posted on 15-Mar-2002 11:33:37 PM
ReawakeningBannerFFSize-vi
Banner by LongTimeFan

Chapter 21-----page 87-----October 28/02 --> this is the conclusion of the fic. There's also an Author's Note.*happy*

Chapter 20-----page 84-----October 20/02

Chapter 19-----page 80-----September 30/02

Chapter 18-----page 77-----September 27/02

Chapter 17-----page 72-----September 12/02

Chapter 16-----page 69-----September 9/02

Chapter 15-----page 64-----August 24/02

Chapter 14-----page 60-----August 9/02

Chapter 13-----page 57-----August 6/02

Chapter 12-----page 49-----July 8/02

Chapter 11-----page 46-----July 7/02

Chapter 10-----page 36-----June 6/02

Chapter 9-----page 32-----May 24/02

Chapter 8-----page 28-----May 13/02

Chapter 7-----page 26-----May 8/02

Author's Note on page 26 (another one LOL)

Author's Note on page 24

Chapter 6-----page 19-----April 14/02

Chapter 5-----page 14-----March 26/02

Chapter 4-----page 11-----March 24/02

Chapter 3-----page 8-----March 22/02

Chapter 2-----page 4-----March 19/02

Wow, I haven't started a thread for a new fic in a LONG time LOL! Feels weird. And, happy birthday to Max!*wink*

AUTHOR: Tasyfa
EMAIL: tasyfa⊕yahoo.com
DISCLAIMER: I own no rights, nor did I intend any copyright infringement.
CATEGORY: Max/Liz plus Michael/Maria and others
RATING: R to NC-17
DEDICATION: For Angela35, Kath & Watcher Tara, for reasons that will become apparent in time.*wink* If we get to the end and you guys still don't know why, you know where to find me!*big*
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Well, this picks up after Chant Down Babylon. I'm not quite sure how long it's going to be yet, though not epic Forging length I can say that much LOL! The main focus is Max and Liz, but there will be a significant amount of Michael and Maria as well. Fairly episodic in that respect, I suppose! (Btw, I'm not abandoning The Forging of a Lifebond OR Full Circle, just so y'all are clear on that.)

So, on with the story! Wow, I'm a little nervous LOL! It's in 2 posts for length restrictions.*happy*
hugs, Tas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chapter One

Liz held tightly to Max's hand as they climbed aboard the bus, handing the driver both of their tickets. In the time since his reawakening, she had left his side only to take the shower she had promised Maria she would. Otherwise, she had clung to him, holding on to him in some fashion while he repaired the damage to the Rat, and while Meris Wheeler's body had burned to ash with a cold green flame. Liz found it difficult to feel remorse for the death of the murderess, but she had seen the dark specter of guilt in Max's eyes.

There were only a few people on the bus headed for Roswell, mostly seated near the front. Liz steered Max to the very back row, wanting to be able to stretch across the three seats set close together there. By pre-arrangement, Maria sat a couple of rows up, close enough to hear if they wanted her to; far enough to guarantee their privacy from not only her, but the rest of the bus as she piled her luggage in the aisle.

Reawakening. It was a pitiful attempt to describe what had happened to Max, and yet it encompassed the situation like no other word. In his face and his voice as he had stared up at her, murmuring, "You brought me back," had been the Max that she knew, so very well. The Max she had jumped off bridges for; broken laws for; broken him and herself for, when he had asked. The one who moved her like no one else, and who still did not know the truth about why she had lied.

That Max.

Liz took the window seat and Max leaned against her, fatigue evident in his posture. Her skin hummed with gentle electricity where they touched but there was no painful green lightning, no external indication of power. She knew somehow that the crackling energy was gone. Reabsorbed into Max, perhaps, when she had blasted him in the attic sanctuary.

Into the new body of the man who had loved her too much to allow himself to die.

The entire concept was mind-boggling, far more so than the reality of time travel had been, and Liz found herself shying away from examining her own feelings about it too closely. She still felt kind of shocky after all the recent events and for once, she was determined to cut herself some slack. Because she knew that if she didn't, she would turn into a raving lunatic soon. Or an alcoholic. Maria was right: it was no way to handle a problem. But oh, it was tempting!

Max shifted and sighed against her as the bus started up, the motor roaring into life a few minutes before the vehicle shook as it lumbered out onto the highway. Liz smiled at Maria, who moved the luggage onto empty seats now so that people could pass by to use the tiny washroom at the back. Maria smiled back, a question in her eyes; Liz glanced at Max and shook her head. He wasn't talking yet. Maria shrugged sympathetically and took her seat again, pulling out one of the fashion magazines she had purchased at the bus station.

"I can't believe how tired I am now," Max yawned, reclaiming her attention.

"Well, it's a long ride back to Roswell, so why don't you sleep for a while?" Liz ran her hand over his hair, smoothing it with her fingers.

"You don't mind?" Max turned slightly to face her.

"Not at all. We've got all kinds of time to talk, Max. Right now it's enough to know that you're okay, and to keep you close," she smiled then patted her lap. "Come on, slide down and get comfortable."

"Really?" he asked incredulously, and Liz laughed.

"Yes," she affirmed emphatically, warmed by the crooked grin he gave her before complying. Max curled up on his side, his head supported by her thighs. Liz returned to stroking his hair, noting how young he looked as he relaxed and his breathing evened out. In no time Max was asleep and she giggled quietly at his barely audible snoring. Careful to move slowly, Liz shifted until she found her own comfortable position and drifted off, her fingers still tangled in Max's hair.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

When Liz next saw Max with his eyes open, they were already across the state border, only a few hours from home. With her occasional forays out of her seat and his natural restlessness, Max had shifted around so that his face was pressed against her stomach. Liz became aware that he had woken moments before he turned his head, blinking up at her.

"Hey, sleepyhead! You were really out of it," she said gently.

"I guess so. Where are we?" he asked sleepily.

"In New Mexico. There's one more rest stop then we don't get off the bus till we hit Roswell," Liz smiled at his wide eyes.

"Oh. Hey, I'm—sorry I was so…familiar," Max apologized awkwardly, twisting so that he faced up.

"I would have moved you if it bothered me, Max. I did get up occasionally," she teased, smiling when he flushed. "I'm happy to report that unlike me in bio class, you don't drool in your sleep and Maria couldn't even hear your little snoring in the next row."

Maria popped her head over the seat, apparently considering the speaking of her name to be her cue. "Hey there, Sleeping Beauty! How's it going?"

"Uh, well, nature's calling with a vengeance, so," he said wryly, levering himself to a seated position.

"I'm not surprised! Well, have fun. It is unbelievably small in there," Maria grinned, waggling her eyebrows. Max chuckled and she flopped back into her seat while he stood and went into the washroom.

Liz felt his absence keenly and told herself to get a grip. He's not going to be around you 24/7, Parker, so you'd better get over it now. She couldn't help smiling cheerfully when he re-emerged into the bus, though.

"May I take the window?" Max asked.

"Oh sure," Liz rose, swaying against the seats in front so that Max could pass her. She tingled when he brushed against her in the close quarters and sighed at herself again. She reacted more strongly to Max's presence and most especially his touch than she ever had, except for that one night in Michael's apartment and later, out in the desert. The night they had almost…

Savagely Liz cut off that line of thought. That way lies madness, she thought to herself, uncertain of the quote's origin but positive that it applied to her current situation.

"Liz?" Max's puzzled voice broke into her thoughts. She shook off her introspection and looked at him.

Max had sat down sideways, wedged into the corner with one leg drawn up along the back of the seats and the other foot braced on the floor. Liz smiled at the clear invitation and his expression smoothed, his lips curving to match hers.

"How about you lean on me for a while?" he offered softly. Liz nodded, turning and sitting in front of him, her hips in the warm embrace of his thighs. His arms came up around her waist, squeezing lightly as his face nestled against the side of her head. Liz emitted a quiet sigh of utter satisfaction. It was moments like this that made her forget how much Max had hurt her over the last three years, when the incontestable rightness of being in his arms swept all through her and she knew that no matter what, they were meant to be together.

"It feels, so good, to hold you," Max whispered, his breath warm against her ear. Liz heard the choked quality in his voice and turned her head, kissing his cheek.

"I was thinking the same thing," she admitted, enjoying how that made him smile. There was an openness about Max's expression—an innocence, that had been missing for a long time and it soothed her.

Her breath caught as his gaze dropped to her mouth, and Liz bit her lip. The last thing she saw before closing her eyes, her face unconsciously tilting up to meet his, was the brightening of his smile. She had a moment to revel in it, and then his lips touched hers.

Fire exploded between them. It spread from Liz's mouth to her toes and back, warming every inch of her. Her lips parted and she let out a faint whimper when Max's tongue dipped inside, brushing against hers. At once he became less tentative, hungrier in the way he kissed her, his hands flexing on her waist. Liz had never wanted anything more than she wanted those hands to move upwards right now. The sudden urge surprised her, but it was what happened next that rocked her to the core.

Liz's mind flooded with images, flickering madly at high speed. Childhood games, playground antics, biology class, dates, kisses, movies they had seen together; a thousand recreations of her own face. Mixed in was the occasional flash of Pierce, still terrifying after all this time. She trembled under the onslaught and pulled away.

"Sorry," Max mumbled and a thrill zinged through Liz at how husky and breathless he sounded. "I—maybe it's because I'm—I'm in a new body, but, did that seem—really intense? Or is that—typical?"

Liz smiled and brushed his cheek. "It has been, that intense before, but it's been—not for a while. And—not every time, even then."

"Oh. Okay then. I—some things are kind of fuzzy still, you know? I think—there are gaps. Although I'm reasonably certain that I used to be able to control the flashes more," he said ruefully.

She dropped her hand, the smile faltering. Of course he could control them, that's why there hadn't been any in forever. Since Tess. And while Liz was grateful to be spared those particular images, re-experiencing the touch of Max's mind had made her aware of how much she missed that intimacy.

"Liz? Is something wrong?" Max asked, studying her. She wanted to laugh. Even after the harsh accusations she had hurled at him in the desert, he still didn't get it. Well, that was marginally better than him holding that moment of weakness against her.

"It's not important, Max. I'm fine," she lied with another smile. She saw that he didn't really believe her though he chose to accept her answer, and thought that maybe he understood more than she credited him with.

She leaned back into him and they were quiet for a little while. Max eventually broke the silence with a chuckle. "I think that holding you is finally exorcising the memory of Meris." He shuddered a little and Liz twisted to look at him.

"What do you mean?"

"When I—became aware, of this body, Clayton was—he was in complete control, and he was…in bed with his wife," Max told her, grimacing. "Once I realized what was going on, I couldn't—I mean, I was in here too, and I just couldn't do that! So I—made it hurt. A lot."

"Didn't that hurt you, too?" Liz raised her eyebrows.

"Yeah, but better that than—you know," he shrugged and shuddered again, and she laughed.

"Granted, she was petty and evil, Max, but she wasn't all that unattractive," she teased him.

Max smiled. "I know, it was—partly it was that I knew she had murdered people in cold blood, but—mostly it was because she looked an awful lot like Tess."

"Excuse me?" Liz asked in disbelief. Max apparently took her words at face value because he proceeded to explain.

"Meris looked like Tess. An older version, obviously, but… I don't know, the resemblance really hit me and the whole idea made my skin crawl."

"The idea of sleeping with Tess made your skin crawl," she repeated, anger beginning to surface from its resting place.

"Well, yeah," Max admitted.

His utter cluelessness snapped Liz's control on her temper. "Did you decide that the idea of sleeping with Tess made your skin crawl before or after you got her pregnant, Max?" she hissed.

"What?" he stared at her in shock.

"Did the hot alien sex suck so bad that a repeat performance would be beyond your capabilities?" she lashed out at him.

Guilt rose sharply in her as Max's expression changed, reflecting his hurt. "Liz, I—I—I'm sorry, I don't know what you're talking about." He licked his lips, looking miserable. "I don't remember any—anything like that happening."

"You don't remember spending the night with Tess, with no protection?" she queried intently.

"No, I—without protection? I wouldn't do that. I mean, I wouldn't sleep with Tess in the first place, but if I'd thought there was even the remotest chance of something maybe happening, I would have had something on me," Max declared, sounding a little angry now. "What did she tell you?"

Liz stared at him, unable to comprehend that this whole fiasco could be part of what was missing in his memory. She knew it was irrational to be angry with him for it, but that made her even angrier. "She didn't tell me, Max, you did. You told me that you'd spent the night together and she was pregnant with your son. That was right before she took off in the granolith for your home planet. And ever since he was born out there somewhere and sent you a vision, you've been searching for a way to find him. With me standing beside you like the supportive idiot I am. I'm sorry, I can't do this right now," she told him, hearing the tears in her own voice. Liz shook off his arms and stood, moving into the aisle. She couldn't bear to look back at Max, knowing somehow that he would look devastated.



Maria looked up as Liz came up to her, going into alert mode at the sight of tears on Liz's face.

"What's wrong, Lizzie?" she asked worriedly, and Liz forced a laugh.

"Max. I just can't deal with him right now, Maria. Would you go sit with him, please? He shouldn't be alone, but—I can't. Please?" she begged.

"Of course, pumpkin," Maria soothed her, rising so that Liz could slide into the seat. She kissed Liz's cheek, making sure she was settled before heading to the back of the bus.

"Hey there," she greeted Max cheerfully, noting the identical woebegone expression.

"Hey," he said listlessly. "I think I really pissed her off. I didn't mean to; I was just being honest."

"Well, what did you say? She didn't tell me much of anything," Maria asked curiously.

Max heaved a sigh. "I told her that the idea of sleeping with Tess made my skin crawl."

Maria wasn't sure she had heard him correctly. "Excuse me, but did you just say what I thought you said?"

He nodded miserably. "Yeah."

Maria whistled. "Are you sure you didn't come back as Michael?"

"Funny, Maria," Max rolled his eyes.

"Well, you certainly put your foot in it as well as he ever did! Look, Max, don't worry about it, all right? Liz has been on edge lately, and with us thinking that you'd died and then there you were, plus Isabel's injury—things have been stressful. Give her some room; she'll get over it, I swear," she reassured him.

"Right," he agreed dully. "Are we still going straight to Michael's when we get into town?"

"That is still the plan, yes. And since we have a couple more hours to go, how about you help me with my crossword, okay?" Maria smiled brightly as he nodded. Inwardly she shook her head. She had a lot of work ahead of her to heal these two.


(Continued in following post.)

[ edited 24time(s), last at 29-Oct-2002 12:19:35 AM ]
posted on 15-Mar-2002 11:36:51 PM
Continued from previous post.)


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Weren't they supposed to get in at eight o'clock?" Isabel asked nervously, glancing at the clock. It was 8:15.

"To the bus station, Iz. They still have to get a cab over here," Michael said exasperatedly. She was driving him up the wall.

"Oh. Right. Okay," she nodded to herself, trying to calm down. Jesse reached over from the next stool, placing his hand on her shoulder and she smiled at him gratefully.

From his vantage point sprawled on the couch, Michael could just see Kyle slouching in a dining chair over in the corner.

"Were you planning on joining the rest of the group, Valenti?" he asked snidely.

"What? Yeah, whatever," Kyle snorted. He did pick up the chair and drag it to a more central location before slumping back into it.

"You left the door unlocked for them, right?" Isabel asked for what had to be the thirtieth time.

Michael didn't get a chance to snarl his answer before the door was thrown wide open, answering it for him.

"Where's Max? How is he?" Isabel sprang to her feet.

"Max? Oh, he and Maria are right behind me. As for how he is, he doesn't remember fucking Tess," Liz announced with a brilliant, sarcastic smile. She stalked over to the couch and Michael hastily vacated enough space for her to drop heavily onto the worn cushions.

"And are we using that particular word as a verb, or just an expletive, in that sentence?" Kyle inquired.

Liz glared at him and he held up his hands in a sign of surrender. Michael was in awe at how furious she was; he'd never seen her like this.

A moment later, Liz's fury was temporarily forgotten as Max and Maria came through his apartment door together, carrying various bags. Michael found himself on his feet and moving forward without any conscious recollection of moving, but Isabel was closer and flung herself at Max.

"Oh, my God, Max, you're really alive," she choked out, the tears falling freely as he caught her in a tight hug.

"Yeah. Hey, don't cry, Izzy," Max entreated. "I'm fine, really."

More beautiful words have never been spoken, Michael thought, drinking in the sight of his brother. He moved closer and finally Isabel let go of Max, wiping futilely at her eyes.

"Looking good, man," Michael said roughly, clasping Max's shoulder. Max smiled broadly, placing his hand over Michael's and squeezing for a moment before dropping his arm.

"Good to see you, too," he said softly, looking straight at Michael. When was the last time Max had met his eyes like that? With the exception of that recent moment when he had told Michael that he was prepared to do whatever it took to help Liz, Michael could not recall when last he'd seen that hazel gaze so piercing, reaching straight down into his soul. That look that meant that here was the person who knew him better than anyone else in the universe.

"What's with the clothes, though?" Michael broke the intimacy of the moment and Max half smiled.

"They're Clayton's. Um, I know I—just got here and, there's all kinds of stuff to say, but—would you guys mind if I took a quick shower and got into my own clothes? These are—tainted," he grimaced, and Michael remembered that Clayton had killed Meris before Max had taken control of the body, upon Clayton's death apparently. Yeah, there were questions, but they could wait. Max wasn't going anywhere.

"Sure thing, Max. You know where your stuff is," Michael offered a rare grin as he stepped out of the way. He glanced sideways at Maria; her entrance had not gone unnoticed. There was that sharp tug at his heart that he felt every time she was near.

"Yeah. Hi, Kyle, and uh—Jesse, right?" Max addressed Isabel's husband on his way by. Jesse nodded, puzzled, and Max's expression became apologetic.

"Sorry, I—things are a little fuzzy still," he explained. Jesse's expression smoothed into a smile, which Max matched. But Michael saw his forlorn glance at Liz before he disappeared into the bathroom with clean clothes in hand.

"So Parker, what gives?" he demanded, sliding back onto his seat beside her.



Maria had caught Max's look towards Liz as well and she sighed, ignoring the stab of disappointment that Michael had barely even looked at her. She hadn't been the one coming back from the dead, so she understood his focus on Max, but it still stung a little.

She moved closer to the couch, speaking up when Liz seemed disinclined to answer. "The uh, fuzziness that Max mentioned? It happens to include the entire—thing—with Tess. He doesn't remember being with her or—or his son, at all."

"No way!" Kyle exclaimed. "What else doesn't he remember?"

"I don't know. It's kind of upsetting for him, so we didn't get too far into it," Maria sighed.

"You know, technically Max is a born again virgin," Liz giggled, causing everyone to look sharply at her. "He wouldn't let Clayton sleep with Meris. Said he basically kicked himself in the nuts so it wouldn't happen."

Maria narrowed her eyes suspiciously as Liz began laughing, ignoring the pained looks from the men in the room. She crouched in front of Liz.

"Where is it, Liz? And how did you get it?" she demanded. "There is no way that you passed for twenty-one!"

Liz stared at her challengingly. "No. But it helps that I'm cute and men are stupid," she giggled.

"When?"

"At the last rest stop," Liz admitted.

"And where? In your bag?"

Liz shook her head. "No, I threw it out. S'empty," she smiled.

"Shit," Maria swore. She'd had the whole bottle? No, she wasn't puking or passing out; there must be some left. Maria stood and headed straight for Liz's book bag, ignoring the questions floating around her.

She was right. More than half the bottle was gone but there was still a lot in it, and another, unopened bottle besides. Muttering under her breath, Maria removed them and began to pour their contents down the sink.

"Maria!" Liz sounded outraged. "That was expensive!"

"Well, then you shouldn't have wasted your money," she retorted, setting the empty bottles in Michael's blue bin and turning to face Liz.

"I am not doing this with you, Liz. I'm not letting you do it to yourself, got it? It stops, now," Maria ordered.

Liz's face crumpled. "I'm sorry, Maria, I—" she couldn't finish her sentence, she was crying too hard.

Her heart softened. She knew how much Liz had been put through, and it was obvious that her best friend had tried and failed to cope. But liquor wasn't going to help the situation.

Maria squatted in front of Liz, pulling the sobbing girl into her arms. Liz clung to her, and it made Maria ache to see her pain. She looked at Michael.

"Would you help me get her into your bed, please? She can't go home like this."

His eyes were unreadable, though his expression was one of surprise. At Liz's behavior? At her own request? Maria had no idea what he was thinking anymore, and that ached too.

"Yeah, sure," Michael agreed gruffly. He went to open the door and turn down the covers as Maria helped Liz walk over to the bed.

"Can you bring me her small suitcase, please? The ugly brown one?" Maria asked as Liz sat on the bed. Michael didn't say anything, merely retrieved the article in question and placed it on the bed beside Liz.

"Thanks. I'll be out in a minute," Maria looked up at him. For a moment she thought she saw something in his face, some hint of emotion, but whatever else it was, it was fleeting and she wasn't sure that it hadn't been her own overactive imagination.

For his part, Michael nodded curtly and left, closing the door behind him. Maria found a clean pair of pajamas in Liz's suitcase and helped her emotional friend into them, then laid her on the bed and covered her up. Liz reached for Maria's hand.

"Thank you, Maria. I'm sorry," she whispered, the tears sliding down her cheeks again. Maria sat beside her and brushed them away.

"Hey, it's okay, Lizzie. I've got your back, always, girl. Now, I want you to get some sleep, all right? Your parents don't know you're in town, and I don't think we should tell them just yet. You've got your cell, you can still call your mom, and in the meantime you can hang out here at Michael's, all right?"

"Michael doesn't like me very much," Liz sighed.

"What are you talking about? Of course he does! He just doesn't show it very well. That's how he is, pumpkin. He's the meanest to the people he cares about the most."

"Well, then he must be in love with me," Liz suddenly giggled. The idea shot another round of pain into Maria, but she knew that neither Liz nor Michael were interested in each other.

"No, sweetie, that would be Max. Max loves you, so much," she said softly, grimacing slightly as her own pain was mirrored on Liz's expressive face.

"I know, Maria. He didn't die because he wouldn't let go of me. I don't know how to feel about that. But," she hiccupped, looking up earnestly, "I do love Max, Maria. I love him more than anything. He's just—he's hurt me so much, and now he doesn't even remember it!"

"I'm sure it's temporary, pumpkin. He's been through an awful lot lately too. You need to cut him a little slack," Maria admonished gently.

"I will. I will, Maria. Will you help me?" Liz asked, giving her best puppy dog eyes. Maria smiled.

"Of course. What are best friends for, Liz? But you have to promise me: no more drinking. Okay? Can you do that?"

"Okay," Liz nodded emphatically then looked sheepish. "I knew it was a bad idea, but I couldn't seem to help it."

"Well if that happens again, you tell me or someone else, all right? Anyone in the group, Liz. Promise me," Maria insisted.

"I promise," Liz assented softly. She yawned. "Is it all right if I go to sleep now?"

"Yes. Sweet dreams, Lizzie," Maria smoothed the hair off Liz's forehead and her friend smiled.

"I love you Maria. Night."

She watched for a few minutes longer, waiting until Liz's breathing indicated that she was asleep. Then Maria sighed and rose from the side of the bed, steeling herself for the questions she knew would be coming.





posted on 16-Mar-2002 1:29:24 AM
Glad you guys like it so far! I do plan to deal some with Jesse. He, Isabel, Kyle, Jim and the other parents (maybe lol) represent the + part of the title line!*big*

Tara LOL! Yes, I had to fix the school before they left--I just couldn't deal with that ugly CHAD!!

About the alcohol--Liz has already shown a predisposition to run for that in CDB, and that doesn't just go away; it has to be unlearned, unfortunately.*happy*

It's just so exciting to have something new!*big*
hugs, Tas
posted on 19-Mar-2002 7:14:58 PM
I had this ready to post late last night and then my connection quit on me and so here I am today grrr.

Stacey I swear I will NOT mix up my stories.*big* Please note the first repeated paragraph of chapter one.*tongue*

Thank you for all the wonderful fb!*happy* And now, on with the story! Credit goes to Angela35 for the brand new word.*wink*
hugs, Tas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From Chapter One

"Well, then he must be in love with me," Liz suddenly giggled. The idea shot another round of pain into Maria, but she knew that neither Liz nor Michael were interested in each other.

"No, sweetie, that would be Max. Max loves you, so much," she said softly, grimacing slightly as her own pain was mirrored on Liz's expressive face.

"I know, Maria. He didn't die because he wouldn't let go of me. I don't know how to feel about that. But," she hiccupped, looking up earnestly, "I do love Max, Maria. I love him more than anything. He's just—he's hurt me so much, and now he doesn't even remember it!"

"I'm sure it's temporary, pumpkin. He's been through an awful lot lately too. You need to cut him a little slack," Maria admonished gently.

"I will. I will, Maria. Will you help me?" Liz asked, giving her best puppy dog eyes. Maria smiled.

"Of course. What are best friends for, Liz? But you have to promise me: no more drinking. Okay? Can you do that?"

"Okay," Liz nodded emphatically then looked sheepish. "I knew it was a bad idea, but I couldn't seem to help it."

"Well if that happens again, you tell me or someone else, all right? Anyone in the group, Liz. Promise me," Maria insisted.

"I promise," Liz assented softly. She yawned. "Is it all right if I go to sleep now?"

"Yes. Sweet dreams, Lizzie," Maria smoothed the hair off Liz's forehead and her friend smiled.

"I love you Maria. Night."

She watched for a few minutes longer, waiting until Liz's breathing indicated that she was asleep. Then Maria sighed and rose from the side of the bed, steeling herself for the questions she knew would be coming.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*****NEW Chapter Two*****

Michael looked up from the stove as Liz stumbled into the kitchen. He suppressed a smile at how messy she looked, her long hair tangled every which way and her petite form dwarfed by one of his sweatshirts over her pajama pants. Maria must have given it to her.

"I'm scrambling eggs, you want some? I can add more," he offered, smirking when Liz clutched her stomach.

"God, no, Michael. Got any coffee?" she asked sleepily, running the water at the sink. When she deemed it cold enough she stuck a glass under the open tap, filling it nearly to the brim. His eyebrows rose sharply as she chugged down the entire glass, her throat bobbing as she swallowed, then she refilled the glass and turned off the tap, sitting at the breakfast counter.

"What?"

"I can't even chug like that," he admitted.

Liz smiled sardonically. "That's because you learned your lesson in one night to stay away from alcohol. Some of us take a little longer."

"When did you start?" Michael asked curiously. His eggs cooked, he turned off the stove and dumped them onto a plate, setting it on the counter while he poured mugs of coffee for both of them. Liz shook her head when he motioned towards the sugar bowl and gratefully sipped the black coffee before answering.

"The day after I arrived in Vermont," she finally said.

"Liz, you've been gone like three weeks!" he exclaimed, pouring Tabasco on his eggs and starting to eat, still leaning on the counter.

"I'm aware of that," she said dryly. "It doesn't take long when you're looking for a crutch, Michael."

"I guess," he shrugged.

"I'd thought that by going somewhere else, where no one knew me, I could start over. Reclaim the person that I used to be, you know? But I couldn't, Michael. I got there, got my paperwork and found my room. Eileen—my roommate—lit up a cigarette to prove her cool quotient or whatever and then freaked when the Dean knocked. I'd been there all of a few hours and there I was, pulling a lie out of thin air and fooling the Dean completely. I'd already lied to Eileen and told her I went by Beth and other stuff—she found out the truth when Max called the next day to check up on me," Liz rolled her eyes.

"Yeah, well, Maria was off recording or whatever and he couldn't exactly call your parents," Michael nodded; he knew Max had called. It was on his phone bill, after all.

"Right. Do you know that if he had—died, like permanently, the last thing I said to him would have been a lie? All he wanted to do was to make sure that I was okay, he didn't even care about all those horrible things I yelled at him. And just hearing his voice, listening to him suggest coming back home…I melted the phone, Michael. It looked like a cartoon phone. I told him I had to get to class and I'd call him later when the truth was that I couldn't bear to talk to him," she said sadly.

Michael was unprepared for this level of sharing. What did Liz expect him to do about any of this? But as she continued to talk, he realized that she didn't want him to do anything except listen. That, he could handle. Provided she didn't want him to reciprocate and lay his soul out after she was done, that is.

"But he didn't die, Liz. Well—yeah, he did but you brought him back somehow. That's what he said, anyway. He and Maria did the twenty questions thing after she put you to bed," he responded to her quizzical look and she nodded.

"Good," she sighed. "Where is Maria, anyway? For that matter, where's Max? He sort of lives here, where'd he go?"

"He stayed at Isabel and Jesse's. Maria stayed here, with you, and I took the couch. Isabel needed him close and Jesse figured that Max could work on her stomach a little this morning. Kyle picked up Maria early and they went over there for breakfast."

"How's Jesse taking it?"

"One day at a time for now. He loves Isabel, I've got to give him that. I'm liable to hurt him if he asks me to make something else burst into bloom, though," Michael said disgustedly.

"He'll adjust. I'll talk to him. So, how come you didn't go with Maria and Kyle?" Liz asked.

"They went early," Michael repeated and she laughed.

"Well, thanks anyway," she murmured.

"Whatever. Do you remember any of what Maria said? About you staying here?"

Liz looked puzzled for a moment then her face cleared. "Yes! I'm hiding out for a few days or something. Is that okay with you?"

"Don't ask my opinion; she didn't. You're both staying here till Sunday, when Max is supposedly picking you up at the bus station," Michael shook his head.

"Oh. Um, how—"

"You and Maria can keep sharing my bed; Max and I'll trade off on the couch and the floor. It's no biggie," he shrugged off her gratitude, thankful when she didn't press it.

"Did I—did I say anything really embarrassing last night?" Liz asked after a long silence.

Michael glanced at her; she seemed like she was ready to duck from a blow or something. What the hell had happened to spunky little Liz Parker?

"Ah, a couple of things about Max, all of which you managed to say while he was not in the room, thank God. You mentioned him not remembering anything about what happened with Tess, and then uh, you said something about him being revirginized," Michael chuckled at her appalled look. "It wasn't that bad, Liz. That's all you said before Maria figured it out and dumped the booze."

"So, everyone knows, then? That—that I was drinking? Max, too?"

"Yes, and yes. No one's mad, Liz, if that's what you're thinking. A little worried, especially Maria—that's why she's staying."

"Yeah, she's got to be worried if she's willing to sleep with me," Liz let out a small laugh.

"How's that?" Michael wanted to know.

"She says I steal all the blankets. I tell her that it's only because she crowds me onto the edge of the bed and I naturally take the blankets with me," she smiled.

"Maybe she's chasing the blankets," Michael half smiled.

"Yeah. Does she do that with you?" Liz asked, and then put her hand over her mouth. "Oh, my God, Michael, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to—I'm sorry."

He ignored the throbbing in his chest; it was a familiar friend these days. "S'okay. If I remember to—remembered, to stick my leg onto her side of the bed so she could put her cold little feet on me, she stayed put. Otherwise, yeah, she crowded bigtime," Michael forced a smile.

Liz tightened her hands around the mug of coffee. "At least she was your first," she pointed out, her mouth twisting.

First, last, and only, Michael thought to himself. He pushed that aside, telling himself to get a grip. There would be other women. It was easier right now to focus on Liz's pain.

"There is that," he agreed aloud. "Of course, there's also the fact that you and Max are together now, and Maria and I are not. But all's well that ends well, right?"

"She does love you, Michael," Liz said softly. Michael avoided the compassion in her eyes.

"Irrelevant, Liz. Love isn't everything. It isn't enough," he turned away to get more coffee, grabbing her mug as well when she mutely held it out.

"No, it's not," she sighed, nodding her thanks for the refill. "But Maria will come to the same realization I did, Michael. We can't escape, even if we want to. There is no life outside of the alien roller coaster ride, 'cause we're fairground operators now," she offered with a mirthless smile.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Michael demanded.

Liz got direct. "We might as well be aliens too, Michael. You're in our blood now: there's no going back, and there's no getting out. For some of us, that's even a little literal. I can't wait to get my hands on Brody's electron microscope and see if I'm green yet," she widened her eyes comically.

He sagged against the counter, making sure Liz didn't notice. "Is that how you really feel? That—trapped?" he got out, somehow managing to sound normal. Is that how Maria feels?

Liz stared into her coffee cup. "Some days," she admitted, her voice so low Michael had to strain to hear her.

Christ, he thought. Way to fuck up someone's life, getting them involved with us. It wasn't a new idea, by any means, but the sorrow etched on this girl's face drove it farther home than even Pierce's death.

"Liz," he hesitated then plunged on. "If—if you could do it over, you know—if say, Max's powers had been more developed and he—deflected the bullet away from you, or pointed the gun towards the ceiling, and you didn't get shot—if you never knew it was him, that saved your life—if you never knew…would you? Change it?"

Jesus, he sounded like Max, with all the fits and starts. Except Max would never have asked, because he might not have been able to bear the answer. Michael didn't know if the horror on Liz's face was because he had asked the forbidden question or because she didn't know how to tell him the truth. He wanted to kick himself for opening his mouth but at this moment, his desperate need to know ran deeper than any other emotion.

It was an eternity before Liz spoke, and when she found her voice she flung words at him. "How can you ask me that, Michael? Do you have any idea what knowing you guys has put me through? I have been kidnapped and shot at. I have been arrested twice. I have given up on every dream I ever thought I wanted. Harvard. Biology. Getting out of Roswell. I have alien powers that scare the crap out of me and are wickedly painful besides. My boyfriend just resurrected himself from the dead twice and now doesn't remember impregnating his former wife. And God, Alex. Alex died because of what Max asked me to do to his younger self. Yet he didn't begrudge getting involved with Isabel, not even when she was being a complete bitch, and I've managed to accept that whatever I may think, Alex would have believed it was an acceptable sacrifice.

"God, Michael, how do you think I feel? I've been through twelve times more hell than any one person should be put through and I'm currently coming a little unglued at the seams, but the answer is no," she stated emphatically.

"No?" Michael repeated dumbly, completely not ready to hear that after her tirade.

"No. I wouldn't change a fucking minute because it means that now I can be happy with Max. I have earned that; we both have. And if someone wants to tell me that it's going to make the world end, then so be it. I'm not saving it again," Liz spread her arms wide.

Michael just stared at her in utter shock and she began to giggle.

"Close your mouth, Michael. I'm going back to bed. When everyone else gets here, Max can wake me up," she slid off the stool.

"I thought you were pissed at Max," he said in confusion.

Liz sighed as though he were a stupid child and Michael bristled. "I am angry with Max, Michael. That doesn’t mean that I love him any less. Or that I don't want him near me. He died, Michael, and I felt it happen. And then somehow I brought him back. I'm still processing all that but I don't care how angry I am, I need him. I need him, and I love him. What else can I say?"

Michael watched her walk away, towards the bedroom, and he called after her, "Why me? Why'd you tell me all this stuff?"

Liz turned at the bedroom door and gave him a brittle smile. "You mean besides the fact that you asked?" He nodded and so did she.

"Because you're you," she answered simply. "Because you won't judge me for being weak, you won't tell anyone what I said, and you won't try to fix it for me. You just listened, Michael, and that's all I needed right now."

She went into the bedroom and closed the door. Michael stared at its peeling paint, pondering everything Liz had said, and also thinking that he'd never received a compliment that pleased or frightened him more.










[ edited 2 time(s), last at 19-Mar-2002 7:28:18 PM ]
posted on 20-Mar-2002 11:16:46 PM
How much do I love you guys??? I was dying!! I posted this and immediately got booted offline to stay for the night. I didn't get to read any fb till tonight!*sad* But I sure am appreciating it now--thank you!*big*

A few people have mentioned something in Liz's rant.*wink* I am going EXACTLY off show canon. No cut scenes, nothing that was not shown on screen by the end of CDB. So, the only convo about FMax that I've seen was between Liz & Maria at the Virgin Fountain in MITC.

De Yeah, a certain phone convo did somewhat inform that scene.*wink* How could you tell? LOL!

I should be able to post chapter 3 by the weekend.*happy* Sorry you had to read fb, Carol!*tongue*

Thanks again, everyone.
hugs, Tas
posted on 22-Mar-2002 9:00:19 PM
Some awesome thoughts and Qs, but nothing that I can actually answer LOL! You'll just have to wait and see.*wink*

Stacey, my dear, this is the product of your advice.*tongue* Well, partially, anyway!!

Enjoy.*happy*
hugs, Tas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*****NEW Chapter Three*****

Liz stirred, feeling a soft touch on her cheek. "Five more minutes, Mom," she mumbled, burrowing back into the pillow.

There was the deep rumble of laughter above her and then a masculine voice said, "You can have five more minutes, Liz, but I'm definitely not your mother."

"Oh, my God, Max!" she exclaimed, flopping over and immediately sitting up to catch hold of him in a hug. Liz closed her eyes, tears prickling the inside of her lids, as his arms came around her and held her tight. He was real; she hadn't dreamed him!

"Hey, no crying, okay? I'm beginning to get a complex about making women cry," Max joked softly. "I thought Isabel and Maria were going to come to blows over me last night, and you're the one I'm in love with!"

Her heart lurched at the effortless way the words slipped out of his mouth. "Can you—say that again?" she asked, the words muffled by his shirt.

"What, that I'm getting a complex?" he teased.

"No, the other part," Liz smiled, knowing he would hear it.

She was startled by the gentle kiss to the tip of her ear, and then he whispered, "I love you."

How could it feel so good to hear that? It wasn't as though Max were lax in telling her that he loved her; he said it often. Jeez, he'd even said it on the phone when she'd called while he and Michael had been trying to sneak up on Khivar, in an attempt to prevent her anger. "I love you Liz, but I gotta go." Thank God he had listened to her and not Michael that time!

Maybe that was it: there was always a "but" attached. I love you Liz, but we don't belong together. I love you Liz, but I slept with Tess. I love you Liz, but I need to find my son. Even if it was usually silent, it was there.

Not this time. There had been no conditions contained in his voice, nothing to catch her unprepared and rip her heart out. In his words had been…only love. Pure, simple; familiar and almost forgotten.

"Again?" Liz pleaded, surprising both of them. Max's warm laughter rumbled against her face and he shifted, pulling her closer and then lying down with her, stroking her hair as she lay against his chest.

"I love you," he murmured, kissing the top of her head. He chuckled, "I'll tell you that all day if it means that you're not angry anymore."

Liz had to smile. "No, I'm still angry, but you're quickly earning brownie points!"

Her body vibrated with his laughter again and her smile widened.

"Then I'll have to keep saying it, won't I? I love you, Liz Parker," Max's voice was tender and Liz finally lifted her head to look at him.

"Good morning," he smiled. "Well, afternoon actually, but I slept in too so I'm not going to say anything!"

"Mmm, I was up for a while earlier. Michael and I had a heart to heart," she smiled back.

"You and Michael did?" his eyes widened in surprise and Liz laughed.

"More like a heart to ear, I guess. He listened while I babbled on," she admitted.

"Uh-huh. Well, that explains the cryptic greeting I got then," Max chuckled.

"What'd he say?"

"Um," Max's face smoothed, and then he scowled angrily. Liz was taken aback by the uncharacteristic expression, but she started giggling once he spoke.

""You're a lucky man, Maxwell, especially since your girlfriend's crazy enough to still want you,"" he imitated Michael.

"How long have you been doing that?" Liz laughed.

"Most of my life," Max admitted, his scowl relaxing into a grin. "I used to do it to comfort Isabel when we were little, just making faces, and then once we met Michael again it sort of snowballed. I haven't done it in years, though."

"Does he know?"

"No, and let's keep it that way, all right?" he winked at her and Liz nodded.

"So where were we?" she smiled, snuggling into him. Max smiled, but his mien became more serious.

"Liz, when we all—talked, last night, after you—went to bed, I asked about—about what happened with Tess."

"Why, didn't you believe me?" she asked, hurt.

"Yes, of course I did, but—I needed to know more about it, and I wanted to save you from having that conversation. Besides, I thought—you probably wouldn't have known much—detail—anyway. I—I would hope that I would have spared you that much," he explained and she relaxed.

"You did," she confirmed. "That's—partly why the flashes yesterday caught me so off guard. We haven't—there haven't been any, not since then. Until you found me in the grass at the academy, and I thought you were a hallucination and tried to push you away."

"When you kissed me," Max clarified and she nodded. He sighed, "I had them too, which scared Clayton enough to put him firmly in control. I think he snapped at some point, Liz. It was so—weird. We were all tangled together, with him in control but tapped into my feelings…I wish that was part of what I've forgotten. It makes me feel—dirty."

"It's okay, Max," Liz reached up to stroke his jaw. "No one blames you for what happened in Vermont."

Except you, she added to herself, because she could see the guilt he carried. But she didn't say anything as he shrugged self-consciously.

"Right. Anyway, I—I wanted to—apologize," he said earnestly, locking gazes with her.

"For what?" she asked in confusion.

"For not—saving myself. For you. I—always thought, even after you slept with Kyle, that we—that we'd find our way back to each other and you know, take that next step together. I guess—I don't know, from what—everyone else said, I was in a pretty bad place last spring, and I…I'm sorry, Liz. I still don't understand how I could, have—but I did, and I am so sorry."

Liz heard the pain and confusion in his voice and fought the urge to tell him that this was okay, too. But it wasn't. Had it been just that he had given himself to Tess…that, she could forgive in time. There was a child involved, though, and his presence changed everything.

Then the beginning of his apology sank in. "After I slept with Kyle?" she repeated, puzzled.

Max broke their eye contact, lying flat and staring up at the ceiling. "Yeah. I know you did it to push me away and—I was angry, for a while, but—it stopped mattering, a long time ago. That's not what I mean, exactly," he shook his head in frustration at his inability to express himself.

"But Max, I didn't—" Liz tried to tell him. She felt sick. He didn't remember that it was a lie; that nothing had happened with Kyle. For a fleeting moment she considered not correcting him and cringed inwardly when she realized what she was thinking.

"Sh, Liz, please. Let me try to say this, okay? I—it took time and effort on my part, but I—I worked through my feelings about what happened with Kyle. And—the reason I said it doesn't matter is because—well, because it doesn't, but not in the way you're probably thinking. I finally—I came to the conclusion that it's your body, and therefore your decision. That doesn't sound right either," he grimaced. "Of course it is. But if—if anything ever did happen between us, that way, it would be a—a privilege. Not a right. Me—me being in love with you doesn't give me any rights over you, and it shouldn't. So, being—intimate, with you, would only happen because you allowed me to—to—to touch you. And whatever happened before, or even after—wouldn't change the magic of that."

There was a long silence then he asked, still staring up, "Am I making any sense whatsoever, or did I totally screw that up?"

Liz couldn't answer; she was trying too hard not to cry. A sob escaped her lips and instantly Max looked down at her. The concern in his beautiful eyes brought the walls down and Liz began to shake as she lost her long-held control and fell apart in tears.

"Apparently the latter," Max said ruefully as he pulled her up farther, tucking her head under his chin, more than half of her laying across him. Liz felt his hand stroke her hair, his other arm holding her tightly against his body while she cried. Gradually her tears abated as his warmth spread through her, until she rested quietly.

At last she spoke, her voice scratchy. "No."

"No what, Liz? Holding you?" he loosened his arm and Liz shook her head violently. Max retightened his grip on her. "Then what?"

"You didn't screw it up. I just wish that I—could feel—"

"Two very different situations, Liz. You were obviously your usual intelligent self and used something. I—God, I don't even know who I was being, but he obviously wasn't intelligent! The—the consequences change everything," he said softly, his voice laden with regret and a touch of—wonder? At the idea of a small person out there that was a part of him? Part of Max, but not of Liz. Yet in all of this, never had she condemned him for wanting to find his son. Even with the myriad changes he had gone through, Max still was not a person who would abandon a helpless child. The fact that the search hurt her because it served as a constant reminder that she would never be the first wasn't his fault, either; he couldn't help that now. Only how Liz had felt used upon occasion, like the means to an end, was placed wholly on Max's shoulders.

"It's more than that, Max," she murmured. Could she tell him the whole truth? Was it time? It was long past time, in actuality, but Liz found that she still couldn't do it.

"Tell me, please," he importuned.

"I—what happened with Kyle was to push you away, but—it was a set-up, Max. He never touched me," she paused, letting that sink in for a moment. "I told you that, the night before—before you were supposed to leave for Antar, all four of you. In the Jeep, when you gave me the pendant and kissed me goodbye. I—I guess that's part of what's gone from your memory, too."

He was silent for a moment, though Liz could hear how harsh his breathing had become. "No, I remember kissing you. And Atherton's pendant. I—you must have given it back to me at some point, because I remember it was in the bag that Michael and I dug up out in the desert, with the metal book translation. I wanted to see if I could help you somehow—you were so sick. Oh, God—Liz, are you still sick? That's why you went to Vermont, right? Are you okay now?"

"Seem to be. There hasn't been any more lightning under my skin since—since you called me. At the academy," she admitted. "And—well, you're definitely in close proximity now and there's no lightning, so…"

Max laughed a little, though it didn't really sound mirthful. "Right. So—so you—waited, then."

Liz knew what he meant. "Yes."

"And—I didn't."

"Yes."

He sighed, and the weariness in the sound made her heart ache even more. "Well, that—sucks, to put it bluntly. There's—I can't do anything to change that, or make it up to you. It's just—there."

"Pretty much," she agreed, surprised to hear a bit of a smile in her voice.

"Right. So, then, there's—my child, out there somewhere, with his mother who is—well, who betrayed all of us and killed Alex. Then there's you, who has been—supporting me in this, in spite of the, uh, circumstances. And finally there's me, who—who—Jesus, Liz, why are you still with me?" Max burst out.

"What?"

"All I've done is screw up your life! Several times over," he said self-deprecatingly.

"I know that, Max. Do you want me to leave you?" Liz held her breath, waiting for his answer.

A strangled laugh sounded above her. "God knows, I should say yes…but I can't. I can't! I love you too much. I—I need you, Liz. It's selfish and weak, but there it is. I can't let go of you, and I don't want to, either."

She closed her eyes, relief pouring over her. "Then you know the answer, don't you?"

"Because you—feel the same way? Do you? Still?" Max asked incredulously. He rose up on his elbow, tilting them both to one side, so he could see her face as she answered.

"Yeah, I do," Liz replied helplessly. Abruptly she became aware of how snugly she fitted against him, her leg still hooked over his knees in a way that was decidedly more suggestive than it had been when she was sprawled everywhere.

Something of her thoughts must have shown in her face because Max's eyes darkened in a way she knew. He made no move, however, waiting for Liz to decide if she wanted anything of him. To grant him privileges, she thought whimsically, remembering what he had said.

Moving slowly, Liz slid her leg up farther until her calf rested along his buttocks. Suddenly she squeezed, pressing their bodies even closer, and was rewarded with a stifled groan. Max's gaze grew more intense, its heat scorching her, but still he waited.

Liz reached up to caress his jaw then traced his lips with her fingers. They parted under her touch and she trailed a fingertip along the soft inner surface of his lower lip. When he tentatively licked her fingertip, Liz's eyes flew back to his, finding them still locked on her face. Nervously she wet her lips, noting his flicker of interest at her action. Feeling bolder, Liz gently pushed her finger into his mouth.

She hadn't expected to feel it clear down to her toes as Max closed his lips around her finger and sucked, his tongue laving its hidden portion. Liz watched, increasingly heavy-lidded, as Max's lips moved along her finger as though a more intimate act were being performed. He withdrew his mouth and licked the soft connective tissue between her fingers then drew the next one in, repeating his suction.

Pleasure corkscrewed crazily in her stomach. His look alone melted her, the way his eyes never left her face as Max carefully attended to each of her fingers. When he finished, he pressed wet, licking kisses to her palm and wrist. Liz was sure that he would be able to feel her pulse hammering under his lips. Was his heart racing wildly, too?

Delicately Liz removed her hand, brushing his cheek before dropping to his chest, pressing her palm flat over his heart. Once Max had told her that her touch made his heart glow inside. She couldn't swear to any glowing now, but it was definitely pounding in the same rapid beat as her own.

Max remained quiet, though his breathing grew more audible as Liz skimmed her palm over the rest of his chest and upper arm. She enjoyed the feel of the hard muscle beneath her hand. If she were completely honest with herself, she enjoyed the feeling of being the one in charge as well, knowing that Max followed her lead.

Liz watched the changes in his face, marveling at how open Max's reactions were. He didn't hold anything back. When her wandering hand hit a ticklish spot, a smile ghosted over his lips. When she inadvertently scraped a fingernail over the small, hardened tip of his nipple, he inhaled sharply and his eyes lit with fire.

At last he trapped her hand and broke the long silence, staring at her intently as if to make sure that she understood what he said to her. "Liz…you'd better stop now if you don't want me to kiss you," he warned. And it was a warning, telling her clearly in words that she was getting to him. Not that Liz needed the words, not with his heartfelt expressions and harsh breathing, and the hard press of his groin against her. But oh, the thick, husky sound of his voice sent shivers through her.

"Max," she answered softly, meeting his eyes, "I don't want to stop yet."

Liz wasn't sure what all she saw ignite in his gaze; she had little time to process it. The hand that had trapped her own on his chest lifted, sliding into her hair and supporting the back of her head as Max brought her face up to his, capturing her lips.

The kiss on the bus yesterday had not really prepared Liz for the conflagration that flared into vibrant life between them. Max made a helpless sound as his tongue plunged into her open mouth and she realized that he, too, was in the grip of this undeniably strong passion. That knowledge intoxicated her and she kissed him back aggressively, rolling onto her back and pulling him with her. Max's body nestled between her thighs, his chest pressing down on hers as they continued to kiss greedily, tongues dueling for dominance for a moment before Max gracefully gave in, letting Liz explore the far reaches of his mouth.

Dizzied by his taste and feel, Liz ignored how quickly things were spinning out of control. She also ignored the mad rush of images dancing through her mind, telling herself she'd sort through them later. Right now, she wanted more.

"Max," she murmured, breaking the kiss. Denied her lips, Max rained wet kisses on her cheeks and licked her ear lobe.

"Yeah?" he asked raggedly.

"Touch me," Liz sighed, and he chuckled against her ear.

"I am," he told her, and he was. His hand swept up her side, learning the curve of her hip, the indent of her waist, the feel of her ribcage, and then…the sharp planes of her shoulder blade and the nape of her neck, before tracing down her spine and across her waist to begin again. A careful path that avoided anywhere overly intimate, and it was driving her nuts!

"More," she sighed again, hearing a quiet moan in response. Liz smiled as Max nearly growled, "How much more?"

In answer, she grasped his oh so careful hand and placed it squarely on her breast, smile widening at his strangled sound. Almost reverentially, he breathed her name, "Liz…"

"Sh. Don't stop, Max," Liz pleaded and he nodded slightly before reclaiming her lips. Somehow she had forgotten the utter sensuality of his kisses, how the heavy lassitude crept all through her and she felt as though she could go on kissing him forever.

Max's hand, however, was distracting her from his kisses. Why doesn't he do something? Liz thought, puzzled. She arched her back, pressing her chest up and at last he did begin to move his hand, his motion hesitant, as though he were unsure of his actions. Liz tried to remember whether they had gotten this far before but she couldn't think. She had a brief moment of inadequacy before it crashed in on her that Max had absolutely no recollection of touching anyone else. A flood of relief washed through her, where earlier that same fact had infuriated her. Liz came to the instant conclusion that there were indeed some advantages to Max's damaged memories.

She moaned softly when Max brushed his thumb over her nipple, hearing his faint echo. He must have been encouraged by her sound because he repeated the light touch, to the same moan of satisfaction. Max's fingers became surer, pulling delicately at her hardened nipple. Liz couldn't believe how profoundly she felt his fumbling caresses; pleasure shot through her with every slight tug.

"Max," she whispered throatily, her head falling back as she arched. Max pressed nibbling kisses to her neck and collarbone, using his lips to gently bite her skin. Lightheaded with sensation, Liz wondered just how good those soft nibbles would feel where his hand was and without thinking, she grasped the hem of her tank top and raised it, pulling the fabric out from under Max's fingers and up to the base of her throat.

Liz felt Max freeze and she looked at him to find him staring back at her, wide-eyed.

"I'm completely positive that I've never seen your breasts before," he offered with a shaky smile and Liz smiled. Max swallowed hard and reached out, touching the rosy peak of one breast. They both watched her skin contract and tighten in the wake of his finger and he breathed, "Wow."

Liz had to laugh at his awed tone, but she was serious when she told him, "Yeah, wow is how it makes me feel, too."

Max's eyes snapped to hers and she gasped at the renewed desire in them. "Well, wow is definitely on my list of ways I want to make you feel," he smiled. He swallowed again, seeming nervous, and asked, "May I?"

"Please," Liz said simply. She closed her eyes as his dark head bent, unable to bear the anticipation.

A low cry burst from her lips at the first touch of his tongue. Liquid fire poured through her veins, pounding in her bloodstream as Max carefully drew her taut nipple into his mouth and sucked lightly. Her hands sought out his hair and Liz tangled her fingers in the short strands, holding him to her.

"Oh, God," she murmured breathlessly when his hand began to stroke her other breast, creating a kind of counterpoint with his mouth. Acting on sheer instinct, Liz wrapped her legs around Max, her hips lifting. She felt more than heard his forceful exhalation as she wriggled against him, trying to find relief somehow for the ache that was building in her. Her movements repositioned them both and suddenly the solid bulge in Max's pants was pressed exactly where she needed it.

Liz moaned feverishly, feeling a mounting pressure as Max continued to stimulate her breasts. She thrust her hips up, rubbing against Max and hearing soft moans from him at the delicious friction. Something was hovering…just out of reach…

All at once pleasure crashed over Liz and her body contracted, her legs tightening around Max's waist. She shook slightly, shivers of sensation frissoning through her. When they subsided, she unclenched her hands from Max's hair and relaxed her hold on him. His head shot up and she grinned at the stunned look on his face.

"Did you just—you did, didn't you?" Max asked in disbelief. "I thought," he hesitated, searching for words. "I thought it was supposed to be more—well, difficult. Is it always—like that, for you? Or—well, you might not know. Do you?"

Liz couldn't help but laugh as he babbled questions and Max smiled, shaking his head. "Never mind. That's pretty personal stuff, and I don't know what I'm talking about anyway, so let's just leave it, okay?"

"Okay," she agreed. He leaned forward and pressed a tender kiss to her forehead, and another to her breastbone.

"Thank you, for—sharing that with me," Max murmured. Liz was about to say something when he pulled her top back down, smoothing it over her stomach. He seemed to consider the matter closed now, which didn't seem quite fair to Liz since it was all too obvious to her that he was still very aroused.

"Max, what about—" she started when he shook his head with a half smile.

"We ordered pizza just before I came in to wake you up, and I asked Maria to let me know when it got here. Which should be any time now, so…" Max trailed off meaningfully.

"Oh," Liz colored at the thought that someone might have walked in a few minutes ago and caught them in a fairly compromising position. She could see Max trying not to smile as the implications hit her. Before she even had a chance to absorb them, though, the door was opening.








posted on 22-Mar-2002 9:03:46 PM
Also, for anyone who might want to keep up with updates, etc., I have an egroup for that purpose. I post on the group when and what and where I update my fics.*happy* So if you'd like, that's one way to go for info!
hugs, Tas




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 22-Mar-2002 9:06:27 PM ]
posted on 24-Mar-2002 2:08:16 AM
Well, I'm glad y'all enjoyed that chapter, even if some of you were surprised!*wink* Again, nothing that I can directly answer, so on with the story LOL!
hugs, Tas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*****NEW Chapter Four*****

"Hey, Max, pizza's here!" Maria poked her head into the bedroom with no warning at all, pleased to catch Max in the middle of moving off Liz. Her friend looked well and thoroughly kissed, and as far as Maria was concerned it was about time.

"Hey, Lizzie. Your suitcase is on the floor if you want to get dressed and brush your hair. You can send Max out to play with us—or not, whatever takes your fancy," she winked, adroitly closing the door before the pillow Liz threw at her made contact.

"What's the big rush?" Kyle asked, nodding at the door.

