and then looked at Liz. "What do you have?"

With that, Max and John went to their corner, while Alex excused himself. Being around Max had been fun, but work had piled up for both of them. Liz suppressed an inward groan at the thought.

"How is he?" Maggs asked the moment they had some privacy.

"Bloodwork seems to indicate that—"

"Not that. How’s Max?"

"I—I don't think I'm following you," Liz said, the results in her hands forgotten.

Maggs sighed, trying to find the right words. "At the risk of sounding like a soccer mom, did he have fun?"

Liz's smile came slowly as she realized the implications of Maggs’ question. She nodded.

"I think he did. I mean, it's hard to tell, but… yeah. He always seems so—tense."

"Like he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders," Maggs said, nodding slightly. "I know what these four years have cost him. Frank is so used to seeing him daily that he doesn't realize the gradual change. How quiet he's become about everything. How much he fears to disappoint him. But I do. I only see Max every once in a while, so I get to be objective about that." Maggs glanced at John and Max. Even from this distance, the differences were so obvious to Liz they were painful.

If only I could get you to drop that rainy cloud of yours!

"At first," Maggs said, "I thought it was the drug. But the answer was far much simpler: he's miserable. He might not admit it to himself, but he is."

That… actually makes a lot of sense.

"He's a good guy," Liz said, absently turning to look at him. Or rather, his back. "I don't think he slept much, though."

"When you live with the fears he does, you might find out sleeping at night is not easy. Now, let's get down to business. What do you have for me?"

For the first time since Liz had looked at Max's blood under the microscope one cold January night, she had someone to talk to. Someone who understood. Someone who was actually telling her what she'd been doing wrong and how to correct it. And for the first time, she realized how liberating it was to share this secret. To share the burden of freeing Max not of that base, but of this drug. And she was damn proud of her work.
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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 36 Pg 20 - 12

Post by Misha » Fri Jan 02, 2015 8:36 pm

And as promised, here's today's second chapter. Enjoy!

August 9th, 2011 – Day 1761 and counting

I don't want to go back.

Chapter Thirty-Eight

"You're slacking," John told him as they both sat down with Starbuck cups on their hands. On the other side of the lab, Parker talked with Maggs, trying to get a sense of where his blood tests stood.

"I'm not. I have a good list of successfully neutralized targets to prove it."

"You're slacking on your powers. No wonder Summers is so frustrated with you. Frank requires of you the minimum necessary to be useful, but your stats have not improved in four years."

"I know, okay?" Max said, feeling himself going defensive. The cup in his hand was in serious danger of being crumpled. "I know what you can do, and that I'm not at your level."

John raised his eyebrows, and then realization dawned on him. “Whitman is good if you were following me around the base. But that’s besides the point. You need to work harder because when we both escape, I'll need you at your best. And right now, you're not at your best."

They both stared at each other for a moment. It was unsettling beyond anything to see his own image in John. "I need you to teach me."

"I wish there was time. It's all about being creative with your powers, and for what I've seen, they tell you what to do. They don't allow you to make your own tests, see what else you can do."

Is that what Parker and Whitman have been doing all this time?

"Samuel always knew how to get me thinking about what I could do. He's angry at Frank for holding you back, and frankly, I'm not sure why he's doing that. I didn't dare to coax a flash out of him. These past three days I've been solely with Summers and he should be plenty happy with the results he has now. Next time you're in his tender hands, ask him for some space. A day or two to get your thoughts together. But Max, when you do go back to his lab, you better have something in mind."

"Yes, sir," he mockingly said under his breath.

"How was the drug Liz worked on? You feeling any effects?" John asked with far more kindness.

"We won't really know until I get my fix later today. The results came back as she expected, but I'm not feeling any improvement. She thinks it might take a few months."

"I wish we could keep switching back and forth for a few months. Maggs will get the exact formula. With Liz's drug, she’ll be able to supply both, and you won’t have to come back here."

"That's... good." Max turned for a second to watch Parker and Maggs talking. No more sneaking around… "Can we trust Maggs?" he whispered, getting back to John.

"She carries a lot of guilt, you know? We knew each other, from before you were hatched. She was brought into the program to be your doctor along with Frank, but she wanted to work with Samuel first to get a good idea of what working with a hybrid was. She never saw me as an alien. Samuel has always seen me as potential, something to further his career and his understanding. But Maggs... she used to tell me the stupidest alien jokes. Of course, she tried to keep her distance, and I knew I wouldn't see much of her once you were awake, but we had a healthy dose of respect for each other."

