Where Once Stood Kings (Mature, Max) (Complete)

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DMartinez
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Part 19 – September 25, 2002

Post by DMartinez » Thu Oct 06, 2005 8:41 pm

Part 19 – September 25, 2002

Max walked into the kitchen to find it full of cookies, brownies, cake and pie. "Tess! I thought I said not to cook anything if I wasn't home."

"I here." A muffled voice came from the table. Zan had a mouthful of pie and a jug of milk in hand. "I been watchin' her." He took a long swallow from the jug. "It's cool… and damn if the girl can cook."

"How long have you been here?" Max set his books on a chair since the table was filled with cooling food.

"Well…" Zan ran his tongue around his mouth as he thought about it. "I was here for everythin' you see cooked… not to mention there's a strawberry rhubarb this mornin' but that's gone now." He patted his stomach proudly.

"I thought you were trying college on for size?"

"I did. I tried it. S'not for me." Zan shrugged. "I needed a break between shoots. Be out of your hair day after tomorrow." Suddenly he looked up. "S'not a problem, is it? I mean, you don't want me around… I can bounce."

"Nah, man. It's cool." Max shook his head. "Where is she?"

"Takin' a break. Grab a fork, pull up a chair." Zan motioned to the food on the table. "You know, she was axin' some weird questions."

"Like what?" Max pulled a cake over and dug in, wincing at the sweetness and reaching for the Tabasco.

"Sex." Zan waited while Max choked on his cake and recovered. "So you got laid down in Roswell, anh."

"Yeah." Max nodded then shook his head. "It's not the right time though."

"Oh. I see how it is. She play you?"

"No."

"You play her?"

"No." Max stabbed his cake but stopped eating it. "I got drunk and pretty much screwed her brains out. The last time… Tess walked in on us. Later, she tells me that she's got to concentrate on school but that she wants to keep in touch."

"Ouch." Zan shook his head and reached for a cookie and the Tabasco. "Whateva. So Tess is axin' me if it's okay to do the deed b'fore you tie the knot… cuz her teach back in Cali said no."

"Her teacher also told her that sex was strictly for procreation. I had a hell of a time explaining that Liz would not be having a kid." Max dug into the cake once more, relaxing a little and needing the sugar to calm the rest of his nerves. "I don't know what to do with her. She's too curious about it… it worries me."

"I would be too."

"You're not helping."

"I never said I'd help, dog."


November 18, 2002

Max poured out the silver halide and cursed when he spilled some on his shoes at the sudden noise. Damn cell phone. It chirped noisily inside his pocket. Wiping his hands quickly, he plucked it from his pocket. "What?"

"I'm sorry. Is this a bad time?"

"Liz?" Sobering, he swallowed convulsively. His mouth went dry. Damn himself for losing all cool at the sound of her voice.

"Yeah, hi. I could call back some other time if you're busy."

"No, no. It's fine. I just spilled some silver halide when the phone rang. Guess I'm a little high-strung today." Max carefully sat in a chair near the door. "What's up?"

"Not much. I had a free moment. I really can call back if you're busy."

"Nope. Not busy."

"Ok."

"Whatever it is, ask. I can tell you're stalling."

"Yeah… I… can't make it home for Thanksgiving. I was hoping you'd be home or something." There was a long pause. "I didn't want to spend the day alone."

"We don't usually celebrate but I'm sure something can be arranged." Max thought it over and it was just an excuse to see her but it was legitimate and she asked first. "Are you going to need a ride? I could arrange for a car to pick you up or something."

"That'd be really great. I appreciate it. I barely have the money… eventually to go home for Christmas…"

"No. It's cool, really. I don't know if you can put up with Tess but we'd love to have you."

"She's not at all the pest you make her out to be, Max Evans."

He had to smile at the chiding. "In my defense, I never said she was a pest." An awkward pause stretched over the line. "We would be honored if you would join us for Thanksgiving, Miss Parker. I'll send a car Thursday morning?"

"9 o'clock?"

"You bet."

"I don't want to put you through any trouble, though. You don't have to have Thanksgiving dinner because of me or anything."

"The car will be there. Just get in. If we cook, we cook. If we don't, you won't be alone."

"Thanks, Max."

"It's my pleasure."


November 21, 2002

"How long are we going to wait to eat?" Kal glanced at his watch. There was probably a meeting or two on hold until he could make an appearance.

"She's almost done." Max tried to calm him down. "She's gotten very good."

"I can't taste it, what does it matter?" Kal muttered.

"I can and it's great." Max shot him a stern look. "She's getting better. She's gotten the hang of reading and comprehending. She cooks without measuring implements. She's getting better."

"So you said."

"What's your problem?" Max snapped finally. Kal had been riding his nerves all day.

"You went to your sister's wedding?"

"Yes, no thanks to you."

"My problem, your highness, is that she had an other worldly visitor and now her husband knows our family secret." The alien was secretly pleased to see his charge stiffen in guilt. "Lucky for us all… she really loves that lawyer or else we could be kissing our asses goodbye."

Max let the words wash over him for the moment. Of course the choice was poor, Kal had to know that. "If our problems are so over with… why did he try to take her back?" Silence. That was always a bad sign. "So, it's alright if I sign up for duty right?" Silence with a glare. "I'm completely serious. I have this urge to defend my life. Maybe I should enlist and ask for front line action." Colder glare. "I like the idea of fighting for the right to live my life my way. I hear Marines are gonna be the first to ship out. They see action first."

"You're killing me, Kid." Kal drew in a long breath and let it out slower than humanly possible. Leaning forward in his chair, he set his cigar on a plate. "You are not signing up for duty."

"How about some answers?" Max tilted his head at the alien. "Is the war still going on up there?"

Before Kal could make up a lie, the doorbell rang. To his mild amusement, Max leapt out of his chair to answer the door. The intrigue grew when Max returned with a scowl on his face and his duplicate. "What have we here?"

"'Sup, Kal." Zan nodded and continued on into the kitchen.

"You mean I have to put up with whining from both of you today?" Kal rose from his seat and wandered over to the mini-bar that he had instructed be stocked. The amber fluid flowed into the glass without even a small splash.

"I just here for the food." Zan poked his head back out with a roll in hand.

"Could you clean up your grammar?" Kal sighed and shook his head. "What are you doing with that education anyway?"

"Not much." Zan shook his head. "I was thinkin' of servin' our country overseas."

"Not you, too." Kal rubbed his head in a very human gesture of annoyance. "You boys aren't joining the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force or Coast Guard. You can forget it." What disturbed him was that he couldn't tell if either of them was kidding. If they were serious, they were definitely acting it. "You try it and I'll produce proof that you're only sons and need to stay home and carry on your family name."

Max sighed. He could do it. Would he? He was spared anymore thoughts when the doorbell rang. He motioned for Zan to keep Kal in the room while he answered the door in relative peace. This time when he opened the door, it was a smiling brunette. "Hey."

"Hey." Liz tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and waited to be invited in. "Is Tess serving dinner out here? It's kinda cold out here."

"Sorry." Max stepped out of the way and let her in. She took her time looking around. "This is the house."

"I didn't expect you to live in a house like this." Liz shook her head and gazed up at the ceiling.

"Tess picked the house out. Uncle Kal would have preferred one on the other side of campus but we're the ones living here." Max took her coat and hung it in the hall closet. "We're just um… sitting around waiting for Tess to give the word."

"We?" The word was out of her mouth before she realized Max had just guided her into a parlor. "Oh." The two men were standing by the mini-bar and looked up at her voice. "Hi."

"Liz Parker, my uncle Kal and that's Zan. Guys, this is Liz." Max nudged her into the room.

"Sweet." Zan switched the roll from one hand to another. "How you doin', sweet thang?"

"He's an animal. Ignore him." Max whispered.

Kal looked her over. "Not bad, kid. Come on. I have someplace to be." He vanished through a doorway and his voice carried out into the parlor. "How much longer?"

"Ten minutes will be perfect."

Liz turned to Max and smacked him across the chest. "You didn't tell me that people were going to be here."

"I thought you didn't want to be alone today." Max countered and slipped an arm around her waist to guide her to a seat. "Kal stopped by yesterday. He's got business in the area and when they asked about his plans for today… well he couldn't say he wouldn't be having dinner with his family…"

"That's awful, Max." She hissed. "What about Zan?"

"Zan just felt like dropping by." Max turned to his duplicate, who was still checking Liz out. "Didn't you?"

"Gotta eat, dog." Zan shrugged. "But Ginger said I can't eat too much oils or somethin'. Makes my skin shine under the lights or somethin'."

"Who's Ginger?" Liz inquired.

"My agent—" Zan whipped his hand up at Max. "I'm not doin' this one. I swear." Then he straightened his jacket. "'Sides, she's like 40 or somethin'. I'm not hittin' the ladies that coulda birthed me."

"Not much chance of that." Kal announced from the doorway. "Her highness has requested we move into the dining room for the festive meal."

The second they entered, Tess was ushering them to their seats. So focused on her task, she didn't realize Liz was there until she was going to seat her. "Hi Liz. Max get up. Liz is going to sit there. Go sit by Uncle Kal."

Max's face broke into a smile as he moved around the table. "Nice to know I'm appreciated."

"Okay." Tess sat in her seat and looked around. "Now we have to say a prayer." After a moment, everyone bowed their heads and she began. "Thank you, God, for Uncle Kal, Max and Zan and my friend Liz. Thank you for making me better so I can cook and read. Thank you for Stuart and Maybeth. Thank you. Amen."

"Amen." Chorused around the table.

Kal reluctantly rose and began carving the turkey, always watching the occupants of the table. Tess passed plates down and pointed out that she had made everything. Max asked about Liz and Zan's classes. Kal talked about a couple of movies due out the next summer, inquired about the modeling and photography. Liz asked about Tess's reading and learned about the music room. Found out that Stuart was the reading tutor and Maybeth was the music teacher. Liz furrowed her brow a couple of times when Kal repeatedly squeezed lemons over his meal but someone, usually Max, would distract her before she could ask questions about it. It was a moderately quiet affair. Then Kal set aside his napkin. "I have to go but Max… I need you in Jersey for Christmas."

"What? Why?" Max had just been in the midst of serving himself more turkey when Kal had sat back from the table.

