posted on 7-Sep-2001 9:49:23 AM
This is a sequel to my story Do What You Have To Do. If you haven't read it, it is on the repost board here:
[link=viewthread?forum=repost-fan-fiction&id=462]

This story can be found up to date on the repost board at [link=viewthread?forum=repost-fan-fiction&id=464]

Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 31

The doorbell rang in the Deluca household and Amy felt like screaming. The least little things seemed to be making her crazy these last few days. For a brief minute, she considered ignoring it. There really wasn’t anyone she wanted to talk to. But she never could resist a visitor.

It had been two days since she’d seen her daughter, two days since they had yelled and spoken horrible words. And she wasn’t sure if she was ever going to have a relationship with her again. How could they after all that had happened?

With a heavy sigh, she pulled open the door to find Charles Whitman. “Hey, Charlie. I didn’t expect to see you here.” Her heart sunk. How could she talk about this with him right now?

Charles raised tired eyes to his old friend. “Hey, Amy. Do you mind if I come in a minute?”

“This really isn’t the best of times, Charlie. Maybe later in the week?” She tried inching the door closed. She knew she was being cowardly, but she wanted to just close the door and forget about everything.

“Amy, please? We’ve been friends a long time. You were there for me when Jenny died, and I was here when Jack left. I could really use you to help put this in perspective.”

Amy knew he was right. They’d been through hell together and had dated once, almost marrying themselves. They’d been two teenagers with stars in their eyes, until Jenny had caught Charles’ eye and he’d broken Amy’s heart gently. She never had been able to resist him anyway. She opened the door wide.

“Coffee good with you?”

He flashed her a relieved smile. He hadn’t been sure she would let him in, and he completely understood how she felt. “Sounds great.”

He followed her into the kitchen, settling at the table while she poured coffee.

“I don’t even know where to begin. Have you talked to Maria?”

Amy looked down at the contents of her mug, letting the liquid warm her skin. “Yeah, if you could call it that. We yelled mainly.” And oh, how the words still hurt. Did Maria really think those things of her? “What about Alex?”

“Oh, he came by and we calmly sat and discussed aliens and royalty and obligations and destiny. And the whole time, I was wondering to myself how all this could possibly be real. How could we really be having this conversation? And how did I not know about all the danger my son was in? What kind of parent does that make me?”

But Amy was stuck on the first parts of his statement. “Royalty?”

“Yeah, Alex explained it all. About how they were married in their old lives, how they were rulers of their planet, murdered in some rebellion. So, they were sent here to grow up to return one day and stop some evil guy from taking over.”

“What?” How could Maria have not told her any of this? But even as she wondered, somewhere deep inside, she knew the answer. She hadn’t asked, hadn’t let her daughter explain when the opportunity had presented itself.

Charles was confused by Amy’s reaction to all this. Could she really not know? “Maria didn’t tell you?”

“We didn’t quite make it there.”

Charles started backpeddling. “Oh, well maybe you two should talk.”

“No! Don’t go. What else did Alex tell you? Did he say…what Michael’s done to Maria?”

Obviously uncomfortable, Charles sat back down in his chair. “He said something about their cellular structure changing to this Antarian DNA.”

Amy was confused, a hundred translations for what that meant ran through her head. “What exactly does that mean?”

“I think it means that their cells have changed, their DNA structure. Alex said they could change the molecular structure of things.” And he still wasn’t entirely clear on that one either. Tired, he dragged his hands over his face.

“This is all just too much for me. I invited Isabel into our home, and I don’t even know what she is. Did she do something to Alex? I know he’s been infatuated with her since he was a kid and I always thought it was harmless. But now…I just keep asking myself what Jenny would do if she were here. She always knew exactly what to say, what to do. And I feel like none of this would have happened if she were still here. She would have known something was wrong instantly.”

Amy had been wondering the same things herself about Michael. Had he done something to Maria to draw her to him? They never did anything but fight, had absolutely nothing in common. Things she had taken for fact only a week ago she now questioned. And that bothered her.

“I wish I could say what Jack would have done. But I didn’t really know him as well as I thought. I mean, he left before Maria was born.” She sighed again into her coffee. “What do you say we switch this coffee for something stronger? You can tell me the rest of the story.”

“It’s only eleven in the morning.”

Amy met his eyes. “I just found out my daughter’s sleeping with an alien. I think we’re safely out the realm of social norm here.”

“Do you have any whiskey?”

“I’ll find some.”

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

Liz checked her watch for the tenth time. Isabel was late, and that was completely unlike her. Their last class of the day, History, had been cancelled, and the two girls had decided to head for the mall to shop for some wedding items. Now, she had been waiting for fifteen minutes with no sign of her future sister-in-law.

With a sigh, Liz resumed watching the people passing around her. She’d grown up here and recognized most of the people she saw. She would miss that when she left Roswell, but at least she had begun preparing herself for it. She knew full well it could be any day that Salia called her children back home. And Liz Parker would leave Earth behind. It was just another reason why she refused to postpone her wedding. She wanted to be married here, on Earth, with her friends and family. She only hoped that would be the case.

Movement caught her eye and she turned to see another familiar face.

“Cassie?”

The young girl swung around, confused when someone recognized her. “Oh, Liz. Hi.”

Liz abandoned her bench. “Hey. What are you doing here? Don’t you have school?”

“Teacher workday.”

“Ah. So, catching any good sales?” She couldn’t believe her good luck. She had sat up with Max last night, trying to figure out a way to talk to Cassie again, and here she was.

“A few. Are you here by yourself?”

“For the moment. I’m waiting for Isabel. She’s dragging me off for more wedding shopping.”

Cassie saw the same hint of sadness in Liz’s eyes that she had seen when they first met. Why would she be so sad when her wedding was so close? Was she not as in love with the groom as she’d heard they were? “Oh, well, I don’t want to interrupt.”

“No, you’re not. If you’re not doing anything, you’re welcome to come with us. I could use the moral support. When Isabel get started, there’s no stopping her.” Cassie looked lonely. Her instinct was telling her to trust this girl, and that she was supposed to help her. But she didn’t understand it.

“Sure. It’s always more fun spending other people’s money anyway.”

“Isabel’s motto.”

“What’s my motto?” Isabel approached Liz’s side, curious about the stranger she was talking to. There wasn’t anyone in Liz’s life that she didn’t know. And everyone was a danger to them these days.

Liz took Isabel’s arm, forming a connection. “Isabel, I want you to meet Cassie. She works at the Crashdown. She just moved into town.”

“Nice to meet you.”

Liz?

Sorry, I forgot to mention it. She just moved with her foster parents. Max and I were going to keep an eye on her. Make sure she’s okay.

Isabel flashed a charming smile at Cassie. The young girl looked ready to bolt from nerves. Yes, there was definitely something she was hiding, but was it dangerous to them?

Cassie had never felt more intimidated in her life. Standing in front of her was the most beautiful woman she’d ever met. And then there was Liz, who was stunning herself. What was she doing with them? She was clumsy and oafish looking next to them. “Hi,” she managed to get out.

“I was just telling Cassie she should come shopping with us.”

“Great idea. I could always use someone else to talk you into the silver punch bowl fountain.” Isabel linked arms with Cassie and steered her towards one of the nearest shops. “Tell me, how do you feel about ice sculptures?”

The trio spent the next few hours making wedding preparations. Liz found that Cassie was extremely smart, wanting to major in physics one day. They had talked about the math teachers at the school until Isabel had made gagging noises and begged them to stop. Cassie seemed a bit unsure of herself, but she had confided that her foster parent’s work made them move around a lot. She didn’t talk about them much, almost seemed afraid to. And it screamed trouble to Liz.

Now, she was seated across from Isabel in the food court while Cassie was standing in line to get them ice cream. Liz checked to make sure they were alone before approaching her friend.

“Hey, you wanna talk?”

As tired as she was, Isabel’s brain knew exactly what Liz was talking about. They had accidentally connected the other day and she was sure Liz had seen the truth of what had happened in the research lab. “How much did you see?”

Liz grimaced. “I’m pretty sure all of it. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do it. It’s your brother’s fault really. He’s the one that gave me these powers.”

Isabel managed a chuckle, knowing Liz didn’t mind any of the changes she had undergone since Max had healed her. They had actually discovered that Liz had her own unique power, much like the others did. She was able to form connections easier than any of them. And she could communicate freely throughout the connection. Unfortunately, it also meant that she couldn’t really touch anyone when their emotions were running high, and she had to keep up a constant mental block. Liz had assured her it wasn’t as horrible as it sounded, but Isabel wasn’t so sure about that.

“So you saw the whole embarrassing thing.”

“Yeah. And it really wasn’t all that embarrassing. It was more steamy than anything.”

“Oh, it was embarrassing, all right. Liz, I couldn’t control myself. I threw myself at him. God, I don’t even want to know what he thinks about me.”

“Are you crazy? This is Alex, who’s been in love with you since like third grade. You two are best friends. You can either go one of two ways. You can just dismiss the whole thing as Czechoslovakian induced feelings and forget about it. Or you can take this as an opportunity to see if they might go anywhere.”

“It’s a bit late for that. Alex and I talked. He said the whole thing was a mistake.”

Liz frowned. “He said that?”

Isabel dropped her head in her hands. “How did this happen?”

“I’d say love makes you do strange things.”

“What? I’m not in love with Alex. I mean, I love him as a friend, but not like that.”

“Okay. If you say so. But let me ask you a question. If you’re not honest with me, be honest with yourself. What exactly do you feel for Alex? Before the night in the lab, were you completely happy with your friendship? You didn’t want anything more out of it?”

Isabel frowned now. “I don’t know. No, I do know. I wanted more. God, that was hard to say. I’ve been looking at him and wondering, Liz. I’ve been wondering if there’s a reason I’m only happy when he’s around. And I feel kind of empty when he’s not there. This is insane. This is what got me into trouble in the first place. Alex doesn’t feel that way about me.”

“So, he wasn’t kissing you back?”

“That’s not the point. Maybe he was.” She thought back to the urgent pressure of his lips, and her heart filled with a longing. “But you didn’t see what I saw in his head. He still loves Breanna. He still wants her, even after everything she’s done. And how am I supposed to compete with that? I had my chance, and I blew him off too many times before. He moved on. End of story.”

“Isabel, I know you both better than that. And I can tell you that you stand out alone in his mind. You’ll always be perfection to him. I’ll bet he’s just as confused as you are. You two should talk again. But before you do, you need to think about what it is you want from him. Because if you two decide to go for it and see what happens, it might crush your friendship if it doesn’t work out. You both have to be willing to put everything you have into it or it won’t work. Max and I figured that out the hard way.”

“I know I need to sort all this stuff out. I know what I want. I want Alex.” She found that the more she said it, the easier it was to say. “But I’m afraid I won’t be able to stand up to the image he has of me on that pedestal. And there’ll always be Breanna. What if she decided to come back for him?”

“There are always risks. But I think knowing you want more from him is a good place to start. I’ll bet he doesn’t know that, does he?”

“Probably not.”

Liz placed a hand on Isabel’s. She could see Cassie returning to the table, so they only had a few minutes left. “Just follow your heart. I think Alex is a good person to trust it to.”

“I know you’re right. I’ll talk to him first chance I get. I think I do want to see what could happen between us.”

“Am I interrupting? I could come back.”

“No, come sit.” Liz waved away Cassie’s hesitancy. “We were just girl talking. It’s so hard to do with so many men around. We like to talk about them every chance we get.”

Cassie took a seat beside Liz and Isabel. “So, what’s your fiancée like?”

A dreamy smile crossed Liz’s face as she thought about Max.

Isabel sighed. “Great. Another afternoon spent talking about the virtues of my brother. Get comfortable, Cassie. This could take awhile.”



Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 32

“Alex, there you are! I’ve been looking all over for you!” Kyle rushed through the front door of the apartment they shared.

“Well, I’ve been hiding from you on the couch in plain sight. My evil scheme worked.” Alex was idly flipping channels on the television. Nothing was appealing to him, and everything he settled on reminded him in some way of Isabel.

Kyle jumped in his path, effectively blocking his line of sight to the television. “Get up and get dressed, you’re going out with me.”

Alex tossed the remote down beside him. “No offense, but you’re not my type.”

“Funny. Look, I need you to help me out, man. It’s an emergency.”

“And that would be what?”

“I need you to go out to dinner with Chrissy’s sister.”

“Forget it.” Alex rose from the couch, heading for the kitchen. He began pulling down a glass, searching for the soda bottle he’d seen earlier.

“Alex, my man, think about this for a minute. It’s not like it’s an actual date. I mean, Chrissy’s old roommate just died. Her sister came into town to make sure she was alright and help her make plans to move the body home. It was her idea to take Chrissy out someplace nice, maybe get her mind off things for a few hours. And if it’s the three of us, Amber will feel out of place.”

“Have you seen the soda?”

“What is your deal? I’m handing you a gorgeous woman on a silver platter – and she is gorgeous, believe me. And you’re completely not interested. We are in the prime of our lives. We’re both single men, living in a swinging bachelor pad, and are we living it up? No. I’m disappointed in us.”

“I’m just tired, Kyle. I’m not up for living it up tonight.”

“Does this have anything to do with Breanna? Because I know she hurt you, but you’ve got to get over this.”

Alex sighed, leaning against the counter, the soda forgotten. He actually hadn’t thought about Breanna in quite awhile, and the knowledge surprised him. He eyed Kyle carefully. He could trust his roommate. “No, it’s not about her. There’s something else.”

“Oh, really? Do tell.”

“Well, there’s sort of someone else, maybe.”

“What?” Kyle’s interest was definitely piqued. “Well, make with the details. Is it anyone I know?”

“Actually, yes. But it’s complicated. Isabel and I sort of ended up making out the other night.”

“Whoa! Run that by me again. You and the very lovely Isabel made out and you haven’t given me all the details yet?” Kyle was impressed. He knew Alex had crushed on her for years, but he didn’t really think Isabel would ever give him the time of day.

“It was strange.”

“Always a good description for making out.”

Alex glared at him and Kyle fell silent, a smug grin on his face. Sometimes, they could banter back and forth for hours, trying to one up each other. “I don’t know what happened. She touched that alien device we found and she started acting funny. Somebody showed up, so we hid in this closet thing. I think she was reacting to the device and she started freaking out.” Alex was hesitant to tell Kyle about her claustrophobia panic attack. Somehow, it felt wrong to share that. “And I didn’t want us to get caught, so I did the only thing I could think of, and I kissed her.”

Kyle started laughing. “You didn’t.”

“I did. It’s not funny.”

“I know. I’m sorry. What did she do?”

“Well, she sort of attacked me. I thought she’d just break it off, kind of calm down again, but it just set her off again. The next thing I knew she was in my lap and her hands were in places they’d never been before.”

“This is the best thing I’ve heard in years. Go on.” Kyle settled on the barstool directly opposite where Alex was leaning.

“Well, then nothing. I stopped her, and the intruder was gone. And we came back to Roswell.”

“So, what happens now?”

“Nothing happens now. It was a fluke. Isabel doesn’t feel those things for me. It was just a weird moment. She probably just reacted bad to whatever it was that shocked her.”

“And good old King Max doesn’t know what it is?” Kyle was suddenly sorry he’d missed yesterday’s meeting.

“No. But the weird thing is that it didn’t shock anyone else. They were all able to pick it up just fine.” The whole thing was frustrating, but since he’d exchanged harsh words with Isabel, he didn’t even have anyone to run his ideas by. And he always worked better when she was around.

“So, are you going to go for it with Isabel?”

“Are you crazy? I’m not her type. She’s a princess, for gods sake. How am I supposed to try to date her? She should be wooed by counts or something.”

“Okay, first of all, don’t ever use the word ‘woo’ again. It went out of style with ‘hither’ and ‘thou’. Second, if you’re not dating Isabel, there’s no reason why you can’t go out with us tonight. It’ll just be a favor from you to me. I really need some time with Chrissy, and if you’re there to talk to Amber, I might get that.”

“I don’t know.” It still felt wrong, but why? Kyle was right. He wasn’t dating Isabel. She made it perfectly clear that she was as mortified about the whole thing as he was. Why shouldn’t he go out and have a good time? It would probably only be another week or two before Isabel started dating someone new and he’d be back to being alone again. He should get out more and make new friends. Maybe even start dating again. Surely, that would get rid of the dull ache in his heart. And in time, he would probably forget all about how soft Isabel’s lips were. And how he was right thinking that the curve of her neck was made for his lips to fit perfectly. No, it wouldn’t do any good at all to think about those things. She was his friend, and he would just have to start thinking of her that way again.

“Okay, I’m in.”

“Great! Okay, go get dressed. We’re going to the French restaurant outside of town. Chrissy’s been dying to try it out. So, dress up and we’ll leave in fifteen minutes.” Kyle loped off to call the girls and set things in motion.

Alex remained at the counter for a minute. This was going to be an interesting night.

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

Four hours later, Alex found himself waiting for the evening to grind to a halt. Amber had indeed been gorgeous, more so than Kyle had led him to believe. She had a lighter shade of Chrissy’s red hair and a body that would make any man sit up and take notice. But Alex wasn’t interested. He had politely sat through dinner while Kyle had tried to cheer up Chrissy, and made small talk with Amber. He learned that she was a four years older than he was and she had majored in computer science. So, they had tons to talk about. But Alex couldn’t help but compare her to Isabel.

If she had been there, he would have looked at her and she would have politely hid a grimace behind a napkin. They would have escaped somewhere to make fun of the couple at the table next to them. It would have been fun. Amber was nice, but she wasn’t Isabel. Isabel’s neck was longer, her skin a shade softer than Amber’s was. And her eyes didn’t have that sparkle that Isabel had when she looked at him. They could just pretend the rest of the world disappeared sometimes. And her voice, it could be cold as ice one minute, or as warm and silky as brandy the next. No, Amber just wasn’t Isabel, and he was beginning to think the rest of his life was doomed to be spent comparing every other woman in his life to her.

So, now, he was driving Amber back to the hotel she had rented out and he hoped against all hope that she wasn’t expecting him to try anything with her. It just wasn’t going to happen.

He pulled into a parking space in front of her room and cut the engine. They sat in silence a minute.

“Thank you for coming tonight. I know Kyle dragged you along, and your mind was somewhere else tonight, but you still tried.”

Damn. Was it that obvious? “No, I’m sorry. You’re right. I have been somewhere else. I didn’t mean to make you feel ignored. I really did have a good time, despite everything.”

Amber turned sad, her face crumbling at the mention of Jenna.

“You two were friends too?”

“Yeah. Chrissy and I are only a year apart, and the three of us went out a lot. Would you mind helping me out for a minute? I’m trying to decide which pictures to use for the visitation and the funeral, and I didn’t think Chrissy would be up to helping out.”

Alex forced out a small smile. “Of course.” He got out and opened Amber’s door, waiting while she let him into her room. It was small, but comfortable. A single suitcase sat in the corner. But a barrage of pictures lay scattered across the rooms’ single table.

Amber picked one up and handed it to Alex. “This one was taken when I was twelve. We went camping together and hated every minute of it.” She smiled at the memory.

The picture showed three girls, all in matching bathing suits, wearing identical grins. They were hugging for the camera. Alex found himself smiling sadly at the image. “When was the last time you saw her?”

“A few months ago. We try to get together periodically. Or we tried.” Her face fell again, and Alex pulled her into a gently hug. “I don’t understand this, Alex. It doesn’t make sense. They still don’t know what killed her. She was so young, and she had so many plans.” She was sobbing now and Alex rubbed her back soothingly. He couldn’t image what she was feeling.

Amber hiccupped and pulled out of his embrace. She stared into his eyes, and wanted to get lost for just a few minutes. She didn’t want to think about what she would do with the plane ticket she had bought to visit her old friend next month, or how empty the house would be a Christmas when she didn’t breeze through the room in her funny Santa hat.

She leaned forward and brushed her lips against Alex’s. She let herself fall into the strength of his arms as she tried to deepen the kiss.

Alex froze at the unexpected contact. This was wrong. It was horribly wrong. But how could he turn her down without hurting her worse? Gently, he eased out of the kiss. “Amber…”

But she was smiling at him. “I know. I’m sorry. I just wanted to…I don’t even know what.” She broke away from his embrace, embarrassed by her actions. She walked over to the table again, sifted through the pictures until she found the one she was looking for.

“You were trying to forget. I’m sorry if I did anything to lead you on.”

“You didn’t. Don’t worry about it. I’m really sorry.”

Alex sighed. What was it about kissing him that made women sorry later? “It’s just that there’s kind of someone else. It’s something in progress, maybe.”

Amber raised her dark eyes back to Alex, and she smiled. “Then she’s lucky.” She looked back down to the picture in her hand. “We took this one the last time we were all together. It seems so long ago now.”

She handed it to Alex, and he took it reluctantly. Because he was expected to, he examined the photo. Amber and Chrissy were on either side of a brunette. She kind of reminded Alex of Liz in her looks. They were laughing together, obviously having a wonderful time. But there was something about her face that looked familiar. Had he seen her before? It didn’t seem possible since he lived out of town. But he could have sworn that he knew her.

“I would definitely use this one for the visitation.” As he moved to hand it back to Amber, something clicked in his brain and he froze. No. It couldn’t be. He pulled his hand back and looked at the picture again.

“Do you have some others I could see?”

Amber smiled, happy to show off her friend. Alex moved closer to the table, feeling bad for not being honest with her. But as he looked through picture after picture, he was certain. Jenna Robertson had been at the research lab two days ago. He had seen her through the slatted vents of the closet he and Isabel had hidden in. And she had used alien powers to open the wall panel. He had to talk to Max and the Sheriff right away.

“I’m sorry, Amber, but I have to go.”

“Thank you, Alex, for understanding.”

Alex didn’t hesitate to pull her into another hug. “Call me if there’s anything I can do to help while you’re here.”

“I will.” And she smiled at his retreating form as he climbed into his car. He waited until he had pulled out of the parking lot before he started making phone calls. They were going to have to get together tonight, regardless of the time. This was too big of a coincidence to dismiss.




Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 33

“Okay, I’m here. What’s the emergency?” Max entered the deserted Sheriff’s office to find Alex and Jim huddled over a stack of papers.

“We’ve got trouble.”

“Tell me.” He knew by Alex’s tone that he wasn’t kidding. He had asked for a private meeting first, since they seemed to get more accomplished without the entire group butting heads.

“Jenna Robertson.” Jim slid a file towards Max.

“The girl Kyle was talking about that died?” Max began flipping through the file, but he knew he wouldn’t find what he needed in there.

“That’s the one. I just spent the evening with Chrissy and her sister. And I managed to put two and two together to make a very disturbing four.”

“Okay, it’s late. Could we please just get down to it?”

Jim rifled through his desk for another report. “The autopsy on the girl came back earlier tonight. It’s the damndest thing, but he can’t find a cause of death.”

“What?” Max leaned over to see for himself.

“Age twenty three, graduate student, non-smoker, ran five miles a day. This kid was a picture of health. All of her organs were functioning normally, except for her brain. When the pathologist checked, he said it was functioning abnormally.”

“I don’t understand.”

“She was using parts of her brain that I imagine you do.”

Max studied Jim carefully. “Are you saying she’s one of us?”

Alex jumped in, tired of waiting. “No. She was human. At least she was last week. I’ve seen her before, Max, at the research lab Sunday. She was the one who followed us, who used the nifty silver handprint doorknob you guys use. She was looking for the device, knew exactly where to go for it.”

“So, what are we saying then? How can she be human, but not be human?”

“Maybe possession. It’s been done to Brody before. And those people at the Summit meeting years ago.” Alex paced the floors now, anxious about what all this meant.

“But that was just inhabiting bodies. Can they use powers like that?”

“I don’t know. But I think the answer to everything lies in those encrypted documents. Have you guys had any luck with that device?”

“No, Michael, Tess and I tried everything we could think of. Isabel hasn’t been around lately, so I don’t know about her.”

“There’s something else.”

Both Max and Alex turned to Jim.

“After Alex called, I did a bit of investigating. I scanned for anything unusual since Saturday.”

“And you found something?” Max was hanging on Jim’s every word.

“There was a 911 phone call made Saturday evening. I managed to pull a copy of it. I thought you should hear it yourself.” He pushed the play button on an old recorder and sat back to watch their reactions.

911 operator. What is the nature of your emergency?

Yes, I’m on highway 72 traveling into Roswell and there’s been an accident. It looks like a hit and run.

Are there any survivors, Ma’am?

Yes, a man. He isn’t wearing any clothes and his arms and face look burned.

Okay, can you feel for a pulse?


Max and Alex exchanged nervous glances as there was a pause on the tape. Then the woman’s soft words could be heard over the tape, and a chill ran down Alex’s spine. He knew somehow that he was hearing the voice of a dead woman.

What the hell?

I…there’s something wrong with his heart.

Ma’am, are you hurt? What’s your name?


Max found that he couldn’t blame the operator for the panic in her voice. The woman sounded dazed and fairly hysterical.

Jenna. Jenna Robertson. I wasn’t in the accident. Look, this guy is burning up. He needs help. Is someone-

A scream filled the air and Max’s heart constricted with fear and anger. There were muffled noises that followed her screams, and the operator continued to call out her name. Then there was nothing. Jim stopped the tape and waited for their reactions.

“When was that call placed?”

Jim checked the records. “Five twenty three.”

Max turned to Alex. “That was an hour after Maria and Liz had those flashes.”

“Do you think they’re related?” But he already knew they were. They had to be. Coincidences had ceased to exist in their lives years ago.

“Yes. I’m not sure what this all means, but I think the key is in those files. We may be dealing with a new kind of enemy here.”

“There was one other thing the pathologist found.” Jim interrupted, knowing from experience that they could talk of possibilities for hours. “According to the records we had sent over on Jenna, she had no identifying birthmarks or tattoos.” He pulled a photo from the file and slid it across the table for their viewing.

Alex felt sick. The last thing he needed tonight was to have to see forensic pictures of a girl he’d heard the virtues of all night. But he forced himself to look anyway. The photo was a close up of her neck. It had been turned to the side, her hair pulled back to reveal a small red mark.

“What is that? Is that a tattoo?” It seemed wrong to Alex. Jenna hadn’t seemed like the type to get a tattoo, and if she had, she would have told her two friends about it.

“Maybe she just didn’t tell anyone about it.” Max offered.

But Jim nodded. “We checked out that angle. They took trace samples and it’s not an ink. So, all I can tell you is that no conventional tattoo parlor made that mark.”

Max tore his eyes away from the sight he knew would burn in his mind forever. They had done this. Their presence was a danger to everyone around them. He had no doubt that this was some new form of enemy, a new danger. And he didn’t even know what it was, much less how to deal with it. He turned to face Alex, and found an expression that matched his own. “I need you to decode those files, Alex.”

Alex nodded. He knew there was no other way to protect them from whatever was out there. “I’ll work on it tonight.” He would find someway to crack those codes if it was the last thing he did.

Max turned back to Jim. “What happened after this call was made?”

“Well, they sent out a dispatch unit, but they didn’t find anything. There wasn’t a wreck, or a car to be seen for miles. They passed it off as a prank.”

“Until now,” Alex noted grimly. Suddenly, a thought occurred to him. “Was her cell phone found?”

Jim frowned as he checked the records. “No, it doesn’t look like it.”

Alex turned back to Max. “If we could get a lock on that phone, it may still be in the desert and we might find some answers.”

“Can you do that?”

“Oh yeah, it ‘s just a simple matter of triangulating the-“

“Stop. I don’t want to know. Just do it.”

Alex mock saluted him. It looked as though he wasn’t getting any sleep for the next few days.







Edited by - cookieman1234 on 09/10/2001 06:33:07

Edited by - cookieman1234 on 09/17/2001 09:38:45

Edited by - cookieman1234 on 09/17/2001 10:59:38

Edited by - cookieman1234 on 09/19/2001 06:02:09

Edited by - cookieman1234 on 09/22/2001 11:10:08

Edited by - cookieman1234 on 09/23/2001 09:16:07

Edited by - cookieman1234 on 09/23/2001 09:16:52

Edited by - cookieman1234 on 09/30/2001 22:07:03

Edited by - cookieman1234 on 10/04/2001 08:02:23

[ edited 33time(s), last at 5-Apr-2002 2:28:18 PM ]
posted on 8-Sep-2001 3:12:25 PM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Hey guys! Here's another nice long part for you. I don't know what's up with the last few being super long, but I'm sure you're not complaining. Yes, you're not going to like me in the next few parts. I have Alex and Isabel at each other's throats and Maria and Michael may just have a few misunderstandings of their own. But remember, Cookieman loves you.

Learning to Live
Part 34

“This had better be life or death.” Isabel grumbled as she drug her tired body into the living room. It was ungodly early for a meeting. But with everyone’s class and work schedules, it was hard to schedule these things. Unfortunately for Max, her rational side was still sleeping.

Isabel knew she looked horrible and for once she didn’t care. She hadn’t slept well, tossing and turning while she tried to find the right words to tell Alex how she felt. It was nerve wracking, not knowing how he would react. But the memory of his lips, a bit hesitant, spurred her onward.

She could hear sounds of life from the bathroom and she knew it was Tess. Liz had been glued to Max’s side lately, and Maria hadn’t come home again last night. She and Tess and been worried, but Maria had been in class and had said she was fine, just busy. So they hadn’t said anything to the others yet. But Isabel knew that Michael was a ticking time bomb. He hadn’t seen or heard from Maria since she’d gone to see her mother and Michael had taken to calling for her a half dozen times a day.

As Isabel set about making coffee, the door opened and Kyle slinked through the room.

“Late night?”

“You have no idea.” He rubbed his hands over his face and followed his nose into the kitchen. “If that’s coffee you’re making, I’ll love you until the end of time.”

She snorted at him. “That’s what they all say.” She poured a cup and handed it to him. Casually, she leaned against the counter, examining her nails. “So, uh, is Alex coming?”

Kyle sipped the coffee gratefully, his brain still upstairs in bed. Damn Evans and his early morning meetings. He’d barely gotten four hours of sleep.

“Yeah, he was just getting up when I left. He wasn’t even home from dropping off Amber by the time I went to bed.”

Isabel froze. “Amber?”

“Chrissy’s sister. They went out with us last night. They must have hit it off if he didn’t come home until almost five this morning.” As Kyle took another sip of coffee, his brain caught up with his mouth. Isabel was frozen in place, pain clouding her eyes. Shit. Now he’d done it.

“What I meant to say was that Alex was doing me a favor last night. He didn’t even want to go at all.”

“Oh, I see. So, you dragged him along against his will and then they happened to hit it off?”

“Exactly. No, wait. I meant to say no. Damnit, Isabel, wait.”

But Isabel was striding across the room, fury guiding her steps. What a fool she’d been. Here she’d been trying to find a way to tell Alex she had feelings for him and he was out all night with some girl. Oh, he was moving on from Breanna alright, but not with her.

The door opened and Max, Liz and Michael entered the room, an argument already in progress.

“No, Michael. Just hand on a second and I’ll tell everyone at once.” Max glanced around the room. “Where is everyone else?”

“I’m here.” Tess also headed for the kitchen, fresh from her shower and dressed for her early morning class.

Kyle had to force himself to look away from her. Instead focusing on Isabel. She was lost in thought and Kyle just knew he’d screwed up royally. Why couldn’t he just keep his big trap shut?

“Where’s Maria?”

“She’s not here. She can’t make it.” Tess lied quickly. Maria had asked them to cover for her a few days while she sorted out some stuff in her head.

Worry mixed with anger on Michael’s face but before he could reply, the door opened again and Alex rushed through, a lock box in his arms.

Liz took one look at Alex and knew something was wrong. He looked awful. His eyes were bloodshot, dark circles hollowed his face. And he looked utterly exhausted.

“Alex, are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” He hated dismissing Liz like that, but they had bigger things to talk about. “Did you tell them yet?”

“I was waiting for you.”

“What’s going on, Max?” Liz knew something was up when Max had been blocking her all morning.

Max and Alex quickly relayed the information they had learned from the Sheriff the night before.

Kyle was shocked to the core and angry. Why weren’t there just accidents anymore? “So, Jenna’s death is alien related?”

“It looks that way.” Alex had never been more tired in his life. After finally returning home, he’d poured over the rest of the documents, hoping to find something that might help make sense of this new puzzle. He knew it wouldn’t be so hard if he hadn’t spent the night with Jenna’s loved ones.

Kyle saw the fatigue in his friend’s face and cut him a break. “How’s Amber?”

Alex rotated his shoulders, trying to get rid of some of the stiffness. “Upset. She doesn’t understand why she’s dead. And I didn’t know what to tell her.”

“Who’s Amber?” Tess didn’t know if she had missed something.

“Chrissy’s sister,” Isabel answered.

Alex raised his eyes to meet Isabel’s. How had she known that? And what was that note in her voice? It was almost frosty, but he hadn’t heard that from her in years. But even more disturbing was that she wouldn’t meet his eyes.

“Yeah, well in any case, I went back through all the files we did have, and I think I may have found something.”

Alex opened the lock box to pull out some folders. “I found some references to a race called the Scaribes.”

Max interrupted. “Where? We went through those files and I don’t remember that.”

“That’s where the no sleep comes in on my part. Some of the files were partially encrypted and when we translated the destiny book, it was wrong in a few places. I ran them all through the translation program I made a few times, and I came up with a bit more information. The scaribes were-“

“Bounty hunters,” Liz finished for him. Her eyes had a sort of glaze to them as she struggled to find the memory.

“Is she doing it again?” Kyle still got creeped out when Liz went into one of these trances. It had scared the hell out of them the first time it had happened. But there were some things you just never got used to.

Max knelt beside Liz, taking her hand. Since his mother had inhabited Liz’s head, she occasionally went into a daze where she started drawing on memories that belonged to Salia. It usually took a key word, or a phrase to trigger it. But no matter how many times it happened or what answers it gave them, Max hated it more every time.

“What can you tell us about the Scaribes?”

“Ruthless, uncaring. I banned them from my provinces after their attack on the palace. But Khivar promised them shelter in return for their services defeating us.”

Isabel knew she was hearing her mother’s memories, and that Max couldn’t bring himself to question her for answers. So, she would have to.

“Is it possible for them to have traveled here to Earth?”

“Yes. But the atmosphere on Earth is corrosive to their bodies.”

“What can you tell us about their physical makeup? Do they have any special abilities?”

“They have two hearts, but no way to regulate their own body temperature. They came from a dead world, tricked us into believing they were peaceful creatures in need of a new home. We gave them sanctuary, hid them from our suns so that the last of their race would not die.”

“So they couldn’t live on Earth? Not with the sun?”

“They have the ability to inhabit the bodies of other creatures. But it is only for a short time. The physical demands on the borrowed body would be great.” Her voice wavered and Isabel knew Liz was breaking out of the trance.

“How can we recognize him?”

“They travel in pairs only. And if they have inhabited another body, they will continue to search for their targets until their mission in complete.”

Isabel dreaded doing this, but they had to know. “What would be the purpose of sending them to Earth? To kill us?”

“The Royal Four are safe. One of them will be needed to fulfill the prophecy, and to produce an heir to the throne. It is their human counterparts that would be targeted Khivar will stop at nothing to see that the prophecy is not fulfilled. It would be his downfall.” Liz’s breathing was labored, the memories harder to find.

“What is the prophecy?”

“Before the joining of the two suns, a child will be born of two worlds. It will…” Liz faltered, a pain building in her head.

“That’s enough.” Max placed a hand on Liz’s temple, strengthening their connection and pulling her back. He couldn’t sit by any longer and watch this.

Liz slumped back in her seat, blinking a few times. She noticed at once that everyone was staring at her. Then she felt Max’s presence in her mind, showing her the conversation they had just had.

Liz blew out a breath, hating the lapse in time she experienced when this happened. “I guess we know a bit more about that prophecy now.”

Michael pounced on her despite Max’s warning glare. “Liz, do you have a clear picture in your head of what these Scaribes look like?”

She thought a minute, surprised to find an image in her mind. “Yeah. Do you think you could sketch it?”

“Give me one minute to get my sketchpad.” He loped off to get his things.

“Okay, that helped. While they do that, I need you guys to see if you can work on unlocking this device. Liz, maybe you could try it too, see if something surfaces in your memory when you pick it up.”

Tess checked her watch. “I only have a few minutes before I have to leave for class.”

“I’m not touching that thing,” Isabel said flatly.

Max approached his sister carefully. “Is, we need your help.”

But she shook her head vehemently. “No, Max. Please, don’t ask me because I can’t.”

Max heard the note of panic in her voice and backed down. If they couldn’t get it to work, there probably wasn’t much she could do to help anyway. “Okay, Is. Maybe you could help Liz and Michael.”

Isabel nodded. There was no way she was going to be at the mercy of that thing again. The last time she’d touched it, everything she’d felt had been amplified until her own body was beyond her control. There was no telling what she’d do if she held it for longer than a few seconds.

Alex too saw the sheer panic in Isabel’s eyes and when the others split off, he rose from his chair to approach her.

“Isabel, can we talk a minute?”

Isabel’s temper was stretched to a very thin thread still. Her pride was still bruised and battered, but she still found herself unable to resist Alex’s soft voice.

“Fine. In my room.”

They passed the group, Isabel’s stride fast and furious. She just wanted to get this whole thing over with. The conversation with Liz earlier had drained the last of her energy, and she wasn’t up for Alex telling her why he only wanted to be friends. In her hurry, she didn’t see the phone cord stretched across the floor. Her boot caught on it and she wobbled in the air, trying not to fall. Warm arms caught her and she knew it was Alex without even looking.

She raised her eyes to politely thank him when the images slammed into her head. She saw him sitting in a candle-lit restaurant, his attention focused on the petite redhead before him. She saw the redhead laugh, placing a hand on his arm. Then she was in a motel room, saw their lips locked together in a kiss as the redhead angled her body closer.

Isabel pulled herself out of Alex’ arms as though she’d been burned. Her heart ached and broke in her chest. That was Amber. She knew it. They’d gone out and had ended up back in her motel room. Had she thought she was mortified before? Thank god at least she hadn’t made a fool of herself before she found out about last night.

Alex studied Isabel carefully. He knew she’d seen something when he’d touched her, but he could only guess what. Watching her carefully, he saw the wall go up around her emotions, and he knew what she’d seen. Somehow, she knew about last night. And he wanted to kick himself, kick Kyle for making him go. Instead, he grabbed Isabel’s arm and pulled her into her bedroom, ignoring her protests.

“We need to talk.”

Isabel folded her arms stiffly. “I don’t think we have anything to talk about.”

“Isabel, about what you just saw.”

Her eyes flared and she headed for the door. “I don’t think you have to explain yourself to me. I mean, it’s not like we’re dating or anything.”

Alex blocked her retreat. “It’s not like that. And besides, where do you get off being upset with me? You’re the one that told me yesterday that you wanted to forget the whole thing ever happened between us.” He was yelling now, but he didn’t care. It felt good to get the whole thing off his chest.

Isabel turned indignantly towards him. “Well, you’re the one that said the whole thing was a mistake. And maybe it was. So, if you want to go sleep with the first bimbo that comes along, go right ahead and do it. Don’t let me stop you.”

“Oh, don’t worry, I won’t. Yes, she found me attractive and irresistible. Is that so hard to believe?” Alex was tired of being turned down. He was tired of feeling like second best no matter what he did.

“She found you attractive and irresistible? More like she was looking for a warm body and found you there and willing.” Isabel didn’t know what was coming out of her mouth or how to stop it. What was she saying? She saw Alex freeze and she knew that last one had just cut to the bone. With everything in her, she wanted to take it back, to apologize and tell him she would do whatever he wanted to just go back to being his friend. But she couldn’t.

“Just because you don’t think I’m a catch doesn’t mean nobody else will. I know I’m not a count or a prince, dazzling you with jewels and money. I’m not the most attractive man in the world or the most interesting. But I deserve more respect than that. When I said that kiss at the research lab was a mistake, I meant it. I’ve never regretted anything more in my life. And I’m not going to stand here any longer and take your abuse. You’ll just have to find another servant to bow and scrape at your feet. Cause this one just quit.”

Alex pushed past her and out the door to the living room. He scanned the room and found that only Maria was there.

“Maria, good. Just the person I wanted to see. That blind date you wanted to set me up on? I’m in. Saturday. Just tell me where.” His gaze shifted back to Isabel, still standing in the doorway. “It’s time to move on, find someone new.”

Isabel’s eyes hardened even as her heart continued to break. “I’m in too. It’s time I met a real man. I’m done with children.”

Maria watched in confusion as Isabel turned and strode back into her room, slamming the door behind her. Alex turned as well and fled out the door, mumbling to himself as he went, slamming the front door as well. What the hell had just happened? She sighed as she grabbed for the phone. She disappears for a few days and the whole group dynamic crumbles around her. It looked as though it were up to her to set things right.




posted on 9-Sep-2001 6:31:51 AM
Hey Thea. Welcome aboard! It's nice when I pick up new people along the way. Yes, we are heading into murky waters, and there are still plenty of hard times ahead. What, you want life to be easy? Where's the fun in that? But there will always be the hope of smooth sailing. I love my characters, and though I may screw with their happiness now and again, I'll always leave them okay in the end. Thanks for reading!



posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:36:22 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Sorry, guys, but this is just a repost of what I did on the other board. I know a few of you haven't read it yet and asked for it. I'm working on the next part, but it's giving me trouble. It's an important part and I want to get it just right for you, so maybe I'll have it up tomorrow night or Wednesday. Wait, probably Wednesday, tomorrow is my last dress fitting. (The wedding planning is almost over) Consequently, on a topic completely unrelated to this story, after almost two years of planning this wedding (October 31), my fiancee says to me this weekend that we could just elope. Let me also interject that I recommended that very thing TWO YEARS AGO. Men kill me. Anywho, here's your part.

Learning to Live
Part 35

Liz sighed in frustration as her computer finished running comparisons of the test data she had fed it. She’d already been here hours longer than she’d expected and she thought longingly of the dinner she’d had waiting at home for her. It would just have to wait.

Max had already called a few hours ago to try and persuade her to come home, but she’d explained that she’d been behind from all the time off she’d taken already that week. And then she had reluctantly hung up the phone.

And now she sat at work when she had a wonderful fiancée at home waiting for her. Life just sucked.

An older woman popped her head in the room, gaining Liz’s full attention.

“Hey, Parker, I’m going home now. Why don’t you do the same?”

Liz flashed her a smile. “Thanks, but I really wanted to finish this up tonight. I won’t be too long.” Doctor Kidare was recognized as one of the most brilliant women in her field and Liz had a sort of hero complex around her.

Kidare frowned at her young researcher, reminded a bit of herself at that age. “Okay, but no more than a half hour. And I’m going to send Ralph up to check on you.”

Liz smiled with her at the thought of the burly securing guard kicking her out. He may be three hundred pounds of muscle, but he was a complete softie.

“A half hour, I promise. Now, go. Don’t you have a hot date?”

“Date, yes. Hot, no. But I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Shaking her head, Liz returned to her computer. Hopefully, she would be able to keep her promise and finish soon. Footsteps echoed back in the deserted halls and she swiveled to face the door.

“Did you forget your keys again?” she called out.

“Nope. Got em right here.”

Liz’s eyes widened when she head the teasing voice of her fiancée answer back a second before he appeared in the door frame.

“But you on the other hand forgot to eat dinner, didn’t you?”

Casually, she tossed her hair over her shoulder. “Actually, my boyfriend Roberto stopped by earlier and I ate wonderfully.”

“Roberto, huh?” He set the large brown bad he carried down and moved slowly towards her.

A thrill of anticipation ran through Liz’s body at just the sight of him. He carefully side stepped lab tables to stand directly in front of her, hand braced on each of her armrests, trapping her.

“Don’t worry. I’m still planning on keeping you around.”

“I’m flattered. So, would this be a good time to tell you about my girlfriend?”

Liz’s eyes narrowed. “You’re treading on thin ice, you know.”

He leaned in close, trying to tempt her with a kiss. “I missed you. It was lonely all by myself.”

She could feel his warm breath on her skin and her head wanted to roll back in pleasure, to give him access to her neck. Instead, she wrapped her arms around his neck and closed the distance between them.

Max wasn’t disappointed when Liz joined her lips to his. They stayed joined, not really trying to entice the other for more, but content to merely touch.

Finally breaking the soft kiss, Max smoothed down Liz’s hair, pure silk beneath his fingertips. She hadn’t been eating lately and he’d been trying to force her to eat at least one meal a day.

“So, I guess since you already had dinner, you don’t want what I have in the bag.”

“I wouldn’t want to hurt your feelings.” She eased out of the chair and opened the bag, starving. “Senior Chows?! You’re the best.”

“Oh, sure. I’m your favorite if I feed you.”

“And don’t you forget it.” She helped pull out the boxes and open them, inhaling the inviting scents.

“So, what are you working on? I thought I could help you out and get you home quicker.”

Liz gestured back to the computer screen with her fork while she finished chewing. “I’m just trying to analyze some of the test data they gathered this week. It shouldn’t take too long now.”

“Good. I was hoping we could celebrate.”

“And what are we celebrating?”

Max watched as she continued shoveling bites of Mexican food into her mouth. How long had it been since she’d eaten? He was going to have to watch her more carefully. She put up a good front, but he knew how bruised her heart was by her parent’s reaction to her news and then by their silence.

“Well, tonight happens to be our anniversary. We’ve been engaged for exactly thirteen days and if that isn’t cause for celebration, then what is?”

She knew he was trying to cheer her up and she decided to let him. “I agree completely. Should we celebrate naked in your apartment?”

His food forgotten, he took her in his arms. “I think that’s the best idea I’ve heard all day.”

He leaned in closer for a kiss, when a muffled ringing sounded from his pants. Max groaned in frustration.

“You’d better answer it.” Liz was torn between her own disappointment over losing Max’s attention, and her own hunger for the spicy meal he’d brought her. A wicked image formed in her mind of a way she could have both.

Max chuckled at her thoughts as he grabbed his phone. “Hello?”

Liz poised her fork to take another bite, almost dropping the fork when waves of panic and fear rolled through her. She immediately turned to Max.

“Yes, Sheriff, I understand. I’ll be there as quick as I can.” He turned off the phone carefully, feeling Liz’s nerves through their connection.

“What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know. He just asked me to come down to the station right away.”

“I’m coming with you.” She closed the lid to her dinner, no longer hungry.

“No, Liz. I’m taking you home.”

“Max,” she warned, but he took both shoulders in his hands.

“Liz, please. I don’t know what’s going on. At least let me pretend I can keep you safe. I know you’re strong and independent and I love you for it. But this could be serious.”

Liz thought about it. She really hated being left out of things, but she knew Max couldn’t concentrate if he as worried about her. “Okay, but I don’t want you to block me while you’re there. Promise me, whatever it is.”

Max hesitated, but knew she was right. If it were him, he’d at least want that much. “Fine. How long will it take you to finish here?”

But she was already up and turning off the machines. “Give me ten seconds.”

As in all times of trouble, the car ride back to the apartment building was quiet. Between the two of them, they had a dozen emotions churning inside of them. Liz no longer knew which of them were hers and which belonged to Max. They simply belonged to them both, their energies evolving into one.

Max pulled to a stop outside the building and Liz placed a hand on his to stop him from cutting the engine.

“I’ll go up alone. Just go and be safe.”

Not needing to say anything, he pulled her into another kiss, softer and gentler than any they had shared in a long time. It was the kind of kiss sadly reserved for times of danger. And they both knew whatever the Sheriff knew was going to make things worse.

“I love you.”

Liz rested her forehead on Max’s. “I love you too.” They no longer actually had to say the words, finding the proof in every heart beat. But they were nice to hear.

With a forced cheery smile, she slipped out of the car and up the stairs. She crossed to the window where she knew Max would be waiting to see she was safe. With a wave, he pulled the Jeep away from the building and into the night. With heavy limbs, she sunk into a kitchen chair. Not wanting the light, she waved them out with her hand.

And it was twenty minutes later that Maria tried to slip in unseen and found her best friend alone in the dark, looking lost. And in that moment, she realized that her brave friend wasn’t as strong as she pretended to be. It was easy to forget that sometimes.

She slipped soundlessly into a seat beside Liz and pulled her dark head onto her shoulder. Maria smoothed Liz’s hair back.

“Tell me.”

Liz heaved a heavy breath, happy to let Maria be the strong one for once.

“What’s going on, Maria? This is supposed to be one of the happiest times in my life, and I can’t even enjoy it!”

Both girls looked up when the front door opened softly. Alex peaked his head into the room, his eyes adjusting to the dim light. Then he spotted them in the corner, clinging to each other, eyes wide with worry. He joined them, pulling a chair behind them so they could both lean back into his chest. He’d seen Maria come home and he’d wanted to talk to her about her recent absence from the group.

“We’re falling apart here, guys,” he whispered. “We’ve always been a family. And families stick together.”

“The Sheriff called Max earlier, asked him to come down to the station. But he wouldn’t say why.”

“What’s been going on with you, Maria?” Alex was worried about his friend. She had distanced herself from the group and from Michael, and though no one had said anything about it yet, they were all worried.

“I don’t know. Things went bad with Mom. And I guess some of the things she started saying made sense.”

“Maria, you know better than that. Is this about Michael?” Alex guessed. “You know him better than anyone on this planet.”

“That’s my point. On this planet. But what about on his?”

“You need to talk to him. He’s worried about you.”

She sighed, wishing he would have offered her any sort of advice other than that. “I know.” Maria turned to Liz, surprised she hadn’t tried to knock some sense into her yet about Michael. Her face was twisted, in a grimace of pain. “Liz, are you alright?”

Maria and Alex watched in confusion as Liz leapt from her chair and bolted for the bathroom. There was the unmistakable sound of her retching into the toilet. The both got up at the same time as Isabel and Tess’s bedroom lights turned on.

“What’s going on?” Tess asked sleepily.

Isabel saw the concerned look on Alex’s face, and forced herself to ignore it, no matter how hard it was. He didn’t want her concern or her help. But something was going on. So, she turned to Maria. “Is Liz okay?”

