Page 2 of 3
Posted: Sun Jun 04, 2006 7:54 am
Okay, kiddies I'm finally back. Thank you all for your comments and bumps. This part is extra long so I hope it makes up for the long wait just a bit.
Posted in two parts for length. Love ya'll.
Kisses to Liz for her help.
Burning to Feel Part 8
Mendolan bowed as he entered the small room that served as the king’s private quarters.
“We still have not been able to contact Larek, Your Majesty. Communications right now are too dangerous.”
He looked up from the table where multiple pieces of paper lay scattered. Rubbing his weary eyes, he answered, “I know, Mendolan. Don’t worry about it. He’ll be trying from his side, even if we can’t actually speak to him.”
He knew his old friend would not let him down. Larek would be working on the other leaders of the four planets, trying to get them to support the rebellion now that they all knew he was part of it.
His re-awakened memories and powers were common knowledge now, and the small rebel force had slowly grown into a full blown army thanks mostly to his infamy. Of course, knowing most of the old coots as he did, they would more than likely be sitting back to watch and see where the cards fell before stepping in to show their loyalty to one side or the other.
“I agree.” Mendolan answered him. He opened the door to exit. “You need rest, Your Highness. And food. Lothar is sending someone with a tray.”
He nodded absentmindedly, his eyes already straying back to the papers in front of him. He barely noticed the man bow before he quietly shut the door.
A few moments later, however, he was interrupted again, this time by a lovely young woman carrying a tray loaded with dishes and utensils.
“Your dinner, Your Majesty.”
“Thank you, Syndal. Just leave it there for now.” He gestured to a relatively empty place on the table.
The young woman came forward, her hips swaying gently as she moved. She placed the tray on the table where he indicated. But instead of exiting right away, she circled around him slowly to get to the door, grabbing his attention as her long, lush black hair brushed his arm. He realized, rather belatedly, that she wasn’t really wearing much, just a small strapless sort of top that barely covered her breasts, and a wrap around scarf that served as a skirt. The scent of her perfume reached his nose as she stopped by his chair to look at him in sultry inquiry.
“Will there be anything else, Your Majesty?”
“No thank you, Syndal.” He saw a fleeting look of disappointment flash in her expression before she bowed slightly and moved fluidly to the door.
He sighed as it slid shut behind her, fighting the smallest urge to call her back. She was a beautiful woman, and he would have to be dead not to be at least slightly moved by her not so subtle invitation. He wondered if Lothar had put her up to it, or if she’d done it on her own.
He was uncomfortably aware of the fact that the others found it strange that he continually rejected the advances of the women available to him. Antarians were not shy about their sexuality and as long as a person was single, it was not considered taboo, as it was sometimes on earth, to have sex with someone you found attractive, but were not necessarily going to have a relationship with. Birth control was a simple procedure that could be undone when a woman was ready to have children, so unwanted pregnancy wasn’t an issue either.
As the king, he was in the unique position of being able to request the favors of any single woman he wished for. All were considered available to the king at his behest, although they were certainly allowed to say no. Most did not, however.
It wasn’t that he hadn’t thought about it. He wasn’t a saint, for God’s sake. He was a perfectly healthy, alien/human hybrid with the libido of a young man his age. And having a beautiful woman available for his pleasure at a moment’s notice was a tantalizing proposition. But it was one that he had, so far, not taken advantage of.
It wasn’t because of some misguided notion that he owed... someone... back on earth his loyalty or fidelity. Although his love for Liz had not diminished, he tried not to dwell on her, especially in light of the way they had left things. She had most likely gone on with her life, if not forgetting, then at least not purposefully remembering her failed relationship with him. And he couldn’t blame her. He wasn’t unselfish enough to hope that she had moved on completely and found new love already, but he did hope that she was happy.
No his reason for not doing it was simple. He vividly remembered waking up with Tess the morning after their tryst, ashamed and disgusted by his actions. He had used her to forget his pain and anger and ended up feeling worse than ever. He had no interest in repeating that experience. Meaningless sex with a stranger for the purpose of sexual relief, no matter how mutual, just did not appeal to him. At least, most of the time. Remembering the way Syndal’s breasts had barely been held in check by her top... he shifted uncomfortably. Maybe...
A knock at the door interrupted his thoughts.
Zan appeared in the open doorway.
“Want some company while you eat?”
The tall young man walked in with his own tray. He moved some of the papers over to make room. “Make any headway?” he asked as he sat down.
“Not really.” He had been studying reports, trying to figure out Kivar’s next move. The last attack had proven too costly to the population, Kivar’s men using innocent civilians to draw his own into the open, knowing that he would not allow the innocents to get hurt if he could help it. They had killed many of them anyway and had taken quite a few of their men with them.
Kivar knew he could not fight him in open warfare and hope to win. His retrieved power was superior to Kivar’s, and he and Zan together were almost unbeatable. At just eighteen now, Zan had not yet reached his full potential, but he was close enough to make him and his father a formidable team. With their mindwarping ability, the two of them together could create enough confusion and havoc in an army to render them almost completely helpless, and if necessary, could wipe out most of the men with very little effort.
Instead, Kivar used stealth and guerilla warfare, ambushes and surprise attacks, usually using innocent people as targets and sometimes as decoys to get to the rebels. He had abandoned the palace and was now in hiding with his army, and Max and his rebels had yet to figure out where he was.
Zan looked at the piles of paper and at his father’s weary expression, and shook his head. He didn’t say anything, knowing it wouldn’t do any good. Instead, he dug into his food and asked, “Was that Syndal I saw coming out of here earlier?”
“She brought the tray.” He looked at his son. “Did Lothar put her up to bringing it?”
“I have no idea. Why? Did she... .?”
“Not in so many words, but it was obvious that I could have more than just... dinner... if I wanted it.”
Zan looked down at his plate to hide his grin, but not before his father saw it. His own lips curve reluctantly in response.
“I think Lothar is determined to get “The Boss” a little down time.” His grin widened.
Lothar had taken to calling Max “boss” after he watched several episodes of a mob drama from American TV. Zan found it extremely funny while Max just rolled his eyes and tolerated it good-naturedly.
“Well, I wish he’d just let me decide when and if I want ‘down time’.
Zan laughed outright. “Good luck with that.”
He smiled at his son’s laughter and his comment, pushing aside the papers to tuck into his own food, feeling more relaxed than he had just a few moments ago. It felt good to smile and joke with someone in the midst of the serious business of war.
It may have seemed odd that he and Zan were more like friends than father and son, but at barely two years apart in age now, a normal parent/child relationship would have been even stranger. Zan rarely, if ever called him ‘Dad’ anymore. His accelerated growth hadn’t stopped until he reached eighteen and he was now as tall as his father. They shared the same dark good looks, except for eye color of course, and the same serious demeanor most of the time. But occasionally, especially with each other, they could relax and joke around some.
“Speaking of beautiful women, I saw you with Marelisa yesterday.” He smiled again at the blush that stole over Zan’s cheeks. “You looked... close.”
“Yeah.” Was the only comment back, but the stupid grin on his son’s face said it all.
Marelisa was Mendolan’s daughter. She had been through the same accelerated growth process as Zan and had matured along with him in the past several months. They had gone from friends to something else just recently and he could tell from the look on Zan’s face whenever he was near her that it was serious. A slight pang of jealousy caught him unawares and he quickly lowered his eyes away from his son’s perceptive gaze. An unwanted picture of Liz suddenly appeared in his head and he closed his eyes for just a moment letting it linger there.
“You’re thinking about her, aren’t you? That girl, Liz.”
He sighed. Sometimes having such a close bond with someone who had strong mental powers was a pain in the ass.
“I know you miss her. I know you miss earth, Max.”
With a small shake of his head, he lifted his gaze back to his son’s and admitted, “I do sometimes. I don’t deny it. But it doesn’t matter,” he said dismissively. “I’ve told you before that I’m not sorry I came here. As painful as it was in the beginning, I found you and I found myself, and I’m freeing my people. That’s all that matters to me.”
Zan nodded, believing him for the most part, but knowing that his father was not being completely honest with himself. He might have accepted the fact that he was king of this planet, and that he had a duty to free the people from Kivar’s tyranny, but the power and the responsibility weighed heavily on his shoulders. He accepted the necessity of what they were doing, but a part of him would never be content here. Even if... when they managed to win the war, Zan knew that his father would vow to stay for his sake, would be committed to stay... but he would never be happy. Earth was his home... it was where he belonged.
It was different for his mother. She fit here. And, whereas Max merely tolerated the responsibility and the mantle of leadership as his duty and heritage, she reveled in it.
Zan had accepted the fact that his parents would never be together. He had gone through a period of hating his father for not wanting to be with her, but Tess had sat him down and explained the circumstances that had led to his birth and after talking honestly with Max about it, he had finally accepted it. Both of his parents loved him, and together, the three of them had managed to forge a team that, if not exactly a normal familial relationship, was filled with mutual respect and trust.
A knock at the door interrupted the sudden silence. Tess came in, holding her own tray.
“Can I join in the party or is it guys only?”
Zan gestured to the other chair at the table. “Sit, Mom. We’re almost done though.” He didn’t seem to have the same problem calling Tess his mother as he did Max his father.
Tess sat opposite the two men, and glanced at the papers he had been studying. “Did you find anything?”
“No. But I’m not done.”
Tess nodded and started to eat. “I have some ideas... ”
A little while later, Zan left, the three of them having discussed strategy as they ate. Tess watched him leave before turning back.
“Have you noticed him with Marelisa... ”
“Yeah, I mentioned it to him.”
“I think it’s serious.”
“Looks like it.” He didn’t look up from the notes in front of him.
Tess sighed to herself, picking a little at the food on her plate, her gaze straying now and then to the dark head that was bent over the table. She watched as he stopped once to rub his eyes before absently spearing some food into his mouth.
She wanted to suggest he stop for the night. She wanted to go around the table, push his chair back and sit on his lap to run her fingers through that glossy dark hair and kiss his tired brow. She wanted to offer her body as a refuge and hold him while he slept.
But she did none of those things.
Instead, Tess sat silently wishing for the thousandth time that things were different. Or maybe she wished they were the same. She wasn’t sure anymore.
The sudden change in the atmosphere was not lost on the man across from her. He’d heard Tess’s almost silent sigh and was aware that she was casting him glances, but he continued to stare at the plans and papers in front of him, not really seeing them, but avoiding her gaze anyway.
Their relationship since she had helped him recover his memories was... strange. He would not exactly categorize it as friendship... but they weren’t enemies anymore either. He had managed to let go of his anger, for the most part, and to trust that Tess only wanted what was best for their son and for their people. He also respected her intelligence and her ability to strategize and fight the war they were fighting.
But he was also uncomfortably now aware of something else. Something that he had previously doubted, having been lied to and manipulated by her too many times to trust.
Tess was in love with him. She had loved him in their previous life and she loved him now. And though she tried, it was impossible for her to hide it from him.
He now knew that the way they had met as Ava and Zan had happened exactly as Brody/Larek had described it to him the day he had kidnapped them at the UFO Center. At the time, he as Zan had been unaware that the beautiful girl he’d seen at Dimaras Rocks was actually the girl his parents were thinking about arranging for his bride. As Larek had said, they were introduced at the party that night and became friends. Not long afterward, their parents announced the betrothal.
Even now, he remembered how he’d felt about it then. Not unhappy, but more resigned than anything. It was expected that he marry and Ava was a good choice for the future queen... of royal birth, smart, beautiful and already his friend. He had not been opposed to the idea.
But unlike Ava, he as Zan had not grown to love her as she loved him. He had cared deeply for her, was completely committed to their marriage and was never unfaithful, but his love for her was more as that of a friend and a confidant, rather than a man filled with passion for his wife. He also knew that Ava had been aware of his feelings and was resigned to them. Although she never expressed any regret in their marriage and willingly worked along side him for their people, he would sometimes catch her gazing at him with a look of profound sadness and he wished at those times that he felt differently.
He had the some of those same feelings now. He wished he felt differently. Not so much that he loved her, but that he could at least return some of the affection that Tess was so willing to lavish upon him. But no matter how much his feelings might have changed since coming here, no matter how much she proved her loyalty, he could not forget what she had done in her desperation to have him, back in Roswell. The plot to hand him and his siblings over to the enemy not withstanding, however unintentionally, she had killed someone. Not just someone... a friend. An innocent person who had saved his life and loved his sister. It was not something he could forgive or forget. His only concession had been that he had not told Zan about it.
He still remembered her nervousness when she’d come to ask him... to beg him really... not to tell their son that she had killed one of their human friends. He had told her that he had no intention of telling him something that would only serve to hurt him and his relationship to his mother. Tess’s tearful thanks had helped to thaw some of the last of the bitterness in his heart toward her. She had paid for her sins with her treachery. He had seen into her mind and knew what depraved things Kivar had leveled upon her. It had sickened him and served to remind him that he, himself, had not exactly treated her with care or kindness.
Thinking about his own sins, he glanced up, realizing that they had been sitting silently lost in their own thoughts for a while. What he saw made him falter somewhat. Tess was picking at her now cold food, a look of resigned loneliness on her face. He knew that look well. It was reflected in his own face more often than he liked to remember.
Sensing his stare, Tess looked up only to feel tears come to her eyes at the unexpected compassion she saw there. She quickly blinked to dispel the traitorous moisture, embarrassed by her weakness. How pathetic he probably thought she was. And how transparent. But when she looked back, the expression on his face wasn’t pity, it was... commiseration... and acceptance. Her heart swelled a little and she couldn’t stop the feelings she felt from coming to the forefront.
He blinked. It was there. Suddenly, everything he knew she felt for him was right there on her face... and in his mind. The bond they shared allowed them to connect at times and this time she didn’t try to hide it from him. She loved him... she wanted him... she would open her arms and her bed to him to ease both of their loneliness even if that was all he was willing to give.
Her heart in her throat, Tess waited, but then he gently... but firmly... closed the connection between them. She suddenly felt incredibly foolish. God, what had she been thinking? One look of something besides hatred from him and she was throwing herself at him like some pathetic...
Tess got up from her chair and walked as quickly to the door as she could without looking like she was fleeing. She just needed to be alone to regroup for a while... shore up her defenses... cry her eyes out.
His soft voice stopped her flight to the door. Composing herself, she stood for a moment facing away before turning around to look at him in question.
“I owe you an apology.”
She frowned at the unexpected words. “What?”
“I owe you an apology,” he said again. “I have for a while.” He hesitated for a moment, looking down and she was suddenly reminded of the seventeen year old he used to be.
“The night we... the night that Zan was conceived... I was hurt and angry at... everyone... ” he paused for a second. “Especially Liz... I guess you know. Later... I blamed you for what happened between us... and I know you had... an agenda. But even so... the truth is... I let it happen.” He finally looked directly at her, allowing her to see the regret in his eyes... not just for himself... but for her.
“I used you... to try and make myself feel better for just a little while. It was wrong and... I’m sorry.”
The tears Tess had been fighting slid down her cheeks.
“Thank you.” She managed in a hoarse whisper. “I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.” She tried to smile, but it wouldn’t come. Turning quickly away from his compassionate stare, she hurried through the door before she could embarrass herself further.
When she was gone, he slumped back in his chair looking down at the plans and papers in front of him before closing his eyes tiredly. Bits and pieces of the past flew through his mind’s eye, horrors that he wished had been left unremembered from the time before. Memories of torture and death, of anger and fear of his enemies... and now it seemed he was doomed to repeat it. The warfare was different, but the killing and gore were the same. How he wished it could have been different this time.
He realized that finally apologizing to Tess for his part in their affair had left him feeling ... empty. A little better in some respects but... inside, he felt the loneliness that she had offered to appease like a vast hole in his heart. Liz’s face swam into his vision again and the hole became a chasm. He quickly shook his head to dispel it.
This was useless. There was work to be done. He pushed his plate aside, and picked up the report he’d been reading. Forcing himself to concentrate, he called upon his recently recovered discipline and pushed the fatigue and the emotion away...
Posted: Sun Jun 04, 2006 7:58 am
Burning to Feel Part 8 (Cont.)
“What?” Liz burst out. “Skins! But... ”
“Liz just... ” Michael shook his head, cursing as he came within sight of the CrashDown. He pulled quickly into a parking space, but before he could open his door, Liz grabbed his arm.
“Michael, what do you mean, “Skins” Tell me.”
Michael gazed at her for a moment, then sat back with a resigned sigh. “That’s what Max does on earth, Liz, among other things. He fights skins... and anyone else who is our enemy.”
Liz’s eyes were wide with the shock and horror of it. “But... you said there were twenty. You sent him out to fight twenty skins on his own? Michael, how could you... ”
“Trust me, Liz. If you feel sorry for anyone, feel sorry for those twenty idiots who think they can go up against Max and win.”
“What do you mean?”
Michael gazed out of the window, not really looking at anything before meeting her gaze in the dark. “I mean that Max is... was ... the king of Antar and that makes him a killing machine. Are you happy now? Are you glad you know?”
No. Liz trembled in the confines of the car, her mind awash with fear and confusion at what Michael just told her. No, she was not happy she knew. But now that she did, she had to know more.
“Who was that man?”
“He’s a skin who’s on our side. He works for us... for Max.”
“Because when Max came back from Antar, he made sure that the skins left on earth knew that they either joined us or they died. It didn’t take much to prove his point. Many of them joined us... but some didn’t. They crop up out of the woodwork now and then and Max... takes care of them.”
“Just suffice it to say that Max’s powers are much more advanced than when you were here. All of the royalty of Antar have abilities beyond what you’ve seen from us.”
“So you and Isabel... ”
“We could if we wanted to. Not as powerful as Max’s because he is the king, but powerful enough. We’ve just chosen not to. We live here on earth and we’re trying to be as normal as possible. I... my powers are more advanced than they were and I have more control so I help once in a while, but mostly, Max is on his own.”
Liz fought to come to terms with what Michael had just told her. Another question popped into her head.
“When we were alone together, Max told me that he could have healed that little girl, he just didn’t. What did he mean? Does it have something to do with...”
“I’ve already told you enough, Liz. The rest is for Max to tell you if he wants you to know.”
Max had made that criteria abundantly clear to all of them before he agreed to come to Roswell for the wedding, and Michael respected his feelings. Liz might think she wanted to know the details but Michael knew better. Her knowing would serve no purpose other than to overshadow her life with the hopelessness and guilt they all lived with regarding Max and his circumstances.
Michael started to open the door, but turned around suddenly. “But just for the record, Max went to the hospital after he left the CrashDown. That’s where he and Isabel were. He made sure the little girl was going to be okay and he’s paying for all of her medical expenses.”
“Paying? But why... ”
Michael let out a derisive noise of exasperation. “Because he’s Max, for God’s sake. He’s got to save the fucking world. Even though it’s fucked him over again and again. And...he’s got more money than God.”
With that cryptic statement, Michael got out of the car and stalked up to the CrashDown. He opened the door and waited for Liz to catch up. He followed her up to the apartment, and they both said hello to her parents. When they got to her room, Michael looked around, including inside the bathroom, then declared it safe.
“It’s just a precaution anyway. You’re not in any real danger. The people who stalk us don’t even know about you, since you haven’t been a part of our lives for a while.”
Michael didn’t make this statement with any inflection or condemnation, but Liz still felt a twinge of guilt.
At the expression on her face, Michael sighed and abruptly sat down in her desk chair. “I told her this was a bad idea.”
Liz turned her troubled gaze to his slouching figure, as if suddenly realizing he hadn’t left. “Who? What are you...”
“Maria. I told her that asking you to come out here without telling you that Max was going to be here was a bad idea. But, as usual, she didn’t listen to me.”