"Movie. I'm cutting costs. Do me a favor and take some pictures for me. The couple will be waiting at an address that I'm going to give you later. They're going to act like a couple and you're going to take pictures for a montage. Soft, black and white, sickeningly sweet. You know the deal." Kal got to his feet and patted his pockets for his keys. Max had to hide his smile at the act. He was playing the part of an uncle and doing a good job. "Come on. I need directions to the airport."

"Sure." Max nodded and got to his feet. He excused himself from the table. At the door, Kal gave him the look. "What?"

"The girl."

"What about her?"

Kal pulled gloves onto his hands and moved his head as if to crack his neck. "That's the same girl from the pictures."

"She is." Max crossed his arms. "What's your point?"

"So you diddled her once upon a time. Why exactly is she here?"

"She was Isabel's maid of honor." Max leapt in. "We found out we weren't all that far away. We talk sometimes and she couldn't make it home for Thanksgiving. She doesn't know a lot of people on the East coast."

"Right." Kal opened the door. "I got a strange feeling about that one. It's not going to work out."

"We're not even dating. We're just… friends." Max barely got the last words out before Kal shut the door in his face. When he returned to the dining room, they had gotten started on desert and had progressed to horsing around. Zan had moved a chair between Tess and Liz and had already baptized them both with whip cream. They were both giggling and trying to get him back.

Silently, he took his seat and finished his turkey but he no longer had much of an appetite. A slice of pie and some pudding went down but nothing could bring his mood back up, especially with the way Zan and Liz were horsing around.

--

Max was working on the dishes with Tess when Zan and Liz wandered into the kitchen. Zan steered Tess over to the table to help Liz put the leftovers away. Zan cleared his throat and waited for Max to address him. "What?"

"W'The fuck you doin'?" Zan dried the dishes as they were handed to him and found it hard to keep his voice down with the girls so close. "We ain't even know you were washin' dishes 'til we realized Tess was gone too."

"It only took you fifteen minutes." Max reached for the next dish and nearly submerged it when Liz gasped and pulled it out of his hand.

She handed it to Tess and stared at him. "Are you okay, Max?"

"I'm fine."

"You almost washed an entire bowl of yams." She reached up and felt his forehead. "You're not warm."

"I'm fine."

Zan pushed them both to the door. "Me and Tess got this. You go make sure he's cool."

Before Max could protest, Liz was steering him out of the room. She stopped when she realized she had no clue where to take him. "Where is your living room?"

"Upstairs… it's more personal." Max took her hands and looked into her face. "I'm fine. I was just out of it for a minute."

"You were awful quiet after your uncle left. Did he say something to you?"

"It's nothing. It doesn’t even matter."

The expression on her face spoke volumes, the most important was that she didn't believe him. "Are you sure?"

"He was in a pissy mood. He didn't even know Zan was coming and then we were both bugging him before you got here." Max let out a sigh. "Really, it's nothing."

"Then lets go help him finish."

"Too late." Zan appeared in the doorway. "We're done. I wanna check out the stereo system. Did you get the speakers I told you about?"

"I was but they ruin the look of the room. I’m having some special made. Maybe by Christmas." Max shook his head and led the way up the stairs.

"Speakers is speakers. You'd just have to replace them later."

"And I'll have the molds for them when I do." Max opened the door and they all filed in. Tess found the remote and put on one of her CDs before Zan could reach her. Max sank down on the end of a couch to watch them fight it out for control of the music. Much to his surprise, Liz sat next to him. "We skipped all the parade crap this morning… I'm not that crazy about football. What are we going to do with ourselves?"

"I would suggest a movie but I think you've seen everything." Liz curled her feet beneath her. "I'm a little sleepy. Mind if I nap?"

"Do you want to go lay down?" Max sat up. "There's a free room just down the hall."

"Where's your room? You look like you need a nap too." Liz took his hand but was pushed back onto the couch.

"No naps. We're watching a movie." Tess announced. "Then I have to show you the music room and my room and my closet."

"Alright. A movie it is." Liz nodded and settled back in next to Max.

"I always feel like blood 'n' guts on a full stomach." Zan popped a DVD into the player and settled himself into a chair. Tess stuck her tongue out at him and sat next to Liz on the couch.

Max laid his arm on the back of the couch so Liz could be more comfortable and that was as far as he got. The four of them fell asleep after the first teenager got ripped to shreds.

TBC

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Part 20 – December 15, 2002

Post by DMartinez » Thu Oct 06, 2005 8:45 pm

Part 20 – December 15, 2002

Maybeth stood before her employer uncertainly. "It's not that I don't think she's a great girl but she tells me stuff she shouldn't."

"Stuff she shouldn't…" Max prompted her, pausing in writing the check for the month plus her Christmas bonus.

"She's great. She's awesome and she's progressing nicely."

"Maybeth. Tess isn't in the habit of progressing." Max pointed out and took a seat at the bar he was standing beside. "The reason I took that ad out for professional music students was so that you wouldn't have to sacrifice your practice time to teach her. She mimics. That's what she's good at. Is she interfering with your rehearsals?"

"No… it's just that…" Maybeth took a breath. "I know that she's autistic or something but she tells me personal things about you, about your girlfriend, about her tutor and her cooking classes… I didn't sign on to be her friend. I'm her teacher."

Max shut his eyes and let out a breath. "How specific is she?"

"Well…" Maybeth winced. "She told me that she saw you… and your girlfriend… doing it…" She trailed off. "Do you see what I’m getting at?"

"Yeah." He signed the check and sank back. "I'm sorry. I'll talk to her and if you're brave enough to come back… she'll be a little more discreet in what she talks about."

"Thanks. I really need this job." The woman shifted a little. "Why is she telling me all this stuff? I'm just her teacher."

"Tess… doesn't have many friends. We've only been here about six months and she's emotionally needy. She needs people that treat her like there's nothing wrong with her. When she finds one, she latches on. She sees you three times a week for a couple of hours and she sees you as family." Max ripped the check from the book and handed it over. "Thanks for the heads up though. I have a feeling her tutor is getting the same treatment."

December 21, 2002

Max groaned when the phone rang. He was barely able to roll over and answer it without disturbing the bed too much. After a grunt or two, he had it in his hand. "Hel-lo."

"I'm sorry, Max, were you asleep?"

"Um, no. Hey. What's up?" Max sat up and moved off the bed as quietly as possible. His sweats were on the floor somewhere… and a jacket. "Hold on a second." Throwing on the clothes quickly and then stepping into a pair of shoes, he snuck out onto his balcony. The crisp morning air stung his face and lungs immediately, freezing his breath as it left his mouth. "Okay."

"I was just calling to wish you a Merry Christmas in case I didn't get a chance later." At the small pause, Max could imagine her biting at her lip. "I'm about to leave actually. My flight boards in a little while."

"Well, Merry Christmas yourself." The cold bit into his skin but he forced himself not to shiver. He had been okay visiting the East coast in the winter for a day or a week but to live day-in and day-out in the bitter, bitter snow was a completely different story. "So, happy to be going home?"

"It'll be nice to see my parents. They call every weekend and want to know everything that's going on in my life but there's not much to tell. I'm just trying to keep my grades up and keep that dream within reachable distance."

"Understandable." Max leaned on the railing and sucked in a breath when his jacket opened up, allowing the frosty air to nip at his abs.

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine."

"Are you outside?"

"Outside? No. It's gotta be freezing. I'd have to be insane to go outside this early in the morning." Max quickly zipped up his jacket, praying the sound didn't travel across the line. "When are you coming back?"

"New Year's Day. It's tradition with me and my Dad. My flight's the next morning." There was a long pause. "You finish your Christmas shopping?"

"Oh yeah. Got Isabel and Jesse something for their apartment. Got Michael a box of condoms that he's not going to use…"

"I wouldn't be too sure about that. He met someone in Las Cruces. I heard it was getting pretty serious."

"Is that right?"

"Well, Michael does have a penchant for sarcasm. It's very difficult even for me to decipher what's actually going on and what he's throwing at me to keep me off the scent of reality."

"Sounds like him. I got Tess a new cook book. Zan… I got him a bus pass from here to New York. I sent a very nice present to your parents so you can open it on Christmas Day."

"Max…" He could hear her smile over the line and it caused his to break across his face. "Yours is in the mail. Hopefully you'll get it before Christmas."

"Well, you didn't have to but thank you. I'm sure I'll love it."

"You know… I work but I've got a few days off before the session starts."

"Then when you get back, let me know what days and I'm sure I can get Zan to stay with Tess for a while."

"It's okay. She can come."

"I think that it would be best if she didn't."

"Max… I—"

"Liz… It's for me. I need a break and she's been better. All Zan does is have her cook him things that he can't or won't for himself. I just need a breather before school starts again."

"Right… um… It'll be great. I have to go. They're starting to call my flight."

"Talk to you after New Years."

"Yeah. Bye Max."

After a moment, Max stepped back inside the room to find his guest awake and staring. "Isn't it cold outside?" She sat up when he didn't answer and stripped down once more. "Who was that?" No answer. "If you want me to go, just say so—"

Max slipped back into bed and pulled the sheets up to his chin. "That, on the phone, was the future Mrs. Evans."

"You're engaged?" Hurt and anger evident in her voice, Breena started from the bed. Max had never known her to hide her feelings and hers were broadcasting across the bed. She felt used and lied to and he hadn't meant it like that. Few people were able to illicit the uncensored truth from his mouth. For some strange slip of fate, Breena was one of them.

"No." Max looked at her, grabbing her arm gently to guide her back into the bed. "Just a wild dream." Offered her a small smile before he tugged her beneath the blanket with him. "Come on, we have a while before you really have to go."

December 31, 2002

Max nearly left the club six times since they had arrived. Somehow the two of them had ganged up on him and they had gotten him to the club. Tess had nearly zapped him, he was sure of it. He went over and over with her what to do if she got tired, if she didn't like the way a guy was treating her, to find him or Zan before she left no matter what. She had waved him off and bounded to the railing that separated dancers from drinkers. Her eyes drank in the movements of the writhing bodies on the dance floor. She had done her homework, she didn't look out of place at all. Zan joined the horde of dancing limbs at some point before he vanished.

Music thrummed through everything. The floor, the bar, the stools, the drinks that sat unattended. Max just knew that his body would be humming tunes long after he left the club. He could shoot himself. Despite having his flings with Breena, he found himself seeking out the brunettes to see if they had huge brown eyes and sweet smiles. Cursing at himself, he went to the bar to order a shot, if only to forget for one night.

