Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Epilogue - 8/20 *COMPLETE*

Finished Canon/Conventional Couple Fics. These stories pick up from events in the show. All complete stories from the main Canon/CC board will eventually be moved here.

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Misha
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Re: Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Ch. 19 - pg. 17 - 15/1

Postby Misha » Fri Feb 11, 2011 9:16 pm

Well, I finally managed to get something out before a month! yay me! And yay you for still coming back to read! :mrgreen:

cjeb, thanks! I'm looking forward to getting back into The Offer too, but the muse was dead set on getting this chapter out first, so...

keepsmiling,I'm not sure if "good" is the word here, but things are certainly moving forward!

Sundae, thanks for the insights! Always glad to have you on board!

Timelord31, I bet you can't believe it didn't take five nudges and three PM's to get me to write, uh?

cjsl8ne, boy, do I wish I had one of those "24" tv series screens, when you could so what four people were doing at the same time! I don't think I ever had so many POV in the same scene!

Thank you all!!



Chapter 20
Crossroad



The floor was slippery, and at the speed Liz was walking, it was just an accident waiting to happen. She was focused on reaching the corner, finally getting a sense of where Max was. In front of her, Michael was equally determined to find her husband, and bringing up the rear was Dr. McConnell, who had been trying to convince them that Max’s safest option was to stay here.

She slipped so fast she barely registered she was falling. Her reflexes took over, her hand reaching for Michael’s arm in an attempt to break her fall. Touching him, however, still felt as if she were falling, this time into a premonition.

Michael was falling.

In her vision, Michael was falling against the wall, a look of shock in his face.

Behind her, McConnell steadied her, effectively bringing her back to the present. Michael spared her a glance and turned to keep running, obviously anxious to get to Max and get him out before someone shot his best friend.

Liz blinked, trying to get her whereabouts and sorting out her last images.

“Michael!” she shouted as the vision became clear. Michael stopped, fear in his eyes as they looked at each other. “It’s going to be you!”


* * *


“Her name is Sarah Meyer,” Hayden was explaining in a low voice, trying not to disturb the little girl in the bed. Max’s memory recalled fragmented images of her, and it was only now that he was beginning to understand some of the events that had landed him here.

“She has a pink bunny, and laughs all the time,” he whispered back, his eyes attracted to her face like magnets. “She… she was left alone…” Max trailed off, his mind focusing on a green EXIT sign. He’d been trying to reach the exit, and then… nothing. His memories were still elusive.

“She was in a train accident,” Hayden elaborated after a few seconds went by, probably sensing Max’s distress. “She came to the hospital with others, and the ER doctors thought she was doing okay. You had been admitted right before her, and you were left beside her in the hall. You woke up, got down from your gurney, and… you must have seen her…” The last bit sounded uncertain, but Max could picture the scene. Smells and screams, awful and loud.

“I don’t… I don’t remember,” Max finally said, the images merging with each other making no sense anymore.

“I’ll get you some more water. Then we’ll go back to your room.”

“Is she okay?” Max asked before Hayden could move to the bathroom. He had a feeling he had left something unfinished regarding this girl, but knew nothing more beyond that.

“She’s going to be. I sat with her for hours before finding you, and she was doing fine. She’s lucky she was left beside you.”

“She was?”

There was a pause, and Hayden sighed in resignation. “I hoped you would remember on your own… You healed her, Max. You stopped in front of her, put your hand on her chest, and then you collapsed. Do you remember that?”

Max started to shook his head, and then he remembered the pink bunny, laughs and shouts of joy, blond, curly hair in the sunlight. The only way he would know that was if he had connected with her. The EXIT sign came again into his mind’s eyes. He had wanted to leave, and had been so close to getting out, but something had stopped him…

“I’ll get you the water,” Hayden said, and on second thought, “Max? Don’t heal her, okay? She’s going to be fine, and you need your energy.”

Max reluctantly nodded. He had not been thinking about healing her, though he probably was about to come up with the idea. It was clearer now, the first time he had seen her, hoping he could buy her a little more time. He had needed to keep running, but had discovered his last reserve had run out. All he got after that were blurry impressions of feeling too hot or too cold, fighting both Isabel and Liz so he could not be used as bait.

There was something wrong about that thought… Why would he think he was going to be bait? Max’s head started hurting. Hadn’t there been… someone? A man who had been worried about him? Some sort of doctor, who kept telling him he was going to be okay… He heard Hayden running water in the bathroom, while Max was desperately trying to grasp the man in his memory.

At his left, the door that was half-closed opened further, a doctor entering the room. Max turned to look at him, already feeling guilty for having intruded in Sarah’s room and just about to apologize when their eyes met.

Max did not know this man, but he did know the intention written on his face.

“We really have to—” Hayden’s sentence was never finished as the unfamiliar man looked at the young doctor, a handgun rising with lethal precision that would definitely finish Max, Hayden, and maybe even Sarah.

No! Max thought, instinctively rising his hand, throwing whatever was left of his energy into blocking the bullet. The gun went off with a slightly muted bang, and ricocheted as it collided with Max’s energy, effectively redirecting in Hayden’s direction. In a fleeting thought, Max wondered why it had made a firecracker kind of sound, when every single Hollywood movie dictated assassins used very silent –and very precise- handguns. Liz would have told him in real life, silencers didn’t work like that.

It didn’t matter. As fast as that sound had come, behind Max the glass that Hayden had been carrying shattered in a thousand shards, at the same time that the pediatrician realized what was happening and threw himself to the floor.

The gun was still pointed at Max, the steely killer’s eyes widened for a second, probably trying to understand why Max wasn’t bleeding on the floor. Narrowing his eyes, he didn’t deter.

Max had not enough energy to pull off his shield, but he had enough to block the opening of the barrel. Or at least, that was the plan as the gun went off a second time and Max threw everything he had on him at the same moment. Out of the room flew the man, and down to the floor went Max, his energy completely spent, an intense ringing in his ears. He had terribly miscalculated his own strength, though he could not exactly regretted it.

Was he shot? Was Sarah shot? Someone called his name while he felt his chest constrict as Liz’s fear gripped him so tight he could barely breathe. He raised his eyes to see the gunman sprawled against the wall outside the door, his gun aiming at someone to his right.

Whoever was about to be shot, Max was powerless to stop him.


* * *


Harrington was right: he didn’t make it on time.

The telltale sound of a gun firing came from the room his target had entered, sinking the Colonel’s hopes further. Automatically, he reached for his own gun, the weight and shape of the tranquilizer gun unfamiliar in his hand. A second shot came right on the heels of the first, making the hall seem impossibly long as he tried to reach Max.

He was about 30 feet from the door when the man he had been following literally flew out of the room. As unexpected and surreal as it was, Harrington didn’t lose a moment and took aim at the man. He shot him while the assassin was still trying to process what had happened to him. The dart hit the man’s right leg, shocking him into action. Still lying on the floor, and half-sedated already, he raised his gun and shot Harrington without a second thought.

Harrington hardly felt the wound.

As adrenaline made everything sharper, the Colonel heard Michael before he saw him, and trained his gun at the corner. He tried to step forward but felt his leg weak, effectively preventing him to advance. Michael came into view, ready to shoot or whatever it was they did, but lost focus as he saw the assassin lying on the floor. It was that single mistake that Harrington took advantage of.

For the second time that week, Michael Guerin was shot.

Behind him, Liz almost ran around the corner but, thinking better of it, remained sheltered behind. Instead, another man in a white coat went immediately to attend Michael.

“I’m on your side here!” Harrington shouted, not even sure if Liz was still around the corner. He tentatively tried to walk with no success, clenching his jaw as pain shoot through his leg. No answer came from Liz, but the doctor who was finishing taking Michael’s pulse turned to look at him. They were some 50 feet away, yet the doctor’s expression was clear: things were wrong.


* * *


The last thing Dr. Cramer would have expected those sounds to were gunshots. Yet somehow, when he turned the corner to reach Max’s room and saw a man lying on the floor and another one standing bleeding from his left leg, it was exactly the first thing he thought.

Boy, oh boy! They had finally come for Max, and these guys were not fooling around. If anything, that hall had never looked more bizarre that at that moment. Cramer came to a halt about 10 feet from the man holding the gun, another man sprawled unconscious in the middle of the hall, McConnell being on the other side of same hall, kneeling in front of none other than Michael, who looked unconscious.

“Max, are you okay?!” the man who was standing shouted, his gun still pointing at Michael and McConnell, his blood soaking through his clothes. This man was dressed as a doctor, but Cramer knew better.

No answer came.

“Michael needs help here,” McConnell said, looking straight at the gunman. “If not Shore’s serum, surely something to counter effect the sedative. They don’t really react well to those things.”

“I need you to check on Max first,” he stated, not lowering his gun. “I know Michael will survive a little longer.”

“I’ll do it,” Cramer volunteered behind him, which made the gunman spin in his direction. The movement was too fast, and his leg gave out. The man cursed loudly, yet he kept hold of his gun, even if he was not aiming at anyone in particular, holding his leg with his left hand.

“You need to be checked too,” Cramer said, approaching him.

The man shook his head. “Check on Max first, I’ll live. I’m not so sure about him.”

Cramer crossed looks with McConnell, and immediately went in search of their beloved mystery patient.


* * *


“Max, are you okay?!” The shout came from outside, a voice he was fairly certain he had heard in the past few days, but right now his memory was not his best ally.

His head was throbbing at the rhythm of his heart, which was going a million miles per hour as he sat on the floor against Sarah’s hospital bed. He had never had such an intense headache in his entire life, and it wasn’t a welcome experience now.

He had no voice to answer, and no strength to stand, either. His mind was being pulled in several different directions, from Liz’s intense fear, to Isabel’s panic attempt to contact him, even if he was not asleep. His sense of Michael had just vanished, and he was getting increasingly worried at how defenseless he felt.

Liz’s image appeared in front of him, looking at him with wide eyes, and Max knew she was afraid he had been shot. Had he been shot? She reached for him, and just as her hand was going to touch his cheek, Dr. Hayden’s face came into view, effectively dissipating Liz’s projection.

“Max?! Max?!” Hayden was saying, his hands pressing on his neck, his eyes roaming his body for signs of injury. He didn’t feel shot, but quite frankly, he couldn’t feel much of anything other than his aching head.

People were talking in the hall, and Max’s eyes tried to look past Hayden to the man who was lying still on the other side of the door. Were there others trying to kill him? Was the entire Unit here?

His impulse to run died rather quickly, as he could barely lift his hand.

“Stay still,” Hayden hissed, not yet done looking for injuries. “Michael is going to kill me,” he muttered, going back to Max’s forehead. “But whatever you did, I’m so glad you did it,” Hayden said with a small smile, turning to look behind him as another man entered the room.

Fearing it was another agent, Max tried to move further back, feeble attempt as it was, but Hayden got up instead. “Cramer! I’m so glad you’re here. That man outside was—”

“Shooting at you? I heard. Are you okay?” Cramer asked, kneeling beside Max.

“I got just a scratch. Sarah didn’t even stir during the whole thing. I’m not sure about Max though. He seems to be in some sort of shock, but he wasn’t shot.”

I’m not in shock, Max protested in his mind, however when nothing came out of his mouth, he had to rethink that position. He closed his eyes tight, trying to shut everything out. First things first, I have to get rid of this headache.

“What is he doing?” Hayden asked, sounding incredibly far away.

“I hope something good.”

Max hoped the same.


* * *


Liz’s heart slammed against her chest. She was petrified against the wall, breathing too fast and her mind going in too many directions to form a coherent thought. She had just projected herself to make sure Max was okay, and had been abruptly disrupted a few seconds later.

Max hadn’t seem shot, but he wasn’t exactly walking and talking. He had seen her, Liz knew, but now he had shut her out, retreating into himself for God knew why.

At her left, Michael was unconscious. She had tried to tell him he was going to get shot at the same time a muffled-cracking noise had come. It had been a gunshot, they had realized at the same time a second shot was heard, and Michael had turned and run, not caring what vision she had just seen. He had hesitated as he had turned the corner, and Liz’s heart had sunk thinking Michael was seeing Max, wounded or worse.