"Oh, just avoiding the stuff Liz threw at me for interrupting," Maria grinned.

"Interrupting? They weren't—on my bed, were they?" Michael grimaced.

"Relax, Michael. Everyone had their clothes on," she rolled her eyes.

"Somebody might as well get some use out of it," Michael muttered under his breath as he turned away, heading for the refrigerator. Stung, Maria was about to issue a cutting remark when she saw him glance over at the couch with a haunted expression. Her throat constricted and the comment died. I need to talk to him, make him understand. Maybe then… What? Maria didn't know what came after that. Things had fizzled with Dominique but the experience had renewed her love for her music and she wasn't going to let it fall by the wayside again. She had realized, though, on the way to Vermont that while she may have maintained her artistic integrity by refusing to allow Dominique to turn her into a pop princess, her personal integrity had taken a beating. Starting with the way she'd treated Michael.

Maria snapped out of her reverie as the bedroom door opened and Max appeared, looking considerably tidier than he had a few minutes ago. She smiled as he stuffed his hands in his pockets, clearly uncomfortable with the speculative way everyone was looking at him.

"Liz—is changing. Her clothes," Max explained.

"You didn't offer to help with that?" Kyle ribbed him as Max made his way to the counter, where the pizza sat. Startlingly, Max smiled.

"No, I'd like to stay living this time," he joked, to general laughter.

Since Michael had returned to his seat, Maria joined Max in the kitchen. He passed her a napkin, evidently noticing her empty hands.

"Hey girlfriend, want some pizza?" he asked softly. She nodded and he plopped a slice on her waiting napkin with a smile.

"You haven't called me that for a while," Maria noted.

"Really?" he asked, surprised. When she nodded again he sighed. "Seems to be the theme of the day. Well, at least I've managed to do something brand new," Max half smiled.

Maria knew somehow that he was referring to what had happened with Liz. "You guys didn't, you know?" she asked, slightly alarmed.

"What? No. No, absolutely not. Aside from the seriously not ideal circumstances, I don't think—I'm not ready for that," he confessed.

"Excuse me?"

"Yeah, I know. Weird given what happened with Tess. But—she had to have coerced me or something. I wish I knew how," Max said wistfully.

"What do you mean? How do you know that you didn't like, turn to her for comfort? Why not?" she added as Max shook his head.

"No. I couldn't do that, Maria. And not just because of Liz. Not even mostly because of Liz," he admitted. "I mean, physically."

"I'm not following you," Maria remarked in confusion.

"Never mind. Do you smell vanilla?" he looked around.

"No, not really. Why?"

"Oh. I thought I smelled Liz's perfume. I wish she wore something more complex than Original Vanilla from the Body Shop. Sometimes when Mom like bakes cookies I notice the vanilla smell and I'm suddenly painfully reminded of Liz," Max rolled his eyes at himself. "And it's just so wrong but I can't help it!"

He glanced at Maria, who became aware that her mouth was hanging slightly open and closed it with a snap. "Sorry, that was probably in TMI mode," Max smiled ruefully, using an almost-forgotten code. Too much information.

"It's not that, Max, it's—we haven't done this in over a year," she told him.

"We haven't? What happened?" he wanted to know, a shadow in his eyes.

"Well, I guess—after Liz pulled that stunt with Kyle, we sort of drifted into camps, and…" Maria didn't know how to phrase it.

"And you were in Liz's, where you should have been," he said firmly. Max finished his slice of pizza, chewing thoughtfully. "So who was in mine? You and Alex were obviously on Liz's side, same with Kyle. I know things were strained with Michael, and Isabel said last night that we were fighting a lot, so…that leaves Tess."

Maria opened and closed her mouth without speaking, her guilty expression evidently enough of an answer for Max.

"I'm beginning to get the picture now," he said grimly, rubbing his upper lip. "Every alien to him or herself, except Tess's goal was to get to me."

"Something like that," Maria whispered. Was that why no one had seen it coming, why Tess's duplicity went undiscovered until the very last moment? Because she had spent all her time with Max, manipulating him, and no one had bothered to find out what was really going on? They were all well versed in how to look for hidden meaning in everything, trained to not trust so easily. What had gone so wrong?



Liz had entered the room and unobtrusively taken a seat on the couch. She'd smiled, watching Max and Maria talk. Two of the most important people in her life. Then she saw Maria's guilty look, and Max's face fall, and knew they had to be talking about something having to do with Tess.

Max looked up, seeming to notice her presence only now. He gave her a quick smile but Liz could see that it didn't reach his eyes. Nodding in answer to his gesture, she smiled regardless as he came over with pizza. Handing it to her, Max sat down on the floor beside her legs.

"Here, Max, sit down," Jesse offered him the cushion beside Liz.

"I'm good, thanks," Max shook his head politely.

"Max, take the seat," Jesse mock ordered as he stood. "I'll grab another one."

Reluctantly Max did as he was asked, nodding his gratitude. Liz saw the radiance of Isabel's smile at her husband and she recalled that she'd told Michael she would talk to Jesse about the ups and downs of being in love with an alien. That much of their morning conversation she remembered clearly; she wasn't about to admit that a great deal of it was way out of focus, although it was drifting back into her mind. It was the first time Liz had had quite that much to drink, and apparently it didn't always wear off just because a person passed out for a few hours. She still hadn't been entirely lucid when she'd spilled her guts to Michael. Though she had been perfectly coherent by the time Max had awakened her. Well, at least she had been before he'd kissed her. Then all logic had flown out the window. But she was guessing that Jesse was already well acquainted with that part—he and Isabel were married, after all. Liz was the only virgin in the room.

When exactly had she become so cynical?

Refusing to dwell on her morbid thoughts any longer, Liz started eating her pizza. Her mouth was full when Max glanced at her and took a deep breath before speaking.

"I have—something I'd like to ask all of you. Well actually, Jesse, you're off the hook because you don't even know Tess. And I already know Liz and Maria's motivations. But I was wondering—what happened, exactly? What I mean is, didn't anyone think it was odd when I started spending a lot of time with Tess? Or—or question my behavior? I—I," he looked down at his hands, twisting in his lap. "I've gathered that I was—less than pleasant to be around, from what you've all said, but—why didn't anyone call me on it?"

There was a long silence, during which Liz noticed that no one met Max's eyes. Oddly enough, it was Jesse who spoke first.

"I might be stepping out of line here, but aren't you the King? That's what I understood from what Michael and Isabel have told me," he sounded perplexed.

Max nodded. "Yes, but…so what? Isabel, you used to pull the princess act long before we knew you were actually a princess, and Michael and I always shot you down. I just want to know why no one thought to slap me upside the head!"

He had a point. Liz remembered a long ago conversation about how Max was controlling. Isabel had told him that outright, and Liz had confirmed it. Family and friends doing what they were supposed to: help each other out of difficult situations. Like Maria was doing with Liz now. Like no one had done for Max.

"You have to understand where we were coming from too, Max. You threatened me. You said that if I tried to leave Roswell without your consent you would tell our parents that I was on drugs and tell my teachers that I'd cheated on every test in high school. I didn't know who you were or how to talk to you when every time you opened your mouth something vile spewed out," Isabel said angrily. "And this was—we all fell apart after Alex died, Max. Some more than others. And—I don't know, I guess we thought you knew what you were doing. She was your former wife," she said more gently.

Max nodded, his head bowed. "Yeah," his voice was full of loathing. "So I went on a power trip and drove everyone away, except Tess. And the more time I spent with her, the worse it got, and the less I saw of everyone else. Does that sound about right?" he asked wearily.

"That's the vicious circle," Maria confirmed quietly, and he nodded again. Liz ached to see how this was hurting him, to find out how brutal he'd been to them all. She understood his need to know, though; she would feel the same, in his place.

Apparently Michael would not. "Maxwell, why are you dragging up all this shit? Can't we just let it go? Once was more than enough, believe me!"

Max sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Michael, it just hit me today that I'm a father. Somewhere in the universe is a tiny piece of my life. And I am trying desperately to understand how that could be possible. To figure out how I could have—rescinded all my principles and slept with a girl that I never cared for as more than a friend, with whom I don't even function!" his voice rose sharply.

"Um, could you—repeat that last part?" Kyle asked. Liz felt too shocked to say anything.

A bitter little smile appeared on Max's lips. "I have held Tess, kissed her, slept huddled with her in the sewers in New York for warmth, and I have never had a physical reaction to her. I was attracted to her, yes, but not all of me got involved," he said tightly.

"But—everything does work, right? I mean, like a normal human? Michael?" Kyle looked around for help.

"Works normally for me," Michael confirmed. "Max?"

He shook his head, the smile growing more natural. "Yeah, everything works, Kyle. Just—not with Tess."

"Liz?" Kyle wanted her confirmation.

Suddenly the entire room was looking at Liz, with the exception of Max. Her face flushed painfully red, her cheeks throbbing in time with her heartbeat.

Kyle laughed. "Okay, I don't even need a verbal answer to that one!"

Max glanced at her, an apology in his eyes. Liz shook her head slightly and started rubbing his back, the motion and contact soothing both of them.

"So, maybe she mindwarped you like she did Kyle," Maria speculated.

"Wouldn't that be a nice, simple solution?" Max laughed; the sound had a brittle edge to it and Liz moved closer in reaction, trying to shield him somehow. She hated this. Hated seeing him in pain; hated talking about Tess. Hated that everyone, himself included, had failed Max when it came right down to it.

If Future Max were to show up right now, she'd kick his ass.

"Unfortunately," Max continued, oblivious to Liz's internal monologue, "that isn't possible. Unlike Kyle, I know when Tess is mindwarping me. I can't do anything but experience the warp, but I know when it's happening."

"Are you sure?" Kyle asked, shrugging in defeat when Max nodded.

"Yeah. We actually practiced it. If she was within a certain distance, I could feel her mindwarping no matter who the target was. If she was too far away for me to feel it, I could still sense it if she warped me. Besides, she wasn't powerful enough to sustain a warp for long enough to—for me to—no matter how short it was. It took everything she had to force me to kiss her, and that was for just a couple of minutes. There's usually—kissing, and—and—stuff, involved in—in sex. She couldn't have kept it up," he smiled briefly at his ironic choice of words.

"But, she mindwarped Alex for a long time," Maria protested.

"Not exactly. She would have had to mindwarp him repeatedly over that period of time, and rely on external factors to reinforce the false reality. It wasn't one continuous warp," Max explained.

"The Thai food," Liz exclaimed.

"What?" he turned to her with a puzzled look.

"The guy at the university said that Alex ordered in Thai food for every single meal. And the night that he—he broke out of the warp, and Tess—killed him, he'd ordered Thai food. I knew it was connected but I never knew how. Getting it in his own home and everything must have broken the cycle of having Thai food reinforce Tess's version of reality, and allowed him to remember what was real," she elucidated.

"Yeah, that sounds plausible," Max nodded. "In any case, Tess definitely didn't mindwarp me. Or—well, not without me knowing, anyway. If I was really that far gone, I suppose I might have let her, but I don't know why I wouldn't remember it then. If I were going to go that far I probably would have let her make me forget that it had been a warped experience, if that makes any sense. I don't think her vanity would have allowed any other way." Max rubbed his lip then leaned his head against his hand, his elbow propped on the couch arm.

"You—you don't think you'd actually have done that, do you? Given her an open invitation to play with your head?" Isabel asked, aghast.

"I don't know! I can't fathom that I would, but I would have said the same thing about threatening you, Iz, or telling Liz that I didn't want her in my life if she left Roswell. But I did those things, so—who the hell knows?" he burst out, near tears.

"Hey," Liz said soothingly, wrapping her arm around his shoulder. "I think that's enough for now, all right? We've established that whatever happened likely had nothing to do with a mindwarp, so let's look somewhere other than Tess for an answer. I think your memories might be a clue, Max. If we can figure out approximately what's missing, then maybe we can pinpoint a pattern and that might tell us something."

"Sounds reasonable. What do you remember, Maxwell?" Michael inquired. Liz rolled her eyes and glared at him for the ridiculously open-ended question.

"Never mind Michael; that's no way to go about this. Max, I want you to think about the last really vivid memory you have, okay? One where the events leading up to it are clear, without gaps. Can you do that for me?" she said gently.

Everyone tried to act nonchalant as he nodded. "Yeah, I think so."

"All right, close your eyes and think about it for a moment," Liz instructed. He did as she asked, and Liz saw with satisfaction that he seemed to calm down some. "Do you see something?"

He nodded, and she encouraged, "Can you tell me what you see?"

Max opened his eyes and turned to face Liz. The unexpected pain in his wet gaze shocked her with its depth. Whatever it was that he'd remembered, it was not a happy thought.

"You," he said simply. "I see you, leaving me, after—after I told you that I loved you. And you—walked away."

"Me? But—" that was recent, Liz protested in her mind. And it had been Max who had walked away, after she'd closed the window, climbing down the fire escape on her balcony in an eerie echo of their first break-up. Only this time, Liz had been the one who'd needed space.

Max continued as if he hadn't heard her. "You walked away and I called after you, and you—you turned around, and I was frozen by the look on your face. You didn't say anything but you still made it perfectly clear that I was not to come after you. I started to anyway, but…Michael said I had to let you go, and then you started running, like you couldn't get away from me fast enough," he whispered, raising one hand to scrub at the tears that began sliding down his cheeks.

Liz stared at him, her heart breaking. That was what he last remembered, her fleeing from the pod chamber and the revelation of his alien destiny? That was the image of her that he'd been carrying since his reawakening?

"Max," she managed to say, her throat dry and tight, "that was nearly two years ago!"

He just looked at her, and Liz felt her gorge rise at the pure agony in his expression.

"Yeah. I know."









posted on 24-Mar-2002 2:10:54 AM
Cookie, thank you for the VERY timely bump LOL! You're a doll!*big*
hugs, Tas
posted on 24-Mar-2002 2:33:08 AM
BWAAAHAAAAHAAAHAAAAHAAAA!!!
(Copyright Stacey) *big*

Hee, thanks, Cookie! I'm glad that Max's feelings, etc. are coming across so clearly since they're filtered through other people's POVs.*happy* Yay me, it's working LOL!*wink*
hugs, Tas
posted on 24-Mar-2002 2:30:27 PM
Jane!!! Would it be weird if I said I love you?*wink* LOL! Some wonderful thoughts there; I only wish I could provide you with some answers! Unfortunately, I can't without giving anything away. Oh--but I can say that you're right about the explanation being rather complex!*big*

General point of clarification: the end of Destiny isn't the last thing that Max remembers--obviously since he's made reference to later events. It's the last time that there were NO blank spots around any of his memories, no missing pieces. As an example, he said that he remembered part of the convo with Liz in the Jeep, but not all of it. The memories that he does have are perfectly clear, normal memories. He's simply missing some!*wink*
hugs, Tas
posted on 26-Mar-2002 11:31:30 PM
Thanks for the awesome fb, guys.*big* My posting has unfortunately caught up with my writing now--I was a little ahead when I started posting--so updates will be a tad slower.*sad* I know, I'm sorry!
ER I'm esp. apologetic to you since that's why you caved now!! But you know you wanted to anyway.*wink* Smooches, Court!

Well, I think I threw y'all for a loop there LOL! Hopefully I can continue to keep you on your toes and entertained besides.*happy* On with the story!
hugs, Tas

(Note: I'll start recapping the last chapter before posting the new one as of ch.6, in case anyone was wondering were my usual habit had gone!)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chapter Five

Maria sighed, watching the soapy water drain out of the sink as Michael put the last clean dish away. She'd insisted on making a huge batch of spaghetti for them all, even tossing some half and half in the sauce when Michael wasn't looking. Now, the remainder of the group had gone home, leaving the two men who lived here and their current houseguests.

Max and Liz had fallen asleep curled up together on the couch shortly after dinner. Once they'd discovered the breadth of Max's damaged memories, it had been decided to postpone further investigation until the following day. Max clearly needed a respite, and Liz was a wreck. She'd clung to Max the same way she had when he'd first woken or been reborn or whatever. It wasn't healthy, but it was a damn sight better than the alcohol. Maria figured they could start work on that tomorrow as well, wean Liz off Max and everything else and get her back on her own two feet. It frightened Maria to see her incredibly strong friend in this needy state, particularly when combined with the questions it inspired her to ask about herself.

"Tired?" Michael asked neutrally. He couldn't make up his mind if he were in heaven or hell right now, with Maria's constant presence. She was like strong desert sunlight: felt great on the skin and in the soul, but it was all too easy to get burned without realizing it. He hung the dishtowel on the refrigerator door handle and wiped his hands dry on his jeans.

"Yes and no. It's been kind of an emotional day but I'm not sleepy yet," she finally answered. "Look at them. Don't they just look—right, together?"

Michael followed her hand gesture to the couple on the couch. Max was spooned in behind Liz, both his arms around her, with her hands holding onto his. Despite the fact that they'd never been intimate, it had been completely natural to both of them to fall asleep all entwined like that.

"Yeah they do," he admitted. Michael felt a long-forgotten pang of envy for Max, almost more surprised by its reappearance than by the subject. At least Max gets to hold the girl he loves.

"Yeah," Maria echoed. I remember feeling that safe in someone's arms.

"So," Michael said after a long silence.

"So," Maria echoed him again, offering a wry smile. "Do you want to just—sit and talk?" she asked hesitantly.

"Sure," Michael acquiesced. They both moved around the counter, sitting on the breakfast stools with one left empty between them. Michael glared at it briefly then gave up. He was beginning to lean towards this situation being hell, and it was only the first day!

The minutes ticked by, neither one able to think of anything to say. Both pairs of eyes were drawn irresistibly back to the sleeping couple. Remembering nights when they had lain in that same position, felt that at ease with each other. The memories provided a sharp contrast to the current impasse, but at last that sparked off a conversation.

"I can't even imagine how Max must feel," Maria commented compassionately. "He's always been so sensitive, and for him to learn how awful he was being…I can't really wrap my mind around it. He seems—so different. Younger, even. Does he seem that way to you?"

"Different? No. Actually, what he seems is the same, Maria. Like, the same person that he's been all his life, except for the last year and a half or so, when he sorta faded in and out of himself depending on what was going on with Liz. I—" he cut himself off, glancing at her out of the corner of his eye. Maria appeared open right now; dared he share anything real?

"You what, Michael?" she turned inquisitive green eyes on him. Maria had the most gorgeous eyes: a rich, pure green with a darker green circle around the irises, and tiny flecks of gold that shimmered when she was happy. Michael noted absently that there was no shimmer now.

"I—kinda—I fucked up, Maria. Max was right, we should have been paying attention to his behavior, and not just to bitch about it. What kind of person lets his best friend fall so damn far?" Michael burst out. There, he'd said it, the thought that had been haunting him all day. His gaze slid away from Maria's as soon as he finished speaking, unable to bear it if there should be condemnation there.

"Oh, Michael. It's not your fault either. You're not that petty, to overlook the weirdness of Max's actions in favor of complaining. You just—we were all acting weird, Michael. Liz was on this insane quest, Isabel was on a different type of quest…I was a basket case," she exhaled in mild disgust. "I needed you, a lot more than Max seemed to, and you were totally there for me. And Tess was part of the group, remember? We didn't know what she'd done, so it didn't seem that wrong for Max to spend time with her. God knows Liz did everything in her power to put him there. From everything you guys had learned, that's where he was supposed to be."

"Yeah. I know that. Doesn't change how I feel about it though," Michael admitted in a rare moment of complete truth. Something about this entire day, about the pain he'd seen in Max and Liz both and his own pain, demanded that. It was what Max had called a "confessional night" when they were growing up, one where the normal rules no longer applied and the secrets that weighed so heavily in the daytime slipped out in comfort.

"Yeah. It doesn't change my guilty feelings either. If I hadn't fallen apart like that, maybe you would have been there more for Max instead of picking up my pieces. Or if I'd held on harder to mine and Max's friendship, instead of letting everyone break off into groups. There are a million ways to second-guess this, Michael, and none of them are useful. What we need to do is help him now, not wish we'd done it before," Maria sighed.

"Liz, too," he added softly, half smiling when she looked surprised. "None of this has been easy on her, Maria. Obviously or she wouldn't be drinking. At this point, I think that Max is probably better off than she is. At least he doesn't remember treating her like shit."

Maria had been nodding, smiling a little in agreement, until Michael's last sentence. Then her head shot up in anger. "How can you say that, Michael?" she hissed.

"What?" he was genuinely confused.

"How can you say that Max is better off not remembering? Don't you understand the importance of memories? Who we are is composed of what we've done and felt and wanted and loved, Michael, as much as anything else. How can you know who you even are if you can't remember any of that?"

"Maria—" he started to say when she interrupted.

"God, Michael! What if the last thing you remembered clearly was leaving me after you killed Pierce, huh? What if you didn't remember how you took care of me after Alex died, or the first time we made love? Or—or how do you think you would feel if you suddenly found out that you'd been a total asshole to the people you love?" Maria tried to control the volume of her voice but it edged up and she stopped there.

She glared at Michael, flabbergasted at the tiny smile that inched the corners of his lips up. "What is so funny?" she demanded in a stage whisper.

"Nothing, I'm just—I'm waiting for the punch line. You know, for the last question," his mouth quirked up further.

"What?"

Michael quoted, ""How do you think you'd feel if you suddenly found out you'd been a total asshole to the people you love?" Been there, done that, thanks. I freely admit that it sucks."

His smile grew as she just stared at him, her mouth hanging open. It might be inappropriate as hell but man, that had felt good! Maria, rendered speechless in shock. Definite Kodak moment, if he had a camera.

"Michael, that's," she shook her head but a smile began to appear on her lips, too. "It's not funny, Michael. It's not!"

"Is so," he smirked as she started to laugh. Her laughter quickly edged into hysteria until she was gasping for air, and Liz stirred on the couch.

"Shit, you'll wake them up! Come on!" Michael grabbed her hand and tugged her into the bedroom, shoving her at the bed while he closed the door. When he turned, Maria's laughter had subsided and she lay on her side, head propped up by her hand, her green eyes searching his face. Michael avoided her direct gaze.

"We're sitting and talking, same as before. Change of location so we don't wake the others is all," he said shortly.

"Sure," Maria agreed, outwardly calm. She changed positions, lying on her back with her feet by the pillows. There were too many ghosts in this room.

Maria shifted as Michael sat down, and then stretched out beside her. She resisted the urge to cross her arms over her stomach, as if that could protect her somehow. Maybe…maybe now was the time.

"Michael," she said quietly. He grunted an acknowledgement and she rolled her eyes before continuing, "It does suck."

"What does?"

"Being…hurting the people you love." When he said nothing, Maria continued, "I was wrong, Michael, to—to treat you so callously. I was just so excited about what was happening, and all I wanted to do was share that with you. That's why I waited for you for so long. And when you kissed me…okay, I kissed you first but it was a minor kiss. You kissed me seriously. You shouldn't do that, not if you expect me to make rational decisions."

"What the hell does that mean?" he demanded. "You started it!"

"I know. I know, and it was a stupid impulse but it felt so natural, you know? Then you kissed me back, and—I couldn't help myself, Michael. I just wanted—to be with you," she concluded helplessly. "I don't have any excuses, other than my usual ignorance of the consequences of being involved with you."

"It's nice to know that casual sex comes so easily to you," Michael remarked cuttingly. He found it difficult to breathe. Maria's offhanded comment about consequences had hit a little too close to what Liz had said that morning.

She turned on her side to face him, outrage written in her face. "It was not casual sex, Michael! I do not and would not just fall into bed with someone, for your information. We made love. Yes, I handled it really badly afterwards and I admit that. I was all caught up in what was going on with my music, and you assumed that everything had returned to square one and so you were taking over again. And I felt suffocated by that. I don't need you in my life, Michael, and I don't want to need you. You are part of my life because I love you and I want you to be there. But somewhere along the line you made me into the author of your happiness, and that—it can't work like that, Michael. It can't. You have to find out what makes you happy, and go for it, whatever it might be."

"You make me happy," he mumbled, and Maria sighed.

"No, I don't, actually. Not the way things were between us. I—do you know how much it hurt when I caught you with your friends from work at the bowling alley? And it wasn't because you'd double booked and tried to cover it up. That was sort of funny. But, I came looking for you and I saw you—howling with laughter. You were having so much fun! Then you saw me, and it was like a cloud covered up the sun, Michael. No more smiling. You came over to me with your head bowed and you were surprised when I didn't punish you. Well, I don't want to punish you. I don't want a relationship where either person feels that's necessary! We shouldn't have to have one person policing the other. But that's the pattern we fell into, Michael, and I didn't want to be that person anymore. I didn't like who I was becoming, and I didn't know of any way to stop becoming her or to figure out who I did want to become other than leaving you."

There, that was the whole truth. Would he be able to take it? More, would he understand?

"So, what you said in the park, about caring too much. That's what you meant, right? That's how you were losing yourself," Michael groped his way through his thoughts.

"Yes," she nodded.

"Was it," Michael stopped. Did he really want to know the answer? When he'd asked Liz that morning, he had thought that Max wouldn't be able to handle the possibility of confirmation. Could he?

"Was it what?" Maria encouraged.

He looked at her, her slim form outlined by the light from the open window, and decided that he might as well go for broke. If she were going to destroy him, he would rather get it over with all at once. Michael took a deep breath.

"Was one of the reasons that you felt suffocated by our relationship because you felt obligated to be with me? You know, like trapped, by my—because I'm different?"

Maria emitted a startled laugh; she had not been expecting that. She rolled onto her back and smoothed her hair off her face. "You sure don't ask the easy ones, do you?"

"I've never seen the point in easy," he told her and Maria glanced sharply at him. It was an apology of sorts for the remark about casual sex—as much of an apology as she would get, anyway. She offered him a brief smile and Michael nodded before his eyes slid away, evidently waiting for her to answer.

Maria closed her eyes for a minute, collecting her thoughts. "I would have to say, yes and no, Michael. Yes, sometimes I do feel trapped by the whole alien situation. All kinds of weird stuff has happened in my life because of me knowing you guys, and a lot of it hasn't been good stuff, like—what happened to Alex," she swallowed against the prickle of tears that her friend's name usually engendered.

"But my relationship with you—that's different. I'm—how do I say this? I might feel like now that I'm a part of this group that knows the truth about you, then I am connected to you no matter what. But how I'm connected to you is my choice. How I feel about you and what I do about that isn't because you're an alien, Michael. I love you because you're Michael Guerin, in all your—tattered glory. I didn't set out to fall for an alien. Well, I didn't set out to fall for you either if you want to go that far back, but I did. Do I feel stuck with that choice? No. I still love you, Michael, I'm just—I wasn't dealing very well with the boyfriend/girlfriend thing."

Relief crashed over Michael and he wanted to crush Maria to him. He didn't; he wasn't entitled to that kind of closeness at this particular juncture in their relationship. But he felt a lot more hopeful about the possibility of a future together than he had since they broke up.

"Then—what is it that you want, Maria? Is there something I can do? I never wanted you to give up your dreams, you know," he admitted slowly. This being open thing improved with practice but it was never exactly easy for him.

"Yeah. I don't know what I want Michael, that's part of the whole problem. Likewise, I don't know if there's anything you can do. It's hard to help when there's not an actual goal," she snorted.

"Well—you know I'm here, right? If you figure it out," he added.

Maria eased onto her side again, facing him, a little closer than she'd been before. His eyes didn't realize that fact but his body knew, as she smiled gently.

"Thank you," she murmured. "That—means a lot to me, Michael."

"Yeah, me too," Michael answered almost automatically, staring at her face. So close. Damn it, what was wrong with him tonight? All the frigging walls were down! How did she keep doing that to him?

"I love you," he whispered, reaching out. Maria's hand met his in the space between them and their fingers laced together. She looked thoughtful, and so beautiful.

"Michael, before you knew that the book translation would get you home—before you stayed—you said that, you might have to go someday, but you could give me now. Do you remember that?" Maria asked quietly.

"Of course," he nodded. "We did the yearbook thing after that, with the pictures and that of Alex."

"Yeah. Michael, I—I really don't know what I want. And I don't think you have any more idea than I do, and we both need to figure that out separately. But um—Max died in that fire, and you were there. It might have been you. Next time it could be you, and you probably wouldn't have some bizarre option to get back like he did. Or it could have been you shot instead of Isabel, somewhere more serious than the stomach. I couldn't bear to lose you," she whispered, near tears.

"Hey, I'm fine," he reassured her.

"Yeah—this time. But I—it made me think, you know? I had all that time on the bus back here to think. And I—Michael, I don't know about tomorrow, but I can give you now. I want to give you now. Is that—is it enough?"

Was it enough? Did pigs fly? Well, they didn't actually, but Michael could make one fly with his powers if he really wanted to. He squeezed her fingers then placed their joined hands on the small of Maria's back, pulling her closer.

"Now is just enough," Michael murmured, and then he kissed her.

A serious kiss, the kind she'd warned him about. Maria could practically see her physical instincts kicking in and pulled her head back slightly. "Michael, we shouldn't."

"Yeah, I know," he murmured, his tongue lingering along her bottom lip. She made a small, needy sound and Michael smiled, "I only plan to kiss you until you can't make rational decisions anymore."

He returned to his ravenous tasting of her lips and Maria moaned helplessly. Pressed against Michael with one arm underneath her and the other held behind her back, she wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. Which was fine with her—fabulous, in fact. The feeling of his firm body fitted to hers, his unique, masculine scent and the aggressive action of his mouth were all intensely arousing.

"Michael," she whispered, conscious that his name was slurred because his tongue continued to move against hers as she spoke.

"Uh-huh?" he hummed. Maria tended to keep talking, so Michael had figured out how to keep kissing her around her speech. While that occasionally made it difficult to understand what she said, the muffled sound was strangely erotic. He sealed her lips with a deep kiss, exulting in her eager response, before letting her answer.

"We've moved beyond rationality," she told him, laughter in her voice. Michael chuckled, "Does that mean you want me to stop kissing you?"

He traced her jaw with his tongue and Maria shivered. "I thought we'd established that I can't make that decision."

"Yeah, right," Michael breathed, still licking her skin. "And we both know that my self-control sucks." His mouth moved lower, sucking at her neck.

"Oh, Michael!" the undisguised desire in her voice was what finally halted Michael. He knew that sound; knew that if they didn't stop now, they wouldn't stop at all. And while he definitely wanted her—God, how he wanted Maria—he couldn't quite forget what it had been like to wake up alone after the last time. In spite of everything they'd both said, Michael didn't want to take that chance.

"Okay, then," he muttered, knowing he sounded pissed off. "We've got to quit, Maria. Now."

With that, Michael rolled away from her, releasing her hand. Maria blinked at his sudden withdrawal.

"Okay," she agreed aloud. Inwardly she was hurt by how abruptly he had pulled away.

He looked over, apparently sensing her thoughts. "It's not personal, Maria. If I stay that close to you, your clothes are coming off. Period."

"And that's not personal?" she smiled, reassured. It was nice to know that she hadn't lost her effect on him.

Michael laughed. "Maybe too personal would be a better way to put it. Listen, I'm going to go shower. After, do you want to stay here? With me," he clarified, assiduously avoiding her eyes.

Maria sat up and leaned over, placing a chaste kiss on his cheek.

"I'll be here," she promised. Michael offered her a crooked smile as he rose and padded to the door. That compass was swinging a lot closer to heaven.











posted on 27-Mar-2002 12:18:01 AM
LOL! Cookie, it's b/c you get clobbered with email when I've posted AND you had advance warning!*big*

As for Maria not knowing Liz's POV...neither do we, after she found out how much of Max's memory was damaged.*wink*
hugs, Tas
posted on 13-Apr-2002 3:23:44 PM
Aww, I love you guys! I'll have ch. 6 ready to post before the weekend's out, I promise.*happy*
hugs, Tas
posted on 14-Apr-2002 4:28:31 AM
*****NEW CHAPTER 6*****

Liz stretched, surprised when she wasn't able to extend her legs fully. Something was in the way. She collected her thoughts for a second, thinking back. Maria had made dinner for everyone, and then she and Max had curled up together on the couch. Liz smiled; they must have fallen asleep. She couldn't straighten because she was bent around Max's body. His very warm body. As her senses sharpened, shaking off the fog of sleep, Liz became aware of how closely they were entwined and she snuggled her head back a little with a smile. How it was possible that she could feel so utterly safe in Max's arms after everything, she didn't know, but it felt wonderful.

"Liz? You awake?" Max's hushed voice came from somewhere near her ear.

"Yeah. What time is it, do you know?"

"Around four o'clock in the morning. I guess we conked out after dinner," she could hear his smile.

"I'd say we needed it. Are you comfortable? Have you been awake long?" Liz wanted to know.

Max chuckled. "I am blissfully comfortable, which is a small miracle seeing as I've grown to hate this couch! I've been awake for maybe twenty minutes, just listening to you breathe. Well, and sigh and mutter nonsense—did you know that you talk in your sleep?" he sounded amused.

Liz laughed. "Yeah, I know. Did I say anything incriminating?"

"Incriminating? Hardly! None of what you mumbled made any sense to me," he chuckled. "It was nice to just listen to your voice."

"Oh," she stammered out, warmth suffusing her. She felt Max shift and smiled as he kissed the tip of her ear.

"There was something I didn't get to tell you earlier," he murmured.

"Earlier when?" Liz asked. "That covers a lot of territory!"

"Yeah," he laughed. "I meant, in Michael's room today. Or—yesterday, given what time it is."

"Oh. So—what did you want to tell me?" Liz asked nervously.

"Only that you're very beautiful," he said tenderly.

"Thank you," she smiled, feeling her face grow even warmer. "I thought I would be more nervous, actually, when we—when you, saw me. But, I didn't even think about it until after." I felt safe with you, she added silently.

"You sure surprised me," he chuckled. "But what a lovely surprise."

"Oh. Um, thank you—again," Liz said shyly. "Max, about—about what you asked me…"

"Liz, I already told you, I don't know what I'm talking about. You don't have to say anything," Max reassured her.

"I—I know. I want to. I don't really—know anything about the—the difficulty factor either. Only, like, what I've heard, same as you probably. But, the—other part…it wasn't my—first, but…it never felt like that before! That intense," she explained haltingly. Between Max's body heat, the blanket covering them, and what Liz suspected was a head to toe blush, it was far too warm in the dark room. But she wanted to share this with Max; wanted him to realize how amazing he'd made her feel.

The resulting silence stretched a little too long between them and Liz began to feel vulnerable, despite Max tightening his arms around her. She prompted, "Max?"

"Sorry. I'm—still processing," he said, his rueful smile clearly audible. "I don't quite know what to say, other than to thank you again! And—and that I would—I'd be happy to, you know, help out, in the—in the future."

"I'll—keep that in mind," Liz managed to say. She was vaguely surprised that her face wasn't literally glowing from the heat she could feel radiating off her. This was quite possibly the most embarrassing conversation she had ever had, worse than the sex talk with her mother. Except that unlike that infamous occasion, this was a good kind of embarrassed. It felt right to be so honest with each other. Plus, her blushes weren't entirely due to her discomfort with the topic; some of the heat was less innocent.

Max gave a shaky laugh. "Since we're having a—confessional night, I—you very nearly—took me with you," he said shyly.

"Really? And you—didn't, because I stopped? Or…" she dared to ask.

This time, Max's laugh was full of amusement. "Yes, because you stopped. I'm not impotent, Liz, just—selective."

"But—" Liz protested, not entirely sure how to put what she wanted to say. He sighed a little.

"I knew this was going to—happen, as soon as I said that this afternoon," he said wryly, avoiding any referential phrasing. "Can I—show you something?"

"Yeah, sure," she agreed, curious.

"I'm—not trying to hit on you, honest," Max explained as he took her hand and pulled it behind her back, gently turning her arm so that he could place her hand flat. "I just want you to see what I'm talking about."

Liz froze in momentary shock as she realized where her hand was: pressed against his groin. He was hard, exactly as he had been in the afternoon, his firmness encased in…damp denim. Abruptly Liz noticed that his jeans weren't dry.

"Uh, Max?" she asked, wincing at the slight squeak in her voice.

"That's what happens when I go to sleep after being—excited. I—function just like a normal human teenaged male," he exhaled then removed Liz's hand, placing it on her hip. She felt a slight heat behind her and figured that he was drying his jeans.

"How come you didn't do that before?" she asked.

"What, dry off? I didn't want to move and wake you. And then I was holding you and thinking about—everything, and it occurred to me that you would likely want proof," Max teased her gently.

Liz couldn't help the giggle that escaped; he knew her too well. She sighed in contentment as his arm encircled her again, hugging her tightly before relaxing into a comfortable position. Then she started to think about what he had said, relating it to her own knowledge, and she began to feel a little uneasy again.

"Max, I—last semester I had Physiology, and—the thing is, all that means is that there's nothing physically the matter. You—there could still be, um, mental issues," she said hesitantly.

"Yeah, and obviously there are since I—respond to you, and didn't to Tess, as far as—as far as I know. My body knows that I don't want her or love her, Liz. Whereas you…I love you, so very much," Max murmured.

"And—you—want me?" Liz asked, thinking of how firm he had felt beneath her hand a moment ago. Was that left over from his sleeping dreams, or was it a reaction to her current proximity?

"Absolutely," he stated, and she giggled at how sure he sounded then sobered.

"But—we still don't know if you can, like—finish, with me. You said—you said you'd been close, but you've never…"

"No, I haven't, with you. I—I've always controlled my, reactions, to you. But I know how—difficult that is, sometimes, and I don't—I don't think it's going to be a problem, Liz," Max said softly.

"But—" Liz said again.

"Liz, please," he interrupted. "Can we just—can we cross that bridge when we come to it? Please?"

She was about to answer when she heard him laugh. "That was an unintentional and—very bad pun," Max chuckled.

Liz giggled. "Yes it was! Okay, then, let's drop the subject. Max, I—I appreciate how honest you're being. I know it's a—a—difficult situation," she censored her use of the word "hard."

"Yeah. You've been—really great, Liz, and—I think it's harder for you, really. Everything you've gone through with me in the last year, when I was so horrible to you, and now it's—it's gone from my mind… Please don't think that invalidates your feelings. I may not be able to explain my actions, but you have every right to still be angry about them," he said earnestly.

Liz absorbed his words, considering them, and she began to realize that sometime in the intervening hours between learning of the extent of his memory loss and now, her anger had fizzled out. "I'm—tired of being angry, Max. It's—now that we know when this all started, it's obvious that there was something going on. Something influencing you, somehow. And I—yes, we still have to deal with the consequences. You did sleep with Tess, and she has your child somewhere out there. And that's—well, even if you never remember it, you can't take that back. But, I think that—I think what I really needed, more than anything, was to be able to talk to you about how I was feeling. I was holding it all in, until it burst out of me, and I screamed awful things at you before I went off to Vermont. I—don't want to do that again. As awkward as this has been, it's a—huge relief to get it all out, in the open like this."

Max was silent for a long moment. "I—remember that, a little. It was hurting you, and you said—you couldn't trust me, and then you backed away. I could feel your—fury, and your sense of betrayal, but—the words escape me. Doesn't matter; I knew that you were in a lot of pain, and that it was because of me, and there wasn't anything I could do about it except let you go."

Liz closed her eyes, her throat tightening as he hugged her closer and murmured, "I'm sorry."

"Stop apologizing, Max. What's done is done, and we'll—we'll just deal with the future together, okay?"

"Okay," he acquiesced, a reluctant smile in his voice. "I love you."

Liz smiled and turned carefully in his arms, her knees sliding between his thighs as she faced him, the blanket falling to the floor. She reached to touch his face, his half smile visible in the scant light. "I love you too, Max. Through it all, that much has never wavered, no matter how hurt I was."

He nodded, his smile deepening a little as he turned his head to kiss her palm. Liz shivered at the instant tingle of response and without any conscious volition, she found herself leaning in to kiss him.

Their lips met and Liz whimpered at the flashing of heat and light in her mind and body, hearing a similar sound from Max. His mouth opened and she took immediate advantage, plunging her tongue through his parting lips. Max hauled her closer with his free arm, as close as she could get in this awkward positioning, then rubbed her back. Liz squirmed restlessly, letting him know that it was all right; that she craved his touch.

This time, there was no hesitation. Max's hand glided under her shirt to close on her bare breast like it belonged there. And it did; it was his territory now. Liz had conceded it to him willingly yesterday afternoon. She wondered fleetingly if he would be this confident with all of her after the first time he touched her everywhere else, and her swift conclusion that he likely would be sent a fresh wave of desire surging though her. Well, and the fact that Max's warm fingers were now tugging gently at her erect nipple didn't hurt, either.

Still engaged in a mad swirl of tongues, Liz fumbled open the buttons of Max's flannel shirt. It was difficult to focus with the way his gentle caresses inflamed her but eventually the fabric parted and she sighed into his mouth in satisfaction. Liz felt more than heard Max's quiet answering moan as she began to stroke his bare chest.

He was smooth everywhere. Liz idly thought that he must wax or something since there wasn't even a hint of stubble then she laughed at herself. He's an alien; he probably dissolved the hair follicles! Maybe I can get him to do mine sometime, she mused, quickly losing her train of thought in favor of rediscovering the delightful texture of his skin.

Max tore his mouth from hers, burying his face in her neck and breathing raggedly as Liz explored his torso. She noticed that his hand on her body drifted in and out of his formerly regular rhythm, as though he were unable to truly concentrate on what he was doing.

As though her tentative caresses affected him that strongly.

Gently Liz removed his hand, smiling when Max lifted his head and looked at her in surprise. "Relax," she coaxed. "Let me please you."

A hundred nameless emotions chased each other across his face but finally he nodded and at her urging, shrugged out of his shirt. His eyes were wide and dark with desire as she drew a line down the center of his chest, beginning at the hollow of his throat and ending at the button of his jeans fly. Her bottom hand had little mobility but Liz managed to get enough so that she could press the back of her hand against his taut abdomen, feeling the flat, hard muscle beneath his skin. Daringly, she dragged her fingers under the waistband of Max's jeans, the corners of her mouth tipping up as he inhaled sharply.

Max pulled her closer, kissing her little smile. "You're beautiful," he murmured in a voice roughened with longing.

"So are you," Liz whispered back, feeling his smile against her lips as he kissed her again. She deepened the kiss, threading her fingers through his hair, and then trailing them down his jaw to his throat, and farther. Liz allowed herself the freedom to run her hand all over his bare skin, learning his contours by touch alone. When at last Max broke the kiss to gulp in air, Liz's mouth followed her fingers, kissing down his throat and along his shoulder. She shifted lower to continue her ravenous tasting, brushing her lips across his well defined pectoral muscles. Liz glanced up at Max, smiling upon seeing that he had closed his eyes and simply waited, breathing shallowly through his parted lips, for whatever she did next.

Remembering the incredible sensation of his mouth on her breasts, Liz leaned forward and experimentally licked one of Max's nipples, hearing him hiss in pleasure as the small tip hardened under her tongue. Carefully she sucked on it, to the accompaniment of low moaning from Max. Encouraged, Liz repeated her actions with his other nipple until they both stood out straight, gleaming wetly.

She was startled when the hand that he had casually tangled in her hair when she began kissing his chest suddenly tugged, cupping the back of her head and pulling her back up to lie even with Max. His intent became perfectly clear, though, when he sealed her lips with his open mouth, his tongue darting hungrily in to find hers and twine around it. Her own small sounds at his evident arousal went unnoticed, blending with his deeper noises as Liz continued to caress him. His skin was so soft, warm suede stretched over the steel of his muscular frame. The analogy flashed through Liz's mind, bringing something else to the forefront and she reached farther down, her hand closing firmly over the hard length in his jeans and stroking him.

Max's answering groan vibrated through her and Liz wondered absently how she could ever have doubted that he desired her; that her touch impacted him deeply. That she touched him deeply, the same way that he did her. The revelation invoked the memory of her recent pleasure at Max's loving ministrations and she wanted him to feel as loved as she had, as cherished. Blindly obeying that impulse, Liz reached for Max's fly, intending to slip her hand inside.

He stopped her, breaking their kiss and letting go of her head to grab for her hand. "Liz, no. Not like this," Max whispered, sounding near tears in spite of his heavy breathing.

Liz was genuinely baffled. "Not like what?"

"Not while you're—trying to prove something," he said in a low voice.

Prove what? she thought in puzzlement then flushed as she realized what he meant: he thought she was testing him. "Max, no, I—honestly, I had forgotten all about that."

"Really? Then, why…" he trailed off, his brow knitting in confusion. Liz bit her lip as the rest of the unspoken phrase echoed in her mind, Then why would you want to touch me?

"Because I love you, you silly alien! And I—I was thinking about how good I felt yesterday, and I wanted you to—to feel like that," she admitted shyly.

"You did?" Max's face smoothed into an incredulous smile. "Wow, I—I'm sorry. I thought—I mean, given what we were talking about before, I kind of—jumped to conclusions," he apologized.

Liz smiled. "Well, that's only natural. You don't have any way of knowing what I'm thinking, only what I'm feeling," she winked at him, obliquely referring to their shared flashes.

"Right," he laughed a little then caught his breath as Liz reached for his jeans again, intent on continuing now that the misunderstanding had been cleared up.

As her fingers grazed his skin, undoing his fly, Liz realized that Max was trembling. Her eyes flew to his face but his expression was inscrutable.

"Max, you're shaking. Are you all right?" she asked softly.

"Fine. I'm fine," he reassured her, but Liz wasn't buying it. His very lack of expression, when previously he had been so open, clued her in to the truth.

"You're scared," she breathed. Max opened his mouth to deny it, but shrugged instead.

"Yeah, a little," he confessed, not meeting her eyes.

"Of me? I'll be careful," Liz promised.

He gave an embarrassed laugh. "I'm not worried about you hurting me, Liz."

"Then what?" she prompted.

"It's just that—" Max paused and sighed. "After everything in the last couple of days, I…let's just say that the self-doubt is at an all-time high right now."

"Oh," Liz nodded as she figured out what he meant. No wonder he'd jumped to the conclusion that she was testing him, when he had clearly been thinking along those lines himself after her questions. "I—shouldn't have said anything."

"Of course you should have. I want you to tell me what you're thinking and how you're feeling, Liz. I hate it when you keep it all locked up and shut me out. I'm not naïve enough to believe that it's always going to be good news," one side of his mouth quirked up.

"Okay then," Liz took a deep breath. "If you can't, you know—and I stress the if—the thing is, I don't really care." She smiled at his raised eyebrows. "Well, I do care, but after the other problems we've had to get this far, I see this one—if it's even an actual problem—as minor and easily overcome."

"You do," Max said slowly.

"Yeah, I do. Max, you died. Twice. If it takes a little time and effort before you can make love to me, I think I'll manage," Liz said dryly.

It was only the utter shock on his face that made her review what she had said and as the meaning penetrated, Liz blushed furiously. "Oh, I, um, I, I—didn't mean to say that."

"But that is what you meant," he stated, wonder coloring his voice. "This isn't about your—your hands, on me, or not just about that. You—have a goal."

"Not—not really a goal, Max, more like a—a—an idea," she stammered. "A wish, even." Heart's desire?

Max shook his head slightly, not in disbelief but as though to clear it. "I don't understand. I am—I can't even begin to describe how incredible it makes me feel, to know that you want to, but I'm confused, about—about the rush. I know that what happened yesterday was—new, for us, and now tonight—this morning…we're moving really fast," he murmured, his thumb stroking her cheekbone as he cupped her face.

"I know," Liz whispered, closing her eyes to savor the tender touch. She had missed it; missed him, so very much. She wasn't entirely sure why she wanted to move things forward so fast. Maybe she just thought it was time.

Maybe she wanted to make love to Max before he remembered Tess, so that Liz would always seem to have been the first.

Liz had to admit that did inform her impulse, but only a little bit. The real reason was that she had come so damn close to losing him forever, with so much left unsaid between them…and undone. It inspired a desperate need for closeness in her. More than closeness, she admitted privately: possession. She wanted to imprint herself on Max in such a profound way that he would be bound to her forever.

But that was not something she could say aloud. "I think," Liz chose her words carefully, "I think that I'm—feeling the mortality of the situation."

She watched him, relieved when comprehension dawned on his face. "So am I," Max confessed. "That's why—I didn't say anything, about—being scared."

Her throat constricted as she smiled. "Are you still? Afraid, I mean."

"I—yeah," he nodded slightly with a self-deprecating smile. "Although—I'm not going to get any less so with time." Max regarded her seriously, a wealth of vulnerability in his gaze. "If—you still… I'm yours."

Locked into his eyes, Liz knew that he meant more than just giving permission for her to explore his body. It was as if he sensed her need to hold onto him and offered to fulfill it by offering himself, as completely as he could.

"I love you," she affirmed tremulously, reaching to trace his jaw with her fingertips. Max smiled a little and turned his head to kiss her fingers.

Looking at Max as he lay trembling in her arms, Liz's intuition flared and abruptly she knew that whatever had happened to him, it went deeper than his memory. Deeper than his mind. The soul staring back at her through such defenseless hazel eyes had never known this level of intimacy.

Let alone anything more.

"Max," Liz whispered in awe, intending to tell him what she'd realized. But she saw his smile falter and a hint of resignation enter his expression, like he'd been expecting this, whatever this was. She didn't know what until he spoke.

"Liz, if you—don't—you don't have to," he said softly; sadly. Liz felt her eyelids prickle with tears. Max expected her to back down, to not want to get this close to him, even after he'd opened himself to her.

"Oh, but I want to," she murmured throatily, gloating at the rising desire in his gaze. Liz gave him a flirty smile then leaned in and kissed him. She licked softly at his lips, and then kept up the teasing action with his tongue when his mouth opened. For the moment she left her hand where it was, caressing his jaw and slipping to the back of his neck to hold him close. Liz was mindful of the fine tremors still running through Max, but she knew now that the only way to conquer his fear was to forge ahead. As he'd commented, it wasn't going to go away, and Liz's instincts told her that to wait would only make things worse. She would be careful to keep her movements slow and tender, letting her fingertips show Max that she loved him.

They continued to kiss, losing track of everything in the soft pleasure of each other's lips and the lightning-quick rush of images. At length their kisses grew more heated and dazedly Liz remembered there was something she wanted to do. She began by flattening her bottom hand against his abdomen again, feeling his muscles tense as her fingers eased under the waistband of his boxers. This time Liz noticed the light prickle of hair under her hand and she hid a smile as she thought to herself, I hope Maria's Happy Trail nickname turns out to be accurate!

Gradually Max relaxed as she merely held her position, moving her fingers slightly along his skin. He tensed again a few minutes later, when Liz skimmed her free hand down the center of his chest, but it was a different kind of tension, more anticipatory. She removed her bottom hand and replaced it with the other, gliding inexorably towards her goal. As her fingers closed around his straining flesh, Max uttered a low cry.

Liz froze. She'd barely touched him; surely it couldn't have been painful? She pulled her head back from their kiss to ask anxiously, "Max, are you okay? Did I hurt you?"

A breathless laugh answered her. "No. Oh, no, there's definitely no pain involved! I wasn't expecting, even after what you said…intense," he explained in jumbled sentences, a slight smile gracing his mouth.

"So…this is good, then," Liz dared to tease him, gripping a little harder and sliding her hand along the length of his erection. She smiled, delighted with his resulting moan.

"Good doesn't begin to cover it," Max murmured and pulled her head forward, recapturing her lips. They kissed leisurely as Liz fell into a rhythmic movement. After a couple of minutes, Max withdrew and regarded her, eyes sparkling with mirth. "Liz…I'm not fragile. It won't break."

But you are fragile, Max. As am I, she thought involuntarily with a hint of sadness. Liz knew that their emotional state wasn't what Max was talking about, though. She cocked her head up and smiled mischievously at him.

"Is that a polite way of saying, "Harder, faster"?" she teased, her smile widening when he blushed.

Her breath stuttered in her lungs in the next moment, however, as Max locked gazes with her, his eyes telling Liz in no uncertain terms that she aroused him completely. Embarrassment fading, his voice was low and husky as he responded honestly, "Yes."

"Oh," she sighed, squeezing hard and moving faster. Liz felt a thrill spear right through her at his choked sound, her own breathing speeding up from the hunger in his face. So much for her idea of slow and tender! She was glad that Max was aware of her naiveté in this area and had asked for what he wanted. No, not what he wanted, Liz realized as Max crushed her to him and claimed her lips. It was what he needed, and on more than just the surface level. His surprise that she would even be interested in his pleasure made this deeper than a mere physical act; in a very real sense, it was about healing, from the outside in.

Max's mouth on hers grew more demanding, his hands a little rougher, and it was utterly inflammatory for Liz to have such incontrovertible evidence of the power of his response to her. She didn't know how much time had passed since she'd started stroking him so intimately; his kisses left her head spinning too much to figure it out. It had been long enough that the muscles in her forearm were definitely aware that they were engaged in an unfamiliar activity, but not so long that they were sore from it.

Abruptly Max stopped kissing her and whispered hoarsely, "Liz. If you're not sure you want to take this all the way then you have to stop, now."

"I am," she assured him, even before he'd finished the sentence.

"Oh, thank God," he flashed a smile, startling a giggle out of Liz that died as he kissed her again, possessing her mouth briefly before he rained kisses on her throat and her neck. Liz closed her eyes, listening to his rapid breathing and his occasional deeper sounds, feeling his lips on her skin stoking her own internal fire. Max fastened his mouth to her shoulder, sucking hard, and Liz whimpered a little in reaction. He rubbed her back soothingly but continued to taste her, at least until he uttered a sudden harsh cry. In surprise, Liz's rhythm faltered slightly.

"Liz," Max gasped, his voice almost unrecognizable for the thick passion infusing it. "Don't stop. Please don't stop."

Please don't stop; please don't stop; please don't stop… His fervent plea echoed in her mind, inciting a storm of pure lust that reverberated through Liz. Unconsciously she tightened her grip even further and that was all Max needed.

"Ah!" he cried out, the side of her neck muffling the sound though not its effect on her. Instinct kicked in and Liz curled her other hand over the tip of his erection as she felt a pulse travel through him.

Then, her hands were showered with warm fluid. Listening carefully to Max's soft moans, Liz kept stroking him until his erection began to soften a little in her hand. The change in texture fascinated her and she simply held on, her movement stilled. They lay like that for a while, Max gulping in air and Liz feeling pretty pleased with herself about the whole thing, not to mention incredibly turned on.

At last her curiosity got the better of her. Glancing down to make sure that Max's face was still buried in her neck, Liz finally let go of his now-soft penis and brought her hand up to her face. She rubbed her fingers together, thinking that semen felt sort of like dish soap. Definitely liquid but thicker than plain water, and weirdly sticky and slippery all at the same time. It looked a little like milk, but not really. Checking again that Max couldn't see her, Liz put her fingers in her mouth.

"It doesn't taste like anything," she said aloud in her shock. From everything she'd heard, she'd been half expecting it to taste vile, but it had practically no taste at all, simply texture.

"Liz, are you—licking your fingers?" Max asked incredulously, moving his head so that he could see her face. Liz flushed; she hadn't meant to announce that out loud but she could hardly deny it, with her fingers back in her mouth.

She put her hand down and asked defensively, "Why, am I not supposed to?"

Max stared at her for a long moment and then he began to laugh. "I have no idea!"

Liz laughed with him, feeling at complete ease again with all that had happened between them. For two such inexperienced people, they weren't doing too badly at all.












posted on 27-Apr-2002 10:38:11 AM
Fanfic Auction for FSMA (Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy)

Hi guys! You're all so fab with the bumping.*happy* The following press release is one of the reasons that I've been so MIA lately, along with the continuing saga of the ISP issues. ;-) In any case, please do read! I know many of you are going to the Philly party, so here's another chance to do some good and have a wonderful keepsake at the same time. :-)
hugs and kisses to all, Tas


Date: May 7, 2002-May 17, 2002
Event: A live, online fan fiction auction on e-bay to benefit FSMA
Questions: Contact RosDeidre⊕aol.com or link to: http://pub82.ezboard.com/froswellfanficfsmafundraiserfrm1


“Don’t you know what you are to me? What you’re always going to be? You’re the love of my life.”