Liz lowered herself onto the bed, her thoughts in turmoil. Finally she looked back up at Michael. “I... what did you mean that Max had more money than God?”
“I told you he’s powerful. He can turn coal into diamonds. He can multiply a small amount of pure gold a thousand fold. He’ll never hurt for money.”
“But... what does he do with it?”
“Have you heard of the Lothar Foundation?”
“Of course. It started up a couple of years ago. I read about it in a magazine. They give money to the families of seriously ill children who can’t pay for medical expenses.”
“Max is their silent benefactor.”
“You mean... ”
“He’s the one who provides the funds that keeps the foundation going. The CEO doesn’t even know who he is. It was set up through a friend of Max’s parents who serves as the go between.”
Liz sat silently in shock. She could barely wrap her mind around the things she had been told tonight. Max was truly a king. He was so powerful he could take on twenty men on his own and yet he was a philanthropist for God’s sake. It boggled the mind.
Sitting back in the chair, Michael stretched his long legs out and crossed his arms over his chest, deducing her thoughts from her expression. “Why are you so surprised?”
“How can you ask me that? You just told me that Max is a killing machine and yet he makes money out of nothing to save children’s lives.”
“You of all people should know what an overdeveloped sense of responsibility he has.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m talking about that stupid stunt he pulled coming back from the future to make you change things.”
Liz felt like she’d been stabbed with a knife. For six years she’d successfully pushed those memories away into a little corner of her mind that she’d labeled, “Not to be opened under any circumstances” and yet here was Michael ripping open the box with a few well-placed words.
“I mean, how fucked up is that? He used the Granilith to come back in time, not to talk to Tess... or me ... or Isabel... but you. Why? So he could make sure that he was the one who got the worst out of the deal. I mean, yeah, you were hurt in the bargain, and no one disputes how hard it must have been to do what you did. But he knew you would survive it and have a life afterward, otherwise I don’t think he would have asked you to do it.”
Liz gazed at him a little dazedly. “He... asked me to push him at Tess. He said that you guys needed her to survive.”
“He was wrong,” Michael said matter-of-factly. “Yeah, the four of us together would have made a difference probably, but what we really needed was to remember our past so we could access our true powers... ”
“Wait, wait... remember your past to access your true powers? Is that why Max is so...?
“Powerful? Yeah. He went through a memory retrieval thing that was very painful from what I understand. Another reason not to do it, in my book. Anyway, Max from the future probably didn’t know about that, so he made an assumption about Tess. It turned out to be wrong.”
Liz felt hysterical laughter bubble up from her chest, but she suppressed it. “Wrong,” was all she managed to choke out.
Michael smiled a little. “Yeah, I know. Understatement of the year.”
Liz could only shake her head helplessly in agreement, a part of her unable to believe that she was having this deep conversation with Michael. In all the years they’d known each other, she would never have thought that he was the one with whom she’d be talking to about these things.
So Max underwent memory retrieval. Is that why he was the way he was? Maybe not, Liz thought. If that were the case, then Michael probably wouldn’t have mentioned it so casually.
Playing over his words in her mind, Liz couldn’t help but protest. “Max must have thought he could be happy with Tess when he came back to change things, Michael. I mean, I know he loved me, but...”
“You’re kidding right?” Michael interrupted incredulously. “Do you honestly think that he even considered his happiness when he made that decision? Being with Tess,... not being with Tess... it made no difference to him. It was all about keeping her here and if that meant sacrificing his happiness to do it then... ”
“Not just his happiness,” Liz reminded him a little faintly, his words causing an ache in the vicinity of her heart.
“Yeah, well... it was lame plan. And how much you wanna bet that you were right there with him making the decision?”
“What?” Liz looked up at him startled by the thought.
“Why not? Did he mention anything about you being dead too? Didn’t he say it was the two of you who caused the whole thing? I can just see it now. The two biggest martyrs on earth deciding that you were never supposed to be together and making the ultimate sacrifice.” Michael’s voice was dripping with sarcastic drama as he uttered these last words.
Could that be true? Liz contemplated the thought, realizing that it might very well be the case. That put a whole new perspective on things. It wasn’t just Future Max who had come back in time to ask her... no... make her do something so hurtful that it made him fall out of love with her, but the two of them making the decision together to end their relationship before it had a chance to become more serious. Suddenly Liz knew in her heart that it was probably so. If her future self had thought that the cause of the end of the world was attributed to her and Max being together instead of him and Tess...
Liz looked at Michael, and he dropped his gaze away from the wounded look on her face, knowing the conclusion she had just come to.
“Like I said... it was a lame plan. And it didn’t work. Max didn’t fall out of love with you and Alex ended up dead.”
Liz winced at the harsh words, knowing there was gritty truth in them. But she also felt empathy with her future self, racked with guilt over the devastation they were living with, and blaming herself for it.
“She thought the cost of our love was too high,” Liz said, still thinking about her future self, but also about Alex. “It was.”
“You mean Alex.” Michael stated knowingly.
Liz nodded, feeling the familiar lump in her throat whenever she thought about her friend. It still hurt even after all these years.
“You blamed Max. He always thought so,” Michael said.
“I didn’t blame him,” Liz protested.
“Yes you did. You just said so. You said the cost of your love was too high. That means that you blame what happened to Alex on your love for Max. If you hadn’t loved him, then Alex would be alive.”
Liz stared at him wide eyed, tears gathering as she realized the truth of his words. She had always told herself that she didn’t blame Max for what happened to Alex, but that wasn’t true. Deep in her heart, she blamed him as much as she blamed herself. And he knew.
Lips trembling with suppressed tears, Liz dropped her gaze away from Michael’s surprisingly sympathetic one. God, it was too painful to contemplate. All of the years of carefully constructing the wall she’d built around the hurt and regret of those two years of chaos with Max… walls that were crumbling under some new and painful realizations. Maria had been right. There had been no closure, no conclusions... no forgiveness. Just her, hiding from the reality that had been her life. Pretending that it hadn’t mattered. Pretending that she was over it.
A noise caught her attention and she looked up, realizing that it was the door closing behind Michael. He’d left her to contemplate her own thoughts, knowing she needed to be alone. Sniffing at her tears, Liz wiped a hand over her nose, wondering when Michael had grown from a rough, angry, self-absorbed teenager to the rough, insightful, and yes she had to admit it... nice guy he was now. And why hadn’t she noticed? Had she been so caught up in safe guarding her new life and heart that she couldn’t see what was right in front of her?
The answer was yes, of course.
Still wiping at her tears, Liz looked around her room for a tissue, spying the box on her desk. Getting up to get one, her eyes strayed to the window ... and to the balcony beyond it.
She stared at the shadowed glass of the window. She had been actively avoiding going out onto the balcony since she’d been home. Not once had she ventured out there to look at the night sky or to see if her Mother had changed anything.
Now, it seemed to be pulling at her. Stepping slowly around her desk, Liz lifted the window sash and stepped out onto the concrete.
Immediately she was awash with sensations from the past. Not flashes, not actual auras, just her own inner feelings and she had to close her eyes against them.
This is what she had been avoiding. This is what she knew would happen if she stood in the place that held so many memories of her past.
Finally getting a grip on herself, Liz opened her eyes and looked around. The candles were still there. Some of them rotting and all of them dust covered, but she managed to find a few that she could light. The lawn chairs were folded against the house, and she took one and set it up in her old spot. Her eyes strayed around, finally coming to rest on one particular section of the wall where a brick was slightly off. With a small lump in her throat, she got up from her chair.
With slow, almost painful steps, she made her way over to the wall. Standing there for a moment in indecision, she reached for it. The old brick resisted, but she finally managed to pry it loose. Reaching inside, she felt the familiar weight of the leather bound book in her hand.
Settling on the lawn chair again, Liz removed her shoes, curling her feet under her and stared down at the book in her hands. She smoothed a hand over the leather, as though absorbing the feelings and thoughts within into her skin. She didn’t need to open it. She remembered every word, every line, every nuance of feeling that she had poured into its pristine pages during those moments of joy and sorrow.
This was her life. The life she had left behind in her pursuit of normal. She suddenly heard an innocent sixteen-year-old Max’s voice in her head.
“What’s so great about normal?”
The damn broke. Pressure that had been building up for the last few moments suddenly pushed forward, breaking down a portion of the wall she’d built around her heart. Laying her forehead against the cool leather binding of her journal, Liz cried.
She cried for herself. She cried for Max. She cried for the loss of their innocence and she cried especially for the things that had changed them both so drastically. The things that made her abandon her family and friends and had turned Max into someone she didn’t recognize.
As the tears flowed, she remembered the tumultuous events that had taken place on this balcony… unbelievable highs, and horrendous lows, but all of them equally significant.
That first kiss... .
Taking a step back... .
Sweet, drunken Max showing her the heart he had drawn on the wall with his powers... .
The last painful confrontation after Tess left the planet...
And of course, the pièces de résistance, Future Max dropping into her life like a bomb, leaving devastation in his wake.
Liz lifted her head, her face wet with her torrent of tears. She could still hear the music in her ears and feel the touch of his hands, familiar and yet different, holding her close before leaving her to face the consequences of her actions.
That was when it all began… the demise of her and Max’s relationship. She had been resisting Max up until that point, but as Future Max had pointed out, she was only hours away from giving in before he showed up to change that.
How she hated him for that. Yes hated. How could he have come back in time to tell her that she and the love of her life were about the consummate their relationship... a relationship that would last until the very end of the world... and then tell her that she had to give that up.
Michael’s choice of words came to her. Lame didn’t begin to cover it. And now Liz knew with a feeling of certainty that her future self must have had a hand in the plan as well. That made it doubly hard to bear.
Wrapping her arms around her knees, she laid her head there. She could still hear Max’s angry voice on that last night when he’d told her that he wasn’t Future Max. That he would have given up everything for them to be together. How right he was. He wasn’t that man. That man had been shaped by the things that had happened to him, just as she had been afterward. She couldn’t imagine the horrors he went through, watching his friends and family die around him... knowing that his being on earth was the cause.
Just like she couldn’t imagine what had happened to her Max in the last six years to cause the change in him. Because she hadn’t asked him.
Liz swallowed back more tears as she realized just how selfish and childish that really was. Once again, she had been so intent on maintaining her self-delusions that she had refrained from seeing what was right in front of her. And she had hurt the people she cared about the most... including Max. Despite the lack of emotion, somewhere inside, he must feel hurt by the fact that she hadn’t even acknowledged the past six years of his life. Hadn’t asked about his son... hadn’t asked about Tess...
Tess. The thought of her still made her chest ache with impotent anger. She wondered again what had happened to her. Had Max found her and his son? Had he made her pay for what she did to Alex? She remembered wondering before if he had married her. It was ridiculous to think that he would have after everything she’d done. Liz acknowledged that the thought had been a vindictive one, born out of anger and hurt.
“You’ll have to settle for alive.”
God, had he really said that Isabel and meant it? Liz buried her head in her arms for a moment, deluged by the impact of those words and ashamed that she had pushed them away to the back of her mind like she had everything else.
Sitting up straight and looking down at the journal in her hands, she was suddenly possessed with a burning need to know ... everything. Everything she’d been afraid to ask about Max’s life, especially what had happened to change him so. And to tell him the things that had been left unsaid for so long between them. It blossomed fully into her heart and she was surprised to find that the need didn’t make her want to run for the hills.
Tomorrow. Tomorrow she would do it. Tomorrow, she would confront Max...
The vibrating in her pocket interrupted her thoughts.
Richard’s voice sounded in her ear.
“Hi.” Liz grabbed one of the tissues to wipe at her nose and eyes.
“You sound funny. Are you all right?”
“I’m fine. It’s been an... interesting day.”
Liz told him about the little girl on the street.
“You said that they checked and she’s going to be okay?”
“I think so. I’m going to ask Max tomorrow.”
“He and Isabel went to the hospital to check on her, but... I didn’t know that until after he left... ”
Liz’s heart seized suddenly, remembering that right this minute, Max could be fighting twenty skins on his own. Despite Michael’s assurance, the thought made her sick to her stomach. She suddenly prayed fervently that he would be around tomorrow for her to say all of the things she needed to say.
“Sorry. What did you say?”
“I said, I hope she’s okay. You sound... this really upset you, didn’t it?”
“It brought back memories of the crash with Sarah... ”
“Oh Honey. I’m sorry. I forgot. Are you going to be okay?”
“Yes... I just... I had a bad reaction and I... said some things I shouldn’t have.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing... I apologized for them.” Liz realized that she wasn’t really thinking about what she was saying, her mind still occupied with Max and his safety.
“Are you sure you’re okay now? You seem distracted.”
Richard sounded concerned still, but she detected a note of irritation and she immediately felt bad for not paying attention.
“I’m fine really. I’m sorry. It’s just been a long day.”
“It’s okay,” Richard said and she knew that he meant it.
“How’s the conference?” she asked in an effort to steer the conversation towards more easily discussed topics.
“Boring. I never realized how truly dull my colleagues can be sometimes. Have they always been this dull?”
“Oh Lord, I asked for it didn’t I?”
“You’re not boring,” Liz hastened to assure him.
“Oh thanks. I feel better. Has brutal honesty always been your policy or just with me?”
Brutal honesty. Shit. Liz knew at that moment that this was one of the reasons she had tried so hard not to get involved in the alien’s lives again. She couldn’t tell Richard about Max or the skins or any of the things she’d found out tonight, or any of the things she might find out tomorrow. Lies and omissions were about to become part of her routine again. Was it worth it?
“Hey, the silence is not exactly stroking my ego here.”
“Your ego doesn’t need stroking,” Liz came back automatically.
“Ah now there’s the Liz I know and love. I thought for a moment she’d been replaced by some clone who no longer cared enough to keep me in my place.”
“Not going to happen,” Liz assured him.
“Sure you’re not just saying that?”
“Of course not.” Liz detected the note of genuine uncertainty and quickly moved to dispel it.
“Well good. I thought maybe being with the old gang and meeting up with ... you know... former important people in your life... might have changed your mind about things.”
It had, but not the way he meant. Liz suddenly saw herself staring into the whirling vortex of the Alien Abyss, her feet balanced precariously on the lip. The question was, should she jump or step back into the safety of ignorance? It was a question she could no longer ignore.
“I haven’t changed my mind,” she answered Richard’s statement, realizing that he was still waiting for her to comment. “Keeping you in your place is way too much fun.”
“That’s what I like to hear. Hey I was thinking maybe... ”
His statement was abruptly cut off with a muffled curse when they both heard a knock on his hotel door. A moment later, he came back to the phone.
“Hey, I’m going to have to let you go. One of my very boring colleagues is here. We’re supposed to all go out for drinks.”
“Okay,” Liz said, almost relieved. “Have fun.”
“I will. You too. I’ll... .see you soon, I hope.”
Clicking off the phone, Liz put it down and wrapped her arms back around her knees, her mind immediately going back to where it had been before her phone call. But now, her thoughts of confrontation with Max were tempered with a little more reality.
Michael had been right. Her safe little world had been blown to hell tonight, but she still had the ability to pick up the pieces and go on without letting it stay shattered. The question was...
“Is that what I really want?”
Liz lay back on her lawn chair, the leather journal still clutched to her chest as she contemplated the question well into the night...
Posted: Sat Jun 24, 2006 3:28 pm
I'm sorry, you guys. Real life has interfered and this part was kind of tough. The good news is, it's another long one. I think they're all going to be that way. I can't seem to keep them short!
Oh and I wanted to answer a couple of questions. Zan's accelerated growth did stop at 18 years old and no, not all the children on Antar are subjected to it. It's the choice of the parents. In Zan's case, Kivar wanted him to grow as fast as possible.
Xmag- Max was as powerful in his last life, but he was taken by surprise by Kivar. I you go back and read part 7 on the first page, I gave an explanation about it during the flashback part.
Thanks to all of you who took time to write. You're all amazing.
Burning to Feel Part 9
They were all panting when they reached the relative safety of the throne room. He, Zan, Marelisa, and Tess all stopped to breathe for a moment as the door shut behind them, while Lothar immediately started communicating with the others to find out their positions and how many were left.
This was Kivar’s last ditch effort. He was losing the war and he knew it. The rebels had found what he was planning after the last mission when they had captured several of his men. His last plan was to get back to the palace to destroy the Granilith. If he couldn’t rule Antar, then he was going to destroy their holiest of icons and take as many of Max’s men with him as he could.
The fighting had gone on for hours. The three royals had used their considerable gifts to take out what seemed like hundreds, but they kept coming. Casualties were high, but the tide was finally turning in their favor during this most crucial battle. Now, they were taking a much needed breather from the fighting while Lothar sought to find out if their target had been seen or captured.
Zan pulled his water bottle from his belt and took a long drink while wiping sweat from his brow. He offered the bottle to Marelisa, but she had her own. He looked over and saw his father doing the same, and his mother as well. But unlike the rest of them, Tess had wandered over to stand next to the chairs set up in the middle of the room.
“You okay?” Zan asked Marelisa, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and hugging her close.
“Yeah. Just tired. You?”
“Same,” Zan answered. He glanced at his father who was now sitting against the wall, his eyes closed as he rested. Zan noticed with concern that his skin looked a little pale and the shadows under his eyes were more pronounced. They had all been working non-stop lately, but none more than Max. And with the end in sight, they had fought with everything they had. Of course, the king took the brunt of it, his powers more forceful than the others, and now it appeared to be catching up with him.
“I’m okay,” he said, opening his eyes to look up at his son. “I was really proud of you today. Both of you.”
Zan grinned at the girl next to him. Marelisa had learned at her father’s side and Mendolan had taught her well. She fought as well as any soldier. Zan was exceedingly proud of her, himself, and was doubly glad that his parents and the people they ruled did not have a problem with the fact that the girl he had chosen as his mate was not high ranking royalty. He looked over at his father, his smile fading back to concern. He realized then that Max had tried to distract him with his words.
“I’m fine, Zan. Just tired, like everyone. I’ll be glad when this is over and I can sleep for a week or two,” he said with a tired grimace.
“I’m pretty sure Syndal will have something to say about that,” Zan answered with a smirk, no longer too worried. “She made me promise to bring you back in one piece.”
The man leaning against the wall only smiled and shook his head tiredly at his son’s ribbing. Zan rarely lost an opportunity to give him a hard time about finally giving in to Lothar’s quest to get him “down time”. He and Syndal had been sleeping together for about three months, and then only occasionally, but it had helped to ease the loneliness a little. At least during those moments when she was there. At other times, it seemed more acute, if only because, despite his affection for Syndal, he did not feel connected to her emotionally.
Still smiling, Zan glanced up to where his mother was standing across the room. She stood with her back to them, apparently gazing at the large, decorative chairs that Kivar had used as his throne. Zan pushed himself up from his place on the floor concerned.
“Mom?” he said, getting ready to see what was the matter, but he suddenly felt a hand on his arm, and turned to see his father holding him back.
“Don’t,” he said. “She’s okay. She just....needs a few minutes.” This room held some not so pleasant memories for him as well, having been subjected to more than one humiliating experience as Kivar had paraded him in front of his associates and advisors, half dead and barely coherent as they jeered at him. He knew without having to ask, what Tess was going through.
Zan didn’t question how his father knew what was wrong with his mother, but he continued to gaze at her in concern. Suddenly, Tess let out a scream of rage and threw her hands up. The large chair where Kivar used to conduct his affairs of state suddenly disintegrated in a cloud of ash. She collapsed onto the floor crying.
“Mom!” Zan shouted and started across the room to her, but before he could get more than a step, the wall farthest away from them seemed to explode. Several of Kivar’s men rushed into the room.