Now Michael was lying on the floor. Dr. McConnell had gone to check on someone else. Liz was still behind the corner, with no idea of what to do.

“Is Max okay?” someone asked in the hall, and Liz held her breath for the answer.

“We need to get him to his room,” someone else said. “We need to get everyone else out of the hall before someone catches on to what’s happening here.”

Isabel, Liz thought, she had to find Isabel, regroup and then… come back?

“Liz?! Liz Parker?!” someone called her name loudly. Liz’s mind froze. “I’m Colonel Harrington. I talked to you half an hour ago.”

Logic told her there was no way he could know if she was still there or not, yet she felt trapped. His image came into Liz’s memories, tall and broad, with grey eyes which looked intently at her. Part of her wanted to run, and part of her just couldn’t leave Max and Michael behind to their worst nightmare.

“I was telling you the truth. Washington is offering you all protection. I’m not your enemy.”

Yeah, tell that to Michael, Liz thought, glancing at her friend. McConnell had ascertain Michael had been sedated, which was marginally better than being actually shot. She closed her eyes. If she stayed, she would be captured and used against Max. If she ran, she would still have a chance to find him again. Nodding to herself, she took a deep breath and prepared to run through the hallway where she had first come.

Liz… Max’s voice whispered in her mind, calm and in control, halting any thought about leaving. Stay.

That was all he said. How was she supposed to make a decision now?
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Re: Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Ch. 20 - pg. 18 - 11/2

Postby Misha » Tue May 03, 2011 10:33 pm

Hey all! Thanks for still coming back to read!

cjeb, oh, my muse certainly works faster when guilt is following her... So thank you!

Timelord31, speaking of guilty muses, you're a master with motivating mine! :lol: Although Unknown is almost finished, I am planning an AU fic to write in the future, more stories to keep you PMing me!

mary mary, I'm trying!! Real Life and really good books and fanfics just get in the way... thanks for reading!

keepsmiling7, now what indeed... the ending was a whole lot easier when I had it just in my head and not glaring at me with a lot of loose ends to put down!

cjsl8ne, what will Liz do? What will all of them do? Those are the things that keep me awake at night... :roll:

Sundae, I think no matter what, Liz will always find Max :mrgreen:

squishypunk, thanks! I really love it too!!

ken_r, always such a pleasure to get your insights! And thank you for the silencer lessons! I was torn between making it realistic, or Hollywood realistic, so... But I digress, I do find it increasingly easily to sneak my characters all around the hospital, specially after such a thing like a train derailment ;)

Special thanks to Michelle in LA for such a fast beta services and very thoughtful insights! :shock:




XXI
Hallways



Shore’s phone rang. He had just hung up from Anderson telling him to meet him on the third floor, so his first thought was that his friend was calling yet again.

“Yes?” he simply answered on his way to the elevator.

“I shot Michael with a tranquilizer. How far are you from the third floor and what do you need to stabilize him?”

Harrington’s voice took Shore by surprise to the point that he froze where he stood. Thoughts collided in his mind for a second, from the LSDA drug he had in his pocket to the fact that they now had Michael, and that hopefully the Unit still had no idea of where Max was. Plus, Harrington knew exactly where their fugitive alien was: somewhere in Saint Paul’s Hospital.

He blinked.

“I’m… I’m on the third floor already,” he managed to answer, now looking for signs telling him where he was and where he could go. “I have an LSDA dose with me, though if he hasn’t been shot with the ZEDIC serum, maybe it won’t be as bad.”

“Good, I’m at the Cardiology wing. There are two doctors here tending to both Michael and Max. They’ll be ready when you come.”

Harrington hung up.

They have Max, Shore thought, closing his eyes in despair, his fleeting hope dying with a single sentence on a cell phone. After all he had tried to do, all the hiding and misdirection… They have them both now.


* * *


Isabel stepped out of the elevator in the fourth floor. Every single one of her senses was on high alert, expecting an ambush from any direction. Her heart was beating too fast, her ears were hearing the tiniest of sounds; even her skin seemed too sensitive, almost tingling.

She had no idea if she was at radiology, maternity, or what, only that it was one floor above where her brother was. She also didn’t know where exactly on the third floor Max was, but she knew that the Unit had arrived, so she had to be careful how she approached his room once she found where it was.

She felt it then: Michael’s energy went out. She froze, not able to breathe, not able to even blink. God, no. Please no.

Time passed, seconds or minutes, she couldn’t tell. The only feeling she had was a sickening hole where Michael’s presence usually was. Stretching her hand to the nearest wall so she wouldn’t fall, she shakily took a few shallow breaths. There was no doubt in her mind that it had been the Unit that had gotten Michael, but if he was dead or asleep, she couldn’t discern. Her mind went searching for Max’s, holding onto his vague sense in her mind. He had not been shot, and chances were she wouldn’t even really be able to contact him if he was not asleep and dreaming, but she had to do something. She just couldn’t let herself think right now what Michael being shot might mean.

“…It’s starting to get out, you know?” A woman was saying in a low voice somewhere at Isabel’s right. Someone in a room, with the door ajar.

“What— talking—?” the man who was answering her was further away, which meant Isabel could only catch a few words here and there. It didn’t matter, because she didn’t care. Isabel shut her eyes trying to ignore them.

“Cramer was not the only one operating on that girl, remember? He convinced the nurses and other doctors to keep the handprint quiet until he knew what was happening, but that was yesterday.”

Handprint? One single word in that conversation was all Isabel needed to pay attention. It was the only word that would time and again be attached to her brother’s actions.

“They’re— about it? Who?” by the sound of the man’s voice, Isabel was not the only one worried about where this was going.

“I overheard the nurses at the ER whispering something about a miracle. I don’t know, it wasn’t very clear, except for the part that involved an angel’s handprint. I couldn’t listen any further, and I couldn’t ask either, but Alec, this is not going to remain a secret for too long.”

“But— distorted, right?”

“I don’t think whoever is looking for Max is going to care the details aren’t right. This would be proof enough.”

That was more than Isabel needed to hear. It only took two strides to get into the room, all her worry hidden away by an imposing, cold face. The two doctors turned to look at her, startled.

“Where’s Max?” she asked, the light in the hall and the room flickering for an instant. Their eyes widened, though in fear or recognition, Isabel wouldn’t have been able to tell. “Where’s my brother?”

“You are… like him?” the man tentatively asked a second later, positioning himself in front of the other doctor, who had gone pale. Isabel didn’t answer, though her heart was a mile per hour. “If you are, this is probably not the safest place for you right now.”

“I’m not going without my brother, so you better take me to him,” she said, her voice didn’t even quiver. It wasn’t lost to her that this man was actually trying to protect her.

“You know the FBI is already here, right?” the man asked her, glancing at his partner. “He won’t survive for long out there. With you or with the FBI,” he admonished.

“Just tell me where he is, and I’ll do it on my own,” this time her voice did quiver, slightly, not enough to make her look vulnerable, just enough to add some sentiment to her demand.

“Okay, I’ll take you to him,” the man agreed, “but you need to understand what’s happening to him before you take him out.”


* * *

Max was glowing. Not in the erratic, flickering way he had done before, but in a more subdue kind of way, one that was apparently covering the most part of his body. Honestly, in the years to come, Dr. Hayden would never find the right way to describe what exactly he was seeing. Probably because he was a bit on the shock side of things.

“Listen,” Dr. Cramer said, lowering his voice, “they have finally come for Max. I don’t know who, or what, just that the guy has a gun and shot Michael and your shooter out there. With a tranquilizer gun, don’t worry,” he added as Hayden’s eyes widened in fear. “He knows about McConnell and me, and he will know about Holt through that Shore guy, maybe even Lake. But you, you don’t have to be here, you know what I mean?”

Hayden thought he might know, but he wasn’t really sure. So he didn’t nod. He just blinked.

“You don’t work here, you don’t live in this city. As far as I know, you don’t even exist. At least until someone says the opposite or sees you, okay? So stay here, don’t go out, don’t do anything.”

“What if they figured me out?” Hayden asked, finally understanding what exactly Dr. Cramer was talking about, giving him a way out of this mess without the bad guys ever knowing he had been involved.

“We’ll deal with that bridge when we get there. Right now, I gotta take Max to his room and hopefully convince whoever wants him out to not take him. You look over Sarah, okay?”

Hayden glanced at the bed, thankful the little girl was too out of it to have noticed anything. Then he looked back at Max. The glowing was subsiding somehow, and it finally dawned on Hayden that this man, his elusive miracle maker, had just saved his life by deflecting a bullet that would have killed him. And he would probably never be able to thank him.

For a split second, his fingers flinched as he debated how safe was touching Max right this moment, and then he brought himself to take Max’s pulse, glowing skin and all, in some small way trying to repay the favor, trying to see for himself how Max was doing.

He frowned.

“What?” Cramer asked, getting ready to carry Max back to his room, obviously not caring what contact with that glowing could do to him.

“His pulse is slowing down. Stabilizing?” Hayden asked rather than stated. It was always a guessing game with Max, for all he had seen.

“I’ll let you know,” Cramer said in a low voice, slightly grunting as he stood cradling Max.Not here the large man mouthed, emphasizing with his eyes what they had just agreed on, and then he was out in the hallway, closing the door behind him with his foot.

Hayden looked at the door for a couple of seconds, muffled voices coming from there, though he couldn’t make out a word. He felt himself getting shaky, and sitting on Sarah’s bed, he finally let go the breath he had been holding since Cramer had gone out.

Looking to the sleeping form at his right, Hayden slightly smiled. For the first time he had something in common with all those children with silver handprints: they had all been saved one way or another by an alien.


* * *


Liz didn’t exactly stay in the conventional sense of the word, but then again, she had more than one way to be around Max.

After a split second trying to decide how much help she could be to Max by giving herself up to that Harrington man or by running to the opposite side, she had finally concluded that she just could not abandon her husband.

McConnell had come back to check on Michael, and although he had not turned to look at her, he had subtly shaken his head, something Liz had taken as a don’t come signal from his part. Her heart beating too fast, she had desperately turned to look at the other side of the hall, somehow believing she would find Isabel or Maria or Kyle or someone who would help her out.

She hadn’t found salvation, but she had found a door. And that’s when it had occurred to her that she could not only hide, but project herself to see what was really happening.

There was a man on the bed of the room she silently entered, who was thankfully asleep. Liz didn’t know if someone would visit him soon, or if he would wake up any minute, but choosing the chair with its back to the door, she seated herself and hoped that anyone looking in would assume she was visiting here.

As anxious and nervous as she was, she took a deep breath and slowly let it go. Find Max, find Max, find Max, she repeated in her head, following the elusive trail to her soulmate. He had shut her out not even five minutes before, so it was an overwhelming relief when she could find him again.

The pressure in her ears increased, her hands tingled, and the next thing she knew, she was standing in the hall. She saw a man carrying Max, and although she knew he was not unconscious, he sure looked like it.

On her left, a man in scrubs was lying against the wall. Had this been the man who had shot before Michael had run out? Further in McConnell was crouched over Michael’s still form. On her right, the man who had shot them both, Harrington if her logic was right, was holding his leg, blood dripping to the floor, his gun not pointed at anyone though his eyes hawkishly followed Max’s procession.

Her husband disappeared behind a door, and as she went after him, something unexpected happened: she heard McConnell talking, “There’s a common room we can take your shooter to. I’m not so sure about Michael though. And we’ll need a gurney.”

She had never heard –or been heard- while she projected. For one second she had to wonder if she was projecting, or had come to the hall in her real self.

“Dr. Shore is coming,” Harrington said, “and Lieutenant Colonel Anders, to sort this out.”

No one was looking at her, but this wonder of being able to eavesdrop vanished as her concern for Max returned. Whatever else Harrington added was lost to Liz’s phantom ears.

She went through the door, part of her planning how to get him out, part of her just wishing to see him well at last.

She watched as the bigger doctor put Max on the bed, turning to look at her, or rather the door. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw that Max was also looking at her –– and hopefully not the door.

He looked worn out, pale and exhausted, but his eyes were focusing on her with an awareness that had not been there since the day he had left their motel room with a smiling I’ll be right back.

