posted on 7-Jun-2002 10:05:42 AM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise.
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.


Does anyone know how liberating it is to hit the "New Thread" button? LOL Well, it is. Yes, I started a new story. What can I say, I'm insane. I've got a few parts of this written out, and I'm working on more, but I'm not sure how often I'll update. At least once a week, maybe more as the muse hits me. But you guys should get the second part sometime this weekend when I'm done tweaking it. Enjoy!

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.

Discord
Part 1

How had his life become the screwed up farce he dealt with daily? It was the question that had plagued him for a week now.

Max turned and reached for another crate of alien organs and he set about the task of restuffing the infamous autopsied alien. The old intestines and vital organs had worn out and frayed over time.

The irony wasn’t lost on him and it only made him more determined to do this one thing right. Every day for the last week, every agonizing hour that had passed had been slowed to a grinding halt. Every second of every minute had served only to twist the knife that was embedded in his heart. The knife Liz had plunged deep when she had slept with Kyle Valenti.

Even now it didn’t make sense. But then, nothing in his life did anymore. She loved him, didn’t she? How could she not have known that it would kill him? He’d been pursing her for so long, was sure he’d even been making progress. But something had changed overnight. A shadow had appeared deep in her eyes and she’d begun looking at him differently. Had that been when Kyle had made his move on her? Had he told her something that made her look at him differently?

Max shook his head and jammed a new heart in the plastic alien’s chest. After endless pondering day and night, he’d narrowed it down to two possible conclusions. Either Liz had sought solace in Kyle’s arms, wanting a piece of the normal life she’d told him about, and she hadn’t ever intended for him to find out. O she had slept with Kyle to drive a definite and unremovable wedge between them to force him into his so-called destiny with Tess. Either option left his chest empty and bleeding.

Because the undeniable truth that he only let himself think about at rare moments in time was that he still loved Liz Parker. He would love her until his dying day no matter what she did. And it would be his cross to bear.

Max forced his thoughts back to his job, herding his errant thoughts away from the source of every human emotion he’d ever experienced. Sometimes, he wished they’d discover that Antarians were being evolved beyond emotions. Then he could leave this planet behind and forget what words like pain and torment meant. But then he wouldn’t remember what it was like to love Liz Parker, to be loved in return. And he knew he would gladly give up everything he would ever own just to be able to keep those few precious memories.

He almost chuckled when he paused long enough to take a hard look at the situation. Forcing himself to be gentler on the display, Max shifted his thoughts as far from Liz as he could get. Michael.

Michael ridiculed him on a daily basis about where he worked, but he’d long since stopped taking his surly friend seriously. While his job was the textbook definition of irony, it had proved useful in the past. Plus, he got along well with Brody. Of course, his boss still thought he was the victim of alien abductions, but it had only proved to raise Max in his estimations. And even though Brody’s alien discoveries were often crazy by conservative standards, sometimes he actually managed to get his hands on a legitimate piece of alien technology.

Unfortunately, the alien technology always seemed to get them into trouble. But it was at least a glimpse of their home world, a step closer to the ever-elusive truth. And they would take whatever they could get these days.

“Max, good. There you are.” Brody swept through the empty UFO Center crating a large cardboard box. “You’ll never guess what I’ve just been sent. Come look.”

Max laid the intestines haphazardly on the autopsy table and moved to stand beside Brody as he opened the box with barely restrained glee. “What is it?”

“I haven’t the slightest idea. But aren’t they wonderful?” Brody began picking out an assortment of metallic objects and placing them on the table. “I just received them from a fellow in England, an odd sort of man, but big into the UFO scene. Kirby Vryce. Ever heard of him?”

Max frowned, recognizing the name. “Yeah, didn’t he write a book? I remember it being something about alien languages.” That part he had found interesting. But the rest had seemed too odd even for him. “And he talked about deciphering alien linguistical patterns in white noise.”

Brody beamed at Max as if he were hi prize student. “Excellent. Yes, well, he sent these items to me. Genuine alien artifacts,” Brody confided, leaning closer to Max as he explained it.

“What do they do?”

”I haven’t a clue. Except for this one though.” Brody gestured to the largest of the equipment pieces. “It’s a translator. Genuine,” Brody stressed. “I heard it was used in a live capture that was done in Siberia two years ago. But it appears to be broken,” Brody frowned. “Look here. One whole side is missing a panel and you can see the circuits.” Then it occurred to Brody that it could be a good thing. “Maybe I can figure out how this thing works after all.”

Max smiled at his enthusiasm. Brody had picked the machine up easily and began poking around at it. It looked ultimately unextraordinary. It was a cube about the size of Brody’s computer monitor. But from the way he had picked it up with such ease made Max frown. How could something so large weigh so little? Could it really be made from the alien metal they knew so little about?

As Brody continued to push at the exposed circuits on one side, Max pawed through the rest of the items on the table. Could some of these items be real? He would have to get Michael in here to take a look at them. Maybe Tess too. She might have a better chance than the rest of them to pick out something legitimate.

Brody swung the box around towards Max, excitement lighting his face. “I think I’ve found something here. Look.”

Max shifted, angling for a closer look at Brody’s new toy. And suddenly the room exploded with light. Max clutched at his head as stabbing needles of pain sliced through his brain.

It was unbearable and he grasped at the table to support his weight. The room started spinning uncontrollably and he closed his eyes tightly, hoping it would all stop. His throat constricted painfully, swelling until his breathing came in gasping hitches.

He felt his powers charging up automatically, reading to fight against the unknown pain. They surged inside of his body, pooling, begging for release. Max knew he had to do something before he let loose a blast of energy, so he tried to let it trickle out through the pores of his skin. Hopefully, Brody would be too busy with the light show to notice anything else odd.

Beyond the pain, he could hear a faint popping noise that sounded like glass breaking. And just when he thought he couldn’t possibly bear anymore pain, the light faded away to nothing, leaving them in the dark room.

Brody was careful to place the cube safely on the table before he reached for Max and excitedly slapped him on the back. “Did you see it, Max? What am I saying? Of course you saw it!” Brody released Max and reached under the work table for the flashlight he kept there. He flicked it on and concentrated the beam on the cube. “Wasn’t it spectacular? It blew out all the bloody lightbulbs!”

Max didn’t say anything. He was pretty sure he had been the one to knock out the lights. He forced his body to dissolve the pooled energy, calming his jangled nerves. The swelling in his throat was slowly receding and the room was starting to settle back down. Whatever the hell Brody had found seemed to be the real deal. But what was it?

Brody noticed Max’s silence and cursed himself for not thinking of the poor boy. He was only a kid and hardly equipped to deal with the reality of the situation. In fact, Max was probably terrified of the artifact. He never talked about his abduction experience, but Brody knew it must have been horribly traumatic.

“Why don’t you go home, Max? It’s late and I’m sure your family’s probably worried about you. In fact, take tomorrow off too. I’m going to close the Center for the day. Maybe the weekend. I have a friend in Santa Fe I want to show this stuff to.” Brody kept one eye on Max and one eye on his new find. He wanted to be able to study it in peace and he doubted he would have the chance with Max still there. The boy still looked a bit pale, and probably needed some good sleep.

Max nodded, still trying to get his breathing under control. He had a blinding headache and wanted desperately to crawl into bed for a few hours. “Call me when you get back into town.”

“Yes, yes. Don’t worry about me. You just go home and rest.”

Not needed a further invitation, Max dragged himself through the dark Center towards the door. Remarkably, his already better than average night vision seemed to have sharpened. And he picked his way easily to the front door.

Dragging to his Jeep, he crawled into it gratefully and sat for a moment. He wanted to sit still long enough to make sure he would be able to drive home safely. And the road was currently spinning and weaving back and forth.

Involuntarily, Max’s attention was drawn to the single light across the street above the Crashdown. Liz’s window. She was still awake. Even through the blinding pain, he couldn’t help but think of her and wonder if she was alone. Was Kyle up there with her right now? At her side, giving her the normal existence she craved?

The thought sent anger churning in his stomach and cleared his head of the pain. At least he knew he could drive home safely. He cranked the Jeep’s engine, and revved it twice because it felt good. Then he pulled away from the curb with a squeal of tires.

And if he left a trail of blood from his wounded heart behind him, then so be it. Liz had made her choice and it hadn’t been him. He would have to find a way to move on, push past her and embrace the side of him that made it impossible for her to love him. He would talk to Isabel, Michael, and Tess in the morning and together they would figure out what to do about Brody’s newly acquired artifacts.

It was simply the way it had to be now. Liz Parker wasn’t a part of his life anymore. And the sooner he could pound that into his stubborn head, the sooner his heart would follow and obey.

Max took a turn a bit too fast, causing the wheels to squeal in disapproval and he forced himself to calm down. Getting himself killed wasn’t the way to deal with things. He slowed his speed to a safer one and made the rest of the drive home uneventfully.

Not wanting to deal with his parents, he entered the dark house carefully and quietly. But luck didn’t seem to be on his side again as they were sitting up watching a late night movie on television.

His mother sat up when she heard the door click shut and she turned a smile to her son. “You’re home late.”

“Yeah, sorry. Brody had me working on some of the displays. I lost track of time.”

“Did you eat something? I left you a plate in the oven.”

Max smiled at her. Always a mother first. “Yeah, but I think I’ll grab your plate anyway. Thanks, Mom.” Max pressed a hand to his throat as the tightness threatened him for a second. His voice had almost cracked while he’d been talking, but he was able to keep it normal sounding.

Knowing his mother would worry about him not eating, he warmed up the plate she had lovingly left for him and leaned against the counter, listening to the sounds from the living room. They were watching an old black and white movie, one he didn’t recognize, so it must be old.

Without warning, Max was struck by the same lightheaded feeling he’d experienced at the UFO Center. His vision wavered and all he could hear was a faint buzzing sound. He tried to shake his head, hoping to clear the confusion in his brain, but it didn’t seem to work.

In the distance, he heard the unmistakable sound of his parents laughter and he held on to it, using it to pull himself out of the tunnel. For one crazy second, something popped inside his ear and the sounds around him shifted wildly. He could hear all the normal household noises. The dishwasher was running, china clinging together noisily. The microwave was beeping, his late dinner warmed. But his parent’s voices were what sent a slick line of panic through his body.

They sounded strange to his ears, foreign. And he couldn’t understand a word they were saying. Every syllable was harshly delivered and unfamiliar. And without warning, the same pop rang in his ears and the world shifted back to normal.

“Max, is everything okay in there?”

The sound of his mother’s voice calmed him. “Yeah, Mom.”

Max shook his head again, willing the ground to settle down. He rubbed at his throat and the soreness that puzzled him. Something strange was going on. He knew that much. What had Brody’s machine done to him? He was tempted to call Michael over and inform him of what had happened, but it was past one in the morning. He doubted if anyone would appreciate being woken up at the early hour.

Carrying the warm plate with him, he moved past his parents and down the dark hallway. Pausing outside of his sister’s door, he frowned when he noted that her lights were already out. She was asleep too.

With a sigh, Max decided to wait till the morning to say anything. What harm could a couple of hours do?

The memory of the odd way his parents’ voices had sounded carried with him though as he settled into bed with a plate of his mother’s lasagna. And it was enough to ensure that he would bring it up in the morning. Because for one psychotic moment, he had been sure that the sounds he’d been hearing had been alien. But he knew that couldn’t be. His parents were as human as they came. So, if he’d been hearing sounds that seemed foreign, they had to have come from his own brain, his own interpretation of their words.

Shaking his head, Max laughed at his own thoughts. Maybe he was more tired than he’d thought. With a flick of his wrist, the CD player sprang to life across the room and he automatically adjusted the volume not to wake his sister. With a tired sigh, he decided not to think about it any more for the night. Tomorrow would come soon enough and they would figure out what was wrong before anything else strange had a chance to happen. Instead, he turned his thoughts as he always did to Liz, and the puzzle that had become their relationship.





[ edited 22time(s), last at 29-Sep-2002 12:02:00 AM ]
posted on 10-Jun-2002 6:24:34 AM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise.
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.


**So, what's with all the talk about how I can't write a short story? LOL Damn it, this story will not be 300 pages long, nor will it be 40 parts. I have vowed it, so shall it be. Thanks for all the lovely feedback, guys. I can always count on you for love. Here's the second part I promised you. I left it saved on my computer at work, so it took me until now to get to it. But without further ado...

Discord
Part 2

Max awoke to the insistent jab of his sister’s finger to his shoulder.

“Max! Max, wake up!”

Grumbling into his pillow, he tried to pull the blanket over his head. But Isabel wasn’t quite so easily put off. In a sweeping gesture, she ripped the green comforter off the bed completely. Cold and half naked, Max curled into a ball. His eyes snapped open to find Isabel glaring at him, hands on her hips in irritation. Idly, he wondered just what he had done now to deserve the angry wake up call.

“Isabel, do you mind?” He tried to pull the pillow over his head to block out the blinding sunlight peeking through the window, but Isabel merely plucked the pillow away from him.

”Yes, I do. Do you know what time it is? We’re supposed to be at the Crashdown for breakfast in fifteen minutes for a meeting. How are we supposed to talk if we’re late and the restaurant is already open? Get up, shower and throw some clothes on. You are coming with me and you will be ready to leave in ten minutes.” Her demands made, she flounced out the door, slamming it behind her for good measure.

Groaning, Max swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat up. Immediately, he regretted the quick movement. He dropped his head into his hands and was dismayed to find a thin sheen of sweat covering his skin. He couldn’t ever remember even running a fever in his life, much less waking up in a cold sweat.

And as if his morning wasn’t starting out badly enough, he remembered the meeting Isabel had spoken of. They were supposed to talk before the Café opened about the events that had transpired in New York. The week had been too hectic for them all to meet together before now.

The aliens had met already, but they had been interrupted when Michael had left to pick Maria up when her car had broken down again. And life had been too chaotic since for another meeting.

And the very thought of spending the morning pretending not to bleed to death watching Liz and Kyle together was enough to assure his day would indeed suck. They’d spent every waking hour together in the last week. Max hadn’t seen one without seeing the other. And he supposed he should be happy that she at least had someone who cared about her. And maybe he would be if it was anyone but Kyle. He knew Kyle. Kyle didn’t love Liz, not the way he did anyway.

But knowing the meeting had to be held, Max relented and resolved himself to another day of heartache. He pushed off the bed slowly and headed for the shower. His head was nothing more than a sharp concentration of pain and Isabel’s yelling at him for being even later than they were going to be wasn’t what he needed. Still, ten minutes was asking a bit much.

He took twenty minutes and thought that was making good time all things considered. But Isabel obviously disagreed with him and she rewarded him with her infamous silent treatment while she drove them across town. It was fine with Max though as he used the time to calm his thoughts.

Would Liz already be wearing her uniform? She always worked Saturday mornings. She’d once told him she’d rather get up and start the day early so she could have the rest of it to spend with him.

Did she look forward to spending her free time with Kyle the same way? He couldn’t help but torture himself with the thought. Would the raw ache ever go away when he saw her? Just being in her presence was intoxicating still. And he found himself running through the familiar list of reasons why what he’d seen in her bedroom last week was a mistake.

His overactive imagination had come up with a thousand reasons to explain why Liz would sleep with Kyle. But none of them were as plausible as the simple fact that maybe Liz really had wanted the normal life he couldn’t give her.

Too quickly, they arrived at the Crashdown and Max watched as Isabel cut the Jeep’s engine and sailed past him to enter the restaurant. No doubt telling them all how it was his fault they were late. Grimacing, he hauled himself out of the Jeep and forced his legs to move the short distance inside. They were already seated and waiting for him.

His sister sat with Alex and Maria in a booth. Michael and Tess were seated at a table in the center of the room, and Kyle was lounging at the counter. Liz was behind the counter, already dressed for work in the teal uniform that had been the subject of a thousand fantasies over the years.

She had been setting up a tray of coffee mugs and when he stopped just inside the door, her eyes raised to meet his and they locked together. As it always seemed to, time slowed between them. Nothing existed outside of the quasi connection they had begun forming from the instant their eyes met. He could see the way her pupils dilated every so slightly, and a slight flush crept up her cheeks.

And for the millionth time, he wondered what the true story behind last week was.

“Nice of you to show up, Maxwell. You call an early morning meeting at this hellhole and then stay in bed?”

Michael’s snarky words snapped Max out of his daze. He lowered his head and moved to sit beside Michael and Tess at what he considered to be the command table. From the corner of his eye, he watched as Liz sat beside Kyle at the counter. And the first fierce stab of jealousy for the day sliced through him.

Liz watched Max carefully as the meeting started around her. He didn’t look good. If she didn’t know better, she’d say he looked ill. But Max had never been sick a day in his life. She watched him let Michael take control of the meeting, as they tossed around ideas about what had happened to Lonnie and Rath. She knew the conversation would inevitably come back around to her and how she’d known about the Granolith. And she sighed just thinking about the argument that seemed inevitable.

“What are you doing after work?” Kyle whispered in her ear.

Liz grinned. At least it was nice to know she wasn’t the only pariah in the group. Kyle had become a good friend in the last few days, offering her an escape without asking why she’d orchestrated the fiasco in her bedroom. Of course their hanging out had only fueled the gossip at school even further, but she could handle that. As long as she knew the others would be safe and alive, she could handle any amount of schoolyard gossip. “I’m helping you pass French,” she reminded him. “Remember, big test Monday?”

Kyle scowled. “Damn. How could I have forgotten something so important?”

Liz’s lips twisted into a genuine smile. “I have no idea.”

“I don’t suppose I could talk you into blowing that off for tonight and getting a celebratory pizza with me?” He knew she’d been down lately, and her natural answer to that was to overwork herself. Whatever had gone down between her and Evans had to have been rough, but he was trying hard not to ask questions. If she wanted to talk about it, she would. Otherwise, he considered it his responsibility to keep her busy and laughing if he could help it.

”Depends on what we’re celebrating.” Liz frowned as she continued to keep one eye on Max. He was slumped over in his chair with one hand pressed to his head. No one else seemed to have noticed it yet. But she had.

Kyle turned his head until his nose was nuzzled in her hair, not wanting to interrupt the meeting with their conversation. Her ear was ticklish. It was one of those absurd things he’d discovered when they’d been dating and it never failed to elicit a smile from her. He’d long since moved past his romantic feelings for Liz and he was glad he could be this close to her on a friendly level. It was a new experience for him, and it was one he liked.

“I was thinking we could celebrate not being invaded today. Or the simple act of not being killed or threatened yet today. You take your pick.” Kyle wrapped one arm around he waist, wanting to shift closer to her. He’d seen the way Evans had looked at her when he’d walked in, and he could all but feel the pain coming off Liz in waves. He tried to be around whenever he thought Max would be, not wanting her to be left alone. He knew what it felt like to be on the outside of the group, and it was something he didn’t want her to have to suffer through.

Liz tried to hide the snort of laughter, and she elbowed Kyle in the ribs. But they had already garnered the groups’ attention.

Michael glared at them distastefully. Didn’t they have the decency not to flaunt their new relationship in front of Max? Even he’d seen the way Max had suffered the last few days and the blazing fury he’d lived with since he’d found out what Liz had done surfaced. “I’m sorry. Are we interrupting?”

Liz felt the weight of their collective stares and she dropped her gaze to the floor. Everyone knew or thought they knew about her and Kyle. The aliens had seemed to band together against her and Kyle, and she could hardly blame them. Maria was hurt she hadn’t been told anything and when Liz had put her off a few days ago, Maria had reacted by sulking. Alex simply sat back and absorbed everything going on around him until it all made sense. She mumbled an apology and felt Kyle’s arm wrap protectively around her waist. Grateful for his support, she managed a weak smile for him.

“Why don’t you take the floor, Liz? Tell us how you knew about the Granolith.”

Liz raised her eyes to meet the angry ones of her friends. She reminded herself for the thousandth time that she was doing this to save their lives, to protect them and give them a chance. “I told you everything I can.”

Isabel snorted scornfully. “Yeah, a visitor. Who, Liz? And what did he tell you exactly?”

“I’m sorry, Isabel. I told you everything I can.” She tried to firm the resolve in her voice but she felt Max’s heavy gaze boring into her.

“Not good enough, Liz.” Michael slapped his hand down on the table. “You don’t know who you were talking to and if they could be trusted. Plus, if someone out there knows about the Granolith, we need to know what they know. We’re supposed to be protecting this damn thing and we don’t even know what the hell it is! You’re not one of us, Liz. You don’t have the right to hold answers that we’ve spent our lives looking for!”

Wave after wave of pain slashed through her. You’re not one of us. Michael’s words cut to the quick of the problem. None of them wanted her around anymore, and maybe that was the way it was supposed to be. Maybe once they saw she wasn’t going to say anything further about the Granolith, they would cut her out of their meetings altogether.

“I’m sorry, Michael. But it’s all I can tell you.” Liz watched as a crazed look of frustration passed over Michael’s face before he very deliberately turned his back on her. She felt the full sting of the cold shoulder and reminded herself that at least he would be alive long enough to hate her for years to come.

Max barely heard anything around him. The strange tunnel sensation from last night had returned. His hearing was going in and out and his throat had begun to constrict painfully again. The pain in his head had done nothing but intensify in the last few minutes and he was desperately afraid the room would begin to spin uncontrollably again.

As Liz struggled to still pay attention to their run down on the Summit meeting, her eyes traveled back to Max. If possible, he looked even worse now than he had ten minutes ago. His cheeks had paled and he looked like he was sweating. Forced distance or not, she already found her muscles coiling to move toward him when he suddenly fell out of his chair.

Liz had been the only one to see the action and she was able to catch him before his head hit the floor. The others leapt to their feet as gasps of shock filled the room. Liz cradled Max’s head in her lap as she ran her fingers over his face and through his hair. He was running a fever and the thought of it terrified her. Memories of the time they’d almost lost Michael ran through her head.

Isabel knelt beside her brother and tried to shake him awake. When he stayed deadly still, she turned wide eyes to Liz and she saw the same terror that she felt mirrored in Liz’s dark eyes. “He’s so pale. What the hell’s wrong with him?”

“I don’t know.” Liz’s hands were shaking with terror. “We should put him on the couch. Maria, can you get some cold water and a towel? Does anyone know where the healing stones are? We might need them.”

The others let her lead them, she noted with satisfaction. Now wasn’t the time for arguments. Michael moved beside her to take Max’s shoulders and Kyle had moved to his feet. But before Michael had the chance to elbow Liz out of the way, Max’s head rolled to the side slowly and he groaned.

“Max?” Liz asked, desperate for any sign that he was okay.

Max fought to escape the downward pull of the darkness around him. He scrambled against it, pulling his way out of it inch by painful inch until he was finally rewarded with a blinding light. He groaned in complaint, jamming his eyelids closed in defense. Then crushed his hands to his ears as his hearing came rushing back to him.

It was as if he were being hit by a freight train, the cacophony of sounds was almost too much. Why didn’t anything make sense? All he could hear around him was harsh words and syllables, distorted garbage that didn’t make any sense. And it was enough to panic him into opening his eyes.

The light was too bright and he wanted to open his mouth to ask someone to turn the spotlight off, but his throat was thick and rigid. He doubted he could say anything even if he had to. But when the searing pain from the light subsided, the first thing Max saw was Liz’s worried face. He smiled then, knowing at least she was okay. Concern swam in her dark eyes. Concern for him. And it filled him with glee. No matter what happened, she still cared about him.

Her cool hand was on his face and she was smiling at him. Behind her, he could still hear the garbled words, but he blocked it out. He knew he was lying on the floor, so something must have happened. Were they in danger? There was a tidal wave of pain still building in his head, but he held it at bay. As long as Liz sat there looking at him as if he were all that mattered in the world, he would let her.

She opened her mouth, a trace of concern on her features and when a stream of unintelligible words poured from her mouth, Max’s panic hit an all time high. He bolted upright in her arms, his hands automatically feeling her face for damage. Finding none, he frantically looked around the room. His friends were looking at him as if he had grown a second head. And there didn’t seem to be any danger in the room with them.

Isabel came closer to him, reaching out a hand, and her lips produced the same incomprehensible language. Max shook his head slowly at first, then more frantically, despite the pain that lingered there. He shook it a few times, hoping to knock something back into place.

This couldn’t be happening. What was happening? They were all speaking at once, the harsh sounds mingling into a dissonant symphony that made him want to close his eyes and wish the horrible nightmare away.

He reached a hand to his throat, hoping to ease some of the tension there, enough to talk anyway. And though it was painful, he tried to cough, anything to loosen his airways enough to find out what had happened.

“What’s-“ he broke off, clearing his throat and tried again. “What’s going on?”

Max watched in shock as everyone in the room recoiled in horror. What had happened? He took a quick look around him, but found nothing grotesque behind him. His sister’s eyes had grown wide as saucers and she took a step back from him. A shadow of an idea, a horrible idea, grew in his mind. Needing answers, he turned to Liz. His Liz, who would know him, understand him better than anyone in the universe.

He opened his mouth again, more afraid of the truth than he’d even been in his life. “Liz? Can you understand me?”

He watched as her eyes filled with tears, watched as they streaked down her cheeks. Her eyes were as wide as Isabel’s, but she didn’t step back from him. She shook her head slowly, opening her mouth to talk again and when he wasn’t able to understand a word of it, he closed his eyes in horror.

Terrified of what was going on, he scrambled backwards until his back was pressed firmly against the counter. He only needed a few minutes to think, and everything would be okay. He knocked over a couple of stools that were in the way, and they clattered noisily to the floor. At least that sound was familiar.

He raised his knees tight against his chest and dropped his head. This couldn’t be happening. Why couldn’t he understand a word they were saying? And even worse and more confusing, why couldn’t they understand him? He closed his eyes tight, knowing what he would find if he opened them. Horror. They were looking at him as if he were an alien. And the bitter irony in it made him want to weep.

They were talking across the room in hushed tones. He figured they probably didn’t want to him to hear them, but the just didn’t seem to get it. It didn’t matter if he heard them anyway. Their words were nonsensical. They could be speaking in German for all he knew. But he recognized the tone, and it was full of the fear he’d been afraid of his whole life.

They were afraid of him, afraid of what he was.

A hand touched his elbow hesitantly and Max jerked his head up to find Liz watching him with a worried gaze. The argument seemed to have stopped for now, and they were all looking at him in various stages of shock. Liz was sitting on the floor a foot away from him, and Tess was slowly crawling her way across the floor towards him, as if she were approaching a wild dog that might take a nip at her.

She glanced back at the others before continuing forward. Opening her mouth, Max braced himself for another round of harsh consonants, but found that for once, something in the last five minutes made sense.

“Hello?”

Max looked at Tess gratefully, as if she had just cracked the answer to the world’s most difficult problem. They might have had their problems in the past, but none of it mattered in that instant. “Tess? You can understand me? I don’t know what’s going on, why no one can understand me. But I know we can figure this mess out.“ He smiled at her and when she didn’t return the smile, his died on his lips.

The worried expressions of the group behind Tess deepened and when she turned back to them, he wasn’t able to understand a word that came out of her mouth. With horrifying clarity, Max began to understand what was going on around him. By the looks of the others, they had figured it out too.

Liz squeezed his arm in reassurance and she offered him a worried smile. But she didn’t try to speak to him, and he was grateful for her silence. He wouldn’t be able to understand her anyway.

Because she didn’t speak Antarian. Even worse, he seemed to have lost the ability to speak English. And he had never been more terrified, or more alone in his life.

posted on 13-Jun-2002 9:18:09 AM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise.
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.


Here's your update, as promised. I'm glad you guys are enjoying this one. It's been pretty fun to write.

Discord
Part 3

It had been two hours and they still weren’t any closer to answers than they had been since that morning. Liz paced the length of her living room and listened as Michael and Isabel bickered over what course of action to take next. Liz glanced in the direction of her closed bedroom door and let out a frustrated breath.

She had shuffled Max into her bedroom an hour and a half ago against Michael’s very vocal disagreement. He felt that Max should have stayed with them in case something changed. But Liz had taken one look at Max and had put her foot down more firmly than she ever had before. He was too tired, too sickly looking. And he looked terrified. He couldn’t understand a single person on the planet, much less in the room, and might not again unless they could figure out what had happened. The last thing he’d needed was to sit in a room when he couldn’t understand what they were saying or be able to participate in the solution.

Her heart was breaking for him and it only compounded her guilt even further that she had driven a wedge between them now when he probably needed her more than ever before.

Tess had been the first of them to figure it out. She had been privy to the occasional slip of language around Nasedo, and she had recognized the harmony of the words Max had been speaking. So, she had tested it out with the one Antarian word she’d known.

The look on Max’s face in that instant had been unmistakable. He’d understood her, thought she understood him. And when he’d realized she couldn’t, he’d retreated into himself even further.

They’d moved the meeting upstairs and Liz had called someone in to work her shift. Her parents were out of town for the day, so they still had a little bit of time left. And there was no way she was leaving Max alone right now. She couldn’t begin to imagine how scared he had to be. Even if he hated her for the rest of her life for what she had tricked him into seeing last week, she could be here for him now.

The never ending bickering between Isabel and Michael finally caught her attention and she frowned at them. “Do you think you can keep your voices down?” she hissed.

“What does it matter? It’s not like he understands us anyway,” Michael groused in frustration.

“Because he understands the tone of your voice,” Tess explained for Liz. She had been keeping quiet for the most part, but she’d kept an eye on Liz. And she had noticed that Liz seemed to be the only one that Max trusted right now to guide him.

When they’d been downstairs, Max had shut down, putting a wall between himself and everyone else in the room. He hadn’t wanted anyone to approach him, except Liz. Despite everything that had happened between them, he still trusted her above everyone else. And it had been only Liz that had been able to get him upstairs.

And something inside of her twisted and died with the knowledge.

Surprised at Tess’s observation, Liz nodded in agreement. “All he understands right now is tones. So, if we’re yelling at each other all day, it’s not exactly confidence inspiring. We need to be a unit or we’re not going to be able to help him.”

Michael bit back the scathing remark that was perched on his lips. He wanted to light into Liz over the way she’d tossed his friend so carelessly aside, but she was right. Now wasn’t the time. And he paced in frustration. “I’m tired of just sitting here not doing anything.”

“Michael, there’s not anything we can do right now. Max is the only one that knows what might have caused this. Without that information, we’re just stumbling around in the dark. Isabel already tried to dreamwalk him, but he wasn’t asleep, so it wasn’t our best shot. And Tess is going to try to connect with him after he calms down a bit. And before you even suggest it, we’re not pushing him to try to tell us anything right now. He’s been through enough today without his friends bullying him. For the moment, we’re doing all we can.”

Max listened to the calm tone of Liz’s voice from the doorway. He didn’t have a clue what she was saying, but he thought he recognized the tone. She was defending him.

He’d tried resting, had tried meditating. He’d tried everything he knew how to do to fix the short circuit in his brain, but nothing had worked. He was going to have to trust his friends to help him. It was a huge leap of faith for someone as controlling as he could sometimes be, but he would have to trust them implicitly.

Max refused to speak though. He’d be damned if he’d open his mouth to the alien sounds. It was embarrassing on so many levels. He hated the lack of control, he hated being forced to admit to a weakness. And he hated most of all the way they looked at him when he did try to speak. He’d never felt more alien in his life.

Realizing he needed to garner their attention somehow, Max closed Liz’s door with a loud click. And he was rewarded with the intensity of seven pairs of eyes. Michael rushed forward as if this was his chance to press for answers, but Max held him off with a gesture of his hand. He was trying to take things slow, to calm the pounding ache in his head.

Wincing at the brightness of the room, Max shaded his eyes with his hand. It was just another angle about the whole thing he didn’t understand. He’d been in Liz’s living room dozens of times, and the lighting in the room was the same soft light normal people lived with. But it was suddenly too bright. And his inner voice taunted him. But you’re not normal, are you?

Liz’s mind raced as she watched Max flinch. Was the light bothering him too? Without stopping to question it, she flipped the switch behind her and the only light filtered in through the closed blinds. Max raised his head to look at her and he flashed her a grateful smile for somehow understanding him.

Picking up a tablet of paper from her father’s desk, Liz offered it to Max. Her last great hope had been that maybe he could write down what had happened. But Max saw her movement and shook his head quickly. Hope died and she found despair written across his face. Had he tried it already and failed? It was another key to the puzzle and she added it to her mental list of things they knew so far. She squared her shoulders, determined. It was a problem, but nothing they couldn’t’ solve. She offered Max a smile of reassurance and was rewarded when some of the despair lifted.

Max found himself gazing into Liz’s eyes and the world melted away the way it always did when she looked at him. It had always been so easy between them, a simple look, a touch, and a connection flared to life between them. Did she miss that when she was with Kyle?

The slash of pain from his own wandering thought snapped him out of the daze. He had to tell them something somehow. And the simplest way to get them going would be to start with the UFO Center.

Max strode to the window and shielded his eyes carefully before drawing the curtain back. He could see the UFO Center from there thankfully, so he pointed at it. He’d turned it over in his head in Liz’s room and this mess had to have been caused by Brody’s device. The only problem was that Brody was out of town and he had no idea how to convey that small detail. But at least Brody was a place to start.

The others followed Max’s gesture and found him pointing at the Center across the street.

“The UFO Center? Something must have happened there last night. Wasn’t Max working late?” Michael was already striding towards the door when Maria pulled him back.

“Michael, be serious. You can’t just walk over there. You have no idea what’s in there or what happened to Max.”

“She’s right, man,” Alex agreed. “Plus, I don’t think the Center is even open today. Brody’s car isn’t parked outside.”

“So we split up,” Tess decided. “Michael, you take Isabel and head across the street I’ll go check out Brody’s house and see if he’s there or if anything looks wrong.”

“If you think you’re going anywhere without me you’re dead wrong,” Maria insisted, crossing he arms over her chest. Alex moved to stand beside her and wrapped a long arm around her shoulders.

Liz smiled at the show of silent support. She’d seen it a thousand times, both from where Tess now stood and from the empty place at Alex’s other side “Why doesn’t Maria go with you, Tess? If Brody is at home, you’ll get more information out of him with her there.” She ignored both Michael and Maria’s grumbled complaints, and turned to Michael and Isabel. “Alex can go with you two. We don’t have any idea what we’re dealing with. Maybe he can help from the technical side of things. Plus, if it is something that does something to your physiology, Alex shouldn’t be affected.”

“What about Kyle? Shouldn’t he go with us instead of Alex?” Isabel asked, crossing her arms over her chest. She didn’t want Alex walking into trouble, and Kyle seemed to be better equipped if they ran into trouble.

Liz shook her head. “There’s a chance Kyle and I could be affected as easily as you could. You need someone with you that has had no contact with Antarian powers or DNA or whatever you want to call it.”

As sound as her logic was, Isabel still had problems with Liz taking charge. Isabel narrowed her eyes at Liz, her gaze frosty. “And what about you and Kyle? What will you two be doing while the rest of us are off looking for answers?”

Liz met her gaze, frost on frost. “We’ll stay here with Max.”

“I doubt my brother is up for a repeat of last time the three of you were together alone.”

Liz felt the icy slap of Isabel’s words. Of course she thought Liz was nothing more than a back stabber, a whore. She didn’t need to come out and say the word to know it hung between them. Isn’t that what they all thought of her after all? Hadn’t that been the point? Max hated her and by extension, so did everyone that loved him. It’s for their own good. They would have died.

Liz repeated the mantra in her head until the sorrow calmed. “He stays,” Liz repeated, all emotion absent from her voice.

Max watched the emotions play across Liz’s face. She’d been defending him again. He didn’t need to understand his sister’s words to understand the tone they had been delivered in. he’d seen the power struggle, figured Maria and Alex were fighting to participate in whatever plan they were creating.

But then Isabel’s unmistakably frigid tone had won out. And Liz had…crumbled before his eyes. What had Isabel said to her?

He’d seen a world of pain etched in her features and he couldn’t figure it out. They had to have brought up Liz and Kyle. Reflexively, his heart clenched painfully in memory. He’d been able to push it back when he’d been in her room alone a few minutes before. There had been enough to keep his mind pleasantly occupied.

He’d watched Kyle move to Liz’s side, wrapping one muscled arm around her shoulders and he had to shove his own anguish back. He needed all of them to get out of this. Liz had a cool, scientific mind and he needed that.

He needed her.

Even with Kyle by her side, the pain remained on her face. And he realized that it was the first time he’d really looked at her since he’d seen her in bed with Kyle. He’d spent too long giving into the impulse to avert his gaze to avoid heartache. And as Kyle and Isabel spoke now in harsh tones, he studied Liz.

She didn’t melt into Kyle’s arms the way she melted into his. It used to be something he took for granted. He could put his arm around her and she would naturally fit against his body until they felt solid together. And the rush of victory was hard to quash. Liz’s arms were wrapped around Kyle’s waist but stiffly, more like a lifeline than a lover.

Shit. Keep looking, don’t think.

Kyle’s hand cupped the back of Liz’s neck, marring the perfect flow of her straight hair. Didn’t Kyle know Liz didn’t like to be touched like that? She hated it when anyone touched the back of her neck. Now, the sides, just below her ears, if touched just right could make her gasp breathlessly.

Liz’s voice rose, rejoining the conversation. Controlled anger. Her jaw tightened, adding a strain to her tone. He wished he knew what she was saying. She looked magnificent.

She stepped forward, towards Isabel and Kyle automatically angled his body beside her. His hand rested possessively on the small of her back. Max made himself watch, made himself take it all in and put to rest the voices in his head that had been telling him something was off. And Max was surprised not to feel the overpowering urge to blast Kyle into a thousand pieces. Something in their body language was wrong.

Maria stepped between Liz and Isabel, playing peacekeeper. Isabel glared at Liz one final time before turning and storming out the front door. Alex followed after her and Michael joined them after sending one last remark Liz’s way. The parting shot, Michael’s specialty. Maria spoke in low, clipped tones to Liz, her own irritation showing now. And this surprised Max more than anything. When had all of this transpired? Since when was all of this animosity settling between them all? As he watched, Maria inclined her head towards Tess and the two girls headed silently out the door.

And then he was alone with Liz and Kyle.

Liz seemed to realize it at the same time and she turned to face him. Her gaze flicked over him a minute before sliding off him just as quickly. She avoided his gaze, uncertain what to do now.

Momentarily forgetting his own vow not to talk, Max looked at her curiously. “Why are you lying?”

Her head swung around to meet his gaze, her eyes wide with shock. And he cursed himself for the slip. Without another word, he turned and fled back to Liz’s bedroom. He had to think this new information through.

*~*~

Liz sat on the couch, her head in her hands. She’d been nursing a headache for an hour now, but she refused to do anything to alleviate the pain. If Max was suffering alone in the next room, it felt wrong somehow to do anything to take away her own pain. Somehow, her actions had to have been the cause of this mess.

Her argument with Isabel was still fresh in her head. Having had the opportunity tell Liz exactly what she thought about her, she had. Kyle had tried to defend her, but it hadn’t helped. Everything Isabel had said had been on target, at least without knowing she hadn’t slept with Kyle. And no one could find out. She’d been wracking her brain for hours now trying to figure out if Future Max had said anything to her that might help Max now.

And after reviewing every word they’d spoken during his visit, she’d decided that there was nothing. She hated feeling helpless, afraid that even her presence right now might upset him further. Kyle had gone downstairs, trying to give hr some space. And she was thankful for it. She desperately wanted to see Max, to find out how he was handling things. But she was afraid. She didn’t want to let him too close, yet she didn’t want to keep him too far away. She was trapped in a limbo of her own making, trapped by a promise she made to a man who no longer existed. She’d killed him to save the people he loved, to save the world.

Of their own accord, Liz’s feet brought her to her closed bedroom door. She listened quietly but wasn’t automatically alarmed when she didn’t hear anything. Max had been quiet all morning, unwilling to remind everyone of how different, how alien he was.

With a resigned sigh, she knocked on the door. Automatically, her lips formed his name but she killed the sound before she made it. What did she sound like to him? Did the English language sound as harsh as the Antarian language did? Although, if she was fair, it didn’t sound as harsh as she supposed it could sound. It had almost a lyrical quality to it.

She wanted to hear more of it.

Deciding that Max would never make a sound to usher her into the room, Liz pushed the door open cautiously. She found Max sitting on her bed, staring out the window. The lights had been dimmed and it took a second before her eyes adjusted to the low light. And when they did, in that single instant, she was able to see every emotion clearly on his face. He’d been so closed off from her, she’d almost forgotten what it was like to see his features opened to her.

Feeling her presence, Max shifted on the bed and turned to find Liz standing in the doorway. His heart leapt to his throat when he saw the pain on her face. And it confused him all the more. He knew she was lying to him now, he’d seen as much in the living room. But about what? And why?

He wished he could ask her, but he didn’t have the words. So, he settled for simply watching her. She hadn’t said anything yet, and he didn’t know if he was grateful or nervous that she was simply watching him. He didn’t want her pity. He didn’t want to see the fear that he’d seen in his own sister’s eyes as she’d backed away from him. If he couldn’t trust his own family to accept him as he was, how could he expect Liz to? Especially with her words running through his head.

My life is only in danger if I am with you. I want to be in love with boys...normal boys. I want to see my 21st birthday. I want to have a wedding day. I want to have children...and I want my children to be safe. You know, Max, if...if you truly love me, you'll let me go. I may love you, but I don't want to die for you.

Those words had sliced through his heart when he’d heard them and every time he’d repeated them in his head afterwards. He’d been training himself not to depend on her since then., not to seek her out whenever he needed a sounding board. And now when his life was more upside down than ever before, he desperately wanted to turn to her, to curl up inside of her and depend on her to take care of him. But he couldn’t let that happen. He couldn’t let her get sucked back into the swirling vortex of his life. There would always be some crisis or another, and if he ran to her every time his life turned upside down, it would only make her miserable.

She wanted normal boys. And he wasn’t normal.

Instead of running to her and clinging, he forced himself to remain seated. Slowly, he turned his eyes away, returning them to the window. The bright light stung his eyes, but he didn’t care. It was better than the constant throbbing in his chest where his heart used to beat.

“Max,” she whispered, wishing she knew what to do that would help him. He was so strong, so in control, it had to be killing him to sit helplessly by and do nothing.

Max closed his eyes when he heard her soft whisper. He knew the tone if not the word, and he memorized it the way his name rolled off her tongue. It wasn’t fair. Why couldn’t something in his life be fair for once?

Liz had already taken a step toward Max when she heard the front door open. Torn, she hovered in the doorway, but saw Max’s head lift at the noise.

“Liz?”

“We’re in here,” Liz called when she heard Isabel’s voice.

It took only a moment before Isabel poked her head through the doorway and scowled at Liz when she saw the dejected look on Max’s face. Somehow, she was sure Liz was to blame for her brother’s pain.

“What did you guys find?” Liz asked when Michael and Alex followed Isabel. She saw Kyle hovering on the edge of the group, unsure if he should move any closer.

“Not much of anything. Brody wasn’t there and there wasn’t a sign of struggle.” Michael ran a hand through his hair in agitation. “I don’t know what we were expecting to find, but it obviously wasn’t there.”

Liz’s hoped died down. She’d been hoping they would find something to help Max. “Have you heard from Tess and Maria yet?”

“Nothing,” Alex answered with an apologetic grin. “Sorry, Liz.”

Frowning in thought, Liz paced the room. “No, it’s okay. We can figure this out. Tess and Maria should be back soon and hopefully they’ll have spoken with Brody and we’ll be closer to figuring this out.”

“Sorry, but we hit a complete brick wall there.” Maria walked through Liz’s doorway and threw herself on Liz’s bed. Tess followed, but stayed closer to the doorway.

“Brody wasn’t there?” Michael asked.

“No sign of him. Wherever he is though, he packed fast and got the hell out of Dodge. There were still dishes in the sink and clothes thrown everywhere.”

“So, you didn’t get anything?” Liz clarified.

“Well, I wouldn’t exactly say that.” Maria grinned and held a slip of paper out to her friend. “I have a city. Santa Fe. It was written on a note pad he left behind with some vague directions.”

Michael grabbed for the paper and scanned it quickly. “So, something spooked Brody and he ran off for Santa Fe without a word to anyone.”

Maria scoffed. “It’s not like Brody’s the most stable guy in Roswell. He takes off on a whim all the time. Didn’t Max run the Center for a month the last time he left out of the blue?”

“Maria’s right. We have no way of knowing how long Brody will be gone, and we need to know what happened last night. Someone needs to follow him.”

“I’ll go,” Michael announced, leaving no room for debate. Then he turned to Maria. “And you’re not coming.”

“Right. Sure. And you’re getting there how?” She crossed her arms over her chest and watched him in amusement.

“Just give me your keys, Maria.” He held his hand out.

“Have you suffered head trauma lately? You know that wherever my car goes so do I. Besides, you might need back up.”

“From you? Are you going to pester anyone that comes after us? Annoy them by talking excessively?”

“I’m going too,” Isabel announced, breaking up Michael and Maria’s bickering. She glanced at Max. “I think we should take Max with us.”

“I don’t think that’s such a great idea,” Alex interjected with a glance at Max. “I mean, if there really is trouble, Max won’t know to get out of harms way. It’s not like you can call out to him or anything. He should lay low for awhile.”

“Where is he supposed to stay? He can’t stay at home if I’m not there. Mom and Dad will want to talk to him at some point in the next few days.”

Liz had been listening to the conversation, a plan already forming in her mind. Slowly, she had been inching closer to Max, wanting to lend her support. She’d seen the way his head had bobbed back and forth between the members of the group as they talked. And a faint line of frustration was forming between his eyebrows. It was only a matter of time before he gave himself a whopper of a headache.

“He’ll stay with me,” she announced finally.

Everyone in the room turned to look at her in varying forms of disbelief.

“Why do you think we would let you anywhere near him? Haven’t you done enough damage?” Isabel asked, her words cold and calculated.

Liz hardened the shield over her emotions. “I’m perfectly aware of the situation, Isabel. You, Michael and Maria are going to Santa Fe. He can’t stay at his house. I don’t really think the Valenti house is the most soothing atmosphere for him to be in.”

“He can stay at my apartment,” Michael decided.

Liz nodded, humoring him. “Sure. And if there’s some emergency, I’m sure Max will be able to take care of himself. Look, I don’t like it any better than you do, but Max shouldn’t be alone right now. It’s not safe. And I can’t just leave my room for a couple of days. My parents would notice that.”

