Aftermath of War Ep XXIII Mi/L/Z ADULT 4/29/5 COMPLETE W/AN

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Episode XXI

Post by DMartinez » Thu Apr 21, 2005 12:19 am

Aftermath of War Episode XXI

When Nicholas placed his hand on the king’s head, Max felt the burning invasion and bravely fought back anyway he could… which, as it turned out, wasn't much, much less enough. It almost felt as if Nicholas's fingers were inside his brain, sorting through his brain cells for the ones that stored the location of the Granolith. The longer this went on, the less able Max was to fight. Nicholas smirked down at him. "Give up, Max. You're never going to rule again."

Liz had tried to race over when Ava had been pulled from her perch but Zan had held her back. He had one arm wrapped around her waist and the other raised in ready to fight. He had seen Ava fall as well but he knew she could take care of herself. A thundering of feet behind him made him whirl, throwing Liz around with him like a rag doll. It was just the humans running for cover in the cars. Whirling back to the action, he approached the alley slowly but determined to end this once and for all. Liz had no choice but to try and keep up because Zan would just pick her up and set her on her feet when she lost footing. Isabel, Michael and Rath raced up behind the buildings shouting but they were too far away for him to make out what they were saying. He had just edged around far enough to see Nicholas mindraping Max and his sister just standing there when Liz let out a scream. "No!"

The explosion sent a bright light over everything, stealing sight and hearing. It grew brighter and louder, stunning every until they couldn’t even feel themselves being knocked off their feet. Debris rained down on everything and everyone. Kyle came to first; he had landed inside his car in the back seat. He threw his arms over his face, even as he struggled to breathe air not contaminated by dust and skin flakes. Then he panicked; he’d had Maria's hand just before he had gone flying through the air. Through pain and blindness, he managed to pull himself into a position to see outside the car. He could see Alex lying on the ground nearby but he couldn't find Maria. Panic was the only thing in his heart and mind when he couldn’t find her anywhere.

Max gasped for breath, when his eyes opened, Liz was hovering over him. He couldn't hear a word she said though he could hear the muted rumble of the explosion settling. The smells of singed hair and flesh met his nostrils but not the scent he had smelled through the whole ride up to Copper Summit. There was a flurry of activity around him that he could hear but not whatever words were pouring out of her mouth. He could feel the ash falling on his skin and the pain in his leg but not the touch of her hands on his skin. Then she was gone. "Liz?"

Zan knelt over Liz and tried to wake her up. He kept talking but he couldn’t even hear himself speak much less make sure she could hear him. When he had come to, she had been clenching his arm very tightly but laying very still. His ears rung and his body was using a lot of energy to heal any injuries he had accrued during their short flight to the ground. If only he could get Liz to wake up. "C'mon. Get up. Get up. Hey, Sweetness. Wake up." There was nothing wrong with her that he could see but she wouldn't move. Suddenly, after several long, worrisome minutes, she gasped and opened her eyes to his sweaty, dirty face. "On your feet, Sweetie. We got some work to do."

"Where's Max? He's hurt." She rasped out as loud as she could muster just to be heard in her own ears. Her head rung with a hum she knew could not really exist. Flexing her jaw, she tried to get rid of it.

"Well, come on." He got them to their feet and once more tucked her into his side. He had to hurry. It looked as if Nicholas was recovering… not to mention all the Skins stumbling out of their hiding places. There, against that building, Max had a scythe sticking out of his leg but that would have to wait. Zan moved over him and stomped on Nicholas's hip. The boy groaned but nothing happened. "What the fuck?"

"You really think I'd design my husk the same as everyone else's?" Nicholas laughed and attempted to get up. "You might have stopped everyone else but you'll never stop me."

"You really think I'm that stupid?" Zan reached back and ripped the scythe from Max's leg and whipped it deep across the alien leader's chest. There was a tiny gasp of air before he disintegrated before their eyes. "I got skills, kid." He marched onto the street and took in all the groggy skins standing in the midst of the fallen debris. "Rath! Let's get busy. No Skin leaves alive. Max dies and you ain't goin' nowheres." He bent and gripped Lannie's arm. "Git up and fight or I'm killin' you now." Moving forward, he let loose seven blasts in all directions to keep the Skins off their feet. "Ava! Get the other one and work somethin' special for me, babe!"

Liz watched in horror as the fighting began. She had been unable to reach for Max when she had the chance and watching Zan dispatch the alien leader had stunned her into quick compliance in whatever Zan wanted her to do. Clinging to Zan as he used both hands to simultaneously attack and defend, she watched it all. When she could gather her thoughts she would look up at Zan and wonder what exactly he and Max had talked about that he was so unwilling to let her out of his sight. If anything, Zan should be closer to Max. She should be back with Maria, Alex and Kyle… not in the middle of the battle field. The only thing she could figure was that all these things that Max knew… he hadn't shared anything he knew about her with her. When she had been about to point out the lack of strategy in her presence up front, his eyes locked with hers and he shook his head.

The smell of sweat called her attention to the hard body she clung to, too afraid and too trusting to run away from him. Zan swore like one pushing their limits. The sweat poured down his face, darkened his shirt. Liz stared up at him, realizing for the first time what a physical toll these powers took on her friends. Every once in a while, those fierce amber eyes met hers to make sure she was fine but didn’t dare linger too long on the concerned brown eyes. She turned her head to look at Max and her vision blurred, her head spun and she was falling. Zan lowered his shield without thinking to pull her back to him and barely regenerated the green shimmer to save them both from a deadly blast. “Don’t you move, Swee’ pea. Stay wit me, hold on tight.”

Rath and Michael threw huge blasts into the Skins to weaken and kill off the closer ones. No matter what, they kept advancing. Not to be outdone by his dupe, Michael kept his feet planted beneath him and did his best to keep the enemy from getting too close for comfort. Michael looked towards Zan and saw how hard the guy was fighting and didn't miss the fact he seemed to be specifically protecting Liz. The thoughts of the future couple in his apartment fueled him to fight even harder. He'd be damned if he left Liz to the mercy of this Zan and Rath and the sooner this got done, the sooner they could check on Max.

Lannie used her mind to pull heavy objects from behind the Skins to hit them across their seals. Flakes flew into the air and settled over them all. Every once in a while she cast a glance at her brother and how protective he was over Max's girl. Nicholas was gone but that didn't mean there wasn't wiggle room. Nobody left in Copper Summit was even close to being next in line to Nicholas but she knew the plan… but right now being on Zan's good side was a good idea.

Isabel stood just behind Zan and threw energy against anyone she felt got too near to them for safety. She created a barrier against anyone trying to get to Max, who still lay amongst the debris bleeding and moaning. She wanted so much to get to him and see what she could do but it was more important to keep him safe. It wouldn't do any good to be right next to him when the sneaky Skin got them unaware. She met Lannie's eyes only once and she didn't like what she saw in those scheming eyes. Not knowing what else to do, she did her best to protect what she felt was the front line on her side of this war.

Ava was ready. She and Tess knew exactly what they had to do. There was only one chance and they had to do it together. Taking their places on either side of Zan, they gathered their energy. Eyes closed and hands out, the tiny girls bowed their heads in concentration. Liz couldn't believe her eyes when an inferno erupted in front of her without burning a single thing. Something so intense that it popped the seals on the remaining Skins but left all flammable objects untouched but for the blasts erupting from Rath and Michael.

With the immediate threat removed, Ava and Tess sank to their identical knees in complete exhaustion. Tess had taken her cue from Ava; she could barely comprehend her part in committing genocide. Her eyes found the pink-haired girl and just stared. How much did the girl know about the powers they shared? How had she learned? What exactly had they just done?

Adrenaline feeding the desire to destroy, Michael followed Rath into the nearest building to hunt for any cowardly Skins that had hidden during the battle that could officially be called over and won by the forces of good. This power, it scared Michael and it scared him even more to see that Rath looked so completely at ease with the turn of events. They were both covered in sweat but Rath managed to look as if he had no problems breathing. Michael let the dupe take point while he made good work of double checking the rooms.

Isabel paused to take in all the destruction. It brought tears to her eyes. The town was beautiful in its own way but now it would be forever haunted by the memory of war. Snapping to, she raced for her brother’s still body. So much blood pooled beneath his leg. His skin had faded to a pasty sort of yellow. Tears spilled down her face when his shuddering breaths reached her ears. “Oh my god, Max…” His eyes fluttered but he did not make any other response that could be interpreted as consciousness. Kneeling, Isabel’s hands hovered over his torn, bleeding leg, not sure what, if anything, she could or should do.

Liz stared up into Zan's face. His is jaw was set, face hard, and his eyes scanning the carnage and breathing heavily. She could tell he didn’t see the wood splinters and crushed cars anymore, eyes still a little wild as the adrenaline faded. Sweat ceased to pour continuously down his face, but she knew, somehow just knew, that he was less than okay after so much exertion. His shirt was drenched with sweat, soaking her shirt as well since she had never moved after he had ceased fire. "Zan, are you okay?"

"I's level, sweetness. Just need to catch my breath." Suddenly, he sagged and Liz had to rush to keep him from falling completely to the ground.

"Somebody…" Liz called back. Lannie came to the rescue but Zan shrugged her off and struggled to stay on his own feet while Liz led him to Max.

The pool of blood had grown considerably under Max's torn leg, the damage just as much from the scythe landing as from Zan yanking it out to fix the Nicholas situation. Isabel was crying and her hands continued to hover between Max's leg and her mouth. "Liz, I don't know what to do. Nothing like this has ever happened."

Easing Zan to the ground, Liz looked over Max’s would than at Max’s face. A sheen of sweat covered the pale features. She couldn’t tell if his eyes were open or closed, or if he was even aware of anything around him anymore. "Max? Can you hear me? Can you fix this?" His eyebrow twitched upward but other than that, there was no sign that he had even heard her. "Zan, give me your belt." When he didn’t move, her eyes shifted to Max’s dupe. Zan was fading quickly as the adrenaline allowed his heartbeat to slow and his body to process the damage of the day. Reaching over, she grabbed Isabel’s hands to hold Max’s gash closed. “I need you to hold that together. Can you do that?”

When Isabel nodded and did as told, Liz turned to Zan and made him look her in the eye. “I’m going to take off your belt, okay?” He nodded and managed to hold his shirt out of her way. Talking aloud but to herself, Liz tried to pretend that she wasn’t the only one moving on. If she didn’t take charge, no one else that could be trusted could or would. “I’m going to try to stop the bleeding with a tourniquet. The least we can do is stop Max from losing anymore blood,” She explained as she wrapped the belt around Max’s thigh and pulled it tighter than she thought she should after Max let out a pain-filled moan. Liz grimaced when she realized how high up the scythe had actually entered his leg. She might not be able to cut off the circulation the way she would have liked. "Max, try and stay with us." Yanking off the shirt she had on, she ripped it to long shreds, cleaning the wound as well as she could before fashioning a crude bandage over the gaping injury. She had Isabel hold the dressing in place as she slid the belt to the top of the bandage and pulled it as tight as she could before wrapping the excess around his thigh. She instructed Isabel to fuse the strap to itself to secure the bandage. Taking inventory of her able bodies, she realized she would need help to get her patients to the cars. "Kyle! You still back there?"