Blasts and panic filled the room as chaos erupted. Zan was flung to the floor before he could even think about raising his shield and he struggled for a moment to breathe as something solid fell upon him. After a moment, he realized it was Lothar. Struggling against the man’s heavy weight, he couldn’t see what else was happening.
“Lothar!” Lothar! Get up! I can’t breathe, damn it.”
There was no answer from the large man and Zan was suddenly filled with panic. He struggled harder, using his waning powers to move the man’s heavy bulk, but a moment later, the weight was suddenly lifted from him and his father was reaching down a hand to help him to his feet.
“Thanks,” he panted, looking around when he realized how quiet things were.
Then he saw Marelisa.
“Mare!” He rushed over to where she was lying propped against the wall, a ragged looking hole in her side.
“It looks worse than it is,” Marelisa said, but the look on her face said she was lying.
“Shut up,” Zan said hoarsely, reaching out to put his hands over the wound.
“Wait, Zan. Look.”
Zan turned impatiently to where she pointed shakily, seeing his father on the ground, Lothar’s large head cradled in his lap as he spoke into a communicator obviously calling for help.
“Go,” Marelisa said, pushing Zan’s hand away.
Zan ran across the room and dropped down beside the fallen man. He swallowed painfully at the sight of the charred wound in his middle. Lothar’s eyes were closed and he was breathing raggedly, each breath a struggle.
Zan looked into his father’s saddened eyes, wondering what he waiting for. Why didn’t he heal the man?
“Leave....him alone, runt.” Lothar’s deep voice was a whisper. “The Boss knows... what he’s doing.”
“I can’t heal him,” his father said, his voice thick. “I’ll use all my energy and I need it to find your mother.”
Zan suddenly realized that he hadn’t seen or heard his mother in the last few moments. He looked around frantically.
“They took her, Zan. Lothar jumped in front of you at the same time they grabbed her. Before I could stop them, I saw Marelisa about to be hit and I moved her with my powers, but it wasn’t enough. I’m sorry.”
Whether he was saying he was sorry he hadn’t managed to keep Marelisa from getting hurt or sorry he let his mother be taken, Zan didn’t know. He looked back to where his girlfriend and lover....his future queen.... lay wounded against the wall, feeling the hopelessness of the situation. He didn’t have enough energy himself to heal them both, and Lothar’s wound was too severe to move him, nor did he think they had time for others to come. His life was fading fast.
His father didn’t say anything, waiting for him to make the decision on his own. It was a horrible choice, but unfortunately, a king’s life was full of hard choices and he knew that Zan needed to learn this lesson if he was ever going to rule Antar. He watched with sadness and not a little bit of pride as his son’s body language told him that he had made the only decision he could.
“Lothar...,” Zan said, laying a hand on the man’s shoulder.
“Not sorry,” Lothar wheezed, opening his glazed eyes to gaze at the two grieving men. “You must....save the....queen.”
Zan swallowed back the lump in his throat as his father reached out a hand to Lothar’s temple.
“Rest, my friend.”
“My.....King.....” He struggled to raise a hand to place over his heart.
The gentle giant took one last shallow breath and then was still. His father took his hand away, and Zan knew that he had ended his suffering for him.
Wiping a hand over his face, he stood up, feeling the rage and grief of having to end his friend’s life deep in his soul, but knowing he didn’t have time to dwell on it right then. . He looked at his son. “Take Marelisa. Find Mendelan. Be careful.”
“Wait!” Zan got unsteadily to his feet as his father started away. “Do you know where he took Mom?”
“Yes,” he replied. Tess had been communicating her whereabouts to him for the last few moments.
“It’s a trap,” Zan said, suddenly realizing.
“It is,” his father confirmed, already aware that Kivar wanted him to come after Tess.
He stopped, turning back to see his son gazing at him worriedly. He could see and suddenly feel his son’s emotions reflected in his expressive face.
“I won’t let anything happen to your mother.”
Zan felt ashamed that the thought had crossed his mind even for a split second. He knew that his father would do his best to save his mother. He knew it. It had just been for that one unguarded moment that doubt had gotten hold of him.
“Take care of Marelisa.....and yourself. Don’t stop to heal her now. They know we’re here. They might be sending more people.”
“Be careful.” The words were inadequate, but Zan knew his father was aware that his worry wasn’t just for his mother.
His father nodded. “Be safe.”
As the door closed behind him, Zan ran to where Marelisa was still lying.
“He’ll find her and bring her back, Zan. He’s the king.”
“I know. Just....be quiet and rest. I’ll take care of you.”
Marelisa’s hand crept up to his cheek, bringing his eyes to hers. He was suddenly inundated with her love...and her confidence in him, shining from the violet glow of her eyes. He leaned forward to kiss her lips gently before lifting her.
“We have to get out of here......”
He found them in the king’s bedchamber. Taking out the guards was simple enough and it occurred to him that Kivar had sacrificed his men, knowing that he would dispose of them easily, probably wanting him to use more precious power. He had thought about trying to mind warp, but knew he couldn’t sustain if for long...not with his energy so low...not against Kivar. He also knew that Tess was just as exhausted having used her last bit of energy in her sudden outburst in the throne room.
In the end, he just entered cautiously through the door, not seeing anyone at first. But then he heard the hated voice.
“Ah, the king arrives. Late to party as usual. Enter slowly.”
He stepped into the main bedroom from the antechamber, immediately taking in the details. Tess sat strapped to a chair, her clothes partially ripped, blood trickling from the corner of her bruised mouth. Kivar stood behind her, one of the hated metal rods pointed at her temple. He could feel her exhaustion and fear, but her face was composed.
“Don’t worry, she’s as pure as she was when she was brought here,” Kivar smirked sneeringly, seeing the concern in the other man’s eyes as he took in Tess’s disheveled appearance. “Not that I didn’t sample a little bit.” Kivar ran the rod slowly between Tess’s exposed breasts. “After all, she was mine at one time.”
She didn’t flinch. Tess just stared at him, her face blank and he knew she was not going to give Kivar the satisfaction of seeing her react to his crudity as he continued to rub the rod over her breasts and thighs.
“Of course, having sampled yourself, you know how hard she is to resist, don’t you?” Kivar suddenly stopped his playing and put the rod back to her temple. “But this is pointless isn’t it? You have no feelings for her do you? She was just someone you used to forget your little human girl wasn’t she? The fact that she got pregnant was an unfortunate mistake that you would have undone if you could have.” Kivar looked down at Tess, smiling cruelly. “Face it, my dear. You’re a great ride, but not much use for anything else.”
The blankness on her face hadn’t changed, but tears had gathered in Tess’s eyes, and he knew that despite her resolve, Kivar’s words had gotten to her. He tried to reassure her through their connection, as he studied the older man in silence. Despite his show of bravado, it was obvious that Kivar was on his last leg. His face was thin and pallid, his clothes dirty and torn. His eyes were glazed with madness. That alone concerned Max the most. Unpredictability in the enemy was never a good thing.
“What do you want?” He said finally, standing tall, but relaxed in front of his enemy. Now was not the time for anger or weakness. He knew that his only chance was to show this man that he would not be intimidated, no matter what.
“I see you really have become Zan, haven’t you?” Kivar’s voice was sarcastic, but there was an underlying hint of panic that disturbed the younger man.
“If you know that, then you know you can’t win old man. The Granilith is safe and you are out of men and time.”
“Win. You’re right, I can’t win,” Kivar answered him, “but I can make yours a shallow victory. What would your precious son say if I kill his mother? Would you be able to convince him that you didn’t let it happen on purpose?”
“I’m not going to let you kill her.”
Kivar’s face suddenly changed from one of cunning to pity. “You always were too compassionate for your own good. Always worried more about other people than you were about yourself. It was your downfall then and it will be your downfall now.” The look of cunning came back.
“I’ll make you a deal. Your life for hers. I’ll let her go if you promise to stay here after she leaves.”
“Done,” he said. “Let her go.”
“No....Max....” Tess protested, but she knew it was useless. Max may not love her the way she wanted him to, but he wouldn’t let her die to save himself. That just wasn’t the kind of person he was.
“Ah chivalrous to the end. And predictable. I do love that about you.” Kivar moved the metal rod away from Tess’s temple and waved a hand over the cords that bound her wrists. He stepped back to let her up and Tess didn’t hesitate, pushing herself up off the chair.
He saw her intentions in her face right before she turned around and threw out her hand to blast Kivar. But Kivar was ready for her. He deflected the blast and pointed the rod at her chest.
“Tess!” His shield partially deflected the blow emitted from the rod but it still hit her left side, knocking her off her feet.
He saw the rod point his way, and with tremendous mental effort, he pushed past Kivar’s defenses to block him from using it. The two Antarian’s were suddenly locked in a battle of wills, each using their mental gifts to try and thwart the other. It was an equal battle only because of Max’s weakened condition. Using his shield while blocking Kivar was taking a quick toll on his remaining strength. Sweat beaded on his brow and he trembled with the effort. He barely registered the fact that Kivar was in the same condition, the effort of blocking Max’s power making his body quake and his head pound.
Suddenly, there was a hand in his and looked down to find Tess gazing up at him. He felt the surge in his power right before he dropped his shield and threw a rolling ball of power directly at Kivar’s heaving chest. The older man didn’t even have a chance to cry out as his insides were fried instantaneously. He simply dropped to the floor, staring sightlessly at the ceiling.
He dropped to his knees next to Tess, as much in exhaustion as in concern.
“Tess.....” He looked at the damage to her side, seeing the severity and hearing it in her labored breathing. Helping him kill Kivar had sapped what little strength she’d had left.
“Don’t.....don’t...worry....Max. Zan....will know....that you did what....you could.”
“Don’t talk anymore. You’re going to be fine.” He pulled her tattered clothes aside and put his hand on her hot, blackened skin.
“Don’t....Max. Don’t waste....what little you have left.....
“Open your eyes. Look at me....damn it Tess! Look at me....”
Her only response was a shallow expiration of breath before her chest stopped moving altogether......
“Maria, if you say you’re sorry one more time, so help me, I’ll do something drastic.” Liz picked up a pillow and smacked her friend in arm.
“Okay, okay no violence,” Maria held up her hands in defense. “I just feel really bad now. I was being selfish and Michael tried to tell me and I wouldn’t listen .....”
“I understand. And I’m not sorry, okay?”
“You’re not? You’re sure?” Maria asked, not sure she believed her long time friend was being honest with her or with herself for that matter.
“Yes. I did a lot of thinking last night after Michael left and I decided that you were right. At least partially. I have let what happened keep me from my family and friends and.....I need to put it to rest. I need....closure....with Max.”
“Wow, what did Michael say to you?”
Liz looked at her curiously. “Didn’t he tell you what we talked about?”
“Not really. He only said you talked about the past some. Oh and he said ‘I told you so’ about five hundred times.” Maria rolled her eyes and Liz had to smile.
“He just...pointed out a few things that I’ve obviously been lying to myself about.” Liz grimaced. “He doesn’t exactly pull any punches, does he?”
“But he’s also turned into a really great guy, Maria. I’m sorry I never let myself get to know that in all of these years.” Liz looked tearfully at her friend. “You put up with all of my...issues and never said a word. I’m really sorry.”
The two young women were suddenly in each other’s arms crying, feeling closer than they had in years. Then they were laughing at their histrionics, handing each other tissues.
“So....does this mean that you’re going to start coming home more often? Be part of the group again?” Maria crossed her legs on the bed as they faced each other.
“I’m definitely going to be coming home more often. As for being part of the group.....I....still have some decisions to make. There’s Richard, for one thing.”
“The Love Professor,” Maria teased, laughing at Liz’s expression.
Liz ignored her comment. “I mean, if I decide to do this....I’m going to have to lie to him....or tell him the truth. I’m not sure that’s an option, and honestly, I have no idea how he would react.”
“Okay, what else?”
Liz took a deep breath. “I need to talk to Max. I need....to tell him some things....ask him some things......”
Maria’s expression grew serious. “Liz....I know this has been difficult...seeing how he is without knowing.....but listen to me a minute.” She took Liz’s hands in her own. “This thing......it’s hard to live with. I’m not just talking about the times when Max is with us and we see the way he is....or worrying about him going off to fight skins. I’m talking about what happened to him. It’s really.....difficult and knowing Max like I do, he may not tell you. In fact, he probably won’t. He....told us before you came that he didn’t want us saying anything.....”
“It was really terrible, wasn’t it?” Liz whispered, seeing the answer in Maria’s face.
“Yes.” Maria sniffed as more tears suddenly leaked from her eyes. “I think the worst part is...not being able to do anything about it. Watching him....year after year.....he breaks my heart.”
“Can’t anything be done....I mean to....help him......” Liz didn’t even know what she was asking since she had no idea what was wrong, but she couldn’t help it.
“Not that we know of.”
Liz swallowed at the lump in her throat, feeling sick at heart. “I’m...not sure exactly what I’m going to say to him yet, Maria. And....I may not ask. If what you’re saying is true, then....he doesn’t want me to know.”
“Do what you think is best, Sweetie. If you decide to ask, all he can do is not answer.”
Liz nodded, not really feeling any better.
Maria suddenly reached out to hug her again. “God, I’m glad you’re here. I’ve missed my best friend so much.”
“Me too...” Liz answered, hugging her back just as hard.
“God, can you believe this mess?” Maria shook her head as she plied the mop to the CrashDown floor.
Not long after she and Liz gotten done talking, Jeff Parker had come up to tell them that disaster had struck in the CrashDown. A water pipe had burst and the restaurant, kitchen and part of the storage area were completely flooded.
Liz just nodded at Maria’s comment, working her own mop. She and Maria were in the dining room, trying to clean up the floor while Michael, Max and Kyle were with her father, trying to salvage what they could from the storage room. Her mother had been on the phone all morning with the insurance company and the plumber.
Liz stopped for a moment to wipe her face, and take a drink. Even with the air conditioning on, it was hot with the door wide open to push the water out and let the place dry out. Dressed in a tank top and shorts, she was still sweating. She and Maria had spent part of the day moving tables and chairs out of the way before they started on the floor.
Jeff Parker suddenly came through the kitchen door looking harried.
“What a mess!” He sat down at the counter for a moment to catch his breath while Liz got him a drink. He looked over at Maria. “Those boys are a Godsend. I don’t know what I would have done if they hadn’t come down here and helped me move all that stuff. Your family eats here for free for the rest of your lives.”
“You hardly charge us as it is, Mr. Parker,” Maria pointed out, smiling.
“Well, I’ll think of something else then,” he said, gratefully downing the drink Liz had put in front of him. “You girls stop working, okay. I told the boys too. You shouldn’t have to do this with the wedding less than a week away. You especially, Maria.”
“Dad, calm down okay? It’s under control.” Liz looked over at Maria for confirmation and the other girl nodded in agreement. “Isabel’s taking care of the last minute details and we’re all set. We wouldn’t leave you and Mom to do this by yourselves.”
Before he could comment, Kyle, Max and Michael all came through the kitchen door looking sweaty and tired. At least Michael and Kyle did. Max looked as unruffled as ever, although Liz could see the sweat stains on his t-shirt. She went and got all of them a drink as they sat down at a booth.
After giving Michael and Kyle theirs, she turned to Max, putting a glass of soda in front of him.
“I hope you still like Cherry Coke,” she said with a small, hesitant smile before sitting down opposite him next to Maria.
To her surprise, Max met her eyes before nodding and picking up the glass to drink.
It was a small, silly exchange of politeness, but Liz almost felt as though it was eight years ago and she was a teenager again, thrilled that she had reason to exchange even a few words with her secret crush.
When she’d first seen him this morning, it was all she could do not to rush up and examine him to make sure he was alright. But Max had appeared completely normal, at least normal for nowadays and not at all as though he’d spent the night fighting evil aliens. Maria had told her earlier during their talk that he had come back to the Evans late last evening, a little tired but otherwise unharmed. He had only made an appearance to appease his parents and sister before going back to his hotel. He hadn’t talked at all about what had transpired.
“I’m starving,” Michael said a moment later.
“Me too,” Kyle agreed. “Let’s order pizza.”
Everyone agreed that sounded good. Kyle and Michael got up from the booth to see about ordering and after a moment, Maria got up as well after Liz gave her a look.
If Max thought it was odd that they were left alone at the table, he didn’t comment. He didn’t do anything actually. He just sat, drinking his soda.
Liz was having trouble finding a place to start. How did one go about having a “closure talk” with the former love of one’s life?
“Um.....I was hoping we could talk for a minute, Max.”
There. That was a start. Liz looked at him, hoping for something, some encouragement, but she was still met with that blank look.
““I was thinking about some things last night..... and ... I decided that I....needed to talk to you about....you know...... how we left things.....”
“You don’t owe me anything, Liz. Least of all, explanations.”
Well this was going swimmingly, Liz thought. But his words stymied her nervousness some. She looked at him seriously.
“I’m not doing it because I feel like I owe you something, Max.” Liz sighed and rolled her eyes a bit. “Okay, maybe I do feel that way some, but that isn’t the only reason. I need to say this.”
He gazed at her for a second, then said, “Go ahead.”
“Okay. I.... wanted to say that.... I’ve had time since I’ve been here… to think. Actually, you would have thought that I had done my thinking before this, but.....” Liz realized that she was getting off track and she took a deep breath to get a grip. “What I really need to tell you..... and I don’t know if it matters to you anymore or not.... but I wanted to say that..... I forgive you, Max.”
She stopped talking and peered at him through her lashes to see if her words had any affect on him. His expression hadn’t changed, but she got the impression that he was listening intently. It helped her to continue.
“I realized that I never allowed myself to... let go of my anger and..... hurt at what happened between us and.... that I blamed you for a lot of it. I didn’t realize exactly how much.... until… recently. And I also know that it was unfair of me.”
“You had a right to be angry at me for what happened,” Max said, surprising her with his comment.
“I... yes.... but.... that night... the night Tess left.... you were right about what you said too. I.... did a lot to hurt you too and..... I ... should have tried.... before you left to tell you that.... I was sorry. But instead.... I let you go.”
“I know.” Liz dropped her gaze, feeling guiltier than ever. Of course he understood. He had always understood, even when he was angry and hurt by it, because in his mind, he was the one who had needed... who had wanted what they had so much, while she had been the one who was giving up normal for him.
“My point, I guess, is that I’m sorry that I didn’t let you know.... that I really don’t blame you anymore. That I know that you would have done anything to have prevented what happened to Alex..... and to us.”
There was silence for a few moments after her words. Now came the really hard part.
“I.... also wanted to ask you.... to forgive me too.”
“Liz...it doesn’t matter.....
“Don’t say that, Max. You know as well as I do that I did some very deliberate things that hurt you badly. At the time, I thought I was doing what was right, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that it hurt you. I also did and said some things out of.... fear and... and....God, just all of the crap that was going on and I...... want you to know that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I left you at the pod chamber that day... and I’m sorry that I ran to Florida instead of facing you like I should have and.... I’m sorry that I blamed you for hurting me with what happened with Tess, when you had no idea what was really going on with me or Kyle or any of it and......”
Her voice caught on a hitch as his words stopped her tirade. Liz looked up at him across the booth and for the first time since she’d been back, she caught a glimpse of the real Max. Her Max. It only lasted for a second, but he was there... looking back at her... making her throat ache with some unnamed emotion.
“I forgive you.”
She could only gaze at him with unshed tears in her eyes.
“I forgave you a long time ago. We were young..... The things that happened.... neither one of us was prepared for them. We both.... did things that we regret.... but.... it’s in the past.”
Despite her attempt to hold back the tears, some of them leaked from her eyes. Liz reached over and grabbed a napkin out of the holder, holding against her face to prevent a sob from forming.