TBC

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Part 21 – January 1, 2003

Post by DMartinez » Thu Oct 06, 2005 8:47 pm

Part 21 – January 1, 2003

Max woke when a bucket of cold water was thrown onto his bed. After a few good moments of sputtering and trying to open his eyes, he registered the angry face of Zan. "Wake yo stupid ass up, punk."

When the dim light registered in his eyes, Max groaned. "It's early."

"No, it's fuckin' late. It's damn near six p.m." Zan went so far as to kick Max in the side. He had a cell phone clutched in his hand. "Ya ain't gonna to believe the shit that came pourin' inta my ear 'bout an hour ago."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Max sat up in the puddle that had become his bed and groaned as the sore muscles in his crotch screamed. "Fuck. What did I do? And who did I do it to?"

"I ain't 'bout to go preachin' 'bout keepin' it in ya pants. I's the last one to give shit 'bout that." Zan knelt down beside the bed so he could be mouth level with Max's ear. "I got your bitches cryin' in my ear that you the scum of the earth and they ain't neva wanna see ya agin."

"So--- What?" Max turned his head slowly to look at him. Suddenly he was drowning in a second bucket of water. A wave of Zan's hand had the balcony doors flung open and the cold January winds freezing the room. "What the hell was that for?"

"D'ya got any idea where Tess is? Do ya even care?"

Panic struck Max plain in the chest. His hands started shaking as he reached for his pants and fought to put them on. Halfway, he sank back down onto the bed unable to move anymore. All kinds of thoughts about what had happened to Tess swam through his head from sexual predators to murderers to hit and runs.

Zan took pity on him and shoved his hands into his pockets. "Calm down. She's fine."

"What happened?"

"'Parently, you had a drink witout tellin' me first." Zan pulled a chair up to the bed and waited while Max pulled his pants up. "She got left behind. Lucky for us, she's got a good sens'a self-preservation. She stuck to females when she couldn't find ya. One of them noticed she look lost and offered to stay wit her 'til she found us, only she didn't. The girl gave her ride home. That's last night, pretty early on. She been 'round and 'bout since then. Reason I'm here is 'cause I knew you was 'ere, but I ain't know evr'thin' else 'til that needy bitch Breena called me. Who the hell gave her my number?"

Before Max could answer, Zan was already moving on. "Some bitch told her she wudn't wanted no more when she call you 'round noon. So she thought she'd cry on my shoulder or somethin'. Then… what I'm really pissed 'bout… I got a call from Liz with the same message only… Liz dudn't know you been stickin' it to Breena in the first place so when the bitch you took to bed answers the phone, she tells Liz that her and the other bitch better forget about you. They been replaced."

"No. No." Max clutched his head and flopped back into the lake of a bed he had.

"The cake?" Zan raised his eyebrows. "Bitch's still here. Git rid of her before she really makes Tess cry." He went on as Max really got dressed to go dispatch the beast. "Tess was cookin' when the devil came down. She started orderin' her 'round. You know Tess, eager to please and lovin' to cook… but when she wanted stuff done and Tess didn't jump at her beck 'n' call… she got real ugly real fast. Since then, Tess has tried to be gone and she's due back any time now."

"Fuck." Max yanked on his shoes and stormed down the stairs with Zan on his tail. "Zan, you know her name?"

"Nope. Wouldn't lower herself to give it to me."

Pausing just outside the parlor, Max took a breath and looked one last time at Zan. "Here we go."


January 5, 2003

The phone rang and rang. Max had been calling all day and still no answer. She had either turned off her voice mail and phone or she had left her phone somewhere. He had started calling her New Year's but obviously she was still angry at him for what ever that Hell Beast had said to her. That was what Maisey Day Lynnburg had been dubbed in his house. The woman had taken a cue right out of a movie his uncle had made the previous year. Erika Christensen and Glenn Close would have to watch their backs with Maisey Day running around. Apparently he had taken home the first warm body to rub against him. Superficially, it wasn't too bad a job. The woman was gorgeous. In reality, she had manipulating him into saying many things while he was inebriated and taking them to heart in the bright, blinding light of day.

Finally, Liz's voice mail turned on. Max rushed ahead with his apologies. "Liz, I am really sorry about the psycho that answered my phone. One more unexpected visit from her and I get a free restraining order. Had I been conscious, it would have never happened… if it makes you feel better, Zan nearly drowned me with ice water and then exposed me to the elements… Look… just… call me back."


January 10, 2003

Max managed a smile while Tess brushed his hair and put make up on his face. She was grinning wildly. Her grudge against him had barely lasted a few days but he still felt guilty and even more so if something had happened to her. Tess's smile grew wider. "Will you play dress up, too?"

"That's where I have to draw the line, Sweetie."

The pouting only last a few minutes before she returned to her task. "Can I read to you again tonight?"

"You sure can. You're getting much better." He scanned her shelves, surprised at the thickness of many of the books. "What are you reading tonight?"

"I'm going to read Wuthering Heights."

"Really?"

"Yep."

"Isn't it a little hard?"

"Stuart said I'm ready for hard books." Boasting was her new favorite past time. Max had gotten her leatherbound copies of Little Women and the complete works of both Shakespeare and Twain. He figured she'd wade her way through those for a while. "I liked Kafka. Those stories are like dreams."

"Well, he is a surrealist." Max nodded. "When did you read Kafka?"

"With Stuart."

"What other books did you read?"

"Well, we started off with the Blackbird Pond Witch and then that was too easy so we read True Confessions of a Girl Sailor and…"

Max stopped her. "Do you know the actual names of the books or are you making them up?"

"They were good but I forget names." She grabbed some gel and applied a large dollop to his head. "So, then we read the Blume books and mysteries about Native Americans, those were good."

"Why didn't you tell me you were reading so much?"

"You were busy. You had school and photography and you were talking to Liz. How come she doesn't call anymore?"

"She's mad at me."

"Why?"

"Remember the Hell Beast?"

Tess almost snarled in answer. "Did the Hell Beast make Liz mad at you?"

"Yeah and I made her mad, too. If she ever forgives me, I'll talk to her again."

"Good. After the Hillman books, we read some pretty poems by… Whiteman?"

"Whitman."

"Right and now… I'm gonna read Wuthering Heights right after we finish White Fang tonight." Tess played with the short strands in her hands and thought. "Mrs. Fillmen at the library says there's a book discussion group at the library. She said that if I like to read a lot of books, I might join."

"Really?"

"Uh-huh. And Stuart says that I cook so good that I should take a class at the school." Her fingers scrubbed through his hair one last time and she smiled broadly at the finished product. "All done." They turned to the mirror.

"Man, that is one ugly girl." Max shook his head at his reflection.

"And absolutely perfect." A deep voice spoke up from the doorway. Zan snapped a picture and took off running. Max ran his hand over his face to clear it all away and raced after him. When he finally caught him in the living room Zan was laughing with someone on the other end. "Ain't that the shit? … Yeah he's all red in the face. Looks like a lobster or somethin'… But he ain't got the make-up on no more… Aight." Zan turned the phone on Max and clicked away. "Get it?"

"Who are you sending those pictures to?" Max demanded.

"Just a lil lady up North."

"Gimme the phone." He advanced on his dupe ready to go to war.

"Go git your own phone."

"Give it to me, Zan."

Zan leapt off the couch but not fast enough because Max yanked on his leg and sent him tumbling to the ground. They wrestled for the phone, rolling over and back, knocking things off of furniture, uprooting cushions with a foot or knee. Max resorted to using his powers to fuse Zan's sleeve to the carpet. Grabbing the phone, Max stood. "Liz?"

Before he could say a word, his feet were knocked out from under him. Stars flashed before his eyes and Liz's voice echoed in his ears. Then there sat a great weight on his chest. The phone was plucked from his limp hand. "Don't mess wit me, kid… It was Max but Max is busy now… He's tryin'a breath but it don't look like it's workin'… Yeah… Yeah… Coo, coo…. Sweet… Yeah, I'll tell him. Later." Zan stood up and helped Max onto the couch to reintroduce oxygen to his lungs. "Give her a few days."

Max sat alone for a long time healing up his sore bones after Zan wandered in to see Tess. "Ow."

TBC

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Part 22 – February 9, 2003

Post by DMartinez » Thu Oct 06, 2005 8:49 pm

Part 22 – February 9, 2003

Max flipped through his American History notes while Tess played the piano. He hadn't noticed at first but she hummed along. The music was completely relaxing and somehow seemed to sing the dates and facts into his brain. "That's pretty, Tessie, who is it?"

"Me."

"No, who wrote it?"

"Wrote it?"

When he looked up, she had her eyes closed and let her fingers fly over the keys. It suddenly occurred to him that she hadn't had a piano instructor since L.A. "Did Jake teach you that? Did Jake teach you that song? Or Henry?"

"God taught it to me."

"God?"

Tess never stopped her playing. Never even opened her eyes. "I hear music in my head and I play it."

"God is playing the music in your head?" Max sat up.

"Yes… because He loves me. He knows it makes me happy."

"Do you… see God?"

"You can't see God, silly. He just is."

"Oh." For a moment, he had been scared. Isabel had seen Kivar in day dreams.

"You can't hear Him because He doesn't use words but you can listen to Him." Tess stopped playing finally and turned to her brother. "That's what Reverend Osteen says."

"Reverend who?"

"Why do you ask so many questions, Max?" Tess groaned and got to her feet. She looked in a mirror shaped like a diamond that was meant to reflect the doorway to the rest of the room. She turned one way and then another. "Do I need to go on a diet?"

Max set his books aside, studying was shot. "No. Did someone tell you that?"

"No, but a lot of the women at book group were talking about diets before group started."

"You don't need to go on a diet. All those women probably wish they had bodies like yours." Max gathered his things to put them away and followed Tess out of the music room, then she followed him upstairs and into his room. "What?"

"Can a friend come over?"

"A friend?" The threw his books on his desk and sat on the bed to kick off his shoes. "What friend?"

"A friend from the group. We could read our next assignment together." She shifted her weight from foot to foot and twirled a strand of hair around her finger.

"You made a friend. That's great." Max gave her a smile. "It's fine. What's your friend's name?"

"Drew. Drew Lazcano. We're reading at the same pace, that's what Drew says."

"That's good. That's really good, Sweetie."