"I can't find Maria!" Kyle’s panicked voice called back.

The tears fell; Liz couldn't help it. Max could die from blood loss, Zan was out of commission, as were Ava and Tess, and now Maria was missing and Isabel was incapable of doing anything more than exactly as she was told. She couldn’t trust Lannie or Rath anymore than she could lift them. That only left Michael, Kyle and maybe Alex, the latter of which she had heard nothing about, yet. Tears streamed down her face as she forced herself to take the lead. They had to take what they could now and worry about what could wait later. Triage, wasn’t it? That’s what they did in the field during a war. "Come help please! We'll find Maria in a minute."

Kyle and Alex came running. "What happened to him?"

"Let's get him into one of the cars, whichever will be most comfortable and we can keep his leg elevated." Liz's mind raced with all kinds of first aid information but she was missing something, she was sure. "Be careful with him." Wiping the tears from her face, smearing blood on her cheeks in the process, Liz rose to her feet. "Let's get Ava and Tess into the cars."

Isabel nodded and went to help the nearest of the girls, after a moment Lannie went for the other one. Pulling Zan to his feet, Liz struggled to get him back to the cars. When they finally made it out, Max had been put in the back of the Mustang and Alex had begun the search for Maria. "She couldn't have flown much farther than either one of us."

"I landed in the car." Kyle stripped off his shirt and gave it to Liz to cover her body more modestly. "Alex against it. Maria's light, she would flown farther than any of us but those woods don't look too inviting."

Zan lowered himself into the Mustang with Max and took his time glancing around when his vision allowed it. The sun had begun its descent to the horizon already. He had no clue how long he had been sitting there when Liz showed up with two glasses of water. She vanished and appeared with two more. He watched as she nursed the four of them the best she could. Ava and Tess joined the search as the aching in their heads lessened thanks to the re-hydration. How did Liz know that would work? Occasionally, he heard the distant and muffled blasts from within the nearby buildings. He must have dozed off because as the red filled the sky, a pained voice reached his ears.

"Ow, ow, ow. Watch the leg please. I said watch the leg!" Maria screamed as she tried to direct Kyle to the Jetta without upsetting the splint on her leg.

"Zan…" Max whispered from the backseat. Zan hadn’t even realized that Max was with it anymore much less able to assess their situation any better than he could. "Get everyone together. We've been here too long. Stragglers not in town will come soon enough."

"Sweetness!" His voice sounded hoarse and strange to his own ears. "Get Mikey and Rath back here. We gotta go!"


Michael checked building after building with his counterpart always nearby. They didn't talk and moved as quietly as the creaky floorboards allowed. One more building and the hours of tiresome work would be done and he would begin to feel the effects of the day's work as soon as the adrenaline in his body slowed. The second he saw Liz out in the main road through a window, he raced down to find out what she wanted. "What's going on?"

"I just sent Kyle, Alex and Ava to the nearest hospital with Maria." She called out to him, wearing Zan’s shirt. What had happened to hers?

"Maria?" Michael's heart stopped. What had gone on while the rest of them were on the main street? He thought of what Future Liz had said. In order for Michael and Liz to fall for each other, Max and Maria would have to die. That’s how it started. It couldn’t happen so soon. He nearly threw Liz’s hand off when she reached out to reassure him.

"Broken leg, maybe a sprained wrist… I don’t know, I’m not a doctor” She shrugged helplessly. “Max needs to get someplace safe where he can rest. Zan is so out of it." She wiped at her face but all she did was make the dried blood more noticeable to herself. She supposed she could find that sink again and wash her face but it didn’t sound like a good idea in the failing light. She got closer to the doorway that Michael stood in so she could lower her voice a little more. "Isabel is standing watch… we need to hurry. Lannie… has been too quiet and way too helpful. Let's get going."


Michael kept his eyes on a 6-point check on the drive to the next town. Right side, left side, straight ahead, rearview mirror, and over his shoulder at both backseat passengers. Tess seemed to be resting next to him. Still, there was no way he wouldn't heed Liz's warning about Rath and Lannie. He looked ahead to the car in front of him.

Isabel drove but she was more concerned with how Max was doing in the backseat. They had covered him with blankets and told him to rest. Liz kept her fingers over his wrist to make sure he wasn't too far gone. Zan seemed to be regaining his strength. Turning worried brown eyes to Zan, Liz adjusted her posture so that she wasn't sitting so much on his lap. And so her arm didn’t touch so much of his bare upper chest. She had given Kyle his shirt back as not to seem suspicious at the hospital but Zan had quickly offered his up, making her just a little uncomfortable while sharing a seat with him. "What's going on, Zan?"

"Don't know what you talkin' bout." His eyes drifted to the desert passing by.

"You should have left me with Max or with Kyle but you pulled me into the middle of it all. Why did you do that?" When he didn't answer, Liz turned to Isabel, who shrugged. "Zan, how did Max know all the things he knew?"

"I's not the one to ask. Mikey and Tess know." He ducked when her legs swung over his head and she slipped down beside the backseat with Max. "How's he doin'?"

"He's still got a pulse." Liz hissed bitterly and reached to mop up the sweat that had formed on his face with the edge of the blanket they had tossed over him.

"By 'time we get to town and get 'im in a bed, I should be able to do somethin' for 'im." He tried to reassure her before he looked to Isabel. "That should fix 'im up enough for you do somethin' for him. You can, right?"

"Yeah. I can do minor." Isabel nodded, her uneasiness with her brother’s dupe lessening as the drive wore on. "Your sister… she's not nice."

"No, she's not."


"We could take them out from here." Rath suggested without even a hint of discretion.

"You still don't get what you wanted." Michael butt in immediately. "You need one of them to make anything work."

"What you know about it?" Lannie leaned forward, meaning to touch and flirt the way she controlled her lover, surely the same tactics applied to his dupe.

"A hell of a lot more than you do." He shrugged off her hand and then nudged Tess awake to even the odds a little. "I suggest you halt all plan making until I'm out of earshot. A threat on Max is personal to me."


The motel was seedy at best, the nearest hospital being in the next town, only a greasy spoon to provide sustenance and the local law enforcement just a blur on the highway. Liz made a mental note to call the hospital when she got a chance to see about Maria. Sitting in one of the two chairs in the sparse room, she stared at Max’s still form. He lay there so pale and covered in sweat.

Thinking about all she might never get to tell him shock took over. She hadn’t told him the truth and he could die thinking she and Kyle had gone to bed together. He could die thinking she couldn’t be in love with him. The thoughts sent her into the dark recesses of her busy mind.

Isabel found her second wind and set about cutting her brother’s jeans away from his wound. She had to clean him properly so he wouldn’t get any worse. She had soap and water and many towels liberated from the maid’s cart. Once his wounds were cleansed and he began to feel warm, too warm to her touch, the tears sprang to her brown eyes anew. The sweat increased the higher his temperature rose. His whole body had heated with the fever.

Zan had taken up residence at the little sink where he guzzled the bitter-tasting water like crazy. Every glass he drank had him feeling so much more energized after his near-faint at Copper Summit. Re-hydrating his body had him feeling more than able to keep his promise to do everything he possibly could for his dupe and he intended to make that promise a reality. When he was nice and thoroughly water-logged, he took a cup to the bed and used it to wet Max’s mouth. Water had helped him and it would help Max. He let the water trickle down Max’s throat to help re-hydrate the fallen and weak man, for that was what Max was now. A man who had risked his life to buy them some time, who had been injured in the line of duty, who put himself between the enemy and his friends and family.

Somewhere in her mind, Liz knew she should be up and helping but now that they were away and safe for the moment, but she couldn’t budge. Curling up into the chair, the tears fell silently while Isabel mopped up blood and Zan made Max drink water. She could not move a muscle. The horror of the day had sunk in and evil movies played in her head. The scythe deep in Max’s flesh. The sounds of metal leaving flesh and striking through an alien husk. That sound Nicholas had made as he died. It all played over and over before her unseeing eyes.

Beyond her sight, Zan laid his hands on Max’s leg and set about healing the would but quickly found that it was much harder to do that he thought it would be. A fraction of the damage had been repaired when he was spent. Frustrated, Isabel replaced him but she too was too weak to do something as power-consuming as healing. They looked at each other with heavy hearts knowing they would have to leave him and pray that Max made it through the night and that a night’s rest restored their depleted energies.

Before Liz knew it, she lay on the other bed in Zan’s arms. She realized quickly that both Isabel and Zan had exhausted themselves and that Max was still in a very bad way. Zan’s arms tightened around her body and she couldn’t even process that she should make him go away. She fell asleep in the circle of his arms, letting his body warm her cold soul from the outside in.


Red sunlight burned Lannie’s eyes where she stood at the water cooler facing the window in the waiting room. She had nearly drained the jug throughout the night. The Jetta sat in the parking lot below her. All alone in the parking lot because the town was so small and nothing ever happened. It was a stupid little car belonging to a stupid little girl. That Mikey had dragged the whole lot of them to the hospital after making one phone call at that dive Zan was holed up in. All of it was very stupid. All over what? Some Skins? Dead Skins. They were dying anyway… well, in another fifty years after their new husks had died. A step ahead? Hardly. They had just killed off everyone with any clue about the home world and how to get back there.

She had sent Rath to keep an eye on the little sweet tarts. What they needed was some dirt to really turn the tide. So long as he didn’t do anything stupid, it was all good. The timing was great, actually. Zan was out for the count, weaker than he had ever been before. Max was nearly out of the picture. Once Zan used the last of his reserves to heal Max, they would both be defenseless and completely harmless.

How to do it, oh how to do it. First, she needed some sleep and that much needed dirt to work with. Tess was a prime suspect. None of the humans seemed to like her much; they did take Ava instead after all.


Michael watched everyone sleep around the semi-private room. Kyle and Tess occupied the second bed, Alex a chair by the window and Ava lay on the floor with a blanket in the corner. He knew Rath was nearby but his priority was Maria. Once he could see for himself when she was awake that she was fine, he would go back to worrying about everything else. Maria’s leg was in traction and a thin cast covered her arm, her hair was matted to her head where a large bump had given her a concussion initially.

He must have dozed off. He had sworn he was only going to close his eyes for a few seconds but now the sun burned brightly around the shade and Maria was busy digging into her hospital food. There weren’t any clocks but Michael knew it was well on to noon. Her green eyes sized him up while she gnawed on a dry-looking chicken strip. “Is it done?”

“Think so, hope so.” He sat up and moved his chair closer. “We could call it a victory if we wanted… but I… I won’t until I know that Max is going to make it… if he doesn’t, I don’t see the point in anything we did yesterday.”

“Max? What happened to him?” She stopped eating. She had been so wrapped up in her personal injuries that she didn’t even think anyone might be hurt. How selfish was she? She just figured they had stayed behind to make sure they had got them all.

“He’s pretty bad off. They got him set up in a motel not too far from here. We’ll take you when they release you.” He rubbed a hand over his face. Maria’s food made him nauseous but he couldn’t remember the last time he ate something. “They call your mom?”