Max’s soft voice only made her want to cry harder because, again, he sounded almost exactly how she remembered him. Instead, she attempted to get herself under control.
“I’m sorry. I just.... it’s been so long and I.... let this get so out of hand. I shouldn’t have waited so long to come back. I should have.... been with my family.... instead I ran away.” Liz looked at him across the table, regret darkening her eyes even more. “I never thought of myself as someone who runs from her problems, but that’s what I’ve been doing. It’s what I’ve done in the past. It seems that I lied to myself about that too.”
“Everyone handles problems in different ways.”
His stoic words brought her up short. Liz was struck by the change in his voice, so different from the compassion of a moment ago. He was back to being the Max she had come to expect these last few weeks, and she got the impression that he was not just talking about her anymore. It made her realize that she wasn’t finished with everything that she had wanted to say to him.
“Max..... Did you find your son?”
He answered without a glimmer of emotion.
“I’m really glad,” Liz said softly. “Is he...here on earth or....”
“He’s still on Antar. He rules there now with his wife.”
Liz’s eyebrows shot up. “But... he’s only a child.”
Max briefly explained the accelerated growth process on Antar.
“So you abdicated....?”
“Not really. I just... gave over rule to him, but I’m still considered King.”
“And Tess?” In spite of her good intentions, Liz felt anger blossom in her heart at the thought of the blond girl who had caused her such heartache.
Max gazed directly at her for a moment, seeming to understand her real question. “She paid for what she did.”
Liz felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders. A weight that had ruled her life for six long years. It brought more tears to her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. She blinked them back, biting her lip, wondering if she should ask the final question...
“Liz. Max. Come over here and tell us what you want on your pizza.” Michael’s voice rang out across the restaurant, breaking the expectant silence between them. Max got up from the table and Liz followed, stepping beside him as they made their way over.
It was just as well that their conversation was over for now. With Maria’s warning ringing in her ears, Liz wasn’t sure she was ready to know the truth yet. Still, not wanting to leave their conversation on a negative note, especially about Tess, Liz asked him, ““Do you ever talk to him? You son, I mean? Since you’ve been back....”
“He sends emissaries every once in a while.”
Liz remembered what emissaries were. People who thought they were alien abductees.
“Yeah, guess what?” Kyle chortled, hearing their conversation as they approached. “Max here is a grandpa.”
“What?’ Liz exclaimed, startled.
“Yep. Junior and his wife sent an emissary last week saying that they’d had a baby. A little boy. Guess what they named him?”
“Oh my God, really?” Liz smiled at Max, feeling strangely happy for him.
“That’s right. Little Max junior. Sweet, huh Gramps.”
Michael let out a snort and Kyle grinned with delight at ribbing Max.
Liz and Maria burst into giggles. The thought of Max being called “Gramps” at the ripe age of twenty four was just too funny.
Max’s expression hadn’t changed at their teasing, but he suddenly looked over at Kyle piercingly and said in a deadly serious voice, “I could drop you where you stand.”
The giggling stopped and all of them gaped at him for a moment, then Kyle grinned again. Max had just ribbed him back.
“Try it and see what your sister has to say about it,” he managed. Isabel would be ecstatic when he told her. A sign of life from Max was definitely news worthy.
Maria and Michael were just as stunned and elated, Maria reaching out to hug him briefly while Michael just raised an eyebrow at him, smiling a little half smile of his own.
To her and the other’s surprise, Max almost looked abashed at himself.
Twice in one day. Liz couldn’t help her own smile, feeling the same elation that the others did. Twice today, she had seen glimpses of the old Max, and although she had only been around him like this for a little over two weeks, it was enough to make her giddy. The suddenly light mood was contagious.
Without a thought for what she was doing and feeling a compulsion as natural as breathing, Liz started to reach out and hug him as well. “I’m really happy for you and your son, Max.”
But before the gesture was complete, two things happened at once.
For while Max’s eyes snapped to hers, his body tensing, a voice suddenly came from the open doorway of the restaurant, stopping her in her tracks.
Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2006 3:11 am
Best Lead Portrayal of Max Evans
Best Support Portrayal of Isabel Evans
First of all, a huge thank you to all of you who voted for this story. I was very excited about these catagories because I wasn't sure how you were all going to react to Max and I've never really written Isabel much. Thank you so much.
Secondly, just a couple of notes. This is the last part that will include flashbacks to Antar. After this, it is all present time for the story.
Thank you for the birthday wishes. I had a great birthday.
Nunki, it was so sweet of you to register just to post feedback. I'm honored. Thank you.
Timaios, I'm sorry Germany didn't win. I live here too and I was sitting watching the Castle Burning in Heidelberg while the game against Portugal was going on. It was awesome to see everyone celebrating.
Wendy, sorry about the delay. It does look like three weeks is the magic number, but I hope that i make up for it in the length of the parts.
Everyone else, your comments and thoughts mean so much to me. Thank you.
So....hope you all like this. Posted in two parts for length. And just so you know....we're getting down to the nitty gritty.
Burning to Feel Part 10
Zan walked into the bedroom to see his father stuffing clothing into a bag. Not sure if he even needed to do this or if anything would even go through the portal with him for that matter, he wanted to take something, just in case.
“Almost ready?” Zan asked, his normally bright blue eyes dim with melancholy and a touch of worry.
“Yeah,” he answered, securing the bag. Lifting it, he turned to look at his son.
“I take it Syndal didn’t take your goodbye very well,” Zan commented.
He shook his head, still feeling the guilt that had consumed him at Syndal’s broken hearted sobbing. Informing her of his decision to leave Antar had been one of the hardest things he’d had to do. Although he had never given her any indication that he felt more than an exceeding fondness for her, she had made the mistake of falling in love with him. He had tried to let her down gently, but she had still harbored hope that he would one day return her love and want to make her more than just his occasional lover. Now he was leaving the planet and she was devastated.
Trying to comfort her as she’d cried against his chest, he was reminded of his pledge back in Roswell all those years ago to never allow himself to need a woman so much again. He should have stuck by that vow. It appeared that he was forever doomed to disappoint the women who loved him. His parting kiss had been wet with her tears, burning a small hole in his heart for her.
“We’ll take care of her,” Zan said, seeing his father’s guilt. He thought about saying something to the effect that she would get over it in time, but he would be lying. He had the feeling that Syndal would mourn her love for her king her whole life. The man before him seemed to have that effect on people.
The whole planet, was, in fact, feeling very much the same way. In the months since the war had ended, Max had proven himself to be the fair and just king that his people remembered. After the tyranny of Kivar’s long reign, they had rejoiced and embraced his return to power with much love and loyalty. And Zan knew that his father had every intention of staying on Antar to rule....however circumstances changed.
Several weeks ago, it was discovered that Kivar’s people had been working on a secret transport device. It was to be used in his quest to take over other planets, Earth among them. When he realized he would not win the war, Kivar had used it instead to send several hundred of his skins to Earth. Somehow he really believed that he would escape after he had killed Tess or Max or both and make it to Earth where he was planning.....who knows what.
After several long, hard discussions and despite protests from almost every faction, Max made the decision that he would use the transport device himself to return to Earth. His reasoning was simple. Someone had to protect the people there, his family included, from the skins. He was the most logical choice since he had lived on Earth before and Zan was perfectly capable of taking over as ruler of the planet in his absence, his kingly powers having finally come into full strength.
He also pointed out that using a ship to return risked detection from the government, which would in turn, risk exposing Michael and Isabel. When protest came that the device had never been tested on an Antarian other than a skin or on a human or hybrid, he told them that it was risk he was willing to take, however Zan and Tess insisted that at least one test be done. He acquiesced to please them and a volunteer was chosen to use the portal to transport to one of the other nearby planets in the system. The person came back unharmed, saying that there was only a slight disorientation when he arrived and some tingling in his skin that dissipated almost immediately. The king would not hear anymore discussion afterward. His decision had been made.
Zan believed his father wanted to return to Earth to protect the humans and his family from the skins. But he also knew that wasn’t his only reason. Earth was where he was born. He belonged there. Zan didn’t begrudge his feelings. He knew that if the cases were reversed, he would do anything to get back to Antar, including risking an unknown transport.
“Everything’s ready when you are,” Zan said finally, feeling a heavy weight on his chest, and it wasn’t just because he was being handed the rule of an entire planet. He knew he had yet to prove that he could be as good a king as his father, but he had confidence that he would eventually earn the people’s trust and loyalty. He really had it now, they were just more afraid of his youth and inexperience than anything.
No, the heaviness in his heart was mostly because he was going to sorely miss the man who had risked his life....who had come to an unknown planet and been tortured and almost killed just so he could find his missing son. He was going to miss his father so much.
“I’m going to miss you too.” His smile was gentle and a little raw as he saw the tears swimming in his suddenly very young looking son’s blue eyes. The two men embraced for a while, knowing it had to last them for many years....maybe forever. The hope was that they would see each other again when it was safe, and if the transport proved effective. Until then, Zan would send emissaries to earth to communicate with his father and keep up with events.
Eventually they pulled themselves away and left the room.
As they walked, he said, “I know you’ll be fine. Just don’t let Mendolan or the others intimidate you. They may try but you have.....”
“I know....I have help. I’m not worried about them. I just know I have very big shoes to fill.”
He looked down at his son’s feet and said, “Our shoes are the same size.” He smiled then and Zan had to join in, knowing his statement had more than one meaning.
They reached the throne room together where the others were waiting. As they entered, the entire room sank to their knees....everyone except Tess.
She turned when they entered, gazing at her son and his father with an ache in her heart that she was sure would never go away.
When she had woken up after being blasted by Kivar, it was disorienting to say the least. She had been sure that she was going to die during those last moments, the pain in her chest unbearable, and she had tried to reassure Max that Zan wouldn’t hate him. But then she was suddenly awake and breathing. It still hurt, but not nearly as much. Max, on the other hand, was barely alive.
She found out later that Max had used the last of his tremendous power to force a connection with her dying brain despite the fact that she was not breathing, and had healed her injuries enough to ensure that she would live long enough for them to be found. In the process, he had almost died himself, the drain on his powers and his exhausted body almost too much.
Sitting at his bedside when he woke up, it was all she could do not to fling herself on his chest and cry with happiness that he was alive. As it was, he had brushed aside her thanks, obviously disconcerted with her show of gratitude, telling her that he had promised Zan that he would not let anything happen to her. Then, seeing that his words had unintentionally hurt her, he had taken her hand and expressed his thanks for helping him kill their enemy. He’s said that if it weren’t for her, they would be lost.
After everything they had been through together, Tess supposed that it was a miracle that he didn’t hate her and she knew she should be thankful that they were at least, if not friends, then not enemies either. But it had been hard enough living with the fact that Max would never love her, that he had chosen to ease the burden of his loneliness with a stranger rather than with her, and now he was leaving, possibly forever and she knew that he harbored hope that he might somehow reunite with Liz. As hard as she tried, she could not muster the selflessness to wish him happiness in that pursuit. The fact that Liz Parker would forever hold his heart while she had bore his son and helped him save their planet, hurt almost unbearably, no matter how many times she told herself that she had made her own bed.
He said goodbye in turn to Mendolan and Marelisa and several of the others of their advisors. He had already addressed the people previously and now as he made ready to leave, he reminded the ones here that he wished them to treat his son as they would treat him and that he had no regrets.
The three of them, he, Tess and Zan, then made their way out and rode to the compound where the device was waiting. When they arrived, they were informed by the scientists that everything was ready.
Zan put on a brave face as his father turned to him one last time. They reached out naturally to hug one another.
“I love you, Dad,” he said in a choked voice.
“I love you too.” His father stepped back and smiled at him. “Don’t forget what I said. You’re ready for this. It’s what you were meant to do.”
Zan nodded and watched as his father and mother faced each other. Seeing the tension between them, he turned away to give them some privacy, going over to where the scientist awaited the King’s orders.
The two stood in silence for a moment, neither one able to think of what to say.
Tess finally broke the tension. “I’ll watch over him, Max.”
“I know. You always have. The people are lucky to have you as their Queen.”
Just as he was to retain his title as King, Tess would remain Queen. Marelisa would not gain the title until she and Zan got married and then, only after Max stepped down and Tess handed it over. He knew that Tess would help their son find his way.
“Thank you,” Tess said, fighting back the lump in her throat at the compliment. God, she really had grown soft. It was probably better for her that he was leaving now before she made a complete idiot of herself. The thought didn’t make her feel better.
He shoved his hands in his pockets, feeling awkward, not knowing how to say good bye. Finally, he just said, “Take care of yourself.”
“I will.” Tess answered. “Um.....will you tell...everyone that...I’m sorry for...everything? Please?”
He nodded and she sighed a little with relief. After another moment of awkward silence, she reached out hesitantly and wrapped her arms around Max’s neck, hugging him. She felt him tense up for a moment, then relax, and tears came to her eyes as his arms came around her shoulders.
“I wish....I wish things could have been different, Max,” she whispered into his chest.
Gently, he broke the embrace and looked down at her, seeing everything she felt for him reflected in her eyes, everything she felt about his leaving, everything she wanted but would never have with him.
“Don’t waste the rest of your life wishing, Tess. Don’t close yourself off to the possibilities. This isn’t an ending....it’s a new beginning.”
Tess looked at him quizzically, but he just smiled at her. She had no idea what he was talking about, but she would eventually. He wasn’t the only one who had noticed the looks that Mendolan gave her when he thought no one was looking, the way his voice softened when he spoke to her, the way he listened intently when she spoke. He knew that Zan and Marelisa were aware of it too, and he had no doubt that between the two of them, they would find a way to help these two lonely people find each other.
“Bye Tess,” he said.
She watched him walk away from her for the last time, toward where the others waited. He conferred with them for a moment, then nodded and stepped toward the railing. It barred the large open space that housed the portal.
Zan came over and put his arm around his mother. He could feel her trembling and he squeezed her shoulders feeling his own fear. They had no idea how long it would take for Max to reach the Pod Chamber. From there he could contact Michael and Isabel.
He looked back to where his son and Tess were standing watching him and he gave them a small, half smile before nodding to the man standing by the controls. A moment later, a bright light shot up from within the hole. Swirling tendrils of energy could be seen forming a sort of vortex. No heat or cold emanated from the light..
Taking a deep breath and giving his son and Tess one more look of farewell, he gripped the bag on his shoulder, jumped into the light and disappeared from sight.....
Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2006 3:17 am
BTF Part 10 (cont.)
“I like dancing with you.” Richard’s voice sounded softly in Liz’s ear and she lifted her gaze to his face. Their feet moved automatically to the soft strains of the music coming from the jazz quartet in the corner.
“Me too,” she answered, glad for the dim lighting in Michael and Maria’s restaurant. She hoped it kept Richard from seeing that the smile on her face was forced.
She turned her head with the pretense of laying it on his shoulder, but her gaze was really drawn back to where it had surreptitiously been glued for most of the night.
Max sat at their table, surrounded by his mother and father on one side and Liz’s mother and father on the other as well as Michael and Maria. The only ones missing were Kyle and Isabel and Amy and Jim who were all on the dance floor. With the wedding only a couple of days away, Michael and Maria were having a last get together and all of their family and closest friends had been invited.
At the inevitable stoic expression that adorned Max’s face, Liz held back a sigh. Had it really only been a couple of days since they had all laughed at Kyle’s joke about his becoming a grand parent, surprised and happy at his reaction? It seemed much longer.
Not for the first time in those two days, Liz fought the guilt she was feeling. Guilt for almost wishing that Richard had not decided to surprise her by showing up early for the wedding.
Not that she wasn’t glad to see him. She knew that despite his grousing, his summer seminar schedule was important to him. It had touched her that he had canceled some of his dates just to surprise her, although she suspected that it wasn’t his only motive. His passionate greeting at the CrashDown and his almost constant touching gave her some clue as to his feelings. She couldn’t say that she blamed him really. Knowing that she was spending three weeks with a former boyfriend, one whom he knew she had deep feelings for in the past and who was younger and already friends with her family had to have thrown him.
But all of these rationalizations went right out the window when she observed said former boyfriend sitting, for all intents and purposes, alone in a sea of people. If at all possible, the closed expression on Max’s face was even more remote than when she had first seen him. It had been that way ever since the moment Richard had walked into her parent’s restaurant, aborting her impulsive hug and sending her into an emotional tailspin.
Liz’s arms dropped as she turned to gape at the man walking through the open glass doors of the CrashDown. Richard looked around interestedly, grinning at her surprised expression.
“Surprise! I thought I’d get here a little early.” His grin faltered just a little when Liz just stood where she was, looking disconcerted rather than pleased.
Seeing his uncertainty, Liz realized what she was doing. “I’m so glad you did,” she said, walking up to give him a hug. To her surprise, he not only hugged her, but lifted her chin to kiss her as well, lingering a little longer than she was used to from him in public. Clearing her throat and blushing a little, Liz turned back to the others still standing by the counter.
“Um...you know Michael and Maria. This is Kyle,” Liz said, gesturing at the brown haired man and the two shook hands. “And this is....Max.”
The two men gazed at each other for a moment before Richard stuck out his hand and Max shook it. Liz was uncomfortably aware of Richard’s possessive hand on her back during the exchange.
“Nice to meet you,” Richard said, his voice taking on a slightly deeper tone, although Liz didn’t think he was aware of it. She could see him sizing Max up, taking in his dark good looks, the natural strength in his toned arms. If he found Max’s lack of expression odd, he didn’t let on. Max, on the other hand, only nodded briefly, then let go of his hand almost immediately. His face could have been chiseled in stone and Liz felt her heart sink at the return of his former demeanor. Inexplicably, she wished he would look at her so she could somehow communicate her feelings to him, but he would not catch her eye.
Richard looked around. “I love this. It’s just like you described. Did something happen or is this normal?” He looked pointedly at the lack of tables.
“Oh....a water pipe burst and we were just helping to clean up. We were just getting ready to order pizza.”
“Sounds good. I’m starved.” Richard smiled at her affectionately, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. “I missed you.” He squeezed her and Liz felt her face flush again.
“Me too. Um....let’s.....go say hi to my parents.” She ushered him out of the dining room as quickly as she could wondering if she was the only one who felt as though the tension would choke her.....”
When they had finally come back after greeting her parents, Liz was equal parts relieved and disappointed to find Max and Kyle gone. Maria explained that Kyle needed to get going and had offered Max a ride. Liz went back to Richard’s hotel with him, thanking providence that it was not the same hotel that Max was staying in. Once there, Richard had once again surprised her by tumbling her into bed almost immediately. Of course, they hadn’t seen each other in several weeks so maybe it wasn’t so surprising. Still, it wasn’t his usual way. An evening spent at a nice meal and conversation before going to bed was more his style.
The next day was spent touring Roswell. At least, part of the day. There was only so much to do in Roswell. Then they had lunch at the CrashDown. The Evans happened to be there, but luckily, Max was not and Liz was thankful for small blessings. The tension factor was too much for her, especially considering Richard’s blatant behavior over the situation. Later, she went to Maria’s for the final fitting of their wedding clothes. Richard had been planning to come, but after they had gotten back from the CrashDown, where her father had made him one of his special burgers with all the fixings, a plate of Saturn Rings and a big Alien Blast, he had started to feel a little under the weather. He decided to stay at the hotel and lie down for a while.
Abruptly, Liz was pulled back from her thoughts as the song ended and the audience began to applaud. They returned to the table just as the others of their party on the dance floor did. As they sat down, Maria got up, going to the stage to speak into the microphone.
“Everyone, as you probably know, Michael and I are getting married in a couple of days.” She paused to acknowledge the applause at her words. “And I just wanted to say thank you to all of our friends and family who are here to celebrate with us. I also wanted to sing a special song for my fiancé...who won’t be my fiancé for much longer.”