“But they’re not going to notice your ex-boyfriend sleeping in your bed?” Michael asked.

“Not if he sleeps on the floor by the window. If I’m in bed, it’s enough for my parents. Look, I know what you all think of me. And right now, I don’t care. We have a serious situation and we need to figure out what happened so we can fix it.”

“There’s more,” Tess announced quietly. Her blue eyes swept the room, waiting until she had their attention. “There are Skins in Roswell again. Which means Nicholas isn’t far behind.”


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 13-Jun-2002 9:19:47 AM ]
posted on 13-Jun-2002 9:39:52 AM by Cookieman1234
************NOTE*****************
Guys, I meant to post a note the other day to let you know that I have my stories posted on a couple of other sites if you ever have trouble getting onto this board. RosDeidre has a site she's trying to get up and running and I post updates of all three of my stories. So, this messages goes for all of them. Here's the link for anyone that wants to pop over and say hello.

http://pub84.ezboard.com/brosdeidresfanfiction

~Stacey
posted on 19-Jun-2002 11:57:02 AM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise.
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.

Discord
Part 4

“There are Skins in Roswell again. Which means Nicholas isn’t far behind.”

Silence reined for ten seconds in the aftermath of Tess’s announcement, then everyone began talking at once. Alex stood back and took in the noise around him. Tess was trying to answer the rapid-fire questions Michael and Isabel were throwing at her. Maria was trying to get Michael’s attention, and Liz was trying to regain control of the situation. Only Max was silent. Alex watched his eyes move from person to person, trying to grab onto something tangible. And with this group, pigs would be flying airplanes before they calmed down on their own enough for Max to make sense of them.

With a sigh, Alex crossed to the door and flipped the light switch on and off a few times until the noise settled down. With eternal patience, he looked at them. “You know this isn’t helping.”

Liz moved to Alex’s side and immediately flipped the light switch off again. Ignoring the looks of confusion everyone was giving her, she turned her attention to Tess. “Why do you think Nicholas is coming? And how do you know the Skins are here?”

“When Maria and I were on our way back over here, I saw them. I recognized a few of them from Whittaker’s funeral. And I saw them again in New York at the Summit meeting. They must be Nicholas’s personal guards or something. So Nicholas can’t be far.”

“And just when a bad situation couldn’t get any worse,” Kyle mumbled.

“If Nicholas is here, he’s come for blood,” Isabel stated fearfully.

“I stand corrected.” Kyle crossed his arms over his chest and studied Isabel. “What’s this guy’s deal?”

“He wants to get back to Antar,” Tess informed them, remembering the Summit meeting. “It’s all he wants. And he’ll kill to get it.”

“Okay, nothing has changed,” Liz decided. She paced in front of Alex in a small line. “Nicholas isn’t here yet obviously or none of us would be standing here now.”

“Do you think Nicholas had something to do with Max?” Maria asked, not directing her question to anyone in particular.

Isabel shook her head. “No. If Max had seen Nicholas, he would have said something.”

“Except Max can’t seem to say anything coherent at the moment,” Kyle pointed out.

Isabel glared at him, but he didn’t shrink back. “I think that whatever happened to Max is separate. Nicholas has his own agenda.”

“I agree. That’s why you guys still need to go to Santa Fe. We need Max for this, and there’s no telling how long Brody will be gone for.” Liz glanced at Max, hating the confusion she found on his face.

“Wait. Is that safe?” Kyle asked. “You’re sending all the aliens to Santa Fe and leaving us here alone for Nicholas to use as bait for when they get back into town? I say we vote on a plan B.”

“There isn’t time for a plan B, Kyle. If Michael and Isabel can find Brody, maybe they can figure out what happened to him. And besides, we have Tess. If Nicholas really is on his way, she’s the only one that has a chance at stopping him.”

Tess watched Liz as she spoke, surprised Liz was bringing her into the conversation. “I was going to try to connect with Max when he calmed down anyway to see if I can help. Plus, I was thinking that I could get the Destiny book from home. Maybe Max can make sense of it now.” She shrugged. “I’ll stay if you guys still want to go.”

“What about our parents?” Isabel asked. “They’ll notice if neither of their children come home for a couple of days.”

“Oh, this is the easy part,” Maria declared. “Isabel is staying with me, and Max is with Michael. My mom will assume Michael and I have snuck off for a weekend orgy and Alex’s are never there to ask questions anyway.”

“It’s true,” Alex confirmed, shrugging when he saw the look of disbelief on Isabel’s face.

“That’s the least of our worries,” Maria continued. “How long will it take us to get to Santa Fe and track down Brody?”

Max continued to watch his friends with a growing sense of frustration. Something was wrong, something even bigger than his current problem. And he had no way of knowing what it was. They could be in danger and there wasn’t anything he could do to help them. He couldn’t even help them with his problem. What if they needed him?

He tugged at the collar of his shirt. Was the room getting hotter or was it just him? He’d been trying to ignore it, but the temperature in the room had been climbing the longer he was in it. Was the air condition broken? He tried to focus on the conversation taking place around him, searching for any kind of body language to give him a clue what was going on.

His head had begun to throb anew and he was beginning to wish that they would make their plans somewhere else. It wasn’t as if he could do anything but watch them plan anyway. And he hardly expected them to play a game of Pictionary or charades to explain what they were about to do.

Pictionary.

Max leapt off Liz’s bed and strode to her desk as the thought struck him. Liz had offered him paper before to see if he could write what had happened. And when he had failed at that, he hadn’t even thought about drawing the device.

Max didn’t have to root around Liz’s desk. He knew she kept things meticulously in place, and he found a pad of paper easily. The room had grown quiet around him but he didn’t pay attention to them. He realized that his sudden movement had probably caught them off guard. They’d already begun to forget about his presence even when he was in the room with them.

Closing his eyes, Max tried to retrace his steps from the previous night. Brody had called him over to workbench and had begun pulling out various devices. His abnormally clear memory helped him walk though the events as if he were reliving it. And when his memory flashed across the cube that had hit him with the jolt of energy hard, his hands began tracing the image onto paper.

Never having been an artist, Max tried to draw the device as best he could. Even if it was the worst drawing ever made, it was something. Relieved at last to be able to do something more useful than take up space, he took an extra minute to try and sketch some of the more authentic looking devices that had been in the box as well. Proud of himself, he picked up the pad and was surprised to find Liz hanging over his shoulder.

Her hair was hanging around her face, framing it, and when he shifted, the silk strands tickled his face. She was staring at the picture with rapt awe and his heart turned over in his chest. He hadn’t been this close to her in longer than he could remember and it had his pulse rate rising. She still smelled like strawberries, and his senses hadn’t been prepared for that.

Her perfect lips opened and though he had no idea what she was saying, he found himself caught up in the action. Her lips were slicked with gloss, some pale pink color that you had to be inches away from to appreciate. Her voice was beautiful, soft and rich. And he realized that it didn’t matter what she was saying. He didn’t need the words.

She must have been talking to him, not remembering that he couldn’t understand a word she said. She flushed and glanced at him, and she caught him staring at her. Cursing himself, he forced his eyes away and handed the pad of paper to her. He focused on the wall, the desk, anything to avoid that gaze. Wanting to make sure they understood which device was the most important one to look for, he circled it. And then his own curiosity got the better of him and he turned his attention back to her.

Liz took the paper, careful to avert her eyes, and Max’s internal cursing stopped. What was she afraid he would see? The truth she was trying to keep from him? Something was off. He had watched Liz for most of his life. He knew her every mannerism, her every gesture. And she was acting skittish. At first, he’d attributed it to embarrassment, or maybe shame that she had been caught by him with Kyle. But he’d watched her interact with Kyle earlier and for the first time, he finally had tangible proof of what his heart had been telling him all along.

Liz was lying to him.

*~*~

Liz paced the living room floor, crossing and uncrossing her arms. She was too restless, filled with too much nervous energy to sit. They’d been in there a long time. Were they having any luck? Part of her hoped they were. Anything they had to do to help Max would be worth it in the long run. Even if it meant that Tess and Max had to forge a deeper connection.

Michael and Isabel had taken Maria and Alex and had left for Santa Fe hours ago, promising to call when they got there. But they were the least of Liz’s worries. Shortly after they had left, Tess and Max had closed themselves up in her bedroom in an attempt to form a connection that could help him.

Liz was baffled. It wasn’t amnesia, at least not as far as she could tell. He knew who he was, who they all were. He just didn’t know or understand English. He did understand Antarian though. Liz’s scientific mind struggled to put the pieces together. His vision was affected by light and unless she was mistaken, he’d been looking feverish. Was this another change taking place inside of him?

She was beginning to form a theory but there wasn’t enough evidence yet to support it. Plus, there wasn’t reason to panic everyone else if she was wrong. And she wished she was wrong with everything inside of her.

“Liz, you’re making me dizzy. Why don’t you sit down for a minute?”

“Kyle, I can’t. They’ve been in there for hours.” How long did it take to form a connection anyway? It had only taken her and Max seconds to do before.

Kyle watched her pace and decided enough was enough. “Are you more afraid she’ll be able to help him or that she won’t?”

Liz did stop pacing now. “What do you mean?”

She was within easy reach and he snagged her arm, pulling her down onto the couch beside him. “Liz, I never asked why you did what you did. I kept my mouth shut even when I listened to everyone take a shot at you. Why are you doing this?”

“Please don’t ask.” She was tired of lying. It took everything inside of her and twisted it into knots. And she couldn’t do it anymore.

Kyle let her lean her head against his shoulder and he wrapped an arm around her. It was odd to discover that he now saw his ex-girlfriend as more of a sister than anything else. And if she would just stop getting herself into impossible situations, maybe he wouldn’t have to watch over her so carefully. “Is this all part of some loopy plot to push Max and Tess into this supposed destiny? Because I have to say that I know you’re smarter than that.”

“What do you mean?”

He struggled not to sigh. “Liz, are you blind or just crazy? You didn’t see the way Max was looking at you before everyone left? He has stars in his eyes and they’re all for you.”

Liz sat up straighter, narrowing her eyes. “No, he didn’t. Kyle, he’s feeling alone and scared and I was a familiar face.”

Kyle scoffed. “Liz, my face is familiar. Yours is a vision. At least to him anyway. Don’t you get it? Not even seeing us in bed like that was enough. He still loves you. He’ll probably love you until the end of time. Why are you pushing that away?”

Was Kyle right? Liz considered the possibility for the first time. What if even that horrible night hadn’t been enough to make him stop loving her? But the memory of the tortured look in his eyes quashed any hope she had left. And Future Max had disappeared. That meant that things had changed. He had moved on. With Tess.

Liz shook her head. “You’re wrong, Kyle. Max doesn’t love me like that anymore.”

Kyle did sigh now, and pulled Liz’s head back onto his shoulder. “Liz, I love you. But you’re so clueless sometimes.”

The door to Liz’s room opened and Liz felt the tension pool in her body again. Tess walked down the hall and took in the couple on the couch. Liz leapt to her feet and met Tess’s eyes anxiously.

“Well? Did it work? Is he okay? What did you find out?”

Tess lowered her gaze, unable to meet Liz’s enthusiasm and hope. She shook her head. “I couldn’t do anything. It’s like there’s this…block in his head that I couldn’t push past. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“You couldn’t do anything?”

“I’m sorry, Liz.”

Tears threatened to fall, but Liz pushed them back angrily. “You don’t owe me anything, Tess. How is Max taking it?”

Tess shook her head and her curls fell around her face. “Not very well. He shut me out as soon as he figured out I couldn’t do anything.”

Liz sighed in defeat. “Well, we have to hope that Michael and Isabel can find that thing Max drew. It might be his only chance.”

The front door opened and Liz automatically pasted a smile on her face when her father came through the door. “Hey. Did you guys get everything you needed?”

Jeff beamed a smile at Kyle and Tess. “We certainly did. What have you kids been up to this evening?”

“Ah, nothing much,” Liz answered. “We had an early dinner a little while ago and we were taking a break from working on a project for school.”

“Well, don’t let me stop you. I think I’m going to make sure everything ran smoothly without us downstairs. Your mother had to stop to talk to someone, so she’ll be up later. Are you sure you kids don’t want anything else to eat?”

Kyle jumped up. He had to get out of that apartment. Liz was itching to see how Max was doing and he doubted she would do it if he and Tess were there. “Actually, I wouldn’t mind free food.”

“I’d be surprised if you did,” Jeff answered, clapping a hand on Kyle’s shoulder.

“Tess, didn’t you say something earlier about wanting a smootie?” Kyle asked pointedly. “Liz needed to finish printing up those articles for us, so we should have a few minutes.”

Tess looked back and forth between Liz and Kyle, torn. Finally, she nodded her head. “Sure.”

Liz watched as Kyle and Tess disappeared with her father and she let out a deep breath. She made a mental note to kick Kyle later, but for now she needed to see how Max was really doing. Her door was closed and she knocked briefly before opening it.

Max was standing beside the window, wincing as he watched the last rays of the sun fade below the horizon. And Liz’s feet moved her closer to him of their own accord. His body was angled away from her, giving her only an outline of his features. He hadn’t turned toward her yet, hadn’t made any motion that told her he even knew she was there.

She should leave, run before she did or said something that aroused his suspicions. She was already the world’s worst liar, and if Max had even the passing thought that she still loved him, she would never be able to continue the charade. But even knowing that, knowing that she was making things more difficult, she couldn’t stay away from Max, not when he was so obviously in pain.

“Max?” She laid a gentle hand on his arm, sucking in a breath when he turned his head to acknowledge her. Frustrated tears swam in his eyes. Without thinking, Liz raised her hand to his face, meaning to offer some measure of comfort. Max visibly flinched and she retracted her hand quickly. Of course he didn’t want her comfort. She had betrayed him, hurt him in the worst possible way. Kyle hadn’t known what he was talking about earlier.

And she knew she was doing more harm than good by being in the room with Max. She spun on her heels, wanting to get away from the look on his face. But before she made it more than a few feet, his fingers wrapped around her arm. She turned and found him watching her openly. And the piercing gaze unnerved her, left her with the impression that he could see right through her.

She broke contact with him quickly before he saw too much. But even as she turned and fled from the room, she was afraid it was too late.

*~*~

“Liz, are you sure this is alright?”

“For the hundredth time, yes. Max and I will be fine here. My parents are going to bed shortly and they’ll leave me alone.”

Kyle frowned, pursing his lips. But Liz ignored it, turning instead to Tess. “Thanks for bringing the book over. I think it’ll do him some good to have something to do.” Liz remembered the look on Max’s face when he’d opened the book and had been able to read the symbols. She couldn’t imagine what it was like not to recognize anything around him.

Since then, his nose had been buried in it. He’d settled outside on her balcony a while ago, leaving the rest of them to talk privately. It was cold outside and the wind had a biting chill to it. She was worried about him getting sick, especially since he’d been looking so sickly. But she had to remind herself that Max wasn’t hers anymore. If he wanted to streak naked through the streets of Roswell, she had no say in the matter. And that was her choice.

Tess nodded, not sure what to say to Liz. They were on shaky ground under the best of circumstances, and it looked as though they were being forced into a situation where they would have to be allies. “Just call us if you see or hear anything suspicious.”

Liz swallowed back the lump in her throat as Tess stepped aside, no doubt giving her time to say goodbye to Kyle privately. It was both frustrating and funny that everyone thought they were dating again. Kyle was still frowning and it made her smile. He was such a mother hen sometimes. “Kyle, I’ll be fine. Quit worrying.”

“Max could stay with us, you know. Dad wouldn’t mind.”

“Right. And I’m sure Max will be able to get plenty of peace at your house.”

Kyle hissed out a breath. He didn’t like the situation, but what more was there to do about it? “You be careful. If anything funny happens-“

“I’ll call you.” Acting on impulse, Liz leaned up and wrapped her arms around him in a hug. Kyle returned the embrace, offering her support and a possible apology for their earlier disagreement. And she smiled at him, letting him know there were no hard feelings. Raising on her toes, she leaned in close to kiss his cheek. “I’ve got it, Kyle. Go home and get some rest. I appreciate you staying all day, but there’s really nothing else to be done now. I’ll see you first thing in the morning.”

Liz waited patiently as Kyle and Tess left the apartment. She escorted them halfway down the steps, knowing her parents kept half an eye on her at all times. Trying to maintain the illusion that nothing was wrong, she lightened her step and bounced back into the living room where they were both watching television.

“Your friends gone already?”

“Yeah, Kyle has to do something with his dad early in the morning and Tess decided to leave with him.” She avoided sitting down with them, knowing that Max was still sitting out on her balcony without a clue what was going on. But she did hover next to them for a minute.

“Did you kids get your project done?” Nancy asked with a smile.

“Almost. We’ll probably work on it most of the weekend. I was thinking of working a bit more before calling it a night. Maybe steal a little quiet time to write in my journal.”

“My little girl the straight A student,” Jeff beamed.

Liz tried not to let guilt settle in her heart, and she smiled back at him. She leaned over and gave both of her parents a kiss. “I’m going to go settle in. Good night.”

When her parents had released her, content with her excuses, Liz turned back down the hall. When had she become a pathological liar? There had been a time when her words were nothing but the truth. Now, she was lying to her friends, her family, Max. Was there no one that knew the real her anymore?

Inside her room, she was careful to lock the door before she reached for her sweater. She could feel the cool air from the open window where she could make out Max’s form. He was lying in one of her armchairs, not the one she always used, but the one she had put out there for him. It seemed like such a long time ago that it was hard to remember the girl with stars in her eyes that could be giddy with excitement over the prospect of sitting alone with Max.

Max knew she was on the balcony before she’d even made a sound. The air just shimmered when she approached. He kept his attention riveted on the alien book in front of him. It was easier that way. This he didn’t have to think about. He didn’t have to endlessly puzzle and think out every nuance. Liz was an endless puzzle to him. He thought he’d had her figured out once, but she kept changing.

He’d once thought that she would love him forever, that it could be enough to defeat the insurmountable odds. But by her own words, she didn’t want to love him anymore. He’d thought he could count on her without fail. Yet, she had slept with Kyle while he’d been in the process of winning her back. He’d tried to let her go, thinking that as long as she was happy he could live with the pain. But when he’d finally looked at her, she wasn’t happy. And when he thought that maybe he could reach out to her and make her happy again, he looked through her window to find her locked in Kyle’s arms. When would life get easier?

She stopped beside the armchair and he closed the book softly. He wondered where Kyle and Tess were. The others had left hours ago, presumably to find Brody and the device he’d drawn for them. And he wondered where he would be staying tonight. He’d hoped desperately not at the Valenti’s house. He wasn’t sure if he could handle Tess’s insistent hovering or Kyle’s…face. He knew it was petty, but he didn’t want to have to acknowledge his existence right now. He was able to hold in his arms the one thing Max would give up his life for.

But he supposed it was too much to hope for a quiet night at Michael’s. They were probably afraid he would do something drastic or stupid if left by himself. But if he was honest with himself, he really didn’t want to be alone right now either. It was too much.

He looked up at her now. She had wrapped herself in a fuzzy red sweater and was hugging herself. Was she cold? How was that possible? It had to be a hundred degrees inside. Outside wasn’t much better, but at least he could breathe out here. At times, the air had seemed too thick, and he’d had trouble breathing it in. But the feeling always subsided.

Meeting her eyes, he tried to read the emotions that were always swimming there. She had seemed on the verge of telling him something at every second of the day for the last week. He knew it had to do with Kyle, and he wished he could just pull the truth out of her.

She broke their eye contact and held out a hand to him. Without hesitation, he accepted it, letting her lead him back inside. He felt his body temperature rise when she closed the window behind them and he tried not to let it bother him. He supposed someone would be coming to claim him for the night shortly. It was late, he could tell by the darkness of the sky and the position of the moon when he’d been able to see it. And he wondered why they’d waited so long to settle him for the night. Had it been that big of a dilemma as to where to shove him?

Liz had moved to her closet and was pulling out blankets and clothes. She laid them in a neat pile at the foot of her bed. Max watched her curiously. She hadn’t spoken to him yet, and he was grateful for the silence. His head was still throbbing and he just wanted a few minutes of peace. When she pulled one of her pillows out from under her very neatly made bed, Max’s pulse rate doubled.

He tried to meet her eyes, but she was still moving. Hope surged through his veins before he could automatically clamp down on it. Where were Kyle and Tess? He hadn’t seen or heard them in awhile, fifteen minutes maybe. Liz had pulled a stack of blankets out of her closet and sitting neatly beside them was a folded pair of pajamas. Was he…could she possibly mean for him to stay there? With her?

Not paying attention to his confusion, or maybe purposefully avoiding it, she brushed past him and began piling the blankets at the side of her bed on the floor. She moved with purpose, mechanically, and he wondered if it was so he wouldn’t have a chance to object to the sleeping arrangements. But he decided it didn’t matter in the slightest because he was relived beyond words that she wasn’t turning him away. Today had been one of the worst days of his life and she hadn’t looked upon him with anything but kindness.

Finished with the makeshift bed, Liz dropped the pillow on the floor at the head of Max’s new sleeping area. She looked up at him and smiled, gesturing towards it for approval. He returned her smile, nodding. Satisfied, she returned to her closet and pulled out more clothes. She gestured back towards the pajamas at the foot of her bed and then she bobbed her own head in the direction of the bathroom.

She left him standing alone in the middle of her bedroom, in a state of confused awe. Had he said Liz was a puzzle? She was beyond that. She was a clever riddle wrapped in the web of a conundrum. But for tonight, he wouldn’t bother trying to figure her out. He would merely accept the small measure of peace and the truce she was offering him. It might mean nothing in the grand scheme of things, but for tonight he could pretend that it meant more. And it was enough.

posted on 26-Jun-2002 11:45:07 AM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise.
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.

Gah. Okay, I know I've been AWOL all week, but I've been unmotivated and blocked creatively. Not to mention the week from hell at work. Imagine them wanting me to work while I'm here. Go figure. But I finally finished this part up for you guys. Enjoy.

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.

Discord
Part 5

Liz sighed as she closed the book in front of her. Another hour wasted following a bad lead. She pinched the bridge of her nose and tried to shake off the tension that threatened to strain her muscles. The lack of light in the room wasn’t helping either, but there wasn’t much she could do about that. Max was sitting on the floor, the Destiny book propped up on his knees. And he looked every bit as bored and tense as she was.

Last night had been uneventful. Well, if you could call Max sleeping on her floor uneventful. She had waited until she was sure he was sleeping before allowing herself to nod off. And she had been plagued by dreams all night. In one of them, there had been a dozen Max’s, each one pulling her in a different direction until she didn’t know what to do or where to go anymore.

And when she had woken, it had been to discover that Max was already awake and watching her silently. The intimacy of the moment had unnerved her and she had all but fled from the room to make them breakfast. By the time she’d returned, Max had been fresh from a shower and already opening the alien book.

She wasn’t sure how he could be so calm, so utterly unaffected by her presence. She supposed it was a testament to the job she’d done so well. Not only had she quashed every bit of love he might have felt for her, but she’d also managed to make him indifferent to her. And she knew that no matter what he did, she would never be able to be indifferent to Max Evans.

Kyle and Tess had arrived soon after the quick breakfast and after a mere five minutes, Liz had wanted to toss them bodily from the room. They’d insisted on talking until the sound of their voices grated on even Liz’s nerves. She had grown accustomed to the silence with Max, and a part of her knew that she simply wanted them to go so that she could have these last few hours alone with Max. They would find a way to fix him soon and he would go back to hating her from afar. For right now, he needed her and she savored every last minute of it.

She had spent the morning pouring through every science and astrology textbook she owned while Max did nothing more than stare at the Destiny book, and eventually they had driven Kyle and Tess away out of sheer boredom. Liz was hoping for some sort of guidance, anything that would tell her where to go or what to do. But so far she had come across nothing. And she was running out of books.

Maybe what they needed was a break. Kyle and Tess had decided to go back to the UFO Center to see if the others had missed anything and were then planning to scope out the town. Lunch time was approaching and unless she was mistaken, Liz’s room was making Max uncomfortable. Periodically, he would tug at the collar of his shirt and she wondered if it had anything to do with his memories of her and Kyle in bed together. She’d basically sentenced him to stay in her bedroom whether he liked it or not. And she felt selfish enjoying his company when he so obviously didn’t want to be there.

A quick glance at her watch told her that Kyle and Tess would be gone for awhile still. There was time for a sanity break. She rose from her desk chair and saw Max’s head raise to follow her movements. She flashed him a small, reassuring smile and held up a finger in a gesture meant to tell him to wait where he was. When he nodded his understanding and returned to the book, she hurried out the door.

Max heard the door click shut and he leaned his head back against the wall, letting his defenses down for a minute. It was absolutely killing him to be this close to Liz and not touch her. He’d been dying inside as every minute had faded into the next.

He’d thought he could distract his wandering thoughts of her with his translations of the alien book that promised all the answers they’d waited to hear. He’d been overjoyed and excited at first to be able to read it, but he’d soon discovered that the book was largely technical, containing the exact procedures used to recreate them on Earth. It wasn’t anything he could understand easily and would have been hard to follow without the pounding headache, but he knew Liz would have been fascinated by it. And the irony wasn’t lost on him that he couldn’t share it with her.

Max shook his head, realizing that no matter what he did, his thoughts always circled back to Liz. He’d slept on her floor, mere feet away from her and his body had craved her. Not that he’d actually slept. He hadn’t needed to, and he hadn’t questioned it. Even today, he knew he should be tired, but he didn’t feel it other than the fatigue and stress of the last twenty-four hours. He’d known that Liz would stay awake last night until she’d thought he was asleep, so he’d feigned it. And it had given him hours of interrupted time to simply watch her.

He’d studied the planes and shadows of her body, the angles and curves of her face as she slept. It hadn’t been a peaceful sleep, but he hadn’t dared touch her for fear she would wake and catch a glimpse of the love and longing he knew he would always feel for her. It was bad enough she’d woken to find him watching her, but at least he hadn’t been hovering her by her bedside when she’d caught him.

And the long hours of the still night had given him time to think as well. And he knew now that she was keeping them apart on purpose. He’d come to the realization at 3:52 that morning. Even if she had casually slept with Kyle, she had to know he would forgive and forget it. Somehow, he would find a way to shove the hurt aside. She was his Liz, the one perfect, shining thing in his life. If he did no other deeds in his life worthy of mentioning, he would know that it was because of him that she was alive to brighten the world. And he would keep that knowledge close to his heart.

So, she had to be keeping this wedge between them on purpose, maintaining an arms length of space between them at all times. But why?

A hand closed around his arm and he yelped in surprise. He turned to the open window to find Liz smiling sheepishly at him. What was she doing on the balcony? She’d left through the door a few minutes ago.

She held out a hand to him, but she made no move to step inside herself. Did she want him to follow her? The sky was overcast, and not so bright that it would hurt to step out into the light, but still he hesitated. As if reading his thoughts, she dangled a pair of sunglasses in front of him. Her room had been steadily growing warmer as the day progressed, even though he’d seen Liz put a sweater on early that morning. Surely it had to be cooler and less claustrophobic outside.

Making his decision quickly, he rose from the floor and tucked the alien book under his arm. Following Liz through the open window, he was hit by the first refreshing blast of cool air. He hadn’t realized how warm he’d been inside until the wind blew across the thin sheen of sweat on his body. And he took a second to breathe in the air before he took the sunglasses from her hand and followed Liz down the fire escape ladder.

She’d already pulled his Jeep around to the alley, and he climbed into the passenger seat, more than willing to let her lead him. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back on the headrest while Liz pulled the Jeep out onto the street. All around them were sounds, people calling out in greeting to one another, and the endless chatter among friends on the sidewalks. A nearby car blasted out a loud tune on the radio. He recognized the tones of each one. And he wasn’t able to understand a single one of them.

He tried to block it out, to ignore the pounding in his head that never seemed to go away. He realized Liz must have been going fast because it only took a few minutes before all of the harsh sounds faded away. Here, on the open highway, only the wind rushing past them broke the silence. And he’d never loved Liz more than he did in that moment. How was it possible that she knew him even better than he knew himself? She’d known how stifled he’d been before he’d even felt it.

He kept his eyes closed. Even though the sun wasn’t directly overhead, it was still a bit brighter than he preferred. And he couldn’t help but wonder again if this was what it felt like to have migraine headaches. He’d heard about them, but had never suffered one. His immune system was generally too advanced. But he suspected that it was currently out of whack, and anything was possible at this point.

The wind on his face felt better then anything he could have imagined, and he wished that they didn’t have to go back to Roswell. Here, he could pretend that nothing was wrong. He was out for an afternoon date with Liz, driving aimlessly out to the desert. They would pull to a stop soon and lie atop the hood of his Jeep, and they would talk for hours.

Liz had shared most of her personal fears and dreams with him during those aimless drives. It was how he learned that she really didn’t have her heart set on Harvard as much as everyone thought she did. It had been when he had shared with her his dreams of wanting to go to college and study to become…anything. He’d told her his greatest fear was to be allowed to begin a life only to be called home. Those had been good days, when the future was a place of hopes and dreams. Those had been the days before he’d seen Liz in bed with Kyle, looking at him with that horrible mix of sorrow and pain.

She’s lying to you.

Even as the nightmarish visions filled his head, his inner voice called out to him. Something had been off about that whole night, but he’d been willing to let it go. And there was hardly time to figure it out now. He would merely have to wait until this whole mess was over and confront her. He would lock her in a closet with him if he had to, but he would get the full truth from her someway.

The car slowed and began to jostle as Liz pulled to a stop on a bed of gravel. Max opened his eyes and looked up to see that Liz had taken them to Frasier Woods. It had been months since he’d been there, but he recognized it all the same.

Liz had already climbed out of the Jeep, hefting a backpack onto her shoulders and grabbing a large bag from the back seat. She nodded her head, motioning him to follow her. What choice did he have? He climbed after her, picking his way over rocks on the path that lead to a small clearing. By the time he’d reached it, Liz was already unpacking the contents of the bag, pulling out sandwiches and bottled water from the CrashDown. And beside it all sat a small bottle of tabasco sauce.

For some reason Max couldn’t understand, the sight of that bottle hurt more than anything else. Liz was hurting him, them, on purpose. She was doing her hardest to push him away, and yet she had remembered to bring tabasco sauce for their impromptu picnic. It was almost too much for him, but he had lived through worse pain than this and he could pretend that the pain wasn’t eating away at him inside.

He slowly sat down across from her at the picnic table, not realizing how hungry he was until that moment. She handed him half of the food and he took it gratefully. The sky rumbled with the threat of rain, but he paid it no attention. Max couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so utterly normal, as if he hadn’t a care in the world more than beating the rain back to the Jeep.

And Liz was still allowing him to sit in silence. But he found that he was missing the sound of her voice. He knew he couldn’t understand her, but it suddenly didn’t matter. He’d grown accustomed to the spikes and pitches of her voice when he’s listened to her talk with the others. Some of the sounds clashed together horribly, but there was a melody to it, a cadence that soothed something deep inside of him. But how could he get her to talk to him without saying anything himself? She wouldn’t shy away from the blatant alien aspects of his new speech, but it would shatter the illusion that things were normal between them.

He mulled it over while they ate, but could find no way to pantomime the growing desire. He watched helplessly as Liz picked up the few remains of their lunch, afraid that they would return to her room now that lunch was over. He liked it outside, away from the memories and the stifling heat of her bedroom. It was still warm outside, but at least the cool wind helped take the edge off the heat.

Together, they made quick work of the trash. He was trying to figure out the best way to get her to stay there with him for awhile when he distinctly heard her cell phone ring. The familiar , overly simplified notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony made him want to laugh suddenly, though he knew it was more hysteria than humor that drove the desire. At least some things were still recognizable.

Liz dug into her backpack and pulled it out, twisting her body slightly away from Max to talk. He tried to figure the conversation out based solely on Liz’s reactions, but quickly discovered that it was a lost cause. Was it Kyle, checking in with her? Tess, wanting them to come back? Michael or Isabel with news on the device?

After a long minute, Liz hung the phone up and turned to look at him. She offered him a smile, but there was little hope in it. So, it had been Maria then, calling to tell her they hadn’t found the device yet. Liz’s tone had been too pleasant for her to have been talking to either Michael or Isabel. He tried not to let it discourage him. He hadn’t expected it to be easy to find Brody. He supposed he was lucky they even had any idea where to start. But he felt the despair edging in. Would he ever have his life back again? Or was this what his life would be like now? Wondering and trying to guess his way through things? And he couldn’t exactly go home, not like this. What would he tell his parents? He could draw them a picture of a flying saucer and hope for the best, but somehow he didn’t think that would work.

Liz watched as Max’s face crumpled and she couldn’t hold back any longer. All morning, she’d watched him suffer in silence. She’d left him alone on the drive out to the woods. She’d even let him have a peaceful lunch. But he was staring up at her with the eyes of a broken man, and she couldn’t let him suffer it alone anymore. She crossed the distance between them and reached a hand out. He didn’t recoil or back away, and she took it as a good sign.

“Max,” she sighed, not caring if he could understand her or not. He turned towards her when she spoke to him, turning those eyes on her. She took another step closer, letting her hand drop to circle his arm. And as soon as she made contact with his skin, alarm filled her. Her eyes widened and she put both hands on Max’s arm now. He was burning up.

She ignored his confused looks as she ran her hands up his arms to his neck and face. He was running a fever, easily above a hundred, though she had no idea how high. How had she missed it before? She could tell Max still had no idea what was going on, so she took both of his hands in hers. She put one of his hands on her own forehead, letting him feel the cool skin, and she placed the other hand on his own forehead. She could see the instant he understood, and his face tightened in surprise. He hadn’t realized he was sick. Why would he? He had no experience with it.

Cursing herself, Liz let her hands drop from Max. She had to figure out what to do. She’d known he was warm last night, but it hadn’t been anything like this. Max seemed to be undergoing some sort of physical change in addition to losing his speech. Quickly, she ran through some of the symptoms. He had passed out yesterday morning, and when he’d awoken, he hadn’t understood anything but Antarian. He had a sensitivity to light, and had been growing increasingly warmer. She didn’t like the ideas that were forming in her head. Not a single one of them spelled anything but trouble for him.

He wasn’t going to like it anymore than she was, but she was going to have to run a few tests. Max didn’t seem to be feeling sick, so the rising heat might not be anything to panic over yet. She would need blood and skin samples, and the high powered microscope that she had loaned to Max a couple of weeks ago. Cursing her luck, Liz packed up the few belongings they had with them, and picked up her backpack. She hurried to the Jeep, and revved the engine to life as Max climbed in beside her.

Within minutes, they were back on the highway heading back towards city limits. They were going to have to go by Max’s house. With any luck, his parents wouldn’t be there and they could sneak in and out before anyone noticed they were there. Max stared out the side window as she drove the familiar streets to Max’s house. A quick glance at the empty driveway told her they had the house to themselves for a second.

Gesturing to Max, she climbed out of the Jeep and let him lead her inside. He looked nervous to be in his home, and she didn’t blame him. He was probably afraid. Though they were alone, he still hesitated at the front door, shifting his attention first to the right then to the left as if he expected his parents to leap from the bushes and strike up a conversation.

Liz placed a hand on his arm, both to offer her support and gauge his temperature. Was he warmer than he’d been earlier? It was hard to tell and she was itching for a thermometer. Max sighed and opened the door, leading her inside his house. Once there, he stepped aside, uncertain why they were there. And Liz realized the blind faith Max had placed in her. This was the last place he wanted to be and yet he had gone if for no other reason than she had led the way.

Pushing aside the guilt and awe that realization brought, Liz strode to Max’s bedroom and entered it without a second thought. She faltered for only a second when she realized that she hadn’t ever expected to find herself back in his room again. Forcing her focus on the matter at hand, she spied her microscope on his desk. She crossed the room and carefully packed it inside her backpack.

Max hovered in the doorway behind her, darting nervous glances down the hall. Wanting to leave as badly as Max did, Liz eyed the desk again, making sure she wasn’t forgetting anything. She spied a stack of empty slides and she reached for them quickly. Her arm brushed against a stack of books on one corner and she sent them scattered to the floor. Quickly, Liz leaned down behind the bed to pile them again, but when her fingers brushed against the glossy squares, she hesitated long enough to glance down.

Peeking out of the middle of his English textbook were several pictures. Unable to resist, Liz pulled them out of the book. She darted a glance at Max and found him monitoring the hallway. Gazing back down at the pictures, she wasn’t prepared for the slash of pain and longing that cut through her.

Several of the pictures were of her alone and she recognized them from the trip into the city she’d taken with Maria and Alex last spring. They’d all been celebrating a day free from aliens, and had spent one blissful day without a care in the world. A quick flip through the rest of them produced moments in time that she’d almost forgotten were possible. In one of them, she had been sitting on Max’s lap. Max’s arm circled her waist, resting comfortably on her hip. They both wore identical grins and Liz ran her finger over the image. A stab of regret pierced her heart. She would have gladly given up everything to live in that single moment of time. Life hadn’t been easy by any stretch of the imagination, but it hadn’t sucked beyond all comprehension. She had been with Max, and it had been enough.

The audible click of a door echoed through the house. Liz popped her head up quickly, her eyes wide. Max scurried inside his bedroom and closed the door as silently as he could, then turned to her. Liz realized that he was turning to her for help, for answers. And she wasn’t sure if she could live up to the expectations he held. Realizing she still held the photos in her hand, she stuffed them inside of her sweater pocket and quickly stacked the remaining books before standing.

They could go out the window, escape as if they’d never been there. But whoever was home had obviously seen Max’s Jeep and would be suspicious as to why he would sneak out of his own home.

“Max? Isabel? Are you two home?”

Liz heard Diane’s voice and closed her eyes briefly. There was no way out. She could hear the footsteps clicking towards them, and found that she was holding her breath. The doorknob turned and Max moved to stand beside Liz. Together they watched as the door swung open, and Diane’s eyes settled on them.

Startled to find them both watching her, she let out a breath and smiled at the couple. “Oh, Max. You scared me. I wasn’t sure who was home. Liz, it’s nice to see you again. It’s been too long since we were able to see you around here.”

Liz smiled, but it felt stiff. “Hello, Mrs. Evans. Max and I were just getting some science equipment I leant him. We’ll be out of your way in a second.”

She waved the comment away. “You’re not in the way at all.” She looked at them a second longer. “Is everything okay in here?” There was tension in the air and she wasn’t sure what she’d walked into. Max was looking at her in the oddest way, not making direct eye contact, and Liz seemed flustered. Had she interrupted something between the two of them? She’d been under the impression that her son and Liz had broken up, but it looked as though things had changed.

“Everything’s fine. We were just leaving actually.” Liz shouldered her backpack, ready to grab Max and bolt. She could feel the tension rolling off him in waves. He was nervous, scared, and jittery.

“No, stay for a few minutes. I never get to see my kids anymore. You can help me in the kitchen for a second.” She offered them one more smile before retreating to the hallway.

Liz turned an apologetic frown to Max. She wanted to reassure him, to tell him everything was going to be okay, but she didn’t know how. So, she settled for threading her fingers through his. Hoping that she could bluff her way through thirty seconds of conversation with Max’s mother, she tugged on Max’s arm to lead him out the door.

Diane was already busy unpacking groceries when they made it to the kitchen. “So, tell me what you kids have been up to lately.”

“Nothing interesting. Just school and work. Today is the first day I’ve been off in weeks.” Liz kept Max positioned a step behind her.

“Well, you have to have some time to play, don’t you? Max, would you please put this in the cupboard behind you?”

“I’ll do it!” Liz announced a bit too quickly, taking the box of cereal from Diane’s hand. She turned back to Max. “Max, why don’t you take a seat?” Liz pushed him down onto a stool as she passed by him to put up the box.

“So, Liz, how are your grades doing? I’m afraid Max’s have been slipping lately.” Diane shot a pointed look to her son, hoping he would catch the words. But he was staring at the countertop blankly.

“Ah, they’re fine. I get to study on my breaks at work, so I’m okay.” Liz didn’t like the way Diane was looking at Max, as if she were trying to figure him out. “I’m afraid Max and I should be going, Mrs. Evans. We were getting together to study as a group and the others will be waiting for us.”

“Max? Are you feeling okay?” Diane stepped closer to Max.

“He’s fine, just tired” Liz answered, a step behind Diane. If she touched Max, she would know something was wrong with her normally healthy son, and wouldn’t let him leave the house.

Diane frowned. There was something they weren’t telling her. “Max? Are you sure you’re okay, honey?” She watched as Max finally raised his head to look at her. His eyes were wide and panic stricken. And more than once, his gaze flickered between her and Liz. And since it didn’t appear that her son was willing to talk to her, Diane looked to Liz for answers. “Liz? What’s going on? Why isn’t Max saying anything?”

Liz opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She glanced at Max, saw the apprehension that had etched fine lines on his face. His eyes were pleading with her, begging her to find a way out of the situation for him. Trying to swallow the fear, Liz was appalled to discover that her breathing was coming faster. And she knew then that sometimes the truth was the only way to go. “He’s not saying anything because he can’t.”

“What do you mean he can’t? Max can’t talk to me?”

“To anyone,” Liz answered simply. She could feel the weight of Max’s stare, but she didn’t dare look at him. She focused her attention on Diane. “It’s all part of a Sociology experiment at school. You know the old adage where you don’t know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes? Well, it’s kind of like that. Some students were picked to live through certain handicaps for the length of the experiment and see how it feels, and how the world treats them.”

“And Max chose not to talk?” Diane asked skeptically.

“Well, actually, Maria was assigned that one, but I think we all know she’s not capable of it. So, Max offered to trade with her. It’s for extra credit,” Liz added, hoping she could get Max out of the house before Diane wanted to talk about it any further.

“I suppose he could use the extra points.” She looked at Max again. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Behind Diane, Liz waved her hand to get Max’s attention. She made a show of shrugging her shoulders, prompting Max to follow her lead.

A second later, Max forced a smile onto his face and shrugged his shoulders.

Diane laughed. “Oh, I guess that was a dumb question.” She reached over and ruffled Max’s hair, noticing how Max seemed to glance over her shoulder before nodding his head. “Will you be staying with Michael again tonight?” When Max nodded his head again, she chuckled. “If only we could convince Isabel to give this silence thing a go, this house would be a lot more peaceful for your father and I.”

Deciding she had to get Max out of there fast, Liz stepped forward. “Mrs. Evans, we really have to go.”

“Okay, well you two kids have fun and don’t study too hard.”

Liz hooked her arm through Max’s and smiled at Diane as she pulled Max to his feet. “We won’t.” Liz grabbed her backpack and gently steered Max towards the front door. “Bye, Mrs. Evans.”

“Bye kids, and good luck, Max.”

Liz had the door closed behind them as Diane was still calling out her well wishes. Taking a second to let out a breath of air, Liz turned to look at Max. He looked utterly exhausted. His face was pale and his eyes still held a trace of the sheer panic he’d felt when he’d first heard his mother’s voice. She wanted to reach out and feel his temperature again, sure his temperature had risen, but she didn’t dare. It would only take a few minutes to get to her house and she could set him up there.

*~*~

“Hang on, Max, I’m coming,” Liz whispered to herself as she ran the hand towel under the cool water of her sink. She hurried back to her bedroom where Max was lying on her bed. She sat beside him and pressed the towel to his forehead. He immediately moved closer to the source of the coolness, letting out a low moan.

Max had steadily been getting worse in the last hour. She had finally abandoned her research and had moved to take care of him. The beginnings of a panic attack were close. She hadn’t been able to reach Kyle or Maria all afternoon, and she could only hope they were okay. After a dozen messages, she’d given up on both of them. Max was hardly well enough to be able to protect himself and what could she do against Nicholas and the Skins?

She heard a scuffling sound outside and her fingers automatically closed around the baseball bat leaning up against her wall. It wouldn’t do much good, but she felt better for having it there. But a second later, Kyle poked his head through her open window.

“What’s the emergency?” He climbed through the window, reaching back to offer Tess a hand inside behind him.

Liz wanted to fling herself across the room and hug him, but she didn’t want to leave Max’s side. “Where the hell have you two been? I’ve been calling all afternoon.”

“We were trailing someone. Ringing cell phones are a dead give away. What’s wrong with him?”

Liz glanced down at Max. His eyes were still closed and she wasn’t sure if he was sleeping or not. She adjusted the cloth on his forehead and reluctantly slid off the bed. She led Kyle and Tess over to a corner of the room and lowered her voice. “He’s getting worse.”

“What happened?” Tess asked, her voice devoid of all emotion.

Liz didn’t have time to pick apart Tess’s feelings to figure out if she really cared or not. “His symptoms are getting worse. He’s running a fever of a hundred and two and I can’t get it to come down. He’s too pale and I haven’t been able to get him to eat or drink anything since lunch. I think he’s having trouble swallowing, but I don’t know for sure.”

“So, he’s got a space bug,” Kyle guessed. “It can’t be related to the speech thing.” He saw the worry etched deep in Liz’s face. “Is it?”

Liz lowered her gaze to the floor. “I did some tests, took some blood and skin samples. Max is…changing.”

“What do you mean changing?” Tess asked fearfully.

“I mean that he’s…I don’t know, evolving or something. I’m not sure what’s happening. But all I know is that we’re running out of time.” She heard the waver in her own voice and found back the urge to sit down and cry.

Kyle placed a steady hand on Liz’s shoulder. “Okay, Liz. Just calm down and tell us what you found.”

Liz took a deep breath, trying to find words to describe to them what she’d seen through her microscope. “His cells are changing. The new cells are absorbing the old ones, swallowing them whole, then multiplying.”

“Changing,” Tess repeated softly. She glanced at where Max lay in Liz’s bed. “What happened to him? Do you have any idea?”

Liz followed Tess’s gaze to Max and watched as he began to thrash on the bed. “No. Well, maybe. I have an idea. I think that whatever happened to him flipped a switch in his brain from Human to Antarian.”

“And now his body is trying to catch up,” Kyle finished. “Damn. You’re right. This isn’t good. Did you call Maria yet?”

“Only a hundred times. She’s not answering her phone either.”

“Do you think the changes are reversible?” Tess asked.