“Yeah… she wasn’t there… and the machine’s busted.” Maria swallowed thickly. Michael had not said one word about Liz and that worried her. She didn’t remember seeing her at the car where she should have been. “Liz? What happened to her?”

“She’s fine.” Michael reached for her water to reduce the lump in his throat. “She’s with Zan and Isabel taking care of Max. She really pulled through for us… I… She did.”

“Yeah. She does… all the time.” Maria smirked at him and shoved her tray away. He took that as an invitation to her dinner roll.

“But… I never knew she was so strong. She really stuck it out yesterday. I’m proud of her.” He shrugged when she smiled.

“Well, that’s my petunia.” They fell into an awkward silence. Things had been awkward between them since the Courtney incident but no one had brought it up since Max had become an alien prophet. “When did you get here?”

“Don’t know. Last night sometime? We came as soon as we knew where you were.” He chewed the roll slowly and hoped his body wouldn’t reject it. “I don’t trust…” He jerked his head to the door to indicate persons not present and unmentioned to that point.

"Yeah, nobody seems to. I wonder why with those glowing personalities. Where are Amidala and the clone?” She pushed her tray closer to him.


“You think they’re up to something?” She shook her head and cut him off. “Of course you do, you’re Michael. Everyone’s always up to something.”

“That’s because they are.” He managed a smile and helped himself to her green beans.

“Michael.” She folded her hands into her lap. “What’s wrong?” He didn’t answer. “What? What is it? Did Courtney break up with you or something?”

His head shook slowly in the negative. “When Liz told me they were bringing you here… I… I don’t know…” His fingers went to his eyebrow. “She wasn’t anything, Maria. I was trying to get as much information as I could from her. That’s all.”

It was her turn to shake her head. She didn’t want to talk about that. “Fill me in on the battle. Ava was out of it on the ride here and I was on drugs the rest of the time.” She listened and picked at her food as he related what he could. Finally, she had to stop him. “What in the hell was Liz doing in the middle of all that? Was Zan crazy?”

Rath sat up when he heard the direction they were going. He leaned closer to hear better. Lannie was going to love this; it was good dirt.


Lannie sucked down a cup of jello as they passed cart after cart of hospital food while she listened to Rath’s halting retelling of Michael’s story of time machines and alternate futures. So far, she was dead in two of them and she didn’t like those odds. If she weren’t an alien, she wouldn’t believe a word of it. She stole a sandwich off another cart and thought about it. Max’s little girlfriend was in the middle of it all. “Little precious is key, huh?”

“S’what Mikey said.” Rath took her sandwich and inhaled it between messy draughts from a little water pitcher in his other hand. “We take off now, we be there in a coupa hours.”

“You drive. I need my beauty sleep.” Lannie grabbed another sandwich and formulated a plan. All they needed was little precious, Rath could tickle her pickle and bam, they had ransom to get home.


Michael finished his story and his friends had questions about the parts they had missed but they could get it from Tess. He was tired of talking. The near empty hospital had been tolerant of the out-of-towners during the night shift but it was time to go when the doctor came in to check on Maria. Walking down the sterile corridors, Michael wondered if he could sneak a shower somewhere. The five of them were on their way to the cars so they could find something to eat when Tess’s eyes went wide. “Where’s the Jeep?”

Adrenaline coursed through his body, pumping fast when the implications set before his brain could process them. He never should have let Rath and Lannie out of his sight. He knew exactly where they were headed and what they were going to do. “Tess, go get on the phone and warn Isabel and Zan. You’re going to stay here with everyone else. You’re the last line of defense.” He grabbed Ava and steered her toward the Jetta. “We’re going to do some magic on this car to catch up to them. We have to get to them before they get to Max.”


Isabel’s sleep-addled mind barely processed the ring enough to pick up the bedside phone. It took three retellings for the warning to sink in enough for panic to wake her up completely. Tess’s voice rang again. “Isabel! Rath and Lannie are going to kill you guys. You have to get out of there.”

She hung up the phone and shook Zan awake. Liz didn’t even move. “Zan!”

“What?” He nearly leapt off the bed. He saw the panic in her eyes.

“We have to go.” She hissed but froze. “But we can’t.” She tried to explain the seriousness of the situation but Zan didn’t seem to be listening.

Zan’s mind wrapped itself around the dilemma. Max and Liz were no good. He shook her but she didn’t move. Her eyes opened but were blank. No good. Max was hurt. Moving him wasn’t a good idea. He was stationary and battle was ever moving. Zan could try healing him but he’d lose to Lannie and Rath in a battle and they would kill them both. Zan could save his energy to kill them but Max might die in the meantime. Trying Liz again, he forced his throat to make sound. “Swee’ pea?” Nothing, not that he had expected her to answer when he knew no one was home. He checked her out and she was fine but gone. Healthy but not present. He got to his feet, grabbing Isabel’s arm. “We’re on our own, darlin’.” He moved Liz to Max’s bed but continued to talk to Isabel. “You feelin’ strong?”


“Good. You do ‘xactly what I say and we gotta hold ‘em off ‘til Mikey shows up.” He strode with purpose through the door and out to the highway. The motel and restaurant were the only things for miles. So he walked toward the nearest town. They made four miles by the time they saw the Jeep. Zan had one last order for Isabel. “Darlin’? You leave my sista to me.”


Lannie had Rath pulled over the second she spotted her brother on the side of the road with his arm around her dupe. For the moment, her plans moved to the back burner. Something inside of her screamed at the outrageousness of what her eyes saw. “She’s not blood, Zan.” She yelled as she leapt out of the Jeep. The words were out before she could stop them. “I’m your blood.”

“Maybe.” Zan shrugged. “But she’s neva tried to kill me.” His gaze shifted to Rath and back to his sister. “Where are they?”

“Don’t know.” Rath rolled his shoulders. “Time to bounce, yo.” He hinted. If there wasn’t going to be a battle, they may as well move on. “Before we start turnin’ inta dweebs like them.”

“We ain’t goin’ back.” Zan’s arm shot up and the energy threw Rath back against the Jeep hard enough to send him crashing to the ground. Zan was never more grateful when he heard the screech of the Jetta as it halted and Michael scrambled out.

The fireworks were short-lived. Rath shooting at Michael shooting at Rath. Ava shooting at Rath. Lannie shooting at Zan and Isabel, who were shooting back. Zan did his best to weaken his sister. He knew this day would come but he had hoped it wouldn’t be so soon. He was two feet away and her nose was bleeding from the strain on her energies. They were all still so depleted from the battle the day before. It wasn’t much of a fight. Zan never saw Rath go down but the fire that erupted from the former commander’s body lit the afternoon shadows and threw everyone off their feet.

When he had recovered, Zan drug himself over to his sister’s weak body. He held onto her for as long as he dared before he did what he had to. “We’s blood. I love you, girl.” Hands on her chin and forehead, he whispered his apologies and twisted sharply. The crack resounded in his ears. The sound would haunt him for the rest of his life. He got to his feet and into the nearest vehicle before her body combusted. The Jetta was already back at the motel when he realized someone was missing. His eyes flew from Isabel to Michael who were staring straight ahead at the windows before them. Michael felt Zan’s imploring eyes and nodded stiffly. “Let’s get everyone in the same place… see what the total damage is.”

“Michael.” Zan pleaded. Where was she?

Michael hesitated just a moment before turning to the man in the backseat. “She had a plan. She… warped him to death. She… said it was her final revenge… or something, I didn’t quite understand. She died with him.”

Zan turned to the window and leaned his forehead against it, the tears flowing down his face already. He banged his head against the glass and kicked the seat. “Damn it, Ava.”

End Episode XXI

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Episode XXII

Post by DMartinez » Fri Apr 22, 2005 3:41 am

Aftermath of War Episode XXII

Zan watched the good-byes from the window of the hotel. They had already looked in on the patients and Maria had kicked up a fuss about leaving Max and Liz in their states of mental and physical decline, but the humans had to go home. His heart broke as he watched Michael kiss Maria’s forehead as he set her in the car. Isabel hugged Michael desperately before she climbed in. Tess nodded to him the same as Kyle and Alex. They had all been gone too long. Just long enough for the five of them to have a decent excuse for being a day late. They needed to set up the alibis for the fallen.

Zan had instructed them not to be too specific. Car trouble was always good coverall for a number of things. So when the two who had left had not returned after a day or so… then the parents would worry and send a search party. Zan hoped their little foursome would be somewhere else by then but a good look at Max said they weren’t going anywhere soon. There was every possibility that Max would never go home except in a can of ashes. The man’s color had long left yellow and turned a deathly pale ash. Healing continued to be a near-impossible task and maybe that was because Max’s mind was not in it. Maybe it was due to the mindrape, or maybe it was everything else. The stuff with his girl and his sister or this stuff about knowing the future. Feeding water to Max was the only thing Zan could think of to keep the man alive so long.

Liz. She was more aware than before, that he was sure of. Sometimes at night she stroked his arm as if to comfort him when he mourned the loss of his family. Just this morning she had turned her head when someone called her name… and when Zan stared too long at her profile, she looked at him with tears in her eyes. She had yet to speak or make eye contact but he would take what he could get from her. He still shared a bed with her and she never made a move to push him away, if anything, she relaxed in his arms.

The sound of tires on gravel turned his attention back to the window as Michael entered the room. The Jetta had pulled out onto the street and sped to the nearest gas station before the journey home. Zan knew they had worries about leaving them. The humans still didn’t trust him much but Isabel and Michael had complete faith in him after what he had done to his sister. They all had to do what was necessary for survival… even if that meant leaving their friends in the hands of a stranger.


Liz felt Zan crying into her hair and knew she should comfort him but the words wouldn’t come. She had been feeling like herself for a while but she could not make the words come out. She had listened to conversations all day and could not figure out what was going on. Mostly she stared at Max’s failing body. If he didn’t turn around soon, he never would and that made her want to sink back into the abyss where she had been since the battle. Before crying himself to sleep, Zan had whispered his pleas into her ear. He wanted her better and well so he could at least keep his promise to Max. That alone spurred her into constant lucidity. Max had made Zan promise something? In her mind the battle played again. She was forever tucked into Zan’s body though she wanted to be with Max, with Maria, Alex and Kyle. Anywhere but in the middle of a battle.

Sometimes during the night, Michael sat next to her and unloaded all his apologies about every bad way he had ever treated her. He pleaded with her to come back so Max would come back. He rambled on and on about how he should have told her something before it all went down. What? She heard him on the phone and she heard the faint sounds of his answering machine. Then he mumbled something to Zan in the early morning about ‘them’ being gone.

Michael stared at the phone for a long time. He wanted to talk to them and tell them how it all went wrong. To Michael, Max being injured had never entered his mind as a possibility in the outcome. Zan blinked at him and then he remembered. Zan didn’t know everything. Max and Tess were the only other ones who knew.