More applause came as Maria pulled the microphone from the stand and got ready to sing. As he heard the music start, Michael grinned at her, knowing she chose this song specifically to remind him of their first volatile years together.
Wise men say only fools rush in
but I can't help falling in love with you
Shall I stay would it be a sin
If I can't help falling in love with you
As Maria sang, Liz smiled at the looks on the parents’ faces. They were always so proud when any of their children showed their talent. Then her gaze was irresistibly drawn once again to the silent figure who was all but invisible in the dim light, thanks to the dark clothing he was wearing.
Like a river flows surely to the sea
Darling so it goes
some things are meant to be
Take my hand, take my whole life too
for I can't help falling in love with you
Max’s face didn’t betray any emotion as he sat giving the appearance of listening to Maria sing, and Liz wondered what he was thinking. Was he enjoying the music? Was he happy for his brother and Maria? He’d said as much, but it didn’t show. Nothing showed and Liz felt frustration build up anew at his closed off expression. She was only going to be here a few more days and she had yet to understand what was going on with him. Suddenly, the thought of leaving without knowing was intolerable.
As if her thoughts somehow communicated themselves to him, Max suddenly turned and looked at her. The empty look in his eyes made her heart hurt, their beautiful hazel dull and lifeless. It was a travesty.
Like a river flows surely to the sea
Darling so it goes
some things are meant to be
Take my hand, take my whole life too
for I can't help falling in love with you
for I can't help falling in love with you
Maria’s song ended and the audience began to applaud. Liz joined in, smiling as Maria bowed and then came over to join their group. She took the enthusiastic praise from the parents gracefully, giving a Liz a saucy wink that had her grinning and rolling her eyes at her best friend. Michael got up to kiss her, then everyone stopped talking expectantly as he asked for their attention. Clearing his throat uncomfortably, he shot Maria a look that said he would make her pay for making him do this.
“Usually I’m not the one who needs the limelight,” he began and everyone laughed. Maria tried to look outraged, but ended up smiling instead at her gruff fiancé.
“But I just wanted to say....thanks....to all of you. Not just for the help with the wedding, but for everything.” He paused for a moment.
“The day that Isabel and Max found me at school when we were kids was the best day of my life.”
Michael looked at the two siblings and Isabel smiled tearfully back at him, reaching over to take Max’s hand in hers. Max didn’t react, but Michael didn’t seem to expect him to.
“That is until the day that Maria Deluca told me that she loved me and wanted to spend the rest of her life with me.”
Maria got up and wrapped her arm around his waist and Michael did the same.
“So...thanks for being here with us while we celebrate.”
Michael ended his speech abruptly and Maria hugged him around the neck as the table clapped for him. She laughed at the color surging into his cheeks and reached up to kiss one of them.
“Good job, Spaceboy. I know that was painful.”
“You have know idea,” Michael answered her, and he sat down heavily in his chair.
A little while later, Liz looked up and smiled at Richard who had excused himself to the men’s room. The music had started up again and he asked her to dance.
After a moment, Richard suddenly chuckled.
“I take it Michael doesn’t like being the center of attention.”
“Not really,” Liz laughed too. She leaned back to look up at him and her smile became a frown of concern as she looked at him. He said he felt better earlier, but she still didn’t think he looked so good.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
“That obvious, huh?” Richard smiled down at her a little ruefully. “It’s better. I told you it was just indigestion. You’re right about my bad habits okay? I have to start eating better.”
“I only do it because I care.”
“I know, and I love you for it. Really.” Richard leaned down to kiss her lightly. “I love you Elizabeth Parker.”
She smiled. He really did. Liz felt a warm glow at the loving look on his face as he gazed down at her.
“I love you too.”
Glancing over to their table, Richard suddenly sighed.
“I wanted to do this a little more publicly, but I realized that it wouldn’t be nice to steal the attention from Michael and Maria so....”
“What?” Liz asked as Richard reached into his pocket and pulled out a small black velvet box. Her breath caught in her throat when he opened it to show her the exquisite diamond ring nestled inside.
“I can do this properly now that I have a ring.” Richard looked down at her, his eyes glowing softly. “Elizabeth Parker, will you marry me?”
Liz could only gaze at the ring in surprise and hesitation. She hadn’t been expecting him to ask her for her answer again so soon, especially while they were here on vacation. She opened her mouth to respond, but before she could, a spasm of pain suddenly crossed Richard’s face.
“It’s okay,” He shook his head at her, laughing a little as he put a hand over his chest. “I seriously should not have eaten that burger today, that’s all. I’m fine.”
He took the ring out of the box and slid it onto her finger. “You didn’t answer my question.”
Liz looked down at the ring then up at his face, but again stopped in concern.
“You’re not fine,” She said, looking worriedly at his perspiring face. Her eyes widened as he put the ring box away and started rubbing his left arm.
“Does your arm hurt?”
“A little,” he answered, but seeing her expression, he stopped rubbing it. “Would you stop? I’m not sick....it’s just indigestion.”
“Come sit down anyway, okay?” Liz took his arm and started to lead him off the dance floor. But before they could make it to the table, Richard suddenly stopped, this time grabbing his arm and wincing. His breath seemed to catch in his throat and he abruptly stumbled and fell to the floor.
The whole restaurant heard Liz’s exclamation. Reaction was immediate and the others at their table jumped up when they saw Richard fall and Liz drop to her knees beside him.
“What happened?” Maria asked Liz as she knelt down beside her friend.
“I think he’s having a heart attack!” Liz had loosened his tie and unbuttoned shirt, leaning over to talk to him.
“Richard, can you hear me?”
He looked up at her, his eyes wide and glazed, his breath coming out shallow and erratic.
Liz looked around abruptly for a phone, but Maria beat her to it. “Someone already called 911. The ambulance should be here soon.”
“Did you hear that? An ambulance is on the way. Hold on.....” Liz took his hand in hers, massaging it. Tears formed in her eyes as she watched Richard struggle for breath.
“Please hold on....”
Oblivious to the crowd, Liz continued to hold Richard’s hand, only giving her a grateful glance when Maria placed a folded up table cloth under his head.
Suddenly, Richard’s face spasmed again and his breath stuttered.
“Oh God, Richard! Richard!” Liz leaned down, putting an ear to his mouth.
“He’s not breathing!” She looked around frantically, unaware of the desperate look on her face,
Max, Michael, Isabel and Kyle had been standing not too far away, watching the drama unfold. Isabel held onto Max’s arm, afraid of what he might do but he made no move to help. She knew she wasn’t the only one who had noticed the diamond ring on Liz’s finger that hadn’t been there earlier in the evening and she watched him observe Liz’s distress with increasing anxiety. That was, until they heard Liz’s cry. Isabel felt her brother’s reaction right before he began to move toward the couple on the floor.
“Max, what are you going to do?”
“I need your help, Isabel.” Max’s voice was as calm and emotionless as ever.
Isabel’s, on the other hand, was almost shrill with her worried protest. “My help with what?” She asked frantically, already knowing the answer. “You can’t do it, Max. You know what will happen.”
“She’s right,” Michael said. “Besides, there are too many people here. We won’t be able to hide it.”
“That’s why I need Isabel’s help. She can warp while I heal him. I would do it myself, but I won’t be able to hold it.....afterward.”
“I can’t mind warp!” Isabel answered him almost angrily, still trying to hold Max back.
Max reached a hand up, brushing his thumb across her cheek softly as he gazed directly into her eyes.
Isabel gasped as the brief connection flared to life. She suddenly knew what she had to do. But it didn’t lessen her concern.
“Max....please don’t do this....”she pleaded.
Looking over to where Liz kneeled in tears as one of the other patrons performed CPR on the man lying on the floor, Max’s eyes focused for a moment on the diamond winking on her finger.
He turned back to his sister. ““I have to. Isabel, please help me.”
Her protests died in her throat. Max hadn’t asked her for anything in all of the long years since he’d been back. How could she deny him now?
Seeing her answer, Max headed over to where Richard lay and knelt down beside him, brushing the man performing CPR away. Liz didn’t have time to wonder why the man didn’t protest as Max took his place.
“Liz,” Isabel said, “I need you to move.”
“Isabel....what....” Liz looked on anxiously as Max leaned over Richard. He suddenly looked up into her eyes and said, “I need Isabel, Liz.”
Liz felt herself pulled to feet while Isabel knelt in her place. She watched in a daze as Max said to Isabel, “Just hold onto my arm and you’ll be able to do it. Make them think I’m giving him CPR.”
Isabel nodded and took a deep breath. She put her hand on Max’s arm and closed her eyes.
Biting her lip, Liz watched Max lean over Richard once again. He didn’t seem to need Richard to open his eyes as he placed his hand over the prone man’s heart. Quickly glancing around, Liz saw people watching anxiously, murmuring to each other, but no one seemed to think anything out of the ordinary was going on.
Looking back down to where Max’s hand had begun to glow, time seemed to slow down, but in reality it was only a minute or two before Liz noticed Max’s body starting to tremble. Suddenly she realized that Richard was breathing, but whereas his breathing seemed slow and steady, Max’s was now coming out erratically, and the hand over Richard’s heart was jerking, his face contorted in a grimace of pain.
Michael came forward and gently pulled back on Max’s shoulders. “That’s enough, Max. You’ve done enough. He’ll live.”
He didn’t stop. Liz was now almost more concerned for Max than Richard as Max’s whole body seemed wracked with pain, but before she could do anything, Michael gave up being gentle and forcefully pulled Max away from Richard bringing Isabel up with him.
“I said that’s enough! The paramedics are here.” Michael took hold of one of Max’s arms, while Isabel still had the other.
Liz started to kneel beside Richard again, looking up to give Max a heartfelt “thank you” but the words died in her throat as she saw his face. She blinked, sure she was hallucinating.
He was smiling, and not just any smile. His eyes were half mast, his lips curved in what Liz could only classify as a drunken grin. He leaned against Michael and Isabel as though he was just this side of completely inebriated. His head lolled on Michael’s shoulder.
“We have to get him out of here, Michael,” Isabel said anxiously.
“I know that,” Michael answered shortly. “Come on.” They started leading Max away.
“Wait.....” Liz wanted to say something to Max for what he’d done, but Maria stopped her with a hand on her arm.
“Later, Liz. They need to get him home.”
“Maria...what’s going on?” Liz’s gaze was torn between watching Michael and Isabel walk an unsteady Max to their table and Richard, who was now being worked on by the paramedics.
But before Maria could say anything, they were both distracted by what was happening by the table. Isabel and Michael were still holding Max, but now instead of the drunken smile, his face was crumpled, tears gathering in his eyes. They spilled over, making their way down his cheeks, small hitching whimpers coming from his throat. Isabel and her mother were near tears themselves, trying to hush and comfort him.
Liz could only stare with her mouth open. A moment later, Michael and Isabel forcefully lead a crying Max out of the door, Kyle and his parents following.
Liz turned her stunned gaze back to Maria but her attention was pulled away from the mysterious goings on of the aliens by the paramedics getting ready to lift Richard onto a stretcher. He was awake and Liz tried to force the last few moments from her mind as she hurried to his side to take his hand.
“Hey,” she said, gazing down into his pale face.
“I knew....I knew...I shouldn’t have eaten that last French fry.” Richard’s voice was a whisper, and his eyes crinkled in a tired smile at the corners.
“I’ll wait to say “I told you so” until you’re up to it,” Liz answered, relieved to hear him joking. She leaned down to kiss his sallow cheek, and Richard squeezed her hand in response.
Stepping back, she watched the paramedics lift him and carry him to the door, feeling shaky and slightly weak with reaction to the night’s events. She was incredibly grateful to feel Maria slide a comforting arm around her shoulders.
A few moments later, Liz was seated in the back seat of her parent’s car on the way to the hospital. Her mother tried to comfort her with well meaning platitudes, but Liz barely heard them, her mind in turmoil now that she no longer had any distractions from her thoughts.
What the hell was going on with Max?
As worried as she was about Richard, that one question kept repeating itself, her mind lingering on the indelible picture of his sobbing face as they’d led him away tonight.
Seated on the couch in her and Michael’s living room, Maria snuggled in her favorite pajamas, her eyes closed tiredly, listening to the rain pound outside against the windows. It had started not long after they had arrived home after their trip to the hospital and then to the Evan’s house.
Michael sat on the other side of the couch, his eyes glued to the TV watching some sports program, but there was a frown on his face and a purse to his lips betraying his irritation.
The ringing of the doorbell broke the silence and Maria stood up, ignoring the knowing look on Michael’s face. She took a deep breath and opened the door, not at all surprised to find a bedraggled Liz standing on her porch, her hair hanging in strings, water streaming down her face.
Without a word, Liz entered the house, her determined gaze zeroing in on Michael who was sitting half expectantly, half defiantly watching her drip on the stone floor.
“I want answers. I want all of them...and I want them right now.”
"Can't help Falling in Love" Words and music by George Weiss- Hugo Peretti - Luigi Creatore
Posted: Mon Jul 24, 2006 3:32 pm
Go Liz! Thank you guys so much for this award. I think Liz did an awesome job and now she knows that you all did too.
Wow, I've been overwhelmed with your responses, you guys. I never dreamed when I started this story that it would be this way and I want you to know that I appreciate all of you very much. Your comments are really inspiring and thoughtful.
Oh and Scottie, you know you crack me up.
Thanks for making me laugh.
I was thinking along those exact same lines, that Max drew some emotions and experiences out of Richard when he connected with him during the healing. Either that or Richard is a DRUNK CRYBABY and Max is just chanelling that!
Ya'll are being really hard on poor Richard. Is it really nice to wish the poor guy had kicked the bucket?
Okay so...on with the show. This is actually the first of a two parter so...um don't throw stuff. I'm back in less than two weeks so that should count for something.
Burning to Feel Part 11a
He caught sight of himself in the bathroom mirror as he exited the shower, rubbing his hair with a towel. The reflection drew his attention and he paused to look at the man staring back at him.
Tufts of dark hair stood wildly on end from the vigorous rubbing of the towel and stubble darkened his cheeks.
He raised a hand to the stubble, running his fingers lightly over it before letting his hand drop back to his side.
The hazel eyes blinked back at him, reflecting his feelings in full measure right before a jagged crack broke diagonally across the mirror, distorting the reflection.
He turned and left the bathroom.
“I want answers. I want all of them...and I want them right now.”
The challenging impact of Liz’s words was ruined somewhat by the shiver that wracked her slim frame as the air conditioned air penetrated her sodden clothing.
Maria looked over at Michael before putting an arm around her shivering friend. “Let’s get you something dry to wear first, okay?”
A little while later, changed into dry clothes, Maria led Liz into the living room and poured her a cup of tea from the pot she’d made. Michael was still sitting on the couch watching TV, but at Maria’s pointed look, he sighed and turned it off.
“How was Richard when you left?” Maria asked when they had settled down with their tea.
“He was sleeping.”
The doctor who examined Richard had said it appeared to be only a mild episode, but Liz knew better. Max had saved his life, leaving a minimal amount of damage so as not to cause suspicion. Another thing to be grateful for.
“They’re going to run tests tomorrow. They want to monitor him for a few days.” Liz set her cup down and looked at Michael who had been silent this whole time.
“I heard what you want, Liz. But my question from before still stands. Are you prepared to deal with the consequences? Because you can’t tell Richard about us. I’m sure Max and Isabel will agree. You might trust him, but we don’t.”
Liz only hesitated for a split second. She knew that logically she should think more about this decision, but she’d gone round and round with it, replaying the scene from the restaurant in her head again and again. Logic went right out the window. She had to know.
“I understand, Michael. I’ll deal with it when the time comes. I need to know what’s going on with Max. I can’t…..just tell me.”
“Fine,” Michael said shortly. “But just remember, I warned you. Maria and I both did.”
Liz nodded, feeling butterflies in her stomach at what she was going to hear, but determined nonetheless. She knew there was no way she could go back to Boston and live her life not knowing. Not after Max had saved Richard’s life.
“What do you want to know?” Michael asked.
“Everything,” Liz answered. “I want you to start at the beginning when Max left earth and I want to know everything that’s happened since. Don’t leave anything out.”
Michael took a deep breath and began.
The glass in his hand shook slightly as he raised it to his lips and he tightened his fingers around it to keep it from slipping from his grasp. His hands were still experiencing intermittent tremors. He set the glass down and sat on the edge of the bed staring at the floor.
The quiet of the hotel room was soothing rather than lonely. Isabel had wanted to stay but he was glad that Kyle had convinced her to go. There was only so much of Isabel’s mothering that he could take. He knew how hard it was for her to leave him alone, but he just couldn’t deal with her need to make it better right then.
Nothing would ever make it better.
He gazed at the patterns in the carpet until they blurred before his eyes before getting up to get his suitcase.
He couldn’t stay. It would hurt his family, Michael and Maria in particular, but he couldn’t do it. They would understand. Even without him having to explain, they would understand why he couldn’t stay after what had happened.
The remnants of the overwhelming emotion shivered through him and just for a moment his hand closed convulsively around the handle of the suitcase almost……but no it was gone again before he had time to process it.
He closed his eyes. Soon. Soon he would be able to push the feelings away again. Bury them deep where it didn’t matter.
Bury them where they didn’t have the power to make him wish for the thousandth time that he had died on his journey back to earth instead of making it back in one piece….
but irreparably broken.
“So Tess managed to get him out of there,” Liz whispered.
She was shaking. Michael’s description of the torture that Max had endured from Kivar made her sick. The thought that he had gone from her balcony that night to living in a prison, having his body beaten and burned, broken and repaired, while she lived her life happily unaware made her want to vomit. Even hearing that Tess had been the one to save him didn’t bother her. She would have paid the devil himself to do it if she had known.
“Yeah and it turned out that what she and Zan told him was true.”
Michael went on to explain about the rebels and their leader, Mendolan. He told her about the need for Max to regain his memories to help them fight Kivar. He described the fighting and the climactic battle between Kivar and Max.
“He saved Tess’s life and almost died in the process.”
“Was he….were they together?” Liz asked a little painfully, aware that she had no right to be upset if they had been. After all, she had moved on with her life and according to what Michael had told her, Tess had redeemed herself quite a bit. Liz was ambivalent about the fact that Tess was still alive and apparently had gotten what she wanted. She was Queen of Antar. Despite what Kivar had done to her, in the end, she still had a life while Alex’s was over.
“No. She and Max had a working relationship because of Zan and Antar, but that was it.”
Ignoring the inexplicable relief at his words, Liz shifted on her seat. “So when did he decide to come back? What changed?”
“They discovered a secret transport system that Kivar had been working on,” Michael said. He explained Kivar’s plan to her and Max’s decision to come back to earth to protect them.
That sounded like the Max she knew, Liz thought.
She frowned. “Wait it didn’t sound like he was like this before he left Antar.”
Michael rubbed his eyes and answered, “No.”
“Did something happen on his way back?”
The only flight out back to his home didn’t leave until morning. He was stuck until then. He finished packing and lay back on the bed, flicking on the TV. Nothing much was on so he settled on a sitcom hoping it would distract him from his thoughts. Unfortunately, his thoughts kept insinuating themselves.
What was she doing right now? Was she thinking about what she’d seen? No doubt she was with Richard. She was his fiancée after all and her place was by his side.
The doctor’s would only find traces of blockages in Richard’s arteries and no real damage to his heart. He had made sure of it. They would advise him to change his diet and take more care and he would be fine.
And the man would never know that he almost died tonight. He would never know that most of his arteries had been severely blocked and that his heart had suffered major damage probably due to earlier milder attacks that Richard himself might not have been aware of. He probably thought it was indigestion.