Liz just knew that, whatever it took, she was getting him back.
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Re: Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Ch. 21 - pg. 19 - 5/3

Postby Misha » Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:47 pm

Finally! I got it :shock:

By this point I'm wondering if I do have any readers left... but never mind! Here's the next part :mrgreen: Thank you so much for the nudges and the feedback! It's always greatly appreciated!

Janetfl, with that kind of banner as a signature, you can ask for anything, girl! :lol:



XXII
Awake


A thought seized Max’s mind with the strength to shake him to his very core: Liz’s fear. She wanted to flee, but he needed her to stay. Deep within him he embraced her side of the connection but as awareness took him from the blackness of unconsciousness, he lost his grip on her and why he had told her to stay.

He first felt heavy, then cold as his mind processed his body’s input- one that was telling him he was on the floor. The next thing he felt was a rather simple: He was hungry. Hungry enough to feel hollow inside, strong enough to make him want to bend over and hug himself. Yet his muscles didn’t respond and soon other ideas intruded, half taking his mind off the demands of his body. He was sitting on a cold floor and he had just survived someone shooting at him.

Strong arms lifted him, carrying him outside. His body went limp, partly because he was too weak to do much about it but partly too because playing dead was his best chance. He needed time to put together the events that had landed him here. Vague memories of the last few days fleetingly passed his tired mind. A handful came sharp, his muscles slightly twitching as he braced himself for them. Yet they were hard to place in their chronological order, much less in any kind of context.

Carefully, he was laid down on a bed while his mind was trying to make sense of half forgotten words and half remembered feelings. A few certainties he rapidly organized: he had been captured, he had somehow escaped and now he was… at a hospital, he guessed.

“How are you feeling?” the man who had been carrying him asked in a slow, soothing voice, eyes looking at his face searching for something. Alertness, probably. Max felt slightly offended at being talk to as if he were a 5 year-old, and the feeling surprised him. He didn’t like to be talked to like a child, the knowledge came unbidden, a tidbit of Zan’s life that felt as real as the bed he was in.

His mouth slightly opening, he realized he actually knew now more about Zan than he did of the past days of his own life. It wasn’t much by any measure, but he felt intimidated by Zan’s own self confidence that borderline in arrogance.

But then again, Zan was a king. The rationalization did little to appease his confused mind. Zan’s knowledge wasn’t terrifying, exactly, but remembering him right this moment was not helping him focus on more urgent matters.

Movement caught his eyes before he could say anything, and he turned to look at the door. His heart almost stopped- although all he wanted to do was shout Liz! with all the strength of his being, he remained frozen in bed. He had to get her out of here, far away, out of danger.

“I’m not sure how to get you out of this to tell you the truth,” the man said in a resigned tone, following Max’s gaze to the door. Scared out of his mind, Max turned to look at the much bigger man, fearing what he would do once he saw Liz.

Except, he didn’t do anything. Instead, he turned to see him again, and fully standing he repeated, “How are you feeling?”

This time the question was serious. The man was assessing how weak or how coherent Max was at the same time Max was trying to understand why he wasn’t surprised to see Liz- whom, to his astonishment, wasn’t saying a word.

His question was abruptly answered as another man entered the room and went right through her. She disintegrated for a second, and reformed the next. His heart skipped a beat and his eyes went wide for two seconds as his mind processed that Liz was projecting herself.

The older man went to the crash cart and started to search for something through the different shelves. “I’ll bring Michael here, and the shooter needs to be moved somewhere, at least for a couple of hours before we can decide what to do.”

At the mention of Michael’s name, Max instinctively searched within for him, and found nothing. In front of him, he felt Liz, a mix of anxiety, fear and relief. Somewhere not far, Isabel was frantic, but Michael…

“What about the other shooter?” the man beside him asked the newcomer.

“He’s talking to someone on his phone, but I… I don’t know what to do. How’s Max?”

All eyes went to him, including Liz’s. “He hasn’t said a word,” the first man answered.

“Where is he?” Max finally asked, first to the man who had just entered, and then to the man who had brought him in. “Where’s Michael?” His voice sounded a bit hoarse, and his throat felt too dry, but damn if he cared.

“Outside,” the older doctor answered, looking intently at him, and then to the other man. “He’s sedated, unfortunately, so we need to hurry. Cramer, could you help me bring him in?” A couple of syringes and a small bottle in hand, the man turned around and exited the room. This time, Liz moved to the wall to avoid him. Max got the feeling she hadn’t liked being scattered a minute before.

“Don’t move,” Cramer warned, and then he, too, went out.

Alone in the room, Max finally turned to look at Liz, afraid she would disappear. “Liz…” he whispered with relief, sitting up on the bed, trying to get up. She went to him in a heartbeat, and even if her hand went right through his, he still got the familiar spark ran through his entire body. Her smile turned sad for an instant, maybe because she had forgotten like he had that they would not really touch. “Are you okay?” he asked a second after.

She nodded. Are you? She mouthed. He couldn’t hear her, but he understood. “Are you at the hospital?” she nodded again. Turning, she pointed back, in the general direction where she was, he guessed. “Isabel?” This time, Liz shrugged. “Michael’s been shot… I’m not sure if I’m strong enough to get him out.” I’m not sure if I’m strong enough to get myself out, he briefly thought. How could he get out when he had no strength over his enemy?

A third man entered his room limping, aided by Cramer. This was the man who was in charged, Max just knew, even if he was wounded. This was the man who had Max’s life in his hands. Max swallowed hard as the men passed in front of him to be seated at his right on a chair by the end of the bed. His muscles tensed, his breathing increased, but just before he could go on a full blow panic, something inside of him made click.

When you don’t have the strength to get out, a thought came clear in his head from a past long forgotten, then you do the next best thing: You negotiate.


* * *


Harrington wasn’t exactly happy, but he was damn close to it. Finally he had found his fugitive alien- alive and looking better than the last time he had seen the boy. Now all he needed was to get him secure somewhere underground and away from prying eyes. Getting rid of the bullet wound on his leg came a very distant second in his list of priorities.

“Let me look at that,” the doctor who was helping him into a seat said not three feet from Max’s bed.

Ignoring him, Harrington turned to look directly at Max. “How are you feeling…” your Majesty? Sir? “Max?”

Now that he was in front of his quarry, the Colonel felt strangely awkward. In the space of five days Max had gone from being a dangerous enemy, an invader nonetheless, to the rightful, exile king of a far away planet. Or at least he had been given the benefit of the doubt to prove himself one way or the other. So addressing him had represented a careful thought that had not been needed before. He was not a prisoner in the negative context, but should he be treated as royalty?

He needed his lieutenant colonel to mediate in this mess ASAP. Harrington had called him not five minutes ago, and he was expecting him to be here in five minutes or less. He just had to make sure his refugee stayed put and alive for that time. And then they would have a nice little chat.

“Well enough to talk,” came Max’s response, oddly fitting Harrington’s thoughts.

You’re not reading my—

The half thought barely formed when the doctor pressed the wound on his leg. He swallowed the hiss and looked at the door, evading his pain.

“The bullet went through. I need to clean the wound, and you’ll need stitches on this…” Getting up, the doctor went to get something from the crash cart.

“Is Michael okay?” Max asked the doctor, and then turned to look at him. Instead of a frightened boy, the eyes that met him were collected. Almost with authority.

“He’ll be fine,” Harrington simply replied. It had been either risking Michael’s health, or Harrington’s own life. Shooting him had been a necessity. Now that he was thinking about it, if he was really honest with himself, maybe shooting Michael had been the only way available to achieve any resemblance of a peace talk.

Returning with a clean cloth, the doctor pressed it against his wound. “Keep the pressure,” he said as Harrington put his hand on it. Giving him a pointed look, the doctor stood and went out of the room. He’d had it worse, and certainly with no doctor to look at it five minutes after the fact. He was certainly grateful, even if his mind had more pressing matters to worry about.

Introductions were in order.

“I’m Colonel Harrington, head of the Special Unit—”

Before he could go any further, Michael was brought into the room, carried by the two doctors. Max eagerly followed their movements, sat straighter, probably wondering if he could heal his friend. Don’t be the hero, Harrington silently thought, knowing Max was awake for nothing short of a miracle.

They were moving to position the deeply asleep boy on the lovebird couch at the far side of the room. It was hardly fitting Michael in, but he doubted Michael would care. They exchanged medical words, worried looks, and finally the young one went to the crash cart again, and the old one went to Max.

“I’m glad to see you’re better,” he said in a gentle voice, flashing a light on Max’s eyes. “Follow my lead…” the doctor said making Max look up and down, side to side. Clicking it off, he placed his hand on Max’s wrist. “Headaches?” Max shook his head, looking mighty uncomfortable.

On the far side, the taller doctor was also flashing lights and taking pulses. The wound on Harrington’s leg was starting to really hurt, but Harrington took a deep breath, shut his eyes, and kept the pressure. He could follow their conversation without looking at them. He could still hear them, that was all he needed.

“Is Michael going to be okay?”

“We have every reason to believe he will... Any dizziness?”

“Not… anymore… How long have I been here?”

“A couple of days. I wouldn’t be surprised if things are a bit confusing and vague right now for you.”

“Okay…”

“Thirsty?”

“Hungry, actually…”

“When was the last time he had a proper meal?”

Silence. Trying to keep the pain at bay, it took Harrington a few seconds to realize the only one who could answer that was him.

“Six days ago, probably,” he said, opening his eyes to the not so gentle eyes of the doctor. “He couldn’t keep much down afterwards. Dr. Shore tried to give him several things…” he trailed off, unsure about the proper order of the tests that had been performed.

“But I was too sick…” Max finished, almost in a whisper.

You were dying, Harrington privately acknowledged. No matter what he said, the Unit was not going to look good in Max’s eyes. Ironically, they had been trying to save his life. They were the reason he was sick on the first place, but it had been completely accidental. With that kind of reasoning, Harrington briefly mused to himself, no wonder he was not in the diplomatic world.

“Colonel Harrington?!” A man shouted on the hallway.

“In here!” he yelled back. Behind him, Max and his doctor exchanged worried looks.

“Your shooter is… lying out there…” Lieutenant Colonel Anders said as he entered the room. Harrington sighed a sigh of relief. His mediator had arrived. Just in time.


* * *


Lieutenant Colonel Anders was walking into a mess. Again. He wasn’t sure exactly how he knew it, but he just did.

Outside in the hall, doctor Peter Shore was checking the shooter’s vitals. In his pocket, the good doctor carried the LSDA dose for Michael, the one drug that would stop the sedative taking a negative hold on the hybrid’s body.

A week ago, Anders fleetingly thought, that last sentence would have been completely incomprehensible. What, with drugs, alien-human hybrids and proclaimed royalty… Regardless, his last words hung on the room, everyone knowing something had to be done about the shooter lying out there.

With Max on the bed, Michael on the couch, Harrington on the chair, and two doctors keeping watch, the room was certainly feeling crowded. Right on cue, Peter passed him by and entered the room. All eyes went to him as he went to Michael.

“How’s he doing?” Shore immediately asked Cramer, taking a syringe out of his pocket.

“We’ve just got him here, but he’s already having trouble breathing. He’s getting cold too,” Cramer relied, standing up to give Shore room to check Michael’s pupils and pulse.

“He needs to be monitored. Max had too many drugs in his system by the time I got to him. I cannot be sure what Michael’s case would be like.”

“I’m out of beds in Cardiology,” Cramer said, turning to look at his colleague. “You think you’ll get luckier in Neurology?”

The reluctance to answer was evident on the older doctor who was by Max’s side. “I think I can manage,” he answered, then he turned to look at Max. “Do you know these people?” he quietly asked, as Cramer went out of the room- either to do something about the shooter or getting a bed in Neurology. It was anyone’s guess.

All eyes turned to Max.

There was not much the doctor could do against the Special Unit, really, but if Max said yes in a favorable way, it would mean not only that he was cooperating, but that things would go smoothly on getting him into federal grounds.

Looking at Anders and then at Harrington, Max’s eyes went to Shore, who turned to lock eyes with his patient.

“I know him,” Max said, slightly inclining his head, narrowing his eyes a fraction as if he were trying to remember something. “He was dragged into this… in the middle of the night.”