[Zan held onto Liz as she tried to wade through the pain. She whispered his name as she kissed his lips… and then she was no more. Alone, Zan cried and waited until it was his turn to blink out of existence. He wanted it now. He had no Liz and no child to keep him clinging. He would let it all go because there was nothing left. He prayed instead that his younger self had stepped up for once and had done what was necessary and what was right.]

Michael replaced the phone on the receiver and got ready to make a plan. Zan had been right when he said that they should be moving on soon… but where and how? With two people to take care of? Knowing they knew nothing about what was wrong with either one?


The first words out of Liz’s mouth in three days came in the form of a question after Michael had urged her into the shower. “Who told you what was going to happen?” Her voice was hoarse with under-use and she had to admit the shower had waken her up some, though her clothes were still dirty. Her addled mind wrapped around the point that had caused her concern all along and demanded Michael spill the beans. “Why, Michael?”

Michael had looked at Zan and then to Liz. “Max had some visitors just before we came. They were here for about a week. They’re gone now.”

She swallowed thickly. Her own visitor had stayed about as long. He had her trying various schemes to change the future for the better. “When?”

“I don’t know.” Michael took a deep breath. “I just knew about it a few days ago.”

“Who was it?”

“Who came to you?” he countered.

“Max came to me. Who came to Max?” she demanded.

“You…” Michael hesitated with the next part. “And him.” He jerked his head to a surprised Zan. That’s all he was willing to say at the moment. “They didn’t know this would happen but they knew something would and they wanted us to beat the Skins to the punch.”

Zan had heard more than enough. “Who died in the thing wit the Skins?”

“No one.” Michael bowed his head.

“Nobody fuckin’ died the first time?!” Zan kicked the empty mattress.

Liz immediately thought of Ava. [The two of them shared an uneasy silence for a long time while the boys kept talking about anything to keep the awkwardness from taking over the car. Everyone was nervous about the next day’s plans. Ava had to talk. She had to know and so she whispered, “So, Max love you… and there ain’t nothin’ alien ‘bout you?” Liz shrugged in response. She had never understood it herself. Ava nodded to herself. “Maybe that’s what’s wrong wit him.” The pink-haired girl jerked her head in Zan’s direction, making sure they hadn’t heard her in the front seat. “He ain’t neva love me like I know he can.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean the shit been waitin’ for somethin’ betta than yous truly.” Ava sat back and raised an eyebrow at the brunette next to her. “I ain’t gon say that you… but they is iden’ical… the same ole king an’ shit.”]
Liz snapped out of it. The pink-haired girl never thought Zan had cared enough but the man she was looking at had been torn apart at the loss of his only friend in the world. “If no one died the first time, why would they have us do this? I would never…”

“But you did,” Michael shot out. “I talked to you myself. It was this or everyone we love would die later on.”

“Who?” Liz blinked at him. “Who is ‘we’?”

Michael ground his teeth for a moment before sinking into a chair and scratching at his brow. He looked heavy and worn… beaten. “We would be the three of us. Everyone else was dead… because Nicholas survived the first time around. He… in the end, he would have gotten exactly what he wanted out of us.”

“The three of us…” Liz repeated. “You, me and Max?” At his crumpled face, she looked down at Max. He was failing fast and she knew Zan had tried the morning before to fix him, to no avail. When she looked up at her love’s dupe, he was clearly torn. “You?”

“He waltzed into town after everyone else had died and the three of us tried to save the world.” Michael filled in. “It didn’t exactly work. From what I understand… had it not been for you remembering the thing about the Granilith being a time machine… Nicholas would have killed you and Zan… if not, taken you back to Antar to die at the hands of Kivar… who is still alive and kicking by the way.”

“Why would I come back? How could I come back?” Liz asked softly, her eyes averted and watching Zan in her peripheral. “And why with him?”

“I don’t want to say.” Michael cleared his throat. There was so much that he would never tell them and there was so much that he wanted to get off his chest… but things had to be done a certain way and he had a life that he did not want to think about repeating this time around. “It’s probably best that you don’t know everything. I will say that the three of us were the last standing and I died before you two came back to warn Max. The belief was Max wouldn’t believe Zan but he would believe you… given the circumstances of what you had just done to him.”

“So Max knows that I didn’t really sleep with Kyle?” Liz turned to face the ill man on the bed. “He knew? All this time?”

“No… I guess not. I figured it out but Max wouldn’t let himself.” He watched as Liz touched Max’s hand and for the first time in days, Max’s eyes fluttered. They didn’t open but there was definite movement, and movement was always a good sign of life. “You know… Isabel was under the impression that you could get through to him… of course you’ve been in outer space for a while and there was nothing we could do. He did some rambling while you were gone… just at first. She thought he was delirious.”

“Why?” Liz squeezed Max’s hand as tight as she dared.

“He talked about how he’d been wrong about God all this time… About seeing an angel before he died. Says the angel looked like you.” Michael rubbed furiously at his head. It was going to pop, he was sure of it. “Says he saw this angel right after the explosion.”

“It wasn’t an angel. It was just me.” Liz whispered as she kissed Max’s forehead. “I was… I could see him. He was bleeding and coming in and out of it. It was just for a second. He was trying to talk to me but I couldn’t hear him.”

“You never left my side, Sweets.” Zan commented.

“But I saw him… and he saw me…”

“We can’t stay here long,” Zan announced. He had been saying it for two days already but this time he meant it.

“We can’t move him like this.” Liz shook her head.

“I… when I heal him… Ic’n only fix the infec’ion and very lil of the wound. He won’t let me in. I think he given up.” Zan voiced his worries and was rewarded with two flabbergasted faces. “I cain’t get in his head to do the rest. That why he so bad off. We hafta leave soon.” He repeated himself to get through to them. “Not like this, no. We cain’t. The cops ain’t done checkin’ out the Jeep and when they do… they come lookin’ fer us. We cain’t be here. They gon find out that’s Maxie’s Jeep and then they gon call his folks. Soon as they find out he’s minor… we all in deep shit.”

“If we move him…” Michael cleared his throat. He sounded weaker then he liked. “We take him back to Roswell. Hide him in my place.” When they didn’t say anything he went on. “Zan, you can borrow from me to heal him as much as you can before we go.”

“Borrow?” Zan looked up. He had experimented with borrowing but he hadn’t done it on a healing before.

“Little trick I learned… from you actually.”


The trip home in the Mustang rode much the same as the trip to the motel had been. Michael drove though weakened from sharing his energy with Zan and Max. Liz and Zan shared the passenger seat with uneasy silence, constantly regarding each other with curious stares. Liz kept her hand on Max’s wrist to ensure that he was always with pulse, weak as it was. Max continued to fare badly. It was an hour out of Roswell that Michael had to break the silence. “What are we going to tell his parents when they ask?”

“I don’t know,” Liz whispered. She knew they would eventually talk to her and they would be asking if she knew anything… and she would have to lie. “We’ll talk to the Sheriff before we tell the Evanses anything.”

“Yeah, good idea.” Michael nodded and kept his eyes on the road. “Liz, I hate to put pressure on you but a lot of this is going to depend on you being a good sport and taking a lot of heat. Maria covered for you with your parents, I think. You stayed at her house last night and you were at school today. In fact, the teachers think you were, if I understood her plan right, working on a project as an excuse to cover that you were still very upset by the demise of your boss.”

“Ok.” Liz bit her lip and looked back at Max. Reminders that the enemy had been so close to her fed her guilt. “I can go along with that. I’ll take care of my parents.”

“Good.” He ran a hand through his hair and thought for a moment about cutting it again. “No one cares about me. Far as anyone is concerned, I ditched. The people who went are Max, you, Isabel, Maria and Alex. No one is missing but Max.” Finger scratching at his eyebrow furiously he fought for a story. “Max got upset and wandered off. You and he got into a fight over… that Kyle business, I guess. You guys crammed into the Jetta because Max was being a jerk… and we know that he can be.” He took a breath and blinked to keep himself alert. “It’s already going to seem like we’re hiding something. We won’t reveal that until we can agree on what it is.” Blowing out a deep breath, Michael kept rambling aloud. “When the Jeep is reported… we will not know what happened and there will be no body. When Max is better… he’ll pop up and tell his story… that we will make up with him. Sound good?”

“Sounds like a plan, chief.” Zan nodded and shifted carefully in the seat. “What am I supposed to do? Hang ‘round ‘til he gets better?”

“Yes.” Michael nodded. “You can’t be seen or else our entire story changes… and that has to be set by the time we get into town.”

“The plan one… just in case.” Zan told him with all stoicism. This was serious, he wasn’t going to be caught without an umbrella in the shit storm to come. “I ain’t gon lie. If I do heal Duke back there… it’s gon take time and it’s gon be hard to keep me locked up in that place if I gon be there long. I got my vices… You gon let me smoke in you place? If I go out… people see me and know the face… things bet back to Maxie’s folks… you see?”

Liz squeezed her eyes shut. There were 45 minutes before Roswell was around them. They had to get this straight and get it to the others before much damage was done. Michael thought this over. Smoke verses a change in story. Good point. He thought as quickly as he could. Max never gave him enough credit for his reconnoitering skills. This one would definitely earn him a little respect… assuming Max survived to appreciate it. He cast a look back to his unconscious friend. It had to be good. If the Evans found out, they’d call the cops and get Max to a hospital and then the Feds would be back and they were all in a lot of trouble.

Finally, it was Liz who made the decision. “Zan doesn’t have to be directly related to our story.”

“What?” Michael pressed.

“Max and Isabel are orphans and just because they assumed they were orphaned doesn’t mean it was just the two of them.” Liz turned to look at Zan. “He could have a big brother that no one knew about. Very easily and if we don’t leave the state… it’s possible he was just down the road… so to speak.”

“Ok.” Michael listened, absorbed and processed. “Say… Max did run into Zan back there at the hospital, or if not there, in town… All of us think he’s upset about the Kyle thing but it’s really about his brother. We keep our stories but that can easily be adjusted for that… okay. Okay. Zan comes to town looking for the little brother that ran away back in Cowpoke… what in the hell was the name of that town, guys?”

Ignoring the last question, Zan turned to look out the window. “Yeah. I got it. I ran into Duke. He cain’t deal. He take off. Crashed his Jeep maybe in the middle of nowheres… I track him to Roswell… I’m lookin’ for him. I don’t gotta worry ‘bout nobody seein’ me.”

“Yeah.” Liz nodded and leaned her head on the seat, her gaze on Max. “Max… we’re gonna take care of you… just the way you would for any of us.”

“Keep talkin’ to ‘im, Swee’ pea.” Zan cleared his throat but refused to look at them. “I think it helps.”


It was just after dark when Michael and Zan carried Max into the apartment. Liz had no intention of leaving so soon so she got on the phone to her parents to complete her alibi. “No sir… I am upset… Dad… Dad!” Liz stomped her foot and took a moment to complete her thoughts while he railed on her for skipping school. Apparently Maria’s plan wasn’t foolproof. “Dad… Dad. My role models have died left and right this past year. I’m a little upset. I needed time to myself. Grandma and now Congresswoman Whittaker.” She gagged to herself. She hated using her grandmother like that and the Skin’s name left a bad taste in her mouth. “I’m going to be caught up by the day after tomorrow… I just need some time to myself right now… I’m at Michael’s, Dad… yeah… He’s coming in to work tomorrow… I’ll ask him in a minute… No, not right now… He’s in the bathroom… yeah, Dad. I’m just going to demand he stop nature’s call so he can explain why he didn’t show up for his shift today… Well, I don’t know, I just got here.”