Liz stumbled out of the bathroom, holding a hand to her mouth, still looking a little green. Her stomach lurched again as the images of what she’d seen from Max’s head replayed over and over. Not now. How could this be happening? She turned to face her friends, hands trembling in fear.

“They found another body.”








posted on 16-Sep-2001 10:58:53 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Okay, you know how I said earlier that I probably wouldn't have this part up today? Well, I lied. But in a good way, because you have a new part. However, it might also be in a bad way, because you may not like this one much. In fact, I'm expecting hate mail. But remember, things have to be bad for them to get better, right? I'm probably (for real this time) going to have the next part up in a day or two. Alex and Isabel are going to venture into the world of a double blind date set up by Maria. Oh, the possiblities.

Learning to Live
Part 36

Michael dragged himself up the stairs to his apartment. His life just sucked. He’d been forced to take a job as a cook at a greasy dive outside of town and hated every minute of it. The place made the Crashdown look like a four star restaurant. But money was money and he still had rent to pay.

Amy had been paying he and Maria to run odd jobs for the evergrowing fledgling business she had created. It had usually meant setting up cheesy alien displays and checking stock for her customers. But it was flexible to allow for their school schedule and Amy had paid them well. Plus there had been the added bonus of feeling for the first time like he was part of a family. A dysfunctional, neurotic family, but a family nonetheless. But she wouldn’t want him around now, not when she knew the truth about what he was.

Thinking about Maria and Amy made his stomach twist and his head throb harder. He knew Maria had gone to talk to her mother, then she had all but disappeared. And his gut was telling him that something had gone really wrong. Had Amy convinced Maria not to see him anymore? The thought was heart wrenching, and it had prompted at least a dozen phone messages for her a day. Of which she hadn’t returned a single one. He knew he was driving Isabel and Tess crazy, but he didn’t care.

Michael rubbed at his temples again. The only thing worse than working a horrible job was getting fired from one. They had something about a poor attitude, and he seemed to be distracted. Hell yes he was distracted. How could he concentrate on not burning hamburgers when Maria was avoiding him? Then there was the whole threat of alien invasion. He knew the Sheriff had discovered another body, and if bodies with no cause of death kept popping up, there would be some real explaining to do. They had to find the cause of this new threat and wipe it out. But how do you find an enemy that changes bodies like some people change clothes? Then on the way home, the tire on his motorcycle had gone flat and he’d had to walk it back into town, only to get an astronomical tire bill.

He’d even tried to use his powers on the ache in his brain, but that hadn’t even gone right. In fact, he thought it had made it worse somehow. It had been the worse day in the history of days and he just wanted to curl up in bed and close his eyes and maybe he wouldn’t feel the frustration clawing at him that he usually felt. If there was one thing he hated, it was being helpless to do anything when he knew danger was looming.

He jammed his key in the lock and tried turning it. He’d forgotten to call the superintendent to fix the damn lock. Great. He used more force, trying to force the key to move. Curbing the instinct to just kick the door in, he turned it one last time with more force, and the key broke off in the door.

Giving into the emotion, Michael kicked at the wall a few times. Could this day get any worse? The frustration clawed it’s way to the surface and he simply kicked at the door. The lock gave way and the door swung wide. Taking no satisfaction in the splintered wood, he slammed the door shut behind him, then stopped cold. Maria was standing in the middle of the living room, confusion mixing with anxiety in her eyes.

His heart lifting at just the sight of her, he took several steps towards her. If he could just get her in his arms, it would all be okay. But Maria took a step back from him and held out a hand to stop him. Michael froze. She hadn’t ever done that.

“Maria?”

“Michael, we have to talk.” She began pacing the room, wringing her hands.

Shit. This couldn’t be good. “What’s wrong?”

“I’ve just been thinking about us. And where we are and where we should be.”

Michael felt the throb begin anew. God, she wanted to talk about their relationship now? With everything else that was going on? When he hadn’t seen her for days on end? “Maria, can we talk about us later? I’ve had the day from hell.”

“No. We need to talk about this now. Michael, when people get together, there is a progression they take. They flirt, they do couple things, maybe move in together, marry, start a family, buy a house in the suburb with a white picket fence. Of those things, we’ve done absolutely none. We’ve never really dated. All of our time together was spent in cars either running or chasing somebody down. We’ve never done couple things. We don’t walk down the street holding hands. We don’t go dancing. The only place we eat at is the Crashdown. And it’s been five years. We’ve been together technically longer than Max and Liz, and they’re getting married in a few weeks.”

Michael crossed the living room into the kitchen, desperate for any drug that would rid him of this headache. What the hell was she talking about? She hadn’t wanted any of those things before? Why now? He began pulling items from his cupboard, looking for any form of aspirin that would help.

“Maria, I really don’t want to do this now. Why don’t you tell me what happened with your mother?”

But Maria shook her head as she watched him dump the contents of a drawer onto the kitchen counter. What was he doing? “No, Michael. We need to talk about this now. I’m tired of putting off discussions about our future. I need to know where we’re going.”

Michael frowned, unable to follow what Maria was talking about. “What do you mean, where are we going?”

Maria threw her hands up in the air. “I mean, where do you see us in five more years?”

“I don’t see us anywhere. I don’t know where I’ll be. You know that. You’ve always known that.” He continued his search, unable to see the rising agitation on Maria’s face.

“Right. Because you’re leaving Earth and everything on it behind whenever you get the big phone call. So, you can’t make any plans.”

“Exactly.” He missed the dead calm tone of her voice.

“So, what is Max doing? Isn’t he going with you? Cause, last time I checked, he was your leader, and here he is getting married to his high school sweetheart.”

“Maria, I’m not Max.”

“No, you’re definitely not.”

Michael froze. He carefully closed the cabinet door and stood in the doorway of the kitchen. He’d been compared to Max his whole life and had always fallen short.

“What do you want from me, Maria?” He chose his words carefully.

Maria took a deep breath. “I want to get married. Today. Now.”

Michael closed his eyes, shaking his head in confusion. “What? You want to just jump in the car and run off and elope? Just like that?”

“Yes.”

“Where’s this coming from? You didn’t want to get married last week.”

“Things have changed. I’m not asking you, Michael. I’m telling you. I want to get married. I want to know we have a future together. And if you can’t give me that, then…” Maria let her voice trail off, not knowing what she would do.

Michael’s features stiffened. She was ordering him to marry her in the dead of night. His stubborn streak kicked in and his chin raised a notch. He hated when she gave him ultimatums. “Then what?”

Maria crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m not going to waste any more time on someone that doesn’t plan on having a future with me. In five years, I’ve never asked anything of you.”

“No, you’ve never asked, you’ve just told me what you wanted and expected me to fall in line. Why should this be any different?” The pounding was making him weak in the knees. His head had never hurt like this before, but then neither had his heart.

“Yes or no, Michael. I need an answer now.”

He examined her, face and features cold with fury. She had closed herself off from him. And he didn’t know what to do. If he went to her now like he wanted to, she would push him away, he knew that. But why was she so hell-bent on getting married today? They’d talked about this briefly a few years ago and she’d told him she had wanted to have graduated from college before she got married. Why the sudden rush?

“Maria, let’s just talk about this for a minute. Can we sit down?”

But she wasn’t moving. “Yes or no?” Her heart was on the table. Either he wanted a future with her or not. This was the deciding moment. She needed to know that she wouldn’t wake up one morning to find him gone, his real family wanting him back home.

Michael crossed his own arms over his chest. “Not like this, Maria.”

“So, no then?” God, the pain in her chest was unbearable. She’d hoped, prayed he would say yes, that he would love her enough to want her in his life forever. But maybe her mother had been right. Michael Guerin just didn’t feel normal human feelings. She had been useful to him, and leaving this apartment now would be the hardest thing she would ever have to do. But a clean break now was better than last minute goodbyes when he stood at the door to a spaceship ready to blast back home.

Michael took a step toward her, knowing if she left now, it would be bad. “Maria, just stop this. Sit down with me and we’ll talk about whatever you want.” His heart had never felt as broken as when she took steps towards the door, away from him. How could she do this to him? Didn’t she know how much he loved her? How much this was hurting him to see her upset and not to let him help her?

“Goodbye, Michael. I hope you find your family someday.”

Michael watched dumbstruck as she fled out the door. He took steps toward her, but stopped. Now wasn’t the time. She was obviously upset about something. He would let her cool off then talk to her, set things straight. He would need a clear head to approach her, and he couldn’t do that right now without making the situation worse. Because what she didn’t know was that he had already found his family, and it had just run out the front door.





posted on 17-Sep-2001 6:21:35 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

This is probably the longest part I’ve ever written, but I couldn’t break it up. You’ll see why. And maybe this will make up for the Michael/Maria scene? I've got the next part for Finding Yourself written, but not typed. Maybe today? Just keep an eye out for it. Love you guys!

Learning to Live
Part 37

“And so I told him, ‘Bob, I’m the VP of the company, not a salesman’. Needless to say, he was embarrassed.”

“That’s so interesting. Tell me more.”

Alex ground his teeth together as Isabel cuddled closer to her date. He had been going on about himself for thirty minutes now and Isabel was actually encouraging him further. What the hell had he been thinking when he had agreed to this nightmare? Oh, yeah, he had wanted to move on with his life, prove that some women might actually find him desirable. He forced himself to turn away from Isabel and Mike and faced his date instead.

Alice was pretty, about 5’2, with a dazzling smile. And she was into computers. He found that he couldn’t be mad at Maria for doing this because she had found them perfect matches. Alice was everything he thought he wanted at one point in his life. She was smart and pretty, could understand what he was talking about half the time and didn’t humor him. He had been able to have a fairly intelligent conversation with her most of the evening. But the other part of it, it had been spent glaring at Mike. Mike, the tall VP of one of the largest corporations Roswell boasted. He was good looking, rich, smart. What wasn’t to like? He was the kind of man Isabel deserved. And where the hell had Maria been hiding normal friends? All the ones he’d ever met were the strangest of the strange.

“How is that desert?”

“Delicious. But I shouldn’t be eating it.” She covered her mouth with her napkin delicately.

“Nonsense. You’re in perfect shape. If you can’t splurge on deserts once in a while, what’s the point?”

“I guess. Here, you really should try a bite of this. It’s good.” She spooned a bite onto her fork and held it out for Alex to try.

Isabel was ready to scream. What the hell was Alex doing? Here he’d only known Miss Goody Two Shoes for a few hours and already she was feeding him? She watched as he rolled his eyes exaggeratedly when he tasted the sweet desert. The last few hours with Mike had been pure torture. She hadn’t spoken with Alex since their fight three days ago. And she missed him. She missed their late night talks and the way their minds clicked together, solving problems as a team. She missed hearing his voice, his laughter when she said something that amused him. She missed his sense of humor. She just missed Alex.

Mike chuckled at his own joke and Isabel was brought back to the present. “Enough about me. Maria tells me you two are friends. How did you meet?”

Alex met eyes with Isabel quickly and for a brief moment, they connected. Then Alex slid his eyes away. “We went to school together. But we were never friends growing up. Isabel traveled in different social circles than I did.” He couldn’t help the bitterness that crept into his voice.

“Oh really? So, you were a social butterfly?”

Isabel forced a smile. “Yeah. That’s me.”

Alice placed a hand timidly over Alex’s. “It doesn’t matter what circles you travel in, but the real friends you make along the way.”

Alex smiled at her. “I had two best friends growing up, Liz and Maria. They’ve been there for me everyday of my life. They’ve never let me down and they always support me.”

“You’re lucky then, man, two women for friends. That’s the way to do it.”

Alex just smiled at Mike, sipping his water. If the guy didn’t get his hand off Isabel’s back soon, he would simply have to rip his arm off.

Oblivious to any danger, Mike rubbed a lazy circle on Isabel’s bare back. “So, what about you, Isabel? You must have fascinating stories about growing up.”

Alex choked on his water and started coughing. Alice looked alarmed and began patting his back. Isabel glared at him before turning back to Mike. “No, I had a pretty typical childhood. Nothing out of the ordinary at all.”

“So, how did you two become friends then?” Alice was still darting glances at Alex as he caught his breath.

Alex just couldn’t help himself. The entire thing was just too funny. Here they were on a double date when all he really wanted to do was grab Isabel and take her somewhere alone where he could apologize to her and tell her how he really felt. Instead, he was being forced to make up stories. Should he tell them about how Isabel first dreamwalked him to make sure he wouldn’t turn them into the FBI? Or maybe how she had tried to come on to him in the Soap Factory to try to insure his loyalty? Or he could just make up something completely original. What the hell.

“Actually, I saved Isabel’s life.” He saw her jaw drop open and almost felt like laughing. Maybe this dinner was salvageable after all.

“Wow. Really?” Mike looked impressed.

“Absolutely, you see she was crossing the street and wasn’t paying attention to where she was going, and I pulled her out of the path of an oncoming car.”

Isabel glared at him. What the hell was he talking about? He’d never done any such thing. Well, two could play at his game. She pasted a sweet smile on her face. “I sure was lucky Alex was there to save my life. Who knows what might have happened to me otherwise. Oh, Alex, you should tell them about the time you locked yourself in the storage closet at the Crashdown. That’s this little restaurant in town.” She had turned to Mike to explain. “He was stuck in there for almost two days. He was forced to eat frozen waffles to survive.”

Alex narrowed his eyes at her. So, she was playing along, huh? Fine. “Oh, that’s boring compared to the time you tried to bake a cake for Max’s birthday and you forgot to put sugar in the cake.” He turned to Alice. “We had cut the cake and everyone went to take a bite, and it was the most foul tasting substance you’d ever eat.”

Isabel listened to Alice’s giggle and her temper started to boil. She was a damn fine cook and Alex knew it.

“Don’t worry about it, honey. Some women were born to cook, and some were born to be served.”

But Isabel hadn’t heard a word Mike had said. “Well, let me tell you about the time Alex tried to learn to juggle oranges and he dropped one right on his computer and it busted open and fried the whole thing.” There was steel in her voice now.

“How about the time you drove out of town and didn’t check your gas gauge and got stuck in the middle of the desert all night because your cell phone wasn’t charged?”

“At least I didn’t forget about Midterms last semester and walk into class oblivious to everything around me.”

Mike and Alice watched them banter back and forth, each throwing incidents at each other quicker than they could interrupt. Alice glanced at Mike and he merely shrugged at her, as confused as she was.

Finally tired of the made up scenarios, Isabel stood up abruptly. “I’m going to use the ladies’ room. Mike, if you could get our check, that would be great. I’m ready to leave.”

Mike stood with her and watched her with an appreciative glance as she left the table. Alex’s temper was ready to erupt. Nobody looked at Isabel like that. She wasn’t just a piece of meat. And the worst part of all was that she was letting him get away with it. What the hell was wrong with her? He was just going to have to ask her himself. He stood as abruptly as she did and excused himself from the table, not bothering to look back at the remaining two occupants.

Alice smiled at Mike and he grinned back at her. “So, did Maria tell you what was going on with them?”

Alice nodded. “Yeah. I think it’s really sweet she’s trying to set them up. So, are you really a VP?”

“Nope. I’m a video game tester.”

“Really? I’m a security guard for one of the department stores.”

“Small world. So, you ready to get out of here? Maria’s already paid for the dinner.”

Alice stood and picked up her purse. “Yeah, they could be gone awhile. It’s really kind of cute. They make a good couple.”

“Yeah. But there were a few times I thought he was going to rip my head off.” Mike placed a hand behind Alice’s back and guided her out of the restaurant. “So, what are you doing tomorrow?”

Alex stalked the length of the restaurant, looking for the way Isabel had gone. If she thought she was letting that creep take her home, she had another thing coming. He rounded a corner in time to see her quiet retreat out a set of double doors. He followed and found himself outside on the back deck.

Isabel turned around quickly, surprised at the intrusion, anger lighting her face when she saw Alex. “What the hell did you think you were doing back there? You saved my life? Could you have made up anything dumber?”

“Me? What about you? Juggling oranges? Are you insane? And what was I supposed to tell him? They wanted to know how we met. It’s a pretty standard question.”

“What about the truth? That Liz and Max started dating, and we started hanging out?”

“The truth? Isabel, the truth is, you never gave me the time of day the first few years we actually hung out. It wasn’t until after Nicholas took Liz that you saw me as useful, and not a nuisance.”

“I never saw you as a nuisance. And we did too talk.”

“Not unless you needed something from me. I wasn’t good enough for the Ice Princess to lower herself to talk to.”

“Ice Princess? I’ll show you ice.” She closed the distance between them and crushed her lips to his. She barely registered the fact that his hands tangled themselves in her hair as he pulled her against his body. There was no alien device controlling her now, just adrenalin and desire pumping through her veins faster than she’d ever experienced. If he didn’t want her, so be it, but let him see what he was giving up. She slanted her mouth to give him more access and he took advantage, dipping his tongue, possessing her mouth.

Alex’s whole body was on fire. Kissing Isabel was unlike any other experience in this world or any other. Her hands had gathered at the base of his spine and were moving up his back. And he wanted nothing more than to feel her bare skin against his, would have traded his life gleefully for it in that moment.

He broke the kiss and Isabel rolled her head back, allowing him access to her neck. He nibbled on her jaw bone, moving across to her earlobe. When Isabel gave him a breathy sigh in return, he made a mental note to return to that spot. In the meantime, there were a hundred other places he wanted to taste. He lips traveled lower, down her neck as he’d imagined doing a thousand times. But this moment was better than he ever could have imagined. Her skin was soft, smooth in ways that human girl’s would have killed for. The perfume she had dabbed on herself clung to his skin now and he knew the scent would burn in his memory forever. She smelled of gardenias, so strong and so sweet it was almost too much.

One hand reached up to the spaghetti straps that held up her dress and lowered one side. His lips replaced the strap, suckling the tight skin. His tongue moved on to the hollow of her throat and he vaguely felt her hands tangled in his short hair, pulling him closer, ever closer.

Then he broke contact with her, pulling his lips from her skin in a movement that was jerky and harsh. But he knew that his control was wire thin tonight, and he didn’t want to hurt her. He held her shoulders in his hands, waiting until desire cleared from her eyes and unfogged her brain. He saw the moment she had realized what she had done and before she had a chance to pull her wall back up, Alex pulled their lips together for a quick, bruising kiss. It was time to stop playing games. Things were never going to go back to normal. This was the second time she had kissed him. Maybe things between them weren’t as hopeless as he’d thought.

“Isabel, I want you. I’ve wanted you since the day I first met you. And I tried to push it away, but it just keeps coming back no matter what I do. And now that I’ve kissed you, I don’t think I can pretend anymore. I can’t pretend you don’t affect me.” He took her hand and placed it on his chest, over his heart. “Do you feel what you do to me? In this moment, I’ve never wanted anything more than to make love to you. And I don’t know how you feel about any of this. You could tell me no, and we could laugh this whole thing off as a joke tomorrow. But in this moment in time, I can’t lie to you anymore. No matter what we do from here, this was a perfect moment for me.”

He looked down at her beautiful face, her eyes filled with tears, and he was lost. This beautiful creature he had no right to touch could break him. Because standing here, holding her in his arms in the moonlight, he realized that he loved her. There would never be anyone else in his life that would make him feel what he felt for Isabel Evans. And if she told him no right now, it would ruin this moment. And he needed it to last a bit longer. “Please don’t say anything right now. It’s a lot to think about, and everything will change after this. Just know that nobody could ever feel anything for you that I didn’t feel first.”

Isabel’s heart threatened to seize. Never in her life had she heard such beautiful words. And his eyes, they were shining, burning for her. She wanted to say yes, to follow him home and finish what they had started here tonight, but he was right. This would change everything, and they would have to talk when they had clear heads.

“Let’s give it the weekend, okay?” Alex smiled at her, all of his anger and frustrations gone. Nothing that had been said or done in the last few days mattered anymore. They would either forget any of this ever happened and move on separately, or they would do it together.

Isabel nodded, afraid her voice would fail her, but she offered him a smile. Reluctantly, she eased out of his arms, but joined hands with him, squeezing gently.

“So, we should probably go find out dates, huh?”

“Oh! I’d forgotten.”

Alex grinned. “The sound you just heard was my ego swelling.”

Isabel smiled, blushing furiously. What was he doing to her? She tugged on his hand and pulled him back into the restaurant.

Alex followed happily. He’d done the impossible. He’d made Isabel blush. He had made out with her in the moonlight and then made her blush. Yep, he could die a happy man.

“They’re gone.”

“Guess they got tired of waiting. Can I escort you home?”

They made their way to Alex’s car and rode silently back to their apartment complex, Isabel’s hand still clutched in his tightly. They parked and walked up the stairs to Isabel’s door. She turned to face him, truly nervous for the first time in her life. Would he kiss her goodnight? Everything in her hoped he would.

“Well, ah, it was interesting.”

“Especially since our dates ditched us,” he agreed. He wanted to kiss her goodnight. Would it be too forward? Hell, he’d already made out with her. What harm could a simple kiss do?

He leaned closer, taking her in his arms. How was it that she could fit so perfectly against his body? Then her lips were on his and a connection was blown wide open. Images of childhoods long past mixed and merged into one. Alex was able to feel Isabel’s feelings, and he knew she must be able to read his. And he was amazed. She, Isabel Evans, Princess to some far off planet, wanted him. She didn’t want to let him go. And the knowledge was more intoxicating than anything he’d ever known. Slowly, he pulled away. Not tonight.

He raised her hand to his lips and placed a kiss to her smooth skin. “Goodnight, Bella.”

She smiled at the old nickname he sometimes used for her. And it had never sounded so sweet. “Goodnight, Alex.” She opened the door and slipped inside, not breaking eye contact with him until absolutely necessary.

Alex stood alone in the hallway, a grin stretched from ear to ear. He knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight, or the next, not until he’d be able to hold her again. He would stick to his promise and give her the weekend to think about them with a clear head. But it didn’t diminish the pure joy that filled his heart. Because for the first time ever, he thought he might have a chance to spend his life with the girl of his dreams.






posted on 18-Sep-2001 6:01:33 AM
Hey, I'm just bumping this since I couldn't change the header to let you guys know I updated! Crazy board and it's bugs, but I do so love it. Anywho, I'm going to try to type up another part of Finding Yourself this morning and try to get it out for you.


posted on 21-Sep-2001 11:09:26 AM
Yeah, it's been a few days, but my computer savy fiancee decided to install Windows 2000 and let's just say my computer's been down. I have the next part for this one written (and it's looooong), and I'm still working on Finding Yourself. I'll either try to get on tonight and type them up or first thing tomorrow, I swear. Don't worry. I'll be back.
Cookieman


posted on 22-Sep-2001 9:14:34 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Hey guys. Yeah, my computer's been down, and for some reason, Bellsouth keeps turning off my internet service. It's like clockwork, and of course, it takes me hours to get it back up and running. So, here you are, part 38, and I swear, I'm working on Finding Yourself. It'll be another long part since I made you wait so long. I'm almost done writing it, but I still have to type it up and hope my computer is working.*crosses fingers* But here you go. Thanks to all the wonderful people that left me feedback and welcome to the newcomers I've talked to. I love you all...

Learning to Live
Part 38

The sun was shining bright in the sky when Alex stepped out of the shower Sunday morning. The air was crisp and fresh and the world had never had so many possibilities. He had shaved, wondering briefly if Isabel would like the rugged look on him, then he’d dressed and entered the kitchen with a spring in his step and a whistle on his lips.

Kyle watched Alex putter around the kitchen for a few minutes in amusement. What was going on here? Alex almost seemed happy. No, he seemed deliriously happy. This was a definite improvement.

“What’s your deal?”

“Not a thing. Can’t a guy just be happy? Do you want breakfast? I’m starving.”

Kyle rose from the table to pour himself another cup of coffee. Alex was pulling things out of their refrigerator that he hadn’t known they owned. “Not that I’m not all for the new improved ‘the glass is half full Alex’, but I just feel that I should ask as your roommate if you’re doing drugs. You can tell me.”

Alex laughed. What was that old saying of his fathers? “I’m just high on life.” And he’d never meant the words more.

“Yeah, is that a new street drug? Cause, I’m not familiar with it.”

Alex closed the refrigerator door and stared off into space. “I had the most amazing night.”

“Oh, right, the blind date. So, I take it everything went well?” When Alex only grinned at him, he knew this had to be good. “So, what is she like? Tell me everything and don’t skimp on the features.”

Isabel’s smiling face filled Alex’s mind. “She’s beautiful and smart and funny, and…perfect.”

“Wow. That’s some package. What’s her name?”

“Isabel.”

“Hey, that’s funny, didn’t you-oh, wait. Are you talking Isabel as in our Isabel that you’ve had a thing for your whole life?”

“Yup.”

“I’m confused.” Coffee couldn’t even help him with this one. He pushed the mug aside and leaned easily against the counter. “Isabel was your date?”

“No, Alice was.”

“But you ended up with Isabel?”

“Only after we fought about how we first met.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“We fought, she ran away, I followed, some kissing ensued, then we talked. It was amazing, Kyle. I’ve never felt this way, so alive and invincible. Nothing can stop me today.”

Kyle couldn’t help but grin at his friend. Good for him. It was about time something good happened to him. And it just made his news even worse.

“I’m happy for you, man.”

“Well, nothing’s happening officially yet. We’re thinking things over.”

“Well, if Isabel’s on the same cloud you’re on, then I’d say you’re in business. Besides, how could she resist your charm? Or that wit?”

“Don’t forget the bulging biceps.”

Kyle laughed as Alex flexed for him. “Save it for the ladies. So, do you have plans today?”

“I’ve got to work tonight.”

“Well, I really hate to ruin your day in the clouds, but Max wanted everyone to meet in the girls’ room this morning.”

“What’s wrong?” Alex sobered immediately.

Kyle saw the amusement fade from his eyes and he regretted it, but knew it was necessary.

“Dad called early this morning. They found another body out by the rock quarry.”

“A third one?” Alex paced the small kitchen. When was this going to end? “So, you’ve already talked to Max?”

“Thus the meeting.”

Alex nodded, putting the breakfast pieces back in the fridge. “Let’s go now.”

Together, they made their way to the girls’ apartment in silence. Kyle knocked, then entered as was his custom. The girls were all there, Tess and Maria pacing. Max sat in an armchair, deep in thought, Liz pulled tightly in his lap. But Alex only had eyes for Isabel.

Isabel was sitting at the kitchen table, playing with her mug of coffee anxiously. Max had told her Alex and Kyle would be up shortly and her stomach had filled with butterflies. What if he regretted last night? What if he thought about it all night the way she had and he regretted what he’d said? She didn’t think she could bear it if she never saw his eyes cloud over with desire for her again, if she couldn’t be held in his arms.

Then he walked in the room and his beautiful, passionate eyes found hers and her fears were put to rest.

It was taking every bit of willpower Alex had not to rush to her side and kiss her. He’d promised her time to think and he would give her until Monday before he did whatever it took to convince her they should be together. How could he lose her now when they’d just discovered what could be?

So, he forced himself to walk calmly to the table to sit beside her.

Nervous, Isabel averted her eyes. “Hi.” But her grin was enormous.

“Hey.” His grin was back in full force. At this rate, the whole room would know about last night in the next five minutes.

“Sleep well?”

How was it that just the sound of his voice could turn her warm and gushy? “Not very well. I was all alone.” Isabel couldn’t believe she’d just said that. It was far bolder than she’d ever been before, but then again, this was Alex.

Alex’s eyes flew open. He didn’t think it was possible to become fully aroused in two seconds, but he was currently faced with that problem. “Are you flirting with me, Isabel Evans? Cause if you are, I like it.” He moved his hand to cover hers.

Gathering her courage, she raised her eyes to meet Alex’s. They were shining with happiness, lighting his whole face. And she knew that despite her fears of losing his friendship if their relationship ended, she wanted more with her best friend.

Max shot up from his chair, anxious to start. “I’m going to check on Michael. He should have been here by now.”

Maria watched Max leave with trepidation. She hadn’t seen Michael since Friday when he’d turned down her proposal. Oh, how that still hurt. Why couldn’t something just go right for once? Sure, she knew after she’d thought it over that maybe it had seemed a bit rash to Michael. But damn it, he’d said no. And not only her pride had shattered, but her heart as well.

She just had to accept that maybe he didn’t love her as much as she’d thought he did. So, when Liz had told her Max was calling a meeting, her first impulse had been to run, but that was ridiculous. They lived in the same building, shared the same friends. They would simply have to learn to be in close quarters without touching or being together.

And somewhere around two in the morning, she had discovered that anger was far easier to deal with than hurt. So, she clung to her anger now like a security blanket. If she focused on that, she wouldn’t start crying and never be able to stop.

Isabel stood abruptly, jarring Maria from her bout of self-pity. “Alex is going to help me with something in my closet.”

“I am?”

“Yes.”

Maria watched as Isabel dragged Alex into her bedroom, firmly closing the door behind them.

“Weird,” Maria muttered. “Isn’t Isabel taller than Alex?” But at least they were talking to each other again.

Kyle settled himself more firmly on the couch, slinging an arm over the back and behind Tess. He was struggling not to chuckle, but he’d seen the sparks flying between Alex and Isabel since the minute they’d stepped into the room. And he had a pretty good idea what Isabel needed help with.

“Something funny?”

Kyle flashed Tess a grin, studying her. They were the last of the group to not be a couple now it seemed. He’d probably be seeing far less of Alex now. Maybe he should make more of an effort to spend time with Tess. “Just an inside joke. Look, it’s a guy thing,” he explained when she merely raised an eyebrow at him. “Listen, why don’t we get together this week sometime and have coffee, you know, hang out? We haven’t done that, just you and me, in awhile.”

Surprised, Tess nodded. “Sure, that would be nice.”

“Great.” He watched her smile grow and he gave himself a mental pat on the back for doing the right thing for once. Now, if he could just push away the punch of lust he felt every time he saw her, he’d be just fine. He didn’t need destiny and other worldly beings carving out his fate. He did just fine for himself, thank you very much. But when she shifted closer and their legs touched, he knew he was in trouble.

*~*~

Alex couldn’t breath, but if he died, he would be happy. Isabel had dragged him to her bedroom and before the door had even clicked shut, her lips had locked onto his. He’d been surprised by the attack, but had recovered quickly.

Now, they stood against the wall, mouths devouring each other and tongues dueling. Alex held his hands firmly at Isabel’s hips, forcing them not to roam her body as they longed to do. He would wait for her permission, until he knew it was okay with her. She may not remember, but she was still a Princess, and she deserved to be treated like one.

Isabel pulled out of the kiss reluctantly. Her emotions were already out of control and all he’d done was kiss her. God help her if he ever worked up the courage to do more.

“Alex,” she breathed out in a sigh as he refused to stop kissing her. Her pulse was hammering wildly as he trailed kisses down her neck. “Alex, we have to…”

“We have to what?” He whispered in her ear. He’d never tasted anything like her skin before. It was more intoxicating and addictive than any drug could ever be.

What had she been saying? She couldn’t remember now, not when Alex was doing things to her that made her dizzy. “Stop, Alex. We have to stop. I wanted to talk to her.”

“I’m listening,” he promised, nibbling his way back up to her ear lobes.

“Alex!” She laughed, giving him a playful shove. “I mean it.”

With a long sigh, Alex held up his hands in defeat. “Alright, I give up. But just for the record, you kissed me first.”

Isabel blew out a deep breath. “Okay, I’ve been thinking about us, like we talked about. Obviously, there’s a physical attraction between us and while it is amazing, I don’t know if it’s smart.”

Anger flared in Alex’s eyes. “So, you drag me in here to kiss me and then tell me it’s a mistake? Look, Isabel, I know I can be a pushover, but this is ridiculous.”

Isabel closed the gap between them and placed her hands on his face, smoothing away the lines she found. “Just hear me out. I’m not saying no, I’m saying I’m scared. My whole life, I’ve held the most important part of myself back from people, but I can’t do that with you. You know me better than anyone, even Max.”

Alex’s eyes softened. Fear he could deal with. He had more than enough insecurities for the both of them. “Is, don’t you think I’m afraid too? Holding a part of yourself back isn’t an alien trait, it’s a human one. I’m afraid to cross this last line with you, that you’ll wake up tomorrow and realize you deserve someone better than me. And I’m afraid that if something goes wrong, I’ll lose you as my best friend. And that’s the only reason I stayed away from you as long as I did.”

Closing her eyes against his soft words, she felt Alex pull her into his embrace. Why had she thought he wouldn’t understand what she was feeling? “I’m afraid of that too,” she confessed. But it was truth time. She owed him that much after all she’d put him through. She opened her eyes and met him on even ground. “But as scared as I am, I don’t think I can stop feeling these things for you. They get stronger every time I see you.”

“You don’t have to decide now.” Alex brushed a strand of hair off her face. His heart was in her hands and he would respect whatever decision she made.

“But I already have. This thing between us, I want more of it. I want…” she paused, digging up the courage to say the words. Honesty was one of the most important things to her, and she wouldn’t lie to Alex. “I want you, Alex. You walk into a room and it does things to me, it has for awhile now. I thought I’d lost my chance with you, that I’d pushed you away too many times. I’ve hurt you so many times, I wouldn’t have blamed you if you never talked to me again. It took me awhile to see it, but I want you. I want to make love to you, to wake up and listen to you yell at me for stealing all the covers.”

His own heart bursting with love, Alex covered her mouth with his. She wanted him, had wanted him for a long time. How had he been so blind as to miss that?

“Ahem.”

Liz grinned at them from the partially opened doorway. Alex and Isabel sprang apart guiltily when they heard her. It appeared as though Isabel had decided to follow and trust her heart after all.

“I, um, just wanted to let you two know we were starting the meeting, remember the one outside where we’re all waiting?” She was speaking a little louder than usual, knowing prying ears were listening. “But I see you two are still working on that closet thing, so we’ll just start without you.”

Both Isabel and Alex blushed crimson, and it filled her heart. Still smiling, she winked at them, then dropped her voice to a whisper. “Your clothes.” Then she slipped back out the door.

“Well, that was mildly embarrassing.” Alex reached down to straighten out his clothes. When had his shirt become untucked?

“Yeah, but you should have seen some of the things I walked in on when Max and Liz were dating.”

Alex pulled her into the circle of his arms, not caring about their appearance. It was amazing how easy it was to do that now. “Anything you want to reinact?”

She gave him a sultry smile, running her fingers down his chest. “Maybe. You got any plans today?”

Alex sobered. “Yeah. Actually, I was going to try to talk to Dad again.”

Isabel’s eyes clouded with guilt. “Alex, I’m sorry. I wish there was something I could do. I’d come with you if you thought it would help.”

Alex considered it. “You know what, maybe it would help for him to see you’re still the same person you always were. Do you mind?”

“No. When?” The idea that she could help in some small way gave her a sense of purpose.

“Right after the meeting. And if you’re up to it, I may be in serious need of cheering up.”

“I think I can handle that.”

“I thought you might.”





posted on 29-Sep-2001 9:59:01 PM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Okay, here's the next part for you guys. Sorry about my disappearing act as of late. Basically, the deal is that my wedding is in exactly 31 days and I'm starting to feel the crunch. So, I'm going to try to get better about posting for you guys that I love so very much, but if I disappear for a few days, don't worry about me. And I know you guys are missing Max and Liz, and I promise that they'll have a scene together coming up. I wasn't able to finish this one the way I wanted to, but I really wanted to get something out to you guys today. So, while this part is a bit shorter than I like, the next part will be extra long for ya. And thanks for the wonderful feedback you guys have been giving me. You're just the best ever. Now, on with the show.

Learning to Live
Part 39

“Michael’s not coming.” Max slammed the door behind him, anger and frustration making his movements jerky. He really could have used Michael’s opinion on this. But he claimed not to be feeling well. They never got sick, so what was his deal?

Liz watched as Max paced the living room, more agitated than when he left earlier. She’d heard the brief argument between them through her connection with Max. Michael claimed to have a headache and wasn’t able to come down. And that worried Liz. Usually, Michael was the first one in line to form a plan of action and he had declined to come downstairs for a meeting?

Maria’s eyes went wide as she took in Max’s appearance. Michael must have said something to upset him, it was what he was good at. But Michael wasn’t coming? He was avoiding her, and the knowledge made her heart bleed. God, was this how things were going to be now? If she was in the room, he wouldn’t be? Well, she’d be damned if he was going to push her out of the group. Czechoslovakian or not, he was dealing with Maria Deluca, and he was sadly mistaken if he thought she would be a pushover about this.

“Let’s just get started. Where are Isabel and Alex?”

“I think they’re still in Isabel’s room.”

Max frowned at Tess. “What are they still doing in there? Nevermind, I’ll get them.”

“Wait! That’s not such a good idea, Max.”

Max stopped mid-stride to face Kyle. “Why?”

“Uh, well,”

“I’ll go get them.” Liz rose from the couch, pausing briefly to meet Kyle’s eyes. She saw an amused twinkle and she had a pretty good idea Kyle was in on the progressing relationship. She’d known something had changed the minute Alex had walked into the living room this morning.

“Tess, are you sure Nasedo never mentioned anything about these Scaribes?”

She shook her head at Max, “No. He never really talked about it much.”

Kyle listened to the conversation between Max and Tess with half an ear. The one sided conversation Liz was having through Isabel’s cracked door was far more interesting. He could only imagine what she’d walked in on that gave her cheeks a pinkish hue as she reclaimed her seat on the couch.

“They’ll be out in a minute,” she explained, sharing a private smile with Kyle. She would have to find a better time to explain to Max that his baby sister was falling in love. But for now, her attention turned back to the Scaribes and Michael. So, she turned to Maria. “Has Michael seemed okay to you lately?”

Panic clawed in Maria’s chest. Now was when she should tell them that they were through. But the words stuck in her throat.

“I wouldn’t know.”

Liz frowned at the flat tone in Maria’s voice. Now what was wrong? But before she had a chance to ask, Isabel’s door opened and the new couple emerged, matching grins on their faces.

“Sorry. We’re here.” They took a seat at the kitchen table, hands linked together.

“Okay,” Max took immediate control of the situation. “You know Jim found a third body. So, we have big trouble. They’ve all definitely been alien related, which means that there’s no official cause of death. It’s only a matter of time before the press picks up on this and I don’t want to be national news. Innocent people are dying. We need a plan. Alex?”

Alex shook his head sadly. He knew Max was counting on him now to do something. “No luck with the files yet. But even if I get them cracked, I can’t guarantee they’ll have anything we need.”

“What about the cell phone?”

Alex nodded now, “That I can help you with.” He turned to address the puzzled faces of the others. “Jenna made a 911 call from what we think was the crash site. But her phone wasn’t found with her body. Sorry,” he turned to Kyle, wincing at his own words.

“It’s okay, man. So, we find the cell phone, we find the crash site?”

“In theory. I rigged up a device that triangulated the last known signal of her transmission, and…” he broke off, noting the blank faces of his friends. “It’ll tell us where the phone is,” he modified.

The phone rang beside Isabel and she answered it.

“It’s a starting place,” Max conceded. He knew it was a long shot, but it was all they had right now.

“Sheriff? What’s wrong?”

The group froze again at the mention of the Sheriff’s name.

“Oh, god.” Isabel clamped a hand over her mouth, tears filling her eyes.

Max stalked across the room as he heard the despair in his sister’s voice.

“No, no. I understand. Don’t do anything else to draw attention to yourself. Someone will be right over.” She hung up the phone carefully, then turned to Kyle.

Kyle returned her even stare, terrified of her next words.

“Vicki Delaney was just brought into the coroner’s office.”

Kyle let out a breath. “Vicki?” He hadn’t talked to her in over two years, but he felt the loss as if they had dated only yesterday.

“I’m sorry, Kyle.” She turned to Max now. “As soon as they brought her body in, the coroner sealed off the building. There isn’t any apparent cause of death, and Jim says the coroner wants to call in the CDC before he even autopsies her. So, he has no way of knowing if her death was alien related or not.”

“We’ll have to split up.” Liz stood to join Max’s side. She slipped her hand in his and squeezed firmly.

I love you. He sent her feelings of warmth, gratitude and love.

Liz returned his smile, wishing she could offer him more. “We’ll take the crash site, locate the phone.” Max had been to the morgue already and she could feel his growing panic that he would have to return to look into another pair of dead eyes that blamed him, looking for alien markings. He was strong, but there was a limit to even his strength.

“I’ll go to the morgue.” Kyle’s eyes were hollow, losing any and all emotion that would hinder him from doing this. Of them all, he was the only one who’d known Vicki. He owed it to her to find out what had killed her.

“I’ll go with Kyle.” Tess slipped a hand over Kyle’s thigh, squeezing gently. Did any of them really know how hard it would be for him to do this?

“I’ll help Alex with the files,” Isabel offered.

All eyes turned to Maria.

“I’ll go to the morgue too, I guess.”

Max made a mental note to find out if things were okay between Michael and Maria. “Okay, let’s meet up here later today. And be careful.”




posted on 3-Oct-2001 7:58:10 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Okay, I know I think I promised you guys a M/L scene, but it just didn't make it into this one. I sit down to write and whatever I had planned to happen, usually doesn't happen. But Kyle finally has some time in this part. I feel bad for ignoring him lately, but I'm so used to him from FY, I forget about him sometimes here. So, tell me what you think.

Learning to Live
Part 40

It had been one of the longest days in history. There just wasn’t any other way to describe it. After following Alex’s device around half the state of New Mexico before trusting they were going the right way, Liz and Max had pulled alongside the desert road and had begun the tedious task of looking for crash debris.

Really, they had no idea what they were looking for. Max still had the device, but it only told them they had the correct coordinates within a hundred yards. Liz walked with a metal detector in one hand and another of Alex’s devices to measure iridium in the other hand. And as if things weren’t frustrating enough, Max had been effectively blocking her for the last hour, brooding while they searched.

The sun was beating down on them with vengeance, even though the hottest noon hours had already come and gone. The heat was almost sweltering. Why had she volunteered for this job again? Oh, yeah, she was in love.

With a sigh, she moved to the left another foot, studiously checking the ground for any sort of unusual activity or markings. At this rate, it would be Christmas before they could check the entire area. Just as pessimism was starting to break through her usual cheerfulness, the machine in her hand began beeping. It took her a moment to figure out it was the metal detector and by the time she had, Max had appeared by her side.

“Do you have something?”

“I don’t know.” She handed him the other device and concentrated her search with the metal detector. It was the first lead they’d had all day. Studiously, she swept the metal detector in a circle, listening to it beep more furiously as it covered a small space. “There’s something here, alright. Point the other one over here.”

Max aimed the remote control looking device over the area Liz had marked off with a few scattered rocks and watched in amazement as it began lighting up.

Determined now, they both sunk to the sandy ground and began clawing at the surface. Something was buried underneath the sand, something with traces of an atmospheric substance. They dug a hole a few feet deep, occasionally bringing the devices back to make sure they were still on the right track. Finally, Liz’s fingers brushed against something hard and metallic. She pulled it free from the sand with a small cry and the couple looked at the artifact with puzzlement.

In Liz’s palm was a small, metallic cylinder no larger than a tube of lipstick, but wider. She moved it in the sunlight, and a clinking noise told them that there was something encased inside.

“Max, what is this?”

“I don’t know.” He took it from her hand, turning it over to examine the ancient markings on the case. He wished more than anything that he had the knowledge to read the markings, but a familiar frustration washed over him as he thought about how flawed the plan to send the Royal Four to Earth had been. Why would you send the King to another planet and not give him any knowledge of the planet he was supposed to save? “But I don’t think we should open it until we have a better idea.”

Liz moved closer to Max to catch another glimpse and bumped the metal detector with her hip. The alarm went off and it began beeping wildly. Liz exchanged glances with Max before turning to her left and digging another hole. Within seconds, she had produced a large piece of metal buried under the surface of the sand. She handed it to Max for examination.

“This doesn’t look like any metal I’ve ever seen.”

Max pointed Alex’s iridium device at it and it went off. “I think we found the crash site.”

“Want to see what else we can uncover?”

Max pocketed the cylinder and crawled a few feet to Liz’s left. He turned on the device again and wasn’t surprised to find it beeping wildly. “This may take awhile.”

“You have a hot date I don’t know about?”

Max grinned at her through the heavy weight on his heart. She was so beautiful, still so innocent. How would he tell her what he needed to? Today, he promised himself. He would tell her today. He had put it off long enough.

*~*~

“Okay, how are we doing this?” Tess watched Kyle and Maria with a careful eye. They had been silent on the ride to the morgue and she hadn’t even tried for conversation. Kyle seemed to be blaming himself for all of this for some reason, and she wished Maria hadn’t come along. Maybe if they’d been alone, he would have opened up to her, but Kyle wasn’t one to share his feelings with a crowd. And then there was Maria herself. To say the girl was sullen would be an understatement. She knew she was missing something as she watched her roommate brood out the window into the parking lot.

“I’m going into the morgue itself,” Kyle announced.

“You’re going to need a distraction.” Tess watched the crowd of people milling around the outside of the building. Apparently, news was traveling fast this morning.

“I’ll do it,” Maria offered.

“Uh, are you going to use powers for that?” Tess asked apprehensively. The last thing they needed was Maria botching her powers in front of this many witnesses.

“I’ll be fine,” She waved away Tess’s worries with a wave of her hand. “Can you find out first how many of them there are?”

“I think so.” Tess concentrated hard on the first of the guards. It was a new trick she was working on, invading the mind of a single individual in order to gain information. She felt the first tendrils of energy meeting her target, a balding security guard standing guard at the side entrance.

Maria watched anxiously as Tess crinkled her forehead in concentration. The sooner they got this done, the better. She tapped her foot nervously. She needed a distraction. What could she do?

“The guard on the left side of the building is the easiest to get through. He’ll leave his post before the others. Inside, there are two more guards patrolling and one outside the morgue door.”

“Right, so I’ll get you two inside. Tess, you can disable the cameras, right?”

“Well, it might look a little suspicious.”

Maria’s eyes lit up with an idea. “No problem. I think I’ve got it anyway. I’ll get you inside and past the cameras, but you’re on your own inside.”

“We can take it from there. But you’re sure you can manage a distraction?” Kyle was only mildly worried about Maria. If anyone could take care of herself, it was her, but her powers were still fairly unstable.

“Yeah, now go already. Give me five minutes, maybe ten.”

They climbed out of the car and separated into different directions, Maria going one way and Kyle and Tess another.

Maria dashed around one side of the building, careful to stay in the shadows. She saw Jim’s squad car parked to one side and she thought he caught a glimpse of her out of the corner of his eye, but she kept moving. Finally away from the crowd and out of site, she found what she was looking for, a power line dangerously close to a nearby tree.

With one last glance to make sure no one was watching, she aimed her hand up towards the tree. “You know, these overgrown tree branches are really dangerous. You might lose your power if you’re not careful,” she murmured to herself as she released a small blast of energy. The tree branch cracked and fell, taking the power line down with it. It sparked and sizzled on the ground just as she heard a loud pop from behind her. Hopefully, that would kill all the power in the building and give them enough time to do what they had to do.

Tess and Kyle hid behind an overgrown bush, one eye on the guard at the side door and one eye on the group of people. Maria had disappeared awhile ago and they had yet to see her distraction. Without warning, there was a sizzling pop and the perimeter lighting went out. They heard yelling from the other side of the building and they watched as the older security guard craned his neck to see what was going on. They saw his agitation that he couldn’t tell what was happening.

“C’mon, just go check it out. You know you want to,” Kyle whispered.

As they watched, the guard moved from the door and around the corner of the building to investigate the noise.

“We’re in.” Kyle crouched low as Tess followed him behind the bushes to the unguarded door. The security system they hadn't known about was disabled. “Thank you, Maria.” They slipped into the dark corridors silently. Tess didn’t question how Kyle knew exactly where the morgue was, she merely followed. She could tell by the set of his shoulders that he was dreading this more with each step, but still he continued on.

“Can you get the guard by the door?” Kyle whispered to Tess when they found themselves around the corner from the last guard.

“Give me a minute.”

Kyle watched Tess work her voodoo and a minute later, the guard began talking to thin air before turning and walking down the other end of the corridor. Tess opened her pale blue eyes and smiled at him sympathetically.

“It’s all yours.”

Kyle nodded. “Just keep an eye on the corridor. I’ll be a few minutes.”

He slipped into the morgue, each footstep echoing impossibly loud in his head. He’d grown up the Sheriff’s son and for many years had been allowed free access to anything while his father conducted business.

He’d stumbled across the morgue quite by accident the summer of his freshman year. He’d been a bit more fearless then, doing anything he pleased to prove he could. And had found his way into the morgue. When he’d seen the first body, lying stiff and cold under a white sheet, it had given him nightmares for a month. He’d suffered a horrible fear of death that summer, afraid to let his father out of his sight for fear he would become one of the cloaked bodies in that cold room.

But even in his impetuous youth, he’d never faced one of those hidden faces, hadn’t dared. And now he not only had to do just that, but also examine the body of a friend, to see if the simple act of knowing him had been enough to have her killed.

Kyle stepped closer inside, knowing they had time restraints, but unable to force his legs to move any quicker. There was only a single body laid out on a gurney. Deaths in Roswell weren’t common occurrences, at least not until lately.

He could clearly make out the impression of a woman’s figure under the sheet. He could see Vicki clearly in his mind, the dance club they had snuck off to in the middle of the night, a shared New Years Eve kiss at Greg Harrison’s party. They hadn’t dated long, but had packed more fun into that short time than he’d thought possible.

With a deep breath, he tugged the sheet down her head, folding it carefully well before revealing anything inappropriate. It was Vicki all right. Her auburn hair was dull and lackluster in the dim lighting that was allowed to filter in.

Forcing himself to look for the alien mark, Kyle pushed past the queasiness rising in his throat. He turned her head gently, looking behind her ears and down her neck. He searched every square inch of skin down to her shoulders, and found no mark.

Max had assured him that the small star shaped symbol would be quite visible. And yet he found nothing. He knew he should have felt relieved, but it seemed wrong when it meant that Vicki was still dead.

