posted on 20-Aug-2002 12:53:31 PM by DMartinez
I know I've done the story before but this is another way to go. The whole Liz died because Max didn't save her. If you're wondering, the other one is Oscillate. No actual haunting in that one

Author: DMartinez
Email: shockerdm⊕icqmail.com
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Katims, Metz and UPN. No infringement intended.
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Haunted by Sept. 19, 1999, Max struggles to make peace for himself, but he's haunted.


[center]Haunted[/center]

Max Evans sighed as he settled in to sleep. It had been another uneventful day and he deserved to sleep. He needed to sleep and he could only pray that it would be dreamless sleep.

Arguing. "I say today. Pay me today, not tomorrow."

Scuffling. "Liz!"

Gun. Bang.

Max slid from under his table when the gunmen left. "Liz!"

His eyes immediately found the girl laying on the ground, blood stain forming around the bullet hole. "Somebody call the cops."

The blood was spreading, soaking her. He wanted to cry. He could save her. He could breathe life back into her because he could see the life slipping out. He could do it.

"Did someone call the cops? An ambulance? She's dying. Get someone here, fast."

He started to take a step forward but the cops were coming, so was the ambulance. He'd be caught. Experimented on. He looked to Michael and Michael was already gesturing to the door. They made their way against the crowd and at the door, he looked back. The life was gone. Liz Parker was dead. Then she sat up and looked right at him. "It's your fault, Max."


"No!" Max sat bolt upright in his sweat-soaked sheets.

"Another bad dream?"

"You could say that." He ran a hand over his face.

"You could stop them."

"I can't."

"You can. You have to restore the balance, Max."

"I can't."

"You let me die, you have to restore the balance. You know how to do that." The ghost walked around his room, eyes on him. "I used to think you were a good person but you knew you could help me and you just let me die. It makes me angry. Who knows what kind of life I could have had? Now I'm here until you make things right."

"I'm sorry, Liz. I really am." Max let his eyes meet hers and then started crying. "I'm so sorry."

"Being sorry doesn't make it right, Max." Liz reclined in his chair. "You think you're going crazy but the only way to get rid of me is to make it right. I've got all the time in the world now."

"You can't tell me how?" He pleaded, tears streaming down his face.

"I can't. I'm not allowed. You have to figure it out, Max. Like I said, I've got all the time in the world. I've already been here a year." With that, she faded out of view.

TBC

[ edited 23time(s), last at 18-Nov-2002 9:30:47 PM ]
posted on 21-Aug-2002 11:00:51 PM by DMartinez
In my mind this is a comedy but not everyone shares my sense of humor so most may fine it quite creepy.

[center]Part 1[/center]

Max scrubbed a hand over his face as he entered the kitchen. Isabel stared at her brother as he poured orange juice into his cereal and sat down. The second he put it in his mouth he spat it out. "How in the hell did that happen?"

"You poured it in." She stirred her own cereal and watched him carefully. "You were talking to yourself again last night."

He sighed heavily and stood. He crossed to the sink to dump his cereal down the garbage disposal. He had tried to explain to her before but she had just said it was his guilty conscience and that he had done the right thing to not get involved. When he turned, Liz was standing behind Isabel. Quickly he turned back to pour himself a glass of juice. "And?"

"It's not healthy, Max."

"I can't go to a shrink, so I guess I'll have to keep talking to myself." He crossed his arms and hopped up on the counter.

"Let the past die, Max." Isabel sighed and tilted her head at him.

"I could if the past would." He shot Liz a look and she just shrugged and made a face at Isabel.

"Some sister you got. You'd think she'd be more in tune with you. All she thinks about is herself. I guess all the rumors about her being an ice queen are true." And Max immediately spit out the juice that he had been about to swallow.

"What the hell is your problem?" Isabel glared at him.

"Nothing. Nothing." Max shook his head as he cleaned up his mess. "Let me go change my shirt and then we can go."

--

Thankfully, Liz only showed up during boring classes. He had gotten used to her being around. She had told him that wasn't a good thing. She had long stopped trying to creep him out though. She would never tell him anything more than she was following orders. If he knew what he was supposed to do, why couldn't he get rid of her?

She had spent the first two months yelling at him for letting her die. Showing up at odd and inappropriate moments. The first six months, he thought he was going insane and so he ignored her and let himself believe she was just a part of his guilty conscience. It was at that point that she began keeping him awake at night. A week and a half of sleep deprivation earned her an explosive reaction from him.

"That's wrong."

He groaned inwardly at her voice behind him. He looked back at his test paper. It was right. Reread the directions, reread the problem, reworked the problem. Not the same answer.

"Told you." He could almost feel her hanging over his shoulder. "And stop looking down Donna Mason's blouse."

Max set down his pencil and put his head in his hands. She did not just say that. She did not just say that. He wasn't really looking down her blouse. It was open to the third button, exposing a little bra… it was a display really. Taking a deep breath, he quickly finished his test and turned it in, trying to ignore Liz's hovering presence all the while. The teacher excused him to the lounge, where he was all too eager to go. Finding his chair empty near the window, he plopped down and pulled the hood of his sweatshirt over his head and prayed she would leave him alone.

"I will never understand why guys are so interested in breasts. They're just breasts. We use them to feed our young. That's it. No great mystery. Granted Donna Mason got more than her share but still." She went on. "And I must have been behind a door somewhere when they were passing them out."

When Max looked up, Liz was holding out her uniform to look down at hers. He groaned and shot out of his chair to go outside. "This is insane. I do not have a ghost complaining to me that her breasts are too small. She is not belittling me for glancing at what Donna obviously wants to be looked at."

He never even felt Liz's presence when she appeared behind him. "I mean, this is insane. I can't look at girls, I can't hang out with the guys and I can't even masturbate in peace."

"Not that it wasn't a sight to behold but still, keep it in your shorts, Max." She sighed heavily.

"Augh!" Max cried out and spun to face her where she was leaning on a tree. "Leave me alone."

"You and I both know that's not happening until you atone for what you did." Liz pointed at him and cocked her hips.

"I was scared! I was risking my entire existence. You try being me and see if you wouldn't be scared too." Max threw his hands up in the air and stalked to his Jeep. "You have no idea how sorry I am for what I did but I'm not the only one at risk. If it was just me, I would have done it but I have Michael and Isabel to think about, too." He stopped and turned to her. "How am I supposed to atone?"

"Figure it out, genius." She glared at him and vanished.

--

Max passed his sister's room and heard the voices. Isabel and Michael.

"He's talking to himself again."

"He did it at school today. He looked pissed."

"He poured orange juice in his cereal this morning. I don't think he's sleeping again."

"How long that last the last time?"

"Almost two weeks. I hate seeing him like this, Michael. It's like he's slowly losing grip on reality."

"At first he said it was a ghost, you remember that? We told him not to worry about it and he acted weird for a long time and then he stopped sleeping."

"Then he got better but he was still acting weird. He's… I thought he was getting better but I don't know what to do for him."

"She almost sounds sincere." Liz sighed hopelessly where she leaned in the doorway. "Too bad you and I know she didn't try to listen to you when you tried to explain."

"Thought you said I wasn't supposed to share." Max narrowed his eyes at her.

"You're not but that's beside the point. She's your sister. She should care enough to hear you out instead of dismissing me as a figment of your imagination." She watched him shake his head and disappear into his room. "I tried. More than she did, anyway."

TBC
posted on 23-Aug-2002 2:11:36 AM by DMartinez
I foresee a rating rise soon.

[center]Part 2[/center]

Max kept sliding his eyes to the island where his mother was cooking. Liz was hovering over the stove, taking deep breaths. He just shook his head and went back to his physics homework. When he looked up again, she practically had her face in the pot. Chuckling to himself, he turned his mother and almost said something when he thought better of it. "What's the occasion?"

"Occasion?" Diane turned to her son. Those three words were the most he had spoken directly to her in months.

"You've got the disc out. I smell garlic. Red meat." Max nodded his head. "You hardly ever cook like that."

"Dad's out of town." She furrowed her brow. "He told you. Didn't he?"

"Maybe." Max felt guilty. His dad had probably mentioned it sometime and he didn't hear. His eyes turned to Liz, who was salivating. "I'm doing a project, Mom. Could you describe the smells of what you're cooking? How you're cooking and why you add what you do?"

Max made a show of pulling out a fresh sheet of paper and held his pen over it. Liz shot him a strange look. Diane tilted her head and cleared her throat. "Well… I'm making stir-fry. First I put in the vegetables; sliced carrots, sliced green peppers, green onions. I guess the carrots give it a sweet taste. The peppers a slight spice. Onions give it a twang. Um… then I add the meat and cook it through to almost well. Then I add my sauce. It's just one of those packets that you buy over the counter. I don't even know what all goes into it. It just gives it that taste you'd expect when you make stir-fry. I add extra garlic because I like it. It gives it a good smell."

Max watched Liz's face and the noises she made. It was actually adorable. "I bet that smells good."

Diane turned to Max and noticed the paper was still blank. "You didn't write any of that down?"

Max looked to his paper then to Liz and then to his mother. "I guess I just wanted to hear you talk."

"Oh. Ok." Diane tilted her head again and went on with what she was doing. At least he was talking to her.

"Thanks. I needed that. I watch her cook and it looks so good. I just wish I could at least smell it." She vanished. Max stared at his paper. He hadn't thought about that.

--

He lay on his bed, trying not to think about Donna Mason's outfit that day. He could hear the bored noises that Liz was making. He could hear her long drawn out breaths and bored sighs. "Can I ask you something?"

"I can't tell you what to do." She sighed again.

"What do you miss the most?" He adjusted his pillow under his head and waited.

"I miss my parents. God, when I think about all the plans they had for me and how it all got taken away in two seconds." Liz took a shuddering breath. "I miss touching the most though. Sandy feel of limestone walls. Soft powdery feel of freshly tilled earth. Scratch of heavy cotton, smooth of thin cotton. Rough feel of conglomerate rocks. Kyle's hair after he's just washed it."

"Was it hard watching him move on?" Max sat up a little to look at her.

”A little. We weren't all that serious. It was a summer thing and I figured it was over anyway. I wasn't expecting him to mourn forever but he surprised me by being sad so long." Long exhale. "I don't know why I bother with breathing. I don't need to. I'm already dead. I guess it's habit. I wonder if I even do more than move the air. I can't feel it.”

"So, touch?"

"Yeah. Touch. I could imagine for hours what something feels like. Creamy cheesecake. Chunky salsa with bits of crunchy onion. Tortilla chips. Vanilla ice cream. Your mom's roses. Bed sheets. Terrycloth bath towels. I'd give anything just to feel this stupid polyester uniform and its stupid shiny buttons." She took a breath. ”Even to feel my own skin." When she looked at Max, he was crying. She could see the glitter of the paths down his face as he lay back on his bed. "Figure it out, Max. Please."

--

Max tried once again to ignore Liz's presence while he snuck a look at the girl sitting next to him in his Trig and Analysis class. She was in a talkative mood but he could care less at the moment. "I'm always afraid she's going to topple over."

Max caved and started writing in the margins. Go Away.

"Do all guys like girls like that? I mean, really, what's the interest besides what she's obviously not caring about covering."

She's nice to look at. Okay?

"So you want to date her?"

I can't date her.

"But you want to."

In another dimension maybe. Why do you care?

"I'm just curious as to why guys don't drool over me the way the do over her."

Guys did drool over you.

"No they don't."

Yes. They do.

"Name one."

Kyle.

"Not fair."

Plenty of guys wanted to date you. Had nothing to do with the size of your… front. Please. Leave. Me. Alone.

"Max, tell me. Why is she more attractive than me?"

She's not more attractive. She's just attractive in a different way.

"What way?"

She's the girl you think about doing things with. You're the girl that guys want to do them with.

"Huh?"

Donna, I can dream about. She's filed away in the spank bank. You Were a reality. Guys have a chance with you because you're not the type to do the things they want to do to her. You're the one they can bring home to meet the parents with a clear conscience. Satisfied?

"oh."

When Max looked up, she was gone. Oddly, he wondered if he had put his foot in his mouth.

TBC

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 23-Aug-2002 2:12:14 AM ]
posted on 24-Aug-2002 1:34:12 PM by DMartinez
[center]Part 3[/center]

Max took a deep cleansing breath for the first time in a year. He hadn't seen Liz for two days. Maybe she was finally gone but he had no clue what he had done to atone. In those two days, he had realized how many embarrassing situations that she had actually saved him from. Yesterday, Donna Mason caught him staring at her chest. When their eyes met, his face turned seven shades of red. He had to make himself focus on equations for the rest of the period. That morning was the worst. Liz's talking usually woke him up and got him in the shower before Isabel had even woken up. This morning, he was a little later than usual and he bumped into Isabel before being relieved of that pesky morning erection. Yet more embarrassment.

Standing on a rock in the middle of the desert was the most peace he had had in nearly a year. Arms thrown out, he enveloped the silence… and found it lacking. What had he done to deserve peace after what he did?

"You look like shit." Michael.

"I'm feeling good actually." Max had to admit that two nights of uninterrupted sleep had done him good.

"Isabel thinks maybe you're losing it." Good old Michael, never one to mince words.

"This from the girl who thinks she runs the planet. We should take her to a shrink for that Napoleon complex she's got." Max managed a smile and shut his eyes.

"Damn, Maxwell, you're downright chipper. What's with the sudden mood change?"

"You wouldn't understand or care to listen." Max shook his head and hopped down from the rock.

"Says who?" Michael crossed his arms defensively and waited for an explanation. He deserved an explanation.

"You didn't listen last time, why would you listen now?" Climbing into the Jeep, Max turned hard eyes to his friend. "You coming or are you going to walk back?"

Michael glanced around and then hopped into the Jeep before Max could take off. "So, talk."

"Let's just say that I've been experiencing peace for the past 48 hours and it looks like it's gonna stick around." Max took a sigh of relief.

"So this funk. It's over?"

"Over."

"Alright."

--

Two weeks of peace had his grades up to As and his color back. He was more carefree than he had been before the shooting. His whole family had noticed the vast improvement in behavior, the amount of time spent outside his room. One possible downside. His good attitude got him noticed at school. Teachers noticed, students noticed. Donna Mason noticed. Isabel disapproved.

"She's not for you, Max." Isabel groaned and followed him around the store. It had been her idea to take him shopping but now that he might have a potential date, she wished they could leave.

"Am I never supposed to date?" He looked at her hard and leaned on the rack. "You've dated nearly every guy our age that wasn't a total geek or spazz. Am I supposed to sit back and let you date while I sit at home and consider seminary school?"

"Funny." She mocked him. "Seminary school. You have to believe in God first, genius." She tossed a shirt at him and then crossed the store. "It's not that you can't date but you can't date Donna. She's not your type."

"It's too late to use that angle. She already assumed I was interested." Max replaced the shirt and moved on to pants.

"And how was that?" Her eyes narrowed when he didn't answer. "How did she know you were interested?"

"She caught me staring…" He met her eyes and them moved a few feet away. "At her chest."

"Max Evans." Isabel gasped. "See this is why you can't go out with her."

"Like you don't date guys that stare at your chest." He turned on her and she had to back down. "You have no excuse for me not to agree to see her this weekend."

"I guess I don't but Max, you don't even really know her."

"And you knew Greg Lyons."

"Beside the point." She tried to argue.

"Entirely the point." Max smiled at her. "It's just a movie, maybe something to eat. That's it. I'm not marrying her. Just to hang out."

"Fine but I still don't approve."

--

Max nodded as Donna talked about the more technical aspects of the movie they had watched. Apparently she was smarter than most people gave her credit for and she was looking forward to a career in film production. It wasn't that it wasn't interesting but it wasn't something that Max was into himself. They were basically passing time over a couple of baskets of fries.

An hour later had him walking her to her car, expressing what a nice evening he'd had. Had her slipping her phone number into his front pocket. Had her pressed up against him, tongue in his mouth. Then a promise to call, to get together some other time and to definitely see each other in Trig.

At home, he took a deep breath, lay back and settled himself in for some manual gratification. Just as he was getting started he heard a sniffle. Bolting upright, he saw the familiar sea foam green uniform standing at the foot of the bed. "I thought I told you to keep it in your shorts, Max."

"No. No. Not happening." His heart pound. No. She couldn't be back. Righting his shorts and throwing a pillow over his lap, he took in the hitch of her shoulders. "Liz?"

"Yeah, it's me. I'm back. Not that I didn't try to get out of it.” Her shoulders slumped. Then she straightened out and turned around. "So, did you miss me?"

"Miss wouldn't be the word I would use."

She nodded, wet eyes rolling away. "Hence the self-love. Right." Crossing her arms, she knelt on the bed at his feet. "Sorry to burst your bubble but your sentence isn't up yet. I had some personal issues but I'm told those don't matter until you atone for crimes committed."

Max fell back on the bed, weight of the world back atop his shoulders.

"Yeah, that was my reaction too."

TBC
posted on 26-Aug-2002 3:12:15 AM by DMartinez
[center]Part 4[/center]

Max stared at Liz for an hour Saturday morning. She stared back. "What exactly are you allowed to tell me? Word for word."

"You have upset the balance of life and death. It's off-kilter because I'm not supposed to be dead yet. You have to atone by righting the balance. When you do, you'll be rid of me." Liz took a breath and let it out slowly.

"Huh." He puzzled that over. She knew what he could do but she wasn't allowed to tell him.

"I heard you went on your first date. Wow." Liz widened her eyes.

"Yeah. It was okay."

"Donna?"

"Yeah actually." He turned to her. She held up her hands and shook her head. "What? Isabel gave me crap about it, too."

"It's just… Donna. Just promise me you're not going to start seeing her."

"I don't know. I had a good time. She's pretty smart."

"Really?"

"Yes, really. Contrary to popular belief, not all… shapely women have no brains."

"I just never figured her for your type but since school started, I've been wondering if I ever knew your type."

"I can't have a type if I don't date." Max cleared his throat and threw his legs over the side of his bed. "I don't think I'll actually call her to go out again." His head swung her way and took note of her interested face. "She's a little aggressive."

"Hold up. I'm a ghost. I'm not a gal-pal. I do not want details." Hands held up in front of her once again. She couldn't stop the disappointment from crossing her face. He noticed but didn't know what to do with the information. ”So aggressive?"

"Aggressive." He thought about what she had said before, while processing that she wanted an answer. "Well, for a first date… ever."

"I see. Not really a good thing." She looked down to her hands. "What would you have preferred?"

"Um, well." Max cleared his throat. "Honestly… I was just looking to have fun and walk her to her car. She's the one that pulled the moves on me. I could have handled a kiss on the cheek or a peck but not. It was a little much. Like she was trying too hard. I’m not really complaining but you get the point."

”I guess." She nodded. An odd shine in her eyes. After a moment of increasingly awkward silence, she cleared her throat. "Look, Max. You and I both want out of this deal and I know you're not getting it. I'll probably get in trouble for doing this but um… they think you're not human enough to get it. I'm supposed to… humanize you."

"What?" Max stared at her and then stood to go to the window. He had assumed she knew about his being alien but to hear her say it. "How?"

"By doing what we're doing. Talking, sharing." She stifled a sniffle and curled up in the chair. "I figure it would help if you knew the problem. You close yourself off from everyone and I told them that it's only been worse since I've been with you but they insisted. When you close yourself off from the world and humanity, you distance yourself from humanity. You have to be in tune with it to find out what you're supposed to do."

"So you don't care at all. You're just doing a job." Max bit out, head hung in anger and fingers clutching onto the windowsill. Somewhere he had hoped that they were getting along. That she wanted to help him. It was just an assignment meant to drive them both incredible insane. He could see it was taking its toll on her. That stress was probably due to the fact she could barely stand him, barely stand what he was. "That's just great."

Liz sat helpless and speechless at his outburst and let him go. Winced when he slammed the door behind him. She did care. Too much.

--

Max shoved the bar away from his chest. He didn't even turn his head when he felt the two presences enter the garage. The entire house had felt the change in him when he slammed the door that morning. It was mid-afternoon and the happy atmosphere that had enveloped the Evans house during the past two weeks had become the wary aura the second that door had slammed.

Weights up. Weights down. Smooth, not jerky. Not too far up, not to close to his chest.

"Max, son. Is something wrong?" Mr. Evans stood at his son's head and prepared to spot if need be.

"I'm fine." Max gritted out. At least Liz wasn't talking. He didn't want to look at her.

"Date go okay?"

"Great." He muttered. Then winced and changed his tone. "Yeah, it went okay. Donna's a nice girl."

"Not what Isabel is telling your mother but I trust your judgment." Phil tilted his head. "That's a decent amount of weight there. Date go that well?"

Max caught the tone in his father's voice and had to smile as he kept lifting. "Isabel and her friends just don't know Donna. She gets judged by her appearance. At least now, I know that she's got brains in her head and can use them." Rolling his shoulders, he placed the bar on the rack. "She's nice girl but not exactly the reason for the weights."

"Ah. So Donna, blond?"

"Brunette." Max corrected. "Lots of long brown hair and…" Max couldn't make himself do it. He knew it irked Liz when he talked about Donna, which was why he was keeping it up and talking to his dad but there were limits to what he felt comfortable saying. That's when he realized his hands were in the air, fingers splayed, so he fisted them. "Built."

"Don't suppose Rita Hayworth means anything to you." Philip shut one eye and glanced at his son.

"Ann-Margaret… Sophia Loren." Max managed to throw out a couple names his father would know and that he knew to be decent ladies, considering.

"I see… but a nice girl?" Philip nodded to Max's nod. "Good, good. So I can post-pone the uh… talk?"

"Please do." Max nodded vigorously. When his father stood to leave, he called him back. "Dad, I've got a lot on my mind and there's not much to be done about it. I'm sorry I've been so… out of it. I wish I could be the way I've been for the past couple of weeks but..."

"Okay. Okay." Philip lifted his hands in surrender. "I'm here, though."

"I know." Max watched him disappear around and into the house. Liz was still in the garage. He wasn't ready to talk to her yet.

"That's good, Max. Let yourself be open to him. He is… your father." Liz forced the words out. Eyes wet, she pinched her lips together and hung her head. This was so hard. Blinking rapidly, she brought herself out of her funk. When she turned around, Max was working on sit ups, shirtless. "I see the masturbatory alternative is improving your health."

Silence. Not even a cold look. This was bad.

"So, is that how you like them? Brainy brunettes with big… breasts. Technically that's a lot of women in Hollywood but I'm sure it's natural and proud brunettes rather than the blonds that used to be brunettes. There's an overabundance of those." Nothing. "Although I'm not sure those could be considered brainy. I mean most of them can barely cover their… chests much less spell chest."

"Could you stop?" Max paused at the top of a sit up and looked at her. "You're distracting me. I lost count."

"32." She shrugged. "See, I'm good for something.”

"Look, I don't need you to be my friend. I have friends."

"You have a self-absorbed sister."

"What about Michael?"

"Abrasive, self-serving and emotionally stunted." Her eyes took on a concerned look. "Have you been a good friend to him? Where has he been going since you started talking back to me?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." He cleared his throat. He wasn't going to break that promise to Michael, even if there was nothing that Liz could do about it. Michael didn't want people to know and no one would.

”Hank beats him, Max. It's wrong."

"How in the hell do you know this stuff?" Max snapped at her and leapt off the bench. "Huh. Did you care when he showed up to your 8th grade art class with a bruise the size of Texas on his ribs? Did you care when that shiner he got from a doorknob appeared the next week? Did you ever talk to Michael?"

Liz fell silent, he had a point. Everyone who ever saw Michael knew somewhere in the back of their blind little minds that the boy was beaten on a regular basis. No one did anything. "Maybe I gotta live with that."

"No, you don’t. You're dead. I killed you. Alright?" Max threw his arms out. "I admit it. I killed you because I was a fucking coward."

Liz knew this was getting them nowhere. "You're right. You were a coward and I am dead. Big deal." She had to think quickly. "I think that if I were you, I'd treat me better."

"Why?" Max felt the shift in her mood and narrowed his eyes.

"Because I'm about to make your life unbearable."

"You already are." He muttered and waited for her to expound. "Okay. How?"

"Donna's headed our way." He turned and watched the brunette make her way up the drive. "She's wearing a black bra and…" She paused for a dramatic gasp. "She's not."

"Not what?" Max muttered as he searched for his shirt. Liz wouldn't answer and Donna was getting closer with a broad smile on her pretty face. In the garage now.

"She's not wearing underwear." Poof. Gone.

TBC
posted on 27-Aug-2002 8:04:38 PM by DMartinez
[center]Part 5[/center]

Max entered the room, griping. "I could kill you, Liz." He really wished he could strangle her. That first night she had appeared in his room, he thought he had dreamed the whole scene and figured one of his fantasies was about to come true. He reached out to touch her and his hand went through her. That's when he had noticed the red stain on her uniform. He had immediately passed out and was greeted by her speech first thing in the morning. Since then, they had avoided getting close enough to touch.