Their talk got technical after that. What had John done, who he had met, what he'd said. Max concentrated on learning it all, asking questions, memorizing conversations, delaying leaving as much as he could.

All too soon, he had to say his good-bye to John, a handshake with Whitman, and another one with Parker. She tried to hide her apprehension, but although he didn't get any flashes out of her beyond the crystal bunny on her office, he did pick up her sorrow at seeing him leave. At seeing me leave to that place he corrected. If only she knew how much he wanted to stay with her.

And Whitman, he hastily added to that thought.

"You look… different," Maggs commented as they went on their journey back, a journey Max had done countless times since he'd started stalking Parker on her office last year.

"I do?" he asked absently, looking out the window.

"Younger," Maggs said, looking at the road. "More relaxed."

Max chuckled darkly at that.


"Not right now, true. You should look more relax if you want to fool Frank, but... you know, when I went to talk with Parker. You looked younger, that's all."

They were silent for a few minutes.

"I don't want to go back," Max confessed, closing his eyes at the absurdity of his words. Of course he had to go back.

“John has managed to get Samuel on high spirits. You might find his friendliness... strange.”

"Summers? Friendly?" Max asked, turning to look at her with concern in his face. "Is that like, a sign of the end of days or something?"

Maggs smiled. "They always got along pretty well. I guess John felt the familiar patters fitting in, and forgot all about how much you hate being around Samuel."

"I... I kind of fear what John did in my place. Was it too different?"

"John... John has a very practical sense of things, and he did a good job of acting your part. He's just... well, he was upset when he learned how little you have advanced in four years. I was pretty amazed at what he can do. He asked me why we had held you back, but the truth is Max, we haven't. We truly believed we were doing everything there was to get you up."

"Following things by the rules... Parker told me John had discovered a few things thanks to his wife."

"Motivation," Maggs murmured, her eyes still on the road. She always drove with her two hands on the wheel, never over the speed limit. She'd told him once it was because of all the secrets she carried, being stopped over for speeding would be the last straw. Then she had laughed, and Max had never asked again.

"I don't know if motivation is the key. I... I did a few things with Parker I'd never done on my own. Maybe, you know, thinking outside the box would help?"

Maggs smiled at that with a rather dark smile. "Help with what? Escaping? Because, I kind of like the sound of that."

They drove in silence for a few miles, each lost on their own thoughts.

"What would—I mean, what would happen to you once I'm gone?"

"Desk work, most likely. I have a ton of research to apply, too. You might not know, but in your genes, there's a lot of potential for the human genome. I've been mostly doing research on your aging process, while Frank has centered on the neural paths."

Max nodded. "Something good will come out of my life, then," he said, looking straight ahead as the base loomed in the horizon. Maggs slowed down.

“Max, great things have come out of your life already. Never think differently."

"I kill people, Maggs. I spy, and steal, and lie. Maybe it's wrong that I wish to be out of this place. Maybe that's exactly where someone who does my work belongs."

Maggs’s face turned grim. "Tell that to John next time you see him. In fact, tell that to Dr. Parker after she's been risking her own life to help you."

"I—I didn't mean it like that... I'm just saying, it seems like all I'm good at is doing dirty jobs."

"We did a terrible thing to you, Max," Maggs said quietly. "But I'm going to right this whole thing, you hear me? Even if it's the last thing I do."

They both looked at each other with serious expressions, and as one turned to look at the soldier at the base entrance with matching smiles.

"Welcome back Doctor. Mr. Evans."

He was back. And for the first time, he didn't think of this place as home.
Last edited by Misha on Fri Apr 17, 2015 10:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Of Journals & Journeys (AU M/L, YTEEN) Ch. 37&38 Pg 21 -

Post by Misha » Sat Jan 03, 2015 8:41 pm

Ok, I'm getting at the end of everything that is nice and clean on my timeline... As great as it has been to post daily for the past 20 chapters ( :shock: ) it's finally time to go back to writing and plotting. So, all that said, I have tomorrow's chapter and maaaaybe Monday's.

Any questions or things you'd like to see in the future are welcomed! They keep the muse on her toes 8)

August 10th, 2011 – Day 1762 and counting

For the first time, I walk through these halls knowing I won't be seeing them for much longer. And the feeling is intoxicating.

Chapter Thirty-Nine

"I don't know what they put on those coffees you're so fond of drinking," Summers said with a grin that was completely out of place in that man's face, "but damn, I hope you're drinking more."

Max tried to smile, but it felt forced. Too forced. So he settled for a nod.