“I just wish that I could have stopped you from saving my life that day in the Crashdown.”

"It's like the porno version of Aladdin.”

"Buddha forgive me, but I am going to kick your ass!"

Ever since the pilot of Roswell, the series’ hallmark has been memorable writing. So it comes as no surprise that this beloved television show has generated one of the Internet’s most imaginative and devoted group of fan fiction authors. LivE. Breathless. Kath7. Linda. Ash. EmilyluvsRoswell. Tasyfa. Majesty. RosDeidre. Names that call to mind favorite stories that we’ve cherished; authors who spin worlds as magical as the show we’ve treasured since we first heard the strains of Dido’s Here With Me.

And although Roswell may be ending forever on May 14th, you have a rare opportunity to own some of your favorite stories permanently. You can treasure them year after year; long after Roswellian fan fiction sites vanish from the Internet. All auctioned stories will be professionally bound, with laminated covers—many beautifully designed by artists such as Schurry, Blanca, and fishish25.

Roswriters for FSMA is an informal collective of fan fiction authors and artists banding together to help find a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy. On May 7, 2002, we are launching an auction on e-bay, and approximately 35-40 original fan fiction stories will be gathered in eight separate tote bags being auctioned off individually. You won’t want to miss the opportunity to bid on these hand-painted totes, each with a different specialty theme, such as Dreamer Tote, UC Couple Tote, NC-17 Tote, just to name a few.

Participating authors will be LivE, Breathless, Kath7, Linda, Ash (Ash_a_Leigh), Tasyfa, RosDeidre, EmilyluvsRoswell, Majesty, BennieBA, Cookie, ShellSueD, Carol, Watcher Tara, and many others. As a special bonus, three Dreamer Totes will also contain CDs of more than 800 of bigspam’s original photos, including images from one of Roswell’s last days on location, while filming the finale. Further, each tote will contain two originally designed posters, and a CD of music.

One very unique Dreamer tote will also contain a gorgeous, hand-designed “Max Quilt.” This lovely work of art has been crafted by Cookieman789 (Stacey), and will be a great way to snuggle up with the Dream Guy himself. This original quilt will be 62”x 62.”


PHILADELPHIA GATHERING AUCTION

Further, a special tote will be auctioned at the upcoming Philly Roswellian gathering on May 10th. Tote contents for this event:

LivE’s THE EXPERIMENT
Linda’s US SIX AGAINST THE WORLD
Kath7's OUT OF THE WOODS
Breathless’ SPECIAL KIND OF LOVE
RosDeidre’s ANTARIAN SKY
Bound Compilation of these short stories: Majesty's PULSE, EmilyluvsRoswell’s RIPPLE EFFECT, Carol’s HOLIDAY DREAMER SERIES, Tasyfa’s THE FORGING OF A LIFEBOND (short version), Ash’s FLOOD and BennieBA’s BEFORE I SLEEP

Additionally, there will be one of bigspam’s rare picture CD’s, featuring some 800 original photos from Roswell on location included in this Philly tote.

Here’s a reminder of the high quality images Big Spam has shared with fans in the past:

http://a9.cpimg.com/image/15/F0/9205269-0fd4-02000178-.jpg
http://a2.cpimg.com/image/2C/3B/6755372-11fa-02000148-.jpg
http://a0.cpimg.com/image/8A/67/5161610-2538-02000176-.jpg



Please visit our message board site for updated press releases and links to the auctioned totes, or watch on Crashdown for links beginning May 7, 2002. Email Rosdeidre⊕aol.com with questions. Visit our site at: http://pub82.ezboard.com/froswellfanficfsmafundraiserfrm1












[ edited 1 time(s), last at 27-Apr-2002 3:37:02 PM ]
posted on 7-May-2002 3:12:08 PM
***Fanfic Auction is LIVE!!!***

Pasted below are the links, etc. to the tote listings on ebay. In other news, I'll be posting a new chapter tonight or tomorrow.*wink*
hugs, Tas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Date: May 7, 2002-May 16, 2002
Event: A live, online fan fiction auction on e-bay to benefit FSMA
Questions: Contact RosDeidre⊕aol.com or link to:
http://pub82.ezboard.com/froswellfanficfsmafundraiserfrm1


Roswriters for FSMA is an informal collective of fan fiction authors and artists banding together to help find a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy. We have launched an auction on e-bay, and approximately 35-40 original fan fiction stories are gathered in eight separate tote bags being auctioned off individually. You won’t want to miss the opportunity to bid on these hand-painted totes, each with a different specialty theme, such as Dreamer Tote, UC Couple Tote, NC-17 Tote, just to name a few.

As a special bonus, three Dreamer Totes will also contain CDs of more than 800 of bigspam’s original photos, including images from one of Roswell’s last days on location, while filming the finale. Further, each tote will contain two originally designed posters, and a CD of music.

One very unique Dreamer tote will also contain a gorgeous, hand-designed “Dreamer Quilt.” This lovely work of art has been crafted by Cookieman1234 (Stacey), and will be a great way to snuggle up with the Dream Guy himself. This original quilt will be 62”x 62.”


All eight links follow below; we hope to see you at the event!


DREAMER NC-17 TOTE #1:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=1535576157&ssPageName=ADME:B:LC:US:1

DREAMER NC-17 TOTE #2
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=1535578362


DREAMER PG-13 TOTE #3
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=1535580587


DREAMER PG-13 TOTE #4
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=1535582853

CONVENTIONAL COUPLE PG-13 TOTE #5
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=1535585035


CONVENTIONAL COUPLE NC-17 TOTE #6

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=1535590297&ssPageName=ADME:B:LC:US:1


UNCONVENTIONAL COUPLES NC-17 TOTE #7
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=1535593337&ssPageName=ADME:B:LC:US:1


SPECIAL DREAMER QUILT TOTE #8
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=1535599590&ssPageName=ADME:B:LC:US:1











posted on 8-May-2002 3:55:44 PM
I had this ready to post yesterday evening, but first I couldn't open the thread and then after Roswell I couldn't get back online sigh. Oh, well; here it is now!
hugs, Tas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*****NEW Chapter 7*****

Michael groaned in annoyance; what the hell was poking him in the face? It felt like chopsticks rolled in cloth, but that couldn't be right. Not that he'd never fallen asleep face first on the counter before, resulting in some interesting patterns come morning, but he hadn't had Chinese last night. Maria had made Italian.

Ah. Maria. The lovely temptress who'd offered herself with conditions but no strings, and had spent the night in his room with him while Max and Liz cuddled on his couch. Obviously he'd kept his legs to himself and was paying for it now, with the edge of the mattress imprinted on his cheek. His stomach tightened for a second as he wondered if she were still there, and then he registered the cool feet pressed to the backs of his thighs and the warm hip in the small of his back. Michael snorted in amusement. Maria the contortionist! She slept in the most uncomfortable looking positions that made Michael wonder if the human body was really designed to move like that. Of course, when she wasn't sleeping…he instantly clamped down on that thought, having no particular desire for his morning erection to become permanent wood for the day.

Carefully Michael extricated himself from his quasi-girlfriend and the blankets, shaking his head with an irrepressible smile when he saw Maria's blonde locks peeking out in the middle of the far side of the bed. How someone so tiny took up so damn much space was beyond him.

He had his hand on the doorknob when it hit him that she was actually still there, and the sudden rush of elation disgusted him. Chill, Guerin. You didn't do anything for her to run from, and since no one knows she's in town, there's nowhere she can run to, he admonished himself. If Maria were around and willing to get involved at the end of the week, then he'd think about celebrating. As it was, Michael was a convenience and he had better not forget it.

Michael closed the door quietly and went into the bathroom. On his way out, he noticed that sometime during the night, Max and Liz had lost not only the blanket Maria had insisted on putting over them, but Max's shirt as well. Man, Liz didn't waste any time once she'd made up her mind, did she? He chuckled at the thought that Max probably hadn't known what hit him.

"Hey, Michael," Max said softly. "I need to get up. Can you give me a hand? I don't want to wake Liz."

"Yeah, sure," Michael smirked as he came closer. "But you get to move her hand because I'm not touching your ass!"

Max flushed and Michael laughed at his friend. Yep, definitely hadn't known what hit him. Max adjusted Liz and slowly pushed her forward far enough to wiggle out while Michael kept her from sliding to the floor, then Michael moved her forward once Max was standing. She curled up, complaining that she was cold, and Max covered her with the blanket. Her plaints subsided into a drowsy murmur.

"Is she awake?" Michael asked, surprised that Max had said nothing.

"No. She talks in her sleep," he smiled.

"Isn't that annoying?"

"It might start to bother me after thirty or forty years, yeah," Max joked, though Michael sensed that he wasn't exactly kidding. "Seriously, she's not very loud. I only noticed it after I was already awake."

He started looking around on the floor and Michael laughed. "Your shirt's mostly under the couch."

"Thanks," Max mumbled, retrieving it. He did up a few buttons in the middle and rolled the cuffs to his elbows. "I'm just gonna," he pointed at the bathroom.

"Yeah. Coffee?" Michael asked, knowing the answer as he began measuring grinds.

"Yeah, thanks," Max called back softly as he disappeared behind the door.

A few minutes later they were both seated backs to the kitchen counter with large mugs, a ritual they had enacted many times over the past few months. Yet it felt a little different to Michael. Less like Max resented the necessity of staying with him, and more like they were friends, just hanging out. The silence that stretched between them was comfortable.

Thinking about the previous night still, it occurred to Michael that his original plan for their sleeping arrangements definitely wasn't going to work now. He looked over at Max, seeing that his friend's brow was furrowed in deep thought. It seemed like Max was going into full brood mode over whatever had happened between he and Liz. Not that it wasn't tempting for Michael to do the same, really, but nobody brooded like Max. Michael decided to find out how bad it was going to get. After all, he had to live with the guy practically twenty-four/seven this week, which was even more time than usual.

"That long hair of hers gets pretty tangled by morning, huh?" he nodded at Liz.

"Hmm? Yeah," Max agreed, shooting him a look that asked how he knew what Liz looked like in the morning.

"Chat yesterday," Michael reminded him, hiding a smile as Max's shoulders relaxed. He forged ahead, "I was thinking that you might even call it a just-fucked look."

Max snapped his eyes back to his and Michael chuckled and closed for the kill. "So, should I be expecting to see that again some morning this week?"

The shock cleared from Max's expression, replaced by comprehension and he sighed. "Maybe."

What am I missing? He thinks he's maybe going to get laid with the girl he's been in love with forever and he's depressed about it? I thought chicks were hard to understand! Michael remarked to himself. Aloud, he asked, "Mind telling me why you're not thrilled about—oh," he interrupted himself, remembering the conversation the day before. "If this is about performance issues—"

"What? No, I'm not worried about that, Michael," Max shook his head with a faint smile. Michael was thoroughly confused for a few moments until Max added quietly, looking at the floor, "That's been—settled."

"Settled?" he said in disbelief. "You let her—try you out?" Something about that idea made Michael's stomach turn over unpleasantly.

"No, no. It wasn't like that, Michael. Really," he emphasized.

"Then what was it like? I know you love Liz but she shouldn't use you," Michael didn't know why this angered him so much.

"Stop it, all right? It was…let's just say that she wanted to return the favor," Max admitted in a low voice. There was a tiny, secret smile playing over his lips and Michael shook his head, his own, more reluctant smile forming.

"Maxwell, just how far did you get in the last two days?"

"Too far. Not far enough. I have no idea what I'm doing," Max laughed a little. "I—can't say no to her. Never could."

Michael's eyes narrowed. From the tone of Max's voice, it sounded like he wanted to be able to say no. What the hell for? He wasn't that sensitive, and he didn't have to feed her a line or anything—it sounded like Liz already wanted to, and that fit with Michael's own impressions of what had been going on. Plus they were as disgustingly head over heels as they'd ever been. What was the problem?

"Let me see if I have this straight: Liz wants sex and you don't. Why?" Michael demanded.

"It's not that simple, Michael."

"It never is with you," he countered dryly.

"Can we not talk about this?" Max avoided his gaze.

Okay, now this was getting interesting. Normally Michael would have backed off long before this point, all too familiar with the urge to not share, but this was just too weird. Max had protested a bit before Liz had shown up here more than two years ago, but once they were in the same room it was so obvious that he wanted to—and would have, if Maria hadn't wandered in. Now that they were free to get together without wondering if it was only because of the flashes from the orb and without anyone standing in they way, Max was chickening out? Michael didn't think so. Something else was going on, and he would bet money that it involved what had happened with Tess.

"I can not talk about it, sure. You? Forget it, Max—spill."

"Michael—"

"Maxwell," he warned, his patience thinning. Max nodded and it was as if a cloak of weariness enveloped him. His shoulders slumped, and when he finally spoke it was so quietly that Michael leaned in to hear him.

"It is simple, actually. I just think that Liz—that she—Liz shouldn't dirty her hands with me."

Excuse me? Michael longed to shout the words, but no sound emerged from his throat. He stared at Max, his friend's bowed head enraging him. Michael understood at some level that what he truly felt was fear. If Max could be broken, how much easier would it be to break Michael? Max had always been his rock, someone he could count on to cover him. Even after things got weird and they'd been fighting all the time, Max had always seemed strong, and Michael needed that. Needed Max to be the strong one so he could be the screw up. Guilt over his fear-induced anger blended with genuine rage towards Tess, who had done something to Max that made him feel unclean. It all bubbled up inside him, choking his voice, and so Michael used the only avenue open to him, the one that he preferred. He acted.

"Michael!" Max yelled as his mug of hot coffee got dumped in his lap, courtesy of him having raised it to his lips just as Michael slapped him across the back of the head. "What the hell was that for?"

Action completed, Michael could find his voice now. "Don't even think about self-mutilation," he warned. Max stilled, his hands having finished undoing his fly.

"Given how much I enjoyed the scalding coffee, Michael, I don't think you need to worry," Max commented acidly. "I'm not the suicidal type. If I were, you and I both know that I'd have been dead a long time ago."

"Good point, " Michael conceded. "Fine, then just—Max, why are you stripping?"

"I'm not stripping, Michael, just removing the pants that you so graciously soaked for me. I was going to go have a shower and change anyw—what?" he followed Michael's suddenly gleeful gaze to the couch, where Liz's head poked up.

"Can't you two keep it—Max?" her eyes widened in shock and something more, which Michael readily identified as desire despite not being its object. Good Lord, she looked as passionate as Maria! Which in an odd way reassured Michael. Because he knew how inadequate he'd felt when he and Maria had first made love, and how unbelievably far from that he'd come. He knew in his bones now that Maria wanted him, and it was amazing how much difference knowing that had made. Maybe Liz's seeming inability to keep her hands to herself would be the absolute best thing for Max. If anyone could break through his shell of solitude and self-hatred, it would be her. It always had been.

Unable to resist teasing them both, Michael began to slowly walk towards his bedroom, grinning when he noticed that Liz's eyes didn't even flicker towards him. "Well, Parker, you're not really my type so I can keep it down, but I'm afraid Max has a harder time of it. I'm going to get ready for work. Nice hand placement, by the way," he complimented her just before entering the other room and closing the door behind him, laughing softly at how hard they had both blushed. This could end up being fun!












[ edited 1 time(s), last at 8-May-2002 6:04:58 PM ]
posted on 13-May-2002 8:10:06 PM
Since we pick up exactly where we left off this time, I've put a little of the end of ch. 7 also.*happy*
hugs, Tas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
from Chapter 7

"Good point, " Michael conceded. "Fine, then just—Max, why are you stripping?"

"I'm not stripping, Michael, just removing the pants that you so graciously soaked for me. I was going to go have a shower and change anyw—what?" he followed Michael's suddenly gleeful gaze to the couch, where Liz's head poked up.

"Can't you two keep it—Max?" her eyes widened in shock and something more, which Michael readily identified as desire despite not being its object. Good Lord, she looked as passionate as Maria! Which in an odd way reassured Michael. Because he knew how inadequate he'd felt when he and Maria had first made love, and how unbelievably far from that he'd come. He knew in his bones now that Maria wanted him, and it was amazing how much difference knowing that had made. Maybe Liz's seeming inability to keep her hands to herself would be the absolute best thing for Max. If anyone could break through his shell of solitude and self-hatred, it would be her. It always had been.

Unable to resist teasing them both, Michael began to slowly walk towards his bedroom, grinning when he noticed that Liz's eyes didn't even flicker towards him. "Well, Parker, you're not really my type so I can keep it down, but I'm afraid Max has a harder time of it. I'm going to get ready for work. Nice hand placement, by the way," he complimented her just before entering the other room and closing the door behind him, laughing softly at how hard they had both blushed. This could end up being fun!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*****NEW CHAPTER 8*****

Liz stared at Max, aware that her face was horribly red but unable to look away. His jeans were halfway down his thighs, displaying his dark plaid boxer shorts, and all Liz could think about was that she'd had her hands in them a few hours ago.

"Liz? Could you—look at me, please?" Max sounded slightly breathless and confused, which matched how she felt. What did he mean, she was already—oh, he meant at his face.

"Sorry," she muttered, aware that she couldn't get any redder for having been caught staring at his groin. Liz raised her eyes to meet Max's, smiling a little at the growing awareness in his gaze. He was beginning to realize that he did, indeed, have an effect on her. "Um, so, why are you half-undressed? And what were you yelling about?"

"Same thing," he answered easily. "Michael knocked my coffee into my lap." He seemed a lot less sure about what direction his jeans should be going, though, his hands frozen on the waistband.

"Why didn't you just," Liz waved her hand as she sat up, indicating that she was talking about his powers.

"I've spent a long time suppressing that response, Liz, so that I react the same as anyone else to most stimuli," Max supplied with a small smile.

"Oh, of course," Liz mentally smacked herself. She knew that. She also knew that Max did react perfectly normally to some stimuli…okay, the jeans definitely had to go all the way on or off, and the buttons on his shirt needed to be done up properly so that most of his chest and abdomen didn't peek out… Damn it, why did the mere sight of his bare skin turn her brain to mush?

"Do you mind if I…?" he pushed his jeans down a little and Liz shook her head mutely, rising from the couch as he slipped out of the wet material and folded it. She avoided looking at him as she poured out more coffee, one mug for each of them, and then handed Max the second one. Sighing internally as her eyes drifted down his torso automatically, she asked, "Can you—do up your shirt, though? Please?" So I don't jump you right here and have Michael walk in on us?

"Right," he put the mug down and did up the buttons quickly then sat down on the stool he'd vacated a few minutes ago.

Liz's eyes narrowed as she recalled Michael's last comment. Had Max told him what had happened? She wasn't sure how she felt about that. It was more than a little awkward to sit beside Max in the morning light, knowing how physically close they'd been in the darkness. But since he'd come back to her, they'd been nothing but honest with each other, regardless of how difficult it might be. With one glaring exception, of course, but Liz wasn't about to bring that up now. So she posed the question, "What was Michael talking about, with the—the hand placement?"

"He—when he came out of his room, we were—your thumb was in my back pocket," Max didn't look at her as he spoke. Liz scrunched her face, understanding what he really meant.

"Sorry about that," she apologized.

Max smiled, though he kept his gaze averted as he teased, "Did I say that I minded?" Liz giggled as she shook her head.

"Actually…we did sort of talk about it," Max confessed. "I—didn't say anything specific but—Michael was being, well, protective. He does that."

So Michael knew. Enough, at least, to guess what had been going on—and what was likely to continue going on. Liz tightened her hands around her mug, concentrating on the feeling of the hot liquid soaring down her throat while she emptied her mind of pre-conceived notions and sought her feelings. It was a ritual her grandmother had taught her as a little girl; one she had foresworn for far too long.

"I'm sorry, I probably shouldn't have said anything until after we'd talked, but…are you mad?" Max asked anxiously.

Surprisingly, Liz found that she wasn't angry. Michael's actions had shown an acceptance of the entire situation that she feared she herself hadn't reached yet. "A bit—embarrassed, but I'll live," she pronounced.

"Good," he sighed in relief and she grinned.

"So…I have to own up to a complete ignorance of morning after protocol here, but would a good morning kiss be out of line?" Liz asked mischievously.

"If you want one," Max teased back, but she heard the thread of doubt in his voice. Liz put her mug down and slid off the stool, stepping between Max's thighs and putting her arms around his waist to hold him as she met his eyes.

"I want one," she said throatily, thrilling as his gaze sparked and he leaned closer, cupping her face tenderly before his lips touched hers. Liz sighed into his mouth in contentment. Would kissing Max ever feel like anything but pure heaven? She could sense his restraint, though, and her early morning thoughts floated back into her mind. Moving slowly, Liz slipped one hand under his shirt, caressing the musculature of his back, while she brought her other hand in between them, reaching inside his boxers.

"Liz," Max protested, kiss forgotten. He leaned his forehead against hers and Liz saw his expression as her fingers closed around his erection. He didn't move away or try to stop her, but his conflict was all too clear.

"After you went back to sleep, I laid awake for a while, thinking about what happened. I knew you were scared, and we both knew that to—to just do it was the best way for you to stop being scared. But the thing is, Max, that was only part of it. You know now that I want you, that you turn me on. And maybe you even accept that. But you don't feel like I should want you, and that's—it's not acceptable," she said bluntly.

"Liz, I—" he halted in anguish as she shook her head.

"Tell me, honestly, how this makes you feel," Liz demanded, her fingers lightly stroking him.

Max swallowed, closing his eyes as he spoke. "I feel…aroused, and desired, and um, guilty, and—and," he couldn't say it.

"And ashamed," she murmured gently and he nodded, misery etched on his face. "Because of Tess."

"Yes," he admitted. "Because I never should have slept with her."

Liz nodded, knowing he couldn't see it. It was more to confirm to herself that her instincts about his emotions had been correct. She stopped stroking him, curling her hand lightly around his erection in—well, in as close to a hug as it was possible to give that part of his anatomy.

"That's just it, Max: I don't think you did," she revealed and his eyes snapped open.

"What do you mean?" Max queried intently.

She looked at him steadily. "Last night, when we were talking—beforehand," her lips twitched up at the slight pun. "I realized that you had never been touched like this. No, hear me out."

Max nodded slowly, closing his mouth on whatever comment he'd been about to make and Liz exhaled in relief. He was going to listen.

"Max, I—I don't know yet what really happened with Tess. What I do know is that you—the real you, the one in here," she tapped his chest over his heart, "did not sleep with her. I'm not sure yet about your body, but your soul—that is virgin."

"I would love to believe that was true, Liz, but I can't. Even—even though I can't remember it, I'm sure that it happened. And I'm not—what do you mean that you don't know about my body?"

Liz held in a smile; he'd latched onto the important part of her theory. "I think that she did something to your mind, put it to sleep or something—submerged the real you into another personality. Namely, the asshole that was so awful to the rest of us," she added flippantly. "Max, I know that I—okay, I've never had my hands down anyone else's pants before so I'm not exactly an expert in sexual responses, but I do know yours better than anyone, and I'm telling you that as far as your soul is concerned, last night is the first time anyone other than you touched your—you," she colored delicately, not quite able to name the body part she held onto so lovingly. "And—there are also the flashes."

"What about them?"

"I haven't seen anything intimate happening between you and Tess in them, that's what. And it's not because I'm not getting any flashes of Tess, either. I have seen her in some of them, but never where you're—doing anything. You said before that you weren't able to control them very well right now. What?" she responded to his shaking head.

"Liz, that could be because I can't remember it. How can you get flashes of something that I don't recall?" he refuted that idea.

"Because I have, Max. I've seen things that I've mentioned recently that you've said you don't remember, like me yelling at you after the healing stones exploded. You said you couldn't remember the words but I heard them, or at least their meaning, in your mind. Other things too. Please, Max, just—try to keep your mind open, all right? I know it sounds a little crazy and I know—that most likely it'll get brushed off as me wanting to believe it so badly I made it up, but that's not true and you know it. I've never shrunk from the truth before and I'm not now. I really, truly believe that something else happened here; that you did not sleep with Tess," Liz concluded softly.

He stared at her for a long moment and finally nodded, passing one hand over his face wearily. "Okay. I have seen you be right way too many times to stop believing in you now. What—what do we do about it?"

Liz felt weak-kneed with gratitude that he was willing to go along with her theory, at least for now. "We already sketched out what we were going to do, kind of piecing together the holes in your memory. Now, we just need to add an extra dimension to that search. Look for a—a trigger, I guess is as good a term as any. Something that each blank spot has in common, besides Tess's presence. See if they correlate with when you were acting out of character, which would point to that other personality being in charge. Does that sound reasonable to you?"

"Yeah," Max nodded again. "Makes sense."

Liz peered closely at him; he seemed kind of spaced out. "Max, what is it?"

He cleared his throat, a distinct twinkle appearing in his eyes. "Liz, you're still holding onto me. I can't help but be a bit distracted."

She smiled and shrugged in apology but didn't move her hand. "Do you want me to let go?"

His face still reflected that inner conflict, though not quite as strongly, she fancied. Or maybe it was wishful thinking on her part. Either way, Liz planned to erase the pain the only way she knew how: with love.

"Well, too bad if you do. I'm, uh, I'm really pretty comfortable like this. In fact, I'm feeling so comfortable, maybe I should kiss you," Liz winked and bent her knees, starting to crouch. She couldn't believe she was teasing him like this, but it felt so natural. Max's eyes widened in shocked comprehension and he grabbed her upper arms, pulling her back up.

"Liz!"

"What?" she asked innocently, batting her eyelashes at him as she bent again. Max reacted the same way but there was a smile on his lips now.

"Are you crazy? Michael is just changing, he's going to be back out here any minute now," he exclaimed quietly.

"And you don't want to get caught?" Liz hazarded with a grin.

"Not particularly, no. And—not like this, either," he glanced down at where her arm disappeared into his boxers then looked at her face with a wry smile. "I'd never live it down."

"All right," Liz relented, removing her hand and hugging him. "But just so you know, I intend to ambush you whenever I feel like it."

"Ambush me," he echoed, puzzled. "What are you talking about?"

"Whenever I want to touch you," she clarified with a small smile, which grew as he divined her meaning and groaned in mock complaint, teasing her right back.

"So in other words, I can expect you to grab me—anywhere, at any given moment," he sighed exaggeratedly and Liz giggled.

"Yep," she confirmed, rubbing her nose against his.

"I think," Max's words came slowly, his mien serious now, "I think that I—could get used to that."

"You do?" Liz asked, hope soaring inside her.

"For you," he affirmed, cradling her face again. "Because I love you, and—I do want you, Liz. Badly," Max added with a crooked smile.

"Good," she murmured against his lips. "I feel exactly the same way." Liz pulled him down for a tender kiss, which grew hungrier until they heard a cough and broke apart. Liz turned in his arms and Max pulled her back against him as they faced Michael.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Maria stretched and sighed, burrowing back into the covers. She heard the squeak of wood as one of the dresser drawers was closed, and realized that its opening squeal must have been what had woken her. Knowing it would be Michael, she poked her head out with the intention of cussing him out for the noise, but the words died the second she saw him.

He was completely nude. As Maria watched, he pulled the gray Crashdown T-shirt on and opened another drawer to pull out jeans, and then a third drawer to grab socks and boxers. Before he had a chance to put anything else on, an involuntary moan from her traitorous throat made him turn around.

"See something you like?" he smirked at her, easily determining where she'd been looking.

Damning her swift response, Maria threw caution to the wind and sat up, raising her gaze to his face. "Come here," she purred.

Michael knew it was a bad idea to move closer but he couldn't help himself. He had a moment of empathy for Max; he didn't seem to be able to say no to Maria any better than Max could to Liz. The difference was that Liz wanted the whole package, while Maria…Michael still wasn't entirely certain what it was that Maria wanted. Beyond sex, that was; that much was written all over her face.

"Maria," he started, only to find himself incapable of further speech as her lips met his and her hands began to fondle him. They fell back together on the bed, locked in a dangerous kiss while Michael's hands proved unable to resist exploring her body.

Drunk with Michael's taste, Maria allowed him to yank off her pajama bottoms, delighting in his deep groan at finding that they were her only covering. She cried out softly when his fingers slipped inside her, almost too consumed with need to care that this was happening way too fast. Not the lack of foreplay, that didn't bother her, and indeed with the urgency pulsing through her she wasn't interested in any. But through the haze she just barely recognized that this was…too easy. Intimacy with Michael always came with a price.

Dear God, she was totally ready for him. Michael nearly lost it as he found her body wet and eager for his. They didn't have a lot of time—he would be late for work as it was—but they could make this quick and then later tonight, when he got home, he could make it up to her thoroughly.

When he got home. The thought stopped Michael in his tracks. Here he was, making plans for the future again, and Maria didn't want any part of that. She wasn't interested in a commitment, or anything beyond the pleasures of the moment. Admittedly, he had erroneously accused her of casual sex last night—Michael knew that Maria wasn't capable of giving her body without having first given her heart. However, loving and desiring him, and wanting to be with him…those were not the same. That was why he hadn't wanted to take things any further last night. It was why he couldn't now.

"No," Michael said raggedly, pulling away from her. He withdrew his hands from her body with a nearly physical pain at her confusion, and stood quickly, before he lost his resolve. Michael grabbed the clothing he'd let drop to the floor and dressed as fast as he could. He had to get out of there, before he did something monumentally stupid.

Maria fought back tears as Michael threw his clothes on, obviously in a tremendous hurry to escape. Her body throbbed with frustrated desire but that paled in comparison to how her heart ached. Feeling suddenly very vulnerable, she tugged the sheet back over her lower body, covering her nakedness. Was she as wanton as he'd accused her earlier of being? Maybe, but only for Michael. Never for anyone else.

"I'm going back to sleep," she announced, proud that her voice remained steady. Michael tossed her an unfathomable look.

"When you get up, you might want to listen at the door before you go out. Max and Liz are getting pretty damn cozy, and you could see considerably more of them than you'd like if you're not careful," he warned her.

"Fine, I'll do that," Maria nodded. At least something is going well, she thought miserably.

Michael caught the hint of pain in her face but couldn't stop to address it. He needed out, where he could breathe and begin to sort through all the crap swirling in his head. Without a backwards glance, he exited the room, softly closing the door behind him.

Maria threw a pillow at the closed door, perversely wishing that he would burn himself on the grill at work today. Not a serious burn. Just a little one that would ache and piss him off. She made a face at herself for her petty thoughts and decided that more sleep really did sound like a good idea. First, she retrieved her pajama pants then curled up with one pillow under her head and the other clutched in her arms like a lifeline.

Michael turned from closing the door to be confronted with the reason he'd told Maria to listen before going out of the room. He watched for a moment, shaking his head, a bit of his good mood returning before he cleared his throat. Michael refrained from laughing at Max and Liz's guilty starts and focused his gaze on Max even after Liz had turned around.

"I'm out; my shift starts like now. Help yourself to whatever you find. There isn't a lot, I know, but I'll pick some stuff up on the way back tonight," he shrugged as Max nodded. "You know where to reach me if you need me for anything."

Michael picked his jacket up off the floor by the front door and turned back to the couple. Liz still stood in front of Max and he could hardly help the mischief that bubbled up, knowing that Max had her positioned there to shield the state of his shorts from Michael. "By the way, Maria said that she's going back to sleep for a couple more hours. So Liz, if you really want to give Max a blow job, now would be a good time."

He left the apartment to shocked splutters, grinning for all of five minutes before the reality of what had occurred with Maria crashed back in. What the hell was he going to do?













posted on 24-May-2002 1:32:41 PM
You guys are awesome! Let me address something that keeps cropping up from my more depraved readers.*wink* I'm not going on any crossovers here with Firsts/Full Circle LOL! If Michael seems slightly reminiscent, it's b/c writing that fic gave me a much better handle on his character in general. THIS Michael is head over heels for his Maria only.*happy* (For those of you who are wickedly confused now, F/FC is my Max/Liz/Michael epic.)

On with the fic! In two posts for length.*happy*
hugs, Tas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*****NEW PART 9*****

Liz sighed heavily as she closed the door to Michael's bedroom, offering a faint smile of reassurance to Maria as her friend turned to look at her.

"Leave him to sleep?" Maria asked sympathetically.

"Yeah," Liz nodded and came over to share the couch. "Did I hear the phone ring a minute ago?"

"Uh-huh. It was Michael. His shift ends in another half an hour and he's going to pick up some actual food, plus some Chinese take out for dinner tonight. I asked him why the take out since he's bringing food, and he made some cryptic comment about an urge for chopsticks," she shook her head.

"Ah. Can you call him back and make sure he gets some ice cream?" Liz asked, tucking her feet up under her.

Maria gave her a sharp look but merely nodded and picked the phone up, hitting one of the speed dial buttons. The corners of Liz's mouth turned up at the familiarity Maria continued to display with Michael's apartment. She wondered if any of it were even conscious anymore. If Maria realized just how deep Michael was under her skin.

Liz tuned out most of the ensuing conversation, hearing only the tartness of Maria's retorts and her laughter. Only when Maria plunked down the receiver did she pay attention again. "Well?"

"Yeah, he'll get it. Vanilla and cookie dough both," she winked and Liz laughed a little. Maria patted her lap. "Come, tell me about it."

"About the ice cream, or about Max?" Liz shifted gratefully, closing her eyes when Maria soothingly stroked her hair.

"All of it, pumpkin. Although I think I know about the ice cream. Substitute for the liquor craving, right?"

"Yes," Liz made a face. "How I managed to get myself in so deep in such a short time is beyond me, but I've been feeling the pull today. I was too focused on Max to pay much attention, though. God, Maria, this is so hard!"

"I know it is. You started right from the first time he laid eyes on Tess?"

"Mmm-hmm. And by mutual agreement, he's not leaving anything out. Like, remember when Valenti showed us the camera, and then Tess appeared and Max was acting all weird and he dragged me to the back and kissed me? He was all weird because he had a flash. Of her. When she showed up, and again while he was kissing me. And I know that she was mindwarping him, and that Max didn't even want to think of her that way, but…it's difficult, to actually hear it," she sighed. "I am so emotionally wrung out right now, and it's ten times worse for Max. Not only is he having to relive it all, but he's worrying about how it's affecting me, and—well, you know how he is."

"I do, yeah. I'm sorry you two have to go through this, Lizzie. I think you're on the right track, though, looking for a trigger. You'll just have to persevere, that's all. I can't imagine either of you giving up now," she said warmly. Liz smiled, thinking that it was odd how Maria saw that so clearly when it came to she and Max, but seemed blind when it came to herself and Michael. She couldn't afford to worry too much about it at this point; there was too much else going on, and she needed to work through this stuff with Max. Besides, they still had a few days before the end of Spring Break, so the enforced physical closeness between Maria and Michael was bound to have some effects sooner or later.

"But, on to more pressing matters, hmm? How's Max reacting to your other experiment?" Maria raised her eyebrows suggestively, eliciting a giggle from Liz. They had had a hurried conference earlier in the day while Max showered, and Liz had filled Maria in on her loving assault plans to her friend's amusement and approval.

"Surprisingly well, so far. There were a couple of times where he looked like he wanted to swat me—for a minute or so," she smiled.

"So…you're not going to just leave him hanging, are you?"

"What do you mean?"

"Liz, you're revving the poor guy's engine at least a couple of times an hour. By this time he's probably aching for release. And if you do this to him every day, well, chances are he'll like snap and just take you," she giggled.

It was not an unappealing idea by any means, but Liz hadn't considered the release factor. "Um, I didn't really think about it. Couldn't he, you know, do for himself?"

Maria laughed. "Sure he could, but he might not. If he's feeling that, hmm, uncomfortable with himself he may not want to. Plus, I'm betting that he'll take your experiment at face value and since you didn't think about it, you wouldn't have said anything about it—you see where I'm going with this?"

Liz did. Max would most likely let his frustrated desire build and build, without seeking an outlet, if he thought that was part of what she wanted. And since she hadn't given him any indication otherwise, that was probably what he did believe. She sighed. "How exactly am I supposed to bring up that topic, please tell me that?"

"You're on your own for that one, honey. Although I'm sure that, ah, giving him a hand again might be the most eloquent way," she giggled at Liz's rosy cheeks. "Or are you considering the alternative?"

"You mean a bl—" Liz stumbled over the words, "a blow job? I—yeah, I'm thinking about it," she confessed. "But the whole idea makes me really nervous. My dentist is always teasing me about how much trouble he has getting my back teeth clean because my mouth is so small. Maria, stop laughing! I'm serious here!" she sat up indignantly.

Maria couldn't stop; Liz knew the signs of her friend being in the grip of a giggle fit. In spite of herself, Liz started to giggle too, until they were clutching each other and laughing like maniacs. They must have made too much noise, because a sleepy masculine voice asked, "What's so funny?"

Both women looked over to see Max framed in the bedroom doorway, wearing a T-shirt, sweatpants and a puzzled look. Then they looked at each other and the giggles, which had begun to wane, started up again with a vengeance. Liz was crying, she was laughing so hard. But every time she and Maria made eye contact, or she glanced over at Max, it began again. Finally she slid to the floor and squeezed her watering eyes shut.

"No more! No more, or I'm going to die right here," she gasped out, hearing Maria echo her determination and astonishingly, a light chuckle from Max. Gradually Liz calmed down and sat up, smiling broadly at Max. "I'm sorry, we didn't mean to wake you."

"No biggie. From the time, I'm guessing Michael should be here soon and hopefully with food," he smiled back as he snagged a bottle of Snapple from the refrigerator. "So, want to let me in on the joke?"

Liz steadfastly refused to look at Maria for fear that she would collapse again. "Afraid not. If we bring it back up I may not survive the ensuing fits of laughter."

"I don't think you can avoid bringing it back up at some point, Lizzie," Maria teased, and a stray giggle escaped Liz's lips. She clamped down on the hysterical urge, trying to look normally at Max. He blushed slightly, apparently guessing the general topic of discussion.

"Never mind," he cleared his throat. "I don't think I want to know."

"Wise man," Maria congratulated him. She winked at him as she rose, and Liz smiled when he reddened further. He didn't hesitate to steal the vacated seat, however, as Liz picked herself up off the floor and joined him.

Max smiled at her and offered her the bottle. Liz shook her head, watching as he raised it to his lips and let the liquid spill into his open mouth. She felt her insides tighten and rolled her eyes at herself. Max's engine wasn't the only one getting revved several times a day.

Liz glanced around to see where Maria had gone, smiling as she saw her with her head in the refrigerator, muttering about the necessity of getting something besides Snapple in the apartment to drink. She returned her attention to Max, seeing him put the bottle on the coffee table, and slid her hand up his thigh to gently grasp his testicles.

Max didn't even start in surprise, though he often had throughout the day. Instead he tugged Liz closer and covered her mouth with his, drawing her up onto his lap without disturbing her soft caresses. His tongue slipped out to twine with hers and Liz controlled the moan that wanted to pass her lips at the ardor in his kiss. She could taste mango on his tongue from the fruit beverage and thought dizzily that it suited him. Involuntarily her hand tightened.

"Mmm, be careful, please," Max whispered, smiling faintly as Liz sighed in apology and relaxed her grip, moving upwards to glide her questing fingers under his T-shirt. She rubbed his bare back as he resettled her on his thighs, her arm no longer an obstacle, and kissed her cheek before leaning his forehead against hers.

"We need to talk, about this—arrangement, later," he said softly and Liz couldn't help but smile, now that she had a good idea as to what he wanted to talk about.

"Agreed," she said coyly, fluttering her eyelashes at him. Max chuckled and recaptured her lips for a quick kiss that spoke of tremendous restraint. It gave Liz butterflies to think about how his kisses would feel if—no, when—he loosed that iron hold on himself.



Maria turned, triumphantly holding a can of ginger ale. Lord only knew how long it had been in Michael's refrigerator, but at least it wasn't Snapple! She grinned as she saw Liz rearranging herself on Max's lap, her back to his chest. Maria would bet that a moment ago, it hadn't been Liz's bottom in his lap. She almost felt sorry for Max; he didn't have a prayer of resisting her best friend.

Of course, once upon a time she would have said that Michael wouldn't be able to resist her, either, and now he'd done it twice. Maria had not told her friend about this morning's incident. It was too fresh and too humiliating. Besides, Liz didn't need any hints of failure around her right now. She needed encouragement, and to believe that it all would work out in the end. All the happily ever after stuff that Maria had given up on years ago.

She shook off the mood. Michael would be there soon and she couldn't afford to show any weakness, which included getting all broody or depressed. So Maria focused on her friends, seeing how content they both looked, and her pasted-on smile became more genuine as she went to sit beside them.

"Max, you mentioned food? Michael's bringing Chinese, along with whatever oddities he thinks of as staples," she laughed as his face brightened. "You two just suck at cooking, don't you?"

"Michael's great when he's in the mood to cook, which is rare. Me? Yeah, I suck," Max offered a crooked grin. "My idea of dinner has become whatever I can take out of a box and heat up."

"Except when your mom sends something over," Liz added. Maria smiled sympathetically at her when Liz grimaced, evidently having spoken without thinking about it.

"Yeah," Max's tone was pensive. "That's one thing I do miss about living at home."

"Do you think you'll ever go back?" Maria inquired gently.

"No," he shook his head. "No, Dad won't back down. And even so, I don't think I could go back under the same footing. I've been out on my own too long, I wouldn't be able to deal with the restrictions."

"Max, I'm sure he knows that—and your mom, too. They wouldn't necessarily expect you to say, have a curfew or anything like that," Liz disagreed. "They are actually pretty reasonable people; you could work something out."

"Yeah, I guess. Except that the only way I could do that is if we told them the truth, and that's not an option so it doesn't matter," Max stated resignedly. He put his head down on Liz's shoulder and she tucked her hand in around the back of his neck, squeezing lightly. They made a pretty picture like that and Maria smiled.

"Max…okay, I probably shouldn't open my big mouth but why is it so imperative that you not tell your parents? Like Liz said, they are reasonable people. And more importantly, they're your parents, Max. They totally love you and Isabel. It's not like they don't already know that you're—different, in some fashion."

He remained silent at first, while Liz and Maria exchanged looks. Maria knew that Liz wanted an answer far more than she did; it was something they'd discussed numerous times in the nearly three years since Liz had been shot. At length Max spoke, his words muffled against Liz's neck.

"I suppose it's because…no matter how many times I play it out in my head, how many ways they find out and how they might react to any and all of them, the end is always the same: each of the three of us in our own personal colorless cube. When I was younger—I didn't think any of us would survive that. Now… I couldn't do it again," Max murmured, his voice so low that Maria strained to hear him. It took her a second of reflection and the tears standing in Liz's eyes for her to comprehend the reference to the White Room. Not sure what she could or should say, Maria nevertheless opened her mouth to speak but closed it again at Liz's minute headshake.

She looked away, her own throat feeling tight as she remembered her empty reassurances to Liz that Max would be fine. He hadn't been, and in some ways never would be again. Never the same, at the very least. Even now, with gaping holes in his mind where memories should be, he exuded a level of awareness of the world around him that he hadn't demonstrated before he'd been captured. It was like his physical instincts had expanded, sharpened. Max had said as much the summer they had spent crying on each other's shoulders, in one of the few conversations they'd had on the subject.

"Liz," Max said sharply, sounding almost angry. Maria glanced back, puzzled. Liz hadn't even said anything, how could she have pissed him off? They hadn't moved—oh. Liz's free hand had disappeared behind her back. Now? He actually mentions the most traumatic experience of his life, and she wants to cop a feel? She directed an incredulous look at her best friend.

"Max," Liz returned, her tone warning him that he had agreed to this. It surprised Maria when Max kind of sighed and made no further protest—enough that she continued to regard him, eyebrows raised. Maria knew perfectly well what Liz was doing but since she couldn't see that, she didn't believe it was necessary to absent herself. Besides, Liz's actions had a curiously asexual feeling. So she watched, fascinated as Max gradually relaxed and kissed Liz's neck before raising his head. Liz turned to kiss his lips and when both their eyes opened again, he smiled a little at her.

"Where was I?" Max asked, the question heavily laced with irony.

"Somewhere you're not ready to be yet," she replied gently.

"True enough," he nodded and leaned in to kiss her again. Maria turned her head in the other direction the second it became clear that it wasn't a perfunctory kiss. Finally she cleared her throat.

"Would you two like me to leave you alone? Or better yet, there's a perfectly good bed in the other room," which doesn't look like it'll otherwise be getting much use, she added silently.

"Sorry, Maria," Max apologized, flushing a bit as the couple broke apart. "We, uh," he faltered, searching for some way to explain. Maria took pity on him.

"It's okay, Max, I definitely understand your distraction," she winked.

"You do," he said slowly, his eyes widening in realization. "Liz?"

Liz shot Maria a dirty look and sighed. "Yes, Maria knows."

Max coughed, flustered, and then a gleam of humor appeared in his eyes. "I'm not sure why those words should still have any power to surprise me," he commented dryly. "I knew I didn't want to know what you were laughing about!"

"Oh, no, we were laughing at Liz, not you. Although it wasn't unrelated," Maria giggled as Liz spluttered, "Maria!"

"Can we change the subject, please?" Max smiled and the two women nodded. Maria cocked her head to one side as his eyes unfocused.

"Max? What?"

"Hmm, what, Maria?" Liz twisted to look at Max.

"Nothing. I thought I heard Michael," Max shook his head.

"I don't—oh, there. I hear his bike now. You must have good hearing," Maria complimented him.

"Yeah, that and my eyesight are a little sharper than is typical. For all three of us, actually. Smell, too. We figure it's to make up for the weak taste buds," he half smiled.

She nodded as her stomach tightened in preparation for seeing Michael. In anticipation? Dread? A little of both, she supposed. Maria smoothed her suddenly sweaty palms down her thighs and resisted the urge to tidy her hair as the now loud rumbling of the bike's engine cut to silence and the side door banged open.



"Can someone help me with this?" Michael asked brusquely as he entered his apartment. He refrained from an acerbic remark when it was Maria that rose and took one of the bags from him, setting it on the counter then closing the door before returning and pulling items out of the bags. Michael dumped his jacket and shoes and grabbed the bag that contained the take out.

"Just toss the ice cream in the freezer, the rest can wait till after we eat," he told Maria. She nodded, her face perfectly composed, and did exactly as he'd asked, sitting at the counter when she was finished. Liz and Max got up and came over to help themselves to food as Michael passed around the plates, and still Maria said nothing. The very plastic quality of her smile warned Michael that she was really hurting and he sighed internally. He knew he'd handled things badly this morning; it had been all he could think about during his endless shift. Damage control would have to come later, though, because right now his stomach was wrapped around his spine.

His plate full, Michael sat on the couch beside Max, finally hearing Maria's voice as she and Liz spoke in an unintelligible murmur at the counter. The two men remained silent for a few minutes while they ate.

"So how's the grope fest going?" Michael asked at length.

"The what?"

"You know, Liz ambushing you."

"Oh. I'd forgotten that you overheard that part of the conversation," Max half smiled. "It's made for an interesting day."

"I'm sure. Is it helping?"

Max gave him a peculiar look. "More or less. Every time we got somewhere that was too emotionally intense, she'd—start, and it kind of grounded me. Focused my attention elsewhere," he said wryly and Michael laughed.

"Yeah. Did you find anything off in your head?"

"We're making some progress, although it's uncomfortable as hell. The first blank spot is actually before I thought it was. Remember when you and Isabel chased Tess and I out to the desert, and I found the pod chamber the first time? That whole night is gone. I remember getting out there with her, and arguing with her, then nothing at all until you guys showed up. And that's a few hours at least," Max shrugged, though Michael could see that the admission was anything but easy for him.

"So it does come back to Tess, then."

"Looks like."

"Maxwell, are you absolutely sure—"

"Yes, Michael. She didn't mindwarp me, all right? I haven't said anything to Liz yet, we haven't gotten that far since we're working chronologically, but…I do remember the morning after. Waking up with her, naked," Max grimaced.

"Ouch. You going to tell her?"

"Yeah. I can't be anything other than completely honest with her, Michael. Not now. I'm not holding anything back this time."

"Except..." Michael waggled his eyebrows and Max chuckled half-heartedly.

"Right. Although between you and me, after a couple of days of this I don't see myself holding out anymore no matter how I feel about it. I won't even be able to see straight."

"I hear you there," Michael nodded, his gaze drifting to Maria.

"So what happened with Maria last night?" Max followed his gaze.

"Nothing."

"Right. That's why you're here grilling me instead of sitting with her. I don't buy it," Max smiled a little to take the sting out of the words.

Ungracefully Michael capitulated. "She wants to get back together but with no strings attached."

"And that's not what you want?"

Michael hemmed and hawed, but under Max's steady hazel eyes he finally shook his head, admitting wordlessly that he wanted more. How much more, he wasn't even prepared to admit to himself, let alone his best friend.

"So why didn't you say something to her?"

"Maxwell, the last time you told me to talk to her she broke up with me," Michael rolled his eyes and Max laughed.

"Yeah, never mind. You deal with it however you want, then, Michael."





(Continues in following post.)



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 24-May-2002 1:36:16 PM ]
posted on 24-May-2002 1:33:37 PM
(Continued from previous post.)


Maria smiled as Liz abandoned the chopsticks Michael had given her and picked up a fork. "I just don't use these well enough to feed myself. The only time I ever seem to eat Chinese is when I'm with you guys, and that's not often enough to give me much practice," Liz shrugged.

"It took me a while to get the hang of it too. Michael used to tease me about it, I was so bad at first," she admitted.

"Well, I hope he's not offended but I'm too hungry to keep trying," Liz smiled.

"No, he won't care. You'd have to offer him your body to offend him," Maria said caustically. Liz's eyes met hers.

"Maria, what happened this morning? You told me all about the quasi-reconciliation last night, but I know you skipped parts. Tell me," Liz coaxed.

"It's nothing," she prevaricated, and then relented. "I woke up while he was getting dressed and we started fooling around. Like, serious fooling around, about to go somewhere, and suddenly he blurts out, "No," and runs like he's been dropped in acid by touching me." It felt good to tell her best friend, to see the compassion in her eyes.

"Oh, Maria. I'm sure he didn't mean it like that. You said yourself that you'd agreed on no sex last night, right? I'm sure he just realized that you were both getting carried away," she said reassuringly.

"Yeah, I keep telling myself that, but… I don't know, Liz. I don't think we're on the same wavelength here. I want to be with him, but I don't want to—to fall into him, like I did before. I don't want to promise forever, because I don't know if it's a promise I can keep."

"Well, what did you say you wanted?"

"I said that I could give him now, just like he said to me before," Maria half smiled at the sappiness of the gesture.

Liz choked on her soda. "Would that be the same promise that he gave you like days before he almost left the planet? Good Lord, Maria, those words practically have a finite ending spelled out in them!"

"They do sort of, don't they? Even though he stayed," she said reflectively.

"So what did you really mean, then?"

"I guess that I want to be his girlfriend, but I don't want a permanent tie. Like, I don't want to think about marriage or anything that—permanent," she repeated, not knowing how else to put it.

"What, did I miss a proposal here? Maria, I seriously doubt that Michael is looking to get married just yet," Liz shook her head with a smile. "I think—you'll have to talk to him to be certain, really talk to him I mean—but I think that what happened is that he took your "now" at face value. Meaning one day at a time. But that's not what you meant at all, is it?"

"No, it's not," Maria agreed. "I guess I need to explain that, huh?"

"Well, yeah, you might want to do that," Liz laughed. "Especially since you'll be sleeping in his room. Although, I didn't know about this when we agreed on sleeping arrangements this morning. Is it still okay?"

"Yes, yes! I knew about it when I agreed. Besides, what's going on with me and Michael shouldn't affect you and Max being happy for a change."

"I guess," Liz shrugged again, digging through the take out bag. She came up with the small packages of soy sauce and opened one, squirting it onto her food.

"Do you think you guys might really, you know, do it this week?" Maria leaned in, speaking very quietly.

"Maybe, I don't know," Liz glared at her but with a smile. "The privacy thing is kind of an issue."

"Well, maybe we could trade off nights. You know, last night you and Max had the couch, tonight you could take the bed and Michael and I will sleep on the couch," she suggested brightly and they both laughed.

"Uh, no, but thanks for the thought. It sounds like that Friends episode where Rachel and Monica are fighting over the last condom, to determine who gets to have sex that night. The idea of Michael's bed is slightly creepy, and anyway I'm not in that big a hurry to lose my virginity," Liz said dryly, reaching for another package of soy sauce.

"Could've fooled me," Maria teased her. "Probably could've fooled Max, too."

"Maria!" Liz exclaimed, blushing. Her embarrassment faded into annoyance as the package broke open, spilling the soy all over her shirt. "Crap. I'm going to go change."

"Yeah, that stuff stains like you wouldn't believe," Maria watched as Liz went into the bedroom, muttering. A minute later she stuck her head out. "Maria?"

Maria rose and went to the door. "Yeah?"

"Can you get me a pair of clean p.j.s from my other suitcase? I don't have any left in here," she sounded vexed.

"Sure. Pass me your top and I'll put it in cold water for you," she offered, smiling in inspiration as Liz handed her the soiled garment.

"Thanks a ton," Liz said gratefully and disappeared back into the room. Maria went directly into the bathroom and filled the sink with cold water, submerging the shirt, then went to the suitcases that still lay near the door. She pulled out a change of clothing for Liz and placed it in a plastic bag, having realized that neither of the two men were paying any attention to what she was doing since Michael had flicked on some sports channel. With a secret smile, she handed the bag to Max.

"Would you take this in to Liz, please?"

"Yeah, sure. What is it?" he asked distractedly, taking the bag and putting down his plate.

"Oh, just something that she asked me for. Don't worry, it's nothing important."

Max rose and headed for the bedroom, knocking once before entering. Maria sat down on the couch in his spot with a wide smile.

"What'd you do?" Michael inquired upon seeing her expression.

"I ensured a little alone time for us, Spaceboy. We need to talk."











posted on 6-Jun-2002 8:03:54 PM
*****NEW CHAPTER 10*****

Hey guys! Thanks for all the fb and bumpage!*big* Posted in 2 parts for length restrictions. *happy*
hugs, Tas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
FROM CHAPTER 9

"Yeah, that stuff stains like you wouldn't believe," Maria watched as Liz went into the bedroom, muttering. A minute later she stuck her head out. "Maria?"

Maria rose and went to the door. "Yeah?"

"Can you get me a pair of clean p.j.s from my other suitcase? I don't have any left in here," she sounded vexed.

"Sure. Pass me your top and I'll put it in cold water for you," she offered, smiling in inspiration as Liz handed her the soiled garment.

"Thanks a ton," Liz said gratefully and disappeared back into the room. Maria went directly into the bathroom and filled the sink with cold water, submerging the shirt, then went to the suitcases that still lay near the door. She pulled out a change of clothing for Liz and placed it in a plastic bag, having realized that neither of the two men were paying any attention to what she was doing since Michael had flicked on some sports channel. With a secret smile, she handed the bag to Max.

"Would you take this in to Liz, please?"

"Yeah, sure. What is it?" he asked distractedly, taking the bag and putting down his plate.

"Oh, just something that she asked me for. Don't worry, it's nothing important."

Max rose and headed for the bedroom, knocking once before entering. Maria sat down on the couch in his spot with a wide smile.

"What'd you do?" Michael inquired upon seeing her expression.

"I ensured a little alone time for us, Spaceboy. We need to talk."


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*****NEW CHAPTER 10*****

At the light knock, Liz called out, "Come in." She rose from where she had been rummaging through her suitcase and turned in time to see Max enter, closing the door behind him. There wasn't a lot of light in the room but there was enough for her to register the delayed surprise in his expression once his eyes adjusted, which meant that there was also enough for him to be able to see her clearly. Liz had never felt so naked in her life, despite the underwear she was now desperately wishing were a lot prettier than her basic white bikini briefs.

"Maria," he cleared his throat, "Maria said you wanted this." Max held out a plastic bag, inside which Liz felt sure were the pajamas she had requested. Her friend had known she was in here, waiting for her clothes, and had set her up.

"I'm going to kill her," Liz's voice wobbled with embarrassed laughter.

"Uh, yeah," Max agreed unconvincingly. He placed the bag on top of the dresser beside the door and approached her, his manner hesitant. Liz couldn't help noticing that his gaze had strayed somewhat south of her face and she automatically moved to cover herself.