When he looked at her, he froze. She stood facing the mirror, uniform open and hands splayed on her stomach. He noted the sad look in her eyes because she was seeing what he saw in the mirror. Slack-jawed Max. Ghosts don't have reflections and she could see his reflection clearly though she stood between him and it. When she turned around, he averted his gaze. It didn't stop him from seeing the curve of her body in his peripheral vision. "What are you doing, Liz?"

"Trying to figure out why I'm not acceptable as spank bank material." She whispered. "But I can't see myself in a mirror. When I look down… all I see is… why am I not acceptable to be fantasized about?"

"No one said that." Max rushed to the other side of the room to face the wall.

"You did."

Max turned slowly, thinking over every conversation they had ever had. "I never said that."

"Yes you did. Said that I was the girl guys brought home, not the one they did anything with." She furrowed her brow at his confusion. "You did say it. Why am I not good enough to be thought of that way?"

"You are." Max snapped. "You are. Okay?"

"Then why don't you think of me like that?"

"I do. Okay? Happy." Max turned around and went to the window to open it up. Something should be clicking but nothing would come together. How in the world did they get to talking about this?

"You do? But…"

Max had to turn at her torn voice. Helplessness washing over him. "Liz. You're dead. You're haunting me. It's not… I can't… It's creepy to still be as attracted to you now as I was a year ago… especially with that…" Max grimaced and pointed to the bullet wound in her stomach.

After a bit of silence, Liz closed her uniform, buttoning it swiftly. "I guess that would be a turn off. Being dead and bloody and all." She let out a laugh and kept laughing.

Soon Max had to chuckle himself. It was kinda ridiculous. "I guess insecurities don't die when we do."

"Guess not." His words swam in her head. He was still attracted to her, meaning he had been before. It made her head hurt a lot less. That's when she realized his face was a little red. "I, uh… it's weird for me to notice you and not be able to… act on it. Hmmf, like I ever did before."

Max snapped his head up at her words. "Oh."

"Yeah." She nodded. Then swiftly changed the subject. "So, um, how unbearable was it?"

It took him a moment to understand what she meant and his anger returned. "I was trying to be cool but you put the thought in my head and I almost said panties… twice." He reached out as if to strangle her. "I kept staring at her ass when she walked around." Taking a breath, he sank onto the bed. "Was she really or were you just messing with me?"

"I don't know. Guess you'll have to ask her because I actually don't have the foggiest idea." They shared a laugh. Liz cleared her throat. This part was hard to admit. "They like that you've started dating."

"Do they talk to you a lot?"

"They update me on your progress when you don't see me." She tried to fasten her remaining buttons without making too much noise.

"Who are they?"

"I can't say. Besides… you don't believe in them."

--

"Mom and Dad noticed your abrupt change in attitude." Isabel hissed as they set the table.

"I've already talked to Dad." Max shrugged her off.

"Oh yeah? You tell him that you're a raving loon and need to locked up?" She shot him a look. Max turned to glare at Liz when she laughed. "You're talking to yourself again. I heard you."

"And?"

"It's not healthy."

"I could keep it all bottled up and then pull a Lizzie Borden." He had to laugh at both Isabel and Liz's gasp. "I'm beginning to wonder if the girl didn't have a sister that kept bothering her to shut up all the time."

"That's not funny, Max." Isabel huffed.

"Actually, it kinda was." Liz admitted.

"I saw Donna leaving. She was here?" Isabel cocked her head at her brother.

"Yeah, so." Max shrugged and groaned inwardly. He could feel their mother listening in. "She was in the neighborhood. Kristy lives around the corner."

"Right." The tall blond rolled her eyes.

"She's a real peach. Is she always this opposed to your happiness?" Liz raised an eyebrow.

"Sure feels like it." He muttered, unintentionally letting Isabel hear.

"So now you're talking to yourself at the table?" Isabel set down the silverware and left the room. Liz silently apologized when he turned a look on her.

"Donna? Donna Mason?" Diane caught her son's eye. "She's a pretty girl. That the one you went out with last night?"

Max knew his mom already knew all about it from Isabel but decided to humor her. "Yeah."

"Her parents work downtown?"

"I guess. I didn't really ask." Max groaned inwardly again. She was probing. "It was one date, she stopped by today. No big deal."

"Going to ask her out again?"

"Maybe."

"Oh. I see. Can't talk to your mom about a girl." She touched his shoulder, relieved when he didn't flinch away. "I see how that works."

"Everyone's down on me about it is all. I'm just trying to see where it takes me."

"Well, it's good that you're dating. You're a handsome boy. I'm sure there's a line around the block to hold your hand." She laughed at his groan.

He turned to her. "I've had one date that went reasonably well and suddenly I'm a… player?" He shook his head. "Donna's nice. She's pretty, smart and… she asked me out."

"I see. So she's fearless as well?"

"She loves horror movies with the really good special effects. We watched this really gory movie and then she drenched her fried in ketchup about twenty minutes after. She's tough." Max nodded and finished up at the table. "Favorite color is midnight, food is hot wings and book is The Shining."

"Ah." Diane tsked. "She's disgustingly thin, isn't she?" Then she laughed at Max's confused expression.

Liz started laughing. "I love your mother." She ignored Max's glare and wandered about as the Evans settled in for dinner. She watched with longing as the four of them interacted and teased over dinner. They seemed happy as a family but Liz could see the circles under Mrs. Evans eyes from lack of sleep and much worry over her son. Mr. Evans hair had lightened considerably in the past six months. There was a lot unsaid. Aside from Max's secret, there was the one that he and Isabel kept from their parents. It was a big wedge that they covered well. On the outside, they were a happy family. Inside they were hemorrhaging. They wouldn't be able to take it much more, especially if Max couldn't figure out a way to right his wrongs.

"Max. Friday I have to go pick up some plants for your mother in Clovis. Come with me?" Philip asked as he pushed his plate away.

"Um…" He glanced up at Liz. She vanished for a moment and quickly returned with a nod. "Sure."

"Alright then. We'll go, do some manly work, hang out and then be home in time for a late dinner." He smiled at his wife and leaned on the table. "Isabel?"

"If it's the hanging that involves burping or the manly work that will make me sweaty, forget it." Isabel shook her head and took a drink of her tea.

"That's alright. I'm sure Isabel and I can find something to do." Diane smiled broadly.

"Not if I take the credit cards with me." Philip teased playfully.

"Daddy, please. The new line doesn't come out for another two months. Your credit cards are safe until then." Isabel sighed and looked down at her outfit. "Although, my friends have already seen everything in my closet."

"I think that your friends need a hobby if they keep tabs on your coolness by what you're wearing when and how." Max took a drink of his water and shot her a look. "Not everyone allows themselves to be measured by their friends."

"You're one to talk." She narrowed her eyes at him. "You and… Donna."

"Would you quit knocking Donna?" Max stood with his plate. "You might actually like her if you were paranoid about losing status with the girls."

Liz shook her head. "And the alien twins go another round. I'm off for a bit. Catch you later." Max nodded almost imperceptibly and tried to tune out Isabel and his parents.

TBC
posted on 1-Sep-2002 4:04:32 PM by DMartinez
[center]Part 6[/center]

Max did nothing but stare out the window for the first twenty minutes of the trip. Mr. Evans kept sneaking glances at his son as they drove along. Liz hadn't been anywhere in sight the moment Mr. Evans had started the car. Finally, Max had to say something. "What kind of plants are we getting?"

"Some kind of desert flower. Your mom thinks they might do better than the roses. The sun keeps burning them." Mr. Evans nodded to himself.

"Wilting."

"What?"

"Wilting. The sun wilts them." Max corrected and gave his father a small shrug. "Mr. Crulik is adamant that we know the difference."

"Science teacher?"

"IPC." Max noted the confusion on his father's face. "Used to be called Physical Science."

"Ah." Philip nodded. "Chemistry is still chemistry, right?"

"Yeah." The younger Evans nodded with a slight smile. The conversation was slightly uneasy but it killed the minutes until the arrival at the nursery. After they were loaded into the back of the car with a little water, they were off to eat a little something to tide them over until dinner. The sports bar was the first place they came along and that's where they went. Nachos, buffalo wings and small talk about sports.

"Are you sure about these extra spicy wings?" Philip sucked in a breath before taking a drink of his tea to ease the burn.

"I like 'em. It's manly. Puts hair on your chest." Max joked and licked his fingers before reaching for another. "I caved on the nachos but the wings stay."

"Alright. I'll make do with these." He carefully peeled a jalapeno off a cheese-drenched chip before popping it into his mouth. "I'll tell you what though. I'd rather be here eating this crap than at home. Did you hear what your mother was going to try?"

"Spinach loaf." Max grimaced. "What do you say we grab some burgers and pretend we forgot about dinner?"

"You might be onto something." Philip nodded. "We'll catch the waitress when she comes back."

"I'll be back." Max jerked his head to the bathroom and rose from the table. He barely glanced around but the man at the other side of the bar caught his attention. The man wasn't the kind of face anyone remembered. Average height, average weight for middle age, hair, eyes. Nothing special. Shaking his head, he continued on into the bathroom. When he came back out, the man caught his attention again. There was something about the man.

"Something wrong, Chief?" Philip furrowed his brow when Max sat down with a strange look on his face.

"No. I just thought I saw someone I knew."

"Really, who?"

"I mean, this man. I saw him and I thought I saw him before. I have no clue who he is." Max shook his head again and dug into the remainder of the buffalo wings. A shout caught his attention.

"Tomorrow! I swear it. The game's not over yet. When the final score comes out, we'll see what's what. You'll get your money tomorrow." The man sure spoke loud. It was the voice and not the tone or words that made Max's blood run cold.

Philip watched Max's head spin to the voice. Before he could say anything, Max was out of his chair and making his way across the room. "Max?"

Max couldn't even think, just react. Marching, striding over to the side of the bar where that voice had come from. The men looked up when the teenager stormed over to their table near the bar's TV. The man never knew what hit him. Max's fist connected with his face and the man went down. Before Max realized what he had done, several men were holding him back.

Philip rushed over. He could scarcely believe what his eyes saw. His normally mild-mannered son had just knocked someone out cold. He rushed over to see what the trouble was. No one was getting through to Max, whose eyes were still fixed on the man on the floor. "Son, what just happened?"

"It's him." Max whispered and the room fell silent save for the game on the TV. "It's him."

"Who?" Philip got in his son's face. "What did you do, Max?"

"That's the man, Dad." Max snapped out of his daze. "That's the man that shot Liz Parker."

Philip furrowed his brow and looked down at the man, like he'd be able to recognize someone he'd never seen. "Max, are you sure?"

"The man was sitting not twenty feet away from me when he pulled that gun. I saw him. He killed Liz Parker. Someone call the cops, make a citizen's arrest before he wakes up. Call Maria DeLuca, she was his waitress. She can ID him." Max found himself babbling and then leaning into his father for support. During the outburst, bar personnel had called the cops.

--

Diane leapt to her feet when the front door opened. When her husband and son walked in the door, she pounced. "Where on earth have the two of you been?"

Philip lifted his hands for her to quiet and nodded Max to his room. Max trudged down the hall, catching only parts of his father's explanation to his mother. Max could barely believe it himself. He had solved a murder. No one really knew who had done it. There weren't many clues for the cops to go on. Just the iffy descriptions the other waitresses had given and the bullet they pulled from Liz's body.

When he opened his bedroom door, he was surprised to find her sitting on his bed, tears in her eyes. "Hey Max."

"Hey." Max shut the door behind him and sat beside her. Judging from her countenance, she knew. "His name was Albert Barrows. It was over a bet. Gambling."

"I know." She nodded and looked at him, shaking her head. "It's not over, Max. You did a good thing. You caught him. Who knows if it might have happened again? It's not over for you, though. In some ways… what you did was worse."

"I know. I'm living with it. I could have stopped it and I didn't. I could have saved you but I was too wrapped up in my own little world, too scared of being discovered. Truth is… I wanted to give my life for yours when I saw you dying there." Max let the tears slip out of his eyes as he flopped backward on the bed.

"I know. They know. You have more to do. Get some rest, Max."
posted on 4-Sep-2002 4:53:17 PM by DMartinez
[center]Part 7[/center]

Max shook his head and took a deep breath. She was standing right behind him, he could feel it. He punched the numbers and waited through three rings before someone answered. "Yeah, um, this is Max Evans. Is Donna home?"

He heard a mumbled curse and then the smiling voice of Donna Mason. "Brother? … Got a sister remember? She'll be in here as soon as she realizes the phone hasn't rung in a while… It's not that she doesn't like you… It's the whole social hierarchy at school… Well I'm on the bottom rung with the rest of the losers… Anyway, I am. I'm not anybody's hero… Well, living with my sister is quite an accomplishment… Actually, I called to see what you were doing tonight… Oh… No, it's cool. I understand… Well, it is last minute and all… No, don't do that. We can do something some other time… I'm not worth it… I mean, I'll keep. No big deal… Really, I'm good. I'll talk to you in Trig, Monday."

He hung up the phone feeling more disappointed than he had sounded on the phone. It took her all of a minute to offer her condolences. "Sorry Max. Guess you'll have to try again some other day."

"It's not like we're dating-dating." Max shook his head and turned around. "I mean, we went on one date. I didn't call her afterward and we barely talk in class."

"She likes you though." Liz shrugged her shoulders.

"I can't just expect her to be available when I call, right?"

"Right. What was her excuse?"

"Her and her brother were going to see their grandmother. She was going to try to get out of it but I know she'd get in trouble." Max leaned against the door. "I'll just catch her next weekend, right?" Nodded to her nod. "Why the hell am I so nervous about asking her something five days from now?"

"Because you like her. Have you ever liked anyone enough to get nervous?"

"Just one person and it wasn't an option to be nervous about." He ran a hand through his hair. "I considered her out of my league and an impossibility."

"I would have said yes." She threw a mock-punch at him. "Chances are, she's telling the truth and she would have disappointed her poor lonely grandmother to spent the afternoon with you… even if it meant a TV-date."

"I don't even really watch TV." Max nodded when she rolled her eyes. "I know, I know, beside the point."

"You also don't want to come off too desperate." She reminded him as he left the room. She followed but knew he wouldn't acknowledge her in the presence of others. "Don't lie to her but don't always be available. You could try out for a sport, give you guys something to talk about and something for you to do that doesn't involve her but she could always go and cheer you on."

Max glanced around. "That means a physical and I can't afford that."

"It doesn't cost much." She stopped in her tracks at his expression. "Oh. Sorry." She followed him out the door, into the Jeep and to the video store, still talking. ”I'm just always forgetting what's different about you is all. Then I have to remember what you know and what they want you to know. This is a stressful job."

Max shook his head at himself. "I'll bet no one's assignment was an alien before."

"You're probably right."

Max sometimes wished she would leave him alone long enough to pick out a movie but she followed him from the drama section to the action section to the thriller section. He didn't realize until he got home he had picked three human nature movies. He was glad that Liz hadn't said anything. He had been in that stupid store for an hour and a half just looking around, picking up movies and putting them back. He was considering driving right back to exchange them when he spotted a familiar car in front of the house. When he opened the front door, he wanted the run the other way. His mother was sitting on the couch with Donna, a photo album open on their laps. Eyes turned toward Liz, he groaned. "I'm being punished."

"Max, you're home." Diane smiled at him and motioned for him to sit with them. "I was just showing you off."

"With old pictures?" He groaned and set his movie bag down. "This is reserved for high crimes. It's cruel and unusual."

"Not so unusual." Diane jabbed him in the ribs.

"Then just plain cruel then." Max offered Donna a smile. "Hi."

"Hi. She was just showing me pictures of you and Isabel at the beach."

"No, not with the pillows and the cast." Max groaned.

"It was not a cast. You only sprained your ankle."

"It was cute. You look lost on that pile of pillows." Donna threw him a sly smile.

"This is unfair. You're ganging up on me." Max protested. "I thought you were visiting your grandmother today."

She smiled broadly. "Made us leave. They're worried about her high blood pressure but that's just Granny. She wanted to go live there to be with her friends and we don't rile her up, she riles herself up. She's something else."

"We can all only hope to be that lively at her age." Diane closed the book and stood. "I think I'll leave the two of you, for now."

Max waited until she left and chose to ignore Liz sitting across the way. "So, you came over."

"Well, you know, I dropped my brother at home and thought I'd swing by and see what you were up to. You weren't here but your mom invited me in." She tossed her hair over her shoulder and turned her body toward him. "You rented movies?"

"Yeah. I wasn't even really sure what I got until I got home. Couple of new releases and a really old movie." He shrugged. "I haven't really seen any of them but I know I saw one of those featurette things on like HBO or something on one of them." He reached over and dropped the bag in her lap. "I was just going to bum around tonight… care to join me?"

"I think I might." She dropped her eyes to the bag in her lap and slowly, she pulled the movies out. "Can't say I've heard of Fortress."

"I think I might have seen it once when I was a kid. Old, old movie." Max leaned back on the couch and waited for her appraisal on the remainder of the movies.

"Boiler Room… huh… I don't think I've heard of that one."

"Tag said Wall Street for the New Millennium." He shrugged. "Thought I'd try it."

"Wait… Vin Diesel." Her mouth turned up. "Can't say I'd refuse to watch it if he's in it."

"Is that a new criterion of yours?"

"It is now… I've seen Pitch Black. I even watched the Iron Giant to hear his voice." She reached out and pinched his leg. "I love the effects in that one."

"The Iron Giant?" He laughed at her. "Effects in a cartoon?"

"Pitch Black." She scoffed and swatted him with the movie.

"Well, I'm glad you approve." Max got to his feet to put the movie in. "You, uh, thirsty or anything?"

"Just some water."

"Coming right up." Max nodded and went to retrieve the glass and a soda for himself. They settled in to watch the movie and Max had to admit that the movie unsettled him immediately. Dark gravelly voice of the villain, appraising the cabin full of Cryo-sleeping passengers. Villain escaped twice in the first 10 minutes. "Oh geez."

"What the shoulder dislocation?" She barely turned her head toward him. A slow smile crossed her face. "Baby."

"Baby?" Max blinked at her. "The guy popped his shoulders out of joint to escape. He's a murderer." He quieted when she took his hand and pointed to the screen.

"Watch it. You won't dislike him as much as you think you will." She reassured him and squeezed his hand. He resigned himself to watching the movie but all his attention was on the hand in his. One time, she caught him looking at her. "He's messing with them, from the beginning."

"Why?"

"Because he can and they have no choice but to trust him. He plays them the entire time." She shifted and turned her eyes back to the movie. "He was awake while everyone was in Cryo-sleep. He notices things no one else does, he plays them all on their own fears and idiosyncrasies. He knew Jack was a girl from at least when Fry was interrogating him about Zeke. 'Cute kid.' was a dig that no one gets."

"And you do?" Max nudged her leg with their linked hands.

"I… watched it eight times when it came out. I've got my DVD on order." She admitted with a blush. "The struggle that you don't see is the one that interests me. Fry is dealing with her conscience. She almost killed all of them and she wouldn't survive without them but she also might have faired better without them. She's the easiest to mess with. She's fascinated with Riddick and he knows it. She's afraid but he's attractive to her. Jack is an infatuated child. He doesn't need her but it's interesting to him that she looks up to a murderer. He also pities that. Johns is what he said in the beginning, 'blue-eyed devil.' Imam is a little harder because of his faith, but he loses three boys--"

"Hey! Jack's a girl? The other boy dies?" Max thumped her leg. "We haven't gotten that far into the movie, punk."

"Well you saw the skiff, like all those people would fit in that thing." Donna thumped him back. They barely even heard the doorbell ring or see Mrs. Evans go answer it. "You know people are going to die and it's survival of the fittest here."

"Let me watch it." Max wrapped an arm around her to clamp a hand over her mouth. "Much better." They wrestled a little until Max looked up and saw the Sheriff standing there. He shut off the movie and turned his attention to the man standing there. "Sheriff Valenti?"

"Afternoon, son. Max, I have to ask you a few questions about what happened yesterday in Clovis. It'll only take a minute." Valenti turned his hat in his hands.

"Max?" Donna turned wide eyes on him.

"No need to worry, Miss Mason, Max helped us solve a crime is all." Valenti reassured her and he and Mrs. Evans took a seat. "I don't know if you want to discuss this in private but I have to follow up on this."

"I'm sure Max will cooperate." Diane nodded.

"You will have to stay in the room while we talk." Sheriff told her.

"I'll just step into the kitchen." Donna let go of Max's hand and brushed past them to the doorway that Max had disappeared into an hour before.

"Now, Max…" Valenti pulled out his notepad. "You were in Clovis when you identified Albert Barrows as the gunmen involved in the Crashdown shooting last year." He cleared his throat. "How did you know it was him?"

"I recognized him. My dad and I were eating and I saw him. He looked familiar but I didn't know where from until he started shouting about a gambling debt. It was the same voice I heard the day of the shooting." Max rubbed his palms on his pants.

"But you weren't there the day of the shooting." Valenti flipped through his pad to verify against a list of names taken.

"Yes, I was." Max shot a look at his mother and then looked to the Sheriff. "Ask anyone who was there… My, uh, I was there. I… I watched her die, Sheriff. Then I ran."

"Why?" Valenti's blue eyes settled on the nervous young man.

"We were scared. She was my lab partner. I saw her everyday at school and I watched her die. The man with the gun got away and she was dying. I was scared. We left before the ambulance showed up." Max felt the tears welling up in his eyes.

"Okay. It's okay." Sheriff made a note and shut his notebook. "I'm going to have to ask some people to verify that you were there, or else we'll have a mistrial. You're the only person to positively identify him and if we can't be sure that you were there… there's reasonable doubt. Anyone we should see in particular?"

"Maria DeLuca. She was our waitress… and his." Max saw the questioning look on his face. "I had a crush on one of the waitresses… I knew their sections."

"Okay then… hopefully we won't need you but you may have to testify to what you saw." Sheriff got to his feet. "I'll show myself out. Have a good afternoon folks."

Max cleared his throat and looked at his mother. "Not easy being a crime-solver."

"Guess not." She kissed his head. "I didn't realize you had been there, Max."

"I guess I wish there was something I could have done different that day. Not gone, or tried to help." He wrapped his arms around himself. "I ran." He took a breath and then his eyes fell on the video box. "Donna." He jumped to his feet and rushed into the kitchen where she was helping herself to another glass of water. "Hey."

"Hey." She shifted nervously. "Should I go?"

"No, he's gone. Let's go finish the movie." Max nodded to the living room.

"You sure?" Brow furrowed.

"No big deal." Shrug of the shoulders. "We'll finish the movie and you'll be quiet while I decide for myself if I like the villain."

"But you already realize that he's not really the villain don't you?" She leapt into movie mode as they moved back into the living room. "He is but he isn't. You'll see. You'll like him." She took his hand and they sank back onto the couch. "You'll see his conscience at work and you'll either forgive him or you'll hate him for what he does. If you study his position to save or let die and follow who wrongs him in the movie, it makes sense." Max nodded and turned his attention back to the movie and his date.

TBC
posted on 29-Sep-2002 12:21:08 AM by DMartinez
Part 8


Michael shook his head and shoved Max in the process of sitting down to eat his lunch. Elbowed Max when he opened his milk. Continued to elbow Max as he dug into his lunch. Max stared at him. "Am I in your way or is the last two feet of this bench crowded with the invisible friends that keep you so cheery?"

"Bite me." Michael growled. "And I thought you were the one with the invisible friends."

"Like I was saying…" Max shoved Michael back and returned his attention to Donna, ignoring the dig about his invisible friend… she actually kinda was. "I'm not really into dances or anything… I was hoping you wouldn't mind going someplace else that night…"

"Where have you been, Max?" Donna nudged his foot with hers. "I don't like dances. My mom is always trying to make me into her personal Barbie doll for these things. Make it worth the fight and we'll get out of it."

"Like what?"

"Surprise me." She shot Michael a look when he rolled his eyes at her.

"Maxwell, can you ask Anna-Nicole if she'll give us a moment?" Michael narrowed his eyes at the brunette but she didn't back down.

"I don't know, Puck. I'm quite comfortable where I am." She smiled sweetly at him.

"Alright, Man's Best Friend, Cujo. Back in your corners." Max held his hands out. He could hear Liz laughing behind him but barely flared a nostril in response.

"Whatever." Michael slammed his milk on his tray and left. Max stared after him in confusion. Michael's attitude had been getting worse and worse of late.

"You'd better go talk to him." Her voice had suddenly gone soft. She opened her mouth, closed it and then opened it again. "Is there something going on at his place?"

"What do you mean?" Max stared after Michael.

"Yesterday… I thought he had a black eye." Donna whispered, hazel eyes full of concern.

"It was nothing." Max immediately dismissed it with a shake of his head and finished his lunch, all the while keeping an eye out for Michael and Isabel. That unspoken agreement not to acknowledge the regular beatings that Michael got. "I'll talk to him tonight."

"Um…" She didn't quite know how to make the subject change without sounding stupid but she was going to try. "So. Implied dates."

"What?" Max snapped his head up.

"Uh-oh Max. She's going for it." Liz hissed at him.