He'd gotten his fix yesterday, and nothing had happened. Maggs had come to his room around midnight to take his blood and work on it. He hadn't seen her since, but he dreaded hearing that Parker's first trial hadn't worked. He so desperately wanted to get out of here, that he almost preferred Maggs lying to him than knowing it was back to zero with the whole thing.

"So, I was thinking that now that you have the sand exercises down we might change to water," Summers said, rubbing his hands together as if he were a mad scientist ready to bring Frankenstein to life.


Water meant a whole new level of mental concentration. He would not be dealing with a solid target. Dealing with liquids was so out of his league, he felt lightheaded.

"Yes. I know it was only yesterday that you got your dose," Summers said. It also meant this was Max’s day off. He was here just to ask for the next day off as well, per John's recommendation.

"I think you might be thinking too big, here," Max said, trying to smile, not knowing if he was failing or not.

"Nonsense. You've been jumping in quantum leaps these past days!"

"Yeah, about that," Max started. "I think I need a longer break. The things I've accomplished are… good—"

"You mean great!"

"Yeah, sure, great. But I feel drained. I'm afraid that I'll need my fix sooner rather than later if we keep at this level."

That gave Samuel's pause. He was not happy with not having Max all to himself 24/7, but surely the idea of having less of Max was motivation enough for him to relax.

"You think so?" he asked, narrowing his eyes. This was probably the longest conversation Max had had with the man in which he was not yelling at him, or passive-aggressive telling him he was not giving him the best. It was weird, but having Summers's sudden trust was priceless.

"For the last four days all I've been doing is mental exercises. I think I want to hit the gym. Do something physical for a change."

Summers nodded slowly at that, as if he were seeing one giant equation that was making sense bit by bit. "Okay, okay... The gym, huh? I do have enough data right now to keep us busy for a couple of days."

"Good. Then, that's settled." Max turned around to reach the door.

"Max," Summers said, stopping him on his tracks, "When you come back, we'll do more great work together."

Twenty minutes later, Max was hitting the punching bag with a vengeance. He hated this place; he hated Summers; he hated John for putting him in this position of BBF with the man he loathed the most in his life. How could John have been friends with that psycho?!

Max felt, more than saw, when Frank came into the room. That was new, he usually didn't sense anyone coming to him. Might be so much mental gymnastics. I might be getting better at things now that I've been practicing so much.

"You look… intense," Frank commented as Max finished a vicious beating to the bag.

"I've missed being down here, that's all," he said, sweat breaking on his forehead.

"Max..." Frank started, while Max slowed down and easer his attack on the blue bag. "These days, with Summers…" Frank paused, leaning on the wall in front of Max, "You've improved."

Max stopped his punching, and straightened slowly, gathering his thoughts. He'd known the unspoken question would come sooner or later: how? "It seems stupid, really," Max answered, looking at the bag and then at Frank. "I'm terrified that one of these days he'll get tired of me not doing more... of not getting better... I don't know, I woke up with that fear knowing I had screwed up with the flashes, and suddenly things made sense inside my head. I don't know where I'm getting these ideas, really, but as long as Summers's happy, everyone's happy, right?"

He delivered he's prepared speech so smoothly he surprised even himself. Ever since he'd left Parker he'd been wondering how long it would take Frank to ask.

"I see... I know we've been doing a lot of the same tests for a long time," Frank said, his hands on his pockets. "I just wish I had thought about asking you if you had more ideas about doing... things."

Max nodded, hitting the bag once more, resuming his fighting position. "We've been so focused on fine-tuning my skills to get the missions completed, it wouldn't have worked. We just... stripped everything that wasn't necessary. On the bright side, I'm really, really good at getting my targets and getting back alive."

Frank smiled sadly at that, while Max hit harder with every passing word.

"I just wanted to make sure you're okay. I mean, it's no secret that working with Summers makes you uncomfortable—"

"—you can say that again, it never gets old—"

"—but, I don't know. The past few days you've seemed... relaxed around him."

Max chuckled humorlessly at that. "I'm trying to impress him and to praise you for your work with me, I'm glad it looks like I'm enjoying every minute of that hell."

Frank stared at him for a long moment, watching him move, strike, hit, and occasionally kick the bag.

"Of course. It was just weird, for a moment there... you just fooled me, I guess. So, what's this I'm hearing that you'll get a few more days off?"

"I guess wonders never cease. I'm just mentally wiped-out. A day or two at the gym seemed like a good idea to get away from Summers and do something productive."

"Alrighty then. I'll see you at lunch."

Frank left, and Max punched the bag two more minutes before stopping and glancing at the door. Frank had suspected something was off. Maybe switching hadn't been a good idea after all.
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