"No, don't," he entreated, flushing as soon as the impulsive words left his mouth. "I mean, just—let me look at you, Liz. Please."

"I—" there was nothing she could say to that soft plea; no way she could deny the warm approval in his voice and face. Liz let her hands drop to her sides.

She shivered as his eyes roamed over her, feeling it as a palpable warmth on her skin. Trying to lessen the intensity of the moment, she raised her arms, posing as though she had just finished an Olympic event or a dance contest. Max smiled and, continuing the whimsy Liz turned, arms out, to face away from him. The warmth spread to encompass her and her breath whooshed out as she felt him step in close behind her.

Max touched her wrists, undoubtedly feeling her pulse hammering under the delicate skin, then slowly trailed his fingers along the inner surface of her outstretched arms and down her sides to her waist. Liz curved her arms in the wake of his touch, drawing her hands in close to her chest and reaching back to hold Max's shoulders, sliding under the sleeves of his T-shirt as he pulled her back against him.

He pressed a light kiss to her temple and murmured, "I thought you were beautiful in my dreams. Obviously I need to work on my imagination."

Liz stuttered with surprised laughter, grateful that Max, too, was feeling the need to dispel the overwhelming crush of desire with levity. Her laughter dissolved as he started to kiss her bare shoulder, wet, open-mouthed kisses that left her gasping.

"Max," she breathed, instinctively tilting her head away from him. He took advantage of it, trailing fire along her neck and nibbling on her ear lobe as he whispered, "Uh-huh?"

What had she wanted to say to him? Liz had no idea as his warm mouth continued to wreak havoc on her equilibrium. She sagged back against him for support, becoming immediately aware of his very male body pressed hard along her backside. Oh, that's why he left a little space between us.

"Liz," Max groaned, sucking on her neck. Liz noticed that he'd chosen a place that wouldn't show when she was fully clothed. The fleeting thought only made her more conscious of her current state of undress and she took a deep breath. Knowing it would raise her chest; knowing it would read as an invitation. Meaning it as one. When his hands remained on her waist Liz took another deep breath and arched into Max, feeling her bottom press even harder against his groin. He made a guttural sound and finally responded to her unspoken desire, hands rising in a gentle glide until they closed over her bare breasts.

Just like before his touch electrified her, and Liz let out a soft cry that Max echoed. Suddenly he let go and pulled her hands down, spinning her in his arms. She had only a moment to wonder before his mouth came down on hers, hard. Max thrust his tongue between her lips and Liz opened under the onslaught, moaning. Be careful what you ask for… She had wondered what it would feel like to kiss him when he wasn't restraining himself, the memory of one such kiss as fresh in her mind as if it had been yesterday. It was even better than she remembered, although she sensed that he was in fact still holding himself partly in check. But Max knew exactly how she liked to be kissed and he was exercising that knowledge with a vengeance right now, his tongue sweeping through her mouth in long glides before withdrawing so he could tug at her bottom lip. Liz heard herself emit a breathless, needy sound and realized that it had been helped along by her inadvertent exhalation as he swept her up off the floor.

"Max, what—" she tried to ask, only to be answered by the soft press of the mattress on her back as he lowered them to the bed.

"I don't know about you, but my knees were about to give out," he murmured with a smile.

Liz smiled back. "I was counting on you to hold me up."

"Then in another couple of minutes we would have been sliding ungracefully to the floor," Max chuckled.

"This is definitely more cozy," she agreed, stroking his jaw.

"Liz," his face became more serious. "If at any time I—not just now, but ever—if I do something that makes you uncomfortable or that you don't think you're ready for, or if you even think that I'm about to do something like that, tell me, okay, and I'll stop. I'm not too bad at reading you but this is all brand new for us, and you might not even know that you wouldn't be comfortable with something until we actually get there. So please, just promise me you'll say something."

"I will," she promised, her throat feeling tight. Max was so good at thinking about her needs, often before she was aware of them. It was one of the many reasons that Liz had had such trouble reconciling some of his behavior with the person that she knew him to be.

"That works the other way, too," his eyes sparkled with mischief as he continued. "If there's something you want that I'm not doing, by all means, ask."

"Max!" Liz laughed, blushing a little. She couldn't imagine asking for anything. But she had yesterday, hadn't she? And it had worked out fine. "Max, you know this all goes for you, too, right? If I—if there's something I want that you're not ready for, you can say no."

Their gazes met and held for a long time until finally Max nodded. "Thank you."

"What for, giving you a choice? That was always yours, Max," she told him, conscious even as she spoke that the words were, in fact, a lie. She hadn't given him a choice the previous fall. Liz pushed all thoughts of Future Max aside; now was certainly not the time.

"Still," Max countered with a faint smile. "I love you, Liz Parker."

"I love you, too. Does that mean you're going to kiss me again?" she asked coyly and he laughed.

"Like I said, you have but to ask."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"What's your definition of "now"?"

"What?"

"You heard me. What does the word "now" mean to you?"

Michael stared at Maria. Had she gone insane from being locked in the apartment with Max and Liz all day? "Why?"

"Because, Michael. Humor me, please," she said exasperatedly.

"Fine. It means immediate, of the moment, something that is happening as we speak. Okay?"

Maria nodded. "What about "indefinite"?"

"What the hell is this, make Michael a dictionary?"

"Michael, please," she cajoled.

He sighed. "I need more to go on than that, Maria. An indefinite what—person, event, time span, what?"

"Event. Say, an event that begins now, as you just defined it, and continues indefinitely," she waved her hands as she explained.

Michael gave up trying to figure out what she was getting at and simply answered the question. "All right, in that context "indefinite" would mean without a specified end. The event would be continuous until that unspecified end, and the implication is that the end is a long way off." Yeah, this undeniably made him feel like a dictionary. Why does she look so pleased? There was no point in asking himself.

"Maria, why are you playing word games with me?"

"I wanted to make sure that we were on the same page, that's all," Maria smiled.

"Well I hate to break it to you, but "indefinite" and "now" are not on the same page in the dictionary. What book are you talking about?" Michael asked, completely bewildered.

"No book, Michael. I'm talking about us. You and me," she emphasized.

"You lost me," he admitted.

"Last night, I—I made a mistake."

Oh, Lord, she doesn't want anything to do with me after this morning. "A mistake," he repeated warily.

"Yes. I told you that I wanted to give you now. What I should have said was, I want to give you indefinitely." Maria met his eyes shyly and Michael felt a thump in his chest as his heart resumed beating. But there was something he had to know.

"Then, why didn't you say that?"

"Because I thought I was being romantic, you know, saying the same thing that you said to me. It meant so much to me last year," she answered wistfully.

"But the only reason I said it was because I didn't know if I was going to be able to stick around. I almost blasted off in the stupid granolith, Maria!"

"But you didn't, Michael. You stayed. And because you stayed, that "now" sort of came to mean "indefinitely" to me. I guess I assumed that it did to you, too," she took a deep breath. "I want to be with you, Michael. Not sort of with you—I want to be your girlfriend again. I don't want to get married, though," Maria added thoughtfully.

"Married? Who said anything about getting married?" he asked in alarm and she giggled.

"You didn't listen to the first half of the sentence. I do not want to get married," Maria enunciated clearly.

"Oh. Well then," Michael was at a loss for words. He cleared his throat and continued, "About this morning."

She winked at him. "I'm guessing you want to rethink the no sex clause?"

"Uh, yeah. My…objection was based on, uh, on a, uh," on what? Hey, he could use her own words against her. Smugly Michael continued, "On the wrong definition."

"So you do still want me then," Maria wouldn't meet his eyes as she spoke, the words not quite a question.

"Am I breathing? Whatever gave you the idea I didn't want you?"

"This morning, Michael. Almost as soon as you touched me you took off, like you were ashamed at how easy it would have been to…make love to me," she said hesitantly.

Oh, fuck. Why had it not occurred to him that she might take his hasty retreat that way, especially after the shitty things he'd said the night before? "Maria, no, babe. No. I almost came on the spot when I realized how much you wanted me. I love it when you're shameless like that."

"Then why did you leave so fast?" Maria demanded.

Michael searched for something he could say that wouldn't make him feel even more vulnerable than he already did. The euphemisms they'd based this entire conversation on seemed to offer a solution. "Because you said now, and I… I needed indefinitely."

And suddenly, there they were, dancing across the clear green of her eyes. Happy golden shimmers that he'd thought were lost forever. "Michael," she breathed, and he noticed that they shimmered that little bit more due to the tears forming in her eyes.

Shit, no, no crying. I am so not up for that. "Sh," he whispered and leaned forward, pulling her towards him. "Come here."

Maria gave him a watery smile as she moved closer and then Michael couldn't see the tears anymore as his eyes closed and their lips met.

The ever-present desire that spiraled lazily beneath the surface surged through his bloodstream in a euphoric rush as they kissed. Michael began to shift them to a horizontal position, unable not to smile as Maria went willingly, pulling him on top of her.

He said he loves it when I'm like that, Maria thought hazily to herself as Michael settled over her. Let's find out if he really means it, before I get cold feet permanently. She reached for his jeans and popped them open.

"Maria!" he broke their kiss to exclaim. She smiled up at him.

"I want to finish what we started," she said calmly, working his jeans down over his hips. Smugly Maria noticed that while Michael was verbally protesting, he wasn't doing a thing to stop her.

"Now? What about Max and Liz? They could come out any time!"

"No, they won't. It hasn't been nearly long enough yet," she grinned.

"Long enough for what? Maria, what did you send Max in with?" he regarded her suspiciously.

"Liz's clothes."

"You didn't!"

"Yep, I did. So we have this nice window of opportunity here and I'm not going to waste it," she told him while she wriggled out of her own pants.

"Maria…" Michael protested one last time. It sounded pathetically half-hearted even to his own ears.

"Come home to me, Spaceboy," she murmured lovingly. It was an invitation he was powerless to refuse.

"You're still on—"

"I'm still on the pill, yes," Maria reassured him, and Michael could wait no longer. He sank into her wet heat and it was a homecoming in the profoundest sense. His decision to stay on Earth in the first place had been fundamentally influenced by the deep impression of rightness that accompanied making love to Maria. Their first time, knowing that he was about to leave, Michael had lost himself in his girlfriend's body and in the process, he'd found something he had never expected to find in his lifetime: the place where he belonged. It had nothing and everything to do with the actual physical act, in a way that Michael could never really explain.

But Maria knew. Her Spaceboy was a man of few words who best expressed himself through his actions. It made perfect sense to her that she never felt more loved than when Michael was inside her. Like she did now; finally.

"Michael, faster," she implored.

"Oh, now you're worried about getting caught," he teased and she giggled.

"Ha. I'm not worried, just…move!" Maria ordered breathlessly.

"Moving," Michael smirked then recaptured her mouth as his movement sped up.

"Yes," Maria hissed. That was exactly what she wanted. She slid her hands up under his shirt, needing to feel his skin. Wanting to dig her nails in, in the way she knew made him crazy.

"Maria," he groaned at her lips. She was driving him close to the edge and when he went over, he wanted her with him. Michael reached in between their bodies, seeking her pleasure center.

"Oh, Michael," she moaned when his fingers began to rub her clitoris. There was the same note of heavy desire in her voice as there had been last night, only this time it served as a spur instead of a stop flag. He pushed a little harder.

Maria remembered the first time they'd tried this; they'd laughed at how astonishingly difficult it was to coordinate their actions. Now Michael's hands were sure on her body, his rhythm unfaltering as he stimulated her. The fact that he'd acquired such precision at pleasing her through personal experience always inflamed her.

"Michael," she sighed. "Stay with me." I want you to come with me.

"I'm with you, Mar, no worries," he murmured against her ear and with a stifled cry Maria found her release, feeling Michael pulse inside her, with her. She tried to slow her breathing back to normal as their hips gradually came to a stop and he rested briefly on top of her, his weight comforting. Maria hugged him tightly.

"I missed you, Michael. I'm sorry," she said softly, lips curving as he smiled at her.

"No more apologies, okay? We're good," Michael said gruffly. He jerked his head to one side. "I'd better—"

"What, you don't want Liz seeing your magnificent ass?" Maria teased, sliding her hands down to cup his buttocks.

Michael coughed in surprise. "Well, that, yeah, plus I'd rather Max didn't see you mostly naked."

"Oh, please. I'm covered by your body, Michael. Besides, Max has seen me in a bikini so this is hardly scandalous," she snorted.

"When was that?" Michael searched his memory for the image of Maria in a bikini, coming up with nothing.

"Last summer. We hung out at the Y since neither of us wanted to be near the Crashdown," Maria explained. She scrunched her nose at him. "That no apologies thing goes for you, too, Spaceboy."

He kissed her in answer then gently pulled out, rezipping himself and passing Maria her pants and underwear. She smiled her thanks and rose, walking across the room to the bathroom and closing the door. Michael waited for her with an irrepressible smile of his own. For the moment, life was good. Indefinitely.







(Continues in following post.)

posted on 6-Jun-2002 8:04:39 PM
(Continued from previous post.)

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Liz and Max exchanged soft kisses, lying side by side on Michael's bed. Liz's desire had quieted from a searing rush to a warm glow and she enjoyed the prolonged kissing. She was preternaturally aware, however, that she remained nearly nude and Max appeared unable to forget that either, as he tenderly stroked her back and side, seeming to revel in the touch of her skin.

Even as she thought about how nice it was to simply lie together, Liz could feel her body awakening under Max's gentle fingers. It was almost unnerving, how strongly he affected her, but she knew that she did the same to him and somehow that fact made fear an impossibility.

"Max?" she drew her head back to look at him.

"Hmm?" he smiled.

"What are you thinking right now?"

His smile broadened. "That you have beautiful skin. Even softer than your hair," Max stroked the shining strands briefly. "And, um," he hesitated.

"What?" Liz returned his smile. "You can tell me."

Max looked slightly embarrassed but there was mischief in his eyes as he told her, "Well, I now have the answer to a rather pressing question. I've wanted to know for years if your freckles went all the way down." He traced the tiny dark spots on her collarbone.

"My freckles?" Liz squeaked, her cheeks rosy. Somehow she failed to see how her freckles could possibly be sexy. She'd always considered them to be one of her least elegant features. Models didn't have freckles, only small town girls—like herself.

"Oh, yeah," there was no mistaking the desire in Max's voice, though. His gaze followed his still-tracing fingers as he continued, "I wondered if they would taste as sweet as they look."

Is he suggesting…? Liz felt a bit faint. "I wouldn't know," she replied shyly.

"Shall I tell you?" Max asked, so quiet as he met her eyes. Concern swirled with deep longing in his depths, and Liz noticed that his irises, always changeable, ripened to a tawny gold when he was aroused. The color of a predator, she thought, and nearly giggled at the idea of Max hunting her freckles. The notion amused her for only as long as it took for her to form a mental image of that hunt, and the humor died in the flaring fire. Liz parted her lips soundlessly and nodded, her voice frozen in her throat.

Max smiled a little and she knew he'd followed her train of thought easily enough. Liz blushed delicately as he cupped her cheek and drew her close for another kiss.

"Remember your promise," he whispered at her lips and she nodded again. Tell me if you want me to stop. Then his mouth began traveling.

Liz closed her eyes. It felt all too intimate already, the way Max kissed and licked at her well-scattered freckles. She couldn't bear the intensity if she watched him, too. Sightlessly she tracked his motion, her skin alternately heating and cooling as his wet kisses passed over her body. Liz smiled to herself as she found herself wishing for the first time ever that she had more sunspots on her breasts.

Max reached her navel and dipped his tongue inside, making her giggle. She felt his smile against her belly as he kissed just below her navel, and then she tensed as he continued farther down. Did she want that, now? Maria had told her that it felt even more intimate than making love. Was Liz ready?

Before she could decide one way or the other, Max reached the waistband of her panties. Liz breathed shallowly, only peripherally aware that she was moaning, as his tongue painted a trail along the edge of the white cotton; respecting that barrier. Out to her hip and back, all the way across to her other hip. Ending centered below her navel again, where Max sucked at her skin just long enough that Liz knew it would leave a mark. To show her just how close he had been, although Liz doubted that he consciously thought of it in such possessive terms.

Liz was vaguely surprised that she was able to think about it. Only her fear when Pierce had taken Max had been as all-consuming as her desire was now, and this was infinitely preferable to that incident. She felt dizzy and lightheaded with emotion and pleasure both, and—yes, and utterly beautiful as well.

Max tongued her navel again then moved up to lie alongside her. He offered Liz a smile as he commented, "Incredible."

"What?" she said in confusion.

"Your freckles," his eyes danced.

"Oh," she blushed again. He reached out and brushed his thumb along her cheekbone, such tenderness in the gesture that a lump rose in her throat.

"God, Liz, you're so—I don't even have words," Max murmured, his voice thick with emotion. Liz opened her mouth to respond but never got the chance as he kissed her.

Max took advantage of her parted lips, sliding his tongue inside to twine with hers. He tasted saltier than usual and Liz knew it was from bathing her skin. She was helpless to prevent her little sighs and moans from escaping, but she wasn't alone in that. Deeper versions emanated from Max's throat too, rippling through the air to her eardrums and farther down, wrenching small surges of need from her center with each masculine sound. She needed him closer.

"Off," Liz insisted, tugging at the hem of Max's T-shirt. "Off"? she questioned herself. You scored in the top five percentile on the vocabulary section of the SATs, and all you can think to say is "off"?

Fortunately Max, whose score paralleled her own, had been reduced to the same monosyllabic level since he immediately stripped off his T-shirt and threw it on the floor. Liz heard him gasp as he registered the luxurious feeling of warm skin on skin. She had to get him closer!

Liz pushed against Max's shoulder, wanting him to lay flat so that she could shift on top of him. Surprisingly, he resisted. Something about the passive way he simply held firm against her pushing told her that it was instinctive and Liz filed the thought away for later, when she could think about something beyond Max's spicy scent filling her nostrils and the velvet glide of his bare chest along hers. She settled for throwing her leg over top of his and her arms around his neck.

In answer to her invitation Max slid his thigh between hers and Liz rubbed against him, feeling the ache build inside her. It took a sudden sharp upswing as his free hand began wandering, slipping between their bodies to stroke her nipples.

Oh, my God. "Max," Liz moaned, near delirious with sensation. He kissed her with abandon now, reservations melting away in the rush although she sensed that he was paying enough attention to her that if she were to flinch away instead of arching into him, he would stop. But Liz had no intention of doing any such thing. In fact, she wasn't sure that she wanted to stop at all, especially as Max reached down and cupped her bottom, hauling her closer still. She could feel his erection pressed into the side of her abdomen and she shocked herself with the thought that she wanted it front and center…ready for her.

As if Max had heard that thought, he lifted his mouth away and just looked at her. His eyes glowed like molten metal, which dimmed a bit as sense returned to his gaze. "Liz, not like this. Too fast," he said gently, the effect skewed some by his heavy breathing.

"You…don't want to?" Liz asked carefully. She had said that he could say no and she meant it, but that didn't stop it from stinging.

Max let out a rueful laugh. "You have no idea how close to the edge I am, love. I don't think I've ever wanted anything more. But not—not with Michael and Maria out there, waiting for us to make an appearance."

He had a point. They were going to be humiliated enough as it was. It was taking a ridiculous amount of effort to convince her body that Max was right, though. "Okay. We'll um, we'll wait then, till we have some like, privacy."

"Yeah," he smiled, reaching up to run his hand through her hair. "I have a feeling that we…well, that neither one of us is, uh—quiet," he flushed. "And I would like, very much, to be able to curl up with you afterwards. You know, with just you." He glanced away shyly and Liz realized he meant while they were still naked.

"I'd like that too," she said impulsively, warmed by his quick grin.

Max sighed regretfully. "Okay then. Liz, can you—you'd better let go, please."

Reluctantly Liz disentangled her limbs from his, moving away a little. She felt kind of cold now, after his amazing warmth. Her eyes were drawn irresistibly down his torso as Max finally lay flat, widening at the physical evidence of his desire. Instinctively Liz reached out, only to have Max grab her hand before it got anywhere near him.

"Liz, please. Not now," he implored. She froze and he looked over at her. A thrill ran through her as she comprehended exactly what he had meant: he was hanging on by a thread. Abruptly Liz knew that if she pushed it the smallest bit and touched him now, he would not be able to stop himself. Smiling, she withdrew her hand. It was enough to know.

Max acknowledged her thoughts with a half smile and rubbed a hand over his face. "Just give me a minute, okay?"

"Sure," Liz nodded as she sat up. "I'm just gonna," she pointed at the forgotten plastic bag he'd brought in, and Max's expression grew puzzled. Liz pressed her lips together but couldn't help smiling anyway. "I asked Maria to get me some clean pajamas from my other suitcase."

"Oh," he suddenly understood and his cheeks reddened. "We played right into that one."

"We sure did," Liz agreed cheerfully as she rose and retrieved the clothing in question. She could feel Max's eyes on her as she dressed, and she controlled the urge to move provocatively. Top and bottoms on, Liz picked up the T-shirt from the floor and handed it to Max with a grin.

"Unfortunately for me, you don't look any less sexy with your clothes on," Max grumbled, accepting the T-shirt. He sat up in one smooth motion and Liz had to avert her eyes before she reached for him again. He obviously still had no idea how gorgeous he was, even though he had begun to believe that Liz desired him. How could he not, with how wild he'd made her? The mere thought brought warmth to her face.

Max stood up with a faint grimace. "So, ready to leave the room?"

Liz raised her eyebrows, nodding towards his groin. "Are you positive you don't want to wait a little longer?" The soft track pants did nothing to hide his arousal.

He laughed sheepishly. "Liz, if we stay in here long enough for that to go down we'll never hear the end of it."

That was about as perfect an opening for such an uncomfortable subject as she was ever going to get. "Um, Max, you could…or I could…I didn't mean when I started this that you had to stay like that. We don't have to go all the way for you to, um—you know."

His smile had grown throughout her speech but Liz didn't feel like he was making fun of her. Max caught her hand and kissed the inside of her wrist.

"Thank you for the thought, but…it's been a long time since I ached for you like this. I'd kind of like to savor it for now," he said bashfully. Liz smiled; she felt the same way. His hazel eyes sparkled as he added, "But you could ask me again tomorrow."

"I just might do that," she flirted, grinning as he reddened slightly.

"Okay," Max took a deep breath and then flashed her a smile. "Walk in front of me?"












posted on 8-Jun-2002 1:44:23 PM
Rocky!! OMB, that is too funny. I can't remember if we discussed freckles or not--I just remember the hair chat.*big* I'm guessing that's the similarity b/c I think we might both be sensitized to their fascinating qualities by a certain photographer!*wink*

Breathless Glad to have you on board, Debbi!*happy*

Thanks, everyone; I'm loving your comments.*big*
hugs, Tas
posted on 25-Jun-2002 12:31:18 PM
I haven't forgotten y'all, just RL has been in the way lately.*sad* And I really had to get some work done on Forging, one of my other fics that was giving me trouble!! So, thought I'd let you know that I'm still working on the next chapter.*happy*
hugs, Tas
posted on 3-Jul-2002 10:57:58 PM
Hi guys! THanks for all the bumpage.*happy* I am working on the next chapter and hopefully it'll be up by this weekend (or on the weekend). Sorry for the length; ['ve had to do some restructuring and my original chapter got scrapped. Anyway, soon, I promise!
hugs, Tas
posted on 7-Jul-2002 12:59:29 AM
*****NEW CHAPTER 11*****

Liz lay on the couch, listening to the shower running in the bathroom and thinking about the previous evening. She and Max had escaped humiliation, thanks to Maria and Michael's own activities. She still couldn't believe they'd actually had a quickie. Well, yes she could, because she knew how close she'd been to doing the same thing. All in all, it was a good thing Max had stopped them. Liz had certain expectations for her first time, too, and having other people in the apartment at the same time didn't factor into them.

Her mind turned to the advice she had finally dragged out of Maria, both of them managing to discuss Liz's fears without dissolving into giggles this time. Her best friend had been her usual blunt self.

"Okay, remember that porn movie Kyle made the four of us sit through that time, where the woman practically swallowed the guy whole? You don't want to do that. You'll just choke and he'll feel awful and neither one of you will have fun. Concentrate on the top and use your hands on the rest," Maria had instructed.

"And that won't be like, disappointing or anything?"

"Pumpkin, as long as you remember to cover your teeth, he'll be happy with whatever you do. I swear," she'd emphasized. "Oh, and one more thing. Max probably has the same insecurities as Michael, from being alien and all, plus a whole lot more from whatever it is that's going on, so make sure you swallow."

"Make sure I swallow," Liz had echoed, understanding the reasoning behind that comment. Max's self-esteem was pretty fragile and she definitely didn't want to disrupt it in any way. "That part doesn't make me so nervous. Even Michael thought I could chug pretty well!"

The conversation had deteriorated into sheer fun at that point, but the words had stayed with Liz. Now, alone, her mind kept turning them over and over, nagging at her. She wasn’t sure if Max were ready to take that step, in spite of how close they'd come to making love the night before. But Michael had gone to work already and Maria was still asleep, leaving them a window of opportunity. She and Max had woken when Michael left, and Max had kissed her and gone to take a shower. Fuzzy images of him naked under the streaming water fired her imagination. Liz had been touching him intimately for two days now and she still hadn't seen him without his boxers.

If she waited much longer to make up her mind, Max would be out of the shower. Liz finally rose from the couch and scribbled a quick note to Maria, telling her to stay in the bedroom until Liz opened the door, signaling that it was okay. She taped the note to the inside of Michael's bedroom door, right at their mutual eye level. Liz didn't want to embarrass Max by having them both exit the bathroom at the same time. This way, while Maria would certainly guess what might be going on, Max wouldn't know about it.

Liz smiled as she found the bathroom door unlocked. She did have bobby pins, but Max might have heard her pick the lock. Now, she eased it open and slipped inside, closing it quickly and quietly and pushing the doorknob to engage the lock, just in case Maria missed the note.

The doorknob clicked as the lock fell into place, and Max poked his head out of the shower curtain, his shock clearly visible.

"Liz? What—what are you doing here?" he stammered.

"I thought I'd join you," Liz removed her tank top, smugly noticing his gaze drop involuntarily before returning to her face. She had been so terribly nervous yesterday when she'd realized he could see almost all of her; today, knowing that Max thought she was beautiful, her nudity empowered her.

"In here? With me? Naked?" he squeaked.

Liz resisted the urge to laugh as she removed her pajama bottoms. She couldn't blame Max for being surprised; she surprised herself. But Liz was running on instinct right now and everything told her that this was the right move. "I think that's how it usually works, yes."

"But…" he couldn't come up with any coherent objections. Liz smiled as he clutched the curtain closer. "Liz, I don't know if this is a good idea."

Her smile faltered. "I just wanted to see you," she admitted softly.

"See me," Max echoed quizzically.

"Yeah. Um, I was, you know, lying there, listening to the water running, and thinking about you in it, and driving myself crazy in the process," Liz said in a rush.

His smile was slow and sweet. "Really?"

"Really," she confirmed, glad that her blatant honesty had soothed him. Or—whatever.

"I was thinking about you, too," he confessed shyly.

"You were?" her heart beat faster.

Max nodded. "Yeah. You are actually here, right? You're not a figment of my imagination?" he teased. Liz felt the underlying fear in his questions and hastened to reassure him.

"Yes, I'm here, and I'm coming in there," she hooked her thumbs into the waistband of her panties then hesitated. Suddenly this didn't seem like the best idea.

"Maybe you should leave those on. I'm not sure I could trust myself if we're both in here n—with nothing on," he stumbled.

"Okay," Liz acquiesced, grateful for his consideration. She was nervous enough without exposing any more of her body. Max's hesitation over the same thing made perfect sense to her, but he definitely had to be nude for what she had in mind. Besides, she knew it would only be a matter of time before she gave him every last part of herself.

Max moved back as Liz walked up to the side of the bathtub. She saw how reluctantly he let go of the curtain and so when she stepped into the steamy tub, Liz carefully kept eye contact with Max, trusting him to not let her fall. She pushed the curtain closed behind her.

"Hi," Liz smiled.

"Hey there," Max replied softly. They stared at each other for what seemed like forever, and then he enfolded her in his arms, pulling her close.

Liz gasped at the abrupt sensation of his wet skin sliding along hers. A lot of wet skin. She'd never imagined that the simple contact could feel so amazing. Her awareness centered on the hot steel pressed into her abdomen, partially against the now-soaked cotton of her underwear and partially against her bare belly. She heard a small moan from Max as her hands, loosely linked behind him, began caressing his back and shoulders almost of their own accord. He felt so good, the interplay of his strong muscles under the warm velvet of his skin intoxicating her. She moved lower, sliding greedy fingers over his firm buttocks and the tops of his thighs.

"Liz," he groaned. Max pulled her head back a little, one hand tangling in her dripping hair, and fused his mouth to hers. Liz welcomed the invasion of his tongue as she continued her explorations freely, letting her desire flow out through her fingertips. She wanted Max to understand how she felt about him, how he made her feel.

His other hand stroked her body, mapping her curves and edging in between them to massage her breasts. Liz turned them a little so that Max's back faced the tile wall, but her resolve faded some in the haze of sensation. It was only when his lips traveled down her neck that she remembered her goal.

"Mmm, Max, I don't want this to be all about me this time," Liz murmured, tilting her head nonetheless.

"That's fine," he said huskily, nipping at her ear lobe then laving it.

"Max," she moaned in protest and he chuckled.

"Sorry, love. It's impossible for me to be here with you like this, and not touch you," Max half smiled, lifting his head.

"Me, too," Liz breathed, gliding her hands around his hips and enclosing his erection. She watched how his eyes brightened and darkened all at once, their color changing further as she gently stroked him. It fascinated her, how he visibly responded to her touch.

Max recaptured her lips hungrily, his hands moving restlessly across her back. Liz eventually broke the kiss and nibbled her way down his throat and chest. She dipped her tongue into his navel just as he had done to her, and felt his laugh rumble through them both. When she slid lower, crouching with her face pressed to his abdomen, his hands descended to her shoulders, halting her progress.

"Liz, what are you…?" Max didn't finish the question as she looked up at him. He seemed anxious and she smiled lovingly.

"I'm answering that question you said I could ask again today," Liz said gently. "It's all right, Max. You don't need to be afraid; I won't hurt you."

"But—" he started, falling silent when she shook her head firmly.

"Max, I want to do this, I honestly do. And I know that you're probably worried about what I'm thinking, seeing you naked like this. I know I was, yesterday, and I was scared about what you might say," she rose to gaze straight into his eyes. "You don't have to worry. You're every bit as beautiful as I always knew you would be, and looking at you seriously turns me on."

He exhaled forcefully, staring at her, then the corners of his mouth twitched. "Beautiful? Please don't let Michael hear you call me that."

Liz laughed, feeling giddy with relief and desire both that he wasn't going to fight her on this. "I won't. It'll be something special just between us."

"Everything between us is special, Liz," Max told her.

"This will be, too," she promised.

He held her gaze for a long while before his eyes dropped to her mouth, his thumb tracing her bottom lip. "Okay," he nodded slightly. "Okay. I can't deny that I've thought about it. Often," Max added with a half smile. "But I have one condition."

"What's that?"

"Not right now, or in any particular time frame, but at some point you'll allow me to reciprocate," he said intently. His long lashes, thick with water droplets, flickered briefly as he blinked then regarded Liz.

He wants to… she thought faintly. Did he know somehow that she'd fantasized about it? What it would be like to have Max touch her that intimately, to lose herself in the feeling? Had he guessed that she would have allowed it yesterday?

"Deal," she agreed softly. Surprise flitted across Max's face at her quick reply, and then his expression smoothed into an intense hunger that made Liz shiver. If he hadn't known any of those things before, he did now. He dipped his head and kissed her hard, crushing her to his chest. Liz could hardly breathe in the tight dual grip of arms and lips but she returned his kisses with equal fervor. When he finally released her, her legs were wobbly.

Max took a deep breath and nodded once, searching her eyes. "Okay then," he murmured, barely audible, letting Liz know he was ready if she was. Was she? Liz decided on a "yes." She kissed him gently and sank to her knees.

So, that's a… It was kind of cute, really. Liz felt protective and possessive, weirded out and wickedly aroused, all at the same time. She didn't want to hesitate long before touching Max, so that he didn't feel any more vulnerable than he did now. Anyway, she expected to have lots of future opportunities for close study. Glancing up at his face, Liz smiled to see that he'd closed his eyes. Then she leaned forward and swirled her tongue around the head of his erection, licking off the water.

"Liz, a—uh," Max inhaled sharply, a vibrant sound of pure reaction and pleasure. A thrill speared through Liz at hearing it. Carefully she took his cock into her mouth, experimenting to see how much she could hold. Had she thought the skin on Max's chest was smooth? He felt like silk against her tongue and lips. When she was comfortable with the positioning, she started to suck, gently at first. As her hands and mouth found a natural rhythm and she grew more confident in her actions, Liz sucked harder.

"Oh, God. Liz. Ooooooh," Max groaned. His fingertips brushed across her temple and briefly stroked the wet mass of her hair before his hand flattened against the wall, his fingers bent as though he were trying to dig them into the tiles. Over the pounding water Liz could hear his breathy moans. From the timbre of them, she thought wistfully that her first sweet taste of this sensual power would not last very long.

It was only when her knees began to ache from kneeling on the hard porcelain that Liz started cursing Max's damnable control. She finally realized that he had an iron grip on himself and wasn't about to let go—at least, not without a little more help. Halting her motion but leaving her hands where they were, Liz withdrew her mouth and looked up.

Max had his face scrunched up, as if to resist all temptation to open his eyes. She smiled. "Max, look at me."

"I can't," he rasped.

"Why not?"

"I'll lose it," he admitted.

"Good," Liz said firmly. In shock, his eyes flew open and he looked down at her, a low moan rising from his throat as he met her gaze. Liz's smile broadened. "I mean it, Max. Did you think I was going to just do it for a couple of minutes then stop?"

"Well," Max hedged and she laughed.

"I'm not. I'm going to keep on," she hesitated. Could she say it? Liz forged ahead, her cheeks pinking, "Keep on sucking you until you come."

His eyes widened dramatically at her language but her hands felt an answering leap in his cock. He wanted to, she knew it absolutely; he was just nervous. That was only natural with such an intimate, unfamiliar activity. Well, he would just have to get over it because Liz was determined to have her way, even if they ended up staying in this position until they lost all the hot water and were both freezing. It was still warm so far.

She only hoped that she wouldn't be a total hypocrite when it was her turn.

"You're serious," Max said softly, huskily.

"Completely," Liz nodded. "Just relax and let it happen, Max." She extended the tip of her tongue, smugly watching his chest heave as she lightly licked the tip of his cock. "I'm a big girl. I can handle it."

"I'll—I'll try," he promised. Max started to close his eyes again as Liz leaned forward and she stopped him.

"Leave them open, Max. Keep looking at me, okay?" she was beyond being surprised with herself by now. Wide-eyed, he nodded jerkily and Liz smiled before she parted her lips, taking him back into her mouth. She heard his breath hiss out as she resumed her suction but her gaze never left his.

Liz watched the changes in his face as she continued her steady rhythm. His openness floored her, his eager responses creating a sharp ache in her own body. When Max bit his lip over a moan and his head fell back, resting against the wall, she knew that he had at last let go. In the next moment she found herself swallowing an astonishing amount of liquid, accompanied by the heady sound of her name, spoken in a ragged voice.

When no more trickled into her mouth, Liz kissed his softening erection and stood, her knees protesting the change of position. She felt a surge of relief when Max immediately kissed her then held her close. She'd wondered about the etiquette of kissing afterwards, but it didn't seem to have even occurred to Max. He pressed soft kisses to the perimeter of her face, easing along her damp hairline with a light touch. She closed her eyes to better enjoy the feathery caresses.

"When we make love," Max whispered, a thread of laughter in his voice, "I hope to God I can make it last more than two minutes. Because I can't imagine anything feeling better than that just did, but I know it will, because you'll be feeling it too."

The words startled a laugh out of Liz and Max smiled at her. "Really?" she asked, feeling a little shy and a lot triumphant.

"Yeah," he confirmed huskily. "I can't quite believe it happened. Or that you…" Max trailed off, flushing.

"Well, I already had a preview taste, remember?" Liz teased, her own cheeks reddening at her brazen remark. But her whole body felt warm and tingly at the way Max had matter-of-factly mentioned them making love. It had become a certainty in both their minds now. It was simply a question of when.

"Right," he coughed slightly. His eyes were still golden with desire, though they were gradually resuming their usual hazel shade. Liz leaned in and kissed him tenderly.

"The water's starting to get cold. Let's get out," she murmured. Max nodded in agreement and stepped briefly under the cool spray, rinsing his body before shutting the taps off. Liz watched the play of his muscles, his skin gleaming with moisture and felt answering moisture pooling in her wet underwear. Now wasn't the time, though, they'd already been in here a long while. But oh, he was so gorgeous!

"What?" Max asked as he turned to face her. Liz raised her gaze to meet his and smiled impishly.

"You're beautiful," she told him, giggling when he blushed. "You are," she insisted. "All of you." Liz reached for him, pulling him closer and running her hands down his sides, over his buttocks and hips and finally caressing between his legs. She raised her eyebrows as his cock stirred in response, and Max laughed a little and removed her hands, kissing her briefly.

"We're supposed to be getting out, here," he reminded her good-naturedly. Liz smiled and allowed him to help her step out of the tub. Only when they were standing on the small bath mat drying off did it occur to her that she would need to remove her underwear before getting dressed. It seemed silly but she was suddenly overcome with shyness.

Max seemed to sense her problem. He finished towel-drying his hair and reached for his clothes, pulling them on as he said, "I'll go out first, and then you can come out in a minute."

Liz nodded, feeling like a coward as he slipped his shirt on and sat on the toilet lid to put on his socks. Dressed, Max stood and pulled her into his arms. It was oddly erotic to be almost naked while he was fully clothed. He kissed her forehead.

"I'll see you soon," he murmured, and she knew that he did understand her fear. After all, he'd begun the day feeling the same way, and it probably hadn't faded completely. But he'd trusted her and wanted her enough to let her take the lead, again, and to let himself go when she'd asked him to do so. Liz had to trust that he would understand her hesitation even in the face of his liberation.

Max kissed her gently, cradling her face, then flashed her a smile and left the room. Liz hurriedly finished with her hair and dressed, stripping off her underwear first. She held the wet garment, trying to figure out what she should do with it, and eventually draped it over the pipe underneath the sink, inside the vanity. Once it was dry she could retrieve it and put it away.

Feeling more or less ready to face another day of delving into Max's memories, Liz smoothed her still-damp hair and exited the bathroom. But before she and Max got started, her first order of business was to let Maria out of the bedroom!













posted on 7-Jul-2002 1:20:09 AM
You're permitted to say whatever you want, Cookie dear! LOL! And I have to admit, there's very little else to focus on in this chapter.*wink* Oddly enough, it's actually important, though. Go figure!*big* Gonna miss you.
hugs, Tas
posted on 8-Jul-2002 6:45:59 PM
Don't all keel over at once, k?? I actually had this chapter written first, and then I had to redo the previous chapter a couple of times to get it the way I needed it to be. Thanks for all the lovely fb!*happy*
hugs, Tas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*****NEW CHAPTER 12*****

"Do you want to stop? We've been at this for a long time today, maybe we should take a break," Liz suggested anxiously.

"No," Max sighed. "No, I have to do it now, while I've got the momentum going. If I wait till later I may not be able to get it out," he said truthfully. He glanced at Liz. "Unless—well, if you need some time…"

"I'm good," she reassured him hastily, rubbing his arm in sympathy. "I'm ready to listen." I hope, she added to herself. Liz wasn't sure she'd ever truly be ready to hear about what she privately thought of as, "The Day It All Went Wrong."

He offered her a small smile and curved his body up a little from his position flat on his back, kissing her forehead as she lay beside him on Michael's bed. "I love you," he said seriously, holding her gaze. "Don't forget that, please."

"Never," Liz promised, cupping his jaw. She drew him closer, kissing him tenderly. "As long as you don't forget that I love you, too."

"I'd rather die first," he rejoined passionately, and her eyes widened.

"Max!" she protested. She halted the remainder of what she had intended to say when he shook his head.

"Liz, listen to me. I've never understood just what you see in me, but I'm starting to realize that it isn't necessary for me to understand it to be able to accept that you love me. These last few days… They've been intensely physical, but it's so much more than that. The way you reach for me on instinct, offer yourself without hesitation—it's all doing something to me," Max half smiled. "Obviously it makes my body feel good but where you're really touching me is on the inside. Things are shifting…healing, like I didn't believe was possible, especially after everything we've been through. Everything I've done," his expression darkened momentarily, forcing the lump in Liz's throat to grow ever larger.

"Glowing on the inside," she murmured, unconsciously echoing aloud a moment that she treasured. I'm glowing everywhere—my toes, my heart… You can't see it, it's on the inside.

"What?" it took Max a second to place the reference. When he had it, he smiled. "Yeah, exactly. Everywhere you touch is different; marked. Yours," he affirmed softly. "And that's why I said what I did, because that's what happened. I'd be lost without you, Liz. I was lost. It's only now, here, in your arms, in your lips," he kissed her lingeringly, and Liz could feel the tears trembling on her lashes as her eyes drifted closed. "Only with you that I feel like myself again; that I'm capable of moving forward. That I feel like…like a worthwhile human being."

His last words were whispered almost silently, their impact inversely proportional to their volume. Liz began to cry, tears slipping down her cheeks only to be kissed away, until Max couldn't keep up and both their faces wet, they laughed together, the sound full of knowledge and awareness. And then he kissed her lips, his mouth tasting of salt, and Liz hugged him close. No matter what befell them in the days to come, she would not let go. Never again.

"I love you," Max repeated, searching her eyes. Whatever he was looking for, he found it because he smiled and pressed his lips to her forehead before returning to his supine position. He looked over at her.

"Try not to say anything this time, okay? I might come out of the trance and I'd rather not do this more than once," he said wryly. Liz nodded, appreciating the request and acquiescing to it both. She settled herself comfortably while Max took deep breaths, listening as his breathing evened out, feeling his body stop all those small movements people tend to make in any position. They'd found that Max remembered things more clearly when his mind was focused like this, and it also reduced the wear and tear on his emotional state because everything was that tiny bit removed from immediacy.

At last he began to speak, in little more than a monotone at first. "Isabel was being unreasonable and we all knew it—her included. She was just so desperate to escape the aftermath of Alex's death, and I think everything alien related, that she refused to see it. She knew she couldn't go to San Francisco. We have obligations here, and that's simply too far away. I knew I had to convince her of that, get her past the guilt and grief, but I also wanted her to have that opportunity, you know? College and all that. So I researched some options closer to home and Santa Fe seemed like the perfect solution.

"The problem was that things were already so tense between us, and she was angry because I'd asked Michael to talk to her about it. I shouldn't have, I knew it after, but I thought that maybe since they were getting along better… It only made her angrier. Then she blew up when I gave her the information about Santa Fe and told her that she couldn't go to San Francisco. After that, we—we talked—we—what we said is gone. I know the end result was that she agreed to stay, but became supremely furious with me and wouldn't talk to me," he sighed. Gone, meaning that piece of memory had been excised, not temporarily misplaced—forgotten was the term for that. They had worked out terminology for each because there were things that Max had only forgotten, in the same way that Liz herself forgot things.

"So, it started out as a bad enough day. Hell, that whole week sucked. There was this huge gulf between everyone after Alex died and I didn't know how to fix it. Tess was making me increasingly uncomfortable, pressuring me for more than I was willing to give her," Max's short laugh sounded slightly bitter. "Then Michael told me that you were heading to Sweden and that was—not a good course of action. I found you waiting for a cab and asked you to come home. I—we argued, I know that much, and you ended up leaving."

Max fell silent for a few minutes and Liz let him be. Eventually he started back up. "I was crushed. It felt like you were leaving me again, like watching you run from the pod chamber. I didn't even go home after that. What was the point? Mom and Dad would only have a million questions about why Iz and I weren't on speaking terms. So I drove. Kind of aimlessly for a while, then I went down the old highway for a bit and pulled off somewhere, watched the sunset. It was like there was this gaping hole in my chest where everyone I loved used to be, and the worst part was that I couldn't quite grasp what had happened. You know, I realized even then that I didn't have all the pieces," he said thoughtfully.

Even after she had reopened her heart to Max, and so much time had passed since the events that he described had happened, it was difficult for Liz to listen to his side of it. Knowing that his behavior had had outside influences somehow, didn't quite erase the pain to nothing. Liz considered Max's last statement, thinking that if Tess or whomever had been aware that Max had begun to notice the missing pieces, it may have influenced her decision to make her move.

"After full dark, I ended up at the observatory. I thought maybe I could look at that wobbly star Tess had shown me a few days earlier. But it was closed. The sign on the door said something about a strike…I didn't pay that much attention. I went back out to the Jeep and just stood there, staring up with my own two eyes, searching for the flicker even though I knew I wouldn't be able to see it. It seemed important somehow to try. Like, if everything else faded in my life there would always be that star out there; always duty," his voice conveyed a wealth of emotion and Liz winced at hearing the rawness of it.

"I admit I felt sorry for myself for a while there, straining my vision. I didn't ask for any of this. I had remarkably simple dreams for my life. You always had these detailed plans for what you wanted to do—what schools, avenues of thought, everything. All I wanted was to be able to actually live my life, peacefully, along with the rest of the planet. Maybe work the nerve up to ask you out," Max glanced over at her with a hint of a smile, which Liz returned. Clearly he wasn't in any kind of trance any more but he forged ahead all the same.

"But it didn't work out that way, so you've got to deal. Somehow.

"I had all these heavy thoughts running around in my head out there and suddenly, there was Tess, coming around the side of the observatory. I figured she'd tried to get in too, to no avail. She," his brow wrinkled in concentration. "She had something in her arms, a long coat, that she laid across the door of the Jeep on her way over. I remember thinking it was a strange item to have, since she already had a jean jacket on and it wasn't that cold."

Liz's jaw tightened as it crashed in on her where Max's words were leading. She quashed the urge to reach out to him, instinctively knowing that she should not touch him at all this time, let alone in an intimate fashion. Previously, when his recitations had become similarly intense, that was when she dispelled the heaviness with her hands. But not this time; it wouldn't be right. She felt a hint of…something, a tinge of unease that edged along her awareness and signaled to her that there was something wrong.

"We talked a little. Tess wanted to know what was the matter and I told her. She looked upset but she said something about being there for me, and I really did need a friend right then so I let her take my hand, and I…" he trailed off, frowning.

Liz couldn't keep silent, not this time. "You what, Max?"

"The next thing I remember is waking up. It was early in the morning—the sun shone through the ceiling in the observatory. We were on the floor, on that extra coat she'd brought. Guess that's why she had it," he said ruefully.

She refused to allow hope to dawn but she had to ask, "Are you sure that something actually happened, seeing as the whole night's gone from your memory?"

"Yeah, I'm sure," Max muttered.

"But, how? How do you know?"

"Liz, please," he implored, undoubtedly wanting to spare her feelings.

"I need to know, Max," Liz asserted quietly. He looked over at her, evaluating her seriousness, then nodded and returned to studying the ceiling.

"Neither one of us was wearing anything, and we were both…sticky, in the appropriate places," his voice was soft, carrying the knowledge that those words would wound. And they did. In spite of her repeated attempts to beat it down, Liz had hoped that it was all some kind of bad dream. It wasn't. In fact, the more she heard the more she suspected that the problem wasn't that Max had slept with Tess at all, because she grew increasingly afraid that what had happened that night had not occurred with Max's full consent. Flashing back to his surprising resistance the day before, she asked, "Was Tess—was she lying on top of you, when you woke up?"

"Yeah," Max confirmed, glancing sideways at Liz. "How did you know?"

"Just guessing," she prevaricated. She wasn't ready to talk about her theory yet; she needed to think about it some more.

Max shrugged an acknowledgement of her words. "You know, I think that taking her hand in school the next morning is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. About on a par with seeing you and Kyle, as far as my stomach was concerned. But what else was I going to do? I'd done—what I'd done, and those were the consequences," he paused. "I've never been so glad to not see you, either."

Liz nodded. "I confess to being glad I didn't have to see you, too. I don't know how well I would have handled it."

"Of the two of us, I'd lay odds on you doing better than me," Max offered with a wan smile.

They were silent for a while, each thinking their own thoughts. Liz realized that the only time she had seen Max and Tess together after that was when Max had barged in at Kyle's house, just as she had been asking Tess about mind control. Knowing what she did now about Tess's abilities and Alex's death, Liz knew she was lucky that Max had come in when he did or she would likely have been the next victim, of a mindwarp at the very least. Although her vivid recollection of his sneering comments wasn't exactly a picnic, either.

"Max, what about after that? Do you remember anything about her telling you she was pregnant?"

"No," he answered wearily. "I remember apologizing to you and admitting that an alien killed Alex, and going somewhere with you. I can retrieve portions of that trip but they're mostly without dialogue. I know I almost did something awful and you stopped me, for which I am grateful, and I know that we pulled off to the side of the road and I told you something that hurt you, which I'm guessing was about Tess but the conversation itself is gone. Like I said before, I remember parts of our—our goodbye, but not all of it. I remember hugging Michael in the granolith chamber, and how it felt, knowing he wasn't coming with us.

"The next perfectly clear thing that I recall is holding you while the granolith took off. The rest of the night and morning before that is a blur," Max said in frustration.

Liz finally allowed herself to touch him, running her hand soothingly along his arm. "I think that's enough, Max. Don't force it, okay?"

"Right," he agreed with a sigh, rubbing a hand over his face. "Liz, would you just lie here with me for a while? Please? I know that Iz and everyone will be here for dinner in another hour or two, but—would you, please?"

Her heart ached at the vulnerability in his voice and she murmured a wordless assent, not trusting herself to speak for the lump in her throat. Max turned onto his side and Liz curled up into his back, draping her arm over his waist and burying her nose in between his shoulder blades. Offering what little comfort she could, against something that was turning out to be much bigger—and worse—than she had imagined.











posted on 3-Aug-2002 1:15:44 AM
Inimitable, I'm not trying to kill you guys LOL! I know it's been a while. I took my vacation for 2 weeks in July, to go visit my parents, and found it just too inhibiting to write there.;) This is the first week I've been back. I'm working like mad on this next chapter, and hoping to have it out in the next few days. I meant to post that I was going on vacation, actually, but I've been having major problems with my ISP that they finally told me are not solvable, so I'm scouting for a new one and in the meantime, my connection's not overly reliable sigh. But, life goes on. I appreciate all the support and the wonderful fb, guys.*happy*
hugs, Tas
posted on 6-Aug-2002 8:31:03 PM
Dunh dunh dunh dunh!!! *wink* Love yas!
hugs, Tas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*****NEW CHAPTER 13*****

"Hey there, come on in," Maria waved Jesse, Isabel and Kyle into Michael's apartment. She stopped Kyle with a hand on his shoulder. "Where's your dad?"

"Oh, he, uh, had other plans," he wouldn't meet her eyes. Maria narrowed her gaze suspiciously then sighed.

"He's with my mother, isn't he? Are they back on again?"

"Yeah. You know, they rival you and Guerin for that," Kyle smirked.

Maria made a face at him and elbowed him out of the way so she could close the door. No sense in being polite if he was going to be a smart ass. Kyle gave her a dirty look but moved readily enough, for which she graced him with a smile.

"Can I get anyone a drink?" Liz offered, smiling a greeting at the trio. Maria figured Liz could take over the hostess duties; she'd rather make sure that whatever Michael was doing came out edible. Flipping burgers for a living did not a chef make. Although she admitted that when he applied himself, Michael did cook very well, just as Max had said. The whole notion of applying himself was where Michael tended to fall down.

"Go sit, Maria," he ordered when she came into the small kitchen area. She ignored the demand and sidled up behind him at the stove, wrapping her arms around his chest and pressing close against his back. She felt more than heard him chuckle.

"I thought you were here to check up on me, in which case I'd prefer it if you took a walk. But if you're here to feel me up, that's different," Michael drawled. Maria snorted and pinched his nipples in response. His spoon clattered into the saucepan and Maria quickly flattened her hands as the rest of the room turned to look at them. Of course, flat or not, her hand placement drew a rude comment from Kyle and she elected to ignore it, and him. Evidently so did Michael, since he turned in her arms and kissed her, his tongue licking along the underside of hers before he withdrew.

"I am going to burn something or set something on fire if you stay in here. Go make nice," he shooed her away with a crooked smile, picking up the spoon and returning to stirring what looked like some kind of white sauce.

"Can I taste?"

"Yeah, when we eat dinner," Michael shot her an impatient look and Maria laughed, patting his butt before she went to join the rest of the group.

Liz and Isabel were commiserating on how glad they were to have a break from studying. Maria added her own heartfelt agreement, as did Kyle. Max smiled a little sadly.

"I'm going to need to really buckle down when we go back. I'm scraping by right now," he admitted. "As it is, I probably won't be able to get my grades up enough to get in anywhere really good."

Maria saw his eyes flicker to Liz and away, and she knew that he was thinking about where Liz would end up. Maria had been thinking the same thing for a while. Sure, college was supposed to get you away from home, make you meet new people, but she didn't want to lose the friends she had. She'd already lost Alex. But none of the rest of them had the kind of academic achievement that Liz did, and Maria also didn't want to begrudge her best friend having the opportunities she'd always dreamed about.

"I can help," Liz offered quickly. "Except for the last couple of weeks, obviously, I have all kinds of notes and stuff. You can copy them and I'll go over everything with you."

"Thanks," he murmured, bringing their clasped hands up and kissing hers.

"Well, us post-scholastic types get to work every day this week," Jesse smiled.

"Yeah, some of us mid-scholastic types have to do that too," Kyle rolled his eyes to laughter.

"Mmm, yeah Michael has like double shifts almost all this week, since he kind of wasn't expecting anyone to be here," Maria joined in.

"Well, and there's the little matter of his other job having gone boom," Kyle remarked. He turned a little to face the kitchen. "You know Michael, I might be able to get you some hours at the garage. I know you did all the work on your bike yourself; you probably know more than I did when I started there. Toby's always looking for part-timers who don't mind working weird hours."

"You realize that some of that work wasn't done by hand, right?" Michael asked.

"Oh, he doesn't care. Not all of Kyle's is done by hand, either," Isabel interjected. "He keeps bringing me little motors and stuff to start."

"It was a carburetor," Kyle said in a pained voice.

Isabel shrugged. "Whatever. It worked after I fixed it, didn't it?"

"That'd be cool, Kyle," Michael finally replied when the laughter died down. "Listen, you guys want to move it over to the table? I'm almost done here. Maria?"

Maria raised her eyebrows at the peremptory tone, but smiled as she rose and went to the kitchen. Michael handed her a basket of garlic bread and a carefully arranged plate. He grabbed two more, and Liz came over to help after telling Max to stay seated. Between the three of them, dinner was swiftly served and everyone dug in.

"What is this sauce, Michael? It's really good," Isabel complimented him.

"Hollandaise," he answered shortly.

"Isn't that really complicated to make?"

Max laughed. "From scratch, maybe. He found this great packaged stuff. I usually get delegated to make it while the chicken or whatever is baking, since even I can't screw that up."

There was more laughter and light conversation as the meal continued, and Maria thought that it was the first time in a long time that they'd all just relaxed together. It was a good feeling, and she enjoyed it.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"So, Jesse. How are you feeling now that it's been a few days?" Liz asked seriously. She shared a quick glance with Maria; only those three humans remained at the table. Michael had refused their offers to help clean up, knowing that the two women needed to speak to Jesse, and had forced the protesting Kyle to assist him. Isabel had gone to lie on the couch. She had pulled the still-tender muscles in her abdomen and Max was attempting to heal the renewed damage.

Jesse looked over at his wife then back at Liz. "It's still sinking in, I guess. I think…I think the reason that I'm not freaking as much as I might expect myself to is because it was a life and death situation. I mean, Isabel nearly died. And somehow it didn't matter at that point, because I knew I didn't want to lose her."

