Hi, Guys: I know it's been awhile. I wasn't happy with some of what I had written. So I've been mulling it over and rewriting. Hopefully, it will flow better for me now. Anyway, I'm going to try posting the first six chapters on the repost board, in case you've forgotten what's been happening up to now. Hope you like it.

Sorry I forgot to initially put in the title. I got so jazzed, I missed that step.

CATEGORY: M/L, with others blended in. AU. Characters do not belong to me.
RATING: PG – PG-15
SUMMARY: The alien group are all 25 years old. They’ve known for several years, because of their special gifts, of their alien status. But only recently are pieces of the puzzle beginning to fit together. Read on and find out how.

SMELLING THE FLOWERS ALONG THE WAY


Part 7

“Hi, Max. That little trip didn’t take long.” As she was speaking, she ran up to the passenger’s side of the car to open the door for Claudia. Once she had carefully helped Claudia out, she engulfed her in a huge, loving hug. “I’m so glad to see you out of the hospital. Maybe now we can spend some quality time together,” she said lovingly.

Her gestures did not go unnoticed by Max. He couldn’t help but wonder how Liz and his grandmother had been able to build such a close bond with one another. There were so many questions he needed answers to. But for now, he needed to get his beloved grandmother settled in.

“Okay, you two. Why don’t we take this pretty picture inside, so we don’t put on a display for the entire neighborhood.” Although his comment was made in humor, Claudia knew it was out of the habit Max had gotten into over the years of trying to take care of personal matters in as discreet a fashion as possible, so as to protect his true identity and that of his friends, even such emotional displays as these. She knew Max was only too aware of how innocent gestures could be so badly blown out of proportion if vindictive eyes chose to use them in a perverted way, to further their own selfish goals. So she took his humorous comment in the way it was meant, but also knew how important it was to him that they get inside as soon as possible.

“Come on, Liz. Help this old woman inside, will you.”

~~~~~~~

After talking to Max and Liz for a half hour or so, Claudia realized how drained she was feeling just having taken the short trip from the hospital to Max’s home. She also knew, with all that had happened that day, Max and Liz probably hadn’t really been able to get acquainted. So she decided to make herself scarce, to give them that opportunity. She just hoped they would do so. She knew the things she would need to share with them in the next few months would depend heavily upon their knowledge of one another. Her main concern now was how to encourage them to do just that.

“Well, you two, I’m sure there will probably be some details you’ll need to work out for this living arrangement to work for the time being. And I’m feeling rather tired after all the ‘excitement’ of the day. So I’m going to excuse myself and go lie down. Hopefully, it will give you the opportunity to take care of those preliminaries. I honestly don’t know how my illness will progress over the next few weeks. So you may not have another chance to do so if you don’t do it now.”

As Claudia spoke, Max and Liz both, though not observing each other’s reactions, couldn’t help but feel they sensed a gleam in her eyes as she spoke. Neither had a clue why there would be such a gleam. So each, in their own minds, decided they had imagined it and decided to just respond to her comments. “Okay, Grandmother.” “Okay, Aunt Claudia,” they both said simultaneously.

Claudia turned away from them as they both responded, again with the gleam in her eyes they thought they had only imagined.

~~~~~

As Claudia left, Max spoke first. “That woman never ceases to amaze me. Even as ill as she is, she still has the presence of mind to remind me of things that I should know to do but often don’t think of.”

“I know what you mean.” Without elaborating on his comment, Liz decided it would be best for now to do just what Claudia had mentioned. She hoped in the future she would be able to engage Max in a conversation that would develop that thought further. But once again, she knew now was not the time.

“So why don’t we put her mind at ease and do just that, shall we?”

“Yeah, you’re right. We should. Do you have any suggestions where we should start?”

“Actually, I think I do. Since we both know it will be difficult for you to be available during the day, maybe that would be a good place to start. Now, I’ve made a list of tasks I can take care of during the day while I’m here and while you’re at work. And then I’ve made a list of things that could be done once you return. If you like, we can split that list up, and we can take turns doing them. Or if you like, I can make a list of things for you to do regularly and a list of things for me to do regularly.”

As Liz continued talking, Max couldn’t understand the feelings he seemed to be experiencing. He couldn’t quite put his finger on the emotions, except that they seemed familiar and, at the same time, soothing – feelings that were so different from what he’d been experiencing over the years, that of fear, uneasiness, suspicion, to name just a few.

He paused in his thoughts, realizing Liz was no longer speaking. He looked down into her face, realizing she was looking up at him expectantly. “I’m sorry. My mind wandered briefly. To be honest with you, whatever is convenient for you is fine with me.”

“Well, I know with you being at work all day, you’ll have very little time to just sit and visit with your grandmother. So maybe I can make a list of things you can do around here when you get back. And then I’ll take care of the list of things needing to be done away from here when you return. That way, you’ll also be able to spend some quality time with her, without feeling like that time is being invaded by others, namely, me.”

Once again, Max was touched by Liz’s apparent ability to perceive that he needed desperately to have some quality time with his grandmother, without others present. Although he still knew next to nothing about this young woman, she was almost imperceptibly finding her way to his heart.

Which made him reflect on all the years he and Isabel were growing up. Neither of them had ever dated or become involved with anyone. Neither had Michael and Tess, for that matter. They all knew, the little they did know, that they were supposed to be bonded with one another. But none of them had ever felt a connection in a romantic or physical way with each other to ever take the steps necessary to make that kind of prospect a reality. Instead, they had all just been ‘content’ to support one another emotionally by just being there for one another, and having rap sessions whenever they were needed.