Unbidden, the flashes he’d received from Richard during the healing played over in his mind. The ordinary childhood, the partying in college, becoming a distinguished professor. He’d felt Richard’s pride in his work and his serious dedication to his students.
And of course, there was Liz.
He knew now without a doubt that Richard really loved her. Despite his sometimes arrogant attitude and pompous ways, his feelings for Liz were genuine and deep. Somewhere inside, the thought comforted him.
Knowing he was being masochistic but unable to help it, he dwelled on the pictures of her he’d gleaned from Richard, hungrily allowing the accompanying feelings to manifest.
Liz happy, Liz sad, Liz teasing, Liz arguing ….Liz passionate….
He closed his eyes.
Maybe he should feel guilty for thinking about it. Maybe she would feel violated if she knew.
But he knew he would never be able to forget it.
Because in spite of the pain it caused him to know that it wasn’t his arms that were holding her or his body that was feeling the wondrous joy of hers, this was the closest he would ever come to having it.
Caught up in reliving the agony and the ecstasy of seeing Liz in the throes of passion through the eyes of another man, he never felt the tear that slid down his cheek and splashed onto his hand.
“What was it?” Liz asked when Michael stopped talking. He and Maria looked at each other again. “What?” she said again impatiently.
“I’m breaking Max’s confidence,” Michael said unexpectedly. “If I tell you, I’m breaking my promise to him.”
Maria reached out and rubbed him arm soothingly.
“Michael…” Liz began, “please….I know you promised him…but …he saved Richard’s life. And I know somehow that he did it for me…..because…..I don’t know why….but….he doesn’t heal anymore, does he?”
Michael looked at her for a moment. “No,” he said finally.
“Please…..I need to know why. How did this happen to him?”
“Tell her, Michael,” Maria said. “Max will forgive you. And maybe when she knows…..I don’t know… maybe she can help him somehow. You saw him at the CrashDown the other day. He’s lived this way for too long. If Liz can help him, then he deserves the chance.”
“She can’t help him. If none of us could, then how can she….”
“I don’t mean that. I mean she can help him live again. She can show him there’s a reason to….”
“Would you two please just tell me what you’re talking about?” Liz interrupted exasperated. “You’re talking in circles.”
“Just tell her Michael. Tell her the rest.”
Michael closed his eyes resting his head back against the sofa for a moment. When he opened them again, he spoke almost tiredly.
“Isabel had never given up hope that Max was alive after he left,” he began. “She dream walked him every night without fail. For almost three years…..” Michael stopped for a moment and Liz thought he might say something about his own feelings on the subject but he didn’t.
“One night I got a frantic call from her saying she’d found him. He was barely there but somehow she had felt him. He was at the pod chamber. We drove out there and ran inside. He was lying on the ground on his stomach, unconscious and….naked. He was breathing, but it was really shallow and....” Maria reached out a hand when he paused again and Michael took it, staring down at it for a moment.
“He looked….burned. His skin was….so dark red it was almost black.”
“Oh my God,” Liz said, her hand covering her mouth.
Michael didn’t seem to here her exclamation, lost in his memories. “Isabel just cried and I….was afraid to touch him. Not because I didn’t want to but because I was afraid it would hurt him. I finally reached down and turned him over. It wasn’t an ordinary burn. His hair was still there and his skin wasn’t …charred, but…..he didn’t wake up and I didn’t’ know what to do. We ended up wrapping him in a blanket and put him in the car and took him back to Isabel’s. We didn’t want his parents to see him like that. At least not yet.”
“He was unconscious for a couple of days,” Michael continued. “The red on his skin began to fade pretty quickly until it just looked like regular sunburn. By that time, we had called the parents….”
“And me,” Maria said with a faint smile. “It really did look like he had a bad sunburn. Isabel and her Mom were beside themselves, so happy he was back and so worried that he wouldn’t wake up.”
“Yeah, it was bad,” Michael agreed. “Until he finally did wake up….then it was worse.”
There was another pause and Liz looked at them in almost desperate inquiry, waiting for them to continue. Her knees were curled into her chest, her arms grasping them tightly and she was hanging on every word at this point, horrified and anxious to know at the same time.
“Was he….like he is now?” Liz asked, although she hadn’t really heard anything to indicate that.
“He was….disoriented at first but after he sat up and realized where he was and who we all were, he was…..”Michael looked over at Maria who returned his look with a sad one of her own.
“What?” Liz asked anxiously.
“He was happy.”
The TV show was over and another one had started, but he really wasn’t paying attention anymore, his morbid thoughts still consuming him.
Finally having managed to put aside the flashes, he now wondered why he had allowed this to happen. Somehow he had known it was going to end in disaster. Allowing Michael and Maria to convince him to come back had been a mistake from the beginning, but he hadn’t wanted to disappoint them. Especially Michael. After all the demons Michael had to put to rest just to allow Maria into his life, the fact that he was getting married and on his way to the family he always wanted was a big deal. And they had wanted him to share it with them. How could he say no?
So here he was…..and it had been just as painful as he’d had imagined. Seeing Liz again, seeing how beautiful she still was…even more so. She was a woman now, not a child. And she was happy. In spite of the wariness in her face every time she looked at him…and the curiosity…he could see that she was content in her life.
Harvard had given her that. Richard had given her that. Not him and the alien chaos that was fated to rule his life.
And it was fated. Of that he had no doubt. There was no way that the hell that he had been living since…..well since his future self had come back in time to make sure that he got back on the unholy road he was supposed to be on rather than the road of happiness that he was on with Liz before Kivar came to earth to take over……there was no way that it was just luck ….or rather lack thereof. No, it was his destiny.
Or his curse. Either way it didn’t matter.
He was not meant for the happiness that the others had found on Earth. He was not meant to love and be loved like they were.
He had accepted it a long time ago. For the sake of his sanity and his family.
This was useless. Reaching up tiredly to massage his eyes, he took a deep breath and grasped the iron control that had kept him going over the last six years.
He wasn’t some fucking martyr and he wasn’t used to feeling so bloody pathetic.
It was his duty to help make the lives of his family and friends safe and happy. It was his duty to make sure that no one could harm the people he loved. Not just on earth but on Antar as well. He had saved his planet and vanquished his enemy.
And maybe one day soon, if there was any justice at all, fate would decide that he had paid enough for his defiance in trying to deny his destiny and let him have the one thing he so desperately wanted…..
“He was happy?” Liz echoed in surprise. “But….”
“Yeah, he was happy,” Michael said again almost angrily, pushing himself up off the couch and suddenly pacing as he ran his hands over his hair.
“He was so fucking happy to be back with us…his family. We could tell how much he’d missed us and I wanted to punch him for what he’d put us through and hug him for somehow making it back.” Michael’s frustration was palpable as the words tumbled from his lips and Liz looked over at Maria to see tears forming in her eyes as she watched her fiancé.
“And nobody realized at first, not even Max. I mean, it was all so crazy, everyone hugging and talking and asking questions…..”
“Nobody realized what?” Liz interrupted, but Michael didn’t hear her.
“I should have known something was wrong when he suddenly got so damn quiet. I didn’t even realize until he tried to stand up and almost fell. I caught him and he looked down at my hands like….like I was burning him or something and….. he started shaking and……” Michael covered his face with his hands.
“And what?” Liz cried jumping up from the couch. She looked at Maria whose tears were now running down her cheeks. “And what? What was wrong with him?”
“He couldn’t feel me touching him, damn it!” Michael’s voice was a muffled yell from behind his hands. Then he dropped them and his eyes blazed at her.
“He couldn’t feel!”
Posted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 12:58 pm
Okay, I'm dropping this off rather ironically.....
Thank you everyone. I can't tell you how humbling it is to know that you're so anxious for me to continue this story.
With that said, the new part's almost finished. Just doing the polishing and I hope to have it to Liz for beta-ing by tomorrow. Hopefully she'll have time to look at it and it will be up in the next few days. That's the plan.
Thanks again for all the bumps and comments.
Posted: Fri Aug 11, 2006 4:36 am
Hey, guess what? I'm back. How's that for making a time frame.
Thanks again to all of you. Your comments and bumps and kind words really mean the world to me. I'm not sure I can live up to such high expectations, but I'll try.
Oh, and I'm going on vacation next week so...I hope this will hold you over for a bit. I'll be working on the next part as soon as I can
Thank you to Liz for getting this back so quick. Smooches.
Burning to Feel Part 11b
He opened the door of his hotel room to reveal a bellhop holding a tray. A moment later, the man left with his tip and he sat down at the small table to eat. He had ordered the food more as a distraction than from actual hunger. Picking up the Tabasco Sauce he had requested with his food, he poured it liberally over the already hot Enchiladas and rice on the plate and reached for his fork. That’s when he spied the knife sitting next to it.
The hot rush of anticipation caught him unawares, making him close his eyes for a moment.
The temptation was always there.....it had never gone away. Not since the first time he had done it so long ago after realizing that his condition was not just going to go away in those first few weeks after returning to earth. He remembered it like it was yesterday. The desperation, the fear....the need to feel....something...anything. He hadn’t planned it, in fact he had felt sick with disgust at the impulse..... but it had been too much to resist.
Much like now.
Opening his eyes, he picked up the knife, staring at it for a long time. At first there was the fascination and disbelief of watching the knife cutting into his skin, anticipating a pain that hadn’t come. Then the disbelief that turned into anger as he had slashed at his hand repeatedly in a frenzy of grief until finally, the pain did come, faint at first, then white hot. He had cried then, covered in his own blood, realizing the insanity of what he’d done but feeling no remorse. It was at that moment that he had knew that pain might be the only sensation he would ever be able to feel again.
How true that realization had turned out to be, in more ways than one.
He ran a glowing finger over the edge of the knife until it looked sharp and lethal.
Sick anticipation roiled in his gut as he laid the blade to his open palm........
“He couldn’t.....he couldn’t.....” Liz’s brain seemed to have shut down at Michael’s words.
“He couldn’t feel physical touch,” Maria reiterated, wiping the tears from her eyes. She got up and put her arms around her fiancé, who seemed drained from having to relive those awful moments. “You can’t tell because he’s developed such a superior use of his eyesight and his agility is naturally enhanced because of his alien...ness.
“We don’t know,” Maria answered, pulling Michael down onto the couch with her.
“But didn’t they test the transport before they let him just.....”
“Yes. Zan and Tess insisted on it, but they only had someone take it to one of the nearby planets in their system. Just a short trip. And that person was full Antarian, not a hybrid. When he came back, there was nothing wrong with him.”
Liz sat down in her chair with a thump, unable to grasp what she was hearing. Images and scenes from the last few weeks flitted through her mind, all of them taking on a new significance. She knew that Max had never initiated any of the affection that had been given him since she’d gotten there. She could see him in her mind’s eye, standing, sitting, leaning, but always with his arms crossed, or with his hands in his pockets. Suddenly she remembered something.
“The pie plate! He caught it with his bare hands. Can’t he at least feel...pain or....”
“Only if it’s very intense. He probably could feel the burns on his skin from the plate, but not like you or I would,” Maria answered.
“I can’t believe this,” Liz breathed, shaking her head. “It’s so.....”
“Horrible? Insane? Fucked up? Pick an adjective.” Michael ran his hands through his hair again agitatedly, sitting back on the couch.
Liz stared at Michael’s angry, tormented face, realizing that this is what they had meant when they had warned her. Just thinking of Max....the Max she remembered from their days together as a couple....always touching her, always seeming to need to feel her skin...her hair...it made her heart hurt just thinking what this must have done to him. It made her heart hurt knowing what it was doing to him right now.
“God, why did he do it?” She said hoarsely, feeling the impotent frustration rising in her chest. “Why did he want to come back so badly that he would risk his life....”
“Because he wanted to protect us,” Maria answered patiently, having seen this very reaction more than once. How many times had they all lamented Max’s decision to risk himself rather than stay where he was safe and whole.
“That wasn’t the only reason,” Michael said, shifting his gaze to look at Liz resignedly. “This is where it gets hard.”
It got harder than this? Liz couldn’t imagine it being worse, but then she remembered Max’s reaction at the restaurant tonight. Of course there was more to the story.
“Tell me,” she said huskily.
Maria protested, “Michael.....I don’t think...”
“She wants to know all of it, Maria. If she wants to understand then she needs to know everything.”
Maria looked over at her friend, her eyes so full of sympathy that the dread Liz was already feeling increased exponentially. Swallowing painfully, she asked her next question.
“What did you guys do after you realized...his condition?”
“At first, we didn’t know if it would be permanent or not so we tried to be optimistic. Max was...withdrawn....not like he is now....but he...I think he was in shock. Zan’s emissary contacted us pretty quickly and we told him what happened. He sent another one almost right away saying that they would try and work from their end to see if there was a solution. Isabel and I...we tried everything we could think of. We tried to heal him....he tried to heal himself.....the healing stones....nothing worked. With each failure, he withdrew a little more.
“Is that why he’s so....standoffish?” Liz asked. “I mean, I guess that’s reason enough to be but.....”
“Not completely,” Michael said. “Maria was right that he had come back to protect us, and I know that he missed us. From what I gathered, he felt like he had accomplished what needed to be done on Antar and that although he was going to miss Zan, he always wanted to come back to Earth.
Liz nodded, not surprised by the sentiments. No matter her feelings about him and what had transpired between them, Liz had always known that if he felt he’d had a choice, Max would not have left Earth.
“So what was his other reason?” she asked.
“Do you really need to ask?” Michael gazed at her steadily until Liz felt her cheeks start to burn.
“Me?” she whispered.
The food lay untouched on his plate and the knife was now lying on the table next to it.
He was across the room sitting on the floor against the wall.
He hadn’t done it. He should be proud that he’d resisted, but instead he just felt....empty.
He thought about Michael and Isabel and his parent’s reactions to him healing Richard and he knew their fears were well grounded. It had been a long time since he’d had this kind of episode and it was obvious that tonight’s decision to break his vow had opened up all sorts of gashes in his thickly layered shell of control.
But if he was honest with himself, he knew that it wasn’t just tonight. It had been happening gradually since the moment he had first felt Liz’s presence in the CrashDown. Their connection might be dormant at the moment, but he’d felt her essence seep into his soul the moment she’d been within the city limits.
He had wanted to be immune to it, had hoped that time and space would somehow have loosened her hold on him....but as usual, his wishes were not to be granted.
So, he had tried to ignore the way her smile still had the power to make his heart thrum, or how her scent lingered in his nose long after she was gone from the room... how he would give his last breath just to feel the softness of her hair.....her skin...her lips... just one more time......
Those thoughts led to madness. He knew it. They had been his frequent companions during those months of insanity when he couldn’t control his impulses and had almost destroyed himself and his family. It was why he had stopped taking those frequent trips to Boston just to be near her, the same reason he had someone else keeping an eye on her to make sure she was safe.
Because every time he saw her, it was like pouring salt on an open wound....and yet it was like a glimpse of heaven through the bars of his prison at the same time.
His Heaven... his Hell.
“Did he tell you that?” Liz asked in disbelief. It couldn’t be true. That would just be.... she couldn’t even think about it.
“Not in so many words,” Michael answered. “Once he had recovered a little, he asked about you. We told him that you were in Boston at Harvard.”
“He was really impressed and happy for you,” Maria added.
“But....why do you think I had anything to do with him coming back?” Liz asked desperately, everything in her denying what they were saying. That would mean that while she had pushed everything they had ever meant to each other, everything they had been through together, away from her and started a new life, Max had been living on another planet, doing the opposite. It hurt too much to contemplate.
“A few weeks after he’d been back, he asked me to take him to Boston.” Michael answered.
“But.....” Liz shook her head in denial.
“He said that he wanted to see you, even if it was just from far away. He was still weak and I know he was trying to come to terms with his condition.... but at that point, he was still trying to be hopeful.”
Liz could only stare at him, unable to speak.
“Maria knew your schedule so we flew out and drove to the school. When we got there, I sat him on a bench under a tree near where your housing was and told him I would find out where you were, but before I could walk away, he stopped me. He saw you. You were with some friends, sitting on the ground. You were talking and laughing. Max just looked at you for a while, then he said, “Let’s go”
“Why,” Liz asked faintly. “Why didn’t he say anything to me?” And why hadn’t she felt his presence? The answer of course, was that she had suppressed their connection a long time ago, pushing it away as she had done everything else.
“I asked him that in the car on the way back. He just sat there for a minute and then he said, ‘I’ve never seen that look on her face.’” Michael blinked back a sudden burning in his eyes thinking about it. Max’s voice had been so wistful that it hurt him to hear it. “He saw how happy you were and he didn’t want to ruin it.
Liz’s voice was thick with tears. “What about Max’s happiness?”
“You and he sacrificed his happiness for the sake of the world, remember?” Michael’s gaze was pointed. “Max’s happiness was the real price that got paid for what happened. All of us.... me and Isabel included..... we were all willing to sacrifice it for what we wanted. We were all willing to manipulate him into what we thought he should be.” He sighed and sat back. “He never had a chance against the three of us.”
Rubbing a weary hand over his eyes, he continued the story. “When we got back from Boston, Max was pretty remote. Not emotionless but he just seemed...empty...like his hope had just...trickled away.”
At the look on Liz’s distraught face, Michael shifted his gaze. He knew how hard this was for her to hear, but sometimes the truth hurt. He had learned that lesson the hard way.
“One day not too long afterward, I went to see him at his parent’s house before work. They were gone and he was sitting by himself in front of the TV. We had talked before about what he could do, like getting his GED since he never graduated, going to college and I tried to get him to talk to me about it that morning but he didn’t want to. After a while, I had to go.... but...”
Michael paused for a moment, and when he continued his voice was ragged. “I knew...I fucking knew something was up, but I didn’t want to believe it. I got in the car and was half way to work before I had to turn around.”
Liz stared at him wide eyed, understanding dawning even as Maria took Michael’s arm to comfort her fiancé.
Michael shook his head. “I don’t know why I knew what he was thinking. I practically killed myself getting back there and I .... slammed into the house. He was still sitting on the couch......but… he was covered in blood. His hand was mutilated ...... and he looked up at me with these red eyes......and ......and I could see it in his face. He wanted to die.... I knew he was seconds away from just......”
“Oh my God....” Liz’s hand came up to cover her mouth, horrified as much by Michael’s words as by the stricken look on his face and the tears in his eyes.
“I flipped out. I got angry and I grabbed him up from the couch by his shirt and I shook him and yelled in his face. I screamed at him that he was a selfish bastard..... I asked him how he could even think about doing that after what he’d put us all through....how he could think about leaving Isabel and his mother and father again after being gone for three years.....I told him how Isabel had cried and cried after he left....how she could barely sleep or eat....how I thought I was going to lose her too......”
Michael shuddered, remembering how Max had collapsed in his arms afterward, his blood covering both of them as he cried like a child. Michael hadn’t been able to do anything but hold him, wanting to cry too, wanting to do anything that would take away the pain. But he knew that he had to be strong because Max needed him to be.... because the whole family needed him to be.
“I did it on purpose,” Michael continued around the lump in his throat. “I was angry.... but I really did it to make him feel guilty so he wouldn’t ever consider it again. I knew exactly how to play on his feelings so he would feel responsible......”
“You did it because you love him,” Maria admonished tearfully, holding his arm and making him look at her. “You did it for the right reasons.”
Michael leaned over, resting his elbows on he knees, covering his face with his hands. “I’m still doing it,” he said in a muffled voice.
“What do you mean?” Liz managed hoarsely, reeling from Michael’s story, unable to do anything but listen in sick disbelief.
Michael just shook his head and went into the kitchen to get a drink and pull himself together. Maria sat back on the couch, wiping at her face. She looked at Liz hollowly, her face pale with concern and remembered grief.