Maria smiled. "That's kind of how this whole thing started, when Liz got shot. Max couldn't lose her, so he revealed his secret to heal her. Then I wouldn't leave her alone about it, so she finally told me so that I didn't go blab to the Sheriff. I'm afraid I didn't handle it that well," she snorted. "Liz, however, was so damn calm about the whole thing that I wanted to shake her senseless!"

Liz smiled broadly, remembering chasing after her screaming friend. "I think I was so calm because of the flashes. I knew that Max wouldn't hurt me."

"Flashes? Is that what you call that parade of—of childhood images and all that?" Jesse asked avidly.

"Yeah," Liz nodded. "I'm guessing that really threw you the first time it happened, huh? The first time it happened spontaneously for me—I mean, when Max wasn't trying to form a connection with me—it totally freaked me out."

"No, it did not. It totally excited you," Maria disagreed. "Or maybe that was just the accompanying activity."

"Maria!" Liz exclaimed, while Jesse tried not to spit his mouthful of water out in laughter. He sobered rapidly.

"Liz, I don't want to pry, but…Max did end up hurting you. A lot, from what I gather. Why was it that you kept coming back to him?"

Liz looked down at the table, her smile faltering a little. "Yes, he did. And I tried to stay away, for so many reasons…" she lifted her eyes to meet Maria's, knowing she understood. "But it felt like half of me was missing, like this chunk of my soul had been ripped out. When he's holding me, sometimes, everything else just floats away. It's easy to forget…" she shook her head slightly.

Jesse nodded, displaying more comprehension than she would have expected. "Yeah, it's all too easy to forget that Isabel lied to me too."

"Um, did you know that she asked? She asked Max and Michael if she could tell you, before you even got engaged," Maria told him.

"She did?" Liz echoed in disbelief. "Max didn't say anything about that."

"Well, it was when your dad was all heavy protector mode and Max was on another "knowing me has screwed up Liz's life" kick. Anyway, they said no to Isabel," Maria directed to Jesse.

"Because of the pact," Liz said slowly, comprehension dawning. "After Alex was murdered, they agreed never to tell anyone else. I thought—at the time, I thought that it was a pact that would eventually get broken. I mean we couldn't expect Isabel and Kyle to go through their lives never getting romantically involved, and I knew that once they did, the secret would come out one way or another. You can't be…physically close to one of them and not know that something is different."

"I hear you there," Jesse smiled. "Intimacy with Isabel is so far beyond any other experience I've had, it's almost scary. It's just so—intense."

Liz regarded him keenly. "So, it is more intense than with a fully human partner?"

He chuckled a bit uncomfortably but answered honestly. "Yes. Emotionally, too, but that's at least in part because I've never loved anyone like I do Izzy."

She and Maria smiled at hearing the diminutive. "That's good to know," Liz said softly.

Jesse nodded and twisted his hands around the water glass. "Have you two ever regretted being part of this whole thing? Have you ever really wanted out? I know you've both had your break-ups and whatever, but there seem to be other forces at work for a lot of that."

"Oh, Jesse, you've asked the sixty-four thousand dollar question," Maria sighed. "The answer is yes, and no."

He shook his head. "Uh, can you explain that, please?"

The corners of Liz's mouth tipped up. "Yes, there have occasionally been times when we've wanted to escape. The price…it can be high, Jesse. Not just for us, but for them, too. Max's experience in the White Room was a direct consequence of having healed me. But I know he doesn't regret saving my life. And I…yeah, we have work to do but we'll get it done together. I don't want to be apart from him again," she whispered.

"Same here," Maria agreed.

He nodded thoughtfully, staring at the table for a long moment before looking up to meet both their eyes with a small smile. "Thanks for your honesty. I'm, going to use the little boys' room."

Liz smiled back at Jesse as he rose and left the table, and then her gaze wandered to Maria. Her friend reached out to squeeze Liz's hand.

"You're shaking, babe."

"I know," she said in frustration. "The way I'm developing powers, it must have affected my metabolism as well, at least where alcohol is concerned. I've been feeling withdrawal symptoms like all day, and it sucks. A couple of weeks' worth of drinking is not supposed to get you hooked."

"Remember your promise, okay? If you can't handle it, tell someone. I don't care if it's embarrassing," Maria entreated seriously.

"I will, I will," Liz smiled, patting the hand holding hers.

Maria searched her face intently then relaxed some. She continued to hold Liz's hand as she asked, "You didn't tell Max about Future Max yet, did you?"

As usual, she'd picked up on even the things that Liz didn't want to talk about. "No. I—I couldn't. What he's going through is already so hard, Maria! I just could not add to that," Liz grimaced.

"You mean you chickened out, again," she rebuked. "Liz, he needs to know, now more than ever. If he knows the reason why some of this was set in motion, maybe it would help. I honestly don't think it would make things any worse—I think you're hiding behind that so you don't have to 'fess up."

"Maria," Liz sighed in exasperation, preparing to refute the charges, when she noticed Michael approaching them. Both women fell silent.



Apparently the table's occupants either didn't know or didn't remember that hybrid senses were more sensitive than those of humans, because Michael heard the entire conversation with a minimum of effort. He'd smiled internally at Maria's statement that she didn't want to be apart from him; Liz's made him smile too, because he knew Max needed her. It wasn't until Maria mentioned the name "Future Max" that puzzling snippets of his early morning conversation with Liz a couple of days ago began to surface in Michael's mind.

"Alex died because of what Max asked me to do to his younger self."

"I wouldn't change a fucking minute because it means that now I can be happy with Max. I have earned that; we both have. And if someone wants to tell me that it's going to make the world end, then so be it. I'm not saving it again.


Michael knew that somehow, all of these things were tied together. And Liz was withholding potentially vital information, something she had no right to do. He put down the dishcloth, ignoring Kyle's mutter as he pushed past the other man and strode over to the women sitting at his table, in his apartment, keeping secrets. Well, the secret-keeping time was up. He stalked right up to Liz and stared down at her, not bothering to disguise his fury.

"Who the hell is Future Max? What did he do to this Max, and what does that have to do with you saving the world?"











posted on 9-Aug-2002 6:42:47 PM
Klaatu Yep, I'm Canadian and I plan to spend Labour Day camped in front of the TV too.*big* Even if it is all S3. You can vote for which ones at www.spacecast.com, somewhere lol.

Jane Everyone's still at Michael's. It's Spring Break, so no classes, which is how they can get away with it in the first place. We are currently at Wednesday evening.*happy*

Sorry to leave you hanging, folks. Okay, not really, but I'm not leaving you for long! LOL!*big*
hugs, Tas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
FROM PART 13

Maria searched her face intently then relaxed some. She continued to hold Liz's hand as she asked, "You didn't tell Max about Future Max yet, did you?"

As usual, she'd picked up on even the things that Liz didn't want to talk about. "No. I—I couldn't. What he's going through is already so hard, Maria! I just could not add to that," Liz grimaced.

"You mean you chickened out, again," she rebuked. "Liz, he needs to know, now more than ever. If he knows the reason why some of this was set in motion, maybe it would help. I honestly don't think it would make things any worse—I think you're hiding behind that so you don't have to 'fess up."

"Maria," Liz sighed in exasperation, preparing to refute the charges, when she noticed Michael approaching them. Both women fell silent.



Apparently the table's occupants either didn't know or didn't remember that hybrid senses were more sensitive than those of humans, because Michael heard the entire conversation with a minimum of effort. He'd smiled internally at Maria's statement that she didn't want to be apart from him; Liz's made him smile too, because he knew Max needed her. It wasn't until Maria mentioned the name "Future Max" that puzzling snippets of his early morning conversation with Liz a couple of days ago began to surface in Michael's mind.

"Alex died because of what Max asked me to do to his younger self."

"I wouldn't change a fucking minute because it means that now I can be happy with Max. I have earned that; we both have. And if someone wants to tell me that it's going to make the world end, then so be it. I'm not saving it again.


Michael knew that somehow, all of these things were tied together. And Liz was withholding potentially vital information, something she had no right to do. He put down the dishcloth, ignoring Kyle's mutter as he pushed past the other man and strode over to the women sitting at his table, in his apartment, keeping secrets. Well, the secret-keeping time was up. He stalked right up to Liz and stared down at her, not bothering to disguise his fury.

"Who the hell is Future Max? What did he do to this Max, and what does that have to do with you saving the world?"


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*****NEW PART 14*****

Liz whitened as Michael shouted his questions, and Maria gripped her hand even tighter as if to protect her. Or maybe to keep her from fleeing; even Maria wasn't sure anymore. She knew that she had to support Liz in this, though.

Jesse emerged from the bathroom, inquiring, "What's all the yelling?"

Max and Isabel, who had been talking quietly on the couch after he'd healed her, stood and moved over to the table. Kyle dropped his dishtowel on the counter and followed suit. In a couple of minutes, the entire room was standing over her and Liz, waiting for an answer.

"I—" Liz said in a whisper. When nothing else came out, Michael started berating her again, his eyes narrowing in sudden realization.

"You said that this Future Max guy asked you to do something to Max. Was that why you slept with Kyle? Were you trying to destroy him?"

"Michael. Michael," Maria attempted to get a word in edgewise. "Michael." He kept talking right over top of her, something he knew she hated. She took a deep breath and bellowed at the top of her lungs, "MICHAEL!"

He shut up and stared at her, along with everyone else. Maria heaved a sigh. "If you would quit the verbal abuse and listen for a minute, you'd realize that you should be on your knees in gratitude, Spaceboy. Because the event that made a future version of Max travel back in time to try to prevent the takeover of Earth was holding you while you died, Michael. Fourteen years from now—well, thirteen, I guess, by this time."

A maelstrom of emotion swept over Michael's face, present for such a short time that even Maria, with long practice at reading his subtle signals, had no idea what his feelings were before his expression smoothed into an overly calm façade. Michael's gaze shifted back to Liz.

"That true?" he asked, his voice considerably gentler.

"Yes," she confirmed quietly. Maria's hand had begun to ache from Liz's death grip but she didn't say anything, just kept squeezing in return.

Liz breathed deeply, closing her eyes for a minute then finding Max and focusing on him as she spoke. "Future Max came to me just like Maria said, to ask my help in preventing a war on Earth. An alien war on Earth. He said—he said," she faltered then pushed on. "That after he and his Liz made love, he treated Tess so horribly that she left Roswell, and they needed all four members of the foursquare in order to fight properly, to have a chance even to win. And they didn't have it, because Tess was gone."

Kyle rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "But Tess was one of the bad guys all along. She wouldn't have helped them anyway."

"She must have left town before they discovered that. And that's why you said that about Alex, because she also left before she had a chance to murder him, am I right?" Michael wanted to know.

"And she obviously didn't leave pregnant if Max was with you," Isabel added, her voice laced in protective acid.

"You're both right," Maria replied hastily. She didn't appreciate Isabel's tone, although she understood her need to protect her loved ones. And she knew how it looked, but she had to make them see that Liz's actions had been warranted at the time. "However, I've got to point out that we didn't know any of that the October before last either. Tess seemed to be a team player, remember?"

There were mutters of agreement. Liz shook her head slightly and Maria followed her eyes to Max, grimacing at what she saw there.

"There's no point whatsoever in playing, "What if?"," Liz said dully. "I have gone over every possibility since that awful night, and if I'd had more time… I only had a little over twenty-four hours to come up with a way to make Max fall out of love with me and push him towards Tess. If I didn't then millions of people were going to die. What else was I supposed to do? You wouldn't give up, even after I said all those horrible things to you," she admonished Max with the ghost of a smile.

The others stepped back, sensing even as Maria did that this was Max's to answer. It hurt to see his pain, and she had an inkling of why Liz had been unable to bring herself to divulge the truth before now.

He passed a hand over his face, rubbing the back of his neck while he regarded Liz, choosing his words. "Liz, I understand, why you did what you did, and why, at that time, you kept it a secret. But after Tess did leave," he gave himself a shake as his eyes started to shimmer with unshed tears. "I've spent the last two days baring my soul to you. Telling you things that I didn't think I'd ever say to another living being, even you. To find out now, that you haven't been as honest with me…" he left the sentence hanging. It didn't matter; his meaning shone clearly in his devastated expression.

Only Maria heard the faint sniffle that Liz emitted. She leaned closer and murmured to her best friend, "Tell him the truth."

Liz shrugged helplessly and responded to Max, "I couldn't get the words out. You were already hurting so much, and I couldn't do it."

Max nodded slowly, holding Liz's gaze for a long moment while Maria held her breath. Then his eyes dropped and he turned to face Michael. "Where are your keys?"

"In my jacket by the door, why?"

"I need air," he replied grimly.

"Max, you're not even supposed to be in town here," Kyle reminded him.

Max gave him a tight smile as he slipped his arms into the jacket. "With this and a helmet on, no one will get close enough to figure out that I'm not Michael." Without another word or a backward glance, he left.



Liz slumped, grateful for Maria's support although she had a feeling that she'd crushed her friend's hand pretty well. It didn't matter. With Max gone, did anything? She'd seen the same pain as no doubt everyone else had, but had they also seen the fury? It had burned into her as they'd locked gazes and she felt scorched now. With a heavy sigh she leaned sideways, almost out of her chair, and rested her head on Maria's shoulder. If nothing else, her best friend would always come through.

The tableau became unfrozen with Max's departure and those standing reprised their seats at the table, still wanting to discuss the situation. Liz supposed she should have expected as much. Indeed, she had, the few times she'd allowed herself to think about it. Now, though, she was numb: wrung out.

"You couldn't get the words out to tell Max, but you didn't seem to have any trouble blabbing everything to Maria," Michael asserted resentfully. Liz felt the beginnings of a headache behind her eyes. It looked like she'd managed to create trouble between her best friend and her prickly boyfriend as well. Maria's arm tightened around her shoulders and Liz smiled gratefully, knowing that Maria would feel her intent even if she couldn't see the smile.

"It's not that simple, Michael. For one thing, there wasn't anything riding on Maria not finding out—her knowledge didn't jeopardize anything. And not telling her might have meant the end of our friendship. I couldn't let that happen," she sighed.

"I don't get it. Why would it have affected your friendship that much?" Kyle asked.

"Because, Kyle. You don't spontaneously lose your virginity and not tell your best friend. It was all over school that we'd spent the night together and Maria called me on it."

"So, what this Future Max said is why you had me help you set Max up?" he pursued, trying to understand.

"Wait. Set Max up?" Isabel shook her head, baffled.

"Liz and Kyle didn't sleep together," Maria explained bluntly. "They just made it look like they had, so Max would draw the obvious conclusion."

"Does Max know it was a set-up?" Michael asked.

"Yes, he does. I told him last year that it didn't happen, before you guys almost left, but that's part of what vanished when he—died. I mentioned it again the other day," Liz replied. "Obviously I didn't tell him why, though."

Kyle jumped in, "You wouldn't tell me why, either, and you were almost as upset as Max, but you wouldn't even talk about it after he fled. You sent me home to tell Tess to find him at the park."

"And when he didn't send her away, that was the beginning of the change in our future, and Future Max just…faded away. Ceased to exist, like he said he would if it worked. Right in the middle of our dance," she said sadly, aching like it had been yesterday. She could still see the falling star. In her mind, it would fall forever.

"You danced with him?" Isabel couldn't believe it.

"I wanted my wedding dance," Liz murmured nearly inaudibly.

"You and Max got married?" Jesse inquired sympathetically. Liz couldn't force any words past the lump in her throat and she turned her face into Maria's shoulder.

"Yes, they ran off to Vegas when they were nineteen, then had me, Michael, Isabel and Alex meet them in Phoenix where apparently we danced all night. I think that's enough about that, all right? If you want more details I can give them to you later. Let's move on," Maria said firmly. Liz had never loved her more.

"Okay, then let's talk about how Liz had absolutely no right to make that kind of unilateral decision without even consulting one of us. She said it herself, what she did opened the door for Tess to murder Alex," Michael grated.

"How is it possible for any one person to be quite that hypocritical?" Isabel shot at him. "Do you want a list of the times that you've acted unilaterally? Or Max has? It's his besetting sin, too."

"Hey, all we know is that Alex would have lived to be at least nineteen. Future Max didn't get any more specific about events after his and Liz's wedding. From what little else he did say, both Liz and I think that when he came back, he and Future Liz were it," Maria intervened between the two quasi siblings.

Liz rejoined the conversation, sitting up and gazing steadily at Michael. She concealed her hands in her lap; they were still quivering with the need for alcohol. She couldn't allow that to distract her now. "He mentioned Michael and Isabel, but I got the feeling that everyone else was gone, too. That you two were just the most recent—the last ones. And that it wasn't until all other options had been exhausted that Future Max came back. He didn't want to be here, and he didn't want to ask me to do that. He didn't have a choice."

Her eyes filled with tears as she vocalized the feelings that she had held in for so long. "I know that what I did was unbelievably cruel, but what else was I supposed to do? Let the world die because I was in love?"

Silence reigned for a few minutes, and then absolution came from an unexpected corner. "There was nothing else you could do, given the knowledge you had at the time," Isabel said quietly, her dark head nodding as if to convince herself. "Nothing."

"So, what now? What do we tell Max?" Michael's belligerence had faded; he sounded worried.

She spread her hands helplessly, thinking of the look in Max's eyes before he left. "I don't know. I don't think I've ever seen him that angry with me."

"Sure you have," Kyle disagreed. "At my place that time."

"That wasn't Max," she waved dismissively.

"What are you talking about? I was there, Liz, and that was so Max."

Sudden, unreasoning fury blossomed in her and Liz rounded on him. "Kyle, what exactly do you remember of that conversation, huh? Do you remember that you just happened to show up while Max was putting words in my mouth, saying that I was there to accuse Tess of murdering Alex? Do you remember him asking if she had an alibi, and you said that the two of you'd been watching Gladiator? Or how about Max belittling us for being human? Any of that ringing a bell?"

Kyle recoiled slightly at the vituperative attack. "Jesus, Liz, take a pill! That's not quite how I remember it going, no," he frowned, concentrating.

Liz pushed her hair back impatiently. "That's because you were being mindwarped, Kyle, so you didn't remember that you weren't watching a movie. You were dragging your friend's dead body to his car. God, you and Max were both in her fucking pocket. At least she didn't take your innocence," she finished thickly, wadding a paper napkin she'd picked up, squashing it violently in an attempt to restrain her fury. She had such a tenuous hold on her emotions right now; they kept getting away from her.

No one spoke at first, shock holding the room immobile. Liz grimaced and put down the mangled napkin. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything, I haven't even talked to Max yet."



Predictably, Maria recovered her voice the soonest. "Liz, babe you can not leave it there!" she breathed in horror. "Do you really think that…" she trailed off. It was too ghastly to contemplate. And here she'd been, giggling with Liz, helping her be more intimate with Max! No wonder they were both on edge.

Perhaps it was easier for Jesse to fathom the unthinkable, never having known Tess. Never having been taken in by her wide-eyed innocent act. By the time he'd entered the picture, Tess hadn't even been on the planet. So, maybe it made a weird kind of sense that he was the first one to speak the unspeakable.

"You believe that Tess forced Max to have sex with her."

Liz nodded, staring at the floor. "Yeah."

"Are you sure they really did it? Who the hell knows what's real about anything that happened from like prom on. She could have screwed with all of you like she did with me," Kyle exclaimed in anger. Evidently his feelings of violation hadn't faded much.

Liz's weary posture didn't change. "I am sure it happened, yes."

Michael shot a glance at Maria, making her wonder what he was thinking, before he inquired with an uncommon delicacy, "He told you about the morning?"

Liz's head rose to meet his gaze and a bitter half smile distorted her mouth. Oh, that morning. Maria felt on the verge of tears at the idea of Liz listening to an account of The Day It All Went Wrong.

"Yeah. It isn't just that—that was kind of like final confirmation for me. It's…it's hundreds of little things, all adding up. Things none of you would notice," Liz's smile became more genuine.

"Why not? I doubt I'd notice, I'm still getting to know Max, but why wouldn't Isabel or Michael see the same things you do?" Jesse postulated.

"Michael, when was the last time you kissed Max?" Liz asked politely, irony permeating her voice.

"The thirteenth of never, Liz. What alternate universe are you thinking about?" he scoffed.

Maria saw what she was getting at. "It makes sense. You're the only one that's, um, physically close to Max," she emphasized the "physically" so no one missed the meaning this time.

Isabel cleared her throat. "I can't believe I am asking this, but…how close are you?"

Liz reddened but she answered shyly, "I'm still the only virgin in the room, if that's what you're asking."

"Not for long," Michael coughed into his fist.

Maria didn't even bother to reprimand him verbally. She just punched his arm as Liz glared at him, her color deepening.

Naturally, Kyle had understood Michael's muffled comment. "Do you think that's wise? If Tess really did, you know?"

Liz straightened in her chair, her pink cheeks not detracting from her air of authority. "You mean, since Tess raped Max?" she spoke the truth steadily, and Maria admired her for not flinching away from the entire situation. "I don't know, Kyle. I don't know what psychology dictates for this, or what current therapy might be. I'm flying by the seat of my pants here."

She summoned a wan smile and continued, "All I know is that what's happening between us is opening Max up, not shutting him down. I'm relying heavily on instinct and so far it's working. Of course, whether or not it keeps working depends on if he forgives me. And no, Kyle, you can't have any details," she denied him, correctly reading the mischief on his face.

"When," Michael grunted.

"I'm sorry?" Liz looked at him quizzically. Maria had no idea what he was talking about, either. Michael was being extra cryptic tonight.

"It's a when question, Max forgiving you," he expanded his explanation.

"Oh. I guess," she agreed unconvincingly.

"Look, Max knows you did it for his own good. Like Iz said, we've all been guilty of that kind of thing. So if he doesn't acknowledge that, I'll kick his hypocritical ass myself," Michael shrugged.

"Thank you," Liz smiled. Maria struggled to keep from beaming at Michael for supporting Liz finally. He, if no one else, evidently caught the pride in her expression since he rolled his eyes and gave Maria a bare hint of a smile.

"So, um, could we talk about something else?" Liz requested, clasping her arms around her self-consciously.

"Well, wait a second. What are we going to do about Max?" Jesse commented. "You have to tell him, Liz."

"I intend to," she nodded. "I wasn't completely sure until this afternoon, and we simply haven't had time. Plus, I—I wanted to let him have some distance from it before I mentioned it. We, got to that part of his memories today—that's what Michael meant about the morning, earlier."

"Max said he felt weird about it. He tried to talk to me when he came home, but I let him have it then went running," Isabel admitted unapologetically. "Just the sight of him infuriated me after what he'd said the day before about me leaving Roswell. But I do remember that he looked really uncomfortable. And you would have thought that Tess's palm was covered in thumbtacks or something by how pained he looked at school when he took her hand."

"At least you and Valenti had some preparation. I nearly died on the spot. Never mind when he told me about the baby," Michael snorted.

"What did he say?" Liz asked curiously. Michael flicked a glance at Maria and she understood that he thought Liz should hear that in private. She nodded almost imperceptibly.

Instead of answering, Michael evaded, "It's not important. What is important is what we're going to do now."

"We aren't going to do anything," Liz replied tartly. "You will all treat Max exactly the same as you always have. I will talk to him, and then he and I will figure something out together."

"But—" Isabel started.

"No, Isabel. This isn't something the rest of you can do anything about," Liz said gently.

Isabel's mouth quirked up. "I'm actually not disputing your right to be with my brother, Liz. That's ancient history. I only want to help him in some way."

"Oh," Liz said, clearly embarrassed. "Just—be there for him. Like if he wants to talk then listen, but don't push him, okay? Max needs to deal with this on his own terms. I'm the only one who can help in a—a physical way, but you can all be supportive, and the best way to do that is to not treat him any differently."

There were nods around the room, and then Kyle inserted slyly, "But Liz, you wanted to know about Max and Michael's kissing exploits. Couldn't Michael help out physically too?" He batted his eyelashes outrageously and Liz giggled.

"Kyle!" Isabel's voice held that exasperated note they were all learning to associate with Kyle's name. He grinned, unrepentant.

"Gotcha! Now, how about a little change of pace, huh?" Kyle launched into a hilarious story about some of the popular people at school. The mood lightened considerably and after a while, they were all conversing normally about everyday things.

All except Max, who did not return.










[ edited 1 time(s), last at 9-Aug-2002 8:08:27 PM ]
posted on 10-Aug-2002 12:04:01 PM
CEO Shaft Oooh, I remember getting my wisdom teeth out! Ugh, poor you. I wish you imperceptible swelling.*wink* I'm not sure that this chapter brightened your day much, but I'm glad you were still happy to see it LOL!

Thanks for the fb, everyone!*happy* Just remember: Max hasn't had the easiest day, either. Sometimes you need a moment to yourself.*wink*
hugs, Tas
posted on 24-Aug-2002 1:01:51 PM
In 2 posts for length.*happy*
hugs, Tas

*****NEW Chapter 15*****

Maria sighed, leaning against the inside of Michael's bedroom door as she closed it. Liz's forlorn image hovered in front of her; her friend looked so small on the couch by herself. Swallowed by the blankets instead of by Max's arms. It wasn't right.

"He'll come back, Maria. He needs time to cool off. And brood, being Maxwell," Michael chuckled.

"How can you be so cavalier about this?" Maria demanded, pushing away from the door.

"I am not taking what happened to Max lightly, Maria. If I could get my hands on Tess right this second there'd be one hell of a lot of blood to clean up. But I don't see it as more than a bump in the road for his relationship with Liz," he explained, remarkably patiently he thought. The truly remarkable thing was that he wasn't pissed at either Liz or Maria for keeping secrets anymore. Isabel's pointed comments had deflated that particular balloon.

"Oooh, you drive me nuts, Michael Guerin!" she shook her finger at him. Michael grabbed it and used it to pull her close.

"I know," he murmured in Maria's ear, feeling her shiver. He knew just how to clear her mind of all this heavy stuff.

"Michael, what are you doing?" Maria protested half-heartedly. He bit at the side of her neck just below her ear. It was getting harder to concentrate on anything beyond the feel of Michael in her arms.

"Keeping a promise," he licked her neck, his lips roaming up and down.

"What promise?" she asked breathlessly, arching closer.

Michael mumbled, "I have a standing promise to myself that every time we have a quickie, I get to balance your karmic scales by making a lengthy, concerted effort to give you jelly legs."

"What?" she yanked his head up incredulously.

He smirked devilishly. "Sounds good, don't it?"

Very good. "But, Michael, I wanted to—ah," her head fell back as he cupped her mound through her pants, his fingers pressing close against the fabric. "You're serious, aren't you?"

"Yes. We can talk later, Mar," Michael ran his other hand up under her top, unsnapping her bra while his mouth returned to sampling her throat. She was soft and perfect and his.

"Okay," she agreed. Maria undid the ties holding the upper portion of her wrap blouse closed and lifted it over her head, pulling her undone bra with it. Michael whipped off his own shirt and reached for her pants, slipping them down over her hips and taking off every other stitch of clothing in his path. Soon he nestled between her thighs on the bed, kissing her leisurely while his hands rubbed slowly over her nude form.

It never failed to amaze Maria how little it took for her to be on fire for Michael. Even now, she could feel her body responding, opening, ready for his. Which didn't mean that she wanted to skip right to it tonight, merely that she could. Michael seemed to have a plan, anyway, and the thought of what it probably entailed made her shiver in anticipation and nervousness both.

Michael caressed her lightly, wanting to relearn every smooth curve. His fingers mapped the rounded musculature of Maria's arms, the dip of her waist, the back of her thigh, up and over the swell of her bottom. The hard points of her vertebrae, made fluid by desire as she arched beneath him.

"Are you torturing me on purpose?" she teased huskily.

"Am I torturing you?"

"Michael."

He laughed and pulled at her ear lobe with his teeth. "I'm refreshing my sensory memory." He buried his face in her hair and inhaled, the fruity scent of her hairspray tickling the back of his throat as Maria giggled.

"Freak," she accused with a smile. Michael kissed her nose, smiling when it wrinkled under his lips. Then he set out to taste the terrain his hands had already explored.

Maria's breath left her as his mouth drifted down her chest, his tongue leaving wet trails through her cleavage and beginning an inward-turning spiral around her breast. Warm fingers echoed the pattern on her other breast. Lips and hands ignited her nerve endings, sending pleasure racing throughout. She moaned as he reached her nipples, tugging and rolling the tight flesh until she could hardly stand it. When they grew too sensitive for even a light touch Maria flinched away slightly, and Michael's travels continued down her torso.

"Do you still have that fake navel ring? That looked really sexy on you," he murmured, kissing the body part in question. Michael felt her stomach quiver as she laughed.

"Yeah, somewhere. Michael," Maria's hesitation was clearly audible as he moved lower and he swore to himself. Would she stop him again? He pressed tiny kisses low on her abdomen, about an inch above her sparse hairline.

"Um, you know that I—like your hands better," Maria lied through her teeth. She had never been able to tell him what it was about this particular act that unnerved her so, and whenever she had protested Michael had gracefully acquiesced to her wishes.

Not this time.

"No, I don't know that. Maria, your mind is more comfortable with the idea of my hands, but your body definitely prefers my mouth," he finally said it outright, a hint of how it frustrated him leaking out. It wasn't that he didn't understand; Michael had eventually figured out what bothered her so much, once he'd clued in that there had been no uncertainty before they'd made love that first time. Actually, he'd been disgusted with himself that it had taken him as long as it had to get it, given his own history. But she didn't know he knew, any more than she understood how he treasured this when she did allow it.

"Michael, I—" what? I thought you'd never question my refusal? I confess that while my mind isn't sure, my body's screaming for you? What should she say?

How could she tell him that every time he touched her so tenderly, it felt like he was saying goodbye?

"Mar, please. I want to make you feel amazing," Michael swallowed his pride and asked for permission. He needed to lay claim to her as thoroughly as possible, truly convince himself that she was his. Ten half-clothed minutes on the couch last night had not been nearly enough.

"And I…I want you to," she admitted in a rush, before she could change her mind. Maria tensed as Michael moved even lower, his breath fanning across her exposed skin. She felt so naked like this. Peeling off her clothes was one thing, but putting herself completely at Michael's mercy was quite another. As before, though, her reservations fled with the first sweet pass of his tongue and a low moan escaped Maria's lips.

Yes, Michael thought to himself. He slid his arms under her thighs, holding her hips steady, and nuzzled her petals apart. He licked each clean of its dew and plunged his tongue into her in a rapid rhythm. Then Michael settled into a series of long, slow licks that covered maximum territory. He felt the tension in Maria's legs change in quality. It had lost that touch of fear; now she strained to bring him closer.

Maria trembled, pleasure coursing through her. Conscious thought faded under the onslaught, laying her emotions bare. Michael's lips carefully gathered the hard nub of her clitoris, gently sucking, and she gasped breathlessly. Inside his mouth, his tongue began assisting, manipulating her sensitive flesh. She melted under the demanding caress. It felt so intense—was too much. Too close. The very intimacy opened her soul to him, stripped away all her defenses. Maria clenched her hands around fistfuls of the pillow under her head, peripherally aware that no matter how vulnerable this made her to Michael, she could not have asked him to stop now if her life depended on it. She needed—ah, that.

With a soft cry she climaxed. Michael felt her entire body contract and relax in release, and then suddenly Maria was tugging at his hair, his shoulders, pulling him up and over her. He lay poised above her for a moment, tracing her cheekbone with a fingertip. Time to end this, set her fears to rest for good.

"Maria. Maria, look at me," Michael whispered. Shimmering green eyes blinked open, regarding him hazily. "Maria, I didn't leave. I didn't, and I won't. I can't. I need you, Mar. I love you." With his eyes he begged her to understand.

"Michael," she choked out. She was crying now but it didn't matter as her hips rose to meet him and he slid inside. Michael possessed her mouth and Maria encircled him with her limbs, encompassing him: a willing prisoner, body and soul.

They moved as one and fell together, locked into each other. When they were both spent Michael rolled to one side, pillowing Maria's head on his shoulder. He smiled as she drifted into slumber almost immediately, half of a satisfied smile visible, the other half concealed against his skin. Michael stroked her back, his hand coming to rest on a spot over her heart.

He had declared himself completely and Maria had responded, but one question remained. How long would it be before her fragile heart truly believed?

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Liz woke all at once as a burning sensation passed through her stomach, leaving her weak and shaking. Literally. She held up one hand, seeing its jerky motion in the faint light, and swore.

"Liz? You okay?" asked a concerned voice from the near vicinity.

"Max?" her heart beat erratically. He was here! "Where—oh." A shadow detached itself from the ground, forming itself into a human silhouette sitting right beside the couch where she lay.

"Are you okay?" he repeated.

"Yeah. Well, not really, but I will be," Liz replied disgustedly. "And then I plan to avoid alcohol like the plague for the rest of my life."

Max chuckled. "I hear you there. Do you want something? Ice cream?"

"How'd you know about the ice cream?" she asked, startled.

"Yesterday while you and Maria polished off the tub, you said you'd rather get fat on Ben & Jerry's than be an alcoholic."

"Oh, yeah." Liz tried in vain to see his face as she asked, "Um, so how are you? You don't sound mad anymore."

He sighed deeply. "I'm not, exactly. I just needed some space to think about it. So I drove out to the desert and sat there for a long time, kind of going over everything in my mind and reinterpreting your actions. And then I thought about this morning, and what we promised each other…"

Liz nodded, momentarily forgetting that he couldn't see it. Never forget that I love you. Hesitantly she prompted him, "How does that fit in?"

"It looks different from your side," came the surprising answer. "I don't know what I would have done, had our positions been reversed. I don't know if I could have gone through with it, let alone kept up the pretense with you for so long. I think I would have tried, or at least I'd like to think so. Preventing a war…the stakes were pretty high."

"Yeah, they were," she agreed, the tightness in her chest easing at his steady words.

"You know what looks really different? Your—speech, about Romeo and Juliet," Max said pensively. "I can't tell you how often that echoed in my head. Every time I saw you, for a while. I'd hear your voice telling me it wasn't worth it to be with me, and see your body proving it with Kyle."

"Oh, Max. I constructed it so carefully, to—to hit every vulnerable spot," Liz confessed.

"I can see that now. Only someone who knows me inside and out like you do would have been able to do that," he said with reluctant admiration.

"How about if I promise to use my power only for good from now on?"

Max laughed, his hand covering hers in the darkness. "Yeah, okay." After a while, he added, "Did you guys talk about all this after I left? I still don't really know a lot of the details."

The mere thought of explaining it all was enough to make Liz feel exhausted. Maybe she could show him, try to direct his flashes. "Max, I—" she stopped speaking as violent shudders wracked her body.

"Liz?" there was real fear in Max's voice. As suddenly as it had started, her shuddering quieted to a light quivering. But the gnawing need and the shakes had been mounting since her arrival back in Roswell, and Liz was sick and tired of it.

"That's it, I'm getting a drink. Weaning has got to work better than this," she declared, attempting to sit up. Max's arm across her stomach prevented the movement.

"Michael won't have anything."

"Then I'll go to Kyle's."

"You're supposedly in Vermont still."

"Then I will call Kyle and have him come here. Let me up," Liz struggled to rise. He was having more difficulty keeping her in place as she shoved hard.

"No," Max asserted firmly as her shaking intensified a little. "Liz, you have to stay away from it."

"What would you know about it? You've had one mouthful in your entire life!" she snarled. When he did not move, Liz slapped him.

The crack of her open palm across his cheek seemed to echo in the silent room. Liz snatched back the offending hand, covering her mouth in horror. "Oh my God, Max, I'm so sorry!"

He seemed to hesitate then stated grimly, "I apologize in advance, but you're not going anywhere." Liz had no time to wonder about the apology. She found herself crushed into the cushions as Max stretched out on top of her, pinning her wrists above her head. "I'd prefer not to get slapped again," he offered a brief explanation.

Liz barely heard it, preternaturally aware of the growing hardness cradled between her thighs. No longer a vague shape in the dark, she realized that Max was clad in only a pair of boxers. His bare chest pressed against her tank top and she had the urge to swivel her ribcage and drag her nipples across him. The utter wildness of her thoughts shocked her and she gasped.

"What? I didn't hurt you, did I?" Max asked quickly.

"No, no," Liz reassured him. "Max, I don't want to talk about Future Max, okay? No, just listen," she requested as he protested, and he fell silent. "Can I show you, instead? I thought that maybe if I concentrated on it, you'd be able to see what I wanted you to see." That sounded logical enough. She wasn't much of a judge right this second, however. Her mouth seemed to still be connected to her brain, although the rest of her was definitely concentrating on a different body part.

"You want me to kiss you, now?" he asked incredulously. "What about the—hey. You're not shaking anymore."

"I know." The shuddering had faded, replaced with the upswell of mad desire. "Please, Max. You need to know, and I need to tell you, but I just can't go through it all again verbally."

"But are you feeling all right? You're not still in the grip of withdrawal?"

"It's gone for now. I feel fine," Liz assured him. Max would figure out soon enough that the reason for both answers was his proximity to her.

"Okay," he murmured. "I want to know."

Liz tried to focus her mind as his head descended towards her, and then his lips met hers and swept her away. The flashes rose in a blinding rush. She pushed them this way and that, settling at last on the beginning of the saga: Maria's insistence on dragging Liz and Alex to her mother's psychic.

You came to me with condoms and concert tickets and a world of love, and I sent you away, leaving both of us with broken dreams, she thought as the images played out. For the first time, Liz remained aware of what her own mind displayed in the exchange. Max's impressions twined with hers until they formed a whole picture, one that allowed each to understand it from all sides, and to begin to heal.

Liz chose to focus on the flashes she was receiving from Max, noting that there were the same odd gaps that they had discussed as being gone from his memory. It saddened her, because if those moments were lost even to his subconscious mind then it meant that they truly were lost; he would never regain them. Regretfully, she decided that he should have seen enough by now and turned her attention back to her own mind. With a sense of panic, she realized that Max was tracking the conversation that the group had had after his departure earlier in the evening, and she tried to break the flow, turning her head to tear her mouth away from the kiss.

It was too late. Liz knew it the instant his body went rigid and he whispered, "No." Max hid his face in the pillow beside her neck, murmuring the same single word of protest over and over.

She ached to hold him but they had both forgotten that his hands pinned hers above her head. Liz asked, "Max, would you let me up, please?"

"Huh? Oh," his eyes widened as he lifted his head to look at her, and his cheeks stained red with shame. "I'm sorry. Of course. Of course, you don't want—I shouldn't be touching you."

Liz's chest tightened painfully as he let go of her hands, preparatory to rising off the couch completely. That wasn't what she had meant at all, and she clamped her legs around his waist. "Don't go, Max. I only wanted my arms free." She demonstrated why, clasping her hands around his torso.

Max stared down at her, his throat working. "How can you stand to be close to me?"

She moved one hand to his face, stroking his jaw tenderly. "Oh, Max, you've got it backwards. I can't bear to not be close to you."

He leaned into the caress automatically, closing his eyes briefly before searching her gaze. "Because you…love me." He didn't phrase it as a question, but his hesitation suggested otherwise.

"Yes, because I love you," Liz affirmed. "And because no matter what—happened, I really want you." She felt her face grow warm but this wasn't the time to be shy about her feelings, regardless of her natural reticence.

"You do? But—" Max fell silent as she shook her head with a smile.

"Max, listen. Since we got here, we've gotten pretty close, physically. At any time, have I indicated that I didn't want you to touch me?" Liz asked.

"Well, no, but you might not have said something."

"But you said it yourself, Max, you're pretty good at reading me. Did I seem like I didn't want you to touch me?"

"No," he admitted.

"And, um, when you did touch me, I liked it, didn't I?" she managed to ask. Max nodded wordlessly.

"Okay, so there's no problem with you touching me. Would you say that you like me touching you?"

A faint smile lifted his mouth as he answered, "Yeah. And before you ask, it certainly didn't seem like you minded, either."

Liz blushed harder, knowing that his reply was the direct effect of having her hands all over him for the last couple of days. But she also felt a glow of satisfaction because her goal of making him feel desired and more comfortable with his body obviously was on the right track. Now that she was sure of what had happened with Tess, it was all the more important that he continue to feel that way.

"So, how can you say that you shouldn't be touching me, Max, when we both want you to? And we both like it?"

He regarded her with a small smile then turned his head to kiss her palm. "I love you."

"That's good, because I love you," Liz smiled. She lifted her head and brushed a feathery kiss over his lips. "Max, I… The reason that my craving kind of went away is you."

"Because I'm close to you? Me getting close was what set off the green electricity, so if that's correlated to what's happened with your metabolism then I guess it makes sense that physical proximity would have some kind of effect," Max mused.

Spoken like the boyfriend of a scientist, she thought to herself, suppressing the giggle that threatened to bubble up. Liz decided to tell him the whole truth, though. Not only because it would bolster his self-confidence further, but she also based her decision partly on the fact that the hardness pressed between her legs, which had disappeared during the flashes, had reasserted itself with a vengeance during their conversation. Max's body was undeniably paying attention.

"Yeah, I think that's part of it, but when you got up here, my awareness of you sort of crowded out everything else. I asked to show you about Future Max mainly because of why I said, that I couldn't explain it all again. And I'm glad we did it like that, I think I understand some things better now and I know that you do. But, um, a little of the reason was because I wanted you to kiss me. Actually, I," she paused shyly, gathering her convictions. "I wanted more than a kiss. Want, more than—present tense."

She watched him carefully. Beneath the surprise was unmistakable desire and wonder, but his expression finally settled into deep regret. "Liz, I don't think I'm ready to make love just yet. I'm sorry."

"Oh! I didn't mean quite that much more," Liz clarified hastily. "I thought we could, you know, kind of start slow and see what we're both comfortable with doing. But we don't have to do anything, Max. Whatever you're okay with is fine with me, even if all you want is to go sleep in your lonely blankets down there." She pointed at his impromptu bed on the floor, startling a laugh out of him.

Max maneuvered his arms so that his hands framed her face. His thumbs stroked her cheekbones as he said, "Slow, huh?" Liz nodded, caught in his dark eyes. There was a sparkle of mirth in them and he murmured, "I think I can do slow."

"I'm so glad," Liz sighed, a breath before his lips captured hers, and she felt the rumble of his laughter through her chest. She hadn't meant to say that out loud, but she liked the result. When the kiss deepened, however, Liz willingly abandoned that and all other rational thoughts.

She threw herself into kissing him, paying no mind to the flickers of light along the edges of her mind. Instead, Liz focused completely on Max. On the taste of his mouth as she licked inside. His heartbeat escalating under her fingertips. The muscles in his naked back bunching when he altered position, taking some weight off her chest by supporting himself on his elbows. And then her focus shifted radically, to the warm hand massaging her breast.

Max made a quiet, contented sound and Liz had to smile. "What?" he inquired, his lips traveling along her cheek and jaw.

"Nothing." He raised an eyebrow and her smile widened. "If I'd had any doubts that you enjoyed putting your hands on me, that would have dispelled them."

"You heard that," Max looked flustered and Liz pulled him close for a kiss.

"Yes, and it makes me feel appreciated," she grinned.

"Well, you are that," he returned her smile. "You are lovely, Liz Parker. So soft," Max feathered kisses down her throat. "And not," he added huskily when his thumb brushed over her nipple and it sprang erect, sending a jolt through Liz.

"I could say the same about you," she countered, skimming her palms down his sides.

"Uh-uh," he disagreed, nibbling her ear. "Not even remotely soft."

"Believe me, I know," Liz laughed a bit bashfully. The way it felt to have him pressed tightly against her softness had discouraged her from caressing him. She didn't want the heat radiating into her to move at all. But his hands…oh. Those she wanted on her bare skin.

Liz knew somewhere in her dazed mind that this upward spiral of passion between she and Max derived partially from denial, but it meant more than the hint of desperation that colored their actions suggested. Rather, a deep instinct drove them to affirm life, and love, much the same as it had the night they had first exchanged those precious words. Then, they had been running for their lives. Now, they fought for Max's soul. Differing levels of the same profound emotions, made richer by the passage of time and the addition of sheerest sensuality.

She chose to ignore the serious thought, trusting to her heart to know the way. Trusting Max to put the brakes on if things went too far for him—trusting his heart, too. It had been a long time since Liz had felt she could do that, with no reservations, but she did it willingly now. As the truth had begun to emerge, everything had changed.



posted on 24-Aug-2002 1:03:40 PM

"Max," she moaned, her head falling back as he licked the hollow of her throat.

"Mmm?" he hummed, his mouth busily tracing the neckline of her tank top.

Liz brought her hands down to her waist, grasping the hem of her top. "Can you give me a little room for a sec?"

Max looked down at her hands then at her face, his eyes flaring brighter in comprehension. "Yeah, sure." He moved his hands, placing them flat on the couch on either side of Liz's ribcage, and then he lifted up, stretching like a cat. Liz froze, fabric gathered up under her chin, as Max's weight shifted when he reached the end of his stretch, settling his groin even more firmly against her own. Her breath hitched at the aggressive feeling of it, and he heard it.

"Liz?" She shook her head with a smile, passing it off as nothing, and finished removing her tank. Liz looked up at him. Max's eyes hadn't left her face, yet there was something extra glittering in that golden gaze that hadn't been present a moment before. Something inherently sexy and a little speculative, too.

She forgot to wonder about it as his hips moved, sliding his erection along her covered skin. Liz's body instinctively curved, her bare abdomen rising to greet his and a low moan emerging from her throat. A memory fuzzily unfurled, of her wriggling shamelessly in ecstasy, and she knew that Max shared that thought as he thrust against her again.

"Oh," Liz sighed when Max lowered his torso, skin meeting skin as he kissed her hungrily. His hips continued to move in long, slow strokes that made it hard to breathe. So unbelievably close. Had she thought before that she wanted him to stay still? Liz spared a moment to worry about his reaction when he discovered certain facts, since they would be unmistakable given that only two thin pieces of cotton separated their lower bodies. They'd have to deal at some point, anyway; now seemed good enough.

Max tore his mouth from hers and buried his face in her neck, sucking hard. Liz felt his heart rate jump, hammering through them both.

"What?"

"You," he groaned. "You're wet."

The unexpectedly blunt pronouncement sent pleasure coiling through her belly. Or maybe it was the heavy approval permeating Max's voice. It grew huskier each time he spoke, giving her nerve endings little sparks.

"Were you not expecting that?" Liz asked, genuinely curious.

He looked at her, one corner of his mouth lifted in a wry smile. "Logically, yes, but there's precious little logic operating right now. Or much of any other higher brain functions," Max admitted candidly. "I guess I didn't know if I would turn you on enough for you to…well, enough." He flushed a little, confirming her suspicion that his announcement of her condition had been blurted out spontaneously.

"You do," Liz told him simply, threading her fingers through his dark hair.

"That's—good to know," he lowered his lips to hers, kissing her softly at first then with growing hunger as he continued to move against her. Liz pushed her chest up to his, wanting his caress, and she felt Max smile as he obliged. He slipped his hand in between their bodies to knead her breast, gently rolling her stiff nipple.

Liz felt like she were floating in pure pleasure. It surrounded her and yet somehow, it wasn't quite enough. She seemed to have hit a plateau of some kind and while the sensations coursing through her body were incredible, her inability to move higher began to frustrate her. Liz had no idea what to do about it, though.

Soon Max lifted his head away, his lips clinging to hers, and his hips stilled. Liz stopped moving hers and looked up at him, puzzled. "It's not going to work for you this time, is it?" he asked regretfully.

"No, I don't think so. I guess the first time was a fluke," she smiled shyly.

The hand tangled in her hair shifted to stroke her cheek. Max's eyes held a bewildering mixture of emotions as he murmured, somewhat hesitantly, "Is there, something else I could do for you?"

Blood rushed to her face and ignited throughout as Liz realized what he offered, but she didn't want this to be all about her like the previous time. "What about you?"

His gaze slid away. "I'm…close. It's kind of more generalized for me." He seemed embarrassed, like he shouldn't be getting anything out of this. Liz bit her lip.

"Well, why don't you keep going? It feels good, even if it won't… And then after you… You could, um, use your hands, on me," Liz said haltingly. She knew what she meant but putting it into words was exceedingly difficult.

Max's eyes widened. "But—" Liz placed her fingers over his mouth.

"No buts. This is about both of us, Max. You as well as me," she said firmly.

He smiled and kissed her fingers. "You're sure that's what you want?"

She nodded, smiling. For all her verbal fumbling, Max had followed her meaning. Liz was made sure of that when he moved against her, the renewed sensation eliciting a moan from them both. "Oh, Max."

He kissed her then withdrew with a concerned look. "Is it safe? I mean, if I…you can't get, you know?"

It took Liz a minute to understand the vague question and she blushed. "No, it's okay. I'm on the pill."

From the utter confusion on Max's face, he hadn't expected to hear that. "Oh. Can I ask, since when?"

"Since after Future Max. I wouldn't have been prepared for that night."

"And you hate not being prepared, I know that," Max teased gently and she laughed.

"Exactly. While we're at it, can I ask why you were, then?" she gazed at him lovingly, letting him know that it was all right.

"Truthfully? I bought some the previous spring, after the night we spent in the desert. I just never took them out of my wallet."

"Cause you hate not being prepared too," Liz smiled and they both laughed.

"Right," Max agreed. Suddenly he closed his eyes, his lips parting on a soundless gasp, and desire shot through Liz at the expression of pleasure that crossed his face. He murmured her name and captured her mouth briefly in a fierce kiss before raining open-mouthed kisses along her throat and collarbone. Liz encouraged him, running her hands over his back and shoulders, and Max bent to take her nipple in his mouth. She moaned as he sucked hard for a moment then switched, treating her other one to the same wicked pull. Then his kisses returned to her neck, his hand replacing his mouth on her breasts. Liz knew it was because he couldn't stay bent double like that, with his hips still moving in long strokes that seared her wet skin beneath her pajama pants.

"Liz. Oh, God, I can't hold out any longer," Max panted close to her ear, the words thrilling her.

"Then don't," she murmured, boldly sliding her hands down his back and under the waistband of his boxers, cupping his bare buttocks. He groaned and pressed into her harder. They were so close to actually making love that it made Liz's head spin, especially with the breathless way he said her name.

"I'm here. I'm with you," Liz whispered. Max found his way back to her mouth and promised against her lips, "You're not with me, but you will be." He kissed her tenderly and stiffened in her arms, and Liz felt the front of her pants grow much wetter as Max found release.

Max kept on kissing and caressing her, even as he stopped sliding against her and moved off to the side. There was just enough room on the couch for him to squeeze in beside Liz. She smiled, breaking the kiss, when his hand hovered over her abdomen and dried the fabric covering it.

"That's a handy ability," Liz complimented.

"Yeah," Max chuckled. "I'm discovering all new uses for it. Liz," his hand came up to stroke her hair away from her face, his eyes searching hers. "Are you still okay with taking it further?"

Liz grasped his hand, pulling it from her hair towards her mouth and kissing his palm. She found it a little sad and a little amusing that he was so much less apprehensive when it came to pleasing her, but she was sure of this next step. Even if she was nervous. Too nervous, in fact, to articulate it, and so she pressed another kiss to his palm then directed his hand down her body, until his fingers rested low on her belly, inside her pajama bottoms. She smiled as Max discerned she had nothing else on.

"I wanted to avoid the boring white underwear, but that's all I have with me," Liz giggled.

"Definitely not boring," Max disputed with a mischievous twinkle. "Or did you forget what happens to thin, white cotton in water?"

She gasped in laughter. "That's terrible! Is that why you said to leave them on?"

"No, that was to make you feel more comfortable," he smiled. "But the transparency made me feel less naked."

"You're beautiful naked," Liz said sincerely.

"Thank you," Max ducked his head bashfully. "I know you are. I think that these," he lifted his hand, indicating her pants, "had better stay on tonight, though. In case we're unfortunate enough to get interrupted, I can shield you."

Surprisingly disappointed but equally anxious to avoid potential total embarrassment, Liz nodded. She inhaled sharply as Max stirred his fingertips through the soft hair at the apex of her thighs, watching her face for a signal as to which direction to go. She let that breath out and took another deep one, and then Liz opened her legs, hooking her outside calf around the back of Max's thighs where he lay curled on his side.

Hazel melted into gold as Max's gaze flared with desire. "Besides, I want to learn you by feel," he whispered and Liz's chest heaved as he delicately began to explore her. She felt each light pass of his fingers like a brand on her skin. He brushed over the small bundle of nerves and a fleeting smile appeared when Liz moaned. His touch glided down further, and Max pressed the tip of one finger against the furled petals of her opening.

"May I?" he asked, the huskiness in his voice betraying how this affected him, too. Liz could only gulp, scarcely able to breathe for the intensity. He understood, and that finger slowly pushed inside her.

Liz frowned, slightly puzzled. It didn't feel quite like she'd expected it to. "Max, what are you doing?"

Max looked taken aback by the question. "I'm using my pinky finger. I thought, start small, right? I don't want to hurt you."

"Oh," she smiled. He was so cute. "That's really considerate of you, but um," she paused, feeling her cheeks flame. Could she tell him? What would he think of her? "I—I use two…fingers."

It took him only seconds to understand and he groaned. "That's a dangerous mental picture, Liz. Better?"

What could only be his middle finger slipped inside and Liz cried out, forgetting whatever it was she had planned to say as Max established a slow rhythm.

"Oh, my," she exhaled with a long moan and Max smiled tenderly.

"Just kissing you and holding you close takes me higher than when I'm alone," he said, his meaning clear in his reddening cheeks. "This is about a million times more intense than when, uh, than that. At least, I hope it is." Max suddenly sounded very unsure of himself.

"Only a million?" Liz asked breathlessly, loving the slow smile that spread across his face.

"You feel amazing," he nuzzled her neck. "Just…keep being honest about how it feels to you, okay?"

She grinned. "Why, you planning on pulling something out—ooooh Maaaax," her flippancy died as his thumb found her clitoris, even as his rhythm continued smoothly. How was that even possible? Her outburst must have advertised the question because Max answered it.

"I do dexterity exercises, part of my workout," he whispered in her ear. "You know, one-handed juggling, finger stretches, that kind of thing."

"Don't ever stop," Liz commanded fervently. She heard him breathe out a smile.

"I won't," Max promised. He pressed kisses to her neck and cheek, tugging on her ear lobe. Liz tilted her head away to encourage his caresses, reacting on unadulterated instinct. Her hips circled insistently, trying to relieve the ache building in her body as her pleasure spiraled higher. She reached out with both hands, grasping Max's upper arm, needing something solid to hold on to. His muscles flexed under her fingers and Liz dug her nails in, hearing a small sound from Max. She tried to find her voice.

"Have you ever…felt like you were standing on the beach…waiting for the tsunami to hit?" she managed between gasps.

Max drew back a bit. His eyes glittered with emotion as he recommended, "Ride it out, love. I promise it'll be worth it." Liz gave him a quizzical look and he smiled, a little shyly. "It's what you do to me—the tsunami."

Her head fell back and she met his gaze. Some corner of Liz's mind thought that she should be embarrassed by how intently Max watched her reactions, but she wasn't. Couldn't be. With every heartfelt sigh and moan, she healed another part of Max. The knowledge of how much she desired him, how strongly he made her feel, grew in his molten gaze until this act wasn't just about Liz. It was about Max and Liz, both finding joy in her body. And when Liz knew, absolutely, that Max touched her not only to please her, but also for the simple fact that he wanted to, she closed her eyes.

Knowing that his gaze remained fixed on her face did not inhibit her, but watching him as he watched her was almost too much. Liz concentrated on the feeling of his fingers on her skin, the wet glide into her most secret of places, the gentle circles stoking her fire. Her tension mounted until she wanted to scream but she couldn't quite seem to let go. Every surge pushed her farther just as she would begin to relax into the sensation.

"Max, I need…something…I can't," Liz didn't even know what she wanted, let alone how to verbalize it right now. She heard an edge of panic in her voice and winced inwardly. How could she expect Max to have any idea if she didn't? This was brand new for him, too. But Liz allowed herself to be soothed by his calm voice.