He furrowed his brow and waited for Donna to continue. "Implied dates. Kinda implies that we're exclusive." When she saw the perpetual confusion on his face, she cleared her throat. "You assumed that if we were going to the dance that we'd be going together."

"Oh. Was that wrong?"

"Oh, um…. Not really. I was hoping you'd ask me anyway but I'm glad you suggested something else… which is beside the point." She smiled down to her tray. "I was just wondering where we were. Dating or just hanging out."

"There. See. She went for it."

Max ignored Liz and focused on Donna. "I guess I just assumed that we had been dating. I've never had to do this before. It's new. I don't know the rules." He took a breath. "I mean, everyone else kinda assumes the same thing. I heard today that we were… well never mind what they said."

"No, what did they say?" She pressed.

"The guys in the locker room said that we were…" Max searched his vocabulary for a decent word and he was coming up short. "Together… in a… physical way."

"Seriously?" she snorted. "Well, obviously you didn't start that." Max tilted his head at her obviously wanting an explanation. "You've stalled on first base. I'm not complaining. I'm just saying." She stared at him for a long moment. "You know… you're the first guy I've dated that actually switched from staring at my chest to looking me in the eye."

Max nearly choked on his soda and blinked at her. "Good thing, right?"

"Yeah." She gathered her trash. "We're gonna be late for class."

--

Max was about to open his mouth to yell at Liz for a badly timed joke when he spotted Michael sitting on his bed. He shut the door behind him. Michael looked up. "Got time for me or are you too busy talking to yourself?"

"What's up?" Max sank into his chair.

"Nothing."

"Donna saw your black eye before, I assume Isabel fixed it. Why didn't you tell me?" Max leaned forward. "You used to keep this stuff from her, not me."

"You haven't exactly been the rock you used to be." Michael countered. "Isabel and I… we've… had dreams."

"Dreams."

"Together dreams… not like she's dreamwalking me but like one of us keeps having the same dream and we're sharing it." Michael ran a hand through his hair. "The… uh, the day I got the black eye, I asked her to fix it and when she touched me… Max, something happened to me." He looked to his friend. "Something alien and it scared the crap out of me. I kissed Isabel."

"What?" Max furrowed his brow. That thought was insane to him. Michael and Isabel. It was wrong.

"It felt wrong but right, Maxwell. Like even though she's supposed to be my sister, she's supposed to be mine." Michael shot up off the bed and started pacing. "It's making me insane. Are you having dreams?"

"I haven't really been sleeping." Max admitted. Michael's slight nod to himself tipped Max off to the fact that Michael and Isabel had indeed been paying attention to him and just not said a word about it.

"It's scaring the crap out of us, Max. Isabel and I haven't spoken in two days… not since the… kiss." Michael ran a hand over his face. "Can I crash in here tonight?"

"Sure." Max nodded. "I'll try to talk to Isabel but she hasn't been talking much to me since I started dating Donna." He sighed heavily and turned it over in his head. It didn't make any sense. "You sure that it's alien?"

"Definitely. There are things in the dream that I know but I've never seen in my waking hours." Michael relaxed a little. Max hadn't spaced out and he seemed focused on the dilemma. Just like the Max he had known for most of his life. It gave him strength.

"Where have you been going?" Max asked softly. "Instead of coming here."

"Don't want to talk about it." Michael shook his head.

"I wish there was something we could do."

"You and me both." Michael shifted uncomfortably. He didn't like to talk about it. They never talked about it, they talked around it but never about it. "So, you and Donna?"

"It's alright." Max nodded his head. He wanted to share with Michael all the things that he had learned about himself through Liz but he couldn't. "She's great."

"No explosions?"

"Explosions?" Max furrowed his brow.

"I heard about the movie thing."

"It was just kissing. Nothing weird has happened. It's a huge weight off, you know?" They sat in silence for awhile.

"You tempted to tell her?"

"No."

"No?" Michael picked his head up.

"I would never do anything to hurt you guys." Max shook his head. "She hasn't seen me do anything. She doesn't suspect. She thinks I'm a normal guy."

"Good." Michael nodded and lay back on his bed, sore muscles screaming at him. "Good. That's good." More silence. "When do you testify?"

"I might not have to. Maria DeLuca and Agnus, that old woman waitress… they both IDed him." Max sighed. "I left your name out of it. I don't even think people remember that you were there too."

"Good." Michael let out a breath.

"Take my bed tonight." Max whispered. "I'll take the floor."

"Sure?" He lifted himself off the bed to look at his friend. A soft bed would do his bruised body a lot of good.

"Go for it. I don't sleep anyway. Being comfortable just reminds me." Max shrugged and nodded to Liz. She crossed her arms and sank to the floor. He tilted the chair back and stared at the ceiling. "You know, you can talk to me about anything you want. I'm usually here during the week. Weekend plans can be cancelled."

"Nah." Michael grunted. "But knowing is good."

"Ever feel like you're out of place. Like…" Max stopped at Michael's snort but after a quick breath, he continued. "Like we're supposed to be different, that we haven't allowed ourselves to be ourselves?"

"Um… Confucius?" Michael rolled to his side. "You've succeeded."

"Shut up. I'm serious. What if we're not human enough? What if we're not alien enough?"

"Must be why our parents ditched us on this rock." Michael muttered but looked at Max. "I wouldn't know, Maxwell. I've never been human. I wouldn't know how to act like one."

"But we've been acting our whole lives, what if we stopped acting and started living?"

"Scary. Insightful but scary thought, man." He thought about it. "I couldn't do it."

TBC
posted on 4-Oct-2002 8:38:03 PM by DMartinez
[center]Part 9[/center]

Max hesitated on the doorstep. Liz sighed heavily. "Just ring the doorbell.”

"I've never met her family before." Max started to back away. "I mean, we go out. We meet someplace or she's at my place. I don't know her parents and I don't know her brothers. What if they hate me? What if they know?" He rambled on and on until he registered Liz snapping her fingers in his face.

"They won't know. Hey… I had to die before I found out." She raised an eyebrow at him and felt only a little guilty at the guilty look on his face. "Ring the doorbell. Talk to whoever answers. Be nice, be charming, be yourself. They're gonna love you. What's the plan for tonight?"

"Hang for a while here and then see what we want to do. I want to take her to that new place down on North Avenue. The new Italian restaurant." He took a deep breath and reached for the doorbell… then pulled his finger back at the last moment.

"It'll be fine. You just be a gentleman. It seems to be working." She leaned against the house and waited for him to push the doorbell. "She likes you. You're Mr. Boy Scout. Mr. I-won't-molest-your-daughter-unless-she-molests-me-first. Ring the doorbell."

"Ok." He took another deep breath and pushed the button. A chime filled the air and then slow footsteps. After a few moments, the door swung inward and guy stood there staring with indifference. He gave a raspy cough and stared. It was then Max noticed how pale this was in comparison with Donna, though there was a familial resemblance. When Liz cleared her throat, Max reached out with his right hand. "Hi, nice to meet you. I'm Max."

"Max, huh." The guy stared some more, this time looking Max over from head to toe. "Donna's boyfriend, huh." He snorted and walked off… slowly. He coughed at the end of the small entry hallway, clutching his chest he called out, "Donna! Some boy's here."

"He's here?" A deep, yet feminine voice called out. Soon there was woman, about Donna's height but slightly on the heavy side, who came rushing to the door with a bright smile. "You must be Max."

"Hi. Um, yeah." Max nodded and held out his hand to shake hers but was swept into a hug that reminded him of his grandmother on his mother's side.

"I'm Leticia, Donna's mom. You can call me Leti." Mrs. Mason led him into the house, shutting the door behind them. "You've met Ritchie." She pointed to the tall, thin boy still standing beside the entryway. She looked the boy over for a moment. "You want to go lay down?"

"I'm fine." He waved her off.

Then her attention was on the three other boys in the den. "This is the den. These boys are Roberto, Rudolfo, and Benny. He belongs to the neighbors. My husband is around here somewhere." She ushered Max into a seat across from the boys. "Donna is still getting ready. I don't know why you kids aren't going to the dance. When I was your age I went to all the dances with Kellen."

"And you went to all the weddings and all the quinceañeras." Ritchie mumbled from where he still stood against the wall.

"Shush." Leti swatted him. "So Max, your parents are lawyers?"

"Yeah. Um… My dad's got an office downtown near the courthouse and another office over in Clovis." Max nodded and felt the heat rising in his face. Everyone was staring at him.

"Mom! I can't zip up this dress!" A voice came from down the hall. Leti made a quick excuse and rushed down the hall, leaving Max alone in the room with Donna's brothers and their friend.

"You like my sister?" Rudolfo asked. Max started to nod but quickly thought better of it when Rudolfo opened his mouth again. "She's a good girl. You treat her nice or else."

"You're a Junior, right?" Roberto asked and Max nodded.

"Okay. Okay." Benny joined in. "We're all seniors… except for Ritchie over there." Max turned to look at Ritchie, who mock saluted. "He's in college." Benny cleared his throat and had Max's attention back on the three boys on the couch. "We're not afraid to be a little rough when it comes to protecting la niña. Entiende me?"

"Um… yeah." Max's wide eyes searched for something safe to look at.

"Donna's the baby, homes." Roberto leaned forward to get Max's attention. "We'll take you out. For reals."

"Shut up." Ritchie groaned and crossed the room to smack his brother upside the head. "Rudy." He jerked his head to the side.

"Sorry, Max." Rudy shook his head. "Benny and Bobby think they're living Bound by Honor, man. They both think they're Miklo." Rudy shrugged. "Seriously, though. You don't treat Donna like a lady and we won't treat you like a man. Got it?"

"Our sister is a pretty girl. We know this." Ritchie stated but Max caught all the unspoken in his words.

"Got it." Max nodded and was never more relieved when Donna emerged from the hallway. She stopped short and looked around the room.

"You guys better have been nice." Donna glared at them. Then she rushed to Max, who had risen from his seat. "They didn't threaten you, did they?"

"No. No. We're all good friends." Max nodded. He was going to get dizzy if he nodded once more to anyone. He wanted to look at her but wisely kept his eyes on her face. "You ready?"

"Almost. I gotta go get my dad. He's around here someplace and he wants to meet you. Think you'll stand one more minute of my brothers?"

"Sure." Max nodded and sank back down into the chair. It was 45 unbearably silent seconds until Donna returned with a barrel of a man. Max shot out of the chair. "Hi, Mr. Mason."

"Please, call me Kellen." The thick voice rumbled and Max knew where the boys got their voices. "So. Where are we going?" He slung an arm around Max's shoulder and guided him into the kitchen.

"Um… we were just going to decide that for sure in a little while. I wanted to take Donna to uh… Capetto's." Max managed to eek out. "Then maybe we'd go to um, the park. There's a couple of bands that are going to play…"

"And what time will we be home?"

Max shot a look to Donna, who shrugged. He cleared this throat. "Eleven?"

"Are you thirsty, Max?" Kellen opened the refrigerator and pulled out a Budweiser.

"I don't drink… alcohol, sir." Max shook his head. "I'll take a glass of water though."

"Sure." Donna gave him a weary smile and pulled a glass from the cabinet.

"Uh-huh." Kellen opened his beer and took a long pull on the bottle. "Capetto's is well-lit?"

"Um, I'll ask for a table under a light and near the entrance." Max gratefully took the glass from Donna and took a big swallow.

"So, dinner in public, bands at the park… not the parking lot."

"No, of course not."

"Daddy." Donna groaned and rolled her eyes.

"And home by…" Kellen tilted his head at the boy then looked past them to his wife, who had her arms crossed in the doorway. "11:30."

"Yes sir." Max managed and set the glass in the sink. He held out his hand. "It was pleasure to meet you."

"I like this one." Kellen nodded to his daughter, shook Max's hand, and gestured to the door. "Have a good time. Call if you have car trouble." He held Max back a second at the door and whispered in his ear. "Take care of my baby or else I'll sic my three boys after you."

"Yes sir."

"Good. Bye!"

Max guided Donna by the elbow from the house to his Jeep. Once they were inside, he let out a huge breath and laid his head on the steering wheel. She reached over and touched his arm. "That bad?"

"Oh yeah." Max shook it off and started the car. "Let's go."

"Yes please." She laughed. "They're not as bad as they seem."

"Oh yeah, they loved me." Max managed a laugh. "Your brother Ritchie… I really think he doesn't like me." She didn't say anything. "How old is he?"

"23." The only words out of her mouth as she stared out the window until they parked at the restaurant. "He's doing really well in his classes. He gets these scholarships and just keeps on going. He's my hero."

"What's his major?"

"Medical research something or other. He wants to be able to find a cure for cancer." Her smile was bitter and didn't reach her eyes. "He can't wait to start his internships." She cleared her throat and motioned. "Capetto's huh. I heard it's nice."

"Me too." Max shut off the engine and rushed around to get her door. "Come on."

Dinner went smoothly. Donna made him taste his food before he pulled out his bottle of Tabasco sauce. The park was nice. She made him dance to the slower songs and raced with him during the rest of the songs, nearly falling and tearing her dress in the process. Max found himself smiling for no reason at all as he sank down into the grass beside her to catch his breath. The music was just a faint rumble.

The kisses were soft at first and Max noticed the change. Usually she was the aggressor but tonight, she let him be the aggressor. As he leaned over her, he realized that she finally trusted him. That's when the images came. Images of Donna in points of her life that she had never discussed with him or any that he could possibly know about. One stood out. Donna was twelve, in a hospital, reading next to a bed, tears streaming down her face.

Max pulled away and looked her over, hand caressing her small waist over the soft swell of her hip. The dress was soft and her mother had probably made it. Yes, he had seen images of her standing for hours while her mother pinned and tucked. Slowly, he caught his breath. "You look nice, tonight. This is a pretty dress."

"Thank you." A worried look melted away with her smile. "I'll let my mother know you like the dress."

"She made it."

"Yeah. She did." Donna nodded and laid her head back on the soft grass. "She likes you. So does Ritchie."

"I don't know." Max shook his head slightly. "He didn't seem to."

"He's just trying to look out for me." Her hands brushed the hair off his forehead.

"Is…" Max almost didn't ask the question. "Is he sick?"

"Yeah. He's got CLL." Her eyes went dull and he got the impression that she was staring right through him. "It's kind of leukemia. He's had it for a long time. It wasn't hardly anything when he was 13… I was only six. I didn't understand then. He got really sick when he was in high school. He missed a year and then he was better. I remember that he was better. Then when I was 12, he got sick again. It was really bad. We didn't think he was going to get better.

"I went everyday after school and I read to him. He was out of it most of the time, painkillers and chemo. When he finally got to come home, he told me that was his favorite part of the day." She smiled through tears. "He uh… had a mild relapse a while back he was just getting into his school and then sick. He pulled through a lot quicker though. He's been doing good though. He gets tired sometimes. Tonight, he wasn't feeling so good but he had to check you out."

Max stayed silent a while, then reached out to wipe away the tears from her face. "I bet he hates it when your mom babies him. I know she does it."

"Yeah, she does." She laughed. "She's always harping on him to rest more and to stay home at night but he's gotta get out. He lives with us because he can't afford rent on a part time job and going to school part time. My dad gets her off his back though. He knows that Ritchie needs to go out and have fun." Then she laughed louder. "One of the times I went with him to the doctor, the doctor told him to go out and have fun. To have a drink once in a while. He's a funny man."

"I have a question." Max smiled. "How on earth did you end up with the name Donna?" When she laughed, he smiled wider. "Ritchie, I can assume is short for Ricardo, Rudolfo and Roberto. Your mom said her name was Leticia."

"Okay. My mom is Mexican, as you can tell. She's got this obsession with Ritchie Valenz. Obviously Ritchie was named after him. Bobby was named after his brother and Rudy after one of the friends, I think. I, being the girl, was named after his girlfriend. My dad just let her have at it."

The beeping reached him and his head dropped onto Donna's shoulder. "Man." He murmured and made a show of look at his watch. "It's time to go."

"Alright." Donna waited as he got to his feet so he could pull her to hers. "Let's go." The ride back was silent and Max was careful to keep on hand on the wheel and the other on the back of her seat when she kissed him goodnight. They were a minute late she suggested that he not get down. She laughed when he eagerly accepted her plan. "Night."

"Night. I'll call you tomorrow or something."

"Okay." She pecked him on the lips once more and raced up to the door. She waved before she shut the door.

Max had to smile to himself before pulling back onto the road. His spirits were flying high by the time he got home. He jogged to the door, hummed to himself as he got himself something to drink and headed for his room. Muffled sounds got his attention. Liz's voice.

"It'll be okay. Sh. Please stop crying. Sh. He'll be here soon. Please, don't cry." Max could hear the tears in her voice and crept into his room. Michael lay crying on the sleeping bag beside the bed. Liz was kneeling next to him, looking lost. "Michael, please…" She looked up and spotted Max. "He's been like this for three hours. He's not so good. A lot of bruises.”

Max set down his glass and moved to Michael's side. He didn't say anything, he just sat and carefully put a hand on Michael's arm. Michael flinched immediately but calmed down as soon as he realized where he was and who was touching him. "He can't do this to me anymore. I won't let him."

"I won't let him either." Max reassured him. Michael sat up and wiped at his eyes. "I can't heal you this time."

"Why not?"

"Because I'm not going to let him do it again. We're taking him to court. We're getting you out of there and they need to see what he's done." Max bit his lip as his finger reached out to brush a particularly dark bruise on Michael's cheekbone. "No more. Right?"

"No more."

"I'm going to wake up Dad." Max started to his feet but Michael dragged him back down.

"No, Maxwell. No."

"He can help."

"No!" Michael screamed.

"Michael, yes! Let me go get him." Max jumped to his feet and leapt over the bed. Michael was hot on his feet and the door slammed shut just as it opened.

"No!"

"Michael!" Max shouted and then pinned him to the wall. "Michael! Listen to me. My dad will help. We'll do this as discreetly as we can. Okay? The second things get weird, we'll take care of it, alright? Let me go get him and we can start looking over our options."

The door swung open and Philip sagged in the doorway. "What in the hell is going on in here, boys?"

"Dad." Max nodded to Michael and when Michael turned his face away, Max turned his face to his father. "This is what's going on and we're not going to let it happen again. Right, Michael?"

"No. We aren't." Michael whispered, his eyes pointed downward.

"My god." Philip nudged Max out of the way. "Who did this to you?"

"My foster dad." Michael admitted and sank to the floor, tears streaming from his face.

"How old are you, Michael?" Philip asked. "Let's see what we can do about this."

TBC
posted on 7-Oct-2002 12:57:58 AM by DMartinez
[center]Part 10[/center]

Max paced the hallway outside the courtroom. The district attorney had told him to be ready to testify but that he probably wasn't needed. Liz tried to soothe him but he wasn't even listening to her, so she gave up talking to him and decided that she would just talk. "I can't believe all this fuss is over me. It's been so long." She furrowed her brow. "I can't go in and look at my parents. I feel bad… like I should tell them that I'm fine… but I'm not really. I'm still dead any way you look at it."

"I know." Max finally said and sank onto a bench. "It's not fair. You were going to do something with your life. Me, I'm just wading through. I don't even belong here. Dad wants me to come help him out at the office. Filing and that stuff. I could do it but I feel bad. I never helped him before and now he's going to pay me." He sighed heavily. "I'm not worthy to be here."

"Max, shut up. There are things you don't know… things you don't realize about yourself." She sat next to him. "I know that I'm a royal pain in the ass and you're tired of me hanging around but there's a reason for all of this. Maybe things would have been different if you had saved me but we can't go back. There's a destiny plotted out for you and there are things you have to overcome. Number one being that you are human. You look human. You sound human. You think like a human." She spotted the tears in his eyes. "Not all of you is alien. And that we can thank your parents for."

Max started to thank her for saying so when the doors opened. Maria DeLuca let the doors shut behind her before she broke down. She sobbed into her hands and Max had to go comfort her. He led her to a seat and it was a while before she stopped crying enough to see who had her. "Max?"

"Hey Maria."

"What are you doing here?"

"Hoping I don't have to testify." He smiled wanly. He nodded to the unspoken question. "He's going away."

"I know but Liz is still gone and that… It had just gotten better, you know? I just barely stopped thinking of her everyday, everywhere I went and then bam. Sorry, Maria, you gotta testify, we think we got the guy." She sighed and wiped at her eyes, missing the warmth of his arm when he pulled it away. "I'm glad though. He's finally going to get what's coming to him."

"Yeah." Max nodded and glanced at Liz where she was standing in front of them. The silence strung out for long moments.

"You know…" Maria wiped at her nose. "This is weird. Sitting here with you. Liz always had such a big crush on you but she was convinced you'd never look at her." She managed a smile. "But I caught you, mister. I always saw you staring at her when she was working."

"Maria!” Liz gasped and Max had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing at her.

"I always thought you guys would make a cute couple, especially when you ended up her lab partner. I was so sure that you guys were finally going to wake up and be together forever… you know… after she dumped Kyle." The blond brushed away a strand of hair. "I'm right, though. You liked her too?"

Max slid his eyes to the ground. "Yeah, I did. I was actually happy just to be able to pass her the HCl when she needed it. I never thought…"

"Men, you're so dense." Maria snorted and finally succeeded in wiping all the wetness from her face. "I knew it, though. You have always been head over heels in love with her. The way you used to follow us around the mall with your sister. Then you'd stare at her all day in class. I was worried about you, mi hijito. I have to ask you. What in the world a—"

"Am I doing with Donna Mason?" Max huffed and sat back on the bench. He held out a finger to stop her speech. "Before you say another word, no, it is not obvious."

"Okay. Hint taken." Maria shook her head slowly. "But you're smiling a lot. We've all noticed and it's too bad Donna snatched you up. I could have set you up on so many dates."

"Maria, this is the most we've ever spoken to each other in our entire lives put together." He gave her a look and she conceded.

"So maybe you're right." She grimaced. "I don't think they're going to need you in there. I don't know how you did it but that was the guy." She wiped at her eyes even though the tears had yet to appear again.

"I miss her." Liz whispered.

"Liz was my best friend since we were five." Maria took a shuddering breath and stood up. "We shared everything. Clothes, make-up… stayed up late to talk about boys and now without her… I would dial her number and remember after the first ring. Alex and me, it's not the same." She sighed again. "I feel guilty for living when she's not."

"Max, tell her something." Liz clutched at her heart. "Tell her I want her to live."

"I… uh, I think, she would want you to move on with your life." Max stammered.

"But, I don't want to forget her."

"Then don't. Just think about how happy she'd be if you were happy." Then Max knew he had hit the right button.

"Yeah, she would be. I just wish I could get a handle on life without her. It's stopped poking at the wound but it's not healed. It's all wet and raw…"

"And I get the gory, juicy picture."

"Right." She blushed. "I've gotta go get cleaned up. Good luck if they call you in."

"Thanks." Max nodded. Liz sank onto the chair beside him.

"She's going to be okay.”

"Yeah. I think she is."

--

Michael wiped his hands on his pants and sat next to Isabel. She hesitantly put an arm around him. Deputy Blackwood noted the boy's tension and raised an eyebrow. "So you don't know anything about this?"

Michael shook his head and let out a breath when Max entered the house. He jerked his head to the policeman. Max slowed his steps. "What's going on?"

"Just asking a few questions." Blackwood nodded to the boy. "Michael, where were you the night in question?"

"I was here." Michael answered honestly.

"Witnesses?"

"Not really."

"Which night?" Max looked around the room.

"The night…" Michael motioned to his face.

"Oh. I got home around midnight and he had already been here awhile." Max moved to sit on the other side of Michael. "My parents can back that up."

"Okay." Blackwood made a note in his pad.

"I heard him come in at around… ten." Isabel nodded. "My room is next to Max's and I heard the window open."

"The window." Blackwood repeated and just nodded. "I think that's all for now. Mind telling me if there was an altercation before you left your residence?"

"Yeah." Michael ducked his head. "There… was a fight. That's why I came here."

"The man beat Michael." Isabel nearly yelled. "Michael didn't do anything to him. He never would."

"Uh-huh."

"Actually, he's filing for a transfer." Max filled in.

"You're staying here?" Blackwood looked to Michael.

"Yeah, for now." Michael nodded.

"Don't leave too soon. We're going to want to get back to you but once the Evans know, I'm sure they'll tell you how this works." Blackwood put away his notepad and Max saw him to the door. He could feel Liz hovering by his side.

Isabel got to her feet when Max entered. "Michael's foster father is missing. He hasn't shown up for work in days and the neighbors heard a fight."

"Calm down." Max told her. "It can't be that serious. He used to take off, right?"

"Hasn't happened in a few years." Michael shook his head. "Somebody told that cop where I was… Hank was still home when I left and I haven't been back since."

"Leave it to my dad, Michael. Don’t do anything to make people suspicious. Stay here until all this gets sorted out." Max ran a hand over his face. "We'll handle this. The key is to stay cool." When Max turned, Michael and Isabel were holding hands and leaning on each other. He was about to comment when they suddenly looked at each other and separated.