February 10, 2003

Late, late, late. There was no way he was going to reach the doors in time. In 35 seconds, they would close and lock for the next 50 minutes. To add insult to injury, Justin Weaver waved at Max before he shut the doors, 10 seconds early. Justin was the reason he was running late in the first place. Justin and his big mouth. 'Ask Max, his uncle's the one with connections in Hollywood.' Professor Pierce had prodded until the last moment about the screenwriter for some movie that Max hadn't even seen. Then Justin had accidentally mixed up the projects in their photo-journalism class. As soon as Justin had his, he marked it and turned it in, leaving the other 15 students to sort through the remaining stack. Oh, Justin had an early grave waiting for him.

Yanking out his book, Max moved himself to a bench nearby to try and keep up despite the lecture he was missing in the lecture hall. The trill of his phone made other students glare at him for disturbing their train of thought. He yanked it out. "What the hell, this day can't get any worse, so what the hell do you want?"

"An attitude adjustment." Max shut his eyes at the voice and let her keep talking. "I called because I got this really wonderful letter of apology from what I thought was a pretty okay guy but apparently he's been replaced by the jerk who replaced him New Year's Day."

"I'm sorry. Attitude adjusting now. This…"

"Has been the day from Hell, I got it." Liz sighed on her end of the line. "Look, if you're busy, I can just go back to studying."

"No, thanks to my own personal Loki, I have the next 45 minutes free."

"I had actually called to say I had over-reacted. The way that woman told me to fuck off was really harsh and then she said some things that brought attention to the fact… I've been jerking you around and I never meant to do that. I got all hurt and then I realized that it was all in my head. I told you I couldn't commit to anything more than friendship. I guess I couldn't expect you to pine from afar."

"Zan explained about the Beast that told you off, right?"

"She slipped you something. You were out cold for close to 18 hours. I know that I shouldn't take anything she said to heart."

"No, you shouldn't. You really shouldn't… what… what did she say?"

"It doesn't matter. Zan assured me that she was psychotic. Do you really have an restraining order?"

"Not yet. She's been good, I guess. No dead pets if I had any, no phone calls or unexpected visits." Max knew better than to try and relax on the worst day in the world.

"I… didn't realize you were seeing someone."

"I'm not. I mean… it wasn't serious and we weren't exclusive and… she was really sensitive. She hasn't called or anything. I don't expect her to."

"Oh."

"Liz, I'm not going to lie to you. You said you couldn't get involved but you wanted to stay in touch. That's what happened between us. You're right. I'm a first class jerk. I didn't tell you because I didn't want you to know. I'm an asshole and now I don't have anyone. I'm a bad boyfriend, a bad friend and a bad brother. Something horrible could have happened to my sister and I was drunk out of my mind. I feel so guilty for everything that I can't deny Tess a single thing. A strange girl is going to come into my house tonight and I'm not going to say a word because Tess wants her there."

"Okay. You are an ass. You're the king of assholes, undisputed. I'm not going to feel sorry for you because you slept with a manipulative bitch. I will apologize for jerking you around on my end. I should not have expected you to remain single when I had no intention of doing the same." Those words just punched him in the gut but he never spoke up. "What do you want from me? I've dealt with the nastiness of that day and I'm over it. She's a bitch. I'm a bitch. You're a bastard. What else is there left to say, Max?"

"I don't want to lose you." He had heard near-tears in her last words and he could feel them stinging his eyes as well. "I… have never been perfect but I've been passable as a human being. Meeting you? It's thrown all of that off. I've become a complete spazz because of you. Did I ever intend to feel this way? No. Hell, no… but I do and I've never felt like this. Maybe you aren't the one and you're going to smash me to pieces anyway… but I have no way of knowing."

"You're right. I didn't intend for this to last anywhere beyond that first week. I was totally prepared never to hear from you again. I wanted it that way. I did not want to stay involved with the first guy I ever slept with. That wasn't my planned… I guess the universe played a great cosmic joke on me."

"So… what do you want to do?"

"I don't know… I really don't know what I want to do with our relationship or lack thereof…" She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I do know that I can't date you right now. Sorry, Max."

He couldn't even answer. He just hung up. His stomach grumbled something awful. After gathering his things, his slow movements took him to the nearest bathroom. Girls, boys, it didn't matter, he had to empty his stomach of the churning bile.

--

The solitude of his room was all he wanted for the rest of the day, he had sat through his afternoon classes like a dutiful Yalie and even thwarted Justin's next attempt to make everyone but himself look inept, but there had been no joy in the small victory. By the time he had gotten home, he wanted to lock himself away in his room and die. He heard Tess's giggling but he barely waved a hand in her direction before seeking the comfort of his room. He just thanked Tess's God that he had never slept (had sex) with Liz in this house. Just when his head hit his pillow, laughter reached his ears. It was all he could do not to slam his door. Dredging up his last bit of focus, he reached out and shut the door very carefully.

TBC

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Part 23 – February 17, 2003

Post by DMartinez » Thu Oct 06, 2005 8:51 pm

Part 23 – February 17, 2003

The better part of a week had been spent trying to learn to read music. It was elementary at best but he learned how the notes corresponded to the keys and he was ready, really ready to see if he could notate the song Tess had written. Then he had realized something. He looked at her books, the ones she never used and his notepad. He had no sense of time. Maybe there was a pianist with time somewhere.

A masculine laugh from within the kitchen grabbed his attention. It was too early to be Zan. If he were going to drop in, it'd be a Friday night or Saturday morning. Stuart wasn't due for another day. Kal wouldn't stop by. He was in the middle of shooting four different movies. When Max approached the door, he could see a disaster area. Flour and batter thrown all over. The boy had flour all over his shirt and in hand prints on his butt. Tess had flour in her hair and all over her new outfit. When she saw him, she nearly dropped her bowl. He only nodded to them and went on his way.

--

Tess was careful to stay out of the way until dinner. It stung a little to know that she was afraid of him for having a boy in the house. In the last week, Max hadn't done more at dinner than push his food around, tonight wasn't any different. "So, Drew's a boy."

"I never said Drew was a girl." Tess whispered.

"You also never gave me an inclination that Drew was a he and not a she. How come?"

"Are you mad?"

"How old is Drew?"

"16. He's really nice, Max. And he's smart, so smart."

"I'm not saying you can't be friends. I'm just asking about him." Max sighed and set down his fork. He hated feeling like an old man with a young daughter. "Drew Lazcano, right?"

"Yeah."

"Okay. Eat your dinner. I'm glad you have a friend." She seemed to relax a good deal after that. She chattered away about how much fun Drew was.


February 21, 2003

Max grunted as he got flattened against the side of the house. He shoved Zan off and stole the ball for two points. Tied, 20-20. Next basket declared the winner. The game had taken an ugly turn at six points. They were bleeding, scraped and bruised, wearing torn jeans and shirts. Despite their otherworldly abilities, no one bothered to heal, fix or stop the game… and no one cheated. Zan crouched low, bouncing the ball from hand to hand. With his head bent low and his eyes glaring up at Max, he looked like a lion ready to pounce. There was a flurry of arms and legs when Zan made his move. The ball sank into the basket, declaring him the winner. The two landed hard in a heap with some major groans and pains to complain of. Max had definitely heard a crack when he landed on the bottom but Zan's loss of breath must have come from something more painful.

A string of curses spewed from Zan's mouth before he was able to move off of Max. More curses were spat out from both their mouths. Every time Max took a breath it burned. Every movement Zan made sparked burning pain in his crotch. Neither of them welcomed the shadow that covered them or the mocking voice it belonged to. "Whatever happened to a friendly game between brothers? The two of you can't play basketball without sending each other to the hospital?" Kal walked around the two moaning bodies. "It's pathetic is what it is. You're supposed to be kings and you're kicking the shit out of each other, for what? Is this some kind of sibling rivalry? Is it a cry for help? Were you not loved enough?"

"Shut up." Max managed before he attempted to get to his feet. If he could just sit up, he would heal himself. The blood pooled in his mouth from the split lip and gash inside his cheek.

"Shall I call someone to retrieve those balls for you?" Kal nudged Zan with his foot. He turned to Max. "I think you've killed his chances for offspring."

"I'll be fine." Zan waved him off and applied a healing hand to his screaming genitals. The drawback to a human body; the same hurts applied and there was nothing he could do until he acclimated to the pain.

"What is with the two of you? Emotions off the charts for months now." Kal made his way into the house with the understanding that the boys were following him. "If I hadn't needed to be in the area, I wouldn't have stopped by. The two of you are driving me crazy. What's the deal? What's with the testosterone overload?"

"Nothing."

"Nothin'."

"Come on, kiddos." Kal sat at the bar in the parlor. "The two of you are itching in your skin. You kicked the crap out of each other in a pick-up game of 21. Zan, you know better than to bruise that beautiful face of yours. You've got a black-eye and a scrape from the gravel that goes from your chin to your temple. Max's mouth is gonna be swollen for days. What's going on?"

The two alien kings stood with their arms crossed and their eyes averted until Zan broke. "It's the damn war. It's makin' me crazy. I gotta fight, I gotta blow shit up. I cain't sit still for none of this bullshit no more." He let out a frustrated growl. "I got boys who signed up two years ago, they got shipped out and I cain't do shit."

Kal groaned and got to his feet. "This is about a stupid human war?"

"You have your impulses, your encoded instincts…" Max blotted blood from his mouth with his shirt. "And we have ours. It's not in either of us to just sit back when we can do something. Lead, fight, win."

"The second they looked at your blood, you'd be locked in a brig until the Special Unit could arrive. Forget it." The alien took a see in a large armchair.

"Then you gotta deal with our emotions skyrocketin' ev'ry time we know we could turn the tide. It don't let us sleep and it won't let you sleep." Zan warned as he sat to begin mending himself. "I want some answers and I want 'em now. Why do I got this feelin' to fight? I hate fightin'. Why do I got that instinct but I ain't got the other ones?"

"What other ones?" Kal was going to stall on answers for as long as possible but the hum had been started. They were going to get everything they asked for.

"I had the dreams. I fucked her like I was 'posed to." He looked to Max, who looked away. "So why don't I want her?"

Kal slid slow in his chair and motioned for a drink. Max did it without thinking, somewhere knowing that Kal couldn't even feel the affects of alcohol. "Alright, alright, kid. Maybe I don't know why you gotta fight so damn hard. Maybe it's in your DNA. I don't know. As for the queen. Her time was past. Tess, Ava, Avaria… whatever. This time isn't for them. I lent some money to a movie based on a book that said there were four women in every man's life. It gave some description of carriage character. I guess it could be true.."