"Sh, it's all right," he whispered, his warm breath fanning across her face. He shifted beside her, causing a momentary break in the rhythm of his hand, but Liz forgave him instantly as his other hand closed on her breast, tugging gently on her sensitive nipple. And then the wave broke over her as Max slipped a second finger inside, and Liz went under with a sharp cry.

Dimly, she heard a deep groan from Max, muffled against her shoulder. All her nerve endings tingled with rich life and she wanted to savor it as long as it lasted. One warm male hand rested on her ribcage now; the other slowed and stilled but remained sheathed. They lay together just like that for several minutes then Max withdrew his fingers and dragged them gently across her wet skin, heading upwards. Liz sighed, replete and getting drowsy, until he barely brushed her small, hard bud on the way by and she squeaked in surprise as her legs twitched. They shared a laugh and Max brought his hand directly out of her pajama bottoms.

He adjusted his position to see her face as he asked quietly, "Would you mind if I followed your example?"

He wants to lick his fingers, Liz thought. Wouldn't it be better to know now if he wasn't going to like it? Ambivalent, nevertheless she nodded and watched in trepidation as Max placed his fingers in his mouth. His eyes closed in an expression of rapture, and her breath hitched, apprehension gone.

"What?" Max mumbled, cracking his eyelids open.

"I'm thinking that sometime, I'd like to get you to hold a candy bar for a while, just so I can see you lick the melted chocolate off your fingers," Liz blurted.

He laughed, and his face reddened but his eyes sparkled as he retorted, "Uh-uh. I can finally say that sex definitely beats out chocolate."

She giggled as he dried her pants, only noticing by the warmth his powers created when evaporating the moisture that the side pressed close to him had been wet, too. "Max, did you…?" Liz left the question open-ended.

"When we were talking about tsunamis and looking at each other, a connection opened between us. I could feel what you…you took me with you," Max admitted.

"Is that how you knew what to do?" she breathed in awe. "Because you could feel me wanting it?"

"Partly. Partly, I just remembered what you said, you know, about, two."

"Then I'm glad I said it," Liz smiled and pulled his head down for a kiss.

Max caressed her cheek even after the kiss stopped, and his expression grew serious. "Liz, I'm not sure I can describe how I feel right now, except to tell you again that I love you. But you need to know that the main reason I didn't remove your pajama bottoms—even before I knew that was all you had on," a smile ghosted across his lips, "was that I didn't think I could be that close to you, naked, and not make love to you. And I…"

"You're not ready," she supplied. "I know that, Max. You don't have to explain yourself to me."

"Just let me talk, all right?" he smiled, taking the sting out of the words. "There are some things that I feel the need to say."

"Okay," Liz promised, rubbing his shoulder soothingly.

Max took a deep breath. "Okay then. I was going to say that you couldn't possibly understand how much I want you, but after what we shared tonight, I know that you do, because you feel the same way about me." His eyes shone with the knowledge and Liz felt a lump forming in her throat. She nodded, keeping silent.

"I also know that you are ready, which blows my mind and scares the hell out of me both," he half smiled. "I guess I wanted to be sure that you're aware that it's not because I don't want you that we haven't yet."

"I am," she emphasized. He nodded.

"Right. And that it is because of what I saw before you had a chance to tell me," his eyes dropped, not meeting hers any longer, and she bit her lip. At least he'd seen that she had intended to tell him her conclusions about Tess.

"I don't remember what happened with her; you know that. And I've had to come to the unpleasant conclusion that everything I've lost is gone permanently. I know you think so too," Max forestalled Liz's comment. "But I do know how I feel—more specifically, how I felt around Tess, that morning and at other times, and… I know you're right." His voice lowered to a whisper. "But it's so abstract. All I have to go on are feelings, nothing concrete. How can I exorcize it if I don't really know what happened?"

"Don't you think that's better, not having to relive it?" Liz wanted to know. She hurt for him, but was unutterably grateful that it meant that she would not get flashes of Max and Tess together intimately.

"No," Max replied decisively. "I'd prefer to have it more tangible, so I can deconstruct it in my head. I don't do that well with something so ephemeral." Abruptly Liz realized that he spoke from experience, from learning to overcome his ordeal in the White Room. Max had the occasional flare-up of bad nightmares, but he had managed to move beyond that awful incident. In truth, that had been a violation on a similar scale and so while Liz had faith that in time, he would successfully deal with Tess's theft of his innocence, his statement had her worried.

"Well, I'm here," was all she could think to say. It must not have sounded as lame to Max's ears as it did to her own because he smiled and kissed her.

"Thank you. You're a very special woman, Liz Parker. A lot of people would have bolted, and you're insane enough to want to get closer," Max teased, his light tone belying his sincerity.

"Didn't I already tell you you're irresistible?" Liz responded archly. She threaded her fingers into the dark hair resting on his nape, just long enough to begin curling. "To be brutally honest, Max, it's almost easier for me, knowing the truth about Tess. No, it is easier. Because now I know that you didn't stop loving me, and you didn't betray yourself by just falling into bed with someone else." Or me, her mind finished. What she didn't, and would never, add was that there existed a tiny part of her that felt Max should have known what could happen and stayed away from Tess. Illogical, irrational and completely unfair, but there it was anyway.

He surprised her by chuckling. "Weirdly, I think you just summed up exactly how I feel about Future Max." Their eyes met and it dawned on Liz that there was probably a tiny part of Max that was being equally unfair about her decision to carry out Future Max's plan and never tell Max the truth. Her lips curved despite herself as she thought whimsically that this was a fine example of human nature in them both. Well, at least it meant that the score was even.

Except it wasn't, because there was still the child. Liz's smile dimmed and she had to ask. Gently, she began, "Max, what about—"

Pain birthed in his hazel gaze and she swallowed the question, knowing that he knew what she wanted to ask. "Not tonight, Liz. I'm already on twenty kinds of overload, I just can't think about him tonight. The only thing I can say is that it doesn't matter how he came into existence, I'm still responsible. I'm not going to go haring off, but I will keep my eyes open and if I find a clue…" Max smiled ruefully. "Huh, I guess I can think about it. Listen, Liz, I want to graduate from high school, and try to move on with my life—a life that includes you. I don't know how to reconcile that wish with the responsibilities that I seem to have to Antar. Whatever those truly are, because I sure as hell don't know, but I can't just abandon them because I don't want them, even if right now there's nothing I can do except watch and listen. And try to be the kind of person that we can both respect."

Liz nodded absently, deep in thought. Max's hybrid heritage engendered deep conflict within her, as always. On the one hand, she believed it was unreasonable for anyone to expect that Max and the others should—or even could—be able to fulfill the roles that they had held in their previous lives. They hadn't known anything about those lives until two years ago, and the amount of information they had gained since then was not that impressive, nor was it from reliable sources for the most part. Oddly enough, the only information that Liz truly trusted to be correct was that which Brody had spoken, while acting as a conduit for Larek. That was partially attributable to the fact that he had given them useful, accurate guidance on how to deal with the gandarium crystals, and she appreciated that kind of material proof. The message in the orbs, as devastating as it had been to her personally, had really only described who the Royal Four had been on Antar and pleaded for help. Liz had spent a lot of head time poring over that message, and what she'd eventually concluded was that Max, Michael and Isabel did have an obligation: to help bring peace to their world. And attempting to reprise their former roles did not create a situation conducive to accomplishing that goal. They all knew it, hybrids and humans alike. Tess had been the only one deluding herself. Unfortunately, she had taken her delusions out on Max.

"You've got heavy thoughts plodding around in there," Max touched a fingertip to her forehead and Liz smiled.

"Yeah. Max, as much as I hate how much trouble finding out about your life as Zan has caused, and how unjust it is for your world to think that you should drop everything to save them from a war that you know next to nothing about, and a hundred other things, one of the things that I love about you is that you try to live up to what's expected of you anyway. Even when it's basically impossible," she snorted.

"Thanks, I think," he said doubtfully.

Liz laughed. "What I'm trying to say is, that's ultimately why I've backed you on your search for your son. You're not a person who could abandon an innocent baby, and if you were I wouldn't be with you. Yes, it hurts that you have a child with someone else, still. The manner of conception means that I'm not angry with you anymore, and I certainly don't blame you or anything stupid like that. His existence is painful for me though and I can't help that, but it doesn't mean that I won't stand beside you." Your babies are supposed to be mine.

"I can understand that. Empathize, even," he offered a half-hearted chuckle, and Liz knew somehow that he referred to her silent thoughts as well as those spoken. Difficult as this was, it warmed her nonetheless.

"Well, I don't know about you but I'm sleepy," she yawned. "If you could pull up a blanket from the floor, we could go to sleep just like this and talk tomorrow."

Max shocked her with a grin. "Fine by me, but don't you want to put your top back on first?"

Liz's face flamed and she quickly yanked her tank top out from under her shoulders, pulling it over her head and down. She hadn't even noticed, she'd felt that comfortable. Determined to ignore the dig, she said primly, "So where's that blanket?"

A moment later the fluffy covering had settled over them both. Max kissed her goodnight and laid his head on her shoulder. Liz wrapped her arm around him, keenly aware of his closeness even as she lost the battle to stay awake and savor it.





posted on 25-Aug-2002 9:10:56 PM
It's okay, Araxie, I was pretty sure that *somebody* would say that LOL!

Thanks for the stupendous fb, everyone!*happy*
hugs, Tas
posted on 26-Aug-2002 9:01:06 PM
quote:
I'm now a little confused and I may just be confusing two different stories. But I was under the impression that the baby wasn't Max's.

Hey, Jane! I think you are confusing this with something else--the baby is definitely Max's here. I'm reasonably sure I've been clear about that but I could be wrong LOL.

Thanks, everyone!*happy*
hugs, Tas
posted on 9-Sep-2002 1:18:50 AM
In two posts for length.*happy*
hugs, Tas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
from Chapter 15

"Well, I don't know about you but I'm sleepy," she yawned. "If you could pull up a blanket from the floor, we could go to sleep just like this and talk tomorrow."

Max shocked her with a grin. "Fine by me, but don't you want to put your top back on first?"

Liz's face flamed and she quickly yanked her tank top out from under her shoulders, pulling it over her head and down. She hadn't even noticed, she'd felt that comfortable. Determined to ignore the dig, she said primly, "So where's that blanket?"

A moment later the fluffy covering had settled over them both. Max kissed her goodnight and laid his head on her shoulder. Liz wrapped her arm around him, keenly aware of his closeness even as she lost the battle to stay awake and savor it.


*****NEW Chapter 16*****

"Good morning!" Liz called out cheerfully. "We thought you guys were going to sleep forever. We ate already so you're on your own."

"And this is a new thing how?" Michael needled. He smirked as Liz wrinkled her nose at him.

"Max! My my, what's with the half naked act? Not that I'm complaining," Maria teased him as he stood up from the couch, emerging from the blankets. Michael noticed that even his feet were bare.

"Better cold than possibly scarred for life. My clean clothes are in Michael's room, you know that, and I was definitely not going in there until you two came out. My stuff from last night is all full of sand; I went out to the desert," Max rolled his eyes and Maria giggled while she poured two cups of coffee. That much, at least, Liz had left ready for them.

Michael narrowed his eyes at the kiss Max bent to give Liz before he left the room. They seemed very cozy for a couple that had been in the middle of a major fight last night. He jerked his head a little towards Max, looking intently at Maria as he accepted the coffee. She nodded almost imperceptibly; she would tackle Liz.

Ambling casually into the bedroom behind Max, Michael sat on the edge of the bed. "You went out to the desert, huh? Did you leave me any gas?"

Max smiled, pulling out fresh jeans and a sweater. "I put a few bucks in at the edge of town. Don't worry, you won't stall in the middle of nowhere."

"Thanks."

"Don't mention it." Max started to put the sweater on over his head and Michael caught sight of red marks on his arm.

"What exactly did you do out there?" he asked, startled.

"Thought, stared at the stars. Not much. Why?"

"You're all scratched."

"I am?" Max immediately pulled up his sweater to check out his chest. He sounded pleased about it, like he'd almost finished the sentence with, "Cool."

"Your arm, man," Michael told him. He raised his eyebrows when Max didn't bother to check his left arm.

"Huh. I didn't even notice," he said absently with a small smile. Max tugged his sleeve back into place and sat on the bed to put on his socks.

Michael was reasonably sure he knew now how Max had gotten scratched—or rather, by whom. He watched Max put on one sock then inquired, "Liz still cherry?"

Max dropped his other sock. "Michael!"

"You guys talk at all?" He didn't want to come right out and ask, but Michael wanted to know if Liz had told Max everything.

"Yeah, a lot. Before and after…other stuff," Max's face reddened slightly. "She told me about the conversation you all had after I left—the whole conversation," he emphasized, glancing over. Michael could see shadows in his friend's eyes and he knew that Liz had, indeed, come clean.

"Guess that was a mood killer," he joked lamely. He didn't know what to say about any of this situation. It made him uncomfortable and angry and confused as hell; he could only wonder at how it made Max feel.

"You would think so, wouldn't you?" Max shook his head and put on his dropped sock.

"You fooled around after you talked about Tess? What, so you could prove that she didn't win?"

He snorted. "I don't know. That was part of it, probably, but it just made sense at the time."

Uh-oh. "Regretting it?"

"No. It still feels right, but I couldn't tell you what my reasoning was," Max laughed; an unexpectedly happy sound. Michael knew all about stumbling blind into doing the right thing, though.

"Yeah. You know, you didn't answer that question," Michael prodded.

Max shrugged. "No, we didn't get that far, quite." He stared off in the other direction, undoubtedly aware that that "quite" tacked onto the end of his sentence told Michael how close Max and Liz had been to that line.

"Oh," he nodded.

Silence stretched between them until Max finally looked at him with a smile. "Michael, you suck at subtlety. Why don't you spit it out already?"

He gave up all pretense of small talk. "Look, Maxwell, I'm sure that Liz has things well in hand," he wasn't above teasing his friend while communicating something serious, and smirked when Max blushed. "But if you need a guy's perspective, or whatever. I haven't been where you are, but I've been a couple of blocks over, so… You know where to find me," Michael concluded awkwardly.

Sincere warmth and gratitude shone from Max's face. "Thanks, man," he said softly.

"Sure."

Max leaned back, sighing. "So what worked for you?" he asked, staring at the ceiling. The question startled Michael; he hadn't expected Max to jump right in like that. He took a last gulp of the not so hot coffee and placed his cup on the floor.

"Uh," he floundered, "Maria helped a lot."

"The infamous newspaper incident," Max chuckled and Michael had to smile.

"Yeah. You did, too. You know, somewhere I could go when I needed to get out of there," Michael stretched out. Might as well get comfortable if Max was feeling chatty.

"Your sleeping bag was still in the bottom of my closet when I moved out," he smiled audibly.

"Along with your microscope and your dress shoes, which you later rescued," Michael laughed, and Max joined in. Hesitantly, Michael inquired, "Maxwell, what got you past the White Room?"

He remained silent for so long that Michael worried he might have crossed a boundary in asking. "The same thing that let me live through it in the first place: Liz. God, she was so amazing that night. The things we said to each other, holding her while we slept…that night with Liz, and leaning on Maria later were what got me through the summer. After that, there were—other considerations and life kind of just went on."

"Even though Liz split for the summer?"

"When's the first time you told Maria that you love her?" Max countered, bafflingly.

Did he want to admit he'd said the words, even to his best friend? "Right after the first time we made love, why?"

"After? She's a patient woman," he laughed.

"I would have said stubborn. Why's it matter?" Michael repeated.

"Because that night was the first time I'd told Liz, and she said it back. She felt it back. And I knew that she left because she thought she was doing the right thing, not because she didn't care anymore. It was enough."

Suddenly the couple's closeness after their argument the previous evening made sense to Michael. "That's why you're not pissed anymore about Future Max, too, isn't it?"

"Right," Max agreed. "I'm not over it exactly, and frankly I don't think the image of Liz and Kyle laughing in bed together will ever truly go away. But I understand, and I don't blame Liz."

Michael nodded thoughtfully. "Me neither—nor Iz," he offered.

"Good to know."

"We've all been through enough, Maxwell. I almost lost you and Isabel both. At this point I'm just grateful that we're all alive," Michael confessed. He could sense Max's surprise at his forthrightness, but the fact that Michael had very nearly been the only hybrid left on Earth was never far from his mind over the last week, since the Metachem building had gone up in the flames from Max's body. He tried not to think about it, which was probably why it insisted on hovering.

"Yeah. You know, Michael, every time you've really needed your powers to work, you've been able to heal. It's like you have a small amount reserved for just that, and it only works when the stakes are high enough."

"I never thought of it like that, but it fits," he agreed. It had felt like an incredible miracle when Isabel had opened her eyes and said that she'd followed Michael's voice back. It hadn't been until Max had finished the job that they'd known Michael had somehow managed to heal the worst of the damage. The image of Isabel bleeding on the Valentis' dining table would haunt him for a long time. "I'd go through everything all over again plus the stuff that you've been through if it meant that Isabel stayed safe."

"I hear you there," Max responded immediately. "After we'd found you again and you finally let it spill about Hank, I used to have nightmares about what could have happened to her in the foster system. Especially once she hit puberty. Izzy was a pretty child, but she grew up beautiful and the idea that someone could do things to her scared the hell out of me." He laughed; a sharp, brittle sound. "Ironic that I wound up as the target."

What Max didn't have to say was that that scared the hell out of him, too. Michael let it pass. "Well, your sister is now happily married to a nice enough guy, I've been on my own for two years and Tess isn't even on the planet. We can probably relax for a little while."

"Not to be the paranoid one, which is your job by the way, but we do still have other enemies," Max reminded him sardonically.

"As if I'd forget," he snorted. "We're in the regrouping period. You know, where everyone licks their wounds and heals before going back out to fight." Michael shifted to look pointedly at Max when he mentioned healing, and Max gave him a faint smile.

"I'm working on it," he rubbed his hands over his face and up into his hair, shoving it back from his forehead. "I just wish I had a little more to work with."

"You mean because you don't remember it?"

"Yeah. There's simply nothing in my brain to hold onto. I don't even have any sensory memory because this is a different body. I feel it, that's it. How do I stop feeling it when physically, it didn't really happen?"

Tough question, and Michael didn't know the answer. He admitted as much with an exaggerated shrug. His heart turned over in his chest when Max added quietly, "And if I have no idea how it happened in the first place, how do I make sure it doesn't happen again?"

"For one thing, the second Tess shows her face on Earth, she's dead," Michael declared. "The rest of us know the score now, Maxwell. Plus, she already got what she wanted: the baby."

"Liz said that the last vision I had of my son was before Christmas, and he was in some kind of danger then. What if the reason I haven't had any since then is because he was killed, Michael? Would she try again?" his voice was tight. Michael thought that Max's blatant fear and insistence on playing "What if?" served as the conclusive proof of Liz's theory about what Tess had done. He felt kind of sick as he finally accepted it as being true. For all that he was a guy, Max was almost as fragile as Isabel, emotionally speaking. More, in some ways.

"Max, don't go borrowing trouble, all right? You're living here, where I can help protect you, and for a couple more days Maria and Liz are here too. You're sleeping with Liz, for crying out loud! Do you think it would be that easy for Tess to just waltz in here and drag you off to bed?"

"No, you're right. I know you're right, it's just…" he trailed off.

"It took me a while to stop seeing Hank in the bushes, too," Michael understood. He looked over at Max, returning his smile. Max seemed worn out, and Michael smirked.

"Speaking of bed, Mar and I will take the couch tonight. Maybe you can actually get some sleep."

Max's expression became frosty. "I've been sleeping on the couch for months now, Michael. I don't need your pity."

Michael was taken aback by the outburst, and it struck him as highly ironic. Once upon a time, he'd felt the same way every time Max had tried to show him some kindness. "Uh-huh, but you haven't been sharing all that time. I know how hard it is to get a good night's sleep when you're huddled into a tiny space, Maxwell. Especially when your girlfriend can't keep her hands to herself," he snorted. "You got in late last night and you clearly spent your time doing something other than sleeping, so take the bed and get some rest. You look like shit and I do not need your sister to freak on my head."

"You don't want to get in Izzy's bad books. That's a scary place to be," Max offered a vague smile, and Michael accepted it for the apology he knew it represented. Suddenly Michael's stomach growled, and they both laughed.

"Apparently just coffee isn't going to cut it this morning," Michael complained, sitting up with a groan.

"Apparently not. Listen, Michael, thanks. I hadn't intended to go and spill my guts like that. I guess I needed to talk to someone besides Liz, you know, someone who's outside of the whole situation."

"Because even the science whiz can't be objective about this?" he half smiled.

"Right," Max agreed.

"Like Maria says, I've got your back, Maxwell. Let's go see whether I can talk one of the girls into scrounging me some breakfast."




posted on 9-Sep-2002 1:22:35 AM
"So?" Maria demanded as soon as Michael followed Max out of the room.

"What?" Liz countered with a little smile.

The innocent act was so not going to work. "Details, girl! You look totally blissed out."

"Do I really?" she scrunched her nose. "I'll try not to be so obvious."

Maria's eyes rounded at the implication. "You didn't last night, did you?"

"No, I told you we want to wait until we're alone. Besides, he's not quite there yet," she replied, reprising her position on the couch.

Maria sat beside Liz and regarded her carefully. "But you got close, didn't you?"

Liz nodded, her eyes sparkling as she looked at Maria. "I believe that the term you coined was fabric-fucking," she giggled.

"No way!"

"Yep," she colored as she smiled. Her happy blush set Maria smiling, too.

"I miss that sometimes. Not that exactly, the whole newness part," she sighed gustily.

"Maria, you just got back together. You can not be bored already!" Liz sounded aghast and Maria hastened to reassure her.

"Oh I'm not bored. Not at all. And I don't plan on getting bored. But the rush is a little different now than it was in the beginning. Know what I mean?"

"Actually, no. Max and I have never been together for long enough at any one stretch of time for the shininess to wear off," Liz rolled her eyes.

"That's right, you were only together a couple of months before Bitch-Slut-Whore showed up and started screwing with all our lives," she recalled brightly.

"Maria," Liz laughed in spite of the frown she sported.

"Don't tell me you still object to my fun little nicknames, now that you know what she did to Max," she retorted with some heat.

"There's only one word that truly describes Tess, Maria: evil," she pronounced solemnly.

Maria couldn't dispute that one. She watched Liz's face cloud and said, "You told him, didn't you?"

"Yeah. He'd already suspected something like that, so it wasn't as big a shock as I'd feared. But," she paused, emitting a weary sigh.

"What, Liz? You think he's in denial?" Maria asked the first question that came to mind.

"Well, sort of, I guess. Max isn't denying it, but he doesn't remember anything, Maria. It's hard for him to really grasp, and I don't know how that's going to affect how he deals with it. Without knowing that it happened—and by knowing I mean conscious knowledge—I'm not sure he'll ever be able to move past it. It'd be like he's repressing a traumatic memory, only there's no memory left to resurface and allow him to heal. There's just the residual effects and instinctive reactions that may never go away if he doesn't know he was raped," she explained, clearly discouraged.

Maria knew enough about repressed memories to know that was bad. She tried to be optimistic for both their sakes. "Pumpkin, Max has only known about this for a very short period. I know you're worried, but he might be just fine. You have to give it some time."

"I know," she sighed. "I think I needed to say it out loud. I want to be really careful about what I say to Max, and make sure that I stay positive, but sometimes I'm going to need to just vent."

"Prime pair, available twenty-four/seven," Maria pointed to her own ears with a grin. She slung her arm around Liz, pulling her closer until her dark head rested on Maria's shoulder. "I'm here, babe. Michael's here, and so's everyone else. It'll be okay."

She tilted her head to see Liz's grateful smile then looked up as the two men re-entered the living room.

"Did we become superfluous in the last few minutes?" Michael smirked. Maria raised an eyebrow at the elevated language, and then deliberately gave him a once-over, lingering near his hips.

"Sorry, Liz doesn't have the requisite body parts," she drawled, smiling as Max choked on a laugh. She could feel Liz shaking with giggles as her friend whispered, "Seems like a good rush to me."

"I'll remember that," Michael shot back. Amazingly, the faintest hint of pink dusted his cheeks but his eyes held fire as he stared at Maria. Her heart skipped a beat and she agreed with Liz: definitely a good rush. It dimmed some as she noticed that Michael's hands were empty.

"Where's your cup, Michael? Coffee cup," she elaborated at his blank look.

"Uhhh," he prevaricated.

"I think you put it down on the floor," Max offered.

"Uh-huh. Michael, please put it down in the sink, not the floor," Maria instructed. She glared at him when he grimaced, and he shrugged and went to pick up the cup and deposit it in the sink. He turned around afterwards, leaning nonchalantly against the counter and smirking at her.

"So, Maria. Does that mean that—" Michael fell silent as someone knocked on the door.

The four of them exchanged concerned looks. Maria let go of Liz and they began to rise from the couch as Max crossed the room, the three of them intending to hide in the bedroom, when they heard a cheerful voice call from outside.

"Hey, it's just Isabel!"

Maria plopped back down, rolling her eyes at Liz, who smiled. Michael went to open the door.

"Aren't you supposed to be in class?" he asked brusquely when Isabel entered the room.

"Just because I have a different Spring Break than you high school students doesn't mean that I have classes all day, every day, Michael. I brought you guys some breakfast," she placed the box of doughnuts on the table to the side of the door and caught Michael in a hug. Maria suppressed a laugh at his astonished expression.

Then it was her turn as Isabel walked across the room and pulled first Liz, then Maria to their feet for a hug. She whispered, "I don't want to single Max out."

Isabel released Maria and went to hug Max. Maria could have told her that the group attention wouldn't fool her brother, but it was nice that she made the effort. She watched as Isabel squeezed Max then held his chin and peered closely at him.

"You look tired. Were you up all night?"

"No, not all night," his eyes flickered to Liz and her cheeks flushed. Maria smiled but Isabel's back faced them so she didn't see either reaction.

"We were worried about you," she gave him a little shake. "You shouldn't run off like that. At least not without a cell phone or something."

"Sorry," Max smiled. "Iz, it's okay. I know you know."

"Oh," she choked and enfolded him in another hug. Maria saw him glance at Michael, one corner of his mouth and one eyebrow lifting. Michael snickered and turned away so Isabel didn't hear him. Obviously the two men had either discussed this, or simply expected it because they knew Isabel so well. Maria smiled wistfully. She felt the lack of siblings keenly sometimes, when she witnessed the three of them interacting with the comfortable ease of lifelong knowledge. Even during the months when they had been at odds that knowledge had been in evidence, and so had the deep emotional bonds accompanying it. She supposed that had been part of the problem: everyone cared so much and no one had been exactly themselves, contributing to the general confusion and pain.

Liz took Maria's hand with a sentimental smile and Maria squeezed back, knowing that her friend understood. They had each other. And Michael had complained often enough about their "chickspeak" that Maria knew he saw her friendship with Liz in the same mysterious light

Max managed to extricate himself and accepted the doughnut that Michael held out, Michael's other hand busily stuffing one into his own mouth. Maria rolled her eyes. Chez Pierre material Michael was not.

"Thanks for the food, Iz. Have a seat," Michael invited as soon as he could speak coherently.

"Yeah, no problem," she brushed it off and sat at the counter. Max and Michael also found seats.

"So what brings you over, Isabel? I'm guessing it wasn't just so that these two could pig out," Liz smiled at the blonde woman.

"No. I was thinking about everything you said last night, Liz, and it kind of made me remember something and wonder if it was related," Isabel said earnestly.

"What's that?" Maria inquired.

Isabel looked over at her apologetically. "Well, it has to do with when Tess first arrived in Roswell. She sent us those dreams and I thought I was pregnant, remember?"

"Uh, yeah, that's still in my memory," she replied. Unfortunately.

"Right, well earlier in the night of the first dream, Max and I were talking about how we felt around Tess. She had been sitting in the kitchen with my mom, looking at photo albums, when I got home from school. And Mom left to go to the store, and Tess got really strange. She kept talking about signs, and feeling close to people unexplainably… I swear, I thought she was talking about me for a minute, that she was going to kiss me. Thank God she didn't. But that's when she made the four-square sign with the sugar cubes and really freaked me out."

"I remember the sugar cubes but you never mentioned the rest," Michael told her.

"Actually, that's what we were talking about when you came to the window, Michael. I guess we sort of lost the thread of the conversation then. Isabel, you said that you felt like you lost time in the kitchen and weren't entirely sure what had happened because of it," Max commented.

"Yeah, I did. It was weird. But you and I also agreed that it felt like something not human was waking up inside of us," Isabel nodded.

"Max, you said the same thing about kissing Tess," Liz joined in.

"Yeah, I remember that," Max said slowly. "Izzy, why are you bringing this up?"

She sighed. "On my honeymoon, when I was fighting with Vilandra, it felt almost the same. I thought that maybe that could explain, you know, how Tess formed such a strong hold on you."

"Because she was somehow linking to his alien side?" Maria wanted clarification.

"Exactly," Isabel nodded vigorously. "Liz, you said Max wasn't acting like himself when he yelled at you at Kyle's place. It set me to wondering if maybe that's why."

"It's as good a theory as any," Liz conceded, "but we don't have any way to prove it one way or the other. Still, it's something to watch out for. Max, do you think you would know if you felt like that again, like something was waking up inside you?"

"I don't know. I'd like to say yes, but if that's really what happened then clearly I couldn't detect it before. But I'll pay close attention to how I'm feeling, in case," he offered.

"I think that's all you can do, just stay on guard," Michael agreed.

"Isabel, thank you for coming to tell us about this. It might be really important," Liz smiled sincerely. Isabel responded with a warm smile of her own then stood, her manner becoming brisk.

"Okay, I have a million things to do today so I'd better get going, but I wanted to fill you all in first. Maria, would you walk me out, please?" she requested. Maria managed to keep the shock from her face and stood, shrugging slightly at Liz. She waited while Isabel quickly hugged Max again, and Michael despite his protests, then followed her into the sunroom.

"What's up?" she asked as soon as they passed the foosball table.

"I wanted to invite you to come over for dinner Saturday," the tall blonde woman spoke quietly, as if she were afraid of being overheard.

"Okay, why did you need to ask me that alone? Not to mention, two days in advance. Why couldn't Max, Liz and Michael know we're all coming for dinner?" Maria was lost.

"Well, I'm only inviting you and Michael. And then you can stay over, make a night of it," she said persuasively.

Maria looked at her askance. She couldn't possibly be trying to set Max and Liz up, could she? Enough with the word games. "Isabel, what's this about?"

"Maria, you know that I do a lot of volunteer work, right?"

"Yeah, I'm still not sure I've forgiven you for turning me into an indentured slave in felt," she said dryly.

Isabel smiled. "Right. So anyway, one of the groups that I've worked with is the women's shelter, and at college I'm also involved with the crisis center and the hotline," she paused, seemingly waiting for a prompt.

"So you've worked with—rape victims." The picture grew clearer.

She nodded. "Not too many, there've been more assaults—people getting drunk and stupid and whatever. Here's the thing. The women who have recovered the fastest, with the least emotional damage, are the ones who are married or who have boyfriends that are supportive. Family and friends can do a lot and they're critically important, but when you've been sexually assaulted it's a loving sexual partner that helps the most. Someone who looks at you and finds you desirable, who doesn't shy away from touching you because of what happened to you and who doesn't blame you either."

She sounded like she was reciting a textbook by rote, which Maria supposed allowed Isabel to distance herself from the fact that it was Max she was talking about. Nevertheless, Maria did not miss her point. "Liz."

"Yeah. What she said last night is true, she's the only one who can really do anything. All I could do is tell them what I did today, and listen, and Max isn't going to talk to me about his sex life. Which normally would have me jumping for joy, but…well," she trailed off, shrugging.

"Sucks to feel helpless, doesn't it?" Maria asked directly.

Isabel started in surprise then a rueful smile appeared. "Yes. It's one of the things I hate most," she admitted candidly.

Maria blinked at such a personal confession. She'd seen more of who she believed was the real Isabel since Max's quasi death than she ever had. It saddened her to think that at last, she began to understand Alex's feelings for this person, when she couldn't share that revelation with him. What she wouldn't give to be able to hear an "I told you so"!

But she didn't say any of that to Isabel. Instead, she quipped, "Being Michael's girlfriend means that I am well acquainted with feeling helpless."

"Oh, God, you should have grown up with the two of them. I still don't know who's worse. I wouldn't want to be romantically involved with either one of them, if they weren't my brothers. Even when I thought I was pregnant with Michael's baby, it would have been a non-sexual relationship, believe me," she rolled her eyes emphatically. "Impossible, both of them. And Kyle's just as bad."

Maria saw an opportunity and seized it. "Yeah, you guys spend a lot of time together, huh?"

Isabel looked at her sharply then her face softened a little. "I know Kyle thinks he's in love with me, Maria. He's not. He hasn't had a close female friend before, or any woman in his life who wasn't some type of conquest. He's got a bit of a crush now but it'll pass. Kyle's just not ready to be with someone yet, and telling himself he has feelings for me gives him a reason not to be," she said gently.

"Because of Tess, because of how she betrayed him and everyone else," she stated flatly and Isabel nodded.

"He's dealing with it. We talk about it sometimes, about Tess. About Alex," her eyes flickered over Maria. "I love Jesse in a way that I never loved Alex, but I wonder sometimes if that's because I never got the chance. I was just starting to really open up when he—was killed, and I couldn't quite close back down all the way afterwards. Then I found Jesse and everything snowballed, and somehow he was there, he was part of that," she said dreamily. "Like he approved."

"Alex would have wanted you to be happy, Isabel. Jesse is a nice guy," Maria said truthfully.

"Thanks," she smiled, and then her manner became brisk and polished again. "So, dinner, Saturday around seven? I'll see you then." Isabel breezed out and not for the first time, Maria wondered if Max's sister had some kind of split personality disorder. But her comments about Alex stayed with Maria as she went back into the apartment, and the first thing she did was pull Liz and Max off the couch and into a group hug.

"I love you both, you wonderful people," she kissed Liz's cheek and ruffled Max's hair. "I'm going to go back to sleep for a while."

She kissed Michael passionately, feeling his startled response, then headed into Michael's room, knowing that he and her friends were staring after her thinking she was nuts, but it didn't matter. They loved her anyway. Right now Maria wanted to think about another friend who had also loved her in spite of everything, and maybe have a good cry while she remembered him.







posted on 9-Sep-2002 9:11:04 PM
Dee OMB that's right--we're only like a 5 hour drive apart now! (Beats 3 days LOL) I'd forgotten that you were going to school over here. How is that? Thanks for the lovely words about Isabel. It's odd, b/c I feel much the same as everyone else that she was shoved down our throats in the show, but I do love her character. She's so complex, and I enjoy writing her. I've found the trick is to choose one of her show incarnations and stick to it.*wink* That's part of why she didn't work on the show--the writers had her as 20 different people! Plus, she's a wonderful supporting character. Not a lead.*wink*

Scottie LOL I forgot to mention that that particular nickname for Tess has its roots in RL. I watched the last few eps of S2 at a Ros-bud's house and that's what she used to scream at the TV.*big* And then we'd have to Windex the TV screen after clearing off the green gummi behrs we threw. It was fun!

Thanks everyone for the fb--it's much appreciated. I should have the next chapter ready by the weekend.*happy*
hugs, Tas

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 10-Sep-2002 5:19:55 PM ]
posted on 10-Sep-2002 11:47:15 PM
LIZ!!! Have I told you recently that I love you?*big* That's awesome, thank you so much!
hugs, Tas
posted on 12-Sep-2002 6:30:35 AM
CEO Shaft You must have read the first half before the mod deleted it! I posted the first part and then I couldn't get back onto the board!!


Normally, I don't hold with issuing any kind of warning for a chapter. I usually prefer to put even my musical info at the end, if I use song lyrics. But I know that this one is going to be difficult for some of you to read, so please keep the tissues close at hand. In 2 posts for length.

Thank you for all the wonderful fb.
hugs, Tas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

{We left off with Maria & Liz, and Max & Michael having separate discussions about the previous evening's revelations about what happened between Tess and Max. Michael offered to let Max and Liz sleep in his room for the night. Isabel had just invited Maria and Michael to her place for dinner on Saturday, in 2 days' time, in order to give Max and Liz some privacy.}

*****NEW Chapter 17*****

Liz awoke groggily, disoriented by her position. She seemed to be sitting on the floor, propped up against the wall. But that couldn't be right. She'd gone to sleep on the bed, beside Max. Where was Max?

It took a ridiculous amount of effort but at last Liz pried her eyes open. Her vision was fuzzy at first, and she didn't quite understand what she was seeing. Max was there, on the bed still, but there was someone with him—a blonde. As her sight cleared, Liz realized that she was looking at a fully naked Tess astride an equally nude Max.

Fury rose in an instant tide, and faded just as quickly when Tess's arm shifted, and Liz saw his face. Only then did she notice that his limbs were bound, each tied to the four corners of the wind. Or in this case, the metal bed supports, the ropes snaking across the mattress and pulling tight, leaving Max wide open and completely vulnerable. But as Tess rose up a little on her knees, leaning forward to bring her face close to Max's, Liz could see something else from her side vantage: he wasn't hard. At all.

Max had told the unvarnished truth when he'd blurted out that his body didn't react to Tess.

Liz's moment of feminine triumph was decidedly short-lived in the face of their current situation. A million questions ran through her mind but the only one that stuck was, What the hell is she doing to Max?

She tried to stand up, to throw the other woman off of Max, but she could barely move. More than the heavy lassitude weighed her down; Liz's wrists and ankles were also tied, wrapped together with lengths of the same thick rope. Obviously Tess had drugged Max to render him incapable of using his powers. Liz felt the aftereffects of something moving through her system, too.

"What do you want, Tess?" Max demanded in a cold tone.

"Even you aren't that naïve, Max," her voice was syrupy and amused.

"I won't give in to you."

"No, you're far too uptight to just have a little fun. It always has to be about looove with you," she shook her head exaggeratedly, and Liz could almost hear her rolling her eyes.

"I'm not about to apologize for having morals, either," he said steadily.

"Oh, but you apologize so beautifully, Max! "I'm sorry for taking you for granted"," Tess cooed. Her voice hardened. "Although you should have been sorry for not falling in line like you were supposed to. We could have been good together."

"Right, until Khivar killed me."

"If you'd been a proper King I would have reneged on Nasedo's deal. Khivar couldn't take on both of us and maintain his tenuous hold on your throne," she told him silkily.

Liz watched his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed and braced herself for the question she knew he would ask. He wouldn't be Max if he didn't care about his child, even if hearing the words still hurt Liz. She had said that she would support him in this and she meant to do it.

"Tess, what about our son? Is he safe?"

The blonde shifted to lie beside Max, her new position making it possible for Liz to view her gleeful expression. She didn't seem to notice that Liz's eyes were open, though; her focus remained Max's face.

"Our son. Yes, there's another reason I might have reneged. Of course, that would mean that you're capable of shooting something besides blanks, which apparently you aren't, since I didn't get pregnant no matter how I tried," Tess sneered.

"Wh—what?" he stammered. Liz felt as though she'd been kicked in the stomach. Tess hadn't been pregnant. Max didn't have a son out there somewhere, in danger. But then who had sent the visions, Tess? And why?

"I played you," she said bluntly. "You know, I've often considered allowing you to retain the memory of our little encounters, but I haven't tired yet of seeing all that shock and pain when I tell you the truth. It excites me."

What could he say to that? Liz fought off the urge to cry as Max forcibly smoothed his expression into neutrality. "How many encounters have there been?"

A Cheshire cat kind of smile spread across Tess's features. "Well, now. Do you remember our first time, Max?" She stroked his chest while he answered, and Liz saw the beginnings of a flinch before he held himself steady.

"Not entirely. I remember the morning—waking up with you, in the observatory."

"How utterly delish," her blue eyes sparkled. "It's really too bad I couldn't leave you with the whole night—it was definitely memorable." Her voice grew husky and her hand wandered lower. Liz had never wished for anything as hard as she wanted her powers to materialize now, but nothing happened and Tess continued to touch Max.

"Whatever," he remarked disinterestedly, turning that sparkle into a flash of anger.

"Memorable or not, Max, it wasn't the first time," she informed him. He couldn't keep the dismay from showing and Tess grinned.

"When?" Max ground out.

In spite of his obvious resolve to remain stoic and appear unaffected, he tried to pull away when Tess reached between his legs and fondled him. The ropes allowed little movement, and Liz's eyes filled with tears as Max stared fixedly at the ceiling, forced to submit to the unwelcome caress. She had to do something, but what? She could barely move. As slow as she would be, Tess would squash her and Liz didn't have a death wish. Untenable though it seemed, she had to wait and watch for an opportunity. Sooner or later, one would present itself.

Clearly pleased with Max's reactions, Tess explained coyly, "The first time I came into your room, I brought you with me to the desert. That's when I gave you the book, the one that shows our destiny. You rejected it out of hand, calling me names, and then you threw me to the ground and screamed at me to shapeshift. Do you remember that?"

"Yeah. I thought you were Nasedo. But I got flashes—Michael, Isabel and I emerging from the pods and leaving you behind. And then…then it was morning and Michael and Isabel were there, and we found the pod chamber," he shook his head a little in confusion.

"Zan does good work," Tess's mouth curled in satisfaction.

"Zan? My New York City clone? He's dead. What did he have to do with that?" That's what Liz wanted to know, too.

"Not that Zan," her lips formed a moue of disgust. "Those people were a freak of nature, not fit to live. I'm glad they're gone. Well, my "twin" is out there somewhere still, but I killed Rath and Lonnie when they tried to mindrape me. Stupid bitch. Didn't know that when you mindrape someone, you have to open yourself and you can't use your powers for defense.

"No, I meant the spirit of Zan, Max. The one I awakened in your body when I arrived in Roswell, after Michael so kindly informed us of your whereabouts by setting off that return signal by the library."

Liz had almost forgotten her theory about Max being subject to a second personality. Once they had realized that Tess had been heavily involved in what had happened to his memories, they had discounted any other explanation, even after what Isabel had said that afternoon. That apparently had been a mistake, although her information had pointed towards some kind of link between Tess and Max's alien side, not an entirely separate being. Liz listened carefully, filing it all away in her mind.

"Are you trying to tell me that Zan and I have been sharing my body?" Max asked tightly.

"Not trying, darling, I'm telling you," she smiled. "All those missing moments in time, that's when he was in control. Plus a few other times when it simply wasn't convenient for you to remember what someone had done or said. He wiped your mind from the inside, Max."

"Why didn't he just take over?"

She moved her hand up from between his legs to caress his face. "That's a little more complicated. Zan could only emerge fully when you were in the grip of strong emotions—it is your body, not his. So when you got angry, or when you were in the depths of despair like you were at the observatory, he could be the dominant personality. Of course you could still feel everything, you just couldn't do a damn thing about it. Kind of like now," Tess licked his collarbone.

"So then I won't get those memories back, because technically they're not mine. They're Zan's," Max sounded resigned. He and Liz had already concluded as much, but this confirmation killed any hope of recovery.

"You might have been able to remember if the two of you had merged, but there's a problem with that. In fact, that's why I'm with you right now, because Zan doesn't seem to be sharing your body anymore, Max. He's been gone for about a week now, and I want to know what happened," a steely note entered the honeyed voice.

Max smiled faintly. In this, at least, he had the upper hand. "I died."

"You what?"

"You heard me. I died. Actually, my life force got transferred to someone else's body. He'd had enough alien DNA injected into him for my alien essence to latch onto and remake his body into mine, and then we took a header out of a window and he died, leaving just me," Max's smile broadened at Tess's dumbfounded countenance. Liz felt simply a huge relief that Zan's spirit had not been able to piggyback with Max's when he had been sucked into Clayton Wheeler's body. No wonder Max had reacted so strongly to sharing a body with Clayton—he knew firsthand how horrible an experience it could be.







posted on 12-Sep-2002 6:32:01 AM
"How interesting! So this isn't your original body. It certainly feels like it," Tess purred, having salvaged her composure. She ran her hand over his torso, repeating the caress over and over. Max did not react outwardly, his smile remaining fixed in place. "I suppose that this transference severed your connection to Zan, then. It's a shame really, he was so much more fun. But I can certainly deal with just plain Max," her eyes grew hard.

His smile became dismissive and faded naturally as he stared at Tess. "So, you were talking about the night I figured out you weren't Nasedo."

"Ah, yes. Definitely an enjoyable night," she told him huskily. Liz saw a muscle jump in his cheek but Max said nothing, waiting for Tess to continue.

"You were very angry when you yelled at me, Max. Very angry. Enough for Zan to take over for the first time, and recognize his mate," she paused, regarding him closely. "Angry enough to fuck me right there on the sand."

"I did not," Max refuted her claim.

"But you did, Max. Or, Zan did, but in your body. We rolled around on the ground like animals for hours. I lost count of how many times we did it," Tess's gaze glowed blue in triumph, for Max had closed his eyes, swallowing hard as the information sank in. Liz wasn't sure if she wanted to cry or throw up more.

His eyes stayed closed while he spoke, his voice remarkably steady. "Tess, what is it that you really want? It's obvious that I can't give you a child, if we've had sex that many times and you still didn't get pregnant. What more do you want from me?"

"It's not that simple, Max. I have an obligation to keep trying. Besides, I enjoy it so. You really are quite beautiful," she smirked, tracing a line down the center of his chest. "Especially when you squirm, and most of all when you scream."

He looked at her blankly and she laughed. "Didn't you wonder how I found you, without Zan as a beacon? You know, unfortunately, that love creates a bond between people," Tess glanced derisively at Liz, who refrained from any movement that would betray that she was no longer unconscious. She'd decided that the blonde woman was not entirely sane, or at the very least had some kind of serious complex. "It's because of a love bond that Zan couldn't take over completely. That's what was supposed to happen."

"What about Michael and Isabel? Did you rouse their alien personalities, too?" Max pressed.

"Of course, but they had the same problem: bonds with humans. Isabel and Vilandra had quite the battle going on for a while, but Isabel started getting close to Alex again. And then Vilandra went poof because Khivar decided to think with his dick instead of his brain," she snorted. "Everything would have been so much easier if you hadn't gone and fallen for a stupid human girl."

"Liz is more intelligent than you'll ever be," Max shot at her.

Tess's eyes narrowed in anger but she ignored his comment. "Love isn’t the only thing that creates a bond, though, Max. There is also…pain."

She ripped her long fingernails along his side, opening his skin. Max did flinch away this time, inadvertently moving closer to Tess. She smiled in satisfaction and touched his chest lightly, leaving bloody trails. Tess leaned over, admiring her handiwork, then moved her hand down, between his legs again. Max began to struggle, unable to keep up his calm façade when Tess's other hand started a series of long, angry scratches on his chest—scratches that she licked, her mouth staining red with his blood.

Liz choked back sobs, feeling utterly helpless and hating herself for not being able to do anything to help Max. She suddenly wished fiercely that she had never heard the orb beeping in the desert that night, and that she and Max had given themselves to each other, had that perfect moment. He would have been spared all of this. But all she could do now was bear silent witness, cataloguing each violation so that she could somehow counter them later. Find some way to heal this new damage.

"You're beginning to piss me off, Max," Tess warned, lifting her crimson lips. "I expect my playmates to get erections when I pleasure them. You can't even manage that much. Or do you not like hands, is that it? I know Zan liked to be sucked off. Let's see, shall we?"

She shimmied down his body, ignoring his struggles, and fastened her mouth on his flaccid penis. Liz couldn't see exactly what Tess was doing; well, she didn't need to, she wasn't that innocent. She watched Max's face instead. He had closed his eyes and turned his head to the side a bit, towards Liz. His clenched jaw and furrowed brow expressed his pain more clearly than even words would have. And then he cried out, his eyes opening in shock. Liz's gaze flew down his body and she shuddered at seeing Tess remove her teeth from his most tender flesh.

"Jesus, Max, what does it take?" Tess asked disbelievingly.

Liz's outrage finally broke loose. "Tess, stop!"

Cold blue eyes met hers, narrowing thoughtfully. "So, your little friend is awake. I must say I was surprised that you brought her with you, Max, but maybe she can be useful after all."

Brought me with him? What is she talking about? Liz wondered. The comment about her own usefulness did not go unnoticed, and she shivered as Tess rose from the bed and strode over to Liz, yanking the brunette to her feet.

Liz's extremities tingled after being immobile too long, and she stumbled. Tess righted her, her hands lingering on Liz's ribcage as she pushed Liz towards the bed. She lifted Liz effortlessly, forcing her to kneel on the mattress beside Max. Liz's skin crawled at how Tess's hands seemed to almost caress her, at how close the blonde stood. Then Tess slid one hand in Liz's dark hair, gripping it tightly, and pressed her head down.

"Tess, no. Please. Leave Liz out of this," Max begged at last, and Liz could almost feel the pleasure radiating from Tess's nude body beside her. She watched from an increasingly smaller distance as Tess grasped Max's penis in one careless hand.

"I'd be happy to leave her out of this, Max. You never would, though. And your cock is obviously tuned to a different frequency without Zan," Tess replied harshly. Liz could see the teeth marks in his wrinkled skin and she wanted to cry. She kept her mouth firmly closed, even as her face reached Max's groin.

"Liz, sweetheart, open up," Tess coaxed. Liz shook her head silently and heard the blonde sigh. "Fine."

She twisted the hand tangled in Liz's hair, pulling on it sharply, and Liz cried out at the sudden pain. Tess took immediate advantage, stuffing the contents of her other hand into Liz's mouth.

"Liz, I'm so sorry," Max said brokenly. She could hear the tears in his voice and wanted to reassure him, but couldn't say anything with his growing length nearly choking her. Tess hummed in pleasure as Max became rigid in Liz's mouth, and then she shoved Liz down, forcing her to take it all. Liz immediately gagged, her throat resisting the intrusion, but Tess paid her choking noises no mind and pulled her head up just a little before shoving her back down.

After a couple of minutes, Liz learned to keep her throat relaxed enough that she wasn't gasping for air when Tess pushed her head down, but it wasn't a pleasant sensation by any means. Tears formed in her eyes, a few trickling down her face to plop on Max's thigh as she heard him murmuring over and over that he was sorry. She thought bleakly that Maria had given her good advice, and how glad she was that she and Max had already crossed this bridge together in love. If this had been Liz's first experience with oral sex, she wasn't sure she would ever be able to repeat it. But the sweet memory of Max's honest, uninhibited response to her in the shower they had shared sustained her. This time was irrelevant.

She turned her mind off, refusing to acknowledge Tess's supremacy. Until she felt Max's body tighten and realized that there was only so much he could resist physically—continual stimulation, no matter how unwanted, would eventually compel his body to finish the process. Tess must have been watching for some sign because she tugged Liz away from Max's groin, allowing her to fall sideways. Liz landed heavily, bouncing against the mattress, and looked down in time to see Tess straddle Max and impale herself on his erection. As the blonde began to move rapidly on his body, Liz quickly looked at Max.

His lips were pressed together, his eyelids firmly closed over the tears leaking from the corners. She had never seen such utter despair on his face, not even when he had come to her window and caught her in bed with Kyle. It broke her heart.

"Max," she whispered. "Max, it's okay. I'm here."

He licked dry lips. "It's not okay, Liz. I can't stop what's going to happen."

"Look at me," Liz pleaded. Dark lashes fluttered open to reveal miserable hazel eyes. "It doesn't matter, Max. She's just using your body, she can't touch the real you. She can't—you're mine. No matter what, you're mine."

Max's lips curved the tiniest amount. "I love you."

"I know. I love you, too. Let it go, all right? The faster you can let go, the faster it'll be over," she importuned. At this point, there was no denying the inevitable but if it happened quickly maybe they could minimize the damage.

"I'll try," he inhaled slowly and stared deep into her eyes. Liz could feel him concentrating on her, a small frown marring his brow that smoothed out as his body jerked in reaction, and she knew it was done. She managed a reassuring smile.

"Well, well, that wasn't too bad considering the shitty start," Tess's drawl broke their communion. Liz glanced down to see her lift herself off Max, settling farther up on his abdomen. "Liz, darling, I think you really added something."

She looked at the blonde in alarm; there was a disturbing note in her voice. Liz flinched away as Tess drew closer, but again Tess used Liz's hair as a grip and held her still while she kissed her.

Her lips were grotesquely soft and when Tess forced her tongue into Liz's mouth, it tasted of metal. Liz knew it was Max's blood she could taste and it made her want to retch. His chest looked much the same as Liz's knee had, that time she'd fallen off her bicycle and skinned it so badly.

"Such a pretty girl," Tess crooned as she finally broke off the kiss. "I understood right from the beginning why Max wanted you. I would have been willing to share."

"I don't share," Liz said defiantly and Tess laughed in delight.

"Maybe I'll make sure he brings you along the next time we meet like this," her blue eyes glittered with a strange light and Liz controlled the urge to get as far away as possible. Now that she was close to Max, she might be able to do something to get them out of this. But Tess's words caught her attention. They reminded Liz of the earlier remark about Tess being surprised that Max had brought Liz with him. He hadn't brought her anywhere; they were still in Michael's room.

"So, Tess, how did you get back to Earth, anyway? I thought the granolith was a one-trip ship," Liz asked conversationally. She winced inwardly when Tess's blue eyes filled with derisive glee.

"What makes you think I'm on Earth, Liz?"

"You're not really here? Are you dreamwalking us?" Max asked incredulously.

"It's a little more complete than that. I call it mindwalking, personally. It's kind of a combination of dreamwalking and mindwarping, but with a physical dimension. I mean, we didn't just actually sleep together, Max, and we haven't since that night in the observatory. But I've been keeping tabs on you for when I do return, making sure that I can get what I need. And you did get off—you just did it yourself. Zan took your body to pretty amazing heights with your own hands and my voice whispering in your ear," she grinned. "That's why I told you everything I did. Max, you'll remember something far different taking place, and mere humans don't remember anything. Or what little does leak through, they attribute to a common dream."

Liz's mind worked furiously. If this was some kind of dreamwalk, no matter how physically real, then it could be broken if she and Max woke up. And since she wasn't precisely a "mere human" anymore, hopefully she wouldn't forget. Acting on that thought, she let out an ear-splitting shriek. Tess clapped her hands over her ears with an unpleasant expression, but almost immediately she and the rest of the room began to fade.

Liz awoke to her own screaming. Max mumbled beside her, tears sparkling on his cheeks in the faint light, and she shook him roughly as Maria and Michael burst into the room, demanding to know what was wrong.

"Max! Max, wake up," she begged. Abruptly he sat up, and his eyes shone with excitement.

"Liz! You'll never guess what just happened. I didn't remember any of the other ones, but I just had a vision from my son," Max said. He caught sight of the other couple and frowned. "What are you two doing here? Liz?"

Liz stared at him for a moment. Max didn't have a son. Every vision he'd had of the child had been planted by Tess to keep him connected to her, available to be her plaything. Her stomach heaved and she scrambled out of bed, running for the bathroom.

She just made it, vomiting into the toilet. Max had been right behind her and he held her hair out of the way as she brought up even the thought of food.

"Liz, are you okay?" Maria sounded worried and Liz didn't blame her.

"No," she replied weakly. "Maria, can you just bring me some juice and then leave Max and I alone, please? I'll explain in the morning, I swear. Michael," Liz turned her head to meet his eyes. "Can you get out of working tomorrow? I think I'm going to need you here."

"What for?" he wanted to know and she sighed.

"Max is going to need you," she said meaningfully, ignoring Max's question. Liz waited, holding Michael's eyes until she saw comprehension there. He nodded at last.

"Yeah, I'll tell your dad I've come down with the flu or something. That way I can be here for a couple of days, "recovering"," Michael agreed. Maria came back with the requested juice and Liz stood up, flushing the toilet and taking the glass gratefully. She swished out her mouth, spitting into the sink and running the tap, then gulped down the juice and handed the glass back to Maria.

"Thank you. We'll explain in the morning, okay? Max and I need to be alone right now," Liz repeated.

"Okay," Maria acquiesced ungracefully and Liz smiled at her. She smiled back and shrugged, then closed the door. Liz sank down on the lid of the toilet.