“After that day, Max was more like you see now. Remember we told you how Antarians can suppress pain and about their emotions?” At Liz’s nod, Maria continued.
“We could see him doing it slowly. Just kind of closing off his feelings. I guess it was his way of dealing. We hoped that he would eventually come to terms, you know? Be able to try and have a semi-normal life, but that was when he told us he was going hunting for skins.”
“I know, Isabel,” he said into phone, sitting back on the bed.
“Then please don’t go, Max. You can’t disappoint Michael this way. And Mom has missed you so much. It’s just a few more days. Please?”
He didn’t say anything but Isabel seemed to correctly interpret his silence.
“I know you think I don’t know how hard this is for you. I know you think that I just want what I want so badly that I’ll.... guilt you into staying.... but it’s not true, Max. We’re your family and we love you and we want what’s best for you. I know we haven’t always done the best job of showing you that but........”
“This isn’t about the past, Isabel,” he stated tiredly, wondering again why he hadn’t let the phone just ring instead of answering it. Of course, he knew why. Because Isabel would have shown up, worried and anxious. Now, she was just on the phone conveying those emotions.
“I know that,” Isabel said tearfully. “I know that it’s about.... Liz and Richard. I wish you hadn’t done it,” she reiterated.
“I couldn’t let Liz’s fiancé die.” He hadn’t meant to sound so vulnerable, but apparently his emotions were still too close to the surface to control completely yet.
“I didn’t want him to die either, Max, but it’s you I care about. I just want....”
“I know what you want, Is. But I told you before.... you’ll have to accept that this is all I have to give. I can’t be what you want me to be. And I.... can’t stay. If you know how hard this is, then you’ll understand why.”
Silence for a moment. “I... do. “ There came a deep sigh. “I’ll tell Mom and Dad, but you need to let Michael and Maria know.”
“Allison is going to be so disappointed that she didn’t get to say goodbye.”
“I’ll dream walk her after we hang up.”
“She’ll like that. I love you, Max..... I’ll miss you. Don’t give up, okay? None of us have.”
Isabel said those words every time they parted, trying to keep his spirits up, trying to convey hope, but the sentiments just rang hollowly inside him.
Hope was a luxury he couldn’t afford.
Liz was curled once again on the chair, listening to Maria relay Max and Michael’s dealings with the skins. She told of how Max had helped Michael learn to control his powers and to use them to full advantage. She explained how, while some of the skins were still willing to die for a cause that was lost, some were not and readily accepted Max as their king.
She already knew some of this from what Michael had told her before. Her gaze moved to where he now sat again next to Maria, taking in the stoic features. Despite the control he was exerting, Liz could see that he was still upset.
“Tell me what happened tonight,” she requested, wanting this to be over with. So far it had been as much of an ordeal as Maria and Michael had predicted. She didn’t know how much more she could take.
Maria looked at Michael to see if he wanted to continue the story, and he sighed.
“At that point, Max hadn’t used his healing powers really since he’d been back except on himself, but one night during one of our battles, I got hit.... pretty badly. I was unconscious for a while I guess, but when I came to, Max was bending over me, telling me to look at him. We connected and I knew he was seeing flashes because I saw some too but....”
Michael stopped for a moment and Liz waited impatiently for him to continue.
“It wasn’t just flashes. I remember how he looked at me with these wide eyes and started to laugh and cry all at the same time. He pulled me up and hugged me and said that he could feel. He said he could feel my skin and..... it was crazy.” Michael ran a hand through his already very unruly hair. “He was.... giddy. He kept babbling about being happy and sad and how everything was brighter and deeper and.....”
“He could feel you? I mean physically....” Liz asked excitedly.
“Yeah,” Michael answered, “but the feeling only lasted a few minutes and then... it was over.”
Of course, Liz thought, her bubble of excitement bursting. If it had lasted, they wouldn’t be sitting here right now.
“But the emotional stuff lasted longer,” Maria interjected. “It was like.... somehow when he healed... everything was just magnified a thousand times. It was overload.”
“At that point, we were trying to be optimistic for a while,” Michael took the story up again. “I mean, he could feel, right? We tried some experiments, but in all the cases, the physical feeling only lasted a few minutes..... and the emotions were more intensified each time.”
“I still don’t understand why he stopped,” Liz said in confusion.
“He became addicted to it,” Michael stated bluntly.
Liz’s eyes widened as the pieces fell into to place.
“He was like a drug addict,” Michael continued, seeing her reaction. “Once he realized that the feeling only came when he healed, he began to look for opportunities. At first it was only once in a while, but then it became more frequent. He was going off in secret, going to hospitals.... anywhere. With his mind warping ability, no one even knew he was there, but as the emotional feelings intensified, he started to lose control.”
“But... I don’t understand. How did this happen to him?”
Maria answered her. “We think it’s because he’s become so closed off to his own emotions, letting his alien side keep him in control, that when he heals, it’s just...more than his system can handle. Like his human side comes out and swamps him with everything.... his feelings, the person he’s healing’s feelings.... You saw how he was tonight. He just loses it.”
“When did he finally stop?” Liz asked, distraught at what she was hearing.
“We confronted him,” Michael replied. “We found out what he was doing when I followed him one night and I almost had to save him from being caught. Afterward, all of us.... his parents, Isabel and Kyle...we just....let him have it. We told him how he was putting himself and all of us in danger by exposing himself.”
“Isabel really lost it,” Maria grimaced. “She even brought up Allison and asked him how he could even consider doing that to her. It was horrible.”
“I bet,” Liz mumbled faintly. She couldn’t imagine how she would have felt.
“So he stopped,” Michael finished. “Just like that. He said he was sorry, and that he knew it was wrong. He said he would never do it again, and we all made a pact that we would never ask him to heal any of us no matter what the circumstances because we knew that he could fall all over again if he healed again even once.”
“And he broke his promise tonight.... for me.”
Liz didn’t know what to do or say. It was all too much to take in. She felt emotionally swamped herself, and when she looked at her friends, she could see that they felt the same.
“I’m so sorry,” she said, feeling that the words were completely inadequate. “So... now.....”
“Now nothing,” Michael replied almost angrily, although it was a tired sort of anger. “You saw how he is. Until tonight, he’s been completely shut down since we confronted him. It’s how he keeps it together and I can’t honestly blame him. There’s nothing to do.”
“But.... you haven’t given up hope have you.....”
“Of course not,” Maria said. “We’ve never given up... Zan and his people are still working on it too.”
“Max doesn’t hope,” Michael retorted dully. “The only reason he’s still here is because we won’t let him go. Otherwise he would have ended this a long time ago.”
“You mean...” Liz gasped.
“You know he doesn’t believe in God, Liz,” Maria reminded her gently. “He just wants it to be over.”
Liz still gaped in horror, understanding Maria’s cryptic words from one of their previous conversations so much better now.”
“Max is..... doing the best he can and she should be thankful for that. She is thankful for that. But seeing you makes her remember, that’s all. If it were up to me...... ”
“The only thing that keeps him here is his duty to us and the guilt we pile on him to make him stay.” Michael got up from the couch, anger once again lacing his words, but it was anger at himself. “Because we don’t want to live without him.... because we don’t want to give him up.”
Liz shook her head in denial, moisture gathering in her eyes. She looked at Maria. “You don’t agree with them....”
“I don’t want Max to leave us, but.... there are times when it’s just so hard to watch him suffering.” Maria’s eyes watered with her own tears. “I’m sorry I did this to you, Liz. I’m sorry I was so selfish that I involved you in this mess. It wasn’t fair of me.”
Liz got up from her chair to hug her friend tightly, rocking with her as their tears fell.
“I’m not sorry.”
“You’re not?” Maria said, pulling back to look at Liz.
“No,” Liz assured her with a watery smile. “I’m glad I came and I’m glad you told me. I needed to know what you’ve all been through.”
It was devastating to think that while she was living her life, her friends had been living this nightmare.
“Don’t feel bad because you weren’t here, Liz. You deserved your life.”
Liz nodded but she didn’t feel any better. It was all so complicated. Should she feel guilty for living her dream instead of being here to support her friends? Could she have done both? It was too late now to speculate.
“And I meant what I said earlier,” Maria continued. “Since you’ve been here, Max has started to come out of his shell. If anyone can break through and get him to hope, it’s you.”
“Max will be gone by tomorrow.” Michael’s matter of fact statement got their attention from where he was now sitting in the chair Liz had vacated a few minutes ago.
“What do mean?” Liz exclaimed.
Maria contemplated her fiancé for a moment but then nodded sadly in agreement. “Yeah, he probably will.”
Max was leaving. Liz felt the bottom drop out of her stomach as a familiar feeling came over her. The same one she’d felt sitting on her balcony listening to him tell her goodbye all those years ago.
Max was leaving and she might never see him again.
Posted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:23 pm
I'm back. Sorry for the delay. Been busy and this part was tough as I'm sure you will note when you read it. I will certainly try to be more timely with the next one, but I have to tell you that things are hopping around here and writing is at a premium.
Thank you all for your encouragement and all the bumps! I'm so glad you enjoyed the last part because it was sort of important and I wanted to get it right. Your comments always make my day.
Burning to Feel Part 12
She should pull over.
Liz gripped the steering wheel, barely able to see, tears pouring relentlessly down her cheeks as she drove.
“Why didn’t he say anything to me?”
“I asked him that in the car on the way back. He just sat there for a minute and then he said, ‘I’ve never seen that look on her face.’”
A painful sob escaped her throat.
“What about Max’s happiness?”
“You and he sacrificed his happiness for the sake of the world, remember?”
“Max’s happiness was the real price that got paid for what happened.”
She almost didn’t see the sign in time, but at the last moment it registered through her tears, and Liz pulled into the parking lot. After turning off the engine, she covered her face with her hands finally giving in, sobbing as she felt her heart being torn in two by the revelations she heard.
“……but he just seemed...empty...like his hope had just...trickled away.”
“He just wants it to be over.”
The reflection of her tears was lost in the tendrils of rain on the window as Liz lifted her head and looked upward toward the windows of the hotel, picturing Max inside his room, alone with his pain…his hopelessness….and she cried harder.
“Since you’ve been here, Max has started to come out of his shell. If anyone can break through and get him to hope, it’s you.”
Liz shook her head at the memory of Maria’s words, wiping ineffectively at the moisture on her cheeks with the back of her hand. It was so hard for her to believe. Could Max really still be in love with her after all this time…. after everything he’d been through? Had he really been living on another planet, thinking about her, wanting to be with her?
She thought about their last night together before he left, the painful words they’d exchanged, the laying bare of all the mistakes made by both of them. But she also remembered now, without her hurt and anger over Alex’s death and Tess’s treachery to blind her, the theme of his unending love that Max had tried to convey despite his own feelings of hurt and betrayal. Unending still, even though he had been forced to leave the planet, been tortured and fought a war, and now lived with a debilitating condition that would make anyone question the value of living? It was overwhelmingly humbling and Liz knew that no one, certainly not she, was deserving of such devotion.
Not willing to address her own confused feelings on the subject she pushed them aside, knowing she had a more pressing issue at the moment.
Max was leaving and she wanted…no she needed to see him. If nothing else, to thank him for what he had done for Richard. And if there was even the slightest chance there was something she could do to help him….and she had no idea what that was….then she had to try. She wouldn’t be able to live with herself if she didn’t.
Gazing up at the hotel again, Liz trembled with the thought of confronting Max with her newfound knowledge.
Michael had warned her when she had stated her intention of going to Max’s hotel, that Max would not be happy to see her.
“Don’t let anything he says get to you. He’ll say things to piss you off just so you’ll get mad enough to leave him alone. Don’t believe him.”
Liz’s lips thinned in determination. She had never had trouble confronting Max Evans in the past and she had no intention of letting his attitude stop her now. If he thought differently, than he was in for a rude awakening. With that thought, Liz exited the car.
Standing in front of Max’s room a few moments later, Liz’s determination wavered slightly. Her heart was beating so hard in her chest, she feared he could hear it through the door. Taking a deep, calming breath, she lifted her hand to knock, but to her surprise, the door swung open.
“Max…..” Liz squeaked out, not prepared for the abruptness of their meeting. “How did you….”
“I felt you,” Max stated with no inflection.
“Oh,” Liz said, not knowing how to take that statement. Obviously Max was not as surprised to see her as she would have thought. Or maybe he was, Liz retracted as he just stared at her for a moment. There was no way to tell with his façade firmly in place.
“Can I come in?”
Max stepped back, and Liz entered his room. After he shut the door and came around to face her, Liz nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear as he gazed at her. She had gone into the lobby bathroom to try and repair her appearance some, but she was aware that her eyes were still a little red and puffy from her crying jag and that her hair was flat and still damp from the rain.
“Michael told you.” The words were a flat statement, and Liz couldn’t hide her surprise, nor could she deny it.
“It’s not his fault, Max. I forced him and..…..”
A tired sigh from Max stopped whatever she was going to say.
“Just go home, Liz. I don’t need or want your sympathy. I especially don’t need another person around who feels guilty and just wants to help. I think I’ve reached my quota. Go back to Richard. Go back to your life.”
Weary resignation radiated from him and it almost brought tears to her eyes, as Liz realized it was the first emotion she’d felt and seen from him since coming back.
“I didn’t just come here because of what Michael told me, Max. I wanted….to thank you for what you did for Richard.”
“How is he?”
“He was sleeping when I left. He’s going to be fine, thanks to you, but I guess you already knew that. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you did that especially….with everything…..”
“I’m glad he’s okay. You can go now.” Max turned his back to her, and walked into the other room of his suite.
Liz blinked at his abrupt dismissal, and felt a spurt of frustrated anger. Michael had seriously not been kidding when he’d warned her of Max’s attitude. Determinedly, she followed him.
“Michael said you’re probably leaving. Is that….” Liz cut off her own question when she saw the packed suitcase sitting on the floor.
“Why are you leaving, Max?”
“I asked you to go,” Max said, ignoring her question. He was standing by the window, his back facing her.
“How can I leave you like this?” Liz asked huskily.
“Because it’s what I want you to do. Leave me alone and forget about this.”
“How can you say that?” Liz burst out. “How can you just expect me to forget….”
“I don’t need or want you here.”
Trying not to let the words hurt, Liz swallowed against the pain they caused. Not knowing what to say next, she ran her hands over her disheveled hair. This was as difficult as she had anticipated, and she really couldn’t blame Max for his feelings. Who was she to come in at this late date and insist that he respond to her. But she knew she couldn’t give up without a fight.
“I can’t leave you like this, Max. Not after what you did for me.”
“I could make you forget,” he said turning around to face her and although his face was as impassive as ever, Liz could detect the tension in him, his fists clenched, his jaw rigid.
“What do you mean?”
“I could mindwarp you so you wouldn’t ever remember that you saw me here.”
Liz stared at him in horror. “Do you really think that’s what I want?” she asked after she’d recovered her voice. “To forget….”
“Don’t you?” Max asked. “Wouldn’t you rather go back to not knowing any of this? If Maria hadn’t omitted the truth and told you I would be here, you wouldn’t have even come to Roswell. You would have stayed in Boston and been happy.”
Liz felt her face flush guiltily although she didn’t think that’s why Max had said what he said. “That’s true but…..Max….I’m not sorry. I’m not sorry that Michael and Maria told me the truth. I needed to know.”
“Because…..you…everyone….you’re my friends. I should have been here for you. For all of you….”
“No you shouldn’t have. I didn’t want any of them to live like this either. If I could, I would have…..”
“Don’t say it, Max. Your family and friends love you and want you in their lives no matter what the cost. Don’t you see that? Don’t you see that you’re being here is worth everything to them?”
For a moment, Liz thought she saw a glimmer of true emotion in his eyes before the shutter closed again.
“I know how my family feels about me.”
Of course he did, Liz thought with a pang, remembering Michael’s anguished words from earlier.
But no hope. The thought was so painful that Liz put a hand to her stomach.
“Liz….” Max’s voice brought her gaze to him and she saw that his eyes were not quite so cold as before.
“Don’t do this to yourself. Do you see why I didn’t want you to know? What good does it do? There’s nothing to be done. And the last thing I need is to know that you’re spending your time worrying about me and my problems, or worse, thinking that there’s some cure. There isn’t.”
“You don’t know that,” Liz interrupted. “There must be something we can do. Let me help. I’m a scientist. I can take samples, do blood work, tests…..”
“No. Absolutely not.”
“I said no.”
He didn’t yell or raise his voice at all, but Liz felt as though a clap of thunder should have sounded after his decree. It stole her breath for a moment.
“I won’t allow you to waste your time on this, Liz. Don’t ask me again.”
“How can you give up like this?” Liz pleaded hoarsely, feeling like she was battering at a brick wall. “I don’t understand why you want to live this way.”
“You think I want to live like this?”
Oh God. She hadn’t meant it like that. The look on Max’s face was blank once again, but Liz knew that she had wounded him without meaning to.
“Max…..” she began, reaching out a hand to touch him in apology, but Max side stepped her reach.
“Why do you do that?” Liz cried in sudden frustration and hurt, remembering all of the times he had avoided her touch these last few weeks. “Why don’t you want me to touch you?”
Max didn’t answer her, but she could see the tension around his mouth and eyes as he held his blank expression.
Liz blew out a breath in frustrated irritation. God, there had to be a way to break through to him. He was so close she could almost feel it, but years of keeping his emotions at bay worked on his side.
Before this point, she’d had no desire to try and resurrect that broken link between them, one that she had purposefully suppressed, but now, she felt desperate to connect with him, to somehow push through this wall he’d built around himself and find the real Max inside. The one she knew still existed.
Without further thought, Liz reached out with her mind, her heart…and her soul….
For just a moment he was there, but then Max slammed the door closed.
“Stop it!” He barked in a voice very unlike the one she had gotten used to these past few weeks.
Liz’s face was flushed with effort and chagrin as she apologized, “I’m sorry, I was just trying to…..”
“I know what you were trying to do,” he interrupted tersely. “Just…don’t. Don’t try to help me….don’t try to do anything for me.”
Liz apologized again seeing his distress. “I just…can’t stand seeing you do this to yourself, cutting yourself off from everything and everyone. I ….care about you, Max.”
It was true. For the first time since their break from each other, Liz could admit to herself she still cared for Max Evans and it didn’t twist her stomach in knots. It only made her more determined than ever to help him.
“I don’t want you to. I don’t want you to care about me….” He said almost desperately. “Can’t you tell how hard….” He cut himself off with a florid curse, jabbing trembling hands through his hair as though wanting to rip it from his scalp.
Liz gazed at him sympathetically. Finally seeing some cracks in his armor did not make her feel victorious. Instead, it made her realize that she may have pushed him too hard. And she could still feel the slight hum of their connection as though now having opened the door, it wouldn’t quite close correctly.
Obviously feeling it too, Max seemed to give up his futile struggle for control. Instead he disregarded her question and pierced her with a stark look. “You want me to bare my soul? You want it all laid out for you so you can examine it under your microscope?”
Liz shook her head in a quick gesture of denial, but he ignored her response to his rhetorical question.
“Just being around you hurts.”
The words came suddenly plain and harsh, voiced in a rough timber that was almost painful to hear.
“Seeing you again and talking to you again and breathing the same air you breathe is enough to make me insane with wanting something that was never really mine in the first place. Is that what you wanted to hear?”
“Max…..” Liz said hoarsely, trying to stop Max’s tirade, but he cut her off again.
“You want to know why I avoid letting you touch me?” he questioned in the same rough voice. “Because I remember every nuance of what it feels like to have your skin touching mine…how soft it was….the way it made me feel….the way I wanted that feeling all the time no matter where we were or who we were with……”
He finally looked at Liz’s tearful face with all the emotion that had been missing for the last three weeks. “And the thought of touching you now….and knowing that I won’t be able to feel it…..is more than I can bear.”