Of course, they were always getting together whenever anything would be in the news that they thought might somehow provide them with more of the information they were looking for to finally find their way home. And even at work, during slow-downs in their schedules, they would use that time to continue in their efforts at researching anything which might provide clues to their heritage.

But during all that time, none of them had ever really felt the need to have a relationship with anyone, especially as they continually reminded themselves such would only be temporary, at best, since they somehow sensed the time would eventually arrive when they would possibly return to the home of their heritage.

That was why these feelings he felt stirring within him felt so strange. He couldn’t really identify what they were, let alone what was causing them. But again, he realized he’d been staring off into “space” when he noticed Liz had once again stopped talking, waiting for his reply.

“Thanks for your thoughtfulness, Liz. I really would like the opportunity to spend some time with her alone. I hope you understand it’s nothing personal.”

“Of course, I realize that. To be honest with you, even though she’s not my grandmother, I treasure the moments I’m able to spend with her alone.”

“That reminds me of a question I’ve been meaning to ask you.”

“Sure. What’s that?”

“Why do you call her ‘Aunt Claudia’?”

Liz hadn’t even realized she had been doing so until Max asked his question. So she had to think back to try and remember the information Claudia had given her on how that had all begun.

~~~~'Flashback~~~~

Claudia had been in the desert, again engaged in an archeological dig, her favorite pastime. During one of her visits, she had unexpectedly happened on four small children who had seemed to have appeared from nowhere. After following through and helping to place them in loving homes, one of which was the home of her own son, she had once again found the time to go exploring. So she had returned to the same location in which she had been privileged to find the four beautiful children.

She’d only been there a short time when again, to her utter amazement, she found a child, this one appearing to be all alone. This child, just like the four before her, was not able to speak English, as well as being in a naked state. Claudia again found herself faced with the question of what to do with this child. She had remembered a conversation she’d had with a person from town about her own neighbors, the Parkers, and how jealous they had been to find out the Evanses and the Hardings had been so richly blessed when both couples would be able to adopt such beautiful children. They had ached for years to have another child themselves, after their only infant had died so unexpectedly from SIDS. So without even dwelling on the matter for long, she knew exactly where this child was going to go.

Liz, the name the Parkers had decided to give this blessed child, had only been in their care for a few weeks and had already been developing English language skills. The Parkers were beside themselves to have in their care such an intelligent little child as this sweet little thing. After having placed Liz in the loving care of the Parkers, Claudia couldn’t help but want to keep a close eye on how she continued to grow and develop. So she would spend all of her free time with Liz.

During the short time Liz had known her, she’d taken to calling her Claudia, since that was what her parents called her. But somehow, that didn’t seem to convey the affection she felt for this woman who had cared for her so lovingly these past several weeks, even though she knew she was in a loving home. So she asked Claudia what she could call her that would help her express her love and affection for this woman.

“Can I call you Grandma Claudia?” Liz asked innocently.

Although Claudia would love to have been called grandma by Liz, somehow she felt it might cause problems down the road if she ever called her that in the presence of the other four children, whom Liz had not met. After thinking about the question briefly, Claudia had an idea. “Why don’t you call me Aunt Claudia.”

Liz was a little hurt that she couldn’t call her grandma, since that seemed to be what children on TV programs called the parents of their own parents.

Claudia could see the disappointment in Liz’s sweet little face. So she quickly tried to reassure Liz of how happy it would make her feel to be called “Aunt,” since she knew of no one else who used that term of endearment with her. When Liz realized she would be the only person who would be calling her that, somehow it made the idea so much more appealing to her. Somehow, it made Liz feel that only she would have a special enough bond with her to use the term “aunt.” And so that was how she had come to call her “Aunt Claudia” all those years ago.

~~~~End of Flashback~~~~

It was only later, when Liz was old enough to understand, that she realized it would have been really hard to explain how one child was calling her grandma when there were four others doing the same, whom she had never personally met. So it was that piece of information she decided to pass on to Max.

After contemplating the matter for several seconds, she responded to Max’s question. “Well, one day when I was asking Claudia what I could call her that would help me feel I was showing more affection to her, I asked her if I could call her grandma. She explained to me there were already some others who were calling her that. Of course, I was devastated to not be able to use what I felt was such an endearing term. I think she must have seen my disappointment. Because she then suggested I use a term that she was sure no one else would call her. So she was the one to suggest I start calling her ‘Aunt Claudia.’”

That one simple explanation to Max conveyed so much that was unspoken. It helped him realize how much affection this young woman really did have for his grandmother as well as the genuine affection his grandmother obviously had for her, in being perceptive enough to not want to crush the delicate heart of a child.

“Any other questions?” Liz asked.

”No, not tonight. This has been a long day. And I don’t have the energy to ask anything more right now.”

“I feel the same way. So I guess I’ll get started on those lists tomorrow, and we can go from there. Does that sound okay to you?”

“Yeah, that sounds great. Good night, Liz.”

“Good night, Max.”

~~~~~

Of course, neither Max nor Liz knew that they had an audience during this entire conversation. They had not realized at all that Claudia had been listening in the whole time. She knew there was so much more she needed to share with both of them. She knew she didn’t have much time. So, even though she felt bad eavesdropping on them, she knew it was the only way she would be able to monitor their progress in getting to know one another. And it was only by knowing their progress that she would be able to perceive when she could be more open with them about other essential information.

For now, though, she really would have to get to bed this time. She only hoped that in her dreams she’d be able to sort out what and during what time she’d be able to be more forthcoming with them.

TBC-????
Please -- feedback really helps me get the creative juices going.
*sad*

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 9-Apr-2002 7:22:09 PM ]