"What are you saying?" Max watched the human guise wince as the scotch 'burned' down his throat but the alien probably couldn't even feel it trickle down his throat.

"You got women like your mother and your sister. Then you got women you sleep with. You got women you marry. Then you got women you love. Least, that's what the citizens believe. Not so sure my kind was ever meant for love."

"Who was she to me?" Max asked when Zan was too scared.

"Avaria was the woman you married because you wanted to sleep with her and the marriage made political sense. Maybe you loved her, I don't know." Kal watched their wounds disappear as they healed and absorbed what he was telling them. "Of course, this life is different. Maybe you still feel you've married… so there's only one woman left to find."


February 28, 2003

Max looked over the information handed to him. Kal's informants were good. He had, in his hands, the complete history of Drew Lazcano's family. He had already called the boy's parents and talked to them about where he was going after school. He made them understand that though his sister was just past her 19th birthday, she was emotionally the same age as their son. He laughed to himself. The kid was just lanky enough to be trusted with a girl. Nobody that goofy ever got a girl everyone wanted.

The last document was something that scared the crap out of him. Professor Brown had been out all week and no one had thought much about it. The paper in his hands was evidence of the man's involvement in the FBI and the scrawled note on the bottom gave the location of his body. Max rushed to the nearest bathroom and destroyed the papers, flushing them as well. Obviously the man had been onto something and, if Kal's business was not movie connected, was murdered for what he knew.

TBC

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Part 24 – June 6, 2003

Post by DMartinez » Mon Oct 10, 2005 7:56 pm

Part 24 – June 6, 2003


"My brother Max is such a pain. I don't know why he complains." Tess sang as she banged out a song on the piano. "He sits and mopes and whines a lot. He could be nice, or sometimes not."

"Alright, I get it." Max called into the room from the kitchen.

"He's tall and goofy with a tan. I like him better than his friend Zan."

"Enough."

"They fight and beat each other up. I've enough blood to fill a cup. Why oh why can't they be nice? They're the same man made twice."

"Cute, Sweetie, ha ha."

"Max takes pictures and goes to school. I wish he would let me have a pool. My friend Drew is always polite. One day he'll teach me to fly a kite." She went right on ignoring him and just kept up her little song. "I like books and I like rain. Robin Cook and candy canes. Patricia Cornwell and Dean Koontz. Lemon drops, sweet tarts and …"

"Ha! Nothing rhymes with Koontz."

"There is. Nothing rhymes with orange, silly." Tess stopped playing while she thought about it.

"Come on, let's eat. I'm not waiting for Zan."

"There once was a king from Antar. This king couldn't see very far. He bumped his head at full speed ahead and all he could see were stars."

"Ha ha. That's very funny." Max called back.

"Teaching her limericks now?"

Max raced out to the entryway to investigate. "Isabel?"

"Surprise." She sent him a warm broad smile. "Jesse and Zan are outside with the car."

"What are you doing here?" Max moved to hug her.

"We moved. Um, to New York." Isabel glanced around. "Just this week actually. Zan saw me in the subway and tried to kill me."

"Aw shit."

"Yeah." She glanced out the door where Zan was pointing something out to Jesse. "When I said your name, he stopped and looked at me. Then he started apologizing. Next thing I know, he's coming over for dinner, barging in on me and Jesse. Only, he didn't know that Jesse knew so he thought he was being real cute with all his little comments. He suggested this little outing."

Max pondered that for a moment. "So Zan still doesn't know that Jesse knows about us."

"No." Isabel furrowed her brow. "No, I guess he doesn't."

"Then I have a plan. Come with me, we have to fix two more places at the table."

--

The five of them sat around the table chatting idly as they served themselves. Jesse cleared his throat finally. "Max, I never got the chance to thank you personally for our honeymoon. Cozumel was great, really."

"No problem. I was glad to do it."

"It was informative too. There was an exhibit at the local museum on alien intrusions." Jesse set his fork down. "It went into detail about what should be done about the growing problems. It was a little extremist for my tastes but the ideas weren't really bad ones."

"Ain't you offended by that shit?" Zan furrowed his brow. Max could see his ears turning red, he wasn't happy.

"Why should I be?"

"I assume the aliens in Cozumel would be Mexican."

"I'm not Mexican." Jesse answered without blinking. "I'm Cuban. There's a difference. In our cultures, in our speech patterns, even some of the words we use. Now, as to the problem. My problem isn't with the migration, it's with the illegals. No one can go more than a year without the opportunity for becoming a legal citizen arising, especially along the border."

"So all aliens must be reported." Zan sat back. "What if the aliens came from somewhere further up?"

"Same applies to Canadians. There are rules by which the citizens of this country live. Nobody should be immune."

"Here's a hypothetical." The irate king pressed forward. "Let's say space aliens came to Earth. Are you saying they'd have a year to apply for citizenship or else be deported?"

Jesse looked from Isabel to Max and then to Zan. "Yes. That's exactly what I'm saying. Land of opportunity? Yes, that's what this is. It really bugs me when people take advantage of the system. Working with the system, sure, fine. Abusing it. No. Ignoring it. Hell no. It's a privilege to live here. Natural-born Americans often take our liberties for granted, but rarely do they try to hide from it."

"So you're saying that anyone not born here should go home?"

"No. I'm saying that a certain alien needs to take his head out of his ass and listen to what I'm saying. France, Mexico, Canada, China, Antar or the planet Xenon. You move here, become a citizen and follow the rules set for being a law-abiding citizen. That's all I'm saying." Jesse sat back and waited.

Max saw Isabel hiding her smile behind her napkin. He was having a hard time not laughing himself. Zan's eyes swept the table. Tess hadn't been paying much attention. Isabel and Max were about to die laughing and Jesse had a damn smirk on his face. No one had commented on the fact that Isabel's husband had just included their home planet in that list of foreign places. He wasn't an idiot. "You guys are fuckin' assholes."

Tess's eyes got wide. She had definitely heard that. Max leapt in. "Zan, watch your mouth."

"Watch my mouth?" Zan bit back a string of curses. "How long has the damn shark known?"

"By 'shark', I'm going to assume you're referring to my husband." Isabel coughed out the last of her laughter. "Jesse has known since the honeymoon."

"Let me just say that you weren't the only one laughing all week." Jesse blew Zan a kiss and returned to his meal.

"Don’t you just love him?" Isabel clapped her hands and quickly changed topics. "This place is fabulous. The studio that we got in New York just seems so crapped compared to this… but the apartment in Roswell was like a closet compared to the studio."

"How'd he find out?" There was no way that Zan was just going to let it go.

"When that Kevin guy tried to convince my new wife that she was needed on Antar and created a rip in space to get her there quicker than sending a ship for her… I got a clue… especially when my lovely wife hurled a tree limb at me without even a chainsaw to cut it off the tree." Jesse wiped his mouth. "Come on, Zan. No hard feelings? I didn't want to do it, they made me."

The hybrid didn't say a word for the next ten minutes, he just sat and stewed over his uneaten supper. It was a more than welcome interruption when his phone rang. He barely excused himself as he left the room to talk to Liz. Unfortunately for Max, Isabel noticed. "Liz just called Zan?"

"Yeah." Max nodded and pushed his plate away.

"I thought Liz was your girlfriend." Jesse asked while taking a moment to relax. Max didn't deny or confirm that. "Michael hasn’t told us anything new."

"Honey." Isabel shook her head. "He hasn't. He would tell me if there was anything to tell."

"I screwed up. She doesn't want to see me. She and Zan have been talking since January. I don't know if they're seeing each other." Max shrugged helplessly and nodded when Tess moved to leave the table. He knew she was going to run up and call Drew to come over. "Unless he's ditching classes again, he hasn't gone to see her. He spends his weekends here."

"You sound like someone well informed for someone pretending not to care." She cleared her throat and pushed her plate aside. "Forget it, that's not what I wanted to talk to you about. What are the chances of being able to talk to Kal?"

"Nil."

Jesse blinked at Max. "What? You're just not going to let her talk to him?"

Seeing that his 'brother-in-law' was about to get angry, Max motioned for them to follow him. He poured Jesse a drink without being asked and shut both doors to the parlor. "Tess's friend will be over soon and he doesn't need to hear any of this." Isabel was obviously peeved but Jesse looked so lost, Max didn't pity him. "I'm not stopping anyone from talking to anyone. I said it because it's true. Kal doesn't want anything to do with any of us but he's legally stuck with me and Tess. Hell, socially he's stuck with us. Zan gets spill over visits because he likes hanging out here."

"So, I could talk to him on my own." Isabel nodded but sighed when Max shook his head. "Why?"

"He won't talk to you. He's mad at me for keeping contact. He thinks it's all too conspicuous. He killed one of my professors because he was a member of the Special Unit." At their confusion, he quickly explained their purpose and possible threat to their existence. "As it is, Kal doesn't tell me something until I already know half the story and I order him to tell me the rest. The last time I got any advice whatsoever was because Zan and I were beating each other to a pulp on a regular basis. Neighbors saw and Zan can't afford much in the way of damage to his money-maker."

"Sweetie, I'm not so sure I like this protector of yours." Jesse gulped down his drink and reached to pour himself another. "He doesn’t like you guys very much, apparently he hates me… and he's a murderer."

Isabel paced the room for a bit. "I'm scared, Max. Michael doesn't call me but I know he's been having dreams. I mean, when I do talk to him, he sounds funny. So I check up on him and he's having nightmares. Fighting and stuff."

"How about you?" Max sat in a chair and watched her until he got dizzy. "You had any dreams?"

"No, but Jesse gets…" She turned to her husband.

"I don't know what they are." Jesse shook his head. "I get like images in my head of things I know I have never seen." He turned to them with his eyes on his drink. "What I see doesn't sound too similar to what Isabel's been seeing in Michael's dream."

"Michael may be reliving the war in his mind." Max finally offered. "With all that's been going on, it's no wonder. It drives me crazy, too. I'm not surprised it's hit Michael so bad, he was a war commander."

"Mom and Dad have noticed that he's withdrawn… even more than before. You know he was so much more open with them since you were in Roswell. These past six months or so… he's just not himself." Isabel finally sat down.

"I'll ask Zan if Liz said anything about him. He still talks to Liz, right?"