"Liz, what the hell is going on?" Max demanded. She noticed that the front of his boxers were all wet and tears filled her eyes. "Liz, talk to me!"

"Max, you didn't get a vision of your son. That was a cover-up, so that you wouldn't remember that Tess—that Tess," she let out a sob and Max moved in on his knees, holding her close.

"Sh. Tell me what happened," he sounded apprehensive, and with good reason, she thought.

"Tess can do a kind of physical dreamwalking that's kind of a mindwarp/dreamwalk blend. She called it a mindwalk. I wasn't supposed to be part of it, but I guess you pulled me in with you because we were asleep together. She said that humans don't remember being mindwalked and since she'd planned already to alter your memories it wouldn't matter what she said. But I remember it all, Max. She—did things to you and I couldn't stop her, and then she made me help. It was so real," Liz had to halt the flow of words; she was crying too hard. Max stroked her hair soothingly, murmuring comforting nonsense. Her sobs quieted under his gentle ministrations.

"Liz, can you show me?" he asked intently, searching her face.

Her heart rebelled against the idea. But then she remembered what he had said late last night, lying in her arms. I'd prefer to have it more tangible, so I can deconstruct it in my head. I don't do that well with something so ephemeral. So Liz took a deep breath and nodded hesitantly. She closed her eyes as his lips met hers with incredible tenderness, and clutched him close, needing his strength to do this.

Liz could feel the successive shocks hitting his mind because his body flinched after each attack. At length he pulled away and rested his forehead against hers.

"God, Liz, I'm sorry you had to go through that. That was…bad," Max said shakily.

"I'm not sorry. We wouldn't have known otherwise, and she could've kept doing it," she told him fiercely. "Now, we can find some way to block her, and you don't have to worry about finding your son anymore because he doesn't exist." The one bright spot.

"Yeah, that'll—take some getting used to. It all will," his arms tightened around her and Liz figured that shock was beginning to set in.

"Look, Max, I don't know about you but I could really use a shower right now. I feel filthy," she grimaced.

"Me too," he nodded. Max released her and stood, his mouth compressing at his wet shorts. Liz gasped when he removed his T-shirt and his chest was covered in deep red scratches. He looked down. "I guess she wasn't kidding about it being more physical," he commented unsteadily.

"Can you heal them?" she asked.

"Yeah," he waved a hand slowly over his chest and the ugly marks closed and disappeared. Then he resumed taking off his clothes and Liz did the same, feeling no hesitation about her nudity as she stepped into the tub and began to run the water. Once Max had closed the shower curtain, she warned him and flipped on the showerhead.

They both scrubbed themselves, taking turns in the water stream to rinse off. Liz noticed that Max avoided his groin and her chest tightened in pain and anger. Gently she took the soap from him and lathered her hands, carefully cleaning him. He stirred a little with her touch but as soon as he had been washed, Max removed her hands.

"Not now," he whispered.

"I wasn't going to keep—" Liz protested softly, her voice dying when he nodded.

"I know. I know you weren't. I—can you just hold me?" Max asked in a choked voice. She opened her arms and he stepped closer, resting his cheek on her wet hair. His body shook as the enormity of Tess's betrayal of his person started to penetrate, and Liz's own tears began to fall. They clung to each other, crying together, as the water pelting them cooled until its warmth was only a memory.









posted on 12-Sep-2002 7:14:04 AM
quote:
Razz214 originally wrote:
That was certainly a different direction. I liked it, but I'm really confused. So Tess faked everything
with Zan...who was also connected and somehow apart of Max???


Zan's spirit was inside Max's body. Tess didn't fake anything. When she wanted to use Max, she pissed him off enough for Zan to be able to take control of Max's body. It was still Max being violated.

Hope that clears things up for you!
hugs, Tas
posted on 27-Sep-2002 9:12:40 PM
I know how difficult the last chapter was to read--I wrote it concurrently with the previous 4 or 5 chapters b/c I couldn't work on it for long stretches of time at once. It IS uphill from here, I swear! Thanks to you all, those that are still with me and those that are not. I appreciate everyone's comments so very much.*happy*
hugs, Tas

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

*****NEW Chapter 18*****

"So Vilandra died when Isabel shoved Khivar into the wormhole, and Zan died along with Max's original body, but my head is still booby-trapped, is that it?" Michael couldn't quite believe that.

"That's about the size of it," Liz mustered a brief smile. She looked like shit. Michael had fallen back to sleep before she and Max had stumbled out of the bathroom, but Maria had informed him earlier that they'd had a shower and gone straight to bed with wet hair—in a pile of blankets on the floor of Michael's room. Now that Liz had filled in the details as promised, he understood why neither of them had felt like climbing back into his bed. Hell, it was going to take him a while to want to sleep there.

"What are we going to do about it?" Maria voiced the question that haunted Michael, too.

"Stay on your guard, same as me," Max rasped. He looked worse than Liz. Like he'd been on a weeklong bender, his eyes were so bloodshot. All the same, there was a fierce light in them that hadn't been there the day before.

"Obviously, but how? I didn't feel the same alien side waking up thing that you and Iz did," he bit out, frustrated.

"You didn't?" Liz asked intently. Max shifted so that he sat up straighter beside Liz, his gaze trained on Michael in sudden interest.

"Not even when you figured out about Pohlman Ranch?" Max queried.

"No. Yeah, she was there and being cryptic as hell, but it was a regular flash. I remembered running past the sign," Michael tried to explain.

"Hey, I've seen that one. The sign is all falling down rusted out, and you were such a cute kid but covered in this disgusting goop that you were leaving everywhere," Maria chimed in helpfully. Michael held his tongue. It felt weird, talking about such intensely personal stuff, admitting that he'd allowed Maria to see inside of him. But if it helped get Max through this shit, Michael would suck it up and lay it all bare if he had to. He just sincerely hoped it didn't come to that.

"Michael's right then, it was a genuine flash, not a mindwarp. I can't get flashes of mindwarped events, so it stands to reason that Maria couldn't either," Liz commented.

Max reached for his coffee on the table then sat back and cradled the mug close with a thoughtful expression. He swallowed some and began to speak. "I have a theory. She said that the reason our alien personalities didn't take over was because we'd formed emotional bonds to humans, and further qualified that by saying that Isabel and Vilandra fought a lot while Isabel was estranged from Alex, but implied that Vilandra was dormant for a long time then, once Izzy and Alex started getting close again. What if the reason that you didn't feel Rath at all, Michael, was because you never let go enough of Maria?"

Damn, maybe it would come to that. Maria started talking before Michael could orchestrate his thoughts. "Much as I like your theory, Max," she winked saucily and Michael groaned inwardly, "I have another idea. When Tess showed, Isabel and Alex were only just starting to get involved, for one thing, so it was probably easier for her to interrupt their bond. And she was gunning for you, so of course she was doing everything in her power to break yours with Liz. But Michael seemed to be falling in line." Maria glanced at him. "You broke things off with me, and while you weren't getting together with Isabel, you didn't deny that you might have to at some point. I know that you and Tess spent time together that summer working on your powers. You'd always been the one that wanted answers, more than the other two, and you and Max weren't getting along because you wanted to move things forward and claim most of your alien destiny, whereas he wanted no part of it."

"So what you're saying is, to Tess's eyes it looked like Rath had already integrated with Michael, so she didn't bother trying to wake him up," Liz leaned forward.

"Exactly. And by the time she realized that Michael was just himself, he and I were back together and she—had her hands full with Alex. And Max," Maria added quietly.

"And then you two became physically intimate," Liz drew out the words, like they triggered something in her mind.

"What does that have to do with anything?" Michael wanted to know. He shifted in the chair. His sex life wasn't something even he and Maria talked about much, and she was the reason he had one in the first place.

"I'm just thinking about the timing of when Khivar tried to take Isabel: right after her wedding. Not before she got married, but before she consummated the relationship. I think he needed her to be a virgin to be able to connect with Vilandra inside her, because sex would seal the emotional bond between Isabel and her human partner, meaning that Khivar wouldn't have a foothold anymore."

"You're saying that we don't have to worry about Rath waking up since he was dormant when Michael lost his virginity, and now there's nothing that can reach him. He's like this dead growth in Michael's brain," Maria elaborated.

"Nice imagery," he snorted. "How does this help Max?"

"It means that I don't have to worry about you turning into someone else, who I might not be able to trust," Max smiled briefly. "Michael's right, though, it doesn't really help my situation."

"Why not? If you and Liz—oh, you already…never mind," Maria blushed furiously, a phenomenon Michael had never seen before. She was usually too self-possessed to show any embarrassment. "I'm sorry, Max."

"It's all right, Maria. We have to talk about it if we're going to figure out how to stop it. I can't rely on Liz's lungs all the time, and I can't not sleep, either. But Liz and I getting physically closer isn't the answer, because she already has that foothold," he kept his eyes trained on the floor as he spoke.

It took Michael a minute to figure out that the "she" with the foothold was Tess, not Liz. So far Max had avoided all mention of Tess's name, which was not a good thing in Michael's book. He didn't shy away from hearing other people say it, but that wasn't enough. It worried Michael. He sighed heavily.

"I hate to even bring this up, but Tess did give you a lot of information. Is there some way we could rig this so that you could get more from her?"

Liz shook her head vehemently and Max's hand swept out, cutting the air in a gesture of absolute negation. "No way. She was far too interested in Liz. If she mindwalked me again, I'm positive that she'd pull Liz in too, and…it's not going to happen, Michael. I won't allow that."

"Interested in Liz?" Maria cocked her head in bewilderment.

Max looked at Liz. "You left out that part?"

She nodded slightly and he pulled her close, cradling her head against his chest, then focused on Maria, considering his words. "She involved Liz in the process and—kissed her, afterwards."

"She tasted like your blood," Liz grimaced. Max stroked her hair and the long, tangled strands fell forward to obscure her face.

"From those scratches that turned out to be real?" Maria intuited and Max nodded. Michael felt an unpleasant lurch in his stomach and willingly grasped Maria's hand when she reached out from the chair beside him. Eating plain old toast had definitely been a good idea this morning.

"That's the part that really worries me," Liz's voice was muffled. "That she could affect Max's physical body from such a distance. I mean she could kill him, and we wouldn't even know till it was too late. There'd be no way to help him."

"Except Isabel," Michael said pensively. "She could get us in there at least."

"Could Isabel do anything? She told me once that she couldn't affect what was happening, just watch," Maria remarked.

"I don't know that she's ever tried to do anything but watch," Max reflected after a moment. "Usually her goal is to get a feel for what's going on in the person's mind, so she may very well be able to do more than that."

"The only way to find out is to have her try," Michael shrugged. "What time do her classes finish today?"

"Four o'clock, I think," Man answered.

"Wait a minute," Liz pushed her hair behind her ear. "Whether or not Isabel can affect the physical world during her own dreamwalking may not shed any light on whether she can do it inside Tess's mindwalk. It may be that the environment that Tess's mind creates is what allows the bleed through into reality. So in turn, that could mean that all of us or none of us could also have a physical effect."

"One step at a time, Parker. Let's call Iz's cell and get her over here later, and we can try it out with a regular dreamwalk. Once we know that, we can talk about how things might be different in Tess's twisted mental landscape," Michael's lip curled derisively.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Did it work?" Isabel's voice drifted sleepily and Maria glanced over then returned to regarding the impressively red handprint decorating Michael's left cheek.

"Yep. You're sure it's not a teachable ability, right?" she quipped.

"Sorry, hereditary," Isabel smiled as she sat up. She espied Michael and grimaced. "I guess I didn't need to worry about not having slapped him hard enough."

"Should we wake him?" Liz asked.

"Better give him a few minutes to virtually cool down first," Max advised with a half smile.

"Nah, don't bother. He knew what he was getting into," Maria grinned. She reached out, shaking Michael's shoulder. "Hey there!"

He stirred and opened his eyes, grimacing. "Jesus, Isabel, that stings. Clearly it worked."

"Let Max fix it," Liz suggested. Michael looked at her then at Maria, and Maria gave him an encouraging little smile. It would be good for Max to exercise that power right now.

"Maxwell?"

"Yeah, sit up, okay?" Max knelt beside Michael, who hauled himself into a sitting position from where he'd been reclining on the floor, having insisted that Isabel take the couch. Max placed his hand on Michael's cheek and the edges of the existing handprint glowed silver for a few seconds before it disappeared.

"Thanks, man," Michael nodded. Max smiled and clapped his shoulder then rose and sat in the now-empty place beside his sister.

"We know it worked. Now we need to figure out how the variables might change when Tess is involved," Liz spoke up.

"You're getting ahead of yourself, Parker. Fact is, I don't think it will change anything if she's there," Michael said bluntly.

"Why not?"

"It felt different," Isabel explained. "It had a—I don't know, there was a kind of electric quality to the environment, and Michael and I were completely aware of each other at all times. It felt like we were standing right here; it's just that we knew we weren't."

Maria caught the note of fear in Isabel's voice. She must not have been the only one since Max laid a comforting hand on Isabel's arm. Apparently Isabel shared the ability to mindwalk. Did that mean she could mindwarp, too, or was it because mindwalking was some weird blend of the two abilities that she could access it? What were the implications if she could mindwarp?

"So it felt real, like it was actually happening in real time?" Liz questioned, her eyes flickering between Michael and Isabel.

"Yeah," he agreed. "If I hadn't known going into it that it was only in my head, I would've been completely fooled. And the damn slap sure felt real!"

Liz and Max exchanged a haunted look, and Maria realized that that was how they'd been trapped in there for so long: neither one had known it wasn't real. "Um, Liz? How did you guys figure out it was fake?"

"Tess kept saying something about Max bringing me with him. Since we were still in Michael's room, as far as I knew we hadn't gone anywhere, so I asked when she'd come back to Earth. I figured she'd answer since she was being all—gloating, and that," she stumbled over the words. "That's when she said that humans don't remember it and she planned to alter Max's memories. I took a chance that my powers meant my brain was different enough to allow me to remember, and it worked."

Left unspoken was the gratitude that it had worked, but they all felt it as the room grew silent for a few minutes. Finally Michael cleared his throat.

"Okay, we've established that Iz can do this mindwalk thing too. I vote that we take the fight to Tess, tonight. She's probably tired from reaching all that distance yesterday; we should be able to catch her off guard."

"What? Catch her off guard for what, Michael?" Isabel berated him, her anger thinly veiling her fear at what she thought he was asking her to do. He looked at her sympathetically then locked eyes with Max. Maria could see their friend's painful acknowledgement before the words even left Michael's mouth.

"To kill her."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"He's finally asleep," Maria reported, closing the door to Michael's bedroom behind her. She held clothing hung over one arm, which she handed to Jesse as she joined the group. He and Kyle had joined them a few hours ago, when they had all developed their plan of action.

"There are two sets here, Maria," Jesse pointed out, puzzled.

"Yeah, the other one is for Liz," she nodded. Maria crossed her arms over her stomach; she didn't even want to think about the words long enough to force them out of her throat, but she had to explain. "We had a chat earlier—a fairly detailed chat. There's um, reason to believe that she'll be in a similar position as Max."

"This just gets sicker and sicker," Kyle snarled. "Okay, so then I'll cut Max loose while Maria gets Liz, and Jesse can help us get them dressed while Michael and Isabel deal with Tess."

"Sounds good. Um, there's one other thing you guys need to know. The dream or whatever will last as long as we need it to last. Liz took a sleeping pill," she confessed.

"She what? Maria, she could get trapped in there if something goes wrong! She could be killed!" Michael exclaimed.

"Liz knows that, Michael. She considered it worth the risk," Maria ran a nervous hand through her hair.

"How did she even get it? Michael doesn't keep anything like that around," Isabel wondered.

"I brought some," Kyle stated.

"You're just full of assistance every time Liz needs something, aren't you?" Michael said cuttingly.

"Hey, Michael, calm down, all right? You'd do the same, even for Maria or Isabel, and so would I. We're all in this together, okay?" Jesse soothed, placing his hand on Michael's arm.

He nodded sullenly. Maria stepped closer and he crushed her against him, hugging her so tightly she could hardly breathe. She didn't protest, simply squeezed back for as long as he needed her. At length Michael released her.

"Sorry, Valenti," he muttered, sincerely enough for all that the apology was gruff.

"Don't sweat it, Guerin. The new guy's got it right: we've all got to watch each others' backs," Kyle shrugged it off. Maria smiled at the look of bashful pleasure that the remark engendered on Jesse's face.

"Okay then. I've got all the photographs I need. If we can all get into comfortable positions, I'll get started. Michael, as we discussed, I'll take you in first since you've got the firepower. Kyle, I'll take you second. In case your powers suddenly appear you can provide back up if Michael needs any. Or plain old physical back up, since you're the fastest and you might also have a psychological edge. Maria, you'll be next and Jesse, I'll take you last before I step all the way in," Isabel outlined tersely.

Maria didn't quite understand the mechanics of how Isabel planned to do all this, but she, Michael and Max had worked it out earlier in the evening. Somehow she planned to use Liz's dream state as a jumping point to get into Tess's mind. Liz and Max were supposed to focus on their connection to each other and Max's connection to Tess, to make sure that they were all in the same place when the rest of the group launched their attack. There were a million questions running through Maria's brain as she settled close to Michael on the floor and pulled a blanket over her, holding her knife so tightly her knuckles were probably white. Having the physical objects on their persons would make Isabel's job easier, since she wouldn't need to visualize it all from scratch.

"Everyone ready?" Isabel's question wafted through the room.

Michael answered first, his voice laced with the same protective acid that often characterized Isabel's speech. "Beyond ready, Iz. Let's go get our brother."










posted on 28-Sep-2002 1:23:32 AM
elizibeth So, something along the lines of Tess feels Max is her property, and since he loves Liz, then Liz and anything belonging to Liz--like a baby--would also belong to Tess in her own mind. Definitely an interesting idea, and I think she would feel that way.
hugs, Tas
posted on 30-Sep-2002 6:29:46 PM
Whoo! We are winding down. Well, at least with respect to how many chapters are left LOL!*big* And a GINORMOUS smooch to RosDeidre, without whom this chapter would not exist.*happy* Thanks, babe!
hugs, Tas

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
FROM CHAPTER 18

"Okay then. I've got all the photographs I need. If we can all get into comfortable positions, I'll get started. Michael, as we discussed, I'll take you in first since you've got the firepower. Kyle, I'll take you second. In case your powers suddenly appear you can provide back up if Michael needs any. Or plain old physical back up, since you're the fastest and you might also have a psychological edge. Maria, you'll be next and Jesse, I'll take you last before I step all the way in," Isabel outlined tersely.

Maria didn't quite understand the mechanics of how Isabel planned to do all this, but she, Michael and Max had worked it out earlier in the evening. Somehow she planned to use Liz's dream state as a jumping point to get into Tess's mind. Liz and Max were supposed to focus on their connection to each other and Max's connection to Tess, to make sure that they were all in the same place when the rest of the group launched their attack. There were a million questions running through Maria's brain as she settled close to Michael on the floor and pulled a blanket over her, holding her knife so tightly her knuckles were probably white. Having the physical objects on their persons would make Isabel's job easier, since she wouldn't need to visualize it all from scratch.

"Everyone ready?" Isabel's question wafted through the room.

Michael answered first, his voice laced with the same protective acid that often characterized Isabel's speech. "Beyond ready, Iz. Let's go get our brother."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

*****NEW CHAPTER 19*****


Fog. Or was it mist? Did it matter? There was a haze over everything, muffling it. Liz gradually became aware of others in the mist, hearing their voices. Maria was close by.

"Damn, girl, with as uncooperative as you're being, it's a good thing your hair is long enough to cover some important parts or we might make it through this just for Max to put Kyle's eyes out for seeing you half naked."

Important parts? Liz thought fuzzily as she became enveloped in warmth, not having realized that she was cold until the sensation had faded. She inhaled deeply; the warmth had a familiar, comforting smell. Obediently she held her arms out so Maria could roll up the enormously long sleeves.

Liz squinted at a band of glowing green bisecting an approaching patch of darkness in an attempt to bring it into focus. Her vision cleared some and the shadowy blob resolved itself into a charcoal sweatshirt with a reflective horizontal racing stripe. Floating above the gray was a dark head, with eyes she knew at once.

"Max!" She flung herself at him and he caught her easily, holding her tight.

The fog rolled back in, obscuring everything except the man in her arms. His scent rose around her and Liz matched it to the one permeating the sweatshirt she wore. Not hers, then, but his. She smiled against his shoulder.

"You shouldn't have done that, Liz. We don't know what kind of effect sleep medication could have on your system now," Max chastised her gently.

"Was important," she insisted sharply.

He sighed. "I know, but mmm," the flow of words halted as Liz pressed her lips to his. She could feel his startlement and initial resistance, but Max quickly relaxed into her kiss, opening his mouth for her tongue. Liz tried to communicate the reasoning behind her actions, alongside the immense relief and love she felt. Speech was difficult at the moment, an unexpected casualty of the drug running through her system. Max's arms tightened around her as he received her message and slowly they came up for air.

"I guess I don't need to ask if you're okay," Maria's laughter broke their misty isolation.

"Yeah, I'm good. Nothing happened before Michael showed up. She was just—undressing, when he tossed her across the room and knocked her out. Virtually, anyway, since she didn't disappear," Max commented pensively. Liz had the sense that the two of them were surrounded by people, though she couldn't see anyone else from her current position cradled to Max's chest. She didn't need to; their relief mirrored her own. It was a palpable force in the air.

"Evans, I'm sorry but I just gotta ask. Were you possessed when you bought that monstrosity of a track suit? I think the stripe is blinding me." Kyle's bright sarcasm cut through the heaviness, lightening the tension.

Max chuckled. "It was a Christmas present from my grandmother. I know it's an eyesore, but it's really soft so I wear it anyway. Just at home, though."

Blindly, Liz slipped her hands down to his waist and her fingers found his skin under the velvet embrace of the fleece. "Soft," she confirmed. She smiled as everyone laughed.

"Would that by any chance be the same grandmother that still gives Isabel dolls?" Jesse inquired with an audible smile.

"Dolls?" Maria echoed in disbelief.

"They are special edition collector's items, Jesse," Isabel said primly.

"They're Barbies, Isabel. I have never felt like such a dirty old man as on Christmas morning at your parents, when you unwrapped a Barbie doll!"

Kyle howled in laughter, and Michael was almost as overcome with mirth. The rest of them remained a little more in control, but even Max's deep rumbles made themselves known.

"You're not that old, Jesse. Besides, Grandma will be giving her those at least until you have a daughter old enough to play with regular Barbies," Max informed him.

"I've never seen any dolls at your place except the porcelain one on the mantel. Where do you keep them all?" Maria wanted to know.

"They're in a display cabinet in the guest bedroom," Jesse laughed.

"Ah, the one place we didn't paint." Michael heaved a long-suffering sigh.

"Oh no you don't, Michael. I know how you and Max painted the apartment now," Jesse scolded. "It wasn't nearly that hard!"

"Clearly you've never painted with Isabel, by roller or powers. Waiting for her to make up her mind about color is exhausting. At least for me; Max seems to have similar decorating tendencies," Michael said loftily.

"Because I can tell the difference between two different shades of white? Please," Max retorted.

"Even I can do that," Kyle quipped.

"Yeah, don't blame Max because you have color deficiencies," Isabel teased Michael.

The lighthearted bickering continued around her and Liz basked in it, vibrations echoing all through her whenever Max spoke or laughed. She felt as though she and Max were encased in total warmth, so much that she wouldn't have been particularly surprised to open her eyes and find the two of them glowing. It reverberated back and forth between them, building inside Max until it felt like the energy must burst from his skin, it was so vast. No, not energy, Liz realized: emotion. And not just any emotion. Love.

In her mind, she could see it clearly, the shimmering air blanketing Max, enveloping him; armoring him with the strength he needed, enough to withstand anything. Armoring her, too, and touching each member of this ragtag group of people with a little bit of magic. Protecting this unconventional family.

As if it had been waiting for Liz to connect the dots, the fog clouding her mind lifted, leaving her with a sharp clarity. Clarity that acquired a focus when a panicked voice shouted from the far corner of the room, and Liz turned in Max's arms to confront the enemy.

"What are you doing to me?" Tess cried.

She was on her knees, contained within a brilliant glow, and her face twisted in fear and rage when she saw that the whole group faced her. Before Liz, Max or anyone standing with them could formulate the words, someone else answered, his voice soaring through the now still air.

"They're not doing anything to you, Tess. You did it to yourself."

The small blonde flinched away. "What do you mean?" she demanded. Even kneeling, held by the mysterious light, her arrogance remained intact.

"You sense the emotion in the room, but you cannot feel it. All that love… It's trying to touch you and it can't, because there's nothing left to touch," the disembodied stranger told her. Or was he a stranger? Something in the unfamiliar dulcet tones pulled at Liz's memory.

"Love?" Tess snorted scornfully. "That's rich. You're telling me that 'the power of love' is what's going to kill me?" She laughed, more than a little hysterically.

A sigh of deep sadness filled their ears, quieting Tess's hysteria. "No. The nature of your deception has engineered your own destruction, by the beauty of an elemental truth. Love is truth, Tess, and the bonds between these people shall illuminate and annihilate all the lies. They will strip you bare until only the truth remains."

"Uh-huh," she drawled in derision. "And just what truth is it that will remain, O Wise One?"

"That you're human."

Tess recoiled from the soft pronouncement. "No. No, I'm not. I'm Antarian, damn it! Humanity is a weakness!"

"Humanity will become your only strength."

Blue eyes narrowed in suspicion. "What do you mean by that? Quit talking in riddles!"

The stranger kept silent and Liz found her voice at last, comprehension flooding through her mind in a wash of sheer knowledge. "It means no more mindwarps, Tess. No dreamwalking, no mindwalking, no telekinesis. No alien powers at all."

Utter panic flared in the petite alien. "But Khivar will kill me if I'm just a plain human!"

Kyle coughed, jumping into the conversation. "That's your problem, Tess. You could have been a part of this. I thought you were a part of it. Your own double-crossing ways are what turned you into a monster. Maybe as a 'mere human' you can understand and someday, even atone." A malicious little smile appeared on his lips. "If, you know, Khivar does let you live."

Tess sputtered in rage and Isabel stepped forward, remarking caustically, "I believe that we're done with you now, Tess Harding. Enjoy what's left of your life."

Tess struggled to her feet and the two blonde aliens faced each other. One had been a Queen in her former life; the other had been a Princess. Looking at them now, only the taller woman had the regal bearing of royalty, her spine ramrod straight as she regarded her one-time friend haughtily. But beneath that icy steel was the fire of a warm, giving heart, and it was the protective instincts of a sister, not the royal obligations of a Princess, that made Isabel raise her hand, flicking her wrist sideways in a dismissive gesture that would have looked silly on someone less stunningly beautiful. And just like that, Tess melted away, her link to Max dissolved forever.

The spell holding them all immobile dissolved with her and almost everyone began to jabber excitedly, wondering about the enigmatic voice. Liz did not speak. She saw what the others didn't: a speck of light growing on the spot where Tess had knelt, resolving into the form of a human male. A tall man, his short hair flipped up in front, an easy smile on his generous lips and in his dark eyes as he approached.

"Alex," Liz choked, her tears falling freely. The others turned as one, voices stilling as eyes found their friend. The one who had been part of their family in life; a bond that apparently extended past death, and had called him here to pass judgment on his murderer.

"Hey, Lizzie," Alex's voice was richer than it had been, but not as ringing and authoritative as he had sounded a few minutes ago, without a body.

"I've missed you!" she cried, hugging him tightly. She could feel Maria joining them, flinging her arms around them both, and it made Liz laugh even through her tears.

"My girls. I've missed you too," he smiled. "This feels so familiar. Which is odd, because I'm not used to feeling much of anything anymore. Corporeally speaking, that is."

"You feel real, and you look the same but you sound a little different," Maria sniffed.

"Yeah. It's pretty impressive, huh? I rather like it," Alex grinned and she laughed. Maria and Liz let go and Alex looked around at the rest of the group.

"Kyle, you still singing?" he asked. Kyle shook his head with a smile.

"No, man. Maria's the only one with a shot at a recording contract. I restrict myself to the shower and alien crystal caves."

"Probably a good idea. I'm sure it's not the same without my harmony," Alex joked.

"No, it's not," Kyle agreed softly. Alex nodded, his smile faltering a little, and turned his attention to Michael.

"And what about you? How's the art going? You're into acrylics paintings now, I think, and computer graphics."

Michael's expression reflected his shock at the question. "Uh, good, it's going good. Really good." He scowled at the accusing looks from the rest of the room. "What? I have to tell you guys everything?"

Alex stepped forward then, extending a hand to Jesse. Jesse stared at it for a moment then accepted it, pumping it in a strong grip.

"It's good to meet you," Jesse acknowledged. "We appreciate your help today."

"I didn't do much. No more than the rest of you. Take care of each other," he murmured, and they all knew the entreaty had a second meaning, especially as Alex moved in front of Isabel.

Her actions mirrored Liz's. Isabel threw her arms around him and held on for dear life. Alex returned her hug and patted her back, gently extricating himself. He reached out to cup Isabel's cheek, wet with tears.

"Be happy, Iz. That's all I want." His own eyes sparkled with moisture. "And no blaming yourself. None of it was your fault. Tess was responsible, and she can't hurt any of you anymore."

Isabel nodded silently. Alex pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead and stepped away.

"That goes doubly for you, Max," he said firmly. "You were her target right from the beginning, but that doesn't mean you have to stay a victim."

"I know." A smile ghosted across Max's lips. "I have everything I need to heal, right here." His eyes found Liz and her throat clenched at the love she saw there. Alex followed his gaze and grinned. He enfolded Max in a brief hug and clapped his shoulder. "Smart man."

Liz waited with Maria, watching until Alex finally turned to his best friends in the world. They caught each other in another three-way hug, a little apart from the others. Alex tweaked Maria's nose, making her giggle. He looked at her seriously.

"It's safe to love him, Chiquita banana. He gave up everything he thought he'd wanted since he was born to be with you. He won't give you up unless you force him to. Don't. Let him in; let him make you happy. You both deserve that."

Maria nodded. "I was getting there on my own, Alex. You're right."

"Of course! I believe that I could even say, I told you so," he winked and Maria choked on a laugh. Liz didn't understand the reference but it didn't matter as Alex placed his hands on her shoulders and gave her a light shake.

"And you! What am I going to do with you, Parker? I go away and suddenly you're drinking and taking drugs," he smiled to take some of the sting out of the words.

"I'm sorry," Liz whispered, feeling ashamed of herself. She, who had always been the strong one, had finally crumbled under the pressure.

"Hey, no, none of that now. It's okay to not be able to handle it alone, Liz. Just make sure you ask for help. I think there's a guy over there who loves you deeply and would be only too happy to give you anything you needed," Alex's smile broadened and Liz couldn't help but smile back, her heart lifting.

"Except, even he can't do this." Alex flattened his hand on her stomach and a fiery heat blazed for thirty seconds and died, taking with it the tuggings and stirrings that Liz had been subject to since her first encounter with alcohol. He removed his hand. "No more, okay?"

"I promise," she vowed.

"That's my girl." He kissed her cheek. Liz stepped back and Max put his arm around her, as Alex walked to the other side of the room, standing where he had first appeared.

"Time to go, I'm afraid," he smiled, wistful.

"Will we ever see you again?" Isabel asked tearfully.

Alex shook his head. "No, this was special. Unfinished business. And one hell of a strong emotional pull!" he grinned.

Liz watched as his form began to shimmer and grow transparent, and then one hand resolidified, its finger pointing straight at Max.

"Man, Kyle was right. That thing is blinding, even to non-corporeal eyes," Alex declared, laughter in his voice. A thin stream of light pulsed from his fingertip, striking Max in the chest. The hideous green stripe changed, transforming to a pearlescent white.

"Much better," his gleeful voice echoed as he disappeared, and then the room disappeared with him as Alex ended the mindwalk.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Liz rolled onto her back, disentangling her limbs from Max's. She opened her eyes and blinked against the overhead light, seeing that while she and Max had woken in the same place where they had begun, the others had been transported into a loose semi-circle around Michael's bed. Beside her, Max stirred as well, reaching for her hand and lacing their fingers together.

"Wow," Jesse breathed out, and the single word encompassed how they all felt.

"I was so not expecting that," Maria blurted. "Especially with Alex." Liz smiled as her best friend's gaze sought and held Michael's.

No one wanted to ask what was supposed to happen now, though Liz knew they were all thinking it. Abruptly Kyle cleared his throat.

"Michael, you still have that illegal black box for the TV?" he asked casually.

"Yeah. Why, you going to report me to your dad so he can make his first collar when he gets his job back?"

Kyle laughed. "Hardly. I was thinking more along the lines of finding some kind of game to watch. I'm not real sleepy now."

"There were a couple of hockey games on tonight; I'm sure someone is replaying them," Michael nodded, a note of excitement in his voice. They went to leave the circle and then Kyle turned back, an ironic smile playing over his lips.

"Evans, you coming?"

Liz felt Max start in surprise. He concealed it, even as Jesse held out a hand.

"Come on, you can be a buffer between me and the fanatics. I'm more of a football guy."

Max took Jesse's hand, allowing his brother-in-law to help him to his feet, and Liz noticed that instead of the T-shirt and shorts he'd gone to sleep in, Max wore the charcoal track suit with a white stripe across the chest. Marked by yet another world. He glanced back, giving her a little smile, then exited the room with the other men, remarking, "Just ask Michael a question. He can spew out more information and statistics than you could possibly want to know."

The sounds of friendly arguing and sportscasters' commentaries drifted into the bedroom through the still-open door, and Liz was hard pressed to hold in the tears. Just like that, Max was one of the guys. No quibbling, no shying away, no questioning of his masculinity because of what Tess had done to him. It was more than she had expected, and the gesture would go a long way towards his healing.

"Come here," Isabel smiled, her own eyes wet. She sat on the bed and opened her arms for Liz, pulling her into a hug. The generic one yesterday notwithstanding, it was the first hug Liz could ever remember receiving from the tall blonde woman. As she caught sight of the wry smile on Maria's face, Liz clued in to why Alex had said, "I told you so" and she felt her mouth stretching in a smile that matched her best friend's.

They had all survived this time.








posted on 2-Oct-2002 9:22:36 PM
sablaine et al--no, that wasn't the end. There are 2 more chapters yet.*happy*

Araxie LOL no it's hardly wrong to want to see Tess suffer. But pre-meditated murder--which is what it would have been, had they killed her in the mindwalk--isn't a level that any of them need to sink to, Max especially.*wink*

Glad you guys enjoyed Alex! That was an unexpected twist for me too LOL--he wrote himself in at 3 a.m. last Saturday night.*big*
hugs, Tas
posted on 19-Oct-2002 11:09:26 AM
I forgot to post that I went on vacation! Sorry about that. I expect to have the next chapter up by Sunday night.*happy*
hugs, Tas
posted on 20-Oct-2002 12:32:01 AM
Penultimate chapter, folks! I know, I can't believe there's only one more after this, either. It's been a crazy ride!*big* In two posts for length.
hugs, Tas

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
*****NEW Chapter 20*****

The door swung open and Isabel welcomed them in with a smile. Maria glanced at Michael, who didn't seem fazed in the slightest by his sort of sister's apparent about-face. She guessed that he was used to her many incarnations. With an internal smile, Maria thought that maybe dealing with someone as changeable as Isabel for so long had primed Michael for a relationship with herself.

"Hey, guys. I'm glad you decided to come. Max and Liz stayed home, eh?" Jesse poked his head in from the kitchen.

"The insane man over there is actually barbecuing on the patio, so please excuse the occasional gust of frigid wind," Isabel said dryly as she hung up their jackets and escorted them into the living room.

"Isabel, you're a wimp! It's almost spring, and winter in New Mexico is not exactly cold compared to New England," he called back and they heard the door bang as he went outside.

"What's he barbecuing?" Michael wanted to know, helping himself to the finger sandwiches on the coffee table as he sat down.

"Steak. And yes, I told him that you like it practically raw," she wrinkled her nose and Michael grinned.

"Yum! I'm glad we came then."

"Michael! That is not the only reason we came, so you could stuff your face," Maria scolded him, aghast at his rudeness. Then she noticed that Isabel was laughing too. Clearly this was an old argument.

"Don't worry, Maria, I know him only too well," Isabel winked at her. "Let me get you some punch."

"Okay," she agreed. Maria accepted the glass of frothy pink stuff and sipped it gingerly, hoping that Isabel didn't experiment like her mother. Finding it good, she smiled and settled back in the corner of the couch, uncharacteristically silent while she watched Michael and Isabel trade barbed comments like old pros. Who were these people? She'd never seen them so relaxed together. And then it dawned on her that she hadn't seen them interact in a non-combat situation before. This was the true relationship they had had all these years, and it looked an awful lot like the one Isabel had with Max.

"I'll be ready in about two minutes. Iz, would you put everything else out now, please?" Jesse's request blew into the room on a breath of cold air and Isabel rolled her eyes, rising from the chair.

"Can we do something to help?" Maria asked, ignoring Michael's dirty look for volunteering him, too.

"Um, sure. Michael, if you would pour out the water at the table, and Maria, come with me into the kitchen. You can get the bread out of the oven for me," she smiled as the two of them walked.

Maria inhaled deeply as she sliced the hot bread. "Mmm, Isabel, this is one of my favorite foods."

The other woman smiled at her. "Michael told me. I'll show you where I bought it. The bakery does up the loaves; all ready to just stick in the oven and bake. I get them all the time."

"Sounds like my idea of heaven," she sighed happily and they both laughed.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"You're cheating."

"Michael, I am so not cheating," Isabel protested. "I don't need to cheat at poker with you."

"She's right, we're getting creamed without any need of alien assistance," Maria interjected.

"That's because he's a lawyer, and she's a lawyer's daughter," Michael grumbled. "See this is why I don't play cards with Max anymore, because he always kicks my ass."

"You're a poor loser," Isabel told him. He made a face at her, denying the allegation, and she stuck her tongue out in return. Michael saw Maria and Jesse exchange glances, eyebrows raised at the juvenile behavior.

"Do we need to separate you two?" Maria asked, a wobble of laughter in her voice.

"Nah. I quit; this sucks," Michael flashed a smile and tossed his cards on the table. Isabel rolled her eyes but followed suit, knowing a lost cause when she saw one. Maria glared briefly then shrugged. She obviously didn't know what to make of him tonight. It was kind of gratifying, being the nutcase for a change.

"Well, if we're not going to play cards anymore then I vote we celebrate," Jesse smiled. He winked and rose, exiting the room. Michael could hear the tinkling sounds of glass in the kitchen, and then a loud pop. He frowned. That wasn't what it sounded like, was it?

It was. Jesse returned in a few minutes, carefully balancing four liquid-filled champagne flutes and an open, half-empty bottle of sparkling wine. The one he handed to Michael had larger bubbles fizzing to the top of the glass.

"Uh, Jesse," he hated to admit that he couldn't drink alcohol.

"Yours is ginger ale, Michael. I know about your intolerance," Jesse smiled easily.

Intolerance. That sounded a lot more manly than not being able to hold his liquor. "But Iz—"

"Doesn't have the same problem," Isabel cut in smoothly with a superior smile.

"You're not serious," Michael protested. That seemed way too unfair.

"Oh, yeah. She can only have about two drinks before she's plastered, but it's plain old, normal drunk," Jesse explained cheerfully. "I knew a lot of girls in college who had about the same level of tolerance."

"You did, did you?" Isabel's voice held a dangerous edge and her husband merely grinned and kissed her briefly.

"Well, I the human female contingent feel pretty happy after two glasses myself," Maria chimed in. She took an appreciative sip of her wine. "Particularly when it's fizzy."

Fine. Michael was surrounded by lushes. "So, what are we celebrating? Besides your contribution to the delinquency of minors."

"Ah, Michael, you're too young to be so cynical. We are celebrating life! The fact that we are all alive today after what happened last night is worth a little rule-bending, don't you think?"

Well, yeah, but he wasn't going to admit it out loud. "Okay, I can drink to being alive."

"I want to drink to Isabel, for being our anchor and finding a way to not be helpless," Maria raised her glass with a big smile. Michael noticed the tears shimmer in Isabel's eyes and knew that he'd missed something, somewhere.

"Well, I want to drink to Liz, for being there for my brother, and for not doing what we're doing anymore," Isabel said firmly. "She's stronger than she thinks."

"Here, here," Maria nodded. "Also to Kyle and Jim, who are doing their own family thing tonight and couldn't be here."

"And since Michael stole being alive, I would like to toast Alex. For all his help in this life and the next, and for teaching my wife that it was okay to love," Jesse finished the round and they all drained their glasses. Maria and Isabel looked like they were going to cry and Michael braced himself for an unpleasantly weepy evening. Then he decided, why should he endure that? It was a nice sentiment and all, but they'd all already done their crying for Alex, and Michael had a feeling that their skinny, goofy friend wouldn't appreciate another mass breakdown.

"Jesse, man, put on some tunes," he requested. The other man gave him a grateful smile and went to the stereo. Michael smirked; apparently he wasn't the only one who didn't want to be stuck with a couple of waterfalls all night.

"I. LOVE. This. Song," Maria squealed. She sprang out of her chair and dragged Isabel up with her, and in no time at all the two women were laughing and dancing as if they hadn't a care in the world. He could only blink in amazement.

"Looks a bit odd, doesn't it?" Jesse observed beside him as he poured another glass of sparkling wine for himself.

Michael snorted. "You have no idea. Three years ago Isabel freaked Maria out so badly she rear-ended Sheriff Valenti, before he was on our side."

"Really?" Jesse laughed. "I have a hard time picturing Isabel as scary."

He glanced over, returning Jesse's smile. "Well, you've made it through Christmas with her already and if you still don't think she's scary, then I'd say you're a perfect match."

"Well, maybe a little scary," he confessed and they both laughed.

Several hours later, Michael found himself coerced into dancing with the other three. The only sober partier, he discovered that as bad as he danced, he currently had the best-looking rhythm going, which amused him to no end. Maria had vanished momentarily, and as she reappeared at his elbow she pressed a phone into his hand.

"Yeah?" Michael spoke into the receiver.

"Michael?"

"Hey, Max, what's up?" His stomach clenched; was something wrong?

"You tell me. I just answered the phone!" Max laughed, and Michael relaxed.

"Maria must have dialed and passed it off so that you didn't think she and Isabel were checking up on you two," he ignored the dirty look Maria sent his way.

"You can tell them we're fine. Liz piled blankets in front of the TV and we rifled your DVD collection. She's unimpressed with your lack of chick flicks. She got bored and turned on MTV," he chuckled.

"Yeah, that lack's not going to change anytime soon. Next time she should bring her own."

"I'm sure she will. Or I might even volunteer to rent one, just so I don't have to listen to her whine. Oh, that got me the look of death!" There were scuffling sounds and Michael heard Liz's voice scolding Max. She had a hard time sounding appropriately angry because she kept giggling. Staying home had obviously been a good choice for them; they both seemed a lot more relaxed.

"What are you guys doing, Michael? The music is pretty loud."

Did he want to answer that truthfully? "Uh, dancing, actually."

"Excuse me?"

"Well, let's just say that if we were planning to go anywhere, I'd be the designated driver, hands down. Comparatively speaking, right now I'm looking a lot like John Travolta. The best part is, it doesn't matter how badly I humiliate myself because none of them are going to even remember it in the morning," he said gleefully.

"Iz, too?"

"Yeah. Seems certain things were done all backwards, Maxwell. She can match Maria's admittedly low tolerance and end up just as normally looped, no funny stuff."

"That's good. It's probably for the best that we didn't come, then," Max reflected.

"Nah, Jesse said he would've given everyone the ginger ale I got if Liz had been here. No one's interested in tempting fate, Max."

"Good, that's great to hear. I—stop that, it tickles. Let me finish talking to Michael and then you can have at me," he admonished Liz. "Where was I again?"

"I don't know. Where is she?" Michael asked.

"Funny. Liz figured out that my feet are ticklish and she has no mercy." Feminine laughter echoed over the line and Michael couldn't help the broad smile that spread across his face.

"Maybe Isabel told her."

"Ha don't give her any ideas. Isabel buried me in the sand in Florida when we were kids and proceeded to sit on me and tickle my feet until I agreed to whatever she wanted. I don't even remember what that was, but I'm sure it was embarrassing."

"Well, Liz has more adult tactics available too," Michael teased without thinking. As soon as the words were out, he grimaced. Tabasco with that foot?

Contrary to Michael's expectations, Max didn't react negatively to his gaff. "Yeah, eventually she'll have a whole new arsenal. Right now all I'm worried about are my feet and my ribs—shit, I didn't mean to say that!" He started laughing, and Liz's giggles sounded a lot closer. Michael guessed she had targeted Max's ribcage for her attentions now that he'd mentioned another weak spot.

"I'll just leave you two alone." Michael's smile returned as he hung up.

"So?" Maria and Isabel were on him in an instant when he put the phone down.

"They're having a tickle fight, although I don't know that it's much of a fight since Max seems to be losing badly. Isabel, did you tell Liz about his feet?"

"Who, me?" she fluttered her eyelashes.

"That's what I thought," he snorted. Michael spotted Jesse swaying in the corner. "I think maybe we should put your husband to bed there, Iz."

She nodded and he helped Jesse walk into the bedroom, pulling the covers up over him when he curled into a ball. Michael looked around and placed the tiny garbage can roughly level with Jesse's face after taking the lid off, just in case. He didn't want to be the designated cleaner, that was for sure.




posted on 20-Oct-2002 12:33:46 AM
He came back into the living room as the two women began dancing to a lively reggae song. What little Michael could make out of the words had his eyebrows raising—something about making love with the lights on. He sat down and watched Maria's hips bounce to the heavy beat, and suddenly it wasn't only his eyebrows going up.

When the song was over, Maria whispered something to Isabel and they giggled together, then Isabel left, going into her bedroom. Maria approached Michael.

"See something you like?" she inquired archly.

"I see all kinds of things I like," he replied, pulling her onto his lap. She let out a squeal as she landed. "So, what were you and Isabel laughing about?"

"Oh, that. I said I should take you to bed," Maria leered exaggeratedly.

Michael laughed. "And what did she say?"

"Uh, don't scream and don't bang the headboard because she doesn't ever really want to know that you're having sex."

"Isabel said that?" he spluttered.

"Mmm-hmm. So, Spaceboy, wanna make wild monkey looove?" Maria batted her eyelashes. Beneath the fast-moving veil of black her eyes were clear.

"You're not really drunk, are you?" Michael clued in.

"I'm feeling a buzz, but no. I will indeed remember the Stayin' Alive attempt," she smirked.

"Any chance of bribing you to forget?"

The look she directed at him from under those eyelashes smoldered dangerously. "I think I could be persuaded, with the right bribe."

"Music to my ears," Michael growled, standing up with her form draped securely over his arms. He strode into the guest room and kicked the door shut, fastening his mouth to Maria's the second they were alone.

His take-charge mode fizzled out some when she started laughing. "Maria, what is your problem?" he asked, aggrieved.

"I can't do this with Barbie looking at me," she giggled. Michael turned around to confront the glass display case filled with Barbie dolls. Isabel hadn't been kidding about them being collector's items. Many of them had fantastical costumes, with little cards in front showing the designers' names. But Jesse had been right, too: they were definitely still Barbies. He put Maria down and yanked the extra blanket from the bottom of the bed, unfolding it and draping it over the display case, then turned back to Maria.

"Where were we?" he muttered, and kissed her. She backed up, moving towards the bed and tugging him along with her, and they fell to the soft mattress, lips still locked. Michael grew quickly impatient with the barrier of their clothing and in a matter of minutes, he had them both nude.

"Michael," Maria moaned. She could feel him, his energy humming under her skin, stronger now with arousal. She'd been able to feel him since they'd mindwalked Liz—since Alex had confirmed aloud what her heart had known all along. Her protests seemed stupid and petty now, but Maria didn't allow herself to fall into the trap of self-pity this time. It wasn't every day that an angel said he'd told her so. Sometimes people just needed that extra push, and one of her oldest friends had given it to her, as he had so many times before. The thought didn't make her sad anymore. And she understood finally why Liz had always turned around, knowing in her bones when Max had entered the room, because Michael had become Maria's own beacon.

"You taste like champagne. I like it," Michael told her. It was a delicate addition to her flavor that left his tongue tingling. Something about the effervescence suited Maria. Maybe he could find a non-alcoholic version to splash on her skin someday… He dismissed the random fantasies, preferring to concentrate on the real woman in his arms.

"Michael," she gasped when his hand slid between her thighs, his mouth traveling down her chest. "Michael, I want you to kiss me."

He smiled and moved up a little to capture her mouth, his tongue probing her recesses. She responded at first then pulled back and Michael frowned, confused.

Maria shook her head before he could ask the question. "As much as I love kissing you, I—I meant a different pair of lips." She resisted the nervous urge to close her eyes, wanting to see his reaction. His face smoothed and his eyes lit up, confirming her suspicion that he had known the reasons behind her uncertainty.

"Make me lose control, Michael. Make me scream the house down," she winked.

"You don't need to ask me twice," Michael smirked. He felt a weight lift from his heart at this tangible expression of her trust, made even lighter by the beautiful shimmers in her green gaze. He also felt an incredible bolt of lust shoot straight to his groin and he let out a faint moan as he slipped down her body.

Maria didn't hesitate, opening her legs for him. She didn't miss his low moans, either, and it excited her to know that her openness turned Michael on.

If Maria turned out to be as shameless in her responses to this as to the rest of their lovemaking, Michael was going to be one very happy man. His groin tightened painfully at her abandoned cry when he dipped his tongue in her honey. She wasn't holding anything back and it was almost more than he could bear, but he couldn't resist the challenge. Or, he admitted to himself, the opportunity to piss off Isabel.

Michael teased Maria mercilessly with lips and tongue, fingers and gentle teeth, until she writhed under his touch and he thought he might not even make it past her orgasm. Her movements and wild cries had him aching something fierce.

At length Maria reached down, needing to hold onto Michael. She twisted her fingers in his long hair, gripping tightly. She couldn't tell anymore which caresses came from his mouth and which from his hands, but she didn't care as her world splintered into scintillating rainbows of sensation, and she screamed.

As brief a scream as it was, it still had the power of her singer-trained lungs behind it and Michael had never had a rush as strong as the one he felt at hearing it. Better than the first time they had made love; better even than the first time he'd blown something up on purpose. He continued to lap at her wet skin until her body calmed and then he moved up beside her and rolled her on top of him.

Maria gladly took the hint and sheathed Michael in her warmth, stretching over him for a kiss. Not only had he wrung amazing pleasure from her, but he'd left her with a strong need to have him inside her, like immediately. She rocked her hips against his, and together they set a fast rhythm that soon had them both groaning in release.

"You are so un-fucking-believable," Michael rasped appreciatively, grinning when she laughed at him.

"Why, because I sleep with you?" Maria teased.

He laughed. "Well, yeah, but my original reason was that you treat everything like it's a new experience. It's impossible to get bored with you."

"Good to know, Spaceboy," she said lightly, but internally Maria did a little dance of triumph. His face changed, becoming thoughtful, and she asked, "What?"

Michael reached out with one hand, aiming it at the pile of clothing on the floor. Maria turned a bit to see his jeans rise off the floor and a small, square object come flying out of the pocket right into Michael's hand. She didn't get a chance to see what it was as his fingers closed around it, but it had looked sort of like a jewelry box. Intensely curious, she moved to lie beside him.

"What's in your hand, Michael?"

He licked his lips nervously. "Why don't I tell you what it isn't first?"

"Okay, what isn't it?"

"It's not an engagement ring. I am not proposing to you. Matter of fact, you and I both know that I'm not likely to ever propose to you. Which doesn't mean that I wouldn't want to marry you at some point in the future, just that it probably won't be me popping the question," he blurted out, noting her wide eyes. At least she seemed too shocked to be upset, yet.

"So then when I feel ready I'll ask you. Whatever," Maria shrugged unconcernedly. She'd managed to accept the fact that Michael was never going to be Mr. Romance. And she wasn't anywhere near being ready to get married yet anyway. Once they were getting closer, they could talk about it again.

"I mean, you know how I feel about all that stuff. I don't need a piece of paper to tell me how to feel about you."

"I know, Michael," she rubbed his chest soothingly, smiling. "So, now I know what it's not. What is it?"

"Well, just because I don't need something—tangible—doesn't mean that you don't, or that you wouldn't like something. It's all about actions, but sometimes you need that little extra or whatever." Michael cut off the flow of words before he became an even bigger idiot. From the baffled expression on Maria's face, she had no more idea of what he was talking about than he did. "Never mind, Maria. Here."

He opened his hand to reveal the jewelry box she had suspected, and then flipped up the box lid. Nestled into the black velvet was a delicate gold ring set with a heart-shaped garnet.

Her hand flew to her mouth. It was beautiful, and all the more so for being so utterly unexpected. Maria tried to control the tears that sprang to her eyes but knew she hadn't when Michael made an exasperated sound.

"Look, it's not a promise ring or whatever, either. It's…it's exactly what it looks like. Please don't make me actually say it."

His heart. She didn't need the words, not with this kind of proof in front of her. Carefully she reached for the ring and slipped it onto her left hand. It fit perfectly.

"I don't need you to say anything, Michael," Maria smiled at his relieved expression. She leaned in and kissed him. "Thank you, it's lovely."

Michael tossed the box onto the floor, grateful that she had understood. "You're welcome. Come here." He pulled her close, cushioning her head on his shoulder as he maneuvered the covers on top of them. As they relaxed together, the ring on Maria's hand sparkling redly against the pale duvet in the faint light, there came a sudden loud noise.

Maria started to laugh as the noise sounded again, and Michael realized that it was coming from the wall beside them—the one they shared with the master bedroom. A high-pitched giggle floated to his ears and he groaned.

"I really didn't want to know that Isabel had sex, either."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Having heard most of the conversation, thanks to Michael's shouting over the background music, Liz merely waited for Max to put down the phone before attacking his ribs again. He flinched away, laughing, and grabbed for her. Hauling her closer with one arm, Max used his free hand to counterattack. Liz giggled and squirmed in his arms, too intent on getting away to notice their bodies realigning. Her knees settled onto the floor, cradling Max's hips, and he froze, the laughter dying instantly.

Damn, shit, fuck… Every expletive Liz knew paraded through her head as she realized she had straddled him. The night had been going so well. They'd been careful not to touch each other too intimately, but Max hadn't shied away from their closeness at all. Until she had to go and screw it up, of course. Liz dropped her hands from his ribcage and braced herself to stand.

"No, don't go," Max gasped, his chest heaving. "Just—don't move."

"But, Max," she protested, gathering herself again. This couldn't be good for him, not so soon. His hands clasped her hips, holding her in place.

"Stay still," he implored. "Please, Liz."

Wide hazel eyes beseeched her, with something she couldn't quite read in their depths. But it was the fervent plea in his voice that stayed her movement. Liz placed her arms around Max's neck, gazing at him while he struggled to control his breathing.

After a long moment he moved, burying his face against her shoulder while his hands slid underneath her shirt and up, quickly unhooking her bra.

"Max?" she queried, startled. He didn't reply right away, but the way he simply stroked her back told her he'd been looking for comfort.

"I want—I need to just feel you. Feel you," Max emphasized roughly. As opposed to remembering how Tess felt, Liz thought to herself, her throat contracting. In answer to what she could feel radiating from him, she slipped her hands in between them, lifting both their sweaters so that bare skin touched. He relaxed into her arms with a breathless sound and she held him tightly.

Liz had no idea how long they sat like that, curled into each other's arms, rocking slightly in a soothing motion. Long enough for Max's breathing to slow to a regular pace, and for her to become aware that despite everything that had happened, his body responded to her naturally and he didn't back away from that response.

Eventually Max lifted his head, pressing a light kiss to her neck and another to her jaw before capturing Liz's lips for a brief taste. He leaned his forehead against hers, his eyes still closed.

"I love you," Max whispered. "I love you so much."