“I don’t know,” Liz whispered. “I don’t know enough about what’s happening to him to know anything for sure. But I’d say our best chance is to get our hands on that device.”

“Will he be okay here tonight?”

Liz met Tess’s eyes. Here was the one person in the universe with the power to take Max away from her. By all rights, he was already Tess’s. She was his destiny, not Liz. Liz knew she should step back, but she found that she couldn’t.

“I can take care of him.”

Tess sized Liz up and took a long minute before nodding. “What do you need us to do?”

Liz felt as if something had shifted, though she wasn’t sure what. “I know Kyle doesn’t know how to work a microscope. Can you?”

“Hey!”

Tess ignored Kyle’s outburst. “Yeah. Why?”

“I need for you to monitor the changes when I take new samples. Do you know how to prepare a slide?”

Tess shook her head. “No. Will you show me?”

“Yeah. Kyle, can you take Max’s towel and run some cold water over it?” Liz led Tess over to her desk and began pulling out everything Tess would need. Kyle walked by them, grumbling, though it was kept to a minimum. “Okay, Tess. First you need one of the slides from over here.”

posted on 28-Jun-2002 4:37:55 PM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise.
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.

Discord
Part 6

Max struggled to stay conscious even as his eyelids drooped lower. He was sitting on Liz’s bed, propped up against her headboard, willing his body to cease whatever was wrong with it. He could almost feel it breaking down around him, but he couldn’t figure out what it meant.

After Tess and Kyle had shown up, Liz and Tess had run a new battery of tests while Kyle tried to keep him cool. The whole situation had been odd, and he’d pretended to sleep through it. Kyle Valenti, the one person he had every reason in the world to hate, had gently wiped his forehead with a cool towel. If he’d let them know he was awake, it would have been even more awkward. So, he’d remained where he was, pretending to sleep through it all. And as if Kyle’s gentle help hadn’t been confusing enough, it had been bizarre to see Tess and Liz work together at Liz’s desk, their heads bent forward as they softly discussed whatever they saw in the microscope. And that had been how Max had known that whatever was wrong with him was serious.

After a few hours, Tess and Kyle had slipped back out the window and he’d been left alone with Liz. He hadn’t pretended to sleep any longer, and he had the impression she knew he’d been pretending anyway. And for one minute, Liz had turned wide, fearful eyes on him and he’d seen more of her than she’d let him view in months. She was terrified for him, and it meant that she still had some sort of feelings for him. It was a hollow victory, but he decided to take it.

Her parents had called to her through her door and she’d scrambled to answer them without giving away that he was in her room. By now, he’d discovered that he didn’t need to understand words to size up a situation. All he had to do was look at Liz. And when her mother had spoken with her through the door, Max knew that if he was hoping to stay with her for another night, Liz was going to have to spend some time with her parents or they’d become suspicious.

So, he’d given her every reassuring gesture he could think of, and eventually she’d left him alone in her room. He was feeling a bit better, or at least not quite as close to death as he had been earlier. The pain came and went, much like the breathing trouble that was beginning to last longer and longer when it did affect him. And at the moment, he was feeling bad, but not so bad he couldn’t get out of bed and see for himself what they had been looking at in the microscope all evening.

Max slowly crawled out of bed and shuffled to her desk. Sinking into the chair gratefully, he loaded up the first of the slides and adjusted the lenses. He knew that he was looking at a blood cell, but what he saw shocked him beyond words. The cells were distorted and looked nothing like what normal blood cells looked like. With shaking hands, he removed the slide and replaced it with the next one. He recognized them as skin cells and when he found them deformed as well, his breathing quickened.

Pushing back from the desk, Max decided that he didn’t want to see anymore. It suddenly all made sense. The long, agonizing looks Liz kept giving him, the way Kyle had taken care of him, how Tess had pitched in to help without question or complaint. He was dying and they all knew it. His eyes glazed over as he sat frozen at her desk.

This was how he was going to die? Unable to understand anyone around him? At odds with Liz? He would never be able to tell her how much he loved her, or exactly what knowing her meant to him. It was worse than having a terminal illness. He knew his days were numbered, but he couldn’t say goodbye. He couldn’t even write a letter expressing everything he couldn’t say to her face. He would die and she would never know everything that was in his heart.

Tears blurred his vision and they made him angry. He wanted to cry, to yell and to break something. But he knew it wouldn’t accomplish anything but to get him caught in her room. He didn’t know how long he had to live, but if it was only a matter of a day or of hours, he wanted them to be with Liz.

Forcing his breathing to even out, Max raked his gaze across the surface of the desk. There had to be some way he could let her know how he felt. Her notebooks were arranged neatly against the wall, and he snatched a pad of paper from the stack and flipped it open. Gripping a pen in his hand, he steeled every bit of strength he had left inside of him. He wanted to write Liz’s name. It should be simple enough. It was short. Could he remember how to write the simple letters he’d known for so long? He concentrated harder than he ever had before, wanting to create a single letter.

Pen poised over paper, he tried to let his subconscious take over. Every millimeter the pen moved was fought for internally. Something inside of him was trying to take over, to stop him, but he pressed forward. Sweat beaded on his forehead, and he knew Liz would be alarmed if she walked in and saw him in that moment, but he didn’t care. He only cared about writing the few letters in the alphabet that meant something to him.

Finally, he sat back to admire his writings. And when he saw the paper, he wanted to cry anew. He had succeeded in making marks of some kind on the paper, but if it was English, he couldn’t read it. With a frustrated growl, he ripped the page out of the notebook and crumpled it up. He let it drop to the floor as a fresh bout of tears welled up from deep inside him.

He wanted Liz.

Even though she was only down the hall, he wanted to see her. Everything would be all right if she was there. The despair that had been creeping around the edges of his spirit invaded now, threatening to crush what small bit of hope he had left. Until his eyes lighted on the small tape recorder on her desk.

Max grabbed at it, cradling it in the palm of his hand. He wiped at his eyes, willing the tears to subside. He pressed the play button and listened as her soft voice played out of the small speaker. It was muffled, but it was Liz.

He could feel his temperature spiking again, but he paid it no attention, choosing instead to focus on Liz’s calm voice. He had no idea what she had been dictating, and it hardly mattered. Slowly, he rose from the desk and shuffled back to Liz’s bed. The room was beginning to swim dangerously in front of his eyes and his eyelids were too heavy to keep open.

Pushing himself the last few feet, he collapsed face down in her bed and let the darkness swallow him.

*~*~

Liz struggled with her door, careful to balance the bag of ice in one hand and the drink she’d prepared in the other. She hadn’t thought Max would actually eat anything, so she’d done her best and had made him a health food shake. Maria generally left enough herbs and such around, and it had been a simple matter of raiding her locker to find what she’d needed. She couldn’t guarantee the taste, but Max needed something in his system if he was going to get any better.

She cast a quick glance down the hall to the room her parents had already retired into. She hadn’t wanted to leave Max alone earlier, but she hadn’t had much of a choice. After Kyle and Tess had left, her parents had wanted to spend time with her. And spending an hour with them meant that they wouldn’t come into her room to check on her later. And that meant more time to be with Max.

On some level, she knew she’d taken a very dangerous step towards Max in the last twenty-four hours. It would make it even harder to push him away again after everything was back to normal and he didn’t need her anymore. But she would do it somehow. She would have to.

Twisting the doorknob, she pushed the door open. And when she saw Max sprawled out on her bed, she knew something was wrong. She set down her load quickly and closed the door behind her.

Max lay on his stomach, and he looked as though he’d simply collapsed. Only the upper portion of his body was draped across the bed, and his legs dangled off the side to the floor.

“Max,” Liz called softly as she placed a hand to his forehead. She jerked it back immediately when she came into contact with the incredible warmth of his forehead. And all her hopes spiraled downward. He had seemed to be doing better when she’d left him a little bit ago and now he was worse. Why had she left him alone? Who knew how long he’d been like this.

“Max, wake up.” She lightly patted his cheeks and when she received no response, she decided to worry about his fever for the time being. She rolled him over as best she could and held him up to prevent him from falling to the floor. Cursing her small stature, it took too long to finally push him the rest of the way into the bed.

He moaned, but she wasn’t sure if it was from the pain that she was causing him or from the already existing pain. She pressed her hand to his forehead and down the sides of his face to his neck. His skin was burning and she was afraid of what would happen if she couldn’t get his temperature down.

“Max, I know you don’t understand me, and I’m not even sure if you can hear me, but you need to cool down.” Liz was sure to keep her tone calm and soothing, belaying none of the fear coursing through her body. “I brought ice with me and I was thinking earlier that I might dump you in the bathtub. But now I’m afraid that’ll be too much for your system to handle. So, I think we should try to cool you down slowly first.”

Watching Max’s face for any sign that he’d heard her, Liz reached for the buttons on his shirt. Her hand trembled as she undid the topmost button. Even though she knew it was wrong, that it wasn’t the time or the place, Liz couldn’t help the sparks that were igniting in her body. She hadn’t been this close to Max in longer than she could remember.

Another button undone. It wasn’t as if there was anything sexual behind her actions. So, why didn’t her body understand that? The third button slid through the hole and she was treated to more of his skin than she’d seen since she’d come to his room to tell him her first lie. He’d been working out that night, and the sight of his bare chest had stolen the breath from her body, robbed her of all rational thought. Much like it was doing now.

The fourth and fifth buttons came undone quickly and then Liz was done. She quickly scrambled off the bed, forcing herself not to take advantage of the situation. She poured some of the ice into a bowl and carried it to her bathroom to mix it with water and find a fresh towel. And then she was out of excuses not to go back to her bed where Max was lying half-naked.

Liz sat on the bed beside Max and took a breath. She parted the fabric of his shirt and exposed his chest. She could see the rapid rise and fall of his chest as he tried to breathe. And Liz knew she was going to have to get over whatever hormone induced daze she was in. Okay, so Max was half-naked. In her bed. He was sick and needed her help. He trusted her to take care of him and not to ogle him at the first available opportunity.

She dipped the towel into the bowl, wincing at the cold water that met her fingertips. Max was going to wake up for sure when she did this. But she had no other choice. Wringing out the excess water, she gently laid the towel on Max’s forehead. Max gasped for air and his eyes snapped open immediately.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered even as she moved the towel down the side of his face. She could tell he was torn between cringing away from the towel and embracing it. He was at war with himself. His alien side wanting to cringe from the cold while the human side needed it.

His eyes stayed on her as she tried to cool his skin. Max closed his eyes after a minute, trusting her to help him. She paused periodically to dampen the towel and each time it was laid against his bare skin, it took his breath away. Slowly, she worked her way down his face and neck. Liz ran the towel along his shoulders, then decided to work on his arms.

It seemed to Max that she was avoiding his chest and he couldn’t help but wonder if this was affecting her as much as it was affecting him. She was lying on her side, her legs tucked under her body. He could smell her perfume from here, the intoxicating scent of flowers. Roses. And every time she leaned over him to run the towel down his arm, her hair fell forward, gliding across his chest. It was the sweetest torture he’d ever known, and he concentrated on it rather than the pain in his body.

Liz had turned on a fan and though it wasn’t moving fast, the breeze hit his skin where she was cooling it and he felt goosebumps rising along his skin. She would often go back and check the temperature of his skin after trying to cool it off. And he could only imagine that she was frowning. He chose to keep his eyes closed, relishing every brush of skin.

The cool cloth was pressed lightly to his chest and he hissed out a breath. Liz paused only a second before patting his skin. Max was acutely aware of the slightest friction, so when Liz paused to part his shirt further and her fingertips grazed his skin, he had to fight not to grab hold of her and fuse his mouth to hers. He wanted to keep his feelings from her, but he knew his own body was betraying him. He had been having trouble breathing earlier, though for an entirely different reason than he was having now.

Liz reapplied the towel to his chest, this time dipping lower to his stomach. Max felt his muscles tighten in response and this time, nothing could prevent his eyes from snapping open. He surprised her, saw it in the way she jumped back a fraction of an inch. Her eyes widened to see him watching her, and he wasn’t sure if it was his imagination or if she was as affected by her actions as he was.

Liz’s hand rested atop the towel on his stomach, frozen by his eyes. He saw the indecision flicker there for a second and he knew she was going to pull back again. In that moment, Max didn’t know if he could bear it again. His heart was full, bursting with love for her. But as always, the love was tinged with the pain of their past.

She pulled her hand away and Max captured it. His eyes pleaded with her not to pull away. Even though he knew she couldn’t understand him, even though he had vowed not to speak the alien language, nothing could have stopped him from trying to tell her everything that was in his heart in that moment.

He threaded their fingers together, then clasped his other hand over hers, trapping her. “I’m sorry you have to see me like this, Liz. I tried to be strong but I can’t do it anymore.” Emotion clogged his throat, and he felt tears prick his eyes. “I don’t know what went wrong between us, why you won’t let me love you. But I always will.” Max released his grip on her hand, raising one hand to cup her cheek. With the other, he pressed her hand to his heart. “I’ll always love you, Liz, no matter how much it hurts.” His thumb stroked her cheek and his heart softened when she leaned into the caress. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, if I’m going to die. But it was all worth it for just one minute to hold you in my arms and see how much you loved me.”

Liz couldn’t breathe. Max had captured her, mesmerized her with his words, even though she didn’t know what they were. He was speaking so softly, almost as if he didn’t want to frighten her away, and she could feel her own heart beating within her chest.

Max’s thumb was tracing her cheekbone, and his feather touches set her nerves screaming. Beneath her hand and beyond the heat that threatened his left, she could feel his heart beating erratically. And it didn’t surprise her to discover that their hearts were beating in sync. Her own heart answered every beat of his. And she supposed some things never changed, regardless of how much you wanted them to.

And with the stillness of the room creeping up on them, Liz realized what Max was telling her. She didn’t need the exact words, she understood the emotions. Max was still in love with her. Kyle had been right. Everything she had done had been for nothing. All the pain she had caused him, all the pain she had suffered through had been wasted. Because when she should have abandoned him, left him to Tess to take care of, she hadn't been able to do it. Her heart had betrayed her.

The tears came unbidden, welling up from some unknown place deep inside where she had pushed the pain every time it had slashed through her. The first choking sob escaped her lips and Max didn’t hesitate to pull her down beside him in the bed. He wrapped his arms around her and trapped her against the length of his body. Her head fit perfectly in the crook of his neck the way it always had. And he held her as the sobs wracked her body.

“I’m sorry, Max. You have no idea how sorry I am. I didn’t want to hurt you. And it killed me every time I had to lie. You saved my life and showed me how amazing the universe is, and I destroyed everything we had in one night. I should have fought for you that day in the desert when I ran. Maybe things wouldn’t be the way they are now, and I’ll always wonder.” She couldn’t face him, couldn’t meet those perceptive eyes. She had to confess everything, it was burning a hole inside of her soul. And she wasn’t sure if she was sorry or relieved that he didn’t have a chance of understanding her.

“I never slept with Kyle. How could I when you’ve always been the only person I’ve ever dreamed of making love to? That shower fantasy you saw? It wasn’t a new one, Max. I’ve always wanted you.” She frowned as a fresh course of tears fell. “But we just weren’t meant to be. I wish I could explain it all to you, that I could make you understand that I would never hurt you unless I had to. But if I told you about Future Max, about why I did everything, you wouldn’t let me go and nothing would change. You’ll always be the one great love of my life, and no matter what I do, my heart is yours. It’s easy to tell you that now when you can’t understand me because I can’t ever tell you again. Not if I want to keep everyone alive.”

Liz let her hand rest a minute against Max’s heart. It had once belonged to her, but it never would again. Not after tonight. She could give them both this last night, but when the sun rose in the morning, she was going to have to take a firm step back. Max would have to stay with Kyle and Tess until he was better. Her heart simply couldn’t take it anymore. She had thought she’d taken a step back before, but it hadn’t been enough. Max still loved her, and as long as there was any spark in him, the future would be tainted with the blood of their friends and family. And she wouldn’t allow that to happen.

With her heart raw and bleeding, Liz forced herself to sit up. Max looked at her with concern etched on his face. As much as she wanted to stay in his arms all night, she could still feel the heat coming off his body in waves. She sniffled as she dipped the towel in the bowl of ice water and resumed trying to cool off his body. But she left her free hand over his heart, taking comfort in the steady beat beneath her palm.

Max would live through this. She would do whatever it took to ensure it. And when things were normal again and he had his life in front of him, she would say goodbye. And this time, there would be no looking back.

posted on 5-Jul-2002 10:10:58 AM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise.
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.


Good morning, duckies. Well, here is your update. That's the good news. And while you're happy, I'll just slip the bad news right in there. I'm not sure when I'm going to update this one again. I'm going in for hand surgery Tuesday, so for obvious reasons I won't be updating. It'll probably be late next week or next weekend at the earliest. So, enjoy this part and if anyone gets the chance to give me the occasional bump, I would appreciate it greatly. *happy*

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.

Discord
Part 7

“So, what’s your deal?”

Tess continued to stare out the window of Kyle’s car, his voice barely penetrating the depth of her thoughts. “Hmm?”

Kyle sighed as he pulled to a stop at a red light. He chanced glancing at her and saw how far away she was. She’d been distant in the last few weeks, but nothing like this. “You heard me, Tess.”

“Yes, but I didn’t understand you.”

Scrubbing his hand over his face, Kyle had to remind himself that she was stressed and worried. And he’d had to have patience with her on her good days. “You’ve been moody and sullen for the last few days. You’ve barely said a word and you haven’t picked a fight with me all day, even when I ate the last of your cereal. So, I repeat my earlier question. What’s your deal?”

Tess did turn from the window now and she glared at Kyle. He was trying to make her feel something. She knew him well enough to recognize it. Kyle was an emotional creature, and she wasn’t. She’d blocked off emotion from the first mention of something happening to Max, and now despite her best efforts, because of Kyle, emotions were slipping through the cracks of her tightly woven shield. “Max is sick, possibly dying and there’s nothing I can do to help him.”

“Well, isn’t that why we have the healing stones this morning?” Kyle accelerated, continuing the familiar drive to the Crashdown. He’d tried everything he could think of to break through that damn shell she hid herself in. He’d seen her do it a dozen times, whenever something happened to shatter the illusion that her world was perfect. She’d arrived in town in a seemingly unbreakable shell, and they’d slowly chipped away at it. He’d seen glimpses of true emotion from her, and every time he witnessed it, it was breathtaking, almost like seeing a flower open to the sun for the first time.

“I don’t think they’re going to work and neither does Liz. Otherwise, we would have tried it yesterday.” If Kyle was determined to make her talk, she would do it. But she kept her gaze firmly out the front window. “What’s happening to Max isn’t an illness. His body is changing, the breaking down of his cells is the side effect, not the problem.” Nasedo had explained how the stones worked to her once and she wasn’t hoping for them to be the miracle cure now. The block she’d encountered in his mind the day before yesterday had been a testament to what they were up against. It had almost been like an internal shield, blocking her from entering his mind. And it had occurred to her that it might be a defense mechanism until his body had undergone whatever change it was trying to complete.

“We’ll figure something out, Tess.”

Tess straightened, nervous by how easily Kyle could read her thoughts. She said nothing, watching as his car ate up the distance between them and Max and Liz. Even now, their names flowed together seemlessly. And she wondered if there would ever come a time when it wouldn’t. She’d thought she’d known her place in the group finally, though that things would find a normal. She’d thought that maybe Kyle was the key to it all. But in one night, everything had changed again.

They’d been at home together. Jim had been working late and the two of them had been home making popcorn. Kyle had rented some incredibly cheesy alien movie he’d claimed she had to watch, and then the phone had rang. She’d watched him as his face scrunched up in confusion, and then he’d hung up the phone and had grabbed his keys. He’d smiled at her, begging for forgiveness and understanding, and said that Liz needed his help. He’d promised he’d be right back to watch the movie with her. But he never had.

A few hours later, she’d felt Max’s anguish as it ripped through the night air. And she’d followed the source. Max hadn’t had to tell her what had happened. She’d already known, seen it in the horrific flashes she’d picked up when she’d laid a tentative hand on his shoulder. And while Max sat on the bench, his heart in tatters, her own heart had bled for the first time. Over Kyle Valenti.

Suddenly, she had to know. She’d never brought it up before, hadn’t wanted an answer really. But she needed one now. “Why did you sleep with her?”

Kyle could actually feel every molecule in his body slow down and freeze. Why was she asking now? She hadn’t posed the question to him once since the night Max had found him in Liz’s bed. He’d suffered through guilt, knowing he’d hurt her and Tess had taken an immediate step back from their casual flirtations and sexual innuendoes. And he’d discovered that in helping a friend, he’d lost the potential of what could have been with Tess.

He didn’t want to lie to her, so he said nothing. Besides, it wasn’t as if it mattered in the long run. Tess had gone running to Max’s side the minute she’d found out she had another chance with him. They’d been practically glued together since that night. He’d thought he had understood pain. But the meaning of the word had been painfully clear the first time he’d had to meet Tess’s blue eyes and had seen that damn shield covering the emotions he’d worked so hard to unearth.

*~*~

Max concentrated on the soft rise and fall of his own chest, concentrating on his breathing. He’d been trying to slow it for ten minutes now, trying to match it with Liz’s. He hadn’t slept again last night, and he was beginning to wonder if his body didn’t need the rest the way humans did. Was it another part of the change in his body? He didn’t know, and at the moment he didn’t care. Nothing mattered in that moment but matching his breathing with Liz’s.

She was exquisite.

Her head was resting on his pillow, inches away from him. She was so close, he could feel the warmth of her breath on his face. One of her hands was resting on his chest above his heart, and no fabric separated their skin. His own arm was wrapped around her waist, his hand tangled in her hair against her back. She was covered almost head to toe in fuzzy flannel pajamas and in the course of the night, one of her legs had tangled together with his. All in all, she was a thousand degrees of pure heat wrapped around his already warm body. It was the sweetest torture he’d ever known, and though his own limbs were numb from lying still so long, he wouldn’t risk waking her.

He’d thought he was dying last night. The pain had been unbearable and the heat had been unlike anything he’d thought possible, though he’d seen Liz wrap herself in blankets and flannel. He knew he’d broken down and talked to her, whispering to her in the dark all the things he’d been afraid to say in the light of day. And much to his surprise, her eyes had filled with tears as if she had understood him. But then couldn’t she have? He’d understood what she had been telling him without knowing the exact words.

She had confessed to him everything he’d waited to hear for weeks now. She’d finally given him the truth about that night and he’d discovered that he didn’t need it now. In the last two days, he’d discovered that Liz could only lie to him if he let her. He knew her soul and though he’d forgotten that for a time, he remembered it now.

Last night had been the most intensely intimate experience two people could share. Even though she had been pushing him away with every word and every gesture for weeks now, she had reached out to him last night. She had looked at him with concern and love and she had held him in her arms when the pain had intensified. She had cried with him, maybe even for him. And she had clung to him, unwilling to let him go. It had shown Max that beneath all the problems that would forever sit on the surface between them, he could count on her when it mattered. It had also shown him that she still loved him.

It would have warmed his heart if he didn’t know her better. And he did know Liz Parker, enough to anticipate what would happen when her eyes fluttered open. She would push him away, push harder than she had pushed so far. Whatever was making her keep distance between them would surface. But he would be ready for it this time. Only, he’d be damned if he’d let her do it again. He had held her in his arms last night, had felt her heart beat in time to his. For a few glorious hours, he’d been happier than he ever had been.

He wouldn’t give that up. She would have to keep pushing, because he was going to keep fighting. Liz might be stubborn and persistent, but she had no idea that he could be even more so if enough was at stake.

Max heard scuffling sounds from the balcony behind him and he knew it was Kyle and Tess. He was sad that the night was ending, but it meant the dawn of a new day. He wouldn’t waste this one.

Closing his eyes, Max tried to relax his facial muscles. Liz would wake up in a minute and he didn’t want her to know he had spent another night watching her sleep. But there was something inside of him that couldn’t resist pulling her those last few inches closer, until she was trapped against his body. He thought he would pass out from the heat, but when she snuggled her head into the crook of his shoulder, he forced his body to settle down. She would be out of his arms in another ninety seconds anyway.

Just as he predicted, he heard Kyle and Tess stumble through the window a second later, whispering to themselves when they found them curled up in bed together. Max wanted to smile when the unintelligible sounds stopped mid-sentence. He knew Tess wouldn’t be upset. The two of them had actually talked a few days before all this had happened, and she had confessed to have had a fight with Kyle. Among other things, she had told him how Liz had tried to push them together, and how it had made her realize they didn’t have anything in common. Tess wasn’t a threat to his relationship with Liz anymore. She had moved on. But the irony had been that a relationship hadn’t existed anymore.

So, Max knew it was Kyle that stomped his way over to Liz’s side of the bed to wake her. Kyle whispered something into Liz’s ear and it only made Liz snuggle closer to Max’s body. It took everything inside of Max not to groan aloud when she rubbed her leg between his. And Kyle’s hissing grew louder.

Max could actually feel the exact second Liz woke up. Her whole body seemed to sigh in satisfaction for waking in his arms. For one second, she melted against him. Then as the sleep cleared from her brain, her muscles stiffened and she slowly began sliding away from him. Max felt the cool air hit his skin and was reminded that he was wearing only his boxer shorts. At some point in the night, Liz had pulled the clothes from his body in an attempt to bring his fever down. It had worked better after she had opened the window to allow the crisp winter air into the room.

They spoke in hushed whispers, and he could only imagine how the conversation was going. It was only a second before he felt the bed dip again and Liz’s hand brushed against his forehead. He didn’t need to see the crease in her forehead to know that he was still running a high fever. It wasn’t anything near as bad as it had been last night, but it was still enough to worry over.

Deciding it was as good a time as any to open his eyes, he let them flutter open. Liz offered him a strained smile, and he saw the distance forming between them inch by inch. She had already begun to retreat from him, and he knew that no matter who was in the room with them, it was time to let her know that she was going to have to push a lot harder than she had before if she wanted him to leave. He gripped her hand and brought it to his lips to brush a kiss to her knuckles. He kept his eyes locked on hers, watching as the desire flared. A light flickered that he hadn’t seen in too long and it grew brighter before her resolve battled it back and she tugged her hand from his.

She handed him his clothes and rose from the bed to the sanctuary of the desk. Max tossed back the covers, careful to ignore Kyle and Tess. A smile wanted to tug at the corner of his lips, and he knew if he met their eyes, he wouldn’t be able to contain his mirth. It was enough to know that Liz was as affected by his presence as he was by hers. He could build off that.

Locked safely inside the bathroom, Max stripped and turned the shower to the coldest possible setting. He dove into the spray eagerly and allowed himself a few minutes to simply try to cool off. When he knew it was a futile effort, he pulled himself out and dried off quickly.

He felt horrible. His body ached in places he didn’t know it was possible to ache, he couldn’t understand a word anyone around him said, he was sure he was running a fever that would have put any normal person into the hospital, and his tongue still felt too thick in his mouth. But a smile still graced his face as he pulled his clothes on. He even considered whistling a tune until it occurred to him that he probably couldn’t do it. Deciding not to push his luck and discover something else he might never be able to do again, Max quickly dried his hair.

Escaping from the bathroom, Max came up short when he saw Jeff Parker standing in the middle of Liz’s bedroom. His eyes widened momentarily, his fear returning. Did he know that his daughter hadn’t been sleeping alone? Had he carelessly left some shred of evidence lying around? He tried to gauge the man’s mood, but found it as impossible as ever. And to his horror, Max watched Jeff open his mouth to speak to Max.

Had he asked a question? Made an observation? Told him to get the hell out of his house? What was the correct response? Should he smile and nod his head, or would that seem an odd response? His eyes slid quickly to Liz and he found her smiling and nodding her head. He took it as a sign of what to do and he mimicked her response. It seemed to pacify Jeff and he smiled in return.

Feeling as if he’d passed some sort of test, Max stood frozen in place until Jeff was satisfied enough to leave the group alone again. But he felt his previous good mood diminish in Jeff’s wake. He'd woken up feeling more normal than he had in days. And had been quickly reminded how abnormal he was. He’d grown accustomed to life in the bubble of Liz’s room where she protected him from the outside world. How was he supposed to function in the world? She couldn’t spend her life dedicated to translating for him.

Knowing she would be worried, he hung his head low. He wasn’t ready to see the concern in her eyes yet. All he wanted to do was bury himself in the alien book again. At least that was familiar. He could read it and make sense of it, even if what was in it was enough to break his heart. But when Liz appeared at his elbow and held out one of the healing stones for him to see, he realized that they weren’t going to leave him alone to sulk. He would spend another day being poked, prodded and experimented on.

So, Max allowed them to position him on the floor. Liz had locked the window and closed the blinds while Kyle locked the door. Max had laid on the floor, trying to relax his breathing while the three of them knelt beside him. Would this even work? They couldn’t really have believed it would if they’d waited this long to try the stones out. But he gave them the opportunity to try.

He kept his eyes closed the whole time, hoping for some sort of tickle in his mind. He waited for some sort of change, or to enter the dream plane as they had when Michael had been dying. But nothing happened, and he felt the charge of energy around him diminish. Was it because only Tess was an alien? Did they need more power to make the stones work? Or were they simply not built to help in this sort of situation?

Kyle rose from the floor in frustration and paced the room silently. Tess and Liz stayed where they were on opposite sides of his body, both watching him. It struck him as funny that they had all become accustomed to communicating verbally only when necessary around him. He’d grown used to the silence, but it was still stifling at times. Especially when all he wanted to do was curl under the covers of Liz’s bed and drag her with him. They could just lay together and shut out the rest of the world and pretend that nothing was wrong.

Tess caught his eye, and he watched her for a minute. She was supposed to be his wife, yet he felt nothing for her outside of friendship. She finally understood it, after months of trying to wedge between his relationship with Liz. She watched him struggle internally before she offered him a smile. It wasn’t warm, and he wasn’t really even sure if she was capable of it. He’d only seen the surface with Tess, and it was all smoke and mirrors. Perhaps it was why he couldn’t feel anything for her.

But when his gaze shifted to Liz, Max knew that the reason he couldn’t feel anything for Tess didn’t have anything to do with Tess. Liz Parker had simply captivated him from the first shy smile she had given to a strange boy in her class. The boy had grown into a man, but had loved her no less.

Tess rose from the floor and left them alone, but Max barely saw her move. He could see the flicker of emotions in Liz’s eyes. She was torn between comforting him and keeping her distance. Max sat up, closing some of the distance between them, and caught her hand again. It was enough to keep her from fleeing for the moment, and he took it. He could see her chest rise and fall as her breathing intensified. He traced circles on the back of her hand with his thumb, but it wasn’t enough contact. He needed to touch her, to feel something. He needed a reason to continue fighting. If he were feeling better, he could afford to be patient and fight for her. But he couldn’t divide his energy like this for long.

His throat constricted and his chest ached with the thought of closing the distance between them with a kiss. Would she still back away? Or would she see that he needed her? That without her, he may as well stay in his current state because he didn’t have anything to offer this world? How was it that she could see him so clearly, and yet not understand him at all?

His free hand moved softly up the side of her arm, caressing her skin. When he reached her neck, he cupped it firmly and let her silky hair slide through his fingers. He had tried to put down what he felt for her in words the night before, but had been unsuccessful. Now he knew that if he wanted her to know, he would have to show her. Maybe the fates wouldn’t be cruel enough to take their connection away too, and he could have some way to communicate with her before it was too late.

Her eyelashes fluttered against her cheeks as she closed her eyes on a whispered moan. She had meant it only for his ears, and he took it as an invitation. But as he moved closer to her, he began to realize that something was wrong. Had he thought his chest ached from the need of the moment? Because it was burning now, threatening to seize as a ghostly hand tightened its grip.

He let out a strangled cry, and pulled back from Liz. His throat was constricted again, not permitting him to make any sounds. Gasping for air, he fell back to the floor and clutched at his throat. Liz was leaning over him, yelling over her shoulder. Her cool hand rested on his forehead and Kyle showed up a second later with a cold towel. Liz began dabbing at his face, and he felt the panic attack subsiding. Max tried to relax his breathing, anything to ease the unbearable tightness.

He was running a fever again. He could feel it. And then Tess was taking over where Liz had been. Liz had given up the job and was in the process of unbuttoning his shirt again, laying cold towels on his skin. It was enough to shock his system and almost immediately, he found that he could breathe again if he concentrated hard enough.

Letting his head fall back to the floor, he gasped for air and opened his eyes to find Liz by his side. Her face was contorted in fear as she continued to lay the towels against his skin. Kyle was constantly refreshing the towels and handing them to the two girls, and Max made a mental note to thank him if he ever could again.

Feeling blackness creeping along the edges of his vision, Max didn’t have time to worry about what it meant. He was sinking into the quicksand fast. Liz called out to him, but he could only dimly hear her voice through the long tunnel. He wanted to tell her that he loved her, that she shouldn’t worry because he could feel that it wasn’t his time yet. His eyes were closing fast and the more he fought, the harder it was to keep them focused on her face.

So, Max gave in and allowed his eyes to close. But he carried with him the image of Liz’s worried face. And hoped that he would have the chance to see it again.

posted on 13-Jul-2002 9:38:36 PM by Cookieman1234
Hey guys! Surgery went just fine. Sorry for the quick note, but I wanted to let you know that I'm going to attempt to update this one either tonight or tomorrow. I'm still slow, but working on it. Only eight typing fingers. LOL

~Stacey
posted on 15-Jul-2002 12:25:31 PM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise. Oh yeah, and I don’t own any of these characters. LOL
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.

Hey, gang. Sorry about yesterday. We had a crisis of the inlaw kind. The kind of trouble only family can cause. It's taking me a little longer to get these out than I'd hoped, so posting this week should be kind of sporatic. Oh, and forgive any horrible typos. LOL I'm still handicapped. Enjoy!

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.

Discord
Part 8

Maria paced the stained carpet, making a quick trip around the dingy room. Her feet made no sound on the soiled carpet, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. She was slowly going mad within the confines of the four walls anyway. She may as well not be clean when it happened. When her pacing brought her to the only window, she peeked through the dusty blinds to the street beyond.

“Maria, if you don’t quit it,” Isabel warned without bothering to finish the threat. She’d threatened the fellow blonde enough over the last two days for her to understand the dangers of annoying her.

Maria spun towards where Isabel sat on one of the room’s double beds. She had been pouring over a map for the better part of the hour and the silence had irked her. Ordinarily, she would have let the comment go, but she was in the mood for a good argument. Anything to break the monotony. “You’ll what?”

Isabel raised her eyes and glared. “Do you think the Skins are going to get bored and just leave?”

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Maria offered primly. “We might have a window of opportunity to run without them seeing us.”

“That defeats the purpose of being a decoy,” Alex offered without pause as he flipped through the television channels quickly. He was propped up against the wall with a pillow behind his head, trying to remain the calm voice of reason. It was a thankless job, but it had been his since their road trip had begun.

Maria began pacing again, reminded of Michael and all the possible dangers he could be facing alone. “I knew his plan was a bad one. He’s been gone for two days! What if he’s in trouble and he needs us?” Her blood pressure soared just thinking about it.

Shortly after leaving Roswell, Michael had figured out they were being followed. They’d tried every possible way to lose them, and it had taken them twice as long to reach Santa Fe. But in the end, it had been for nothing. The Skins had remained on their tail.

They’d rented a cheap motel room where Michael had announced that he was going after Brody alone. The others were to stay behind as decoys so that the Skins wouldn’t know what they were really after. Maria had been insistent that Brody stay safe and they’d agreed that if there really was a device that could do what it had done to Max, their lives would be better if the Skins didn’t know anything about it.

Maria had reluctantly agreed with the plan then, but now it was two days later and they hadn’t heard from Michael. To make matters worse, he’d taken her cell phone and Maria’s fingers had itched to dial the number. They’d agreed to wait until sunrise to panic and call him. But it was a last resort. They were pretty sure the phones were bugged and they had no way of knowing if a ringing telephone would endanger Michael’s life.

Alex watched Maria begin pacing again and he quickly hit the power button on the remote and plunged the room into an unwelcome silence. Turning to his old friend, he patted the bed beside him in invitation. She turned a watery smile to him and eagerly crawled into bed next to him. She rested her head on his shoulder and let him soothe her nerves.

“Alex, I’m just so worried.”

“I know. But you don’t have to be.” Alex stroked her back, soothing her fears as he’d done in one way or another his whole life. It was his role. “Michael’s stubborn and he’s smart. Plus, he’s gotten himself out of dangerous situations you and I couldn’t even dream up. I’m sure he’s just trying to find Brody. He’ll show up any minute now like he hasn’t been worrying us silly.”

Maria sniffled and burrowed into his chest. “I know you’re probably right.”

“Hey, I’m always right. Now do you want to kill some time watching infomercials? I think I saw the one for the spray paint hair.”

Isabel watched the easy friendship between the two humans with a low burning spark of jealousy she couldn’t explain. Her world was upside down right now. Her brother was sick, couldn’t understand anyone around him and she’d had to leave him with people she couldn’t guarantee would take excellent care of him. Michael had been missing for two days now and who knew what sort of trouble he could be in by now. Tess had stayed behind in Roswell alone, knowing that Nicholas could pop up on their doorstep any minute. And they were being watched by the Skins. But all she wanted to do was claim Alex’s other shoulder and nuzzle her head in the crook of his neck.

She wondered if she would fit as easily as Maria did. But she knew it was a luxury she couldn’t allow herself. What had it gotten Max and Michael? Max had suffered through the worst pain known to man when Liz betrayed him, and Michael had to answer to Maria, was subjected to her endless questions and he had to inform her of his every move. Why did she need that kind of unnecessary attachment holding her down?

It had been a long two days trapped in the small space. Maria and Alex had shared one of the beds, curling around each other as if they belonged. Had she ever fit anywhere that perfectly? She hadn’t been able to recall a moment in her life when she had ever belonged that completely.

Isabel had taken to going over the maps, looking for any ideas as to where Brody might be in case Michael didn’t find him. On the morning after Michael left them behind, they had decided to keep up the appearance of hunting for something, making phone calls. They’d ventured outside once, but Michael’s absence had been felt all too acutely and they’d decided to remain inside after that. Of course, half the time since then, Isabel had been trying not to concentrate on Alex and the pull towards him. And if she wasn’t doing a perfect job maintaining distance, it was the circumstances.

It had taken every ounce of self-control not to run back to Roswell and take care of Max. It was killing her to not know how he was doing. Had the symptoms improved since they’d left? Was their trip for nothing? She wanted to pick up the grimy phone that was bolted down to the bedside table and call for information. But that could mean putting their lives in danger. If Nicholas really was in town and he found out that Max was vulnerable, it might spell her brother’s death.

So, Isabel had focused her energy to Alex, feeling as if she were seeing him for the first time. And it wasn’t a good thing.

She would have to be blind not to see the adoration shining in Alex’s eyes. It wouldn’t take much more than a warm smile to send him head over heels for her. So she was careful to keep a foot of space between them. She didn’t need love, didn’t want it. When the time came to leave, she could do it freely, with little mess.

But she couldn’t deny that she wondered what it would feel like to be held in those long arms. Would he wrap them around her and pull her close? Would his fingers tangle in her hair? Would he still want to kiss her after all this time?

With a mangled scream of frustration, Isabel realized she had been doing it again and leapt off the bed. She strode across the room and into the bathroom, slamming the door in her wake.

Maria looked up at Alex in question. “What was that about?”

Alex eyed the door for a minute, wishing he could help Isabel in some way. He knew she was losing her grip on sanity, but she would die before she let him help her. But all he’d ever received for his efforts was a proverbial slap to the face. Eventually, even the mongrel dog learned to stop begging for scraps. So, he did the only thing he knew how to do and pulled Maria closer, offering her comfort until Michael came back safely, and wishing Isabel would find a way to let him in.

“Do I ever know? Do you think I’d be here if I understood how her mind worked?”

Maria settled back down, still worrying about Michael as the man in the infomercial had his balding head sprayed with the black spray paint. “I don’t think it’s just you, Alex. This planet just makes people do weird things.”

*~*~

Michael flattened himself against the wall and waited. He could all but hear the seconds ticking away, counting off the time that he stood, waiting to get caught. He checked the time, glancing at his watch again. The watch Max had given him two years ago.

Michael had been late for something or another and Isabel had been in the middle of lighting into him as if he’d done it to purposefully ruin her day. Michael had turned to Max, hoping to share an amused look, but Max had been staring into him with those damn eyes that saw more then you were willing to share. And somehow, Max had figured out that the reason Michael was always late was because he didn’t own a watch.

So, Max had bought him one. He’d made it out like it was no big deal, played it off like it was an old watch he was getting rid of. But Michael wasn’t stupid. He knew an old watch from a new one. But there hadn’t been a way to refuse it and still maintain his pride. So, he’d kept it and it had been the first thing he owned that anyone had given him.

Now, as the seconds ticked away on the old watch, Michael was reminded of why he was in a dank hallway in the middle of the night. His brother needed him and he would do whatever it took to help Max.

Chancing a look around the corner, Michael scowled. The security guard was still sitting at his desk. Michael had spent the last two days watching the guards, timing their rounds, marking their shift changes. And the desk should be empty by now, giving him exactly thirteen minutes to find what he needed on the security cameras.

It had been easy enough to find Brody. The man wasn’t exactly low key. But getting to the devices he’d brought to the university had been another story. The building’s security wasn’t exactly top notch, but the last thing Michael needed was to be caught on camera stealing an alien device from the university. So, for once in his life, instead of bursting in and taking what he needed in a show of force, he’d played it safe and had planned.

Max would be proud.

One of the two night shift guards had gone home early. And that meant that there was only one guard on duty in the university right now. He knew that Brody had brought the alien device here, and that it was somewhere on these floors. But it would take too long to discover which one. So, he needed the surveillance cameras.

Impatiently, he tapped his foot, trying not to make noise. And when the guard rose from the desk to meander his way to the large metal door into the heart of the research labs, Michael didn’t waste a second of time.

He had been hiding in the one corner that didn’t have camera coverage and it took a simple ribbon of energy to knock out the camera that watched the security desk. Dashing to the rest of the way, Michael gave himself two minutes to get acquainted with the system. It really wasn’t so difficult. Any trained monkey could operate the remote for the system.

Switching between the cameras to find what he needed, Michael grinned smugly. It really was a cushy job. Drink coffee, sit back and watch the monitor. Hell, he’d bet they even got cable if you connected the cords just right. All in all, a far cry easier than serving hamburgers for half of the population of Roswell and having to watch Max pretend not to watch Liz’s every move. He might have to switch jobs when he got home.

Keeping an eye on his watch, a thin trickle of sweat began running down Michael’s spine. This was taking him longer than he’d anticipated. He wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, maybe a neon sign pointing the way. But he was down to four minutes and there still wasn’t a sign of the device that had caused Max so much harm.

Michael switched cameras again and caught a glimpse of the security guard making his way back to the desk. Michael soaked up as much information as he could, trusting his memory to recall the corridor’s twists and turns if he had to navigate them blindly.

Two minutes left.

Another camera switch. Was it his imagination or was it taking longer to maneuver the cameras? He only had a minute left and he wouldn’t have another chance for another couple of hours. Time was ticking away, a staccato beat that sped up Michael’s heart.

He caught the security guard on another camera, pausing for a drink of water at a fountain. Michael switched camera angles again and hit the jackpot. He didn’t need to double-check the metal box on the lab table against the crude drawing Max had supplied him with. It was what he’d been looking for.

The door to the lobby beeped and opened, allowing the guard to stroll through the door. The tune on his lips died when he saw the state of his desk. Rushing forward, he tried to mop up the mess his spilled coffee mug had left in its wake. The VCR beside his video monitor sputtered, shooting the occasional spark from its circuits.

Swearing to himself, his brain already began coming up with excuses for the damaged hardware. The system was completely fried and there would be hell to pay he was sure. And in his haste to cover his tracks, he never saw Michael slip though the door.

*~*~

“I’m going after Michael.”

“What?” Maria straightened, staring at Isabel as if she’d grown a second head. “How? We don’t even know where he is.”

Isabel began folding her maps, cleaning the mess off her bed. “I think I do. Alex, you were watching the news earlier tonight and they mentioned something about the University having guests in town this week for the Centennial celebration.”

“Yeah,” Alex agreed, not seeing the connection.

“I didn’t put it together right away, but I recognized one of the men in the footage.”

“Brody?”

“No. Some guy, Kirby something or another. I couldn’t figure out why he looked so familiar and it just hit me. Remember that book Max used to tote around during the summer when Liz was gone? No, you probably don’t. Well, he was constantly quoting it. So, I took it when he wasn’t looking and hid it.”

“Hey, isn’t that the book that Max kept accusing Michael of taking?”

Isabel nodded without remorse. “That’s the one. Well, I had the thing hidden upside in my room for a few weeks and the guy on the news is the same guy from the dust jacket of the book.” Isabel watched Maria and Alex, waiting for understanding to dawn.

“This Kirby guy is in town?” Maria guessed. “I don’t know, Isabel. That’s kind of vague.”

Isabel crossed her arms over her chest. “Michael isn’t answering your phone, Maria. Time’s up. I’m ready to do this and get back to Roswell. I can’t sit in this hotel room another minute just waiting.”

Alex caught the faint hint of desperation in her movements and sighed. “It wouldn’t be a road trip if we didn’t break into some sort of building.”

“So, we go the University?” Maria rose from the bed, surprised that Alex had given in so easily but eager to do something other than wait.

“First we have to get rid of the Skins.” Isabel packed her few belongings into her bag.

“Any ideas?” Alex asked as he handed a stack of papers to her.

“That actually shouldn’t be a problem. We’ll just use the back door.”

“Isabel? Not to debunk your plan, but this place doesn’t have a back door.”

Isabel offered Maria a smile. “It will by the time we leave. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to take your car since it’s parked in the front of the building.”

“Hold on a second. If you think I’m just going to leave my car-“

“We’ll come back for it,” Alex promised. Even if the Jetta hadn’t been parked in the front, it would be too risky to use a car they could identify so easily.

Folding her hands over her chest, Maria turned the force of her icy glare on Alex. “Then how do you propose we get there?”

Isabel stood and met Alex’s eyes, saw that he already understood her plan. It was surprising and kind of nice not to have to explain herself, so she offered him a smile. “I guess we’ll just have to borrow someone else’s then.”