Michael winced. He had forgotten about his shift. He had forgotten it was Tuesday and his day at the grill. He stripped Max of any remaining clothing and got busy washing him off while Zan helped himself to the shower. It took a moment to find some clean shorts and a shirt but Max was dressed and Michael set about checking out the wound. Zan had been able to close the inner layers of tissue around the bone back at the motel but the flesh still looked like it was getting infected again.

The second Liz hung up the phone, it rang. She stepped back and let Michael answer it. It was Isabel. They had found the Jeep.


The lot of them sat around the table at lunch just avoiding each other. Isabel relayed all the information she had. The cops were doing an investigation. The Evanses were going to direct them to Max’s friends. So they waited to be called into the office. They all relaxed when Sheriff Valenti walked out with the principal to find the lot of them waiting. It was show time.


“What happened in Copper Summit, Alex?” Deputy Hanson asked from across a table.

“Nothing out of the ordinary,” Alex shrugged. “Liz spoke to the Congresswoman’s family and we expressed our condolences to the family. Explained we were worry we missed the ceremony but we had school.”

“When did Max disappear?”

“He didn’t disappear,” he corrected the deputy. “It was on the way home. We had taken separate vehicles to keep the peace.”

“Keep the peace?”

“You see… Isabel and Liz are… were closer to the Congresswoman than we were but we all went along to keep company… but Max and Liz were kind of having a fight…”


“I worked for the Congresswoman, so I wanted to extend my sympathies and express what an impact she made on my life.” Liz studied her hands because the lying was getting to her.

“So… I’m told you were having a fight with Max.” Hanson nodded to the Sheriff, who motioned for him to use a lighter touch. “Can you tell us what that was about?”

“We broke up last spring, I went away and when I came back he wanted to start up again. I didn’t. I… I started seeing someone else and when he found out… he was upset. He had found out just before the trip to Copper Summit.”

“I see. Things came to a head then on the trip?”

“You could say that. We were coming back when we got lost…”


“I got out to use the restroom because we had gotten lost,” Maria explained. “Max was finding the next town on a map and fighting with absolutely everyone. He was in such a bad mood because of the whole Liz-Kyle thing and he wouldn’t listen to anyone’s advice. Men and maps, I swear.” She paused and looked at the Deputy, then at the Sheriff. “Sheriff… what was I saying?”

“You were lost… restroom. Something along those lines.” Valenti nodded to her, somewhat amused by her rambling. Keeping in character. He had to hand it to the girl, she knew what she was doing.

“Right. So. We were lost. Max was bitching and moaning over the map and everything else. I had to go and there wasn’t a rest stop in sight… so… I went off by myself. Not the brightest idea in the world. Hindsight is two-thousand-twenty.”

Jim snorted but covered it up. “I believe that ‘hindsight is 20/20’ is what you were going for there. Keep going, Maria.”

“Whatever.” She waved her hand at him and turned her attention back to the Deputy.

“Why?” Deputy Hanson looked up at her, slightly confused but convinced he could pull the facts out of her rambling. “You were saying something about going off by yourself.”

Maria moved her leg into his view. “I fell. Broke it. I screamed my head off until they came running. Max was in charge, just like usual. Ugh… he let Alex drive my car. My car if you can believe that.”

“Maria.” Valenti warned.

“Right. So we go to the nearest town but it isn’t a town. It’s a motel and they say the nearest hospital is like 50 miles away. So there we go. I’m in the Jeep because Liz got my leg all splinted up and I needed the room. So, its me, Max and Liz in the Jeep. Well, I guess my pain wasn’t enough to keep them busy so they start bitching at each other. Max can be such a whiner, I swear.” She took a breath to right her thoughts, then plowed on ahead. “So, we get to the hospital. Alex and Isabel get me inside because Max and Liz are still fighting. Well, then, when I’m conscious again, everyone is in my room… except Max. That’s when we realized he’s not there and the Jeep is gone.”

“So, why did the rest of you come home?”

“Hello. My leg was broken. I just wanted to come home. It was my car. Max is such a big baby sometimes. We figured he’d start home when he realized we’d left him. He had the map and the rest of our gas money.”


“Leaving without Max was not a wise idea. No.” Alex shook his head and didn’t have to pretend to look stricken and completely sorry. “Were we worried? Not much. Max is a survivor and a control freak. He had the map and the gas money. He’s got a good head on his shoulders. We were sure he’d be right behind us once he blew some steam.”


“Max always has to be in control of everything,” Liz told them with just a hint of exasperation to play the ex-girlfriend card as well as possible. The pain in her eyes was very real though. “Until you find a body… I’m not going to be convinced that he was in that Jeep when it blew up.”


“Why am I here? I didn’t go with them.” Michael crossed his arms defensively.

“You get in a lot of trouble, Mr. Guerin,” Hanson prodded.

“So. That’s got nothing to do with this.”

“What is this?”

Michael cursed to himself. “Look. Max is my best friend. We’re guys. We don’t talk about our feelings over tea. That’s Liz’s job… or it was until she started boinking his son.” Michael pointed at Valenti and sat back with his arms over his chest once more. “The worst thing anyone can do is indulge Max when he’s throwing a tantrum, which is what I hear he threw up in Cowpoke or whatever.”


“He’s my best friend but I’ll be the first to tell you he isn’t perfect. When things don’t go according to plan, Max gets difficult. He gets upset. He’ll bite people’s heads off, he’ll go for a drive, take a walk to clear his head.” Michael took a breath. “Isabel knew what she was doing when she left him up there. I would have done the same thing if he’d pulled that crap on me.”

“You don’t think something’s happened to Max?”

“No. The guy irons his jeans. Unless he managed to piss off the locals… no. I think somebody thought that Jeep was sturdier than it was and it went up. Max was probably long gone. You’ll see. He’ll come back. It’s not like he hasn’t taken off before, ask his parents. He didn’t have a shrink for nothing.

“You’re not upset about your best friend going missing?”

“Yes, I’m upset. Don’t you hear me talking all loud? I just refuse to worry until there’s proof.”


Kyle hated lying. It was bad for his karma. “Did Max and I have our problems? Sure. We’ve got a history of going after the same girls.”

"So… there’s friction?”

“Well, yeah. He stole my girlfriend and when I fell for another girl, he cheated with her on the one he stole from me.”

“That right?”

Kyle realized that was the wrong way to go too late and looked to his dad, who could do nothing but shake his head. Since Kyle was involved, Jim could do nothing but supervise his Deputy during the questioning. “Like I said… we have a history. I’m not one to kiss and tell. Dad raised me to be a gentleman. Liz and I fooled around, Max found out. He got pissed but we’re not five. We weren’t going to fight it out on the playground. Max is bull-headed but not violent.”

“So, you were home this weekend?”

“Yeah, I was home. I had food-poisoning.” Kyle leaned forward, he was going to have fun or else it was going to come back on him. “Don’t tell Liz but she can’t cook. She needs to pay more attention at her Dad’s. I was in the bathroom all weekend. I didn’t take calls or leave. Hell, even Dad and Tess didn’t want to be home with me like that.” He sat back and thought for a minute. “You know… Max isn’t a bad guy for all the trouble we give each other. He’s a bit of a control freak. He’s probably fine.”

“You think so? His Jeep blew up. What do you think about that?”

“Maybe he pissed someone off. They took it out on his Jeep.”

“I thought you said he wasn’t violent.”

“He’s not.” Kyle snorted. “Max wouldn’t hurt a fly. Ask those meat-heads on the football team. They ganged up on him and he never even tried to take a swing. Now, could he piss someone off without meaning to? Hell, yeah. He does it to me all the time.”


“You’re the second girl?” Hanson asked the little blonde, the last on his list.

“I guess.” Tess made a face, miffed at the label.

“In this whole Kyle and Max mess?” He tried to clarify.

“Sort of,” She nodded. Playing it sweet and vulnerable was the way to go with a buffoon like Hanson. He was eating out of the palm of her hand. “It’s sort of a mess. I like Max but he likes Liz.”

“So you don’t know much of what’s going on.”

“I do. I’m still friends with Kyle and… he told me when I got home.”

“Where were you?”

“Making sure my dad’s place was cleared out. I… don’t like thinking someone can break in and take what’s left of his things.” She paused. “And to avoid Kyle and the whole Liz cooking experiment.”

“You think Liz could have done something?” Hanson asked and got a glare from the Sheriff.

“Liz? No.” Tess laughed and quickly covered it up. “Liz loves Max.”

“I thought she was seeing Kyle.”

“She was,” Tess clarified. “Was. Kyle and I talked about this. They fooled around a little. Max found out. Liz felt guilty but not inclined to date the jerk again.”

“You think he’s a jerk?”

“I’m jilted… I’m supposed to think he’s a jerk,” she went on. “I’m the other woman and he didn’t leave her for me. I still want him but until I’m not the default girl… I’ll call him all the names I want. Liz is still miffed at being cheated on. She’s not going to take him back so soon.”

“Do you think something’s happened to Max?”

“No. He wouldn’t let it.”


“No. Max is a boy scout… or should have been. Mr. Prepared for anything. He’s got survival skills. Isabel says he runs off all the time. Did you know he’s seeing a shrink?”


The first week had looked bad but they were all still holding out hope. Isabel wanted to spend more time with her brother but she had to be home where her parents could play the overprotective roles they had settled into. Maria and Alex spent too much time trying to stay out of the way to spend time with Max, but everyone understood. Watching Max that way didn’t do anyone any good. If the story was to hold up, they all had to play their parts. Michael watched Liz in the room from the doorway. She did what she had to, sharing the load with Michael. She spent the night the previous weekend, Maria as her cover story. She and Zan had shared the cot Michael had found.

Zan comforted Liz in anyway he knew how, which wasn’t much but she leaned on him anyway. He listened to her talk to Max everyday. Sometimes he told her about his life in New York. Passing time, second by second… hope leaping when Max’s eyes fluttered… dying when he never responded to reflex tests. More often than not, Zan held Liz as she cried herself to sleep and he always hated to wake her when it was time for her to go home.


Liz wiped down Max’s face. His color was still bad but Michael and Zan had managed to get more layers of muscle to heal as well as fight off the infection a day at a time. He was going to need a transfusion but she knew it was going to have to come from Zan to be sure, and she didn’t want to weaken him any more than necessary. They were doing all they could for Max. Liz used pretending to be cleaning out the Congresswoman’s office as an excuse not to go back to work for her parents so she could be with Max. She talked to him and dressed his wound, fed him water that he was starting to swallow on his own but he never regained consciousness. This was the second week and the last for her to be on constant evening duty.

She was breaking down. Day after day of lying to people; the cops, the investigators, his parents. It was not a problem to look horrible. She felt horrible. She had begun weeping over his body when Zan pulled her off. “Let’s go, Swee’ pea. You need a walk.”