How on Earth do you know that? Anders thought, immediately turning to look at Harrington. How many things these kids could do that they had no idea about? No wonder they kept finding Max. It doesn’t matter, he reminded himself. At least Max trusts someone in here.

“I don’t… really know the others…”

That was as good as an engraved invitation. Anders took a mental deep breath, and walked closer to Max. “I’m Lieutenant Colonel Anders. I’m here on behalf of the United States Government to offer you and yours political asylum and to reach further agreements between… all the parties involved.” Your people and mine just sounded too weird for Anders to say out loud.

Max’s face didn’t change, which gave Anders no clue as to what effect those words were having on the young man. Instead, Max turned to look at Shore, who was administering the serum to Michael.

Something beeped, startling Anders. The doctor by Max’s side reached inside his pocket, and took his beeper out. “I need to go back. But Max… You’re not alone.” The look the older man gave Max was lost to Anders, who only got the doctor’s back, but by the way Max nodded his understanding, it was clear to Anders there was more being said with the eyes than with the words.

How well did Max know this man? He had been missing for over a day now, there really couldn’t be all that trust, could it? Of course there is, Anders resigned himself. Now he had to add a whole staff of doctors to his ever-growing list of people involved. He had to give it to them though, they seemed to be nothing if not discreet. A quality that would come in handy when he’d have to deal with them when all this was over.

Before leaving, the doctor stopped by Shore’s and Michael’s side. “I’ll send someone over to fetch Michael if I can’t come back soon enough.”

“Okay,” Shore simply answered, holding Michael’s wrist.

Please don’t die, Anders reflexively thought. What good would it do to have Max survive just to have Michael dying on their hands?

“I think what worries me the most,” Max steadily said, “is that I have no proof of your intentions.”

Even if he was sitting on a hospital bed, wearing hospital scrubs, hair disarrayed and dark circles under his eyes, there was not a single thing about Max that screamed weak. Not even whispered it.

“You do understand we didn’t intend for all this to happen to you,” Harrington spoke, holding his leg. It was until that moment that Anders realized Harrington was injured. He truly hoped it was the pain that was making Harrington get in the middle of this argument, but Anders had been around too many talks to know most people spoke without any tactical sense of the diplomatic world.

“I understand you shot me, drugged me, almost killed me… and that was the first time around.”

That was a misunderstanding was certainly not going to cut it.

“We are aware of many transgressions our agencies have done to you, Max, and we are prepare to make amends. This proposal is the first step into a bigger commitment.” Anders held Max’s eyes. His instincts told him they were working towards the same goal, that Max was not being difficult for the sake of it, but because he knew how to build his case. And then…

“You’ll be safe kid. You just come with us.”

…Harrington had to talk.

Max turned to look at him. “I don’t think, Colonel, that you realize you’re not talking to some 19 year-old kid who you’ve cornered in a hospital bed. We might be in a political crisis in my home world, but I’m still the leader of a confederation of five planets with full space travel capacity among other things. I do not take orders from you.”

It didn’t matter Max couldn’t prove it. They were working under the assumption that he was what he said he was, and he could demand be treated as that.

This was not going to go smoothly.
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Re: Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Ch. 22 - pg. 3 - 11/4

Postby Misha » Sat Mar 17, 2012 12:24 am

Yay! Finally! Getting close to the ending always scares the muse away... Alas, we are one or two chapters away from The End, so thank you very much for coming back to read!! And special thanks to you guys who nudge and review :mrgreen:

A huge THANK YOU goes to marmez for being beta extraordinaire :mrgreen:

(As a side note, Happy 29th Bday Max! I'm one day late, but still...)



XXIII
Time



“Hey… hey…”

Someone shook her shoulders insistently, and Liz had no option but to leave Max’s room and return to her body, something that always left her dizzy for a few seconds. The man in front of her was the same doctor that had been by Max’s side not two minutes ago. The same one who had showed her and Michael were Max was.

“Thank God you’re okay. For one second I thought someone had shot you too,” he said as Liz tried to get her thoughts together. McConnell. His name is McConnell, she remembered then. Behind him, a far bigger doctor was dragging someone in, positioning him on a couch by the far end. For one second she thought it was Michael.

“What—What are you doing?!” she said, standing up too fast, almost losing her balance as McConnell steadied her.

“We couldn’t leave the shooter lying on the floor, and we needed to regroup,” McConnell explained. “This was the closest room. Why were you sleeping on the chair?”

The shooter in question was now lying on the couch as the other doctor took his pulse.

“He… He shot Max…” Liz whispered, her eyes going round. Anger and fear mixed in her heart at the man who had tried to take Max’s life away. Her fingers tingled, and she reflexively closed them in a fist, lest her powers went hunting him down on their own.

“Max is okay. He’s awake, and he’s coherent, which are two things I wouldn’t have thought possible an hour ago.”

“I thought you were taking that man to Neurology,” Liz said, her eyes glued to the sleeping form, almost daring him to wake up and give her a reason to blast him.

“This was closer,” the younger doctor answered, finally standing up. “I’m Dr. Cramer, I take it you’re Max’s wife?”

“How do you know we were going to Neurology?” McConnell asked, frowning.

Because I was projecting back there. “I was— I can— Look, I just do, okay? We need to get Max out of there. I don’t care what they’re saying. That man lying on the couch is proof enough they are not serious about keeping him safe.”

“We kind of have our hands tied here,” Cramer said, while McConnell looked at her with eyes even narrower. “Shore showed up with the only thing that got Max’s vitals under control, and probably Michael’s too. Harrington shot our Sleeping Beauty there,” he pointed out with his thumb to the unconscious man. “And most importantly, he’s armed. Add the other guy who just showed up, and that means he’s not alone.”

“Do you know what Max wants to do?” McConnell asked her, ignoring Cramer’s account.

She bit her lip. She really, really wasn’t sure. “I think he’s stalling for time.”

“He and everyone here, it seems,” Cramer muttered.

“He was really, really sick not even a couple of hours ago,” McConnell explained. “He seems better now, but that doesn’t mean you should take him out of here.”

“I know Max trusts you, but you have to trust us, okay? These people?” she said pointing at the shooter, “They’d lock him and Michael up and never let them go. You don’t know what they did to him…”

McConnell sighed. Crammer looked back at the couch, making sure the shooter hadn’t disappeared. “We want what’s best for them,” the older doctor said, his eyes tired. “We… we might be able to get them out, but then, what are you going to do? Run to some shady motel and hope for the best? They both need to be looked after.”

Liz knew he was pretty close to the truth there: maybe not a shady motel, but certainly not a resting place. They would have to be on the move and quick.

She locked eyes with him, and momentarily forgot everything. For the first time she realized that she owed Max’s life to these men. She’d seen at least three of them earlier, when she’d barely been able to make contact with Max. She shamelessly stared at him, the realization filling some cold part of her heart.

She wanted to hug him.

She also wanted to cry, to sleep, to just let go. She was so close to her husband, and yet there was an abyss among them. And now that Max had been shot at and nothing had come out of it, all that adrenaline was gone. She felt dizzy for an instant.

“What about Hayden?” Cramer said, taking McConnell’s attention away from her.

Who?

“What about him?” McConnell asked.

“Once this is over, you, Holt, Lake and myself are all pointed out. But Hayden has nothing to do with us or this hospital. Lake was the only one who contacted him because of the Phoenix incident. If anyone can go and watch over Max, it’s our curious pediatrician.”

Who? Liz wondered again, feeling steadier now that plans were being made.

“That might solve the who, but not the where… or when,” McConnell pointed out.

“I can take care of the when…” Cramer said with a smirk.

“What are you talking about? Who’s Hayden?” Liz interrupted, frowning.

“Right now,” McConnell answered, “he’s the only reason I would agree to help you out.”


* * *


“We need to establish some trust here,” one of the Unit men was saying, the one that wasn’t shot. From her invisible point of view in the corner, Liz’s eyes went from the man talking, to the wounded man, back to Max’s pale face.

While her body still remained in a room around the corner, Max’s doctors were trying to find a way to get Max out from under these two men. The minute she had projected herself into Max’s room again, she had asked him for one thing only: Keep them here!

They now had a plan, they just needed time to move people around. Since Max was awake and alert, Dr. McConnell was not giving her hell about not moving Max. The fact that he had already been shot and was unharmed did wonders to her heart too. Her vision had come and gone, and she couldn’t be happier about the results.

Her second task was to pay attention and keep her eyes open. No other agents had arrived, and the agents in front of her were making no moves to call in reinforcements. Sitting quietly beside her was Dr. Shore, watching over Michael. McConnell was sure that Shore would take their side, but Liz was unconvinced. Either way, while McConnell and Cramer finished plotting Max and Michael’s relocation, they still needed to know how many people they had to dodge.

“Washington had some communication problems,” the man who had been shot said. Harrington, Liz remembered, narrowing her eyes at him. He was the one who had told her Washington was offering protection. “That shooter should have been stopped long before he reached the hospital, and for that you have our apologies.”

“I was doing fine a week ago, when none of you knew where I was. Now I can hardly account for the last five days of my life, and my best friend may or may not have a lethal reaction to your sedatives. How is coming with you an improvement? What happens next time someone has a ‘communication’ problem?”

This had been going on for the past ten minutes. Following her mouthed instructions, her husband was doing everything in his power to stall, going in circles. He wanted to be left alone. Harrington wanted to take him in. Caught in the middle of their arguments was the other guy, Anders-Andrews-Something, who was trying to negotiate an agreement, though it was clear he wanted Max to take the offer.

The thing about all this was how completely surreal it was. Max was hardly in any condition to physically fight any of the three men in the room, yet they wanted his acceptance to this deal first. She had the feeling that this meeting could go on for hours, even if in the end they all knew they were going to take Max by force if it came to that.

Maybe Harrington was telling the truth after all… Maybe Washington does want to strike a deal.

“Hence the need to establish some trust,” their moderator repeated, looking first at Max and then at Harrington, the same way her Chemistry teacher used to look at troublemaking kids at the back of the classroom. The look that said, “shut up and listen.”

What came next, however, was growling. Max’s stomach growling, to be exact. For one second, all eyes turned to him, and he blushed slightly. He did not lose his composure, however. Instead, he turned to look at Harrington, anger in his eyes. “You didn’t even feed me.”

“You were too sick for that,” Harrington countered, clearly at the end of his rope. Before Max could go down that path, Dr. Shore stood up.

“That’s enough from all of you. You should be resting,” he sternly told Max, “You should be getting stitches,” he pointed out to Harrington, who was holding his injured leg yet still looked imposing while sitting in a hospital chair. “I’ll get you some food if you’re up to it…?” he asked Max, unsure if that was a good idea.

Max nodded, not too eager, not even when his stomach protested once again.

“I think a break will serve us well. I’ll call Washington to tell them we are in the middle of negotiations,” Anders-or-Other said, sinking Liz’s spirits. She couldn’t stop the man from making the call without giving herself away. Max looked at her then. While he had known she was there the whole time, he had been very careful to avoid eye-contact with her. Now their eyes locked. They both had the same thought: their window of escape was getting smaller by the second.


* * *


“He’s stalling for time,” Shore said the minute he was out of Max’s room, Anders in tow. Of all the things they had experienced together, this was by far the strangest of them all.

“I know,” his friend answered, glancing backwards. “Harrington has orders, and Max has every right to mistrust us. But one way or another, you know they’re coming with us.”

“Good luck with keeping him and Guerin locked up in a prison…” Shore pointed out.

Anders sighed. “It doesn’t help if you don’t see it’s for their protection.”

They stared at each other in silent contemplation: for the first time it seemed that they were standing on opposite sides of a line.

“You’ll do him a great service if you remain with Harrington,” Anders said, his eyes softening. “You care so much because he’s been your patient for the last four days. And you’re right, he wouldn’t have been in this position if we had known the effects of the sedative on him. But the truth is, that we didn’t know, Pete. We didn’t make him sick on purpose. And we sure as hell aren’t going to do that again.”