Needing to say goodbye to an old friend, Kyle placed a kiss on top of his fingers, then rested them atop her forehead. With a dull ache in his heart, he replaced the sheet and slipped out of the room as efficiently as he had entered.

A hand grabbed his arm and despite himself, he jumped.

“Sorry, it’s just me.” Feeling awkward, Tess wasn’t sure if she should offer him comfort or even how to go about doing it.

“Let’s go.” He led the way down the halls to the side door. Conveniently, the guard was still away and they were able to escape unnoticed.

Tess continued to follow Kyle long after they had cleared the area where a group was still trying to restore power and figure out what had happened. She couldn’t help but wonder what Kyle had seen. Before she even had the chance to ask him, he stopped his violent strides and she ran into his back.

“Kyle?” He was staring off into space again.

“It wasn’t the Scaribes,” he stated, answering her unspoken question. “Whatever killed her was natural.” But it still left a friend dead.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know you two were that close.”

But he had no reply to that. They really hadn’t been. Without questioning why he did it, he pulled Tess into a tight hug, feeling better than he had all day.

Kyle was crushing the life out of her, but she didn’t care. She kicked herself for standing frozen in shock the minute she already had and cautiously returned his hug. She may have come a long way from her days with Nasedo, but hugs still weren’t a part of her everyday life.

Kyle felt her warm up to his embrace and relief passed through him. She wouldn’t turn him away even though their old friendship had all but dwindled and died. Over her shoulder, he saw his father come into view, concern etched on his face. He mouthed that he was okay and his dad tipped his hat at him before leaving them alone once more.



posted on 3-Oct-2001 7:17:30 PM
Okay, just bumping this. I posted it this morning, but it got pushed back to like page 8 or something crazy. So, here you go and I'm not forgetting about you.

For those of you that wrote me wonderful letters, my fiancee is doing fine. The laser surgery on his eye went well and we're just waiting now to see if his retina is going to reattach itself or not. Keep your fingers crossed. A long surgical procedure 3 weeks before our wedding is not a happy time.

He's doing good, a little grumpy, but good. So, say a prayer for us and hopefully we'll be fine and he won't lose any vision in his eye.

I love you guys! Thanks for thinking about us.

~Stacey


posted on 15-Oct-2001 12:01:55 PM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 41

“I don’t understand it. I mean, this is obviously the crash site, but where’s the wreckage?” Liz stood and surveyed the growing pile of debris. It was a decent pile for their work, but they had only uncovered small pieces. One of the bits of twisted metal had contained a symbol they had recognized from Alex’s translations. And that alone had confirmed what they had already known. Jenna’s cell phone had also turned up amongst the debris, buried in the sand.

“We should put all this in the Jeep to take back.” Max tried to pass Liz to move the metal, but she stopped him.

“Max, what’s wrong? And don’t say nothing. Why have you been blocking me all day?”

Max sighed. He should have known better than to try to hide anything from Liz. “Liz, we need to talk.”

Panic skidded up her spine before she could stop it. “Wow, if I didn’t know better, I’d be worried.” But then she looked at Max’s face and knew she should still be. “Max?”

Max let out a breath. “We need to talk about our future.”

“What about our future? We’re getting married in a few weeks and starting our life together.”

“You might not want to when you hear what I have to say.”

Liz put her hands on her hips, glaring sternly at him. “Alright, that’s enough. Max, nothing you could ever do could make me not want to marry you. So, whatever nonsense this is, just spill it.”

“I don’t think we should have kids.”

Liz was dumbstruck. “What?”

“I don’t-“

“I heard you. I just don’t understand you. Haven’t we talked about having kids like a million times? Aren’t you the one who confessed to having the whole theme of our babies’ nursery picked out down to the color scheme and wallpaper?”

“Liz, I know you want children, you should have children. You’d be a wonderful mom. I just thought that maybe you’d be better off having them with someone else.”

“Well, you’re wrong.” Liz was angry now, fire lighting her eyes. “How can you even think that after all this time? If I told you I thought you should leave me and have children with someone else, would you be able to do that? Could you give me up and stop loving me that easily?”

“No! Of course not.” He was appalled by the very idea.

“Then why would you think I could?” She examined his guilty face. What had brought this on? Then it struck her so suddenly, she wondered why she hadn’t seen it coming before. “This is about the prophecy, isn’t it?”

Max swallowed. “Liz,”

“No, Max. I can’t believe this. You want to change our plans, to not have a family with me on some off chance some vague prophecy that we still know next to nothing about might come true?”

“Liz, you know as much about that prophecy as I do and from everything we know, we’re it. Even Nicholas agreed. The skins set up an entire lab to find out the truth. And what if they’re right and we do make a baby? Do you think they’ll let that baby live? Or you for that matter? I can’t lose you, Liz. And I can’t protect you every minute of the day.”

“But we don’t even know for sure it would happen like that.” Max’s eyes were ripping her heart to shreds. He looked broken just talking about the possibilities. He was just scared. She could deal with that.

“I’m not willing to take that chance, Liz.” He couldn’t lose her, and the fear of it strengthened his resolve.

Liz crossed the space between them and cupped Max’s face gently. “I know you’re scared. I get scared when I think about losing you too. But I don’t agree to your terms either. I love you. That comes first always. And I won’t give you up or let you push me away in the name of caution and safety. I do want a family with you, Max. I want to grow fat and round with your baby and pour over every baby book ever made to come up with the perfect name. If trouble comes because of that, then we’ll deal with it just like everything else we’ve had to. And you’re forgetting the most important part of all. If we have a child and it is the prophesized one, then our child will do good on your planet. If Khivar is terrified, then that’s what we want.”

“Liz, he’s already managed to kill us all once before. There won’t be another chance.”

“You won’t need one. You guys have something here that you didn’t have on Antar – us. Maria, Alex, Kyle and I are a part of everything that happens. We’re all a group that trusts everyone else with our lives. That’s something you didn’t have on Antar before and something Khivar will never have.”

Max didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing, choosing instead to lay his forehead against hers. He knew she was right, but he was still scared. If he lost Liz and their child to Khivar, he couldn’t survive.

Sensing his apprehension, Liz smiled at him. “Hey, how about a compromise? We don’t say no, but we don’t say yes either. How about ‘not yet’? We wait until we know more about this prophecy and then we make a decision.”

Max nodded reluctantly, “Not yet.”

But someday, Liz added in her mind. She’d be damned if she let fear of Khivar or anyone else run her life. Slowly, she felt Max opening himself back up to her and she did her best to reassure him that she wasn’t going anywhere. Madmen were done running her life.

*~*~

“Gah! I give up! How the heck is this stupid thing supposed to work anyway?” Alex tossed the small alien device on the bed beside him in frustration. He had been working on unlocking the thing all morning now with no luck.

Isabel watched Alex’s frustrated posture and felt bad she couldn’t be any help. He had been playing with that foul device for awhile now and it still gave her the creeps. But as she bit her lip nervously, she knew he was dying to ask her to try the device again. So far, she was the only one that had any sort of reaction to it. She pushed off from the desk chair and crossed the room to sit on the bed beside Alex.

“Can I try?”

Alex turned his gaze sharply on Isabel. He could see that she didn’t really want to do this, but was making an effort. “You don’t have to, you know.”

“I know. But if I can help, then I need to do whatever it takes. Besides, if anything happens to me, you’ll be here.” And that gave her great comfort.

Alex joined hands with her. “You got it.”

She stretched out her hand and took the device from Alex. It was cold and smooth against her skin and she called out when a jolt ran through her body. She felt the familiar dizziness and she fought the urge to drop it. Alex’s warm hand gripped her arm tightly and she focused on his strength. She could do this. Almost without warning, she began to see images flying through her brain.

Alex watched, panic stricken as Isabel’s face paled. Her eyes closed and she was rocking back and forth gently. This couldn’t be good. Was she talking to herself now? Mumbling under her breath while the alien thing glowed in her hand? Oh god, it was glowing. Alex’s panic rose in leaps and bounds. This had definitely not happened with any of the others. Should he break her away? The soft green glow was darkening, growing darker and more intense in energy. Even he could feel it. Hell, he was going to risk it.

Isabel watched, amazed as the scenes played themselves out before her. She was watching her own life unfold, or parts of it anyway. And it was the coolest thing she had ever seen. Slowly, she became aware of Alex’s hands on her arms, shaking her awake. She only needed a few more minutes. She hadn’t remembered everything she needed yet. She could feel Alex pulling her from the other world she had fallen into and she opened her eyes to meet his.

“Isabel? Are you okay? God, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have let you touch that thing again, not after last time.” He pulled her into a hug. She seemed okay, a little spacey, but okay.

“It’s a neural translator.”

“What?” Alex pulled away from Isabel, confused.

“The device, it’s called a neural translator.” She picked it up again, looking at it with wonder this time.

“How do you know that?”

“Because I named it.”

“Okay, I think you should lie down. You were glowing for awhile and it may have done something to your head.”

“No, I’m fine, Alex. In fact, I’m better than okay. I’m great. I need to show you.” She scrambled out of his worried embrace and off the bed, hopping up and down in excitement. “Do you know why we couldn’t get it to do anything? We didn’t turn it on.”

“Oh, well obviously. I suppose you know how to do that now.” Hadn’t he read somewhere that people with head trauma could become delusional and should be humored?

“Yes.” She waved her hand over the flattest surface of the neural translator and thrust it towards Alex like a kid showing off her science fair project.

“What the hell?” Alex climbed off the bed slowly, staring at the small object in Isabel’s hand. It was glowing, symbols scrolling across a small screen of sorts that he hadn’t even given a second thought to. “How did you know how to do this?”

“I created it.”

“Run that by me again.”

“On Antar, I created it. It was meant to keep Khivar and the skins from reading sensitive documents. See, there had been this security breach and we had lost an important battle. So, I created a code to send military documents in. And this,” she help up the translator. “is the key.”

Alex felt as though he had walked into a Twilight Zone episode. “Okay, let me get this straight.” He pinched the bridge of his nose between two fingers. “You, on Antar, created this piece of equipment that your army adapted.”

“Pretty impressive, huh?” Now that the memories existed in her head, she didn’t know how she could have forgotten. She had loved that king of thing, had fought with nannies and tutors to allow her to continue when they would have loved nothing more of her than to marry properly and bear children. “I remember so much. I had this nanny that took care of me.” Isabel chuckled at the memory. “She didn’t understand med at all. I remember she went to the King because I wouldn’t sit still long enough for her to teach me how to be a proper lady. Dad came to me that night and struck a deal with me. He said if I would be the perfect princess around anyone but family, not only would he let me keep creating things, but he would let me take a crack at some of the new security measures the palace was upgrading to.”

“You remember him?” Alex watched her go from elated to sad. He’d heard stories of their mother, but never of their father.

“Bits and pieces. Our mother wasn’t the kisses and hugs kind. She loved us, but I think she had a stiff upbringing and she didn’t know what to do with us. Zan was always getting into trouble with
Rath and Larek. The three of them were inseparable. God, this is amazing! I remember more every second.”

Isabel’s sudden slip of names didn’t go unnoticed by Alex. “So, you created this translator to keep important documents encrypted. Why was it hidden in the lab?”

Isabel paced the room, applying her new knowledge to the situation at hand. “They must have figured out it had energy coding on it, sort of like DNA or fingerprints,” she explained to him. “The energy we draw our powers from has individual signatures. So, they must have figured out that one of us had created it. They could have downloaded the encrypted files into the computer hard drive and have been trying to figure it out just like us.” She stopped, feeling self-conscious when Alex continued to stare at her. “What?”

A grin broke out across his face. “This is so cool.”

Isabel’s grin was slower, but just as radiant. “Yeah?”

“Are you kidding me?” He crossed the distance between them and pulled her into his arms, pleased when she yielded easily. “You actually understand all of that? Do you know how amazing that is?”

“Why don’t you show me?” she teased, already preparing for the sensations his kiss brought out in her.

“I could, but then we wouldn’t get any work done.” His lips were an inch from hers, teasing. God, was she really his to kiss when he felt like it? Could he take her in his arms and hold her if the mood struck? A lifetime of holding back on his emotions was crumbling before him, and he could get used to it.

“You’re right,” Sober, Isabel slipped out of Alex’s embrace easily and returned to his desk chair.

Stunned, Alex could only look at her. Could she really leave him that easily? Did he not effect her as she effected him? He might have believed it if it hadn’t been for the half smile on her lips. Okay, so she wanted to play that game? “Okay, so can you translate these documents?” He moved to stand behind her, standing close enough so that his body was pressed against her back.

Isabel had thought she had the upper hand here, but how could she think about anything when he was barely touching her? He was a breath away and her skin was tingling from the anticipation. When she felt his warm breath against her bare neck, she almost sighed aloud.

“Excuse me. I’ll just get out of your way.” He leaned in closer than he should have, invading her space as he reached past her to gather his papers. He kept his voice low and tried to hide a smile at her reaction. Well, it looked as though she wasn’t as immune to him as he thought.

Isabel turned and glared at Alex, annoyed when he calmly settled himself on the other side of the room. Tired of games, she rose from her chair and moved to the floor where he had started setting up his papers. She lowered herself onto his lap and had her lips locked on his before he could say anything.

Alex sighed against Isabel’s soft lips. When had life become perfect? And would it really matter in the grand scheme of things if they took a fifteen minute break? As Isabel slanted her mouth over his, he gave up all pretense of work. Okay, maybe twenty minutes.

*~*~

“Alex? Isabel? We’re back!” Liz forced her voice to a higher pitch, sure to draw their attention. She’d been unable to convince Max they should knock first and she desperately hoped they were decent. Max didn’t need to find out about his sister and Alex by walking in on them.

Max glanced at Liz strangely. She’d been acting weird since they had pulled up in front of the building., like she wanted to tell him but couldn’t. He’d thought they’d worked through their problems in the desert earlier, but maybe not. Before he could call her on it, Alex burst through the door to the living room, a wide grin on his face.

“Great! You’re here! There’s something you guys have to see.”

Intrigued, the couple followed Alex into his bedroom and found an odd scene laid out before them. Isabel sat at Alex’s desk, tapping away happily at the keyboard.

“What’s Isabel doing on your computer?” Max was sure something strange was going on. First, his sister never helped when it came to the technical side of things, and second, Alex never let anyone touch his computer. Ever. It was one of the sacred laws in their group since Kyle had tried to get into a chatroom and had erased Alex’s hard drive.

“Max!” Isabels’ head popped up at the sound of his voice. “This is so amazing. I’m glad you’re here. I’ve almost got these files decoded.”

Liz stepped forward. “You do?” She turned to Alex for answers, but he merely grinned at her. She really hadn’t meant for the stunned tone of voice in her question to come out, but she was more than a bit confused.

“Yes. Listen, I remembered so much.” Isabel launched into the story of what had happened this afternoon, complete with everything she had remembered.

Liz stood back with Alex as Isabel excitedly recounted the story to Max, giving him as much detail as possible. “So, it looks like our group just got a little bit stranger.”

“This is just amazing, Liz. I don’t have any other word for it.”

Liz saw the gleam in her friend’s eyes and was happy for him. “So, I guess you two are a thing now?” She was careful to keep her voice low, not sure if it was a secret or not.

“Yeah, at least I think so. Liz, the things I feel for her…I can’t even put them into words.” Alex faultered, staring at Isabel. He loved her so much, but he knew she wasn’t ready to hear about it yet. And the last thing he wanted to do was scare her away or make her feel pressured or rushed. But he’d loved her in some form or another for most of his life.

“Then I’m happy for you both.” She pulled Alex into a hug that he returned happily. Maybe things could be looking up. The old friends broke apart to watch the siblings. Isabel was trying to explain to Max why the decoder only recognized her and no one else.

“So, Isabel speaks techno-babble now, huh?”

“Yes, and I’ve never been more turned on in my life.”

posted on 15-Oct-2001 12:03:10 PM
Ignore this. Posting trouble.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 15-Oct-2001 12:35:42 PM ]
posted on 15-Oct-2001 12:03:58 PM
Yep, still having posting trouble.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 15-Oct-2001 12:36:33 PM ]
posted on 15-Oct-2001 12:05:49 PM
First it wouldn't let me post, then it posts the same part four times. I give up. Note to self: never try to post a part at lunchtime. I swear, part 42 is coming.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 15-Oct-2001 12:37:53 PM ]
posted on 15-Oct-2001 12:19:31 PM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Okay, obviously I had some trouble posting earlier, sorry about that. I'm gonna see if I can delete some of those. But in the mean time, ignore me. I'm having trouble today.
Hey guys, here you go. This part is more or less a transition part to get to the next few where things start picking up. Not alot going on here, but still some good moments. I posted a part of FY this morning as well, so two parts for you guys today!

Learning to Live
Part 42

“Are you sure this is such a good idea?” Isabel paused, stalling for time as Alex pulled her towards the front door of the Whitman household. She had all but grown up here, spending more time in this house than in her own the last few years of High School. Charles Whitman was a second father to her, and if that wasn’t enough to make her nervous, the fact that she was now dating Alex was.

Knowing that her nervousness matched his own, he pulled her into his arms gently. “Isabel, I want him to know that you’re the same person you were last week.” And he wanted his father to approve of their relationship. That was more important to him than anything in the world. He had fallen in love with Isabel Evans and he wanted his father to love her as much as he did. “If you don’t want to do this, you don’t have to. But I need to talk to him again. It’s been a few days. He should have had some time to think through some of this. And I’m sure he has more questions. I won’t hold it against you if you don’t want to go in with me.”

Isabel took a deep breath. She had to be strong for Alex, not a burden for him to worry about on top of everything else. “No, I’ll go if you want me there.”

Alex raised her hand to his lips. “I’ll always want you with me, Bella.”

Her heart a puddle of mush on the floor, she could only follow him up the path to the front door. She felt bad that he had to knock on the door he once would have breezed through without hesitation. His hand found hers and their fingers twined together. She could feel his apprehension and worry and wished she could find a way to sooth his fears. But the truth was, the existence of aliens was a pretty hard thing to accept, especially when your child was dating one.

The door opened slowly and a haggard looking Charles peeked out. “Alex? What are you-“ he broke off, seeing Isabel for the first time. His features immediately became unreadable.

“Dad, I know this is kind of unexpected, but we thought that maybe if we came by we could answer some of the questions you had come up with.”

“Now isn’t really a good time, Alex. Maybe tomorrow.”

Alex’s stomach fell. “Please can we come in for a few minutes? We just wanted to talk to you.”

He looked uncertainly from Alex’s eager face to Isabel’s. After an eternity, he nodded his head. “Just a few minutes.”

Alex sighed and squeezed Isabel’s hand as they followed Charles’ to the kitchen. He took a seat at the table, positioning his chair so that he was far enough away from the two children. He waited as they sat, wanting to offer then something, but holding back. He hated to see that look of fear on their faces, but he wasn’t ready to just accept this whole thing yet.

“What did you want to talk about?”

Alex glanced at Isabel, then back at his father. “I don’t know, whatever you wanted to talk about. I know you must have a dozen questions, so we thought we could-“

“Clear some things up?” When Alex only nodded, Charles continued. “Well, the only question that comes to mind right now is what’s going on with you two? There is something going on, isn’t there?”

Alex looked down at the table. He hadn’t expected his father to be so perceptive. “Yeah. Isabel and I, we’re sort of dating now.”

“Dating?” Charles was torn. He had loved and trusted Isabel for years now, had thought she was perfect for his son. But she was dangerous and Alex would never be safe if he was with her. “Is that smart?”

“Smart? I don’t know what you mean. Does it make sense? Yes. We fit together better than with anyone else we’ve ever known. But that’s not what you meant, was it?”

“Mr. Whitman, I know you’re worried about Alex, but I would never let him get hurt.”

Charles turned to Isabel. “And can you protect him all day every day? Liz and Kyle were shot, Maria was hurt doing god only knows what. How many other times have you been hurt or in danger? How close to getting someone killed have you all come?"

“We’ve come close. I’m not going to lie to you. But we’re a team, a group that looks out for each other. And as long as we stick together, we’ve discovered that we can’t lose.” Isabel was proud of herself for making what she thought was a valid and strong point.

“So, you all didn’t die on your home planet?” He kicked himself for the look that passed her face. “Isabel, I know you’re a good person. But you’re also dangerous to my son. How many enemies are looking for you right now? How many would kill you and anyone in their way to take control of your planet? Alex told me everything, at least I think he did. Your lives are not safe. How can I be okay with you two dating when I don’t know if he’ll live through the year?”

“There isn’t ever any guarantee, Dad. I could be hit by a bus on my way home from class tomorrow. Max, Michael, Tess and Isabel are my friends. And Isabel is my girlfriend. We’ve waited so long, and we’ve both finally realized that we have feelings for each other. I’m not going to turn my back on her just because it may be dangerous. Things have been safe for the last few years. And together, we will all figure out a way to stop the newest threat.”

Charles nodded. “I just have one question for you then. All the deaths I’ve read about in the paper? Have those been related to this new threat?” He let the silence drag on for a long minute, already knowing the answer. He’d known the answer the minute he’d picked up the newspaper and read about the first of the mysterious deaths that had hit Roswell.

“Yes.” Alex had promised himself that he wouldn’t lie to his father any more after that afternoon they’d sat down and he’d given him the whole story.

“Okay. Then how can you convince me that your life isn’t in danger? And I’m sorry, Alex. I know you wanted me to say that I’m okay with you dating Isabel, but I’m not. I can’t be okay with it as long as your life is in danger by just being next to her, much less if someone wants to hurt you to get to her.”

Alex stood up. “Isabel, can you give us a minute?” He willed her to understand that he wasn’t trying to exclude her from the conversation, but he had something to say to his father that he didn’t necessarily want her to hear.

Isabel nodded, giving his hand one last squeeze of reassurance before turning for the front door. “I’m sorry, Mr. Whitman. I want you to know that I would never let Alex get hurt. And if he did, then I would do everything in my power to help him. And that’s more than anyone has ever been able to promise him.” She disappeared through the door quietly.

Alex faced his father. The door had clicked behind Isabel. “Dad, I can’t give her up. I know you wish I would. But it’s not worth it to me. I’ve waited my whole life it seems for her and for some reason, when she looks at me now, she doesn’t see me as just a goofy friend anymore.”

“I just want to keep you safe, Alex. I promised your mother. And as long as you’re with Isabel, how can I keep that promise?”

“I love her, Dad. This is more than a childish rebellion. Don’t you think that would have been more important to Mom than anything?” When his father had nothing to say to that, he placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m not going to stop coming by. I love you and I want you to see that Isabel is still the same person. Please, just give her a chance. Do it for me.” Out of things to say, Alex stepped back. “I’ve got to go. Isabel’s waiting.”

Charles watched his son leave with a heavy heart. With everything in him, he wanted to call them both back, to take them in his arms and be happy for his son that had finally found the other half of his heart. He remembered how powerful a feeling it was to be in love. But if he did that, it would be turning his back on his wife and her last wishes. How could he choose between the two of them?








[ edited 1 time(s), last at 15-Oct-2001 12:34:21 PM ]
posted on 15-Oct-2001 12:39:51 PM
yeah, I'm just all confused today. I posted part 41 four times, then ended up calling part 42, part 41. But all has been straightened out now. My brain is securely in place.
posted on 17-Oct-2001 11:10:51 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 43

Michael paced the length of his apartment, angry. Why the hell did this have to be happening now? His head still pounded as though a jackhammer had been taken to it. But at least he knew why, or he at least had an idea.

Following his fight with Maria, he’d not only experienced the first of his migraines, but also the first of the blackouts. And those had been enough to scare him senseless. He still remembered waking up on the sidewalk in an unfamiliar part of town just before the first rays of sunlight had cast away the shadows. He’d been in so much pain he’d wanted to curl up and die right there. But he had managed to crawl home and sleep. Things similar to that had been happening for the last few days now.

It hadn’t taken him long to figure out what was going on, though it was probably still longer than it would have taken Max. This new threat , these Scaribes were trying to take over his body. But hell if he could figure out why it just hadn’t yet. By all rights, he should be another body in the morgue with an unknown death. The only thing that made sense to him was that the Scaribes’ powers weren’t meant to take over the body of a hybrid. If he’d been 100% human or 100% Antarian, he’d be dead. Instead, he had the growing fear that his body was being borrowed to carry out this insane death plot of Khivar’s.

He had done everything in his power to stay away from the others. He figured if he knew anything about their plans, or what they had been discussing or uncovering, then it would be information the aliens would have too.

So, he had picked a fight with Max yesterday when he’d come to collect him for their meeting. And he’d even gone along with Maria’s insane statement that they were through. If pushing her away for now would keep her alive, then she would have to suffer through miffed feelings. But how he’d wanted to shake her when she’d given him her ultimatum. The whole thing was coming from her mother he knew. True, they didn’t sit down and have daily conversations about their plans for the future. But surely she knew that he didn’t imagine a future without her? He hadn’t asked her to marry him yet, not only because the entire thing scared the hell out of him, but also because they had discussed it once for like ten seconds when Maria had made the statement that she didn’t want to get married until she’d graduated from college.

And because he could still feel Maria’s presence in his apartment and because he knew it was only a matter of time before someone, probably Liz, came to check up on him, he had been staying away from the building. So, he had hidden in the one place he’d sworn never to go to again.

The knock at the door jarred him out of his daze as the sound echoed through his head. He pulled the door open before the knock could sound again and came face to face with Maria.

“Michael, finally. Look, we need to talk.” She breezed past him into the apartment to pace the living room.

“Maria, this isn’t a good time.”

“When will be, Michael? God, you’ve been missing for days now. And that’s what we’ve got to talk about.” She stopped pacing to face him for the first time. “This isn’t going to work.”

“What isn’t?” He had a hard enough time following her train of thought on a good day, much less when his scull echoed the sound of her voice.

“Us, Michael, this break up. We were friends before. Well, actually, we weren’t, were we? I mean, even when we first dated you didn’t like me much. Which is the root of all our problems anyway. Maybe I should have known then. But I guess I stupidly thought you could actually want to spend your life with me.” Why wasn’t he saying anything? Her heart was raw and bleeding and he was still standing in the doorway. Didn’t he care? Was he really so heartless and glad to get rid of her?

Michael listened to her ramblings, unsure as to what the hell she was talking about. All he knew was that a world of pain was swimming in her eyes and he had put it there. He would make it right. Hell, he’d do whatever it took to win her back. Later. For now, he had to make her leave and make sure she stayed gone.

“Look, Maria. I really don’t have time right now. And actually, I guess I don’t have to make time either. That’s the beauty of breaking up with someone. So, if you don’t mind, I’m a little busy and I was on my way out.” He grabbed his jacket off the couch and put it on, careful not to look at her. She was dead silent. Yep, if there was one thing he’d learned how to do well, it was how to piss off Maria. “Tell you what, why don’t you just shut the door on your way out?”

Maria watched, stunned, as Michael picked up his keys and calmly walked out the front door. What the hell had just happened? Did he just cut her off, insult her and walk out?

A bubbling rage filled her small body. He had some nerve talking to her like that. By the time she was done with him, he would be wishing he was roasting on an open flame rather then deal with her.

*~*~

“Thanks for the coffee, Kyle.” Tess continued sipping her coffee as they walked down the sidewalk towards home. It had been nice when he had called to ask her out for a few hours. It had been ages since they’d even pretended to be friends again.

But once they’d left, Tess had realized that Kyle had a purpose for asking her out. He had something on his mind. She’d noticed that he had been quiet and withdrawn all morning and she’d been trying to figure out if she was supposed to ask him what was wrong or not. But she’d been so concentrated on figuring it out, she hadn’t noticed that they’d made it home.

“Tess, do you have a few more minutes? Can we sit outside?”

Tess nodded, not sure how she of all people could help him. This was more Liz’s area, or even Maria. But for whatever reason, he’d chosen her and she wasn’t going to let him down.

They took a seat across the street from the apartments on the swing set. Tess sat, quite uncomfortably, never having learned how to sit on a swing. “So, what’s going on?”

Kyle stared off into the distance, his mind elsewhere. “Have you ever been in love?”

Not being even close to what she had expected, she narrowed her eyes. “I thought I was with Max. But it was just Nasedo’s image of who we would be together that I fell in love with. And then there was someone else that I thought…but no.” Tess trailed off, catching Kyle’s sadness. Why hadn’t she ever been in love? The closest she’d come was what she felt for Kyle, but he didn’t see her like that anymore.

“Neither have I. After all the women I’ve seen, none of them ever mattered. They can come and go and it doesn’t touch me. Does that make me a bad person?”

Trusting her instinct, she laid a hand on Kyle’s shoulder, careful not to move, lest she fall out of the swing. “If it makes you a bad person, then so am I. Maybe we just haven’t found our other halves yet.”

“But it looks so easy. Look at Max and Liz. They knew from the first time they saw each other. I used to watch him staring at her all through school, way before he healed her. And she used to stare back. Of course, they never caught each other, but it was there. And even Michael and Maria are perfect for each other. Sure, they fight, but I think it turns them on, which is something I don’t want to delve into any further. And now even Isabel and Alex have the gushy, ‘look deep into my eyes’ thing going on. So, why is it so easy for them and not for us to find significant others?”

“I don’t know. Kyle, what is this all about? You never seemed to care before about any of this.”

“Chrissy. She left town yesterday with her sister. With all the deaths and nobody knowing what the cause is, she didn’t feel safe.”

“Oh, Kyle. I’m sorry. Are you okay?” Good going, Tess. His girlfriend leaves town and you ask if he’s okay? Of course he’s not.

“Actually, I am. That’s the problem. I was seeing her for months and she just picks up and leaves and I probably wouldn’t even give it another thought if it weren’t for Vicki.”

Tess sat in silence. What could she possibly say to that? He was grieving over a friend and she had no idea how he was feeling. Nasedo was the only person she had ever known that had died and she had been more relieved over his death than anything.

“Seeing her like that, it was harder than I thought it would be,” he confessed softly. He lowered his head, not wanting to see her in his mind again.

“I wish I knew what to say. Maybe it’s just not our time. Liz and Max knew each other for years before they said anything more than ‘please pass the test tube’. And Michael and Maria hated each other for years. Alex and Isabel have been friends and just now did something about it. Maybe the time just hasn’t been right yet. We still have time.”

Kyle looked at Tess for the first time since they had sat down. She was sitting primly on the edge of the swing, looking like she was about to fall off. Yet, she was still holding onto his shoulder, trying to offer some sort of comfort to him. Why had he let their friendship taper off? Then he looked into her crystal blue eyes and knew the answer. He had started falling for her and hadn’t wanted destiny to tell him he had to spend his life with anyone. Had he been crazy?

“Thanks, Tess. I guess I’m just in a mood today.”

“Well, you’re entitled. And you bought me an iced mocha latte, so you can be in any kind of mood you want.”

The both jumped when the sudden noise jolted them back to their surroundings. They looked across the street to the apartment building in time to see Michael storm out onto the sidewalk. He looked as though he was muttering to himself. Kyle looked at Tess.

“I wonder where he’s been lately?”

“He doesn’t look so good.”

“Maybe we should check up on him?”

One of the upper level windows of the building opened and they watched in confusion as Maria poked her head out. She saw Michael, took aim and threw something out the window.

Michael swore loudly, grabbing the back of his head in confusion. He looked down to the pavement and then back up to Maria.

“Did you just hit me with my own shoe?”

“Damn right I did. And I’m going to hit you with more than that too.”

Maria disappeared into the building again and when she returned, she began throwing books at him this time. Michael dodged them as best he could, dancing around on the sidewalk.

“Are you crazy? Ow! Quit that!”

Kyle watched in amusement as Maria nailed Michael with a rather heavy looking book. He settled in on the plastic seat. He’d seen Maria angry before and he’d seen Amy upset as well. If Michael had done something to piss off Maria, this was going to get good. Maria had run out of ammunition and had disappeared again, giving Michael a chance to survey the damage she had created. A minute later, she started throwing clothing out the window. Socks and shirts followed jeans and underwear. They cascaded down the side of the building to litter the ground at Michael’s feet.

“What are you doing? You’re throwing things out of my apartment!”

“Well, duh. I know that. It seems that there isn’t anything of yours in my apartment. How’s that for commitment?”

Michael turned around and fled in the other direction, ignoring the items Maria continued to throw at him.

Tess looked at Kyle in confusion. That was true love? “Should we help?”

“Oh no. I’m not going anywhere near Maria when she’s that worked up. In fact, if I were you, I’d stay away for awhile too. How about catching a movie with me?”

“Okay.” Tess stood, grateful to be out of the swing. Maybe she didn’t have as good of a grasp on human behaviour as she thought she did.

Kyle swung his arm around Tess’s shoulders, in a far better mood than before. Maybe being in love wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. “Tell me, how do you feel about horror movies?”


posted on 22-Oct-2001 9:28:58 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Well, I actually had this part ready for ya Friday, but the board was down again and it confuses me when I post on two boards these days. It just results in missed parts and craziness. But on a plus side, this part is a little longer than usual and it's for all of you that kept asking me about Max and Liz. Yeah, I know they've been AWOL the last few parts, but they'll have some major time coming up, don't worry.

Learning to Live
Part 44

“I’m glad you kids could come for dinner tonight, Liz.”

“Well, it was a good idea. When was the last time we all had dinner together?”

Diane placed a hand over her heart. “I got up at five this morning to start cooking,” she confessed, checking to make sure they were alone. Her children and her husband would never let her live it down. “I couldn’t help myself. I just got so excited. I don’t remember the last time I had both of my children together, plus you and Alex. We should take pictures. Excuse me a minute.”

Liz smiled as Diane went off in search of her camera. A family dinner had been a good idea.

“There’s a sight I don’t see enough of these days.” Max came up behind Liz and wrapped his arms around her waist.

Liz let her body relax against Max’s chest. Here, she was safe. She could handle anything the world threw at her as long as she had these arms to fall back into. Max nuzzled her ear, delighted when he felt her quick shiver through their connection. He liked knowing that he could still effect her with just a touch. He was constantly amazed that their desire for each other hadn’t diminished over time. Each time he held her, it was like the first time. He could still hardly believe in a few short weeks they would be married and nothing would ever separate them again.

Amazing, isn’t it?

I still can’t believe you’re going to be mine.

Oh really, who says I’m yours and not the other way around?

I say. I’ve already claimed you as my property.


Liz laughed at him, knowing he was teasing her. She turned her head so their lips could meet in a kiss. Keep it up and I’ll have to take pointers from Maria on how to handle Neanderthal behaviour.

A camera flash jolted them back to reality and reminded them they were in the Evan’s living room.

“Mom!”

“Sorry, honey. I just couldn’t resist. You two are just so cute together.”

Liz giggled, reluctantly pulling out of Max’s arms.

Later, she promised him.

“I’m holding you to that.”

“What was that, Max?”

Max winced. He really needed to work on getting used to their new connection. It kept getting him into trouble. “Nothing, Mom. Is Dad still outside grilling?”

“Yes, now go scoot outside so Liz and I can talk. Go on now,” she insisted more sternly when he remained planted in his spot.

Max cast them a dark look before escaping outside. Isabel and Alex had disappeared without a trace and he was beginning to wonder where they were. Had they gotten together to discuss something they’d found in the files? He decided to find them after he checked in to see if his Dad needed any help.

In the living room, Diane ushered Liz onto the couch. She hadn’t had a chance to really to talk to her future daughter since the horrible barbecue, and she had been worried.

“Tell me, honey. How are you really? You haven’t heard anything from your parents yet?” Max had filled her in on what had happened and her heart broke for all of these kids. But another part of her had swelled with pride that when faced with their first big hurdle, Liz had stood by her son and defended him, even against her own parents.

“No, nothing yet. I sat down with them and explained everything.” Liz paused, feeling more than a bit anxious about their lack of response. “I gave them my journal to read. I wanted them to see that I didn’t make any decisions lightly and that Max and I tried to stay away from each other and it never worked. Then I left. I haven’t heard anything yet.”

Diane slipped an arm around Liz’s small shoulders. She carried so much weight on them these days. “I’m sorry, Liz. I wish I could do something. Phillip and I talked about trying to get together with everyone, but we thought it best to let you kids handle it at first before we stepped in.”

“It’s probably a good idea. It just makes me so mad. Just when everything is going so perfect-“ she paused. It seemed petty of her to think such things when people were dying.

“Don’t do that. You have every right to want to be happy. You were planning your wedding, and now you’ve had to stop and wait.”

“We’re not waiting.” Liz sat up straighter. She was tired of everyone assuming the wedding wasn’t going to happen. Didn’t they understand how important this was? That was why she was glad they had wanted to get together for dinner tonight. She could set them all straight. “The wedding is still on for November.”

“Are you sure? I thought you two might wait until your parents are a little more comfortable with everything.” Diane was caught off guard. She hadn’t planned on this, but that selfish motherly part of her stood up and cheered.

“They asked me to postpone it, but I told them no. Nothing is going to have changed in the next few weeks. Max will still be who he is and so will I. I want them there, but if they’re not, I’ll deal with it.”

“Well, whatever you two decide, you know we’ll support you. No matter what happens, you’ve been my daughter for years already. And nothing will change that.”

Liz smiled at her. “Thank you. It means a lot. They just need a little more time. I’m sure they’ll come around. There’s just no way I can live without Max, and they have to understand that.”

Phillip entered the living room hesitantly when he saw the two girls huddled on the couch together. “Am I interrupting? I can come back if this is a female thing.”

“No, we’re done here. Is Max bringing in dinner?”

“Max? No, he checked in a few minutes ago, then I sent him to look for Isabel and Alex.”

Warning bells went off in Liz’s head even as she felt a jolt of shock run through her body. From the other side of the house, they heard a loud cry and then the slamming of a door. Max strode down the hall and into the living room, his face beet red. Liz tried to contain her laughter as Max’s thoughts rolled around in her head. When he saw his parents in the living room, he stopped suddenly.

“Alex and Isabel will be out in a few minutes,” he announced.

You knew about that, didn’t you?

Liz covered her mouth with her hand, trying to contain the laughter when the image of his sister tangled with Alex on her bed overwhelmed her brain. I’m so sorry. I didn’t think you’d walk in on them or I would have said something sooner.

I don’t want to talk about it. Max strode to the back of the house and out the sliding glass doors.

Liz’s giggles filled the living room.

“What was that about?” Diane inquired. She could tell by now when Max and Liz were having private conversations and it looked as though her son was annoyed.

Before Liz had a chance to open her mouth, Isabel and Alex came through the door, hand in hand. Alex’s cheeks were flaming red, but Isabel held her head high. “Mom, Dad. I was planning to tell you tonight, but now is as good a time as any. Alex and I are dating now.”

“Really?” Then realization dawned in Diane’s head. “Oh, no. Max didn’t…” Her giggles matched Liz’s as she could only imagine what Max had walked in on that had put the kind of color red on Alex’s face. “I’m so happy for you two.” She moved across the room to pull them both into a hug. She’d always hoped the two would find each other one day. They’d been inseparable for years now. It was about time her children had come to their senses.

“Thanks, Mom.”

Phillip was grinning at them as well, but he pulled his daughter into a hug nonetheless. Then he turned to Alex. “You keep her happy.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Liz, is Max okay?” Alex couldn’t help but ask. He needed to know if it was safer to head for the hills now or if he could try to choke down some dinner first.

“He’ll be fine. It was just sort of a shock.”

*~*~

“Well, I think dinner was a success.” Liz pulled off her sweater as she walked through Max’s living room. She would be living here officially soon, and it gave her a giddy sort of feeling.

“Uh huh.”

“Max, I know you’re not upset they’re dating. We talked about this. You thought they were perfect for each other too.”

Max stuffed his hands in his pockets. “That was before he put his hands all over my sister. What was he thinking? They were in our parents house! Do they have no decency?”

Liz crossed the room to wrap her arms around Max’s waist. She smiled lovingly into his eyes. “As I recall, we spent an entire weekend trying to have sex in every room of that house.”

“That was different. We were young and stupid and we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. Besides, we were in love.”

“And how is that so different from them?”

Max frowned. “It just is. I’m going to ring his neck if he thinks he can just…just…use my sister.”

Liz laughed at him. “Max, this is Alex you’re talking about. He’s worshipped the ground she’s walked on his whole life. Besides, did you see the way he kept looking at her during dinner? He’s fallen in love with her.”

Frozen with the thought, Max thought back to the way his former friend had been watching his sister all night. He was forced to admit that there had been something different there, a kind of longing in his eyes, a wistfulness that he’d had when he and Liz had first started dating.

“Are you sure?” The image of him pounding Alex into the sidewalk was becoming less and less likely to happen.

“I’ve known Alex long enough to know. I’d lay money on the fact that Isabel doesn’t know it yet, though.”

Max sighed. “I guess I can’t beat him up then, can I?”

“I’m afraid not.”

Max bowed his head so that their foreheads touched. “Can I at least give him a hard time?”

“What kind of brother would you be if you didn’t?”

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“I can’t wait till we’re married and you don’t have to leave me alone here.”

“Who says I’m going anywhere tonight?” Liz wound her arms around his neck, pulling him closer.

“You know, I do remember something about us getting together later to finish what we started at Mom and Dad’s.” He pulled Liz impossibly closer, never able to get enough of her. She smelled of strawberries, reminding him of the tortures of his adolescence. That smell drove him crazy when he was nothing more than her Biology lab partner. And he would forever connect it with her.

He shifted his lips to connect with her soft skin, leaving a trail of bright light down her neck. Liz moaned, letting her hands go lax on his neck. He could feel the pleasure building in her and he loved that he could make her as crazy as she could make him with just a touch.

“Max,” she sighed, letting her head roll back as Max’s lips found the sensitive spot under her ear.

Almost undone by the need to touch her, he forced his hands to calm down before they started unbuttoning her shirt. She’d worn jeans and one of his old shirts this morning and it had nearly driven him crazy. She knew what it did to him, and suspected that she did it on purpose some days. But he didn’t really mind.

“Liz,” he hissed through clenched teeth. She hadn’t worn a bra today. “Do you know what it would have done to me all day if I’d known you weren’t wearing anything under here?”

Liz only smiled, indeed knowing what it would have done. “So do something about it now.” She met his lips, pulling their bodies together.

Needing to feel her flesh against his own, he began pulling at his own shirt. Why had he worn a T-shirt anyway? He hated breaking contact with her, but it was for a worthy cause. But in the interest of saving time, he stripped completely.

“In a hurry?” Liz grinned at his eagerness. How could they still want each other so badly after all this time?

“Always.” He pulled her against his naked form, his lips beginning the trail of light on her skin anew.

“Max, I want you now.”

Max read her emotions. She was still trying to reaffirm that he wasn’t going anywhere and their lovemaking had been a bit more frantic than usual lately. She was still upset about her parents and wouldn’t talk about it, but he could read her better than anyone.

“Max, please, don’t think.” She could read his thoughts and she was tired of having to worry about what was to come. She just wanted to sink into Max’s skin and let go. Spending the day with Max’s family had only made her miss her own all the more. She wanted to be held by him and loved until no thoughts could intrude.

“Anything for you,” he kissed the tip of her nose, his hands already moving down to loosen the snap of her jeans.

“Not quick enough,” she sighed, helping Max rid her of her clothes. The task done, she bit back a moan to feel him pressed against her. “Max,” she all but begged.

Helpless to deny her anything, he allowed her to pull him to the soft carpet. She wrapped her legs around his waist and he slid into her gently.

As Max filled her, Liz’s eyes filled with tears. This was what her life would be like, an eternity with a beautiful man that loved her and did everything in his power to make her happy. They would love and laugh together, and always fill in each others holes. But as she thought back to her parents, and the hole they had left behind, she wondered if that was an emptiness that even Max could fill.








[ edited 2 time(s), last at 22-Oct-2001 10:49:46 AM ]
posted on 5-Nov-2001 10:14:23 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Yea! I'm back, guys. Funny story, I was going to have Abbi post this part for me last week, but I lost my disk and had to retype it this morning for you. You don't even want to know how crazy and hectic last week was! But my wedding went off despite several dozen hitches, and it was beautiful. The preacher decided to call me Leslie, of which my name is not. And when my father tried to give me away, my whole wedding party was whispering my name to him. My mother got stuck in traffic and was a half hour late for the wedding, so we had to hold everything up, the limo somehow got exhaust marks on the bottom of my dress (not too noticible, but enough to send everyone into frantic fits). But despite it all, I think I was the calmest person there. Go figure. Thank you for all the kind wishes and for bumping me so I could find this today. This part is a little short, but I'm posting this and then on to finish the part I've been working on for Finding Yourself. So, I'm back in full creative mode and look for an update on FY sometime today. Love you guys!

Learning to Live
Part 45

“I’m just worried, Phillip. Sure we took it pretty easy when we found out, but the rest of them don’t understand. They haven’t seen what those kids have gone through together, or how closely they rely on each other.” Diane lowered her voice in the crowded restaurant.

“I know, but I still think it’s going to take some time. We had the benefit of raising Max and Izzy and knowing that beneath it all, they’re just kids.” Phillip took a sip from his water glass, unsure of how they’d gotten back on the topic to begin with. They’d merely tried to go out to lunch, but he could tell his wife was still agitated from her talk with Liz yesterday. “Where is all this coming from anyway?”

Diane poked around at her half-eaten sandwich. “Something Liz said bothered me the more I thought about it. She told her parents everything, gave them her journal to read and when they asked her to postpone the wedding, she said no. She’s going to marry Max regardless of whether they’re there or not. And as much as I want to see them get married, I think she’ll regret it later if they’re not there.”

“It’s her decision to make. You know how they are, how they’ve always been. Ever since Nicholas took her they’ve been almost violent about anybody coming between them.” They had words over it as father and son their senior year more times than Phillip could remember. But they had been insistent on staying together.

Diane pursed her lips. “I just don’t want it to ruin their day. I just wish there was something I could do to help.”

“Maybe there is.” Phillip’s gaze wandered to a spot behind Diane’s head.

Curious, she turned around in her chair and saw Nancy and Jeff Parker being seated in a secluded corner booth.

“We have to talk to them.” Diane was out of her seat and halfway across the room before Phillip could even form a protest in his brain. With a sigh, he threw a few bills down on the table and set off after his wife.

Diane made her way over to the table without a clue of what she was going to say. They hadn’t noticed her yet and she was grateful when she felt Phillip’s hand at her elbow. He may not agree with what she was doing, but he would support her. And she never loved him more.

“Jeff? Nancy?”

The Parkers looked up in confusion then in fear. The last people they’d expected to run into were Diane and Phillip.

“Can we sit down? I promise we won’t take but a minute and then we’ll leave if you want us to.”

Phillip saw the indecision in their eyes, but figured it was better than outright rejection. “For Liz, please. We know so much we’d like to tell you, things she would probably never tell you herself.”

Reluctantly, Nancy nodded, clasping Jeff’s hand in her own.

The Evans took a seat, unsure of how to begin now that they had the opportunity. “Liz told us she gave you her diary. Have you had a chance to read it yet?” She figured she had only a few minutes, so she should cut to the chase.

Nancy nodded, emotion clogging her throat. She had read it a dozen times, crying harder each time. Her baby had gone through so much pain, had been hurt time and time again. And she hadn’t been there for her.

“I don’t know what Liz told you or what she wrote about in her journal, but I know what I saw. Four years ago, we didn’t know anything. That was when Nicholas kidnapped Liz.” When Nancy’s lower lip quivered, Diane knew she had some knowledge of the story and she continued. “Max and Isabel’s other mother came to us in our dreams and told us impossible things about them, but we’d always known then were different somehow. She showed us images, a thousand things that had happened to them. I know Max tried to push Liz away to keep her safe and they were only both miserable. Then Liz tried to convince Max that she’d been unfaithful in order to save their lives. And I know how you feel. I hate that my children’s lives are in constant danger, but I have to accept it. That’s who they are and it’s the life they will live.”

“But we don’t have to accept it. Why should Liz’s future be filled with danger and uncertainties?”

“It always will be.” Phillip jumped in to counteract Jeff’s statement. “There’s no going back now. Liz was shot and would have died if Max hadn’t saved her life all those years ago. And because of it, she was changed. Her life will always be in danger from the government, or Antarian enemies. She is who she is and it can’t be changed. Trying to tear Max and Liz apart won’t make her any safer now. It might seem like a high price to pay for you and I, but they’re so happy, so in sync that no threat has ever been stronger than that bond they have.”

“Liz is upset.” Diane spoke up after a long minute of silence had followed her husband’s speech. Jeff’s eyes flew to her in what she could only call jealousy.

“You’ve seen her?”

“We had dinner last night. She’s hurt inside. All she wants is your approval of her relationship, her marriage with Max. And if this rift between you guys gets any deeper, it may not be repairable. Your approved of them before. You loved our son as if he were your own, because of how he treated your daughter. They take care of each other in such a beautiful way, it hurts to watch. Even after all the challenges and heartache, choices that thankfully none of us will ever be forced to make, they not only triumph but it makes them stronger for it. You want what’s best for Liz and I’m telling you it’s Max.”

The Parkers hadn’t spoken yet and she knew her time was all but up. “She thinks you don’t love her anymore because of who she is now, because of what she’s become.”

Nancy and Jeff’s eyes met and held, their hearts breaking. Could she really think that?

“Tell her you still love her and let her be happy again. If you make her choose, you’ll lose. She loves him with everything she is and if you don’t see that, then you’ve already lost her.”

“C’mon, Diane. We should go.”

Diane nodded, allowing Phillip to help her from the table. “Just think about it and if you need anything, call us.”

The Parkers watched their old friends walk away with heavy hearts and a silence settled over them.

“Jeff, could she really think we don’t love her anymore?”

“I don’t know. We haven’t given her any reason to think otherwise.” Jeff thought back to the picture Liz and Max had made standing in the back room of the restaurant. Liz had poured her heart out to them, then ran crying from the room. It had been Max that had caught his baby girl and let her cling to him as though her life depended on it. Max Evans, not her parents, had been there to comfort and protect her against every hardship life had thrown at her. Diane had been right to say that they would lose her if they have her an ultimatum. They’d known for years that Max would protect her with his life, now they just had been given proof of it. “Nancy,” he turned to his wife, taking her hand. “I think we were wrong.”