Borrow…you know what, I probably shouldn’t ask too many questions. Fine. Let’s go then. How far is the University?”

“Not far, maybe fifteen miles south of here. Alex, can you make sure the blinds are closed tight?” Isabel shouldered her bag and moved to the far side of the room. She’d checked earlier to be sure that there weren’t any other occupants in the motel and hadn’t been surprised to discover that they were the only suckers paying to stay there.

Raising her hand, Isabel laid her palm flat against the wall. She let her energy pool beneath her fingertips and directed it outward, burning a hole in the plaster. She tried to keep the glow to a minimum, but it made the job harder. Finally, Isabel let her energy ease back and she examined the hole she had created in the wall, letting the first streaks of daybreak into the room.

Alex grinned when Isabel turned back to them. “I don’t think that’ll ever not be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Isabel pushed the bubble of delight away and cautiously poked her head out the hole to the alleyway beyond. “The coast is clear. And there’s a car parked a little ways down. Alex, do you think you can jumpstart it if I can get us inside?”

Alex nodded thoughtfully. “In theory, sure. It’s just some wires. And I’ve always wondered how difficult it was.”

Maria rolled her eyes and resisted the urge to look over her shoulder for Skins as Alex followed Isabel out the hole. “Great. Maybe we still have enough time to knock over a bank on our way.”

*~*~

Michael ducked behind a cubicle, waiting until he was sure that the echoing footsteps weren’t coming his way. It had just been his luck that a cleaning crew had shown up to scrub the building before the day shift began. They hadn’t shown up the last few nights and he figured it must be a once a week thing. Still, it had made his job trickier. And he had certainly been there too long already.

A quick glance at the camera in the corner of the room told him they were still off. No little red light watched his movements, so he still had time. The sun had risen a short while ago and the regular workers and interns would be arriving shortly. Michael had been able to find his way through the corridors to the wing where he’d seen the device. But he hadn’t gone inside yet. Part of him was afraid to, remembering the wide-eyed look of panic on Max’s face when he’d discovered that he couldn’t understand anyone around him. What if his presence alone was enough to set it off? Max hadn’t been able to tell him how it had happened.

So, Michael had scoured every inch of the wing, looking for something he could wear that would protect him from whatever the thing did. But so far he’d come up empty handed. He was just about to give up and grab the thing if he could.

But then he felt the odd buzzing sensation in his head.

He knew that sensation. It spelled alien trouble. Had the Skins been able to track him to the building? Were the others alright? For the first time, he regretted not knowing what they had been up to. He’d thought it would be simpler to just get the box and keep them holed up in the motel room. But what if he’d simply left them as easy targets?

His mind made up, Michael pushed away from the desk. Danger or not, he was going to have to grab that box. He couldn’t let the Skins get it or Max would never be his old self again. Ducking around another corner, he checked the cameras again. Still no red light. At least something was going his way.

There was just one more corridor to go, a left then a right, fiddle with the automatic locks and he would be in. Getting out would be something he would cross later.

The buzzing in his head was growing louder, more insistent and he swallowed reflexively. They were close. Not bothering to check the hallway before he took the corner, Michael ignored the voice in his head that told him he was being sloppy. There wasn’t time for it.

Were those footsteps behind him? It was hard to tell since the whole damn place echoed. But he could hear someone. Only a few more feet to the last turn. But as he approached it, he saw movement and he instinctively raised his hand for the attack.

Sparks of energy were already rippling under his skin by the time he recognized Isabel’s mane of blonde hair. Struggling to hold himself back, he scowled at her.

“Isabel!” he hissed. “I could have killed you.”

Isabel arched an eyebrow at him. “Think much of yourself?”

“Michael?”

Michael barely had time to turn towards the voice before he was crushed in a hug. “Maria? What’s wrong with you? Get off me.”

“Don’t you ever, ever do that to me again!” She punctuated each word with a jab to his arm. “Are you okay?”

“Now you ask.” He refused to rub at his arm, no matter how much it ached. The girl had a wicked arm when you got her worked up enough. “Why are you here? And why are you wearing lab coats?”

“Aren’t they great?” Alex asked. “We practically walked right in-“

“We were worried,” Maria interrupted. “Why didn’t you call us?”

“Why would I?”

Maria huffed at the utter bewilderment in his tone. “I don’t know. Maybe because you left us alone in a scuzzy motel room.”

“Guys,” Alex interrupted with a low whisper. “Are we forgetting something?”

“Did you find it?” Isabel asked.

Michael nodded in the direction they’d just come from. “This way.”

The trio followed after Michael, pausing in front of the door he gestured to. Isabel peered into the small window. “What are we waiting for? Let’s grab it and get out of here.”

“Wait.” Maria latched onto Michael’s arm. “Is it safe?”

“For us? I’m not sure,” he answered honestly. Michael saw the hesitation in Isabel’s movements now. She’d forgotten about the dangerous aspects of the device.

“What about us?” Alex asked. “We should be able to get it without any danger. Right? I mean, Brody did carry it all the way down here.”

“I don’t know. Michael?”

Michael felt the weight of their gazes on him. “I think so, but I don’t know for sure.”

Alex nodded, knowing it was going to have to be him. Maria was still clinging to Michael’s arm and much to his surprise, Isabel was looking a bit fearful from the idea of him going in. And he couldn’t help the smile on his face. “Well, I guess I’ll just have to go in and get it then.”

Michael tossed the cloth bag he’d found to Alex. “That should hold it.” Placing his palm over the scanning device on the door, it took only a second before it beeped in acceptance and the door hissed open.

“Alex, be careful,” Maria whispered.

“Right.” Alex entered the room, feeling the first tendrils of fear coil in his stomach. Approaching the lab tables slowly, Alex made out the device quickly. He only hoped it wasn’t as heavy as it looked, or he had no idea how he was going to get it out of there.

With a look over his shoulder, he discovered that the others were watching him through the small window. “Oh sure. They’re smart enough to stay outside. Face it, Whitman, you’re a sucker for the girl. Why else would you be breaking and entering to steal alien technology?”

Taking a deep breath, Alex crossed the room to the line of tables. The large device Max had tried to draw for them sat alone on one table while another had half a dozen smaller pieces laid out on it. Were all of them real? Brody supposedly had authentic alien artifacts every other day. But Alex supposed they shouldn’t take for granted that the rest were fake.

He tested the weight of the larger one first and found it surprisingly light. It didn’t zap him like he half expected it to and Alex decided to take it as a good sign. Tucking it inside of the bag Michael had given him, Alex made sure to wrap it carefully. The last thing he wanted was to break the thing before they got it back to Roswell.

Looking around the room, Alex spied a small box and began to carefully arrange the rest of the pieces inside. The door creaked open and Alex automatically looked up, expecting one of his friends. But instead he found a janitor standing in the doorway, looking as surprised to see Alex as Alex was to see him.

Stumbling over his own tongue, Alex forced himself to straighten. “Hi.” When his voice cracked, he tried again. “Working late tonight?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know anyone was working in here.”

“Oh, well. Yeah. I just can’t get enough of this place. You know how it is. Or…maybe not. Say, look, I’m in the middle of a really important…er, test right now that can’t be interrupted. Can you come back later?”

“Yes, sir.” The young man offered him a smile. “Half an hour okay?”

“Sure.” Alex wandered over to a table of test tubes and beakers. They reminded him of Liz and he hadn’t the faintest idea of what to do with any of them. But he picked up one of everything anyway, pretended to study them with interest. “Half an hour is great. I’m just going to get back to…the…experiment then.”

Alex clanked the glass together, trying to set up his fake experiment until the janitor slipped out the door. “Give me thirty seconds and I promise to be so far away from here,” he muttered. Careful to remember the rules of breaking and entering that his years of television had taught him, Alex carefully wiped any fingerprints off the glassware. The door opened again and when he saw his friends’ worried faces, he tried to glare at them.

“You know, some sort of signal would have been nice.”

“Sorry. We didn’t have time. He snuck up on us.” Michael approached the table carefully. “Is everything okay?”

“You mean do I have a new appreciation for all things Antarian? Nope. Isabel, get me that cart over there.” Alex quickly finished putting the pieces of metal in the box and set it on the cart Isabel brought him.

Maria was standing by the door, keeping an eye on the hallway. “It’s still clear, but we really need to get out of here.”

“You don’t need to tell me twice. So, does anyone have any bright ideas on how to wheel a cart past the guards at the front desk?”

Maria grinned. “Oh, I think I have an idea or two. Trust me, we’ll be out of here and back on the road to Roswell in a matter of minutes.”

posted on 21-Jul-2002 5:14:24 PM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise. Oh yeah, and I don’t own any of these characters. LOL
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.

Discord
Part 9

“Still no answer.” Tess slammed down the phone and crossed her arms over her chest. She was going to kill them when they came back. How difficult was it to pick up and phone when they were in the middle of a life and death situation?

Liz shifted on her bed, still running a cloth over Max’s head. With her free hand, she felt the bare skin over his heart. It had stopped beating erratically a few minutes after he’d passed out, but that had been an hour ago and he’d yet to regain consciousness.

“Kyle, have you put that slide together yet?” Liz knew that she should have done it herself, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave Max’s side. His condition seemed to have stabled when she sat with him and she wasn’t ready to figure out why. She simply accepted it for now and sat by his side.

“Uh, yeah.” Kyle tried not to fumble with the slides. He wasn’t sure how he’d gotten the job, but he didn’t want to let Liz down by doing it wrong or mixing the other slides up.

“Well? What changed?”

“Nothing.” Kyle examined the slide through the microscope again, trying to make it look like he knew what he was doing. “He’s the same as far as I can tell. I mean, his cells are still changing, but no quicker.”

Liz looked at Kyle sharply. “That’s not possible. You saw him collapse. Something had to have triggered it.” Liz swung off the bed and walked to her desk where Kyle sat. “Show me.”

From the corner of her eye, Tess saw Max’s head roll on his pillow in clear agitation. She resumed Liz’s place beside him and ran the icy towel across his forehead. He moaned in gratitude, but his face didn’t relax as completely as when Liz did it. Tess couldn’t help but wonder if she were doing it wrong.

Liz switched through the slides they’d prepared with Max’s cells earlier in the morning. Then she looked at the slide Kyle had prepared. She searched for any small differences that could amount for Max’s newest collapse. It seemed worse than the others, causing him physical pain. One minute he’d looked as though he were about to kiss her and the next he had been clutching at his chest and gasping for air. Guilt consumed her when she thought about how she’d been ready to send him to Kyle’s house for the night. She knew she still should, that it might be the only chance left to make sure the horrible wars of the future never happened. But she also knew that if she spent another night with Max, she wouldn’t be able to go back to pretending she didn’t love him.

With a sigh of frustration, Liz sat back in the chair. Kyle had been right. “There’s no change.” She bit on her lower lip, thinking over the possibilities. “Something had to have triggered it. If we can figure out what it is, maybe we can slow down whatever is happening in him. At least until the others get back with the device.”

“If they ever decide to come back,” Kyle snorted.

Liz glared at Kyle. “They’ll be back. And they’ll have the device. Max is going to make it through this.”

“Liz? I think you’d better come over here.”

Liz rose from her chair and went back to her bed. “What’s wrong?” Max was beginning to thrash on the bed and he looked as if he were in the throes of a nightmare.

“What was Max’s temperature earlier?” Tess struggled to keep the cool towel on Max’s forehead, but he was moving too much.

“A hundred and two this morning. Why?” Not waiting for an answer, she touched a hand to his neck and automatically gauged his temperature. Raising her eyes, she met Tess’s worried gaze. “He’s burning up again. He wasn’t like this just a few minutes ago.” Liz let her eyes drop back to Max’s prone form. “What’s going on?”

Kyle joined them by the bed. “Is he having a nightmare?”

“It looks like it.” Liz resumed laying the icy towels against Max’s chest again. She could all but feel the weariness sinking into her bones. She was exhausted. It seemed as if nothing she did was good enough. She could work for hours to get his temperature down and it took absolutely nothing she could see to skyrocket it up again.

Kyle stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Even when he’s sleeping he can’t get a moment’s peace.”

“What?” Liz’s head snapped up. A thought was forming in her head, struggling to take shape within her mind.

“Do you have something?” Tess caught the glimmer in her eye.

“I don’t know. Something…Kyle, you said he couldn’t have a moment’s peace, but that’s not true. He’s had moments when he’s calm…” Her thoughts raced, trying to find the words to what she knew in her heart was right. “Emotions.”

“What?” Kyle had seen Liz’s mind in work before, and he had trouble following her on a good day. “What about emotions?”

“His symptoms get worse when he’s emotional,” Tess deduced incredulously, picking up on Liz’s thoughts. “He’s having a nightmare and his temperature just rose a couple of degrees.”

“Is that even possible?”

“Kyle, we’re talking about an alien transformation. I think we shouldn’t use words like impossible.” Liz ran her hand down the side of Max’s face. Suddenly it all made sense. “Last night, I came back into the room and he was passed out on the bed like he is now. I never stopped to think about it before, but I’ll bet he went through all the slides we’ve been working on. And this morning, the healing stones failed and it upset him.” Her words came quicker as her brain put it all together. Every time he’d been worked up about something, he got sick. Why hadn’t she seen it before?

“Are you sure it was the healing stones that got him worked up?” Tess asked quietly.

Liz looked at Tess sharply. “What do you mean?” Did Tess know that Max had been ready to kiss her? She had been across the room doing something at the time. Had she ruined everything she’d spent the last few weeks trying to build? Max and Tess had to be together or everyone was going to die.

The whole thing would have been funny if it wasn’t so dire. How could Liz and Max really think that they were fooling anyone? “Liz, Max was going to kiss you. You know it and I know it.”

“Tess…no.” Liz shook her head quickly to reassure Tess. She couldn’t let Tess think there was anything going on between them. “Max and I aren’t…we’re not together. He doesn’t want me anymore.”

Kyle watched Liz try to protest and he shook his head in disbelief. Liz honestly believed that Max didn’t love her. He had to assume that she had her reasons for keeping Max away from her. “Ladies, I think we’re getting off topic. Max was emotional for whatever reason and he passed out. So now we have a reason for the semi-catatonic state he’s been in for the last hour. But why does he fall asleep if nothing out of the ordinary is happening to his body? He’s not changing quicker.”

Liz shifted away from Tess and rose from the bed, needing to put distance between her and Max. “He hasn’t been sleeping. He pretends, but I don’t think he sleeps unless he passes out. So, maybe his body is re-energizing?”

Tess watched Liz’s movements, trying to examine her own feelings. Why wasn’t she more upset by what was obviously still going on between Max and Liz? The only real emotion she could muster up was anger that Liz had hurt Max by using Kyle. Did Liz even know that she’d stamped out any hope of something between her and Kyle? But she pushed her emotions deep down the way Nasedo had taught her years ago. They wouldn’t help the situation. Her King needed her to be level headed and help. “The only reason Max would pass out this heavily is if he were using an extraordinary amount of his powers. Has he done anything? Used them at all?”

Liz thought about it and shook her head. “No. I haven’t seen a thing.”

“Maybe there’s another angle to this,” Kyle offered. “What if Max is meant to stay asleep during this whole transformation thing? And he’s using his powers to stay awake? That would tire him out pretty quick. Maybe his infamous control slips when he’s worked up.”

The last pieces of the puzzle slid into place. “Of course. It makes sense.”

Tess looked down where Max was still moving around on the bed. “But then we don’t want him to sleep. Do we? If he’s having nightmares he’ll only make himself physically sicker.”

Liz thought about it for a second, then shook her head. “No. He needs to sleep, at least for right now. I don’t think he’s slept at all lately and how is he supposed to fight off this thing if he’s exhausted?”

“When’s the last time you really slept, Liz?” Kyle brushed a hand over Liz’s forehead, making sure she wasn’t making herself sick helping Max. She was a martyr that way and Max had been the only other person to keep an eye on her.

Liz smiled at Kyle, but it was weak. “I slept some last night. Don’t worry about me.”

Tess watched the exchange between Liz and Kyle with narrowed eyes. There was something in the way he spoke to Liz, some measure of concern that he had never used on her. What was it about the brunette that drove men crazy with concern? “If you two think you can handle things for awhile, I need air.” Without waiting for a reply, Tess climbed through the window and disappeared.

Liz looked at Kyle and was surprised to find Kyle watching Tess’s departure. “She’s upset.”

Kyle scrubbed his hands over his face and wished he knew what the right response was for once in his life. “Yeah, but she’s not upset at you. I know that tone of voice. She usually reserves that particular frosty tone just for me.”

“You? Why? I thought you two were getting along.”

“We were. That’s the problem. Look, Liz. It really isn’t anything to be worried about.” Kyle moved to grab the towel Tess had laid aside. He dipped it in the bowl of ice water and tried not to focus on the fact that he was dabbing at Max Evans’s head with a towel. This was the sort of thing he would make sure Liz and Tess took to their graves or he would put them there himself.

Liz narrowed her eyes, sure she was missing something. Kyle looked…miserable. “Kyle, talk to me. What’s going on between you and Tess?”

“Nothing. That’s the problem.”

“What do you mean…oh.” Liz clamped her mouth shut in surprise. Kyle and Tess? “I didn’t know you two were…”

Sensing that he wasn’t going to get out of this without telling her something, Kyle sighed. “We’re not. But we were sort of headed that way…before.”

Realization hit Liz over the head hard and fast. “God, Kyle. Why didn’t you say something to me? You two are fighting because of me? Because of what I asked you to do?”

“We’re not exactly fighting. We’d have to be talking first.” Kyle slumped down on the bed wearily. “I know you had a good reason for wanting Evans to walk in on us in bed together, and I never asked why. But just tell me it was for a good reason. Tell me this whole mess is worth lying to everyone about that night.”

She considered lying to him then, considered hedging the question. He would let her, but she owed him something. “Is the end of the world a big enough reason for you?”

Kyle watched her incredulously for a second before he barked out a laugh. “Nothing’s ever simple with you, is it Parker? It couldn’t be something like he forgot your birthday and you wanted to make him jealous.” He shook his head. “You know what? I don’t want to know anymore. I trust you. If you say it was worth all the pain I’ve seen in your eyes, then I believe you.” He averted his eyes and watched Max sleep for a second. “But don’t you wish things could be easy for once?”

“Every day,” Liz confessed softly.

Kyle rose from the bed. “It looks like Max is calming down. If you think you’ve got this, I’m going to see if I can find Tess and…I don’t even know what I’ll do. I just need to find her.”

Liz nodded. Strangely, she understood. “Go. I’ll be fine.”

Kyle leapt out the window and padded across the concrete floor towards the ladder. He had his foot on the first rung when he saw Tess sitting in Liz’s lawn chair by the window. He froze, locking eyes with her for a moment. “Tess?”

Tess shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest until she was hugging herself. “I came out here for air and I realized how childish it was to storm off in the middle of all this, so I was going to come apologize.” She was appalled to discover that she was close to tears. “I heard you two talking, Kyle.”

“Tess, what you heard-“

“Did you sleep with her?” She didn’t want to hear any more platitudes. She needed to hear the truth whatever it was and she wasn’t letting him leave until she got it. “Did you walk out of the house that night, walk away from me and the plans we’d made to come here and crawl into bed with her?”

Kyle saw how tightly she was holding onto her emotions and he was surprised she hadn’t broken from the sheer strain yet. He wanted to tell her the truth, but Liz’s words rang in his ears.

“I heard what Liz said,” Tess continued. She could see the war waging within him for the first time. “I don’t understand any of it, but I don’t know how the end of the world could come about if you two didn’t pretend to sleep together.” She eyed him carefully and when she saw a flicker of agreement in his eyes, she knew she was on the right track. “There has to be another way.”

“Maybe we should go somewhere else,” Kyle offered. Maybe Tess was right. The schisms that had formed as a result of their lies couldn’t be good for the group or for the future. Tess seemed to be at the heart of the whole mess as much as anyone. Maybe she deserved the truth. “We need to talk.”

Tess let out a deep breath and unfolded herself from the lawn chair. A weight lifted from her chest and the world didn’t seem as dark and bleak as it had when she’d woken that morning. Whatever else Kyle said to her, she had the answer she needed. Slowly, she walked closer to him until she stood a foot from the ladder, close enough to see that the only desire swirling in his eyes was for still for her. “Talking is one idea. But I can think of another.”

Shock managed to take over Kyle’s vocal cords for a full thirty seconds. Then he grinned at her wolfishly. “Let’s go.”

*~*~

Liz heard the roar of Kyle’s car from the alley below and she sighed. She had gotten used to being alone with Max and talking tired her out. Things were simpler without words to muck everything up.

She hadn’t been lying to Kyle when she’d told him that she had slept some last night. But it hadn’t been enough. Taking care of Max had started taking its toll on her and she knew that she would sleep for a week when everything was back to normal.

For now, she decided to pick up her room. Organizing soothed her and Kyle tended to leave a trail wherever he went. For awhile, she’d been convinced that he messed up her orderly systems on purpose. But as she’d gotten to know him better, she’d discovered that Kyle was simply messy. And she tried not to think about how it was just another thing she had in common with Max. Max understood her compulsions to organize her life.

She checked Max one last time and noted that with the end of his nightmare, his temperature had dropped another degree. Taking her time, she picked up the slides from her desk and reorganized them into neat stacks. She straightened her books, pausing to frown when she couldn’t find her tape recorder. Deciding Kyle must have moved it, she didn’t give it a second thought.

Beside her trashcan on the floor, a half dozen pieces of crumpled paper were scattered on the carpet. Frowning, she bent to pick them up. She couldn’t remember when they had been left there. She picked up the first one and was confused to find pen strokes scattered sporadically. The next two sheets of paper produced the same markings. But as she smoothed out the fourth sheet of paper, Liz’s knees gave out and she crumbled to the floor with a cry.

With crooked, but unmistakable lines, Max had written her name.

A tear coursed down her cheek as she traced the letters with her fingertip. When had he done this? He had struggled to write this. She could see it in every stroke. Max hadn’t had the ability to speak or understand anything around him, yet he had been able to write her name. It shamed her. He had been thinking of her, trying to prove something to himself. And she’d followed it by trying to get him out of her room.

Liz smoothed out the paper until no crinkled marks remained. The letters were crude, but they were the most beautiful things she’d ever seen. If she kept no other keepsake from her time together with Max, she would keep that sheet of paper. It was a testament to what he felt for her, that he was able to overcome the block in his brain by sheer willpower.

Turning from the paper, Liz glanced at Max. He was still sleeping. The path Liz had felt sure she should travel on was uncertain now. Was it truly the best thing to leave Max? To push him away and do her best to convince him that she didn’t love him anymore? It seemed as incomprehensible now as it did when the other Max had stood in her room and told her she had to do something drastic to change the future. But there was no one around to offer her advice now.

She loved Max. No matter what else she did in her life, she would love him above everyone else. The memories from last night when she’d collapsed in his arms were still fresh and raw. Max had broken his rule and had spoken to her, words straight from his heart, and she had understood them. He’d been so sick last night, she hadn’t even considered stepping back from him then. She’d promised herself she would do it when the sun rose, but she hadn’t been able to do it then either. Every time she was supposed to leave him, she ended up taking another step closer and she wasn’t sure how much longer she could do it. Had her decision to push him away done this to him or was it something that happened to the other Max in the other timeline too?


Liz rose from the floor slowly. She needed to talk to Max. She needed to see the truth in his eyes, needed him to convince her that it was all worth it, that there could be another way to fix it all that wouldn’t kill their friends and family. She was weak in that moment as she walked toward where Max lay on her bed. All she had to do was lean in close and kiss him. Would he awaken like the princesses did in the fairy tale stories? Was it possible for the princess to wake up the king with the kiss of true love? Could all the love she had tucked inside of her heal all the damage she’d done? Or was it already too late for them?

She had to know.

Slowly, she approached the bed. Her attention was entirely focused on the man before her. If she managed to wake him, would he welcome her kisses?

Her heart filled, soaring with the possibilities of what could be. It occurred to her for the first time that she might be able to communicate with Max though the connection they’d once shared. And though it meant he would see into her heart, it was worth it now. How could she deny him the chance to resume his life if she had the power in her hands?

She heard a scuffling sound from the window behind her, but she didn’t turn. She had to kiss Max now, before she lost her nerve. Kyle would just have to come back later. He would understand. Hadn’t he told her that Max was still in love with her? A smile touched her lips when she thought about the perplexed way Kyle had told her, as if it had been the most obvious thing in the world that Max loved her.

The first indication of trouble came too late.

One minute, Liz had been on her way towards Max and the next she found a hand closing around her throat. She gasped for air but the hand only tightened, lifting her off the ground as she was attacked from behind. She kicked and clawed, but only succeeded in knocking over furniture. She thought she heard her lamp fall to the floor and break, but there was a ringing in her ears that was drowning out all sound but the pulse of her own heartbeat.

She clutched at the hand around her throat one last time, trying to dislodge it and gasp in one more breath of air. A fuzzy blackness was creeping along the edges of her vision and she fought against it. But she was already weak, tired from the ordeals of the past few days, and too quickly she felt her body giving out.

As the blackness claimed her, the last thought she had was that she had failed Max.

posted on 22-Jul-2002 6:05:37 PM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise. Oh yeah, and I don’t own any of these characters. LOL
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.

Well, okay since you asked for another part. Here it is. And you didn't like the ending on the last one? Ho boy. Then you'll love this one. *happy* Love you all!

Discord
Part 10

Alex leapt out of the Jeep and held a hand out for Maria. She took it, allowing him to help her onto the street. Spirits had been high as they’d driven back to Roswell. They’d managed to find the device that had done something to Max and Alex had assured them that it was only a matter of time before he had the device figured out.

“I mean, did you see the look on the security guard’s face?” Maria asked with a laugh. “Michael, what did you do anyway?”

Michael climbed out of the drivers’ seat and watched as Alex carefully picked up the bag with the alien device. “The usual. Alex, you got that?”

“Sure.” Alex grunted. The metal might not be heavy, but it was still large.

Isabel was looking around nervously, her eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Do you feel something, Michael?”

“Feel what?”

She continued to let her gaze wander up and down the street. “I don’t know. Something is…off.” She glanced sharply at Michael. “You don’t feel anything strange?”

“Nope. But I have had to piss for an hour now.”

Isabel wrinkled her nose in disgust. “That’s disgusting, Michael.”

“Joys of being human,” he amended. “C’mon, let’s go up and see how Max is holding up. Alex, if you can get the bag, I can take the box.”

Alex had been eying the narrow ladder leading up to Liz’s balcony wearily. “Thank god. I was wondering how I was supposed to get all this up there by myself.”

“Well, I’m going up,” Isabel announced as she started for the ladder. She needed to see Max and make sure he’d been okay in her absence. She didn’t trust Liz and Kyle further than she could throw either of them. At least Tess had been around. She would have made sure that Liz didn’t hurt her brother.

“Wait up.” Maria followed close on Isabel’s heels, half-afraid Isabel might cause a scene when she got upstairs. Isabel hadn’t made any effort to conceal her disdain for Liz, and while Maria didn’t understand any of what was going on between Liz and Kyle these days, she was determined to get the full truth from one of them after this whole fiasco was fixed.

The two girls climbed steadily up the ladder. Maria trudged cross the concrete balcony first and slipped inside the room, anxious to see what had happened in their absence. “Hey, guys. Guess who’s back from-“ Maria froze in front of the window and her mouth hung open in shock. A second later, Isabel bumped into her from behind as she climbed through the window.

“Maria, what’s your-god, no.” Isabel rushed past Maria and into the heart of Liz’s room. “Get Michael!”

When Maria ducked back through the window, Isabel cautiously circled the room. Liz’s bedside table had been overturned and several items had been smashed into the carpet. Isabel carefully stepped over a mess of small rectangular pieces of glass that littered the floor and made her way into Liz’s bathroom. Discovering that it too was empty, she returned to the bedroom in time to see Michael climb through the window.

“What the hell happened here? Where’s Max?”

Isabel shook her head helplessly as the first signs of a panic attack set in. She could feel her windpipe closing. While they’d been sitting in a motel room, the others had been in danger. Her worst fears were coming true. She had deserted her brother when he’d needed her most.

“They’re all gone,” Maria whispered. “The Skins took them and we don’t even know where they are or even when they took them.”

Alex moved to Isabel’s side and wrapped one arm around her shoulder. She looked like she was going to collapse on the ground any second. “Maria, you have to calm down. We don’t know for a fact that the Skins took them.” But Alex didn’t even believe his own words. Liz’s room was trashed and the only thing that could have caused this kind of damage was a struggle. “This had to have happened today or else the Parkers would have called the police.”

Isabel clung to that scrap of information. “Yes. You’re right. They haven’t been gone too long.”

Michael took a deep breath and decided he had to take charge. “Okay, we need to look for clues or something.” He looked around at the mess wearily. This was going to be a long process.

Hearing a scuffling sound outside the window, Michael instinctively raised his hand high and his body charged for a blast. The breeze billowed through the window and it was only a second later before a figure slid through the window. Michael grabbed at him, grateful that the low lighting in the room provided them with some cover. But when he came face to face with Kyle, Michael frowned in confusion. “Valenti?”

“Kyle!” Maria launched herself at him, pulling him into a tight hug. “You’re alright. Where are the others?”

“What’s going on? When did you guys get back? Do you have any idea how many times we tried to call you?” Kyle tried to wiggle out of Maria’s death grip hug, but she was holding fast.

Tess popped through the window a second later and paused when she saw the large group in Liz’s bedroom. “Did you get it?”

Michael nodded curtly. “Yeah. We got it. Where’s Max? Let’s fire this thing up and fix him.”

“What do you mean, where’s Max?” Kyle looked past the strange group for the first time and found Liz’s bed empty. “Shit. They’re not here?” Kyle pushed past Maria and noted the damaged furniture.

Tess joined his side and stared down at the broken lamp. “The Skins took them.” Her voice wavered a moment before she forced herself not to react. She looked at Kyle. “This is bad.”

“You mean Max and Liz aren’t with you two?” Maria asked fearfully.

Kyle straightened and ran a hand through his hair. “We left them both here maybe an hour, hour and a half ago.” Kyle kicked the bed viciously. “Damn it! They were right here! How could we have left them alone?”

Tess braced her hands on Kyle’s shoulder, knowing he was feeling guilty that they had been off making up when their friends had been taken. “We didn’t know. We thought they would be okay for an hour or two.” She took several deep breaths, watching him struggle to pull his emotions together. She lowered her voice and caressed his cheek with her hand lightly. “We’ll find them and we’ll fix everything.”

“What the hell is going on around here?” Maria asked incredulously. “Since when are you two-“

Tess dropped her hand from Kyle’s face and turned to face the others. “Kyle and Liz didn’t sleep together. The whole thing was arranged to push Max and I closer.”

“You know, that makes a lot more sense,” Alex deduced.

“Shut up, Alex.” Maria glared at Kyle. “Is that true? The whole thing was a lie? Why?”

Kyle shrugged. “I don’t know. Liz only said something about the end of the world being why she did it. Frankly, I didn’t want to know. I have enough trouble with the few details you people give me. But that’s not our problem now. Someone has Max and Liz and if we don’t get to them soon and reverse the process it’ll be too late.”

“What do you mean it’ll be too late?” Isabel remained at Alex’s side, drawing strength from his silent support.

Kyle turned to Tess and gestured for her to take the floor. She shook her head in disbelief. Why would any of them listen to her? But she searched for the words to explain what had happened in the last few days. “Max’s cells are changing and he’s sick. If we don’t figure out where they are and how to use that thing that changed him, we might not be able to reverse the process in time.”

Michael nodded, hearing the underlying meaning of her words and the urgency. “Okay. Alex, can you and Isabel try to figure out how that thing works? The rest of us are going to have to figure out where Max and Liz are.”

*~*~

Liz opened her eyes slowly, forcibly prying them open. Sharp pain was radiating through her skull and she tried to breathe shallowly and hold still until it receded. She struggled to remember what had happened, but it hurt to think. All she remembered was sitting on the floor in her room looking at the piece of paper Max had written her name on. And then nothing.

Something had happened though, the throbbing pain in her skull told her so. And the only way she was going to figure out what had happened was for her to get up and find out where she was.

Pushing up on her hands, Liz fought against the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. It burned when she tried to breathe and she tenderly lifted a hand to her throat. Even her gentle probes were enough to push her back to the floor in pain and she cried out softly.

That was when she remembered.

Someone had come inside her room and had grabbed her from behind. She’d fought, but had obviously lost. But where was she and more importantly, where was Max?

Liz tried to sit up, but quickly found her movement hindered. Glancing at her arm, she found it handcuffed to the foot of a large metal bookshelf. She tried to lift an edge and get free, but the bookshelf seemed to be bolted into the ground. When she tried a second time, her head throbbed and the room swam before her eyes.

Why was she there? Had they taken Max too? Would he be upset if he woke up and she was missing or would he even be able to understand that she was gone? As Liz lay on the floor, she took stock of the situation. She knew she was alone in the room. Max wasn’t with her or she would have felt his presence. But she needed something that would be of use to get out.

There wasn’t time to wait for the pain to settle this time. She pushed until she was sitting upright and looked around. The room was dim and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust. She looked like she was in an office of some sort. Or what had once been an office. There was a large window on one wall that was still blocked by aging blinds. They were torn in places, allowing only small streams of light to penetrate the darkness. Dust motes flew around the room, stirred up after years of inactivity and were illuminated by the streams of light.

From Liz’s vantage point, she could only see the ceiling and she couldn’t even tell if she was on the ground floor or on a higher level. A desk had been pushed to one wall and she wondered if there might still be something inside that might help. Unfortunately, she couldn’t reach it from where she sat no matter how she stretched.

She continued her search, hoping frantically that there was something to help her escape and find Max. After another fifteen minutes of searching with no results, frustrated anger began building . There was nothing anywhere near her to use in an escape. The Skins had done their job well. So Liz did the only thing she knew to do and began trying to tug her hand out of the cuff.

She twisted and turned, ignoring the sharp bite of metal against her skin. Even as she cut herself, she tried to use her own warm blood to slick her hand as she pulled. Finally, after one final desperate tug, Liz collapsed against the bookshelf with a cry of pain.

She was never going to see Max again, never going to see his smile or hear his voice. They had either brought her there for information or as bait, but either way she was dead. Somewhere out there, Max was alone and confused and it was her fault. Why had she thought she could take care of him? She was just a girl. She was a girl that had failed to do the only thing she’d ever wanted, and that was to keep Max safe.

Her hand was on fire, burning from the intensity of her struggles and her head hurt from an unknown injury. But as she sat on the dusty floor and gave into the sobs welling in her bruised throat, it was Max she cried for.

*~*~

Max fought to control his breathing as he reviewed the situation before him. He had awoken a few minutes ago to find himself in a strange room surrounded by ordinary looking men. He was tied to a chair, though he couldn’t see by what. There weren’t any weapons that he could see, which meant that his kidnapping wasn’t military, but alien. And he wasn’t sure which odds he preferred.

He had no doubt the men before him were Skins and though there were five of them standing guard, that wasn’t what he was worried about. He’d tried out his powers on the bonds that held him, testing their strength. And it hadn’t taken him long to discover that he couldn’t draw any strength from his powers. The one time he’d been able to, his vision had blurred and he’d almost passed out. So, he hadn’t tried again. Which meant that he was going to have to get out of this mess without his powers.

They were obviously killing time waiting, though he didn’t know for what. None of them had spoken to him thankfully and he was hoping they didn’t know about his condition yet. It wouldn’t do to have his enemies know he was weak.

The curtain over the large window in the room was pulled back, allowing sunlight into the room and he struggled not to blink against the intrusive light. It was blinding and harsh, but he tried not to focus on it. If he could ignore how oppressively hot it was in the room, surely he could ignore the light too.

But as much as Max was worried about his situation, he was worried about Liz more. He didn’t even remember being taken, so he had no way of knowing what had happened to her much less Tess and Kyle. The last thing he remembered was leaning close to kiss her, to show her with his actions that he wasn’t letting her pull away from him again.

Then he’d woken up here with middle age men that could no doubt use whatever powers they possessed to keep him where he was if he moved the wrong way. He hoped that Liz had been far away from him when the Skins had come for him. He hoped that she had been safe somewhere else. Because Liz was a fighter and she would have been hurt if someone had tried to take him away in front of her. It was who she was.

Thinking of Liz calmed him, and he let it. He could almost see her now, spearheading a campaign to find him. She was the most logical of them all. If anyone could figure out where he was, it would be her. But just to be on the safe side, he memorized the details around him for when Isabel inevitably tried to dream walk him later. Unless of course Liz figured out where he was first.

He couldn’t believe how used to her presence he’d become in the last few days. They’d lived in each other’s pockets, sharing the same breathing space until he needed her next to him to survive. And he wasn’t even thinking in terms of not being about to understand his environment.

Max needed Liz for everything he did. He needed to be able to run ideas by her to see how she reacted to a situation. He needed to bridge that forced distance she’d been keeping between them. He wished all it would take was one kiss and she would be his again, but Liz had a stronger, more stubborn will than anyone alive. He knew she loved him. It was just a matter of getting her to admit it.

As Max watched, the door opened and one of the men entered, whispering to the man standing closest to the door. Max smiled smugly at them. So, they didn’t know about his condition then. Otherwise they wouldn’t have bothered with the whispering tones.

After a few hushed words, the man left again and the remaining five thugs continued to glare at him maliciously. Max tried how best to use this upper hand. He didn’t want to tip the scales and let them know he didn’t understand them, but how was he supposed to bluff his way through an interrogation if he had no idea what they were saying, much less how to answer? This wasn’t like running into Jeff Parker. A simple smile and a head nod wouldn’t pacify the Skins.

The door opened fully this time and Max winced against the sudden brightness from the hallway. When he heard the door close, Max reopened his eyes, deciding it safe. And he realized he’d made a mistake.

Nicholas lounged against the closed door, hands crossed over his chest. He wore a broad smile that made Max’s stomach lurch. He looked happy, almost pleased with himself. And Max decided on the spot that it couldn’t be a good sign of things to come. There was no way he was going to be able to bluff his way through an interrogation with Nicholas. He was too strong and Max wasn’t able to draw on his powers in even a small way.

He would simply have to stall and wait, hoping that Liz found a way to get to him before Nicholas killed him. She was his only hope.

posted on 25-Jul-2002 1:46:07 PM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise. Oh yeah, and I don’t own any of these characters. LOL
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.

A new part for you today. Am I spoiling you guys rotten or what? Enjoy!

Discord
Part 11

“Oh, this is excellent. But where does this…aha!”

Isabel perched on a chair as she watched Alex fiddle with the alien device that had been the source of their trouble. She had tried to help him, but it had been hard when he wouldn’t let her anywhere near the device. He’d been afraid that something would happen to her if she came into contact with it. So, she’d spent the last few minutes watching as boyish delight crossed his face. “You really know what you’re doing?”

“Not at all. But it’s fascinating. There are connectors in here that I don’t think anyone would think of for years. I mean, there isn’t even wiring. Everything is connected by a complicated system of…” Alex trailed off when he saw that she really wasn’t paying attention to him. “Isabel, we’re going to find them.”

Sighing, Isabel forced herself to smile at him. “Of course we are. There isn’t any doubt.”

“Do you want to try to dream walk them again?”

“I’ve already tried both of them a dozen times. They’re not sleeping wherever they are.”

Alex nodded and returned to his examination of the cube. He hadn’t wanted to say it, but he thought that maybe Isabel couldn’t connect with Max for the same reasons Tess hadn’t been able to. There was something closing off that portion of his brain. So, he’d gently recommended a few hours ago that she try to dreamwalk Liz more than Max. Neither had proven successful so far. “You’ll get through.”

Isabel listened as Michael and Tess argued over something from the other side of the room. They had picked up Liz’s room as best they could, not wanting to alert her parents to any mishaps. But with all the noise they were making, they were going to have to move the group to Michael’s apartment. The last thing they needed was the Parkers questioning why Liz wasn’t in her room but all of her friends were.

Aside from the pressing urgency of Max and Liz’s disappearance, Isabel has also found herself suffering through massive amounts of guilt. Tess and Kyle had been insistent that Liz had been trying to set up Max to find her in bed with Kyle. And if that was true, then Isabel had quite a few things to apologize to Liz for. “Why did she do it, Alex? You know her as well as Maria does. Why would Liz hurt Max like that?”

Alex kept his head down. He could hear the raw emotion in Isabel’s voice and he wondered how long it would be before she broke down. The last few days had been rough on her, and he knew she was blaming herself for Max’s disappearance as well as his condition. And when Isabel Evans let down her guard, she was beautiful. He’d learned the hard way that it was best not to look at her when she didn’t have any walls up. It just made it harder when he had to look away again.

“I don’t know, Isabel. Nothing makes sense in this whole situation. Kyle said she mentioned the end of the world, and I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty vague to me. She must have had a good reason though. And as soon as we find her, we can ask her.”

“I was so horrible to her, Alex. You heard what I said to her before we left. God, why would she just stand there and take it?”

“That’s one of the most frustrating aspects of her personality. She believed in what she was doing and she stuck to her guns.” Alex finally gave in to the urge to look up and he was instantly sorry that he did. Isabel looked completely heartbroken. Her chin was trembling and her eyes were watery. And she’d never looked more beautiful to him. “Please don’t cry. I don’t think I could handle it.”

Isabel scrubbed at her face with her sleeve. “I’m fine. I’m just worried, that’s all.” Already slipping her mask over her features, she rose from the chair. “I think I’m going to try to dream walk them again.”

Alex sighed when she turned her back on him. He did an internal check to see if the conversation had progressed normally. Heart rate accelerating? Strong urge to pull her close and take away the pain? Immeasurable distance as a result of something too personal that he said? Check, check, and double check. He turned back to the cube with frustrated moves. When was he going to learn to just keep his head down and his mouth shut? His life would be so much easier. But as he glanced up and caught Isabel gazing at a picture of Max and Liz, Alex knew that though his life might be easier without Isabel in it, it would also be less colorful.

*~*~

Max stared up at Nicholas through one eye, and fought the urge to cough. He had a pretty good feeling one of his ribs was broken, and the movement would bring nothing but pain. And he’d be damned if he let Nicholas see him in pain.

He had no idea how long it had been since Nicholas had first entered the room with an irritating smirk. Time had ceased to exist inside the brightly lit walls. At least he had the satisfaction of knowing that Nicholas wasn’t smirking anymore.

Max didn’t need words to guess what Nicholas was after. He wanted the Granolith. Isn’t that what he always wanted? Isn’t that what the entire Summit meeting in New York had been about? The damn thing was the foundation of almost every problem they had. And when Max had refused to give it up in New York, Nicholas had obviously decided to come try for it again. Same song, second verse.

Of course, Nicholas could have been asking for the phone number to the local pizza delivery place for all he knew. But when Max had remained silent, Nicholas’s questions had been replaced with physical blows. He would never resort to something as primitive as his fists though, and instead Nicholas had resorted to trying to fry Max from the inside out. He was fairly certain that he had half a dozen hand marks charred into his skin by now.

After the first round of pain hadn’t worked to Nicholas’s satisfaction, he’d decided to pull what he wanted from Max’s mind. Max had been prepared for the pain as information was ripped from his brain. But much to both of their surprise, Nicholas hadn’t been able to get in. Max supposed he had Brody’s alien device to thank for that, but Nicholas’s anger was a force to be reckoned with. Max had a broken rib and a black eye to prove it.

Periodically, Nicholas would attempt to break though the barrier in Max’s mind, but he hadn’t had any luck yet. And as Max watched Nicholas pace around the room, he still couldn’t help but feel victorious. Nicholas couldn’t get what he wanted from him and the others were safely tucked away. Liz, Tess and Kyle would be extra careful once they discovered he was missing, and the Skins wouldn’t have a chance to cause them any harm.

Since Max knew he was already dying, there wouldn’t be anything to lose if that’s what it came down to. He’d suffered through worse than Nicholas was capable of dishing out, and as long as he knew that Liz was safe nothing else mattered. Not even the pain that had slowly been creeping up his body, paralyzing him.

After another circle around the room, Nicholas turned and barked out an order to the nearest Skin. Max watched them carefully, as it was a new move. Two of the men strode forward and made quick work of the ties that bound his hands and feet. Without the pull, Max found that he didn’t have the strength to sit upright in the chair. Before he could slump forward to the floor, he was caught by both arms and dragged to his feet. They were moving him, pulling him forward, but his feet couldn’t keep up. Finally, he gave in and let them drag him out the room.

Max wanted to close his good eye against the light, but he knew he should take advantage of the situation to figure out where he was and if there were any possible escapes. At first glance, it looked as if he were in an old warehouse. The main room was mammoth and he guessed he’d been held in some sort of office. Along one wall, he saw a row of closed doors and when he saw that it was where he was being dragged, he struggled to see if he could find an exit. One large door at the front of the building must have been the main entrance, but the bay doors were closed. Surely there had to be another exit. An emergency one somewhere?

Then it was too late and Max found himself being thrown into yet another room. They tossed him bodily to the floor and he landed hard on his ribs. This time he couldn’t suppress the coughing fit that had been threatening to take over his body. When the men turned and walked out of the room, slamming the door behind them, Max had a second to appreciate the darkness of the room.

A soft whisper floated across the room, and though he didn’t understand it, he did recognize it. Turning his head, Max’s heart stopped when he saw Liz sitting on the floor against the wall. “Liz?”

No amount of pain could keep him from dragging his body across the space that separated them. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness quicker than hers had and he could make out her form clearly. He’d never been more horrified to see her in his life.

He stumbled and went down on his knee, hissing in pain. Liz was tugging frantically at the handcuffs that held her in place, and her soft sobs touched his ears. She whispered his name again and when she turned, he caught a glimpse of the purple bruises on her neck.

Liz pulled at the handcuffs on her arm, reopening the wounds she had caused earlier, but she didn’t care. She could barely make out Max in the darkness of the room, but she knew his voice anywhere. He was alive. Hurt, but alive, and she found sobs welling up in her throat. She’d been afraid that he was already dead, that she was too late to help him this time.

“Max,” she whispered again, begging him to come closer. She needed to touch him, to feel for herself that he was real and alive. Finally, he had closed the distance between them and she threw herself into his arms without hesitation. Liz wrapped her free arm around his neck and buried her head in the curve of his neck.