Zan cleaned her face and led her outside where he immediately lit a cigarette. Michael had been dozing in front of a hockey game for hours on his new bed in the living area. Max had astounded them all by remaining ill for so long without getting much better or dying on them. It was a kind of proof to them all that he was still fighting… somewhere inside his body.

Without realizing, the two had assumed a position that had become familiar. Their bodies moved as one down the sidewalk, Liz nearly glued to his side. When she looked up, Zan had steered them into a convenience store. “You’re out of cigarettes already? I thought you had just bought a pack.”

“I’m nervous, I smoke. You got three bucks?” Zan scanned the little boxes for what he wanted.

“Yeah, sure.” Liz reached into her pockets and pulled out a five. Zan always said three when he really needed four. “You should really consider quitting.”

“Now you sound like Ava.” Zan could say her name without choking up, at last.

“She was a bright girl. You should take her advice.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Zan paid for his pack and steered her out the door only to run into the two people he had tried his best to avoid. He had seen their pictures in Isabel’s wallet. He wanted to know what he was avoiding at the time. This was crunchtime. The four of them froze. Liz looked to Zan. She couldn’t start this. The lies built and built and she didn’t know if she could do this to the Evans. They did it for her.

“Max?” Diane teared up as she eyed the young man in front of her. “What have you done to yourself?”

Zan’s eyes widened. He hadn’t expected that. He didn’t think he looked that much like Max but he supposed a mother would know and… well, he and Max were clones after all. “No.” He looked to Liz, who was pleading with her eyes. “Oh.” He turned back to the couple. “You gotta be his folks, then, huh?”

Liz could do an introduction. That wasn’t lying… much. “Mr. Evans, Mrs. Evans, this is Zan. He’s… well, apparently, he’s Max’s big brother.”


The ease with which they wove the tale scared Liz. The Evans listened to every word over tea. Isabel joined them and her lack of surprise was easy to cover. Zan tapped an ash into a tray. “I been in town a few days. It’s a shock.”

"I can imagine.” Philip rubbed his temples. “Let’s go back to the beginning. Tell me everything again so that I’m sure I’ve got it. You met Max in Copper Summit?”

“No. I ain’t neva been ta Copper Summit.” Zan sipped his coffee slowly and let his eyes drift to Liz now and then. “I been on my own a long time… avoidin’ N’Mexico somethin’ fierce. I ain’t wanna bring it all up agin. It wudn’t… Copper whatever. I was in… I forget the name. I was comin’ out the store when I run into him.”

“Literally, he means,” Liz supplied. “I’ve heard the story four times already.”

Zan nodded. “Bam! Right into him. I’scared. My heart’s poundin’ cuz this kid look ‘xactly like me… only pretty the way he’s all clean. I mean… Look at me.” He gestured to his ratty clothes and tattooed arms. “We sat there on the sidewalk just starin’ for the longest time. I’s eight when it happ’ned.” He explained and set down his cigarette. “Just a bit older. I ‘member just a bit. I get images in my head and I feel cold. Sometimes I see the skyline and there this rock. I’d know if ‘fI saw it.”

Isabel nodded to him that it meshed with what she had told him about how she and Max were found. She and Zan had bonded some since they had been taking care of Max. “I… I don’t.”

“I know, Princess.” Zan reached over and squeezed her hand. “Long time ‘go. Scary sh—stuff.” He returned his attention back to the parents, who had watched the display with some interest. “I call him by name and he get scared. He get all defensive, sayin’ his name ain’t Victor. Acted like he hated the name. ‘Fore I knew it, he take off runnin’… I ran afta him cuz I cain’t just let ‘im go. Last I saw him, he jump in a Jeep and peel rubba.” He picked up his cigarette and took a long draw on it. “I waited ‘round town, see if maybe I see him agin. Nothin’. So, I ask ‘round. Nobody know who he is. Then I see the news. See he missin’ from Roswell. Took me a while to get down here.”

“How…” Diane turned to Liz. “Did you find him?” Meaning Zan.

“Kind of. I was closing up the Congresswoman’s office pretty late the other night. Nearly ran into him and I thought he was Max.” Liz looked up at Zan. “But I knew it wasn’t him.”

“She think she know me so I figure she know Victor. Then I know his name’s Max and my sister’s here, too. Liz set up the meetin’.” Zan shrugged.

“I nearly fainted.” Isabel nodded to her mother, tempted to grab Zan’s cigarette and throw it out the window. “I didn’t say anything… because I was scared.”

“Nobody wants the past to be true.” Zan filled in for her. “Somebody leave they kids on side of the road wit nothin’ to eat or drink, no clothes on they backs.” He looked around the kitchen for the millionth time since he was shown inside the house. “Glad they was taken care of, real nice. Not like I got.”

“May I ask where you’ve been all this time?” Philip cut in, his mind already running legal circles to protect his children from the rough looking character seated at his table, fouling the air with his rough language and bad vices. Maybe he was just inclined to think the worst of out instinct. No one was going to take his family, not even through flesh and blood.

“All over… mostly New York. Earliest I ‘member…” Zan pretended to think about it. “Met some nice people. Took me in. Took me to New York wit ‘em. Was nice ‘til they got killed in a drive-by. Been on my own since I was 10.”

“Well… we’re glad to meet you and get a little more insight into why Max ran off.” Philip sighed heavily. He was running out of excuses to slap the kid with any kind of responsibility for the absence of his son. “We just wish he’d come home.”

“I’ll help howeva I can.” Zan nodded to them. “It ain’t much more than you already got but it somethin’.”

When the phone rang, Isabel leapt to get it. It was late and no one should be calling unless it was an emergency. She knew two seconds after she recognized the caller ID. “Isabel, Max is awake. He wants to go home.”

End Episode XXII

I'll post the last part on Monday. '-)

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Episode XXIII

Post by DMartinez » Mon Apr 25, 2005 2:09 am

Aftermath of War Episode XXIII

There was a big production when Max was ‘found.’ Michael was overwhelmed when the ambulance showed up at his apartment to take Max. Amazed that Max was even awake, he didn’t question but rode along to make sure nothing happened. The Evanses had called it and would meet it at the hospital. People took up their stations. Alex was on anti-biotics for allergies and painkillers for his wrist so Kyle supplied the blood for tests. Max was weak and protested the entire time, claiming he just wanted his own bed while he healed up. One of the nurses accused him of being a doctor-in-training he was so horrible a patient.

Max groaned when his mother tried to get him to stay. His voice was raspy with underuse but he refused to shut up until he got his way. “I’m 17, Ma. I don’t want to be here. I want to be home where I can drink all this hydrating stuff next to my own toilet.” Then he saw the police officer outside the room. He looked to Isabel as he sipped water from a cup his mother kept lifting to his mouth. “Could you tell him I need some rest before I give my statement?” His question worded to imply she would need to fill him in on his statement before he gave it. He would have crossed his arms if he thought he could lift them when he issued his next threat, “If you guys don’t take me home, I’ll walk.”

“Just like you walked across the state of New Mexico? I don’t think so,” Diane chided him softly and kissed his forehead. Then she froze.

Max followed her gaze to the doorway where he could make out Liz… and Zan… with his arm around her waist. His question was aimed at no one in particular when it spilled out of his mouth, “What’s he doing here?”

“Your brother.” Diane gave him a look that said she was worried about him or his reaction because she knew something she thought he didn’t. “He’s been looking for you ever since you ran off. He hitchhiked about as far as you walked. Now, I’ll get all these kids out of here so you can rest.”

“Ma,” Max pleaded, pulling the lowest trick he had and rarely used: puppy dog eyes. “Take me home. I’ll eat a million bananas and drink seven gallons of Gatorade a day until I’m better… just take me home.”

“I’ll go talk to the doctor.” Diane relented, passing the cup off to Isabel. “And I’ll find your father. He can’t possibly still be talking to that awful woman at the front desk.”

Isabel waited until she was out the door before spitting out the story as fast as she could. Max’s head hurt by the time she was finished. He stared at her for the longest time. “That’s kind of elaborate. Whose bright idea was all that sappy after school special crap?”

“We had to cover all our bases… you don’t like it, you take it up with Michael and Zan,” she hissed but squeezed his hand and looked into his face with all sincerity. “You scared me to death, Max Evans. You do that to me again and, to hell with Kivar and evil aliens, I’ll kill you myself.”

“Isabel…” Max hissed. “The doctors. My blood.”

“Taken care of,” she nodded. “All bases are covered. Trust me, we’ve been going over all possible outcomes when you were...”

“Okay.” He relaxed for a moment then, once his mind had assessed his own situation to be controlled, it slipped into a more unselfish mode. “How is everyone doing?”

“We’ll talk about it at home,” she assured him.

“And that?” He couldn’t look anymore but he knew that Liz and Zan were at the door waiting to be let in. If he let himself admit it, he could make them out in his periphery.

“What?” She blinked at him.

“Liz and Zan. When did that happen?” He gestured weakly. The whole idea made his stomach burn. The forms he judged to be theirs were too close for his heart to take.

“When did what happen?” Isabel looked at them and didn’t see anything suspicious. She’d been looking at that for nearly a month. It was just Zan making sure no one and nothing got close enough to Liz to hurt her before he could inflict harm. “Max… they’ve been by your side every waking moment trying to get you better and I think we both owe them. Neither of them has to be here.”

“What’s been happening, Iz?”


Max told his mother everything that he’d been told he’d have to say happened with just a point changed here and there as he saw fit. “I freaked out, Ma. I… it… seeing Zan there at that store… it brought back memories I wish I had never remembered… I’m sorry you guys were all worrying… I… I don’t know what happened to the Jeep. I got out to get my bearings back. I was just so confused and upset, then I realized I was turned around. Next thing I know… boom. I got knocked down. Hit my leg on a rock or something.” He looked to Isabel and Michael and winced as the bandage shifted on his leg when he moved. His throat tended to stay on the raw side but Tess had said something about his voice sounding sexy. He was tired all the time and lifting his arms and legs had become an effort. “I was too scared to go back… So I started walking… I don’t remember much else but walking.”

“Sweetie…” Diane fussed around him, gathering pillows and blankets and constantly refreshing his drinks. “I wish you had called us.”

“I was delirious,” Max embellished. “I… couldn’t be sure where I was half the time. I probably walked right through a town and didn’t register it… I just wanted to get home. Sometimes… I thought I was six again, only this time… I didn’t have my sister.” He licked his dry lips and reached for his electrolyte-rich drink. That was tiring. “Ma, try to keep this quiet… I don’t want to be on TV or in the newspapers. I just want to be home.”


Max felt useless propped up on all those pillows, drinking Gatorade and sucking on electrolyte pops until he thought he would puke… but then he needed help to go to the bathroom, so he didn’t dare let himself get too nauseous. He was still so weak after about a week of recovery. His muscles had begun to melt to feed his unconscious body. They had nearly completely atrophied, and he couldn’t even hold a magazine without getting tired. He worked with Isabel to get his schoolwork caught up on and turned in. When he regained his strength, he’d be in physical therapy, or so his parents said. Of course the doctors were confused but they had never dealt with an alien or even known that he was completely still and not in constant movement. By next semester he’d be back to normal… he’d make sure of that. That was his goal.