Nancy met Jeff’s eyes, caught p in her own memories of the couple’s tenderness. Max had never intentionally hurt her baby, had never held her back, but complimented her. It had been them who had taken the sparkle out of her eye and looked at her like a monster. “I think you may be right.”

Jeff placed a kiss on her hand. “So, how do we fix this mess?”

*~*~


posted on 8-Nov-2001 9:44:37 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Hey, guys, this is a shorty part today, but I promise that some action and some answers are coming up. Look for FY tomorrow morning.

Learning to Live
Part 46

Liz sat in front of a large table, china patterns and table linens lay before her in a barrage of colors and patterns. And she was ready to cry. When she had left for the mall three hours ago, her goal had been to get ready for her wedding that was still rapidly approaching. But all she had done was overwhelm herself.

The more she sifted through, the more she wondered how Isabel had kept all these things straight. One shade of blue looked identical to the shade next to it, though she had been assured that they were indeed different. Since Isabel had rediscovered her love for technology, she and Alex had been working day and night to decipher the files in hopes of finding more answers. But even that was still looking next to impossible. All in all, life wasn’t looking good.

“Liz?”

Liz blinked when she heard her name above the store crowds. She snapped out of her daze and tried to place the brunette standing next to her.

“Cassie?” Liz shook her head. “Cassie, hi. What are you doing here?”

The young waitress smiled hesitantly at Liz. “I was shopping and I thought I saw you inside. You looked kind of…well…are you okay?”

“Hmm? Yeah, I’m fine. Just a little…” Liz waved her hand over the table that presented her with so many problems. “Overwhelmed. Tell me, you don’t happen to know the difference between teal and aquamarine and if so, do you have a preference for one?”

Cassie tucked her bangs behind her ear and glanced at all the fabric swatches. “Well, I like the aquamarine, but only if you put it next to…this shade of purple.” Cassie reached across the table and pulled several swatches together.

Liz watched in awe as Cassie maneuvered the colors until they lay before her in a beautiful scheme. She pinched the bridge of her nose between her fingers as Cassie became more comfortable chattering about designs.

“Wait. Hold on a second. Do you want to make some money? I hope so, because I’ve just hired you to be my wedding coordinator.”

Cassie pales. “What? Oh, Liz, no. I couldn’t do that. Besides, I thought Isabel was doing that.”

“She has a side project she’s working on and she doesn’t have time to help me. So, either you do it or I’m choosing the color white for everything.”

Cassie began picking at the tablecloth. “I don’t know. It wouldn’t be right.”

“Why wouldn’t I hire someone to help me that knows exactly what I like?”

“What if I pick something you don’t like?”

“Impossible. I have no real opinion on anything these days. Just don’t pick this ugly pea green color and we should be fine.” Uncertainty still marred the young girl’s face. “What is it really?”

“I don’t know if I should. I think…I think your dad is going to fire me.”

Stunned, Liz sat back and examined the girl. Sure, she was a little clumsy, but she tried hard. “Why would you think that?”

“I’ve broken more dishes than I’ve served and I get the orders mixed up all the time.”

“Maybe you just don’t know all the secrets yet.” Something in her felt sorry for this girl. Although she hadn’t been around the Crashdown enough to know for sure, Liz was fairly certain that Cassie still didn’t have any friends. “Tell you what, you help me out and I’ll show you hundreds of waitressing tips.” Liz tried hard not to focus on the pain in her chest at the thought of her parents. She was beginning to think that maybe they wouldn’t find a way to understand about her and Max after all. And it was the hardest thing she’d ever had to face.

Cassie beamed a smile at her, unaware of her new idol’s turmoil. “Deal. But if there’s something you don’t like, you have to tell me.”

“Believe me, if I don’t, Isabel and Maria will.” Liz linked arms with Cassie and led her to the back row to help look at china patterns.

*~*~

Max lay in bed, his history book open on his lap. He’d been trying to study for his exam next week, but he found that his attention was elsewhere. The apartment was quiet, darkness having fallen hours ago. But try as he might, his thought kept drifting back to the vision that slept beside him.

She had come home from shopping and classes to collapse in bed. Max had made her soup and had it waiting, knowing the things that had weighed heavily on her mind.

She’d worried about her parents never accepting them, and how it made him feel. She’d second guessed her own decision not to postpone the wedding. She’d tried to figure out what was wrong between Michael and Maria and how to help. But most importantly, she’d worried and questioned why the Sheriff hadn’t found any more bodies. And Max had found himself wondering the same thing. It had been five days since the last body had been found and according to the pattern the Scaribe had set, there should have been more bodies found by now.

Liz shifted in her sleep and Max closed his history book with a sigh. She was having another nightmare. Last night, it had been one where she showed up to the church late and when she started walking down the aisle, she found she was naked. Max chuckled at the memory. He usually blocked their connection when she was sleeping, but he’d been distracted and before he knew it, he’d been sucked into her dream.

He adjusted his body until he was lying beside her, his head propped on one hand. She looked so peaceful when she was sleeping, it was hard for anyone to understand how many things she worried about in a day. He wouldn’t have believed it himself if he didn’t have access to her every thought. But she felt more and hurt deeper than anyone he’d ever known. And this thing with her parents was cutting so deep, he didn’t know how to begin fixing it. At first, he’d been torn between giving them time to accept things, and wanting to shake them and ask them if they were crazy and if they knew what they were doing. So far, he’d been forced to wait. Liz must have caught a stray thought or two of his and had asked him to wait it out. So he had.

She sighed, a frown marring her perfect skin. Unable to stop himself, Max gathered her closer until her head was resting on his chest. She whimpered as she buried her face against his bare skin. Max ran a hand down her back, soothing her in sleep as her dreams took a more violent turn. He thought about waking her up, but wanted to see if she could resolve it herself. Besides, he would have to get used to not stepping in every time she had a bad dream.

Max closed his eyes and let himself enter the dreamworld she was pulling him into. He figured if he could lend her his strength, she would at least know he was there for her.

Immediately, he was surrounded by inky blackness. Without knowing why, he felt panicked, lost, and was filled with a sense of loneliness and despair he’d never known. What was this place?

He seemed to float forever until the images began shifting as though he was watching things through a television screen. It only took a second for Max to know where he was and it scared the hell out of him.

He saw Liz trapped in the vortex of emotion she had talked about, was forced to watch her try to claw her way up to the surface, to the sunshine that peaked over the edge. Max tried to escape, to pull Liz from the nightmare that had plagued her and almost driven her to insanity. But he was helpless. He watched the events play out, knowing they were almost over. He could feel Liz’s terror, her sense of urgency to escape, to set things right. And Max’s mind was drawn back to the conversation he’d had with his sister about the message she had received. Whatever was coming, wasn’t supposed to be stopped. And Liz didn’t know.

A soft voice filled the air around him and he felt Liz’s recognition. She wasn’t afraid of the voice, just the message. And then he knew that there was something else that she hadn’t told them.

Then it was over and he felt himself being ripped through the darkness to find himself in his own bed again. Liz was awake, and was sobbing into his chest. Max tightened his arms around her, offering her whatever comfort he could give. They would talk tomorrow and get everything out in the open. Consequences be damned, they would get the truth out and figure out what to do with this mess.



posted on 12-Nov-2001 12:26:20 PM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Egad, this part is easily twice as long as my normal posts, but I had to get this in one part. I'm sure you're all complaining, right? Well, here you go. The product of my morning. Enjoy.

Learning to Live
Part 47

“Hey, Is, can you juice this thing up for me?”

“Yeah, sure.” Isabel paused where she had been scrolling through the incoherent symbols to wave her hand over the alien device in Alex’s hand. It still gave her a small thrill to see it light up and know that she had creatred that. But she felt that she was on the verge of something and returned her attention to Alex’s computer screen.

“Thanks,” Alex mumbled, knowing Isabel was full engrossed in her work again. He ignored the device and watched her for a minute. She really was amazing. Her eyes were riveted to the screen, her attention focused on the foreign language. Idly, he wondered if he could get her to put on a pair of reading glasses, and then one of his lifelong fantasies would be fulfilled. Putting his lust aside, he let his pride show through. She really felt that if she tried hard enough, she could decifer them herself. Her hand wandered up to the delicate skin of her neck to rub at a sore spot and Alex found his mind wandering back to the previous weekend at her parent’s house.

She had taken him to her room to tell him what she had thought about the decoding and somehow they had found themselves on Isabel’s bed. They were still relatively new at the whole relationship thing, but whenever they were in the same room, it had become impossible not to kiss her. And despite the desperate longing that ran through his veins whenever he touched her, they still hadn’t done anything more than kiss. Although that night in her bedroom they’d been far closer than ever.

Isabel had gotten impatient, stripping his shirt off in the midst of their kisses. And when she had begun to unbutton her own shirt, Max had burst into the room and interrupted them. The whole thing would have been funny if it hadn’t been for the fear that Max would come to his senses and kill him on the spot. It had been that very event that made Alex realize that he hadn’t been treating Isabel the way she deserved to be treated. So, he’d asked her out on their very first date. He’d gone to extreme lengths to make sure that every moment went perfect. If only he’d known that nothing would have gone according to his plan.

Isabel felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up and she knew Alex was watching her again. She never would have guessed in a million years how wonderful it would feel to know that all she had to do was turn around and smile and she could all but see him melt in front of her. She’d never been this giddy before, this alive. And last night when Alex had shown up at her doorstep with a dozen white roses, she’d never been more in love.

He’d been dressed in a tuxedo, complete with top hat and a scarf which had made her want to giggle. It was so completely Alex she should have expected it. He’d swept her off to his car so they could make the dinner reservations he’d arranged at the french restaurant outside of town she’d been dying to try. Unfortunately, on the way to the restaurant, one of his tires had blown out and they’d spent an hour on the side of the road while Alex had replaced the tire. It still warmed her heart to remember how insistent he was that they continue with the evening. He hadn’t wanted anything to ruin their first date.

So, he’d taken them to a carnival. They’d gorged on cotton candy and elephant ears until they’d almost overdosed on sugar. She knew Alex had plans for them in the tunnel of love, but after waiting in line for a half hour, they had announced that the ride was broken for the evening. She had seen that Alex’s always optimistic mood was dwindling, so she had taken the initiative and had dragged him over to the booths.

She had picked what she thought was the easiest game, a game where you had to shoot a water gun at a target and beat out everyone else to win a prize. It had seemed flawless. She had claimed to want one of the stuffed yellow ducks hanging from the rack. The bell had sounded and Alex had screwed up all his concentration on hitting the target. Unfortunately, a small child had broken free from his mother and in his haste to escape, had knocked into Alex and sent him flying. Since Alex had already been engrossed in the game, he’d already started spraying water and when he fell, he didn’t release the trigger and ended up spraying Isabel with a steady stream of water.

The look of horror on poor Alex’s face when he saw what he had done was enough to send her into fits of laughter, not giving a second thought to the ruined dress or to her makeup. She’d grabbed a hold of Alex’s arm and they had run to the ferris wheel, making it into the last car. And so what if she had used her powers just a little bit to stop the car at the top of the wheel? It had only been long enough for her to convince Alex that she wasn’t upset and that their first date hadn’t been ruined by any of the bad luck that seemed to follow them.

Belatedly, she realized that she had been staring at an empty screen for a few minute and that a grin had spread throughout her face. She turned to Alex, wanting to take advantage of the last few minutes of peace before her brother showed up to intimidate her boyfriend, but her computer started beeping frantically.

“What the hell?” Alex snapped out of his own daydream and rose to stand behind Isabel. “What did you do?”

“I don’t know. I was running some decryptions sequences and it just started beeping.” Oh god, don’t have let her done something to his computer. The screen started scrolling text documents, filling the monitor with actual words, instead of the hieroglyphics they had become accustomed to.

“You did it.”

“What?” Isabel looked at the screen again. Alex was right. “No, we did it.”

The couple smiled at each other a minute longer before springing into action. Isabel jumped up to turn on and load up the printers and Alex took her place in the chair to start punching up sequences to save and print everything given to them.

And it was amidst this chaos that Max, Liz and Maria walked in a few hours later. Isabel was sitting on Alex’s bed, scrolling through page after page of documents while Alex battled with the printer to unjam.

“What did we miss?” Liz stepped over one stack of paper to get into the room.

“Guys, we did it! We’ve got the files.”

“Really?” Max snapped to attention, moving to join his sister on the bed. Their speed reading skills had never come in more handy.

“What do they say?” Maria took off her coat and tossed it in a corner, the only place she could find that wasn’t littered with paper.

“Well, it looks like we have the history of our planet. Wars fought and won, royal families, births and deaths. It looks like we have everything we need.”

“So, we should be able to find out more about the Scaribes and find a way to beat them?” Liz turned to Isabel, who’s excitement level was through the roof.

“I’ve already found out more about them. Our mother was right when she said that their planet died. It was a civil war gone wrong. They traveled the galaxy for years until they found someone who was willing to take the last of them in. They fooled us into thinking they were peaceful, but when Khivar stepped in and offered them a chunk of the planet that wasn’t lit by the suns, they agreed to help him win the war however they needed to.” Isabel continued scanning. “It looks like Khivar’s rise to power is documented here. This reads like a history textbook.”

“Only this is history we’re definitely interested in.” Maria picked up the nearest stack and began flipping through it, as did Liz.

“Oh,”

“What is it, Liz?”

Liz turned to face Max. “Well, it seems that I found the death records.” She met Max’s eyes. “Your death records.”

“Let me see.” Max moved across the room to take the stack of papers from Liz. “King Zan Rosenthal of the Lavencourt Provinces, pronounced dead…” he stopped reading. “fought bravely in battle. That’s all it says.” Liz placed a hand over his, offering her support, murmuring it through their connection. He knew it was crazy to be affected by something he couldn’t even remember, but just knowing how he had died was enough to move him. He moved on through the list. “Princess Vilandra Rosenthal of the Lavencourt Provinces, pronounced dead…” Max looked up to meet the expectant eyes of his sister. “Tortured to death in the prison camps beyond the forest.”

Isabel slumped forward, her strength gone. Immediately, she felt Alex’s arms around her shoulders, supporting her. She had been tortured to death. Had she cracked? Had she given information in the end in exchange for her life? She would never know if she had been the reason for the downfall of her kingdom, the deaths of her family and friends.

“It wasn’t your fault.”

Isabel turned to Alex with teary eyes. How did he know what she was thinking? “How do you know? They already told me I betrayed my family.”

“I don’t believe that.” Oblivious to everyone else in the room, Alex cradled Isabel’s face in his hands. He would worry about Max killing him for touching his sister later. “If you were…tortured,” he found the words hard to say, even harder to think about. “then it was because you didn’t want to give them information. And besides, that’s not who you are now. You’re not Vilandra, you’re Isabel.”

Isabel sniffled, not entirely convinced. She closed her eyes, not wanting to see the looks the others were surely giving her now. How could she look her brother in the eye again?

“Is, you have nothing to feel guilty about.” Max saw the scene unfolding before him and approached his sister, knowing how difficult this had to be for her to hear. “Didn’t we agree years ago that the past was the past? Alex is right. We really are different people here. And if the events hadn’t unfolded the way they had, we wouldn’t have ended up here. And I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t trade my life now for anything.”

Isabel opened her eyes, looking not at Max, but at Alex. Maybe things had happened for a reason. All the events of her lives had led her to this point, and she honestly could say that she wouldn’t trade being held in Alex’s arms for anything in the world. “Okay. I’m okay.” She gave her brother a shaky smile, nodding for him to return to the papers.

Reluctantly, Max returned to the death certificates. “Princess Avania Daly of the Breckthal Provinces…poisoned to death. Captain Rath Hosford of the Lavencourt Provinces, killed bravely in battle.” Max scanned the records further. “That’s all I recognize.” How many of the names on this list should he know? How many of them had fought beside them? And he couldn’t even remember who they were?

“Michael should be here,” Maria announced quietly.

“I’ll go,” Liz offered, knowing she was the only one in any shape to do so. Are you okay?

I’m fine, go. Maria’s right, he should be here.

Liz rose from her seat and hastily made her way out the door and down to Michael’s apartment. She knocked once, waiting for an answer. It didn’t matter what was going on between him and Maria. He was coming back upstairs with her and was going to become a member of their group again. When she received no reply, she tried the knob. Finding it locked, she glanced around the hall quickly and sent a surge of energy into the lock. When it clicked free, she entered quietly, a chill sweeping up her spine. The room was unnaturally dark, even for Michael and his brooding artist mood swings.

She continued down his hall into his bedroom. “Michael? Are you here?”

She pushed open his door and let out a sigh of relief when she found him sprawled out across the bed. He was just sleeping. Why was she being so jumpy? Feeling foolish now, she strode across the room and gave Michael a rough shove. She remembered Maria telling her what a deep sleeper he was.

“Michael, get up. We need you downstairs.” When he didn’t move, she shoved him again. “Michael. C’mon. It’s time to wake up, sunshine.” She moved to push him, but his hand grabbed her arm before she had the chance. The movement startled her, as did the force in which Michael was holding on to her wrist.

“Ha Ha. Very funny. If you were awake, you could have said so.”

Michael rolled onto his back and Liz caught a glimpse of his appearance for the first time. His skin was pale, as if it hadn’t seen the sun in far too long. He’d lost weight, his clothes hanging off his body. But the bags under his eyes caught her off guard. What was wrong with Michael? Why wasn’t he eating or sleeping? “Michael?” She tried not to flinch against the pressure on her wrist, but it was getting harder.

Michael’s eyes flashed open and Liz gasped aloud. Beneath his usual dark brown was a swirl of red. Trying to step back from the bed, she found herself trapped by his hand. She slid on something on the floor and fell. Michael was advancing on her now, moving his body closer to where she lay half paralyzed on the floor. The red was glowing a darker shade now and she found herself truly afraid of what he would do to her.

“Michael,” she whimpered, afraid her wrist was about to snap under the pressure.

At her plea, Michael snapped out of the trance he had been in. She watched as the red tendrils snaked back out of view from his eyes and he stared down at her with a look of confusion on his face.

“Liz? What are you doing here?” Why was she looking at him like he was a serial killer? He followed her gaze to where he was holding her wrist and he dropped it as though burned. Had it happened again? Was Liz hurt? She didn’t look hurt, but she was afraid of him. What had he done? He lunged off the bed and backed out of the room, never taking his eyes off Liz’s small form huddled on his floor. “Liz…I’m sorry. I have to go.” He turned and fled out the door.

Liz heard the front door slam and knew Michael was gone. She held her sore wrist against her chest, wondering what to do now. Should she follow him or let him be for now? No, if she followed him, what would that accomplish? He was stronger than her and if he really did want to hurt her, he could. She pulled herself off the floor and quickly made her way back to Alex’s apartment.

“Liz, what took so long? Michael being his usual difficult self?” Isabel jokingly greeted her when she appeared in Alex’s doorway.

When there was only silence, Max looked up and nearly panicked when he saw her standing in the doorway. “Liz, what happened?” He led her to the armchair, noticed her cradling her right arm. He cursed himself for closing off their connection for the ten minutes she had been gone, but he had wanted to devote his full attention to the papers in front of him. He pulled her hand away and swore as he caught a glimpse of the large purple bruises forming on her skin. “Who did this to you?” he asked, even as he healed her.

Liz turned her attention to Alex and Isabel, who were huddled together looking concerned. “How much do we know about how the Scaribes take control of somebody?”

“Not much. Why?”

“We need to find out now. I think I know why we haven’t found any more bodies lately.” Liz turned to Maria. “Michael’s been taken over.”

Maria felt her insides freeze. “No. That can’t be. Can it?” She whispered the last few words, afraid to believe it. But there were handprints on Liz that said otherwise. She steeled up her courage. Michael was going to need help and she would do whatever it took to make sure he didn’t end up another corpse in the morgue.

“Okay, this is the plan.” Maria stood, taking charge of the meeting. “First of all, enough of these secrets. Isabel, Max, do you have something you want to tell us?”

Isabel and Max glanced at each other, not sure of what Maria knew. “Maria, I’m not sure-“

“Oh, cut the crap, Max. Enough is enough. Michael’s life is on the line here. I know you sent Isabel into mine and Liz’s dreams to find out something more about this nightmare/warning thing. So, spill it. What do you know?”

“Uh, well…” Isabel stammered, not sure if she should say anything.

“Tell them, Is.”

“Max?” Liz turned to Max, hurt showing on her face.

“Michael and I were worried about your nightmares. We wanted to know more about them and see if we could stop them somehow. I shouldn’t have done it behind your back, but I was worried about you. I’m sorry.”

Liz closed her eyes, not really angry, but afraid of what Isabel had found out. “What did you find?”

“Not a whole lot from my brain,” Maria scoffed. “And by the way, if you wander your way into my head again, I’ll give you images you’ll never be able to get out of your head.”

Isabel blushed, remembering some of the scenes Maria had dreamed about. “You knew about that all along? Wait a minute, you did that on purpose?”

“Not the point. What did you find out?”

“I talked to whoever sent you the message. They wouldn’t let me into the nightmare though. They said that what was meant to happen was meant to happen and I wasn’t supposed to tell you guys because you’d try to change the events.”

“What events?”

“I’m not sure. She wouldn’t tell Isabel, but I think it’s whatever’s going on at the top of that funnel.”

“How do you know what it looked like?” Isabel asked Max.

“I had the nightmare again last night,” Liz confessed. “Somehow, I dragged Max into it.”

The group turned to Maria. “I had it last night too.”

“Okay, so to recap once again, you guys are having the nightmares again, Isabel talked to whoever gave us this warning about a friendly face, and now this person tells us that no matter what happens, we can’t change it because why? It’ll make things even worse? Why tell us about it in the first place then?” Alex found himself getting confused in the conversation. When had all this cropped up? Here he’d thought everything was going along fine and then they get slammed again.

“She said that whatever happens has the potential to tear us all apart and that can’t happen.”

“So, it’s going to be bad.” Liz slumped against Max’s warmth.

“Is there anything else going on here that we should talk about?” Alex rose from his chair to pace the room. This was insanity. Hadn’t they decided years ago that secrets were bad? And now all of a sudden there were a dozen secrets everywhere.

Maria and Liz exchanged a glance.

“Maria…”

“Liz, he deserves to know.”

Max looked back and forth between the two girls. “What? Is there something you’re not telling us?”

Liz met Max’s eyes. “Yes, and I’m sorry. Maria and I said we wouldn’t bring it up unless it was important. We didn’t want to be wrong.”

Maria turned to look at Alex. And when Liz followed Maria, a sliver of fear ran up Alex’s spine. Why were they both looking at him like that? “What?”

Liz untangled herself from Max’s embrace. She knew he wasn’t angry, only a bit hurt and worried. It was Alex that would need their attention now. “Maria and I, we recognized the voice that gave us the warning.”

Alex waited, sure this wasn’t going to be good. “And…”

Liz glanced at Maria again, wanting to make sure this was the right thing to do. “Alex, it was your mom.”

Alex blinked. “What? My mom?” He took a step backwards. “No. You guys must have made a mistake. It was only a dream.”

Isabel replayed the conversation back in her head again from the dream conversation she had with the figure.

We have never met, but you are in my heart.

Be there for him Isabel. He’ll need you.

And it made a sudden kind of sense to her. That was the reason why she had seemed so familiar. But what did all this have to do with Alex? Was he going to be hurt in some way?

“Alex, I think they may be right. It was something I couldn’t put my finger on until now.”

Alex calmed suddenly, staring at the empty wall before him. His mother had issued a warning to Maria and Liz? Why not to him? He found a crushing sadness creeping up on him and he pushed it aside. There wasn’t time for that now. Michael was in trouble and they needed to work together to find a way to help him. “We need to keep reading, see what we can find out about these Scaribes and if there’s any way to stop this.”

“Alex,” Liz began, but found Max’s arms wrapped around her. Not now.

Liz sighed, knowing he was right. Alex wasn’t ready to deal with this now. But sooner or later, they would all have to come together or they would be torn apart.

posted on 15-Nov-2001 7:25:39 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Alrighty, people. Here's the thing. I didn't want this conversation to be a part all by itself, but the next few chapters will all be answers and action and I didn't have anything else to throw in here. So, this conversation ended up being a part all by itself. It got stretched a little, to lengthen it out, but it's still a bit shorter than I've spoiled you with. I'm still not crazy about it, but I think you'll see what I'm going for with this. But the good news is that the next few parts should be longer than usual. I tried for like three hours yesterday to post this, but it never worked out. So, you'll probably get a part of Finding Yourself today too. Yea! But let's see how much time I get today first.

Learning to Live
Part 48

Amy Deluca swung open her front door to find Jim Valenti hovering on her doorstep. She had been considering ignoring the insistent knock, and regretted her decision to answer it now.

“What do you want?” She refused to feel any warmth at seeing him for the first time since she’d found out the truth. He hadn’t called, couldn’t be bothered to stop by. But now he wanted to show up on her doorstep and talk?

“Amy, please. Can we talk about this inside?”

She examined his stance. He was in Sheriff mode and he usually got what he wanted. It would be pointless to argue outside. “You have five minutes before I call your Deputy to throw you out.”

Jim took off his Stetson, following the small woman inside. Not too long ago, he had been welcome here, but he’d known better now. He knew she’d be angry, she wouldn’t have been the woman he knew if she hadn’t been. So, he’d left her to her anger, hoping she and Maria could at least work something out. But Kyle had paid him a visit and had let him know where things stood. And he’d known it was time to step in.

“I heard you talked to Maria.” Although she hadn’t told anyone what had happened, Kyle had informed him that it hadn’t gone well.

Amy turned to glare at him. Had he come to rub in her face that her only daughter wasn’t talking to her? She remembered Maria’s tearstained face before she had run out of her old home, just as she remembered the words that had been spoken.

“You must have spies everywhere, Sheriff. That must come from consorting with aliens for so long.”

“Stop it, Amy.” He took a deep breath, forced himself to remain calm. He wouldn’t let Amy push his buttons. And someone had to talk some sense into her. “Yes, I knew about them. And no, I didn’t tell you. And if I had the chance to do it all again, I’d do it the same way. The more people that know about those kids, the more dangerous it becomes.”

“Danger that Michael dragged my Maria into.”

“Because your daughter is so easily bullied and manhandled. C’mon, Amy. Think about what you’re saying. Even you have to know that Maria does what she wants to do and nothing can change her mind. She fell in love with Michael because underneath all that toughness, there’s a tender soul.”

“Tender soul?” Amy scoffed at his words. “What do you know about Michael Guerin?”

“I know he was beat everyday of his life with Hank. I know I answered countless calls only to find that boy huddled in a corner, bruised and beaten, sometimes burned. I imagine most of the time he would have been hospitalized or killed if it hadn'’ been for his alien genes."”

A bit quieter now, Amy dropped her defensive stance under Jim’s words. How could she be angry when she was faced with the truth? “I didn’t know that. I mean, Maria always said he had it rough…”

“But you didn’t believe her,” he finished for her. He saw the change in her face and he gentled his actions, took a step towards her. “Amy, I know you think Michael’s emotionless, that he’s out to hurt Maria. Hell, I thought the same thing when I found out what they were. But the truth is, he has more than the rest. He wasn’t adopted like a nice family like Max and Isabel were. He didn’t have soft words and encouragement, but violence and pain. Maria’s faith in him, her love, was the first tenderness he’d ever known. And he may be gruff, but he’s a good boy. And he loves your daughter. You know that. It wasn’t a month ago you were asking me if I thought he would ever get around to proposing to her.”

She remembered that morning well. She had woken up with Jim beside her and had felt content for the first time in her life. “Don’t you dare bring us into this.” She pushed aside the guilt that was beginning to surface over some of the things she had said to her daughter. Instead, she focused on the anger she felt for Jim. “The fact remains that you lied to me. You withheld information about my daughter’s safety, her health. I trusted you, Jim. I…” Amy broke off, tears swimming in her eyes. Why did this have to happen? Just when things were looking good for her, when she thought she finally had found something she could love and trust?

Jim took another step forward, his heart breaking when she took one in retreat. “Amy, you can trust me. It wasn’t my secret to tell. The only reason I know is because I hunted those kids down for an entire year. Wherever they went, I followed. I wanted to nail Max Evans to the wall, to prove that my father didn’t spend his entire life chasing after a lie. And believe me, I did everything in my power to catch them. I threw Liz and Alex into jail, I held Max at gunpoint, I bullied and harassed Maria and Kyle. And in the end, they came to me. Max was captured by the FBI, tortured and being kept in a government facility. And Liz came to me for help after all the hell I put them through. Every one of them put their lives on the line to save Max. Just like they did to save Liz. They are a unit, a family, or they were. Max risked it all again to save his mother and because the truth came out, they’ve been broken apart as a group.”

“What do you mean?” Her voice held no anger now, only curiosity.

“Alex hasn’t spoken with his dad in a week. Liz is afraid her parents won’t come to the wedding. Maria left Michael. She won’t talk to anyone about it and Michael’s all but disappeared completely. Because of what you said to Maria.”

“Now hold on a minute-“

“No! Amy, enough is enough. You are wrong about those kids. You’ve known them their whole lives and you’ve loved them. Now is not the time for dissention. They have a very real enemy out there, hunting them down regardless of whether they’re human or not. And they need to be strong. You said a lot of things that hurt all of those kids. And your daughter is miserable. What will it take for you to admit you were wrong about Michael?”

Amy looked down at her hands, unsure of what to say.

Jim sighed at the crestfallen look on her face. And he knew she was beginning to see how wrong she may have been.

“I know I probably ruined everything we had and you’ll never know how sorry I am for that. For what it’s worth, I thought I’d found a family in you and Maria. She’s like a daughter to me, and if I’d thought for single minute that Michael wasn’t taking care of her, I’d have killed him myself. And you…Amy, I fell in love with you years ago. I just never had the courage to tell you.” He met her shocked eyes. He hadn’t meant to tell her for the first time like this, but he was afraid this might be his last chance. He’d already put his heart on his sleeve, he figured he may as well go all the way. He dug into his pocket and pulled out a small velvet box. He laid it on the table beside her and took a step backwards. She was standing frozen and he didn’t know what she was thinking. But she made no move toward the ring.

“I bought that for you months ago. I was going to wait until Christmas, but now…It’s yours, Amy. I don’t need it. I…I just wanted you to know.”

His voice was so low, she wasn’t even sure she was hearing him. Her eyes were rivoted to the table, the small box capturing her whole world. He had bought her an engagement ring. And she didn’t know what to say.

The soft click of her front door grabbed her attention and she realized that she was standing alone. Jim had left. Slowly, she sunk down to the nearest chair and rested her head on her arms until she was level with the ring. The reality of the situation started sinking into her brain. She had lost her daughter, and the man she loved. And she had hurt Michael when she didn’t know what she was doing. What had she done?



posted on 28-Nov-2001 11:19:31 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 49

“Max, I can’t do this. You don’t know what you’re asking me to do.”

Max faced Maria, knowing that she was the only one they could ask to do this. “Maria, I know you and Michael have been having some trouble-“

“We broke up.” Maria turned to look out the living room window. The sun would be coming up soon and they still had no idea where Michael had run off to. They only knew he was out of time. So, they had been up all night trying to figure out the best way to free Michael from the Scaribes’ grasp.

“What?” That stopped Max cold. “What do you mean you broke up? If you two had a fight-“

“We didn’t have a fight, we broke up. End of story. That’s why I can’t do this.”

“Maria, listen to me.” Liz stepped forward. Now wasn’t the time to get Maria worked up into a hysterical rant about her and Michael. “The only way to help Michael is to get into his head, and you know he won’t let just anybody do that. That’s why we need you to dreamwalk him and help him fight.”

Defeated, Maria flopped down on the couch. “And what if he won’t let me in either?”

“You won’t know until you try. Maria, it’s you or nothing. If you don’t do this, he’ll die like the others did.”

Maria took a deep breath. Liz was right. She was being selfish. Michael’s life was far more important than silly pettiness. “Okay, what do I have to do?”

Isabel stepped forward. “I’ll show you how to do it, lend you some of my energy. But I doubt he’ll let me in. He never has before.”

Nodding, Maria followed Isabel to the couch. Isabel stood, waiting as Maria laid down. “What now?”

“Just try to relax.”

“Right.” Easier said than done. She only had six pairs of eyes on her and Michael was being possessed by some evil alien that had come to kill them all. Sure, no reason to panic there. She closed her eyes and felt Isabel take a seat on the floor. Her light touch on her arm made her jump, though she had been expecting it. It was just one more sign of her nerves being shot.

“Just think about Michael. Hear his voice in your head, feel his touch. Concentrate on his energy.” Isabel closed her own eyes, trying to focus all of her energy on Maria. A connection formed between them and Isabel saw flashes of conversations long since past. She felt the attraction between Michael and Maria when the first met. She heard a hundred conversations, some nothing more than insults, but others filled with heartfelt words of devotion and love. And through Maria, Isabel began to see a completely different Michael than she’d ever known. Where her Michael had been closed off and gruff, he softened when he was with Maria, letting himself feel real emotions.

Before she had time to adjust to this, the darkness before them began changing, colors splashing around her to paint the most colorful canvas she’d ever seen.

They were standing in a field of flowers. And the colors around her were more brilliant than any she’d ever seen on Earth. No two seemed to be the same. Isabel looked around and saw Maria standing rigid beside her, her whole attention focused on the dark forest before them.

“I know this place,” Isabel stated, beginning to put the pieces together. Maria and Michael had been in that forest the night she had dreamwalked Maria and found them playing naked Scrabble. She quickly pushed that thought away. There were more important things here to dwell on. “Is this…”

“Antar? I think so, but I’m not sure.” Maria faced the forest with its dark crimson leaves. “Michael and I used to meet here. But he never wanted to go into the forest. He told me it’s not safe. Gypsies took it over and kill anyone who comes near it.” She knew she was babbling. But she’d do anything that would take her mind off what was coming.

“So, we’re in his mind?” Isabel looked around, still absorbing everything she was seeing. This was her home.

“He’s in there.” Maria gestured towards the forest. Michael would have run there to hide, knowing she would try to come after him sooner or later.

“Well, let’s go.”

Maria stopped Isabel’s forward movement. “No. I have to go alone. He won’t let you in. I can feel it. He’s scared, Isabel. I’ve never felt so much fear.”

Isabel nodded, though she felt nothing. “Are you going to be okay here?”

“I’m not the one you have to worry about.” She saw Isabel’s hesitation. “I’ll just find him and tell him how to block his mind, just like we talked about.” She offered Isabel a smile, though she knew she wasn’t fooled.

“Be careful, Maria.”

But Isabel’s image was already fading from her vision.

“Right.” Maria squared her shoulders and started forward. She would do this one last thing for Michael, save his life so that he could see his family one day. Moving through the outer trees of the forest, she picked her way past the thorny, purple spines of the tree trunks. She made a mental note to warn Liz never to go into the forests of Antar if she ever had the chance to go.

“Go away.”

Maria froze in her tracks, looking around to find the source of the voice.

“Michael, I’m here to help you.” She licked her lips nervously. Would this work?

“I don’t want your help. I never did. Just leave me alone.”

The loneliness in his voice tore at her heart. He was trying to push her away to keep her safe. Why hadn’t she seen that before? “It’s no good lying to me here. I feel what you feel. And you’re scared.” So scared he couldn’t think straight.

Before her eyes, Michael materialized. His eyes bore into hers, looking for answers to unknown questions. “I’m not afraid.” But he knew she could feel the paralyzing tendrils of it snaking through him. That was why he’d tried to block them from coming here. But he’d been too weak, Maria too persistent.

“Michael, the Scaribe had control of your mind. He’s using you to-“

“Yeah, I know.” His voice was soft, defeated.

“Then why aren’t you fighting?”

“I was, for days and days. He’s too strong, Maria. You have no idea. That’s why you have to go.”

“I’m not leaving you here, Michael.” She reached out to grab his hand, only to have her fingers slide through him as though he were nothing more than a ghost. Terrified eyes flew up to meet his.

“I’m fading,” he explained. “Tell the others for me-“

“No. I’m not going to stand here and take notes on your dying words. You’re going to fight and we’re going to put a block on your mind so he can’t come back. He hasn’t completely taken you over yet, so we still have time.”

“He can’t. I’m a hybrid. His race wasn’t meant to inhabit a freak like me. But he found a way to use my powers.” He sunk down onto a rock, exhaustion showing in every movement.

“What are you talking about?” Maria sunk down beside him, wishing for all the world that she could touch him and take away some of his pain.

“I heard what your mother said to you, Maria. When you tried to connect with me. I heard it all. She was right. I’m no good for you, I never have been. Just go away. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. I’m just catching my second wind to finish this guy off.”

“Don’t lie to me.” Was that what he thought of her? “Why are you doing that? You’re not a freak, Michael. Far from it. You’re a hero, my hero. And you deserve more credit than anyone has ever given you. To hell with my mother and anyone else that thinks that of you. Because if that’s what they think Michael Guerin is all about, then they don’t know the real you.”

Michael turned to look at her and she knew she had his full attention now. He wasn’t looking quite as transparent as he did a minute ago. Or was that her imagination?

“Alex and Isabel decoded the rest of the files. We found your death records, Michael. ‘Captain Rath Hosford of the Lavencourt Provinces, fought bravely to the death in battle.’ That was you, Michael. Your death had meaning on Antar. They resurrected you so that you could do more good, help keep Max and Isabel and Tess safe even when they’re being stubborn. Do you want to let this creep take you down without a fight? That’s not the Michael I know. The Michael I know would never lay down and give up.”

“I’m not giving up, I’m just tired. So tired. Why are we still fighting? It’s hard to tell sometimes.” He ran a hand over his face, weary.

“For your family. Don’t you want to see them again someday? They’re still out there somewhere, wondering about you. And you’ll go back to them.”

Michael stared at her strangely a minute and she wondered if he could read her as clearly as she could read him here.

“Maria? Don’t you get it? You are my family. And you’re gone too.” He turned away from her, staring off into the distance. His form wavered a minute, becoming a bit more transparent than it had been.

Panic filled her. He was slipping away. “Michael, no. You can’t go yet. You can’t leave me.”

“He’s coming back.”

“Fight him, Michael.” She was pleading and she didn’t care anymore. She knew this was the last chance she would have and she was losing.

“I’m sorry, Maria.”

He locked eyes with her and in that instant, he opened up to her in a way he never had before. He showed her all of his fears, all of the terrible things that had been done to him that had turned him hard at such an early age. He showed her how dramatically she had changed his world, and how he had begun to plan a future with her. And she felt his love, unending waves of it. And she knew that she had been horribly wrong. Michael wouldn’t leave her when the time came. He would give up everything he was to stay with her if the opportunity presented itself.

“Michael, I-“ she stopped, unsure of what to say in the wake of such emotion from him. But he was looking at her in a funny way, and she had the feeling that he had seen and felt as much as she had.

“Fight. Fight for me. I can’t lose you, Michael. I love you.”

Michael closed his eyes, her strength filling the holes in his chest. And for a brief moment, he became solid again. Maria grabbed hold of the opportunity and latched herself onto Michael. She opened a connection between them the only way she knew how, by pressing her soft lips against his. She opened up to him, giving him all the strength she had. She gave him her love, her faith in him. And in that moment, she knew he had never felt more invincible.

Maria opened her mind to him, showing him what Isabel had told her about blocking his mind. Together, they set about the task of building a wall, brick by brick until it towered a hundred feet tall.

Exhausted, they fell back to the soft forest floor. And Maria could feel the presence in his mind gone. They had done it. She turned to look at Michael, and found him fading beside her. But she didn’t worry this time. He was simply waking up.

“Call Max,” she whispered as she felt her own body pulling her back.

And then she found herself staring at her ceiling. She blinked once, then gave up and closed her eyes.

“Maria? Are you okay?”

It was Isabel. She recognized the frantic tone in her voice. And she tried to nod, but wasn’t sure if her head moved or not.

“Michael. Did you find him?” Max hated to question her, saw the fatigue and knew they had gone through some sort of ordeal. But his friend’s life was hanging in the balance.

“Fine. Calling you,” she murmured.

On cue, Max’s cell phone rang and he scrambled to answer it.

“Michael? Thank god! Where are you?” Max glanced at Maria while Michael struggled to form the words. “I’m on my way.” He hung up the phone. “Is she okay?”

“I think so. She’s sleeping.” Alex stood up, worried for his friend. “Is Michael okay?”

“Yeah. Whatever they did worked. He says he’s okay. Take care of her,” he instructed Alex, though he knew it wasn’t necessary.

“I’ve got them. Just go. This thing isn’t going to be too happy about losing Michael. We’re going to need all the strength we have to finish this off.”





[ edited 1 time(s), last at 28-Nov-2001 11:23:04 AM ]
posted on 28-Nov-2001 11:24:54 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 50

Max pushed open the doors to the Crashdown Café, more than a bit surprised to find Michael slaving away behind the grill. He glanced around the restaurant, looking for signs of life, or maybe of the coming apocalypse.

“They’re not here, Maxwell.” Michael answered dryly when he saw Max enter the restaurant looking like he’d rather be any other place on the planet. “They’re out of town today. Nobody’s in yet.”

“And you thought you’d come by and take over your old job for fun?” Max moved behind the counter to talk to his oldest friend through the kitchen window.

“Hardly. The regular cook’s out with some sort of stomach virus and there wasn’t anyone else with the Parkers gone. Cassie called me.” He shrugged, trying to be casual about it. “It’s no big deal. They must have had my name on some emergency list or something. She’s new, so she called.”

“Michael, have you forgotten that we are probably the very last people the Parkers want to see, much less have working in their restaurant?” It felt odd just being there now, like he should be watching over his shoulder for the Parkers to come chase him out.

“Oh, yeah that had slipped my mind with all the alien related crap going on around here lately. Thank you, King Maxwell, lord and ruler and keeper of important facts.”

Max watched Michael go about his old routine of prepping the food. “How are you doing today?” Max still found it hard to get rid of the images of Michael’s half dead form lying in the desert where he had found him after Maria’s dreamwalk. Whatever had happened was only between the two of them, because neither one would talk about it. Maria had slept for twenty four hours and then had locked herself in her room. Michael had slept far longer and now was working a shift at the Crashdown.

“As fine as you can be after having your head invaded. But thanks for asking.”

“Michael, you know if you want to talk about what happened-“

“Yeah, I got it.” Michael sighed when he saw the look on Max’s face. He knew he’d given them all a scare and he gave in a little. “Look, I know you’re in the mood for touchy feely talks today, so just get it over with already. What did you really want to talk about?”

“Maria.” Max gauged him for a response, pleased when Michael’s spine stiffened at the mention of her name.

“How is she? I mean, she’s okay, right?” His need to make sure she was okay far outweighed worrying about the panic in his voice. Had something happened to her because of what she’d done for him? “I told her not to worry about me. But she didn’t listen. Typical.”

“Relax, she’s fine. Just a little shaken up and a bit tired. But it’s her heart I’m worried about.”

Michael frowned as he continued to form hamburger patties.

“Michael, talk to her. You two are the most stubborn people I know. If you’d just call her-“

“I did.” Michael raised his eyes to meet Max. “I did call her. She didn’t pick up the phone. But I knew she was there.” How could he explain to Max the way he could feel Maria’s presence now? Since she had invaded his mind and shown herself to him, he could feel her very essence everywhere he went. He’d stood outside her window last night, just letting the feel of her pull him in. But she had shut him out again. And he had no idea why.

“Maybe if you went to see her-“

“Max, this conversation is getting us nowhere. Maybe it’s for the best anyway. She already broke things off with me. Did she tell you that?” When Max shook his head, Michael continued. “It was right after the Scaribe had started taking over my mind. She came to see me on some sort of mission. She demanded that I marry her right then and there or nothing.”

Max’s eyebrows shot up. “She asked you to marry her?”

“No, she demanded. Do have wax in your ears or something?”

“Sorry. So, what did you say?” Max visibly calmed down. That was what the big breakup was all about? It suddenly didn’t seem so dire after all.

“I said no. What do you think I said?”

“Wait a minute. The woman you love, whom you have been seeing for five years tells you she wants to marry you and you tell her no? Let me guess, she didn’t take it very well?”

Michael considered it for a minute. “It’s not as easy as that. Not everyone can be perfect like you.”

“I’m not perfect, Michael. Just ask Liz. Have you two even talked about a future?”

“Yes. Well, no, not really. Hell, she knows I love her.” Max was eyeing him with a hint of a smile and he had the urge to knock it off his face. “We did talk about it once. She said she wanted to have graduated from college before she got married. And it hasn’t come up since then.” Giving up on the meat, Michael leaned against the counter. “Maybe it’s for the best this way. She can do whatever she wants now, have a free life.”

“You’re not talking about giving her up, are you? Because you’ve tried that before, we all have. Pushing her away for her own good only seems to make her want to come back all the more. Plus, you never could give her up for long.”

“I love her, Max.” He was more than a bit uncomfortable laying his feelings on the table. But he was at the end of his rope here. “I just don’t know what to do.”

Movement behind Michael caught Max’s eye and his stance stiffened. Michael saw the change and turned, expecting a nosy waitress. Instead, he found himself face to face with Amy Deluca.

“Max, could you give Michael and I a minute alone?”

Max turned and tried to catch Michael’s eye, but he was locked in a staring contest with Maria’s mother.

“Go, Max. I’ll be fine.”

“I’ll call you later.” Max slowly backed out of the restaurant, wondering if he was doing the right thing by leaving them alone.

Alone, Michael faced Maria’s mother. At one time, he’d never felt more at home with anyone. Now, she had the potential to be one of his enemies and as much as the thought made him sick, it had to be considered.

“Sunflowers.”

Michael blinked, confusion settling in. “What?” He was prepared for another verbal attack and she wanted to talk about flowers?

“Sunflowers. My daughter can’t resist them.”

“Wait. Are you offering me advice on how to…I can’t even imagine what you’re offering me advice on.”

Amy took a step closer to Michael. She’d seen the defensive stance he’d taken when he’d seen her and she hated herself for it. For years now, this boy had been a member of her family. Maria loved him and trusted him. And so had she. Somehow, all of that had been lost along the way. “Did you really mean all the things you were saying before you knew I was there?”

Michael shifted uncomfortably. “It depends on how much you heard.”

“All of it.” She had long since grown used to his gruff exterior. And she began to see the soft underbelly her daughter had tried to describe to her for years. “Michael, I didn’t know you’d be here today, so this is just as much of a surprise to me as it is to you. So, work with me here.” She raised her eyes to meet his. She had said so many horrible things to and about this boy. “I’m sorry.”

Now, Michael was completely taken back. “Did you just apologize to me?” Maybe the Scaribe had messed with his head more than he’d thought.

“This isn’t easy for me.” She licked her lips and Michael was reminded of Maria in the gesture. And he forced himself to back down. “When I found out…about where you’re from, it caught me off guard.” When she saw the twist of sarcasm on his lips, she smiled with him. “Okay, it did more than catch me off guard. But the things I said, they were wrong. I was wrong, Michael.” She finished closing the gap between them and laid a hand on his. “You’ve been Maria’s other half for so long, I’m used to seeing the two of you together. To think that something I said split you apart, well I’m sorrier than you’ll know for that. I said a lot of things to Maria, things she may never forgive me for. But that’s my cross to bear with her. I just wanted to set things straight with you.”

Michael watched her every action, every word that came out of her mouth and finally realized that there weren’t going to be any conditions attached. She was actually apologizing. And a sudden hope filled him. “Amy, you don’t have anything to apologize to me for. I understand why you said the things you did. You were worried about Maria, but so am I. I would never let anything happen to her. She’s my life.”

Amy’s smile was sad. “Does she know that?”

“Of course she does.” Michael frowned in confusion. Surely, he’d told her that?

“Because the reason she’s not here with you right now is because she’s afraid she’s going to lose you. Michael, what happens to her if you’re told you have to go home?”

“I’ll take her with me, if she wants to go.”

“Maria grew up with the shadow of her father. No man has ever stuck around in her life.” She reached a hand up to his cheek. He hadn’t had enough tender contact in his life and she vowed to try to make that up to him. “Will you be the first?”

Michael met Amy’s intense eyes, finding only approval there. Where was the scorn he’d seen and feared his whole life? “If she’ll let me.”

Amy shook her head. “The thing about my daughter, she’s a little headstrong.”

“Stubborn as a mule, you mean,” he scoffed.

“She’s my daughter and I say headstrong.” Amy found herself slipping into her old banter with Michael easily. “Sometimes you have to force her to pay attention. And I’m afraid I did some damage, so now I’m going to help you fix it.”

The door to the Crashdown opened and a very flustered Isabel swung into the room, gasping for breath. She set her eyes on Michael and Amy, and Michael noticed she wasn’t in the least surprised to see them together.

“I, uh, just came for pie. Is everything alright here?”

“We’re fine, Isabel. Give Max our best on your way out.” Michael raised a hand and swung the front door closed in Isabel’s face. She stuck her tongue out at him before retreating down the street.

“Well, that comes in handy. What else can you do?”

Michael turned a grin to Amy. His chest felt lighter somehow knowing he was able to be himself in front of Amy. It felt like coming home. “Some things are better shown.”

Amy linked her arm through Michael’s. “Let’s get a booth and we can talk.”



posted on 28-Nov-2001 11:25:42 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Sorry these posts are coming few and far between, but I've reached a point with this story where I've got some really difficult parts to write and I really haven't been in the mood. I know, that's not a good excuse and I apologize. I've just been in a weird mood lately. But on a positive note, the next part will be heavily laden with NC17 goodness. And I may even have multiple couples - not like that, sickos. Geez, get your heads out of the gutters. You know what I mean. You people, really. Well, enjoy. I don't know when the next part will be out though. I'll shoot for by the end of the week, but don't lynch me if it doesn't happen.

Learning to Live
Part 51

Maria dragged herself up the stairs one at a time. Why had she gone out in the first place? Every muscle ached and it was an effort to simply move. And then she remembered why she’d been trying to escape her wonderful, concerned friends that were slowly going to drive her out of her mind. She’d been trying to run from Michael, from the feelings and things she’d seen in his head. She knew he was absolutely okay after his possession by the Scaribe, and she’d never known more relief than in that moment. But he still hadn’t called her.