Liz put a hand over her mouth, to hold in a sob.
“I won’t ever have that again,” he continued thickly. “But you have a good life. “ He gestured to the ring on her finger that Liz forgot was even there. “Richard loves you. You belong in his world….not mine….you never did.”
Max seemed to struggle with himself for a moment looking away from her. With one last breath, he seemed to regain some of his equilibrium, but he still avoided her gaze. “Now please…..I want you…..I need you …to leave.”
Unable to stop the tears that were now pouring down her face, Liz whispered, “I never meant to hurt you Max.”
He still didn’t return her gaze, but a slight nod indicated that he’d heard her. He was quickly retreating into his remote self, his moment of vulnerability gone.
As exhausted and heart sore as she was, Liz didn’t want to go, feeling as though she was abandoning him, but he was obviously at the end of his rope. She hated that her presence hurt him so much and she didn’t know how to feel about the things he’d said to her. After a moment’s hesitation she turned slowly and started toward the outer door of the suite. To her relief, Max followed her rather than staying in the bedroom.
Before getting to the door, she turned back around. “Max….” she said hesitantly, “Will you consider staying?” She rushed on before he could say no. “Richard can’t come to the wedding and we’re leaving right afterward, so you wouldn’t have to …..see me for too long…..and….I know it would mean everything to Michael and Maria. Please say you’ll consider it.”
“I’ll consider it.” Max’s face a blank mask once again.
At least she had accomplished something, Liz thought and without really thinking about what she was doing, she reached up and hugged him.
His body stiffened like a board.
She realized her mistake. Liz had only intended to show him that despite her tactical retreat, she wasn’t giving up on him and that he wasn’t alone. She had pressed herself fully against him, opening her heart and soul as wide as she could, wanting him to feel her commitment to helping him, and one of her hands slid up to cup his neck underneath his hair.
The moment their skin made contact, his words came flooding back. He didn’t want her to touch him. Liz released him immediately, mumbling a quick apology through her tears and wrenched open the door of the suite only to flee down the hallway after she closed it.
She never heard the cry that came from behind the closed door….nor saw him fall to the floor in agony, his body on fire.
Posted: Tue Oct 10, 2006 12:09 am
Okay, okay, you can stop begging. I'm here. And you have Liz to thank because she got this back in record time even though she's working like a crazy. Just remember, you got what you asked for.
Seriously, I'm sorry it took so long. I hate making you all wait. My only excuse is that not only have I been insanely busy, but I was having trouble making this come out the way I wanted it. I kept revising.
Anyway, thank you all for your patience, LOL or impatience as the case may be. I hope you'll still feel that way after you read .....dum dee dumm......
Burning to Feel Part 13
It was the day of the wedding.
Liz rechecked her bag one more time, focusing on the mundane task rather than her rampant thoughts. It was almost time to go.
Heading downstairs, she kissed her mother and father goodbye, promising to see them afterward at the reception and waited at one of the CrashDown’s outdoor tables for Maria to pick her up. The two of them and Isabel were meeting at the chapel to get dressed. She was a little early so she got a drink before she sat down.
Of course, having nothing to occupy her now, her thoughts immediately returned to the events of the last couple of days. Or one monumental event that made today’s affair pale in comparison.
Max could feel.
Liz closed her eyes for a moment, the joy and confusion she’d felt when she first heard the news overwhelming her yet again. Maria had called her yesterday at the hospital where she was sitting with Richard, almost incoherent in her excitement to relay the news. Liz had to practically scream at her in order to get Maria to calm down enough to tell her what was going on. When she finally did, Liz could only sit in stunned silence, the phone slack in her hand.
Apparently after she left him the night before.....after she touched him Liz reminded herself almost reluctantly..... Max had collapsed in pain, his skin burning. He had managed in his agony to send out a mental SOS to Michael and he and Maria had rushed over to his hotel room only to find him still on the floor when they arrived.
Although the pain had lessened somewhat, their touch as they reached to help him up only seemed to make it worse and they were at a loss as to what to do. After calling Isabel to come over, the three aliens had tried to connect to see if they could help heal and maybe stop it, but the healing seemed to make it hurt worse as well.
Michael had wanted to call Liz since it had started when she touched him, but Max absolutely forbade it. He didn’t want her to know what was going on. Without knowing what else to do, Michael eventually got Max to allow himself to be to put to sleep so that they could all at least get some rest before trying to figure out their next move. All three of them spent the night in the suite just in case something happened.
A few hours later, early the next morning, they were all awakened by a crash in the bedroom. Rushing inside, they found Max standing staring at his watch dangling from his hand, the bedside lamp in pieces on the floor. He turned to them, his eyes huge and blurry with tears.
“It’s such a miracle, Liz. Yours and Max’s connection healed him. I knew if anyone could, it would be you.”
Coming out of her daze, Liz protested. “Maria, that’s...crazy. I mean...scientifically.....there’s no way....”
“Who gives a crap about science when miracles are involved?”
“How are Max and his family handling it?” Liz asked, steering away from the subject.
“Well they’re all ecstatic, of course. Max is still....stunned and little quiet, but I think he’s just afraid to believe it.”
“That’s understandable,” Liz said, commiserating with his feelings of uncertainty.
“Oh my God, you should have seen him this morning though. We went to Mr. and Mrs. Evans’ house and Allison jumped on him as usual and hugged and kissed him “He was so....it was beautiful Liz. I’ve never seen someone so....thankful and...just....bowled over.” Maria let out a small hiccupping sob and Liz choked on her the lump in her own throat.
The two girls giggled over their tears, then Maria asked, “Can you come over?”
Liz blanched. “Um.....I really don’t want to ....intrude and Richard’s all by himself. I really need to stay with him. In fact, I was going to ask you if it was okay if I miss the rehearsal and dinner. I really hate to leave him.”
There was moment of silence before Maria answered. “If that’s what you want. Michael and I will be over to visit him later.”
Now, staring pensively down into the depths of her drink, Liz felt the same confusion welling up inside her that she had felt when Maria told her the news. She wanted to deny that Max’s miraculous recovery had anything to do with her... but she couldn’t. Maria’s assessment had to be right, that their connection had somehow been the catalyst. The how and the why of it didn’t seem to be as important as the fact itself.
Max was healed and he could have a normal life. Liz knew it was not that simple and that he would have a period of adjustment, but he would have his family there to help him and eventually he’d see that a whole new world awaited him. She had not forgotten his on going responsibility to keep his enemies at bay, but even that couldn’t dim the fact that Max was now free for the first time in his life to do.....whatever he wanted.
So where did she fit in?
Liz sighed. It really wasn’t a question of where she fit in. Remembering Max’s expression the other night when he told her how much being in her presence hurt him, she could no longer lie to herself. Though his moments of vulnerability had been over quickly, Max’s feelings for her had been blatantly clear even stated so painfully.
He still loved her.
How could that be after all this time? To still be first in Max’s heart after everything they had been through, after all that he had endured, even while he knew that she had moved on from their love...... it was almost too much to handle. And now somehow, her touch had helped to heal him....Liz drew in a shaky breath.
Her thoughts turned to Richard. He was doing fine now, grouchy from being stuck in the hospital and ready to go home, but physically he was fine. She was so grateful. And part of her was as ready as he was to go back to their safe, normal world and take up where they had left off before her return to Roswell.
But would it be the same? Would she be able to put all of this into perspective, have her friends and her family....and Max in her life and still be normal? And was that what she really wanted? Because the other part of her... that part that had reawakened since returning to Roswell,.... remembering and regretting....that part wasn’t sure of anything anymore.
A horn blew and Liz looked up to see Maria pulling up, a huge smile on her face. Putting her uncertainties aside for the moment, Liz smiled in response and got up to get in the car. They had a wedding to get to.
“I’m so glad it went well,” Amy Deluca sighed as she watched her daughter and her new husband dancing together.
“It really was beautiful,” Nancy Parker agreed. She looked at her own daughter who was sitting next to her, appearing to be lost in thought. “And you were right Liz. I wouldn’t have thought of it myself, but everyone looks wonderful.”
Liz turned her attention to her mother, smiling a little at her comment. “Maria’s got a great sense of style, even if it is a little funky at times.”
“She gets it from me,” Amy declared with a smug look, and Liz and her mother exchanged looks, each having to suppress a smile.
Turning back to watching the guests, Liz curled her painted toes in the grass. Being barefoot felt odd, but it was what Maria had wanted. That and for all of them to wear white.
She had been as unsure as her mother at first about Maria’s clothing choices, but after looking at some of the digital photos her parents had taken, Liz had to admit that the six of them dressed in white, framed by green grass and a flowered archway, had looked spectacular.
She loved her outfit. All three girls were dressed in white skirts and peasant blouses. Her own overskirt was white eyelet with little bits of yellow thread sewn throughout, the underskirt’s layered petticoats, made visible by ribbons strategically tied to show it. Her blouse was a simple off the shoulder style and her hair was done in a single braid with flowers woven in.
Isabel’s was basically the same except her skirt had violet thread and her blouse tied up the front with ribbon. Maria was in pure white.
It made the members of the wedding party easy to pick out among the guests, Liz thought smirking as she spotted Kyle and Isabel dancing near Michael and Maria. Her smile was partly amusement and partly admiration. She had to admit that despite her initial skepticism, the guys looked great too.
They reminded her of rock stars. Their pants were white cotton, their shirts, long with open necks and loose sleeves. When Liz had first seen them, she’d had to suppress her smile at how uncomfortable they all looked in their bare feet and unnatural clothing, but over time, they seemed to grow used to it until now they appeared relaxed and happy.
Well, at least two of them did. Almost against her will, Liz’s eyes were drawn to where Max was sitting with his parents. Allison, dressed identical to her mother as the flower girl, was perched on his lap. He didn’t appear relaxed and happy, but at the same time, he was not the same man she had come to know in the last few weeks. He seemed.....fragile. Not cowering or afraid, just....unsure and vulnerable...completely opposite of the man she knew he was.
The bride and groom came to the table and Maria flopped down into a chair. “I need a break. Who knew walking around barefoot all day could hurt as much as wearing heels?” She looked up at her new husband. “Dance with Liz, Spaceboy, I’m bushed.”
To Liz’s surprise, Michael didn’t protest, just held out a hand before leading her out toward the other dancers. A few moments later, she discovered why.
“Are you two ever going to talk to each other?”
Liz lifted a startled glance to Michael’s face, almost stumbling in his arms. “What....”
“You and Max. You’ve spent the whole day avoiding each other and I’ve never seen two people work so hard pretending as though everything is normal when it’s not.”
Liz could only stare mutely up into Michael’s pointed gaze, unable to deny his allegations.
Initially, she had been practically trembling in trepidation at the thought of facing Max after the events of the last couple of days, but it seemed that he was having the same misgivings. As if by mutual decision, the two of them had avoided each other as much as possible since Liz had arrived at the chapel that morning. Their only real contact had been when they were forced to stand together for pictures after the ceremony and even then they had only spoken a few words to each other, neither one looking in the other’s eyes, or touching at all. Liz had almost wilted in relief when it was over.
The family had been completely opposite. The moment she saw her, Isabel had enfolded Liz in a heartfelt hug. Tears falling, she thanked her profusely for giving her brother his life back. Mrs. Evans had been next and Liz could hardly get a word in edgewise to tell them that she didn’t deserve their thanks for something she had done unknowingly, but in the end, she just accepted their gratitude with tears of her own, expressing her own happiness at the turn of events.
“What are you afraid of Liz?” Michael asked when she didn’t say anything.
“I don’t know,” she answered truthfully, knowing there was no use denying his words. For some reason, Michael seemed able to read her like a book these days.
I know what Max is afraid of,” Michael stated, looking down at Liz’s inquiring gaze. “Everything. He’s afraid of everything right now. His life just suddenly became fraught with possibilities, and he doesn’t know how to handle it. He doesn’t know how to live a normal life, and he’s afraid if he dares to try it, it will be snatched away from him just like it was before.... But mostly, he’s afraid to hope.”
“Michael.....” Liz croaked hoarsely, her voice pleading with him to stop. Her eyes strayed to where Max still sat with his family. Isabel and Kyle had now joined them and Isabel was laughing at something Kyle said while little Allison was sitting on her uncle’s lap, giggling. Max had a faint smile on his face and just that expression, so different from what she had come to see these last few weeks, made her want to weep.
“I’m not saying he’s hoping for something between the two of you. We both know he’s not like that,” Michael continued, his own gaze following hers. “He won’t ask anything from you.”
“What are you saying, Michael?”
“I’m saying that you don’t have to be afraid. Nothing you do or say will be wrong. He has no expectations because he’s lived without them for so long. The only thing you could do to hurt him right now, would be to leave without talking to him.”
“I wouldn’t do that,” Liz said, still gazing at the smiling family, “but he’s been avoiding me too. Maybe he doesn’t want.....”
Liz abruptly cut off as Max suddenly turned his eyes to hers. But instead of looking away as had been the case for most of the day, he returned her gaze, his own seeming to grow more purposeful as they looked at each other. Liz suddenly became aware of the rapid beating of her heart, the look in Max’s eyes holding her captive. The message was loud and clear. The time for avoidance was over.
“You were saying?” Michael said a trifle smugly, his lips pursing into a small smile. The song they were dancing to ended and Michael led her off the dance floor to where Maria and the parents were all sitting.
After she sat down, Michael and Maria left the table to get something to eat and Liz took a hasty sip of her water, not daring to look Max’s way. She wondered when he would approach her.
But to her relief, he still didn’t seem to be in any hurry and she relaxed. She smiled and laughed her way through the cutting of the cake and the throwing of the garter and bouquet, feeling a strange relief when she didn’t catch the bouquet. Not that she was trying. She had not removed Richard’s ring from her finger, not having the heart to do so while he was in the hospital, but his proposal weighed on her mind along with everything else and she found herself unwilling to analyze why it felt that way.... a weight on her shoulders rather than an exciting possibility.
Finally, it was getting close to time for her to leave. Michael and Maria were getting ready to go on their honeymoon and the other guests were milling around waiting for them to appear so they could throw rice.
Liz left Maria alone with her mother in the room inside the chapel where she was changing out of her wedding clothes. As she headed out the front door, Liz caught sight of Max walking toward her, his head down as though in thought.
She hesitated, not sure if she should break into his quiet reverie, but a second later, he looked up at her, leaving her no choice. Liz could only stare at him for a long moment, noting, not for the first time that day, how the white outfit Maria had chosen for the men accentuated Max’s bold good looks rather than detracting from them. He was the perfect embodiment of a classic romance novel cover, mysterious and masculine but so beautiful he seemed unreal. No one could be that perfect, and yet here he stood right in front of her.
“I was looking for you,” he said, gazing at her with a warm look in his eye that Liz hadn’t seen in such a long time that she was momentarily stunned into silence.
“You look beautiful.”
The compliment brought her out of her fog. Her cheeks stained with color at his soft assessment as well as at her own unabashed staring.
“Thank you. You look.....great too.”
“Is Maria almost ready?”
“Yes,” Liz gestured toward the building. “She’s getting dressed.”
“Then you’ll be leaving soon.”
“I...yes....” Liz answered awkwardly, feeling her cheeks heat up.
Max looked down for a moment. “I’m sorry it seems like I’ve been avoiding you today....”
“But I just...didn’t know what to say.” Max looked up at her. “I owe you so much.”
“No...” she shook her head again, almost desperately. “No Max, you don’t. I didn’t do anything... I mean... I did.... but not on purpose...”
“I know that, but it doesn’t change the fact that your touch... healed me.”
Liz shook her head in bewildered embarrassment, blushing. “I really... I’m glad it worked Max, but I don’t understand why. I mean... why me?”
“I think it was a combination of things,” Max replied. “You remember when Ava told you that my healing you made you different?”
Liz nodded cautiously.
“I’ve healed a lot of people since then, including Kyle, but I don’t share the same connection with any of them except you. Not even Isabel or Michael. The three of us connected when they tried to help me before and it didn’t help at all. The only time I could feel was when I healed someone else and created that connection with them for a moment. But... with you... it was different.”
“Because I gave up a piece of myself to you the day I healed you, Liz.”
Liz’s eyes widened at his words, her own voice caught in her throat.
“A piece that’s been missing for a long time now and.... you gave it back to me the other night when you re-opened our connection.”
The soft, sincere words made Liz’s heart pump madly in her chest for a moment.
“You saved me.”
If you just walked away
What could I really say?
Would it matter anyway?
Would it change how you feel?
Swallowing around the lump in her throat, Liz gave him a trembling smile and to her utter astonishment, Max smiled back. It was small and fleeting, but the sight of it on his once stoic face was enough to make Liz’s heart flip over. With effort, she ignored it.
“So... what are you going to do now?” she asked.
“I don’t know.”
I am the mess you chose
the closet you can not close
The devil in you I suppose
'cuz the wounds never heal
The three words were said with such a wealth of uncertainty that Liz momentarily forgot her own discomfort.
“There’s so much you can do, Max. Anything you want. Just be happy.”
“I’m not sure I know how.” Max’s uncertainty broke Liz’s heart. “I’m not sure I ever will.”
“Max... ” Liz dropped her swimming gaze away from the naked honesty in his eyes.
But everything changes
if I could turn back the years
If you could learn to forgive me
then I could learn to feel
“I don’t want anything from you, Liz. I just want you... to be happy too. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
“I know that,” Liz whispered, meaning it. Even in her deepest, darkest moments, she knew that Max had only ever wanted her happiness. With him or without him.
Sometimes the things I say
In moments of disarray
Succumbing to the games we play
To make sure that it's real
“Does Richard make you happy?”
But everything changes
if I could turn back the years
If you could learn to forgive me
then I could learn to feel
Liz could only nod wordlessly. The fleeting glimpse of sadness that touched Max’s expression might have been her imagination, but it made her chest tighten. His eyes focused on the ring on her finger.
“You’ll make a beautiful bride.”
When it's just me and you
Who knows what we could do
If we can just make it through
the toughest part of the day
A long time ago in another lifetime, she was supposed to have been his bride. They would have been married at nineteen. They would have been husband and wife for five years by now.
The tears spilled over.
“Don’t cry.” Max reached up a hand to wipe them away, but hesitated a moment.
“Can I ... touch you?”
But everything changes
if I could turn back the years
If you could learn to forgive me
then I could learn to feel
Then we could
Stay here together
And we could
Conquer the world
If we could
Say that forever
Is more than just a word
Liz nodded, closing her eyes as she felt Max’s gentle fingers on her skin, his thumbs brushing at the tears on her cheeks. Opening her eyes, Liz saw the reverent look on his face as he watched his own fingers touching her skin. Her throat tightened. Reaching up, she cupped his hand against her cheek, biting her lip to hold back more tears as Max’s lips curved in a tremulous smile. Slowly reaching up his other hand, he touched her hair, running his fingers over the woven silk of her braid.
Without either one realizing it, they had moved closer until their foreheads were now touching, Max’s fingers still caressing her face, Liz’s hand still clasping his. At the feel of his fingers in her hair, Liz lifted her face to his and their eyes met.
I love you
It was there in his eyes, and Liz fought against the answering thud of her heartbeat as she pulled slowly back from their embrace, trembling from head to toe.
“Maria should be out any minute.”
If you just walked away
What could I really say?
It wouldn't matter anyway.
It wouldn't change how you feel.
Max nodded and seemed to hesitate for a moment before he leaned forward, touching his warm lips to her forehead.
His whispered words stayed with her long after she left to resume her life in Boston.
"Everything Changes" by Stained