Max clung to her, his long arms wrapped around her back. The force of her hug was causing pinpoints of pain to ripple through his body, but he didn’t care. How long had it been since he’d been able to hold her in his arms? How long since she had returned the gesture? He was even able to overlook the heat radiating off her body. The room itself was colder than the one he’d previously been in, and that more than anything brought him to his senses. Liz had obviously been sitting here on the cold concrete floor in the dark the entire time he’d been with Nicholas. And then he remembered seeing the bruises on her neck and his anger flared. He pulled away from her, wanting to access her injuries. But before he could move far enough away, Liz’s lips were crushed against his in a frantic kiss.

Liz didn’t give a damn about the future or the past. She had been sobbing in the dark for so long, worrying about Max that when she saw him alive, instinct had taken over. She kissed him hungrily, wanting to reassure her darkest doubts that it really was him. The Skins weren’t playing a cruel joke on her, or trying to gain information. It really was Max’s lips beneath her own, Max’s hands fisted in her hair, and Max’s energy beginning to roll through her.

It shocked her at first, to feel the pure intensity of it flood her system. It was stronger than the previous times they had kissed, more demanding than the other occasions when they had formed connections. But it was unapologetically Max’s energy that flowed through her, not an imposter’s.

She tilted her head when the kiss deepened. Max had long since become an active member of the kiss she had initiated, and she leaned into his body as much as she could. She tasted tears, though she wasn’t sure if they were her own or Max’s. Her hand tangled in his hair, wanting him closer, but when Max hissed in pain, Liz broke the kiss abruptly.

“Max?” Liz saw for the first time the swelling of his left eye that kept it closed and a sob leapt from her throat. “What did they do to you?” She laid her free hand on his chest and he winced at the contact again. Liz quickly raised his t-shirt and gasped when she saw the silver hand prints gleaming menacingly in the low light.

Max tugged his shirt back down, not wanting Liz to see what Nicholas had done. He was feeling stronger with Liz beside him, and he could still feel adrenaline pumping through his veins from their kiss. He’d forgotten how soft her skin was, and how easily she fit against him. But that also meant that she bruised easily, and he raised a hand to the ugly purple bruises around her neck.

She laid a hand against his arm carefully and tried to offer him a smile of reassurance. He knew she was trying to tell him not to worry about her, but he couldn’t help the rage that was building up inside of him. Someone had put their hands around her neck and had hurt his Liz. If he found out who, he knew he would kill them without hesitation.

“I’m sorry, Liz,” he whispered tearfully. He raised a hand to her cheek and brushed his palm down the side of her face reverently. “I didn’t know you were here or I would have tried to get away. I thought you were safe.” He wiped away the tracks her tears had left behind and he vowed that she wouldn’t cry anymore.

He watched as Liz closed her eyes and let his touch soothe her. Max wished he could heal her bruises, but he couldn’t even muster up enough energy to do more than sit beside her. He examined the handcuffs that held her in place and her eyes fluttered open hopefully. Max shook his head sadly, hoping she could understand that he couldn’t do anything to help her. And the helplessness sapped the last of his strength.

Liz caught Max as he slumped against her. For one moment, she’d hoped that Max would be able to get her out of the handcuffs and they would be able to escape. But then she remembered what Tess had said. Max had been using his powers constantly for days now just to stay awake. He’d only slept for a few hours since he’d collapsed this morning and she doubted his body had enough energy to heal even his own injuries.

But she could still feel the imprints of Max’s energy in her body from their kiss. Why had it surged forward then and not before? The energy she had felt had been more concentrated than what she had been used to. Was that due to the changes going on inside of him? Max had once told her that he’d never received flashes with anyone the way he did when he kissed her. Was she the key? She had felt the beginnings of a connection forming between them, and it was more than Isabel and Tess had been able to manage. Could she form a connection with him because of his feelings for her, or because he had healed her? Why had she succeeded when everyone else had failed?

Max was growing heavier at her side, and she knew that his body was struggling to rest. Only Max’s strong will was keeping him alert and she knew if he was going to heal, he would have to rest. She could only imagine that his injuries were because of his silence. And Nicholas would simply come back soon and question him again. Questions that Max couldn’t understand, much less answer, and he would be hurt again.

Liz ran her hand over Max’s cheek and met his eyes when they turned to her. She saw weariness, fatigue. He needed to rest and the only way that was going to happen was if he was too worked up emotionally to fight the instinct to sleep. But what would work him up enough? This morning, he had been on the verge of kissing her when he’d collapsed. But she had just kissed him without any repercussions. Could it be so simple as the extreme emotions Max had been feeling at the time? She’d seen such determination and love in his eyes it had frightened her.

Was that the key? Had he felt such vast amounts of love for her that it had overloaded his weakened body? And if so, could she force him to sleep if she induced those same emotions in him? They were never going to get out of that place unless he was able to walk and at least help her out of the handcuffs. She would have to try, even if it meant crossing the distance she had spent so much time placing between them.

“Max, you need to lie down.” She tried to shift, pulling him closer so she wouldn’t have to stretch against her bleeding hand. Max followed her gestures, lying on his side. But he refused to lie down without Liz, so she settled beside him.

Max tried not to breathe shallowly as the movements brought more pain. Liz was lying beside him, still resting in his arms and it was obvious she was trying to do something. He could see her nervousness in every move she made, but he couldn’t determine the cause of it. Was she shy about being so close to him after all the time they’d spent apart? He was sure the kiss she’d greeted him with had been a gut reaction to the situation. She must have been terrified alone in this room. But he wasn’t going to let her leave him again. He’d tasted her, remembered what it was like to hold her close. And he wasn’t giving it up, no matter what the reason.

Liz brushed a finger across the eyebrow of his good eye, concentrating on his face. He relished every touch, every feather light stroke that she bestowed on him. And he could feel his heart filling with love for her. She laid a hand on his eyelid, silently asking him to trust her. So, he did, closing his eyes and giving in to whatever she asked of him.

When her lips brushed against his again, it was so light he almost thought it was an accident. But then she grew bolder, drawing his top lip between hers. She was seducing him. The thought came to him so suddenly, it was a blur. Liz was trying to seduce him, and though he would never complain, he was confused by it. She had kept him at arm’s length for so long now, it was an odd sensation to feel her drawing him closer.

Of its own accord, Max felt his energy stir and the beginnings of a connection flare up around them. Liz’s lips were caressing him, making him forget about the pain. Her hand lightly ran down the side of his neck and across his chest, stoking his desire. He wanted to pull her closer, but as he moved, she forced his hands back to the concrete.

His energy snaked out and pulled at something inside of her, a ribbon wrapping them together. Slowly it solidified until the connection between them became an unbreakable force. When the images flashed across his eyelids, they weren’t fast and disjointed, but slow and complete. He was able to see full incidents in her life that he had only seen glimpses of before. Some he recognized, while others were new to him. The images were confusing at one point, as he saw his own face doing things he knew he’d never done. But there was no time to question what he was being shown, merely accept.

But even more amazing than the new connection forged between them were the emotions he could feel from Liz. She had removed the last of the barriers and she was letting him into every hidden shadow of her heart. She held nothing back from him as she lengthened the soft kisses, offering her soul to him as she once had in simpler times. And the answering rush of love welled up from deep inside Max.

Nothing could keep Max from framing her face now, holding her steady as he showed her every bit of who he was. And when he thought that his heart would burst from the joy and perfection of that moment, he felt blackness creeping around the edges of his vision. His initial reaction was to panic, but Liz’s lips came down on his harder as if she sensed the change in his body. She reassured him gently, and he knew that whatever was happening was all right. He let himself sink into the darkness that seemed to always be on the verge of claiming him, and with his arms still wrapped around Liz, he let himself rest.

posted on 29-Jul-2002 9:40:36 AM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise. Oh yeah, and I don’t own any of these characters. LOL
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.

Well, here is another part for you guys. Enjoy, and thanks for all the help in not letting this story fall off the board in my absence. LOL

Discord
Part 12

Liz stood at the end of a long corridor, listening carefully. She’d been searching for Max, looking everywhere she could think of to find him. But he was nowhere to be found.

A voice had called her this far, away from the safety of her balcony and the Café. Was it Max? The possibility had drawn her to the spot she now stood in. She could sense that he needed her now more than ever, but it was as if he had simply vanished. She’d always been able to feel his presence in her dreams, but not tonight. She had the distinct impression that he was slipping further and further away from her and she was running out of time.

Now, she stood, considering her options. The corridor was lined with doors, all identical looking. She could feel the urgency in this room, and the power, though weak, beckoned her forward. The very air was still, waiting for her decision. She only had one chance, as the power that sought her couldn’t last much longer, but she refused to let that urgency affect her decision.

Reaching into the calm center of her being, Liz reached out, letting herself be guided. Her feet moved of their own accord to a nondescript door halfway down the hall. She tried to reach out with her feelings as her hand hovered above the brass doorknob, but she felt nothing.

With a calming breath, Liz turned the knob and pushed the door open.

The sun was bright on the rocky bluff Liz found herself standing on. It took her only minutes to find that she was in the desert, standing within the circle of rocks that had housed so many of their early meetings. She looked around, half expecting to see Max’s Jeep resting just beyond the largest of the boulders, but his parking space was empty. Shielding her eyes with her hand, she turned in a full circle. Had she made the right choice? There wasn’t anything around here for miles. Not even the birds were flying overhead, and Liz found the silence unsettling. She didn’t have time for this. Max needed her.

“Liz?”

Liz paused when she heard her name, but still she saw nothing. “Max?” The air was shimmering in front of her, and Liz felt that same pulse of power surround her. As she watched though, the air took the precarious shape of Max’s sister. “Isabel?”

“Liz,” Isabel breathed in relief. “I’ve been looking all over for you, both of you. How are you? Are either of you two hurt?”

Liz furrowed her eyebrows in thought. “What do you mean? Isabel, have you seen Max? I know he’s close. I can feel him.”

“I know. I can feel him too. He’s blocking us, Liz, or some part of him is anyway.” Isabel took a step closer to Liz, examining her for injuries. She’d dreamwalked people before that had no idea what had been going on before they’d fallen asleep, but they usually carried into the dream with them some sort of clue. Liz didn’t look to be hurt. She was confused, and worried for Max, which didn’t bode well for her brother. Were they together wherever they were?

“Liz, I know it’s hard, but I really need you to remember. I need to know where you are so we can come help you and Max.” Isabel felt the last bits of her energy draining, but she willed herself to stay in the dream with Liz. It had taken her hours to find her, and she wasn’t leaving until she had an idea where they were. “You were in your bedroom with Max this morning. Remember? And someone came and took you both.”

Liz considered Isabel’s prompting, and she felt a tickle of a memory. She cocked her head to the side, struggling to remember. “Cold,” she whispered. “It’s so cold on the floor.”

“Excellent, Liz. That’s great. What else do you remember?”

“Max. He needs me.” Liz shook her head frantically when a memory threatened to form. Pain was radiating in her right wrist and she held it up for inspection. To her horror, the skin darkened until it was blood red. And then she remembered. “Handcuffs. I couldn’t move when I woke up and I couldn’t see Max.” Liz latched onto Isabel’s arm. “Isabel, you have to help us. The Skins are here and Max is so weak. He’s hurt, Isabel and I can’t help him.”

Isabel ran a comforting hand down the length of Liz’s hair as she sobbed. She’d seen the bruises forming on Liz’s skin, and she could only imagine how hard she had fought capture. There was a fighter inside of Liz, and it was something she had to respect. It was just one more aspect of Liz Parker that Isabel didn’t know or understand. But she very much wanted the opportunity to find out. What was it like to love someone so much that you were willing to risk your very life to keep them safe? “I’m going to find you two, Liz. Do you have any idea where you are? Anything? A sound, or a smell? Are there any windows?”

Liz fought to control her breathing. “No. Well, there’s one window, but it doesn’t face outside. I can’t see out of it though. It’s too high.”

“Can you show me, Liz?” Isabel wasn’t sure how much energy she had left, but maybe if she used the last of it, she could help Liz recreate her surroundings.

Nodding, Liz closed her eyes tight. She tried to hold on to the last memory she had, and when she opened her eyes, she found herself standing in the dank room again. Isabel stood beside her, looking down where the real version of Liz and Max lay sleeping on the floor.

Isabel tried to take in every detail. Liz was handcuffed to some sort of metal rack, and her free arm was thrown over Max’s body. Max was curled against Liz, holding her tight. From her vantage point, Isabel could make out several bruises on her brother’s face and she noticed that he was lying at an odd angle. What sort of damage had been done to him that he had been unable to heal himself and free Liz?

“Liz, are you two okay for now?” How had she ever thought that the day would come when Liz wouldn’t love her brother? She always put him above everything else, and they should have known that the stunt she’d pulled with Kyle would have been another part of that. It was hard to watch them huddle together in the dark room, harder even to acknowledge that Liz could give him some measure of peace that no one else was capable of giving him. She owed Liz the biggest apology known to man.

“For now,” Liz answered, following Isabel’s gaze to Max. “I put him to sleep. They can’t ask him questions if he’s sleeping.”

Isabel smiled at Liz’s ingenuity. “You’re right.” She thought back to what Kyle and Tess had related about Max’s new symptoms. He had been wearing himself out trying to stay awake. It could account for why he hadn’t healed himself. Was it possible Max didn’t have any power at his disposal? If so, they were in more trouble than Isabel had imagined.

Looking around the room, Isabel could almost feel the chill in the air. She wrapped her arms around her body and looked for clues. It looked as if they were being held in some sort of abandoned building. The dust on the blinds was thick, and through the window, Isabel could see a large room. A warehouse? She did mental calculations and figured it could be right. She couldn’t hear any sounds, and a quick glance around the room didn’t tell her anything more helpful. It would have to be enough to find them.

“Liz, I have to go tell the others where you are so we can come.” She could feel the pull already, telling her that her powers were spent, but still she was hesitant to leave them alone. “Will you be okay?”

Liz was continued to look down where Max slept. He was holding the other Liz against his chest and he looked almost peaceful despite the situation. Did she do that to him? “I’ll be fine, Isabel. It’s Max you should worry about. I don’t know how much more he can take.”

Silently, Isabel agreed, but she wasn’t about to tell Liz that. “We’re coming, Liz. Just hang on.” Liz looked as if she was going to say something, but her eyes opened wide all of a sudden and she looked off to Isabel’s left.

“I’m waking up,” she whispered. “Someone’s here.”

Isabel tried to tell her to hang on again, but she found herself thrust out of the dream. Her eyes opened and she gasped in a deep breath of air. Clutching at her throat, she bolted upright in bed.

“Isabel?” Michael turned when he caught her sudden movement. She’d been lying on his couch for so long, he’d forgotten what she had been attempting to do.

Alex crossed the room to sit on the bed beside Isabel. He’d seen this reaction before, and knew she needed a second to get her bearings again. Gently, he rubbed her hand between his, trying to warm her up. “What did you see?”

“Liz. She’s alive, they both are.” She pressed her free hand to her forehead and struggled to remember. Fatigue was fighting to settle into her bones, but she couldn’t let it yet. There was still too much left to do. “They’re in a…warehouse I think. Abandoned. Max is with her and he’s hurt. I couldn’t tell how badly, but Liz said the Skins had been questioning him.” It made her want to sob when she thought about it. Max couldn’t have any way of answering the questions even if he wanted to.

“Is Liz okay?” Maria asked as Michael wrapped his long arms around her waist.

“I don’t know…I think so. She looked bruised and her arm was bleeding, but nothing serious. Not yet anyway.” She turned to Michael. “We need to find them now.”

“Did you get any other information?” Michael asked, trying to come up with a location for this abandoned warehouse.

“No. I couldn’t hear anything, and Liz was waking up.”

Alex considered the possibilities, then turned to Kyle. “Aren’t there a couple of abandoned warehouses south of the city?”

“Yeah, I think so.” Kyle thought he could remember his father saying something about it a few months ago. “They’re scheduled for construction in a couple of weeks I think as part of that mini-mall idea.” Kyle glanced up sharply at Alex. “They’ve been empty for awhile and they’re pretty remote.” No one around for miles to hear you scream. Kyle grimaced at his own thought, but knew Alex shared it. “They’re the only abandoned warehouses I know of.”

“Okay, okay.” Michael released Maria to run his hands through his hair. “That’s more than we’ve had to go on all day. The three of us will go down there-“

Maria slipped her hand into Michael’s palm. “If you even think about leaving us here I’ll break your kneecaps.”

“Max is going to need this device,” Alex interrupted, afraid one of the glares between Michael and Maria might come his way.

“Do you know how to work it?” Isabel asked, surprised. How long had she been out?

“I think so. There really aren’t a lot of choices though. And it is alien technology, so all I can do it guess to a degree. But I don’t think you guys want to handle it. You know, after the whole Max incident.”

“Fine,” Michael grumbled, hating that Alex was right. He really didn’t want to get within ten feet of the thing. “You can come. But Kyle and Maria stay behind.” He pointed a finger at Maria. “If you argue with me, I’ll lock you in the closet. Maria, I’m not risking your life, and I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to take care of you.”

Kyle saw the hesitation in Maria’s eyes and knew she was never going to just let Michael walk into danger that way. She was too worried he would do something reckless to help Max and Liz. But they didn’t have a second to spare if Nicholas and the Skins were involved. Moving to stand behind Maria, Kyle placed a hand on her shoulder. She didn’t look up at him, but he knew he had her attention. “They’re wasting time.”

Maria sighed and gripped Michael’s hand. “Just promise me you’ll be careful. No, I mean it,” she continued when she saw his automatic reply. “I want you to come back in one piece and able to understand any yelling I feel you deserve.”

Michael took a second to dip his head low for a kiss. “I promise.” When Maria released him, he turned quickly and grabbed his jacket, shrugging it on as everyone behind them scrambled to get out the door.

Alex leapt off the bed and quickly placed the alien device back in the canvas bag from the University. Isabel was behind him, picking up the tools he’d been using and tossing them inside his small tool kit.

Kyle held Maria’s shoulders, forcing her to stay in the room when Michael slipped out the door with the others. As the door clicked shut, Maria turned in his arms. “I’m not staying here.” She reached for her jacket and pulled out her car keys before turning back to him again. “Are you coming with me or not?”

With a sigh, Kyle pulled his own keys from his letterman jacket. He really wasn’t surprised in the slightest. “At least let me drive.”

*~*~

Liz found herself being ripped out of the dream she’d shared with Isabel to find two men standing over them. Instinctively, she curled closer to Max, wanting to protect him anyway she could. He was still sleeping, and she wondered if he could even be woken when he was like this.

One of the men kicked at her leg, trying to move her out of the way, but Liz refused to move. They were here to take Max away for a second round of questioning. Idly, she wondered how long she’d been sleeping. The man kicked at her again, and she winced this time, sure it would leave a mark. Her grip on Max tightened and she glared at him.

“If you want him, you’ll have to kill me first.” She cocked her head to the side, hoping that she was reading her role in this correctly. “What exactly were your orders concerning me anyway? Are you allowed to kill me? Because if not, I suggest you back off.” Liz moved toward Max as far as her handcuffs would allow, and prayed that they wouldn’t take her up on her suggestion.

After a moment’s hesitation, the man took a step backward. He glared at Liz before turning and heading out the door.

Liz let out a breath and slumped backward when they left her alone with Max again. She had bought them a small bit of time. But was it enough? When they came back for Max the next time, would it be with orders to kill her if she resisted?

Deciding it didn’t do any good to dwell on it, Liz pulled Max’s head closer until it was resting in the curve of her neck. She didn’t think it was her imagination that she heard him sigh. Maybe if she was lucky, she could let him rest for a bit longer. Maybe when he woke, he would be stronger again. Maybe he would have the strength to help her get out of the handcuffs and they could escape.

Images of the dream she’d shared with Isabel ran through her mind. Maybe Isabel would have seen something in the building that she didn’t. With any luck, they were on their way now. She knew it was a long shot, but she had to hold tight to it. She and Max had to get out of here. There was too much they had to work though still. She hadn’t told him she loved him, that she hadn’t slept with Kyle. She wanted to be able to whisper the words to him, and for him to understand her. She wanted the Max that had wooed her from the alley below her balcony with a Mariachi band, strong and confident that his act of love would win her affections.

“We’re going to get out of this alive, Max.” Liz ran a hand through his hair as he slept. “And we’re going to do whatever it takes to fix you.” She rocked him gently, whispering affirmations in his ear, and hoping that somehow he would find a way to understand her.


posted on 7-Aug-2002 2:41:32 PM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise. Oh yeah, and I don’t own any of these characters. LOL
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.

Woo Hoo! Look, another part. I'm so pleased with this one too. I think you'll like it. *big* Enjoy!

Discord
Part 13

“This is the place.” Michael cut off the engine to the Jeep and examined the row of warehouses carefully. There was no outward indication that anyone was in any of the buildings. They looked abandoned, exactly as it should for buildings that hadn’t been occupied in over ten years.

“Those buildings are huge.” Tess eyed the warehouses, trying to decide if any of them looked remotely occupied. “It’ll take us forever to go through them all.”

“We start with the first one then,” Michael decided. He glanced at the sky, gauging how much time they had left before the sun set and they were cast into darkness. Not much time, but hopefully enough if luck was on their side.

“What do you think? Back door or window?” Isabel leaned forward in her seat, trying to find an easy entrance. She tried to reach for Max’s presence to see if she could feel him, but she was still too weak from her earlier dreamwalk with Liz and the previous twenty attempts. She simply wasn’t used to exerting herself that way.

“I’d say window if we can find one.” Tess eyed Alex and the bag in his lap carefully. She’d been trying to stay as far away from it as she could, but the backseat was only so big. “Less of a chance to be caught since they can’t guard all the windows.”

“I agree.” Michael jammed the car keys into his pocket and climbed out of the drivers’ seat noiselessly. The others followed just as quietly and they gathered in a small group behind an outcropping of trees.

“Guys, I hate to be the doubting member of this group, but do we even have a plan?” Alex didn’t like the looks of this place. It was too quiet. He shifted the canvas bag on his shoulder and resisted the urge to look over his shoulder to see if he was being watched.

“Yeah. We break in and bust Max and Liz out. C’mon.”

Alex sighed as Michael ducked low and headed off in the direction of the nearest warehouse. Isabel turned and looked at him, silently asking if he was still with them and he gave her a nod as he hefted the bag again. Tess was following Michael and Alex fell into line behind her, letting Isabel take the rear.

As Isabel left the cover of the trees, she couldn’t help but glance over her shoulder, wondering why she felt as if she were being watched.

*~*~

Max awoke to an odd tingling sensation on his face. He had tried to ignore it and sink back into the inky depths of his mind, but it tugged at him. He forced his eyes open slowly, unable to remember when he’d fallen asleep. The last time he’d woken up, he had been tied to a chair and questioned. Braced for anything, his eyes focused in the dark room and he found Liz watching him silently. She was lying on her side and the length of her body was pressed against him. Her free hand had been caressing the side of his face, but she froze when she saw him wake.

Without thinking, Max reached out and captured her hand. Her eyes widened with shock and her body tensed against him. For a horrible second, he thought she was going to pull away from him again, avert her eyes and avoid the intimacy of the moment. But instead, she offered him a smile and the coil of nerves in his stomach unknotted a bit.

The memories came quickly, and he remembered the hesitant touch of her lips against his. Something had shifted between them in the long hours since he’d last been in Liz’s bedroom. There were still shadows in her eyes, but a passion had begun to dawn in their depths. He could only hope whatever internal struggle she was going through could be worked out. There was no way he was letting her leave him now, not once they escaped from this prison and they figured out a way to fix whatever was wrong with him. Together they could do it. He could believe in that now.

Returning her smile, Max brought her hand to his lips for a kiss. He wished he could say something to erase the worry from her brow, but even if he could speak, the right words didn’t exist. She was worried about him again and would be until everything was back to normal. He sat up a bit to check her other wrist and caught her wince as he rotated her hand.

Putting everything he had into the action, Max concentrated on the metal cuff around her arm. Could he get her out now that he had rested some? Molecules were broken down, pulling him into the familiar vacuum as he attempted to melt one side of the cuffs. He could feel them shifting beneath his touch, but he lacked the energy to force them to align the right way. Liz rested her hand on his arm and he pulled away. She shook her head sadly at him then gestured towards the door.

It hurt to move, but Max knew he had to see if there was a way to escape. Maybe he could find a key or something to free Liz with. Slowly, Max forced his legs to hold his weight and he stood for a moment, testing to see if he could do it. His chest was burning from where Nicholas had punished him for not answering his questions. The air had an odd smell to it and he was afraid it was the smell of his own burnt flesh. Still, he coerced his muscles into moving toward the door.

Standing in front of the large window, Max pulled the blinds aside and peeked out. He could see two Skins standing outside of the door. Again, they didn’t have any weapons, but he assumed they didn’t need them. They were on the ground level at least, so there wouldn’t be any stairs to maneuver. He supposed he could be thankful for that at least. Beyond the door was an empty warehouse and he could make out several other men walking around. There was no sign of Nicholas and he wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not. Small windows lined the walls, but they were too high to reach. Searching for another exit, Max made a note of the main entrance. It would be heavily guarded, so he looked for another door. He hadn’t seen one when they’d dragged him in the room earlier, but his mind hadn’t been clear.

Not that his mind was clear now, but he could at least think around the pain. It looked as though the sun was setting and he noticed that some of the men were wearing coats. Was it cold? He was sweating from the intense heat in the room. He turned and glanced at Liz. She couldn’t see him in the darkness, but he could see her clearly. It was just another piece to the puzzle he supposed. She was still lying on the concrete floor, but even as he watched, she shivered. Max’s mind raced. He had to figure out a way to get them out of there. Liz wasn’t going to get sick on top of everything else. She’d done nothing but take excellent care of him. It was his turn to take care of her.

He searched the small room, checking every nook and cranny for anything useful. He wasn’t even sure where they were, and it would play a large factor in their escape. What if they were in the middle of the desert somewhere? It was something he needed to figure out before they made a run for it.

In the end, his search was fruitless and Max was forced to give it up when he became lightheaded. He managed to stumble his way back over to Liz and drop down beside her. He could feel the sweat beading on his forehead and he knew he’d overexerted himself. He couldn’t afford to pass out again. He needed to take care of Liz. He’d be damned if he left her alone in here again.

Settling his head in her lap, he tried to calm his breathing. He would just rest for a minute before starting again. Liz’s hand automatically reached for his forehead to judge his temperature. He didn’t need to look up to know that a deep line of worry had creased her forehead. He knew he was sick. He just didn’t have time for it at the moment. Later, after Liz was safe and Nicholas had been destroyed once and for all, then he could worry about the changes in his body. He wrapped an arm around her leg, pulling her closer. He settled his head more securely against her thigh and ignored his body’s automatic response to stay away from her heat. Liz was his first priority.

*~*~

“Kyle, you have to go faster.”

“Maria, if I go any faster, there won’t be any point in being covert. Michael will see us and we’ll both end up locked in the trunk so we don’t get in the way.” Kyle checked his speedometer again and risked slowing his car down by another few miles. A glance at Maria told him she hadn’t noticed. He had no intention of finding Michael. The aliens had headed into battle and he wasn’t stupid enough to think there was anything either he or Maria could do to help. Though he didn’t think sitting around was a better plan either. If anything, it made them more of a target.

When Maria had insisted on following Michael, he’d agreed, hoping to keep her marginally safe and out of the way. He wouldn’t put it past Michael to lock them in the trunk if he found out they were following them. He understood Maria’s impatience. In fact, he had a healthy dose of it himself. He and Tess were in the process of trying to figure out what was between them and he wasn’t ready to lose her yet. And he couldn’t even begin to imagine what kind of trouble Max and Liz were in.

Max hadn’t been able to keep his own head up the last twenty-four hours and Liz had looked as if she had been on the verge of a breakdown before this had happened. He had to trust though that the rest of the aliens could handle finding them.

“Kyle! Wait!” Maria grabbed hold of Kyle’s arm, causing the car to swerve.

“Maria, could you not try to kill us? The odds are already stacked against us without you helping.”

“Kyle, shut up. Do you see that car to your left? The blue one? I know that car.”

Kyle tried to follow her line of vision and managed to catch sight of the bumper of a blue Toyota ahead of them. “Yeah. It’s a popular car.”

“No.” She made a face at him. “I know that car. It’s the one that followed us to Santa Fe.”

“Are you sure?” Kyle knew that face. It was filled with what he’d dubbed Deluca determination. And he knew they were in trouble.

“Of course I’m sure. It followed us for days. Speed up a little bit. They had a streak of dark red paint on one of the doors like they’d hit something. I know it’s them though.”

“Hold on.” Knowing he could find no reason not to at least check it out, Kyle maneuvered the car until he was even with the Toyota, but he was careful to keep a lane of traffic between them so they wouldn’t be spotted. A chill ran up his spine when he saw the line of maroon paint on the passenger side door. “Damn.”

“We have to follow them. Kyle, they could lead us right to Max and Liz.”

“Maria, I’m not so sure this is the best idea. I mean, we already know where Max and Liz are being held.”

“We’re guessing. What if we’re wrong? This could be our only chance to find out for sure.”

Maria’s hand was back on his arm and he sighed. She was panicked and he didn’t know what to do. The smart thing was to keep her far away from Nicholas and the Skins. He’d only heard stories but they’d been enough for him. But on the other hand, Maria might be right and this could be the only chance they had to find their friends. How did Max make these kind of decisions? “Okay. Call Tess’s cell phone. Let’s see where they are first.” Kyle pulled to a stop at a red light, careful to keep an eye on the Toyota.

Pulling her cell phone out of her pocket, Maria punched in the numbers Kyle rattled off to her and she tried not to twitch in impatience. She slid her eyes in the direction of the car and glared at the two men casually talking. She was glad that she didn’t have any sort of alien powers, because she wasn’t sure she could manage not to laser beam them to death on the spot. “She’s not answering.”

“We are having a serious discussion about cell phones when this thing is over.” Kyle rubbed a hand over his face as he eased back out into traffic. “Okay. Here’s what we’re going to do.” Knowing it was stupid and suicidal, Kyle started looking for an opening in traffic to casually get behind the Toyota. “We’re going to follow them for a little bit and see where they go. And whatever you do, keep that cell phone on. We’re going to need it.”

*~*~

Liz tried to calm her jangled nerves, knowing that if she couldn’t there was no way she was going to be able to keep Max calm. He’d been lying in her lap for close to an hour now and if she hadn’t known better, she’d have sworn he was sleeping. But ever since she had opened the connection between them earlier that afternoon, she had been able to feel the low hum of his emotions just beneath her skin.

They were connected on a whole new level now. In a way, it was frightening to be able to feel every emotion rolling through him. When he’d fallen asleep, the connection had pulled her in with him and she had felt the effects of his nightmares. After only a few minutes, she’d been ready to climb the walls to get out and she wondered how he ever slept at all. Max had been through too much, seen things that no being should ever see.

Max had dreamt of his capture in the White Room. She’d felt his terror at Pierces’ hands. Max had dreamt of the FBI showing up to take his family and friends. She’d felt his guilt, knowing that who he was could destroy others. And Max had dreamt of finding her tangled in bed with Kyle, naked limbs intertwined. She’d felt his revulsion and his betrayal, then had added her own to it for good measure. She hadn’t known it was possible to hurt as much as she had hurt Max. How could she make that up to him? Was it even possible?

Even as frightening it was to feel Max’s emotions, it was also comforting and familiar in a way she couldn’t describe. She could tell by now when he was thinking of her. His feelings were usually a jumbled mass of confusion, a mix of colors swirled together into a dark gray. She didn’t know if it was the changes in his body or how he usually dealt with things by pushing them to the corner of his mind. But when he thought of her, the colors split apart sharply and everything became more vivid and bright.

When he had woken a short while ago, his thoughts had been muddied but had quickly turned brilliant shades of blue and red. And when he was thinking of her and worrying like he was doing now, those bright colors were a bit duller, but still visible.

Smoothing his hair back from his forehead, she told herself it was useless to worry at the moment. Max was running a fever, probably close to a hundred and three. He was sweating again but wouldn’t move away from her lap despite the heat. Lying on his back, his eyes were closed and his breathing was shallower than it had been a few minutes ago.

He was getting worse.

There was nothing to bring down his temperature in the small room and even though the chill from the floor had seeped into her bones, Max’s body couldn’t handle it. Eyeing the buttons on his shirt, Liz decided that now wasn’t the best time to be shy. He needed cool air at least and his shirt looked stifling hot.

Moving slowly, she rested her free hand on the top button of his shirt. Immediately, Max’s eyes fluttered open and looked up at her in question. She tried to offer him a reassuring smile as she unbuttoned the top button. His body tensed, but he made no move away from her. Her hand moved to the second button and pulled it through the loop. Max closed his eyes again, trusting her as his muscles uncoiled one bunch at a time.

Liz licked her lips as she unfastened the third button. It was enough to part the fabric of his shirt and discover that he was wearing a t-shirt underneath. It was soaked in sweat and dark spots of what she was afraid was blood. She slid lower down his chest and finished the buttons. Max rolled to allow her to pull the shirt off, leaving him only in the t-shirt.

Even in the darkness of the room, Liz could see some of Max’s injuries. She bit back the sob that lodged in her throat at the thought of what he’d endured already today. How could he continue to suffer through these horrific kidnappings and still remain the same tender soul? It seemed impossible. She laid her hand on his chest above his heart and when he winced in pain, she immediately jerked it back.

Max’s eyes opened again and he reached out for her hand. She could see the naked emotion in his eyes even as she felt it course through her system. He wanted her touch, had only been surprised by it before. Gently, he laid her palm against the sticky fabric of his shirt and let her feel the soft beat of his heart.

She could see the faintest outline of a silver handprint peeking from under the cloth of his shirt and she wondered if Nicholas had targeted Max’s heart. Had he thought he could stop the beat that was so strong beneath her palm? It only showed that Nicholas didn’t know his foe as well as he thought he did.

Idly, Liz wondered why she couldn’t have inherited healing powers from Max. She didn’t even want the ability to free herself, just to erase some of the pain Max had suffered through. If she could, she would start with the mark Nicholas had left behind on his chest, expunging the blackness. Max’s skin was warm beneath her fingertips and she wondered if she had inadvertently reopened a wound. Her fingers tingled and when she saw the faintest of lights emanate from her hand, her eyes widened in shock.

Max’s eyes opened as well, narrowing when he saw the flash of light. He covered her hand with his, and the tingling increased. She could almost feel Max’s energy flowing through her and it reminded her of when Isabel had tried to feed her energy to warn Max about the Dupes in New York. Was Max feeding her his energy? She’d thought he hadn’t had any to spare, but there wasn’t much flowing into her body. Was it possible that his energy was somehow reacting to her? She didn’t think Max had been trying to use her to heal himself and she certainly didn’t know how to begin the process.

“Max,” she whispered. She had a thousand questions she wanted to ask him. What did it feel like to heal someone? Was she really doing it right? It was an amazing feeling, but also draining even though she’d only done something small.

Max opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something to her, but the door opened in front of them and Nicholas strutted into the room. Max sat up straight, shielding Liz with his body, and Liz had no choice but to let him as the handcuffs restrained her.

“Hello, Liz. I hear you’ve been giving some of my men trouble.”

Liz wanted to strangle the smug bastard. He was standing in front of them with his hands tucked inside the pockets of his khaki pants. He was impeccably groomed and was even smiling at her. “Well, to be fair, your men gave us trouble first.”

“Ah, yes. I know. Rick told me all about the events that led to you joining us here. I must say I’m surprised. Originally I had ordered them to kill human that got in their way. But you…you’re special. Aren’t you, Liz?”

Liz shook her head, not knowing what the answer was. She felt as if she were missing something. She’d heard the punch line, but some part of the joke was missing. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Had he seen her healing Max’s injuries?

Nicholas snapped his fingers and one of the men stepped out of the shadows. A long line of scratches down the side of his face and neck marked him and Liz knew it was the person that had grabbed her in her bedroom. She had fought hard, and was pleased to know she had managed to cause some damage to her attacker. The man turned toward Nicholas and she caught a flash of silver on his left cheek. Eyes widening, Liz was beginning to understand why the Skins had backed off earlier when they’d come for Max.

The handprint on the man’s face was petite and she was afraid it had come from her own hand. The skin around the edges of the silver mark was black and peeling. She had done that, though she didn’t understand how. The only times she had been able to do anything remotely alien had been when she was in the contact with another alien, borrowing his powers. Had she somehow been able to steal some of her attacker’s energy? She had dreamwalked Max using Isabel’s powers, healed Max using his, and now had burned an enemy using his own powers of destruction. She needed time to figure it all out, but Nicholas was looking at her with a wide grin.

“Nice work. I’m impressed.” With a snap of his fingers, two of the Skins stepped forward and each took one of Max’s arms to drag him away.

Max tried to fight them, but his strength wasn’t anywhere near strong enough. Liz pulled at the cuffs on her arm, fighting to stop them from taking Max.

“There’s no reason to worry. He’s not going far.” Satisfied that Max was restrained by the two men against the far wall, Nicholas crouched beside Liz on the floor. “How did you do it?”

Liz saw the slight advantage she had in the situation. Nicholas wasn’t questioning Max and hurting him for not answering. He was genuinely curious about how a human seemed to have alien powers. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an answer she could give him. She could feel Max’s anger and fear warring under her skin, but she didn’t dare risk looking over at him. She met Nicholas’s gaze head on. “Why should I tell you anything? You’ll just kill us when you have what you want.”

“True,” Nicholas agreed. “But this way you get to live a couple of minutes longer.” He leaned closer to her and brushed a strand of hair behind her ear. She tried to shy away from him, but he caught her chin and held her firm. Behind him, Max struggled to break away but remained pinned against the wall.

“You’ll tell me what I want to know or it’s going to be painful.”

“I don’t know where the Granolith is.” Liz jerked her head from his grip and glared at him, refusing to shrink back against the wall. That would only put her further away from Max. She clung to Tess’s words, reminding herself that Nicholas couldn’t invade her mind the way he had been trying with Max. Tess had explained it as a compatibility issue. Nicholas couldn’t extract the information from her mind and Max’s was blocked. As long as she could keep quiet, they had a chance.

Nicholas laughed. “The Granolith isn’t any good anymore. It’s a useless waste of metal for another hundred human years. Why do you think Khivar called an emergency Summit meeting?” When he saw Liz shake her head in confusion, he rose to his feet again and faced the burning hatred on Max’s face. “The Granolith runs on a timer of sorts. It has to do with the precise alignment of the planets.”

“And when the planets align, the Granolith is activated?” It was a guess, but it was the only thing that made sense. She and Max hadn’t been talking at the time, but the meeting had seemed to come out of nowhere. She could only guess that the alignment had come as a surprise to Khivar. She thought about Nicholas’s words. “The window of opportunity has already passed.”

Nicholas watched Max, cocking his head to the side in thought. “You’re being awfully quiet. You usually spout off more idle threats than this.”

Liz panicked when she saw the way Nicholas was looking at Max. “If the Granolith isn’t any good for another hundred years, why did you come after Max?”

Nicholas ignored her question and laid a hand atop Max’s forehead. He closed his eyes in concentration, oblivious to Max’s struggles beneath him.

“Leave him alone!” Liz pulled at her handcuffs, kicking at the metal bookshelf, wanting to get to Max to help.

After a minute, Nicholas pulled away violently from Max and his face twisted in frustration. He turned towards Liz, crossing the distance between them. He sunk to one knee and gathered the front of her shirt in his fist, jerking her towards him as far as she could move. “Why can’t I see into his mind?”

“Go to hell.”

Pulling Liz closer to his face, he narrowed his eyes. “Let me put it another way. You wanted to know why I came after Max if the Granolith is useless for a hundred years? A member of the ruling family must activate the Granolith during the time of alignment. But it doesn’t matter which member. I don’t need Max as long as Isabel is around is produce offspring. Plus, imagine the possibilities if the offspring is a hybrid with my race. So, either you give me a reason not to kill him, or I’m going to take great pleasure in carrying out the original purpose of this visit to Roswell.”

“You’ll never find out where the Granolith is if you kill Max.” She hoped she could keep the fear out of her voice. She could see the gleam in Nicholas’s eye that told her he meant the threat. He really would kill Max without a second thought.

“A good bluff. But I think that excruciating pain is a good enough reason to give me what I want.” With his free hand, he traced a line down the side of Liz’s face, causing another scuffle behind him. “Now, I think I’ve discovered a good enough reason not to kill you right away. You’re a puzzle that could come in handy later.” He braced a hand against the wall behind her and moved closer until his nose was buried in her hair and he could whisper in her ear. “I think you’re hiding something about the noble king, and I want to know what it is. Don’t make me kill him, Liz.”

Liz fought against the revulsion rising in her stomach. Nicholas’s breath was warm against her ear and the seductive tone of his voice nearly made her skin crawl. Max was using the last of his strength to fight against the two men that held him captive and she found her eyes seeking out his. His emotions rolled through her, filling her with crazed desperation. He would cheerfully snap their necks if that was what it took to get to her and Liz knew it was up to her to get them out of this mess. Her eyes met Max’s, pleading silently for him to forgive her next action.

Biting down hard on her lip, Liz tasted the metallic tang of her own blood. Tears stung her eyes, but she held her head up. Sensing her surrender, Nicholas pulled away from her and took great pains to straighten out her clothing when he released her.

“Tell me.”

“There’s a…device.”

Nicholas’s eyes lit up. “What kind of device?”

“I don’t know…an alien one.” She hoped that her admissions wouldn’t cost anyone their lives, but she didn’t see any other way to prevent Nicholas from killing Max right then and there. “It altered Max’s brain.”

“In what way?”

“Forget it. You wanted to know why you couldn’t get into Max’s head, and now you do.”

Nicholas took in the stubborn set of her jaw and decided he had received as much information as he needed for the moment. He leaned down one last time and pressed his hand against Liz’s forehead. His hand glowed briefly before she slumped to the floor.

Max tried to leap from the arms of his captors, but they continued to hold him steady as Nicholas left Liz lying on the ground. Turning to the men, he nodded toward Max. “Take him back to the main room. And make sure he doesn’t go anywhere. Things just got more interesting.”

posted on 15-Aug-2002 6:45:05 AM by Cookieman1234
Yeah, okay so I did the real life disappearing act again. Sorry. Good news and bad news here for you.

The good news is that I found a new job. Now, my plan was to put in my two weeks notice and use that time to finish up FY and possibly Discord, but then they had to go and hire a replacement quickly for me to train. So...bad. I really am working on it though. I think FY for today's plan and then I'm going to update Discord hopefully by the weekend. Don't think I'm going anywhere, I just won't be online and posting as frequently as I have been in the past. I did a majority of my posting and writing from work before and it's not a possibility at my new job. So...

Check back in a day or two from now and I'll see what I can get up for you. Thanks for not forgetting about me. LOL It's nice to know I'm still loved. *happy*

~Stacey
posted on 24-Aug-2002 10:02:09 PM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise. Oh yeah, and I don’t own any of these characters. LOL
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.

Whew. Anyone else think the last week was long enought to technically be considered at least three weeks? So, I'm back. And with an update. Look at that. Here's the skinny on what's going on. I'm starting a new job on Monday which will drastically cut back on my writing time. I am dedicating Thursdays and one day out of the weekend to nothing but writing, so updates can be guaranteed on those days. There might be sporadic updates throughout the week, but don't count on it. And I have no clue what I'll be updating either. I may try on FY for tomorrow depending on what the future holds. So, stick with me and I'll get you guys some updates soon. I promise. *happy* Love you all!

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.

Discord
Part 14

Liz bolted upright as she was able to regain control of her body again. Her muscles were screaming in pain, all but whimpering from the abuse Nicholas had subjected them to. Nicholas might not have been able to extract information from her mind, but apparently he could induce an odd sort of coma where she was aware of her surrounding while under.

She’d seen Nicholas turn to Max, had heard the gleeful orders to take him to another room until preparations could be made. And the sheer terror concerning what those preparations were haunted Liz.

It was still dark, and if possible even darker than it had been before she’d been knocked out. Had the sun set? They obviously weren’t far enough outside of the city to feel safe enough to turn the lights in the facility on. That was a clue. Liz clung to it. They weren’t too far for help. At the very least, they had to be close to a highway or street of some kind that people were likely to drive down.

Liz didn’t even have to reach out and feel for Max. She already knew he wasn’t anywhere near her. It was the absence of Max’s presence that scared Liz even more than the rest of the problems facing them. Beyond the oppressive darkness, beyond the despair that Max would never be the man he was a week ago, Liz was afraid that she would never see him again. Nicholas could take him far away from her, deciding that they were too dangerous close to each other. He could decided to simply kill Max and follow through with his promise to use Isabel to unlock the Granolith in another hundred years.

The guilt was almost overwhelming. It was hard to believe that she had told Nicholas as little as she had, but it wasn’t anything she could do about now. She had been afraid, terrified that Max would be punished for her silence. And he’d suffered enough already.

Forcing her mind to focus, Liz sat up, leaning against the cold metal bookshelf for support. Fear and guilt weren’t going to get them out of this situation. Max was in even worse shape than she was, which meant it was going to be up to her to get them out. She simply needed to review the situation.

Max was still in the building. She knew that much from the dim hum of electricity she could feel just beneath her skin. She hadn’t been able to feel it before, but if she closed off her mind completely, it was there. It was something. So, Max was at least still in the building. For how long was anybody’s guess, so she might not have a lot of time.

She was able to in some way amplify or maybe borrow alien powers. She had done it with Isabel, with the Skin that had taken her, and she’d done it with Max. She hadn’t even known that the Skins had powers, but why wouldn’t they? It was interesting to know that she could use their own powers against them. Of course, they were bound to be more careful now, but it was a place to start.

In fact, the whole thing was so interesting, Liz wanted time to simply sit and think the whole thing through. There had to be a scientific way to explain how coming into contact with alien life forms enabled her to borrow their powers. Did it have something to do with brain waves? Some secretion like pheromones? It was fascinating really. Unfortunately, not something she had time to work through at the moment. She needed to focus again.

Isabel and the others were looking for them, but they really didn’t have any idea where to start. So, they really couldn’t be relied on to help. Liz was on her own.