"I think so." She nodded. They sat in silence until Zan poked his head into the room and jerked his chin upward to ask what was up. "Does Liz still talk to Michael?"

"Ev'ry now 'n' then. I dunno." Zan shrugged and opened the door more fully. "Tess's boy's here."

"Thanks." Max nodded.

"'Sup? You bro gettin' antsy like us?"

"We don't know." She shook her head and leaned on her husband. "We only see him some weekends when he's back in Roswell. When he's at school, he doesn't call all that much."

"I guess someone he trusts will have to pay him a visit." Max looked to Isabel who shook her head.

"We're not going back to New Mexico for another month." Jesse volunteered. "We were going to spending the 4th and my birthday with my mom… We might see him there but… I don't know if you know Michael's stance on patriotic holidays."

"I could take a guess." Max let out a dry laugh.

"We should probably head back." Jesse sighed and looked to his wife, who nodded. "It's a long drive and we're going to enjoy the quiet while Zan is here with you."

"I wudn't always there." Zan shook his head.

"We couldn't properly christen our new home because you kept dropping in and wouldn't leave. Excuse us, you won't hear from us for a long, long while… unless, of course, it's important." Isabel stood. "Thank you so much for humoring our rude and unexpected arrival. When we get settled in, we'll send you an invite."

A round of good-byes were made and Max saw them to the door. Zan just looked at him, shrugged and started up the stairs. "She's bitch but still a hell of a lot nicer than my sister."

TBC

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Post by begonia9508 » Tue Oct 11, 2005 8:23 am

Great story! EVE :lol: :wink:
- Les jouissances de l'esprit sont faites pour calmer les orages du coeur!
- On reconnaît le bonheur au bruit qu'il fait quand il s'en va!
- L'amour vous rend aveugle et le mariage vous redonne la vue!

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DMartinez
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Part 25 – July 4, 2003

Post by DMartinez » Wed Oct 12, 2005 6:14 am

Part 25 – July 4, 2003

Max opened the door with a tray of raw, marinating meat in his hand. He nearly dropped it all on the front step at the sight. Liz Parker. That was the last face he thought he'd see for a very, very long while. "Hey."

"Zan's coming. He's parking the car. Did you see it? It's great." She gestured around the side of the house to the driveway.

"He bought a car?" His shock was replaced for a moment so he could go outside and see this car. Then, it wasn't a car, it was a beast. An absolutely beautiful beast of a car. "That's an Aston Martin. That's the Aston Martin Vanquish."

"It purrs." Liz told him. "He gushed for the entire ride from Cambridge about this car." She took the tray from him as he knelt beside the car. "Isn't it great?"

Zan unfolded himself from the car and held his arms out. "Is it the shit or what?"

"Where did you get it?" Was all that Max could muster.

"Check it." Zan held out his hands on either side of his body. "I showed up early for a shoot for once, my agent nearly died, yo. Kal was still hangin' 'round from some meetin'. Respectin' the rule, I don't even recognize 'em." Leaning on the car, he continued his story. "Then he's got his arm 'round me, movin' me to some money bags. Kal says, 'This is the face, boys. This is the face.' I got no clue but they all look me up and down. Some nod, some shrug. They give me this card. Say, show up on time. So, I do the shoot and Kal's still hangin', I wanna ask but I cain't. So, next day, I show up. They take me to be fitted for a bunch of suits, tell me to brush my hair… and I got to test drive all the new models. Kal bought me a Vanquish as payment for the shots they gonna use in the movie or somethin'."

"I can't believe he got you a Vanquish." Max leaned over and kissed the shiny rims. "I gotta drive it."

"Later. Let's get to cookin'. I gotsta eat before joy ridin'." Zan took the tray of meat from Liz and guided her into the house.

"Where are you going to store it?" Max followed them in and pointed up to his room. Had he known Liz was coming, he would have set up the pit somewhere else but he had figured on it being just him and Zan. The medium grill had been parked on his balcony for days.

"Yo, my place, it's got a parkin' garage. I just ain't neva had nothin'ta park in it." Zan sniffed the meat. "Dog, this is sweet. Tess make the marinade?"

"Yeah… oh crap." Max hissed. "Liz. Let me go get some more meat, that's covered in Tess's marinade."

"That's fine." Liz smiled back at him.

"No, Sweets, see… me and Max, we got this tongue for spice. If you wanna try it, we ain't gonna stop ya but it's specially mixed for me 'n' him." Zan pulled Liz after him. "I'll get this started, you get her somethin'."

"Where is Tess?" Liz called down.

"With her friend Drew and his parents. They were going to beach or something." Max swiped his hand over a couple of pieces marinating on the counter and hoped that worked. He grabbed that tray and bounded up the stairs where everything else was set up. Plates, cooler, silverware and all the pastas and salads Tess had made. He passed Zan on the landing. "What's up?"

"You get that intercom set up?"

"For the stereo? Yeah." Max straightened his shirt and entered his room. Thankfully he was a naturally neat person. She had taken a seat across from the grill to wait for them. "Let me just throw this on for you."

"Sorry for just showing up. I thought Zan had asked you." She apologized and waited for him to sit.

"It's not a problem. You can come whenever. It's fine." Max shifted slightly to look at her. "Besides, maybe female presence will make me and Zan settle down. The chances are high that if left alone, we'll kill each other."

They heard crackling all around them before some heavy metal slammed through the speakers. After a moment, the volume decreased. Liz took a breath. "So, Isabel and her husband are in New York, now."

"Yeah. I haven't seen them for about a month, since they first came by. They're supposed to be down in Roswell 'til the day after tomorrow." Max nodded. He had only one word. Awkward.

"So that guy that Tess is with, is her boyfriend?"

"No, just a friend. It took the kid a while to realize that's all she can be. Besides he'd have to wait a couple a years so she wouldn't go to jail. It's all good. I talked to his parents, they talked to him. Noted different behavior after he got his talk but he didn't take off on her, which I am always glad for."

"How old is he?"

"I think he just turned 17, actually."

"And he's her friend?"

Max shrugged. "He does things with her that don't interest me. They go to book club, plays, games. He's really pretty much a geek. I don't think he had many friends to begin with. She's been trying to teach him an instrument but he's still all knees and elbows. I never knew you could hurt yourself with a cello."

"How about you?" Liz tucked her legs up.

"I've got friends. There's a jerk at school who's trying to make everyone look bad and succeeding. I'm taking my time getting him back."

"I'd've punked his ass by now." Zan flopped on the bed.

"Oh, it'll be good." Max promised. "It's gotta be better than what he's been doing to us… and he can't be able to prove I did it but know I did. I may actually need your help with it."

"Sweet."

Once the food was cooked and distributed, they chatted some while they ate. Classes, news, people in common. Having overeaten, they took up residence on the bed to search for movies on satellite.

"Nearly a thousand channels and nothing to watch." Liz sighed and shifted to get more comfortable. She had a huge hot body on either side of her, and despite the size of the bed, it was very difficult to remain comfortable if either one happen to shift one way or another.

"Independence Day." Max changed the channel. "Independence Day."

"Who do we shoot for that movie?" Zan grumbled. His issues with the movie went far beyond the fact it was played nearly non-stop every 4th of July on at least six channels. There were of course the portrayals of the aliens and the general love of the movie because of it. Didn't matter if it were partly true. The whole movie disgusted him and what was even more disgusting was that at one point he had gotten caught up in it enough to want the aliens dead himself.

"You can thank Emmerich for that one." Max sighed.

"We could always go to a movie." Liz pointed out. "Not that I'm about to move but does anyone know our options?"

"T3, Legally Blonde 2, Sinbad, and Swimming Pool. None are up to my liking." Max groaned and shut his eyes."

"28 Days Later still at the theater?" Zan sat up to look at Max.

"Probably."

"Wouldn't mind seein' that one again."

Liz shuddered when Max seemed to consider it. "I'm not sure I want to see that one. While the whole biological warfare thing appeals to me on a scientific level, the zombies and affected millions don't."

"Resident Evil it is." Zan rolled off the bed and out of the room to find the movie.

"Zan, no." Liz whined and turned to Max. "Didn't I just say I didn't like zombies? What is his obsession with that movie?"

"Four words." Max shook his head and Zan promptly returned to insert the movie. "Zan. Four words on why you like this movie."

"Milla Jovovich. Michelle Rodriguez."

"There you go." Max said to Liz.

"There's gotta be more to it." Liz protested.

"You can see Milla's boob and… her… (quick whistle)." Zan bounded back onto the bed, nearly making Max fall off the other side.

"Oh, come on. Like you haven't seen either before." Liz made a disgusted noise in her throat and waited for Zan to enlighten her further.

"You right. I seen my fair share of boobs and (quick whistle) before. Though we both do the modelin'… it safe ta say that we'll neva be on the same shoot at the same time."

"Liz." Max cleared his throat. "Look at it this way. The heroes in this movie, they're heroines."

"It also implies that women are stupid enough to be duped by men." Liz shot back.

"It doesn't. It's a little realistic, I think. It's mutual for the most part. They use each other to get information. He sleeps with her to form an attachment, which doesn't play the way he thought it would… cause though she slept with him because she was falling for him, she's got her own set of balls."

"Oh, is that right?" Liz made a face at him.

"It's all about chick empowerment."

"Chick?"

"It's phrase, okay?" Max scooted away as far as he could. "I hear girls… women, sorry. Women use it all the time. Chick empowerment. Not a chick flick. Not a teeny-bopper movie. Movies that contain women in positions normally not associated with the feminine persuasion. Movies where these strong and athletic women overcome without compromising themselves."

"Max. You understand women so well. I love you." Zan leaned over and was greeted with a none-too-gentle tap to the forehead.

Liz giggled. "You came to this conclusion on your own?"

"No." Max cleared his throat. "There's his really butch, non-lesbian, chick in one of my classes. She explained it all to me. She called herself a chick." He immediately cleared that up.

"Really butch, non-lesbian."

"She made that really clear." Max nodded.

Zan furrowed his brow and then snickered. "You mean Buffy?"

"Yeah. Buffy."

"Her name is Buffy?" Liz had to laugh.

"It's not really Buffy." Max explained. "This guy was talking about her when she walked up. He had been about to say 'butch' but he saw her and the next thing in mind was 'buff'."

"What?"