It was clear to Shore that Anders believed what he was saying, but he had left the military four years ago precisely because he had stopped believing that all orders had a good reasonable thought behind them. If tomorrow Washington decided against Max, the twenty-year old would never see the light of day again. Still, he had to play along. If worse came to worst and Max and Michael were taken, Anders was right: he could help them from the inside.

“You’re right…” he said, looking down the corridor, wondering where McConnell and Cramer had gone. “It’s been a very long week… that’s all.”

Their friendship seemingly restored, his friend relaxed.

“Where do you think Isabel is? Second floor?” Anders asked out of the blue. “He’s stalling for time like you said, but I doubt his wife is the only one around.”


* * *


“She’s taking too long,” Isabel’s words quivered, and she knew she was one minute away from breaking down. She needed answers, about Max’s condition, about Michael’s whereabouts, about what to do.

“I’m sure she’s on her way back,” Dr. Holt reassured her. She didn’t believe him.

By now, he and Dr. Susan Lake had explained to her what had been happening to her brother for the last twenty-four hours. Not ten minutes ago, Lake had gone out to find the answers to all of Isabel’s immediate questions.

“I am sure the FBI will see the importance of not moving Max. And once he can be moved then you can take action and take him far away from here.”

She wanted to agree. She really did., but she just stayed there, looking at the door. Part of her wanted to tear down the entire floor until she found Max. But another part of her knew she needed both information and allies if she was going to pull off any kind of rescue. It was like being back at Eagle Rock Base all over again. She shivered.

Somewhere, out there, Liz was also scouting the halls and her only backup now was Kyle and Maria, assuming Kyle was awake.

Getting Max out was just one problem. Caring for Max once they were out was an unknown variable that Holt was eager to point out every minute that went by. She didn’t want to get Max out of here just to have him die in her arms, but damn it! Was letting him back into that hell an option? Would he survive it a third time?

What do you want me to do? Max… what should I do?


* * *


“You need to convince that Hayden guy to help us out,” Dr. Cramer said while he was pushing an empty gurney down the hall. Dr. Susan Lake was walking beside him, bewildered. She hardly had any time to process the fact that not only had Max gained some of his health back, but that he had been found by a shooter that the FBI had stopped. The details were already getting blurry.

“Wait, so they don’t want to harm him? They’re on his side? That doesn’t make sense…” she trailed off. Cramer grimly shook his head.

“Hardly anything makes sense around here in case you haven’t noticed…” he humorlessly said. “A guy who glows, a government conspiracy… and us, smack in the middle. But damn if I’m going to let those men take Max away after all he’s been through. No one deserves that treatment. No one.”

Susan didn’t have that conviction, exactly. She had something more. Since she had connected with Max a few hours back, she’d acquired a new sense of what dread and fighting for one’s life really felt like. She knew first hand Max was not a bad guy, she just couldn’t put it into words. The images were elusive, the feelings fleeting. The terror the words FBI Special Unit inflicted on her was too real to not be believed, and that was more than proof to her that Max needed to get away from them.

God, she wanted a cigarette. Right now.

Part of her just wanted to quit. Go right through the Exit door to a warm shower and a soft bed and forget she’d ever been tangled in an alien-government conspiracy. Part of her was too tired to really care. But unlike Cramer who had seen Sarah in his OR and Max in the ICU, Susan had seen the exact moment when Max had healed the girl. If she was going to be honest, there was also the part that shared Hayden’s curiosity about how Max had healed those children. Her chances of finding out were slim, but if the government took Max, she knew no one was ever going to find out.

“Okay,” she said, keeping up with Cramer in the hall. “What’s the plan? What does Hayden need to know?”


* * *


This had been a long, long shift, McConnell reflected as he quietly sat in a room between Liz and their unnamed shooter, the unconscious patient in the bed hardly counting as anything besides part of the background. If all went according to plan, in a few hours, McConnell could very well be facing charges of aiding an illegal alien, for starters, and who knew what else afterwards. Treason? Hiding a criminal? Was Max even a criminal?

He sighed. He didn’t like where all this was heading. Sending Max and Michael away with Hayden was hardly better than sending them with Shore. At least Shore had the knowledge and the equipment to treat their half-human patients. Hayden would only have his own wit and twenty-four hours of notes. If Max relapsed or Michael didn’t come out of his sedative-induced sleep, all this would be for nothing.

In the chair, Liz twitched. It was her display of fear that had convinced McConnell to try this. You don’t know what they did to him… she had whispered, and McConnell knew she was not talking about the past four days.

Now, feeling utterly alone despite the other three bodies that were occupying this patient’s room, McConnell contemplated the incredible facts he now knew about life: there was a man who could heal with a touch; he was married to a girl who could invisibly walk the halls.

She had called it “projection”, a term that vaguely rang any bells on his mind. Once they had decided on a plan, Liz had sat down again, and now was presumably telling Max to gain as much time as he could. McConnell had no way to know if that was happening or not.

The door abruptly opened, scattering all McConnell’s thoughts to the wind. He stood up immediately.

“The sister is here,” Cramer said, followed by a very nervous looking Dr. Lake. “Lake says she’ll talk to Hayden.”

She nodded twice, glancing at the sleeping shooter and at Liz’s seated form. “What’s wrong with her?”

“Don’t mind her,” Cramer said, going to get supplies from a crash cart on the opposite side of the room. Slightly shrugging, she turned to look at McConnell.

“Holt is with Isabel now, and she’s really agitated. Now, I know Hayden is at the end of this plan, but how are you going to get Max and Michael out of here?”

He didn’t have time to answer her. Gasping for air, Liz came to her senses, eyes wide open. “They are calling— they just got out of the room. We have to get them out now!”

Without another word, McConnell abruptly left the room and walked straight into Shore’s surprised face.


* * *


“Whatever your plan is, I have a better idea,” Shore said as the other three people in the room gathered at McConnell’s back. Especially the young girl who Shore had never met but had seen pictures of not five days ago: Max’s wife.

She looked at him warily. They all did.

“Anders is checking in with Washington,” he explained, “It’s now or never.”
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Re: Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Ch. 23 - pg. 4 - 3/16 AN 6/17

Postby Misha » Mon Oct 08, 2012 10:23 pm

At long last! Thank you for coming back to read!

One last chapter to go before The End :mrgreen:



Chapter 24
Opportunity



Being hungry was the least of his problems, Max knew, as silence descended in his room.

Along the wall in front of him, Michael remained sedated. At the corner of Max’s bed, the head of the Special Unit watched Max like a menacing watchdog. Harrington’s steely eyes were on him, barely blinking. Even if Max could get up and run, he couldn’t leave Michael behind. Was his friend all right? Last time Michael had been shot, that day when they had been trying to escape in the paper warehouse, there had been something wrong with Michael’s lungs. I cannot heal him now, he wearily thought. He barely had enough energy to stay awake. The most he could manage would be to collapse and lose consciousness again. And that he couldn’t afford. Yet whatever Liz’s plan was, it was happening soon.

“What is waiting for you out there, Max? More running?” Harrington’s question broke the silence. Max turned to look at him, expecting to find a smirk. Instead, the man was as serious as ever.

“What is waiting for me here, Colonel? A sure and painful death?”

They stared at each other for a moment. It was like their somewhat mediator Anders had been saying: they needed to build trust. Easy to say, yet Max was way past trusting these people. He would take running over surrendering to the FBI every single time.

“Anders has all the right words,” Harrington said after a moment, glancing at the door as if expecting someone to come in. “But I’ll say it plainly to you: I have orders to bring you back to headquarters as a political refugee. If you run, you’re going to slap that trust and make everyone believe you want anything but a peaceful resolution.”

Max was too tired to negotiate as Zan would, and he was too scared to believe this man.

“If I don’t run, and your orders change, I’ll be out of options and in your hands.” He was feeling dizzy again. If Liz didn’t act soon…

“We both have the same problem, you see?” Harrington pointed out with a slight sigh, changing his position on the chair while keeping pressure on his injured leg. “I cannot trust your intentions any more than you can trust mine. So, what’s it going to be? If you could walk away right now, would you keep running while I keep chasing?”

Max turned to look at Michael, unable to say yes.

“What’s really going to happen,” Harrington continued, “however Anders will phrase it, is that you two are going to come with us. You are going to be debriefed. You are going to be relocated. And you are going to be nice about it. If you have nothing to hide, this is a win-win situation for you. You’ll gain us as allies, and you’ll stop running.”

Anger arose in Max’s mind. Why did this man think that was good? “I’ll become a glorified prisoner, and that’s assuming you’ll even trust our version of events. And what happens when you get curious about us? Would I get a polite request to be your lab rat for the day? You don’t know the first thing about what we fear, Colonel. That’s the real problem here.”

Whatever Harrington was about to say, he was interrupted by one of the hospital doctors who had been helping him, the big one. Cramer. He looked at Max for a second, and then went straight to Harrington. He was carrying a platter with several things, from gauzes to syringes. He had come back to apply the stitches to Harrington’s wounds.

“Let’s see…” Cramer said, oblivious to their previous talk and their heated impasse.

“Now, this right here, Max,” Harrington pointed out, taking his hand away from his leg, “should tell you how serious I am about my orders. I got shot on your behalf.”

“How are you feeling?” Cramer asked, glancing at Max.

“I’m worried about Michael,” he said, the need to check on his friend growing exponentially now that Harrington was not monopolizing his attention.

“I’m sure he’ll be fine…” Cramer nonchalantly said, getting the syringe ready. The sight of it made Max shiver. He remembered for a moment having seen Shore by his side, holding him down, someone else getting a syringe ready. He closed his eyes, willing the image to disappear. He did not want to remember the last five days of his life.

“This is going to sting a little…” the doctor muttered while Harrington looked at the door.

“Where’s Shore?” the Colonel asked, slightly frowning as the needle went in.

“Just around the corner,” Cramer smiled, placing the syringe on the platter a moment later. “Now, Max. Do you feel well enough to run?”

Both Max and Harrington turned to Cramer at the unusual question. It was Harrington who understood it first. “What did you give…”

He never finished. Slowly, he went forward, Cramer catching him in mid-fall. “Just a little something for you to sleep tight…” Cramer said, getting Harrington back on the chair, unconscious.

Harrington had officially been taken out of the game.

“I—I’m not sure…” Max tried to say, watching Cramer taking Harrington’s pulse. “I mean… how far I can run…” Max tried to sit, his heart accelerating at the prospect of escape. Cramer finished with the older man, and went to Max’s side.

“Don’t worry, you’re not running anywhere,” he pointedly said, taking Max’s pulse now. “You shouldn’t even be thinking about running anywhere, Mr. 111 fever.”

“But… Harrington…”

“It’s called misdirection,” Cramer answered, going to check on Michael last. “We are making them believe you are going away, but in reality, you’re staying two floors up.”

“What?”

“Dr. McConnell is setting your room up. Shore is distracting Anders. Now we just hope they’ll buy it.”


* * *


Dr. Shore closed the cell phone with finality. He’d just informed the Special Unit that Harrington was missing and Max and Michael were on the run. Dr. McConnell and Dr. Lake were already gone, the first to the nurse’s station, the second to get Dr. Hayden. If the timing was correct, Cramer had already taken out Harrington and was getting Max and Michael ready. Liz was the last one remaining in the hall with the master mind of this plan, Dr. Shore.

She wasn’t supposed to, but there was no way in hell she would let Shore out of her sight. Not with Max’s and Michael’s lives in the balance.

“Now, Elizabeth, go get Isabel and meet us on the fifth floor before she gives the plan away by being caught in the middle of the hospital,” he told her as he looked down the hall.

“Why are you doing this?” she asked bluntly, her eyes going down the hall to Max’s room.

“Because I know Washington politics and I do believe Max deserves better. Now, go get Isabel.”

“So they were lying? About the deal?”

“No, they were serious about it. Just not everyone agrees with it. Now, Ms. Evans, I really need to find Anders and get him going in the right direction. We all have something to do, go.”


* * *


“Something’s wrong,” Isabel said, pacing from one corner of the room to the next, her only company a young doctor who didn’t look to be over 30. “You said Max was stable,” she pointed out, her need to flee this place crawling under her skin.