She needed a plan. Her wrist was bleeding and raw from her earlier attempts to escape, and she didn’t think continuing with that plan was the best of ideas. Which left her with two options. She could either find the key to unlock her cuffs, or find an alien that was willing to lend her the ability to melt steel. Either one was bound to be tricky at best since the Skins wouldn’t voluntarily come near her.

Could she feign some sort of sickness? Something they would have to come close enough to check out? Nicholas wouldn’t want his prize human damaged. Surely they would understand that.

With the beginnings of a plan forming, Liz began kicking at the metal bookshelf. She needed to make enough noise to garner some attention and she didn’t think shouting was going to work. Every time someone had come into the room, she’d heard footsteps first. Which meant they didn’t simply sit outside of the door and wait.

Giving the bookshelf another good kick, Liz paused to listen for the inevitable footsteps. And just as she’d both hoped and feared, she heard the muffled thump of feet approaching. She took a deep breath and waited.

*~*~

“I don’t get it.” Michael threw his hands up in frustration, pacing a line in the dirt. “How can this be the wrong place?”

Tess shook her head, unsure what sort of platitudes were expected in this sort of situation. She wanted to call Kyle and make sure he was okay. She’d grown used to his company over the last few days and in light of their newfound…was relationship the right word? In light of their newfound relationship, she wanted to hear his input on things. Plus, being with Maria was bound to get him in some sort of trouble. “I don’t know, Michael. We just assumed they’d be out here. We really didn’t have any evidence to go on.”

“Kyle. This is his fault. We wouldn’t be out here in the middle of nowhere if he hadn’t sent us this way. He probably set us up. He’s never liked Max to begin with.”

“Hey.” Tess swung her gaze onto Michael, her eyes flashing hot. “Leave Kyle out of this. He’s done more in the last three days to help Max than you know.”

Michael paused when he saw the heat of her gaze. He held his hands up in retreat, knowing he’d crossed some invisible barrier, but not understanding it. Since when were Tess and Kyle close? “Max is out there somewhere and we’ve been running around all this time for nothing. Somebody’s at fault.”

Alex turned away from the bickering couple and set his gaze on Isabel. She was sitting in the Jeep, her head bent against the headrest. Her eyes were open, but barely as she watched Michael and Tess argue. With each growled word or insult, she seemed to flinch, as if the words hurt her. Or maybe it was the tone.

“Enough!” Alex’s voice cut through the loud squabbling. To his surprise, all three aliens turned to look at him. “This isn’t helping and you’re giving me a headache.” He was pleased to note that they had indeed shut up, and it was really all he’d been hoping for. It was amazing they ever got anything done at all.

Softening his tone, Alex turned to Isabel. She was continuing to look weaker by the minute and no one else had realized how drained she was from the afternoon of trying to find Max and Liz. “Are you alright?”

Isabel looked up at Alex, silently reassessing him. She’d never heard him simply…command like that before. And it was definitely something to think about for later when lives weren’t at risk. “Yeah, I’m fine.” She found herself offering him a smile. There was something about the way he was looking at her that said he knew too much. She’d spent her whole life shying away from that, instinctively closing down. But maybe, just maybe she didn’t have to for once.

Alex nodded, not really believing her but not questioning her further. Staying by her side, he turned back to Michael and Tess. “Obviously, we’re in the wrong place. But what are we going to do about it?”

Michael had recovered from the shock of being yelled at and he crossed his arms over his chest. Tess glanced at Michael and then back to Isabel and Alex. “We need to regroup, find Kyle and Maria and come up with another plan. Maybe Isabel could try to dreamwalk one of them again.”

Alex heard the soft moan that escaped Isabel’s mouth when she heard Tess’s suggestion and he shifted closer to her. “I agree. We should at least get together.” He wasn’t about to let Isabel try to dreamwalk anyone anytime soon, but if he said that, Isabel would kick his ass and do it to prove she could. “Isabel?”

Though it was painful, she nodded. “We should meet up at Michael’s. Tess, where’s your phone? We should call Maria and see where they are.”

“Don’t I get a vote?”

Isabel turned to Michael and flashed him a cold glare. “No.”

“The phone’s between the seats,” Tess informed her.

“Actually, I moved it.”

“What?” Tess turned to look at Michael in question. “Where and why?”

Not waiting for an answer, Isabel began searching through the car. Not seeing a sign of Tess’s phone, Isabel popped the glove box open and it fell into her lap. Frowning, she turned to Michael. “You turned the phone off.”

“Well, one of us had to think ahead. How conspicuous would it have been if we were trying to sneak in and Tess’s phone started ringing?”

“That’s why we would have left it in the car, Michael. Unless you were planning to drive the car into the building and park it there.”

Isabel powered up the phone and decided to ignore Michael for now. Her head was beginning to pound and she knew it was only a matter of time before the migraine kicked in. It had happened once before, after Max had been taken to the White Room and she had overexerted herself trying to find him. Until that happened though, she could suffer through. But if Michael pulled anything else, she would have to kill him.

“There’s a message on here.” Isabel watched as Michael and Tess moved to stand beside Alex. They gathered around the side of the car and watched as she keyed in the correct numbers to listen to the message. “It’s from Maria.”

Isabel tried to take in the message from the semi-hysterical girl on the phone, but it was becoming harder. That odd feeling she’d been having ever since they’d arrived at the abandoned warehouses was coming back with a vengeance. The tingle at the back of her neck was spreading along her spine in a way that could only mean trouble.

Something was wrong. Isabel realized it with a blinding clarity as Maria’s voice rang in her ear. She caught words like Skins and Max, but nothing else.

The slightest of movements behind her friends caught her eye. A shadow moved in ways that shadows shouldn’t and even as Isabel’s eyes flickered toward the movement, even as she opened her mouth to warn everyone, she realized it was too late. Hands reached out, grabbing them and restraining them despite the kicking and struggling.

They were Skins. Isabel could tell even as she was shoved to the dirt beside Alex. Michael was still on his feet, struggling to fend off two of the attackers. One of them had pressed a cloth to Tess’s mouth, no doubt wary of her skills.

Idly, Isabel wondered if they would try to restrain her further or if the simple knee that was pressed against her spine would be considered enough. She knew she should be fighting more, clawing for her life, but her eyelids were drooping closed. Somewhere in the back of her mind, Isabel registered that she wasn’t being treated to any of the same force the others were. Even as she tried to focus her eyes on Alex, she noted that a line of blood trickled down his forehead.

And Isabel had one last moment of clarity where she realized that things had just become even more hopeless than they had even imagined.

*~*~

“Maria, if you don’t shut up, we’re going to get caught.” Kyle had been hissing warnings at her for five minutes and he was beginning to see the merit in Michael’s lock her in the trunk plan.

“Kyle, they’re in there. I know it.” Maria crouched beside Kyle behind a line of low bushes. They could just see the main entrance from where they were. The sun had long since set and the Skins had been using flashlights to patrol the outside of the building.

Their friends in the blue Toyota had pulled right up to the door and had left their headlights on, casting the front of the building in its high beams. A group of four Skins lounged against one wall, laughing as they talked in low voices.

“I don’t see any weapons.”

“They don’t need any, Maria.” Kyle sat down in the dirt with his back to the building and let out a deep breath. They were in trouble. Deep trouble. Max and Liz were inside that building, of that he was positive. Tess still wasn’t answering her cell phone and he kept telling himself it didn’t necessarily mean anything bad.

Nevertheless, it meant he had to assume he and Maria were the only two left. Which meant that he needed a plan.

“Shit. This was not a part of the job description.” He wasn’t a planner. He was a jock, the Sheriff’s screw up son, the boy that had rounded second base with Tess Harding earlier that day. The last thought sharpened his mind.

Tess needed him to be more than he’d ever had to be before. He could do this. For her. For Max and Liz who deserved at least one minute of happiness. For Isabel and Alex in hopes they finally figured it all out. For Maria who was terrified of losing everyone she loved. For Michael who…he really didn’t care much about. But he’d do it anyway.

Another set of headlights on the horizon had Kyle pulling Maria down in the dirt with him. On their bellies, they peeked though the lower branches of the bushes to watch the new car bump its way down the path.

It was another minute before it pulled alongside the Toyota. The car was parked to the side in a way that partly obscured their view, and as Maria dug her fingers painfully into Kyle’s arm, he saw what she had seen and he bit back a curse.

The Skins had moved from the wall to the new car. They were pulling Michael from the car, carefully keeping a foot of distance between them. His hands were tied behind his back and from the glare that even Kyle could see in the near dark, he understood why. Michael would happily blow them all away given the chance.

Alex came next, untied and dragging his feet as he nervously glanced behind him. Isabel followed behind the men and she all but staggered after Alex. A second Skin followed Isabel, and when Kyle saw Tess’s limp body thrown casually over his shoulder, he had to fight not to rush forward and create any kind of disturbance to help Michael break free. His own rage surprised him, but he supposed it shouldn’t have. Buddha hadn’t ever had to deal with the shit that had become their lives.

“Kyle, look. They have the bag.”

Following Maria’s finger, Kyle saw that a third Skin did indeed have the cloth bag Alex had stuffed the device into before heading out to the warehouses.

“Okay.” He scanned the sides of the building as best he could, but there really wasn’t much to see. But there had to be windows. There were always windows. “We’re going to see if we can move quietly to the side of the building.” There was a line of trees that was a bit further away from the building than he would have liked, but he’d take whatever cover he could get.

“What are we going to do?”

Kyle turned and met Maria’s worried glance. He wasn’t going to insist she stay here. She had just as much at stake as he did, maybe more. But he wouldn’t lie to her either. “We’re going to get them out or die trying.”

Maria absorbed the words and closed her eyes briefly. When she opened them, the thin layer of hysteria was gone. “Tell me what I need to do.”

Kyle nodded, knowing he could trust her to help regardless of the task. He could have told her to walk out and give herself up and she would have done it. It was odd and a bit exciting to have that level of power and confidence.

“We’re going to find a way into that building and we’re going to do it as quietly as we possibly can.”

“Let’s go then.”

Nodding to the left, Kyle led the way, crawling along the dirt to stay as close to the ground as possible. Maria followed as silently as she’d promised and Kyle offered up a quick prayer that her faith in him wasn’t going to be the death of them all.

posted on 1-Sep-2002 5:48:28 PM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise. Oh yeah, and I don’t own any of these characters. LOL
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.

Look here, my lovelies. Another update. A bit later than promised, but here nonetheless. I'm thinking another update might happen in the next day or two since I have tomorrow off, but if not, it'll be Thursday. Enjoy! LOL

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.

Discord
Part 15

Isabel tried not to grimace as the cords around her wrists were pulled painfully tight. She was sitting in the lone chair the dark room had to offer and through the haze of her mind, she wondered why it had been given to her. Tess was lying on the floor, still unconscious from whatever she had been drugged with to get her into the building. Michael was standing beside her, his arms already bound behind his back. But he didn’t look uncomfortable at all, merely annoyed and more in control of himself than she ever recalled seeing. For the first time, she wondered if she was catching a glimpse of what he might have been like on Antar. And she wished Maria could be here to see it.

To her right, Alex hovered as close as the Skins allowed. It wasn’t close enough to touch, but it was close enough for her to feel his presence and she clung to it as her only lifeline. Another jerk on the cords made her wince, but she tried not to let the weakness show. Her head still felt as if it would split open at any second, and she wondered if she’d possibly overtaxed herself more than she’d even thought. She’d never been this weak before, and even under good circumstances, she hated to seem vulnerable.

Michael let his gaze flicker across the four Skins in the room with them. The only light in the room was a kerosene lamp that sat on a metal shelf in the corner of the room. None of the other rooms they’d passed through on their way had been lit, so he could only imagine that they didn’t trust their captives in the dark. That was good. It meant there was still a chance.

One of the Skins was trying Isabel to a chair. There was something wrong with her that he didn’t think had anything to do with the Skins. If he didn’t know better, he’d say she was drained, but she hadn’t said anything to them earlier. He’d seen that level of fatigue before in Max’s eyes on one other occasion and that had involved bringing Liz back from near death. If Isabel had worn herself out and not said anything he would kill her when he got the chance. For now, he was forced to discount her in any escape attempts.

Tess was still out cold on the floor. He hoped that whatever they gave her could be counteracted easily. If by some miracle he could manage to pull this insane plan off, they would need her at least on her feet rather quickly. Sliding his eyes, Michael found that the only other person in the room that was left to help him was Alex.

Michael had never given much thought to Alex. He was the member of the group that he was least likely to want his life to depend on, the computer nerd that had spent the better part of his life chasing after Isabel’s shadow. But if he wanted to get his family out of that building alive, he was going to have to place not only his life in Alex’s hands, but everyone else’s as well.

One of the Skins that had ambushed them outside of the warehouses entered the room again. He glanced at Michael briefly, then grinned to see his arms still bound. With a smug grin, he moved toward the man in charge at the back of the room.

Michael wanted to destroy him on the spot. He recognized him as one of the three men it had taken to finally restrain him. His only regret is that he hadn’t been able to inflict any more damage than the well placed elbow to the ribs. But it had been a satisfying sound.

Keeping his stance straight, Michael tried not to call any attention to himself. He had spent the car ride and every minute since then sending small jolts of power from his fingertips to the cords that bound his hands. It had been slow, tedious work and it was something Michael had never been good at. But he was learning. Another minute or two and he should be able to snap the cord and be free. Of course, it wouldn’t do him any good if he didn’t have help. At the moment, he was facing at least four Skins. He didn’t like the odds of that alone, not when Isabel was dazed and tied to a chair. There was no way he could keep her safe and take out the Skins all at once. Tess was still out, and he hoped for her sake she stayed there for now.

Alex watched as the rope around Isabel’s wrist tightened and his muscles flexed with the desire to kill the man hurting her. She was trying to hold her head high, but it was drooping slowly. He could hear the two Skins talking in the back of the room, and several words were spoken loud enough for him to hear. And from what he heard, things were not looking good for Max and Liz.

“Max?” Isabel’s voice was weak at first, but then grew louder until the others could hear her. She raised her head to stare at the two Skins. “What have you done with Max?” Seeing that tact wasn’t going to get her anywhere, she changed her mind. “Where’s Nicholas? I want to see him now.”

The man with the darker hair of the two chuckled and moved to stand in front of Isabel’s chair. “Spoken like a true Princess. Don’t worry, you’ll see the boss soon enough. He’s been dying to get his hands on you.”

Isabel knew she should have wanted to shrink back from the lewd words and what was implied by them, but it only raised her chin another notch. “Not as badly as I do.”

Leering at her, the man leaned closer until she could feel his breath warm on her cheek. She tried not to flinch away, knowing it was the purpose of the exercise, but then if they wanted her to act the role of princess, she wouldn’t be expected to tolerate the intrusion either. Slowly, making sure everyone saw the move, Isabel leaned back and away from the Skin. She poured a lifetime of experience into the frosted gaze. “How do you think Nicholas would kill you if he found out you were this close to me?” If there was one thing she had learned following Whittaker’s death, it had been that Nicholas considered her his, and no matter how nauseating it sounded, it was the only thing keeping them alive at the moment.

She was ready for the slap before it connected with her cheekbone.

Nothing could have prepared her for the shift in reality as her head snapped to the side. The pain was bruising and she heard a scuffle to her side where Alex had been. Experimentally, Isabel rotated her jaw and met the cold glare of her attacker. The fierce hatred on his face was preferable to the desire from a minute ago. “I’ll be sure to give Nicholas your love.”

With one last glare, he grabbed for his flashlight and fled the room. Clearly not done with their conversation, the other Skin followed after him.

Michael’s pulse hammered in his ears. There were only two men in the room now and both of them had moved to restrain Alex. Michael had to admit that he was impressed by the strength of Alex’s reaction. The only thing that had held Michael back was the fact that he was almost through the cords now. He was afraid to move too quickly and give himself away.

Now if only Alex would calm down long enough to pull his eyes away from Isabel, Michael might be able to get his attention.

Alex gave one final swift kick to the man holding him, unable to help himself. Logically, he knew there was nothing he could do. They could kill him without batting an eye. But they’d hurt Isabel, dared to slap her. It was beyond anything Alex could comprehend that anyone could look at that smooth skin and not want to simply worship it.

The hairs on the back of his neck stood up and he had the oddest feeling of being watched. The two gorillas released his arms when he stopped struggling. He realized it should have been humiliating to realize that he was the only one not bound in some way. Did they really think that little of him?

Finally, they backed off altogether when it was obvious he wouldn’t try anything. With the slightest tilt of his head, barely more than the sliding of eyes, Alex glanced at Michael. And Michael was watching him with some sort of bizarre interest.

Choosing to obviously confuse Alex even more, Michael’s eyes grew wider and flickered toward the door. Panic gripped Alex as he realized what Michael was planning. How were they supposed to escape when Tess was unconscious and Isabel was weak and tied to a chair? Plus there was the factor of Michael being bound as well. It didn’t equal a successful escape plan. This was precisely the time when one of their friends should come blasting through the walls to save them all. Unfortunately, they were the rescue squad and Kyle and Maria didn’t know where they were. And the full reality of their danger sunk it.

Trying not to drown in self pity, Alex realized that Michael was still making eyes at him. Pointedly, he glanced at Isabel, then to Alex himself. A swift head jerk towards the back wall had Alex’s eyes widening. Michael’s body had twisted slightly, enough for Alex to see the frayed edges of the rope binding him. Michael Guerin had a plan. God help them all.

And to even further a plan so fraught with problems, Alex had a fairly good idea of what his job was supposed to be. A living, breathing body shield for Isabel. Michael was going to do something crazy and he was trusting Alex to keep Isabel safe. The rush of pride was surprising and no matter how stupid the plan, he was in.

Alex didn’t bother to answer Michael’s unspoken question. Instead, he slid closer to Isabel, moving slow to keep the eyes of their captors off them until the last minute. How would Michael do it? Obviously it would be a power blast of some kind, which meant Alex would have to move fast to pull Isabel out of the way. The floor was probably the best way to do it. But it would mean shielding her with his own body.

Even though it was probably the most inappropriate time in the history of inappropriate times, Alex couldn’t help but think about it. He would have to press his body against Isabel’s body, flesh against flesh. Okay, maybe not flesh, but there would have to be some sort of touching.

Alex was so deep in his own thoughts, he almost missed Michael’s lightening fast movement. The two Skins were standing together, slightly aside from Alex and Isabel and Michael had seen a shot too perfect to pass up.

The snapping sound of the cords breaking filled the room. The Skins turned toward Michael, hands raised high automatically. And Alex dove. He didn’t wait to see if Michael had hit his target or if there was trouble. Alex simply went into autopilot and tackled Isabel to the ground. The chair broke under the force of his body and they both sprawled to the floor. Alex pressed her as far beneath him as he could. He counted himself lucky she was too confused, too stunned by his action, to process what was going on. Otherwise, he knew she would have tried to help regardless of the state of her powers.

The room filled with a blinding light. Alex shut his eyes against it and Isabel buried her head in Alex’s shoulder to block it out. There wasn’t even time to scream.

As quickly as it had brightened, the light faded away until it left the room blacker than it had been before. Alex slowly let his heart beat normally and became all too aware of the way Isabel was pressed against his chest. Her long fingers clutched at his shirt and her breath was coming in short gasps against his neck.

Life threatening danger or not, Alex Whitman was never moving again.

“Alex? Isabel?”

Isabel stiffened as Michael’s voice penetrated the thick fog in her brain. She had the distinct feeling something had happened, but the details were fuzzy. The crisp fabric bunched in her fingers tipped off warning bells in her head, and Isabel pulled away slowly from the scent that she actually recognized. Somehow, it was a hundred times scarier that she knew how Alex smelled than anything that had happened to her in the last hour. And it was what forced her to release her grip.

“Michael? Did you get them?”

A flashlight beam provided a single point of light and Michael shined it in the direction of Isabel’s voice. When he saw Isabel and Alex still locked in an embrace on the floor, he couldn’t help but glare at them. “Are you two comfortable?”

Alex flushed and resisted the urge to scramble backwards. It felt like something the old Alex would have done, and he felt like a distinctly new Alex since being kidnapped and threatened. Instead, he crawled away from Isabel and leaned down to offer her a hand up.

Still dazed, Isabel stared at Alex’s outstretched hand. Something was different, changed in a way she couldn’t pinpoint. If it hadn’t been for the blush creeping up Alex’s neck, she’d have sworn he hadn’t just been lying on top of her. And try as she might, there was simply no good reason other than a possible blow to the head for the sudden crazy desire to pull him back down to the floor. There had been something altogether too nice in the brief press of his body, an intimacy she’d never allowed anyone else before. But in the dark with her adrenalin pumping and her family in danger, Isabel decided that when they got out of there, she and Alex were going to have a long talk. Preferably one that involved dating.

Reaching up to take Alex’s hand, Isabel swayed on her feet for a second. Alex steadied her, reaching a hand to her waist. The remainder of the ropes dropped to the floor, forgotten.

“Isabel?”

“I’m fine, Michael. Where’s Tess?” She pushed the pain in her head away. There wasn’t time for it yet.

The flashlight beam swiveled and illuminated Tess’s still form. Michael moved toward her, dropping the flashlight to the ground as he quickly untied her knots. He held a hand to the pulse at her neck and then pulled her eyelids up. With a soft swear, Michael slapped Tess’s cheek lightly.

Before the second slap could connect, Tess’s blue eyes had snapped open and she glared at Michael. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Waking you the hell up. Are you okay? Can you walk?”

“Yeah. I think so.” Tess frowned when her limbs moved too slowly. She tried to look around the room, but it was with a drugged interest. “Where are we?”

“The right warehouse this time.”

Alex snorted. “That depends on your definition of right.”

With longstanding ease, Michael ignored Alex. “We need to get out of here.”

“I’m not leaving Max.”

“Isabel –“

“No, Michael. He’s here, both of them. We can’t leave without them.”

Michael ran a hand through his hair. “Not that I don’t completely agree with you, but how are we supposed to get them out if we’re caught and killed ourselves? We don’t even have a way out of here yet and they took the device from us.”

Alex glanced toward the open doorway. “Guys? Can we possibly take this to another room? One that aliens don’t know how to find us in?”

“We’ll split up.” Isabel glared at Michael from the other end of the flashlight beam, daring him to argue with her. “Two of us will go find the box and a way out of here and two of us will find Max and Liz.”

Michael narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “I suppose you think you and Alex can go find them by yourselves? Alex doesn’t have any powers and you’re weak, which is something we’re going to talk about later.”

“Guys, really. Another room, please?”

Tess threw her hands up in the air, realizing the validity of Alex’s argument. She snatched the flashlight from Michael’s hand. “Fine. You three go find Max and Liz. I’ll find the box and a way out of here.”

“Tess, you can’t do it alone.”

Tess snorted. “Until a few months ago, I was used to doing things on my own. I’m feeling fine now. Besides, if I run into trouble, I can hide myself easier than I can hide anyone with me.” Taking the decision out of their hands, Tess clicked off the flashlight and strode towards the door. “Just find them. Don’t worry about the rest.”

Michael watched in shock as Tess simply left them in the dark. He snapped his jaw shut and realized that she wasn’t coming back. “Fine. What she said. Quietly.”

Alex felt the air shift as Michael left the room as well. “Isabel?” He reached out for her, needing the contact of her skin in the blinding darkness. And his fingers brushed over something that was undecidedly not Isabel’s hand. He blushed what he was sure to be a dark crimson, but it was dark. He mumbled an apology and prepared to cut his losses and follow Michael.

A strong grip found his wrist. “Alex, wait.” Isabel slid her fingers until their palms met. Winding their fingers together, there was a pause that would have been filled with awkward gazes had there been light. And wasn’t it oh so much easier to bridge that step in the complete darkness? Isabel had never reached out before, but she knew that if she was going to have any chance of getting out of this building alive, she needed Alex by her side.

A slow grin split Alex’s face. Isabel was holding hands with him and it was everything he had hoped it wouldn’t be. They were in a life and death situation and he was grinning like a loon because he was holding Isabel Evans’ hand. He was a complete and utter idiot. “Come on. We need to get everyone out of here.”

*~*~

Liz heard the footsteps in the hallway, but she knew immediately something was wrong. The echo wasn’t right, lacking the confident stride she’d come to associate with the Skins as they patrolled the hallway. This was more of a shuffle, as if someone was moving slowly down the darkened corridor.

A burst of hope had Liz whipping her head in the direction of the large window that was too high for her to see out of. Could it be Max? Had he found a way to break free? Was he trying to find her even now?

Liz knew he wouldn’t be able to understand her even if she tried to call out to him. But she’d already made enough noise to call every Skin in her direction. She couldn’t let Max come in the room with her now, not until she found a way to break free of the handcuffs. The safest thing for Max would be to pass by the room Liz was being held in.

The halls were pitch black and there was no way he would be able to determine which room she was in unless she made a noise. And no matter how tempting it would be to see Max’s face again, she couldn’t let him get recaptured just for her.

Before Liz had the chance to shrink quietly into the shadows though, she heard the voices. They were unmistakable an very much in English.

“I’m telling you I heard a noise.”

“Maria, if you don’t shut up, we’re going to die in this hallway.”

Liz’s breathing hitched as she recognized her friend’s voices. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to cry from the rush of hope or from the wash of despair. Kyle and Maria were in the hall, a hall that was likely to be populated by Skins any second. She had no way of knowing how much time had passed, so it could be any time now. Liz had to get them out of the hallway before they were discovered.

She didn’t dare call out to them, so she did the next best thing. Braced against the wall, Liz kicked out against the metal bookshelves just as she had done before. It had captured Maria’s attention earlier, and now they were standing only a few feet away from the room she was being held in.

Instantly, the hushed whispers from the hallway silenced and the footsteps paused. Liz wanted to scream. They were supposed to come investigate, not pause and be cautious for once. She kicked again, harder this time. She wanted to call out to them, but she of all people knew how easily sounds carried in the empty building.

After what felt like an eternity, she could hear their feet moving again and the sharp scrape of the door handle as it turned. There was no rusty hinge to tell her if the door was open, or if they were even in the room. Deciding she had to take the chance, Liz tried to find a focal point in the darkness and called out to it softly.

“Kyle? Maria?”

A flashlight clicked on instantly and Liz found the sharp light piercing her eyes. She tried to shield her face, losing her sight after so many long hours in the dark. But Maria was by her side in a heartbeat.

“God, Liz! You’re alive! We’ve been looking all over for you and then we heard a noise and-“

Liz shook her head. “There isn’t time,” she hissed even as she glanced back towards the doorway. “You have to hide now. I don’t have time to explain. Just get behind the desk and don’t come out no matter what happens.”

“Liz-“ Kyle’s voice was uncertain as his eyes fell to her bruised and bloodied arm.

Again, Liz could only shake her head. She could hear the footsteps echo down the hall and this time they would belong to a Skin. “Please, Kyle. You have to trust me.”

Kyle heard the footsteps too and grabbed Maria’s arm, hauling her off the floor and in the direction of the desk. He clicked the flashlight off and tugged Maria beside him as the door was pushed open behind them.

Liz heard the audible click before the flashlight beam penetrated the darkness. Squinting as it was pointed directly into her eyes for the second time, Liz fought the urge to shield her eyes.

A chill ran through her when she saw the faint silver handprint glowing on her captor’s face. She had put that mark there, drawing on dark powers, and while it had bothered her before, it gave her an odd satisfaction now.

“You’re beginning to be more trouble than you’re worth.”

Liz managed to find a grin beneath the sharp fear that wanted to paralyze her. She forced herself to forget that Kyle and Maria were in serious danger now. Instead, she focused on the creature that had brought her to this place.

“Rick? Was that your name? I was hoping they’d send you.” Immediately, Liz discarded all of her plans to play sick. She wouldn’t show weakness now. Not after everything she knew.

“What do you want?”

“Honestly?” Liz cocked her head to the side and tried to harden her eyes. “I’d like to give you a matching handprint on the other side of your face. Or maybe one to match the marks on Max’s body. Tell me, was that your handiwork? Because those prints were a little too big to be Nicholas’s.”

Rick leered at her, his eyes dancing with pleasure. “You mean the one you healed? I was proud of that particular mark. He made all sorts of noises when I put it there.” He took a step closer to Liz, keeping the flashlight beam on her face. “Don’t worry. I made sure to put it back where it was after we dragged him out of here. You responded to Nicholas’s test well.”

Liz swallowed, realizing that she had fallen into Nicholas’s hands. Of course he had only allowed Max to be with her to see what else she was capable of doing. And wherever Max was, they had hurt him again. That more than anything else gave her the strength to push forward.

“At least I’m not his lackey. I’m more valuable to him than you could ever be. He’ll kill you when he’s done with you, or maybe he won’t even have to. How much longer until your body gives out? Nicholas will leave you in a rotting body as soon as he doesn’t need you anymore.”

Narrowing his eyes, Rick took another step closer to her, his free hand clenched in a tight fist. “You have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re a child playing in a very dangerous game. I just hope that when Nicholas is done with you, I get to finish you off.”

Liz struggled to find a way to distract him a bit longer. He had taken a few steps into the room but he was still out of her reach. She could already seeing him mentally retreating, and this would all be for nothing if she didn’t get out of the stupid handcuffs.

The slightest of movements caught her eye and Liz’s horror doubled when she saw Kyle slowly rise from behind the desk. He was safely angled behind Rick, but if he turned to leave, Kyle was as good as dead. Already, Rick was turning toward the door and Liz called out swiftly.

“Wait!” Rick paused, watching her. Kyle had frozen in place as well, not sure if he should move forward. Her own heartbeat raced, thumping in her eardrums.

“I…uh…wanted to talk to Nicholas.” Liz forced her eyes to remain on Rick’s face. The glee in his eyes made her nauseous, but she met his eyes and ignored Kyle as he moved forward steadily.

“You’re ready to talk?”

“Yeah. I’m ready to tell Nicholas…everything. But first I wanted to talk to you.” Liz was stalling for time and she prayed that it didn’t actually look as if she were stalling for time. Her words sounded hollow to her own ears and Kyle had moved out from the safety of the desk now. She had no idea what he was planning to do, and she hoped it was something that didn’t get him killed.

“Why would you want to talk to me?”

“Because…because I want to live through this thing. It’s like you said. I’m only a child and this game doesn’t involve me. I want a normal life and I don’t want to die because of some alien war.” Liz almost laughed. How many times had she given this speech? And how did everyone believe her? Was she that convincing of a liar?

Kyle was almost directly behind Rick now, and Rick took another step closer to Liz. “What makes you think we won’t kill you just because we can?”

Raising the large plank of wood in his hand, Kyle spoke up for the first time. “Could have something to do with me.” Not waiting for Rick to turn, Kyle brought the board down hard, catching Rick in the back of the neck. He fell to the ground a foot from where Liz sat and Kyle didn’t wait to see if he was actually out or not. He moved to swing again, aiming for the small button at the base of his spine, but Liz’s voice rang out.

“Kyle, no! Wait!”

Kyle froze, looking at Liz curiously before glancing down to the prone form of the Skin. “Friend of yours?”

Liz glared at him. “See if he has a key on him first. I’d like to get out of here.”

Maria popped up from behind the desk and approached Liz again. “What’s going on? Where’s Max?”

Liz watched as Kyle gingerly searched Rick. “I don’t know. He was in here a little while ago but they took him away again. Nicholas knows about the device, but he doesn’t know what it does. We have to get Max out of here before Nicholas figures it all out.”

“You know, I keep hearing the name Nicholas, but I have yet to meet the guy. Is he like seven feet tall, kind of scary evil? Because otherwise, I’m disappointed.”

“Kyle, look quicker.”

“There’s nothing here, Liz.” Kyle rocked back on his heels, careful to keep the wooden plank away from the Skin in case he woke up suddenly. “Do you have any idea where the key might be?”

“No.” Liz sighed. “But I have another plan. Drag him over here, Kyle.”

“Are you crazy?”

“Kyle, just do it.” Liz knew she was snapping, but she didn’t care. She was tired and worried about Max. Somewhere in the building, he was in pain and he was confused. He needed her.

“Liz, are you sure you’re alright?” Maria watched as Kyle grudgingly dragged Rick closer to Liz.

“Do I look alright to you? No, closer, Kyle.” Liz waited until Rick’s body was lying beside her. It sickened her to be this close, but she knew it was necessary. Not knowing if she needed skin contact to borrow powers or not, Liz placed her hand firmly on Rick’s arm. It had worked with Isabel before, and she was loathe to touch any other part of Rick.

“Liz?”

“Shh.” Closing her eyes, Liz took a deep breath. She tried to remember how she’d done it before. When she’d healed Max, she’d merely been thinking about healing Max, wishing she could. Was that all it took? She thought about the metal cuff at her wrist, turned her hand within it until she could clutch at it with her fingertips. The metal was cool, and she stopped thinking of it as a solid shape. It was made up of millions of pieces, molecules that she could shift if she wanted to. All she had to do was want it badly enough. Beneath her fingertips, the metal shifted, melting away until it formed a cool puddle on the floor beside her.

Liz opened her eyes and found both of her hands free. She released her grip on Rick and rubbed at her raw wrist.

“What the fuck was that?”

Liz turned to Kyle and sighed. “Long story. The short version is that I inherited the ability to borrow powers from aliens. You probably can too.”

“From Max?” Kyle reached out a hand to help Liz to her feet.

“Yeah.” Liz let Kyle hold her upright for a minute. Her legs had all but fallen asleep from the lack of movement and the pain lancing up her wrist was almost too much to think through. But she spared a glance at Kyle, knowing it was part of his worst fears come true. “I’m sorry, Kyle.”

“There’ll be time for that later. For now, we have to get everyone out of here.”

“I don’t know where Max is.”

Maria appeared at Liz’s other side, helping support her. “We have bigger problems than that. Everyone is here. Michael, Isabel, Alex and Tess were brought in here too.”

Liz stared at Maria in shock. “No.”

“Yeah.” Maria tried not to let her own fear show. “We did manage to get the device though. The Skins must not have known what it was. They left it in an empty room.”

Liz noticed the bag in Maria’s hands for the first time. “That’s what hurt Max?”

“What do you want to do, Liz?” Kyle’s voice was soft, afraid that if he spoke too loudly it would send Liz careening off the edge of sanity.

Liz considered the odds. Nicholas had Max. Which meant the Skins were holding the others. Nicholas wanted Isabel, and Max was growing sicker by the minute. “Does anyone know how to work that thing?”

“Alex.”

Closing her eyes, Liz sighed. “There’s no solution. We need Alex to heal Max, but Nicholas wants Max dead. I don’t want to split up again either.”

“Tell us what you want, Liz. We’ll follow whichever way you go, chica.”

With a nod, Liz braced herself. With everything in her, she wanted to find Max now, wanted to kick down the door and save him from whatever they were doing to him. But to do that, she would need help. “Alex then. We need Alex and the others before we can help Max.”

Kyle nodded. “I think I may know where they were being kept, at least the general area they were brought into.”

“Then we start there.” Releasing her grip from Kyle and Maria, Liz stood on her own two feet. By not looking for Max first, she could very well be leaving him in Nicholas’s hands for too long. But if she found him, he wouldn’t be able to move very far. She had no choice but to go ahead with the plan she’d come up with, and pin her every prayer on the hope that it wouldn’t be too late for Max when she found him.

posted on 5-Sep-2002 10:35:29 AM by Cookieman1234
Hey gang!

BelevnDreamsToo...sorry about missing your birthday yesterday. Hope it was a wonderful one. *happy*

So, I'm off work today, but with errands that need to be run today. Plus, I think my hubby gave me his cold. LOL BUT...I'm still going to try to update this one today. It probably won't be until much later in the evening, depending on when I get home, but I'll try for you guys. Check back in later tonight and I'll see what I can do for you. Who knows, we might just get somewhere for a change. Everyone is free...well, except for Max. Gosh, I hope Nicholas isn't running terrible experiments on him. LOL Hmm...maybe I'll have to update now. Have a good day, guys.

~Stacey
posted on 7-Sep-2002 7:20:53 PM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise. Oh yeah, and I don’t own any of these characters. LOL
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.

Hey, chickies. Sorry about disappearing again. I was hit big time with the cold and spent much time watching television while hopped up on cold medicine. It's amazing how much better bad television is while on Nyquil. But here is the part I teased you with. I could have had it out sooner, but I decided to add another six pages to it. LOL So, this one is posted in two parts due to the sheer volume of it. We really are getting close now. Can you feel it? Oh, and please try to remember not to throw objects at your computer screen. I hear it's bad. ;) Enjoy, kiddies. You'll probably see me on Thursday again.

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.

Discord
Part 16

Kyle followed Liz through the dark corridors, listening to the sounds of her hands gliding along the walls for guidance. Maria was at her back, clutching to the hem of Liz’s shirt. Every so often, when Maria tilted her head to make sure Kyle was still behind them, Kyle could see the wide eyed terror Maria was feeling. Kyle didn’t have enough words to explain that he was right there with her.

Liz was about a step away from freaking him out completely. She’d calmly borrowed alien powers to melt handcuffs, had personally turned the Skin in her cell to ashes and then had turned back to them to announce they had to find the others to break Max away from Nicholas. In Kyle’s book, that was the formula for a major psychosis in the making. He wouldn’t even let himself think about what would happen to her if they weren’t able to get Max out of the building alive. Something in her resolve seemed to have changed and if Max somehow didn’t make it, he doubted Liz would either.

Every so often, she would pause and ask for his guidance when the hall divided. Kyle tried his hardest to help them get back to the main entrance. Maria had no sense of direction on a good day, much less in the dark with fear compressing your spine. And as if all of this wasn’t enough to freak out the average human, he could still hear Liz’s words in his head, telling him he was probably changed for life. Part alien now in some freakish game he hadn’t asked to sit in on.

But still…there was Tess. She was proving to be the bright ray of sunshine in his universe. She made it all seem…well, not worth it, because look where he was. But maybe she made it bearable, tolerable, a reason to live through the impossible circumstances and go home. Maybe kiss the girl after the evil foe was vanquished. Wasn’t that how the stories ended? Didn’t the heroes get the girl? Of course, it could be argued that he wasn’t a hero, but a jock that had fallen into a seriously bad place at a bad time. But he never listened to that voice anymore.

Being with Tess for those short hours before everything went insane made him finally understand what a year of stalking Max and Liz hadn’t explained. Sometimes when you fall for someone, there’s no rhyme or reason. You want who you want and you love who you love. And sometimes life isn’t fair, but those rare moments when it was more than fair made up for it.

Kyle almost froze in the middle of the hallway when he realized the deep path his thoughts had taken. Was this what insanity felt like? Knowingly infiltrating an alien base to free your captured girlfriend who happened to be an alien as well? If so, it really wasn’t so bad. Kind of nice really, in a morbid sort of way. He finally belonged to something, a compact group that allowed no outsiders to join. Kind of like being on the football team, but more dangerous.

“Kyle?”

Kyle snapped out of his daze when he heard Liz’s soft whisper. He took in their surroundings as best he could with the faint light. “Down the hall. Last door on the left.” He recognized this hall now. It had been the one he’d seen the Skins take the others down. At the time, they hadn’t dared try to help them, no matter how appealing the option had been. There had been too many enemies, and not enough allies. They’d found the device a few rooms down a nearby hallway.

Liz nodded, the tension thick in the air. Now that they had a destination, the entire situation was too real. There was no way of knowing how many Skins were guarding their friends. Liz was tired and still shaken from the day’s events, but the adrenalin pushed her on. She couldn’t help Max until she somehow got the others out. And come hell or high water, she was going to help Max.

She gestured for them to be quiet. Briefly, she considered trying to push Maria into a room to wait, but she had a feeling it would only waste time. Had Kyle and Maria avoided capture because they were supposed to stay out of the way for the first rescue attempt? That had turned out well, so she didn’t bother asking them to wait.

Kyle was probably bristling behind her. He would want to know what her plan was, but there was no time to tell him it consisted of breaking down the door and borrowing whatever powers she could get her hands on. Overall, it wasn’t really a plan, but it was all she had.

Doing her best to tiptoe across the floor, Liz could feel Maria’s fingers gripping the waistband of her pants now. She had all but climbed onto Liz’s back. Each step closer to the door sounded louder than the last and Liz was sure someone was going to step out into the hallway and catch them any second.

One step from the door and Liz was suddenly convince that her plan more closely resembled a suicide mission. What if they were blasted before they even stepped into the room? How much did they really know about the Skins anyway? What if not all of them had the destructive powers she had borrowed from Rick? What if the extent of their evilness was simply glaring and leering at prisoners and just looking evil?

Pausing, her back pressed against the wall, Liz listened carefully for any sound at all. Her fears were getting the better of her and she battled them back. She waited for anything that would indicate that their friends were inside, or maybe how many Skins were holding them captive. But there was nothing but an empty silence that fed her fears of walking into a trap.

Knowing she might just be doing something stupid enough to get herself killed, Liz untangled Maria from her clothes. If something happened to her, Kyle and Maria had to be able to get away. Taking a deep breath, Liz steeled her courage and shifted her head to see inside of the room.

Her eyes had slowly become used to the darkness over the last few hours, but there was still little she could make out in the room. There were no sounds, either for help or attack and Liz wondered if Kyle hadn’t directed them to the wrong room. With a loud click, Liz flicked on the stolen flashlight and eyed the carnage with a surge of hope.

The remains of a chair were to her left. Rope was scattered along the ground in different places. But the most encouraging sight was the thin layer of black ash that covered the floor.

Liz stepped inside the room, leaving footprints in the ash. A part of her cringed, but it couldn’t be helped. With a gesture, Kyle and Maria followed her inside, no more eager to be in the hall than she had been.

“What happened?” Maria eyed the room, trying to decide who had won the fight. She looked for any sign that Michael had been there and had left safely.

“I’d say Michael by the looks of it.” Kyle leaned over to poke at the charred flakes. It warmed him considerably toward Michael to know he’d blown up some Skins. For the moment, Michael was Kyle’s newest best friend.

“Didn’t Isabel destroy Whittaker?” It was too much for Maria to hope that Michael was fine, that he had escaped and was out there somewhere.

Kyle nodded. “Yeah, but did you see how weak she was earlier?” Kyle turned to Liz, noticing that she was simply standing in the middle of the room not moving. “This is a good thing, right?”

Liz sighed. “I don’t know. They’re free, which is good.”

“But?”

“But it means our job is harder. They could be anywhere in this building now. We have the device and I don’t know how to find Alex. Max is getting worse, Kyle. And that was a few hours ago. He’s running out of time.” Disappointment threatened to do what the fear had tried. She’d wasted so much time already. Had it been too long? Had they already discovered she was missing? That the others were missing? Would they take it out on Max? Or just hold him as bait until they could come for him?

Liz turned to Kyle and Maria and for a moment, didn’t bother to hide her own fears. “We’re running out of time. We have to find Max now.” It didn’t matter that they didn’t know where Alex was. At least he was with three aliens. All Liz had was the ability to borrow powers and she had to get close enough to do it first. The odds were against them and Max was not going to pay the price.

With a vise like grip, Liz clutched at Maria’s wrist. Kyle barely had the chance to grab hold of Maria before Liz clicked the flashlight off and dragged them down the hall. There was little of their earlier caution as they all but sprinted down the corridors, retracing their footsteps.

It was several minutes before Liz realized they were going the wrong way. But by then, the hall had emptied into a large room. The illumination was the first clue they had taken a very wrong turn. Their second clue came from the shouts of the Skins that held the flashlights.

Liz, Kyle and Maria froze in their tracks, stunned beyond movement. Liz came to her senses first as the closest Skin raised his hand toward them. With Maria’s wrist still clutched in her hand, Liz dove to the left behind a large metal lab station. The concrete where they had been was a charred crater in the earth. The onslaught of energy balls continued and Maria flinched beside Liz every time a blast shook the lab station. While it held, Liz couldn’t help but wonder how long that would last.

Kyle swore hard when he noticed that he was separated from Liz and Maria by fifteen feet of exposed concrete. When they had jumped left, he had jumped right. Liz and Maria were huddled together, helpless as the Skins opened fire. Kyle had the better vantage point and could see them advancing slowly. Kyle knew enough about strategy to guess that Liz and Maria would be trapped within a matter of minutes.

Looking around wildly, Kyle tried to find a weapon of any sort. He pawed at the drawers and felt the floor for any objects. To his dismay, there was nothing. Even as Kyle began formulating the world’s dumbest plan of drawing attention to himself to protect the girls, it happened.

Without warning, the Skins began retreating, ducking their heads and flinching at nothing that made sense to Kyle. They were almost acting as if they were under attack. But they weren’t. Kyle could see the room clearly and Liz and Maria weren’t making any moves to drive the Skins back.

Then he saw her.

Tess was crouched in the very back of the room behind a row of machinery. Her eyes were clenched shut, her brow furrowed in concentration. And suddenly everything made sense. Tess was mindwarping the Skins into believing they were under attack. The rush of joy at seeing Tess alive was more jolting than walking into a room of Skins. Realistically, he’d more or less figured Tess was okay. She was a fighter. But without every realizing it, Kyle had been holding his breath until he’d seen for himself that she was alive.

Alive and about to be sneak attacked by the Skin creeping up behind her.

Kyle didn’t think, didn’t hesitate. He put an alarming amount of faith in Tess’s abilities and rose to his feet. Completely exposed, Kyle zigzagged past the random blasts the Skins were still hurling at their imaginary foes. Choosing the clearest path to sneak up behind Tess’s Skin, Kyle bolted across the distance.

In horror, he realized he wasn’t going to make it in time to pull Tess out of the way. He needed a weapon, something to attack with. Tess was in danger and needed his help. Liz’s words still rang in his ears and it occurred to him that if he could only lunge across the last of the distance, Kyle could use the Skins own powers against him.

Kyle pounced, watching the last of the distance close between them. With arms outstretched, Kyle closed his hands over the Skin’s arm, shocking him into misdirecting the blast he’d been ready to fling at Tess. Kyle could feel both the Skins’ and Tess’s eyes on him and he didn’t have time to figure out who looked more surprised. With a deep breath, Kyle narrowed his eyes at the creature who had threatened Tess and pooled everything inside of him for an attack.

And then he was waiting. For something to happen. Anytime.