They had shared an experience so wonderful and so beautiful, it still brought tears to her eyes. They had bonded together in that brief, amazing minute. And then nothing. She’d almost thought she’d made a mistake, that she and Michael could have a future together. Then he’d gone and turned into Stonewall Guerin again.

Well, enough was enough. He could go back to his old ways of ignoring her and them, and she would just have to move on. Now, if only she could convince her heart it would be that easy.

She pulled out her keys, briefly considering just blasting the door open. But she figured her roommates probably wouldn’t like that very much, not to mention the landlord. So, she opened the door slowly and traditionally, automatically reaching for the light switch. As light illuminated the room, she paused in the middle of tossing her purse on the couch.

“What the hell?” The couch was piled high with hundreds of sunflowers. She glanced around the rest of the living room and found that every surface, the chairs, tables and even the counters, held sunflowers of varying sizes.

Maria let her purse drop to the floor and covered her mouth with her hands. She turned her head and her heart melted when Michael stepped into the light, a single sunflower in his hand.

She watched him a minute through blurry vision, unsure of what to say.

“You did this? For me?”

Michael bit back the sarcastic retort on the tip of his tongue. Now wasn’t the time. “Of course I did it for you.”

”By yourself? For me?”

Timing be damned, the sheer uncertainty in her voice was pushing all of his buttons. “No, I did it for Tess with the help of the FBI. Would you quit asking me that already?”

“I’m sorry. It’s just perfect. And I didn’t even think you knew I loved sunflowers.”

“Yeah, well, I may have had some help.”

“I knew it,” she interrupted, then was immediately sorry when she saw the look on his face. He was obviously trying very hard. “I’m sorry. So, who helped you?” She’d bet it was Max. Or maybe Isabel. Those two had a wicked romantic side.

“Your mom.”

“What?” Maria froze mid-thought. “My mom?”

“We talked yesterday. We got a lot of stuff out of the way.” He took a step closer, pleased when she didn’t step back. “She apologized to me, Maria. I told her everything, what little we know about Antar, how we really met, the first time I realized I loved you. I told her everything. And she sat and listened and she took me out to dinner.” He chuckled a little over the memory. “And this morning, she helped me come up with a plan to show you how much I want you back.”

Maria walked to the center of the room, still taking in everything Michael was telling her. “So, she thought of this?”

“No, well, half of it. Amy came up with the flowers, and wouldn’t let me cheat either. She helped me run to every flower shop in town and find these. And I remembered that movie you made me see a hundred times where the girl comes home to all the flowers everywhere and then they couple made up. You used to cry everytime you watched that part and then I would make fun of you and you’d hit me for it.” He offered her the lopsided grin that was his trademark. “I was hoping to avoid the hitting tonight if I promised not to make fun of you.”

He saw that for the first time since he’d known her, she was at a loss for words and he decided to take advantage of it.

“Maria, I know I’m not perfect, and I screw up, well, a lot. But I love you. You’re it for me. And if you want to talk about the future every damned day, even though I don’t understand why you would, but we can if that’s what you want. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Hell, I don’t even know if we’re going to live through this thing with the Scaribe. But wherever I am, wherever I go, I want you to be with me. I don’t care if it’s here, Antar, or the moon. And if that means that we get married, if that’s what you really want to do, then we can get married.”

Maria smiled at him and his obvious nervousness. “Is that a marriage proposal?”

“It could be.”

Maria crossed the distance between them and took the flower from his hand. Meeting his eyes, she caressed his face. “I was wrong to think you’re not perfect, because you are. And there’s nothing I want more than to spend my life with you and be Mrs. Guerin, or the Duchess or whichever province you’re from on Antar. But, no, I won’t marry you.”

Michael stared at her blankly. “I don’t understand.”

“I know I was crazy, but I thought the only way I could get you to be with me forever was if we got married. I was afraid I’d get left behind,” she confessed softly.

“You though if I found my real family, I’d leave you for them.”

The way he said it confirmed what she’d thought about their connection. He’d seen just as much from her as she’d seen from him. “Yeah.”

“Do you know how dumb that is?”

“You know, any other time, and I’d kick your ass for that, but yeah, I do.”

Michael slowly pulled her into his arms, able to breath easily again when her arms went around his waist without hesitation. “Maria, I went through the records Alex and Isabel decoded. My parents died years ago, but I still have a younger brother on Antar that’s helping in the wars. Just because he’s there doesn’t mean that I could ever forget about you. And yes, I want to meet him more than you could ever know, but only if you’re with me to do it.”

“You have a brother?” Maria could feel his excitement levels at the thought of family. But she found that she could also feel the love he had for her. And the sheer force of it had her crinkling her brow in thought. Could she really be feeling his emotions?

Michael?

“Yeah?”

“Oh my god! Don’t you feel it? Michael, concentrate real hard.”

“Maria, I don’t-“

Understand, she finished for him, slipping the words into his mind.

“How did you…”

“Michael, it’s our connection. It’s growing. I can read your thoughts and your emotions. Can you read mine?”

Unsure of how this worked, Michael closed his eyes and really focused on Maria. And instantly, he could feel a thousand emotions he was sure he’d never felt before and he was sure they were Maria’s.

“Is that…Are you…”

“Yes, and yes.” She smiled at him, joy bubbling up from her heart.

“Wow, you have a lot of crap in your head.”

Maria slapped his arm playfully. “Watch it, unless you really want to talk about the dark corners of yours. And how do you know the song lyrics for every Disney movie ever made?”

“I don’t think it’s as important as the time you broke the shake machine and led Mr, Parker to think Liz had done it.”

“Okay, point well taken.” She turned shining eyes on Michael. “I love you. And I’m sorry for everything I put you through. When I found out what was happening, I was terrified I was going to lose you.”

Michael wound a hand through her hair, pulling her closer until only a breath separated them. “Never going to happen. We’re a team. And I love you too.”

“Then why don’t you do something about it?”

“I don’t know. Why don’t I?”

Michael leaned in closer, gently bringing their lips together in a kiss that sealed their new promise to each other.


posted on 14-Dec-2001 9:02:19 AM
Hey guys.

I know, I know. Where the heck have I been? Well, to make a very long and very frustrating story short, I had been working on these next few parts and even had them neatly typed up in draft form. And Wham, my computer disk fried. So, back to the drawing board I had to go. I haven't forgotten about you. I just had to rewrite the whole stupid thing.

So, I promise that I'm working on it today and I will hopefully have something out by the end of the weekend. Possibly sooner, but I don't want to get lynched if it doesn't happen.

Anywho, I love you guys. And I'll talk to you later. I just wanted to reassure you that I wasn't gone forever or that I'd given up on this fic. We're just now getting into the good stuff. *wink*

How about a few spoilers since I've kept you waiting so long?

Friendships and relationships alike will be tested, Brianna just may make an appearance, the final showdown with the Scaribe is coming, there will be a funeral, and we'll be swimming in the angst. Oh, the angst. It is a coming. I wish I could tell you more. But that's not like me. I'm a tease. I just want you to come back for more. And if I get an insane amount of feedback looking for a new part, it just may motivate me to hurry it up. *sly wink*

Talk to you later...
posted on 17-Dec-2001 1:23:29 PM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Hey, guys. Okay, I know it's been forever since I updated and I apologize again. My computer ate the lovely parts I'd typed up for you. And then I got sick. Let's just pause there and amend that to say I caught some mutant space bug that has made me miserable and generally unpleasant to be around. I had hoped to finish this part up, but no such luck. It looks as though it's going to be a long week. So, I will finish this part up with Alex and Isabel, and Max and Liz as well. I just didn't have the energy to finish this and I'm afraid if I try, it's just going to make me angry when I'm well again. So, here you go, and I promise to get this next part out by the end of the week. How's that? Well, unless I'm lying on my death bed, but that's a given.

Learning to Live
Part 52

“So, you’re sure you’re okay with this? Because I could sleep on the floor if you want.” Alex lay in bed, propped up by a pillow as he watched Isabel move around his room.

“No, it’s fine. I trust you.” Isabel went about her routine of laying out her clothes for the next morning. She was careful to keep her eyes averted from where Alex lounged on his bed. She’d showered and thrown on her robe and if she’d caught a glimpse of Alex’s chest while he’d been putting on a clean t-shirt, what did it hurt?

Alex cleared his throat, not sure he could trust himself once Isabel crawled into his bed. A lifetime of fantasies paraded through his brain, but he forced them back. “Um, well, it was great to see Amy and Michael working together. She really is a great woman. I just hope she can fix things with Maria as easily as she fixed things with Michael.” His friend always was a tough nut to crack. And it had been kind of a kick to see Amy back in action, ordering Michael around while he tried to fill every available spot with flowers. In the end, love had won out with them.

Letting his own mind wander to his father for a second, Alex let the self pity sink in. He’d battled it back for days now, trying to at least get his father on the phone, but he hadn’t been successful. And he was starting to get the feeling that his own father was avoiding him.

Feeling the silence settle around them, Isabel moved to Alex’s bed. She placed a hand under his chin and forced him to meet her eyes. “Hey, he’ll come around too. Just give him some time.”

“I know you’re right. Dad and the Parkers will understand and then we’ll all be able to get together for a big alien hodown,” he joked, wanting to lighten his own mood. This was a happy night. Things were looking up for Maria, Michael and Amy, and Alex wasn’t going to ruin the mood. “So, you’re sure you want to stay in this swinging bachelor pad? The comfort of your own bed is only a few steps away. Because I have to warn you that I talk in my sleep.” He wanted to give her one last chance to change her mind. Not that he expected anything to happen, but they had been progressing steadily and he was desperately afraid he was going to push her too far.

“You think I don’t know that by now? That’s how I get all the good information out of you. Besides, there was a very good reason Tess, Liz and I left the apartment tonight. You’ve never heard them when they really get going. And if they’re having make-up sex too? I’ll take you and your talking anyday.” She grimaced at the mere thought of going near their apartment. She could only hope they newly reconciled couple cleaned up and fixed anything broken before they were done.

With the warmth of her skin burning against his, Alex realized how very little was between them and he felt a blush creep up his neck. “So, are you ready for bed-to sleep!” He amended quickly. The last thing he wanted to do was pressure her or make her think there were strings attached to his offer of a bed for the evening.

“Yeah, I’m all set.” Isabel shrugged out of her bathrobe, feeling more than a bit shy. She’d decided when she was packing earlier that she wasn’t going to change her sleeping habits just because she would be sharing a bed with Alex. So, she’d packed her usual nightgown in a golden silk. But now, she was second guessing her original decision. She quickly turned out the bedside table lamp and crawled under the mound of covers. Was she supposed to stay on her side of the bed? She wasn’t sure of the protocol and she didn’t think she was ready to sleep with Alex yet. It would be crossing over the last borders of their friendship and it was a scary step. She’d never been with anyone who knew every corner of her soul before.

Alex sensed her uneasiness and pushed his own aside. “Come here.” He touched her shoulder, not a seductive hand, but a comforting one.

Isabel gladly moved into Alex’s embrace, snuggling into his chest. And when she closed her eyes and Alex’s arms enveloped her shoulders, she’d never felt more at home in her life.

*~*~

“Have you ever had a sudden flash of De je Vue?” Kyle asked from his make-shift bed on the floor. He had remembered the good old high school days when Tess had moved into his room and he’d lived on the couch for two years.

Tess smiled and gave the pillow beneath her head a quick fluff for the hell of it. “There’s plenty of room up here for two.”

Grinning at the mock seduction in her voice, Kyle decided to make the best of the situation. “You know, I don’t remember the last time I had a beautiful woman in my bed and she was wearing so many clothes.” Since their outing the other day, Kyle had rediscovered his friendship with Tess. He’d forgotten the playful seduction they used to spout like water. He’d missed the pout of her lips when she didn’t get her way and how blissfully ignorant of human pleasantries she could still be. He found her straightforward approach to life to be a breath of fresh of air. He’d missed his friend.

“Do you ever regret that?”

“What? Having naked women in my bed? I can honestly say no. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had near enough.”

Tess grimaced, tossing a pillow at Kyle. “No, and that’s just gross, Kyle. I don’t want to know the details of your sex life. I meant us.”

“I don’t understand.” But he knew exactly what she was talking about. They’d been firmly ensconced in the flirting stages of a relationship before the aliens had heard of their true destiny. They’d been told they were meant to love the humans they already knew. And for the other couples, that was fine. Alex and Isabel had stalled in friendship gear, but they were in the midst of falling in love.

Truthfully, Kyle had been freaked, followed by angry. The last thing he wanted to be told was that he had no choice but to fall in love and marry someone because it was prophesized on some distant planet by some ancient scroll. So, he’d stepped completely away from Tess. He might have stayed in their circle of friends, and he had studiously avoided Tess. But he couldn’t deny that when there was trouble, his first thought was still of Tess’s safety.

“Do you regret us never getting together?”

“Honestly?” And he sighed, because he knew she expected nothing less than that from him. “I don’t know. I like why I am. And if we’d dated and we had broken up, I have a feeling things would have ended badly. I wouldn’t be here now with you as a friend. And if we’d stayed together, beaten the odds, then I wouldn’t have had the experiences I’ve had. And I like the memories I’ve created.”

“Oh.” Tess hadn’t considered it that way. Would she be the same person now if they had dated? No, she didn’t think she would be. Back then, she’d been horribly shallow. Even now, she cringed whenever she thought of all the time she wasted trying to convince Max to follow his destiny with her. And if she had dated Kyle, she wouldn’t have appreciated him the way she did now.

Kyle heard the tone in her voice and decided to throw caution to the wind. They were picking the pieces of their long lost friendship up again and he’d always vowed to Tess to be honest no matter what. “But it would have been nice if you’d been there for some of those experiences.”

“What kind of experiences are we talking about here?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Kyle could hear the smile in her voice and knew she appreciated his honesty.

The phone rang on the table above his head and he jumped up to answer it. From the way Isabel and Alex had been eyeing each other through dinner, he’d figured they needed a bit of quiet time.

“Hello?” He caught it on the third ring, but only by catapulting himself across the floor.

“Kyle?”

“Hey, Dad. What are you doing calling so late? Isn’t it past your bedtime?”

Jim ignored the barb. “I was trying to track you kids down. Is everyone with you?”

Kyle glanced at Tess, lying in his bed. Then he thought of the rest of the group, all coupled off and enjoying what they knew to be the calm before the storm.

“Let’s just say we’re all fine. No one’s missing. We’re just having some down time. What’s up?”

Jim paused. “Actually, Amy asked me to call. She wants to get everyone together in the park tomorrow for lunch. I think she feels real bad about everything that happened. She’s trying to make amends. So, do you think you can get everyone to come?”

Kyle considered, then nodded. She had been nothing but apologetic and caring with Michael and Kyle thought they could trust her. “Yeah, I think so. Everyone?”

“That’s what she said.”

“Alright, tomorrow it is. Now, go get some sleep. People your age should be taking out your teeth and settling in for the night by now.”

“Yeah, well, I thought I’d call you before I changed my diaper. Good night, Kyle.”

“Night, Dad,” Kyle grinned, as usual taking great joy in harassing his father.

Kyle hung up the phone and turned to Tess. “Amy wants to get together in the park tomorrow.”

Tess raised her eyebrows. “Really?” She hadn’t been around to help decorate the apartment for Maria, but she’d heard that Amy Deluca had come to terms with her daughter’s alien lifestyle.

“So, will you go?”

“Yeah. I think so. I mean, we really don’t have much to lose at this point, do we?”

Kyle nodded, though he wasn’t so sure about that. “I’ll call the others and let them know.”

Tess watched Kyle pick up the phone and begin making the rounds. She had come to a conclusion sometime in the last week about Kyle. As much as she was attracted to him, and as much as she wanted something more with him, he wouldn’t be rushed. He was still repelled by the destiny idea and while she couldn’t blame him, it was frustrating. But she could wait. No matter how long it took, she would wait him out.

*~*~

Isabel threw open the door to Alex’s apartment, juggling the bag of breakfast and the carton of orange juice in her hands. Joy had filled her heart and she had decided to surprise Alex with breakfast in bed. And since she wasn’t exactly what you would call domestic, she had done her best and ordered them food from the café down the street. She dumped the bag on the kitchen counter and went about locating the breakfast tray she had bought Alex when he had come down with the flu last winter. Since she couldn’t catch his cold, she had tended to him and she had been glad to do something Brianna couldn’t.

After she had set the food out and poured two glasses of orange juice, she let her mind wander to all the different ways she could wake Alex up. A wicked grin crossed her face and she knew Alex would be shocked at some of her thoughts. He always saw her as the proper Princess and while it had its advantages, she just needed to show him that she didn’t always want to be treated like glass.

Humming a tune to herself, she hefted the tray and crossed the living room. At Alex’s door, she once again juggled with the knob, but managed to push it open with only a small amount of trouble. A smile on her face, she turned towards the bed where she had left him sleeping and her face froze.

Alex was wrapped in an embrace, his lips attached to Brianna’s. When they heard her enter, they broke apart to look at her, but Brianna stayed firmly in Alex’s arms. She smirked at Isabel.

“Hello there, Isabel. Long time, no see. Look, sweetie, she brought us breakfast. You can just put that on the dresser on your way out. We’re a little busy catching up here.”

Alex’s eyes bored into Isabel and she felt her heart constrict in her chest. “What-“ She found that she couldn’t even form coherent thoughts. Alex was with Brianna.

“She came back to me, Isabel. She said she was sorry and she was wrong and she wants me back. Isn’t that great?”

“No.” Isabel shook her head. This couldn’t be happening.

“We’re in love. And you know what they say about true love, don’t you, Isabel? It never dies. And in our case, absence definitely made the heart grow fonder.” Brianna turned back to Alex and pulled him into a searing kiss.

Isabel couldn’t force herself to look away. Everything was moving in slow motion and she couldn’t get it to stop. Their words swam in her head, until the room was moving in a dizzying motion. She dropped the tray at her feet, food flying in every direction.

“I love her, Isabel. Aren’t you happy for us?”

“We’re meant to be. You can’t fight true love.”

“She’s it for me. You knew that.”

“What? Did you think he could really love someone like you?”

Laughter, cruel and deliberate rang in her ears and she found herself sobbing. It wasn’t fair. She finally had what she wanted. She and Alex had finally found each other. How could this happen now? Sobs wracked her body until she couldn’t breathe.

“Isabel! Isabel, honey, wake up.”

Alex’s voice, low and soothing pulled her from the nightmare. Slowly, she found consciousness returning to her and she found herself in Alex’s lap. He was rubbing her back while he rocked her.

It had been a nightmare. That was all.

She let out a breath and clung to Alex. It was okay.

“It was just a nightmare. You’re okay now.” Alex kept his voice soft, wanting her to wake up gradually. He had felt her fear, her absolute panic and it had eaten away at him. Because somehow, he’d seen her nightmare.

“Alex. You’re here. God, it was so real. I thought…nevermind what I thought. You’re still here.” She loosened her grip on him and framed his perfect face with her hands. He hadn’t left her.

“Of course I’m here, Is.” Alex gave her a moment to reassure herself that he wasn’t going anywhere. Now that he knew her greatest fear, he could manage it.

Needing the contact, Isabel pressed her lips to Alex’s. She attacked, ruthlessly plundering his skin. The need to mark him as her own was overwhelming and she gave in to it.

After the shock over being attacked by Isabel subsided, Alex let her take what she needed. And he knew it was reassurance that he was still hers. But how could she not know that he’d always been hers?

Alex slowly pulled Isabel back, wanting to meet her eyes. He cupped her face now, holding her still when she would have burrowed in his chest again. “We need to talk.”

Isabel shook her head, the nightmare still fresh in her mind. What had she been thinking? Of course this thing was only temporary for him. Because if Brianna ever did decide to come back, she would lose Alex. How could he ever love someone like her? They weren’t even the same species.

“Isabel, stop that. I think you should know that for whatever reason, I can feel your emotions right now. I think we’re still connected from your nightmare. So, quit with the crazy thoughts. Secondly, I think you pulled me into your nightmare somehow. I saw what happened.”

Isabel’s eyes widened, then closed in humiliation. She tried to move from the bed, from his kind eyes, but fumbled when he refused to release her from his grasp. “Alex, let me go.”

“Isabel, you’re crazy if you think we’re not talking about this.”

“The last thing I want to do at three in the morning is hash out your relationship with Brianna. This was a mistake. I should go.”

Alex let her go, watching her throw on her bathrobe. She stumbled around in the darkness looking for her shoes, and Alex had never felt so numb. He’d spent a lifetime watching Isabel run from her own emotions. He’d let her push him away for years when she’d been afraid to feel. Now, he understood that she was afraid of losing him, and how deep that fear ran. And he was damned if he was going to let her run again.

Throwing back the heavy blankets, Alex rose from the bed. Only a sliver of moonlight peaked through the curtains, but he could still see her clearly. He picked up Isabel’s shoes from the floor and held them out to her silently.

Isabel froze when she saw her shoes in Alex’s grip and she wanted to sit on the floor and cry. How was she always messing things up with Alex? How had they gotten here?

“Don’t go.” Alex’s voice was quiet, but filled with all the emotion he’d never admitted to feeling for his princess. When she only stood in the middle of his room, he took it as a good sign. But he didn’t move towards her, not yet.

“Isabel, I saw your nightmare. I don’t know how, but I’m not sorry I did. I am sorry that you felt that way and you never said anything.”

“There was nothing to say.” She folded her arms over her chest, feeling cold. Was this how it would end? Before it ever really had a chance to begin?

“So, you think that even though I’m with you, if Brianna or someone better came along I’d dump you without a word?” She remained silent. “It’s nice to know you think so highly of me.”

“It’s not like that, Alex. I know how you feel about her. Hell, I was the one to try to pull you out of your funk when she dumped you for someone better. I know better than anyone how she turns you around in knots. She was your first great love. I can’t compete with that.”

Alex shook his head. “Compete with that? Isabel, what are you talking about? Why would you even try to compare to Brianna? Yes, I loved her. We spent two and half years together. And when she left me, it cut deep. But not because she was the great love of my life. That position was already filled.”

Isabel met his eyes, barely containing the gasp that sprung to her lips.

Even though he knew she was far from being in love with him, he knew he had to tell her, that if he didn’t, he ran the risk of losing her. “Isabel, you’ve always been the one great love in my life. You’ve been my first, my only. I can’t believe you don’t know that.” He took a step towards her now, a single step to judge her reaction. “I love you, Isabel Evans. I always will. Beyond being my best friend, you are the only person I’ve ever envisioned a future with. I spent my whole adolescence idolizing you and when I found the real you, it only made me love you more. But even that was nothing compared to these last few weeks. They’ve been nothing short of hellish, but your very presence was enough to pull me through. Because when it all got to be too much, I knew you’d be there for me. And I never thought I’d have that chance. And now that I do, you think I’d throw that away? Well, I can tell you you’re crazy if you think I’m letting you go. I don’t care if you’re half alien or half Zebra. I love the whole package. I love you.” He didn’t know what else to say, what else he could say. She was still standing there, frozen to the spot and he didn’t know if she was going to bolt or say anything at all.

“You love me.” It wasn’t a question, but she marveled over the feelings his words stirred in her. No one had ever told her they loved her, not once in the seemingly endless parade of men she had dated. And she knew it was because Alex had been the only one to ever break the surface. “Me, the real me.” There he was, this ridiculously perfect man, standing alone in the moonlight, his heart on his sleeve, and she was all the way across the room.

Crossing the room cautiously, Isabel stopped in front of Alex. Would she ever find someone that would love her as much as he did?

She stood before him, her bathrobe in disarray from her frantic search. One shoulder lay bare to him and desire warred with pride. She still hadn’t said anything after his declaration of love.

“Alex,” she whispered. And with that one word, he heard a thousand emotions. And he knew with absolute certainly that she wouldn’t turn him away. She reached for him, her hand snaking behind his head to curl in his hair. “I love you too. I thought there was something wrong with me, because I’ve never felt like this before. But now I know it was all for you.”

posted on 2-Jan-2002 1:46:02 PM
Hey guys. I have a super quick question. I need to know who's going to be online tonight that I can run this next part by before I post it. I have to leave in a few minutes, but if you're going to have time sometime later tonight to tell me what I'm missing, please let me know. I'm really trying to get back into this story, but I need a bit of a push I think. Thanks!
~Stacey
posted on 3-Jan-2002 10:45:27 AM
Morning guys. I just got in to work this morning. I'm was snowed in with a whopping six inches. The whole city of Atlanta is shut down. Craziness over here I tell you.

Okay, this is what I'm going to do. As you all know, my computer has been fritzting out on me and I lost a good bit of this fic that I had been hammering out. That's why I've been AWOL on this story. It's been frustrating to the extreme trying to redo some of these parts and the next part in particular I just can't get right. So, I'm just going to skip it. I hate to do it, but I really want to start writing this story again.

So, for a basic run down of what you won't see: There isn't alot in the way of action or dialogue, but I was damn proud of this scene and I hate skipping over it. Basically, I had Alex and Isabel make love. There was quite the humerous scene where Kyle inadvertantly walks in on them to deliver the message about the picnic the next day. Trust me, it was funny.

See what I was saying? Not alot of action, but I hated to not write it since I did this big build up to Alex and Isabel. I apologize profusely to everyone and I may see if I start writing again if I can't go back and redo it later when I'm back in the swing of things. I've just feel stuck with it, so I figure it's better to just skip it and get on with the story and maybe go back later. Man, I hate doing this.

So, I'm going to go put the finishing touches on this next part and I actually think that I can post it today for you. *happy* Happy dance!

Give me an hour or so and I'll see you wonderful people again. Let's see if we can find out what happened to all the people that used to follow this story. I'll bet we can drag them out of the woodwork. What do you think?

~Stacey
posted on 3-Jan-2002 2:28:50 PM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Oh my, look at what we have here. Does anyone even remember this story? Strange dreams? Mind and body controlling aliens? Max and Liz's wedding coming up? Any of this ring a bell? This part is a tad bit shorter than I wanted, but the next few parts should be pretty long. So, it balances. I think that I can safely make the comment that I will be regularly updating this fic again. Probably not as often as FY, but regularly. We're going to get this thing finished. Oh, funny side note, I've gotten so used to writing FY that I didn't remember how to have Max and Liz actually interact. Weird, huh? Enjoy, guys.

Learning to Live
Part 53

“Liz, you’re doing it again.”

Liz smiled sheepishly up at Max. “Sorry. I can’t help it, I think too much.”

“I guess I can let it go this one time. It was one of the reasons I fell in love with you,” Max agreed, pulling Liz more firmly in his arms.

“One of the reasons? And please enlighten me as to what the other reasons were, Mr. Evans.” Liz teased.

“Well, there was your smile and the way you roll your eyes when you don’t think I’m looking and you think I’m taking myself too seriously. But I think the main reason I fell in love with you was for your body.”

“Max!” Liz squealed, batting at his arms in protest. But Max simply grinned and pulled her closer still. “That’s one of the most pigheaded things I think you’ve ever said.”

“Oh come on, tell me you didn’t want me for my body back in high school.” One hand made its way up her back and he let it tangle in her hair at the nape of her neck.

Liz blushed furiously, then laughed with him. “Okay, you’ve got me there.” Memories of pulling him into closets and darkened rooms for a lengthy make-out session brought a smile to her face. She snuggled further into his chest, wishing she could find a way to stay there forever.

Max held Liz close, swaying with her to the low strains of the piano in the corner. He’d tried to take her out to dinner with the promise of dancing if she didn’t brood once. And so far, she’d been doing a good job. But every so often, she got that far away look in her eyes and he knew she was thinking about her parents again.

“Do you have any idea how much I love your hair?” He let a few strands of it sift through his fingers. “I used to have entire dreams about nothing more than reaching out and tucking that one strand of hair behind your ear.”

“Oh, really? I didn’t know about that one.” Liz wound her arms around his neck seductively. “Any others you care to share?”

Max didn’t miss the gleam in her eye. “Maybe I have one or two left. You don’t know everything about me, you know.”

Liz rolled her eyes. “You’re right. I can only see the inner workings of your mind and soul. But okay, if you say you still have hidden areas, then I guess I believe you.”

“Well, what if I told you that I also had this wicked fantasy about attacking you on the lab table we used to share?”

Her grin spread wide and slow. “I’d remind you that we actually played out that one. Or could you have possibly forgotten?”

Max blushed just thinking about it. “That would be impossible to forget.” Had they really been so daring back then? But then, he’d waited so long to simply be in Liz’s life, that when there was finally nothing to lie between them, it had all seemed ridiculously surreal. And while he knew those years had been and would always be the most amazing years, they had slowly driven everyone they knew crazy. There had been an entire year when their friends had been terrified to open a closed door. It didn’t matter if it had simply been a broom closet. No dark corner had been safe from them.

“Can we stay here forever?” She murmured against his collarbone. She had followed the path of his thoughts and the memories brought her warmth. The amazing thing was that her passion, the exhilaration of simply being with Max still hadn’t faded or worn off.

Max felt the warmth from her breath against his skin and his body reacted instantly. “We’d have to explain that to the owner, but I think we can arrange it.”

Liz giggled as Max’s hand settled on the curve of her back. Maybe Max had been right about them needing to get away for a night. Michael was okay and if their plans were going according to plan, he should be reunited with Maria by now. With any hope Isabel and Alex were snuggled together as well. And Kyle and Tess? Well, they still had quite a way to go before they gave up on destiny running their lives. There were only so many couples that could be paired up at a time.

“I can read your thoughts clear as day, and if Alex knows what’s good for him, he’d better not be snuggled up with anything but a pillow.”

“Are you going to keep that up even after they’re old and gray and happily married for fifty years?”

“It’ll never happen. You really think Isabel will ever let herself get old and gray? Wait till she figures out her powers are the better alternative to plastic surgery.”

“You’re evil, you know that?”

“Just another reason you love me. My hot body, and evil tendencies.”

“I don’t actually recall telling you your body was hot.”

Max raised an eyebrow. “Oh really? So, what would you call it?”

Liz pretended to think. “I’m not sure. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen you naked.” She brought her lips up to his ear and nuzzled it gently.

Max nodded in agreement. “It’s been hours.”

Knowing Max’s most sensitive spot was his earlobe, Liz purposely pulled it between her lips. When Max hissed out his breath and his grip tightened on her, excitement danced in her veins. “Have you had enough dancing yet?”

“I’m done here.” Max turned, gripping Liz’s hand in his. He led her off the dance floor quickly, mentally calculating the minutes it would take to get her home and undressed. In his haste, he didn’t notice that their table was occupied. And the lust that Liz had so carefully built up in him fizzled quickly.

“Mom. Dad.” Liz froze in her tracks when she saw her parents sitting at her table. She hadn’t seen them in weeks now and being thrown face to face with them was harder than she ever imagined it could be.

“Liz.” Jeff rose from the chair he’d been occupying and found his tongue tied. He glanced in Max’s direction and nodded his head. “Max.” He couldn’t help but notice how Max’s grip on his daughter had tightened when they’d seen him. And it had broken his heart to watch Liz move to Max’s side…away from them.

“Honey, can we talk?”

It’s your call, Liz. Whatever you want.

Liz squeezed Max’s hand at his show of support. “Of course.” She tugged Max with her towards the table and waited while he snagged two additional chairs from a nearby table. She tucked her hair behind her ears carefully, not sure if she really wanted to hear what they had to say.

Nancy twisted her hands together, unsure of where to start. She’d watched them dance for twenty minutes and had seen only love and laughter. They had bantered back and forth, but each time they finished, she’d seen Max pull her baby close and kiss her tenderly. So, while she had wanted nothing more than to run up to them and apologize, they had waited. Some things shouldn’t be interrupted. “Your father and I wanted to talk to you. We hadn’t planned on doing it until tomorrow, but we saw you out there dancing and we decided to take a chance.” She turned to her husband for support.

“We thought a lot about what you said, Liz. And we read through your journal too.” He faltered, just thinking about some of the intimate and heart-shattering things his daughter had written at such a tender age. Jeff glanced at Nancy again, linked hands with her. “We were wrong, Liz.”

Liz blinked, letting her father’s words sink in. She turned them over in her mind, looking for the catch. But surprisingly, there didn’t seem to be one.

“We were wrong about a lot of things, honey,” her mother continued. “But most of all, we were wrong not to trust you. And you, Max, you’ve loved our daughter for so long now. We never really knew until we read Lizzie’s words.”

“You’ve always done your best to keep her safe,” Jeff interrupted, facing the man who would soon become his son, though he already was a part of their family. “And that’s all we have the right to ask of you.”

Max nodded, accepting Jeff’s words. “I’ll always keep her safe.”

“I’m sorry we weren’t there for you, Liz. All those horrible things you went through.” It broke her heart just thinking about it.

Liz watched the emotions flit across her mother’s face. They were genuinely sorry. She laid a hand over her mother’s, tears filling her eyes. “It’s okay, Mom.”

“No, it isn’t. But I’m going to make sure it is from now on.” Nancy choked back a sob when she felt her daughter's hand cover her own. She turned her hand over and linked fingers. “We have a lot to make up for, too much I think. But we’re willing to try if you both will let us.”

Liz smiled, warmth spreading throughout her body. “Of course. But you really don’t have anything to make up for. I’m happy and I’m in love with this wonderful man who loves me. But I need to know that you accept Max for who he is, all of him.” If they couldn’t see how wonderfully perfect he was no matter where he came from, then there couldn’t be any sort of truce.

“I think that’s what gave us the most trouble of all,” Jeff confessed. “It was hard to believe, but after everything we read, it was even harder to trust that your safety was number one. So, we had to go off what we’d seen. And we’ve never seen Max bring you anything but happiness.” Jeff met Max’s eyes. “You saved our daughter. If it hadn’t been for you, she would have died on the linoleum floor of that diner. And for that, I owe you everything I have.”

“Dad,” Liz began, but her father stopped her.

“And as for you and what’s happened to your body because of that, that’ll still take a bit of time to get used to. But what your mother and I are saying is that we’re willing to try. We love you, Lizzie. And we’re parents, so we worry. Someday you’ll understand that too. And about the wedding,” Jeff felt Nancy’s hand cover his in support. This had been the hardest of all. It would be the final step to losing his baby. “If you still have room for two more, we wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Liz threw herself into her father’s arms, her heart spilling over with love and joy. “Thank you, Daddy.” She pulled out of her fathers’ arms to launch herself into her mothers waiting ones. “And you too, Mom. You have no idea how much it means to both of us.”

The fear that had settled around Max’s heart since the ordeal had begun eased a bit. Never in his wildest childish fantasies had he ever imagined that he would grow up to find people that would readily accept him into their lives, not when they knew what he was. Yet, time and again, human nature surprised him. Or was it the human heart? All he knew was that Liz was overjoyed. Her happiness filled him as he watched her talk to her parents.

“So, we know it’s not much, but we thought it would be nice for everyone to get together and maybe mend some fences,” Nancy explained.

“Let me get this straight, you and Amy planned this outing tomorrow?” It still amazed Liz that she was sitting there with her parents again. And to think that they were no only okay with everything, but they had gone to lengths to gather everyone together for a picnic to apologize to the rest of the group.

“It really wasn’t that much trouble. Amy was working on amending things with Maria and Michael, so she left most of the picnic to me,” Nancy explained proudly. She had seen to every last detail. Lunch in the park would be perfect. It was the least she could do.

Liz smiled as her mother launched into some of the details, but her mind was elsewhere. Somewhere throughout the conversation, a ball of fear had knotted itself in her stomach. But she couldn’t pinpoint why. There was no indication that there should be any trouble. Maybe it was just left over nerves from the Scaribe and how uncomfortably close he had come to killing Michael. He was still out there somewhere and no doubt pissed now. She tried to ease the knot, but it stayed lodged where it was.

As she picked up her water glass and sipped it carefully, Liz told herself that she would just keep an eye on things. If she kept a watchful eye out tomorrow, there would be no reason to expect trouble of any kind. So, why was a feeling of dread now joining the fear? She wouldn’t stop the picnic from happening, but she would be on her guard.


posted on 29-Jan-2002 5:41:44 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Can you believe we have another part? I know...I know. I promised I wasn't going to fall behind on this story and here I am another month later. Believe it or not, we are getting close to wrapping this story up. I'd give it another ten or fifteen parts. Exciting, huh? The funny thing is that I never meant to write this particular story. I wanted to do DWYHTD and then I wanted to skip ahead a lot to just do the next story, but so much happens in this one, I decided I had to write it. Anyway, on with the story!

Learning to Live
Part 54

He paced the length of the small living room in anger. How could things have gone downhill so quickly? He had been making such steady progress, advancing towards the death of the royal four. His mind scans had produced the most viable life forms in this pathetic excuse for a town. And they had led him straight to the Royal Four themselves.

Who would have guessed that it would have been so easy to overtake the first in command? He certainly hadn’t possessed the mind of a warrior. He had been as easily manipulated as the rest. And though he had searched for a way to take his body the way he had done countless times before with others, he had encountered the barrier that he hadn’t been warned of. Rath was no longer full-blooded Antarian. Nor was he full-blooded human. So, it had been impossible to use him. But he had been able to find that by invading his mind, he had been spared the inconvenience of having to find another host body. Rath’s power had sustained him far longer than this borrowed body would normally have allowed. As it was, he could feel this body dying around him. It reeked of death and he longed to escape from it. But it wasn’t time yet.

Perhaps they had been wiser than he’d given them credit for. Maybe it had simply been luck. But the Eight had not been all together since he had arrived. And he knew for his plan to succeed, they must all be together.

He’d bided his time. No one had been any the wiser about his true identity. He’d almost let it slip when he’d seen the newly chosen Queen. He’d wanted to kill her then, but for the first time, Rath had been able to overpower him. It had angered him at first, but their deaths would be sweeter this way. Where would the fun be if he didn’t get to hear the anguished screams of the King as he killed his wife? Hadn’t it been why he had been first in line to travel the long journey?

But they’d found a way to block him. Somehow. And the knowledge that he had been outsmarted brought his anger to a frenzied pitch. He found that he had been pacing and he cursed himself for the human habit. He had to finish this mission and get off of this backwater planet.

The shrill ringing of the telephone brought him to a halt. The human device had been driving him mad, but he had learned that they always went away. He didn’t have time for such trivial things as maintaining the pretense of normalcy right now. He had a plan to create. As he continued to map out the exact plan of their destruction, he heard a now familiar voice echo through out the room.

“-just wanted to remind you about the picnic tomorrow. We’re meeting in the park at ten this morning near the fountain. Everyone will be there, so please try to come. It would mean a lot.”

With his lips twisted up into a grin, the plans began to fall into place in his mind. In a few hours time, they would all be together. And he would be waiting.

*~*~

“No, no. Where is it? I know I put it in here this morning.” Amy rifled through a brown paper bag, pulling out a half dozen items until she found the lighter she’d bought that morning. Everything was going to go perfect this morning. She would make sure of it.

“Seems like a lot of trouble just to find a lighter.”

Amy turned slowly and found herself face to face with Jim Valenti. Shame had filled her every time she had thought of their past conversation. And he was one of the last few hurdles she had yet to pass. “Jim. You came. I wasn’t sure if you would.”

“Nancy told me I was invited.” And now that he was standing in front of her, he was wondering if it had been the right decision to come. She looked miserably uncomfortable in his presence. He’d turned over in his mind his last words to her and they made him cringe. Had he actually given that ring to her? Given seemed even to be a bit more poetic than what he’d done. He’d all but tossed it on the table with a careless shrug. He’d imagined a hundred ways of proposing to her, and then he’d gone and blown it by doing it in anger.

“Nancy and I wanted to get everyone together and have sort of a group apology. We were wrong, Jim. I was wrong.” She lowered her eyes to the ground, knowing she had to get it out. She knew she had a reputation for being hardheaded and difficult, but when she was wrong, she admitted it.

“You were scared. It’s perfectly understandable. Believe me on that one.” God, he wanted to get out of there, just escape the small woman that could bring him to his knees.

Amy smiled. “That’s nice of you to say, but the fact is, the way I treated the people I loved was horrible. Michael may be a bit gruff and he might not have been my first choice for Maria, but he loves her. And she loves him. And that should mean something.”

“I think you’ve made a fine start. I heard about what you did for them last night.” And it had softened him when Nancy had filled him in. Because he knew she had it in her to fix the mess she had created with Michael and Maria. “And after everything that happened to Michael last week, he needs Maria by his side.”

“Yeah, Michael told me about that.” She remembered the conversation they’d had in the café. Michael had been open and honest with her, telling her anything she wanted to know. And she had wanted to know a lot. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for them, for you too. I know the truth about all those deaths. You’ve been taking a beating with the press about possibly covering up an epidemic of some kind.” She shrugged when he narrowed his eyes in question. “I know people too.”

“Well, it’s my job.” He looked away, looked anywhere other than at this woman he loved that he had ruined a future with.

Amy shifted uncomfortably. “So, I guess what I wanted to say, after the apology, was that I wanted us to be friends again.” Had she ruined things so completely between them? Surely, she hadn’t waited her whole life to be loved and when she finally found it, she’d thrown it away.

“Friends?”

“Yes,” she nodded, clasping her hands together and pasting a fake smile on her face. She had seen the pain slash across his face and when she saw it, she knew she hadn’t lost all hope yet. If her words could still hurt him, then maybe they could heal him too. “So, how about it? Friends?” She held her hand out for him to shake.

Jim turned his eyes down to her hand, let out a deep breath. It would be impossible he knew, but he would try anyway for her sake. “Friends.” He shook her hand.

“Good.” She picked up the brown paper bag she had set down and took a few steps away from Jim. In a carefully practiced move that she hoped would work in her favor, Amy dug into her pockets and pulled out the ring box that had rocked her world off center. She’d spent countless hours gazing at that ring. Now, she turned slightly, tossed the box back to Jim. He caught it, stunned. He tried to open his mouth to apologize, to do anything, but no words came.

“And if you want to maybe skip the friendship part, I expect flowers and dinner and candlelight when I see that box again. And don’t drag it out. I want a Spring wedding.” She smiled at him, a genuine smile that came from deep inside. Then she turned on her heels and returned her attention back to the party.

Dumbfounded, Jim watched her leave. It took a full minute before the reality of what she’d said kicked in. And he found a matching smile cross his face. He wondered if he could convince Maria to help him plan something wonderful.

*~*~

“Are you sure about this, Michael?” Maria clung to Michael’s arm, more than a bit scared now that they were actually at the park. Michael had related how her mother had apologized and had helped him set everything up for their reconciliation the previous night. And she had been confused by the sudden one hundred and eighty degree change in her personality.

“She’s genuinely sorry. Look, I didn’t believe her either at first, but it’s not a set up. She loves you.” Michael shrugged, not completely understanding the situation. He’d hardly grown up with a parent that had loved him, so he couldn’t imagine the emotions between Maria and Amy. All he knew was that when those two did things, they did them to a higher degree than normal people did. So, they had fought hard, but it had to be because they loved even harder.

Maria sighed, wanting to believe, but her mother’s words echoed in her brain. He doesn’t really love you. She shook them off, tightening her grip on Michael’s hand. She knew his heart now, had always known it really. But after the time she’d spent in his head thanks to their newfound connection, she understood with clarity the depth of Michael’s feelings for her. She was his home.

“Damn right,” Michael muttered, then turned to glance at Maria when she laughed out loud. He blushed, turning away from her. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. I kind of forget about this new connection too. I’m sure I’ll think things I’d rather you not hear, just like I know you will.” She turned his body until it was flush with hers. Framing his face with her hands, she forced him to look at her. “But I love you anyway.”

Michael’s face softened, looking into Maria’s face. Inside of him, he could feel her every emotion as if it were his own. And in her eyes, he found all the things he’d convinced himself he never needed, acceptance, compassion, love. He drew her impossibly closer, settling his arms around her waist. “I love you too, but you’re stalling. You know your mother is right behind you waiting.”

Maria grimaced. She had known somehow that her mother had been watching them from one of the picnic tables, waiting patiently for their moment to end before she approached. “When did you start being perceptive?”

“About the time I started sharing a brain with you. Now, go. Max and Liz just got here, so I’ll be with them.” He placed a kiss on her forehead, trying to ease the deep worry lines. “Good luck and be nice.” He gave her a small nudge in the general direction of her mother.

Great, Maria though. She took hesitant steps toward her mother, wiping her palms on her jeans. In the distance, she saw her mother stand, slowly making her way toward her. And she figured it was now or never.

“Maz, Liz, wait up!” Michael trotted towards them, trying to keep his eyes off Amy and Maria. They didn’t need prying eyes now. “So, you got Amy’s message? Kyle tried to find you but he said he had trouble.”

“No, actually, we never talked to him,” Max answered, wrapping an arm around Liz’s waist as they walked to meet Michael.

“Then how-“

“We ran into my parents last night,” Liz explained, a smile crossing her lips. It was still amazing to think about the conversation they’d had. If she didn’t know better, she’d have stated that things were back to where they’d been before Diane had fallen down the steps. But she did know better. They might trust Max, but could they love him truly if they still had trouble accepting him? And her for that matter?

Of course they love you, Max squeezed her hand, offering her a smile.

She smiled back. If you’re allowed quiet brooding time, then so am I.

“Are you two doing it again?” Michael asked in exasperation. “You know, I came over here to have a conversation, not watch you two make googly eyes at each other.” But even as he complained, he found his mind wandering to Maria and the tentative connection they’d begun forming between them. He wondered if they would ever be able to simply read each other’s minds with the ease that Max and Liz seemed to have. And if so, god help him. Because so far, the girl had more conversations running around in her head than she voiced.

“So, I guess you and Maria made up then?” Liz glanced around, looking for her friend. When she spotted Maria walking towards her mother as if they were caught in some old western gun fight. “Oh, are they going to be okay?”

Michael ran his fingers through his hair and watched Maria approach her mother. “Hell, I don’t know. They’re both so stubborn and the fight they had was pretty bad. But they’ll be fine I’m sure. Don’t you think? No, they have to be.”

Liz turned to watch the meeting and the way the sunlight filtered through the tree branches caught her attention. She paused a minute as the world seemed to move slower around her. Then she saw a brilliant flash of light behind her eyelids that she knew to be the beginnings of an image. But she saw only the trees around her, bathed in early morning sunlight, her friends and family around her, laughing. And as quickly as it began, it ended. And she was left not with the warmth the day should have provided, but with a cold shudder that traveled down her spine. She’d been in these woods a thousand times, so it didn’t surprise her where there was something familiar about the clearing. But the sense of dread that filled her filtered through her connection with Max. She felt his hand on the small of her back and she tried to let his comfort warm her. But when she smiled at him in reassurance, the chill lingered.

Liz? he questioned.

Just be on guard, okay? From the corner of her eye, she saw her parents car arrive.

“I’m going to say hello,” she kissed him on the cheek quickly before dashing off. He would only ask her questions she didn’t have answers to.

Max watched her go, but was left with the echoes of the chill that had put fear in Liz’s eyes. She’d told him to be on guard and he would be. He only wished he knew what he was guarding against.

*~*~

Maria stopped directly in front of her mother. She stuffed her hands in her pockets, unaware how reminiscent of Michael her stance was. She opened her mouth to speak, but her mother stopped her with a shake of her head.

“No, Maria. I want to talk to you. Just hear me out, okay?” Amy took a deep breath. “Can we sit down?”

When Maria only nodded, Amy gestured towards a nearby picnic table. Once seated, Amy didn’t know what to say or do. How could she possibly expect Maria to forgive the things she’d said? But she had to try.

“Do you want to start with the weather or should we jump right into conversation?” Maria asked.
So, it wasn’t going to be easy. Since when was anything with her daughter ever anything but difficult? “I screwed up. And I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said the things that I said.”

“That’s your big apology?” Maria knew she was being bitchy, but she couldn’t help herself. “You did more than screw up, Mom. You put lives in danger. You made Michael feel as if he were lower than dirt. You hurt him.”

“I know. I already explained things to Michael and I know it’s going to take time and a lot of effort to convince him I mean it, but I really am sorry. I was freaked, Maria. My god, I was given the live light show and I was told that not only do little green men exist, but they took my daughter and changed her. I felt as though I had failed you somehow and I didn’t know what to do. You wouldn’t listen to me. I was at the end of my rope, so I lashed out at Michael. I know that the things I said about him were wrong. I see that now. And you were right about your father too. Michael isn’t anything like him. He’s a good person and he loves you. I know he’d protect you with his life and I don’t have any right to try to stand in the way of that. It is your life and you know better what you want out of it. I just want you to know that while it may take me a little bit longer to really get used to the idea, I know that you love Michael and you’re not leaving his side. I just hope that you can find a way to forgive me for the things I said.”

Maria examined the downward gaze of her mother and her heart leapt into her throat. Driven by pure emotion, Maria covered her mother’s hands with her own. “Of course I can forgive you, Mom. But only if you forgive me. I wasn’t as calm and rational as I could have been.”

Amy scoffed. “Since when are the Deluca women ever calm and rational?”

Maria smiled with her mother. “I know it was probably a bit of a shock. And I know I didn’t take the news all too well when I found out either. In fact, there was a lot of running and screaming. So, I know how you feel. But I want you to know that my future and Michael’s future are joined. Wherever he goes, I go. And I don’t know where that may take us.”

Amy swallowed the fear of losing her only daughter and forced out a smile. “Then I guess we have to make the most of whatever time we have. Just promise me that whatever you do, you’ll be careful. And that’s all the mothering I promise to do today.”

“Fine, I’ll be as careful as I always am.” Maria grinned at her mother.

“I don’t think that was quite what I was hoping for, but I’ll take it. Now, how about a hug? Because I could really use one about now.”

Maria rose from her seat and met her mother’s embrace. “I’m sorry, Mom. I don’t want to fight anymore.”

“I promise not to be stubborn if you promise not to be.”

“For what it’s worth, deal.”