--

Liz paced the length of the kitchen while Isabel and Max ignored each other. "Talk to her." Nothing. Max sipped a glass of water by the sink. Isabel painted her toes on a chair. "Max, come on. She wants you to talk to her. Ask her about the holding hands thing."

"I'm gonna regret this." Max muttered. "How are things, lately?"

"Things?" Isabel didn't even bat an eye. "God, Dad and Michael have been in there forever."

"I meant… things with Michael."

"I don't know what you mean." Brown eyes still on her toes, she took a breath. "Di-… Did he tell you that there was something?"

"You kissed him."

"He kissed me." She stopped moving for a while. Nail polished pooled on her little toe. "So maybe I kissed him… a lot… a few times."

"A few times?" Max nearly choked on his water. "He just told me about that… first one."

"oh." Isabel suddenly turned red. She waved her hand over her toes to fix the damage. "He told you about the dreams?"

"Yeah."

"oh."

"Iz?" Max turned toward her. "What's going on?"

"We've been sharing dreams and it might be heritage related. I, uh… thought I might be pregnant for a few days." She shut her eyes.

"I thought you said you just kissed." Max crossed to sit next to her. "Isabel, what's going on?"

"I wasn't. Pregnant. I mean, it would be impossible anyway… seeing as I am… intact." She kept her eyes on her toes when she opened them. "We don't know anything about ourselves really but it would be impossible for a dream to… result in motherhood, right?"

"Max, don't say anything. Just listen to her. She's gotta let it out."

"It's weird, Max." Isabel squeezed her eyes shut. "He's like my brother but… I don't have dreams of you like that. I would never, not with you. But with Michael, it's so easy… Like I've done it before." She took a breath. "And the worst part? I think… I think I might love him…" Finally, she lifted her eyes. "It's been a crazy few weeks, Max. I resisted at first. I didn't want the dreams to be reality and then we kissed and it made sense. I know that he's still pulling against it. We barely speak anymore. It's not just the dreams anymore, Max. I want to be with Michael."

"You mean… like date?"

"I guess. I know it's still way too soon for everything else. I want to be with Michael… the way you are with Donna. I watch the two of you and you're happy. She's happier than she was before." A shake of her head sent her hair over her face and Max realized she was blushing. "I… I didn't like the idea before but you're more open than I've ever seen you and it hasn't been a threat to our existence and I'm glad for it. I just… want some for myself and right now… I want it with Michael."

"He doesn't know?"

"No." She shook her head. "I don't want to weird him out more than he already is." She groaned and turned to her brother. "I can do this with… I can pretend to do this with every guy at school but when it comes to really doing it with Michael, I can't."

Max nodded. "Iz, never say those words to me again. 'Really doing it with Michael' just brings up all sorts of unpleasant images."

Liz and Isabel laughed and the sounds made Max grin. "Thanks, Max. I really needed to talk and Mom, while helpful, doesn't exactly have the perspective I need."

"No problem." Max grinned at her. "It's what I'm here for."

"Don't um, say anything to Michael about this. I'm still working it out to myself." She leaned against him and sighed when his arm came around her. "It's all going to be okay, right?"

"Yeah." Max squeezed her and made her giggle. "We'll figure out the dreams, Iz." They looked up when Michael and Mr. Evans exited the office. Michael was red with anger. Max knew there was going to be an incident if the situation wasn't diffused.

"I won't go to another foster home. I've got six months until I'm free and I'm not leaving." Michael was shaking. Max looked to his dad but he looked tired. There was no other way. "I can't go back either. He ran off. No one's seen him." Michael turned to everyone in the room. "Why can't I just take care of myself? Been doing it for years."

"Hold on." Mr. Evans suddenly got his second wind. "Hold on." He raced back into his office and typed in two words. Minor emancipation.

TBC
posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:47:29 AM by DMartinez
[center]Part 11[/center]

The mood kept getting ruined. Max snuck another look at the pretty girl on the couch next to him. It was perfect. Her parents were out of town. Her brothers were out. They were alone… in the dark… no supervision… and she was getting off on Vin Diesel's muscles. It was perfect… except for the ghost sitting by the TV. She had already interrupted two make out sessions. Not only was he getting pissed but Donna was now sitting on the other side of the popcorn… as opposed to being draped over his lap the way she had before.

"This is a good movie. Look at the way the muscles in his arm just bulge when he does that. I wonder if… never mind." Liz tilted her head at the screen. "I've gotta agree with Donna. He's the sexiest man on the planet. And his voice… makes me wish I could feel vibration again.”

"Shut up." Max dropped his head onto the back of the couch. Then he realized his mistake when he felt Donna's head whip toward him.

"Is the movie what's ruining this? I can always turn it off." Soon the room was pitch black and it was easy to pretend that Liz wasn't there. Max heard the soft click of the popcorn bowl being set on the coffee table. Then the couch dipped as Donna moved closer. Soft kisses to his mouth, wet kisses to his throat. Hands on his chest and her legs touching his. "See, this is much, much, much better."

Just when touches and kisses were getting interesting, a square of light cut the darkness. It only lasted a few seconds and then there was a slow shuffle of feet through the living room and down the hallway. After an eternity, a door clicked shut. It was too late. Donna had sat back in silence, hand on her face. When Max moved to brush her hair out of her face, she got up. "I'll be back." Her quick steps sent her down the hallway and through her brother's door. "Ritchie?" The door clicked shut.

Liz sighed heavily. "Casanova, how's the date?"

"You tell me. You're so intent on ruining the mood." Max ran a hand over his face. "She probably thought I didn't want her."

"I doubt it."

"Are you kidding? Every time we started kissing, you started talking and I stopped. I don't do well with a third party on my dates." He snorted.

"I'm just thinking that things are progressing and that she should know some things about you." She took an unnecessary breath. "She's trusting you more and more and you're seeing into her but what is she getting in return?"

"What do you want me to tell her? What I am?" He sighed heavily. "That I talk to a dead girl on a regular basis?"

"So far, you've got a good relationship with her. If you fall for her the way she's fallen for you… it's really going to hurt if you wait to tell her." She tilted her head at him. "She'll feel betrayed. Like you never really cared for her at all."

"But I do. I mean… She's the first girl I've ever allowed to see me as a person. I do care about her. I just don’t know if I could tell her." Max shifted to face Liz in the darkness. "I'm not ready to let anyone new know."

"She's not exactly a stranger." Liz coughed. "She knows more about your teeth than anyone on the planet. She knows more about your moods than your own sister. Donna is your girlfriend, Max. Tell her. She might surprise you." She looked away for a minute and then faced him with more resolve. "I might have been resistant to you dating her but she's good for you. Could you goof around with anyone but Isabel and Michael before?”

"That's a reason to tell her everything?"

"It's as good as any. You trust her, Max, you just don't know it yet."

"Max!" Donna called down the hallway. "Can you bring me the cordless from the kitchen… next to the fridge?" Max did as told. He walked hesitantly down the hall and stood in the doorway. Donna gave him a tight smile and took the phone into the hallway. Ritchie sat on the edge of his bed breathing heavily.

Max watched the proud man stare at his carpet and his heart ached. Slowly, he stepped forward and lifted Ritchie's arms above his head. Ritchie grimaced slightly but his breathing became less painful. "Better?"

"Thanks." Ritchie nodded, able to slow his breathing a tad. He looked his sister's boyfriend over for a moment. "Help me stand up. I need to move a bit."

Max nodded and supported the older man's weight. They walked slowly up and down the length of the room. Max felt tears tugging at his eyes. Ritchie was obviously in pain and having trouble breathing. Shifting the hand around Ritchie's ribs, he took a deep breath. A flurry of images flew at his mind as he opened up the lungs and brachial tubes. Ritchie suddenly took a deep breath and blew it out. Extracting himself, Max lifted Ritchie's arms above his head again. "You okay?"

"You're a miracle worker, Max." Ritchie enjoyed the oxygen flowing into his lungs. "I'm still going to have to kick your ass when I go into remission. I don't care if she's the one who pinned you down." He pointed to a chair and Max eased him into it. "Chiquita told you about me, right?"

"Yeah." Max nodded and shoved his hands into his pockets. He was glad that Ritchie hadn't seemed to notice that he had been partially healed. "Feeling better?"

"Yeah. Feels like the first deep breath I've taken in years." Ritchie looked the boy over. "You know, you make her happy. I can't remember her as happy as you make her… If you break her heart, I will break you."

"Understood." Max nodded.

"Though we could make this even if you hook me up with your sister." Ritchie raised an eyebrow.

"Are you kidding? She'd kill me." Max tilted his head suddenly and sputtered. "Not that she wouldn't like you but um… she's very much in control of her life and if I even mention that I could… help her out… she'd skin me alive."

"My kind of girl."

"She thinks she's in love." Max shook his head. "The guy either won't admit he sees her the same or actually doesn't feel that way."

"You and my sister don't have that problem, right?" Ritchie locked eyes with the teenager. "She's my baby sister and she thinks you're the one. Believe me, she's brought home some world-class jerks and thought the same thing… only difference is… I like you. Don't make me regret it."

"Ritchie," Donna said as she entered the room, "Doc's gonna want to see you tomorrow… eight-ish."

"Okay." He nodded. "Just don't call Mom and Dad." He took a deep cleansing breath and smiled. "Don't want them to worry about nothing special."

She tilted her head at them. "You feel better? Your face…" She broke into a bright smile. "You've got color." She crossed the room and kissed her brother's forehead. "You almost look tan, mi hijo."

--

Max fell heavily onto his bed when he got home. He was so tired. He slept until well into the next morning. Michael was sitting at the desk with a pencil, staring at something when Max rolled over. "What are you doing?"

"I had to draw the dream. The symbols. There was a field of characters." Michael picked up the paper and Max's eyes grew wide. "Yeah, it's important."

"These come from the dreams with Isabel?" Max crawled off the bed and took the paper from Michael.

"Yeah. I see these before I know she's there… I had to get them out… the dreams are slowing."

"Huh. Wonder why I didn't have any dreams."

"I've tried to think about you in the dreams and…" Michael swallowed convulsively. "Max, when I think about you in that place… you… I would die for you."

"What do you mean?" Max whispered, his eyes locking with his friends.

"I think that wherever we come from, you're more important." He saw the look on Max's face. "Like… You're the boss and I'm the boss's guy… you know?" A slight shrug. "I think I like it better here… where you're like a brother to me."

"Yeah. I think I like that idea better, too." Max nodded with a small smile. "You're going to try to figure this stuff out?"

"Yeah, it's like… right below the surface… and I think I should know it and I don't but maybe if I work at it… something will click, you know?"

"Yeah." He sighed. "Just let me know before you… confirm anything."

Michael turned slightly to look at Max and then shook his head. "Whatever."

"Michael…"

"I said it was in my dream, not here." Michael bit out. "I'm not going to follow you around or wait for you to come up with a plan, o fearless leader."

"Michael, we'll do this together… as a group." Max knew Michael never heard a word of it as he stormed out of the room.

--

Max pulled up to the Mason house. The younger two brothers and the friend were sitting in the driveway. They glared at him as he trudged up the walk. Donna was out of the house before he had gotten halfway up. She pulled him down the street with the echo of her brothers' laughter in their ears. "Donna… Donna. Donna!" Max pulled her to a stop about halfway around the block. "Hey, what's up?" He was immediately silenced when she pulled him down for a searing kiss. When the need for oxygen arose, he pulled away. Dazed, he struggled for words. "Wow… where did that come from?"

"You're not gay, right?"

Max's eyes bugged out of his head. "No."

"You're sure? I mean, you liked that, right?"

"The kiss? Definitely but where did you get the idea that I was…"

"Bobby said that I was just a cover. That…" She huffed.

"Bobby's messing with you." Max kissed her forehead, then her nose and then her mouth. "I assure you that you turn me on much more than any guy ever could."

"I turn you on?" A sly smile crossed her face as her arms wrapped around his waist. Max swallowed nervously and nodded. "So, the reason you barely touch me is…"

"I'm afraid of your brothers."

"Very smooth. I approve."

Max pretended that he hadn't heard her voice. "Movie?" Donna nodded and they walked into town wrapped around each other. It took nearly an hour and they had to wait for the next showing but eventually they made it into the theater. They ended up making out for the majority of Final Destination. Max could barely think with all the physical and mental overload. When the lights broke them apart, they weren't the only ones having to readjust their clothes. It was the familiar blonde hair that caught his attention.

Michael locked eyes with Max for just a second before he was out of the theater, leaving a red-faced Isabel behind. Donna sat in confusion as Max and his sister had some sort of silent conversation across the theater. The way Isabel turned her face away told Max that it was more than Michael giving Isabel a chance as a girlfriend or just a make out session at the movies. She rose from her seat and stood at the end of Max's aisle. Once sentence told Max most of the story without alerting Donna to the alien undercurrents. "Um, he didn't tell me until after he had done it but he contacted his biological relatives." She hugged herself and waited as Max's eyes fell shut. "This was… unexpected."

"Iz, what did he do?"

"I don’t know… yet." She held out her hands to placate him for the moment. "Leave it to me, Max."

Max got to his feet to go after her but Donna's hand on his arm stopped him. He turned and met her big brown eyes. "Max, what's going on?" When he just shook his head and attempted to guide her out of the aisle, she pulled away. "Max, you're upset. Tell me what's going on?"

"It's nothing for you to worry about, really." Max tried again to lead her out of the theater but she brushed past him and stormed out. "Donna." No response. "Donna."

Max didn't even realize how fast she could move until he had to chase her down and nearly run out of breath doing it. He finally caught up to her four blocks away. She whirled on him, like she knew the second he had reached her. "Don't Max."

"What is the problem?"

"Why is it okay for me to open up to you and you can't do the same?"

Max knew all at once what this was about and he never realized when it was an issue. His mouth opened and closed like a fish for several seconds and it pissed her off. She started for home and he had to rush to keep up with her. "Donna—"

She gave him one four-second look before turning her gaze to the sidewalk in front of her. "Max, you and I have been together for… months already and while it did take me awhile to bring you home, I did." She stopped suddenly. "Ritchie is my world and introducing you to him was a really big deal. The other night, at my house, you were perfect. You helped me out, you didn't freak and Ritchie loves you, now. I thought it was great… but you don’t do the same for me." Her eyes found his again. "It's probably none of my business what's going on with Isabel and Michael and that extremely cryptic conversation but I'm not an idiot. You could have just said it was personal. Fine. You can't even give me an excuse for why I suddenly disappeared in that theater back there. I saw the look in your eyes. You were on another planet and I wasn't invited."

TBC
posted on 16-Oct-2002 1:12:30 AM by DMartinez
[center]Part 12[/center]

Max sat at the table with his head in his hands. He could hear his mother's radio playing while she made pancakes and Liz was singing along. His head was pounding and the two of them were having a blast…separately.

"This could have all been avoided."

He didn't even bother to give her a glare. He felt Isabel sit next to him. He needed to talk to her but he couldn't. There was just too much. "What's your problem?"

Max lifted his head to look at his sister and she had the good sense to look away. "How's Michael?"

"Fine… I think." Isabel cleared her throat and rose from the table. "Need help, Mom?"

"Sure, honey." Diane nudged her daughter. "What's wrong with your brother?"

"I don't know." Isabel was able to take a really good look at her brother and realized there was actually something pretty heavy weighing on him. "How long has he been like that?"

"Since before I came in to make breakfast."

"I'll talk to him."

"If he'll talk to you that is." Liz shot Max a look, which he didn't look up for. "Talk to someone Max. I'm obviously not cutting it anymore. I'm not even sure if you listen to a word I say anymore. I'm only sent here to monitor and guide you."

"Shove it up your—" Max caught himself before he dug himself into a deep hole.

When he looked up, both his sister and mother were staring at him. Lucky for him, his father strolled in and sat at the table. "That smells good."

"It's almost ready." Diane tilted her head at her son before turning to her daughter for an explanation. Isabel shook her head. "Coffee?"

"No thank you." Phil looked at his son and tilted his head. "Son, you okay?"

"Yeah, fine. Great." Max nodded.

"You are a horrible liar."

"You are a horrible liar." Isabel snorted. "What? Is it the Michael thing?"

"Where is Michael? I didn't hear him come in last night." Phil cleared his throat.

"I don't know." Isabel shook her head. "I haven't seen much of him this weekend."

"That is because I got a job." Michael announced from the kitchen door. "It's not much but Mr. Davis assures me that I'm perfect for the job… despite anything that might appear on my record."

"You got a job at the UFO Center?" Max furrowed his brow.

"Yeah, no experience needed. I clean up after hours, keep up on current UFO events… the usual." Michael took a seat at the table. "What's up with you? You look like crap."

"Thank you, Michael, for pointing that out." Max scoffed at him. "I'm quite aware of what I look like." He shoved himself back from the table and left.

"Max." Came the cry from the family.

"Max." Liz hurried after him.

--

Michael found Max sitting on a rock in the middle of the desert. "You always come here for your mood swings?"

"Donna thinks I'm hiding things from her." Max shrugged.

"So?"

"She's right. Though, on the subject of hiding… what is up with you and Iz?"

"Nothing." Michael shook his head. He sat next to Max on the rock to stare out at the mid-morning desert. "Except that maybe there is. I just don't know what I'm doing."

"Do you… at least like her? Care about her?"

"Yeah. How is indeed the question, Maxwell. I… I'm beginning to think that it's more than just the dreams." He turned to his friend. "I don't know."

"So what's this crap about you sending a signal?"

"Right… I figured it couldn't hurt anything."

"So, to spite me, you went ahead and did it without discussing it with us."

"It's always about you." Michael stood up and turned to face Max. "What about me? Huh? I am not happy living in Roswell. I am not happy mooching off your parents. What if I want to know where I came from so I can go back? I can't just sit back like you and allow life to happen."

"What if there are others like us, Michael? What if they they aren't so nice? Huh?" Max took a deep breath. "Did you ever think that maybe I sit back and let stuff happen because I care about you and Isabel and what happens to us? That maybe I don't want anything to happen to you?"

"Maybe it isn't just your decision."

"Maybe it is." Max immediately wanted to take that back. "Michael, wait."

"Let me guess, now you're gonna tell your blow-up doll about us… because that's what's best for us. Right?" Michael shook his head and started to walk off.

"Michael…That's not what I meant." It was too late, Michael wasn't turning back. "Michael!"

--

Max wandered aimlessly through the halls at lunch. They were empty, cool, and dim. He got so lost in counting ceiling tiles that he didn’t see the speaker sitting in the hallway. The ground rushed up and caught him in the chin, the knee and a good hard smack to the chest. He heard a muffled snicker. "Okay, Max?"

"Rudy?" Max rolled over, rubbing his sore chin.

"Yeah, sorry man." Rudy held out a hand and pulled the younger boy to his feet. "Getting the uh, drama closet sorted out… found something that belonged to AV and then you tripped over it."

"No problem." Max brushed himself off. He scratched at his head before broaching his next subject. "Listen… about Donna…"

"Yeah, I know." Rudy's face fell. "She's been like a zombie all weekend. I don't know what the deal is and I kinda don't want to know. Just… don't leave it too long. I don't like seeing her like that." He cleared his throat and set back to his task of cleaning the closet. "I didn't say anything but Ritchie's been going to the clinic everyday now and she's been going with him."

--

Max tried to get Donna's attention in class but she kept her eyes on her paper. He didn't even bother looking away when the new girl was introduced. However, he had no choice when the girl tapped him in the shoulder to get his attention. "I don't think she wants to be bothered. My name is Tess."

TBC

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 16-Oct-2002 1:13:04 AM ]
posted on 18-Oct-2002 11:08:21 PM by DMartinez
[center]Part 13[/center]

"Max, stay away from that girl.” Liz's voice reached his ears as he tore down the hall after Donna. He had no clue what she was talking about. He sent her a look that said as much. "The new girl. The one that talked to you in class. I don't get a good feeling off of her. Stay away from her."

Max nodded and lengthened his stride to catch up with his girlfriend. She seemed even more pissed than she had back in class. "Donna! Donna! Wait!"

He caught up to her at her locker and she outright glared at him. He backed up a step. "That's not funny, Max."

"What?"

"Trying to talk to me all class long and as soon as the blonde girl shows up, you hang all over her. Do you think this is a joke? That you can do what you want to get my attention?" She stared up at him and found a genuinely flabbergasted expression on his face. "How can you not know why I'm pissed?"

"I don't know what you're talking about. The new girl? She introduced herself and that was it. I was right back to trying to get your attention again. Hanging all over her? I don't even hang all over you… in public. Why would I do that with someone I don't even know?" It seemed to placate her for the moment. "So, you were jealous?"

"No." Donna grabbed her books and started walking. Max jogged along beside her. "I wasn't."

"I know you. This defense thing is in place. I know it well." He cast his eyes to the ground as they walked.

"So maybe I was jealous. She is perfect. Blonde hair, blue eyes, tiny waist, a butt that I'd kill for and she's got small, yet perky—" She cast a glance down at her own chest. "I couldn't blame you for looking."

"But I wasn't." Max scooted closer and wrapped an arm around her waist. "Believe me, I think I got my hands full with you… I can handle it… and I wasn't looking." He took a deep breath and pulled her into the lounge to sit with him on a chair away from everyone else. "I'm sorry."

"For?"

"Keeping stuff from you." His brown eyes met hers. "I'm a private person and I've never had to open up to anyone before. Ask my parents, they don't really even know me."

"That's horrible. My mom knew about you from the get-go." She leaned into him and sighed. "I want to be with you, Max but if you can't trust me with you…"

"But I think I do… I just need some time to figure how I'll tell you, what I'll tell you, when…" Max shut his eyes and leaned against her forehead.

"What's wrong?"

"It's just stuff. Wanna go for a drive?"

"Only if you'll let me in a little."

"Okay. C'mon." Max stood and led her out the doors, where they bumped into a short blonde girl. "Sorry."

"It's okay. I'm totally lost." She smiled up at him.

"Our fault. We weren't paying attention to where we were going." Max shook his head and stepped aside to let her in the building.

"Aren't you in my math class?" The blonde kept staring at him.

"Am I?" Max furrowed his brow.

"Nice try." Donna muttered. "You're Tess, right? I'm Donna, this is my boyfriend Max."

"Nice to meet you." Tess nodded but kept her eyes on Max.

"Sorry for running you over. See you in class." Max shifted uneasily, uncomfortable with the girl's stare.

"Look forward to it."

Donna pulled Max away, muttering under her breath all the way to his Jeep. "Can you believe the nerve of her? 'Look forward to it.' Please, who is she fooling. Doesn't she understand the words 'my boyfriend.' I wanna rip her hair out."

"Whoa." Max laughed and pulled her to him. "There must have been a whole other conversation going on that I wasn't aware of."

"Okay, okay. Reigning in the green-eyed monster." She nodded. "Give me the keys, I want to take you somewhere." After a moment's hesitation, he relinquished power over his Jeep. They picked up some food and he enjoyed the silence as she drove him out to the orchards. "Dad likes it out here."

"I do, too. My dad used to take us out here when we were first adopted." Max nodded. "If you take it out far enough, it'll lead to the spot where me and Iz were found."

"Really? It was out here?" She pulled the Jeep onto a side road and took it to a well worn spot under a huge tree. "I mean… I had heard the story… everyone hears it."

"Yeah." Max winced. "I guess it's hard to stay invisible with a story like that."

"Why is that? You're invisible, or so you like to think but sweetie…" She pinched his cheek. "With a face like that and a butt like that, you weren't going to stay invisible for long."

"Thanks, I think." He chuckled and leaned back to stare at the tree overhead. "I don't want to be found… by anyone with any tie to me. Michael does. That's what the day at the movies was about… in part."

"What's the other part?"

"Isabel. She and Michael have started to… hook up and it's weird. We just assumed we were like brothers and sister and then all of a sudden… they aren't feeling a familial bond anymore." He sighed heavily. "So, I worry that Michael will find what he's looking for and it won't be good news. I worry that my sister has the hots for Michael and he's sleeping in my room. I worry that he's got them back for her…"

"It's their life, Max. Not yours. You have no say."

"I know."

--

Isabel looked up from the table when Max entered the kitchen. She was about to turn back to the table when she saw his neck. "Max! Is that where you were? Making out?"

"No… Donna and I had a talk… and then we made up." Max shrugged and pulled a coke out of the fridge. Then he noticed Isabel's guest.

"Oh. Max, this is Tess. She's the new girl."

"Yeah, we've met." Tess nodded and offered him a smile.

"Right. Sorry about running you over." Max nodded and opened his drink.

"So, Isabel and I were just talking about how weird dreams can be. You have any weird dreams?" Tess prodded.

Max's eyes shot to Isabel and she, very slightly, shook her head in the negative. She hadn't let the girl in on the dreams she had been having. Isabel sat and turned to Tess. "My brother is an insomniac, Tess. He doesn't sleep enough to get dreams."

"That's a shame. Dreams can tell you a lot about the person you really are."

"Bullshit." The singsong voice came. "Could she be any more obvious?"

"Okay. I'm gonna go. Stay off the phone, Iz."