His mother had gone into protective mode and until he showed remarkable recovery in the energy department, none of his friends could visit for more than a few minutes. He knew she was upset they had left him behind but he had to explain to her that it wasn’t their fault. That if he wasn’t such a stubborn pain in the butt, none of it would have happened. He really hated lying to her but he couldn’t tell her that he’d been injured while fighting evil aliens. The police reports had come in and she’d finally accepted what she’d been told. Explosions had originated four and six feet from the Jeep, engulfing it and scorching the surrounding foliage and ground. The vandals were still at large.

So, it was another week before Zan was allowed into the room to have a talk. The duplicate king strode into the room and pulled a chair close to the bed. Max eyed him for a moment. “I’m not calling you ‘big brother.’”

“It’s cool. It was just a back up plan. Didn’t think I’d get spotted by your folks. Lucky for us they only met me the night you came to.” Zan shrugged and wished he could light up. After a moment, he looked up. “You scared us for a while there. We ain’t think you gon make it.”

“Me too.” Max laughed dryly, causing a cough to erupt. “I need to lay off the cold stuff.” He nodded to the trashcan full of wrappers from his electrolyte-infused diet of icicles and shakes. “I’m supposed to start on solids soon, just like the big boys.”

“That’s not funny, yo.” Zan shook his head and rubbed at his lips, desperate for the cigarettes he hadn’t had in two weeks. In all the excitement, he had left the pack in the Evans’s kitchen and had not asked if they still had them. Liz had also stopped paying for his habit, saying that one injured king was all they could afford.

“I’m told I have a sick sense of humor. Figures, now, that I’m actually sick.” That laugh sent him into a series of rough coughs than even a sip of water couldn’t cure. Zan’s warm hands on his ribs eased the airways and chill.

“Mikey filled me in.” He dropped his voice a few notches. “I ain’t know ev’rythin’ but it ain’t like before. Nicholas, Lannie Rath… they all gone. All the Skins, too. Any left ain’t got chance in hell of gettin’ home.”

“Good. It worked then,” Max nodded to himself. That’s all the confirmation he needed for what they had done. “Worth it.”

“Not all of it.” Zan’s eyes took on a haunted quality. “Ava’s gone, too.”

“Sorry, Zan.” Max shut his eyes as he absorbed it. Michael had told him about Maria’s arm. Alex’s wrist was sprained but they blamed that on a dodge-ball incident. “Nobody else, though, right?”

“Your girl… she was all weirded out there for while. She… I thought we lost her, too.”


“Liz.” Zan shook his head, eyes on the ground. “She pulled through and pushed us for’ard. ‘F’it wudn’t for her, we’da prolly lost you.” A wry smile crossed his mouth. “You know… she lied to her folks and spent ev’ryday afta school right beside you. Cleanin’ you up, givin’ you water, talkin’ to you like you could ‘ear her.”

“I could.” Max’s voice cracked and when Zan met his eyes, there were tears. “I thought I was dreaming… she was really there talking to me?”

“Ev’ryday.” Zan nodded, his heart sank a little at the raw vulnerability in his dupe. The kid was losing his way and that wasn’t good for anyone. “I think she want you back ‘nough to will you back. Like if she say the right thing… tell the right joke, you was just gon sit up and start talkin’ back.”

“She wasn’t talking to me.” Max cleared his throat. “I mean, I couldn’t hear her anymore. I couldn’t find her… I opened my eyes and Michael was changing my shirt. He nearly dropped me, I scared him so bad.”

“Mikey was so scared he gon wake up one mornin’ and you wouldn’t be breathin’ no more.” Zan tried to get Max off this odd train of thought. “We all thought so. We’s all glad you fine and great but get a grip. I’m tryin’a tell you somethin’.”

“How long did you wait?” Max shoved ahead again. He was going to be heard. He had to know one thing and then he’d be able to move forward like Isabel and Michael wanted him to. “I remember stuff. I must have opened my eyes, just a little, a… a hundred times and I saw you sleeping with her. I have… seen the way you touch her.”

“Hold the fuck up.” Zan exclaimed, rising off his chair, gaining his advantage in height the way he always did when he was confronted. “I ain’t neva touched her. I did what I promised. I looked afta her. Not one hair on her head was hurt durin’ the whole damn thing. She… she’s mutated for you.”

“Mutated?” Max’s head spun. “What do you mean mutated?”

“Swee’ pea? She got powers. She reached out wit her mind durin’ that s’plosion and she checked up on you before she even know if her head’s still ‘ttached to her body. That girl love you somethin’ fierce.” Zan reigned himself in a bit, knowing any moment Mrs. Evans was going to ask him to leave. “She got your name writ all over her body, you chicken shit. She broke her own heart fi’ty times for you and she’d do it agin in a heartbeat. Pull that raggedy ass head out your ass and let her come see you.”

“And Kyle?”

“There neva was a Kyle. She was tryin’a save your sorry life. Where the fuck’s da man that took the blow so that we could get inta place in Copper Summit?” Zan exclaimed, leaning over the bed. “Where da man that made me so fuck-ing proud to be who we fuck-ing are?”

Max was angry and hurt and so bewildered that he couldn’t think straight. “In two years, she’s having your baby, not mine. Maybe I was supposed to die, did you think of that?” Zan jerked his body upright and froze. His mind couldn’t get around that first sentence. So Max went on. “Michael didn't tell you that, did he? When you and Liz came from the future, she was carrying your child. I wasn’t even in the picture, I hadn’t been for months.”

Zan’s resolve returned slowly. “You pull that head out your ass, now. You in the picture now. I ain’t goin’ for your girl. You get better. You get your ass healthy and you be the one with all the babies in a few years. Aight?” He nodded sharply. “Me? I’m gone. Vapor.”


When Liz walked in, Max was asleep but rather than leave, she set her package aside and lay out beside him to wait for him to wake up. His color was returning but he was still dropping weight, judging by his skinny face. She must have fallen asleep because when she looked at his face again, he was watching her. “What’s wrong? Your bed not as lumpy as my shoulder?”

Liz stifled a laugh and moved her head slightly. “I haven’t seen you in weeks. I needed to see you.” There was a long silence between them as she tried to think of something to say. “We saved the world, did you hear?”

“Yeah.” Max couldn’t think when he could smell her perfume.

“Brought you some contraband.” Liz sat up and found the little cooler she’d brought with her. “Cheesecake. I made it myself.”

“I don’t know. I’m still on liquids. Water, Gatorade, soup.” That worried him a little, not to mention the doctors his mother talked to when she thought he was asleep.

“It’s got Tabasco,” she teased and slowly slid open the zippers, revealing a corner of the cooler at a time.

“You’re the devil.” Max managed to laugh and for once the smile on his face was genuine. “It sounds good…” She waved the open container beneath his nose. “And smells good but… I don’t know if I should… I…” Then he cursed to himself, the smile melting away. He wanted a piece. He was pretty confident he could hold it down. Tears formed in his eyes as his frustration took over.

“Max.” She set the container and cooler aside. “Hey, what’s wrong? This was supposed to cheer you up, not make you sad.”

“I can’t sit up and hold the fucking fork for myself for any amount of fucking time,” he spat out, more angry at his weak body than with her.

Liz nodded and pulled him into a sitting position to adjust his pillows. “You smell good.” He didn’t take the bait, so she took a good long sniff and kissed his cheek before she let him settle against the pillows. “Smooth cheeks. Ooh. Somebody’s spoiled.”

“Dad helped me shave and I insisted on after-shave,” Max relented and waited to see what she was doing. “I could only do one side before my arm gave out.”

Liz pulled out a plastic wrapped spoon and freed it. Then she placed her cheesecake in his lap. “You’re gonna love this. I let Michael lick the bowl and he was drooling for more.”

She scooped up a small bite and held it up. Max turned his head away. “I don’t want you feeding me.”

“Not feeding you. Giving you a taste. You want more after this taste, you can get it yourself.” Liz prodded him and faked to the right to tickle him, the spoon was in his mouth before he could protest. “Now, if you want to act your age, I won’t have to resort to tricks to get you to eat.” She pressed the spoon into his hand. “If you want more, you’ll get it yourself.

“Why are you here?” Max asked around his mouthful.

Liz tilted her head at him. “Why would you ask that?”

“Shouldn’t you be off with Zan somewhere?”

“No. My best friend Max is recovering and I’m right where I want to be.” She pinched off a piece of crust and popped it into her mouth. “It’s all I could do to get him to stay after whatever you said to him. I’ve never seen anyone go on bigger leaps of faith than Zan… and he lost one of the only people he ever cared about. He’s still here, Max and that’s because he wants to be.” When he didn’t speak, she took the spoon and fed him some more, relieved that he let her. “He’s gone a bit overboard with this role you gave him. He makes sure I get to school all right, that I come home, he spends my entire shift eating junk food… he walked me here… says he’ll keep doing it until you can do it yourself.” That’s where she stopped moving because the tears came. “And what I can’t figure out is why you’d have him watch out for me after what I did to you.”

“Did you?” Max asked softly. “Do it?”

“No.” She smiled a little. “No, never.”

“They said you… that someone came to you.”

“You did.”

“I would never.”

“But you did. I heard that I came to you.”

“You did.”

“I can’t believe I asked you to do that.”

“But you did.”

“Okay… now this conversation is just silly.” Liz picked up the spoon again. “You eating this okay?”

“Yeah.” He nodded. “Tastes good… is that caramel on the bottom?”

“Brown sugar.” His hand fell on hers to keep it from lifting any more to his mouth. “Enough?”

“I haven’t been much for eating these days. I’m a lot weaker than the doctor thought I should be but then… I didn’t actually walk across the burning desert for a week or two, did I.”

“No… You know… Zan wants to finish the job. The original plan didn’t involve you waking up before he had finished.” She put the cover back on the cheesecake and placed it back inside the cooler. “If you guys are going to fight, I won’t let him but I think we should at least get you feeling like yourself. I know you don’t like depending on your mother and father for all this.”

“Yeah. Tell him to come.”

“He’s here.” She bit at her lip.

“You were so sure of yourself.” He shook his head at her.

“I wasn’t going to leave until you caved.”

Max nodded at last and she kissed his cheek again, lingering a moment longer than she thought she should before running to find everyone in the house. The only thing was his mother had gotten home early and wasn’t about to let Zan into the room without supervision, knowing the last time had ended in a shouting match and Max had been so tired afterward. Having much more practice at covering up in public, Zan took the reigns despite Mrs. Evans’s near constant presence in the doorway. “Isabel, take Max’s hand.” He instructed even as he took Max’s hand with his right and placed the left on Max’s forehead. Liz couldn’t resist. She took Michael’s hand and his other sought Isabel’s free hand. Their little crowd on the bed made Max feel more at home than he felt he could ever express. These were all the people that had ever meant anything to him. Zan nodded to Max and waited until Max was ready. “Let us pray.”