“I said he was stable for now,” Dr. Holt pointed out, writing down something on his laptop. Although he looked calm, the tension in his eyes was betrayal enough of his own anxiety. The other doctor, Susan Lake, had left them alone to find out what was going on about fifteen minutes before. “With the fever he was sporting, and his general intolerance to drugs? I wouldn’t bet on him recovering in the next twenty-four hours.”

“We don’t get sick,” she exclaimed, feeling so exposed by saying just that much. “Whatever they did to him, he’ll fight it.”

“Oh, I know he will,” Holt said with patience. “But I doubt he’s going to keep fighting it for twelve hours straight.”

“I need to find him. Find them. Michael’s… he’s just gone.”

The light flickered in the bulb above, a sure sign Isabel was losing her grip on her emotions.

“Hey…” Holt stood up, trying to soothe her, she guessed. Maybe wondering if he should flee. “Look, I’ll call her, okay? See what’s taking so long…” he offered, taking out his cell phone.

He hadn’t even dialed the first number when the door opened.

“Liz!” Isabel half shouted as she saw her sister-in-law enter. “Where are they?” she asked, eager for answers more than ever.

“They are taking them to the fifth floor. They want to hide them,” she explained, turning worried eyes to Holt and then back to Isabel. “They say we need to stay out of sight, so the Special Unit will buy that we are on the run again.”

“What? What?” Isabel asked, outraged. “We have to get them out of here, not hide in a corner!”

“He almost died,” Holt interrupted from his spot in the room. “I admitted him yesterday, right before the train-derailment chaos started. He saved a little girl across the hall two hours after that, and it completely drained him. The longer he stays here, the better his chances are.”

Isabel closed her eyes at that. Of course you would, she thought at Max. She wanted to strangle him, to yell at him, but it was impossible. Of course you would, she repeated, feeling both proud and resigned by this point, and so, so helpless.

“We have to stay…” Liz whispered, turning to looking at her right as if she could actually see them. “They kept telling me, too, that Max might get worse in the next few hours, and he did look wiped out.”

“You saw him?”

“Yeah, sort of… They’ve been helping Max since last night…” Liz trailed off, looking anxious herself, her eyes going to Holt without really knowing what else to do. Shaking her head, Liz turned her attention to Isabel. “Shore said to stay out of sight , so we just need to blend in,” she said in a practical tone. Hiding in plain sight was Max’s favorite technique.

“Okay,” Isabel said, determination fueling her. “It’s a hospital, right? Filled with patients, nurses and doctors… We just need to look the part,” she murmured, looking at Liz’s clothing. Her nerves were at the frying point, so concentration eluded her at the moment.

“We’re caught in the middle here,” Holt started to say. “We have too much conflicting information coming at us. Look, we want him safe, away from anyone who hurt him, or who might hurt him, that much is clear to us. Let all this die down get him better, let the government cool off, and then maybe something can be achieved.”

Getting the image right in her mind, Isabel’s hand swept over Liz’s jeans and black sweater, transforming them into minty scrubs in the space of five seconds. “You haven’t been a blond in a while,” she said, going to the hair.

Something dropped to the floor, and both Isabel and Liz turned to look at Holt, who was sitting uneasily on his stool, his notes sprawled at his feet, his mouth halfway open.

“We’d better hurry,” Isabel said, turning her attention to her own disguise. Liz went to Holt, maybe to explain, maybe to ask some questions. Isabel didn’t care. She turned her attention to changing her clothes into scrubs and a lab coat, and turned to call Liz. Her sister-in-law was actually hugging Holt in a rather awkward manner.

“You saved him,” Liz said a moment later, “Thank you.”

And with that, they both left the room.


* * *


There were many awkward things Lieutenant Colonel Anders had done in his life in the name of diplomacy and international cooperation. Waiting for an alleged alien king to be alone in his room didn’t even have a ranking on that list.

He’d heard Shore’s call to the Unit saying the kids were on the run and Harrington was missing. But Anders had seen Max not fifteen minutes before. There was no possible way Max would have been able to pass Harrington’s perimeter outside the hospital, not in the state he was in, and much less with an unconscious Michael to slow them down.

So he’d tagged along behind one of the doctors who had been helping Max, and had learned from a helpful nurse that the good old doctor had requested a private room on the fifth floor. So he’d waited, and sure enough, in had come Michael, and a few minutes after, so had Max.

He didn’t know where Harrington was, or his long time friend Shore for that matter. But that was of little consequence compared to what he had to do now: Sit down with the leader of another planet, convince him the United States had his best interests at heart, and hope for the best.
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Re: Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Ch. 24 - pg. 6 - 10/8

Postby Misha » Fri Jul 05, 2013 10:37 pm

Okay, I give in... :lol:

Here's 25.1 and 25.2. I'm working on the ending right now, but I don't want to keep these two parts any longer. It's going to be a year if I don't hurry this up! :shock:

Thank you for the bumps! They sure helped!



Chapter 25
Trustworthy



Three pairs of eyes looked anxiously at one Dr. McConnell, the unspoken leader of their alien conspiracy. How did I end up in this position? the neurologist asked himself as he was absently drinking his third cup of coffee in the past hour. His “team”—the three doctors that had been treating Max for the past twenty four hours at Saint Paul’s Hospital—was all assembled in the quarantine area, contemplating the mess in front of them. Not six hours ago, Max had blasted his way out of the glass walls and had blindly run to the third floor.

“So…” Dr. Holt said, eyes surveying the broken glass, “maybe we can say we found it this way?” he half-heartedly joked. Beside him, Dr. Susan Lake blanched. The young pediatrician was the most reluctant of them all to keep playing this game of hide and seek.

“I think we should get our story straight,” she said, looking at McConnell first, Holt next, and last Cramer. She had dragged the cardiologist into this out of her concern for little Sarah Meyer, the girl who Max had stopped to heal before his failed attempt to escape.

Cramer smiled at her. “We treated a man who we suspected had been abused, found out he was not exactly human, and decided to help him until we knew what was going on,” he said, turning to look at McConnell for approval.

“When you say it that way, it sounds so simple…” she whispered, looking at the floor.

“Maybe we should all get a lawyer,” Holt said with a resigned sigh. “There might not be protocols on declaring an-honest-to-God alien is in your hospital, but I’m pretty sure we must have broken a dozen laws by aiding him and not reporting what was going on.”

“We’ll deal with that later,” McConnell said. “We have a starving Max and a sedated Michael hidden in the fifth floor, the shooter and the government man hidden in the third, sleeping off their own sedatives, and we’re all scheduled for surgeries in a few minutes. Now Max’s family—or whoever they are—seem perfectly capable of starting War of the Worlds in our halls, and none of us will be out there to act as referee. Any suggestions?”

They all blinked as one.

The train derailment had left almost a hundred critical patients scattered through all the major hospitals in the city, and theirs was no exception. The ER was now calming down, but the OR had its hands full. They couldn’t keep running around, hiding aliens and feds alike any longer.

“What about Shore?” Cramer asked.

What about Shore, indeed, McConnell thought, barely feeling the effects of the caffeine. He had not slept in 26 hours, and he did not have the same stamina he’d had in his residency years.

“I guess we don’t have much of a choice,” McConnell said with a frown. “We are trusting his plan right now. Hide Max and Michael, tell the feds they are on the run, and hopefully they’ll follow a false trail and leave an opening for our friendly aliens to escape.”

“Hayden might be willing to help,” Lake said, her voice not sounding all that sure. The pediatrician who had treated the “miracle” children in Phoenix was still around, waiting on the last tests done to Sarah. The handprint on her chest would soon disappear, and he was more than eager to get as much information about it as he could. He was not about to betray Max, McConnell thought, but he was not on the team either.

“Let’s leave Hayden as a last resort,” he said. His pager beeped loud and clear, startling the four of them. Time was up. “Okay, we’ll do this the same way we’ve been doing it all day long: one step at a time. We got them as secure as we possibly can, and now we have other lives to save. Let’s just hope they don’t blow up the entire hospital until one of us is free to check on things.”

Plus, I gotta order Max something to eat, he absently thought as they all looked resigned.

“What do we say when they ask about this mess?” Holt asked before anybody moved.

“We just found it this way,” Cramer said, pushing him out.

So much for coming up with an explanation… On the other hand, there were not enough hours in the day to hide fugitive aliens, mediate between interplanetary conflicts, and coming up with a suitable excuse for the half destroyed quarantine area. Surely those government people will love to explain it, anyway… McConnell thought with one last glance.


* * *

The door to Max’s room was the last obstacle in a long, long list of fears and nightmares that had plagued Liz’s mind ever since Max’s connection had disappeared almost a week ago. Isabel was right behind her, and they both pushed the door open, finding Michael deeply asleep in one bed, and Max eagerly waiting for them in the other. He’d felt them coming, his connection to her growing stronger by the minute.

She went to him, almost tackled him, really, nothing else in the world existing but the feel of Max’s embrace. It had been too long since the last time she had held him in her arms. She was not going to let him go, ever.

Hugging him, with tears running down her cheeks, Liz managed to forget they were still in the hospital, far from being safe. You’re alive, she whispered in her mind. He was holding her as strongly as he could, and it wasn’t much. He’d barely eaten anything, and he’d been unconscious for the better part of six days. They were right, you do need to rest.

"I love you," she said, the only three words that mattered. She'd been so afraid she'd never get the chance to tell him that ever again, that finally saying it to him felt as if she could breathe once more.

"I love you, too," he whispered back, sounding tired yet so relieved. Sounding like her, actually.

Reluctantly, she had to let go of his embrace. "How are you feeling?" she asked, taking notice of his pale skin, and the dark circles under his eyes. He'd lost weight, she could tell, but he was alert, his eyes going for a second to Michael and Isabel on the other bed. His sister was looking at him with concern, but Shore had told Liz Michael would be out for at least a couple of hours.

"I feel… better?" he said, sounding more like a question. Liz knew that he wanted to make light of it so she and Isabel wouldn't worry, but with escape plans completely depending on his strength and health, he didn't have the luxury to spare their feelings. He sighed. "I'm a bit lightheaded, and not feeling too strong," he admitted.

"Your powers?" Isabel asked, sitting on Michael’s bed, one hand holding Michael's limp one.

"They are there, I'm just… wiped out. Sorry sis, I'm not much of a help right now," he said, Liz's hand holding his.

"Max," Liz said, with all the intention to reassure her husband that he had to rest and not think about fighting, when a vision hit her.

On the roof of a building in front of the hospital, an agent was patiently watching every single person coming from the ER entrance into the parking lot. Although there was a sea of people, his task was relatively easy since the entrance was not that big. Liz saw him, as clearly as if she were standing next to him, his rifle in position, calmly humming to himself.

Snow was starting to fall. On the radio, reinforcements were being called away, the fugitives presumed on the run. He was about to leave his post, when his whole body tensed. Liz followed his gaze, trying to discover what he had seen.

“Central, we’ve got a situation on entrance C. I’ve made contact with one target,” he quietly said. Liz's heart sunk.

Maria.

"Oh God," she said back in the room, grasping for air. "We've got… we’ve got to stop her," she whispered, feeling vaguely out of place as her vision ended.

"Stop who?" Isabel asked, at the same time that Max hold her hand tightly.

"Maria. She doesn’t know what's going on, so she’s going to come. There's a guy, a sniper I think, and he's about to leave the roof in front of the ER entrance when he spots Maria coming in."

"What?" Isabel asked, already standing.

"When Michael was shot, she must have felt it. She must be going crazy not knowing what's going on," Liz said, her mind racing. How do we tell you everything's all right?

When they were on a crisis involving the Unit, they didn't use cell phones. Too risky. God, I would kill for one now.

"I'll go," Isabel said, clearly not liking what she was saying, but determined all the same. "I'll go out there, and stop her. I just have to disguise myself better."

Liz tried to shake her head. She had no idea if what Isabel was planning would work, but she didn't like the danger her sister-in-law was placing herself in. Plus, leaving Max and Michael unprotected was not helping matters.

"Iz, are you sure?" Max said in that quiet tone of his.

"I don't like it any more than you do," Isabel said, "but if we don't tell Maria to stay away, she's going to drag them back in. We also need to figure out where we should go next. Do you know how long I have?" Isabel asked Liz.