*~*~

“Liz! I’m glad you’re here.” Nancy climbed out of the family car and brightened immediately upon seeing her daughter.

“I thought you could use some help carrying food.”

Nancy brushed the offer aside. “That’s why we have plenty of strong men around. I have something I wanted to give to you.” She rummaged around in the back seat of the car until she pulled out a small lock box.

“What’s this?”

“Your journal. I wanted to give it back to you for safe keeping. I tried to make sure it was safe and I’m sure you have something better than this usually, but-“

“No, it’s great. Thanks.” Liz pulled her mother into a hug, relieved beyond belief to find love and laughter in her mother’s eyes. “I was meaning to buy one anyway.”

“Well then, you don’t have to. Do you?” Jeff came around to the side of the car and pulled Liz into a hug, his heart bursting with joy when she returned it easily. Maybe they hadn’t caused irreparable damage after all.

“We’re girl talking here, Jeff. Why don’t you carry some of the food over? I see Michael and Max just standing around with nothing to do. I’ll be you can get some help from them.” Nancy winked at Liz and she nodded her head.

“Definitely. Maria says I should whip Max into shape before we get married.”

Nancy laughed at the look of indignation on Jeff’s face. “Why don’t you go, honey? Liz and I are going to talk wedding for awhile.”

Liz beamed at her mother, happy to be able to discuss her wedding with her mother again. “I think I have one of Isabel’s books in the car if you want to grab it.”

“That sounds like a fabulous idea.”

“You two go and I’ll be around later to pretend to have an opinion on color schemes.” He loaded an armful of food and started toward the campsite. Almost an afterthought, he turned around. “Make sure you save me the first dance, huh?”

“I think I can do that, Dad.” On impulse, Liz crossed the distance between them and planted a kiss on her father’s cheek. She didn’t know why, but there was a growing sense of urgency inside of her. She pulled away and met her father’s eyes, searching for answers he didn’t have.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” She tried to shake it off, but found that she was having more difficulty than she’d had with Max only a minute ago. “I’m just glad you two are here.”

Jeff grinned at her. “You couldn’t keep us away. Now, I’m off to do my job as a manly man and let you women folk do your thing.”

Liz let her father slip out of her embrace, but a shadow clouded her heart. She wanted to call him back, to beg him not to leave her sight, but she knew it was foolish. What possible reason could she give him? He would think she was crazy. Instead, she waited until he was on the edge of the tree line before she called out to him.

“Dad?” He turned back to her, concern marring his features. What could she say in that short space of time? “I love you.”

He beamed at her. “I love you too, Lizziebug.”

And he turned and disappeared through the clearing. Liz stood alone, the sounds of her mother digging through the back seat of the car were her only companion. It was odd, but there wasn’t any other noise, no chirping of birds, no scurring about in the underbrush. It was almost as if the entire forest was simply sitting and waiting. But for what?

As the shadow of something dark and sinister threatened to loom over them all, she couldn’t help but wonder if she should be asking who the forest was waiting for. Because she knew with a blinding clarity that something was coming.




posted on 10-Feb-2002 3:01:52 PM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Another part just for you guys. This one isn't as long as I would have liked, but I think I'm going to get another part out to you this week sometime. This story has taken over my brain and I'm going to see if I can spend some brain power on it and get it written.

Learning to Live
Part 55

“Alex? I know you’re back here.” Isabel wandered into the small clearing she knew she’d seen Alex enter a few minutes ago. They had arrived at the picnic only to find that everyone was already there. Everyone except Alex’s father. And the bubble of joy that had blossomed inside of Isabel’s heart since they had made love last night had begun to shrink. Because she knew what Charles’ absence was doing to Alex. It was killing him.

Isabel rounded a large tree and saw him for the first time. He was standing on the edge of the river, his hands thrust in his pockets, his eyes downcast. And her heart broke for him.

“Alex?”

“I’m fine, Isabel. Why don’t you go back to the party? I’ll be out in a minute.”

The wind whipped around them and she took another step closer. “I’m not going anywhere, Alex. You should know that by now. Don’t you get it? When you’re upset, so am I.”

“Well, I don’t want it right now.” Anger crept into his voice, but still he didn’t move, couldn’t move. How could he face her at that moment?

“Tough. That’s part of a relationship, Alex. I might be new at this, but you should know better. Last night changed things. You wouldn’t let me run away from us, and I won’t let you either.”

Alex could feel her at his elbow now and he had the urge to throw himself into her arms and sob. “This is different. Can’t you hear them out there? They’re all laughing, mending fences and making up for lost time. But do you know what I see out there? I can’t even be happy for any of them because my father isn’t here. He didn’t come, Isabel. He didn’t come because he can’t accept who you are and what you mean to me.”

Isabel swallowed the sadness Alex’s words brought up in her. “Maybe he just needs more time. It’s different for him. He made that promise to your mother. It’s hard for him to see past that.” But there was a part of her that ached for Charles’ approval. She’d thought of him as a second father for years now and his absence was a hole in both their hearts.

Alex shook his head. “No. This was it. He would have known how important today was. If he was trying to find some way around it, he would have at least told me he couldn’t do it yet.” He turned, faced Isabel for the first time since they had arrived. “I’m sorry, Is.” He reached for her, laying a hand on the side of her face. Her skin was so soft, he would never get used to it, or the fact that he could touch her now. She loved him. She had told him as much the night before. And he didn’t think he would ever forget that night as long as he lived. It had been the night when every last dream he’d ever had came true.

“Oh, Alex, don’t be sorry.” She reached for him, drawing him into her arms. He went willingly now, wrapping his long arms around her body. She let him cling to her, drawing strength that no words could give him.

“Maybe you’re right. Maybe he just needs more time.” He didn’t think so, but he would say anything to erase the look on her face. She loved his father too, and his absence was more of a direct blow to her than to him.

“Maybe,” she agreed with a forced smile. “But I’m not going anywhere.”

*~*~

He wound his way up the path, following the sounds of laughter like a beacon. Only a few more steps to go. He had to make it, had to drag this body up those last few steps. Then he could find another host. Since Rath had broken the connection he had formed, he had been draining the host body quicker than usual. He could smell the death around him and he longed to rid himself of it.

Soon.

He could hear their voices now, laughing with a gaiety that would soon be forgotten. Death was coming and he would be its bringer. The Royal Four would die and today would be the day.

*~*~

Jeff Parker smiled to himself as he watched his wife and daughter pour over wedding books at a nearby table. Whatever rift had existed between them was gone now, repaired by the genuine hopes for a lifetime of love and happiness. He and Nancy had faced some hard truths in the last few weeks, but the most important had been that they would loose their daughter forever if they didn’t take the olive branches that had been extended to them. So, they had.

He’d given them the last hour to bond alone, sensing that they needed it. Maybe now was a good time for him to join them. Before he could head in their direction, he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. Turning, he saw Charles Whitman emerge from the wooded path. With a grin, he changed direction and headed toward the only missing member of their group.

“Charles!” He called in greeting, jogging to close the distance. “I’m glad you could make it.”

Charles turned toward him, an unreadable look in his eye. But Jeff had the unmistakable feeling that he was being sized up. He stopped a few feet from Charles, forcing the smile to remain on his face. “Alex was looking for you. He’ll be thrilled to see you made it after all.” Maybe he was just nervous about seeing Alex again. Jeff could only imagine how the other parents had handled things with their children. “He headed off that way a few minutes ago.” He pointed to a small clearing in the woods. “It’s probably a great place if you two need a few minutes all to yourself,” Jeff explained.

“Jeff! Can you come here for a minute?”

Jeff turned to his wife for a second and missed the stumbling lunge that Charles made for him. It fell short and there was only a moment to right himself before Jeff turned back to Charles.

“Sorry, duty calls. Don’t keep Alex waiting. We’ll catch up later, okay?” Jeff called out as he moved backwards towards his family.

The Scaribe turned his gaze back to the small clearing. He was able to sense power in the area and if he’d had any strength left, he would have used it in a wide grin. But the host body was fading fast and if he didn’t act quickly, there wouldn’t be any time left. He moved the broken body across the landscape as fast as he could. Time was of the essence.

*~*~

“I’m sorry, Isabel. I didn’t mean to break down on you like that.” Alex wiped a stray tear from his eye before it could fall. It still made him want to leap tall buildings to hear Isabel tell him she loved him.

“Well, don’t make a habit of it,” she teased. “I like my men strong and fearless.”

“Oh, kind of like Clint Eastwood? Too manly to cry?” he quipped.

“Exactly.”

The next barb died on Alex’s tongue as he saw his father round the bend into the clearing they were in. Never in his life had he been more nervous, so unsure as to what he should say. Isabel turned and saw Charles still moving towards them slowly.

“See?” she whispered. “I told you he would come.”

“So you did.” Was his father limping? There was a strange look on his face that he couldn’t place. “Is, do you mind giving us a minute?”

With a smile, Isabel kissed him lightly. “I’ll be out by the picnic tables if you need me.” She pulled away from his embrace and gave Charles a wide berth as she passed him by. She would have all the time in the world to mend fences with him now. The worst of it was over. He had at least come.

Alex faced his father, a dozen words rolling around in his head. Why couldn’t he put them in enough of an order to form a sentence? So much had happened in the short time since they had talked last. But the foremost thought in his mind was to tell his father about his new relationship with Isabel.

With a smile on his face, Alex tried to force his legs to move closer to his father. He had already come so far, Alex could at least meet him halfway.

The Scaribe watched as the boy approached him, a stupid grin on his face. There wouldn’t be so much to grin about soon. He had been disappointed when he had felt Vilondra slip by, but when her energy had left the clearing, he had been able to sense the growing energy in the boy. He would make a fine vessel to finish the job he had been tasked with. And the small beginnings of alien energy that lived inside of him would be enough to bend to his will. It would make his job a hundred times easier.

“Dad, I’m so glad you came.” Alex stopped just feet away from his father. He wanted nothing more than to hug his father, to hear that everything would be okay. But there were some things he needed to understand first.

Continuing forward with the last remaining drops of energy, the scaribe didn’t stop until he was within reaching distance of the boy. Without preamble, he reached a hand up to his forehead and pressed the human palm to the cool skin.

Alex was on fire. He could feel his skin all but bubbling under his father’s caustic touch. Opening his mouth to scream, he was confused to find no sound escape his throat. His eyes rolled back in his head as he felt the dark presence invade his mind. He tried to fight it, tried not to let it take over his mind easily, but the pain slashing through his head was too much to fight.

From somewhere off in the distance, he heard a gasp and he recognized it as Isabel’s voice. He tried to fight harder, knowing now what was at stake. This was their greatest enemy. He had been using his father just as he planned to use him now. And Isabel would be another casualty of this war.

His body felt light, and his knees threatened to buckle from underneath him. He knew this would be a fight he wouldn’t win. He had failed Isabel. He had failed Liz and Maria and everyone else. Because their enemy had invaded their group and it would be his face they would have to fight now.

Alex tried to find his voice, tried to apologize to Isabel, to tell her he loved her and to run and warn the others, but no sound came out. From within, he heard the deep rumbling of a laughter that could only belong to the faceless enemy that had traveled great distances to kill them all. And as the darkness overtook him, Alex’s only thought was of his friends. Because it took the meshing of minds for him to know that there was only one way to defeat this enemy. And he couldn’t do it without help.

*~*~





posted on 11-Feb-2002 1:11:19 PM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Okay, kiddies. We have to all sit down and have a talk here. This is where I tell you all about the harsh realities of life. Sometimes bad things simply happen to good people. I know, I know, I wish it weren't so. But it is. This part is yet another example of that. But the good news is that I will probably be updating again tomorrow and possibly the day after that. So, we should at least have a bit of resolution. I wouldn't ever be so cruel as to start some action and make you wait weeks in between. But I just wanted to address this issue before I get a legion of hate mail. These coming parts are the very reason I put this story on the back burner. I just didn't want to write them. But we still have a third story left to tell. So, I figured I should finish this one up sometime this year. LOL But enough scary warnings, on with the show.

Learning to Live
Part 56

Isabel left the pathway out of the clearing with a lighter heart than she ever remembered having. Charles had come. He’d come through for his son in the end. The look on Alex’s face had been the happiest sight she’d ever seen. But as she stepped into the sunshine, she couldn’t escape the chill that swept over her body. It was a warm, beautiful day. Everyone she knew and loved was safe and happy and together. But still she couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something wrong.

She was reminded of the phantom words that she now knew belonged to Alex’s mother. Be there for him. She’d assumed the message had referred to Alex, but what if it was meant for her to be there for Charles too?

Without knowing why, she changed direction, headed back towards the Whitman men. If they were too pigheaded to see that they needed each other, then she would have to knock some sense into them.

With a determined march in her step, she reentered the clearing, intent on giving them both an earful. But what she saw stopped her dead in her tracks. Charles was holding Alex a foot above the ground, one hand wrapped around his neck and the other attached to his forehead. An unearthly blue light pulsed between them and Isabel let out a shocked gasp.

She could feel the air crackling around her, could feel the overpowering darkness invade her senses. And a mind numbing shock set in as she realized what she was witnessing. This had been why Charles hadn’t returned any of Alex’s phone calls, why he hadn’t been around. He had been the next victim of the Scaribe.

As she watched, both men crumbled to the floor. Broken from the trance, she scrambled forward, kneeling in the dirt between them. She checked Alex first, frantically searching for a pulse. When she found it hammering wildly, she was able to breath again.

But before she could turn to check on Charles, Alex’s hand reached up to grab her arm in a painful vise.

“Alex?” she whispered, hope in her voice despite what she had seen.

“Wrong again, princess.”

Isabel cringed against the malice in Alex’s voice. But as he sat up, her arm still gripped tightly in his hand, she met his eyes and felt fear invade her very soul.

“You’re the scaribe, aren’t you?”

“Beautiful and smart. You are quite the woman even here on Earth. Aren’t you, Vilondra?”

“My name is Isabel,” she spat out, trying to wrench her arm free from his grip. “And I see you’ve discovered sarcasm.”

“A most unfortunate side effect from spending so much time in Rath’s head. But I’m sure it will go away in time.”

Isabel continued to try to wrestle her way out of his grip. It was disturbing to look into Alex’s face and see so much hatred. She had to warn everyone else before it was too late. And every second wasted was one where Charles slipped a bit further away and Alex became more under their enemy’s control. “You want a body? Take mine.”

“Not that I don’t appreciate the tempting offer, Vilondra, but we both know your body is not equipped to handle my presence. You mind, however, now that’s mine for the taking.”

In a familiar gesture, the scaribe brought Alex’ hand up to Isabel’s forehead. With a brilliant flash of light behind her eyelids, Isabel could feel her powers weakening, slowly draining from her body. And in the last few minutes of consciousness, she could feel Alex’s presence whispering to her through their connection. With tears of pain and frustration filling her eyes, she succumbed to the darkness filling her brain.

Pleased with the way things were falling in line, the scaribe let Isabel crumble to the floor beside Charles and he allowed himself a minute to revel in the new power coursing through him. With the combined energies of the two young lovers, he felt unstoppable. But he was all too aware of how easily that could be taken away. He would finish off the others before returning to kill Vilondra.

As he reviewed mentally all he had learned of the Eight, he had long since discovered their weakness. The level and depth of emotion they felt for their care givers, or parents as they called them. Because now he wasn’t merely out to complete his task. He had tasted human emotions and he thirsted to make them suffer for all the time and trouble he had gone through to find them. They would die, but first they would pay.

*~*~

“So, you really think the blue and purple flowers would look better?” Liz asked, looking up to her parents for confirmation.

“Absolutely. They’ll look so beautiful with your dress,” Nancy confirmed. “But don’t take our word for it, you should get your husband-to-be’s opinion.”

“I think I will.” Liz scooped up the scrapbook Cassie had been kind enough to put together for her and hopped off the picnic bench. “I’ll be right back.”

Nancy watched as Liz bounded off to show Max some of the pictures they had been discussing.

“You’ve done good work here,” Jeff informed her, planting a kiss on her forehead.

“We both have. Did you see the look on her face when I brought up the flowers? I can’t believe I’ve been missing this.”

“No more. We have all the time in the world to make it up to them. But Phillip and Diane were right when they said we needed to make amends before the wedding. I can’t imagine missing that day for anything.” He laid a hand on his wife’s shoulder, a smile forming on his face when she curled her hand over his. They had always loved each other more than anything. How could they not want that same thing for their little girl?

“Is that Alex?” Nancy turned her full attention to where she saw Alex stalking out of the small clearing she had seen Charles go into earlier.

Jeff squinted against the early afternoon sunlight. “Yeah, I think it is. That’s funny. I wonder where Charles and Isabel are.”

“Maybe we should go check and see,” Nancy offered, already rising from the bench.

Hand in hand, the couple approached Alex.

Liz was mid-laugh with Max when the chill ran through her body again. She had been struggling to ignore the chill at the base of her spine all afternoon, but it kept striking her at odd moments.

“Liz?” Max asked, feeling her sudden apprehension.

“I don’t know, Max. Something’s going on.” She couldn’t deny it any longer. Glancing around her, she took a quick glance at where everyone stood. Her parents were still at the picnic table where they had been pouring over wedding photos. Diane and Phillip were talking to Maria by the grill where Maria had been giving them pointers from her lessons with Jim. Jim and Amy were involved in a game of football with Tess and Kyle. Michael was standing to the side, offering pointers and acting as referee. Everyone seemed to be fine. Except for Isabel, Alex and Charles. Maybe that was the vibe she had been getting. If Charles had shown up and they had argued, then it would account for what she had been feeling.

“Where’s Alex and Isabel?” Max asked.

“They were talking to Alex’s dad a little while ago. But I haven’t seen them since. Do you think-“

“Look, is that Alex coming out?”

As Liz looked over, she saw that it was indeed Alex emerging from the clearing. And he was alone. “That’s odd.” As she watched, her parents approached Alex, calling out to him. But something about Alex’s purposeful gait puzzled her. It was wrong somehow.

“Max,” she asked, wondering if he was seeing what she was seeing.

“I feel it too,” he verified. There was a spark in the air, a sizzle of electricity. But nothing he could come up with made sense. Then Liz was clutching his arm, her finger nails digging into his skin, sending shock waves of terror to him.

“That’s not Alex,” she whispered. Then her eyes flew to where her parents were crossing to meet him. “Max,” she pleaded, hoping he would have some sort of plan.

“Your parents,” he whispered even as he was sprinting across the grass towards them. But as he pushed his body beyond the limits of endurance, he saw that it was already too late. Alex raised both hands, outstretched them towards the Parkers and the energy in the air took on a life of it’s own, sizzling and popping until it erupted from his fingertips and lanced out in an arc of lightning. The bolt hit Nancy and Jeff firmly in the chest and the force of the blast knocked them backwards until they lay unmoving in the grass.

Max froze in his tracks, paralyzed by the event he had just witnessed. Alex turned his head and met his eyes. And from within the depths of the eyes of his friend, Max saw pure evil.

“Your highness,” he mocked him with a low bow. “It is good to see you at last. I have heard so very many stories. Not to mention the memories that live in my head. You really did terrorize your sister as a child, didn’t you?” he clucked.

Max forced himself not to be enraged by the words designed to do just that. “Where is my sister?”

“Oh, she is resting for right now. She was kind enough to volunteer her powers to aid my cause. Did you like the light show? I thought it was a nice touch.”

From the corner of his eye, he saw Liz rush forward to kneel by her father’s side. The others were too far away and had noticed the events too late to be close enough to help. But he felt Michael’s presence close by. At least he wasn’t alone in this fight.

“If it’s a fight you’re looking for, all you had to do was ask for one. You’ll get it gladly.”

Alex’s eyes narrowed, his face twisted into a mask of rage. “You really think I’m looking to fight with you? You, a child playing dress up in a paper crown and a cape? You have no idea of what you can do with the powers you were given.” His lips curled into a grin. “But I do. I know more about what you’re capable of then you’ll ever know. And thanks to the lovely Vilondra, I now possess them as well.”

Michael stood beside Max now, his body angled to be ready to block any blow that might be directed at his friend. “Blah blah blah. Don’t you people ever just shut up and fight? Do you get off on talking or what? Okay, you have big scary powers. You gonna use them or just talk about them all day?”

“You want a fight? It’s yours.” Alex raised one hand to where Maria, Diane and Phillip stood. With a flick of his wrist, the very trees behind them came alive, their very branches and limbs moving to wrap around them. Maria managed to angle her body so that she slipped from the slippery branches before they could wrap around her too tightly. But the Evans weren’t as lucky.

Finished with them, Alex moved to the second group. Kyle was able to throw himself and Tess aside before the ground beneath their feet turned to quicksand. From their safe spot on the firm ground, they looked on in horror as Jim and Amy were slowly sucked into the ground. Frantically, they began looking for anything long enough to lay across the firm edges to keep them above the surface.

“Enough!” Max ordered, frantic to stop the destruction around him. He could hear Liz’s soft sobs beside him, but he dared not look at her. Hopefully any damage done to her parents could be fixed in time. But to turn his back on their enemy now was instant death. “It’s me you want. Leave the others alone.”

“You still don’t get it, do you? Your death isn’t enough. All of you must die otherwise the prophecy still has a chance to be filled. And it’s my job to see that it isn’t.”

“What the hell is up with this damn prophecy? Doesn’t Khivar have anything better to do with his time?” Michael tried not to listen to Maria’s frantic struggles to free the Evans as the tree branches continued to squeeze them. He knew the others were in trouble, but if they couldn’t stop the source first, they were doomed. So far it looked as though they had three parents down and Isabel was MIA, not to mention Alex. The odds weren’t looking to be in their favor. But he was trying to get a handle on their newest foe. Since he was the only one with any vague idea of the way this creature thought, he was still planning the best course of attack. Should they outright blast him or would he be prepared for them? It was true he had more knowledge of their powers than they did and he’d been saying for years that it would be their downfall. And Michael hated it when he was right.

Liz knelt beside her father, gently cradling his head in her lap. Tears had been coursing down her cheeks since Max had taken off running. She’d known he wouldn’t make it in enough time to do any good, but he had tried.

“Liz?”

“Shh, Dad. You’re going to be fine. You just have to save your strength for now. Okay?”

“But Alex…”

“I know. That’s not Alex, Dad.” Liz brushed her father’s hair from his forehead. “Max and Michael will take care of him though. Alex will be fine, just like you and Mom will be.” But there were still tendrils of smoke radiating from her father’s body. He was burning up to the touch, but she refused to let him leave her lap or deny him her touch. How many times had this man taken care of her when she needed him? She couldn’t even think about her mother yet. She was lying a few yards away, blown clear away from her father by the force of the blast. And she wasn’t moving.

“Nancy?” Jeff managed to ask.

“Mom is going to be fine too. She’s just shaken up too.” Liz refused to relinquish a hand from her father’s face, so she continued to look down at him through the haze of her own tears.

Jeff mustered up enough energy to cover Liz’s hand with his own. “Lizzy,” he began.

But Liz shook her head fiercely. “No, Dad. I’m not going to listen to anything you have to say right now. So, just save it for the welcome home party.”

“Lizzy, you have to listen to me. Please.” He waited until Liz had composed herself enough to look into her father’s eyes, and what she found there had her sobbing anew. “Lizzy, they need your help.”

She shook her head vigorously. “No. They can handle it on their own. They’re strong.”

“So are you.” He squeezed her hand. “They’ll always need that.” He could feel his body dying, could feel the ache from the simple effort of keeping his eyes open and focused on his beautiful daughter. She knew the truth, but she wasn’t ready to acknowledge it. “I’m not going to make it through this, sweetie.”

“No, Dad.” Her face twisted in pain as sobs continued to wrack her body. “You can’t do this. I can heal you.”

“I saw what it did to Max that one time. It drains you, doesn’t it?” When she couldn’t answer, he took it as the answer he already knew. “They need you, Liz. You can’t waste your time on me when we both know it’s not going to do any good. I’m dying, Liz.” He reached a hand up to run it down the length of her hair. “I’m sorry. God, I’m sorry for so many things. I’m sorry I won’t be able to see your wedding. I know you’re going to be a beautiful bride, so happy and in love.”

“No, I’m not doing anything if you’re not there. Don’t you see? You have to fight, Dad. You have to be there for my wedding or I won’t do it. How am I supposed to marry Max if you’re not there? Who’s going to walk me down the aisle?” She gripped his hand, brought it to her face, wet from her own tears.

“You’d be cheating both you and Max. You love him.” Jeff began coughing, felt the pressure in his chest begin squeezing anew. He waited until his breathing settled before he continued. “You love him, Liz. Your mother and I saw it too late, but we never wanted to step between that. Promise me you’ll be happy.” There was a growing urgency in his voice now as he fought to deliver each word to her. “Promise your mother and I you’ll be happy no matter where it takes you. Promise us you’ll fight. Please, Lizzie.”

Liz finally nodded her head, unable to form words. The tears dripped from her cheeks, falling to the ground. “I promise, Dad. Please just don’t leave me.”

“I’m sorry. Don’t worry about me and don’t worry about your mother. Don’t look back, Liz. Go help them. Save your friends, your husband. And tell him for us that he was already our son. You have bigger things to worry about now than us. Go.” He urged as another coughing fit seized his body. There wasn’t much time left and the last thing he wanted was for her to linger over him any longer.

“I love you, Daddy.” She leaned down to place a kiss on his forehead, letting her lips linger.

“I love you too. Go, Liz. Don’t worry about us.”

Liz eased her father off her lap gently. She knew with a certainty borne of tragedy that she would regret the decision for the rest of her life, but she rose slowly and turned away from her parents and towards the ongoing battle.

Max and Michael were encased in an energy shield while the creature in Alex’s body continued to direct streams of energy towards them. In the distance, Maria was trying to do anything with her fledgling powers to help the Evans. Kyle was busy trying to construct something long enough to lay across the quicksand that Jim and Amy could hold onto while Tess tried every trick and power she’d ever known to reverse the effects. And none of it was working. They were losing, all of them. Because they were scattered, divided. The wind had picked up and it blew her hair back from her face in a rough torrent. With sorrow threatening to invade her and shut down her body, Liz turned in all directions, unsure of what to do. How could she possibly help? She had failed not only Max and her friends, but her parents too. She had known something was wrong and yet she’d done nothing about it because she had only wanted a few hours of normal. When would she learn that nothing would ever be normal? What was the point in fighting for it any longer?

“Liz!”

Liz looked in the direction she heard her name being called from and was shocked to see Isabel stumbling towards her.

“Isabel! Are you okay?” She asked when Isabel had managed to creep to her side.

Isabel looked in the general direction that Liz’s voice had come from. “I can’t see, Liz. Whatever he did to me, I can only see through his eyes. That’s how I knew you were here.”

Liz pulled Isabel down behind a large rock, shielding her from the battle. She caught her first glimpse of Isabel’s eyes, rolled back in her head so that only the whites showed. “What can I do? They need you out there, not me.”

“No,” Isabel shook her head. “They need you. Alex is still in there. If Max and Michael fire at him, they’ll kill him.”

“They don’t need me, Isabel. I’m no good to anyone.”

“You’re wrong, Liz. I can’t do it and I don’t know where Tess is. Alex told me only you could do it anyway and I believe him.”

“What am I supposed to do? I don’t know what Alex expects from me!” How was she supposed to help anyone when she couldn’t even save her own parents?

“He said to follow your instincts. But you have to hurry, Liz. He’s wearing down Max and Michael. I can feel it.”

“Isabel-“

“Liz, you have to do it!” She snapped suddenly as her body tensed. Liz turned back to the battle and saw that the scaribe must be drawing more heavily on Isabel’s powers. Twin beams were trying to pierce the protective bubble Max and Michael had created. They looked to be arguing inside, and Liz knew they had no idea how to defeat him without hurting Alex. Isabel was right. It was all up to her now.

She stood from where she and Isabel were crouched behind the rock and the wind met her face again. Forcing herself not to stagger backwards from the sheer force, she stepped forward. And with each step after that, she hoped that the next would bring the intuitive knowledge that Alex was so sure she possessed. Because if it didn’t, then they were all doomed.




posted on 13-Feb-2002 8:52:54 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Sorry I missed you guys yesterday. I was tasked with a last minute project that just had to be done by this morning. Yeah, right. Anyway, here you go. I'm thinking you'll get at least one more part out of me this week on this story. Maybe two. Let's see how reality treats me today.


Learning to Live
Part 57

“Kyle, this isn’t working!” Tess shouted over the roar of the wind that had cropped up.

“Keep trying,” Kyle insisted. He knew Tess was frustrated over not being able to help Max and Michael fight, but he was grateful beyond belief that she hadn’t left him alone to help his Dad and Amy. Kyle turned back to his father. “Hold on, Dad. We’re working on it.”

“I’m trying, Kyle. But do you think you could work a little quicker?” Jim was already up to his armpits in the oatmeal like goop and Amy was well past her shoulders and sinking fast. After her initial panic attack that had sucked her most of the way into the pit, they’d been able to convince her to calm down enough to slow the sinking. But they were running out of time.

Kyle was already scanning the perimeter, looking for anything useful. Pulling his Swiss Army knife from his pocket, he began hacking away at some of the nearby vines.

“Tess! Can you get me some of those branches?” He asked, pointing to some of the longer limbs.

“I think so.” Though mental powers were more her specialty, Tess sprinted to the tree. She laid a hand on the nearest tree trunk and concentrated on altering its makeup. Could she split wood with her mind? She would find out soon enough.

As the first of the branches fell, Kyle scrambled to begin tying them together with the makeshift twine.

“What can I do?”

“I’ve got this now. Go help Maria,” he shouted, pulling the vines as tight as he could.

“Call if you need me.”

“I will.” He laid a hand on her shoulder briefly. “Thank you, Tess.”

“All in a day’s work.”

Kyle waited until she was gone, wanting to make sure she was safely on her way. Then he dragged the branches over to his father and Amy. Careful not to get too close to the lip of the quicksand pit, Kyle secured one end of the branch on either side of the pit. His father was able to stretch far enough to grab hold of the log. Grateful to have something secure beneath him again, Jim turned back to Amy and reached out to her.

“C’mon, Amy. Grab hold of my hand and I’ll pull you over.” He reached as far as he could, groping beneath the muddy surface for her hands. Amy was buried to her chin and she was still struggling to keep her head up. Only her face showed sign of the stress she was under and she dared not even speak.

“Kyle, it’s no good. I can’t reach her. Can you get me some more of these vines?”

“Yeah, hold on.” Kyle made quick work of the remaining vines, hurrying back to his father. “Here, Dad. Catch.”

Kyle began tossing one end out for his father to catch. His first attempt fell short by a few feet, so he reeled it back in and tried again. It was dirty work and he was covered in mud, but the fourth attempt was a success. Kyle gave his father enough slack to pull the stiff vines to him.

“Amy.” Jim was horrified to see that she had continued to sink. The mud line was almost up to her nose and a wild panic shone in her eyes.

“Amy, I swear I’m going to get you out of this, alright? I’m going to move this vine to you and when you feel it, you grab hold as tight as you can and I’ll pull you over. But you’re going to have to trust me.” Jim knew they only had one shot at this and if he failed, she would sink too far below the surface for him to help.

Hoping her body wasn’t twisted in any way, Jim began feeling around with the end of the vine. He was hoping that if he could at least poke her with it, she could grab hold. After a few endless seconds, he felt the vine meet resistence.

“Amy! Grab hold! C’mon, baby.” Amy began to thrash as her nose sunk beneath the surface of the mud.

“Dad, you need to pull her in now!” Kyle shouted. He had dropped to his stomach on the side of the pit closest to Amy, frantically hoping to be able to do something. But he was still too far away.

Praying that she had a grip on the vine, Jim pulled it to him quickly. And he had never in his life been more grateful than when he saw the top of Amy’s head move toward him. He pulled her into the circle of her arms and as her head broke the surface, she took in a large gasp of air.

Jim pulled her against his body, not bothering to wipe her mud caked hair from her face before drawing her into a kiss. Amy wrapped her arms around his neck while Jim continued to cling to the branch that kept them above the mud line.

“God, Jim, I was so scared.”

“Not half as scared as I was. Are you okay?” He tried to check her over as best as he could.

“I’m fine. Kyle?” Amy turned her attention to her future stepson. “Can you please get us the hell out of this thing?”

Kyle turned a relieved grin on her. “You bet. Just give me a second.” Kyle rose to his feet in time to hear the unmistakable sound of wood splitting. Jim and Amy were looking down at the branch that held them up, then they met Kyle’s eyes.

“Kyle, hurry?”

*~*~

Tess sprinted the length of the park until she was at Maria’s side.

“Tess! Thank god! I don’t know what to do!” Maria shouted. “Nothing has worked, and it’s getting harder for them to breathe.”

Tess glanced at Diane and Phillip, struggling to free themselves from the tree branches that held them captive. The same vines that had just freed Jim and Amy were squeezing Diane and Phillip tighter by the second.

“What have you tried?” Tess asked, glancing around to see if there was anything that could help.

“Everything I know how to do! Do you have a knife or something? I’ve got nothing over here.”

“No, but Kyle does. See if you can get it from him and I’ll try over here while you’re gone.”

Without another word, Maria ran back to where she could see Kyle struggling with a length of vines. “Kyle! We need your knife!”

Kyle gestured to it on the ground and Maria ran for it. “Do you need any help here?” She glanced at her mother, covered in mud and desperately clinging to Jim.

“I hope not. Go help them.”

“You’re okay, Mom?” Maria couldn’t help but ask before she left.

“We’re in good hands. Go help, sweetie.” They had tried to inch back to solid ground using the tied branches for support, but the wood had continued to splinter more with each movement they had made. So, Kyle was currently trying to tie some of the vines together secure enough to pull them to solid ground.

“I’ve got them, Maria,” Kyle promised solemnly. “Nothing will happen to them.”

Maria nodded, reaching down to pick up the knife. If anyone would keep their parents safe, it would be Kyle. “I know.” And she sprinted back to Tess.

As Maria began to hack her way through the vines that continued to curl around Diane and Phillip, she couldn’t help but sneak a glance over her shoulder to where Michael and Max were encased in the big blue ball. She knew it had to be a shield, but how long could they keep it up? And where were the others? Everything had happened so fast and they were so far away, it was hard to make out what was going on in the real battle. But she said a silent prayer that everyone would make it out of this okay.

*~*~

Liz took a few hesitant steps away from the rock where Isabel crouched. But she found that with each new step, a force began to take over her body. She could feel a presence growing in her mind, but she wasn’t scared. In fact, the familiar energy boosted her confidence. At that moment, there was no one she would rather have in her head than Salia.

A rage bubbled within her, overtaking the grief her mind wasn’t allowing her to feel, and growing with each step into the battle. Max and Michael’s shield was waning, the brilliant blue fading to a dull color that told her they were running out of time. Even as her eyes began to glaze over, she knew that this was something different than she had experienced before. Salia had taken over her body once before, but only when things had looked their darkest. Since then, Liz had experienced black outs when certain things triggered memories from Salia. But this was unlike either experience. Liz was in possession of her own powers, her own mind. But she also knew with an odd certainty how to stop the chaos that threatened her friends’ lives. And that knowledge could only come from the Queen herself.

Pooling her energy, she allowed a shock wave to detach from her fingertips. Shocked, the scaribe stumbled backward a step when it hit him fully and he stopped his attack on Max and Michael. He turned in her direction, twisting Alex’s lips into a cruel smile.

“Yes?”

“That’s enough.” Look past the face…look past the face She chanted the mantra in her head. This wasn’t Alex. Alex hadn’t killed her parents, even though she knew the memory of his role wouldn’t ever be forgotten.

“Oh, I assure you, I’m just getting started.” He raised a hand in her direction.

Liz heard Max yelling at her, but it all seemed far away. Her body and mind were numb now, her only concern the demon in front of her. Focusing all of her attention on the coming attack, Liz was easily able to reflect the bolt of electricity that he sent sizzling towards her. It bounced back and exploded a few feet from where Alex stood. “Is that all you have?”

He pointed one finger at her, anger making it shake. “You will die.”

“That is why you came, isn’t it? You’re not really here to kill us all. You want Max and you want me.” She couldn’t spare a glance at Max. She had to trust now that at least Michael could hold him back.

“Max, no,” Michael whispered to his friend even as he locked his arms around his friend’s chest. Now was one of the times when friendships had to be put aside. Like it or not, Max was the King, and it was Michael’s job to protect him.

“True,” Alex replied. “It has been decided that you would have played a key role in the prophecy. It is my job to make sure that day never comes.”

“By hiding like a coward behind friendly faces? I thought you would have more honor than that. You’ve been on this planet too long. You’re starting to act more human with each one you kill.”

With her words, Alex’s face twisted with a rage that Liz’s sweet friend should never know. “I have more power, more knowledge of how to use it than you’ll ever have,” he gloated.

“Yours is stolen and temporary.” Liz held the secret of Salia’s knowledge to herself. But it didn’t mean she wouldn’t knock the arrogant gleam from his eye. With a seemingly absent wave of her hand, Liz solidified the ground beneath Amy and Jim and fixed the vines holding Diane and Jeff, dropping them to the ground. But her eyes never left the cold ones of her enemy.

“A pretty trick,” he conceded, instantly revising his plan. Perhaps he had misjudged their abilities. And a trickle of fear ran through him.

“More than a trick and you know it. Did you think you could dismiss me so easily? Dismiss my family and my friends because we’re mere humans? Let me tell you something about humans,” she whispered, forcing the emotion from her voice. If she paused to think about all she had just lost in a few short minutes, she would break down and the tears would never stop. And there would be a life time for that later. “We never give up. We’re strong and we’re proud and when we love, it’s with everything we are. And if you push us, we’ll push back harder.” She locked eyes with him, seeing only the face of her parents’ murderer and she knew that moment would forever be seared into her memory. “I know about your people and your ways, DaKa,” she spat at him, savoring the look of surprise in his eyes at her knowledge of his warrior name. “And I know that if I challenge you, you have to fight me.”

“Liz, no!” Once again, Max tried to dart forward and once again, Michael pulled him back. He didn’t want Liz challenging the scaribe anymore than Max did, but the shield had eaten up so much of their energy that if Liz did nothing more than buy them a few minutes, he would be grateful. Tess would be joining them soon and she would make them stronger as a group. Michael could make out Isabel’s shadow from behind a rock on the other side of the battle and he wondered what was wrong with her that she hadn’t joined them yet.

Liz swallowed and blocked her mind from Max’s. The cold void where their thoughts usually intersected hit her hard and she knew it would hurt Max to be cut off so completely from her. But she knew it had to be done this way. She couldn’t think now, couldn’t feel. She was operating on the ancient instinct Alex had told her to use. And it told her to step forward until she was a mere foot from her enemy.

“I challenge you.” She held her hands out to him, palms up. “If you think you’re warrior enough.” He would have no choice but to leave her friends alone now. It didn’t matter what happened to her, as long as no one else was hurt and Alex was freed.

He smirked at her before giving her a mock bow and Liz had to struggle to remind herself not to hate the face, just the creature within. “It will be an honor to kill you, highness.”

“I guarantee you’ll never have the chance.”

“We’ll see. Won’t we?” He laid his hands on top of her open palms. Instantly, a red glow flared out between them, welding them together at the point of contact.

Max refused to watch helplessly as Liz’s eyes rolled back in her head. He broke free from Michael’s death grip and ran towards her but he had a sinking feeling that it was already too late. The real battle was about to be fought on a different plane of consciousness. And Liz was on her own.

posted on 13-Feb-2002 11:06:30 AM
*sigh*

This is a note for Rim and all of the other seriously confused people out there. No, you didn't miss a part. And my above sigh wasn't directed at you, but at me and my computer. I wrote the part where Alex and Isabel made love, but my computer ate it. I tried to get it back and when that failed, I tried to rewrite it and that was why I didn't update this story for like two months. I couldn't get inside of Isabel's head anymore. I think it was a case of the show influencing my story. But I couldn't rewrite it. So, I skipped it with the intention of going back at some point and trying to rewrite it again. Sorry again for any confusion. I really hated skipping it like that since I spent so much time building up their relationship. But I figured it was better to skip it and finish the story since there is still a third one to go yet, than to sit for another month or two and wait until no one was still reading this story.

Again, sorry! Blame my very expensive computer. It doesn't like me.

~Stacey
posted on 15-Feb-2002 11:53:20 AM
Good morning, guys. Thanks a million for your super kind feedback. I'm just popping in to give you an update. I'm working through the next part right now. I'm going to do it this afternoon, but I don't think I'll have enough time to finish it up. But if not, it will definitely be this weekend. Look for a bit of resolution and a whole lot more angst. Hey, what would one of my stories be without angst?

Love you guys and I'll see you either later today or this weekend.

~Stacey
posted on 19-Feb-2002 10:16:08 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Hey, guys. Sorry about disappearing for a bit on you, but real life has been kicking me around the last week or two. I haven't even updated FY in days! LOL You know it's bad when that happens. But here you go, and I'm going to try to get FY out today if I can. Enjoy!

Learning to Live
Part 58

“The venue has been chosen.” A loud voice boomed from the sky.

Liz looked around frantically, wondering where she was. She had literally been dropped into some sort of building. Row after row of large columns filled the main hall, but as she glanced up and down, she saw no one. Where was the Scaribe?

“I didn’t have the chance to choose anything.” She circled helplessly, her heart sinking with the feeling that she had chosen wrong in fighting alone. “Where are you? I thought you wanted a fight. Instead, you hide.”

Stepping out from behind a column, Liz came face to face with their deadliest foe for the first time. She examined the ridges of skin that tapered down his long neck to his fingers. He wasn’t wearing anything, but his body was covered in almost a leopard spotting.

“This is your real face? Now I see why you hide it from others.” She knew it was petty, but she couldn’t help the words that flew from her mouth.

“You’re out of your league, highness. You made a strategical error. Together, you might have won. Alone, you will die.”

Though he was standing a dozen meters away, his reach was no less potent. Without warning, Liz dropped to her knees in agony, clutching her hands to her head. A thousand needle tips pierced her skull, causing her to whimper from the sheer force of the attack. Tears streamed down her face as she fought to keep from crying out.

And from his corner of the room, the Scaribe watched and waited for the thrill of his first defeat.

*~*~

“Liz!” Max screamed out as he stumbled forward. He reached out for her, but was thrown back when he encountered the red force field that seemed to be surrounding the two of them. With a shake of his head, he rose from the ground and tried to charge it again, only to be met with the same resistance.

“Max! Cut it out!” Michael called out as he crouched down beside Isabel. “I need you over here.”

Dazed and a bit rattled by the shock, he glanced at the bodies around him. Michael’s words rung in his ears, but his instinct told him to help the wounded.

Tess appeared at his elbow, grimy from her encounters. She had seen the indecision waver on his face, and had known he wouldn’t leave Liz easily. “Go. We’ll take care of the others.” But Tess had already seen what she needed to see on the newly formed battlefield. There was no help needed. It was already too late, though Jim and Amy still struggled to revive their fallen friends.

Max nodded dumbly. Tess gave him a hard push and he crawled over to where his sister sat perched against a large rock.

“What’s going on? Are you okay?” He saw her eyes, blinded white and he concentrated on his sister as much as he could, forcing himself not to worry about Liz just yet.

“He’s using her powers,” Michael explained as Isabel arched her back and gasped for a breath of air. “She was talking a minute ago and then he must have taken over her mind completely.”

“How do we break it?”

“I don’t think we can,” Michael answered. “But maybe Tess could try it. This is out of our expertise.”

Max threw a look over his shoulder to Liz while Michael moved to find Tess Her face was twisted in pain and Max had never felt such rage. He couldn’t get to her, not while the force field separated them. He could hear the others rushing about behind him, no doubt helping each other. Alex’s father was still missing and he hadn’t had the chance to get a good look at Liz’s parents, but he knew it didn’t look good. His sister was slowly being drained and Alex’s body had been taken over. And Max knew with a blinding clarity that they were losing.

They had become so sure of themselves over the years, so confident that nothing could touch them, that they had become lazy. In every previous fight they had ever had, victory had been easy enough. Only when Liz had been poisoned all those years ago had they fought a harder battle. But then they’d had his mother’s help in the outcome. They wouldn’t have such luck this time. Now they were facing their darkest day and they were doing it individually.

Michael stumbled to the ground beside Max, Tess in tow. “I’ve got her.”

“How are the others?”

“Not now, Maxwell. We need to prioritize. First, we break his hold on Isabel. Second, we help Liz fight this thing.”

Max shook his head. “No. We break contact between them completely.”

“Snap out of it, Max. Look at what’s going on around you. We’re losing. Isabel told me that they only way to defeat this thing is to do it where Liz is. If you pull her out now, then we’re fighting Alex and he’s as good as dead. We need to find a way to help Liz before he kills her too.” Michael didn’t mind taking control of the situation. It was his job to keep a level head in a crisis, but he was afraid that none of them were truly prepared for the fight ahead.

Tess placed a hand on Max’s arm. “Your connection with her?”

Max dropped his eyes from where he’d been glaring at Michael. “She’s been blocking me. I can’t get in.” And the silence, the absence of her warmth left him bereft.

“You can’t push through?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never tried.” He’d never had to before.

“Alright,” Michael began, taking charge. “Tess, you try to help Isabel. Max, you work on Liz. I’m going to get Maria and Kyle. If we’re going to win, we’re going to need everyone.”

“Get the others too,” Tess instructed, thinking of the remaining parents. “We’re going to need everyone.”

“They don’t have powers,” Michael protested.

“Neither does Kyle, but his presence makes us stronger,” Tess reminded him.

Michael nodded, understanding. He rose to his feet and took off in the direction of the others.

“Max, you’ve got to reach her. Everything depends on it.” Tess closed her eyes, placing her index fingers on Isabel’s temples.

Max watched her attempts to free his sister and finally decided that Isabel couldn’t be in more capable hands. If anyone could help her, it was Tess. And if anyone could help Liz, it was him.

He closed his eyes too, tried to block out the noise around him. He put everything he had into ignoring the cries and shouts from his friends and family. And he sought out Liz. Her energy was unmistakable, like a beacon of light that led him home. He reached out with his energy, seeking his other half. Surely she had to be somewhere amidst the endless yawning void.

She’d never blocked him so effectively, but then the stakes had never been so high. He was worried about more than her safety, but her heart and her spirit too. It was far more reckless than was usual for Liz to jump into the middle of a fight the way she had. And it was the first sign of something wrong.

After an eternity of seeking out her warmth, he felt the first tendrils of Liz’s energy in the distance. Following it quickly, he hoped to find their connection. He had to tell her that she needed them.

But as quickly as her energy snaked out toward him, it recoiled before escaping behind a sealed door. Max fought against it, banging against the barrier that separated them. But it was no use. Liz had effectively disconnected them.

Rage replaced the deep sense of loss that he had been favoring. Did she really think she could martyr herself like this? Just run off and get herself killed and leave him behind without a fight? Max pounded on the door with a renewed passion. Fury and love drove him forward. He would get to Liz one way or another, even if he had to go through her own damn stubbornness first.

*~*~

“Had enough?” The Scaribe asked, letting up on the blast of power he had jolted through her body.

Gasping for air, Liz could only crumple to the floor. She couldn’t handle the pain anymore. They had underestimated their foe. He had caused far more damage than they ever anticipated. She curled into a ball, willing it all to go away.

She’d hoped that Salia would have come to their aid, but she should have known better. Salia herself had told Liz that to mess with the future was dangerous. She had only interceded that one time because the balance of time had been disrupted to begin with. And when Liz had thought she’d felt Salia’s energy building up inside of her, she’d had the courage to jump in and fight. But now she knew that what she had felt was merely a residual echo of that time. Like the trances she occasionally went into when she drew upon Salia’s memories, she had known how to challenge the Scaribe, but she hadn’t been prepared for the onslaught of flashes she’d received from his touch. She’d seen and felt every emotion from every victim he had claimed since his arrival, and they only added to the guilt and sorrow that had already dwelled in her heart.

She had failed everyone she’d ever loved; her parents, Alex, her friends, even Max. She had been so certain she could take on their enemy alone, she had staked all their lives on it. She would die here. She knew that now. She would die without ever having had the chance to say goodbye, or to tell Max what her time with him had meant. She wanted to let him know that before today, she had never known regret.

Liz could hear the Scaribe taunting her, mocking her, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. What was the point in caring anymore? She could feel the effects of his blast on her body, knew it was breaking down around her. She had already lost.

A familiar wave of warmth rushed over her so quickly, she didn’t have time to be shocked. She would recognize her old friend anywhere. “Alex,” she whispered, regretting that the only thing she could see was her friend’s face twisted cruelly as he viscously attacked her parents. It hadn’t been Alex. Her heart knew it, but her mind still couldn’t distinguish the difference.

She could feel his sorrow, his rage, and his shame as his touch surrounded her. And she knew he had seen into her thoughts as easily as she could see into his. And she hated herself for even thinking he was in any way responsible for what had happened.

“Liz, you have to fight.”

“Go away,” she whimpered, curling up tighter in her ball. Didn’t he understand that there wasn’t any reason to fight anymore?

“You can’t give up. I won’t let you. I know it’s hard-”

“What do you know about it?” She snapped. “They’re gone, Alex. I couldn’t save them. I can’t even help you. I tried, but I don’t have any fight left in me. Just go away.”

Alex physically materialized beside her. He crouched down beside her and laid a hand on her back tentatively. Time had no meaning now. It had slowed until all that existed in that single moment was Alex and Liz.

“I’m not going to let you give up, Liz Parker.” There was a firmness to Alex’s tone that Liz had never known. “I don’t care if you never forgive me for my role in all this, or even if never speak to me again. You’ll probably hate me for making you fight and care, but if you don’t get up and fight right now, you will lose this battle. You will die. And what happens then? Will Max and the others be able to do this without you? If they can’t fight him here, then they’ll have to kill me to stop him. Who will have to do it? Max? Isabel? Would you sentence them to that life because you’re a coward?”

“I’m not a coward!” Liz snapped back at him, a hint of her old fire lighting her eyes.

“Then get up! Don’t let him take you on a dirty floor. You are the strongest of them all right now. You have memories of their planet that they might never have.”