Once he had the connection, Zan released Max’s hand and took Liz’s. Energy flowed from one body into the next and restored Max’s weak body to near original condition but there were just places they couldn’t reach. Zan nearly fell when he tore his eyes away from Max’s. There was a block in there and Zan knew Max would be getting no better through alien healing, the rest was up to the king. Diane rushed into the room when she heard the lamp topple. Zan found himself being lifted into chair and a glass of water pressed into his hand. Firm hands on his shoulder meant that Michael was holding him upright so he could sip it slowly. Isabel and Liz hovered over Max. Diane’s tearful face looked up into the rough face of her son’s brother. “You know… we’ve never been able to get him to pray before.”


The table had all of Max’s favorite foods on it and all he could do was shake his head as Zan helped him sit at his spot. His legs were more than a little wobbly but he planned to walk on his own again, soon. Liz served him and stayed close enough to help him if necessary. Max couldn’t help the comment. “See, Zan, I told you I’d be on big boy food soon.”

“Shut up and eat.” Zan was tempted to smack him upside the head.

Max gripped his fork and dug into the stir-fry his mother had ordered him. As he chewed on his red peppers, he nearly coughed. He had never felt like that before. The deadly little things weren’t overly spicy to his alien tongue but his stomach burned something fierce. Staying quiet, he tasted everything at least once to make his mother happy. When his parents weren’t looking, he moved some of his food onto Zan’s plate, who kept quiet but stared disapprovingly. Liz squeezed his hand under the table; a gesture that meant she had seen him give his food away but that she wouldn’t say anything.

There was supposed to be an outing after dinner. A movie or something but Max told them to go on without him. When Zan was about to offer to stay, Isabel had gripped his arm and dragged him out the door, for which Max was grateful. He just needed to be alone for a while, even if it meant being stranded in the living room until they got back. Liz assured the Evanses that she would stay to make sure Max had everything he needed and they left with Mrs. Evans shouting information all the way to the car.

He had to laugh when they drove off. Liz stood next to his chair and he looked his fill. “You can leave, too.”

“Nope. Not gonna get rid of me.” She shook her head with a small smile.

“Okay, if you’re staying… I wanna lie down. Let’s go.” Max got to his feet on his own but his legs could barely support him more than a handful of steps. He had a walker that he hated and a wheelchair that he hated less, which was backward to everyone until they realized he had more control of his arms these days and that was all he wanted out of the present. He let himself be wheeled to his bedroom. The quiet was nice for many reasons; his mother wasn’t rushing around asking questions and waiting on him hand and foot, Isabel wasn’t trying to be his teacher, Michael wasn’t trying to be present and unobtrusive while he said nothing, and his father was not drifting from chair to desk looking for something to do before he wandered out of the room again. Liz pulled him to his feet and they toppled to the bed and lay for the longest time without saying a word. “I think this is the longest I’ve had you to myself in a long time.”

“Yeah.” Liz nodded. “It’s also probably the longest we’ve been together without breaking up.”

“Are we together?” Max had to ask. He hadn’t dared assume. He took her kisses when she gave them but with all the eyes, those were far too few. Stolen moments when his mother wasn’t looking, though he was pretty sure she knew. There had been an embarrassing conversation a few weeks before that Max would like to pretend had never happened. [“Ma…” he whined, willing a black hole to open up under his bed. “I’m pretty much stuck here.”

“Which is my main concern.” Diane threw a heavy blanket over his legs as she continued. “That door is not to be closed when Liz is in the room.”

“Ma.” Max covered his face with his hands. “Even if I wanted to do anything, I sincerely doubt I could do it. I can barely feed myself… I’m not really concerned with… even trying to do anything with anyone.”

“Is it serious?” She sat in the chair next to his bed with that expression on her face. The ‘I’m your mother, your parent, and it’s time we had THAT talk’ face. “You and Liz have broken up before and you always feel so bad when that happens… Are you sure you aren’t back together because…” She couldn’t bear to say it but she could see that the idea had crossed her son’s mind at least once.

Max thought about what his mother implied. His hands dropped to his lap. He had entertained the possibility that Liz felt guilty or pitied him but when she kissed him, none of that was ever present in her mind. The impressions he got from her weren’t about any of that. When she looked at him, there was concern and sometimes annoyance and something he’d like to cherish for the rest of his life. “It’s serious, I think… but not as serious to warrant this conversation. Can we talk about something else, please?”]

“As far as I’m concerned, yes. We’ve earned the right to be together.” Her hand found his. “How have you been feeling? Really. Don’t lie.”

“Good. Better.” He let her direct his hand in the air. “I didn’t get tired at dinner.”

“That’s really good.” She placed his hand on her rear and was rewarded with a playful squeeze. “I see that motor skills are great.”

“Would it be pushing the invalid card too far if I requested a make-out session?” A sly smile crossed his face and broadened when she returned it.

“No, I don’t think so.” Her lips found his and they both sighed. It felt so good. Soft kisses became heated and Liz found herself straddling his lap when she came up for air. Touching and stroking had shifted the playful mood into uncharted territory, her eyes drifted to the clock. Making her decision, she shed her blouse.

“Liz…” Max gulped at the sight of her bra-covered breasts. He had dreamed of this but that’s not what he had meant when he had suggested they play catch up.

“Sh…” She stilled his lips with hers. “I want to do this.” She brought his hands to her chest. As if acting of their own accord, his hands cupped and molded her flesh. Her skin was so soft and she smelled so good. Their kisses became frenzied and he began seeking any flesh he could reach with his starving mouth. Tasting her throat and the space between her breasts, mapping out every inch of flesh he missed, reacquainting himself with her body. It had been too long since he had last touched her. Her fingers stripped away the barriers between them, finding the pale skin on his chest, occasionally winding through his hair to hold him close. His mouth found her aching breast, his hands gripped her flesh as hard as he could, which he feared wasn’t nearly as tight a hold as it used to be. When his heated member touched the bare skin of her thigh, he fell back on his pillows. Her eyes popped open in surprise at the loss of his touch. “What?”

“Liz, I don’t know…” He wanted to make the most of this stolen time but he wasn’t sure how far he could go. Doubt seeped into his mind and showed on his face.

“Sh… please, Max.” Liz’s fingers brushed his lips before she teased him into another kiss.

“I can’t.” He protested but his heart definitely wasn’t in it. His body, especially his lower extremities, screamed that he was an idiot for trying to get out of this. The very last thing on the planet that Max wanted had to be this.

“I can.” She reassured him and reached between his legs to stroke his throbbing manhood. “Please. I want to do this so badly.” Her body screamed for him and she knew that he wanted to. “Can I make love to you?”

Then he could resist no more. For all he knew, this was as good as it was going to get for him, he’d be crazy to say no. “Yes, please… please.” Max watched her hover over his body as she guided a rubber over his hard flesh and then took him into her body. He held on tightly as she began to move. Her pained cry touched him deeply but then she moaned and moved and no more thoughts were allowed into his brain. Her pants filled his ears. He couldn’t even be sure he was breathing anymore. All that mattered was the slick slide of flesh against his body. When his eyes met hers, it was as if she shared herself with him, parts of her soul feeding his, giving him strength. Years of pining and more than a few months of touching but never being as close as he wanted and fearing he couldn’t keep her.

Baring his teeth against her shoulder, he held her as close as he could, guiding her hips with one hand to her lower back, the other hand pressing her chest against his. When his release came, he could do nothing to prepare her or warn her that that was it. Her hips ground against his as he felt back, his hips arching beneath her. When she finally collapsed on top of him, Max felt tears slipping down his face. His release had been so intense and she was whispering how much she loved him, how much she had always and would always love him. He whispered back, “I love you. Don’t leave me.”

Her kisses rained on his face and he was finally tired enough to sleep but not enough to release her from his grasp and not enough to sleep one second while in her presence. He knew she would have to go and that he would need help getting dressed again but he couldn’t keep his eyes open another minute. Eyes closed, he leaned his head on her chest. “We didn’t have this last time.”

“Have what?”

“This… I died before we could get back together again.” Liz’s brow furrowed but let him talk. “And you… don’t have to do the things you did last time. You don’t have to learn how to ride a motorcyle and you don’t have to work in a bar.”

“Max, sh.” Liz kissed his forehead and stroked his back.

“You were right, what you told Zan… you don’t belong to anyone.”

“I belong to you.”

“No. Not even to me.”

“Max, sh. Go to sleep.”

“If we fall asleep and my mother catches us… you can have the talk this time.”

“What?” It was enough to change the mood significantly. “What talk?”

“You’ll see unless we make it look like we didn’t do what we just did.”


Max breathed deeply as he dozed on the couch between Liz and Zan. It was his special request that they keep near to him. The only two people left that he would accept help from. The two people who were closer to him than anyone had been in the past few months. Michael and Isabel had draped themselves over the other couch, Maria and Alex on the floor. Tess and Kyle were on their way, not that it mattered because Max showed no sign of being conscious for his own party. With very little help after many weeks of rest and hard work on his physical therapy, Max had been able to shuffle to the bathroom by himself. He war proud enough to demand celebration; a first demand that his parents had to honor of the child that never asked for a single thing he could do without… and then he had fallen asleep before half the guests had arrived.

Kyle and Tess moved to the kitchen, shortly after their arrival, to get their drinks and argue about their laundry situation away from the lazy ears of their friends. Alex munched on his cheesy poofs and went over the movie selection, immediately tossing out recovery movies, alien movies, action movies with explosions, and movies where someone significant died… and was left with hardly anything he dared present to the group besides feel-good box office flops. Zan began to doze himself and was too lazy to move Max’s arm when it fell on his. It was the first time he felt completely relaxed in all his memory. Michael flicked Isabel’s hair off his lap and she flipped it back, a game they had played once or twice when they were younger. Maria watched Michael with some amusement, she could tell he was smiling even if his mouth was set in a firm straight line.

Liz’s fingers lay entwined with Max’s. She barely felt him move until her hand came into contact with Zan’s hand. Their hands were touching, back to back, when they realized what Max had done, and then he entangled their fingers. Amber eyes peeked from under lashes for just a moment before he shut them and he took a huge shuddering breath… breathed out and was no more. Hands clasped together when Max’s fell away, Zan and Liz stared at each other for a split second before both struggled to get Max on the floor to administer CPR.

No one panicked when Diane started to call the paramedics, but Michael calmly took the phone from her hands and shook his head at both frantic parents. Explanations could wait, though it would be hard not to explain… afterward. An understanding flew to their eyes though their brains had yet to accept the events of the night. Except for Zan beating away on Max’s chest and blowing breath into his lungs, everyone watched in silence as Max refused to breathe and his heart finally stopped. Not even a jolt of energy could restart his heart. Zan and Michael carried Max’s body to the backyard and laid him in the center before backing away. Everyone held onto someone as they waited. Zan had to hold Liz for fear she might get too close, her face was already streaked with tears when she buried her face in his shirt. The explosion was brilliant as all watched the king go out in his own blaze of glory.

End Episode XXIII
End Aftermath of War

And yes, I did keep the helmet I made last time I posted this. Awaiting projectiles.