"I think… I think snow was starting to fall. Once that happens, we'll know the Unit is really gone. But I don’t know how soon that might be."

“Then I'd better go,” Isabel said, circling Michael’s bed and going to Max. “Don’t disappear on me again,” she whispered as she hugged him.

Already dressed as a doctor, it only took Isabel half a minute to turn her hair into a long mass of black curls, her eyebrows growing darker and bushier, completing changing her looks. Even Maria was going to have a hard time recognizing her. Nodding once to herself, she gave them one last look. “I’ll call the room once Maria, Kyle and I are out of the way,” and with that, she was gone.

Liz looked at the door for a second, almost expecting the entire Unit to burst in. Nothing happened. Sighing, she turned to look at Max. He was trying to suppress a yawn.

“They really want you to stay,” Liz said, biting her lower lip, “Your doctors, they keep going on and on about how afraid they are you’re going to have a relapse if we take you out.”

“Come here,” Max said with a small smile, guiding Liz to his chest. His heart sounded calm and strong, and Liz had a terrible feeling it had not been like that for almost a week. “I’m sorry I scared you.” His hand soothingly moved on her back, nicely sidestepping the fact that he could relapse.

“If the Unit is gone, maybe we should stay until they say it’s okay…” she suggested, reluctantly sitting up straight.

Max shook his head. “No, we are already putting these people in danger. I know I was… I was pretty bad for a while there, but once Michael wakes up and feels up to it, we should leave. The sooner we disappear, the sooner things can go back to normal for everyone.”

It wasn’t funny to be torn between Max’s safety, and his unstable health. She had no idea what she would have done if Max hadn’t ended up at the hospital, but at the motel with them instead. Would they have voted to bring Max to medical care? Would he prefer to die free than risk capture again?

“I just want this to be over,” Liz said, wiping out a stray tear running down her cheek. She was both mentally and physically exhausted, but she couldn’t let her guard down just yet.

“Me too. I—” he was interrupted by the loudest growl Liz had ever heard, her eyes immediately going to Max’s stomach. “I’m hungry,” he ended instead, sheepishly smiling.

Two minutes later, she was down the hall hunting for food.


* * *
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Re: Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Ch. 25.1 - pg. 7 - 7/5

Postby Misha » Sat Jul 27, 2013 1:00 pm

I did it! Well, rather, Max and Anders finally managed to get along in my head :lol:

ken_r, KEEEEEEENNNN!!!!! ::tackles:: I laughed so hard at your review!

xilaj, for one moment there I thought you had hacked into my computer and read the draft of this part :shock: Alas, I hope I don't disappoint :)

Timelord31, my bump-er master!

keepsmiling, yeah, he's feeling better :wink: About time he is, too!

As usual, enormous THANKS go to Michelle in LA for betaing, despite oven temperatures and riots in her home town. You're awesome, girl!




Chapter 25.3
Trustworthy



Anders was nervous. Not the shaky kind of nervous, exactly, but a couple of butterflies seemed to have taken up residence in his stomach. Odd. He hadn’t been nervous since college, eons ago. Maybe it was because Max was inside that room with both his sister and his wife, and that meant that Anders was in real danger of not coming out alive. Maybe it was knowing that if talks failed, somewhere down the road this failure could cost the entire planet dearly. Maybe it was that he simply didn’t know anything about Antar, and had no way to corroborate anything being said here.

Whatever it was, he had to get a grip on himself and do his job. If he was alive by the end of the day, he would take that as a bonus.

Taking a deep breath, he decided he would count to three and then cross the hall, open that door, and present his case. Max already knew what he offered, now was a matter of reaching a compromise.

1… 2…

A woman opened the door of Max’s room. Tall, with dark curls and wearing a lab coat, it took Anders a couple of seconds to realize Isabel had just walked past him. It had to be her, no other doctor had entered that room.

Puzzling over what could it possibly mean, he saw Liz open the door a minute afterwards and hurried down the corridor, following on Isabel’s wake. They are leaving? Intrigued now, he waited a couple of minutes to see if next would come Max. He didn’t. Instead, a nurse carrying a platter came by the other direction, obviously intending to enter his Majesty’s room.

Now or never.

Rapidly stepping out of his corner, Anders smiled at the nurse and opened the door for her.

“Thank you,” she said not all that enthusiastically. The last 24 hours had taken a toll on all the personnel, Anders guessed.

From his vantage point, he heard Max thanking the nurse, and her saying something about Dr. McConnell. Of course, he must have heard Max was hungry from Shore. If he’s sending Max food, they are intending on staying here some time. Where did Isabel and Liz go, then?

His thoughts were interrupted by the nurse coming out, who didn’t even glance at him. She hurried down the hall, pushing an empty cart.

Taking once more a deep breath, Anders went in, closing the door quietly behind him, wondering how much time he really had before Isabel, Liz, or some other person would interrupt him. He hated to be in the middle of negotiations with so many distractions around.

Max had his glass midway to his mouth when he saw him. All color seemed to drain from his face, followed by a rush of air as he sighed in resignation at this new event. Slowly, he put the glass down, and furtively glanced at Michael’s sleeping form.

“I’m not here as your enemy,” Anders said, walking slowly to the foot of the bed. Max looked at him warily. “I realize this is not the best of times to have this conversation, but I figured now was my best shot to talk to you alone.”

Max visibly swallowed, and started to move the tray that was in front of him. His stomach loudly protested that.

“How about this?” Anders said, “You eat while I present our proposal.”

Max's hazel eyes lost a little of the fear, replaced with cautious interest.

“What happens if we don’t reach an… agreement?” Max asked, hands still on the tray.

“Well, you’ll have a full stomach, for one.” Max didn't smile, Ander's attempt at a joke falling flat. “I’m sure we can work something out,” he said in all honesty. When Max finally looked down at his food, Anders turned to look around, fetching a chair. He felt awkward standing over Max, and a minute later, he found he still felt awkward sitting below Max.

With deliberate, slow moves, Max took his fork and knife and started to cut his food.

Wonderful, now he’s armed, a voice at the back of his head said. The fish and boiled vegetables smelled pretty good for hospital food, and he realized that the last thing he’d had in his stomach was a gallon of black coffee some twelve hours ago.

"Although we realize there's no way to verify your claims for sure, or to establish communication with your home world, we are recognizing your authority as an Antarian representative, and we wish to extend you an offer of truce, maybe even an alliance."

Or as Harrington would phrase it, Anders fleetingly thought, "you are who we say you are, and be grateful for it". Thank God he's sleeping this entire thing off…

Max nodded once, taking his first bite. Anders took that as a sign to proceed, his mind filling with all kinds of formal protocols and elaborate words.

“You already know we sincerely apologize for everything that has happened since the crash to you and your family, Max. No amount of talking can make it right, I know, but at least we acknowledge our ample fault in these events. Ignorance regarding your intentions is hardly an excuse, but I think it’s fair to say both sides have failed in any attempt at communication, resulting in a vicious circle of attacks and blame. Our shared history of violence has helped no one.”

Max put his knife down, and took his glass. He drank two long sips before setting it down, his eyes thoughtful for a moment.

“I hardly know what happened,” Max said quietly, looking at Anders with a mix of fear and interest in his eyes. “I mean, I wasn’t even born when the ship crashed. I don’t know why it crashed, or how exactly we escaped. I know our protectors—the shapeshifters—killed people, random people from what I’ve gathered, but I have no context for these events. I think… I know I owe you an apology as well for those lives. They were killed in order to protect me. That much I know.”

Anders sighed inwardly in relief. If common sense could prevail, not all was lost.

“Thank you,” Anders said, the butterflies in his stomach finally taking a rest. “We seem to have a fifty-year history on our shoulders. You crashed, we found you, and in the midst of fear and survival, bad things happened. As you said, let’s find a context here: We had every reason to believe you were a threat to us. And we acted accordingly.”

Max kept cutting his fish and vegetables with the same focus, looking at his food instead of Anders. It was clear he was listening.

“And decades later,” Anders continued, “you came along. You healed your wife in a diner in the alien capital of the world. And the Unit was all over the place.”

“I came along, yes, but I was ignorant of what was going on. You knew more about me at that point than I did myself. When the Unit captured me—” Max stopped, his hands tightening around his fork and knife, looking at Anders. “It wouldn’t have mattered then. All Pierce wanted was his version of the truth. The fact that I didn’t know a thing didn’t stop him from trying to rip it out of my soul. Do you think Pierce would approve of our negotiations?”

Anders didn’t even blink. “No, that’s why he’s dead.”

There was no record beyond Pierce’s disappearance, no body was ever found, but it had been assumed pretty quickly into the investigation that Pierce, like so many other Unit heads, had died at the hands of an alien. And Max had every reason to want him dead, as well.

Max nodded once, and resumed cutting his food into tiny little pieces, listening once more.

“The Unit was officially disbanded," Anders continued, "but it never truly ceased to exist. When that base blew up, it was all the incentive the former agents needed to rebuild it.”

“I didn’t order that base to be blown up… I would have stopped it, had I known,” Max said with something that sounded like guilt. “But they would have killed us, wouldn’t they? They had just shot down one of my ships, had almost taken the injured pilot. I would have done anything in the world to protect her from people like Pierce.”

A tense silence followed for a couple of seconds. Max returned to his food, forking the pieces he had just finished cutting, and started to eat.

“Harrington came to the Unit about three months after that. He’s highly skilled at what he does, but he also has an eye for politics. He’s the one who argued you shouldn’t be killed for the sake of eliminating a threat. He knows the value of information.”

“Harrington wants to drag us into his base, lock us up, and throw away the key.”

“He wants what Washington wants, and that’s to keep you safe.”

“Washington wants to keep itself safe. If Khivar comes out of the blue and demands they hand me over or else, I’ll be in a ship to my homeworld before an hour has passed.”

Anders had to agree reluctantly. “What are the odds of that happening?” he asked in a low voice, afraid of the answer.

“He’s tried it before, to bait us into going home. And yet here we remain.”

“He’s not capable of coming for you and taking you by force.” It wasn’t a question.

“Not exactly. He’s capable of sending small units, agents if you’d like. But a full scale invasion— Earth is not worth it.”

A weight came off Anders’s shoulders that he hadn’t been aware he’d been carrying all along. They could still do a lot of localized damage, but at least the planet was safe as a whole.

“I’ve been thinking about what you said,” Max said in a serious tone, placing both the fork and knife over his plate. “What exactly does refugee mean? In this context.”

“Well, you’ll be given safety, health care, a place to live.”

“Freedom?”

“We’ll probably like to keep an eye on you all,” Anders started, “but it doesn’t mean—”

"If you lock us up we'll just keep trying to escape. At every opportunity, every day. This is not an arrangement we can agree to, Lieutenant Colonel Anders."

"We can't let you disappear either, Max."

Max looked at him with a half-smile that didn't reach his eyes.

And this is what we call an impasse. For the briefest of moments he wondered if Max was telepathically calling Isabel or Liz or someone else. Not knowing what Max could do was a special kind of torture.

“What’s going to happen?” Max asked slowly. “Once this is over—? I mean, no matter what we decide, what happens to everyone involved?”

That was easy. Anders had a long, long list of all the things that needed to be done.

“A lot of debriefing, for starters. I’m not sure how much you remember of the past week, but you gave us pieces of information we are trying to corroborate. That town in Arizona. The mountain in Pohlman Ranch where you were hidden. There’s your parents, the ex-sheriff, people who can give us valuable insight to back up your claims.”

“The doctors? These doctors, I mean, the ones who’ve been helping me?”

“Debriefed as well. All the records taken, of course.”

"Nothing that would hurt them, right? They were caught in the middle of this without any idea what they were getting into," Max said, his food forgotten.

"If they cooperate, life should go back to normal soon enough," Anders allowed. He didn't elaborate on what would happen if they didn't cooperate. Fortunately, it didn't cross Max's mind to follow up with that question.

There was a pause, where Max's eyes got vulnerable as he prepared for his next move.

"I don't think you understand what you represent," Max said sincerely. "All I've ever feared is men like you, snatching me out of my life, locking me up in some brightly lit room from which there is no escape. And you are asking me to go with you, and take my family with me as well. How can I say yes?"