--

Liz clutched her stomach as she wandered with Max down the corridors of the clinic where Ritchie was getting his treatment. They paused outside the room when they realized the doctor was in there. "I am so glad that I can't smell."

"If only I were so lucky." He wrinkled up his nose. He couldn't help but notice the younger people that were roaming the hallways with IV stands and hospital gowns.

"The lungs are clear."

"They feel clear." The voices drifted out to their ears.

"Let's hope that this keeps up and that this… whatever it is that's cleared your lungs will go to work at other parts… and soon."

"Hey, remission is looking closer every day."

"Still getting tired?"

"Yes but not out of breath. I am oxygenated, doc. You said that helps."

"It does. Rest up. This treatment is harder to gauge with all the aversions to the cousins that you did."

"Give me your poison. I'll take it like a man."

"Donna, you keep an eye on him."

"I will." Her voice sounded weary and it tugged at Max's chest. When the doctor left, he slid into the room and nodded to its occupants. "Hey Max."

"Hey Maxie." Ritchie threw him a nod from his bed. He noted Max's uneasiness. "It's just a gown. My ass hangs out but I think that's for the nurses benefit." Donna swatted him but Max managed a laugh. "It's not so bad. Give me the poison so five years from now, I don't gotta worry about this shit."

"Five years?"

"That's the official span of time it takes to make sure a patient has got into remission." Donna explained. "In theory, if it hasn't returned within five years, it won't." She smiled at her brother. "In the meantime, we are here to chat him up whilst he receives his poison."

"Whilst?" Ritchie rolled his eyes. "I'm going to take back that Complete Works of Shakespeare." He shifted uneasily. "Donna, my knee hurts." She sat on the bed by his legs and gently massaged the joint until he nodded his head that it was okay.

She glanced around and gasped. "I forgot your Coke."

"It's okay." He shook his head.

"No. It's not. I will be right back." Donna kissed her brother's cheek and then Max's forehead. "Play nice."

"You don't really gotta be here." Ritchie told him but Max waved him off. "Appreciate it though. I hate this place."

"I would too." Then he pointed to the doorway where a little boy was being rolled down the hallway. "For things like that."

"I hate it when the kids are sick." The deep brown eyes followed the movement of the bed until it was out of sight. He winced suddenly and began rubbing his elbow. "You know, me, I take pain like a man." Ritchie winked at him. "It's the kids though. They shouldn't have to go through this. They should grow up, play soccer and football and not worry if their leg is going to break trying to support their measly 45 pounds."

"Yeah." Max furrowed his brow and looked out the door after the boy.

"Look. I'm on this stuff for another two weeks. Do me a favor and don't let Donna dwell on this." Ritchie made sure he had Max's attention again. "I know she wants to spend as much time with me as possible but she cramps my style the days I don't have to see the doctor. I gotta tell you, bald chicks are hot."

Max couldn't help but laugh, which made Ritchie smile. He noted that Ritchie still had his hair. Max pointed up to his own hair. "That all yours?"

"Thank God, yes. Not everyone loses it. I did the first time I was stuck in the hospital. When it grew back, I had the curliest head in the world and then it kinda grew out. I haven't lost it since." Ritchie shrugged and reached down to rub at his feet. "I think Donna got lost with the Coke."

"She probably saw a trailer on a TV somewhere, stopped to watch, then started talking to someone nearby about it."

"I know. That girl is crazy about movies. We used to watch a lot of them when I was bedridden and damn, some of those movies were absolutely horrible." Ritchie shook his head at the memories. "Hard to know that she's still a kid, you know?"

"Yes, I guess. I don't even feel like a kid anymore. Sometimes it throws me off when people call me that." Max shrugged.

"I'm gonna get some shut eye. Hope you don't mind, this stuff makes me sleepy."

Max nodded and waited as Ritchie fell asleep. A light snore filled the room in no time. Reaching over, Max shut the door and then put his hands on Ritchie, one on his stomach and the other on his head. Never knew when he decided to do it but he was doing it. Grimacing, he fixed what he could find. When he was done, he fell back in his chair. Just then, he heard the steps. Donna stepped around the partition and tilted her head at her brother.

"Guess he fell asleep." Donna picked up the blanket at the foot of the bed and draped it over her brother.

"Yeah. You get lost?" Max tried to hide his heavy breathing but he didn't think he was doing such a good job of it.

"Got distracted by a TV and a bunch of misguided fanatics." She stared at him hard. "Take a walk. Being in here used to give me anxiety attacks too… Take your time… and thanks for coming at all."

"Yeah, I think I will." Max rose from his chair and slipped out the door to lean on the wall. He could feel Liz standing there.

"That was good.”

"I feel like crap."

"But it was good."

Max nodded and started walking, feeling a little better… until he stumbled upon the little boy he had seen wheeled by earlier. The boy was awake, just barely and waved. Max waved back. The boy sat up a little. "Is that your girlfriend?"

"What?" Max looked around and there was no one beside him. "Who?"

"Her." The boy pointed. "You should get her to a doctor. Her stomach don't look so good."

Then it clicked. The boy could see Liz. It broke Max's heart when he tried to enter the room but Liz cleared her throat to stop him. "Not that one, Max.”

"What?" he turned to her. "Why not?"

"They want him."

Max rushed out of the hallway and burst into a patio, head in his hands and tears streaming down his face. He wanted to scream and kick at something. He sank down onto a bench to collect himself. "Why not him? Ritchie but not the little boy?"

"It's okay." A hand fell on his shoulder. Max's head whipped up to see a woman sitting next to a little girl asleep in a wheelchair next to him. The woman offered him a smile. "It's hard. You know some kids will make it but that others won't and you gotta pray that yours will. It's God's will, neither you or I can change that but we can do what we can to make it a little easier on them." She nodded her head to her little girl.

"How? How can you believe in a god that would take innocent children?"

"God likes children too. Sometimes it's just their time. We have to accept that." She whispered to him. "This is the second angel that I'm sending to Him." Just then her cellphone rang. She cursed under her breath when she looked at it. "Um, can you watch her for me? I won't be but two minutes."

Max nodded dumbly. He sat next to the girl and watched her sleep for a moment before he put his hand on her head and the other on her arm. "I don't care about who they want. I got this one." Swallowing down a sob when his hand could wrap all the way around her wrist, he reached out to her. When he was done, he sank back against the bench, coughing. The woman returned a short time later and gave him a once-over. "You don't look so good. Don't worry yourself so much. Whatever happens, happens."

Her little girl sighed in her sleep. She patted his arm as he got to his feet. She watched him stumble to the doors, a good deal weaker than when he had rushed through them. She shook her head and turned back to her daughter, kissed her head and picked up her small hand. Squinting, she rubbed and the silver ring around her wrist, then dismissed it as paint, maybe from the art center.

--

Max rolled his eyes and gave Donna a little shove. "I'm fine. Leave me alone."

"No. You look sick. You're pale. Your skin is clammy and your face is burning up." She guided him through his house, waving to his mother as they passed. Diane watched them carefully but decided against intruding.

"Come on. I promised you dinner."

"I'll take a rain-check." She shoved him onto the bed, where he just fell and lay. "You look like shit."

He shrugged and kicked off his shoes. He could actually do with some rest. "Lay with me."

"No, I should get home. Ritchie's bound to be tired." She shook her head.

"Lay with me." Max reached out and pulled her to the bed. "You're tired, you're stressed out. Lay down."

"Fine." She kicked off her shoes and lay beside him on the bed. Accepted the kiss when he gave it and was suddenly filled with feelings she couldn't explain. His eyes were closed before his head hit the pillow, leaving her wondering what had happened.

TBC
posted on 20-Oct-2002 5:00:32 AM by DMartinez
This part kinda wrote itself and it's led into an interesting direction but I don't believe it deviates from the original plan. We'll see where my fingers take us.

[center]Part 14[/center]

Max groaned when he heard Michael get up for the shower. He was still so tired… and he could feel Liz getting ready for one of her lectures. He opened his eyes and waited. 3… 2… "Big mistake. You did wrong and now I'm in trouble." She paced the length of the room, gripping her head. "I felt sorry for the lady, too but they wanted her little girl, too."

"Too bad." Max muttered.

"Too bad?” She stomped for foot and shrieked. "Max! This is what got you into trouble in the first place. You are upsetting the balance left and right here. Ritchie… you were allowed to heal him but Tiffany was supposed to go two months from now. Some people are supposed to go and some are supposed to stay and you can't play God like this."

"Like what? I don't know what I'm doing." Max shoved himself off his bed and grabbed some clothes. "You can't tell me to right the balance and then not explain the rules. That woman lost one baby already. You can't make her lose another one. It's not right. It's not fair. You can't show me that shit without me doing something about it."

"It happens all the time, Max. People die because they're supposed to. It's their time. People mourn and then move on." She backed him into the wall. "I'm not supposed to be here. I'm supposed to be alive. I should be supervising community service events for the science club, I should be building up my tip account for my college fund, I should be home right this second getting ready for school and talking to Maria on the phone. I am here, Max. I am here in your room because you can't get it through your head that it is NOT all about you."

Max ducked as his lamp exploded. He looked at her in astonishment. "Did you do that?"

"I think so." Tears built in her eyes. A few deep breaths seemed to calm her down and she could speak again. "Max, listen to me. It's not like I wouldn't want you to help every person in that clinic… there's things that are done and not done. You can't heal whomever you want. In a way, I'd say you traded my life for that little girl's but they don't think you've learned your lesson here. You're not getting it, Max."

"What is it that I'm supposed to get?" He asked, still in his crouched position.

"You're not God."

"I never thought I was." Max's chest felt very tight. "I wanted to save you. I wish I had but I didn't let you die because I could. I thought I didn't have another choice."

"But you thought at the time that you should. Something inside you told you to heal me, to save my life… and you ignored it."

"I did and it was wrong. Nothing told me that saving that girl's life was wrong. I can't let those little kids die like that." He whispered. "It's wrong. Inside me, I know it's wrong."

"Is it wrong, Max? Really? Or is it just unfair? There is a difference. You've got to learn it and listen to yourself. Listen to what your soul tells you. Allow yourself to trust your instincts. They are inside you for a reason. It's why you were such a good leader."

"I was what?" Max blinked at her. She gasped and vanished. "Liz? What did you mean? Liz?"

--

Donna found Max in the lounge and crossed her arms behind her back. "You weren't in class today."

"Yeah. I got stuff on my mind." He shrugged helplessly.

"We ditched yesterday. You shouldn't ditch today." Tilted her head to the side and her hair fell forward.

"I know." He stared up at her and just couldn't tear his eyes away. He watched her fidget under his scrutiny. The words flew out of his mouth before he had even thought them. "Think the eraser room is empty?"

She barked out a laugh and quickly covered her heated face. "Um… okay, Max? Did you intend to say that out loud? I mean, was there a voice-over in your head and your brain just forgot to inform your mouth?" When she looked at him, his mouth was hanging open and his eyes were closed. "Oh sweetie, your ears are red. That's so cute."

"I—" Max leaned forward and buried his face in his hands. He could hear Liz's giggles but knew when he looked up that she would be gone. Suddenly, his hands were pried off his face and Donna filled his line of sight… or more accurately, her chest. He whipped his eyes up to her face.

"No rain last night, the stadium could be good."

--

They ended up reclining against the press box. Max ran his fingers through her hair while she played with a button on his shirt. Listened to her talk about anything she felt like. No thoughts of Liz, or Isabel, or Michael, or righting the balance. Donna's voice took him through plans for summer vacation, movies she planned to pick apart, possibilities of actually going to Junior Prom and indulging her mother in another dress. "We could go for at least a little bit… I don't know if you wanted to get a room or something but I could probably get my cousin to help me with an alibi."

The words took a moment to register in his relaxed mind. His body went stiff. "Um… you want to… get a room?"

"Max… Every time we're together, you stop. I know that you want to but you stop." She sat up to better look into his face. "I mean, you do… want to, right?"

"This is getting really interesting."

Max shut his eyes to ignore Liz and find a way to word what he was feeling.

"Answer her. Tell her you think about her when you're jerking off." Liz knelt beside him. "But before you tell her that you want her and you want to rock her world or whatever… my advice would be to let her in about what you are."

"I uh…" Max opened his eyes finally. "I need to wait."

"To wait." Donna repeated. "For like… marriage, or you're 18, or 21… I know you're not thinking of going to seminary school or anything like that."

"It's not that I don't want to… it's just that I think that we're not ready for something like that… or I'm not." He had to take a breath. "I need to… I mean I am just getting used to this… caring about other people more than I do about myself and it's very new and I'm still not sure what I'm supposed to be doing."

"Max." She took his hands in her own and stared down at them. "You know, you've never struck me as uncertain. Cautious a lot of the time, careful but never indecisive." Brought one hand to her mouth. "It's what I like about you. You seem shy and aloof but you're always watching the things around you, measuring people. Judging situations for the best possible outcome. You're… diplomatic even. The way you paused before you answered me. You wanted to tell me without hurting my feelings or being misunderstood." She gave him a little smile. "It makes me think you must have been born of noble blood. Maybe your ancestors were kings. You're a leader. A good one."

All the blood drained out of his face. Liz had said something like that just this morning. "Why do you think that?"

"I study movies, Max. I watch characters and their mannerisms. I've seen enough heroes and anti-heroes to know what motivates a good one. People listen to you."

"No they don't."

"I don't mean Michael and Isabel. Family doesn't count." She licked her lips. "Haven't you ever noticed that when the teacher calls on you, you speak softly? No one ever asks you to speak up, they just lean in to listen to you. The room goes silent because Max Evans has decided to grace the class with his knowledge." She straddled one of his legs and rolled her eyes back to think. "You broke up a fight last year and no one questioned it. The guys just stopped going at each other because you told them to cool it." Squinted one eye and looked down her nose at him. "That group project in English was a disaster until you took charge, even the slackers got their work in on time."

"You think breaking up one fight, getting a classroom to shut up for 30 seconds and getting Millie Frank and Perry Lawson to do their part on a project qualifies me as a leader?"

"Well, when you say it like that, it doesn't sound too impressive… and you're changing the subject." She pulled his hands around her waist to pull him close enough to keep him from avoiding her gaze. "You're special, Max Evans. I really… I really love you."

--

Michael barely listened as Isabel and the new girl chatted over bubbly water and nail polish fumes. "You don't want my brother. He's taken."

"He's so cute though." Tess winked at her new friend.

"Why would he downgrade when he's already got the Rockies at his beck and call?" Michael snorted and had to duck when Isabel threw a roll of paper towels at his head. "What? It is notoriously known that Donna has a bra you and a small family could camp under and you can't tell me that even your uptight brother hasn't noticed."

"He's uptight?" The blue-eyed girl tilted her head. "No way. I saw him ditching for the second day in a row today."

"Tess, he irons his jeans. Even if he was single, you'd want someone way cooler than my brother." Isabel shook her head and sat up when the front door opened. She saw both her brother and his girlfriend making their way to his room. "Hey Max. Mom wants us to make a list. Need anything from the store?"

"Um…" Max motioned Donna onto his room and leaned into the kitchen. "I think we're out of starch… yeah. I couldn't finish my jeans today."

Michael snorted and pulled a couple of cokes from the refrigerator. He tossed them to Max. "How goes the ball and chain?"

"Um…" Max glanced back at his room and then stepped into the kitchen, looking to his sister. "She uh… um…"

"What is it Max? Is it time for the birds and the bees talk?" Michael asked him mock-seriously. "Iz, our boy is finally becoming a man."

"Shove it, Michael." Max knelt in front of his sister. "I really don't want to say or do the wrong thing, Iz. Donna said that she loved me."

"Hinted or said?" Isabel's brown eyes narrowed to slits.

"Said. She said. 'I really love you.' I haven't offended her or pissed her off yet but knowing her, she'll be waiting for a response."

"D-do you… love her back?" Tess asked, her blue eyes held some strange expression when she realized he had just barely become aware of her presence.

"Well?" Isabel prompted, throwing her eyes to Michael then back to her brother.

"This is getting very interesting. The blonde is jealous."

"Max? Do you?" Isabel tried again and she could see all the conflict in his eyes. "You haven't… talked to her about things?"

"No, I… I can't, right? I really, really care about her and I want to still be with her but she's pushing the physical issues and now there's the declarations of affection."

"What are you asking Max?" Her eyes rose to Tess and then back to her brother in warning. "If… If you think things are that serious…" She looked to Michael but he had his back to her, a signal that he was worried about what was happening. "Tell her the truth about how you feel. She obviously makes you a different person and… I don't want you to get hurt, though. What… what did you do when she told you?"

"I kissed her… and asked her to prom." Max rocked back on his heels. "I just don't know exactly how I feel."

"Just tell her the truth about how you feel, Max. The other stuff… is just stuff." She winced at the stiffness in Michael all of a sudden. "Just don't… torture yourself."

--

Liz sat on the bed between Max and Donna as they worked on their homework. The radio sent out soft waves of some new pop-rock band. "So, she tells you that she loves you and you ask her to prom. To avoid hurting her feelings, you avoid the subject of feelings. Isabel was right. You shouldn't be tortured about this. It's natural to care about people more than just a little. She really knows you, you know? She's got you pegged."

Max rolled his eyes around to look at her. He wanted to transmit his thoughts that she should take a nice long walk off an incredibly short pier but unfortunately, that wasn't a power he possessed. Donna cleared her throat suddenly. "Was that Tess Harding in the kitchen?"

"The blonde? Yeah. I think she's friends with Isabel." Max shrugged and tried to focus on his homework.

"You don't think she's pretty?"

"I hadn't thought about it."

"You haven't?" She scoffed and looked at him. "She hangs on every word you say."

"I thought that was because I was a born leader."

"Ha. Ha. I'm serious. She wants you."

"You are the one that said I was hot stuff." Max grinned up at her. He cut off her retort with a kiss. He let it take over and found himself relaxing into the kiss. He ignored the normal stream of images and emotions. It was when she suddenly stiffened that he pulled away. "What?"

"I wasn't sure before but…" She took a breath and opened her brown eyes to his. "That was the second time, that happened… like you were in my head…"

TBC
posted on 29-Oct-2002 2:23:50 PM by DMartinez
Part 15

"This is your chance, Max. Tell her what happened." Liz hissed but he continued to stare at Donna, mouth opening and closing like a fish. "Max!"

"You what?" Max finally found his voice.

"It happened yesterday when you kissed me. I… It was like I knew what you were thinking. It happened just now when you kissed me." Donna swallowed convulsively, not sure what was going on or even if she knew what had happened anymore. She shut her eyes and thought about the feeling. "You're scared."

"Wh—" Max couldn't even form a word before her lips were on his again. The flashes flew through his brain. His heart beat so fast he didn't know what to do or to think. He felt her gasp against his mouth but she didn't push him away. She leaned her forehead against his. "I…"

"Do you even know how you're doing that?" Her fingers stroked through his hair, relaxing him instantly. She wasn't running or screaming. She was curious. "It's amazing."

The more she kissed his face, the more he relaxed and the more he felt a slight tugging on his mind. He shoved it away and tried to think but that was hard to do when he was feeling so good.

Then the light bulb burst in the lamp beside the bed. Max shot back up to a sitting position and Donna buried her face in his shoulder. He glanced around the room until he found Liz standing at the edge of the bed with her hands on her hips. "Plenty of time to make out AFTER you tell her."

"Max, what was that? Did you do that?" Donna whispered.

"No… I didn't." Max stroked her hair and let his heart rate return to normal. "Listen, Donna, I have to talk to you but… I don't think I can do that right now." She hadn't freaked yet and that was important. He bit his lip as he struggled with his words. "I just have to think about… how to tell you."

"Max?" She opened her mouth to ask something else but the door flew open and everyone was standing there.

Mrs. Evans crossed her arms and stared at her son. "We heard something break."

"The light bulb burst." Max pointed. "It kinda scared us." He cleared his throat and his eyes shot to his sister and her friend peeking in around Michael. "Second bulb this week. We should check out the wiring."

"Yeah, we'll have to do that." Diane cleared her throat. "I think we should leave the door open for a while… to clear the smoke."

"Send everyone out of here. We need to talk." Liz crossed her arms and glared at him. "Do it."

"I got this." Max motioned to the mess. "Go on in the kitchen, I'll be there in a minute." Donna hesitated a moment before gathering her books together. Their audience drifted off. "Want me to take you home?"

"Yeah. I have to go, it's later than I thought." Donna looked at her watch. "I'll just wait for you… in the kitchen."

"I'll be right there." Max waited until she was out of the room to grab his trashcan and use his powers to sweep the mess into the can. He could feel Liz standing beside him. "I can't just tell her. I don't know how she'll react. How are Michael and Isabel going to like it?"

"She loves you, Max. I think she'll take it well. She's not exactly upset by the kissing."

"I don't even know what's going on."

"You will though. You'll need her to figure it out." Liz sighed heavily and backed off a little. "Be careful, Max." She took a breath and seemed to be debating something. "This is really pivotal, Max."

--

Michael sat on the edge of the bed. "I don't like it, Maxwell. You're getting attached to Donna, way too attached. Isabel and Tess are spending like every moment together."

"She's a nice girl." Isabel protested. "We've got a lot in common."

"Uh-huh. Max." Michael turned to him.

"Donna knows something." Silence. "We were kissing when it happened… I've seen into her before. No big deal but she's been seeing into me."

"You've gotta break it off with her." Michael ordered.

"No, I just have to tell her something. To explain." Max felt the blood roaring in his head and he was certain he had never felt that way before. "I can't lose her."

"She's temporary. We… are constant." Michael pointed first to himself then to Isabel.

"And I'm not allowed to have anyone? You have Isabel and I have to ignore that I need someone?"

"It can't be her."

"Why?" Max leapt to his feet, the blood rushing through his veins, threatening to tap into his power. "Why not her, Michael? What's wrong with it being her? I'm attached? I should be, I've been dating her for… since… almost eight months, Michael. Why is it so horrible that someone other than you and Isabel has become a constant in my life?"

"It's not right. We have to be able to leave."

"And go where? We don't know where we're from. We don't know if they're coming back. If there were others, they could be dead. We could be all that's left and we're supposed to wait around for someone to drop a clue… or spend the rest of our lives hunting for something that's not there?"

"You like your life, Max, fine. It's not that way for all of us."

"It's not that way for you… at least it wasn't." Max felt the temperature in the room drop. "You're a free man, Michael. You don't have to mooch as you put it. You don't have to be here. There is nothing to hold you here." Silence penetrated his bones and suddenly he felt Liz standing beside him. "You can't leave. If you did, you'd come back because you have Iz and you have me. We care about you… and if you'd let them… other people would too."

"You think it's easy, Max?" Michael challenged, stepping to Max.

"It's extremely easy to keep everyone out. I've done it all my life, Michael. I've kept everyone at a distance; my parents, people at school. The last two years, I even did it to the two of you." Max felt the anger simmer down to a low boil. "I can't do it anymore. I need people. I need to know that I'm still alive and not just some thing that hides among normal people."

"We aren't normal." Michael pointed out.

"Would you willingly leave Izzy?" Max stepped forward. "Would you give her up to find your answers? I'm willing to bet that given a choice and not having either of us to worry about… Isabel would choose to stay. You? You would go. Me… I don't know yet. With the two of you to think about… I still don't know. Isabel would do whatever was best for the group but you… I think you might still go." Max turned to leave the room but Michael's words stopped him.

"Is she still gonna love you when she knows?"

--

Liz sat next to Max on the park bench. He had ended up there after nearly two hours of wandering around town. "What's wrong with me? Why can I be what I'm supposed to be? I can't save lives but I can't not save them. I can't tell Donna but I can't not tell her and being without her is not an option. Things used to be so simple."

"Did they?" Liz watched the tears slip out from under clenched lids. "Were things really so simple that you'd rather be without everything you have now?"

"I guess not." Max wiped at his eyes with his sleeve and turned to his apparition. "If I'm doing so well, why do I feel so lost? I know less and less what I'm doing."

"Trust me when I say that you are on the right track…" Her eyes rolled heavenward before she reached out to put a hand on his arm. This time, there was contact. Max's head whipped around. "I will be going soon, Max. I know that it took a long time to get us anywhere but I think it was all worth it."

"You're leaving? When?"

"Soon. I just wanted to tell you something. I'm not supposed to and that will kinda assure my being taken off the assignment here." She managed a smile. "They were wrong about that little girl you saved. It turned out for the better. After her death, her mother was going to devote herself to helping families with kids like hers. This way, that little girl is going to cure it. They're not fond of admitting their mistakes. That little boy that you didn't save, he died today. He didn't have any family nearby but he's got a distant uncle who is going to start a fund that will help in saving hundreds of lives."

"One to die to save hundreds." Max barked out a harsh laugh. "It's not fair."

"No, it's not. It is all part of a divine plan… apparently." Liz took a breath and released Max. "A lot is going to happen in these next few days. I won't be around for most of it. Do one thing for me, though. Trust your instincts." Suddenly she blinked out of sight.

"Liz?" Max called out.