Liz sat up and met Alex’s eyes. “I can’t do it alone.”

“Then don’t. Even I can feel Max all around us, which is quite odd. But I know you can feel him trying to help. All you have to do is let him.”

Before her eyes, Alex’s image faded a bit. Horrified she hadn’t seen how much of his strength he’d wasted talking to her, Liz pushed him away.

“He’s killing you.”

Alex ignored her realization. “You have to fight him now. If he kills me first, he’ll just take over another body, maybe yours, unless we’re both dead.”

The air around them rippled and Liz wondered what had changed.

“They freed Isabel. He can’t use her powers against them anymore. We’re running out of time.”

Confused and torn, Liz looked back and forth between Alex and the Scaribe. A tear trickled down her cheek. If she fought now, there was a chance she would live. But she would also have to face the pain and sorrow she’d left behind. And if she didn’t, everyone else could die.

“What would your parents want, Liz?”

Tears welled anew when she remembered the look on her father’s face when he’d told her to be happy. Sniffling, Liz nodded her head at Alex. “They would have wanted me to fight.”

Alex smiled sadly at her statement, even as he faded even further. “I love you, Lizziebug. Tell Maria for me, and Isabel…” his voice trailed off when he couldn’t find the words.

Liz watched in astonishment as Alex faded away to nothing. And then she could feel it in the air around her, impending death. Fear danced through her, swam in her veins and energized her into action.

“No,” she whispered to herself. “No one else is going to die today.”

Even as she knew the Scaribe was gearing up for a final assault on her, Liz forced her mind to open. Immediately, she felt Max envelope her, soothe her soul like no one else ever could. And they were connected, their words and thoughts jumbling together until they were one again.

Liz!

There’s no time, Max. We need everyone’s help and we need it now.

Max lent her all his strength. Tell me.

*~*~

“Isabel, can you hear me?” Michael hovered near Isabel and Tess. Both women had fallen backwards at the same time. Max looked as though he was still trying to get in touch with Liz, and everyone else was slowly dealing with the shock of the days’ events.

“I can’t see!” Isabel gasped, feeling around to gain her bearings. Her eyes were still white and Michael felt his heart break for her.

“Isabel, calm down.” Maria appeared at Isabel’s side, fresh tears still streaming down her face. She knew that Tess would be out of her league to help Isabel now, so Maria took Isabel’s hand. “Can you see anything? Light? Movement?”

Isabel calmed her breathing, turned her head in the direction of Maria’s voice. “Shades of light. I can see shades of light.”

“It’s probably just left over from the Scaribe. It’s probably already coming back. Is it getting a little better the longer you’re free?”

Isabel blinked, then smiled shakily. “A little, but not much.”

“Forget that for now. Do you still have any powers left?”

Isabel tried to find Michael amidst the noise. “I think so, but not much.” She swallowed. “What’s going on? I know he’s attacking Liz. She wasn’t even fighting. Where’s Max?”

“He’s trying to connect with Liz,” Maria assured her.

Isabel clutched at Maria’s arms. “Charles! You have to help him! He’s back in the clearing, and I think he’s hurt.”

Maria exchanged a look with Jim and her mother. Jim shook his head slowly and Maria felt her heart shatter. Deliberately, she turned back to Isabel. “We have to fight now,” she informed Isabel. “We can worry about everyone else later.”

“We’re still waiting for Max,” Tess interjected. “We need a back up plan in case he can’t get through to Liz.”

Suddenly, Max fell backwards in the dirt. He began twitching wildly and his parents ran toward him.

“What’s wrong with him?” Diane asked tearfully as she cradled her son’s head in her lap.

Kyle nodded in Liz’s direction. The pulsating light between her and Alex was glowing a dark red.

“I’d say he got in.” Kyle turned to Michael. “Whatever we’re doing, we’d better do it now.”




posted on 1-Mar-2002 8:12:43 AM
Hey guys. I just wanted to pop in and give you an update on where I am with this story. I know it seems like I've abandoned you again, but I haven't. I just haven't had ten seconds to spare lately and I don't see it getting better. I'm getting ready to move, so that sucks up most of my weekend time. But I'm going to try to at least finish up this fight over the weekend. I just kind of left you hanging. Sorry. But I promise to see what I can do for you all. Thanks for sticking with me and being so patient. You know I love you all.

~Stacey
posted on 8-Mar-2002 3:34:43 PM
Look at that, I missed a couple of bumps! How did that happen? You guys are the best. You know you keep me writing, right? Big hugs to you all today, cause I need some love.

I know I promised to try to update last weekend, but I'm going to be in the process of moving for the next couple of weeks. So, my free time is kind of limited. But I really have been plotting out this next part, so I wouldn't be surprised to see an update soon. I don't know about this weekend, *ugh, packing* but maybe Monday or Tuesday?

Rim, Farscape? Huh? Me? No way. That would be a blatant ripoff, and I would never do that sort of thing. *wink* Hey, btw do you know what happened to that show? It dropped off the face of the planet. Just curious.

To keep you guys up to date, if I can ever finish this battle, we're looking at maybe ten more parts, give or take. But the good news is that I already have the first few parts of the third story done. I am so motivated that way. But stick with me guys. I promise not to abandon you.

Love you all!

~Stacey
posted on 14-Mar-2002 12:05:34 PM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Well, since you bumped so very nicely...here you go. I'm really hoping to finish this story up soon. I'm going to try to dedicate a little bit of time to it so I can get working on the last one. I would say enjoy, but I don't think that's possible. *evil grin*

Learning to Live

From Part 58…
“We’re still waiting for Max,” Tess interjected. “We need a back up plan in case he can’t get through to Liz.”

Suddenly, Max fell backwards in the dirt. He began twitching wildly and his parents ran toward him.

“What’s wrong with him?” Diane asked tearfully as she cradled her son’s head in her lap.

Kyle nodded in Liz’s direction. The pulsating light between her and Alex was glowing a dark red.

“I’d say he got in.” Kyle turned to Michael. “Whatever we’re doing, we’d better do it now.”


Part 59

“What’s going on?” Isabel asked. She turned her head in the direction of Kyle’s voice, but she couldn’t pinpoint his exact location with the wind still roaring around them. She still couldn’t see more than shades of light, but she forced herself not to worry about herself. There wasn’t time.

“Max and Liz are connected,” Maria told her, glancing nervously at her two best friends and the bubble of angry red light that surrounded them. “We need an plan now, guys.”

“If someone can connect with Max, the rest of us should be able to get in too,” Tess informed them.

“Right,” Michael decided. “Tess, can you do it? You’re the strongest of us all in that department.”

“No,” Isabel interrupted. “Max and I have a stronger bond. Getting into Max will be hard.” Max had always been closed off on his good days, only letting Isabel in during their adolescence mainly because she had forced him to connect with her and not withdraw into himself.

Tess nodded in agreement. “She’s right. Max and I aren’t close enough, and it’ll be hard with them being under attack. But we have to act fast. Isabel, are you sure you’re up for this?”

Even though she had no idea what was going on around her, Isabel nodded. “Help me up.” Strong arms wrapped around her and she was lifted to her feet. She knew it was Michael that helped her to Max, knew his touch just as she knew Max’s without having to see. They were both her brothers, just as everyone around them was part of one family now. And if she failed, they would lose more members of that family.

Kneeling in the dirt, Isabel felt her way to Max’s face. She heard her mother sobbing and knew she was close by. Max was twitching beneath her fingertips and for the first time, she was grateful she couldn’t see what was going on around her.

“Isabel, can you help him?” Diane asked fearfully.

“I’m going to try, Mom.” Her fingers at Max’s temples, Isabel closed her eyes and let the familiar connection build between them. It wasn’t as strong or as instantaneous as the bond Max could form with Liz, but she was no longer threatened by it. She had stopped begrudging her brother happiness years ago. But even though they had not had reason to connect with each other in ages, Isabel felt her brother open up to her immediately.

Is?

Thrilled to hear her brother’s voice, Isabel tried to seek him out. But he was nowhere to be seen. Where are you, Max? I can’t see you.

We’re being attacked. We’re blocking for now, but I don’t know how much longer we can hold out. We need-

We already know. They’re coming. How can I help? Isabel continued to push through the darkness, looking for them. It was a mind trick. She knew that much. The Scaribe was trying to block them out, keep them separate. But the others needed her to be able to find them or their chances were greatly reduced.

You’re too weak, Isabel.

Isabel barely recognized Liz’s voice. It was so fragile, so soft and defeated that it didn’t keep with anything she had learned about her future sister in the past years. Liz was a fighter. What was wrong?

I’m here. Everyone else is coming. Tess announced. Where is everyone?

Pulling on the last of her concentration, Isabel gritted her teeth and focused everything on Max. She could feel the warmth, the energy patterns of Michael and the others as they joined one by one. Finally, when she thought she would pass out from the effort, she could see the darkness giving way to light. And the image of Max and Liz huddled behind Max’s energy shield came into focus. The Scaribe was standing across the bizarre room, directing a menacing beam of red energy at the couple.

I’ve got you, she announced, reaching out for Max and solidifying their connection.

Max turned a grateful smile to Isabel. He could see everyone else materializing behind his sister and for the first time, hope swelled in him. Maybe they could win this after all. He looked down at Liz, sitting passively beside him. After she had let him in, she had been content to let him take over the battle. And she had all but zoned out. He was worried about her, but for now, he needed to snap her out of her reverie quick. She had been the one to challenge the Scaribe. That meant that she had to be the one to fight him.

“Liz, I need you to snap out of it. We need you.” When she didn’t respond, he reached out to her, turning her face until she was forced to look at him. And he knew he would always regret this moment, but the alternative was death. “Damn it, Liz. You started this. Finish it. I know you’re in shock. And I know you don’t want to do anything but give up. But you can’t. You reached out to me and now I’m here. We all are. If you give up now, everyone dies, not just you. We’re connected, Liz. I know you feel them here.”

Max could feel his strength waning and the shield flickered for a second. It had taken too much energy to find Liz earlier, and he was afraid the barrier would fail before he got through to Liz. “Liz, please,” he pleaded with her. “I need you. I’ve never asked you to do anything you didn’t want to before, but I need this now. I need you go to get up and fight. Finish this. Later, you can stay silent for as long as you want, you can push me away and close yourself off or do whatever you need to do. But right now, I need you.”

Slowly, Liz raised her eyes to Max. “They’re gone, Max. I can feel it here.” She held her hand over her heart. “It’s just so empty.”

Max’s heart broke for her. Connected, he could feel her emotions and he knew that she would have already given up if not for Alex’s words. If she fought now, it meant she would have to return to the real world where it would be impossible not to feel the endless sorrow and guilt. And he had to ask her to do it, knowing she could hate him for it later.

“Liz, I need you to be strong now. You can’t think about them. There is nothing that can be done. But if you don’t get it together and help me now, we’re all going to die. Me, Alex, Maria, everyone. Our lives are in your hands again. Will you do this one last thing?”

Liz saw the strength in Max’s eyes and borrowed as much as she dared. She tried to block his emotions, but it was hard after a lifetime of welcoming them in. “One more time,” she agreed, rising to her feet.

Max nodded. “I’m going to drop this shield when you give me the word.” He looked over his shoulder, signaling the others to come forward. One by one, their energies connected until they were one. And Max found that they were weaker combined than he had hoped. But he and Isabel both had already been drained significantly, and Liz had been fighting longer than most of them. But it would have to do.

Liz straightened her spine. Max was right. She would finish this, for her parents, for all the victims he had already claimed. Anger fueled her as she gathered the tattered remains of her energy. And then she let down the last of her walls and allowed the others to connect with her. The combined sorrow and fear almost buckled her knees, but she remained standing. Pooling their energy together, she let it gather behind Max’s shield. There was only going to be one chance at defeating him and she would put everything she had into it.

The Scaribe was still too far away to have seen the commotion behind the wall of blue and she took advantage of his ignorance. Milking every drop of strength they had combined, Liz formed a ball of white energy. She nodded to Max and he dropped his shield a second before she released the light from her fingertips.

Shock colored the Scaribe’s every feature as the ball hurled toward him and Liz locked eyes with him as he paused his attack long enough to build a shield. But it was too late, his reactions too slow. Liz forced herself to watch as he imploded on impact, creating a shock wave that knocked her flat on her back and pushed the air out of her lungs. And she knew it was over.

Feeling the ache in every muscle of her body, Liz let herself lie on her back for minute. She knew what she would find when she opened them. She would be back in the park. Back in the real world. And with the knowledge, the pain came crashing down around her.

She had to see for herself.

Opening her eyes, she pushed herself up on her elbows and looked around. An hour ago, this had been a happy day, a day of coming together, for reunions. Now, it looked like a battleground. Her friends were scattered around her, having fallen where they previously stood. Liz had recovered first and she took in the full extent of the damage that had been done.

And as her eyes fell on Alex, she felt a flash of anger. She could tell by the rise and fall of his chest that he was still alive and it seemed bitterly unfair. Guilt followed the anger. How could she be angry that Alex had lived? He hadn’t been a part of it all, yet in her mind, he had. She turned her head from him and instead let her eyes settle on her parents. They were lying in the green grass side by side. Knowing someone had moved them, she was able to feel grateful for that much. As if their deaths were more bearable if they were at least resting together.

On her hands and knees, Liz crawled forward as far as she dared. She stopped a few feet from her mother’s form, and she knew she couldn’t go any further. Across from her, Jim appeared and met her eyes carefully. Though she knew the answer deep in her heart already, she raised her eyes to Jim in question. When he averted his eyes and shook his head, Liz felt her whole world drop out on her.

Jim moved to toward her, to reach out to her, to comfort her. Just what his intentions were she didn’t know, but she couldn’t handle his kindness. Not now. She cringed away from his touch and closed her eyes against the pity she was sure to find in his eyes. She knew he stayed beside her, but she never felt the pressure of his fingers on her skin. Afraid of the emotions welling up inside of her, she allowed her mind to shut down. And she sat, numb, in the grass.

Max opened his eyes, blinking rapidly as he adjusted to the brightness of the afternoon sun. He felt a hand on his arm, shaking him awake and he turned his head. “Tess?”

“Max, Liz needs you,” she whispered softly. Tess had awoken a few minutes ago to see Jim reach out to Liz, and the pain that had crossed his face when she had shied away. The others had been rising one by one and Isabel was already involved in healing the damage done to Alex during the possession. “Her parents didn’t make it.”

Max awoke immediately, forcing his aching body to get up. He half-ran, half-stumbled to Liz’s side and sunk down to the earth beside her. Knowing there weren’t words to take away her pain, he simply pulled her close. She sunk into his arms without a fight, but she was unresponsive, her arms hanging limp at her sides. She was cold, despite the sun blazing overhead and he rubbed his hands down her arms. He tried to connect with her, to see what he could do for her and he encountered a wall. Accepting that she needed privacy, he pulled back, vowing to give her as much time as she needed. Whatever it was she needed, he would be there to give it to her. No matter what that meant.

Isabel held her breath as she stroked the side of Alex’s face. She had been able to come up with enough energy to connect with Alex and fix the tears the Scaribe had created in his beautiful mind and body. Now. She waited for him to wake up. She had already discovered the horrifying news about Charles through the connection they had formed earlier and she was holding her own grief in check. Alex was going to need her to be strong for him now.

Alex’s eyes opened wide and he found himself staring into Isabel’s watery eyes. He tried to move, to get up, but she held him down.

“Just stay here a minute. You’re probably going to be a little weak.”

Alex turned Isabel’s words over in his mind as he began remembering what had happened. “You healed me.”

It was a complex statement, and Isabel knew what he was actually saying. She had taken the final step in their growing relationship and had changed him, bonded them.

“Yes.” She wouldn’t deny it, wouldn’t regret the decision. They were done pushing each other away. She knew what she wanted from him and though she knew it should have been discussed before it became a situation of life and death, she would have done it over again the same way.

Alex nodded, unable to concentrate on Isabel’s words. They could sort through all of that later. He tried to swallow past the lump in his throat. “My father?”

The first tear fell down Isabel’s cheek. “I’m sorry, Alex. There was too much damage.”

Alex’s breathing turned erratic as he fought to control the sobs that wanted to erupt. He should have known. Why hadn’t he known? His father hadn’t been himself, he hadn’t returned any of his phone calls. It had been so easy to say that he would come around eventually. It had been because of that distance between them that Alex hadn’t even known his father was possessed by their enemies. Hell, his father hadn’t even known there were enemies out there to be watchful for. And he would always carry that blame with him.

He turned, seeking out the clearing where he was sure his father’s body still lay, and his eyes fell on Liz and Max. They were locked in an embrace and from the way they were angled, Alex could see the profile of his oldest friend’s face. Her eyes were glazed over and she sat, unblinking, as Max clutched her tight. But she looked hollow, empty. And he knew it was his fault. He had done that to her. When he had first come to her to force her to fight, he’d felt her anger with him. She didn’t want to blame him for her parent’s death, but she did. And he knew their friendship would never survive this. How could Liz ever look at him again and not see her parents’ murderer?

Forcing himself to look away, he turned back to Isabel. “I want to get out of here.” He didn’t want Liz to have to see him now. She shouldn’t have to worry about what to say to him yet. He already knew where their future lay and he would have to find a way to respect that he’d just lost all the family he’d ever known. He wouldn’t put Maria in the middle of this either. Liz would need her to get through the days and nights that would follow.

“I don’t think we should-“

But Alex was rising to his feet. He knew it would hurt Isabel, but he couldn’t worry about that right now. He hadn’t just killed her parents. But Jim stopped his retreat.

“Alex-“

“Don’t. Please.” He couldn’t hear words of condolence yet. The reality of it all hadn’t sunk in yet. “I just…I need to get out of here. Please.”

Alex didn’t know what Jim saw in his eyes, but he nodded his head after a minute. “I can’t let you leave yet, but you two can sit in my car and wait.”

Numbly, Alex nodded. Anything was better than knowing what the proper procedures were when you had three unexplainable deaths. He let Isabel wrap her arms around him and lead him to Jim’s squad car. She ushered him into the backseat and he rested his head on her chest, comforting himself with the steady thump of her heartbeat. Detached, he heard Jim making calls on his radio and Alex shut his eyes, tuning out the world for as long as he could.






[ edited 1 time(s), last at 14-Mar-2002 1:42:13 PM ]
posted on 14-Mar-2002 1:45:09 PM
Sorry guys. I meant to check the stupid italics before I posted, but I forgot. So, whoever was kind enough to read through all that in italics, you get two gold stars. And none of you even mentioned it. Hopefully, you didn't think it was part of the story. LOL But it's fixed now and anyone new that sees my note will be thoroughly confused because the problem no longer exists. I love you guys. Who else would stick with me when I only post like once a month despite my best intentions?

~Stacey
posted on 20-Mar-2002 9:23:44 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Learning to Live

Part 60

“I’ve got another order, Maria. You sure you got it?” Michael called from the kitchen.

“Yeah, yeah. I’ve got it.”

Michael watched her swing behind the counter and pick up the two waiting dishes and the milkshake she had made a few minutes before. She delivered the food with a strained smile and turned when she heard another table calling for a waitress. He had tried to get her to slow down, but she had been insistent on doing everything herself. If it hadn’t been for Cassie’s help the last few days, they never would have been able to keep the restaurant up and running.

Maria headed for the table that had returned their burger twice already. Her feet hurt, she was in the middle of her eighth hour of work for the day, had been up since far before dawn, she hadn’t eaten yet, and all she wanted to do was sit and indulge in a good cry, but she still found the patience not to snap at the ungrateful customer at table four who wasn’t getting his greasy hamburger cooked to perfection.

The back door opened and closed suddenly, a noise Maria had trained herself to listen for in the last seventy two hours. The heavy thud of footsteps sounded from the break room, and Max pushed his way through the doors to began a tired shuffle toward the counter. Maria watched as he claimed a seat and she decided that Max needed her more than table four ever could. She crossed the room and sat beside Max, sure to offer him a hopeful smile.

“Hey, has she said anything yet?”

Max dropped his head into his hands. “No. She’s still sitting outside with that same blank look on her face. I’m at the end of my rope, Maria. I can’t even get her to eat.”

Maria laid her head on Max’s shoulder and closed her eyes for a minute. “I tried all last night to get through to her, but it was like she wasn’t there. Or maybe she just wasn’t listening. Is Kyle with her now?”

“Yeah. He told me to come down and rest for a minute.” He paused. “How’s Alex?” He had felt bad about not being able to see Alex, but he had been afraid to leave Liz’s side in the last three days. And with the Parkers’ funeral being later this afternoon, he was waiting for her to snap. And he wanted to be there when she did. Besides, Isabel hadn’t left Alex’s side, so Max knew he was in good hands.

Maria twisted the napkin in her hands, needing something to do. “He’s bad. He blames himself for the whole thing. And it doesn’t matter what anyone says, he doesn’t listen. He won’t even see anyone but Isabel now. I tried to go over before I opened the restaurant this morning, but he was in the middle of yelling at Isabel. I think she brought up the funeral today.”

Max nodded. None of them were doing very well. Maria, Michael, Tess and Kyle were either running the restaurant or had been helping arrange the funeral preparations for the last three days. They would have closed the restaurant completely if it hadn’t been for the convention party that had been booked months ago. Maria had tried to get out of it, but in the end it had been simpler to just do it and close up early for the funeral. Max eyed Maria, knowing that out of them all, she was doing the worst. She had lost two sets of people that had raised her and both of her best friends had shut her out.

“How are you?” He turned in the chair to get a good look at her. “You look like hell, Maria. Have you eaten anything today?” Max turned to where Michael was frantically fixing plates behind the counter. “Michael? Has Maria eaten today?”

Michael snorted. “I tried earlier. See if you can do better. Apparently, she wants to pass out later today.”

“Maria, please eat something. What do you want? I’ll get you anything. How about pie? Your mom makes the best pie.” Max rose from his chair and Maria tried to stop him.

“Max, no. I can get it.”

“You’ve done enough. Let me do something for a change. I’ll take over some of the tables for a bit.” He’d been feeling useless, wanting something to do. Liz hadn’t spoken a word since they had defeated the Scaribe and she was still blocking their connection. And Max had never felt so bereft in his life. He was losing Liz and he didn’t know how to stop it.

For the first day, all she’d done was sleep. They had managed to force feed her a sandwich yesterday sometime but nothing since then. Now, she either sat outside on the balcony or she slept. Max knew she was avoiding reality, but he could hardly begrudge her that. Both of her parents were dead and it was his fault.

Maria studied Max, knew he felt guilty and she figured he would feel better if she let him do something. Sitting beside Liz twenty-four hours a day wasn’t healthy. “Okay. How about helping me drown my sorrows in ice cream?”

“Rocky road?” Max asked, remembering her preferences.

“May as well.” She considered staying in the restaurant, but she really wanted to see Liz. “Can you make that to go? I want to go spend some time with Liz.”

“Yeah. Why don’t you just go. I’ll bring it up in a minute,” Max suggested. “Maybe you can pick out something for her to wear to the funeral.”

Maria nodded. “Yeah. That’s a good idea.” She forced herself back on her aching feet. “Tess and Kyle should be here any minute. We’re not letting anyone else in. Just feed who we have and close up.”

“I’ll let them know.”

Maria turned, watching Max for a second. Cassie had stopped him by the freezer and Maria could only imagine that the younger girl was asking after Liz again. And the simple act of kindness brought on another wave of sadness. She had been on the verge of crying for three days now, but she knew if she gave in, the tears would never stop. As it was, she didn’t know how she was going to get through the Parker’s funeral today and the Whitman funeral tomorrow. And as great as the other adults had been about trying to help plan things, Maria had wanted to do most of the funeral plans herself. If Alex and Liz were too shaken up, it was a responsibility she proudly shouldered. As a surrogate daughter to all three parents, she felt as though she owed them that much.

Without a word, she trudged up the stairs to the apartment. Staying here had been the last thing Liz had been insistent on, before she had lapsed into her silence. But it had worked out. Alex had refused to stay in the same apartment building as Liz, claiming that she shouldn’t have to deal with him right now. And Maria’s heart had gone out to Alex even more. He had taken to blaming himself for the entire span of events, convinced Liz would too once she came to her senses. But with Liz staying above the Crashdown, Isabel had been able to convince Alex to stay in his apartment. Since then, Alex had pushed them away one by one, all but Isabel who had remained staunchly by his side. Even during Alex’s angry rants against the world, Isabel had refused to leave him alone. And Maria loved her for it.

As Maria walked through the living room to Liz’s old bedroom, she could hear Kyle’s voice rising and falling in conversation. She approached the window to the roof and paused to listen.

“-and Max is worried sick about you, Liz. I know it’s hard to care about any of that, but maybe if you could at least eat something, it would help. You’re going to make yourself sick this way and you’re already on the funny looking side with those big eyes and those scrawny chicken legs. I honestly don’t know what Max sees in you,” Kyle teased, hoping for any kind of reaction. When Liz continued to stare into the sky, he continued the conversation as if Liz were actively participating.

“So, you don’t want to lose even more weight from not eating.” Kyle paused, weary from the effort to get through. He’d tried putting himself in Liz’s shoes, imagining what he would feel like if it had been his father being buried today. And he knew he would be just like Liz, catatonic from shock and grief, and he was afraid of what would finally snap her out of it.

A scuffling sound caught his attention and he turned to see Maria standing at the window. She offered him a sheepish grin.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“No, it’s fine.” He scrubbed at his face, making sure none of the tears in his eyes had actually fallen. “They finally got you off your feet?”

Maria shrugged, stepping onto the rooftop and leaning against the low wall. “I don’t want to sit still. You know? I’m afraid I’ll start remembering little things and I’ll turn into a big pile of mush.”

Kyle nodded. “Yeah, I know what you mean. Are you getting dressed here or do you need a ride back to the apartments?”

“Here,” Maria informed him. “But I don’t’ want to until the last minute. It just feels…”

“Yeah.” Kyle’s suit hung in his car. The thought of wearing it one second longer than necessary made his throat thicken and swell. He knew it would feel like a straight jacket, but he would wear the damn thing. “It’s funny how things just change. You think you have all the time in the world, but you really just don’t know. I guess you just have to grab onto the good things in your life and never let go.”

“They told you?” Maria guessed. She’d seen the pensive look on his face when he’d entered earlier and she hadn’t been able to find any time in the last few days to talk to him.

Kyle managed a chuckle, thinking of his father. “Yeah. They didn’t want to. They thought it was inappropriate with everything going on. Amy was still glowing though.”

Maria smiled just thinking of the look on her mother’s face. “Did they tell you how it happened?”

“Leave it to them to be dramatic. The paramedics were checking Amy out and they drew her blood,” Kyle recounted with a shake of his head. “Can you believe they’re going to be parents again after all these years?”

“Mom said it was the best kind of surprise though. Jim already started buying teddy bears and I think she said something about a small baseball mitt. They’re getting married in a few months.”

“Eloping in Vegas I hear,” Kyle chuckled, glad he had Maria to laugh at the absurdity of the situation with.

“Ever been there?”

“Nope, but I have a feeling we’ll be making a trip pretty soon.” Kyle paused, looking out at the same spot that had held Liz captive for the last few days. What truths were out there on the horizon? “Life just continues on,” he surmised, thinking of his new brother or sister that would be coming into the world soon. He glanced at his future sister, a girl he’d already considered a member of his family for years. And he couldn’t have ended up with a better choice if he’d handpicked her himself. “Do you and Michael need a ride to the funeral later?”

Maria shook her head. “Michael may. But I think I’m going to ride with Max and Liz. Cassie was going to call and arrange for a car to pick her up in a few hours.”

“She already did.”

Kyle and Maria turned to see Max stepping out onto the balcony with a couple of to go boxes in his hands. He handed one to each of them. “Sorry, no ice cream. Michael made you a sandwich instead.” He shrugged. “I tried to fight for you, but he’s turned into a kitchen nazi today.”

Maria smiled. “He did just sort of take it over this morning. I think he’s been trying to get rid of everyone.”

Max moved to Liz and bent down to place a kiss on her forehead. “Hey, sweetheart. How are you doing?” He tried not to let the flash of disappointment surprise him when she remained motionless, but it always snuck in below his best defenses. In all their time together, they’d only known one short period of time when they hadn’t turned to each other for everything. And not being connected to her was slowly killing him. Knowing he wouldn’t get an answer from her, he turned to Kyle. “Any change?”

Kyle watched the exchange with a heavy heart. “Sorry, man. She’s just not here right now.”

Wanting to stop the conversation before she was forced to watch Max crumple before her eyes, Maria forced cheer into her voice. “So, I was going to come up here and help pick out something for Liz to wear today.”

“That’s a good idea,” Kyle agreed. Maria had been working herself into the ground and they were all just as worried about her as they were about Liz and Alex. Whatever brought a genuine smile to her face, they would all support.

“I’m not going.”

Three heads snapped around to where Liz was still sitting quietly on the lounge chair.

“Liz?” Max asked in awe, rushing to her side. He knelt on the cold concrete before her, searching her face for some sign that he hadn’t imagined her beautiful voice.

Slowly, mechanically, her muscles aching from the movement, Liz turned her head to meet Max’s eyes. And Max felt a shudder go through him when he saw how dull and lifeless her own eyes were.

“I’m not going,” she repeated.

“Where?” Max asked, not caring about anything other than the fact that she had at least broken her silence.

Liz closed her eyes, sorrow and grief marring her features. She couldn’t say it. Just thinking about them hurt more than anything physical she’d ever experienced.

“We’re just going to go downstairs,” Maria announced, grabbing hold of Kyle’s arm and dragging him toward the window.

Alone with Liz again, Max ran a hand down the length of Liz’s hair. “You scared me, honey. Don’t ever do that again.” Max pulled her into a hug, crushing her against his chest. And it was a minute before he realized she wasn’t responding. Slowly, he released her from his grip, framing her face with his hands. “Liz?”

“I can’t go,” she whispered. “I just can’t do it, Max. Please don’t make me.”

“Hey, no one’s going to make you do anything you don’t want to do. But let’s talk about this first.” Now that he knew what she was talking about, his heart ached for her. “Don’t you think you should go to the funeral? I don’t want you to regret not being there for the rest of your life.”

Liz opened her eyes, turned them to meet the spot on the horizon she had gazed at for days. “I know. I thought about that too. But I just can’t, not when I know the whole thing is my fault.”

“What? Liz, no. Nothing that happened is your fault! How can you say that?” He forced her to look at him, taken back by the anger burning in her eyes.

“Then whose fault is it? They shouldn’t have even been there! They should have been here, safe and sound. Instead, they went to that damned picnic and I had to listen to my father tell me he was ready to die. Do you have any idea how hard that was?” She broke off, choking on a sob. When Max tried to hug her, she rose from the chair, suddenly filled with restless energy.

“Liz-“

“I couldn’t heal him, Max. He wouldn’t let me heal him. And I listened! Why did I listen to him?”

“It’s not your fault,” Max repeated, his heart bleeding as he watched her pace.

“Then whose fault is it? Amy’s for helping plan it? Your mother’s for needing to be healed that day? Alex’s for not being strong enough to stop him?”

Max’s jaw tightened as he knew what she was thinking, what she had paused before saying aloud. “Mine for saving you?”

Liz stopped pacing and met Max’s eyes again. All of the anger drained out of her when she saw the hurt shining deep in his eyes. She had sliced through him with that last comment. And she would continue to hurt him until she found a way out of the madness in her brain. “I need someone to blame, but I don’t know who or why. It’s not fair they’re gone. It’s not fair that Alex is in just as much pain as I am, but I don’t care. He lost his father too, and every time I want to go see him, I can’t because I have this image in my head that I can’t make go away.”

“I understand, but-“

“How can you understand? Max, one minute, I was talking to them about our wedding and the next, they were dead. Every time I close my eyes, I see Alex killing them.”

“But it wasn’t him. It’s not your fault and it’s not Alex’s.” It took a herculean effort to stay on the other side of the roof, giving her space. But she was hugging herself tightly and he had never felt so inept in his life.

“I know that. But I can’t get past it. I’ve tried, but it’s this place. Everything reminds me of them, of Alex, of everything that happened. I need to get away for awhile.”

Max nodded. “Okay, where do you want to go? We can pack up the car and leave as soon as you want.”

Liz’s lower lip trembled. He didn’t get it. Of course he didn’t get it. She’d taken great pains to block their connection. She loved Max with everything she was. Her entire world involved him. But there were some things that had to be done alone. “No, Max. I need to get away.”

Max froze, understanding dawning. “You’re leaving me.” It was every fear, every nightmare he’d ever known rolled into one thought.

Liz saw the fear, the panic in his eyes and she moved across the roof until she was close enough to stroke his chest. “No. Never. Don’t you get it by now? No matter what happens, you are my future. But I need some time to sort out this mess in my head. I don’t want to blame Alex. I love him. And I don’t want to feel like there were a hundred things I could have done differently to save them. I need to make peace with it all.

She was begging him with her eyes, pleading for him to understand and he ran a hand through his hair, hating the idea of leaving her alone. But he knew he had no choice. If this was what it took to help her, then he would support her. Even if it meant suffering through a broken heart. “How long?” he choked out.

Liz let out a breath of relief. She couldn’t do this without his support. “A few days, maybe a week. I just need to think.”

Max pulled her into the circle of his arms, holding on to her as long as he could. “Promise me one thing. Promise me you’ll come back.”

“Of course I’ll come back.” She let her hand brush a lock of hair off his forehead. “Even if it’s just for you, I’ll be back.”

“You’re not going to the funeral, are you?”

Liz bit her lip. “I can’t. I know how weak it seems, but it’s too soon. Will you go for me?” Her lip quivered again. “You were their son, Max. They loved you too.”

“Of course I’ll go, to Alex’s fathers too.”

Liz nodded, clinging to the last scrap of her control. She couldn’t think about Charles’s death yet. It was too fresh, too raw. “I have to go now. I can’t tell the others. It’s-“

“I’ll take care of everything. Don’t worry about anything but you.” He was still clinging to her, wanting to touch her until the last possible second. But he knew that second had come. He released his grip on her, letting her slide out of his arms. “You’d better go now then. You can take my car. It’s parked across the street.” He pressed the keys into her hand, meeting her eyes one last time.

Liz closed the distance between them, pressing her lips against Max’s briefly as the first of the tears fell down her cheek. And for the briefest of seconds, she allowed their connection to open again, to allow him to see that she didn’t hold him responsible of anything

I love you, her mind whispered to him.

And with her whispered admission, she slipped from his arms and hurried down the fire escape. Max remained standing in the middle of the rooftop, listening to the roar of his engine as it came to life. Mechanically, he sunk down to the chair Liz had occupied these last few days. And though he believed her when she said she was coming back, he knew he would have no way of knowing how long that would take. But he would be waiting for her.

TBC...
*~*~

Okay, before you all freak out on me. I swear this is not going to turn into another Finding Yourself. *wink* I've already said that I anticipate another six or seven parts to wrap this story up, and it still stands. Everything is right on track. I just knew you guys were going to think I was pulling another one on you. Ironically, it just seems that I like to have Liz run away. Read nothing important into that. I'm shooting to have another part out to you guys maybe first of next week? It all depends on if my internet service gets installed or if I get a chance to write. But I really want to finish this one soon. Bear with me a little bit longer, folks. We're almost there.

posted on 26-Mar-2002 7:49:41 AM
Look at that. I'm picking up new people. Hey guys! waves at all new people

Welcome aboard. I just wanted to drop you guys a note and let you know where I am. I was trying to get a part out last weekend, but I'm in the middle of moving still. I know exactly how I'm going to finish this puppy, but I haven't had the time to sit and do it. But I'm predicting maybe another three or four parts, depending on the length I make them. I will get another part out this week sometime. I just don't know when. But keep an eye out.

As usual, I love you guys!

~Stacey
posted on 1-Apr-2002 11:03:55 AM
Hey, gang. You are never going to guess what happened this weekend. The unexpected, the unthinkable. It really is amazing. When you hear it, you're going to just faint dead away from shock. Are you ready? Are you sure? Okay, here goes...

*clears throat*

I...finished writing this story this weekend.

I know, I know. Didn't I tell you it was amazing? I started writing and I just couldn't stop. It was crazy. It flowed like water. So, I have a total of three parts left for you. Yea, me!

And the even better news, because it just keeps coming today. Is that I already have the first few parts of the third story...Wherever You May Go already written. Are you guys going to die of shock or what? Of course, I need to find those parts, and since I'm in the middle of a move, that's easier said than done. But cross your fingers, I think that I know where they are. In fact, I'm pretty sure I know.

Anywho, I just wanted to drop you guys a note and let you know the crazy good news. All I have to do it type them up and they're yours. So, maybe you'll get the next part today. If not, tomorrow morning first thing. It's a nice long part. *wink*

I am just too good to you guys.

Love you and see you in a bit!

~Stacey
posted on 2-Apr-2002 7:27:01 AM
Geez, harass me already. *wink*

I know I said I was going to post a new part yesterday, but I'm still typing. Give me a couple of more minutes. And no, it wasn't an April Fools Day joke, although it would have been even funnier if I'd written THE END at the end of the FY part I posted yesterday. Or maybe that would have been funny just to me. Oh well. Let me finish typing up for you guys. And yes, there are three more parts to finish this story, but there is a third installment. It's called Wherever You May Go. I forgot to look for it last night, but like I said yesterday, I'm pretty sure I know where it is. So, there shouldn't be too big of a delay in posting. I trust you all had a happy April Fools' Day and didn't fall prey to too many jokes.

Back in a few!

~Stacey
posted on 2-Apr-2002 12:06:34 PM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Hey guys. Here you go as promised. After this part, there will be approximately two more parts left. And then on to the third story. The title of which I will continue beating into your head until it's ingrained into your subconscious memories. Ready for it? Wherever You May Go Everybody get that? Okay, without further ado, here is the long awaited part 61. I'm thinking I should be able to get 62 up tomorrow for you. But only because you guys love me so much.

Learning to Live
Part 61

Max tried to relax his body as he held his hand high above the bronze bust on the coffee table. He’d been trying to change the molecular structure of the stupid thing for close to an hour now with no luck. He simply couldn’t concentrate.

“I knew that thing was rigged,” Maria proclaimed finally. She’d been watching him try to change it for fifteen minutes and she was afraid he would chuck it across the room in frustration soon.

Max sat back on the couch with a sigh. “I give up.”

Isabel presented Michael with her open palm. “I win. Pay up.”

Grumbling, Michael pulled a five dollar bill from his pocket and slapped it in her empty palm. “Thanks, Maxwell. I defended you, and this is what I get?”

“I told you he was too stressed to do it. Max, have we proved our point yet? Killing yourself isn’t going to bring Liz back any sooner,” Isabel informed him. “You can’t even do a simple trick you mastered at the age of nine.”

“It’s been two weeks, Is. Two weeks and not a word. I’m worried about her.” Max rested his head on the back of the couch, then turned his head towards Alex’s door. “He still won’t come out?”

Isabel shook her head sadly. “He blames himself for everything. And he barely lets me in anymore. I don’t know what to do. I’ve tried just sitting with him, and I’ve tried talking to him. Neither one works.”

Maria gave Isabel a sad smile. “Maybe he doesn’t need you to be soft on him anymore. You’re going to have to give him a swift kick and convince him that it wasn’t his fault. Liz won’t blame him. How could she?”

“Easy,” Alex answered from the doorway of his bedroom. “I saw it in her eyes. I felt it when we were on the dreamplane. She doesn’t like it, but she blames me. And she always will. It’s why she left.”

Alex’s eyes were boring a hole into Max’s head and Max was forced to look away. Liz had told him as much already. But Alex had never said he had known it with such certainty.

Isabel rose from the couch, happy to at least see Alex up and moving. It was more than she’d seen him do in weeks now.

“Alex! You’re wrong. Liz will figure it out in her head and come back here to tell you you’re wrong.”

Alex tried to swallow the lump in his throat that formed whenever he thought of Liz. “I wish I could believe that, but I can’t. I’m going for a walk.”

Isabel watched him make long strides towards the door. It was a second before she snapped out of her daze long enough to start after him. “Alex, wait.”

“Alex!” Kyle greeted his roommate with a grin, surprised to see him out as he walked in the door.

Alex brushed past him without a word. “Was it something I said?”

Isabel pushed past Kyle and Tess, racing after Alex. He was moving fast, but she could be quicker. Nevertheless, it took her three blocks before she caught up with him in the park.

“Alex, talk to me!”

“About what, Isabel?” Alex stopped in his tracks and spun so fast, he almost knocked her down. “They’re gone. Dead.”

“How can you still blame yourself for that? How were you supposed to go against something like him? Michael couldn’t, he shared a brain with that thing for weeks. It used my powers to do the evil things it did. Your father couldn’t even resist him. How were you supposed to?”

“It’s different.” Isabel’s tone was harsher, more angry than he’d seen her in years. For the last two weeks, she’d been content to let him be, and all of a sudden she was in his face and trying to force him to move on. And he didn’t like it.

Isabel shook her head, remembering Maria’s advice to be firm. “It’s not. You can’t keep doing this to yourself, and to the people around you. What do you think you’re doing to Maria? She’s lost both you and Liz and nothing we say helps any. Because we’re not you and Liz. You three are the best of friends, nothing has ever changed that. And she needs you to snap out of this. Liz will too when she comes back. She’ll need you to be strong for her, and how are you supposed to do that if you can’t even come out of your room and face the world?”

“Isabel, I don’t want to do this with you.”

“Tough. We’ve done it your way and now we’re doing it mine.” Relenting, Isabel relaxed just a notch. “I won’t let you do this to yourself, Alex. I love you too much,” she whispered, acutely aware that she hadn’t spoken the words aloud since their first and only time together.

Alex closed his eyes, letting her words wash over him, a balm to his aching soul. His shoulders sagged. He was tired, so tired of fighting with himself. Tired of pushing Isabel away instead of pulling her close. He was tired of being alone. Shifting his body back toward Isabel, Alex struggled to find the words to say to her. Surely, there had to be something he could say to erase the fatigue in her eyes.

“Alex?”

Alex turned when he heard his name and he came face to face with a ghost from his past. “Breanna?”

Breanna closed the distance between them and she offered Alex a comforting smile. “I was coming to see you. I just found out about your father, and I wanted to see if you were okay.”

Alex wanted to feel anger. He wanted to feel rage, anything for the girl standing before him that had once been his whole world. She had brought him to his knees when she’d left, hurting him more than he ever cared to be hurt again. But as he stood facing her for the first time since she had spewed the hateful words, he found that he felt nothing. Perhaps a few weeks ago, there would have been some form of memory that would have popped up of their last encounter and the hurtful words she had thrown at him.

Isabel shifted next to Alex, drawing closer to him in a defensive stance as anger coursed through her. Who the hell did this chick think she was? She’d destroyed Alex in the worst way possible then had the nerve to show up? “Breanna-“

“I’m doing as well as can be expected, Breanna. Thank you.” Alex knew Isabel was dying to get her hands on Breanna and probably blast her into oblivion. But it wouldn’t do any good. Alex hadn’t realized it until that very moment, but he hadn’t thought of Breanna in weeks. He had finally moved on and he hadn’t realized it. But Isabel didn’t know that. He had seen her nightmares and knew that this confrontation was one of her biggest fears. Isabel, who he had loved in one way or another his whole life, who had taken care of him day and night for two weeks, who was the strongest person he had ever known, was afraid that he wouldn’t choose her.

Slowly, second by second, Alex felt himself coming back to life again. Shutting out Isabel and his friends hadn’t done anyone any good. Isabel had been right. Maria had lost a lot too, and he had shut her out when they had needed each other. He hadn’t allowed Isabel to grieve for a man that had always been a second father, a man that had hurt her by seeing her as a monster in the last few months of his life. He had let her down worst of all. And it stopped today.

“I’m sorry I didn’t make it to the funeral, but I just moved back to town a few days ago.” She faltered, not knowing if she should share her news. “Doug and I broke up,” she confessed. “And I was thinking that maybe if you weren’t busy, we could get a cup of coffee and catch up. I’ve missed you.”

Isabel’s heart hammered wildly in her throat. This had been the moment she had dreaded. It had only been a matter of time before Breanna came back for Alex. And Alex would forgive her for everything she had put him through. It was who he was.

“I’ll let you two catch up,” Isabel decided, lowering her eyes. Before she could move, Alex’s fingers threaded and twined with hers. Optimistic, she looked up and found something she hadn’t dared hope for. Raw, undisguised love burned in his eyes. And it was all for her.

Alex smiled at her in reassurance, then turned back to Breanna. The exchange hadn’t gone unnoticed by the other girl who was frowning at the sight of their joined hands.

“Breanna, I-“

“Maybe we can get together some other time,” she suggested with a pointed look at Isabel, the only competition she had ever known.

“Breanna, I’m sorry. A lot has changed since you left. Isabel and I - I’m in love with her,” he confessed.

Isabel felt as though her heart would burst with pleasure in that moment. Alex was clinging to her hand, squeezing it as though his life depended on it. He had chosen her. He really wanted to be with her.

Breanna nodded, lowering her head. “I see. You know, I always knew there was something between you two. Not that I thought you were together behind my back. You were too good to do something like that. But maybe it was a spark.” She offered them both a smile. “I should go.”

Alex considered her words. Had he been unfair to Breanna when they’d dated? He’d been half in love with Isabel his whole life. Had Breanna always felt inferior? “Breanna, wait.” Alex glanced at Isabel to assure her nothing had changed between them, then he released her hand to take a step toward Breanna.

“I’m sorry things didn’t work out for you and Doug. If you need a friend, you can call me.”

Breanna sniffled and let out a shaky laugh. “How can you be so nice tome after everything I said to you? I was horrible. Alex, I owe you an apology. I didn’t really mean the things I said. You’re none of the things I accused you of being. But I think you already figured it out. I’m happy for you, Alex. But I really should go.”

Alex nodded and watched her go. He was sad for her as a friend, but in the end, she had done him more good than harm.

“Are you okay?”

Alex nodded, not sure if she was talking about Breanna or in general. But he realized for the first time in two weeks that he hadn’t felt as though the world were pressing in on him. And it felt like maybe things were going to be okay.

“Not yet. But I think I might be with your help. Is it too late?”

Isabel sighed as tears blurred her vision. In his eyes, she could see a hint of the old Alex struggling to come back to life. And she smiled. “How about we get some coffee and talk?”

“Can I have the complimentary relationship to go with it?” Alex quipped, trying out the old sensation of humor. It wasn’t as painful as he’d thought it would be.

Isabel linked her arm through Alex’s and led him down the street. “I think ‘love affair’ sounds more romantic. Don’t you?”

*~*~

“Max, you’ve been scrubbing at that spot for ten minutes now, man. Either leave it be or blast it away,” Michael scolded him. He’d been watching Max scrub at a juice stain on the kitchen counter, waves of frustration coming off of him that had nothing to do with a stubborn stain.

“No,” Max snapped. “I’m not using my powers to get rid of this problem. I can fix it without them.” Every time he had reached for his powers, it had been a reminder to him of what his being different had cost them.

“She’ll come back. Maria’s right.”

Max slumped against the counter. “Michael, can we not-“

“She’s already back.”

Max turned, his eyes wide with wonder. And his heart leapt to see Liz standing in the doorway with a small overnight bag at her feet. Acting on a deeply imbedded instinct to touch her, Max crossed the distance between them and had her in his arms in an instant. Needing to taste her, he crushed his lips to hers, desperate for any contact with her after so long.

Liz returned his desperate kiss with one of her own. It had been years since they’d been separated for so lengthy a time and it had left her aching for him. Dimly, she heard Michael calling for Maria, but Liz was caught up in the fireworks exploding in her brain from Max’s kiss. She tangled her fingers in his hair, pulling him ever closer. But it still wasn’t enough. Needing everything from him, she allowed the barrier she had placed between their connection to be lifted and the strength of Max’s love took her breath away.

Too long, he sobbed as their souls brushed together for the first time in weeks. Don’t ever leave me again.

Never, she promised.

“Michael, I don’t understand what all the – Liz?” Maria was still in the process of pulling her arm from Michael’s grip when she saw her friend before her. Max was wrapped around her, looking as if he would pull Liz inside of himself if he could find a way. But just because they were in the midst of a reunion didn’t mean she was going to wait for hers. They could be content to do that for hours yet.

Elbowing Max out of the way, Maria forced them to break their kiss so she could pull Liz into a hug of her own. “You have no idea how good it is to see you,” Maria cried as she crushed her friend to her chest.

Liz heard the hint of hysteria in Maria’s voice and it sliced through her. “I’m so sorry, Maria. This was so hard on everyone and I wasn’t here. Thank you for taking care of them like I know you did.”

“Knock that off before I start crying again.” Maria released her grip on Liz but kept her at arms length. “How are you really?”

Liz turned and met Max’s worried gaze. She knew he had wanted to ask the question himself, but had held back. Their connection was still holding strong, and she allowed him to see inside to the progress she’d made over the last few weeks. “I’m better now,” she supplied for Maria and Michael’s sake. “Where is everyone else?”

“Tess and Kyle are out getting lunch and Isabel and Alex left a few hours ago.” Maria tried to decide if she should tell Liz about the state Alex had been in after she left. Deciding it might do more harm not to tell her, Maria began. “Liz, he’s been…“

Liz nodded, sure she understood what Maria was telling her. And the butterflies in her stomach began flapping their lead wings. Alex was the final hurdle she had yet to cross. “I need to talk to him,” she agreed. Not talking it out would only cause a suffocating tension.

Maria nodded in agreement, though she wasn’t sure if that were going to be for the best. Had Liz found a way past the guilt and blame she had run from? “Do you and Max need some time alone? What am I saying? Of course you do. We’ll just leave.”

“No, wait. You don’t have to go.” Liz returned to her place at Max’s side. She already felt more settled just being in his presence. And she could feel his own self doubts dissolving as their connection continued to strengthen between them. “I was really screwed up when I left and I was afraid I was going to start blaming the wrong people for what happened. That’s why I left.”