With an irritated scowl, the Skin shoved Kyle away from him. The shock of hitting the ground wasn’t anything like the shock of discovering he didn’t have the ability to borrow powers. For once, a plan seemed to work as the Skin turned his sights from Tess right onto Kyle. Unable to help himself, Kyle scuttled backwards on the floor under the fiery glare. His seconds were numbered. There was no getting out of this mess now.

Kyle closed his eyes, willing his mind to remember good moments in time. Happy family memories with both his mother and father before they fought. His first day in high school and being announced MVP. The first time his father told him he was proud of him. Kissing Tess. He let the thoughts envelop him, warm him as he waited for his time to come.

“What the hell did you think you were doing?”

Kyle opened his eyes to find Tess glaring at him, her hands on her hips in agitation. Confused, Kyle looked around and noted that he was covered in a layer of black ash. “What did I miss?”

“You missed the part where you almost got your ass kicked because you jumped into a battle. Kyle, you could have been killed. What were you thinking?”

“I was saving your ass. You’re welcome, by the way.” Kyle pulled himself up from the ground and noted that they were the only four people in the room. Liz and Maria were coming out from behind the lab station and picking their way across the room with Liz’s flashlight. Whatever Tess had done must have been spectacular. Kyle narrowed his eyes at Liz as she approached him. “You are dead meat as soon as we get out of here. Borrowing powers.

Liz frowned, having seen some of the action. “I don’t understand. Why didn’t it work?”

“What are you talking about?” Tess tried not to sway, but she discovered it was becoming harder to stay on her own two feet.

“Nevermind that now. Suffice to say, I must be broken.” Kyle frowned at Tess, taking in her appearance. “What’s wrong with you?” He watched her open her mouth to probably tell him to mind his own business, but she fell forward. Kyle swore and caught her in his arms, letting her lean on him, and he was close enough to smell the chemicals on her. “They drugged you.”

Hating to admit to a weakness, Tess bit her lower lip. She said nothing.

Maria eyed the trio around her, sensing that something had changed while she’d been out of town. Liz and Tess weren’t openly hating each other, and Tess was actually clinging to Kyle. But Tess was their only hope right now. “Where’s everyone else?”

“We split up. They went after Max, I was supposed to find the device and a way out of here.” Tess buried her head in Kyle’s neck and closed her eyes for a minute. It had been hard to think her way through the fog in her brain to use her powers, and she’d felt them about to fail her earlier.

“We have the device.” Kyle decided to damn the consequences, and picked Tess off the ground. He cradled her in his arms, giving her a minute to gather her strength.

Liz eyed Tess, taking a chance and putting all of her faith in her hands. “Tess, what you did with the Skins in here…can you do that again?”

Blue eyes opened and met Liz’s harder ones. Instinct told her to lie, to leave them all behind and flee the building as she was taught to do. But if she did that, she would always be alone. “No.” She closed her eyes again, not wanting to see the disappointment on their faces. “Whatever they drugged me with is still in my system. I can’t concentrate enough right now to do much of anything. I’m sorry.”

Liz wasn’t sure if she’d ever heard Tess apologize for anything, and she wondered if she should blame it on the drugs. Still running on instinct, she laid a hand on Tess’s shoulder, waiting until she opened her eyes again. “It’s okay, Tess. We’re all going to get out of here alive. It’s just going to take teamwork. Are you in?”

Tess knew what was being asked of her, and what was being offered. Two things she had never expected. “Yes.”

“Then we need to hurry. We made too much noise in here. We have to go. Kyle, can you carry her until she’s okay enough to walk?”

Kyle nodded, shifting Tess more securely in his arms. “I’ve got her.”

“We need to go.” Liz looked up and to the right, staring blindly at one wall. “Max isn’t far from here.”

Maria eyed Kyle in question and Kyle could only shrug. “Alright, chica. Lead the way.”


posted on 7-Sep-2002 7:22:03 PM by Cookieman1234
*~*~

Max held his head high, even though he was beginning to suspect that his posture was drooping. The day had been too long, the pain too frighteningly intense to be able to maintain a blank face.

He’d been ripped from Liz’s arms and forced to watch as Nicholas touched her. And it hadn’t mattered that the mild touches had been meant to scare her more than anything else, it had made Max reach heights of rage he hadn’t known existed. He had no idea what Nicholas had told Liz, but he had seen the shock mixing with curiosity on her face. Whatever it had been was important. Nicholas had done something to Liz, knocking her out with little more than a touch to her head, and he simply hadn’t had the strength to fight against the Skins. He’d been dragged back to the cold, impersonal room with the lone chair and had been there since.

The Skin with the curious silver handprint on his cheek had leered at him before laying his hand over his heart, the spot Liz had healed. And while the pain had been intense, it was nothing compared to the burn Max could still feel beneath it all, the searing imprint Liz’s touch had left on his soul.

Nicholas hadn’t come back yet, and Max could only imagine he was trying to make sense of things. There was so much to process, so much to think through there could never be enough time to work through it all.

Liz had healed Max, or at least one of the bruising marks that had been left on his body. She had healed him and he’d seen things that didn’t make sense. Things like seeing himself wearing more leather than he’d even thought it was possible to wear at one time. Had that been another of Liz’s fantasies he’d stumbled upon? It hadn’t felt that way.

Just thinking about Liz was enough to bolster his confidence. He would find a way out of this mess. No matter what happened to him, he would live long enough to see Liz walk out of the building. Whatever fate had in store for him after that he could accept, but he would not accept that he would die in a cold room, alone when Liz was somewhere being held against her will.

It was enough to have him tipping his chin up another notch as the door opened. Nicholas sauntered in, his hands tucked in the pockets of his pants. A smile twitched at the corners of his lips. Max couldn’t help but feel as though Nicholas could see too much, that he knew everything.

He walked the room in small circles, taunting Max, choosing the words carefully and throwing them in his direction. Max could sit back and appreciate it now, admiring the monotonous ebb and flow of his voice. Unfortunately for Nicholas, his barbs had no effect on Max. He couldn’t understand any of the threats being directed at him or possibly Liz. There was no information to be gained by torturing him to death with an even keeled voice and a smile that was supposed to be evil and slippery. Max wondered if anyone had ever told Nicholas that he just looked young, like a child dressing up in his father’s clothes. He tried to cloak himself in importance and power like ordinary people wore coats. And Max realized that it gave him more power over Nicholas than he had ever thought possible.

As if Nicholas finally realized he didn’t have Max’s full attention, he charged forward, capturing Max’s head in his hands. Max didn’t even bother to flinch or close his eyes as Nicholas tried for the hundredth time to reach into his mind and pull out the answers he craved. Nicholas sensed this too, and pulled back on his efforts. The two men met eye to eye, doing nothing more than simply staring.

It was more than enough for Max. He was tired of sitting in the damn uncomfortable chair. Tired of being beaten and tossed around like some sort of rejected rag doll. He was tired of not being able to protect Liz. He was tired. But this was a whole new level of lethargy. Before, it had been a weakness, something that kept him from protecting his family. Now, it was the driving force that spurned him onward.

An explosion rocked the foundation of the building and the ground shook beneath Max’s feet. He watched as Nicholas stumbled and fought to keep his balance. With a clipped tone, he pointed at two of the Skins by the door and barked out orders. Immediately, they turned and fled from the room. Nicholas looked at Max for a long minute, despite the debris that was beginning to fall from the ceiling around them. Max knew he was sizing him up, wondering if Max had somehow had a hand in the destruction. Careful to keep his face neutral, Max gave him nothing.

The seed of fear was planted deeply inside of Max again as Nicholas’s gaze pierced through him. Because Max could feel something stirring beneath his skin now, something familiar and warm. And it was clear then to him that whatever explosion they had felt had involved Liz. He could feel her nearby, could all but hear her voice whispering in his ear. Hope was an alien feeling that bubbled up from the depths of exhaustion.

Wordlessly, Nicholas pivoted on his heel and disappeared through the door. Max entertained himself for a moment with the visual of Nicholas wearing a cape and watching it flap behind him as he fled to find the source of the trouble. It seemed like the sort of clichéd thing Nicholas might do if he thought of the idea. Max made a note to himself to share it with Nicholas if he regained his powers of speech anytime soon.

He had no way of knowing how long he sat there after Nicholas left. It could have been minutes, it could have been hours. There was only one Skin near the doorway now, watching Max with a single minded intensity that even Nicholas would have been proud of. Max knew if he was going to make any sort of escape attempt, it should have been at that moment. A more perfect opportunity would never come. But Max hadn’t been prepared. He hadn’t been biding his time as maybe he should have been. And even if he could find a way to get out of the ropes that bound him, he was pretty sure he’d be on his face before he made it to the door.

Max had been watching the Skin through heavy lidded eyes, but in the space of a second, the air around them seemed to shimmer. It caught Max’s attention as did the sudden sensation that Liz was standing beside him. It was an odd prickling on his skin that he couldn’t explain. He kept his gaze on the Skin, waiting to see if he had noticed it too. Apparently not, as his gaze never shifted. His eyes stayed locked on Max’s, daring him to move. And then he simply exploded, disappearing into a thousand flecks of ash and dust.

Max blinked once, then twice when the confusing image didn’t fade. The air was charged around him and that same familiar prickling beneath his skin kept insisting what his eyes denied. Liz was there.

Unable to help himself, trusting even when his eyes proved him wrong, Max called out for her hesitantly. “Liz?”

With a single word, the air simply stopped shimmering and when Max blinked again, Liz was standing in front of him. His eyes widened and it crossed his mind that it could be a trick. But Liz seemed to be able to read his face and she lowered her lips to his. The rough pressure of her lips against his alleviated any doubts that may have lingered. Her hands were braced on his face and she allowed them only a moment before pulling back.

Max realized that someone had been tugging at the bonds that held his hands and he found himself free suddenly. Needing to feel Liz for himself, he wrapped his arms around her and held her close for a long minute.

It was too much to take in all at once. Liz was safe. She was free, and she was in his arms.

Liz breathed in the scent of Max’s hair and let him cling to her. They didn’t have any time, and she mentally logged the seconds in the back of her mind. But the larger portion of her brain was fogged over, unable to process anything except the fact that she had found Max. He wasn’t dead, or hadn’t been subjected to any of the horrible fates her imagination had worked up.

“And the list of things I’ve missed keeps getting bigger.” Maria eyed her two friends for a second before shaking her head. The meeting they were going to have to hold after this was going to be three days long.

Liz pulled away from Max, taking in his appearance. Just as Rick had promised, Max had another ugly handprint gleaming silver against his chest. It made her wish she hadn’t already killed him. She wanted to heal him then and there, to refuse to move until she had borrowed enough of his powers to heal him completely. But Liz remembered enough after his experiences in the White Room to think she could heal all of his wounds so easily.

Instead, she ran a hand down the side of his face and offered him a smile. It seemed like weeks since she’d seen him last. With a nod of her head, she showed him that Maria and Tess were standing off to one side. Tess was still weak, especially after using the small amount of energy she’d had left to mindwarp Max and the Skin. She was leaning against Maria for support while Kyle loosened the ropes at Max’s feet.

Knowing Max wouldn’t have the strength to stand alone, Liz crouched at his side and eased an arm behind his back. He accepted her help and together, they stood. She could tell it was taking everything in him not to fall backwards and it surprised them both when Kyle took Max’s other side and helped brace them.

“Don’t make more of it than it is.” But Kyle offered Liz a small smile. He nodded toward Tess and Maria, concern clouding his features. “Can you two make it okay?”

Maria nodded, seeing the look that crossed Kyle’s face when he looked at Tess. “I’ve got her.”

“The exit isn’t far from here.” Tess looked at the three of them and wondered if she felt a fraction of what Max was suffering through. She was only mentally drained. Max looked as though he’d been beaten within an inch of his life. The bruises marring his body did a lot towards explaining Liz’s state of mind. How much of what had been done to Max did she know about? Tess suspected it was more than any of the rest of them could imagine.

Liz nodded. She could already feel the incredible heat pouring off Max. It was more than his body should have been able to handle. The urge to stay and heal him was tempting, but she had no way of knowing if what was inside of her was something that could tap out or not. It was still a long way to the exit.

Shouldering as much of his weight as she could, Liz pulled Max toward the hallway. Tess had told them that she’d discovered a way out of the building earlier. But they still didn’t know where the others were. The newly developed plan had been to find Max and get him out of the building however they could. When Max was safe, they would go back in for the others. The whole plan made Liz want to hyperventilate. No matter what happened or how dire the consequences, they were still leaving three of their friends behind.

There seemed to be movement everywhere now, and it was impossible to pinpoint where the sounds were coming from. Liz, Max, and Kyle took the front, while Maria and Tess took the rear. Kyle had the flashlight and he had clicked it on. If anyone started down the hall across from them, they would be just as doomed if the flashlight was off.

Muffled shouts echoed and from a distant part of the building, another explosion boomed. The acoustics made it impossible to tell how far off it was though. When another set of flashlight beams bounced off the walls and illuminated the path, Kyle clicked theirs off and they all pressed against the wall. There were no doors in this hall, giving them an exposure that didn’t settle well. But no one came their way, instead passing them by ahead.

“How far, Tess?” Liz didn’t like all the activity around them. No doubt they were being hunted and if they were found, they were dead.

“The end of the hall and left.” She stretched back her brain to remember the exit she’d seen. It empties into a large storage room. Some sort of machinery and large blue drums. If there’s someone in there, we can hide behind them.”

Liz nodded and started down the hall again. The end of the hall loomed before them and Liz tried to hurry the others along. Kyle was trying to keep up with her, but Max’s feet were dragging behind. He’d tried keeping up with their pace earlier, but he’d quickly discovered it was easier to be dragged. Liz tried not to think about what it did to Max’s pride to have to be dragged down the hall. There wasn’t time for anything else.

The hallway forked and Liz and Kyle moved to the left, working in perfect sync for once. They didn’t expect the opening to come up so quickly though and they found themselves standing in yet another open doorway.

The room wasn’t empty as they’d hoped it would be, but no one seemed to have seen them yet either. Tess had been right when she’d said there was enough machinery and fifty-five gallon drums lying about to cover them. Even in the dim lighting the Skins on the far side of the room provided, Liz could see well enough to move to the left.

Kyle let go of Max’s shoulder to help Maria and Tess find cover. Without Kyle’s support, Liz and Max fell to their knees behind a row of drums. Max was panting and Liz smoothed his hair back from his forehead when he dropped his head in her lap. The amount of sweat pouring off his forehead alarmed even her. His temperature seemed to have skyrocketed another couple of degrees and Liz couldn’t help but wonder if even one more degree would be what killed him.

“We’re almost there, Max.” She whispered in his ear, laying a trail of kisses against his skin. It burned her to touch, and the sting of tears in her eyes caught her off guard. She’d made it this far without crying, she wasn’t about to start now. “Don’t you give up on me now.”

“Liz.”

Liz looked up, not bothering to wipe away her tears and found the trio watching them sadly. “What?”

“We’re not alone.”

“I know, Kyle.” She couldn’t hide the impatience in her voice.

“No.” Kyle nodded across the room. “Look.”

Liz swiped at her tears and peered through the drums. At first glance, she didn’t see anything. But the tone of Kyle’s voice had been insistent, so she looked harder. More machinery lined the wall. Long coils of wire were stacked haphazardly. Nothing looked odd or out of place.

Then she saw what Kyle had been pointing at.

Hidden in the deepest recesses of the shadows on the other side of the room, Liz could make out movement. Human movement. She glanced sharply at Kyle. “Is that-“

“Yeah.” Kyle kept them in his line of sight. He couldn’t disguise his relief that there were three figures hidden in the shadows. “I think they saw us when they came in the room.”

“Alex.” Liz’s eyes lit up suddenly. “He can help Max.”

“If we get the hell out of here first.” Kyle clamped a hand down on Liz’s shoulder. “We’re going to make it, Liz. We’re already there. We just need one last distraction to get out of here. My car’s parked about a dozen yards out. It’s not ideal and everyone will have to watch their elbows, but I’ll bet we can all fit inside.”

Maria moved closer to them, dragging Tess behind her. “Is that Michael?”

“We think so.” Liz watched as Maria carefully set the canvas bag to the side, out of the way of harm. To her friend’s credit, she hadn’t let the bag out of her sight since being given custody of it.

“So, what’s the plan?”

Liz looked up to find all eyes on her. On her lap, Max let out a few sputtering coughs. She moved quickly, covering his mouth with her hands so he wasn’t heard. She knew she was stalling for time, but she was out of ideas. She’d been running on fear and adrenalin this long and she was quickly running out of both.

Max focused on the smooth line of Liz’s fingers against his lips and it had to be an early stage of madness that he wanted to kiss the fingers. He knew she was trying to keep him quiet, but he could feel his body breaking down around him. It wouldn’t be long before he did something that got them all captured again.

The four of them were talking in hushed whispers, and there was no mistaking the urgency in their tones. They were all looking to Liz for guidance and he was ashamed of his own weaknesses. He was lying on the floor, sprawled across her lap while she had to make decisions for them all. That was his job, to hold the balance of lives in his hands and shoulder the decisions that should never have to be made. Liz glanced down at him and in that split second, he saw what the others still didn’t. Liz didn’t have a plan. A glance told him that they were simply waiting for a command, anything to get them out of this mess.

But what they didn’t understand, could never understand, was that it would never be over. If they escaped from the building, Nicholas would merely send more goons after them, maybe take their parents for good measure this time too. There would be no escape unless they fled Roswell in the middle of the night, left their homes and lives behind. It would be the only hope they had to escape a future with more nights like this. Unless they ended it all now.

Liz had already figured it out. He saw the awareness dawning in her eyes as he watched. And it terrified her. Max couldn’t make the decision, couldn’t tell them to go back into the building and find a way to stop Nicholas. It was up to Liz to make that call, to tell them to start taking lives and killing without mercy.

Max knew he could never forgive himself if he turned Liz into that kind of person. The orders were on her lips. He could see her brain forming them. Realistically, he knew he couldn’t shield her from decisions like this, but he’d be damned if he would let her when there was still breath left in his body.

His eyes wandered, looking around for anything that might be useful. The canvas bag at his thigh had him narrowing his eyes. The shape was altogether too familiar and filled him with loathing dread.

Ignoring the words of protest and Liz’s movements, Max battled his way into a sitting position. He didn’t look at any of the others, focusing the entirety of his concentration on the bag. No one made any further movements to stop him as his fingers pulled at the strings that held it tied. With carefulness that bordered on reverence, Max tugged the bag down until it revealed the cube that had been at the heart of the catastrophe Max was living in.

He picked it up in his hands, hardly able to believe that Michael had been able to find it. The lack of weight surprised him, giving credence to its heritage even if he’d somehow still been a disbeliever. He wondered how he’d forgotten that one side had been broken. There weren’t any obvious signs like dangling, sparking wires, but Max knew it was broken. Almost as if instinct had taken hold of him. He picked up the cube, balancing it in his hands and examined it from all sides.

Shock was the dominant emotion when Max realized that some of the small markings were letters. Some had been lost, due to time or damage, but there were whole words Max was able to make out. It was incredible to be holding something from his world, to be able to read a language that might as well have been written in ancient Egyptian before this weekend. It was like holding the golden book in his hands again, to be able to read the words left for them by their people.

Liz’s hand closed over his arm and he looked up at her. She was confused, worried. He could see it in her eyes. A laugh bubbled up in his throat. He wanted to point the words out to her, show her what he’d found. But he realized that even if he could, she wouldn’t understand the importance of them.

Because in reading the odd scrambling of words, Max realized he’d found them a way out of the building. At least, a way out for the rest of them.

Licking his lips, Max wished there was some way he could explain to Liz what had to be done. She had no idea what was at stake. She was only beginning to see what their lives would be like if Nicholas lived through the night. Her heart was too pure, too good to understand that not all of them would make it out of the building alive.

Then there was the fact that he was dying. He’d had too much time to think it all through in the last few hours. Liz was free. She was safe and as long as she stayed that way, he could do whatever needed to be done. He was careful to keep his back to her, not wanting her to see the emotions play across his face. Liz would be the only one of them to try to stop him, at least initially. Max was glad that Isabel wasn’t there. She would be the only other one that would try to stop him for the sake of nobility.

Turning to his right, Max found himself looking into Kyle’s confused face. Here was the one person he’d always considered an enemy, a person that couldn’t be trusted no matter what. But in the space of a weekend, he’d discovered that maybe Kyle Valenti was the best friend he could ever have. He of all people understood that sometimes there had to be pain, that the world wasn’t fair. And he would be the only person there capable of keeping Liz from following Max when he went after Nicholas.

Max held Kyle’s gaze for a long minute before shifting down to the cube in his lap. Max was careful to keep out of Liz’s line of sight and released a small stream of energy from the hand that was positioned directly over the cube. The machine sparked for a fraction of a second, enough to put the light of knowledge in Kyle’s eyes. He looked down at the cube, then up to Max, eyes wide with something like fear and disbelief mixed together. But it was enough to know that Kyle understood what he was about to do. With a flicker of his eyes, Max gestured back to Liz, pleading with Kyle to not only understand, but to comply. He couldn’t do this unless he knew Liz would be taken care of.

Kyle hesitated, swallowed hard and finally nodded his head slowly.

Max could have breathed a sigh of relief. He saw that Tess and Maria had seen the cube light up and were watching him curiously. Max didn’t have time to deal with them just then. They would be taken care of. Between Michael and Kyle, the two girls would have someone to help them in the aftermath of everything that had happened. He couldn’t worry about them.

Knowing it was time, Max shifted until he was facing only Liz. She looked worried and tired. Dried blood had run down her arm in dark patches and Max raised one hand to his lips. He had so much he wanted to tell her, so much left to say. She cocked her head to the side, questioning him silently. And it was more than Max could bear.

Needing the contact, he closed the distance between them. Softly, gently, he met her lips with his own. No amount of danger was going to take this moment away from either of them. Her lips parted beneath the delicate kiss and he wrapped his hands in her hair. Time slowed, just as it had every other time he had kissed her. But it was different this time. No longer did their kisses taste of promises or potential. This one was tinged with regrets and time lost. It was filled with the memories there hadn’t been time to create.

There were no flashes, but he hadn’t been looking for them. It was enough to feel her skin beneath his fingertips, to hear the steady beat of her heart. Liz Parker would survive this night. He would make sure of it.

And when Max separated his lips from hers, he let his hands slide to her cheekbone and linger for a moment. Her eyes were still closed, and when they fluttered open, he memorized the moment. Burning the exact color of her eyes into his soul, he was rewarded with an automatic smile that seemed to accompany any kiss he gave her, no matter the circumstances. He memorized that too.

“I’m sorry, Liz. I’m sorry you won’t understand any of this. I wish I could make you hate me. But I can’t. I need to remember this moment.” Liz furrowed her brow, as if she could understand his words through sheer will alone. It made him love her all the more. “You know everything I’m saying to you anyway. Nobody will ever know me the way you do, and I think that in time you’ll understand everything.”

A tear leaked from the corner of her eye and he brushed it away with his thumb. He knew that she understood on some level what he was doing and that she didn’t hate him for it later. “Take care of everyone for me. And let them take care of you.” The moment was at its end. Max could sense it, felt it in the urgency that was breaking the protective bubble around them.

With the last of the seconds left to them, Max clutched Liz in an embrace. He breathed in her scent, wanting to carry it into the sterile building with him. “I’ve always loved you, Liz Parker. A part of me always will. Nothing can ever take that away.”

Quickly, before regrets had the chance to form, Max pulled away from her and used the last of his strength to push to his feet. He was no longer worried about being seen. If they saw him, it only meant they would follow. With the alien cube clutched in his hands, Max pushed past his friends and headed back into the winding corridors.

Distantly, he could hear the sputter of conversation, shouts and cries but he couldn’t tell who they came from. He took turns at random, following the instinct that told him where he would find Nicholas. And he tried not to think about everything he had left behind.

posted on 14-Sep-2002 11:33:47 AM by Cookieman1234
Hmm...in flipping through my calendar it occurred to me that it's now Saturday. How did that happen? I'm just having massive amounts of creative difficulty with these people. I mean, try telling Max and Nicholas what to do. It's not easy I tell you. I'm working on it today, but I don't know if it'll be ready to post tonight or tomorrow. One of them for sure.

~Stacey
posted on 22-Sep-2002 8:40:49 PM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise. Oh yeah, and I don’t own any of these characters. LOL
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.

You're never going to believe this, but I finally finished this part up. Geesh. Talk about impossible parts to write. My muse packed up her bags and slipped out of town for an impromptu vacation. I found her on a mule in the Grand Canyon and dragged her back home so she could help me finish up this part. So, really this long wait has been her fault. And if anyone is still reading this and isn't ready to commit me to a looney bin, how about I tell you there are two more parts to this lovely story left and I'm already working on the next one? Right now as a matter of fact. Well, as soon as I post this anyway. Shouldn't take me too long to get it out, but I'll keep you updated. Enjoy and sorry for the wait. We're getting there, people. Stick with me. And as usual, I love you all as evidenced by the ending. *happy*

Discord
Part 17

Liz watched with an astonished gaze as Max fled the room. She hadn’t seen him move that fast in days and he’d used it to draw attention to himself as he ran back into a building they’d just escaped from. Anger flashed in Liz’s eyes in the split second it took to figure out what was going on. Max was going to try to martyr himself. And he would do it over her dead body.

She tried to scramble to her feet but she soon found Kyle’s body flying at her to pin her to the floor. Automatically, she fought him, using nails and knees to push him away, but Kyle hadn’t been on the wrestling team for nothing. He held her in place and covered her mouth with his hand when she started to yell.

Belatedly, Liz realized the sound of footsteps was growing louder. Kyle was peering between the drums that kept them hidden from sight and Liz only had a second to feel ashamed of her actions. If she’d followed Max like she’d meant to, she would have drawn attention to her friends. They could all have been captured again if it hadn’t been for Kyle. The men ran past them and Kyle rolled partially off her.

“Don’t do it, Liz.”

Anger replaced gratitude and Liz tried to roll away. Kyle’s legs were still holding her to the concrete floor and he still had an arm thrown over her waist. In another lifetime, it could have been a romantic embrace. In this one, he was the only thing standing between her and Max. “Kyle, if they catch him, they’ll kill him.”

“He knows that.”

“Well, he might be okay with it, but I’m not.” Liz pushed at Kyle’s chest and the force caught him off guard finally. It was enough for Liz to slip out from beneath him.

Kyle watched as she pushed to her knees and rubbed at the spot on his chest she had elbowed on her way off the ground. She was ready to rush into danger, towards death and he had to try one last time. He’d promised Max he would. “Liz, what are you going to do if you find him? I don’t know what he’s planning, but I think we should all get the hell away from this building.”

“I haven’t spent the last three days taking care of him just to let him die now, Kyle.” She hated the tremor in her voice as she met Kyle’s eyes. If she moved before Kyle was satisfied, he would only pin her to the ground again. And she would have to hurt him to get away. It wasn’t how she wanted it to play out and reasoning with him would take less time.

“It might not be your decision.”

Liz understood the unspoken words. It might already be too late to save Max. She’d understood it when he’d kissed her a minute ago, kissed her goodbye. The lingering taste of regret and death had been unmistakable as it hung in the air. Max didn’t expect to live and he didn’t want her to have to watch him die. It was just too bad for him that he didn’t get to make those decisions on his own. “Then there’s nothing I can do. But it won’t be like this, alone and captured. If he’s going to die, I’m going to be there to hold him.” She refused to let tears blur her vision, but they came anyway.

Kyle snagged at her wrist and when she looked at him, it was with impatience. “Liz, are you prepared to die in that building? For Max?”

Liz softened the stare, knowing Kyle loved her enough to ask. “Kyle…” she shook her head, out of time to explain it. “Yes.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek. He released his grip on her finally and she knew he’d let go of more than her flesh and bone. “Take care of them.”

Kyle shook his head vehemently. “We’re waiting for both of you. If anyone can find a way, it’s you two. Straight out, behind the bushes. We’ll be the ones quaking in fear behind a bush.” He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and tried to offer her what strength he could muster. “This isn’t goodbye.”

Liz nodded, though she wasn’t so sure. Not wanting to waste any time, she sprung to her feet and followed the path Max and the Skins had taken minutes before.

Kyle sighed as he watched her go. Maria and Tess were by his side in an instant, darting glances over their shoulder as Liz disappeared from sight.

“What’s going on?”

Kyle looked up to see Isabel glaring at him. She too was darting glances at the hallway, but there was no mistaking the fire in her eyes now.

“Was that Max? And Liz? Where are they going?”

Kyle grabbed hold of her wrist, judging that she was most likely to run after them when he told them the new plan. “They’re going after Nicholas and nobody here is following them.”

Isabel narrowed her eyes at Kyle and tugged on her wrist. “What do you mean? Since when are you in charge? If Max really is going after Nicholas, he’ll need help.”

Frustrated and tired, Kyle could see the beginnings of rebellion in the group. “Forget it. Listen up all of you. It’s taken us this long to meet up and the exit is about two hundred yards away. Nobody is going back into the building now. Max has a plan and there isn’t going to be any more time to regroup later. We all leave now and trust Max and Liz to do it.”

Michael didn’t like it, and objected to Kyle taking charge of the group on principal alone, but he saw the logic behind it. Reluctantly, he nodded. “Kyle’s right.”

“Michael!”

“Isabel, shut up and listen. You’re wiped. Tess is still drugged and I don’t have too much left. If Max really does have a plan, we’re going to have to do our part in it. Even if it’s just getting the hell out of here.” Michael matched her glare for glare, used to her temper where Max was concerned. He understood that she wanted to be there for her brother. Hell, so did he. But there was a time and a place for it. And there were other people involved too. People that would end up dead if they didn’t get the hell out when they had the chance.

Alex moved behind Isabel and placed a hand on her shoulder. She turned and met his eyes, an argument dying on her lips. There was anger in his eyes, anger towards Liz and her run into the building, and she realized that she wasn’t the only one there that was ready to turn and run after them. But she knew it was crazy and would them all killed. Fear had her compromising and nodding, though the decision weighed heavy on her heart. “Okay.”

Kyle sighed in relief, thankful that she hadn’t asked how Max was doing. Kyle wouldn’t have been able to lie and tell her anything except that her brother looked like death in the truest sense of the word. He thought of the fierce look of determination in Liz’s eyes and it had resembled Max’s so closely, it had been astonishing. They could be so similar it was frightening. He could only hope that they’d both live long enough for him to be able to point it out to them.

“Let’s go then before anyone else shows up in this part of the building. I think I’ve had my limit of surprises for the day.”

*~*~

Max pushed further against the wall, deeper into the shadows and waited for the footsteps to pass. He had run from Liz and the others, pressing forward to find Nicholas. A thousand different scenarios had played themselves out in his head. Each one had ended in violence and death as Nicholas came back for them time and again. It was a never ending loop of pain and suffering that he could stop today. Nobody had to die, not his parents, not his friends, not Liz.

The box in his hands would make it all stop.

He didn’t need to know what the box actually was or was supposed to have done. It tickled his mind, a memory that wanted to surface but couldn’t. The shapes and symbols etched on the otherworldly device had been clear enough and a newly gained intuition told him things humans shouldn’t know. It seemed to him that the sicker he became, the more information seemed to sit on the surface of his memory just waiting to be unlocked. He had no idea where Antar was or even if it was still there, but he knew the names of the seven Generals that had served beneath Zan on the High Council. And he knew that with proper care, the small box in his hands could be rigged to explode.

Feeling some of his earlier strength wane, Max sagged against one of the large pieces of machinery that seemed to lie in every room. He laid the alien cube aside and forced air into and out of his lungs. The act of breathing had been becoming increasingly harder with each step and he knew his time was almost done. He’d been running on fear and a desire to save his family for too long. It would end in this room.

Voices in the hallway caught his attention and he pressed further into the shadows. It was amazing to Max how accustomed he’d become to not understanding those around him. It had been days since Max had heard the sounds of someone else’s voice and understood the words. A lifetime had passed since Max had used anything other than the endless depths of emotion in Liz’s eyes to navigate the world. If he hadn’t already known there was no way he was getting out of the building alive, it might have alarmed him. But there were more important things to worry about now, like whether or not Kyle had been able to pull Liz and Isabel from the warehouse. Everyone else would do what they had to, regardless of how little they liked it. But Liz and his sister were too headstrong, too stubborn to do what had to be done.

Just thinking about the possibility that they could still be in the building caused an insurmountable panic to grow in Max. Second guessing wouldn’t do any good now. He’d looped and backtracked a dozen time just to ensure that everyone had enough time to escape. He had to trust that Kyle had been able to keep his word.

The voices became louder, closer to the spot where Max hid. The tone was frantic and Max recognized it immediately. Nicholas. The grin took up more energy than he had to spare, but it was worth it. Nicholas had no doubt discovered that his prisoners had escaped. Wishing he could understand his enemy’s words in these last few minutes, Max reluctantly turned back to the alien box.

He could reprogram it. It was simple enough thanks to a new intuition he seemed to have discovered. A simple matter of reconnecting things that shouldn’t’ be reconnected and Max was suddenly no longer holding a translator, but a ticking time bomb. Harder than the act of fixing the box had been knowing that Max himself would be caught in the blast. He couldn’t help wondering if it would be painful. But in the end, he supposed it wouldn’t matter. No pain on this planet could possibly be worse than leaving Liz huddled behind those blue drums with Kyle Valenti.

Carefully, Max set the box down on the floor, out of all sight. He supposed it might still be visible if anyone took the time to look, but it would all be over in a matter of minutes not anyway.

Max stayed crouched low to the ground, trying to keep his breathing as slow and shallow as possible. A cough tickled the back of his throat but he was afraid to let it free. He needed to see this through and if he started, there was no guarantee it would stop. Not before it was too late.

Nicholas snarled at the two men who were no doubt trying to explain how they’d lost the prisoners. Max watched him dismiss them with clipped tones and a gesture of his hands. Half-heartedly, Max wished Nicholas would just leave, let him have his last few minutes to think about Liz.

And maybe Nicholas would have it Max’s legs hadn’t given out on him.

Max fell backwards to the floor with a loud clatter. Buckets turned over and skittered across the floor. Trying to push himself back up, Max found his hands shaking too hard to hold his body weight. In the silence of the room, over the sound of his own ragged breathing, Max heard the even keep of Nicholas’s footsteps approach.

It took the longest thirty seconds in his life, but finally Nicholas‘s flashlight found Max. His heart pounded in his throat as Nicholas took in Max’s disheveled appearance with boyish glee.

In a fraction of a second, Max’s fear turned into horror as Nicholas’s eyes shifted every so slightly to the side and caught sight of the cube. His eyes widened and flickered between Max and the box. Max wanted to run, wanted to leap to his feet and flee with the box. Above all else, Max knew he had to keep it away from Nicholas. Instinct kicked in fast and furious, but he no longer had the strength. Sagging limply against the wall, sweat dripping down the side of his face, Max could only watch Nicholas brush past him to pick it up.

Nicholas all but cradled the alien metal, running a hand across the smooth surface. He recognized it. Max saw the slow dawning deep in his eyes and suddenly it all made a sick sort of sense to Max.

Still caressing the sides, Nicholas paused only when he came to the broken side. Max met the quick, judging stare and hoped Nicholas couldn’t see that while it was obviously damaged, it had also been altered. But Nicholas’s smile grew, baring a line of perfect white teeth and he raised his eyebrows.

“Feeling alright, Max?”

Max closed his eyes, clamping them shut against the first words he’d understood in days. And a part of him just knew they hadn’t been spoken in English.

“It’s okay. You really don’t have to answer. I think your appearance speaks for itself.” He stayed where he was, turning the box delicately in his hands. “You don’t have to pretend you don’t understand me now. It’s just the two of us here and we both know what happened to you.” He grinned manically. “I wondered why you were so uncharacteristically quiet when I described in detail all the things I was going to do to your lovely Liz.”

“Go to hell.”

“See? That wasn’t so hard.” He returned his gaze back to the cube. “Do you have any idea how long we looked for this? Do you even know what it does? The importance of it?”

It was on the tip of Max’s tongue to ask, but he refused to offer Nicholas even that much power. “I think I have a pretty good idea what it does.” Each word was like fire, painful to release and each one felt like it was going to be his last.

Nicholas chuckled. “But you don’t. Not really. This was a prototype. We had no way of knowing how it would affect human physiology but we guessed as well as we could.”

“You…” Something clicked in the depths of his muddled brain. “This was meant for humans?”

“Of course. We had to test it on humans before we could test it on the Royal Four. Wouldn’t want to damage those precious hybrid brains of yours.”

“Why? What does it even do? How could this be useful?”

Nicholas caught the gesture and leaned closer to Max. “It was meant to alter the subject’s brain. Essentially, we could control emotional responses to stimuli. Imagine an army completely under control of its General. No hesitation, no questioning of commands. Invincibility in a box.”

“Invasion? That seems a bit clichéd, don’t you think?”

Nicholas shrugged. “Do you think I’m stuck on this godforsaken planet because I’m Khivar’s right hand man? I don’t need Antar. I have it all right here. The Granolith and the Royal Four and a box that is going to let me control anyone I want. The universe is mine if I decide I want it. Khivar will be begging me to join forces.”

Things were making sense to Max and he didn’t like any of it. “So the plan was to either take control of Earth or use us to regain control of Antar while you pulled all the strings?”

“You’ll find that I have multiple contingency plans. Its how I’m going to survive and you will not.”

Max put the pieces together. The Skins had created a weapon of sorts, a mind controlling device that changed the makeup of the brain to do Nicholas’s bidding. And it was based on Antarian technology. Which meant that Max’s brain had been becoming more alien. He could guess that what had happened to him had something to do with the preprogrammed changes in the box. What had the previous settings been? And who would they have been meant for that meant Max could only grasp Antarian?

“The Dupes.” He met Nicholas’s eyes. “You used this on them last.”

The grin widened, showing more teeth. “Of course we tried it out on a few of your counterparts. You’d be amazed the sort of things Lonnie was willing to do for me with proper motivation. Ah, the good old days. It’s how I finally figured out what was wrong with you. Did you know that after the last time she tried to defy me, she spent a week wandering around the streets of New York without even knowing who she was? I erased her mind completely. And when I gave it back to her, she figured out that it wasn’t smart to lie to me. And the last time I used it, I was giving her memories of her life on Antar.”

Max frowned, choosing not to think too deeply about what Nicholas was implying. “You tested it on Lonnie and Rath.” Not Zan, not Ava. Had that been why Zan was dead and Ava had chosen to run from Roswell alone? “But I thought-“

“That they were a product of their environment? They were what we made them into. I gave them the information they had about Antar. I allowed them to remember. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any of the artifacts that were sent down. Pity, really. We still didn’t know where you were and we lost this lovely piece of machinery shortly thereafter.”

“Why Lonnie?”

“Why not? She was easy to control. Half the time she didn’t even know I was using her. Rath was a bit smarter. And Zan…let’s just say he was a bit too inquisitive for his own good.”

It made Max angrier than he knew he was still capable of. Lonnie and Rath had been tampered with, pawns in a game they thought they’d understood, and it could have been them. Adoption by the Evans had saved them in more ways than he’d ever thought. “How many others?”

“Ah, the infamous righteous indignation rears its head. Really, Max, you don’t wear that hat every well. You never did. I might look like a child, but at least I know better.”

With only enough energy to watch Nicholas continue to study the box, Max submitted to the coughing spasms that had been threatening to seize his body. Not even the taste of blood in his mouth was more alarming than the information he’d been presented with.

Nicholas took a step closer to Max, greatly amused to have Max collapsed on the floor in front of him. “It wasn’t supposed to do this you know.” He gestured towards Max’s form. “It was never meant to kill the subject. There was a cut off switch to stop the changes in the brain before they affected the body. I guess that’s the part that was damaged…for what it’s worth.”

“You’ll never hurt anyone again.”

“Righteous indignation and vague threats? This is a special occasion. Imagine all the fun we could have had if we’d known this hours ago. My Antarian vocabulary is much larger than my English one. Did you know we have over three dozen words that describe a particular type of torture that was banned a few hundred years ago? Fascinating stuff, really.” Nicholas caught sight of a canvas bag on the floor and leaned over to pick it up. “Tell me, Max, what are you going to do to stop me? Because I have very definite plans now that I have this toy back.”

“How fast can you run?”

“What?” Nicholas scowled at the odd question, pausing when he saw the hint of a smile tugging Max’s lips upward.

“I was just wondering if you could run fast enough to escape from the building before it exploded. I know your husk can’t survive that. So, how fast can you run?”

Eyes narrowed, Nicholas shifted his gaze from Max back to the device in his hands. He examined it a bit more closely and Max made sure not to give anything away. He let Nicholas puzzle it out, decide if Max had indeed rigged the building in some way. And the hesitant half-step away from Max tasted like victory.

“You wouldn’t.” Glancing nervously around the room, Nicholas licked his lips, hands lightly fingering the cube still.

“Stick around and see. I have nothing to lose.”

Nicholas’s eyes refocused on Max. “You think you’ve won? I don’t need your anyway. Your sister.” He was already edging towards the door, cube clutched tightly in his arms, backing up with increasing pace. “I can still get to her. And the children we’ll have will be enough to ensure that your family never regains the throne.”

Catching movement from the corner of his eye, Nicholas turned his head in time to see Liz ease past him. She stood halfway between Max and Nicholas, her every muscle standing at attention and ready to move if Nicholas tried to grab her. Considering his options, Nicholas eyed them both, then the door.

“He’s crazy,” he informed Liz.

“What did you expect?” Another small side-step brought her closer to Max, but still too far away for her liking. She didn’t dare eye him openly, but kept her attention on Nicholas and the box. She wanted to wrestle him for it and damn the consequences. Max needed the device to live. But if she tried and failed, he was dead too. There was no winning.

Nicholas’s face hardened. “This isn’t over.” He turned and fled from the room, his footsteps echoing down the length of the hallway.

Liz faltered, uncertain which way to go. Nicholas had the only way of returning Max to normal. But Max was slumped against the wall, unmoving. The uncharacteristic stillness chilled her and had her moving toward him.

But the distance was too great.

With a great rush, the air was all but sucked from the room. Liz blinked against it, puzzled enough to pause for a half-second. Then she realized that the air itself was too still, too calm even for that building.

The glow of light started from somewhere down the hallway, bringing with it a shockwave she could feel reverberating through the concrete beneath her feet.

And she realized what Max’s plan had been.

Time seemed to come to a chilling halt as the light traveled down the corridor and Liz didn’t stop to think. She forced her legs to pump past the limits of endurance, pushing across the distance to throw herself at Max. The room was bathed in the beginning glows of the alien light and Liz could feel it pushing her the last of the distance across the room.

She hit the floor hard, falling to her knees with what would have been an audible crack if not for the tremors that were shaking the room. Liz huddled against Max’s chest, vaguely registering that he made no move to pull her tighter. The room was quaking, the foundation cracking and crumbling around them. Liz tried to shield Max’s body from the falling debris as best she could.

And with no further warning, the shockwave of pulsing energy caught up with them, filling the room with a blinding light. With her arms wrapped tightly around Max, Liz closed her eyes and wished she could shield Max from the danger.

*~*~

The force of the explosion was enough to knock Alex to the ground, pushing him roughly to his stomach. He felt his head hit something hard, so the following warmth that trickled down the side of his face wasn’t as much of a surprise as it should have been. Isabel had still been beside him, running with the others for the safety of Kyle’s car. Until the night had lit up in a fiery ball.

Pushing up on his hands, Alex shielded his face with his arm when flaming debris rained down around them.

Isabel scrambled to her hands and knees, watching the carnage with wide eyes. Shock had her frozen in the dirt and though she felt Alex’s hand on her arm tugging at her, nothing could keep her from staring at the burning remains of the building.

“We have to do something,” Maria insisted suddenly, breaking the silence.

When no one answered, Isabel looked around sharply. Michael was already standing up and Maria still sat on the ground at his feet. Kyle was helping Tess stand. They were all watching the fire, captivated and disbelieving. And with something like resignation on their faces. “There’s still a door.” She glanced back at it, expecting movement any second. Max and Liz would come rushing out, holding hands and breathless from the frantic run. Any second.

Kyle ran a hand through his hair and helped Tess steady on her feet. Michael was standing alone, staring at the flames with sightless eyes and Isabel looked as if she were on the brink of insanity. And the guilt that was bubbling up from deep inside of Kyle was overwhelming. He’d let Liz run into that. He’d had no idea Max was planning to blow up the entire building, but he still shouldn’t have let her anywhere near it. Whatever happened to her was his fault and his alone. Isabel was starting to shake, he could see it from the illumination of the fire. She was going to break soon.

“Isabel-“

“No!” Isabel pushed up to her feet, ignoring Kyle’s soft tone. “You wouldn’t let me go after him. You stopped me and look what happened! He needed me!” She turned back to the building, watching the doorway and listening to the sounds of the roof collapsing. “He still needs me.” Swallowing down fear, she turned and fled down the embankment.

“Shit.” Kyle saw it first and pushed away from the group, following after her. He slid down gravel, towards the heat. Around him, pebbles fell and he knew he wasn’t alone. Someone, most likely Alex or Michael was following.

Isabel was pacing a few yards from the door they’d used to escape through earlier. “They’re still in there.”

Kyle grabbed hold of her elbow and tried to tug her away. The flames were unbearably hot, burning his skin from even that distance. “Isabel, we have to get out of here.”

“I’m not leaving.”

“Wait.” Tess appeared at Kyle’s elbow and nudged them both. “What is that?”

Michael braced automatically, angling his body in front of the others. Following Tess’s outstretched finger, he saw the odd shaped from inside the building. But even odder than the shape was the color, a dull shade of blue amidst the fiery reds and oranges.

Hope surged in Kyle’s chest for a quick second, and he wanted to believe what he was seeing. Through the flames and past the choking smoke, there was the unmistakable form of two figures huddled together. Beneath a swirling wall of blue.

“That’s them. They’re still alive.” The awe in Isabel’s voice was palpable.

Maria began looking around wildly for some way to help. They were still a good ways inside the building and the doorway was surrounded by flames. She turned to Michael. “Can you do anything?”

“I don’t-“ He looked at her helplessly, realizing that of them all, he was the only one with any physical powers. And they were all looking at him with hope in their eyes, believing in him. “I can try.”