"You know, talking to yourself is the first sign of insanity." A voice spoke to him.

Max leapt to his feet and whirled around. The blonde… what was her name? "Theresa?"

"Tess, actually." She smiled and stepped into the light. "Why is it so hard for you to remember my name?"

"Sorry." Max could feel the hairs on his neck standing on end.

"I've really been trying to talk to you but you never seem to be available." She paused on the other side of the bench.

"Really?"

"Yeah. I was wondering why you were pretending with Donna."

"Pretending?"

"You don't love her. You proved that when you were so panicked when she told you she loved you."

"What?" Max blinked at her. "My panic had nothing to do with how I feel about her. You don't even know me."

"But I do. You like midnight swims. You cuddle after sex. You'll make love three times a night on a good night. You were potentially the best leader our people ever had." Tess leaned over the bench and looked up at him. "You were a great lover and warrior… you will be again someday."

Max backed away from the blonde in front of him. This wasn't right. This… was wrong. "I rarely swim and never at midnight. I've never had sex. I'm not a leader… or a fighter." He felt that nagging tug at the back of his mind and shoved it away more forcefully that he ever had before and to his shock, Tess flew back away from the bench as if someone had punched her. Then it clicked. That odd tugging was a direct result of the girl lying on the ground. "Have you been trying to get into my head?"

Obviously she wasn't normal. Maybe Michael was right. Maybe there were more of their kind out there… but was Tess one of them? She didn't seem like much of a threat lying on the ground clutching her head.

"What do you want from me?"

"I'm just here to let you know you're not alone." Tess panted.

"Then why the games?" Max climbed onto the bench to look down on her. His hand poised to do anything he had to. "Why not just come forward?"

"I had to be sure it was you." She coughed and tried to sit up.

"By trying to weasel your way into my head?" He laughed. "I've got enough people in my head, thank you."

"You can't tell me you weren't having the dreams. You have to know me. I'm your wife, Max." She sank back onto the ground and tried to breathe. "I'm here to claim you for me. You are mine and I am yours."

"No." Max shook his head. "I don't know what you're trying to pull but I'm not falling for it. I was warned about you."

"Go with your instinct, Max." Tess finally managed to get to her feet and stand in front of him. "Put your hand down."

"My instinct tells me to leave it where it is."

"Listen to me. I know things about you that I shouldn't, right? How would I know them if I wasn't one of you?"

"You don't know anything about me." Max turned and stepped off the bench. "My instinct tells me that I shouldn't have anything to do with you."

"You can't just ignore this. There are things to be done. We have to go home, Max."

"Home?" Max turned on her, only to find she was right behind him. "Home? I don't know you and I sure don't trust you. If there is a home to go to, why were we left alone? Why do you know things that I don't? Why have you sat by for three days and said nothing? Why did you wait to get me alone in a park?"

"Don't you feel it, Max? I'm like you. I belong to you."

Max winced as he felt the tug on his mind again. "What are you trying to do? Get out of my head. There's no room for you in there." He pushed and she stumbled backward. "If you were really like me… you'd know that you're going about this all wrong. You are too rushed for my tastes. Is there someone in the shadows waiting? Do you have back up?"

"Paranoid much?"

"You haven't given me reason to be otherwise." Max stopped suddenly. Pieces were clicking together left and right. The tugs on his mind were coming from the blonde… the first of which was when he was trying to get Donna's attention a couple of days before… when Donna accused him of hanging all over this new girl. "You stay away from us. I don't want you near me, my sister, my friend or my girlfriend."

Suddenly he was knocked to the ground and Tess stood over him. "You don't understand. You can't deny who you are."

"Then who am I? Enlighten me?"

"You're an alien. A king. My husband."

"Are you pulling this stuff out of your ass?" Max groaned and pulled himself to his feet. "I like you less and less the longer I know you, Bess."

"Tess." She bit out. "You guys called us."

Max went pale. Michael. "That was an accident."

"I'm telling you the truth."

"I don't think you have that working for you. I know what you did to my girlfriend." Max shook his head to be rid of that tugging on his brain. "Stop it. If you do it again, I won't think twice about knocking you on your ass."

"It's not supposed to be this way. I had the dreams. Isabel had the dreams, I'm almost certain of it and if her and Michael being a couple is an indication, he had them too. You had to have the dreams." Her face was turning red with the exertion of using her powers and talking sense into him.

"I'll tell you what… when I dream. It's not about you. I don't see fields of symbols. I don't even get to have sex in my dreams. When I'm asleep long enough for a REM cycle…" Max paused and held a hand up between them. "If ever I've slept long enough to have a dream, it's a nightmare and it has little to do with being who I am." He took a breath. "I'm going home now to enjoy my insomnia."

"Max." Tess grabbed his arm and tried to kiss him but he threw her across the walking path and into the grass. "Max!"

"I meant it. I don't care who you are. Being who you are, threatens my family."

"Our family."

"My family. You haven't been around the last 11 years. You don't know us and we don't know you." Max turned and began his stroll home. It was stupid. He should have been nicer to her, gotten some answers but he couldn't rid himself of Liz's advice to steer clear of her. She just kept rubbing him the wrong way. He wanted to give her a chance but thinking about what she must have done to Donna and probably what she was going to do to him… he couldn't risk it. The thing now would be to break the news to Michael and Isabel before Tess tried to get to them as well.

Things to do tomorrow: Reveal the existence of at least one other alien to sister and friend. Drive girlfriend and her brother to the doctor. Find a way to tell girlfriend about aliens and how her boyfriend is one. Figure out what Liz was talking about. Find the meaning of existence.

"You've got a busy day tomorrow, Max." He muttered to himself as he approached his neighborhood. "Busy day."

Part 16

Isabel blinked at Max. Michael crossed his arms. "So… it worked."

"Yeah. I'd say your stunt worked." Max ran a hand over his face. "Of course, having little warning… I basically blew it."

"I can't believe this. Tess is one of us." Isabel felt hope springing in her chest.

"Like us, not one of us." Max corrected. "I don't like the feeling I get from her. She kept trying to tell me that I was a king and her husband." He raked a hand through his hair. "I'd be careful. She was trying to mess with my head… maybe with you guys too."

"How?" Michael took a breath and blew it out his nose. "How could you be sure?"

"Last couple of days… I've felt this tickle in my head. Last night I got pissed and pushed it away in my head… It knocked her off her feet." Max rose from the bed. "Just food for thought. I’m going to school."

"What are we supposed to do when we see her?" Isabel demanded. "I'm her only friend in town."

"Then you get the answers. I already made it clear that I didn't want her around."

--

School was an ordeal. Donna kept giving him looks but he kept telling her 'later' and kissing her hand. Trig was interesting. Tess apparently had decided the battle was lost but the war was far from over.

Isabel and Michael had kept to themselves all day. Tess had only dared intrude once but Isabel's icy stare had kept her at a distance. Michael didn't make any moves to approach her on his own for which Max was grateful.

--

The hospital ride was silent. Max could feel both of them fidgeting the whole ride. Anxiety consumed the normally cool Mason elder. When the doctor arrived, it was almost a relief. Max shut the door behind him when he left. He didn't need to be in there. He knew what the doctor was going to say to Ritchie. He felt Liz appear by his side as he strolled down the corridor to the children's wing. He parked himself outside the door to the playroom. Liz laid a hand on his shoulder and sighed. "Tell me what you see."

"A lot of sick children."

"Tell me what you feel."

"Maybe more than half of them will survive childhood. Half of that will survive their teens. Four of them will lead normal lives."

"How'd you know that?"

"Just got a feeling." He shrugged and couldn't help but be surprised when her hand was slightly heavy on his shoulder.

"You've always had that feeling, Max. Trust it." Liz moved away and entered the room behind them. When Max turned to see where she had gone, there were children smiling at her, talking to her. He opened the door and just watched. "Max, it's sad sometimes, isn't it? Having to watch innocent people die. Letting me die… it will all be worth it someday as long as you keep your promise to listen to that feeling."

"We'll make sure he keeps his promise." A little smiled up at her. "You're pretty."

"Thank you. You're a cutie, too." Liz reached out as if to touch him but pulled her hand back. "Okay, guys I gotta go but you'll see Max soon."

"Um… sure." Max shrugged and followed her down the hall to some older people. Before she could even ask, he answered her. "I'm not to concern myself with them, right?"

"Right. They can't see me though. Only the little ones can." She pointed to a woman in the far corner. "She's a mother of three. The oldest is 20, the youngest 15. She'll live for quite a while… long enough to get them on their feet."

"The man in the corner."

"He's got a young daughter, 14. He's going to die soon. She'll struggle but it will make her strong." Liz shut her eyes. "Sometimes they don't do great things… sometimes they just survive and that in itself is a great thing."

"Yeah, it is." Max wandered away and found a bench to sit on. Thankfully the small patio was empty. "I would give anything to be able to have a normal life. That girl, Tess or whatever, she said I'm a king… her husband."

"Maybe once you were. Maybe once you were everything she said… Once."

"What you're not so subtly hinting at is that… it doesn't matter?"

"Maybe."

"So, what if I was this king? Why am I here? What in the world was a six year old doing in control of anything? Why in the world was I married?" Max looked at her and she tilted her head at him. "What?"

"There's a little more to it. I can't tell you anything but… I will tell you your choice. You can have all the answers and risk losing everything you've gained in this life that you thought was secure and kept you on the road to happiness… Or you can kept all the happiness in your pocket and never have a clue until it is too late."

"So I have to take a big risk somewhere."

"Pretty much."

"I'm not going to like it… am I?"

"They don't care…" She leaned in a little. "But I know you. This will throw your controlled little world into chaos. You'll hate it."

"What do I tell Donna?"

"The truth. I think she can handle it… can you?" She took a breath. "It's not that hard." He gave her a look. "Just because things are hard doesn't mean you can't do it. I'm dead and admitting that I had a crush on you when I was alive, that was hard That was extremely difficult for me… did I mention that I was dead when I did it?"

"Okay. Yeah. You've made your point. I know that I have to tell her and soon but… what if Michael is right? What if when she finds out she won't love me?" Max slid down on the bench so that he didn't have to lift his head much to see the sky. "What if she freaks?"

"Why are you so afraid to love her?"

"Am I?"

"Max, you love her. I can see it. You've gotten images from her when you kissed. Have you seen anything to make you doubt?" She took his silence as his answer. "Trust a little, huh? I told you, I'm going soon… then who are you going to have these heart to hearts with?"

--

Max stood awkwardly inside the entryway at the Mason home when he took Ritchie and Donna home. The whole family was quiet as they absorbed the sudden news. Leti was the first to respond. "Gone?"

"They think." Ritchie nodded.

Max was impressed by the woman's speed when she launched herself out of her chair and took her eldest into her arms, tears of happiness in her eyes. "Five years."

"Five years." He repeated. "I'm going in every six weeks for the first six months. Then every three months for blood tests. Standard x-rays. Hopefully this is it. No more." Soon the whole Mason clan had surrounded him. "Might be good to take a whole semester at a time."

Max edged back to the door. His family hugged but it never radiated like this. He nearly jumped when Kellen spoke. "This is a celebration."

"No, it's not. It's a hope of a celebration. It's not gone until it's gone and we still have to wait." Ritchie protested.

"No. This is a celebration." Kellen released his family. "We're going out to dinner." He turned and noticed Max. "Are you coming, Max?"

"Um…" He looked to Donna who was nodding and to Roberto who was shaking his head, then to Ritchie who jerked his head to Donna. "Sure."

"It's settled then. Everyone in the car." Kellen pointed to the door.

"Donna, go with Mom and Dad. I wanna talk to Max." Ritchie nudged her to the door. Max did as told and pulled in behind the Mason car for the drive to the restaurant. After a few moments of silence, Ritchie cleared his throat. "I know what you did at the clinic before. Believe me, I'm grateful for whatever you did."

"W—Why do you think I did something?" Max nervously kept his eyes on the road.

"Because I had a handprint on my stomach that wasn't there before I went to the clinic and it was too big to be my sister's." The brown eyes swept the Jeep. "If I didn't owe you my elongated life… I might have to ask more questions. Does Donna know?"

"No… not yet." Max admitted.

"So, you're going to tell her?"

"I was planning on it."

"Good." Silence held through five stoplights and twelve blocks. "Prom?"

"Yes."

"It'll be the first school dance she's been to since I was in high school."

"Really?"

"She was my date to senior prom."

"You took a ten year old to prom?" Max had to smile at that image.

"She was still the prettiest girl there… the nicest too."

The look in the man's eyes told Max that high schoolers had never changed. They had always been cruel, even to a sick boy. Max gave him a smile. "Still is."

Dinner was loud and full of laughter. The only surprise was the owner when he had to seat Mason party of seven rather than six. Max listened to stories of the family as they grew. About the family reunions with both sides of the family being so large. The smiles he received from her parents were the kind he received from his own parents. He felt like he belonged. After dinner, when he took a drive with Donna and told her what he knew about himself, he was both anxious and scared for her reaction.

TBC
posted on 13-Nov-2002 12:30:37 PM by DMartinez
Part 17

Max tossed and turned. He could feel Michael doing the same on the floor. He could feel Liz pacing the room. He dozed mostly. He was too concerned about Donna to get any real sleep. He was worried about what he was supposed to do. It was supposed to be soon if Liz was leaving. He never felt Liz sit on the bed and put her hand on his. He dropped off immediately into fitful sleep.

Arguing. "I say today. Pay me today, not tomorrow."

Scuffling. "Liz!"

Gun. Bang.

Max slid from under his table when the gunmen left. "Liz!"

His eyes immediately found the girl lying on the ground, bloodstain forming around the bullet hole. "Somebody call the cops."

The blood was spreading, soaking her. He wanted to cry. He could save her. He could breathe life back into her because he could see the life slipping out. He could do it.

"Did someone call the cops? An ambulance? She's dying. Get someone, fast."

He started to take a step forward but Michael stopped him. They shared a look but Max had already decided. He would risk it. The experimentation, the humiliation of dissection. It would all be worth it, he just had to get to her. Max knelt beside the body and Michael held everyone off. He put his hand against her wound and told her to look at him. The second their eyes locked, his mind was filled with visions. Things that had never happened… would never happen.

Max pulled away and Liz stared blankly back at him. He reached forward and closed her eyelids. Maria's scream of loss filled the restaurant.


"No!" Max sat bolt upright in bed, eyes opened just in time to see Liz vanish beside him. His breathing was harsh and a cold sweat covered his body and suddenly there was warmth. He resisted at first.

"Max, calm down. Just a dream. It was just a dream." Michael rocked Max as quietly as he could.

"Michael?"

"Yeah, it's me." Michael nodded and loosened his grip on his friend.

"I think Tess was telling the truth." Max sagged against Michael. "I don't want it."

"What?"

Tears streaked down his face as he turned to look at his friend. "I don't want it. I can't do it. I'm not a king. I'm just a kid."

"You were never just a kid, Maxwell." Michael shook his head. "Why do you think she's telling the truth all of a sudden?"

"It's a feeling." Max wiped the wetness off his face and pushed himself off the bed. "It's something inside that tells me not to trust her but that she's got the answers."

"Then what are we waiting for?"

"I don't trust her."

--

Donna stared at him out of the corner of her eye. She quickly looked away when he turned to her. She finished her test and left the room. She felt him coming before she saw him. His eyes searched her face and her mouth went dry. The anguish and fear in his eyes made her want to console him but she just could not find the words.

"You said to trust you and I did." He whispered.

"It's a pretty wild story, Max… like something out of one of my movies."

"I know." Max shoved his hands into his pockets. "I'm still me, though… you just… know more about me now… more than anyone."

"If I believe you… it's a lot to take in. My boyfriend is… non-terran and claims he can heal people." Donna brought her hand to her face. "I mean… I know you were scared before and… I guess it makes sense but…"

"Yeah. It's a lot… talk to Ritchie though."

"You told him this?"

"No but talk to him." Max finally gave in to the urge to touch her and gripped her hip to pull her nearer to him. "If you believe anyone, believe him." He watched her eyes widen as she realized what he was talking about. "That's all he knows."

"You did that for… us?" Tears sprung to her eyes. "You mean, he's really cured? We don't have to wait for—" She threw her arms around him at his nod.

"Get a room, Evans!"

Donna couldn't help the un-lady-like snort that ripped out as she buried her face against his shoulder. She could feel his blush and dared a look into his face. He was genuinely uncomfortable with the attention. She could ignore the whistles and catcalls when she began edge him toward the door but Max turned a bright shade of red. What Max wouldn't stand for was the comment from the back of the room. Before she could stop him, Max was already across the room and in the guy's face. "Max!"

Almost too late she realized who had called out the crude comment. She rushed over before Max could do more than get in the guy's face. She pushed her body between them and gave Max a push towards the door. "It's okay, Max. Let's just go."

"No." Max protested and threw a glare at a guy that suddenly became familiar.

"Come on, Don, let him come at me. We'll see what he gets." The guy narrowed his eyes at the underclassmen.

Max started toward him again but Donna shook her head. "He's not worth it. He was an ass when I dated him and he's an ass now. Let's go." Finally, Max relented and wrapped an arm around her waist and led her outside. His anger was still high but Donna was doing her best to distract him all the way to the Jeep. "Max?"

"I'm fine but he shouldn't say things about you like that." Max turned and glared at the windows to the lounge. "How could you date that guy? He's an asshole."

"No one's perfect." She breathed out and leaned on the dusty Jeep. "Calm now?"

"I'm getting there." Max took a deep breath and leaned on the door.

"This is weird." She announced.

"What's weird?" He chanced a glance at her and she was staring at her shoes.

"I used to want to live in the movies… and now I feel like I am." When she lifted her head she narrowed her eyes at him. "All we need is a twist. You'll shed your human skin and eat me after I've fulfilled my usefulness. There will be at least two explosions, one involving a vehicle of some sort and the other a result of alien warfare—"

Max cut her speech off with a finger. "There may be twists but to my knowledge my skin doesn't come off. I've never eaten a human before. I've never caused an explosion and as I recall… all those movies have at least one love making scene or some gratuitous sex." It was meant to be a joke but when she seemed to be considering it, he nearly choked.

TBC
posted on 13-Nov-2002 12:32:31 PM by DMartinez
Part 18

Isabel opened the door and immediately shut it again. She called through the door before retreating, "Max? Can I talk to you in the kitchen?"

It was a few minutes before Max made his way into the kitchen, adjusting his shirt to rest correctly. "Hey, um…"

"Yeah, ok. I'm blind and we'll leave it at that." Isabel brushed off his question. "I… avoided Tess nearly all day but I had to. I'm curious. I mean, don't you want to know where we're from? What we're doing here?"

"I got a pretty good idea. I don't know if it's right but I'm willing to bet it is." Max crossed his arms and tossed a look toward his room.

"How do you know?"

"Had a dream."

"Anyway. Should you have beat her up before getting the answers?" Isabel glared at him.

"I did not beat her up. She was invading my mind and my tiny little pushes to get her out… happened to land her on her ass a couple of times." Max stopped when he felt Donna behind him. "I have to tell you something, Iz."

"What's that?" She eyed her brother suspiciously and then narrowed her eyes at his girlfriend. "You didn't. I can't tell Mom and you told her."

"Iz, hold up." Max raised his hands out to her. "You don't understand." It was too late, Isabel was fuming and not listening to a word. "Besides needing her to know for my own sanity… She was getting visions from me, Iz."

"Max, can't you keep it in your pants long enough to use your brain."

"Hey!" Max snapped at her. "Stop it, right now. Sit down!" Both girls jumped at his voice and hastened to the nearest seat. He relaxed just a bit. "Look. I don't want to yell and I don't want to fight. Donna knowing about us has very, very little to do with anyone's raging hormones, alright? You can't tell me you aren't getting visions from Michael when you're together." He took a deep breath and leaned on a chair. "As for Tess. I don't trust her. I get this really sick feeling every time I think about going to her for answers."

"Sick feeling?" Isabel asked softly.

"Yes. She's not good, Isabel. I feel it in my bones. She's been trying to mess with my head and I think she's been messing with Donna's." He lifted a hand to placate her for the moment. "If she… she acts like she's in a hurry, Iz. In a hurry for what?"

"Maybe we're expected somewhere…" All the blood left her face when she registered her own words. "You don't think she's here to take us home, do you?"

"I don't know."

"Max?" Donna reached for his hand. "It's all true, then. Absolutely." He nodded and she took a breath. "Okay. Alien girl in a hurry to make alien friends. Trap?"

"You think it's a trap, Max?" Isabel put a hand over her mouth.

"She's been gone 11 years and she pops up, why? Because Michael put out a signal. It didn't call to us, so why to her… unless she's working with someone." Max took a seat. "She said I'm her husband."

"How?" Isabel couldn't believe that. "We were six."

"I don't know."

"Reincarnation?" Donna giggled at Max's sharp glance. "Sorry. It's way out there."

"Might be right." Max whispered. "We need Michael here."

"He's at work." Isabel shook her head. "So… there's nothing really that we can do." She rose from the table at Max's headshake. "This is all insane." She grabbed Donna by the arm and pulled her out of her seat.

"Whoa!" Max called out. "Where are you going?"

Isabel paused in the doorway with the bewildered Donna and turned to her brother. "Max. I have waited a very long time for this. You won't let me tell Mom and I can't really trust Tess. I'm going to my room with the one female on the planet that will even know how to appreciate our situations. I am going to have my first girl-to-girl chat without having to withhold the details."

"Iz—" But it was too late, the two girls had already disappeared down the hall. He sank back into the chair and stayed there until his mother came home and started dinner. She stared at him for ten minutes while cooking before he volunteered information. "Isabel hijacked Donna. I may never see her again. I'm gonna miss her."

Diane chuckled and motioned for Max to set the table. "Is Donna going to stay for dinner?"

"I don't know and I'm afraid if I go into that room, Isabel will bite my head off." Max grabbed a dishtowel and cleaned up the table a little before getting out the plates. "I… haven't really had Donna over much, have I?"

"I suppose not… but I also suppose that you are a private person… and maybe you aren't comfortable with your father and I… knowing everything that goes on in your life." She glanced up and took in his downcast appearance.

"I don't mean for things to be like that." Max whispered. "I don't… I don't do it on purpose. I'm not trying to keep you and Dad out."

"Max, honey. It's okay." Diane tried to smile at him. "You're a teenager. I know you need your space… believe it or not… I was young once, too. It took months before I was invited to have dinner with your grandma and grandpa. She had to do the inviting or else your father never would." This time the smile was more genuine. "I might be just a mom but… I think it's a guy thing."

Max set the silverware on the table. "I like her a lot, Mom."

"Oh?"

"A lot, a lot." He clarified. "We're going to prom."

"I thought the two of you weren't into organized mating rituals…"

"Sometimes… it's okay, I guess." He shrugged.

"One condition though. You have to bring her back here for pictures." Diane laughed at the sudden sag of his shoulders. "Come on, Max. I would just like to see your handsome face in the scrapbook. It's full of your hand or the back of your head." When he didn't turn, she cleared her throat. "I could keep showing that picture of you on the pillows in Florida."

"Done." Max immediately agreed. "And I get the negatives to that one."

"It's a deal."

"What's a deal?" Philip set his briefcase just inside the next room and went about washing his hands for dinner.

"Max is taking Donna to prom." Diane nudged her husband. "I just got us the right to take pictures of them… here."

"You, my dear, should work for the government. Perhaps your tactics would work on terrorists." Philip kissed her quickly and turned to the stove to see what was left to be done. "Where's the other one? The blonde that never has time for her old man?"

"Isabel has sequestered my girlfriend in her room and won't let her go." Max answered him. Just then the two girls appeared, light blushes on their faces. "So… you guys have an interesting talk?"

"Yes." Isabel cut Donna off. "That's all you need to know."

"Donna, honey… are you staying for dinner?" Diane smiled broadly as Max pulled a placemat over his face.

"Um… sure." Donna tried to meet Max's gaze but he was making that difficult. "Just let me call my parents and let them know."

The second she and Isabel left the room, Max turned on his mother. "No questions about us. Please."

--

Max cleared his throat and sat back in his seat. It was all he could do not to grab her again when she rubbed at his lips with her thumb. Donna nearly laughed at the expression on his face. "At least you have time to lose the kissing lips. I'm gonna walk in there and they're all gonna know how we spent the last twenty minutes."

"Hold on." Max ran a finger over her mouth, which fixed her lipstick and allowed the blood to flow away from her sensitized lips. "All better."

"That's a nifty little trick." She pressed her lips together. They tingled still. After a moment, she let the mood slip away. "What are you going to do about the Tess situation?"

"I don't know. I honestly do not trust her." Max slid down in the seat. "Stay away from her please."

"Why?"

He took a good long look at her. "I wouldn't forgive myself if something happened to you. She's manipulative and you don't have a way to tell when she's messing with your head."

"And you do?"

"Yeah, I do. I feel it when she tries." He sighed deeply and just studied her face for two full minutes. "You should go inside."

"Goodnight." She pressed a final kiss to his lips and then rubbed at the circles under his eyes. "Get some sleep tonight."