Liz couldn't speak for the tears choking her and so she rained soft kisses all over his face, feeling him smile beneath her lips. At last she found her voice, wobbly though it sounded.

"Max, why push like this? We both know it's going to take some time, and we agreed to go slow." She didn't want to sound whiny or accusing, but his obvious desire to get past this one area baffled her and she wanted it explained.

Her breath caught for an entirely different reason as Max opened his eyes, arresting her gaze immediately. The emotion shining from him glowed with intensity as he spoke huskily.

"Because, Liz Parker," Max smoothed her hair back from her forehead, a trace of humor sparkling through the love and the hunger. His eyes never left hers as he said, "Someday, I want to see every glorious inch of your body as you slide down onto me, and I intend for it to be a pure experience for both of us."

Was it completely brazen of her to want him so badly, right this instant? Liz tried to camouflage the strength of her reaction by quipping, "Who knew you were good at talking dirty?"

Max kissed her briefly and she knew that he knew how she felt. "I'm guessing that by the time I'm ready to act on those words, I'll be an expert at talking dirty," he smiled a little. "If—if that's okay. I know it's not quite fair, asking you to wait."

She shook her head firmly. "I'll wait forever, if that's what it takes. I love you, Max. There's no time limit on that. Nor on desiring you."

He smiled and rubbed his nose against hers. "He didn't come right out and say as much, but Alex was still right."

"About what?" Liz smiled back, her heart finally at peace about her old friend.

Max stroked her hair, his eyes following his fingers for a moment before he looked at her, an expression of cautious hope on his face. "We are going to be okay."









posted on 20-Oct-2002 1:54:23 PM
DreamChaser, Razz Well, I'm totally not ready to divorce myself from Rosfic yet, so I won't be going anywhere. My goal after this is to complete my long-running Dreamer fic, The Forging of a Lifebond, which kept getting put on hold for various reasons. Now I want to concentrate on it, and Full Circle, my racy M/L/Mi fic! And of course, I may stray and do some short pieces as well, just to keep myself fresh.*wink* The Roswell universe still has plenty of story potential to hold my interest, and there are still things I want to work on in my writing, which two facts nicely coincide to mean I'm still going to be writing fanfic for a while yet.*happy*

Kath Hee I totally know what you mean about the wait/no wait thing.*big*
hugs, Tas
posted on 29-Oct-2002 12:09:37 AM
And here we are, at the end!*sad* This is in 3 posts for length, followed by a freakishly long Author's Note.*wink* Enjoy.
hugs, Tas

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
*****NEW Chapter 21: CONCLUSION*****

Shouts and laughter filled the air, competing for space with dozens of flat-topped, burgundy hats. The sounds spread unimpeded as gravity reasserted itself on the solid objects, and the caps of the 2002 graduating class of West Roswell High floated down into their waiting hands.

Liz couldn't stop smiling. She wished that they hadn't had to sit in alphabetical order; she had gotten a crick in her neck from constantly craning to see Max. But now she laughed as, the ceremony over, he made his way through the crowd to catch her in his strong arms. Moments later, several friends joined them.

"Great speech, Liz. Isabel and the others have gone on to hold us a booth in the Crashdown. See you there?" Michael inquired.

"We'll be along in a minute," Max confirmed as Maria pulled Liz into a hug.

"You were the best valedictorian, Lizzie, just like I knew you would be," her teary best friend whispered.

"And you're still my wackiest friend," Liz teased, making her laugh.

"I'm going to go with Michael. I'll see you at the café," Maria wiped her eyes and left with a smile.

"Kyle, you coming with us?" Max asked.

"Yeah, I parked at the Crashdown. My dad came for the ceremony, but left me a voice mail on my pager that he had to go take a call," Kyle rolled his eyes but he was smiling. "Guess the new deputy gets all the shit jobs."

"Yeah, really," Liz laughed. She saw Max searching the crowd of spectators and his face fell a little. "I'm sure they wanted to come, Max. Maybe they left right at the end of the ceremony."

"Maybe," he shrugged it off, but Liz knew it hurt.

"The 'rents? They were here; they were sitting with my dad and Amy, who I also haven't seen since then. Could be they all left when he did," Kyle offered, showing a great deal of sensitivity. Then again, that wasn't surprising, given his many issues with his own father over the years. That was why he carried a pager now, so that there was something with which to bridge the distance when the senior Valenti got called into work.

"Thanks," Max nodded with a small smile. "Let's go."

Liz linked her fingers with Max's as they walked out to the car. The three of them made small talk on the drive, deciding that the principal had definitely invested in a new hairpiece. By the time they arrived, they were all relaxed and laughing.

As they walked into the Crashdown, a small blonde woman detached herself from the group encompassing the back booth, coming forward to greet Kyle with a kiss. Her shoulder-length hair sported wide red and yellow stripes.

"What happened to the pink and black?" Kyle asked.

"I'm showin' school spirit," she grinned.

"Ava, you don't even go to West Roswell."

"Yeah, but you just graduated from there, so I'm supportin' you," she drawled. "'Sides, Isabel said she could change it back later, or to however I wanted it, since she got way more practice. I'm thinkin' 'bout copper."

"Copper's good," he said, with that expression on his face that Liz had come to recognize meant that a man had no idea what he was talking about, but didn't want to piss off his significant other. She refrained from giggling as Max led her to the table. Liz squished into the booth with Maria and Michael, and Ava did the same on the other side with Isabel and Jesse. Max and Kyle pulled chairs in close to their respective girlfriends.

"What can I get you folks, now that you're all here?" Her father came up to the table with a big smile.

"Dad, what are you doing waiting tables?"

"Well two of my best waitresses aren't able to work today, daughter mine. Besides, you and your friends don't need to worry about anything. You've undoubtedly worked up an appetite with all that wonderful public speaking," he said affectionately. "Come on, guys, order up. It's on the house today."

"Thanks, Dad," Liz smiled at her father and he left to fill the table's orders.

"So, whatch'all doing now? I know Kyle's takin' the football scholarship at UNM. How's about the rest of you?" Ava piped up, glancing around. They all kind of looked at each other and Michael rolled his eyes, speaking up.

"First thing is spending the summer kissing Mr. Seligman's ass for my remedial science class, so I can actually graduate like the rest of you. Next is graphics art college in New York City."

"Why New York?" Kyle inquired.

Maria brought their clasped hands to her lips, kissing the back of Michael's hand. "Because that's where I'm going to Juilliard. The whole thing with Dominique in the winter sort of woke me up that music is definitely what I want to do, but I'm not ready for a recording contract. So in the meantime, I'll study and define my style, and then the next time some label comes sniffing around it'll be on my terms."

"Go you!" Liz squeezed her arm. She reached for Max with her other hand, lacing their fingers together. She'd wanted to tell him in private, but they would be here with everyone else for a while and she simply couldn't keep it in any longer. "This morning, I got a letter from Harvard. I got in!"

Maria shrieked and crushed Liz in a hug, forcing her to let go of Max. She was thrilled that Maria was so happy for her, but she couldn't see Max and Liz really needed to know what he thought about it.

"I can't believe we're going to be in different cities!" her best friend wailed, reality apparently settling in.

"Hey, it's not so far. According to MapQuest, it only takes three and a half hours to drive between Boston and New York City. We'll do all the long weekends together, and we can alternate where," Liz promised rashly, ignoring Michael's snort.

"What about you, Max?" Ava asked. Liz held her breath for the answer.

When he spoke, a definite smile colored his voice. "Looks like I'm going to Boston."

She extricated herself from Maria's arms, turning to face Max. Yes, there was that warm smile she'd heard. "Max, you didn't get into Harvard."

"I know that, Liz."

"We both got into Northwestern, we could—" Liz broke off at his shaking head.

"No, Liz. I'll go to a junior college, get my grades up and reapply. Or take my degree long distance. The readings and essays necessary for an English major would make that easy," he smiled. "I don't care in the slightest where I go, only that it's with you. This is what you want, and you know it. I won't stand in the way of your dreams. I promised."

Promised who? she longed to ask, but she assumed he meant himself. Slowly Liz returned Max's smile. "Okay. Okay, it looks like Max and I are both moving to Boston!"

There was a round of congratulations, but everyone had this slightly weird look about them as they said the expected things. Finally Isabel cleared her throat.

"Actually, Jesse and I have some news. We're also moving to Boston."

"What?" Kyle exclaimed.

"Yeah, one of my college buddies works for this law firm there, and their litigation partner just retired. He offered me the job. It's one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities," Jesse smiled a little apologetically.

"Everybody's leaving me," Kyle sighed melodramatically, and Ava patted his head.

"There, there, Locust Lover, I'm stayin' local," she assured him condescendingly.

"How many times do I have to tell you that it's the grasshopper that's associated with Buddha, not the locust?" he complained.

She laughed. "Kyle, baby, to me all religion is mind-devouring, like locusts in front of a field of wheat or somethin'. Grasshoppers is just cute."

He appealed to Michael and Max. "Should that make any sense to me?"

"I'd be insulted," Michael informed him solemnly.

"I'm not going to get involved," Max chuckled.

Isabel got the conversation back on track. "Well, about Boston then. I haven't even told you the best part. Jesse and I have been saving for a place of our own, and with the advance from the firm we had enough for a good down payment, so we bought a house! In Boston, obviously."

"That's great, Iz," Liz told her.

"It's actually a duplex, one of those old four level brownstones," Jesse added.

"Wait, does that mean you'll be like renting out your basement?" Michael laughed at the idea.

"No, we're going to live in the bottom unit, which does have a walk-out basement. It's bigger. The upstairs is what we plan to rent out."

"I'm sorry, I can't see you as a landlord, Isabel. You go crazy when people you don't know get too close to your stuff," Max commented. "You'd have to see these people all the time."

"I don't see that as a problem," Isabel said loftily. "The house is not too far from the Harvard campus, so we thought we'd offer heavily subsidized rent to a couple of students."

Maria stared at her. "Are you crazy? Who knows what kind of lunatics you'd get?"

Isabel began giggling, and Jesse clearly had a hard time keeping a straight face as he declared, "We were hoping that Max and Liz would take it."

"Oh! Sorry, guys." Maria's hand flew to cover her mouth as it dawned on her that she'd just insulted two of her best friends.

Liz was flabbergasted at the offer. She looked over at Max, who was doing a pretty good imitation of a landed fish, his mouth opening and closing soundlessly. Her gaze returned to Isabel when the other woman said, "It has a big backyard, too, with a good fence. If you wanted to have a—dog, or something."

Liz's eyes narrowed. Keeping Isabel's attention, she unobtrusively patted her stomach, seeing the way the tall blonde woman sparkled. Isabel nodded very slightly and Liz smiled. She may not have wanted to announce it to everyone yet, but Max's sister was pregnant, and that was the final factor Liz needed to make the decision.

"That's a wonderful offer, Jesse, Isabel. We'd love to live there."

"What? Shouldn't we like, discuss this or something?" Max found his voice.

"You can up and decide that we're both going to move, but I can't up and decide where?" she asked, a dangerous edge to her tone. It surprised her when Max laughed.

"You got me there. Upstairs of the Ramirez household it is."

"You'll be glad to know that I took my friend with me when we checked out the house, and we made sure that the different levels are soundproofed to each other," Jesse said dryly. Maria and Isabel both became rosy-cheeked, and Michael coughed. Liz didn't bother holding in a laugh; she knew that story.

"Thank you," Max sounded profoundly grateful and they all laughed. "I guess that's the last—ow!" He shot Isabel a dirty look. She smiled sweetly, ignoring his irritation as he rubbed his ankle where she must have kicked him. Liz glanced around the table; something was definitely up. There were strange little smiles all over the place.

"I think you've gotten your marching orders, man," Kyle muttered slyly.

"Right. I hope you all realize this was not in my plan," Max accused the table at large. No one seemed particularly apologetic as Michael grunted, "Noted."

Liz looked at Max, completely confused as he started to rise from his chair. But—oh, he wasn't standing up; he was sliding down to the floor! In the middle of the Crashdown! When her father was working! She gaped at him as he went down on one knee.

Max gazed up at her, hazel eyes twinkling. He flushed a little; she knew he'd always hated speaking in public and calling attention to himself in general, but here he was, kneeling at her feet and opening a small velvet box in front of half the population of Roswell.

"Liz Parker, will you marry me?"

Her eyes were riveted to the ring. A large oval diamond in a white gold setting that had been etched, or sculpted, to resemble a starburst. It took her breath away.

Maria sighed. "That is still gorgeous."

"It should be, it took us long enough to make it," Isabel giggled. Liz's head whipped around to regard the table.

"You all knew. Every single one of you, didn't you? That's why you kept giving me these weird looks!" she exclaimed.

"Yep," Michael confirmed. "You know, the floor in here's not real comfortable, Liz."

"Excuse me?" she said blankly.

"Ah, I think he means that the man is still waiting for an answer there," Kyle teased.

Oh my God, she hadn't answered him yet! Liz turned to look down at her boyfriend, finding him grinning at her, one eyebrow raised.

"Do you even need to ask?" she said softly, feeling her lips stretch in an uncontrollable smile.

"I'd like to hear it," Max admitted. There was so much love in his eyes.

"Yes," Liz breathed, imbuing the single syllable with enough emotion to make her eyelids prickle and her throat tighten. She didn't quite recall rising or seeing Max do the same, but in the next moment she was in his arms and he spun her around, squeezing her tightly. The moment held, suspended, and then it broke as the café patrons burst into applause, their friends included.

"Oh, God, my parents," Liz moaned.

"Look," he encouraged her. She peeked over her shoulder to find her mother busily snapping pictures, her father standing beside her wincing at the continuous flash bulb.

"They knew too?" Liz couldn't believe it, but the smile on Max's face said it was true.

"I asked permission. They said as long as I agreed not to interfere with your education, it was okay. It was a condition I'd already set for myself, so I didn't mind going along with it."

"Hence the decision to follow me to Harvard," she nodded in comprehension. "But—"

"No buts, Liz. This is what I want, what I've always wanted," Max convinced her. He cupped her face and brushed a light kiss across her lips. "I love you."

"I love you," Liz choked out, trying desperately not to cry. He grinned and retrieved the box from the table, where he'd set it when he picked her up. She held out her hand and reverently, Max slipped the ring on her finger. Liz didn't miss the possessive gleam the gesture induced and she smiled. Let him be possessive; she was his, just as he was hers.

Max hugged her again and this time, she noticed that her parents weren't the only ones beaming at them: Diane and Philip Evans stood near the front entrance.

"Max," Liz said quietly. "Your parents are here."

"What? Where?" His head came up and he started to look around, a surge of hope in his eyes. Liz felt him tense when he spotted them. Max let go of her, though he immediately grasped her hand, and began to walk towards his parents. His grip was almost painfully tight but she said nothing, merely kept the smile on her face.

"Hi," Diane smiled uncertainly.

"We hear congratulations are in order," Philip echoed his wife's smile.

Liz raised her unencumbered hand, showing off her ring. "Yeah. Isn't it beautiful?"

"Very," Diane agreed, peering closely at it. Liz could see that they were dying to ask how Max had managed to afford a diamond that size, but she knew that curiosity would go unsatisfied. When Isabel had mentioned that she'd helped Max make it, Liz had understood that she had meant more than just the ring setting. She would never admit that it gave her a fluttery, silly feeling in her stomach, like she had her own personal superhero who could create diamonds like Superman in the movies.

"Your speech was beautiful, Liz," Diane finally let go of her hand.

"Oh, thanks. It was pretty nerve-wracking," she rolled her eyes.

"Isabel told us you were still waiting to hear from Harvard," Philip interjected.

"I was. I got an acceptance letter this morning." Liz couldn't conceal her excitement and the older Evanses smiled.

"We're both moving to Boston," Max offered spontaneously. His grip tightened even further at the silence.

"I thought—did you get in?" Diane asked, an unmistakable trace of hope in her voice.

He shook his head. "No. I did get into Northwestern and UCLA, though," Max named other fairly prestigious schools, clearly looking for approval even if he didn't realize that was what he was doing.

"Actually, Santa Fe offered him a scholarship, based on his essay," Liz said proudly. It didn't matter that he had no plans to take it; it was still an important accomplishment. She smiled when he flushed.

"That's wonderful! But, you're going to Boston," Diane pressed.

"Yes," Max said firmly. "I'll reapply next year, take correspondence courses in the meantime."

His parents simply nodded, and Liz felt compelled to add, "We're going to live upstairs from Jesse and Isabel. I'm guessing they told you about the house?"

"Yes, Izzy mentioned that she wanted to ask you. I'm glad neither of you will be alone," Diane's chin trembled a little and Liz's heart went out to her. She noticed, though, that quite a few people were watching the four of them speak.

"Would you like to come into the back room, so we can talk a little in private? Since Max decided to declare his intentions in front of the whole world, we're kind of the center of attention."

"Yeah, sorry about that. I'd planned something a little more one-on-one," Max shrugged, not really apologetic since it had turned out well.

Liz laughed. "Don't you remember what I told you about one-on-one?"

He brought her hand to his mouth, kissing her knuckles. "That parties are fun, too, and you were right."

"Naturally," she grinned. "So, um, shall we?"

Diane and Philip murmured agreement and Liz led the way into the back room. Once there, they all stood in awkward silence, the conversational momentum lost with the change in venue. Liz couldn't even feel her fingers anymore and she shook her hand slightly, trying to get Max to ease up. He took the hint and relaxed his grip, and tingles raced through her palm.

At length, Diane let out a small, stifled sob and opened her arms. "Max."

Liz extricated her hand and gave Max a little push. He stumbled forward into his mother's embrace. Liz's throat seized so she could hardly breathe as Diane began patting her son's hair and Philip stepped close to lay a hand on his shoulder.

"Your mom and I have been talking, Max, pretty much nonstop since your sister told us you were going to propose to Liz, and we've made some decisions. You're going to be starting a new life, maybe a family at some point, and you don't need to be in debt up to your ears from student loans. There's still a perfectly good college fund with your name on it at the bank."

"We want to do our part for the wedding too," Diane sniffled.

Max pulled back, though still in the circle of Diane's arms, and looked back and forth between his parents. Liz couldn't see his face but his incredulity came through loud and clear in his voice. "But, what about the conditions?" His head movement halted, aimed towards his father.

Philip sighed, regret gusting out with his breath. "Max, I can't excuse my behavior. I honestly thought that when I gave you that ultimatum back in Utah, that you would just tell me. You didn't, and I went a little insane. Yes, I still believe that you owe me an explanation for that incident, but investigating my own son… It wasn't the right course of action at all, and I see that now. I'm sorry."

Impulsively Liz moved forward, hugging Philip. "Thank you," she whispered, smiling at his surprised expression.

"We love you, honey," Diane emphasized, cupping Max's face with both hands and kissing his forehead. It made Liz's heart do a little skip, to see that her fiancé's habitual, tender gesture had been inherited from his mother. Fiancé. Wow.

"I apologize for treating you like a criminal, son." Philip clasped Max in a brief hug.

Max scratched behind his ear. "It wasn't exactly unwarranted," he admitted sheepishly. "I did get arrested."

"Yes, you did, and I do expect to hear that explanation someday. But you've more than proven yourself since then, Max. You managed to graduate with honors, even though I know you blew off a lot of classes in first semester. You really buckled down after that, and we're proud of you. Obviously you're not ready to share whatever it is you're not telling us. I've chosen to be more patient with that decision," Philip explained.

"I don't even know what to say," Max exclaimed thickly. "Except that…I promise I will tell you, eventually. I'm just not ready yet." He glanced back at Liz and she smiled approvingly. 'Eventually' might not be too far off, if Isabel's pregnancy developed any alien complications, or her baby evidenced powers. The Evanses would need to know.

A tap sounded at the swinging door, and Jeff Parker poked his head around it. "All right if I come in?"

"Yeah," Max nodded, his parents echoing his affirmative answer. Liz merely hugged her father, leaving Max, Philip and Diane talking quietly.

"Thank you, Dad, for giving Max your permission."

"Oh, Lizzie, you've grown up so fast. Max—well, he's still not my favorite person, but no one will love you more than that boy. Except your mother and I," he murmured, sounding as teary as Liz felt.

"I love you too." She squeezed him hard and let him go to give her mother a hug as she followed her husband into the room.

"Mom." It was all Liz could manage; her throat was too tight for speech. She pressed her eyes closed to hold in the tears. She would not cry today; she'd decided that a long time ago. Of course, she hadn't expected that so much would happen all at once!

A few minutes later, Liz and Max stood holding hands again, surrounded by their parents, with everyone talking.





[ edited 1 time(s), last at 29-Oct-2002 12:24:12 AM ]
posted on 29-Oct-2002 12:12:23 AM
Chapter 21 part B

"You'll want to get married before you move in together in the fall. That's a tight timeline," Nancy mused. Liz saw Max's lips twitch in amusement at the old-fashioned remark.

"Uh, yeah, that would be perfect," he agreed aloud.

"If we managed to pull off Isabel and Jesse's wedding in less than two weeks, three months should be no problem at all," Liz commented dryly.

"That's true. But we'll skip the wedding planner this time," Diane shuddered dramatically.

Liz laughed, remembering Isabel's complaints about the annoying Wendy. It occurred to her that with the trouble that had been present between the two Evans women, Diane had missed out on a number of facets of the wedding of her only daughter.

"Mrs. Evans, would you like to come dress shopping with me and Mom?" she inquired politely, feeling Max squeeze her hand in approval.

"Diane, please, Liz, and I would love to," she smiled graciously. "We could go on Saturday."

"Sounds like we have the beginning of a plan," Max half smiled. He drew Liz to him and kissed her. Right in front of all four of their parents. And she knew they couldn't see it, but Liz felt her face grow warm when his tongue brushed across the inner surface of her lips before he withdrew. Her eyes fluttered open to meet his and she understood. Deeply connected to the two families surrounding them, Max had kissed her to lay claim to his own family. Their own family, just the two of them. Although my niece or nephew might need a playmate at some point, Liz thought dizzily, caught in Max's gentle smile.

Her father coughed, ending the moment with an amused snort. Liz's face turned red, but she refused to apologize. Kissing Max came far too naturally.

"So, shopping," Liz said brightly.

Diane laughed. "We can talk some other time, Liz. You and Max should get back to your friends. You all have a lot to celebrate today."

"Yeah, we should be leaving anyhow. I have to be in court early," Philip added.

"Okay, but why don't we arrange to get together soon? A barbecue or something," Nancy suggested, and Diane nodded. "I'll give you a call."

Liz and Max made their exit as hastily as good manners allowed. They had planned to reprise their seats at the booth but found Isabel and Jesse in the midst of saying goodnight as well—he had to be in court with Max's father. They all walked out to Jesse's car together.

"Thank you," Max told his sister, warmth permeating the words.

She flashed a brilliant smile. "Anytime."

Liz hugged the tall blonde, using the opportunity to whisper, "When are you going to tell everyone else?"

"Another month or so, when I'm nearly done the first trimester. Everything's going normally," Isabel whispered back. Both women knew that might not continue, however.

"That's why you bought a duplex, so you could keep Max close, just in case," Liz clued in.

"Partly. I also didn't want to go to a brand new city all alone!" she laughed as they stepped apart. "I'm looking forward to getting to know you better, Liz."

"Me, too." She wasn't mouthing a pleasantry, either; it would be fun, all of them becoming closer. Isabel wasn't such a mystery anymore.

"I gotta work in the morning," Kyle grimaced as Jesse's car pulled away from the curb.

"Yeah, we should be calling it a night, too," Maria agreed.

"Right. Thanks for the moral support, guys," Max grinned.

Michael snorted. "You didn't need any moral support. It's not like there was any chance she'd say no."

"But he did make a complete ass of himself in public, Guerin. That automatically qualifies for support, not to mention earning him brownie points," Kyle bantered.

"I'll concede the ass part," Michael smirked at Max's protest.

Liz giggled. "I'll confirm major brownie points." She startled when she felt Max's arms slide around her, his body pressed to her back.

"Oh?" he asked, his tone speaking volumes. Liz suppressed a shiver, not wanting the rest of the group to know how his voice affected her.

"'Kay, we're off! I'll see you tomorrow, Liz, and we can start planning," Maria said breezily.

"Maria, I haven't even asked you to be the maid of honor yet," she laughed.

"I accept," her best friend winked. "Have a good night, you two!"

Maria hopped onto Michael's bike behind him, fastening her helmet, and they took off in a roar.

Kyle and Ava stood there a moment longer, chatting easily. Then Ava looked earnestly at Liz and Max.

"Knew you two belonged together, soon's Liz told me about you, Max. Knew you was the one. An' I know it ain't always been easy for you havin' me here, lookin' like the dead bitch, but we're square, you an' me. You need me out East, I'll be there."

"Goes for me, too," Kyle nodded. He cleared his throat, his expression becoming mischievous. "I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that you're not ready to come home yet."

"Good guess," Max chuckled behind Liz.

"Yeah, that's what I thought," he drawled suggestively.

"Kyle," Liz said firmly.

"Yeah?"

"Go home."

He laughed and slung his arm around Ava. She wriggled away long enough to quickly embrace Liz.

"I'm glad you came back," Liz murmured.

"This here's a big life moment kinda hug. Don't go thinkin' it'll be regular-like," Ava warned.

Liz leaned in and whispered, "I have Max for that." She winked and both women laughed.

"See ya," Kyle waved. They drove off, leaving Liz staring after the Mustang, thinking about everything that had led to this moment.

Ava had returned to Roswell in the early spring. Not knowing any of the back-story about Tess's betrayal, she had come when she had felt the violent death of her genetic twin, believing that the remaining hybrids would need her. And they might, someday. Ava's presence meant two things: that should there be a need, they had a complete four-square; and that the nightmare was truly over. Nicholas or Khivar might come after them sometime, but it would be with weapons and powers, not twisted perversions. Max was free.

It had taken him about two weeks to stand even being in the same room with Ava, and then one day, he'd simply walked up to her and gazed into her blue eyes. Liz had watched in wary amazement, knowing he was forming a connection with the punk blonde. A few minutes later Max had shaken his head, breaking the link, and he'd smiled. It had been like the sun coming out after a long winter's night.

In an eerie parallel, the Valentis had taken Ava in. Jim and Amy Valenti, that was. Kyle hadn't needed to vacate his room since the combination of the two households by marriage had resulted in the purchase of a new four bedroom home, one free of all demons. Maria had promptly declared her unwillingness to subject herself to the step situation and had informed Michael she was moving in, and Max could have her former room.

Normally, Liz had a borderline insane hatred of the word 'destiny' but it really seemed to fit the situation. Everything seemed to be playing out the way it was supposed to have gone in the first place, although the loss of Alex would always ache a little. Maria's mom and Kyle's dad finding happiness together after all those years. Kyle and Ava learning to trust and care for each other, bringing Jim the daughter he'd always wanted. Isabel finally happy with someone who truly loved her for herself. Michael and Maria driving each other crazy.

Max and Liz getting married.

Max Evans, my fiancé. It made her giddy. She held up her hand, watching the ring sparkle in the streetlamp and the flashing neon Crashdown sign.

"Do you really like it? Because I can change it, if you want," his deep voice rumbled behind her.

"I love it just the way it is," Liz sighed.

Max chuckled. "Remind me that you go all soft and dreamy for jewelry."

"Why, you going to make me matching earrings?" she teased.

"Maybe. Then again…" he trailed off and suckled her ear lobe. "I rather like your ears bare."

"Max." She sighed again and tilted her head away to give him more room, feeling his hands tighten on her waist.

"Do you want to go for a walk? I'd like to just get a little distance from the crowd here," Max suggested huskily.

"Mmm, I agree. But not a walk. Let's go for a drive, all the way out into the desert until we can't even see the city lights." Liz turned in his arms to face him. "It's been a long day, full of other people. I want it to be just us for a while."

"That's the best thing I've heard all day. Except for that 'Yes'." He leaned in close for a kiss then took her hand and they walked to the Chevelle.

Moments later they were flying down the highway, Liz's hair whipping her face and his indiscriminately, making them both laugh. She covered his hand on the gearshift, and every time he shifted gears the diamond caught the light and threw tiny rainbows against the dashboard. Liz watched, entranced. She'd never liked diamonds before, preferring richly colored stones like Maria's garnet heart, but the dancing rainbows seduced her. She loved this one.

When they had gone far enough that Roswell's light no longer polluted the horizon, Max pulled off the road, bumping along in the sand to a stand of scrubby bushes, where he parked and killed the engine.

The silence was immense, with texture and weight, invoked by the ethereal beauty of the stars. Every time Liz saw the sky like this, on a clear desert night in the middle of nowhere, it took her breath away.

"We won't be able to do this in Massachusetts," Max said softly, a hint of sorrow in his voice. She turned her head and smiled at him.

"That's true, but I plan to take you tobogganing!"

He laughed. "I'm game. I think I still have a sleeping bag in the trunk if you want to really stargaze."

"That'd be good. My neck's already sore from keeping looking at you during graduation today. God, wasn't that just endless?"

"Yeah, it was. School assemblies always are, no matter the reason. No sleeping bag, but there is a blanket!" He spread it on the ground and Liz hopped out of the car and sank down, staring upward. Max knelt by her head.

"What are you doing?"

"Did you or did you not mention a sore neck?"

"Well, yeah, but—oooh, that feels good," Liz quit complaining when he pulled her shoulders up onto his lap and started to massage her neck. "Stop looking down, your head's blocking the stars."

"I can do this by feel," he laughed, obediently leaning back to leave her view unobstructed.

Stars in her eyes, sand at her back, and Max's hands on her body. Did it get much better? His hands could be more interesting places, a little voice piped up and Liz shushed it. Now was not the time. She grew drowsy and contented, and Max eventually ended the massage and lay beside her.

"It is beautiful," he breathed.

"Mmm-hmm," she agreed. The stars haloing his face had been beautiful too, but she hadn't said anything.

"Liz?"

"Yeah?"

When no answer was forthcoming, Liz turned on her side to find Max lying right next to her, his eyes glittering golden in the near darkness. Her heart beat faster and she reached out, placing her palm over his chest. His was racing. Her lips parted to gulp in air and he struck, swooping in to kiss her.

Liz moaned, pulling him closer, until their bodies lay flush to each other, legs entangled. Max never stopped kissing her. Slow, wet kisses. Fast kisses. Deep kisses. She traced the muscles in his back and arms through his shirt, careful to keep on an even keel even while her body was screaming for more.

"Liz," Max murmured at her lips. She tried to ignore his voice, wanting to revel in their closeness before they hit the stopping point. In the months since what she had privately come to think of as the lovewalk, Liz and Max had taken their physical relationship extremely slowly. They had not quite regained all the territory they had covered that one whirlwind week during Spring Break, and Liz made sure that she didn't push, no matter how frustrated she felt sometimes. It was only physical frustration, easily enough relieved on her own if need be. Max's level of comfort with any intimacy was far more important, and so he generally dictated just how close they got at any one time. Her thoughts swirled through her mind and disappeared as she sought his mouth for another drugging kiss.

"Liz," he spoke again, insistent. Reluctantly Liz drew back a little, opening her eyes to meet his golden gaze.

"What is it, Max? Do you want to stop?" she asked softly.

The corners of his eyes crinkled when he smiled. "No. I want to make love to you."

"What?" Liz stammered. His smile broadened.

"I want to make love to you."

"But—" she floundered, unable to articulate what she wanted to say.

Max stroked her hair, pushing it back, over her shoulder. "It's not as sudden as it seems. I've felt ready for about a month now. At first I waited so that I could make sure, you know, that it wasn't wishful thinking or whatever, and then when I was sure, I wanted to wait until after I'd asked you. To marry me, that is. I thought—I thought it would be romantic, if you said yes," he added nervously.

"Oh," Liz said faintly.

"Unless you want to wait till we actually get married," his eyes widened as that occurred to him.

"No. No, I don't," she assured him hastily. "You took me by surprise is all. I'd like that." Her cheeks flamed as Max teasingly lifted one eyebrow. "I mean, yes. Yes to everything, Max. I want all of you."

"You don't know what it means to me, to hear you say that," Max whispered. He kissed her again and Liz thought that she did know, because it meant that much to her, too.

"Are you really sure?" Liz asked. She needed to be certain that he hadn't made this decision because it was a special occasion. They'd had a wonderful senior prom without complicating the night by pushing too far, too soon and Liz didn't want to mar that record now. She could wait, as long as it took.

"Liz," he sighed, trailing kisses across her jaw line. Max nipped at the tender skin below her ear lobe and she shivered in reaction. "I'm sure, Liz. I love you. And I want you so much!"

"Max," she moaned, her hands tangling in his short hair. "Don't hold back, then. Please. Whatever happens between us…just let it happen, let us learn each other. I meant what I said: I want it all."

"Then I'll give you everything I have."

Liz couldn't form a reply before his mouth crashed down on hers, his tongue invading to drink from her greedily. His hands were everywhere, seeking skin. Equally frantic to feel him, she helped Max remove her clothing and kept going, insistently tugging on his clothes until at last they lay bare to each other.

Time slowed. Liz became achingly aware of each minute shift in Max's position. Knowing that he shared her heightened senses only propelled her higher. One muscled thigh slid between her legs and she thought she might cry at the resulting swell of sensation. Max rubbed her back in a slow spiral, the gentle massage mirroring his earlier attentions but covering more and more territory as he continued. He brushed the sides of her breasts, the back of her neck, the cleft of her buttocks. On downward to her upper thighs; back up across her hips. Gradually sensitizing her skin so that when his hands closed on her naked breasts, Liz called out at the sharpness of the pleasure spiking through her.

"I really do need to work on that imagination," Max said shakily, and a laugh warbled from her throat, somewhere. The feel of his hands distorted her sense of perception. Slightly calloused fingertips, the rougher texture a powerful stimulant as he pulled at her nipples. They hardened almost painfully under his touch and Liz wondered if this was how Max felt when she stroked his erection. So unbearably intense yet so good she wanted it to go on forever.

"I think I could…without you even touching me anywhere else," Liz admitted, breathless. She pushed her chest up into his hands, wanting more, and Max bent his head, his tongue flickering out to graze one pink tip. "Oh!"

"Would that be so bad, if you did?" he asked raggedly. He drew her nipple into his mouth, sucking lightly, and Liz nearly forgot the question.

"Over too fast," she panted. A rumble sounded beside her breast as Max chuckled and lifted his head to look at her.

"Liz, nothing would be over simply because you had an orgasm. It'll take as long as it takes—and as many orgasms as it takes, for that matter." He had a wicked sparkle in his eyes and Liz realized that he liked the idea of her not being able to hold out against the pleasure he gave her. Well, so did she, to be honest with herself.

Her agreement must have shown in her face because Max dipped his head again, moving back and forth from one breast to the other, his hand busy where his mouth wasn't. Familiar enough territory for both of them but it had never felt like this before. Clearly the addition of the intent to take things all the way made a difference, even if it was only in their minds. Liz concentrated on breathing because she felt like she couldn't get enough air; her breath flew from her in such heavy gasps.

But for all her worrying, Liz seemed to have hit that glass ceiling again, unable to take it farther. Before she had a chance to panic, Max slowly slipped one hand down her side, allowing her time to say no. Which was the last thing she wanted to do! As he reached her hip joint where her thigh began, Liz spread her legs to the sound of a deep groan from Max.

"Thank you, love," he whispered. The absurdity of him thanking her at this point made her want to giggle until his fingers found her opening and pushed inside. The impulse to laugh vanished, replaced by louder moans than Liz had ever imagined herself producing.

"Max, please," she begged, not knowing what she asked for.

"Let me know if it's too much," he requested seriously and she nodded, willing to agree to about anything right this second. She heard Max mutter something about it being better preparation for other body parts anyway. Liz had just figured out what he meant when he slid a third finger inside her, and it all faded to so much background static as she climaxed instantly.




posted on 29-Oct-2002 12:15:22 AM
Chapter 21 part C

"Oh, my," Liz breathed once she'd come down a little from her high. "Mr. Evans, you have some talented hands there!"

Max laughed and shook his head. "No, only loving hands, Liz. I enjoy making you feel good. But it's only because I love you that I know you so well."

She moved closer for a sweet kiss and let her own hands begin to wander, exploring his magnificent body. He really didn't understand how gorgeous she found him, but she supposed it didn't matter since he definitely knew he turned her on.

"My turn to make you feel good," Liz whispered into Max's ear, feeling him shiver when she suckled his ear lobe.

"You don't think I already feel good?" he half smiled. She curled her hand around his erection and lightly caressed the hard length, delighted with his swift intake of breath.

"Yeah, you do, but I'll bet I can make you feel much, much better."

"I'm not about to bet against that. I'd lose."

"Damn straight," Liz nodded emphatically and Max laughed.

"That I am, love, most definitely." He sighed as she began to stroke him in earnest. "And that does feel wonderful."

"Glad to hear it," she murmured against his lips before kissing him. Max gave way to her, letting her tongue invade his mouth to explore. He tastes so good, Liz thought to herself, trailing kisses down his neck. She lightly bit the cord of muscle that ran across to his shoulder, hearing him groan in response. All of him tastes good.

Her dreamy musings gave her pause. Not since she'd ambushed Max in the shower at Michael's had Liz touched him with no barriers between them. Clothing, open fly and skin-to-skin friction notwithstanding. Fear, in two fading memories. In all this time there had been only hands below the waist, on both sides.

Not tonight. Max had said he'd give her everything, and Liz meant to take it all.

She shifted down on the blanket then leaned forward and took the head of his cock into her mouth, feeling his body jerk in surprise.

"Oh, Liz," Max breathed, his voice choked. She quickly looked up at him. Eyes closed, he had his bottom lip caught in his teeth. Liz searched his face for some indication as to how he felt about this. He took a deep breath but she couldn't tell if he needed the oxygen because he was aroused or afraid.

She had her answer when Max's hand blindly smoothed her hair off her forehead then pushed down ever so slightly on the back of her head before withdrawing. The gesture left no doubt as to what he wanted from her.

Liz felt an exhilarating rush at his clear desire, even as her eyelids prickled a little with this tangible demonstration of trust. She continued her downward motion, her mouth sliding as far as the hand she had wrapped around the base of his cock, then pulling back up to the top, sucking hard. Setting a rhythm that showered her with low moans and soft gasps. His sounds were quiet but insanely addictive. She'd always loved listening to his voice, but hearing it infused with such passion quickly rebuilt the heat in her core.

Soon she felt Max brush her hair again, and she glanced up to find him regarding her, propped on his elbows. "Liz."

"Mmm?" He didn't actually expect her to converse right now, did he? She didn't stop what she was doing, feeling smug at how his chest heaved.

"I'd like to make love to you for more than thirty seconds, which isn't going to happen if you don't stop," he chided with a small smile.

Liz laughed, removing her mouth from his erection. "I believe you were the one who brought up multiple orgasms."

Max stared at her, his eyes wide. She thought he'd never looked sexier. Every inch of sculptured skin was exposed, hers to do whatever she wanted with. His hair was messy from her hands running through it while he pleasured her. His cheeks flushed, his lips red and swollen from her kisses. His love and desire stamped unmistakably on his features, and in the liquid golden pools that gazed at her.

And then the view got even better: Max started to laugh. "I did, didn't I? I'll just be quiet now," he chuckled. He sat up, the hard muscles in his abdomen pushing against his skin with the fluid motion, and kissed the crown of her head. Knowing that was all he could currently reach, Liz smiled as he lay back down.

"Max," she said, waiting for him to look at her.

"Yeah?"

Liz didn't want to inhibit him, but she couldn't resist needling, "Not too quiet, please."

One side of his mouth lifted in a crooked grin. "As you wish."

She flashed him a grin of her own then returned to her initial position, parting her lips to take him in. True to his word, Max groaned as she rediscovered an easy rhythm and it thrilled her. So did the way he began murmuring her name, in a throaty undertone. Liz sucked a little harder and reached with her free hand to carefully caress his testicles, scratching lightly on the smooth patch of skin just behind them. In her peripheral vision, she glimpsed Max fisting the blanket. That was all the warning Liz got before she found herself swallowing rapidly. Afterwards she withdrew, kissing the crinkling skin of his shaft. Max grasped her shoulders and pulled Liz up to lie beside him.

"I feel all lazy now," he teased, smiling.

"Too lazy to do anything else?" she inquired archly.

"Maybe." His eyes danced with mischief. "Depends on what you had in mind."

"What I had in mind? You propositioned me, buddy," Liz laughed.

"Right. Hmm," Max drew out the syllable. He looked entirely too pleased with himself as he decided, "How about collecting on that assurance of reciprocation?"

The breath slammed out of her lungs. Oh, my. That baring it all thing went both ways; Liz knew it. Had known it when she'd spoken her heart earlier. That abstraction had been different than knowing it now, with Max's heated gaze holding hers, full of sensual promise.

"Yes," she whispered, unable to manage more with no air in her lungs.

His expression grew intense. "You really want this, don't you? Want me to taste you. To feel my mouth giving you the most intimate kind of kiss possible."

Liz wanted to look away, break the spell a little. She couldn't. Max had joked after the lovewalk about becoming adept at talking dirty but in the intervening months, he had. They both had, to some extent. Driving each other crazy on the phone late at night in hushed voices, imagining that the hands touching them belonged to the other. It had instilled in both of them a greater level of comfort with their own bodies, and with each other. Fantasies had been confessed and unspoken vows exchanged, and Max knew exactly how badly Liz wanted his mouth on her.

Incapable of speech, she nodded, her insides churning at the sexy smile he gave her in response. And then she had to close her eyes when he moved to cover her, his hard body shimmying down hers to settle in between her spread legs, his big hands splayed on her hips.

The first touch of his tongue, brushing lightly across her clitoris, brought Liz to an immediate and utterly unexpected peak. Pleasure washed over her, sustained by Max's gentle licking. It soon faded and he stopped, pressing a kiss to her abdomen.

"Seems you were right about how much you'd like it," Max commented, a smile audible in his voice.

"Guess so," Liz agreed. She felt a bit disappointed at how fast it had been. Was there something wrong with her? Max had followed her lead easily enough, so it wasn't him. And it had felt good, but she'd expected more, somehow. Surely all of Maria's enthusiasm couldn't be for this.

She realized that while she'd been ruminating, Max hadn't moved. "Aren't you coming up here?" Had he changed his mind about making love tonight?

He chuckled. "Why would I be? That can't have completely satisfied you," he stated, far too accurately.

"Well, not entirely, but—" what if that's all there is to it? Liz finished privately.

"Liz." All Max said was her name, but it silenced her protests. In the next moment his tongue glided over her wet skin, probing between her folds to plunge inside her. It felt exquisite and she moaned as pressure began to build in her, fueled by his licks. He tasted her everywhere, bathing all of her exposed skin, and Liz heard the occasional rumble of a masculine groan amidst her higher-pitched noises.

"Oh, Max, oooh," she gasped when at last he concentrated on the small, hard nub that induced such intense sensations. Nothing that had happened between them had prepared Liz for the way she felt she might disintegrate in a blaze of glory if Max continued, or murder him if he didn't. He stroked her hip soothingly, and then he gathered that source of pleasure into his mouth and delicately sucked.

Liz fractured into millions of dazzling patterns, the edges of the dancing colors blackening as her consciousness wavered briefly. She heard a rather loud shriek and wondered vaguely who it came from. Didn't really matter. All she cared about was the warm mouth sampling her flesh, and making sure it didn't end.

Gradually the waves abated and she no longer trembled with each touch. Liz smiled, a little embarrassed when she noticed that she'd locked her ankles around Max's head. She uncrossed them and let her knees fall open.

"Thanks," Max sounded amused. He kissed her inner thigh and moved up, his body slipping naturally between her spread legs. When his face hovered over hers, Liz could see that he was indeed amused, but also highly aroused. Not that she hadn't already known that part, with his hard cock nestled against her. Max smiled. "Was that closer to what you were expecting?"

"That destroyed what I'd expected," Liz replied honestly, and his smile broadened.

"I aim to please," he winked.

"And please you did," she confirmed fervently. They both laughed.

"I'm glad you enjoyed yourself. I sure did," Max told her, sincerity written in his eyes.

"Oh, um, that's great," Liz stammered, her cheeks warming. He paid her blush no mind and bent to kiss her. A faint musky taste and smell clung to his lips, and it made her knees weak to know why. When he lifted his head, she regarded him intently.

"Max, do you still want to make love? I do, but only if you're ready," Liz declared. The ache he'd created deep inside her would fade with time if he wanted to call it quits right now.

Max kissed her nose, his answer swift and sure. "Yes."

She raised her hips, rubbing against him, and smiled as his golden eyes fairly glowed. "Then what are you waiting for?"

He smiled but looked serious. "Liz, you know it's going to hurt."

"Yeah," her smile faded some. "At least it won't be so bad, since I don't have a hymen anymore. I ripped it trying to do the splits in the seventh grade. I didn't speak to Maria for a week afterwards."

Max's lips twitched. "She goaded you into doing the splits?"

"Yes." Liz's eyes narrowed at his obvious amusement then she grimaced. "Tales from Michael?"

"Some, but more from Maria, actually," he grinned. "One of those, 'Is it an up or a down?' sides to being a girlfriend."

"Uh-huh," she snorted. "My question still stands, Max."

"I can't do anything about the stretched muscles until after they're stretched, but as soon as—"

Liz halted his speech with her fingers on his mouth. "No, Max. I want the whole experience."

"You're sure?"

"Completely."

"Okay," Max exhaled. He shifted, keeping eye contact as he reached down and grasped his cock, guiding himself to her body. Liz could feel his fingers seeking her entrance and then something much larger pressing against her. The tip slid in unimpeded but after that Max had to push, working his way in.

Liz gritted her teeth, warding off the pain. She would kill him if he kept going so slowly. "Max, do you know the best way to take off a Band-Aid?"

He looked utterly bewildered. "Yeah, you just rip—oh." He winced in comprehension and she smiled tightly. Max brushed a feathery kiss over her lips. "I love you."

With that he surged forward. Liz couldn't help the small, pained cry that escaped from her throat at the sudden tearing agony, but it faded to a dull throb once he was all the way in. She sucked in a breath at the feel of him, a solid presence inside her.

"Are you all right?" Max asked, concerned.

"Just give me a sec. God, you feel huge!"

His eyes widened and he laughed. "My ego appreciates that." He acquired a slightly bashful expression. "You feel indescribably perfect. It's like I'm surrounded by you. It would be so easy to become lost…"

"You can't get lost inside me, Max. You're always here," Liz said gently. "You belong here."

"Yeah," he whispered roughly. "I do." Max leaned down to kiss her and inadvertently he shifted, his cock moving slightly inside her.

"Oh!" she breathed. He searched her face.

"That didn't sound like pain this time."

"It wasn't," Liz assured him. "Can you move a little?"

Relief shone in his eyes and she realized how difficult it had been for him to hold still this long. "Absolutely."

Max pulled out a tiny amount and slowly pushed back in, repeating the sequence. The friction was unbelievable and Liz moaned.

"Ah, Liz. That's the kind of thing I want to hear, love," he murmured, and kissed her. She slipped her hands down over his back to his buttocks, wordlessly encouraging him as the pain faded into the rising pleasure. In answer, Max increased the depth of his thrusts, eliciting a heartfelt moan along with his deeper one. Suddenly they were both in motion of a different kind as he held her hips to his and rolled them over.

Liz found herself straddling Max, his cock deep inside her. He raised his knees to support her back as, hesitantly, she began to move. She kept her eyes glued to his face, checking for any signs of distress. What she found—all she found—was a growing, mischievous smile.

"What?" she smiled back.

"I knew your hair would be the perfect length to play peek-a-boo with your breasts," Max answered huskily. Liz glanced down. Sure enough, her nipples poked out through her dark locks. She gave her chest a shake and he grinned, openly admiring her. She felt slightly shy about how exposed she was in this position, but not truly vulnerable. Not with the way Max's eyes gleamed every time Liz showed him even a little skin. Let alone the way his appreciative gaze raked over her naked body now, making her feel warm and lightheaded.

Liz let him look his fill then bent down to kiss him. Max opened to her eagerly, his tongue sweeping into her mouth for a deep taste. Eventually she told him, "You have much better leverage than I do."

He smiled. "I liked being on top." She couldn't help but return his smile and started to roll, continuing in the same direction.

"No, Liz! Go back the other way, unless you want a butt full of sand," Max laughed, halting their motion. "This blanket isn't that big."

She giggled and did as he suggested, her breath whooshing out as he landed on top of her. He thrust into her, reaching deep, and she arched into him with a moan. The teasing light in his eyes transformed into raw hunger and Liz shivered, instinctively recognizing that Max had loosed his last restraint.

Liz met his heavy thrusts, feeling the slick glide of his cock all the way along her passage with each of Max's increasingly frantic motions. Her hips rose to crash against his as her tension mounted, even as her voice rose pleadingly above his guttural sounds. She dug her fingernails into his back, the muscles bunching under her hands, and Max groaned.

"Oh, yes, Liz."

The husky utterance sent a starburst of pleasure soaring through her system, and Liz careened wildly over the edge with a piercing cry. "Max!"

Max stayed with her, their gazes locked. She saw his jaw tighten as his body strained, and his eyes pressed shut for a second. Then that golden gaze melted, blazing with passion as Max exploded deep inside her. Liz saw herself in the incredible love in his eyes, the emotion there forever preserving this precious moment in amber.

They slowed, and then stilled, and at last Liz closed her eyes as Max kissed her, so tenderly she thought her heart might break.

"Thank you," he breathed, shifting to stroke her hair.

"For what?" she smiled. Silly man, expressing gratitude at every turn. It exasperated and warmed her at the same time.

Max trailed kisses along her hairline before responding, and his answer, when he gave it, made her throat tighten sharply. "For slaying all the demons."

Definitely not going to make it through the night without crying, Liz thought. She tried to dispel the intensity a little.

"My pleasure," she purred. Max gave her a look full of secret knowledge.

"Yes, and mine, too."

She couldn't help smiling at the simple declaration. 'Pleasure' seemed such a woefully inadequate term to describe what they had wrought together. Liz had no words that would encompass the experience. Even this part, as Max pulled all the way out and moved to lie beside her, bringing the edge of the blanket up to cover them.

"I love you," he said quietly.

"And I, you," she responded, kissing his cheek. Maybe she did have the words after all. Somehow, that most basic of statements said everything.

Elusive sound threaded through Liz's mind, and she remembered that while she had seen flashes as she'd expected, though she'd paid them no attention, entwined with the various images this time had been the indistinct notes of a song.

"Max, I heard music. With the flashes. All the same music, no matter what I saw," Liz said softly.

He looked puzzled. "I didn't hear it. Did you recognize it at all?"

"No, in fact I'm sure I've never heard it before. But," she concentrated and hummed a bar. Max blushed slightly.

"I'm not surprised you don't know it. It's from an album by a folk singer that came out before you were even born. My mom likes her, and there was always something about the lyrics to that one…" he trailed off with a tiny smile.

And for the second time in her life, Max Evans lifted his voice and sang her a love song. Only this time, the words were in English, and the way they so perfectly described her own feelings seared Liz to the soul.

I have seen the morning burning golden on the mountain and in the skies
Aching with the feeling of the freedom of an eagle when he flies

Turning on the world the way he smiled upon my soul as I lay dying
Healing as the colors and the sunshine and the shadows of his eyes

Waking in the morning to the feeling of his fingers on my skin
Wiping out the traces of the people and the places that I’ve been

Teaching me that yesterday was something that I’d never thought of trying
Talking of tomorrow and the money, love and time we’d have to spend

Loving him was easier than anything I’ll ever do again

Coming close together with a feeling that I’ve never known before in my time
He ain’t ashamed to be a man, or afraid to be a friend

I don’t know the answer to the easy way he opened every door in my mind
But dreaming was as easy as believing it was never gonna end

And loving him was easier than anything I’ll ever do again
Loving him was easier than anything I’ll ever do again


Max smiled bashfully. "I know it's from the woman's point of view, but right from the first time I heard it, I wondered what it would be like to love someone that much, and to fall that hard, that easily. And maybe even more than that, I wondered if it were possible to feel so strongly about someone that you could lose yourself in the other person. If loving her, in all senses of the word, could actually erase the pain from your soul."

Halfway through his explanation Liz finally gave in to the tears that had been threatening all night. Max smiled and pulled her closer, wrapping his arms around her securely. The transparent joy on his face made her chest ache with emotion. Liz kissed him fiercely, her lips clinging to his even as Max drew his head back, those soulful hazel eyes gazing into her own tear-dampened ones as he whispered to her of their ultimate freedom.

"Now I know."



THE END


posted on 29-Oct-2002 12:18:06 AM
Author's Note: First off, the song. It's called "Loving Him Was Easier" and it's sung by Nana Mouskouri. It's highly unlikely that you'll find it on any MP3 sharer (I couldn't). I've discovered someone who can help me get an electronic recording of my cassette version of the song, and once I have it on the Web somewhere I'll post so that you can download it if you so choose. *happy*

Next, the fic. Like most of you, I'm of two minds about those two little words: THE END. On the one hand, I'm ecstatic. It's a big accomplishment to have completed the story, and I feel good about it. OTOH, it feels like I'm leaving a friend behind and I'll miss it.

I took a lot of chances with this fic, as I'm sure anyone who's made it to the end knows! The decision to include the rape scene was not made lightly. I knew that I would lose some readers over that, particularly since I've been known for more feel-good types of stories. One of the readers who took issue with that chapter told me, among other things, that knowing Max had been raped and seeing it were two very different things. I couldn't agree more—that's one of the major reasons that I chose to portray it, in fact. There was no other way to truly understand the depth of his situation without leading you through it. I know it made for extremely difficult reading—I believe the word "brutal" cropped up time and again LOL. Just be glad you didn't have it living in your head for several months!;)

On a related note, there was also a reason for jumping the conclusion ahead in time several months. In truth, had Max retained his memories of all the times he was violated, it may well have taken years before he could bear much physical intimacy with anyone. The strength of the bond between Max and Liz would serve as a mitigating factor, though, just like Isabel told Maria. Recovery from such trauma takes time and effort in all cases, but it is significantly easier with a lot of non-judgmental love.

I want to thank RosDeidre for being my spectacular sounding board throughout the life of this fic. I could not have done it without her. You know I love you, De!

And thanks to all of you for reading. For laughing and crying and having fits of insane rage with me.;)

(Cue the music that tells me I've gone overtime.:p) Seriously, I just wanted to explain some things and it *is* my thread, so it seems like an appropriate venue!:D

Lastly, for those of you wondering what's next, I'm certainly not leaving the fanfic world. My goal is to focus my energies on my incomplete, far too long-running fic, The Forging of a Lifebond, and finally finish it off. (Woohoo it just won the Most Passionate Max/Liz Lovemaking Scene award, too! :D) I'll work on Full Circle concurrently with FLB as well. And I'll prolly have a couple of one-off short fics, as the inspiration and the desire to explore some particular facet of my writing strike me. ;) But I won't be starting any new long-term fics until FLB is complete. After that? We'll see! I'll keep you posted. *happy*
hugs, Tas
posted on 29-Oct-2002 7:12:04 PM
dera Zor I didn't know it was originally from the man's POV! Nana M. only does covers, so I knew she didn't write it, but she sings the version I know and have loved as long as I can remember. That song got me through a very difficult breakup in high school.*happy*

And fortunately, one of my lovely readers has posted a downloadable MP3 on another board where I post! Follow the link and scroll down past the chapter--it's the first post after me.*big*
http://pub44.ezboard.com/fthespoilerslutsfanficwhorehousefrm10.showMessageRange?topicID=132.topic&start=241&stop=247

Thanks, everyone!
hugs, Tas

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 29-Oct-2002 7:15:07 PM ]
posted on 21-Jan-2003 9:17:22 PM
Aussie_Dreamer, Mudshovel5, moonlight--thanks! I'm so glad I check the thread every now and again, b/c I wouldn't have wanted to miss your lovely comments.*happy* I'm happy you enjoyed my story. And Aussie, I'm thrilled you finally got to see Chant Down Babylon! I just love that episode.*big* The remainder of the season is fairly decent (esp. compared to the first half*wink*).
hugs, Tas