Liz scrunched her forehead as she reached for a painful memory. “Before Dad died, he told me to be happy wherever it took me. And the only place I’ve ever been happy is here in this town, in this building, in Max’s arms.” Liz met Max’s eyes, soft and filled with love and it gave her the rest of the strength she needed. “I want to marry you just like we planned. I want the family we’ve dreamed about. Not now, when it’s safe like we agreed,” she added when she felt the doubt flicker through their connection. She hadn’t forgotten his fear of creating a child that was destined to be a part of some vague prophecy on another planet. I want to spend my life with you.

If you’re sure…

I’ve never been more sure of anything. I love you.

Then we still have a date to keep.

Liz smiled when Max began projecting images of what he had always imagined their wedding would be like. “Max and I are getting married next week. But I can’t do it alone. I’m going to need help.”

Max’s heart continued to swell when he felt how incredibly sure she was about marrying him. He’d never known anything like it and her love filled him until he thought he would burst from pleasure. “I’ll marry you any day, any time. We can do it on the roof right now if that’s what you want.”

Liz laughed softly. “I was thinking of something a bit more traditional, but how about we call that plan B?”

With happy tears streaming down her face, Maria pressed a hand to her heart. It was good to hear laughter again. “You know I’ll do whatever I have to do to put this thing together, and I know I’m not the only one.”

“I guess that means I’ve been recruited,” Michael conceded, but with a grin. “Just don’t ask me to bake. We’ll all be better off that way.”

The front door opened and Isabel and Alex froze in the doorway when they saw Liz. Isabel had the ridiculous urge to grab Alex and run. After all the time they’d spent that morning together, all the progress they’d made, they were standing in front of the one person that could undo it all with a single harsh word. Liz Parker could break Alex if she wanted to, and Isabel had never felt more helpless.

Knowing it was time to face the music, Alex stepped past Isabel and toward his lifelong friend. “Liz,” he greeted her with a small nod. He shoved his hands in his pockets, half afraid he would drop to his knees and beg her forgiveness right then and there.

Liz bit her lower lip, steeling her courage. “Alex, can we talk in the other room?”

Alex nodded and followed her away from the group and into Liz’s bedroom. They both remained standing long after the door had clicked shut behind them. Neither knew where to begin or if the chasm that stood between them was too large to bridge.

Finally raising her eyes from the carpet, Liz faced her friend. She’d told herself that this moment would be the ultimate test. If she could look him in the eyes and see Alex instead of the murderer, they would be fine. “Alex?” she asked softly when he wouldn’t meet her eyes.

Feeling his heart beating wildly in his chest, Alex raised his gaze until he could hold it steady on her face. Unexpectedly, her face softened and her eyes filled with tears. And he could hold her gaze no more.

“Liz, look, I know you probably didn’t expect me to be here when you came home. So, I’ll just get out of here and let you get settled in.” He was panicked now. For the last ten days, he’d told himself that he would bow gracefully out of her life if he needed to. But now, faced with losing one of his dearest friends, he found himself stalling for time.

“Alex, wait,” she called out to him. “There’s something I need to tell you. It’s something I should have told you before I left, but I couldn’t.”

She was pleading with him to understand, but he had no idea what she was trying to tell him. But he found himself nodding nonetheless. “Whatever you want to tell me is fine.” He was braced for an attack. He deserved one. The sooner they got it out of the way, the better.

Liz nodded, chewing her bottom lip nervously again. She was surprised it wasn’t raw and bleeding yet, but it was the least of her concerns. “It’s about your father.”

Alex closed his eyes as guilt automatically flooded through him. “What about him?” This wasn’t what he expected, but in some ways it was a hundred times worse. “Liz, you know I’ll do anything you want. I owe you that much. But can we please not talk about him?”

Liz studied Alex carefully. “You’re angry with him.” It had never even occurred to her until that moment. And she wondered if even Isabel had discovered that yet.

Alex felt a floodgate open wide within him and anger gushed out. “So what if I am? He led that thing right to us. He was that afraid, that disgusted by what he’d found out, that he couldn’t even see that Isabel was the same person she always was. Knowing that he saw her differently killed her.”

“Is that what you think? Alex, no. God, I wish I’d been strong enough to show you this before I left.” With a sigh, Liz took a hesitant step towards Alex. “Alex, your father was confused. When the Scaribe was in Michael’s mind, he took advantage of the situation to find the weaknesses in our group. Our parents were his best way in. He went to your father and he…seduced him, used the promise he made to your mother against him.”

Alex shook his head in confusion. “I don’t understand.”

“The Scaribe knew about your father’s promise to keep you safe. He probably found it out when Maria helped free Michael and they formed a connection. The Scaribe toyed with your dad, whispered in his ear all sorts of things about what Isabel and the others would do to you unless he stopped them. And when your father was frantic with worry, he was tricked into letting the Scaribe take him over.”

“Liz, I can’t believe that. I wish I could, but-“

“I saw it all when I challenged the Scaribe and connected with him. I can show you if you want. Will you let me?”

Unable to deny her anything, Alex found himself nodding. There was a part of him that still hoped that things could be fixed. Liz was talking to him, not throwing blame and accusations. And he would listen to her as long as she talked to him.

Liz moved to stand in front of Alex and reached out her hands, palms up. Without hesitation, Alex covered her small hands and the flashes began immediately.

Alex could feel the extent of Liz’s control over the alien powers as she tried to block some of the more gruesome images. But Alex still saw the lives and deaths of the earlier victims. He saw into Liz’s mind as she had whispered goodbye to her parents before charging recklessly into battle. He saw her pain and loneliness over the last ten days and her relief a few minutes ago when she could look at him and see only her friend in pain. And he saw flashes of his father’s life, dating and marrying his mother, his grief after her death and his pain when he was torn trying to keep her deathbed promise.

Liz broke the connection when there was no more left to show him and she waited as he processed the new information.

Shocked and on the verge of tears, Alex tried to cling to the emotions Liz had shown him. Looking around the room helplessly, he stumbled backward, catching hold of the nearby dresser to stop his fall. “He was ready to accept her,” he whispered reverently. “He knew I loved Isabel and he was ready to accept her when the Scaribe came.” He had seen it all. After his conversation with Amy Deluca, he had begun to see things in a different light. And the relief was so sudden, he wanted to sink to his knees.

Liz nodded as a tear slipped down her own cheek for the man she had loved. “He wanted you to be happy, and he knew that only Isabel would do that.”

“How do you not hate me?” Alex asked sharply as his brain continued to process all that he had seen. “I don’t understand. You should after everything that happened,” Alex insisted. There hadn’t been a trace of ill will in the connection and he wanted to sob in relief. Hell, he just wanted to sob.

Liz had known Alex wouldn’t believe that she had found a way to separate him from the murders. Meeting his eyes had been a final test for her as well. “Alex, I’ve already lost more members of my family that I can bear. You are my oldest friend in the world and I love you. I can’t lose you too.” A sob escaped her throat when she thought about how much she had lost in that single moment.

Alex took a step closer to her, wanting to dry her tears as he’d done a thousand times before. But never before had he been the source of her tears. “Can you forgive me then? Is there a way I can ever make things right between us?” He sniffled, not ashamed of his open tears. Liz probably couldn’t see them through her own anyway.

Liz laughed. “Alex, I’m telling you there’s nothing to forgive. We both lost too much. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to let go of my own guilt just like I know you probably can’t either. But maybe if we try together…I need you, Alex. I need you to help me.”

Unable to resist her heart-wrenching sobs, Alex pulled her into his arms and crushed her body against his chest. Liz settled her head on his shoulder and clung to him tightly as the sobs wracked her frame.

“I’m sorry, Liz. I’ll do anything you want,” he promised, stroking her hair. “We’ll get through this together. I promise.”

The door behind them was flung open to reveal a visibly upset Maria. “Now, listen up both of you. There’s not going to be any blame or guilt or anything but love. There’s been enough – are you two hugging?”

Liz laughed and stretched out an arm for Maria to join them. “It’s okay, Maria. Everything’s going to be okay.”

“Thank god!” Maria rushed forward to join their circle and they ended up in a heap on the floor from the force of her embrace.

And as their giggles mixed with tears, Liz could feel Max’s presence in her mind, his love and reassurance filling her. And for the first time in weeks, Liz felt like she had finally gotten something right. She had come home to the people that she loved.




posted on 3-Apr-2002 12:03:48 PM
Oh, I see Sheeijan is in a plucky mood today. LOL Yes, we are approaching the end of our journey. But don't go far. There is plenty more story to be told. And you guys are going to love it. I'm excited just thinking about it.

Okay, I'm getting out of here to see about typing up today's part. It's kind of sad to type them though. I don't really want it to end. Let's see, can we kill someone else off for added angst? Joking. I was just joking, people.

And just for Sheeijan, the third story is called Wherever You May Go *wink*

Be back in a few.

~Stacey

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 3-Apr-2002 12:05:40 PM ]
posted on 4-Apr-2002 10:44:57 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

We're approaching the end here, ladies and gentleman. One more part to go. Hmm, I wonder what that will be about? LOL I'm thinking I can have it up either tomorrow or this weekend sometime. I'm going to try to work on it a bit more today. I want to get this last part just right. *wink*

Learning to Live
Part 62

“And when Max and I wouldn’t stop communicating with our minds instead of out loud, Isabel got so frustrated she left. She came back a little while later of course and we apologized. But neither of us want the elaborate decorations she has planned. I think we got her to tone it down at least, but she is Isabel so there’s no telling what it’ll look like. She agreed to cancel the ice sculptures, but I think she’s going to slip one in anyway. She once told me that it wasn’t a wedding reception without an ice sculpture.” Liz paused, sitting back in the fresh earth as she continued burying the small wildflowers in the dirt around her parent’s tombstones.

“Need some help with that?”

Liz turned and smiled at Alex, who was standing a discrete distance away. For the first time since their parent’s deaths, Alex and Liz had come to the cemetery. Max and Isabel had wanted to come, but in the end they had understood and let them go alone. Together, they had found the strength to say goodbye and after visiting Charles’ grave and planting flowers, they had moved to the Parkers’ final resting place. Alex had dismissed himself for a few minutes to give Liz some privacy just as she had done when they had been standing before Charles’s grave.

“I’d love some help,” Liz declared, looking up at her friend with a small smile.

Alex knelt in the dirt beside her and helped dig the neat holes she insisted on. “Did you fill them in on the wedding plans?”

Liz nodded. “Yeah, complete with Isabel’s irritation with Max and I, and the horrified expression on Maria’s face when they delivered the wrong bridesmaid dresses and she thought I had switched them. I think they would have enjoyed seeing that.”

Alex worked in silence, wrestling with whether or not to share what had been weighing heavily on his mind. “I had a dream last night. Dad came to say goodbye. He apologized for not realizing that Isabel was still Isabel no matter what. Then Mom showed up and told me how proud of me she was. They said they loved Isabel and I shouldn’t wait too long to propose to her.” Alex laughed, then sniffled, wiping at a stray tear on his cheek. “Matchmaking at it’s finest. But I don’t know if it was real like the dreams you and Maria had or just my subconscious trying to fix things.”

“Which do you think it is?” Liz had stopped planting flowers, watching Alex instead.

Alex scrubbed at another tear with the back of his hand, smudging dirt along his cheekbone. “It doesn’t matter because I know in my heart that Dad loved her and I know Mom would have too. She’s my future, Liz. I get you and Max now. I finally understand why you did everything you did in high school. And I’m sorry for all the times I made fun of you behind your back with Maria.”

Liz frowned at him. “Thanks…I think.”

Alex grinned at her as he planted another flower. “I’ve been thinking about it ever since you showed me Mom and Dad’s life together. I was really too young to remember how they were together. But seeing through his eyes how much he loved her, it made sense why he wouldn’t let Isabel set him up on any dates. He’d already found his dream woman. And he knew there wasn’t anyone else out there for him. And I respect that. I only wish I’d known it before it was too late. I would have loved to have had the chance to sit and talk to him about it. I feel the same way with Isabel. If I lost her, that would be it for me. I’d survive, but I wouldn’t have a heart to give away again.”

Liz nodded, knowing exactly what he was talking about. If she lost Max, her heart would simply be carved out of her chest and there was no other person on any planet that would be able to fill that void. “Your dad was a smart man. But I guess all the Whitman men are like that. Smart and loyal.”

“Like a Collie,” Alex agreed with a chuckle. Wanting to change the subject, he nudged her in the ribs. “So, are you nervous about tomorrow yet?”

Liz shrugged. “Not really. It just feels right. Tomorrow is just the legal way of joining us together. We chose each other a long time ago.” She resumed planting, choosing her next words carefully. “By the way, I have something I’ve wanted to ask you…a favor.”

“Name it and it’s yours.”

“I want you to give me away tomorrow.”

Alex closed his eyes when the tears unexpectedly sprung up. “Liz, I’m not so sure that’s the best idea. Why not Kyle’s dad? He’d be more than happy to do it. Or Max’s dad. Anyone but me.”

“Because aside from Max, you’re the most important man in my life. You were the first friend I made-“

“Maria came along like three minutes after I introduced myself,” he reminded her.

“But I’ve still known you three minutes longer and Maria is a girl,” she argued with a smile. “Please, Alex. This would mean the world to me.”

“Don’t give me the puppy dog eyes. You know I can’t resist them…okay, fine. I’ll do it. Just cut it out and put those things away.” He scowled at her when she grinned in triumph. “Has anyone warned Max about those things yet? You shouldn’t be allowed to use them.”

Liz planted the last flower and started gathering her tools. “He knows all about it, but he’s powerless against it. Speaking of Max, he’s probably waiting for me at the Crashdown. We should go.”

Alex helped her stand and took her bag as she brushed herself off. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure Isabel is there too. Are you done here or do you need another minute to say goodbye?”

Liz glanced back at the twin graves, now covered with brightly colored flowers. Then she met Alex’s eyes, still colored with guilt and pain, but less with each passing day, and she smiled at him. “I’m ready if you are.”

Alex held out a hand to her and she gladly linked fingers with him. Together, they left the cemetery, leaving the ghosts of their past behind them.

*~*~

“No, no, no, no, no!” Isabel yelled into her cell phone as she rifled through a stack of papers in front of her. “The gazebo needs to be delivered and set up this afternoon and I specifically ordered the white wood with the pink roses…no, that’s not what you sent me! It’s a brown wood with no flowers! No, tomorrow won’t be good enough. I need it today.”

“Man, am I ever glad she took over the vendors from us,” Maria announced from behind the counter. Beside her, Cassie wiped down the counter with wide eyes as they watched Isabel deal with the man on the other end of the phone.

“Me too,” she agreed.

“I don’t understand what all the fuss is about,” Michael supplied. “I mean, it’s just a wedding.”

Maria rolled her eyes, thinking as she always did of Future Max’s words to her three years ago.

So, Max, tell me about the future

The day Liz and I eloped, you five were the only ones we called. We partied till dawn. Later, you told Liz that while Liz and I were dancing our last dance, Michael looked at you and told you he wanted that with you.

He said that?

Actually, he said it wouldn’t be so bad to be hitched someday and he’d agree to marry you if you wouldn’t nag him about it.

That sounds more like him. So, did I?

Did you what?

Nag him.

Everyday until the day he married you. And when you came down the church aisle, Michael thought you were taking too long. So, he stalked down the aisle, picked you up in his arms and carried you up to the altar. I don’t think he let go of your hand all night.


That had been the future Liz had changed, the future that had haunted her until her capture by Nicholas when Max had finally learned the truth. So, Maria figured that if Max and Liz’s future had changed, so had hers and Michael’s. But the soft part of her heart wanted to believe that there would come a day when Michael would look at her with love shining in his eyes and ask her to spend his life with her. It didn’t have to be a sweeping romantic gesture, just a promise. And she hadn’t quite given up that hope yet.

“You’re just the calm type, I suppose,” Maria answered, though she could still hear Future Max’s words in her head. She loved Michael, she really did. But sometimes he could be the most unromantic person on the planet. “However, Max over there looks as if he’s ready to have a heart attack if anyone sneaks up on him.” Giving up on any pretense of work, Maria propped her elbows on the counter and openly stared at Max as he nervously read through the same papers over and over again. “What is he doing anyway?”

Michael snorted. “He’s reading over the program for the ceremony tomorrow. He said something about wanting to make sure he didn’t screw up.” Michael shrugged. “I don’t get it. How can you screw up your own wedding. As long as he shows up, it’s pretty much downhill from there.” He caught Maria’s incredulous look and he scowled.

Maria smiled at him and planted a kiss on his cheek that she knew would only confuse him more. The truth was, she saw through his facade. She knew Michael was just as nervous about tomorrow as Max was, and Maria thought it was adorable. Just this morning, he’d had a near panic attack when he couldn’t find the rings. And though he was playing it cool now, she’d caught him smoothing down the lines of the tuxedos that had been delivered early that morning.

“Liz is here,” Maria announced, ignoring the look of bewilderment on Michael’s face. “Maybe she can talk some sense into him.”

As Liz and Alex walked though the doors, arm in arm, it warmed Maria’s heart. She wasn’t naïve enough to believe that everything was okay now, but they were a far cry better than the state things had been in a few weeks ago. She knew her two friends still blamed themselves for what had happened and she wasn’t sure how much of that would fade with the passage of time. But at least they didn’t blame each other. And it was a start.

The bleak world Alex’s mother had warned them of would never have a chance to happen. Maria had thought about it and had talked it out with Isabel and they had come to the conclusion that she had been trying to warn them about the deaths. Alex’s mother had known that Liz would have the power to split apart their group if she hadn’t been able to push past the blame she had come close to inappropriately doling out. While she had warned Isabel that the future wasn’t to be changed, she had given them enough warning to prepare as a group to survive the test laid before them. And they had come out on the other side, stronger than ever before.

Alex and Liz split apart, seeing their significant others. Alex took notice of the way Isabel continued to yell into her cell phone and wisely decided to head for the counter.

“Isabel’s still talking to the rental guy?” Alex asked Cassie as he took a seat at the counter in front of her.

Cassie nodded shyly and turned to pour his usual orange soda before he had the chance to order it.

“I feel bad for the poor guy. She’s been up and yelling at him since dawn. Thanks, Cassie.” He nodded at her as she slid the drink in front of him.

Maria caught the young waitress’s blush at being addressed directly and Maria shook her head at how oblivious Alex was to the school girl crush. But instead of embarrassing anyone, she turned soft eyes on Alex. “Did you guys have a good visit?”

Alex nodded at Maria, absently raising a hand to rub the spot of skin on his neck just behind his ear. “Yeah, we did. Thanks for asking.”

Maria watched the movement and tried not to frown. She knew that Alex bore the mark of the Scaribe after having been possessed by him. Isabel had confided as much in her. And Maria knew that to Alex, it would forever be a reminder of the horrific events of that day in the park. But she knew how touchy he was on the subject, so she said nothing, offering him a smile instead. “So, things are looking normal again. Isabel is yelling. Max and Liz are all googly eyed in a booth. Micheal is doing nothing, as usual, while Cassie and I run the place.”

“Hey,” Michael protested. “I worked all morning with your mother delivering little green alien dolls and listening to her go on and on about being pregnant and all the cute things Jim is doing for her. If that doesn’t warrant time off this afternoon, I don’t know what does.”

“You get no sympathy from me. You didn’t walk in on them making out on the couch.” Maria grimaced. “And Kyle said something about being scarred for life after walking in on them having sex in the kitchen last week.” Maria watched as Liz kissed Max before heading in their direction.

“Hey, guys, what’s up?” She slid behind the counter and began pouring Max a cherry coke.

“Is he okay?” Maria asked, nodding toward Max.

“Nervous,” Liz announced with a smile. “You should hear some of the things he’s been think-saying,” Liz finished, remembering that Cassie was there too. “Some of the things he’s been saying have been pretty funny. He woke up at three in the morning because he’d had a nightmare where he’d forgotten to put his pants on. It took forever to convince him to come back to bed.”

“But I’ll bet you managed it somehow.” Maria grinned at Liz when her friend blushed.

Cassie beamed at Liz. “So, are you excited about tomorrow? It’s so close.”

Liz smiled at the young girl. Cassie reminded her so much of herself a few years ago. She was filled with hopeful enthusiasm and Liz enjoyed having her around. She’d already decided to keep the Crashdown open and just hire someone to oversee the day to day management. But in going through her father’s papers, she’d found that he had grudgingly decided to let Cassie go. But that was one final request that Liz couldn’t abide by. Sure, Cassie might break more glasses than she served, and she had yet to go an hour without completely mixing up the table orders, but Liz’s instinct told her to keep the girl around. And Liz always trusted her instinct.

“After all this time, she’s finally going to be Mrs. Max Evans.” Maria wrapped her arms around Liz’s shoulders. “Which is a far better name to have to live with than Mrs. Michael Guerin,” Maria decided.

“You do remember that I’m sitting right here, right?” Michael asked incredulously. “And who said I was marrying you anyway?” he teased with a half smile. “You’re stubborn and crazy.”

“Oh, you’ll be begging to marry me someday, Guerin,” she promised. “And I’m going to remind you of this conversation.” She swatted him with the dishtowel in her hands.

Liz chuckled. “You know, when I was ten, I wanted to change my name,” Liz remembered. “I decided that Liz Parker was such a bland name, I needed something more exotic.”

“That’s right!” Maria exclaimed. “I was going to change mine to Tiffany and you were going to be Janet.”

Michael snorted in laughter. “That has to be the funniest damn thing I’ve ever heard. Why would you want to change your name anyway? Why bother?”

“I was going to change my name too,” Cassie announced, wanting to stick up for her two friends.

Maria gave Michael a knowing look. “See? Cassie was going to do it too. What were you going to change your name to?”

Feeling shy again now that everyone was watching her, Cassie averted her gaze. “Well, everyone used to call me Cassandra, which I hated, so I was going to take my grandmother’s name a few years ago. Serena Taylor just seemed like a better name. But in the end, I decided to just go with Cassie.”

Liz and Maria exchanged a shocked glance, all humor dying from their faces.

“You…were going to change your name to Serena?” Liz asked carefully.

Cassie flushed, but nodded. “Yeah. Dumb, isn’t it?”

Maria found herself laughing uncontrollably until it was hard to breathe. Then she saw the crestfallen look on Cassie’s face and she back-peddled. “No! Oh, Cassie, I’m not laughing at you. It’s just that Liz and I know…knew…someone with that name. She’s kind of a long distance friend,” Maria decided, sliding a glance at Liz.

“I like Cassie better anyway,” Alex said with a smile. He was sure he should be getting the joke, but it wasn’t ringing any bells. He would have to make sure to get the details later.

“I like it too,” Liz decided with a smile. It was funny how things turned out sometimes. She hadn’t thought about the name Serena in years, had truthfully stopped wondering if she would ever meet the girl that supposedly had played such a key role in their future. But here she was standing face to face with someone she felt like she already knew. “But it’s still no Liz Evans,” she teased.

Michael rolled his eyes. “I’ve had about all the girl talk I can take. Since I know I’ll have a nervous Max to deal with all night, I’m going home to sleep now.” He rose from the stool and nodded at Liz and Maria. “Janet. Tiffany. I’ll see you two pop stars in the morning. And please don’t be late. I’d hate to have to explain it to Max. I doubt his heart can take it.”

Maria wrinkled her nose at him, but leaned over the counter to give him a kiss. “Be good, Spaceboy. No liquor, please.”

“But what will we offer the strippers to drink then?” Alex quipped, but discovered that none of the girls were laughing. “What? I can get away with it. Mine is on the phone.”

“C’mon, Whitman. We should get out of here before you get lynched.” Michael clasped a hand on Alex’s shoulder.

“Good night, ladies. Liz, I’ll see you bright and early in the morning. I’ll be the handsome guy in the charcoal tux waiting to deliver you to your destiny.”

Liz’s heart fluttered just thinking about it, and she smiled at her friend. “Thank you, Alex. For everything.”

He nodded. “What are friends for?” It still amazed him to know that Liz didn’t hold him responsible for anything that had happened. Yet, he was still faced with the knowledge every time Liz smiled at him. There were still shadows in her eyes, but finalizing her wedding plans with Max had put a bit of the old sparkle in her eyes. He had no doubt that his friend would be a beautiful bride, and she would take Max’s breath away. “Until tomorrow,” he promised with a wink. He had no doubt that the rising sun would bring magic with it. How could it not?







posted on 4-Apr-2002 1:25:53 PM
LOL that's funny, Anne. How did you miss the big link I had at the top of the thread? You were that excited about all the parents finding out about the aliens, huh? Well, I'm sure you'll find this note when you get all caught up. The way I'm plugging through this part, it might be tomorrow when I post again. *sigh* I'm in a super dreamy mood.

~Stacey
posted on 5-Apr-2002 2:22:37 PM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…


You guys are too funny. But I love each and every one of you. Well, it seems we have reached the end of our little journey...for now. There's still some amazing stuff coming up in the third book. I promise. You'll absolutely love it. But you guys have stuck with me even when I pushed this story to the back burner for months. And the only reason I made it this far was because of your kind words of encouragement and the occasional bump that made my day. I think I managed to get this part close to what I wanted, but if I were truly satisfied, it wouldn't have come from me. LOL To everyone that enjoyed the ride and for some reason or another won't be returning for the third installment, thanks for all of your time and attention and I hope you enjoyed it. And for those of you that will move on with me, how about a few spoilers? Yes? No? Just a few. We may or may not have a pretty big trip coming up. I wonder where that may take them? Antar, perhaps? But what happens if someone got left behind? Oh, we'll have evil villains galore, old and new enemies alike popping up to create mischief, and is that the pitter patter of little feet I hear? Could be. But where is it coming from? Hehe. That's all you're getting out of me. Adios for now, my friends. I'll catch you guys next week with the next story. *wink*

Learning to Live
Part 63

“And you’re sure everything’s ready?” Max asked as he paced, his long legs eating up the room.

“I’m positive. Isabel’s out there in full Nazi mode. I think I even saw her helping the minister pick out a robe to match the color scheme.” Michael leaned casually on the couch in the small waiting room of the church. Max had been like this since he had woken up before dawn that morning, and their long standing friendship was the only thing keeping Michael from strangling him in frustration.

“And everyone’s here, right? No one’s stuck in a traffic jam or were in a car accident on the way over?”

“Maxwell, you have got to calm down. What’s your deal?”

Max raised a hand to run his fingers through his hair, then thought better of it and let his hand fall back to his side. “I can’t hear her, Michael.”

“You can’t – oh. You mean your connection? Why is she blocking you?”

“I don’t know. She said something about tradition. But it’s been so long.”

“Max, I have good – what have you done to yourself?” Isabel rushed forward into the room, tugging at Max’s tuxedo jacket and smoothing out wrinkles only she could see. She could tell by the look on Max’s face that he wasn’t in any better shape now than he had been when she’d left him a half-hour ago. “What’s with the long faces?”

“Max is going through withdrawal. I always said Liz was an addiction to him. Now we know it’s true.”

Both Isabel and Max shot Michael a dirty look. Then Isabel set about straightening Max’s bow tie. She offered him her brightest, warmest smile. “Max, everything is going to be fine. It’s beautiful out there and everyone is waiting. You know, I couldn’t be prouder of you. You and Liz have gone through so much to be here today. You fought Michael and I when we told you being with Liz wasn’t safe or smart. You fought against Nicholas and our enemies to save her life. You even took on destiny and won.”

Max shook his head. “My destiny was never with Tess. It was always Liz,” he insisted.

“I stand corrected then. The point is that no matter what was thrown at you two, you survived it stronger than before. I look at what you and Liz have and it makes me hope that one day I’ll have that too.”

Max wrapped his arms around his sister, heedless of the jacket she had just smoothed to perfection. And he felt better than he had all morning. “I have a feeling you’re already on your way to finding that.”

“Is this a private party or can humans come in too?” Kyle asked from the doorway.

“Come on in. Bring a handkerchief. You’re just in time for act two of the Evans family sap-a-thon.”

Isabel glared at Michael again. “Don’t make me hurt you.”

Kyle clapped his hands together, taking in Max’s nervous stance, and he couldn’t help but grinning maniacally. “T minus fifteen minutes and counting. You gonna hang in there, Evans?”

“Everything looks great out there,” Alex announced, winking at Isabel.

“Yeah,” Kyle sighed heavily. “It’s just too bad Liz isn’t here to see it.”

“What?” Max snapped his head around, pinning Kyle with his gaze. “Where’s Liz?” He turned frantic eyes on Isabel. “She’s not here?”

Kyle couldn’t resist laughing at the sheer panic on his face. “Relax. It was a joke. Pay up, Alex. I told you he’d fall for it.” Kyle took the five dollar bill from Alex’s hand triumphantly. “But come to think of it, I haven’t actually seen Liz yet.”

Maria breezed through the doorway just as Max began making a beeline for it. She placed a hand on either side of his chest. “Whoa there, buddy. Where do you think you’re going?”

“I have to see Liz. I have to make sure she’s here.”

“What?” Maria crinkled her nose in confusion until she heard Kyle and Alex’s peels of laughter. “You two, out.” She pointed out the door, one hand still braced on Max’s chest to hold him steady. “Max, I can assure you that Liz is here. I just left her not five minutes ago and she’s absolutely beautiful. And she’s all yours.” Maria beamed at him, readjusting his collar and giving him a chance to calm down.

“Well, I’m going to slip out and make sure everything is still running smoothly.” Isabel kissed Max’s cheek on her way out, sure to rub the lipstick imprint from his skin when she was done.

But Max’s anxiety wasn’t to be soothed so easily. “But you left you alone? What if she starts thinking and she changes her mind?”

Struggling to remain patient, Maria turned to Michael. “Will you go sit with Liz and make sure she doesn’t change her mind about marrying Max?”

Michael caught the glint of humor dancing in her eyes and he stood from the couch. “I’ll wrestle her to the ground if she tries to escape,” he promised before disappearing through the door.

“Michael will take care of her,” Maria promised him. “Isn’t that what second in command’s are for?”

“I guess,” Max said grudgingly.

Maria stood back to take in his appearance. “Look at you. She won’t be able to keep her hands off you, you know. Not that you’ll be any better once you see her, but try not to maul each other in front of the guests, okay?”

“I love her so much, Maria. I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

Maria met his solemn eyes, “Well, are you ever in the right place or what. She is down the hall, waiting for you so that she can stand up in front of friends and family to tell them how much she loves and adores you. And you two are going to live happily ever after.”

“Hey guys.” Tess slipped into the room and gave them a tentative smile. “I thought I’d come see how things were going in here.”

Maria smiled knowingly as they exchanged a nervous glance. “I’ll let you two talk. But remember, Max, today is just the beginning.” Maria squeezed Tess’s bare shoulder on her way out.

“She’s right, you know. Today really is a beginning for you guys. Because you two will still be making us sick when you’re a hundred.”

“Tess,” Max began, unsure of what to say to her.

“Max, don’t.” She held up a hand, silencing him. “We both know this day was never meant to be ours. I knew years ago that you would never be mine.”

“But it still hurts you.” He could see it in her eyes, and he had been her friend for too long for her to be able to lie to him.

Tess nodded once, tears shining in her eyes. “It’s silly, really. I don’t love you like that. And I know you don’t love me. But Nasedo spent so many years telling me how much you would love me and how it would change my life…I guess some ideas are hard to give up.” She brushed at a tear. “I swore I wasn’t going to do this today.”

Without hesitating, Max pulled Tess into his arms, letting her rest her head on his chest. “It’s okay to feel, Tess. It’s a part of being human.”

Tess took a deep breath, steeling her emotions. She forced the last tendril of hope to die out and she pushed away from Max slowly. “I’m still working on it.” She offered him a smile and was proud of herself when it didn’t waver. “What are you doing here with me? You should be out there getting ready. She’s a lucky girl, Max.”

“I’m the lucky one. I’ve had the best of both worlds.”

Tess managed a weepy chuckle. “Save your cheesy lines for Liz. I’m fine, I swear. And I really am happy for you.”

“I know you are.” And he believed it. Tess had meant no harm in coming to see him now.

“Get out of here already. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

Max nodded in understanding, knowing she needed a minute to pull herself together. “You’ll find someone, Tess.”

“Now you really have to go before I hurt you.” She gave him a small push toward the door, toward Liz. And as she watched him go, she felt better than she had all day, as if a final door had been closed on her past. Alone, she sniffled.

“I don’t know what he sees in her. I mean, have you seen those skinny chicken legs and that small chest? It just doesn’t do it for me.”

Tess chuckled again and felt monumentally better, stronger. “I’m fine, Kyle.”

“Well, of course you’re fine. Who said you weren’t?” Kyle had seen Max leave the room alone and he’d been afraid of the state he’d find Tess in. But she did seem to be actually okay. A bit watery, but okay. “I just wanted to see if you would get some fresh air with me.”

Seeing right through him, Tess shook her head. “Thanks for the offer, but there’s something I have to do first.” With determined strides, she turned and walked down the hallway, leaving Kyle puzzling over what she possibly had to do.

*~*~

Liz smoothed down the gown of her dress, examining herself in the mirror. Her hair had been swept up into a smooth twist, a sharp contrast to the stark white veil that was perched atop her head. Isabel had assured her that it would drive Max crazy, but was easy to pull down by removing a few key pins. Maria had just finished her make up a few minutes ago and Liz still had a hand towel tucked in the bodice of her gown to prevent any last minute spills. Not that it would have mattered, since there was an ample number of people on hand to remove a last minute stain, but Liz hadn’t had the heart to tell Maria that.

The four girls had stayed up until a decently late time of the night, gossiping and dreaming about what the future held. They had gorged on ice cream and had relished their last few hours of single sisterhood. And when Liz had woken to the first rays of sunlight streaming through the open windows, Liz had rolled over to see that beside her, Maria was already awake and crying. And Liz had known she was in for a tearful day.

A steady knock sounded at the door and Liz turned as best she could in her dress. “Come in,” she called.

The door opened slowly, just a crack. “Is everything covered?”

Liz grinned. “Yes, Michael, or I wouldn’t have told you to come in.”

Michael poked his head inside the room, scowling. “How did you know I wasn’t Max?”

Liz tapped the side of her head in explanation.

“Right. Well, I just wanted to make sure you were here.”

“Of course I’m here. Where else would I be?”

Michael shrugged, stepping fully inside the room. “I don’t know. Ask Max. I’m just the messenger. He was having some panic attack thinking that you were going to change your mind and bolt.”

Liz settled her hands on her hips. “Michael, does it look like I’m going anywhere?”

Even Michael knew how ridiculous it sounded. Liz was standing there in the middle of the room, hardly able to move easily in her wedding dress, much less make a break for it. “Well, he said something about you blocking the connection. I think it worried him.”

“You can go right back and tell him that we talked about this yesterday. He is not going to see or talk to me before the wedding. I think we’ve had enough bad luck to last us a lifetime.” Liz softened. “How does he look?”

“Dreamy,” Michael quipped. “What are you even asking me for? He’s wearing clothes. But would it really matter anyway?”

“No, I guess not.”

Another knock sounded at the door. “Who is it?” Michael asked, one foot braced against the door in case it was Max.

“Just us.”

Michael opened the door for Alex and Kyle, moving aside to make room for them.

“Wow,” Kyle managed.

“I second that wow,” Alex whispered in awe. “Liz, you look…”

“Amazing,” Kyle finished.

Liz grinned at both of them. “Thank you. And you guys don’t look half-bad yourself.”

“No, I mean it. You look fantastic. If only I’d known that a couple of years ago, I might have tried to sweep you out from under Max’s nose.” Kyle winked at her.

Michael scowled at Kyle. “Alright, that’s enough. You’re out of here.” He grabbed Kyle’s arm and dragged him towards the open door.

“Hey, watch the creases. Isabel will kill us both if they aren’t perfect.”

Michael glanced at Liz. “You’ll be okay for a few minutes?”

“I think Alex can manage to keep me from leaving Max at the altar. Get out of here. I’m not going anywhere, Michael. You can tell Max that before he goes crazy.”

Michael mock bowed to her before backing out of the room. Alex grinned at Liz. “Look at you. Little Lizzie all grown up. You know what I see when I look at you?”

“I’m almost afraid to ask. You know too much about me.”

“I see you when we were ten years old and Maria was teaching us to climb trees.”

Liz grinned at the memory that immediately sprang to mind. “All I wanted to do was stay in my room and look at things under my new microscope.”

“But she convinced you that there were exotic things in the trees that you could gather as specimens. She said you could be the first to discover a new species and you would be world famous and get your picture in the paper.” Alex tucked his hands in his pockets, feeling old for the first time. That had been so long ago, it was hard to remember being that young and innocent.

“And of course she had me convinced. But I never knew what she said to get you up there. Weren’t you terrified of heights?”

Alex shrugged. “I had to protect my girls. What if one of you slipped and fell and I hadn’t been there?”

Liz thought back throughout their lives. In every memory she had, Alex had been there in the background, watching, protecting them silently.

“You’ve always been a step behind us, waiting to catch us if we fell. I don’t think I ever realized that before.” She moved toward him, not letting her wedding dress stop her from wrapping her arms around his frame. “Thank you for always being there.”

“Knock, knock.” Maria poked her head through the door, smiling when she saw the embrace. “Hey you two. Alex, the minister wanted to talk to you for a second before we begin. And Liz, I have someone that wants a minute.”

Alex nodded, slipping out of Liz’s arms with a sniffle. He turned and headed toward the door.

“Alex?” When he turned back, she smiled. “Isabel’s lucky to have you.”

Alex flashed her his most charming smile. “I agree, but I like to let her think it’s the other way around.”

“Your secret’s safe with me,” she promised.

“See you in a few, Parker.”

Liz watched Alex slip out the door with Maria, and when the door opened fractionally wider, Liz was surprised to see Tess watching her. “Tess, hi.”

“Hey, Liz. Can I come in for a second? I know you’re getting ready to go out, but it’ll just take a second.”

“Sure.” Liz waited until Tess was inside before inquiring further. “What’s up?”

Tess smiled at her. “You look even more beautiful in that dress than you did in the store.”

“Thanks, Tess.” Liz was puzzled. This is why Tess had come to see her? “Tess, is everything okay?” Surely, her friend wasn’t upset about her marrying Max. It had been years since the subject had come up and the thought hadn’t even crossed Liz’s mind.

“Everything’s fine. I just came from seeing Max.” She rolled her eyes. “The man is a nervous wreck.”

“Yeah, Michael said he was worried that I would leave.” Liz found herself rolling her eyes in amusement with Tess. “As if that would ever happen.” Liz watched Tess force a smile onto her face. “Tess, what is this really about? I know you. Something’s wrong. Is it Max and I?”

Tess sighed. “No. Really, it isn’t. I know it might look like it right now with me showing up back here and everything, but I know that you and Max are made for each other. From the first time I saw you two together, I knew this day would come.” Tess knew Liz was waiting patiently to find out the reason behind the bizarre last minute conversation, but she would be too polite to ask outright. “I wanted to give you something, a wedding present.”

Liz frowned. “Tess, you don’t have to give us anything.”

Tess should have guessed that Liz wouldn’t have understood. “No, Liz. This is a present for you.” Tess presented Liz with a small box, about double the size of her hand.

“What is it?”

Knowing she had Liz’s full attention, Tess let her gaze drift down to the box one last time before she opened it slowly. She knew that Liz understood what she was looking at when she heard the small gasp and Liz’s hands flew up to her face.

“I can’t accept that,” Liz insisted, taking a step back.

“Don’t be silly. It’s yours now.” Tess stepped forward, carefully pulling the small crown from its long time resting place. It glittered in the artificial light, winking at their new owner. Yellow stones were imbedded within in the otherworldly metal, and Tess knew it had been handcrafted centuries ago for a great queen. “Nasedo gave this to me years ago when he told me who I was.” Tess reached above Liz’s head and began carefully unpinning Liz’s veil. With steady hands, Tess placed it securely atop Liz’s head and repinned her veil. “A perfect fit.”

Liz had watched Tess’s work in the mirrors and when Tess stepped back, Liz could see her new reflection clearly. The crown wasn’t large or too much more ornate than some of the tiaras Isabel had made her try on months ago. It was lighter than she would have expected, but then she had no idea what kind of metal it had been made from. “It’s beautiful. But I can’t accept it, Tess. It’s yours.”

“Liz, you are marrying Max today. That makes you the Queen. And every Queen needs a crown. Besides, it fits you better than it ever fit me.”

Knowing how difficult it was for Tess to give her the gift, Liz saw the gesture for what it really was. Tess had given up the last of her claims on Max and her place by his side. “Tess, I don’t know what to say. No, I do. Thank you.” She closed her eyes when tears threatened to overflow. “You don’t know what this means to me.”

“Just take care of him for me. Okay?” Tess knew she was desperately close to tears herself and she had vowed not to shed another tear after Max had left.

“Always,” Liz promised.

Tess nodded her head. “If you don’t stop crying, your face is going to be all red,” Tess cautioned her with a sniffle of her own.

The door opened behind them and Maria poked her head in cautiously. “Sorry to interrupt, but we’re ready if you are, Liz.”

Liz nodded, trying to compose herself.

Tess squeezed Liz’s hand. “I’ll see you out there.”

Alone with Liz, Maria smiled at her. “Wow, look at that. Is that what I think it is?”

Liz nodded again. “She gave it to me, Maria. Do you know what that means now? I don’t think it ever really sunk in before. But this just makes it official. I’m going to be a Queen. How bizarre does that sound? I think I finally understand what Max was feeling like when he found out.”

“Don’t think I’m going to start bowing to you now,” she teased, taking a closer look at the crown. “You know, I’ll bet that would look pretty good on me. What do you think?”

Liz laughed. “I think we can share it.” Taking deep breaths, Liz struggled to compose herself. “Okay, I think I’m ready to do this.”

Alex poked his head into the room. “Liz, they’re waiting.” He held out an arm to her. “Shall we?”

Never having felt more sure of anything in her life, Liz stepped forward to take Alex’s arm. She waited while he extended his other arm to Maria. “What do you say, Deluca? Care to appear on my arm and make me the envy of every man in the place?”

Maria slipped her arm into Alex’s and let him lead them out to the back of the church. The doors to the church were closed, but she could still hear the faint beginnings of music from inside.

Isabel came up beside her and pulled her into a quick hug. “I didn’t get a chance to wish you luck earlier.”

“Thank you for all of this, Isabel. We couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Oh, well, that much was obvious.” She caught a glimpse of Liz’s crown and her eyes widened slightly. “Is that…”

Liz nodded, then smiled when she saw Tess out of the corner of her eyes. “Yeah, it is. Isabel, I think that’s our cue.”

“Oh!” Isabel flew into motion, fluffing the train to Liz’s dress while issuing whispered orders to the other bridesmaids.

Liz watched as the doors were opened long enough to allow Tess to start down the long aisle. She could make out the top of Max’s head and she felt a thrill of anticipation run through her. When Tess was halfway down the aisle, Isabel smiled at Liz one last time before starting her own path. Maria was next and she turned to look at her two best friends before proceeding down the aisle.

“I love you guys,” she whispered with a lopsided grin. And then it was her turn to walk.

The doors were closed again as the music changed. Alex squeezed her arm. “Nice crown,” he observed with a grin.

“I like it,” she teased back. She could hear the minister asking everyone to stand and the doors were slowly opened again.

“Ready for your destiny, Elizabeth Parker?”

Liz could see Max clearly from where she stood, and the rest of the room ceased to exist. He was standing frozen in shock, his eyes trained on her with a single-minded intensity that surpassed every other look he had ever given her. She dropped the barrier between their connection and immediately felt every ounce of love and utter devotion that he felt for her. He wanted to form words to tell her how beautiful she was, but he could find none. From Max’s eyes and the depths of his heart and soul, she could see that in instant, he had never loved her more. There were no regrets between them, and no guilt.

Alex gave her a small nudge and Liz felt her smile grow wider than she though possible. Down the aisle, Max’s smile mirrored her own. And with their friends and family surrounding them, Liz took her first step into the church. She was more than ready for her destiny. She had already found it shining in the depths of Max’s eyes.

*~*~

Maria sighed as she watched her two newly married friends dance to what had to be their one thousandth dance of the evening. Fast, slow, they hadn’t seemed to care. As long as they were together, they were complete. She shifted on her aching feet, enjoying the coolness that came off the ice sculpture to her left.

The wedding itself had gone off without a hitch. And though it had been simple and toned down from Isabel’s early vision, it had been beautiful. Max had been so nervous by the time Liz was beside him, that his shaky fingers had almost dropped the ring. But one smile from Liz had calmed him down considerably. They had decided on traditional vows, because as Liz had explained it, they could already read each others hearts better than mere words could ever do justice.

Since then, Max had wisked her away to the dance floor, only letting go of his new bride long to enough to relinquish her to a select group of males for her to dance with. But he’d always come back to claim her as soon as the song had ended.

Maria felt a strong presence behind her and she knew it was Michael even before he wrapped his arms around her waist.

“Is he ever going to let go of her? I managed one dance with her and he glared at me the whole time. I had to make sure to keep my hands visible at all times.”

“I think Kyle danced with her three times just to see if he could irritate Max,” Maria shared.

“Actually, Kyle and Alex had a bet going to see how many times Kyle could dance with Liz before Max threatened him.” Michael fell silent, content to hold Maria in his arms as they watched the couple sway to the slow song. And Michael felt something click into place inside.

“You know, they look happy.”

“Today was a perfect day,” Maria agreed.

“No, I mean they look happier than usual.” Unable to express himself, Michael became frustrated. “Like they’ve found the secret.”

Touched by his fumbled words to describe the magic that always seemed to surround the couple, Maria nodded. “Love. They’ve always known it. They just let other things get in the way in the beginning.”

“They’re a family. They’ll always have each other no matter what.” Michael tried to place why the song playing sounded so familiar. It was some old song. Had Liz used to play it a lot? Is that why it was so familiar? “You know, having that wouldn’t entirely suck.”

“Hmm?” Maria was lost in the romance of the moment, watching as Liz shifted her head until it fit perfectly on Max’s shoulder.

That,” Michael gestured to the couple. “The whole marriage thing. It wouldn’t entirely suck I don’t think, not if it was with your best friend.”

Stunned beyond speechless, Maria turned in Michael’s arms until she could see his face. “What did you just say?”

Michael shifted, uncomfortable by the way Maria was looking at him. “What? Look, it’s not like I’m ready to start picking out invitations with you or anything, but it isn’t that big of a deal to me if…in a couple of years, you want to get hitched.” He watched as he eyes grew even wider and he knew he was digging himself into a deep, slippery hole. “You know what? Just forget I ever brought it up.” Why was she grinning at him like a loon? “You’re going to nag me about this now, aren’t you?”

Maria pressed up to her tiptoes and planted a kiss on Michael’s lips. “I don’t have to. The best things are just meant to be.”

Unsure as to whether he should be worried or satisfied by the pure contentment on her face, Michael settled for pulling her closer and into a lingering kiss.


“Dance one more with me,” Max pleaded with Liz. “One more and we can stop.”

“That’s what you said five songs ago,” Liz teased, but stayed in his arms as the current song ended. “Everyone else gave up on us an hour ago.”

“Quitters. And they’re not the happiest, luckiest man on the planet. Are they?” Max waited until the soft melody of the next song began playing and his grin grew. He knew Liz was caught up in the euphoria and exhaustion of the day to notice it yet. But the instant the words began playing, her back stiffened under his hand.

”Come to me now. Lay your hands over me. Even if it’s a lie, say it will be alright. And I shall believe.”

Liz pulled away from him far enough to meet his eyes. Max? she asked him wordlessly.

You didn’t really think we could get married without dancing to our song, did you?

”Broken in two, and I know you’re on to me. That I only come home when I’m so all alone. And I do believe.”

Liz let her head rest on Max’s shoulder as he pulled her close. Never in her life had she been so content to stay where she was until the end of time.

Then never leave.

”That not everything is gonna be the way you think it ought to be. It seems like every time I try to make it right, it all comes down on me. Please say honestly you won’t give up on me. I shall believe.”

Liz found herself thinking of her parents and the trip she and Max had made to the cemetery on their way from the church to the reception site. She’d left her bouquet on the damp earth between the twin tombstones that bore her parents’ names. And she’d known they were there just as she’d known they had been in the church when she had pledged her life to Max earlier that day. There were some things that not even death could stop.

”Open the door. Show me your face tonight. I know it’s true, no one heals me like you. And you hold the key.”

They’d be proud of you, Max whispered in her mind, reading her thoughts easily.

Liz smiled against his shoulder, nuzzling as close to his neck as her short stature would allow. I know.

”Never again will I turn away from you. I’m so happy tonight but your love is alright, and I do believe.”

Max was content to sway to the gentle beat of the song that had once represented so much heartache. Do you have any idea how much I love you?

Is it a quarter of how much I love you? Liz teased.

More. Double…no, triple times infinity.

Statistically speaking, you know that’s impossible.

But we’ve always been masters of the impossible. I think back to those days when I used to watch you from behind the Crash Down menus, just looking for any excuse to talk to you. And never in a million years would I have imagined we would be here today. You’re my wife, a Queen of another world. And one day, they’re going to love you just as much as I do. I can’t even imagine what my life would have been like without you. Loving you has made ma a better person.

Max read her thoughts as easily as he ever did, but he didn’t need the ability to know that his words had touched something within her. And she longed to kiss him every bit as much as he wanted it himself.

Big finale, he promised, spinning her outward as the song came to a close. When she let out a laugh at the unexpected maneuver, he spun her back towards him and lowered her into an easy dip.

As Max’s lips slowly covered Liz’s, she tasted the promise he was offering her. Their life together would be filled with love and unexpected laughter. And there was no other time or place she would rather have been.

”Please say honestly you won’t give up on me and I shall believe."


THE END

...to be continued in the third book Wherever You May Go...

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 5-Apr-2002 2:23:34 PM ]
posted on 9-Apr-2002 9:06:47 AM
Okay, for any of you still catching up, the third story, Wherever You May Go is up and ready to go. Here's the link:

viewthread?forum=dreamer-fanfiction&id=105179

Happy reading!

~Stacey