Max nodded and watched her go until she had disappeared into the house. He turned the Jeep onto the road without a clue where he was going until he had reached the clinic. The parking lot was empty and most of the windows were dark. In the back of his head, he knew that he should go home and get Michael or Isabel or just leave altogether but he entered the hospital and secured himself a set of scrubs. His feet took him to the children's ward and he could feel so much pain. It took him ten minutes to figure out which child needed him the most.

They were all just children. Most of them incurable and in excruciating pain. Some were meant to be saved and some were not. This little boy needed him. Max carefully placed his hands on the little head and skinny body, then closed his eyes.

TBC
posted on 13-Nov-2002 12:34:18 PM by DMartinez
Part 19

Max accepted the kiss on his forehead before drifting back to sleep. He was just so cold that he wanted to burrow beneath his blankets forever. When he finally woke, bright light filled the room. Isabel was leaning against the doorframe… waiting… and apparently worrying. "Iz?"

"Nice of his majesty to wake up." Isabel flicked a finger and the radio turned on. "That has been playing all day. On the TV, on the radio, in the newspapers."

"Once again, Roswell has stumped everyone. Many children at Roswell's Cancer Clinic woke up this morning with stories of an angel who touched them in their sleep. All children sported a silver handprint and a surprising lack of sickness. Doctors are still performing tests but at the very least, these children who have been touched by God are feeling no pain."

"Oh, that." Max pushed himself up against the headboard.

"Yes, that." Isabel huffed and stepped further into the room. "Michael was pissed."

"Really?" Max groaned as he tried to wake up fully. "Mom let me stay home?"

"She felt sorry for you. She thought you were coming down with something and if you're not feeling better by the time she gets home, you're going to a doctor." She sat on the bed. "I'm not mad at you."

"Could have fooled me."

"Max, you could expose us like this."

"I almost killed myself trying to get home." Max admitted. "I was too weak to drive."

"Mom thinks you and Donna spend most of the evening together." Isabel sighed. "Are you okay?"

"I'll be fine. I'm drained though." He had to force his eyes to stay open. "Help me get up. I need to eat something."

--

Max could barely carry himself through the halls the next day at school. He had been threatened by Michael and chided by Donna but everything seemed to be okay. The surveillance tape had been mysteriously unusable. From what he could tell, Tess was staying away and that much he was grateful for.

Donna made him go home with her after school so she could take care of him. He dozed with his head in her lap and her fingers running through his hair. When she suddenly stopped, he opened his eyes and lifted his head. Ritchie stood in the entryway just staring. His eyes were red and had something akin to mistrust in them. "One of those kids died today, Max."

"Yeah." Max nodded and sat up.

"Didn't you heal him? Isn't that why there's a handprint on him?" Ritchie was slowly becoming angry and he could see that Donna was confused as hell. "Did you know about this, sis?"

"Sort of. Someone died?" Donna whispered.

Max lifted his hands in surrender. "It was too late for him. All I could do was take away the pain."

"Is that supposed to make it okay?" Ritchie was shaking with rage.

"If I had not done a damn thing to any of those kids, he would have died anyway… in much more pain than he did." Max whispered. "I'm not God, Ritchie. I don't get to choose. I did what I could when I was there." He still sensed the mistrust. "It's not that I didn't want to. I wanted to so much but I couldn't." Max rose to his feet and paced across the room. "He was the one I went to first. I tried but I couldn't. He was worst off and I figured I could use most of my energy on him and then work on the others but I couldn't."

"Wouldn't."

"Couldn't." Max repeated. "Not able to."

"It's not fair." Ritchie shook his head. "Why am I walking around and that little boy isn't?"

"Something much greater than me wanted it that way."

"God?"

"Don't know. I don't believe in him." Max shrugged. "I should go. I need to get some sleep."

"Max, hold on. You shouldn't be driving like this." Donna stopped him. "Sit. Rest for a little while and then we'll call Michael or Isabel to come get you."

Max nodded and sank back into the couch. Ritchie fidgeted where he stood. "It takes a lot out of you?" Max could only nod. "Then thanks for what you did for that boy. Pain isn't the way to go."

--

It took a week before Max felt even close to normal, again. Tess had backed off, for which he was grateful but he knew there would always be something lurking around the corner. No matter how hard he tried to just be, he couldn't. There was always something tugging at his subconscious. He hadn't seen Liz for over a week and that worried him. He knew it wasn't done. It couldn't be done and yet she was gone.

Donna pulled him through the park so they could find a nice secluded area to listen to the bands playing in the park. "Relax, Max."

"Stop it." He groaned. "I don't like Shania Twain."

"Yes you do, you just don't know it yet." Donna pinched his shirt.

"I'm more of a Moby guy." Max shrugged and leaned against a tree.

"Yes and Counting Crows." She rolled her eyes. "They are great but only succeed in pulling you farther down than you ever thought humanly possible."

"You just don't understand." Max sighed and slid down until he had the ground firmly beneath him. "You can't just listen to the music. You have to be the music."

"Be the music." She snorted and straddled his legs. "Since when are you this great music lover?"

"I might not be all gung-ho like you with your movies but I understand everything I listen to."

"Uh-huh. Are we giving the aliens on T-2 another try?"

"We've watched and watched that movie. I'm not saying it's bad or horrible but it's not for me. I don't get it." Max set himself in for another lecture.

"It's the story of your life, man." She smiled goofily at him as she settled herself on his legs. "Reluctant hero that holds the power of life and death in his hands… and not in the way that he's used to. Humanity creeps into his soul and despite all his best efforts, he still comes out the hero." Leaning forward with eyebrows raised, she looked him in the eye. "Sounds like someone I know."

"He's a murderer."

"You're an alien. The metaphor isn't literal."

"Okay. Are you the little boy that isn't?"

"No. I'm the pilot."

"Why?"

"She's the humanizing factor."

"Ugh, my head hurts." Max groaned but rubbed the small of her back to keep her there. "The little boy who wasn't?"

"Do you have a little boy who wasn't?" Donna took a breath and rested her elbows on his shoulders. "He saves her… when he swore that he wouldn't. He's got a respect for the little cross-dresser. When he first realized he was a she, he could have killed her and everyone else could have lived. When the blue-eyed devil suggests triage… he thinks about it but hating the guy, sacrifices Johns instead. Then in the valley of death, he could have left them all and let the girl get killed but he didn't. And again, he leaves, plans to leave them to die but goes back and saves them, nearly getting himself killed in the process."

"So what are you saying?"

She slugged him in the shoulder. "He's a murderer. Corrupt, nearly devoid of a soul and yet he turns out to be the hero. Flawed yet he's the one you root for. He's far from perfect and that only makes him worth your admiration when he proves even himself wrong."

"Maybe I do have a Jack." Max mumbled to himself. Needing a change in subject, he cleared his throat. "So I've put in some time with Dad at the office. It's minimum but I'm saving it all. So, limo?"

"What?" Donna sat back suddenly. "A limo. Why are you going to waste your money on a limo?"

"It's prom tradition." He managed a smile. "Throughout modern history, young beau have wooed their women with flowers and poetry, asked them to promenades and escorted them there in carriages, or limos in our case. It's tradition."

"How… about…" Tipped her head back as she resettled herself higher on his lap. "… you divert the money for the limo into funds for a room."

"I think you're trying to seduce me." Max teased.

"It's modern tradition. You're supposed to try and nail me prom night." She sat firmly on his lap to emphasize her next point. "If you don't, I'm going to think there is something seriously wrong with you. I've been throwing myself at you for nearly two months and you're not taking the bait."

"Maybe it's all part of the plan. I'm just waiting until you're absolutely begging for it, then I'll give it to you… then I'll shed my human skin and bite your head off. It's all a plot for world domination."

"That's funny. Really funny."

"Hey, be careful. There's only so much torture I can take. At present, Michael is still staying in my room beyond all efforts of my mother to get him into the guest room." Max finally gave in and planted a firm kiss on her lips. Before his eyes closed, he thought he spotted a sea-foam green uniform but when he opened his eyes again… No one.

TBC
posted on 15-Nov-2002 12:19:20 PM by DMartinez
Part 20

Max swayed with Donna in his arms, kissing the top of her head whenever they got the urge. Prom had not been too bad so far. After enduring dual photo sessions that would have made Molly Sims scream enough, they had finally made their way to dinner where they met up with Donna's friends. A couple of guys from her theater production class and their dates. Max had no problem blending into the background while Donna, John and Joser dissected the lighting scheme for the choir concert in a month. He admired the way she ignored the whispers and glares from the two girls at the table.

After managing dinner without incident, they all reported to the high school gym and separated. Max was just glad they didn't have too many friends to mingle with. They checked in with her friends, visited with Michael and Isabel, avoided her brothers, and spent most of their time pretending no one else existed. It seemed to be working.

Things almost took a turn when they had turned off the dance floor and gone to get a drink. Some girls didn’t see Donna standing next to the wall support. "Did you see what Donna Mason is wearing? Could she try any harder to look like a slut?"

"Oh, I know. She's already fucking him, what does she have to prove by dressing like that? Those silicone parts don't even fit in her dress."

"I hear her mother makes her dresses."

"You're kidding. That is just so sad. And did you see how she was hanging all over poor Max?"

"I know. Makes you want to go rescue the poor guy."

"Wonder why he hasn't dumped her yet? He could do so much better."

Max watched the smile fade from Donna's face. He was about to turn and say something to the girls when Maria DeLuca appeared out of nowhere. "What are you two clucking about? I think she looks great… Now, you want to talk about slutty dresses? You two should look in a mirror."

"Now, now." Isabel? Where did she come from? "There's no need to be catty. If you're jealous just admit it. She's got a nice body, a gorgeous dress and my brother is a great guy with impeccable taste." Isabel turned to rejoin her friends but threw one more comment over her shoulder. "The fact that she's smarter than the both of you put together and could catch his eye has got to be killing you two."

"Hi Max!" Maria called out, startling the two girls and shaming them into silence. "You look so handsome in that tux."

"Hey Maria." Donna flashed her a small smile.

"That dress is amazing, girl. You're going to have to let me in on your secret." Maria winked at the couple and strolled off to find her date.

"Later, Maria." Max waved after her and pulled Donna away from the fish-mouthed girls. As they rounded a refreshment table, he leaned over to whisper in her ear. "Have I ever expressed how much I hate high school?" That earned him an upturn of her lips. "Did I tell you how beautiful you are?"

"Yes but keep going." That earned him a full out smile.

"How about we bail out early? Do something else?"

"Now you're speaking my language." She tucked herself under his arm. "Memento."

"What?"

"Let's go watch it. We can probably catch the last showing." Donna tried to step away but he had her firmly under his arm, guiding her around the perimeter of the gym. "Max?"

"In a little bit." Max licked his lips and pulled her back out onto the dance floor for another slow song. Halfway into the song, she smacked him on the shoulder. "Ow. What's that for?"

"Are we leaving or not? If we miss the last showing, we'll end up watching a stupid teeny-bopper movie or roaming the city endlessly." She pleaded.

"You memorized the listings for tonight." He shook his head at her. "Here I went through all the trouble of getting a room and you want to watch a movie." Her only response was to raise an eyebrow at him.

--

Awkward.

The second that door shut behind them the room filled with insecurity.

Silent.

Hesitant kisses. Some relaxation. Touching. More relaxation. Insecure disrobing. Gentle exploration. Finally, the awkward and somewhat painful joining. Afterwards, the bashful reassurances.

"That… was…" Donna trailed off, pulling the blanket over her shoulder.

"Yeah… it was…" Max took a breath and finally gave in to the urge to pull her close to him. "Wow."

"Yeah." It took a moment for a goofy grin to cross her face. "Wow."

"Not the way you pictured it?"

"No, but wow." She shifted closer to him, laying her head just beneath his chin. "In the movies, everyone is so suave and knowledgeable, they move just right."

"It's also choreographed with fifty other people in the room." He pointed out and allowed himself to relax.

"Yeah. No audience is good for me." She bit his neck playfully and laughed when he yelped. Kissing the abused skin, she pressed closer and froze. "Um, Max?"

"If you ignore it, it goes away." Tenderly, he caressed the soft skin of her back. "No pressure." Then he gasped when she made her decision. "Or a little and it won't."

--

Max pressed one last kiss to her lips before she had to go inside. Her curfew had been extended for the night but it was a little early to ensure future outings. Quickly, he noted that her brothers were still gone and breathed a sigh of relief. Climbing into the Jeep, he pulled out. He nearly ran off the road when he saw Liz sitting in the passenger seat. He released several expletives before he righted the Jeep. "Good to see you too."

"I was wondering where you went." His eyes glued to her form.

"Yeah, yeah. We were on probation because I helped you too much." Liz waved him off. "I knew this would happen and they would send me back a little."

"This?" Eyebrows raised and mentally preparing himself for anything.

"They frown on premarital relations." Liz rolled her eyes. "I tried explaining that it's a new time and all.”

"What's the news?" Max asked, forgetting to watch the road. She shrugged and turned her gaze to the road. His eyes followed and he slammed on the brakes before it all went black and he heard nothing but the constant honking of a horn.

TBC
posted on 16-Nov-2002 4:12:25 AM by DMartinez
Part 21

Blinded, he fought off his attackers the best he could. Somehow in all the ruckus, he had grabbed hold of one and reached inside with his mind. Filled with knowledge he never wanted, he destroyed it and anything else that came his way. Then he was floating.

Max sat up with a jerk and suddenly arms were pushing him back down. He was blinded still and he was about to destroy whatever had him until he heard the person's voice. Calm, soothing, familiar "Max, calm down. It's just Mom. You're in the hospital."

"Mom?" Max reigned in the energy and turned his face to the warmth that appeared suddenly at the top of his head. The overhead light? "Mom, I can't see."

"What?" Diane looked into his face. His eyes were open. She snapped her fingers in his face and he didn't flinch. She tried again. Nothing. No reaction.

"Mom? What happened to me? Why am I here?" Max gripped her hands for all he was worth. Where was she? Left side? Right side?

"It was a car accident, after prom the other night. Hold on. Let me get the doctor."

It was strange. He could hear, feel, taste, smell but he couldn't see a thing. She was gone a long time. There was a good amount of foot shuffling. "Who's there?"

"Hey, Max." Another familiar voice. Female.

"Isabel?"

"Yeah. It's me. Mom told me about your eyes. The doctor's coming soon." Her feet shuffled again. "Michael and I took care of the blood work."

"How long have I been here?"

"A few days." More shuffling feet. "They… what do you remember?"

"Driving."

"Um, they haven't found Donna yet."

Max sat bolt upright. "What are you talking about? I dropped her off before I started home."

"She never came home, Max. We've been waiting for you to wake up." He could feel her standing next to the bed. "We just want to know what happened that night."

"Isabel, we left the prom, we… then I took her home. I was on my way home. I remember that. I was maybe seven blocks from her house." Max wanted to wipe his hand over his face but he didn't trust himself to find his face. "Isabel, what's going on?"

"I wish we knew. They found you and the Jeep on Jefferson."

"Jefferson? That's no where near our side of town."

"I know. The cops are going to ask you some questions. We need to know what happened so we can cover… anything… other."

"Nothing… other… happened." His head dropped as it all started hitting him. "She's been gone all this time?"

"Yeah. We'll find her."

Max shook his head slightly and remembered what had startled him from sleep. The memories he had received from a subject. "You're a princess, Isabel."

"I know."

"Seriously, Isabel. You're a real princess." Max reached out in her direction and suddenly her hand was there. "I think there was a fight prom night, Isabel. I… got something from something I killed. I… I think I was remembering it when I woke up. I have to tell you some things about us. Tess was right."

--

Max turned his head from the warmth near the window when he heard the door open. Some shuffling feet. Chair scraping against the carpet. Body heat. "Who's there?"

"Hey Max." Familiar, male.

"Ritchie?" Max's mouth suddenly went dry. The Mason clan was waiting to kill him, he was sure of it. "I didn't do anything to her. I took her home."

"Calm down. Mom thought she heard her come home but her bed was never slept in." Ritchie put a hand on Max's arm and squeezed gently. "They told me that you can't see."

"The doctor thinks it's psychosomatic or something. I don't remember a whole lot." Max shook his head. "I miss her and she's out there… if only I could see."

"Your sister told me some things after I asked her some things. She seemed a little miffed that I knew to ask some things. I covered for you."

"Covered for me?"

"The blood work."

"Oh. Okay. Thanks." Max squeezed his eyes shut and opened them again. That little wish he made each time he blinked still hadn't come true.

"Truth is, we'll need you to find out what happened. I could have sworn she was home when I got home. I heard a noise but I didn't think anything of it. Then she was gone when my dad woke up to go to work." Ritchie sighed. "You have this gift and it only works one way."

"It works more ways than one but you're right. It doesn't help us now." Max buried his face in his shoulder. "Isabel's working on it though. Maybe tonight we'll see some results."

"Isabel? What can she do?"

"More than you think. Ritchie, I don't have any right to ask but I need your trust. I'm going to find out what happened to her. Eyes or no eyes, I will." The older guy's hand left his arm, there was a slow shuffle to the door and it closed but Max could feel someone nearby. A presence but he couldn't even hear them breathe. "Who's there?"

"It's just me." Liz whispered. "How are you feeling?"

"Like maybe I got hit by a truck, attacked by aliens and left for dead by the side of the road." Max cast his sightless gaze to the ground. "Sorry. I'm a little on edge."

"Understandable."

"Was I supposed to survive that?"

"No."

"Why then?"

"Why what?"

"Don't play games with me." Max kept his head bowed but leaned in the direction of her voice. "Why is Donna gone? Why did I survive when I shouldn’t have?"

Max could feel her smile. He knew that she was smiling. "Let's just say that you being alive is more a testament to how strong a person you are. Not just physically but strength of character, of will. They underestimated you again and this time, you've done so well that they'll never do it again."

"Do you even care that Donna's gone?" Max felt the tears building up.

"I do. I care. I don't know where she is. That's not what I do. You know that."

"Why can't I see?"

"I can't tell you."

"No. Don't play this game again." A tear slipped down his face.

"I'm not playing a game but I can't tell you. This is one of those things you have to figure out." He felt a cool breeze against his cheek and the wet vanished. "I know that you'll come out on top, Max. You always do.”

"I'm scared for her. What if she's in trouble or hurt and I can't save her? What if something happens to her? This is my fault. Whatever happened to me after I wrecked… it's connected to why Donna's missing." Max wished he could see his lamp so he could throw it across the room.

"Bitching and moaning won't get anything done."

"But what am I supposed to do?"

"Figure it out." He knew she was gone. She had seemed normal when she first appeared. Happy even. What had changed her mood?

--

Michael studied the map of town. "They found you and your Jeep here. Donna lives here and you think you went off road here."

"Michael, I can't see." Max reminded him. "What's the deal?"

"It's almost a straight line from where you crashed to Donna's to where they found you. It's a good long distance but how often you gonna get a straight line?" Michael shrugged.

"You know. I haven't seen Tess at all." Isabel pondered aloud. "She went to prom but I haven't seen her at school, nowhere." She turned to the boys. "That line cross over Washington?"

"Yeah." Michael nodded. "What block?"

"1400."

"Yeah."

"You think Tess did something to you?" Isabel asked her brother softly. It unnerved her the way his eyes moved around the room without seeing anything.

"Wouldn't I have felt her near?" Max shook his head. "I would have known."

"Would you?" Michael spoke up. "What your sister doesn't know is what you did between prom and taking Donna home?" Standing up, he made a noise in his teeth. "Who knows what that would do to your perceptions?"

"I can't reach her, Max. I've tried." Isabel hesitantly took her brother's hand. "Are you sure about what you remember from that night?"

"Yes. Sure." Max nodded.

"Are you sure?" Isabel tried again.

"Yes. Absolutely. I may not remember parts but I know what I remember. After the hotel, I took her home. I walked her to the door. Rudy and Bobby weren't home yet… I don't think Ritchie was either. Ritchie says she was home when he got home but not when Kellen got up for work. After I took her home, I drove off. I got distracted and nearly went off the road. I guess I still wasn't paying attention the second time. Couldn’t have been more than ten blocks away. I have… vague memories of a fight with something that I couldn't see. Then I woke up in the hospital." Max shut his eyes. This was killing him. The not knowing, the doubts, missing memories. After a few moments he had made his decision. Michael and Isabel would try to stop him but he knew what he had to do. "Take me to Tess's house."

TBC
posted on 17-Nov-2002 2:38:24 AM by DMartinez
Part 22

Max felt the rush of air when the door opened. Isabel gripped his arm so tight that he thought he might have bruises the next day. Then he heard Tess's voice. "Max, Isabel… Michael How nice to see you."

"Can we come in?" Isabel spoke up.

"Sure." The cold hand took his and Max could only walk where led. "Max, I was so sorry to hear about your accident. You really can't see anything? You poor thing."

"Yeah. Listen. I wanted to talk to your dad. Is he around?" Max had to force the words out. That tugging feeling was back and it was strong. "Can you please stay out of my head?" The tugging diminished but it was there, just barely in the peripherals of his mind. "Your dad?"

"Ok." Tess's hand went away and he felt Michael lead him to a chair.

"I really don't like this, Maxwell." Michael hissed in his ear.

"If you've got a better plan, let me know." Max cleared his throat.

Footsteps sounded as two people approached. Max was getting better and better at discerning the noises around him. "Max Evans, a pleasure to finally meet you."

"Sit. Now." Max spoke up. He listened and heard the sound of someone sitting across from him. "Tell me what you've done with Donna Mason."

"We don't know—" Tess started but was quickly quieted.

"I have not done a thing with Ms. Mason." Mr. Harding answered.

"Then tell me what you know about what was done with her." Max demanded. "Consider it an order."

"She was taken as collateral." Came the immediate response.

"For?"

"A ride home."

"We're not going home." Max shook his head. "You're going to help me get her back, then you're going to take your daughter and leave my town. I will not put up with her constant attempts to mind rape me or influence my girlfriend."

"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about."

"No lying." Max bit out. "All of her attempts on me have been unfruitful for whatever reason. There are already too many people in my head. I don't need her too."

Some meaningful silence passed through the room before Tess spoke again. "It's too full. I can't get in. It's like trying to drive in a mud puddle."

"Yeah, whatever that means." Max affirmed. No one spoke for a while. "Don't try anything with me. I've killed like this. I'll do it again. I want Donna back. Tonight."

"I'm afraid, I can't help you." Harding shook his head.

"You will help me. You will take me to Donna." Max turned his head slightly. "Isabel, Michael. Stay here with Tess. Mr. Harding's not going to hurt me… but if anything happens to me… think of something to do with her."

--

Max ducked his head as he stepped into the room. He could smell the perfume Donna had been wearing prom night. It was fading but it was definitely there which meant she had at least been in this room. He had absolutely no clue where he was but he couldn't let the little details control the situation. The time to get there had been short but he hadn't been able to tell how fast they had been going or what direction.

"You're joking. This… this is the king of Antar?" It was a young voice, male. Filled with humor and a touch of disdain. Felt the rush of air near his face. The voice came from below his chin. "What's wrong with him?"

"He's been blinded… presumably by the incident on… prom night… I hate these mundane human rituals." Harding spoke up from somewhere on the left.

"I hope that's his excuse for being a sorry excuse for an Antarian."

Max couldn't resist. He reached out and found the guy's face. "Man, you seriously don't even have any peach fuzz." His hand was violently slapped away. "Geez, they let kids lead the enemy armies? No wonder you guys suck." He really should have been expecting that shot of energy to the gut.

"He's got a big mouth." The kid spat on the fallen boy. "I'll have you know that I'm nearly twice your age, your majesty." The voice sounded muffled. "How in the world did this punk manage to take out twelve of my men?"

"I did it blind, too." That remark earned him another shot of energy to the gut.

"Max! Shut up!" Donna? Where did that come from?

"Listen to the girl, Maxie. She might be on to something." The kid nudged the taller boy with his foot. There was some rustling and then the young voice was nearer. "I cannot believe the queen mother has put all her faith in this waste of skin."

"I really don't see what the problem is." Max struggled to his feet. "I'm not going to bother anyone… I don't see why you just can't leave without me." He rubbed his stomach lightly, wincing at the pain. "I'll just take my girlfriend and we'll go."

"It's not that easy." The kid started walking away. "Kivar needs you dead. I'm willing to comply. I just need one thing." Before Max could ask what, the kid was back with a hand to his forehead and pulling at the inside. It hurt. A lot. A few moments later the kid let out an anguished cry. "What the hell is up with this kid, Jakai?"

"I don't know. Tess has not been successful in warping him. She said his mind was too full."

"It's like the entire royal family is in there." When he felt the kid near to him, Max realized he was on his knees. "That includes… the crazy old man." Heavy footsteps. "Why did you bring him here if he wasn't of any use?"

"I was ordered to."

"Damn shapeshifters and their coded DNA." The kid muttered. "What am I going to do with a defective king?"

"There is a matter of the other set."