The dull blue shield surrounding Max and Liz seemed to be getting darker and muddier by the minute. Michael knew he had to do something soon. Trying to summon the last of his weakening powers, Michael focused on creating a shield of his own. Max had tried to show him how and he’d been able to create one, but couldn’t keep the focus for long. It was risky at best to edge back into the building. He eyed the flames wearily, never having had much faith in his own abilities. But this wasn’t about him. It went beyond belief. This was his job. It was why he was here.

The world around him swirled, bathed in a light green and the look on Isabel’s face was enough to confirm that he’d created a shield. Not wasting any time, he rushed through the doorway and past the beams blocking his way. Debris fell around him, bouncing harmlessly off his shield, but he could feel it weakening with every piece.

Another few seconds and he could clearly make out Max and Liz, only it looked as though Liz was more dragging Max than supporting him. Liz’s eyes raised and met him with a mix of relief and fatigue. It was the same look he’d seen in Max’s eyes every time he’d drained himself beyond his abilities and it looked out of place on Liz’s face.

Blue met green and Michael found himself encased inside the same bubble as Max and Liz. His energy was draining and just the thought of turning and making the long trek back through the room was enough to tire him out.

“Help me, Michael.”

Michael caught his first clear glimpse of Liz and didn’t like what he saw. Soot covered her face and her left arm looked burned rather badly. Her eyes were bloodshot and only open through what he was certain to be sheer will. Automatically, he stepped up to Max’s other side and relieved some of the weight. Surprisingly, he felt Liz’s hand clamp down on his wrist and the shield around them sparkled a bright shade of aqua.

“Liz?”

“Later.”

He nodded, beginning to understand the fatigue in her eyes even if he didn’t know how it was possible. He really shouldn’t be surprised by anything concerning Liz anymore.

Much slower than he would have preferred, Michael helped Liz and Max pick their way across the room. A piece of the ceiling had fallen, causing them to circle the long way around it towards the door. The shield was the only thing keeping them from being burned alive, and Michael vowed to practice forming one on a daily basis when they got out of the damned building.

Liz was weakening beside him and he shouldered more of Max’s weight. By the time they cleared the doorway, he was supporting both her and Max. Luckily, the others had been waiting and helped pull them clear of the building.

Michael dropped the shield and collapsed on the ground. He immediately felt the heat again and it was the only thing keeping him from lying on the broken rocks and glass and sleeping. Kyle and Alex had stepped forward to pull Max and Liz away from the building and Michael could feel Maria’s hands tugging at him. He skittered backward as best he could without completely standing.

“Are they-“

“Alive. Both of them.” Maria wrapped her arms around his neck and held him tight for a minute. She buried her head in his neck, breathing in his scent beneath the smell of soot and smoke. “They’re both out though. Probably will be for awhile.”

Michael nodded and let Maria cling for a minute longer. “My place. We can all rest there.” He watched the fire crackle, swallowing the building whole. They’d all almost died in there and it was still possible Max wouldn’t make it out alive. But there was a chance now. Nicholas was gone, charred black if there was any sort of justice in the world, and Michael had never felt as free. There would always be enemies, but for now they were as close to safe as it came. “We need to get out of here. People will be coming.”

Maria nodded, sniffling a bit as she loosened her grip. “You’re right.”

Michael stumbled to his feet with Maria’s help and when his knees threatened to give out, he offered her a tired grin. “Help me?”

With a soft smile, Maria slipped her arms around his waist and helped support him. “Anytime.”



posted on 26-Sep-2002 7:22:40 PM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise. Oh yeah, and I don’t own any of these characters. LOL
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.

Ta da!! See? Sometime I really can keep a deadline. LOL Here is the second to the last part of Discord. A little story that I like to call "The one that I did in under 20 parts, thank you very much." But "Discord" is a bit easier on the typing fingers. LOL I'm just in a jazzed mood right now. You have no idea. I have one part left in this puppy and you should expect it this weekend sometime. Inspiration is simply flowing today. So, reap the rewards and enjoy. I'll catch you guys in a few days.

Discord
Part 18

“Tired?”

Isabel looked up from her spot on the couch and offered Alex a tired smile. He was holding a steaming mug toward her and she took it gratefully, automatically moving over to make room for him. “I’ve been better.”

Alex settled on the couch and resisted the urge to put his arm around her shoulder. They’d become closer throughout the entire ordeal, but he wasn’t sure if they were close enough for that yet. “You’ve looked better.”

Instinct had Isabel narrowing her eyes, but when she glanced at him she saw the humor lighting his eyes and the smile hidden behind the coffee mug. And she found herself returning his grin. “You mean you’re not turned on by blood and soot?”

Alex tried for nonchalance as he sipped his coffee, as if they were discussing the weather and not what exactly his turn-on’s were as far as Isabel Evans was concerned. “I was more turned off by the leaves in your hair, but to each his own.”

Reaching up to run a hand through her hair, Isabel was disgusted to find leaves matting her hair. With a sigh, she picked one out and decided not to look for others. She wouldn’t feel human until she’d had a week in a spa anyway. “I suppose I could use a shower.”

Alex choked down another sip of coffee and forbade his mind from even trying to come up with a visual to accompany that statement. But the blush rose to his cheeks anyway. He considered it to be progress.

“So, did you check on them?” She’d been kicked out of Michael’s bedroom after the first hour. She’d known she’d been hovering, but had wanted to stay close to Max. Now, the couch was the closest she was allowed to get.

Concern brought Alex down from his high. “Yeah. They’re both still sleeping like the dead.” He checked his watch. Three hours since they’d rushed back to Michael’s to see what they could do for the two of them. “Tess and Kyle are in there trying to keep a handle on Max’s fever. It actually came down a couple of degrees, so it at least looks better for now.”

Isabel scrunched her face. “I think we missed more than one or two things when we left town.” She remembered rushing back to Michael’s and watching Kyle and Tess take over Max’s care. They’d moved together effortlessly, icing down towels and applying them to what had looked like strategic spots on his body. And she had actually watched Kyle Valenti hold a towel to her brother’s face. That had been the moment when she’d willingly left the bedroom. It had seemed like a situation she didn’t belong in. Kyle belonged beside her brother more than she did.

“You’re too hard on yourself.”

Isabel looked up at him. “What?”

Alex sighed. “It’s written all over your face. The guilt.” He laid his mug aside and shifted on the couch until he was facing Isabel. “Talk to me.”

Clinging to her mug, Isabel looked down at her lap. Alex’s gaze was probing and touched her in odd ways. And she guessed it was why she found herself talking when she ordinarily wouldn’t. “It’s just that he could be dying in there and there’s nothing I can do. I couldn’t even do anything inside of that building.”

“Ah. I don’t suppose it would do any good to tell you that you’re too hard on yourself?”

“Alex, I was useless in there. Worse than useless. I was a hindrance. I got in the way. You and Michael had to figure out a way to do everything and still drag me through the building.”

“And you sat around and painted your fingernails all day before we got in there? Come on, Isabel, you’re smarter than this. We wouldn’t have found them if it hadn’t been for the way you almost killed yourself trying to dreamwalk them all day long. You wore yourself out and never said a word. So, yeah, I guess you could say that you were useless. You know, in the sense that you were the only reason we found them in the first place and almost killed yourself doing it.”

Isabel shifted on the couch and let out a small sigh. “You just want me to admit that you might be right.”

“But that would mean you’re wrong about something and I know better than that.” Alex grinned at her, lightening the conversation as much as he could. He knew she was still worried about Max, but for the moment, she needed a shoulder to lean on.

Raising one arm, Alex shifted closer on the couch until he could drape his arm over her shoulder. She eyed him carefully for a long second, but she sighed again and leaned into the touch. Sliding along the length of the couch, she moved until she could rest her head comfortably against Alex’s shoulder.

Alex fought against the urge to sigh in contentment. Isabel’s body was reclining against his and her solid warmth was bringing up all sorts of vivid fantasies. It was officially one of the most inappropriate times ever to think about anything sexual, but his body never listened to him anyway. He kept the touch against her back light, stroking small circles. And Alex had never hated cotton before that moment, but since it was currently the only thing standing between his hand and Isabel’s skin, he vowed to boycott the cloth very soon. As soon as he woke up from this fantastic dream he was obviously having.

“What are you thinking about?”

“Uh…nothing.”

Isabel smiled against Alex’s collarbone and closed her eyes against the soothing touch. She could all but hear his thoughts, they were so loud. And she had a pretty good idea what they were about. She’d always known about his crush on her. She just hadn’t ever done anything about it. It was easier that way. But easy wasn’t always best.

Swallowing down the fear, Isabel wrapped her own arms around Alex’s waist and pushed him back until he was lying flat on his back on the couch. She took a chance and met his eyes, found them wide with wonder and disbelief, as if he were waiting for her to do something cruel and biting. And maybe once upon a time she would have, just to convince him that she was unapproachable. But she didn’t want to be unapproachable anymore.

Taking advantage of the situation, Isabel laid in the space between Alex and the back of the couch. She rested her head on his chest and closed her eyes. The pain in her head had quieted some, but it was still harsh and wanted to bring her to her knees. She hadn’t allowed herself to rest yet though, not when the threat of danger was still so fresh in her mind. But here, with Alex, she knew she was safe and it was a refreshing feeling.

Slowly, Alex wound his arms around Isabel. It was a quick struggle to find the most appropriate place to rest his hands and he finally settled on her waist. There was nothing sexual in the touch. Really. And if his body obviously thought otherwise, there was nothing to be done about that. Isabel needed a friend and he was going to not touch her if it killed him.

“Alex?”

“Hmm?” Alex was almost too busy trying to place the smell of her shampoo beneath the smell of soot to hear her quiet whisper.

“Some time this week, if you’re not too busy, do you think you’d like to have dinner?”

Alex froze in the middle of a sniff. “Dinner?” He couldn’t have heard her right. Impossible. Because if he had, then…

“Yeah.” She yawned. “That thing where two people get together and eat, maybe talk about more than the weather.”

“Oh. Dinner. I’ve heard of it It was mentioned in a book I read once.”

“But I’m going to insist that you pay for everything.”

It almost made him grin. He might have if he hadn’t been positive the entire conversation was taking place in some wild fantasy his brain had conjured up. “Well, okay.”

“Because it wouldn’t be an official date if I paid for my half.” Isabel closed her eyes, letting the darkness that had been sitting on the edges of her consciousness edge in.

“Date.” The whole conversation may as well have taken place in Ancient Greek for all Alex understood. Surely, he was taking her words out of context. She was tired and half asleep and maybe she was mistaking him for one of the football players at school. Because there was no way Isabel Evans was asking him out for a first date. The world wasn’t that fair.

“Yeah. But I insist on a good night kiss at the end of the night.”

Since his mind had been nice enough to create the lovely conversation, the least he could do was play along with it. “Well, if you insist, I guess I have no choice. But just for the record, I’ve always been a fan of good night kisses happening at the beginning of the date. Kind of like eating dessert first.”

Isabel smile sleepily against his chest and moved her free hand up to Alex’s chest. “I think I can compromise.”

Some alert part of his brain began to suspect that maybe…just maybe this conversation was actually taking place. It was a jarring realization and a warm glow started somewhere deep in his chest beneath the spot where Isabel’s hand was resting. Isabel sighed and arched against him to get more comfortable. Beneath his hand, her shirt slid up an inch and the tips of his fingers encountered bare flesh. He’d seen her show more flesh than that at school, but to touch it was something else entirely. He half-expected her to move away, but she snuggled closer into his embrace. So, Alex relaxed his muscles slowly and closed his own eyes.

Maybe just this once, it was okay to believe that the good guys were going to come out on top in the end. They were all alive, Max was getting better slowly and Isabel had just asked him out on a date. It was making him question his entire stance on fairy tales and their view of happily ever after endings. Which could be a good thing. He supposed he would have to wait until he was free later in the week to see.

*~*~

“How are you doing?” Kyle looked up from where he’d been crouched over the side of Michael’s bed to examine Tess. She’d gone out to get more ice a short while ago and had been quiet ever since returning.

“I’m better.” She doused the hand towel in the bucket of icy water and wrung out the excess water before applying it to Max’s forehead. She was still groggy, but regaining her senses bit by bit. It was a relief to be in control of her mind again, but it had given her the opportunity to think things through entirely too closely.

Kyle watched her and tucked his hands inside his pockets. “I almost believed that too.”

“Alex and Isabel are asleep.”

If it had been anyone else but Tess, Kyle might have had trouble following the change in conversation. But he was used to the unexpected where she was concerned. “It’s been a long day.” Kyle couldn’t see why that would put that sad, pensive look on Tess’s face.

“They’re sleeping together. On the couch.”

“Oh.” Kyle was a bit confused. “Why is that bad?” Alex finally got the girl. About time too. But he didn’t see how that concerned Tess.

Tess sighed. Of course he didn’t get it. “Michael and Maria are sleeping on a pile of sleeping bags in the hallway.”

“Right.” He drew the word out slowly, fighting the urge to ask her outright if she really had hit her head on a rock.

“You don’t understand. Isabel is cuddling with Alex. Michael is snuggling with Maria. They just don’t do those sorts of things.”

“Ah.” And then he saw the connection. It was a couple thing. For as long as Tess had known them, Max and Liz had been the only couple, the only ones openly showing affection. And it had been easy for Tess to stand beside Michael and Isabel and be on the outside of that. But not anymore. She thought she was alone.

Kyle set the cloth down and rounded the bed slowly. He braced a hand on each of her arms and stepped just inside of the personal bubble she shielded herself with. It wasn’t an intrusion exactly, more like making her aware of his presence. “They almost lost everything they loved today. It’s the sort of occasion that warrants a bit of snuggling. We survived, Tess.”

“I know.” She let out a deep breath and tried to relax. “Nicholas is gone. There was no other way out of that building and we watched it collapse.” She wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Nasedo had raised her to hold all things Antarian high above the rest. Max had destroyed priceless artifacts and potential allies. But he’d saved all their lives in the process. She got that. Really. And when Kyle looked at her the way he was looking at her now, it was almost easy to understand why he did it too. Which was new and…odd.

“Did I mention that you kicked some serious ass in there?”

Tess snorted. “I had to. What with you running around trying to borrow alien powers.”

Kyle shook his head. “So, Liz is an idiot and I’m an even bigger one for listening and not thinking that one through. But I think that the important thing to remember is that if I hadn’t jumped in there and scared him with my stupidity, you wouldn’t be looking so good right now.”

“Well, we can all be thankful for your stupidity then.”

Kyle grinned at her, unable to help himself. He was going to fall in love with this girl. He could see it now. Their future would be filled with quarrels and mockery. She would walk a fine line between what she was taught to believe and who she really was inside. He would pull her down from the ledge when she got too close. And he would love her through every second of it.

“I think whatever they did worked.” Tess narrowed her eyes at him when he changed topics. Of course, he also had the feeling that he was grinning at her like a loon, but it was expected in a situation like this.

Tess glanced down at Max and Liz’s sleeping forms on Michael’s bed. It had been a frantic rush to get them back to the apartment, and had been even more frantic when they’d realized that Max’s temperature was degrees higher than it had been that morning. It had taken the better part of the last few hours, but it seemed that the heat was finally receding. “Do you think he’ll be okay?”

“I don’t know. They went through a lot, but they’re pretty tough.” And were currently snuggled in an embrace themselves. Even in sleep, they had sought each other out and it had almost been enough to make Kyle sigh. If he were a girl and did that sort of thing.

“They’re lucky.” It was easy to believe that Max would wake up soon and everything would be back to normal. They would all joke about it and go to the Crashdown for runny eggs. But there was no telling what sort of effects the device would have caused to Max. And there really was no way of knowing if even the loss of the fever was nothing more than the final stages of his illness. Hope was almost as alien of a concept as Faith, but she was learning to trust in them both.

“Kyle?” Tess watched the way Liz clung to Max, the way her hand curled protectively over his heart. And she was sure there had been a large silver handprint there earlier. Hadn’t there been?

Kyle caught the line of her vision and nodded. “Yeah. You’re not going crazy. They’re healing each other somehow. Liz’s arm was burned before and it isn’t now.” The consequences of it all were so staggering, he couldn’t even think of them all. Besides, it looked like a good change. So, he was going to put it aside for now and worry about it much later when he wasn’t running off of candy bars and caffeine.

“Oh.” Tess frowned. “You know, I’m beginning to think that maybe the box was only half of the cure. He was exposed to that thing again hours ago and he was still sick. Until we stopped trying to separate them.”

Weird, but she was right. Initially, they’d tried to separate the couple, but even in sleep they’d been agitated to be apart. It had only been when everyone had agreed to leave them together on Michael’s bed that their symptoms had begun to settle. “So, what? You think Liz could…heal his brain? That doesn’t make sense.”

“Not so much heal it, but maybe offer something his brain could revert back into.” Tess realized how lame the entire thing sounded and she vowed to stop watching bad horror movies with Jim at two in the morning. She huffed, wanting to explain her thoughts before she caught sight of the look Kyle was going to aim in her direction any minute. “Look. Max healed Liz. He changed her, left something of himself inside of her. Maybe he couldn’t get better without having that piece of himself to…I don’t know…anchor against.”

“Maybe.” It was too much to wrap his brain around. Frankly, if Tess’s theory was that Max was going to evolve into a purple dragon, he wouldn’t have batted an eye. Not as long as he got to hold her and maybe close his eyes for a few minutes. Max’s fever seemed to be going down on its own. They wouldn’t be needed for an hour or so. He turned back to Tess, offering her a small smile. “Are we okay? I mean, before all this happened, we were pretty hot and heavy. No regrets?”

Swallowing down the fear was easy when he kept looking at her like that. And it was even easier when she had memories of the time they’d spent clawing at each other in Kyle’s car hours ago. She’d never felt anything like that incredible need, and she wanted more of it. “Yeah. I seem to remember something about that. Imagine what could have happened if we hadn’t have run out of time.”

Personal space be damned, Kyle wrapped his arms around her waist. “So, what do you say we do some snuggling of our own? I did almost die. Several times in fact. I could use some comforting.”

Tess’s lips twisted with humor. “Snuggling?” It was the most foreign, bizarre concept she’d ever heard when applied to herself. Really, she wasn’t sure if she was capable of it. But she was willing to try. “I think I could be persuaded to give it a go. Of course, I had more than snuggling in mind, but we can do this your way.”

The glee drained from Kyle’s face. “We don’t always have to do things my way. I’m willing to try out your line of thinking.”

Tess elbowed him in the ribs and took Max’s temperature one last time. Satisfied, she turned and linked arms with Kyle. “Come on. I think I saw an armchair big enough for two.”

*~*~

Max pried his eyes open, sniffing against the tickling sensation on his nose. He rubbed at it automatically and when his hand encountered fine strands of silk, he woke completely.

Liz was asleep, lying across his chest and pinning him down against the bed. Almost as if she were trying to keep him from leaving. As if Max were considering moving. Ever. Beneath the heavy blankets, their legs were twined together in a messy sprawl of limbs that he didn’t want to untangle.

Automatically, he blinked in the darkness and looked for a clock. He came up empty handed and then remembered it wouldn’t do him any good anyway. The numbers wouldn’t make any sense. The curtains across the lone window showed that it was still dark outside, but with the hint of light coloring the sky.

With a soft sigh, Max laid his head back on the pillow they’d been sharing. He left his hand at the base of her neck, fingers slipping through the strands of hair. And he just watched her as the first rays of light splashed color against the dark walls.

It took almost a full minute to realize that there was no pain. Anywhere.

With a frown, he pushed up to an elbow and tried to think things through. He remembered seeing Nicholas, being able to understand him and the horrendous things he’d learned. There had been fear and pain, bound so tightly together they’d become one. And then nothing. He couldn’t remember Liz showing up or the long trek that had inevitably brought him to Michael’s bed as the sun rose. The lack of pain told him that perhaps whatever transformation he’d been going through was done.

Part of him wanted to wake Liz and ask what he’d missed. Then he remembered.

There was no way for Liz to explain to him what had happened. There was no way for her to ever explain or describe anything to him again. He’d made sure of it. And if the smell of smoke clinging to his skin was anything to go by, he had succeeded in blowing something up. Which meant the alien box was also gone.

Spirits crashing to the ground around him, Max soaked in the complete silence of the room. It was horrifying to discover that the only solace he had now was this, the still morning hours without voice.

His life was going to be changed completely now. He wouldn’t be able to go to school, which meant he wouldn’t graduate. He would have to tell his parents. And somehow, in all the ways he’d imagined doing it over the years, this wasn’t it. How could they look at him as anything but alien when he couldn’t even understand them?

And then there was Liz. Any hope for a future together was gone now. Even if they could have gotten past the lies, this was too much. She would try to stick by him just as she’d done in the last few days. But what kind of life was he offering her? He was going to have to relearn English like a small child. The silence would grow between them until it was a figure that loomed above them. There wouldn’t be a joint trip to college like they’d planned months ago. She would stay here to help and she would lose her only chance to be what she was meant to be. He would hold her back.

And that was unacceptable.

Taking in deep breaths to calm his racing heart, it occurred to Max that he could breathe. Which was a far cry from his condition a few hours ago when every gasp of air had been fought for. A sharp glance down to his arm showed what he suspected. The thick purple bruises that had colored his arm were gone. As were the silver fingerprints left behind by the Skins. In fact, there was absolutely no evidence that the entire day had happened.

It was staggering to even imagine how it was possible, but it also explained why Liz was dead to the world beside him. She had borrowed his healing powers to reverse the damage. And had drained herself in the process.

Almost as if she could sense his thoughts, her eyes moved beneath closed lids and opened slowly. She frowned momentarily when she woke up in unfamiliar surroundings, but when she saw Max awake, her grin grew wide.

In greeting, Max brought a hand to the side of her face and trailed his thumb along her cheekbone. She arched into the caress and closed her eyes briefly. He wanted to ask her a thousand things. He wanted to know how she’d made it past Kyle and managed to find him. He wanted to know how they’d managed to get out of the building alive. He needed reassurance that they were safe, that Nicholas wouldn’t kick the door in and sprint them away again. He needed to hear her whisper his name and tell him it would all be alright.

Instead, he settled for a kiss.

He leaned in slowly, wanting to savor the moment. The future would hold troubled times that he wasn’t even sure it was wise to try to weather together. But this moment, this one perfect moment in time was theirs. Their lips met, sliding together softly. Liz didn’t seem to be in any greater hurry than he was and she shifted until they were pressed tightly together. The kiss was soft, almost more of a long sigh than a prelude to something more.

Max’s hands tightened at her waist, letting his fingertips skim across smooth skin at the edge of her pants. Liz released a small sigh when he moved to nibble at the curve of her jaw. She arched against him just as she had every other time he had nuzzled that particular spot and the normalcy of it was too much for him. Her fingers were in his hair, fingernails biting into his scalp.

“Max.”

And he froze.

Tension pulled every muscle, every tendon until it was at the breaking point. Forcing himself to keep hope at bay, Max leaned away from Liz until he could meet her eyes. She was looking at him curiously and he felt the weight of the moment creeping up on him. This would be it, the moment that determined everything. And it had to be perfect.

Searching for the perfect words to test the impossible idea on, Max almost missed the loud noises from the hallway. But it was impossible to miss the sudden bang of the bedroom door as it swung open and hit the wall.

“For the love of god! Max, what the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Max looked up, horrified, to meet the face of his mother. Liz tensed in his arms and it made him realize how horrible the situation looked. An explanation was primed and ready on his lips, and then it occurred to him that he had understood his mother’s words. A smile spread slow across his face before he could help it.

“This is no laughing matter, Maxwell Evans.” Diane strode to the side of the bed and glared at her son. “Do you have any idea how worried we were? We were all up all night looking for you kids and then we find you here. And…have you been smoking? God, that’s it. Out of bed now. This party is over.”

Max couldn’t contain his grin, not even when his mother started tugging on his arm. He understood her. Every word. And unless his mother had developed the ability to speak Antarian overnight, it meant that he was going to be okay. A distant part of his mind registered that his mother was still yelling at him, and he could hear voices from the living room as well. It took a few seconds but the doorway was filled with the worried faces of Michael and Isabel. They looked back and forth between Max and Diane, and Max could see the indecision in their eyes.

“Mom-“

Diane turned to Isabel and shook a finger at her. “You stay out of this. You’re in enough trouble already. Get in the car. Both of you. The Parkers will be here any second and I’m sure Alex’s father will be too. You kids are in a world of trouble.”

“Mom-“ Isabel tried again.

Diane was still tugging on Max’s arm, but Liz was clinging to Max’s other arm. Max had never been happier in his whole life to be yelled at.

“Max, what’s wrong with you? Did you hear me? I said get up.”

With his grin still intact, Max glanced up at Isabel and Michael. He saw his father lingering in the doorway behind them, but paid no attention to him for now. He squeezed Liz’s arm and closed his eyes, not wanting to see anyone’s faces if this didn’t work.

“I heard you.”

Max felt the heat of the stares directed at him. Opening his eyes, he saw the pure shock etched into Liz’s features. But even better than the shock was the understanding and recognition. He wanted to reassure her, to take her somewhere and talk to her for hours about anything and everything. He felt as if he’d just been given a rare gift, one he’d taken for granted a million times before but knew he never would again.

“Alright, Max. Enough is enough. Get up.” Phillip pushed past Isabel and Michael to stand beside his wife.

Max knew better than to even try to argue against that look. Slowly, he untangled himself from Liz and pushed to his feet. Diane gave him a small shove from behind and he took a step forward, eyes still locked on Liz. He couldn’t leave without saying something to her though.

“Liz.” He tried to say everything in that one word, mashing every bit of gratitude and love he could muster into it. It meant a thousand things. Thank you, and I love you, and a million other words that had bottled up over the last few days. He wanted to talk until he didn’t have any words left, until his throat was sore from misuse, but still never stop.

He watched as her eyes watered, closed for a second even as she smiled at him. And he knew that she had heard every word he hadn’t spoken.

“Isabel. Get in the car. Say goodbye. You’re both going to be grounded until you’re thirty.” Diane grabbed Max’s elbow and ushered him forward.

Even when Max had been pushed out of Michael’s bedroom and through the living room that held his confused and worried friends, the smile stayed on Max’s face. Even when his mother pushed him into the backseat of the car beside Isabel and continued to mutter words like responsibility and trust, Max couldn’t bring himself to contain the grin. Eventually, Isabel caught it and grinned back at him, lacing her fingers with his. Which of course only made their mother even more livid than she had been.

And with punishments being threatened until they were old enough to retire, Max could sigh without pain and think of Liz and plan. His future had just been given back to him and he had every intention of claiming it.



posted on 29-Sep-2002 12:00:24 AM by Cookieman1234
Discord
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: Do any of you really think I own anything of any value? Show of hands here. Let me reassure you that I have nothing anyone wants. Except a cat. Any takers? Nobody sue me and I’ll leave the characters better off than they were before I borrowed them. I promise. Oh yeah, and I don’t own any of these characters. LOL
Author's Note: None of the events after Max in the City happened in this universe. That seems to be a trend in my stories I know. What can I say? Bizarre coincidence? Probably not. Think End of the World and FMax resolutions, because I don’t think you can ever have enough of those. Can you?
Summary: Okay, the long and short of it is that Max falls prey to one of Brody’s so called alien devices. And it causes some horribly confusing events to happen. I hate to ruin the plot, so I’ll tell you no more. What I can promise however is that this will be far, far shorter than any of my other stories. LOL No 300 parts to this one, folks. I’m shooting for less than 20 here. Call it an experiment to see if I’m capable of it.

Discord
1. Tension or strife resulting from a lack of agreement; dissension. 2. A confused or harsh sound or mingling of sounds. 3. Music An inharmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones; a dissonance.

Big sigh of relief here, people. In your capable hands is the conclusion of this very fine story. I have had tremendous amounts of fun writing it and look at that...only nineteen parts. I came in one part under my self imposed limit. Color me impressed. I'd like to take this opportunity to thumb my nose at everyone that thought it wasn't possible for me to write a story in under twenty parts. I managed angst, happiness, and Max without his shirt. Twice. I think my work here is done. Thanks for everyone that stuck with me. And as usual, my eternal love and gratitude go out to Abbi and Cookie for helping me out when I was beyond all hope. Does anyone else feel like I'm giving an acceptance speech of some sort? Should I thank the academy next? LOL Okay, bear with me. It's not like I finish stories everyday here, people. Geesh. Anywho, enjoy. We've had some real fun and I hope this last part lives up to the expectations you lovely people have placed on me. As usual, I love you all.

Discord
Part 19

Liz danced from foot to foot nervously and glanced at her watch for the millionth time that morning. Maria was late. Three minutes late to be exact. Crossing her arms, Liz struggled not to sigh.

“Liz, relax. Maria will be here any second. Come have some more juice. And something to eat if you think you can stomach it.”

Truthfully, Liz didn’t think she could handle more than the plain toast she’d eaten earlier. She tried a smile for her mother though, not wanting to be mistaken for sick again. “I think I’ll build up an appetite for lunch.” Though she really wasn’t sure she’d survive that long if Maria didn’t get there to pick her up in the next ten seconds.

Nancy frowned at Liz and set down the plate of cinnamon buns. She crossed the kitchen and laid a hand on Liz’s forehead. “Are you sure you should be going to school today? You were pretty sick.”

Realizing it must have been her wobbly smile that gave her away, Liz tried to brighten it. Her stomach was doing acrobatic moves that didn’t have names but it had nothing to do with the cold she’d developed and everything to do with seeing Max. “Really. I’m feeling much better. No fever and the doctor says there’s no chance it’ll turn into pneumonia. Plus, I have my voice back.”

It had been an interesting week. The four days spent trying to accommodate Max’s fever had given her a nasty cold that had almost hospitalized her. She supposed all the time on the concrete warehouse floor hadn’t helped and it had been disappointing to discover that she hadn’t inherited an alien immune system in the deal. Liz had even lost her voice for a day and a half and the irony hadn’t been lost on her.

Bottom line, she hadn’t seen or heard from Max in a week, not since his parents had dragged him from Michael’s. If Maria didn’t get there soon, they wouldn’t be early enough to meet Max before class. And there was no way she would be able to make it another hour without seeing him for herself.

It had been a testament to the Evans’ anger that Max hadn’t shown up on her balcony yet. She could only imagine the lengths they’d had to go to in order to keep Max away. And if Maria would just show up already, Liz wouldn’t have to imagine. She could ask. And Max could answer. Conversation had never been so compelling.

The sharp knock on the door preceded Maria popping her head into the kitchen. “Good morning. Sorry I’m running-“

“Let’s go, Maria.” Liz already had her book bag in her hand and was gripping Maria’s elbow to lead her out the door.

“I’ll see you at four fifteen on the dot, Liz.”

Liz paused for a fraction of a second in the doorway. Her parents hadn’t forgotten about their promised punishment just because Liz had been sick. “Mom, what if I have to talk to a teacher about an assignment?” Or spend five minutes alone with Max?

Nancy smiled sweetly at her daughter and handed Maria a cinnamon roll. “I guess you’ll have to do it at lunch.”

“And if it’s an afternoon class?” Liz knew she was wasting time, but she didn’t think she’d be able to let Max out of her sight at four o’ clock.

“Remember that little thing your father and I bought you? Use it. And make sure your teacher is there for us to talk to.”

Liz groaned at the thought of having a teacher call her parents to tell them where she was. It just wasn’t going to happen no matter what she had to do. “Bye, Mom.”

Maria munched happily on the roll as they rushed through the diner and slid into the Jetta. “You’re the only person I know that gets a cell phone as a present for being grounded.”

“It’s more like a leash. They want to know where I am at all times.”

“You did disappear for two days.”

Liz glared at her. “You couldn’t be on my side here? Besides, I have to pay for the stupid thing. I think it’s supposed to teach me a lesson in responsibility.”

Maria started the car and pulled out into the streets, laughing. “Yeah, you’re in desperate need of a lesson there.”

Liz grinned, settling back in the seat. A part of her wanted to ask Maria to go faster, to push the car to the limits of speed to get to school, but she had a feeling Maria would only glare at her. Her next thought was of Max, but it made her feel guilty. She hadn’t spoken to her best friend in a week and the last thing Maria would want to talk about was Max, so she pushed the billion questions aside. “How did your mom take the whole thing?”

Maria waved a hand in the air. “You know her. She lectured both Michael and I on responsibility, and then we got the sex talk. Which by the way was mortifying, and I owe Michael probably the largest favor in the world for enduring that with me. Basically, it’s not like she was incredibly surprised. I’ve fallen asleep at Michael’s before. At least we were wearing clothes when Mr. and Mrs. Evans showed up.”

Grimacing, Liz chuckled. “I’m sure everyone else in the living room appreciated it as well.”

Maria cheerfully ignored the jab. “All in all, I’m grounded for another week. How about you?”

Liz groaned. “Grounded for two weeks starting today, which is unfair since I didn’t see anyone this whole last week. Plus, I’m not allowed to talk to anyone while I’m working unless it involves the words ‘Would you like a refill’ or ‘What can I get for you?’.”

Maria grinned wickedly at her. “Then I guess it’s a good thing you and Max don’t need words anymore.”

Surprised, Liz turned to look at Maria. “What-“ Liz forced herself to bite down on the words. This was Maria time now.

Shaking her head, Maria sighed. “I’m impressed by your resolve, but you can ask you know. About Max.”

Liz gripped Maria’s arm and let loose with the questions. “Thank god. How is he? Is he really okay? No side effects or trouble?”

“He’s really okay. No trouble, and the side effects…maybe you two should talk about that one yourselves.”

“Maria,” Liz warned. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong…exactly.”

“Don’t make me torture it out of you.”

“Oh look. The school.” Maria ignored any further questions until she had safely pulled into a parking space.

Liz stared at the school and felt the acrobatics begin again. She wasn’t so sure that coming back to school so soon was a good plan after all. It had occurred to her in the last few days that maybe Max had changed his mind about them. A lot had happened over the course of the long weekend and it was possible that he maybe didn’t want her now.

Maria decided to take pity on her friend and shoved the heavy book bag onto her lap. “He’s waiting for you in the band room. He said something about beginnings, but I didn’t follow him.”

Liz’s eyes sought out the band room automatically, and a grin curved her lips in memory. It might not have been the spot on the Crashdown floor where she’d been shot, but it was the site of a completely different set of beginnings. “Yeah, it’s a good place to start things.”

“Well? What are you waiting for? Go. He’s been waiting for you, Liz.”

Liz tried to still her quivering stomach and stalled for one last second by pulling Maria into a hug. “Thanks.”

“What are best friends for, chica? Now get out of here. You have no idea how crazy Max has made my life this week. If only to save my sanity, go talk to him.”

Pulling herself out of the Jetta, Liz slung her book bag over her shoulder and forced herself into the school building. Around her, the halls bustled with activity as students clamored in their lockers and joked with friends. She received the occasional wave or greeting, but she pushed onward.

Turning a corner, Liz caught sight of Alex leaning against Isabel’s locker. He grinned when he saw her and gave her a thumbs up with the hand that wasn’t attached to Isabel’s. Liz found herself grinning back at him, not sure if he was giving her the gesture for good luck with Max, or to show her that his own luck with Isabel was phenomenally better. She supposed she would have to ask later.

With the band room in sight, Liz took a deep breath. The door was open and she found her confidence wavering as she stepped through the doorway. Max was already there, pacing the room. His back was to her and she took advantage of it momentarily to soak him in.

He was hunched over a bit, weighed down by the line of tension in his spine. She could see it in the jerky movements as he roamed the band room floor. He was every bit as nervous as she was. And it suddenly felt silly. They had been through more than this, had survived impossible situations and come out on top. Only, Liz knew that these next few minutes were going to determine the future of her relationship with Max.

She’d thought about it a thousand times this past week, judging each side carefully. It had been impossible to discount the things she’d heard from the other Max, but at the same time, she wasn’t as positive as she’d once been that his way was the only way to fix things. It was impossible to believe that there would be untold of deaths just because a boy loved a girl. There had to be a middle ground. She just wasn’t sure what it was yet.

Stepping into the room a bit further, she caught Max’s eye. He spun on his heels, wild eyes raking over her body to take it all in. She could feel the weight of those eyes, mentally checking her skin color for paleness or possibly for silver bruises. And it warmed her heart.

For a long minute, they were content to simply look at each other. Silence settled around them and the distance that stood between them was no longer as lengthy as it once seemed.

A playful scream from the hallway snapped Liz out of her trance and reminded her that there was less than fifteen minutes until the first bell rang. Liz let her mouth curve upwards in a shy grin. “Hey. You look good. Okay, I mean.” And he did. Other than the lines of tension creasing his forehead, he looked a far cry better than the man who had lain at deaths’ door and risen to tell the tale.

“You too.” He was powerless to do anything but stare at her. Her voice was hypnotic, mesmerizing in a way there weren’t words to describe. Had it always been so shy and husky at the same time? His heart beat wildly in his chest until he was afraid it would crack through his ribcage from the intensity. He knew there was more he should be saying, but every so often he had trouble finding the exact words he was looking for. He’d told Maria the other day when she’d caught him struggling for a word, but since it had been getting better every day, he didn’t expect it to last much longer.

Liz let her book bag drop to the floor next to where Max’s own books lay discarded and she took a step towards him. “I can’t believe I’m standing here. It seems like it was so long ago I saw you last.”

Max frowned. He’d wanted to see her every second since he’d left her at Michael’s. But his parents had been beyond angry, they had been worried. And they hadn’t let him out of their sight since then. “I tried to come see you, but my parents…” He shook his head with a soft laugh. “You have no idea how crazy they were about keeping Isabel and I at home.” Max took a hesitant step towards her and then stopped. “How are you feeling? You were sick?”

Liz didn’t even want to ask how he’d known that since she hadn’t been able to speak with anyone outside of her family. “I’m fine. Better. Just a little cold and don’t even think about apologizing for it.” She caught his grin and knew it had been on the tip of his tongue. “I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.”

Max dropped the grin and raised his hand toward her in a helpless gesture before letting it drop back to his side. “Liz, there’s so much I wanted to talk to you about. So many things I didn’t think I’d ever have the chance to tell you.” The words were coming faster and easier than they had all week and it made Max question how he could be better in everything he did whenever she was around.

“I know.” And she did. All too familiar in her mind were those horrible nights when he’d laid in her arms, struggling for every breath and fighting off a fever that wanted to destroy him. It had put things into startling perspective. “There are things I need to tell you. Things I should have told you weeks ago. But I don’t know how.”

Max glanced away from her, his eyelashes resting on his cheeks as he hesitated. It felt like the largest invasion of privacy ever, but she deserved to know what he knew and how. Slowly, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small tape recorder. He let the weight of it settle in his hand and kept his eyes away from her face.

“The second night I stayed with you, you were with your parents and I wanted to see what was on the slides you kept looking at with worried eyes. I knew I was dying from the minute I saw the slides and I…” There weren’t words to describe what he’d felt, the utter hopelessness and despair of knowing he wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to Liz.

“I was frustrated.” It was as good a word as any. He glanced up quickly and saw that she understood what he was trying to say. She always did somehow and it comforted him. “I wanted to tell you a thousand things and I’d just realized it was likely I never would.” He let out a bitter laugh. “I even tried to write you a letter, but I couldn’t even get your name right.”

Liz remembered the crumpled sheets of paper she’d found near her trash can and hearing the story behind what had pushed the creation of it was amazing. But she was still confused as to why Max was holding what looked like her tape recorder in his hand.

“I picked this up because I needed to hear your voice. I was feeling sick again and I just thought that if I…” He shook his head. “I think that was when I passed out. The next thing I remembered was you.” Unbuttoning his shirt. But there was no reason to bring that up at the moment.

“Max, I don’t understand.”

“I think I accidentally hit the record button. I found the recorder in my pocket and I…I listened to it…after, when I understood again.”

Puzzled, Liz tried to think back to that night. She remembered her fear at finding Max passed out on her bed. She’d tried to bring his fever down and then…

I never slept with Kyle. How could I when you’ve always been the only person I’ve ever dreamed of making love to? That shower fantasy you saw? It wasn’t a new one, Max. I’ve always wanted you.

Liz stared at the small device in Max’s hand that played back her own words. She remembered it now, remembered the fear and the guilt. She’d regretted everything she’d ever done to hurt Max in that moment. And though she knew what was coming next, she raised her eyes to meet Max’s.

But we just weren’t meant to be. I wish I could explain it all to you, that I could make you understand that I would never hurt you unless I had to. But if I told you about Future Max, about why I did everything, you wouldn’t let me go and nothing would change. You’ll always be the one great love of my life, and no matter what I do, my heart is yours. It’s easy to tell you that now when you can’t understand me because I can’t ever tell you again. Not if I want to keep everyone alive.

Max turned the recorder off and held Liz’s gaze. “I didn’t mean to, but-“

“I meant it.” Liz took another step forward. It seemed silly to keep so much distance between them. It wasn’t necessary. Not anymore. Lifting her hand, she placed it over the device, covering Max’s outstretched palm and tightening her grip. “That night, I promised myself I’d let you go in the morning, that I would make you stay with Kyle and Tess. I thought I could let you go.”

“And now?” Max could hear the beginnings of tears in her voice. He wanted to pull her close, hold her and tell her she didn’t have to tell him anything that would upset her. But they had to learn how to stop lying and protecting each other.

“Now I’m not so sure I can do that.” Liz tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “You know I didn’t sleep with Kyle.”

“I saw things that didn’t make sense, and then I really looked at you.” Max reached out now, running his hand down the side of her face. Skin so soft it was always surprising, and yet ther was steel beneath it. Liz was more than anyone ever gave her credit for. “You thought you had to push me away to keep everyone safe.”

Liz nodded. She wanted to tell him all about her visitor from the future, but her throat was closing.

Max saw her distress and knew that she wasn’t holding things back from him. Not anymore. There were simply too many larger things to talk about first. And the most important of them all was where they went from here. “That night crushed me, Liz. I thought that everything we had was a lie. But it wasn’t. It doesn’t matter why you did what you did. We can figure it out together. Later. I don’t care if it’s tomorrow or a year from now. Tell me when you’re ready to tell me. Just…” There were a million things he wanted to tell her, that he needed her, that he would protect her with his dying breath, that he loved her. But if there was one thing he’d learned in the last few days, it was that actions held more importance than words ever could.

In a swift move, Max closed the last of the distance between them and crushed Liz against his chest. Their lips met, almost a soft caress if not for the pent up urgency and desire. Max tried to keep the pressure light, but it was impossible when Liz wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned into him. He let her take control of the kiss, desire winning out as the kiss became more heated. And it said a hundred things Max couldn’t with words.

The first bell rang through the school, cutting through the laughter from the halls.

“Max.” Liz eased away from the kiss slowly, drawing in ragged breaths. She wanted to ignore the bell, ignore the classes and the teachers. But there would be students piling into the classroom any minute and she doubted they would appreciate Max’s kisses as much as she would.

“I know.” He touched his forehead to hers and tried to concentrate on not dragging her into the nearest closet.

Liz licked her lips, able to taste him still. She let out a breathless laugh. “We really do need to talk sometime.”

Max grinned with her. “Ever get the feeling life would be easier if we didn’t ever have to?” Liz was still in his arms and it was a good sign. A fantastic sign. A sign that meant she wasn’t planning on going anywhere anytime soon.

“There are things I want to tell you too. But…later.” There would be a lifetime for it. Years and years to say all the things that needed to be said. But the most important of them all still hung in the air between them.

“I love you. Nothing ever could change that. And I want to be with you, Max. Always.” There would be a way to fix everything, to ensure that the future of death and destruction would never have a chance to happen. Because when she and Max were together, the impossible seemed almost easy and effortless.

Max closed his eyes and let the words ease into his memory. They were words he thought he’d never hear again. And yet, he really hadn’t needed them. They had been in every gesture, every glance in the last few days. “I’m glad because I’m never letting you go again. I love you, Liz.” It was enough. It had to be. They’d tried life without each other and every time, it was disaster.

The first of the voices carried down the hall and Liz knew the class would be filling any second. Reluctantly, she eased out of Max’s embrace and grinned when he caught her hand in his.

“I’d sneak you into the eraser room if I didn’t think our parents had the teachers watching out for us.”

Liz laughed and leaned down to pick up her book bag. She couldn’t even manage a glare when Max took it from her and hefted it onto his own shoulder. Her heart was too light for things like that. “We still have every minute between classes and all of lunch.”

“How long are you grounded for?”

“Two very long weeks. What about you?”

“Three. I think Mom suspects I wasn’t home all weekend. If she could prove it, I’d be retired before I saw you in public again.” But he could wait. Forever if he needed to. “You’ll wait for me, won’t you?”

Liz flashed him a wide smile as they left the band room for the hall, brushing past students on their way to class. “You sound like it’s a jail sentence.”

“I’m helping my mother organize her closet tonight. That doesn’t sound like a jail sentence to you?”

Just outside the band room door, Liz stopped walking. Max stopped with her and tilted his head in question. “What?”

“I really do love you. This just seems…easy, but it’s not. Why is this so easy?” Could it really be so easy that all it took was a kiss and they were back to the days of hand holding and stolen glances?

Understanding her concern, Max closed the space between them again and met her eyes. “It’s easy because we’re letting it be. All the trouble we’ve had, it’s been because we haven’t trusted that it really could be like this all the time.”

Liz had a sudden vision of the last time they had both been in the band room together. Max had confessed to her his darkest secret, exposed himself and his family. Because he had loved her. And she had been terrified of the trust being placed in her hands, certain that she hadn’t deserved it.

The trust Max was placing in her now was no less frightening, but this time it didn’t seem as all consuming. And maybe it could be this easy. Maybe it was time they both let it be.

Liz smiled at Max, not caring if the entire world saw her grinning like a loon in the middle of the hallway. Max’s hand rubbed small circles on the back of her hand, and she couldn’t escape the feeling that maybe this time they had all the pieces to make a relationship work.

She loved Max. Max loved her. What more was there?

With an answering grin of his own, Max tugged on her hand and led her down the hall. It didn’t matter where they were going. Liz knew she would follow. And with the second bell ringing overhead, silence settled around them once more. Only this time, there weren’t any words that needed to be said that couldn’t be found in the gentle clasp of hands between them. Sometimes, words were simply unnecessary.