"Well, she's really strong. You can tell by looking at her that she could rip your head off without even trying. She's not overly developed but she's rather broad in the shoulders. So he's talking and saying 'butch' which was morphing in to 'buff' which morphing into 'eee' the hiss he made when he realized he was caught. She thought it was funny and took Buffy as a nickname. It's all a big joke to this girl." Max laughed to himself. "Her real name is Corrine Carrington Masters."

"No shit?" Zan laughed.

"None what so ever." Max chuckled.

"You dating her?" Liz nudged him.

"No. She told me in so few kind words that I had better not hit on her because I wasn't near man enough for her."

Liz had to laugh at that. "Were you too intimidated to ask?"

"I just like to think that if we were ever horsing around, I'd have a ice cube's chance in Canada at holding my own." He shrugged.

"Sweets, Buffy, she's strong. She could bench-press me." Zan laughed and returned his gaze to the TV.

"Her family is really rich. I mean, they live in one of the little towns outside of town. The house is huge, I've been there twice." Max lowered his voice so that he wouldn't disturb Zan's movie. "She's got an older brother and two older sisters, all married. So she's the black sheep."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Old money or something. First off, she's not half as classy as her siblings. She burps louder than I do." Max laughed. "She could bench me and Zan. She's insane. She's sexy when she dresses up, sure… she's… proportional. She can be really funny when she wants to be. She's just… she doesn't trust men."

"Well, she's got good reason." Liz pointed out. "She's really rich and apparently attractive. Maybe she just wants to avoid the vulnerability that women are prone to."

"Probably." He laughed a little. "Once in a while, I hang out with the guys in the library and they're just checking girls out. She rips on everyone by pointing out the flaws in their choices. I got her though."

"What do you mean?"

"I had a folding cut out of Vin Diesel sent to her. She thanked me later… until I told her what he was really like."

"Max, that's awful."

"It was fun."

"You guys wanna shut it? My girls are kickin' ass." Zan threw a pillow at them. Then he sat up. "Michelle, you think she'd hook up wit me?"

Max laughed and threw the pillow back. "I wouldn't hook you guys up. I like her too much."

By sundown, the three of them had dozed off. When lights flashed, they just assumed they were from the TV. Max pushed himself to a sitting position when he heard the pounding on the front door. The walls were bathed in moving streams of red and blue. Panicking, he rushed down to the door. When he opened it, the police officer sent his stomach to his toes. "What is it? Is it Tess? Did something happen at the beach? Where are the Lazcanos?"

"Max Evans?" The officer asked and at the young man's nod, he motioned for someone to step forward. A badge was flashed. "Max Evans, Detective Tran with New Haven PD."

"What's happened? Is it Tess?" He could feel Liz and Zan standing behind him. His chest ached. The guy needed to tell him something before his heart exploded. "What happened?"

"Mr. Evans, we're going to have to place you under arrest for the murder of Maisey Day Lynnburg."

"What?" Max gasped. His head spun as he was lead out of the house and read his rights as he was cuffed. Speechless and breathing heavy, he looked to Zan. "Get Kal on the phone."

"Who the hell is this guy?" Tran pointed to Zan.

"A friend." Zan crossed his arms to keep from blasting one of the cops.

"He fits the description," the cop commented.

"You're right." Sighing, Tran motioned for Zan to step out of the house. "Sorry sir, we're going to have to take you in as well."

"I don't understand." Max managed to speak at last, the cuffs pinching his wrists. "Maisey's dead?"

"Murdered, Mr. Evans. Witness descriptions led us to you."

"Bullshit." Zan bit out but did as told.

"Shut up, Zan." Max warned, then cursed to himself. The day had started out so well, too well. He motioned for the detective to wait a second. "Liz, call my uncle. His number is in my phone on my dresser."

"Sure. I'll stay with Tess, too." She nodded, eyes wide. "What do I tell her?"

"Tell Tess, I'll be back as soon as I can. Tell Kal to get his ass in New Haven."

TBC

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Part 26 – July 5, 2003

Post by DMartinez » Wed Oct 12, 2005 11:20 pm

Part 26 – July 5, 2003

Max rubbed at his inked stained fingers and waited for the interrogating officer to enter the room. His one phone call had been to their lawyer. At least he'd managed to demand that up front, even though he knew it would be several hours before the lawyer could be in the city. The cuffs bit at his wrists and he felt so dirty. Violated and downright scared. He barely looked up when the two cops entered. "I'm Detective Tran, you remember me?"

"Yes, sir." Max nodded.

"This is my partner, Detective Torres." Max nodded to that officer.

"Is Max Evans your full name?" Tran sat at the other end of the table with a folder.

"Yes, sir."

"Formerly of California?"

"Yes, sir."

"Uh-huh. According to Yale University and a few newspapers, you transferred in after a fire destroyed your mansion in L.A., correct?"

"My uncle's mansion but yes that's true." Max nodded.

"Mysterious fire that couldn't be solved, ruled accidental." Tran flipped pages here and there. "One of your professors went missing this semester, turned up dead."

"That is the story."

"One violation away from a restraining order on Maisey Day." Tran nodded to himself. "Why don't you tell us where you were three days ago?"

"Tuesday?"

"Wednesday."

"Wednesday." Max rolled his eyes back in head to think. "Well, got up around nine that morning. Took my sister shopping for a new swimsuit and other beach necessities, then we went to the grocery store to buy food for our little cook out… We went to Wilhelm's to make an appointment. We got a late lunch at Scarpellino's. We stayed home for the rest of the day. Around six, I took her to her friend's house and then I spent the next three hours taking pictures."

"That's around nine. Where did you go?"

"Around the older neighborhoods. I love the architecture. I picked up my sister and we went home. We were there for the rest of the night. We hit the sack couple of hours later out of sheer boredom." Max shrugged.

"Cooperate with us, Max."

"I am. I don’t know what to tell you. I have no clue what's going on."

"Do you know who Maisey Day Lynnburg is?"

"Yeah. You said it, I was trying to file a restraining order against her. The girl couldn't and wouldn't take no for an answer."

"I know that. I meant, do you know who Daniel Lynnburg is?"

"Can't say that I do."

"Special Agent Lynnburg with the FBI."

"What?" Those three letters were enough to strike fear into his heart.

"Maisey Day's father works for the government. Apparently it's classified." Tran sat back and crossed his arms. "I think your photography hobby is a cover for something else."

Before Max could demand to see his lawyer before he answered anymore questions, the door swung open. Kal stepped into the room with Jesse Ramirez. "Boys, I'm gonna have to ask you to stop questioning my nephew. The cavalry is here, my boy."

"Zan's here, too." Max informed him.

"Yeah, your… friend told me." Kal took a deep breath. "Excuse us detectives. I've posted bail and they've been released into my custody until this whole misunderstanding can be straightened out. As you can see, we're going with local talent for this situation."

Max rose from his seat so that they could uncuff him. He nodded to Jesse. "Sorry, man."

"What all did you say?" Jesse pressed, process papers in his hands.

"I'll fill you in later." Max followed them out.

Kal strode the corridors as if he owned the place. He retrieved Zan from another room and both men were led to the desk to retrieve their personal belongings. "Boys, be good. Zan, I'm taking care of your shoots. Max, stay home. My buddy is on the loose and working against us. Do what I tell you and nothing else, we'll get this cleared up soon enough."

--

Jesse rubbed his forehead. "You're the main suspect for a few reasons, Max." Max and Zan were sitting as quietly as possible. Kal paced the length of the room and kept Tess and Liz out of the room. "One, the petition for a restraining order. It lends to motive. Two, eye-witness descriptions put you near her the last time anyone saw her alive. Three, you've got one look-alike. Right now, they're talking to your alibis. If they come through… you'll be asked to stay in town until they everything straightened out."

"I got school. I got shoots." Zan protested but Kal silenced him.

"I'm taking care of it."

"According to Kal's sources…" Jesse flipped a few pages in his notebook. "Officially Agent Lynnburg is a classified soldier for the government. Unofficially, Lynnburg is involved with a unit called the Special Investigations Unit. It doesn't exist and so no link can be made to it or your alien heritage." He flipped a page and made a note. "Max, we'll need the film."

"It's already been developed." Max nodded. "I'll have copies available by tomorrow."

"I've got the A.M. people covered. This has to come out in our favor or I lose a lot of money on you, kid." Kal pointed at Zan. "Nobody wants this scandal to get out of hand." He picked a cigar from a box on the bar and turned to the room. "Clearly this is a set-up but I'm much smarter than anyone in the FBI, S.U. or not. My friend and I will be doing some fierce negotiations…"

"I can't be a party to murder." Jesse threw his hands up. "I'll handle the legal stuff from the other room." He gathered his things to leave the room. "Just remember to cooperate with the investigation. Tell me your situations one at a time tonight and that way I'll know what I'm doing."

--

Liz looked up when Max entered Tess's room. She had to go. She hadn't actually planned on staying overnight but Tess had lent her some clothes. "What's going on?"

"Bad case of mistaken identity." Max shrugged. "Sorry this wasn't as much fun as you were looking for. I'm really sorry. I hope Tess wasn't too much trouble."

"It's fine." She grabbed her bag. "I have to get going. I have to go say bye to Zan."

"Yeah, the car's waiting outside." Max nodded and let her pass. Then he sat on Tess's bed. She was asleep but she was going to ask a lot of questions. "Sweetie?"

"Max?" She picked her head up. "Is Liz gone?"

"Almost."

"She said she would be gone when I woke up. She said goodbye before she put me to sleep. She doesn't read stories like you do." Tess hugged her little stuffed wolf. "Where were you?"

"I had to go talk to a policeman. It was important." He stroked her hair. "I want you to stay home this week. Then, by Friday, maybe all this will be over."

"What?"

"The policemen are going to come and they're going to ask some questions… just like at the fire."

"Are we moving again?"

"No. I don't think so but… just answer as truthfully as you can. Uncle Kal will be in the room with you when they come."

"Will they take me away like they took you away?"

"No. You'll stay here."

"Ok."

"Go back to sleep. We'll talk more in the morning."

"Night, Max."

"Night Sweetie." He rose and went to his room, where Zan was waiting. "What do you think?"

"He said a shape-shifter was doin' this. Why?"

"Good question."

"When… I's in that tower and…" Zan spoke slowly, reliving it just by talking about it. "And that blast threw me against that wall… you felt it."

"Yeah… yeah, I did."

"Kal… he felt it?"