"Other set?" Foot shuffling. "There's another set of these morons? What's that Zan like? As much a problem as this one?"

"Not sure." Harding cleared his throat. "I don't associate with them in any capacity. You might say that they've led unsavory lives."

Max could feel his anger building. They had stopped recognizing his presence altogether, which meant they planned to kill him. To top it off, there were 'others' whatever that meant. Donna was somewhere in the room but who knew where she was, especially without his sight. Just when he thought it was all over, when the kid's hand was poised over his head and probably ready to kill, the door flew open.

The room went silent. Six heavy steps into the room and the figure stopped. "I haven't the words to express how much I truly hate my job and each and every one of you."

TBC
posted on 18-Nov-2002 1:45:26 PM by DMartinez
Part 23

Cigar in hand, the intruder strode into the room. "You know, the kid has the right idea. He was going to lay low, make it a few times with the… hoo! Yeah, the babe over there and leave Antar's business to Antar. I woulda preferred it that way myself."

"If it isn't the wayward protector." The kid laughed.

"Niko, baby! Well… I guess you really are a baby this time."

"Funny, Kal. Funny. You can leave now and we'll just dispose of these two."

"Sorry, Niko. I can't let you do that."

"Watch me." Max was flying before he even felt 'Niko' shift in his direction. There was no chance to defend himself with how weak he already was. He hit a wall and fell to the ground. Then there were soft hands on his face and the faint smell of perfume.

"I can let that slide, it's not fatal." The one called Kal remarked. "I just can't let you kill him."

"Kal, Kal. Come on. With them out of the way you can pursue that pathetic excuse of a life that you lead without further interference from them or us." The kid chided.

"Least I'm livin' a life, Niko. One of my own choosing. How long you gonna be Kivar's butt monkey?"

"We're just looking to go home. You just go back to your little movie career and leave the big boys to the real conflicts."

"You really want to be calling yourself a big boy, Nicky?" Six footsteps. "And what are you calling yourself these days, Jakai?"

"This isn't a reunion, Kal." Harding, a.k.a. Jakai, snorted.

Max struggled to sit up but Donna kept pushing at his shoulders to keep him still. "Sh, Max, just lie still. If you keep still they don't bother you."

"Are you okay?" Max turned his head to her voice.

"Would the lovebirds kindly shut the hell up?" Kal called over before turning back to the two in front of him. "He don't want the throne. You go home and tell the old lady that. Give him his girl and throw him back. Leave the other kids alone, too. I hate that friggin' city. I am not going back there unless I have to." Footsteps. Max shrank backward against Donna as they got closer and closer. "Night-night."

Unable to protect them against the intruder, Max cursed at his weakness at such a crucial moment. Max slipped into unconsciousness listening to Donna's whispers for the guy to go away and leave them both alone.

--

The smell of cigar smoke was the first thing Max became aware of. He knew his eyes were open and he could see the glow of the cigar but the glow remained amongst darkness. After a moment, he could feel a female body holding him.

"Welcome back to the land of the living." The one they called Kal. Geez, that guy was sarcastic. "Do me a favor. Stay out of trouble. I thought you were doin' good, Kid. You need to get that second of yours under control."

"Who are you?" Max managed to croak out. His throat was really tight.

"Kid, I'm over here." Snapping close to his face.

"I can't see." Max shook his head, turning his head toward the voice but he was fascinated by the glowing embers at the end of that stinking cigar. "I was in an accident."

"I know. It's all in your head, Kid. Psychosomatic means that it's all in your head. Geez, and I thought you were the smart one." The smoke filled Max's nostrils and he had to resist the urge to cough. "That was a stupid thing you did. Lucky for us, your girl's got a really strong will on her and she don't lose her cool so easy. What the hell were you thinking walking in there alone and temporarily blind?"

"I wasn't thinking." Max hesitantly reaching for Donna. She found his hand for him with hers, reassuring him that she was still right beside him.

"Stupid, stupid thing." Kal repeated. "There are a million girls like her."

"No, there aren't." Max shook his head. "Who are you?"

"Nobody, Kid. I ain't nobody. I'll tell you though… you got the right idea. Let them deal with it. It's none of your business."

"Why?"

"You think you can leave this planet? Leave your folks? Your pretty girl? All to go to a planet that doesn't really know you exist? With big evil guys that want your huge head on a silver platter? Your old lady was grasping at straws, Kid. Sending you here… It was a mistake to try it but at least here you get a normal life… provided you leave the alien business to the full-blooded aliens."

"I didn't ask them to come."

"They ain't comin' no more." More smoke up his nose and then the presence of Kal wasn't so near. "Do me a favor, kid… Don't look me up… unless, of course, you got an idea for a multi-million dollar picture that'll actually fly."

"Where are we?" Max rubbed at his eyes and he could definitely make out the shadow of a man standing over them.

"See, the old peepers are starting to work again." Kal took a breath. "I don't know where we are, Kid. I hate this town. I don't plan on ever coming back. Sweetcheeks will take you home. Ain't no one here to mess with you. In fact, I was never here if you get my drift."

Footsteps sounded and then faded. Max sat up and he could see Kal's back. "Thanks, Kal." Kal waved him off, muttering about the first time he ever got any thanks for anything. As soon as he was gone, Donna began getting Max to his feet. She was so silent. He hadn't heard a word from her since he woke up. "Donna?"

"Yeah, I'm here."

"Are you okay?" Max could see her outline but he couldn't see the expression on her face.

"Oh yeah. I'm great. I am fantastic. I was kidnapped by evil aliens, nearly… I don't know whatted and saved by the most famous movie producer in the country, who happens to be an alien." Despite her bitter tone, her efforts to get him on his feet and walking were gentle. "I'm great, Max. I just want to go home and get out of this dress, maybe shower. I haven't showered in a week. I reek. I'm dirty… and I'm starving."

"Warning. Your mother will feed you and the cops will be stopping by for a statement."

"Fantastic."

--

The ride in the cop car had been silent. The police station had been silent… until the Mason clan arrived. Max did his best to calm Leti down. He still couldn't see much of anything but he could reassure them that Donna was okay and was giving her statement. Ritchie managed to calm his mother down long enough for Donna to emerge from the detective's office. Max couldn't see more than her shadow as she approached but just knowing it was her, made him feel better. "Momma, Daddy." The Mason clan hugged and kissed on their baby until she had had enough. "Alright, alright. Let's go home. I'm starving." They began to move when she snapped her head around. "Max?"

"I think they forgot about me." Max managed a smile.

"Come on, mi hijo. Come home with us and we'll find your parents."

"I got him, Momma." Ritchie gripped Max's arm. "How're those eyes?"

"Less than blind and a lot less than sighted." Max answered and let Ritchie guide him out and away. "Your folks pissed?"

"I think they blamed you for a while but you got her back. I was three seconds from killing one of these cops when they called saying they picked you guys up at the ass end of nowhere. Watch your head and sit down." Ritchie quickly moved around the car. Once they were on the road, he snapped off the radio. "What happened?"

"I'm not sure. I couldn't see. Donna told the cops that someone took her out of her bedroom… that she was blindfolded the entire time. I told the cops that someone picked me up when I was visiting a friend. I was outside for some air and they got me. We heard some arguing. Then someone showed up, we were knocked out and when we woke up, we were alone."

"Is that what happened?"

"Essentially. She hasn't told me anything yet."

"Do I want to know? Or will knowing entail me kicking your ass?"

"I don't think I want to know what really happened." Max shook his head. "I think I was out of it for very much of the happenings. I'm not completely sure we woke up where we were knocked out."

"That's it? We're never going to know the truth?"

"It's not killing you as much as it's killing me." Max blinked and focused on the lights that moved past them as they drove. "Ritchie, I want this to be over but it never will be. More can still come from the skies. There are others like me and I don't know where they are. I don't know if they're like us, if they're worse off, if they're better, or stronger or angrier. I just don't know."

--

Max took the good-natured ribbing when he missed his mouth, again, and got sour cream all over his cheek. "Maybe if it had a neon light on it."

"You're seeing light?" Donna asked.

"Yeah. I saw headlights and sirens and I see the light on the ceiling fan but everything else is shadows."

"That's good, right?" Leti asked.

"I guess it's better than total darkness but it's a little more frustrating." Max bent his head over his plate and managed to get the forkful of enchilada in his mouth. "This… this is really good once it's in my mouth."

"It's not too hot? I'll tell you. I've been married for 26 years and I still haven't built up a tolerance for Leti's enchiladas." Kellen chuckled.

"They're great. No problem."

"Do you need help?" Leti rubbed his shoulder.

"Are you kidding? If he needed it, he definitely wouldn't ask for it." Donna snorted.

"How have you been coping?"

"Soups in mugs and finger foods." Max admitted. "That's the easy thing. Isabel's been helping me with my homework so I don't fall behind. She isn't in any of my classes, so it's double the work for her."

"That's sweet." Leti cleared her throat. "See, some brothers and sisters are nice to each other."

"We're nice." Rudy mumbled, his mouth full.

"We are." Bobby nodded.

"Like Hell." Kellen shook his head. "What about the time you put a snake…"

Max sat back and just listened to the new round of stories about the Mason family. When his parents arrived, they hugged him tightly, thanked the Masons, excused themselves for not being home and drug him home. His goodbye with Donna had been… tense. More tense than he had counted on.

--

Max brought the handlight closer to his face then further away. It didn't change that all he could see was the light and the outline of the flashlight itself.

"You'll go blind if you keep staring at that light." Liz whispered.

"That's not funny." Max turned his head toward her voice. "Is it over?"

"I think you know the answer to that."

"It'll never be over."

"'Fraid so."

"You're leaving for good this time, huh." He could feel it. She wasn't acting any sadder but he knew. This was goodbye.

"'Fraid so." This time when Max blinked, he could see just a bit more than her profile… which was kind of… glowing.

"Did you get your wings?"

"In a manner of speaking." She laughed. "Keep it up. You're intuition is great."

"What can you tell me?"

"I can't tell you the future."

"I don't want to know the future, Liz. If you had told me nearly two years ago that all this would happen, I would have run the other way… now, I'm glad I didn't. I can't know what's going to happen." Max got to his feet and strode to the window, knocking his knee on the desk in the process. "I do want to know about Kal."

"Let me ask you something. Do you think you living your life this way has influenced anyone?"

"How do you mean?"

"Do you think you have done anything special this last year and a half?"

"Not really. I mean, those kids but… no, not really." Max around groped for the windowsill and pushed the panes open. The fresh air made the room less claustrophobic.

"This is the last time I get to be here like this, Max. I want you to pay attention… to everything. Your vision… it's coming back. It'll be slow but I've been here too long and that's probably the reason for it. I think, anyway. I'm not an expert."

"What?"

"Just pay attention, Max." Liz took a breath before she crossed to sit on the windowsill beside him. "For now, just listen. You say you haven't done anything special but you have. Everything you do has this ripple effect. On a small scale… at the very least… you changed some attitudes."

"How?"

"Okay. Those girls at prom, the ones talking trash about your girl. Once they knew you were there, right behind them, they were ashamed. Then, Donna didn't say anything because you didn't. They know that she didn't need to say anything to them. She was a bit bigger than that."

"The only reason I didn't say anything was because Isabel and Maria showed up."

"Really? They love you enough to spare you from that. They knew you'd feel guilty about it later if you had said something." Liz smiled and Max swore he could see the white teeth. "The ex, you changed him too. He took Donna for granted. He really didn't treat her right and he sees how far a quiet boy like you was willing to go to protect her honor. He has regrets now."

"But… I didn't even do anything."

"Yeah. Donna normally would have let her current boyfriend clobber her old one… but you aren't a violent person Max. You were doing it for her and she didn’t think he was worth it. He heard her say that. It didn't make him feel too good. He'll change. Not today or tomorrow but when it counts."

"You aren't making any sense, Liz."

"Yes, I am. You just need to pay attention and remember." She sighed heavily and cleared her throat. "As for the long run… Kal. He's always watched you and he's always hated you. Not for anything you, yourself, did."

"But because of who I was on Antar?"

"Yeah. The war didn't go too good for him. He felt his duty had been fulfilled making sure you came out of your pods when the Evans would be coming back from their drive. He didn't count on Michael being scared or Tess not coming out of her pod with you guys. He made a life for himself and he wasn't willing to let you threaten that… so he stayed away but he watched. He had to. It's in his DNA, coded in. Over the past year and a half… you've denied your heritage. Not in pretending to be fully human but by making what he considered to be wise decisions about yourself and the war. When he saw you wanted no part of the throne, he was happy. It's also what made him come when he heard about your accident. He knew that Nicholas would try something. He waited. He wanted to kill you himself when you had Mr. Harding take you directly to Nicholas."

"I just wanted Donna to be safe."

"When he got there, he saw that. He doesn't hate you anymore. The immediate threat is gone, Max. You can live your life in relative peace… just be aware that danger could still lurk around each corner. You've changed a few lives, Max. I know you won't take credit for it but it makes me proud of you."

"I'm sorry Liz."

"Why?”

"There are so many things you won't experience." She really was glowing.

"I know what I'm missing. I got to see the other side of the coin. Unconditional love and happiness." Liz focused. "If not better this way for me, then better this way for the world." Max felt the tear slip down his face when he felt her lips on his. Then gone.

TBC

Yes, you're seeing right. One more part. One measly part. It's been a ride.
posted on 18-Nov-2002 9:30:57 PM by DMartinez
Epilogue

Donna stared at him. Max stared at her. Twenty minutes. He had tried to smile because now she was a fuzzy blur. His sight was improving so slowly but they were making do. Michael had bought Max a small desk lamp and a set of metallic pens. It had enabled him to do his own math homework and the essays. Thank goodness there was a market for girly pens that happened to reflect light, and for teachers that were willing to allow it. He felt sorry for the millions of trees he was killing on scrap paper but he was determined to do as much as he was able. He could take walks around the block by himself now… he still didn't trust himself to cross the street though. So there they were, on the workout bench in the garage, staring.

It had been about two weeks since they were alone together. She had been very obviously avoiding him. He had respected it as much as he could, especially after Ritchie told him to give her some space. Now, there she was. "I know I can't see but did I grow a second evil head or something?"

"No." Donna shook her head and let out a dry laugh. "I'm sorry."

"For?"

"Hiding." Max arched an eyebrow. "Don't do that."

"What?"

"That thing with your eyebrow. It's incredibly hard not to… kiss your brains out when you do that." Donna sighed but smiled. "I really am sorry."

"I still don't get what you're sorry for."

"I guess you don't." Let out another wry laugh and took one of his hands in hers. "I was afraid of you. I guess I was too excited about my alien boyfriend to see that he was an alien." She brushed her fingers over the faint remnants of the scrapes he'd received in the accident and from being thrown across that warehouse. "I was scared when they took me, Max. When you came, I wanted to scream and then I realized you had been hurt. Then when they started fighting and talking about aliens and successions… I was scared of you and then for you and then I was just wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into. I'm sorry for doubting you." Max couldn't say a word. He still wasn't getting it. "Max, I… these past two weeks, I was blaming you for what happened. It took several long talks with Ritchie to realize that you never wanted it or asked for it and then I thought about what you told Kal. I'm sorry for thinking, even for a moment, that I was just a thing for you." She rushed ahead. "I know you a lot better than that. I guess you are the same person and everything… you're just… I know more about you than anyone else does."

Max gripped her hands tightly. "You could never be just a thing for me. I… I wasn't expecting to feel so much for you when you asked me out. I figured… it couldn't hurt to go on one date. It couldn't hurt to hang out and watch movies a few times with a really cool person. It couldn't hurt to kiss, to touch. Before I knew it… I was attached. I never intended for things to get so intense… they just did. Donna, that's scary for me… but it was downright heart-stopping to know they had you."

"Who were they?"

"Enemies. People who hate the person I was before. People who were desperate to go home. Kal… I'm glad he's been watching."

"They called him the 'wayward protector.' What does that mean?"

"He was supposed to make sure I fulfilled this destiny that was put into motion when I was created. He didn't like the way my former self treated him and he just wanted to get to a neutral planet where he could live… free. He conveniently forgot about us."

"How do you know so much?"

"When I wrecked the Jeep… they were waiting and I… lashed out. I couldn't see and I knew that something was very wrong. When I think about it, my head hurts and I've only just begun to put the pieces together. I killed, Donna… but the whole time… I was just thankful that I had already taken you home." Max reached along her arm until he reached her face. His judge of distance wasn't too great. "I… mindraped one of them. I took his memories from his head and it filled in the holes for me. I'm ashamed of what I did. I killed 12 of them. I still don't know how I got across town."

"Maybe it's better if you didn't know."

"Maybe but it's hard knowing there are moments that I'm not getting back." Rubbing his thumb over her cheek, he shut his eyes. "I don't know if I want to be a person whose own bodyguards gave up on him. Jakai was a turncoat. Kal just abandoned as much duty as he could, I guess. Coded DNA, slaves with independent thought but not will."

"That's an awful existence." Donna nodded and turned her face to kiss his hand.

"I've done at least one really horrible thing in my life." Max whispered, tears falling from his face.

"I'm sure that's not true."

"Do you remember Liz Parker?"

"Liz…" She trailed off, trying to place the name. "Oh. You mean the girl that got shot at the beginning of last school year?" At his nod, she furrowed her brow. "Yeah, I guess I remember her. She… yeah, I do. Um… I wasn't ever close to her and she was a busy person, if I remember right." She let out a laugh. "I had a community service thing with her. Some people had detention and uh… her… science. Yeah. The science club was doing a project to clean the park and gather samples or something. So us detentionees were forced to help with the park clean up. Anyway, um, Liz was in charge and Pam was picking on me. Ugh, that girl is relentless. Liz actually got in Pam's face and threatened to report her behavior and strip her of time served. I think I tried to thank her but she just told me to get back to work. I think Pam really got on her nerves."

"She was a great person." Max nodded. "And I did her wrong."

"What?" She stared at him.

"I could have saved her life. I wanted to but I was scared and so I ran and I let her die." Max whispered, head bowed in shame.

"I didn't think you knew her."

"I didn't, not really. I had a crush on her though. She never knew." Max shrugged.

"Weren't you-" Donna suddenly remembered their second 'date.' "You found her murderer."

"Yeah." Max took a breath and wiped his face of tears. "I'll never forgive myself for what I did but the funny thing is… she forgave me."

"How do you know?"

"I just do." Max shrugged his shoulders. "I… had a dream where I… didn't hesitate. I tried to save her life but she wouldn't be saved."

"What do you mean?"

"You believe in heaven, right?"

"Yeah, of course."

"She couldn't get in because I did her wrong and she's been trying to help me and I guess she finally did and… she forgave me. I think that I couldn't save her in the dream because she didn't want to be saved." Max got up from the bench and began pacing. "Um, there was this other dream… I think I told you about it. Things happened in that dream that never happened but a lot of the stuff is the same but different."

"Yeah. You told me that's why you couldn't trust Tess."

"In that dream… I ruined her life. I saved her life and I made her life miserable. Her parents didn't trust her, her friendships were tense. God, her best friend died and I broke her heart to pieces." Max ran his hands through his hair. "Two weeks ago was the last time she spoke to me and she told me that she knew what would have happened if she lived and she was okay with it."

"Why aren't you okay with it?"

"She didn't get to live."

"Why was she okay with it?" Donna whispered.

"I don’t know. She said she would have had unconditional love and happiness but I just didn't see it in that other way. How could she have that?"

Donna reached out and pulled Max back down. "My dad told us when we were little that people who died violent deaths became banshees, evil spirits. They rode the winds, screaming in anguish of the atrocities that befell them. My mom said that was nonsense. She said only bad people went to hell and only good people went to heaven. Spirits that remained on earth… it doesn't happen. People who say they are haunted…. Are haunted by their own conscience for things they had done. She says those people punish themselves on earth far better than the devil ever could in hell. Those people, they go to heaven but never know that they've arrived."

"What do you think?"

"It doesn't matter what I think. I don't believe in ghosts."

"Do you believe in a divine plan?"

"Yes."

"Do you believe in divine interference?"

"You are divine interference." She smiled at him and kissed his cheek. "You are for my brother, for those little kids at the clinic… for me."

"For you?"

"I think that you believe you could have saved Liz Parker that day. Maybe you could have. I don't know. If it is like you say, maybe she would give up unconditional love and happiness to know that her friends are alive and well." She leaned her forehead against his. "It doesn't matter now though. I found in you… someone willing to get to know me, and you have no idea how rare that is for me. I haven't had any real girlfriends since I was in elementary school. I stop by and I see Kristy every now and then but she and I aren't much for talking. I was an early bloomer and people don't try to know me because they figure that I’m some brainless slut… but you know… I didn't really try to make people see different before you."

"You're worth getting to know. Trust me. I don't think I could have survived a lot of the crap this year without you." Max kissed her lips softly, sliding his arms around her body.

"Get a friggin' room. There are people around here." Michael's voice boomed.

"Michael." Isabel hissed, smacking him upside the head. "Leave them alone, they haven't spoken in weeks."

"Hi guys." Max turned his head to see their blurred forms at the opening to the garage. "What's up?"

"We were going to discuss some otherworldly business but you're busy." Michael shrugged.

"Michael, what is it?" Max sighed.

"It's just that… Isabel couldn't dreamwalk you for like a really long time and all of a sudden there's this traumatic ordeal and suddenly she can." Michael ignored his girlfriend's glares.

"You've been dreamwalking me?" Max shifted his gaze to his sister's blurry figure.

"I was worried about you. Either you weren't even sleeping or I just couldn't get in and suddenly, now I can." The blonde protested, not wanting to provoke her brother.

"My head was just a little too full." Max nodded.

"What was that kid talking about?" Donna nudged him. "He said you had a whole family in your head."

"He said it was like I had a whole family in my head. I told you. I was haunted and it took up a lot of gray matter. I'm no longer literally haunted and thus, the free space." Max crossed his arms and waited for a snide comment. It never came. "Are we believing me now or just humoring me?"

"I don't know what you to think except that you've lost your marbles." Isabel shook her head.

"That's my guess... as well." Michael agreed.

"Let's examine the facts." Donna butted in. "The boy says he's been haunted. Now, he is capable of blinding himself, who's to say he can't see dead people."

"Person. I only saw one person." Max exclaimed.

"I think we should just all agree that Max thinks he saw a ghost and leave it at that." Donna held her hands out.

"Ok." Michael nodded.

"Sure." Isabel agreed.

"That's the same tone you used when you thought I was crazy." Max accused.

"Okay, Max. We're going to a movie. Would you like to come and listen?" Isabel knelt next to him. "I'll buy you some Goobers and some Red Hots."

"Bribery gets you nowhere." Max huffed.

"Come on, bring the wife. I don't care." Michael rolled his eyes.

"Max, come on. Let's go. I'll describe the movie to you." Donna wrapped her arms around his shoulders. "Please?"

"I don't know. I don't think teasing me with a movie is a good idea." Max shook his head. He stopped when Donna leaned in to whisper in his ear.

Michael burst out laughing when Max's ears turned bright red and shifted suddenly on the bench. "Is that a yes or do you want to stay home… alone… with your folks out of town?" He ignored the smack in the chest from Isabel.

"We're just going to stay." Max cleared his throat. "Have fun."

"Use a rubber." Michael snorted as he directed Isabel down the drive. He nearly bent in half when the football hit his head. When he turned, they were wrapped around each other, ignoring everything else. "Who threw that?"

"What?" Max asked.

"The football, who threw it?"

"Football?"

"Yeah, the one that hit my head." Michael was quickly turning red.

"Michael." Donna cleared his throat. "Ask my brothers. I couldn't throw football to save my life much less hit you and Max couldn't have seen you that far. He might have hit Isabel."

"Then who threw the ball?"

"Are you sure someone hit you?" Max snorted.

"Max, I felt it hit him." Isabel glanced around but there was nobody around.

"Just go to your movie." Max shook his head at them, rising to his feet with his girlfriend. Michael gave one more suspicious look around before he led Isabel back down the driveway. As Max and Donna turned the corner of the house, he could swear there was someone standing in the garage. When he snapped his head around to look, there wasn't anything. He didn't think of it again…

It wasn't until the shirts were on his bedroom floor that he was reminded of the teal blur he had seen. Donna sat up suddenly. "You kissed a ghost?"

Max's jaw worked up and down. How was he going to respond to that? Yes, he had been kissed by a dead girl? Yeah, he kinda kissed her back before she vanished? Help? "She was saying goodbye?"

"Max." Donna picked up a pillow and smashed in him in the head with it.

"Twenty minutes ago, you didn't believe in ghosts." Max blinked as his vision cleared up and he had a perfect view of his half nude girlfriend. "You're the one that I love."

"What?" She paused, pillow in mid-air.

"I love you." Max repeated and was grateful when she put the pillow down and cupped his face in her hands. "I really, really do."

"I love you, too. But you kiss another ghost and I'm going to have to kill you. Plain and simple."

"Understood." Max reached up to kiss her lips. "Where were we?"

The END

I know, I know. I did it again. I left it so wide open but I promise you. This is the end.