Anders looked Max in the eye.

"You are asking me to let go a potential invader with detailed information about our planet, our way of life, our culture. The only potential lead to understand our future enemy."

Max looked away first, thoughtful. He methodically forked a piece of vegetable, one of fish, and another vegetable, and with a grace that belied how weak he'd been not even 6 hours ago, he ate it. It occurred to Anders that he was getting hungry as well.

Finally, Max took a breath and regarded him in silence for a couple of seconds. "Then we should at least agree that Earth has no chance against Antar," Max said, those honey eyes of his looking anything but warm.

Anders swallowed. Hard.

"Let's say I am a scout. That I could give you intel about how quick our starships can cross the galaxy, or how our five-world alliance could easily supply us to invade a planet the size of Earth. All I'd be doing is spelling out the details of how fast you'll have to surrender. You cannot win against us. On the other hand, if you believe I am who I say I am, then I'm the only thing that stands between this world and a potential invasion. And believe me, Lieutenant Colonel, if you take me prisoner, I'll take it as an act of war."

Gone was any vulnerability. Here was a good negotiator if ever he'd seen one.

"You can't blackmail the US government, much less with nothing but 'what ifs'," Anders pointed out, his eyebrows somewhere in the vicinity of his hairline.

"What makes you think that, given the right circumstances, I won't follow through? That next week, or next month, Antar won't claim its king? You can't afford to have me as an enemy, Anders. You just can't."

They both stared at each other. Anders had been so sure there was no way on Earth Max Evans was going to walk away. Sure that an agreement would be reached, that this kid from Nowhere, New Mexico, would gladly accept an offer to stop running. Now… Now he wasn't so sure.

"Then as an ally, we can't risk your safety, either. At the very least, you'll need a safe environment. We cannot allow you to get hurt."

There was a hint of a spark in Max's eyes, a subtle sign of triumph that he'd made Anders step back. At least he didn't look smug about it.

"We have a saying on Antar: 'don't chase that which is not running.'"

"I'm not exactly following you."

"I don't want to keep running any more than you want to chase me. So how about an intermediary? Someone we both trust, who would keep an eye on us, while he keeps you out of our lives."

"A liaison?" Anders asked, puzzled.

"We would settle somewhere, free. And you would have a way to contact us, keep tabs on us in a way."

"Who?"

"Shore. You trusted him with my life, now I'll do the same."

"Max—"

"You said it yourself. You have a lot of work to do, with the information I gave you. Ways to corroborate that what I said is true. About Antar, about our ignorance, about our wish to have a life."

"There's no guarantee you won't just flee the minute you're out of this hospital."

"It's a risk worth taking."

In the years to come, Anders would always remember that exact moment—when he'd looked Max Evans in the eye and had been placed in an impossible situation. The details of that whole week would get blurry, but not those words, not the way his butterflies returned, or how much he wished he knew what the right answer was. Because Max Evans was right, they couldn't afford to have him as an enemy.



* * *

Okay, we're just an epilogue away, that should be coming in the next couple of weeks :mrgreen:
Last edited by Misha on Thu Aug 01, 2013 10:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Ch. 25.3 - pg. 8 - 7/27

Postby Misha » Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:14 pm

* * *

Epilogue

Dust particles lazily danced in the light that entered at the edges of the heavy drapes. It was so quiet that there was not even the slightest noise to disturb the five people sleeping in the penthouse. From his vantage point by the window in the wide living room, Max smiled. It reminded him of that Las Vegas hotel room so long ago, and the circumstances that had brought them here were as bewildering as the need to blow 50 grand had been back in the day.

He stifled a yawn. He'd slept far more in the past week than he'd done in an entire month, and he felt more than ready to stay awake for at least a couple of days. Besides, he had a long list of questions to answer, the folded sheet of white paper on the table waiting for him to write down all his secrets. He contemplated it with a thoughtful look.

It had worked. It had taken a couple of hours to iron out the details of their deal, and a couple more for Max and his merry band to disappear, not before promising to answer Anders's hastily handwritten questions, of course. In the end, Max had fled the area the minute he'd been let out of the hospital, and not just to see if Anders would keep the Unit at bay as he watched them go. With Harrington waking up any minute and Washington in a corner with its watchful and shadowed eyes, the probability that all would go to hell regardless of Anders's words was quite high.

Max took a deep breath. As far as he could tell, Anders had kept his word and had not ordered them followed, a point that gave Max some hope that this negotiator would keep his side of the bargain. The taste of a semi-free life was sweet. The idea that someday the Unit would be at his doorstep not with guns but with some sort of treaty was but wishful thinking at this moment, but still… Time would tell.

A knock came from the door. "Room service!"

His stomach answered with embarrassing clarity, and for one second he thought Liz would come out of their room to hunt down the sound. She was so worried that only sheer exhaustion was keeping her asleep. God, he loved her.

When ten seconds later no one woke up, and his guilt for putting her through the past five days abated, he walked to the door. His balance was a bit off, and his legs didn't feel exactly solid, but he managed to open it just before the bellboy knocked again.

The smell from the cart was mouthwatering. His stomach growled some more.

"Just in time, huh?" the young man said, good-natured, stepping into the room. Right behind him, Max saw his unlikely benefactor was coming in.

"You're awake!" Dr. Hayden said, wearing a t-shirt that shouted to the world Geek at heart, his green eyes alive with unstoppable energy. Hayden hadn't slept in two days, and he still looked ready to take on the world. Max longed for that energy.

"Ah… I just couldn't stay in bed any more…" Max said, almost hearing Isabel, Michael and Liz yelling at him to go back to rest. Thank God they were all asleep.

Entering the room, Hayden tipped the bellboy, the door closing quietly. The doctor placed his backpack on a sofa, while Max went scouting the wonderful food the pediatrician had ordered half an hour ago. Everyone had been too tired to wait for it, though, so now there was enough to feed half a dozen people and only two lonely, hungry figures ready to rise to the occasion.

"I hope everything's okay with the place?" Hayden asked, joining him in front of their small buffet.

Max nodded, looking at the closed doors, thinking how badly they all had needed a place to feel safe. "We couldn't have asked for anything better."

"Mom got it from her second husband. The third paid Med School. She sure knows how to pick –'em," Hayden said with a chuckle, going for a cup of coffee

Picking a fork, Max's eyes swept over the sandwiches, the croissants, the scrambled eggs and went right for—

“You're not eating that bacon!" Hayden said with all the parental authority in the world, the coffee forgotten in midair. Max's stomach protested loudly at the intrusion. “You haven't eaten more than one solid meal in six days. Here, let's start with something easy. Don't look at me like that, you have a lifetime ahead of you to have greasy, spicy food. A couple of days of a bland diet are not gonna kill you."

How come I went from World Leader to a forced bland diet?

"It really wouldn't kill you, right?" Hayden asked, for a moment looking nervous. It had been so long since Max had shared this secret with anyone, that it was weird to be back to the 100 questions and the staring. Especially the staring.

"I don't think so," he answered a second later, settling for toast and honey. Breakfast had been what he'd been going out to buy with Michael almost a week ago when the Unit captured him. That he could be here eating in companionable silence with a relative stranger who knew his secret—and was housing him—was nothing short of a miracle. In fact, as he started eating, the whole thing tasted like victory.

"What did you tell them, that they would let you go?"

"That I would take over the planet if they didn't."

The silence that followed made him looked up, toast barely getting to his mouth. Hayden had gone pale.

"Could you?" he whispered.

"Probably…"

"Would you?"

The question hung in the air as Max chew on his toast thoughtfully, his eyes going to the forbidden bacon. Hayden looked paler.

"Not really," Max said, smiling sheepishly.

"That's a relief," Hayden said, smiling nervously. It really had been a long time since a new person knew about the whole thing. The fear was always the worst part of it.

"Thank you, you know…" Max said, "If anyone at that hospital had turned me in…"

"Hey, you deflected a bullet that was coming my way. And—Oh crap! I almost forgot!" Hayden got up in a hurry, going for his backpack. Max took the opportunity to grab the tabasco sauce. What was the point of tasting victory if he couldn't do it properly?

Two minutes later, Hayden returned with a thick manila folder. "Here, this is a summary of everything we gathered in Phoenix, after your miracle healing spree," he said, taking sheets and photographs out, this time smiling genuinely. "This is Charlie, he's eleven years old, and quite the athlete," he started, a picture of a kid in baseball uniform smiling for the camera. "He only had a couple of months to live when you healed him."

Max took the photograph, remembering Charlie had been the last kid he'd healed. He'd connected with him, seen flashes of his short life before collapsing.

"The parents… they didn't believe we didn't know what had happened at first. And Charlie's mom, she's this incredibly reserved person, totally stoic and never letting her son see her cry… Well, she came to me about a month later and gave me this," Hayden said, showing Max the picture. "And she said, 'you may or may not know what happened here, and who did it. But if you happen to cross this man's path, I hope you will give it to him.' She's given me a new one each year for the past three years, and I kept them around, always wondering where you were."

Max stared at a smiling kid, trying to picture his mother and the answers she would never get.

"It's interesting, you know?" Hayden said quietly, "How it all came full circle?"

Max smiled self-consciously. If these kids developed powers, how interesting would they be?

"Are they okay?" Max asked, the photograph feeling heavier in his hands. He'd touched those lives for just a moment, without a plan before or after the fact. It had almost cost his life, and Michael's life as well. It was strange to think that night in Phoenix had been the foundation of the bridge that would get him out of Saint Paul's Hospital today. That his healing there would incline the balance in his favor here, not to mention bringing Hayden to their aid.

"They are a tight bunch. They live in different places, but the parents keep in touch. I see them for regular check-ups, and I gotta admit, they are some of the healthiest kids I've ever seen."

Max nodded, giving the photograph back. Hayden raised his hand. "That's yours. Besides, I will probably never see you after this week but this will remind you that good things do happen to good people. And good deeds do go unpunished."

That reminded him, "Did you talk to them? To McConnell and the others?"

Hayden nodded with an enthusiastic smile. "Cramer and McConnell were still in surgery, and Holt was having one hell of a time with Harrington waking up to find you gone, and his Unit without any purpose anymore. But, Anders is keeping his word. They are taking all the records quietly, and Lake said she's expected for debriefing tonight, but he's been nothing but polite to all four of them. You know, I think I should use 'taking over the planet' next time I'm negotiating stuff."

They both laughed, a good, heartfelt laugh that felt like a spark in his soul. He hadn't laughed the entire week, and somehow that gesture finally confirmed for him that he was free, even if the terms of his freedom were a bit sketchy right now.

Another question was cut short as one of the doors opened. With eyes barely open and dark circles under them, Kyle looked like he needed that week of sleep as much as Max had disdained it. "You 'kay?" Kyle asked, not entirely awake.

"I feel better, thank you," Max answered, feeling guilty that he was the reason why Kyle looked like that. If Kyle hadn't been able to hold on to the security image and hadn't later short circuited the compound, his escape would have never happened.

"Good," was all his answer before he closed the door. Opening it a second after, "Is that bacon?"

Five minutes later, Max was unceremoniously shoved aside on the couch as Kyle started to inhale more than his weight in bacon and eggs, Charlie’s photograph falling face down on the carpeted floor.

Max reached for it and saw that there was something written on the back, something that completely went against his nature but that would define the most important moments of his life from that day on. He would think of it two years later when he sat down with Anders as an official Antarian Representative to sign a very official looking treaty. Again when he went home to Roswell a year after that for his first family Christmas as a free man. Even when he reunited with "his" doctors a couple of years later to attend Hayden and Lake's wedding.

Definitely when he sat down with the President of the United States. And more so when Shore, ten years later, unintentionally outed him to the world.

But back in that moment, all that really mattered was having breakfast. So he thoughtfully put the picture aside, glancing at it just once more.

Don't let yourself be unknown.



The End.





***************

:shock: It really ended :shock:

I'll be back tomorrow with all the wonderful thank-you's and a sneak preview of my next new fanfic, "Of Journals and Journeys", but know that this story wouldn't have happened without your continuous support and feedback :D

THANK YOU!!!!

Now, can anyone recommend a good story where the world knows they are aliens? 8)
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