"He was nearly climbing the walls. He was going crazy. The encoding wouldn't let him sleep. If he could have, he might have gone."

"So… this other shifter… he would've felt the same."

"In theory, yes…"

"Why didn't he? I mean… anywhere he was gotta be closer than you guys."

Max thought it over. It didn't make sense. "We thought you might have died… if he thought the same thing… still, he should have been worried about the others."

"But he knew where we was… Lannie and Rath… they didn't get that bright idea all by themselves…"

"He's turned."

"That's what I think."

TBC

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Part 27 – July 7, 2003

Post by DMartinez » Wed Oct 12, 2005 11:32 pm

Part 27 – July 7, 2003

Max hadn't slept in what felt like days. He was under orders not to leave his house until everything could be cleared up. He and Zan could barely stand to look at each other. They were driving each other nuts. Zan had been a regular two pack a day nicotine addict before his injury in the tower and now he was half-way back, dragging Max with him. The detectives made sure they weren't going to forget anything by dropping by at least once a day. Tran and his buddy Torres had made themselves at home in the music room this time. Tess was about three seconds from resuming her old habit of hiding under Max's shirt. All Max could do was listen to them talk. Kal was making things worse before he was making them better. Jesse had taken up residence in the spare room when he wasn't arguing with the D.A. The plan was to delay a hearing until more proof could be found.

Tran took Zan's pack of cigarettes and helped himself. After a long drag, he coughed. "Hmm… some dirty street smokes for high-price boys like you."

"They stink." Tess muttered. Max patted her hand where it clutched at his shirt, then reached over to put out his cigarette.

"What's your point?" Zan blew his smoke against the window.

"That you aren't really high-price, Emory." Torres commented lightly. "Your prints just came back with a record in New York."

"Yeah? So. I clean m'self up." Zan turned and forced himself not to look at Max.

"Funniest thing… when we were running your prints, Max, our computers shorted and the whole system crashed. Our analyst was about to make a crazy comment about your prints and poof. The proof went bye-bye. It's gonna take weeks to do it the hard way." Tran shook his head with a faux shrug of nonchalance.

"Imagine the luck." Torres added. "There was a fire in the records room. We need to get your prints again."

Max never took his eyes off the detectives drinking his imported water and smoking their cigarettes. They were looking for cracks and they weren't going to find any. So, Max took a chance. "You'll have to speak to our lawyer about that. Emory… he's got a record. What is it? Petty theft… food mostly." Torres nodded. "He did what he had to. Surviving as a transient isn't easy." He felt rather than saw Zan stiffen at his words. "These are his cigarettes. You've heard him talk. You see he hangs around here. You've impounded his car. I'm sure you've seen pictures of his apartment in New York by now." Another nod from the detectives. "Tell me why he would want to jeopardize any of that."

"I'll answer that when you answer what would make him change his lifestyle after 20 years." Torres watched the punk at the window.

"9-11 did a number on me, pops." Zan dragged on the cigarette. "You gon tell me the other survivors ain't change they lives none?"

Max reached back and stroked Tess's back. "Look at me. I'm a pretty, little rich boy. I admit it. Never lacked for anything. My uncle is still paying for everything. My sister isn't right." He nodded his head and shrugged. "I screwed up with the wrong girl one night and it became a nightmare. I put an immediate stop to it. The cops talked to Maisey Day. They made her understand that one more threat, one more phone call and one more house visit would earn a restraining order. I was very glad she backed off. I haven't seen her or talked to her since January."

"What are you saying?" Tran leaned forward.

"There was no reason for me to take it any further." Max resisted reaching for the remainder of that cigarette. "I love my sister. If something happens to me, what happens to her? She goes to a state home… or my uncle slaps her in a private institution. He barely checks in with her when he checks in on me as it is."

"So you lose some." Torres had obviously gotten tired with the way this meeting was going.

"I want this case closed every bit as much as you do." Max rubbed at his temples. "I'm being flat out honest with you. I want this solved. We've cooperated. If I were you… I'd see who had something at all to gain from her death. I had nothing. My family can't afford a scandal and not be exonerated."

"Are you trying to tell us that you are good boys and girl for family sake?" Torres snorted.

"My uncle would rather us vanish without a trace than be convicted of murder. It would weigh down his career." Max explained. "Our friend Emory over there… doesn't like the streets anymore. He wouldn't do it. We don't have the modus operandi for this."

"Is that so?"

"It's not practical to start something without the proper army." Max shrugged.

"What?"

Zan rolled his eyes. "It's stupid to kill someone if you don't know they pops is FBI. It's like starting a war on accident. We too smart for that."

"How do we know you're not so smart to be able to pull a stunt like this without a hitch?" Tran cleared his throat.

"We're only human." Max shrugged. "The margin for error is very slim… and frankly, not even I can delude myself into thinking I'm that smart."

"Max, come upstairs. I don't like these men." Tess hissed.

July 9, 2003

Tran paced the front porch in front of Max and Zan. "Damnedest thing. You two are off the hook. I don't know how. I'm just going to pray it really is this simple."

"What's that?" Max tried to take a drag off the cigarette but he was shaking so bad, he missed his mouth.

"FBI got their hands into my case, young men. The FBI caught someone who bears a remarkable resemblance to the both of you. Fingerprints matched those found on the murder weapon. All the proof I needed was delivered to me this morning by a Federal Agent." Tran examined the two boys. They were just boys to him. "I'd say you boys are damn lucky. I knew everyone had a twin but I did not know they had triplets." Tran shoved his hands in his pockets and started down the walk. He turned at the base of the steps. "Funny thing that our analyst swears your fingerprints are identical. Even twins don't have identical fingerprints. Clones might but not twins… funny thing, fingerprints. Too bad we don't have anything to study now. No proof to back it up."

Max watched Tran get into his car and drive off. This time the cigarette made it to his mouth. "Get your car and get back to New York. Don't come down here for a while."

"My thoughts, too, Chief." Zan nodded to himself. "Who'd they catch?"

"Kal's not going to say. If Kal comes back, they got the other shapeshifter. If he doesn't… I'm going to have to find a way to kill the imposter." Max shut his eyes for a moment. "My head's going to explode."

"Yours ain't the only one." Zan licked his lips. "You want me stick around to see if Boss is really Boss?"

"No. Kal could kill me if he wanted to. Made that clear a couple of times."

"No point him gettin' us both."

"Right."

"'fI don't hear from you in a week… I come for Tess."

"Thanks." Max nodded. "You know where to go get her?"

"Her friend's."

"Yeah."

Zan picked up his bag and hopped over the railing. The bus stop was just down the street. He could always put the impound fee on his credit cards. He just hoped they hadn't busted it up too bad.

Max sat outside for a very long time. Though he stared unseeing at his lawn, he didn't miss the unmarked cop cars that patrolled every hour or so. He sighed every so often. At ten he had felt 30. At 21 he felt 50. At dawn, he had resumed his perch on the porch bench. The paper boy threw the paper straight at him. The headline had been replaced by the second mysterious fire in the N.H.P.D. records room. This time it had been an inferno that ate the records room and the adjoining computer room where their server had been held. On page three there was a small note on Kal Langley's nephew and protégée cleared of murder charges. Nothing was said about FBI involvement or the identity of the true killer. Agent Lynnburg had been unavailable for comment on the case.

July 12, 2003

Max's ear had gone numb from holding it to his ear. He'd gone deaf from the silence. The pages of Liz's chemistry ripped through his eardrums the way he knew the click of his camera ripped through hers. He adjusted the lens and pointed it to another part of the room and clicked off another shot. Click. Swoosh. Breath. Breath. Click. Click. Swoosh. Ripple. Breath. Breath. Sigh. Sigh. "Well, this has been a very productive phone call. I'll just call back when you aren't so distracted or convinced of my guilt."

"You can be such a jerk."

"Okay. Speaking. There's some progress."

"What was I supposed to think?"

"I don't know."

"Okay, then… I didn't and I still don't think you had anything to do with that girl dying. It's just odd. It was scary… scarier than I was willing to admit to your face." She breathed for a moment. "Here I was, visiting a friend that I hadn't been too friendly to… and he gets hauled off to jail for the same reason I wouldn't talk to him…" She slammed her book shut. "It's selfish but I thought I was being punished for being a bitch."

That made him laugh. "Did you think I did it?"

"No…" She sighed again. "I mean… you can be pretty self-centered sometimes. You know that, right? Besides you wouldn't lower yourself to get blood on your precious shoes. You are so much the spoiled brat that you're on the verge of squeamish."

"I am not."

"Oh you are. I bet if you ever scraped your knee that you'd faint."

"I would not. You should have seen my face after Zan threw it all over the court. It was not a pretty sight. I barely flinched." He paused a moment. "You'd scream if you saw a spider."

"That's true but it's a phobia."

"Girly. I bet you've never been near enough to a spider to even count its legs."

"That's not the point. A phobia is an irrational fear. If there was a reason for my being scared, it wouldn't be a phobi—"

"Hope you don't mind but I'm gonna take your girl seven ways to Sunday." A masculine voice droned over the line.

"Michael?" Max furrowed his brow.

"Ignore him." Liz scoffed, having taken her phone back. "Jerk here has decided to grace my dorm with his presence after not calling for months."

"Tell him I wanna see him if he's got time." Max sat up, remembering what Isabel had said.

"How long you gonna be here, Michael? … Max wants to know.… No, I don't know… Hold on… Max. Michael wants you to perform a very specific sexual act that I know to be physically impossible."

"Is that so? Does he get off on that sort of thing? I always figured him for a player but if he's unwilling to cross the field…"

Liz snickered and relayed the comment. There was a bit of muffled conversation before Michael's voice traveled the line once more. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"Think about it. You gonna see your sister while you're on this side of the country?"

"Might as well."

"She was worried about you last I spoke to her."

"I know… She tell you… about…"

"Your dreams… which is why I wanted to talk to you."

"They normal?"

"Depends. You'll have to tell me about them. Isabel did go into it with me. Jesse told me that the way she described them rang different from the stuff he sees from her."

"What? He sees what?"

"Um…" Max needed a big drink of something to wash that foot down. "I guess she didn't tell you about that…"

"What?"

"I'll just catch you at her place. I assume you'll be there when Jesse is at work… so Monday?"

"Max, tell me."

"Later Michael. Tell Liz I'll call her later."

"Max."

Max shut his phone and rewound his film. Oops.

TBC

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